Happy December! I have a post in mind about my wacky travel adventures, but it’s really late right now. So instead I will link to two blog posts I read recently that I think are absolute home runs. One of them, funnily enough, is about baseball.
To begin with the non-baseball one: please, go read this post by Glenn Greenwald on New York Times columnist Tom Friedman. Read it, read it, read it. You should particularly read it if, like me:
1) you opposed the war from the beginning,
2) you felt, during the lead-up to war, betrayed by the supposedly liberal media’s failure to report calmly and objectively about the merits of the administration’s plans and claims,
3) you have felt, over the last two years, increasingly frustrated that no one will acknowledge that being anti-war was the sensible position from the beginning, and that therefore those who opposed the war have more credibility than those who supported it.
Greenwald shows that the media establishment has worked like gangbusters to suggest that, even though the war had gone to hell—who knew that Bush would screw it up?—they were right to support it, and that no matter what it’s still unrealistic to leave. The whole thing is great, but here’s a part that felt particularly true to me:
It is not merely the case that having been pro-war doesn’t count as a strike against anyone. That is accurate. But far worse, the opposite is also true. It is still the case in Establishment Washington that having been pro-war in the first place is a pre-requisite to being considered a “responsible, serious” foreign policy analyst. And having been anti-war from the start is the hallmark of someone unserious. The pro-war Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden are serious national security Democrats but Russ Feingold, Nancy Pelosi and Jack Murtha are the kind of laughable losers whom Democrats need to repudiate.
This is not just about me and other war opponents getting in our “I told you so” (though it’s that, too; given that it was only a year after 9/11, we were sticking our neck out; I particularly remember taking the Metrolink into New York and hearing two firemen talking about how protesters had a “short memory”). It’s about who in the government and in the media we trust to lead our country, and how. What’s driven me crazy, as the war has become not just a disaster but an acknowledged disaster, is that the myth of universal support for the war, perpetuated by the Bush administration (“Everyone thought there were weapons!”) has not only been blithely accepted; it’s been actively encouraged, by those who supported the war and don’t want to admit they were wrong. Those of us who did oppose it—well, whatever, we were a bunch of hippies and intifada-lovers who would have opposed any war.
What I love about Greenwald’s article is that he absolutely nails something I had never been able to put my finger on before: why discussions of how the Democrats need to be (or at least appear) “serious about national security” drive me absolutely bonkers. As used in these debates, “serious” means “hawkish” (or “subservient to the ruling party”): the implication is that those who don’t want war are pie-in-the-sky idealists who while those who do want it don’t really want it, they just know what has to be done and by gum they are going to roll up their sleeves and do it. (Hence the hawk’s eternal riposte: “Well, what’s your solution?”) Now, it has transpired that the real delusional ones, the ones who believed that Iraq could be turned into Luxembourg with moxie and a small invasion force, were leading America into a catastrophe—which millions of people already knew—and yet there is still this idea that the pundits were right to be wrong, and that whether politicians voted to send America to its worst foreign policy blunder ever is irrelevant to whether they should still be trusted with American money and lives. When we wonder why we always forget the lessons of history, we usually chalk it up to a simple failure of memory. That’s part of it, but there’s always an active aspect of it: in order to learn a lesson, someone has to admit they were wrong, and power and influence is always much more interested in covering its ass.
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Now, to baseball: I’ve been waiting for the right time to link to Fire Joe Morgan, and though it might seem strange that that time would come in the dead of the offseason, the bad sports journalism that the site skewers is always around. Unlike most of the “Fire Public Figure” sites, FJM has a more general mission (actually, they say they don’t really care about getting Joe Morgan fired): to insist on the reasonable use of statistics and empiricism to assess baseball players, rather than mumbo-jumbo about heart, character, hustle, and all of that. Any sports fan is familiar with the proliferation of cliches in sports writing—hey, it’s hard to write about 162 games in a unique and interesting way—but even I have been amazed at some of the soft and hokey (and, in other cases, derisive and mean) writing that they find, and invariably destroy. Here’s my favorite quote from the post that finally got me to give the link, a roast of Wallace Matthews’s “Meditations on Jeter” (Matthews’s text in bold:
I know, the MVP is not supposed to be a lifetime achievement award, but it’s not supposed to be a stats competition, either.
Amen. Stats can’t capture Jeter’s essence. He’s more than a ballplayer. If you wanted to describe the most beautiful songbird in the world singing a Mozart sonata to an innocent child, would you use numbers to do so?
Go back and look through the archives, if it’s your kind of thing. It’s like MST3K for sports nerds.