Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Only the Worldwide Leader Could Provide This Kind of Crack Analysis

ESPN.com is doing an NBA preview, and they've trotted out the usual cavalcade of misfits and would-be oracles to forecast the upcoming season. Of course, I'm most interested in the preview for the Atlanta Hawks, and for sheer nuttiness it doesn't disappoint. Let's see what ESPN's "experts" think:

J. A. Adande, ESPN.com. Prediction: SOUTHEAST: 4 | EAST: 11 Finally a good June night for the Hawks, landing two collegiate winners in Al Horford and Acie Law in the draft. Give them time to figure out how to win in the NBA, and we can talk playoffs next season.

This analysis is sensible and well reasoned. Our journey into Crazy Town commences shortly.

Greg Anthony, ESPN.com. Prediction: SOUTHEAST: 5 | EAST: 15 Last, again. Al Horford's a player, but the organization has too many guys at similar positions. And I don't see enough of a winning mind-set here to get to the next level.

Prerequisites for the Hawks reaching the NBA's next level: finding a low-post presence/scorer, developing an effective point guard, continued growth from the young forwards.

Not a prerequisite for the Hawks reaching the NBA's next level: having enough of a "winning mind-set" to satisfy Greg Anthony.

Jon Barry, ESPN.com. Prediction: SOUTHEAST: 5 | EAST: 14 The Hawks want to run and run, and be the Suns of the East. Hard to do without Steve Nash, but they've got plenty of points to run the show. Good draft with Al Horford and Acie Law IV.

A bit rudimentary (which is the nature of a capsule analysis), but defensible. Barry at least shows an understanding of the team and what made them sporadically successful last year.

Chris Broussard, ESPN Mag. Prediction: SOUTHEAST: 4 | EAST: 11 If Acie Law proves to be nice, the Hawks could take a step forward because they've got great young talent at Positions 2 through 5, with rookie stud Al Horford able to play the 5 if necessary. But until the Hawks actually have success, it's hard to predict anything but underachievement.

Oh, Chris. You started so well. Your first sentence was rational, your second channeled Joe Morgan. Too bad.

Rick Bucher, ESPN Mag. Prediction: SOUTHEAST: 4 | EAST: 12 Eventually, all the talent they've amassed has to have some impact. Right? As nice a get as Acie Law was, though, the linchpin is still Speedy Claxton staying healthy. Which makes for a straw linchpin.


Hawks with Speedy in the lineup: 13-29, .310 win%
Hawks with Speedy wearing the Armani: 17-23, .425 win%

I realize there are problems with this kind of analysis, BUT - it's hard to argue Speedy's the linchpin, especially one that makes the team worse. Not that I necessarily want Anthony Johnson running the point all year, but Speedy didn't exactly tear it up when he did play.

Chad Ford, ESPN.com. Prediction: SOUTHEAST: 2 | EAST: 9 With this much talent, they have to start winning, right? They still have issues at the point (I don't see Acie Law as the answer) but Joe Johnson is an All-Star and Josh Smith, Marvin Williams and Al Horford have that potential. A 38-win season and the playoffs are possibilities.

One of the few reasonable summaries. I think 38 wins is absolutely the baseline for 2007-08.

Jemele Hill, ESPN.com. Prediction: SOUTHEAST: 4 | EAST: 11 A good dark horse to make a surprise playoff run. Al Horford and Acie Law are great additions and let's hope this is the year Marvin Williams shows why he was the No. 2 pick in 2005.

This confuses me. Jemele posits that this team can make a surprise playoff run, yet qualifies it by picking them 11th in the East. Is this hedging your bets, or your way of saying that the race for the last playoff spot in the East will be that close? Please explain.

John Hollinger, ESPN.com. Prediction: SOUTHEAST: 3 | EAST: 7 With last season's injury-ravaged bunch healthy, a rapidly improving young nucleus, and a draft that helped patch their two most important weaknesses, Atlanta looks like this season's playoffs sleeper.

And...there it is! Finally. It took seven capsules before somebody mentioned last year's injuries, which decimated the roster and likely cost the team 5-10 wins. Thank you, John Hollinger. Here's what your colleagues missed:

Joe Johnson, 25 (right calf strain - 4, right calf contusion - 21)
Josh Smith, 10 (hernia surgery)
Marvin Williams, 18 (broken hand - 17, back spasms - 1)
Josh Childress, 27 (sore left foot - 19, stress fracture in right foot - 8)
Tyronn Lue, 25 (knees? back? couldn't find/remember them all)
Salim Stoudamire, 21 (illness, ankle, various maladies)
Speedy Claxton, 40 (knee)
Zaza Pachulia, 10 (Proactiv treatments to shoulders*)

* = may not be accurate

That's eight key contributors who missed double-digits in games! This strikes me as a pretty significant detail, yet only one of ten analysts mentioned it?

Chris Sheridan, ESPN.com. Prediction: SOUTHEAST: 5 | EAST: 15 Wondering what they put in Hollinger's water down at the PER cult in Guyana. He has them making the playoffs, while I have them at 30 wins tops, with 24 wins a more realistic prediction. And here's one more: Mike Woodson is the first coach fired.


1) If you're going to make a joke about beverages and Guyana cults, why mention "water" instead of "Kool-Aid"? Isn't that the defining, indelible detail people remember about the Jonestown tragedy?

2) Sheridan writes like someone who didn't watch a single Hawks game last year; either that, or he's too lazy to bother explaining himself. A young, banged-up team managed to win 30 games last year; on what basis would he predict the Hawks to regress to 24?

