From Dr. Housing Bubble, a graph relevant to the problem of allocating blame for the Housing Bubble/Crash between the Clinton and Bush Administrations.
December 11, 2009
The Book of Basketball: The NBA According to The Sports Guy by ESPN columnist Bill Simmons (with a Foreword by Malcolm Gladwell)
Simmons' huge book is highly informative, entertaining, and impressive. It would make an excellent Christmas gift for any intelligent pro basketball fan on your list over the age of 16 or so.
The problem with giving books as gifts is that they come with an unwritten inscription: Read the Whole Thing. This book, on the other hand, is so long that nobody could possibly feel expected to read the whole thing, and your recipient can open the book anywhere and be amused and intrigued immediately.
I only skimmed through the central section on ranking the top 96 players in pro history. Simmons is notoriously biased in favor of his Boston Celtics, so they do very well in his rankings, as do their historic archrivals, the Los Angeles Lakers (e.g., Simmons ranks Jerry West ahead of his coeval Oscar Robertson, who had more spectacular statistics in his prime). He rationalizes his Celtics bias by putting a heavy emphasis on winning playoff series (or losing playoffs to the Celtics, which is excusable because they are the Celtics). That's reasonably justified in basketball, where one player makes up 20% of his team on the floor at any point, more so than in baseball or football.
Simmons' book appear to be modeled on Bill James' Historical Baseball Abstracts, where there are various organizing devices, but plenty of room for digressions. For example, his list of top players pauses to include a list of the most genetically unique players in NBA history, including the Avatar-like Manute Bol, the 7'6" Dinka herdsman:
... of all the players I watched walk by me in the Boston Garden tunnel, only four stood out: Michael Jordan (because he was so overwhelmingly famous), David Robinson (we'll get to why later), Larry Bird (ditto) and Manute. He was breathtaking in person, and not just because of his surreal height and skin so dark that it made him seem purple. * When Manute emerged from the tunnel, we'd stop talking and gawk with our mouths agape, like everyone watching the aliens emerge from the Close Encounters UFO. It was incredible. I would have bought a ticket just to watch Manute Bol stroll by me.
* Our country is so uptight that this point might be considered racist. Here's my defense: Manute Bol was f****** purple. I don't know what else to tell you.
Unlike James, however, Simmons isn't a statistical innovator. He mostly just uses the traditional box score statistics, but he knows them all and deploys them in a very context-sensitive fashion. For example, he includes my single favorite utterly obscure statistic, the number of steals a 35-year-old Jerry West had in 1973-1974: 81. And Simmons explains exactly why it's an important number.
What bugs me about [how West is underrated] is that -- the same way Oscar was helped by a triple-double infatuation historically -- West's legacy was wounded by the lack of a three-point line, the lack of All-Defense teams (didn't start until 1969) and that they didn't keep track of steals until 1973-1974. *Now that Youtube has come along, Simmons can watch highlight reels of all the players before his time. In baseball, that's not all that helpful because it's hard to see much difference over time. From ancient newsreels of the 1924 World Series, you can't really tell whether Walter Johnson's fastball was 95 mph or 85 mph. (I'd guess the latter, but who knows?) So, Bill James' default in looking at historic baseball statistics analysis is to measure players against the league average, and assume only a modest increase in the quality of the league average over the decades.
* West only played two months of the '74 season before blowing out his knee (ending his career), but in those 31 games, he had 81 steals. And that was at the tail end of his basketball life! Imagine West's resume if he was averaging 3 steals a game, made 3 three's a game, shot 40-plus from three and made 13 first-team All Defenses.
But, with basketball, you can easily see on Youtube how much the game improved in a fairly short period of time.
For example, here's a two-minute video about a 1962 Lakers-Celtics NBA Finals game in which Elgin Baylor scored 61 points. Now I had always grown up hearing about how Elgin Baylor had invented the modern aerial game of basketball but he doesn't seem to be getting terribly far off the ground in these clips. At least Baylor is getting farther off the ground than the Celtics who are, theoretically, supposed to be playing defense against him, none of whom seem to have heard of the concepts of double-teaming or denying the ball to the guy who is on his way to scoring 61 on you in the Finals. And the Celtics were, by far, the greatest team of that era, so I don't want to even think about what a Pistons-Royals game in November would have been like back then.
Similarly, video explains the discrepancy between Earl the Pearl Monroe's legend and his merely pretty good statistics. Monroe had a unique spinning style that was exhilarating to watch, but wasn't all that effective because pirouetting around on the ground didn't get him that much closer to the basket. In contrast, the young Michael Jordan's style of going up and at the basket was brutally direct and effective.
Anyway, Simmons knows infinitely more about basketball than I do, so read his book.
SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.
It must annoy U. of Chicago economist Levitt -- in a fuming all the way to the bank kinda way -- that he gets compared to Malcolm Gladwell a lot, when anybody just flipping idly through their respective books ought to be able to notice that Levitt is a lot smarter.
My impression after a half hour is that SuperFreakonomics is very competently done. I didn't see anything implausible, in contrast to the way you can't read Gladwell for 3 minutes without stumbling upon something that sounds just plain wrong. (SuperFreakonomics elicited much angry response because it expresses some skepticism about Climate Change dogma, but I don't know anything about climate, so I skipped those parts.)
Really, the appropriate comparison isn't Levitt to Gladwell, it's Dubner to Gladwell. Dubner is better with words than numbers, so he found somebody who is better with numbers than with words to team up with. Dubner doesn't make anywhere near as much money as Gladwell does winging it alone, but Dubner's not making himself into a laughing stock either.
Yet, from my idiosyncratic point of view, SuperFreakonomics seemed a little dull. I learned, for example, that prostitution offers a convenient way for lazy women to earn a living. But I didn't see anything on topics of much interest to me. For example, Levitt's work with Roland Fryer isn't mentioned in the index.
Now that I think about it, that might be intentional. Consider it from Levitt's point of view. He's a rational, risk-averse economist. He knows his book will make a lot of money no matter what he puts in it. So, maybe Levitt figured, "What do I need Heckman and Sailer punching holes in my reputation for, anyway? I'll just stay away from subjects where they know more than I do, and we'll all be happy."
In contrast, Gladwell has a natural born kamikaze pilot's instinct for lashing back at criticism from exactly the wrong people: "Pinker? Murray? Posner? Sailer? Bring 'em on!"
December 10, 2009
Authorities declared the death of a prominent L.A. attorney shot in the head outside his Rolling Hills Estates home a homicide and said they were now scrutinizing his casework for potential clues.
Detectives have already interviewed Jeffrey Tidus' family and business partners at Baute & Tidus, a downtown Los Angeles law firm specializing in civil litigation, to help them identify any cases or incidents that could have spurred conflict.
Los Angeles County sheriff's Lt. Dave Dolson said that the motive for the Monday evening shooting remained unclear and that his investigators had not ruled out anything from a targeted killing to an unplanned confrontation [which happens all the time in Palos Verde].
"At this point we are certain it is a murder," Dolson said.
Tidus, 53, represented many high-profile corporate clients, including New Century Financial, a subprime lender that saw three former officers charged this week with securities fraud. Tidus and his wife also own several toy stores.
The toy store business is notoriously cut-throat, especially this time of year, so I'm sure that's the real story here.
Jill Stewart of the LA Weekly has a more vivid description:
Rumors gripped the Los Angeles legal community today after the shocking fatal shooting Monday, in posh Rolling Hills Estates, of attorney Jeffrey A. Tidus. He was killed just hours after top executives at a firm Tidus represented, New Century Financial, were accused of fraud by federal regulators.
The bizarre timing has powerful attorneys in Los Angeles buzzing about why and how Tidus died. ...
Tidus was discovered by his wife about 8:30 pm on Monday, after she heard a single gunshot. She found him slumped behind a Prius outside their home in the 4600 block of Sugarhill Drive in Rolling Hills Estates, a leafy suburb of Los Angeles in which violent crime is rare and horse trails crisscross the pricey estates and neighborhoods.
Shortly after President Obama returns to Washington from Norway with his Nobel Prize, he's going to roar off to Denmark in his personal 747 jumbo jet to raise awareness about the need to cut carbon emissions to forestall Climate Change—the cause formerly known as “Global Warming”.Read the whole thing there and comment upon it below.
But while the President gears up his campaign for Climate Change awareness in Denmark, a Population Change anti-awareness campaign has long been in full swing in America.
The acid test of the sincerity of Climate Change activists: do they publicly demand a U.S immigration moratorium to keep carbon emissions from increasing?
A few environmentalists pass this test proudly. For example, Californians for Population Stabilization have started a new ad campaign:“The campaign recognizes immigration as the number one factor driving U.S. population growth and makes the point that when immigrants settle in the U.S. their energy use quickly becomes Americanized. As a result, immigrants’ carbon emissions skyrocket. The result is a quadrupling of immigrants’ carbon footprint compared to the amount of carbon emissions they produced in their home countries.”
Mexicans don’t illegally immigrate to avoid starvation. The average life expectancy in Mexico is over 76 years. Instead, the major motivations for sneaking into America include: the hope of owning a big truck or SUV and to have more kids than you could afford to have in your own country. The current total fertility rate in Mexico is 2.34 babies per woman per lifetime—versus 3.7 babies among immigrant Latinas in California.
But, alas, the vast majority of those who claim that carbon emissions is the overwhelming issue of our age fail this test of good faith flatly.
On the other hand, their dishonesty doesn’t guarantee that they aren’t right about carbon and global warming. Global warming true believers seem, on the whole, like the kind of people who would be more likely to be right about something for bad reasons than for good reasons.
As you may have noticed from the above, I normally don’t have much to say about climate change. I’m sort of an agnostic.
I know enough about statistics to realize how much effort would be required for me to develop an opinion worth expressing. Nor is it obvious that, even if I invested years of work, I would be able to add much value to the discussion.
After all, both sides in the debate over anthropogenic global warming debate are lavishly funded. ...
Yet why are those Climate Change insights so seldom applied to the question of Population Change?
And the transformation in the classroom has to be seen to be believed. It is extraordinary, for example, to observe elementary school teachers in Santa Ana, once a bastion of bilingual education, talking to their young Hispanic students exclusively in English about the Great Wall of China. It is just as extraordinary to see those students eagerly raising their hands to read English workbooks aloud in class. The main sign that the students are not native English speakers is an occasional reminder about past-tense formation or the pronunciation of word endings, but plenty of English-only speakers in the state need such assistance, too. Schools are not universally following the time frame set out in Prop. 227: a year of separate instruction in English followed by integration with English-only students. In some schools, English learners remain cloistered for a longer period. But regardless of classroom composition, English learners are being taught “overwhelmingly in English,” which is the most important goal of 227.
Self-esteem seems fine. “I didn’t know how to speak English in first grade,” says a husky fourth-grade boy at Adams Elementary School in Santa Ana. “I just figured out at the end of the year and talked all English.” The boy’s classmates, who are sitting next to him at a picnic table under a pepper tree for lunch, jostle to get in on the interview. They are fluent in schoolyard insults. “He’s a special ed!” one boy says of another. “I am not a special ed, you liar!” retorts the target. The fifth-grade girls at a table nearby complain that the boys are lazy. A slender girl has recently arrived from Mexico. Her translator for that day, a tiny blue-eyed girl named Lily, drapes her arm lovingly around the new immigrant and will sit next to her in all their classes, explaining what the teacher is saying. The pair and their fellow pupils amble back into the school after lunch, any signs of psychological distress well concealed. No one reports unhappiness at speaking English in class; on the contrary, they brag that it’s easy.
Hispanic kids want to learn how to speak English. English is currently a much cooler language than Spanish in terms of pop culture. And their parents know their kids can make more money as adults if they speak English. Little kids are language sponges, so once public institutions swung behind promoting English, the kids hopped right on board.
Unz's initiative is a rare example in modern American life of a public policy problem being solved. Not surprisingly, it has therefore disappeared down the memory hole. There are no Ken Burns documentaries on PBS to celebrate his accomplishment.
But, at least the schools taught them how to speak English, which they were actively avoiding doing, at considerable incremental expense, before Prop. 227.
The impact of smart fractions, cognitive ability of politicians and average competence of peoples on social development
Heiner Rindermann, Michael Sailer and James Thompson
Abstract: Smart fraction theory supposes that gifted and talented persons are especially relevant for societal development. Using results for the 95th percentile from TIMSS 1995-2007, PISA 2000-2006 and PIRLS 2001-2006 we calculated an ability sum value (N=90 countries) for the upper level group (equivalent to a within country IQ-threshold of 125 or a student assessment score of 667) and compared its influence with the mean ability and the 5th percentile ability on wealth (GDP), patent rates, Nobel Prizes, numbers of scientists, political variables (government effectiveness, democracy, rule of law, political liberty), HIV, AIDS and homicide. Additionally, using information on school and professional education, we estimated the cognitive competence of political leaders in N=90 countries. Results of correlations, regression and path analyses generally show a larger impact of the smart fractions’ ability on positively valued outcomes than of the mean result or the 5th percentile fraction. The influence of the 5th percentile fraction on HIV, AIDS and homicide, however, was stronger. The intelligence of politicians was less important, a longitudinal crosslagged analysis could show a positive influence on the cognitive development of nations.
A House subcommittee approved legislation Wednesday aimed at forcing college football to switch to a playoff system to determine its national champion, over the objections of some lawmakers who said Congress has meatier targets to tackle. "What can we say - it's December and the BCS is in chaos again," said the bill's sponsor, Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, the top Republican on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He said the BCS system is unfair and won't change unless prompted by Congress.Glad to see Texas Republicans have their priorities straight! (Barton represents part of Fort Worth, where undefeated TCU, which was shut out of the BCS national title game, is located, but not Austin, where undefeated Texas, which is in the title game, is located.)
Isn't college football, an extremely expensive zero sum endeavor, interesting enough without a playoff system? What could be a better use of rich Red Staters' philanthropy than constructing ever more state-of-the-art weight rooms?
I also have an aesthetic objection to a national championship playoff. National championships are great for less viscerally appealing sports. But football's appeal is that it's the game closest to war. My hazy impression is that English villages started playing some ancestor of football (and its cousin sports) about the time they stopped making war on each other. Instead of besieging your neighbors and sacking their town, you challenged them to a mass melee game involving propelling a pigskin, as a way for young men to enjoy some of the fun of war without too much maiming, raping, and pillaging.
The traditional model of college football that emerged by the mid-20th Century reflected a rather 18th Century balance-of-power version of war, in which teams engaged in set-piece battles with traditional regional rivals, and the ones who did best this year were invited to an intersectional exhibition game on New Year's Day. But, like in an 18th Century European war, there was no single overwhelming winner and everybody else a loser. Half the teams finished their seasons with a victory. Everybody had something to look back upon gladly and something to regret.
So, while a playoff system makes perfect sense for NCAA badminton or whatever, increasing the emphasis on Complete Conquest and Final Victory in our national war game strikes me as distastefully Napoleonic. Of course, lots of people liked Napoleon. For a century, he was the most popular delusionary identity in lunatic asylums.
I know that Tarantino hates making movies about anything other than other movies, but this Orange County Lebanese car salesman with a 3rd grade education turned subprime lender turned Hollywood producer was probably never living in the real world. He likely saw his whole life as straight out of Starsky & Hutch.
C'mon, Quentin, nobody cares about your crush on Goebbels. Make a movie about a SoCal hustler who uses the Grift of the Century, subprime, to turn himself, briefly, into a mogul. It's a natural for you.
The Orange County Register reports:
Armed Men Invade Subprime Lender's Home
NEWPORT BEACH – Police arrested three men Tuesday night on suspicion of breaking into the Newport Coast mansion of a prominent former subprime lender.
Three people at the home of Daniel Sadek [to be played by Vince Vaughn or Eli Roth] suffered head injuries during the home invasion, and one of them was taken to the hospital for treatment. ...
Four armed men forced their way into a home at 3 Longboat, off Pelican Ridge, while another waited outside, Newport Beach police said.
The house was the scene of a fire two weeks ago. A Mercedes Benz CLK 550 parked in the driveway caught fire at 3 a.m. Thanksgiving morning and singed the house and garage before firefighters knocked it down. ...
The men arrested were identified as Mickael Andre Hastings [Samuel L. Jackson], 36, of Los Angeles, Antoine Bashiri Boyd [Djimon Hounsou], 31, of Los Angeles, and Peter Joseph Paturzo [Mickey Rourke], 44, of Mission Viejo.
Sadek made and lost a fortune in the subprime mortgage business. Quick Loan Funding, which he founded in 2002, wrote about $4 billion in subprime mortgages before it collapsed in 2007.
He declared bankruptcy in Nevada two months ago.
With his earnings from Quick Loan, Sadek lived a high-roller lifestyle. He bought the Newport Coast mansion, a fleet of exotic cars and crashed some of them in a movie he financed called "Redline." He bought a condo in Las Vegas where he became a high roller at the blackjack tables. Court records list cash advances taken out on his credit card at casinos from Hawaiian Gardens to Lebanon [where he was born].
In court filings, he acknowledges gambling in the multi-million dollar range.
Police did not immediately know whether the men who paid Sadek a visit Tuesday night were collecting on a debt or were there to rob. They were taking cash and jewelry, Lt. Craig Fox of the Newport Beach Police Department said. ...
In September, Vanity Fair ranked Sadek No. 86 on a list of institutions and people most to blame for the nation's economic problems. The magazine called him "Predator Zero in the subprime-mortgage game," and quoted a competitor saying he "would have written a loan to 'an insolvent arsonist.'"
In May 2007, the Register reported that Sadek's company, Quick Loan, had been accused of predatory lending, deceptive underwriting and fraud in at least eight lawsuits. ...
Since the housing market collapse, Sadek's finances have fallen apart. Over the last two years, he's been sued in Superior Court a dozen times; Quick Loan Funding was sued 13 times locally in its last two years. ...
Court documents filed by his attorney in July said that Sadek was under medical care for an "extreme panic disorder" and regularly taking "substantial doses" of the anti-anxiety drug Xanax. At the time, Wells Fargo was trying to get Sadek to give a deposition in a lawsuit over his use of some accounts; but the court filing claimed he would have to take so much medication to make the trip to Temecula for the deposition that it might impair his concentration and memory.
Sadek got into home loans in 2002 after seeing how many mortgage brokers came into Fletcher Jones Motorcars, where he worked as a salesman.
Although his education had stopped at third grade, Sadek paid the $250 for a state lender license and started selling home loans through his company, Quick Loan Funding.
Over the next five years, Quick Loan wrote $3.8 billion in mortgages, lending money fast - and often on onerous terms - to people with shaky credit.
Boosted by high fees and interest rates - high even for the subprime industry - Quick Loan's after-tax profits averaged 29 percent of revenue. In 2005, Quick Loan's biggest year, profit topped $37 million.
Sadek used the earnings to live the high life, buying a fleet of Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Porsches, dating a soap opera starlet and producing movies. He cultivated a rebel image, wearing a beard and hair to his shoulders, dressing in T-shirts and flip-flops, eschewing the typical mortgage banker's pinstripes.
His movie "Redline" starred his then-girlfriend, Nadia Bjorlin [Fergie], comedian Eddie Griffin [Eddie Griffin], and his fleet of Ferraris, Porsches and Saleen S7 exotic cars. [Eddie famously crashed one of his Enzo Ferrari's during a publicity event.] It cost him $31 million to make, distribute and publicize, he once told the Register, but only earned $8.2 million in ticket sales worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. Sadek was sued in federal court by the Cartoon Network for failing to pay $845,000 in advertising for the film.He flew private jets to Las Vegas, where he gambled with high rollers at the Bellagio Resort.
December 9, 2009
Arguably, the 1845 treaty of annexation gave the new state of Texas the right to split into five states.
With modern Texas providing relatively effective government without high taxes or high land prices, the state has attracted a population (now approaching 25 million) huge enough to justify being divided up into five smaller states.
Here’s a fanciful map by Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com of what a split-up Texas might look like politically, using Texas’s 254 counties as building blocks.
(Silver’s state names are all wrong, of course. Texans would never agree to any names for new states that didn’t include the word “Texas” in them—such as South Texas, West Texas, North Texas, East Texas, and Central Texas.)
Divvying up Texas may seem at present irrelevant—none are prouder than Texans of the humongousness of their state. But thinking through the implications of this scenario is illuminating.
Read the whole thing there and comment upon it here.
Animal shelters seeing glut of Chihuahuas
The once-fashionable little canines are replacing pit bulls as the breed most often left at shelters.
... And at the Peninsula Humane Society in San Mateo, "the number of Chihuahuas has eclipsed pit bulls as the most common breed" ...
Chihuahuas, pit bulls. Pit bulls, Chihuahuas ... It seems like there ought to be a solution to the dog pound overcrowding problem in there somewhere.
Obviously, there are a lot of different reasons, but I think one that might get overlooked in modern America is the old-fashioned dynastic urge that highly successful men are especially prone to. Think of Sean Connery waxing dynastic near the end of The Man Who Would Be King. That this woman is the one worthy of commingling her genes with mine and bearing the sons who will carry forward my name, bringing satisfaction to my old age as their sons have done for Archie Manning and Ken Griffey Sr. Also, I probably won't be around that much while my kids are growing up, but she looks like she can handle it on her own.
The same kind of thinking helps explain the semi-pro skankiness of Tiger's list. Many have asked why Tiger wasn't cheating with somebody more of a rival to his wife. But there's a certain logic to aiming low to keep the peace around the house: Jamie Grubbs isn't a plausible threat to Elin Nordegren Woods to displace her as a second Mrs. Woods, while, say, Zooey Deschanel would be. (Tiger's problem is that the low quality got lost in the high quantity.)
Marrying a formidable woman can be expensive when it comes to the divorce settlement, however.
A Sherman Oaks man who pleaded guilty earlier this year to a bank fraud charge has admitted to federal authorities that he sought to have a witness in the case killed in a drive-by shooting, officials said Wednesday.
Pavel Valkovich, 28, pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of solicitation of murder for offering to pay $10,000 to arrange for the slaying of a man who was cooperating with authorities in the fraud case against him. Valkovich was involved in a scheme in which he and others used stolen personal identifying information to transfer funds from victims' bank accounts to PayPal accounts he and his cohorts could access, prosecutors contend.
Assistant U.S. Atty. Jennifer L Williams said Valkovich had initially pleaded not guilty in the case and was seeking to have the witness killed to stop him from testifying. When Valkovich later learned that the person had already begun cooperating, he changed his plea to guilty. But he continued with his plan to have the witness killed, Williams said. Only his motive had changed -- to revenge.
Valkovich approached a fellow inmate in the Federal Detention Center in downtown Los Angeles and asked that he arrange for someone to kill the witness with a gun equipped with a silencer, according to prosecutors. Unfortunately for Valkovich, the witness in the fraud case wasn't the only one who ended up cooperating with authorities.
The inmate he approached as a go-between told prosecutors about the plot and agreed to testify against Valkovich.
Valkovich was charged with the crime and transferred to another jail. Apparently unfazed, he approached another inmate, this time about arranging a pair of killings, prosecutors contend. He wanted the original informant dead, as well as the first guy who was supposed to have arranged for his killing. He was willing to pay $40,000 for the job and provided the inmate, who was slated to be released soon, with information about the targets' appearance, residences and cars. He also had a special request, according to prosecutors: He wanted the first inmate he had approached not only killed, but beheaded.
I wonder if it's the same Pavel Valkovich who got into an altercation with Jennifer Lopez's bodyguards six years ago in Miami Beach?
(By the way, the one Chicago Bulls game I attended in my life, I sat in the press box, which is the least fun place to watch your home team play: no cheering in the press box! One thing I noticed is that the median accredited sports reporter is poor: 100% acrylic fiber sweater poor. Of course, most of these poor bastards were representing the Decatur News-Gazette or whatever, but it's not like the subsequent coming of the Internet has made journalism a better career choice.)
Personally, I think there is something to be said for hypocrisy. Michael Jordan is not a nice guy. But, he's taken pains over the years to arrange his private affairs so that they stayed relatively private to anyone who didn't understand how to read between the lines, which, of course, includes most of the little kids who idolized him. For example, I hadn't even realized until I looked it up yesterday that Mrs. Jordan had finally pulled the plug on their marriage, walking away with $182 million in 2006.
Considering that he has looked to Michael Jordan as a mentor for most of his career, it’s no surprise that Tiger Woods has followed the "Michael Jordan Model" in dealing with the media.
It’s also no surprise that the media—sports and gossip writers alike—have now turned on Woods in a New York minute, just as they did with Jordan. [After Jordan's 2009 Hall of Fame speech?]
The Jordan/Woods strategy on how to deal with the media is intricate, complex and is slowly implemented over a series of years ... .
First and foremost, they establish their dominance.
The moment they walk into the media center, or step in front of a group of reporters, the immediately turn on the "I’m better than you and I’m only here because the NBA/PGA Tour is making me be here. In my mind, the journalism profession is worthless and my intelligence is head and shoulders above yours."
They will look down on the media.
They will insert subtle comments intended to put down the journalism profession.
They will embarrass reporters in front of their peers if they ask intrusive or difficult questions, in the hopes that the thought of further embarrassment might stop them from asking similar questions in the future.
They will also create a set of rules:
1) I’ll let you hang with me as long as you never print anything detrimental to my image.
2) The moment you print something bad about me or any of my friends or close associates, you are cut off for good. You will be forever banished from the ‘circle of trust’, and you will spend the rest of your days receiving nothing more than vague, detail-less answers.
3) One person straying from the Jordan/Woods rules can ruin it for the rest. For example, if one single reporter writes an embarrassing or negative article about them, they may completely cut off the media for a few days.
The ultimate principle: If Woods or Jordan ever feel as if they are losing control over what journalists print or say, they will punish them, and possibly even cut hem off for good. ...In Michael Leahy's book "When Nothing Else Matter" about Jordan's final comeback with the Washington Wizards, he referred to those journalists who played by Jordan's rules as the "Jordan Guys".
They got to hang with Jordan, talk to him about personal issues, about his family, his friends, etc., but, professionally speaking it didn't matter much because they were often too afraid to print anything they might have uncovered anyway.... So, when the opportunity does arise where they can print the absolute truth and offer their real opinions of you without any real threat of being "punished"—because every single reporter in the country is doing the same thing—they are going to remember all those times Jordan/Woods looked at them like they were fools.
They are going to remember all of those little comments that implied how Jordan/Woods thought journalists were sleazy and worthless.
They are going to remember all those times they were embarrassed by Jordan/Woods in front of their peers.
They are going to remember all those times that their stories suffered because Jordan/Woods were "punishing" the media by not speaking to them for days on end.
They are going to remember that this whole unspoken arrangement was never really an arrangement of equals.
And they are going to remember what it felt like all those years to be treated like a peasant by men who thought they were better than them just because they could hit a little white ball, are throw a round orange ball through a steel hoop.
Read it there and comment upon it below.
Clearly, these aren't great romances; a lot of them are pros, or at least dedicated amateurs.
The more interesting question is: Who taught Tiger how this complicated Las Vegas-centric system works?
John Katsilometes reports in the Las Vegas Sun:
For Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, the whole tawdry package is an early holiday gift.
And the man at the center is Tiger Claus.
“This is great for the city because they spell the city’s name right, L-A-S V-E-G-A-S,” Goodman [a former mob lawyer] said at the ceremonial lighting of the official Las Vegas Christmas tree on Fremont Street. “It’s great for the city to have its name out there, as long as they spell it right. Las Vegas, Nevada.”
Goodman was speaking to the Tiger Woods conundrum, in which the golfing legend has been linked to as many as 10 women (11, if you count his wife, Elin Nordegren), including at least three with ties to Las Vegas.
The original suspected mistress, former Tao nightclub hostess and Turnberry Place condominium owner Rachel Uchitel, has denied an affair with Woods. Uchitel has retained raptor-like attorney Gloria Allred to represent her legally and, we suspect, spiritually. Others with Vegas links are Vegas cocktail server Janine Grubbs and Light Group VIP hostess Kalika Moaquin, who has worked at the Bank and Bare Pool Lounge. As my man URL, Ubiquitous Robin Leach, has been energetically blogging and tweeting, Woods has been known to chip around such Vegas fun spots as the The Mansion at MGM Grand, Bellagio and, we suspect, Binion’s.
Asked if this all doesn’t fly in the face of our city’s promissory slogan, “What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas,” Goodman shook his head.
“No, it’s a great reminder that you can have fun in Las Vegas,” Goodman said. “Adult fun, that it’s a playground for adults. It’s salacious, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Let’s see. “There’s Nothing Wrong With That” could be an effective ad campaign. Sort of has a nice ring to it … but not a wedding ring.
I don't know who coached Tiger on how the system works, but I can guess, and I'll give you a two letter hint:
December 8, 2009
From the New York Times:
Civil Liberties Group Loses $20 Million Donor
A longtime anonymous donor to the American Civil Liberties Union has withdrawn his annual gift of more than $20 million, punching a 25 percent hole in its annual operating budget and forcing cutbacks in operations.
Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the A.C.L.U., acknowledged in a written statement that a “family” had told the organization in September that it could not make its annual gifts, at least for next year. “This family, that has sought to protect its privacy by arranging its gifts anonymously, notified us last month that due to market conditions it will be unable to make its expected sizable donations of over $20 million,” Mr. Romero said.
A.C.L.U. board members, who insisted on anonymity because the loss of the gift was reported in an executive session of their meeting, identified the donor as David Gelbaum, who made a fortune as a hedge fund manager and is now better known as a major investor in clean technology. ...
Mr. Gelbaum began contributing $50,000 or so annually to the A.C.L.U. in the early 1980s and kept increasing his gifts, to $22.5 million in 2008, board members said.
The only condition he placed on the gifts was that he remain anonymous, so only a handful of people at the A.C.L.U. knew he was the donor. ... Mr. Romero did not reveal Mr. Gelbaum’s name, describing him only as “a donor,” board members said
Still, it is hard to keep secrets with a board of more than 80 members, most of whom report to state affiliates. “As soon as he started telling us, anyone who had a laptop with them was busy Googling” and figured out who the donor was, a national board member said.
Mr. Romero told the board that the donor had also stopped giving to three “sister organizations,” a phrase board members said he had used in the past to describe other groups with which the A.C.L.U. has collaborated, like the Sierra Club.
Mr. Gelbaum took a rare turn in the spotlight earlier this decade when environmental activists said he was behind the Sierra Club’s decision to adopt a neutral stance on immigration. Some people believe immigration has aggravated environmental problems.He had given the organization a total of $101.5 million, according to The Los Angeles Times, which wrote what is perhaps the only major profile of him, in 2004. In the article, he is quoted as saying that he told Carl Pope, the Sierra Club’s executive director, in 1994 or 1995 “that if they ever came out anti-immigration, they would never get a dollar from me.”
Compare the engulfing level of instruction that young tennis players, for example, are given these days to the casual upbringing of tennis players of the past. When Pancho Gonzales was 12 in 1940 in East LA, he wanted a bicycle for his birthday, but his parents couldn't afford one so they gave him a tennis racket instead. That, as far as I can tell, was the full extent of his parents' contribution to his tennis career. Little Pancho wandered over to the public courts next to the LA Coliseum and started playing tennis. He never took a lesson, but was the number one pro in the world in the second half of the 1950s and was a major force in tennis from the 1940s into the 1970s.
In contrast, the Williams sisters, Venus and Serena, grew up in Compton, not far from East LA, but their hyperambitious father moved them to West Palm Beach so they could attend a famous tennis academy. (When the Williams sisters started on the pro circuit, their favorite music was Alternative Rock because that's what the rich white kids at their tennis academy listened to.)
But it's hard to tell how much better are today's star tennis players, who are largely raised at tennis academies, than Pancho Gonzales was. As 1920s golfer Bobby Jones told a fan in the 1940s who was raving to him about how Ben Hogan was the best golfer ever, "All you can be is the best of your time."
There are probably fewer Mexican-American star athletes today than in the days of Gonzales and Lee Trevino, which suggests that the contemporary white intensive parenting style is paying off, but that's awfully circumstantial evidence.
I have found one fairly objective metric: NFL field goal kicking percentages. Back in the old days, football coaches would ask for volunteers for placekicker, see who looked best, give him a few tips, and maybe lend him a couple of extra footballs to practice with.
Then, in the 1960s and 1970s, NFL teams hired soccer players from all over the world like Garo Yepremian (who, why am I surprised? has a motivational speaking business). But, since then, the job has almost 100% been monopolized by white middle class Americans, typically ones who played AYSO soccer. These days, ambitious parents send their sons to placekicking camps or hire prominent kicking tutors such as Chris Sailer to give their sons private instruction.
Are football kickers still getting better in the Age of Sailer (Chris, not Steve)? Does this modern parenting system of chauffeuring and expensive tutelage actually work?
Yes, at least in this case, it appears it does. Contemporary NFL field goal kickers are much better than old ones.
Here are field goal percentages in the NFL every tenth year from 1958 through 2008, according to Pro-Football-Reference.com:
|FG Made %||Chg||Missed %||Chg|
At first glance, it looks like the rate of improvement is slowing down, but that's mostly because the field goal percentage was so high by 2008 (84.5%) that kickers were running into diminishing returns on improvement. If you flip the calculation upside down and focus on decrease in percentage missed, 1999-2008 was the second best decade ever in terms of relative improvement, behind only the previous decade.
From 50 yards or farther, 28 NFL teams made 28 out of 70 attempts in 1988. Two decades later, 32 NFL teams made 66 out of 104 fifty+ yard attempts. (Long field goals are dangerous to attempt because they can be run back, and the field goal kicking unit is heavier and slower than the kicking off unit, so a field goal that comes up short can turn into a back-breaking 109 yard field goal return for a touchdown.)
For a test of pure technique, not a test of strength, NFL kickers missed only 0.5% of Points-After-Touchdown (19 yard kicks) in 2008, versus 1.7% in 1998, and about 5% several decades ago.
So, yes, in this example, at least, the white middle class method of intensive/expensive childrearing seems to be resulting in better performance.
By the way, isn't it about time that the NFL made kicking a field goal more of an accomplishment? What these guys are doing 84.5% of the time is pretty amazing -- go out and stand on a high school football field 40 yards from the goal posts and notice how few degrees of your horizon they take up. Then realize that high school goal posts are 23'4" wide, while college and NFL goal posts are only 18'6" wide.
Right now, though, being an NFL kicker is a terrible job, like being a long-snapper, because you only get noticed when you mess up. Unless there's a foot of snow on the field, nobody is going to remember the name of the guy who makes the game winning 40 yard field goal, because it's so expected these days. But they will remember the bum who missed.
The NFL could either make the goal posts even narrower, or it could just move them back behind the back line of the end zone a few yards to make each field goal attempt longer. For example, they could just rotate the existing goal posts 180 degrees so that the offset is pointing in the other direction, adding about four yards to the distance.
For example, the NY Times Magazine features this long article by Elizabeth Weil called "Married (Happily) with Issues)" about her attempt to fix her unbroken marriage via narcissistic yuppie self-improvement efforts. It's been among the most emailed articles on the NY Times for most of a week:
I have a pretty good marriage. ... The idea of trying to improve our union came to me one night in bed.... And as I lay there, I started wondering why I wasn’t applying myself to the project of being a spouse. My marriage was good, utterly central to my existence, yet in no other important aspect of my life was I so laissez-faire. Like most of my peers, I applied myself to school, friendship, work, health and, ad nauseam, raising my children. But in this critical area, marriage, we had all turned away. I wanted to understand why. I wanted not to accept this. ... So I decided to apply myself to my marriage, to work at improving ours now, while it felt strong.
I can't possibly bring myself to read the entire article, but let me make a guess: It turns out not to be a good idea.
Tom Wolfe explained it all 33 years ago in The "Me" Decade and the Third Great Awakening:
A key drama of our own day is Ingmar Bergman’s movie Scenes From a Marriage. In it we see a husband and wife who have good jobs and a well-furnished home but who are unable to “communicate”—to cite one of the signature words of the Me Decade. Then they begin to communicate, and there upon their marriage breaks up and they start divorce proceedings. For the rest of the picture they communicate endlessly, with great candor, but the “relationship”—another signature word—remains doomed. Ironically, the lesson that people seem to draw from this movie has to do with . . . “the need to communicate.” Scenes From a Marriage is one of those rare works of art, like The Sun Also Rises, that not only succeed in capturing a certain mental atmosphere in fictional form . . . but also turn around and help radiate it throughout real life. I personally know of two instances in which couples, after years of marriage, went to see Scenes From a Marriage and came home convinced of the “need to communicate.” The discussions began with one of the two saying. Let’s try to be completely candid for once. You tell me exactly what you don’t like about me, and I’ll do the same for you. At this, the starting point, the whole notion is exciting. We’re going to talk about Me! (And I can take it.) I’m going to find out what he (or she) really thinks about me! (Of course, I have my faults, but they’re minor, or else exciting.)
She says. “Go ahead. What don’t you like about me?”
They’re both under the Bergman spell. Nevertheless, a certain sixth sense tells him that they’re on dangerous ground. So he decides to pick something that doesn’t seem too terrible.
“Well,” he says, “one thing that bothers me is that when we meet people for the first time, you never know what to say. Or else you get nervous and start babbling away, and it’s all so banal, it makes me look bad.”
Consciously she’s still telling herself, “I can take it.” But what he has just said begins to seep through her brain like scalding water. What’s he talking about? . . . makes him look bad? He’s saying I’m unsophisticated, a social liability, and an embarrassment. All those times we’ve gone out, he’s been ashamed of me! (And what makes it worse—it’s the sort of disease for which there’s no cure!) She always knew she was awkward. His crime is: He noticed! He’s known it, too, all along. He’s had contempt for me.
Out loud she says. “Well, I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do about that.”
He detects the petulant note. “Look,” he says. “you’re the one who said to be candid.”
She says, “I know. I want you to be.”
He says, “Well, it’s your turn.”
“Well,” she says, “I’ll tell you something about when we meet people and when we go places. You never clean yourself properly—you don’t know how to wipe yourself. Sometimes we’re standing there talking to people, and there’s . . . a smell. And I’ll tell you something else. People can tell it’s you.”
And he’s still telling himself, “I can take it”—but what inna namea Christ is this?
He says, “But you’ve never said anything—about anything like that.”
She says, “But I tried to. How many times have I told you about your dirty drawers when you were taking them off at night?”
Somehow this really makes him angry. . . . All those times . . . and his mind immediately fastens on Harley Thatcher and his wife, whom he has always wanted to impress. . . . And all at once he is intensely annoyed with his wife, not because she never told him all these years—but simply because she knows about his disgrace—and she was the one who brought him the bad news!
From that moment on they’re ready to get the skewers in. It’s only a few minutes before they’ve begun trying to sting each other with confessions about their little affairs, their little slipping around, their little coitus on the sly—“Remember that time I told you my flight from Buffalo was canceled?”—and at that juncture the ranks of those who can take it become very thin, indeed. So they communicate with great candor! and break up! and keep on communicating! and then find the relationship hopelessly doomed.
One couple went into group therapy. The other went to a marriage counselor. Both types of therapy are very popular forms, currently, of Let’s talk about Me. This phase of the breakup always provides a rush of exhilaration, for what more exhilarating topic is there than . . . Me? Through group therapy, marriage counseling, and other forms of “psychological consultation” they can enjoy that same Me euphoria that the very rich have enjoyed for years in psychoanalysis. The cost of the new Me sessions is only $10 to $30 an hour, whereas psychoanalysis runs from $50 to $125. The woman’s exhilaration, however, is soon complicated by the fact that she is (in the typical case) near or beyond the cutoff age of 35 and will have to retire to the reservation.
Well, my dear Mature Moderns . . . Ingmar never promised you a rose garden!
December 7, 2009
Tim Tebow and Colt McCoy are headed back to the Heisman Trophy presentation as finalists, along with running backs Mark Ingram and Toby Gerhart and defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. The five finalists were announced Monday. The Heisman Trophy will be awarded Saturday in Manhattan.
A decent list. Good to see a defensive player getting nominated during a year without a single overwhelming offensive player: Nebraska's Suh flung Texas's McCoy around like a rag doll in Nebraska's 13-12 loss to Texas on Saturday. I probably would have left off the two quarterbacks, Tebow and McCoy, and put in C.J. Spiller of Clemson and Golden Tate of Notre Dame, but the QBs deserved it on career achievement grounds.
When was the last time a white guy finished in the top 5 who wasn't a quarterback? Perhaps defensive lineman Steve Emtman of Washington in 1990? When was the last time a white running back was in the top 5?
Update: Commenters point to Gordon Lockbaum, who finished third in Heisman balloting in 1987 despite playing for I-AA Holy Cross. He played 60 minutes per game as a halfback and cornerback on defense.
And here's one of those convenient cheat sheets I always like so I can act like I have an intelligent opinion:
Tebow is trying to become the second two-time Heisman winner. The Florida quarterback won the award for college football's top player in 2007 and finished third last season.
McCoy was the runner-up last season to Oklahoma's Sam Bradford and has led No. 2 Texas to the BCS national championship game this season.
Ingram has rushed for 1,542 yards and scored 15 touchdowns for No. 1 Alabama.
Stanford's Gerhart, meanwhile, has run for more yards (1,736) than any player in the nation.
And Nebraska's Suh had 4 1/2 sacks in an attention-grabbing performance against Texas in the Big 12 title game.
I was a good manager of people, but a lousy risk-taker. With our typical propensity for multi-tasking, I was more comfortable doing ten things at once and keeping all the balls in the air than what was really needed, to focus on one task and nail that ball in the back of the net.
He wonders why a provocative, but also well-balanced, insightful, and interesting article like this one would seldom be published in an American newspaper. Is it being sold via subscription rather than on newsstands that makes American newspapers duller? Or is it because Fleet Street journalists are drunk all the time?
December 6, 2009
And just think, that implies that there will someday be a third generation of Latinos!
And, it turns out, that this second generation of Mexicans isn't doing all that well. Who could have possibly predicted that? Doesn't it say on the Statue of Liberty that all immigrants will rapidly join the middle class?
Struggles of the second generationI realize that nobody in the East ever heard of Mexican-Americans before recently, but there are actually more than two generations in the U.S.
U.S.-born children of Latino immigrants fight to secure a higher foothold
By N.C. Aizenman
Javier Saavedra slumped his burly frame into a worn, plaid couch in the cramped basement room he shares with his girlfriend and their 2-year-old daughter, his expression darkening as he ticked off all the wrong turns that had gotten them stuck below the economy's ground floor.
Raised by Mexican immigrant parents, Saavedra was a gang member by 13, a high school dropout by 16 and a father by 21. Now 23, he has been trying to turn his life around since his daughter, Julissa, was born.
But without a high school diploma, Saavedra was unable to find a job that paid enough for him and his girlfriend, Mayra Hererra, 20 and pregnant with their second child, to move out of her parents' brick home in Hyattsville.
Even the dim, wood-paneled room piled with baby toys and large plastic bags of clothing was costing them $350 a month.
"I get so upset with myself," Saavedra said. "I should have a better chance at a job [than our parents]. I want to be helping them with their bills, not them still helping me."
Millions of children of Latino immigrants are confronting the same challenge as they come of age in one of the most difficult economic climates in decades.
Whether they succeed will have consequences far beyond immigrant circles. As a result of the arrival of more than 20 million mostly Mexican and Central American newcomers in a wave that swelled in the 1970s and soared during the 1990s, the offspring of Latino immigrants now account for one of every 10 children, both in the United States and the Washington region.
Largely because of the growth of this second generation, Latino immigrants and their U.S.-born children and grandchildren will represent almost a third of the nation's working-age adults by mid-century, according to projections from U.S. Census Bureau data by Jeffrey S. Passel, a demographer with the nonpartisan Pew Hispanic Center in Washington.
Not since the last great wave of immigration to the United States around 1900 has the country's economic future been so closely entwined with the generational progress of an immigrant group. And so far, on nearly every measure, the news is troubling.
Second-generation Latinos have the highest high school dropout rate -- one in seven [sic] -- of any U.S.-born racial or ethnic group and the highest teen pregnancy rate. These Latinos also receive far fewer college degrees and make significantly less money than non-Hispanic whites and other second-generation immigrants.
The UCLA sociology department tracked first through fifth generation Mexican-Americans, parents, children, and grandchildren in LA and San Antonio from 1965 through 2000. Edward E. Telles and Vilma Ortiz reported on the results in their 2008 book Generations of Exclusion: Mexican Americans, Assimilation, and Race. They found that education progress stopped with the second generation, and that the fourth generation (whose grandparents were born in America) was particularly unaccomplished:
"Sadly and directly in contradistinction to assimilation theory, the fourth generation differs the most from whites, with a college completion rate of only 6 percent [compared to 35 percent for whites of that era]."
Tiger's troubles widen his distance from blacks
By JESSE WASHINGTON
Amid all the headlines generated by Tiger Woods' troubles - the puzzling car accident, the suggestions of marital turmoil and multiple mistresses - little attention has been given to the race of the women linked with the world's greatest golfer.
Except in the black community.
When three white women were said to be romantically involved with Woods in addition to his blonde, Swedish wife, blogs, airwaves and barbershops started humming, and Woods' already tenuous standing among many blacks took a beating.... "The question everyone in America wants to ask you is, how many white women does one brother waaant?"
As one blogger, Robert Paul Reyes, wrote: "If Tiger Woods had cheated on his gorgeous white wife with black women, the golfing great's accident would have been barely a blip in the [black] blogosphere."
The darts reflect blacks' resistance to interracial romance. They also are a reflection of discomfort with a man who has smashed barriers in one of America's whitest sports and assumed the mantle of the world's most famous athlete, once worn by Muhammad Ali and Michael Jordan.
But Woods has declined to identify himself as black, and famously chose the term "Cablinasian" (Caucasian, black, Indian and Asian) to describe the racial mixture he inherited from his African-American father and Thai mother.
It's more accurate to say that Tiger has declined to identify himself as solely black, in the way that Barack Obama has.
Keep in mind that both of Tiger's parents were highly mixed too. Both were 1/4th Chinese, for example. His father was also 1/4th American Indian while his mother was 1/4th European.
This vexed some blacks, but it hasn't stopped them from claiming Woods as one of their own. Or from disapproving of his marriage to Elin Nordegren, despite blacks' historical fight against white racist opponents of mixed marriage.
On the one hand, Ebonie Johnson Cooper doesn't care that Tiger Woods' wife and alleged mistresses are white because Woods is "quote-unquote not really black."
"But at the same time we still see him as a black man with a white woman, and it makes a difference," said Johnson Cooper, a 26-year-old African-American from New York City. "There's just this preservation thing we have among one another. We like to see each other with each other."
Black women have long felt slighted by the tendency of famous black men to pair with white women, and many have a list of current transgressors at the ready.
"We've discussed this for years among black women," said Denene Millner, author of several books on black relationships. "Why is it when they get to this level ... they tend to go directly for the nearest blonde?"
This tendency may be more prominent due to a relative lack of interracial marriages among average blacks. Although a recent Pew poll showed that 94 percent of blacks say it's all right for blacks and whites to date, a study published this year in Sociological Quarterly showed that blacks are less likely to actually date outside their race than are other groups.
"There is a call for loyalty that is stronger in some ways than in other racial communities," said the author of the study, George Yancey, a sociology professor at the University of North Texas and author of the book "Just Don't Marry One."
The color of one's companion has long been a major measure of "blackness" - which is a big reason why the biracial Barack Obama was able to fend off early questions about his black authenticity.
"Had Barack had a white wife, I would have thought twice about voting for him," Johnson Cooper said.
So do Woods' women say something about the intensely private golfer's views on race?
"I would like to say no, but I think it garners a bit of a yes," Johnson Cooper said.
Carmen Van Kerckhove, founder of the race-meets-pop-culture blog Racialicious, said there have been frequent discussions on her site about the fine line between preference and fetish.
"Is there any difference between a white guy with a thing for blondes, and a non-white guy with a thing for blondes?" asked Van Kerckhove, who has a Chinese mother, a Belgian father and a husband born in America to parents from Benin.
She claims that Asians don't fully embrace Woods, either.
"There are two layers of suspicion toward him," Van Kerkhove said. "One toward the apparent pattern in the race of his partners, and the second in the way he sees himself. ... People have been giving him the side-eye for a while."
There's nothing wrong with wanting a mate who shares your culture, as long as it's for the right reasons, the comedienne Sheryl Underwood said after unleashing a withering Woods monologue on Tom Joyner's radio show.
"Would we question when a Jewish person wants to marry other Jewish people?" she said in an interview. "It's not racist. It's not bigotry. It's cultural pride."
"The issue comes in when you choose something white because you think it's better," Underwood said. "And then you never date a black woman or a woman of color or you never sample the greatness of the international buffet of human beings. If you never do that, we got a problem."