The team is young, healthy and deeper/more talented than last year. The best player - Joe Johnson - is 26 years old and entering his prime; Josh Smith and Marvin Williams steadily improved over the course of last season. Don't forget: had he not entered the draft, Marvin would be a college senior this year! How many people realize he's younger than either Acie Law or Al Horford? Give this team time to develop and watch out.

Of course they lost their share of games last season, but mixed in were some quality wins at Cleveland, Denver, Minnesota, Phoenix and Golden State. I don't understand how you can just write them off.

3) Chris Sheridan: you have no idea who I am, you've never read this blog (and it's 99% likely you never will) so you'll never see these words, but: if you do, I am willing to bet you that the Hawks will win more than 24 games. Seriously. Name the terms. PLEASE, e-mail me at: jballot1 *at* bellsouth *dot* net. Really.

Marc Stein, ESPN.com. Prediction: SOUTHEAST: 5 | EAST: 13 Horford is impressing people already, but the Hawks need more than yet another young talent -- even if this one gives Kevin Durant a nice run for the ROY trophy -- to halt what now ranks as the league's longest playoff drought.

Fine. Whatever. I'm sleepy.

Just an odd melange here: some insight, and a whole lot of half-baked rhetoric.

(Which, to be fair, probably describes my job of fisking here.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

"Diet and Fat: A Severe Case of Mistaken Consensus"

Excellent NY Times article about how informational cascading created a false consensus on the dangers of fat. Moral of the story: the prevailing wisdom must always be challenged.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

CNN Makes Curious Editorial Choices

Want an example of how the mainstream media reveals its latent biases? Look no further than the candidate photos on this CNN "Election Center" website.

The frontrunners look happy, smiling, confident (um, except Thompson). The others...well, take a look:

*Al Gore and Newt Gingrich are depicted in black & white, because as everyone knows, no color photographs exist of either man. It's true: these gentlemen refuse to be photographed except in daguerreotype form.

*Christopher Dodd is depicted giving the classic "confused dog" pose:

*Mitt Romney looks like he always does, but I finally figured out who he reminds me of:

Mitt Romney and Christopher Lee as "Dracula" - separated at birth. Open question as to which undead bloodsucker is worse.

*John McCain looks like the guy who just realized he locked his keys in the car:

*Poor Ron Paul looks like a substitute teacher lecturing a group of very bored high schoolers. Not cool, CNN. Not cool at all. On the other hand, kudos for finding one of the few known photos of Sam Brownback not squinting. That couldn't have been easy.

*Finally, the coup de grĂ¢ce: Duncan Hunter. Now, I'm no fan of Congressman Hunter, but even I wouldn't have picked this picture:

I mean, geez...the guy looks like the victim of a UFIA:

Maybe, instead of some CNN/media conspiracy, the candidates just aren't very photogenic. Who knows? But it seems the MSM is a little too eager to fast-forward to the "inevitable" showdown between Establishment darlings Hillary and Rudy.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Puncturing Reich Wing Radio's Favorite Memes

No matter which yapping reich winger you listen to - Rush, Hannity, Savage, whoever - you'll find certain themes surfacing again and again. These themes, like much of what these guys have to say, feature heaping helpings of monkey shit. Join me on a journey through the fever swamp of neoconservative talk radio: I listen so you don't have to!


"Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is the new HITLER!"

Please. Here, have a wet nap, you're frothing a little. This shameless propaganda is designed to bamboozle us into another pointless war but it doesn't withstand even the slightest scrutiny. Look, I'm not suggesting Ahmadinejad is a swell guy - as a head of state, he's probably a major dick. But the new Hitler? Godwinned!

Lew Rockwell pegs him here:

But the elected Ahmadinejad, though a crazed Keynesian and other things, is no dictator, let alone a totalitarian one. He has far less power than Bush, for example, and is not even commander-in-chief of the Iranian military. And the notion that third-world Iran is a threat to nuclear powers America and Israel is laughable. Of course, so was the notion that Saddam Hussein was going to nuke the Bronx, but the booboisie believed it, thanks to the intellectuals who toed the line.

Exactly. Here are some questions for the neocons spouting this "new Hitler" nonsense:

Again, I'm not suggesting Ahmadinejad is a good guy. I'm suggesting that hyperbole is ruining any sense of balance or proportion in the debate. Ahmadinejad has real failings, but enough with the overheated Hitler comparisons. The Nazis aspired to genocide and world domination and very nearly succeeded. Ahmadinejad, on the other hand, is the tinhorn leader of a third world nation that can't possibly threaten the U.S. Where is the validity in the "Hitler" comparisons?


"Our military servicepeople are heroes! How dare you be so unpatriotic as to criticize their courage and sacrifice! They are above reproach!"

Um, no. They're human, which means - as with any collection of people - they are prone to abuse power and use deadly force indiscriminately. Sometimes they do terrible, terrible things to innocent people. The abuses at Abu Ghraib were terrifying and humiliating experiences for the prisoners; not at all like frat hazing, Rush. The point is that reich-wing radio hosts love the military so much that they'll excuse just about any savagery it commits. But why sanctify the soldier? The training is intended to stamp out humanity and individuality, foment hatred for the "other," and hone the killer instinct. We shouldn't be surprised when soldiers murder, rape, and destroy but that doesn't mean we should defend this.

For the final word and some much needed perspective on the military, we look to one of history's great philosophers, the late Bill Hicks: