Moneyball is bankrupt. In 17 years, since Billy Beane took over as general manager, the Oakland Athletics have won exactly one postseason series (in 2006). During the same time period, for purposes of comparison, the Texas Rangers won four postseason series and the Detroit Tigers six.
Yesterday evening, Katherine and I watched Thunderheart (1992), which Katherine, to my amazement, had never seen. (She has seen far more movies in her life than I have in mine.) I saw roughly the second half of it many years ago (on television) and liked what I saw (enough to order the DVD). The movie stars Val Kilmer as an FBI agent who happens to have Indian blood. Because of his Indian heritage, he is sent to a reservation in the Badlands of South Dakota to investigate a murder. The movie is tense and interesting. The backdrop is gorgeous, but the scenes of Indian life are sad. (Why must poor people—of whatever race or ethnicity—be so dirty? Clean your yard! Get rid of the junk cars!)
The acting was stilted and the dialogue sometimes corny. I got the impression many times that the actors had memorized and were merely reciting their lines. I realize that acting involves memorization, but it should not come across that way. I have never gotten the impression that Dustin Hoffman, for example, memorized his lines. He becomes the characters he plays (think Ratzo Rizzo and Little Big Man). Does that make sense? The key to good acting is losing oneself for a time. The danger, of course, is that you lose yourself forever, or, differently put, that your life becomes a succession of roles. Then again, maybe that describes most people's lives. We move from role to role: from lover to parent to friend to colleague to neighbor. Is the self a montage? Does it have an essence?
I had trouble grasping the plot as it unfolded, but talked about it later with Katherine (like me, a lawyer) and made some sense of it. This is why it's best to watch a movie at least twice. The second time around, you see things that made no sense the first time.
There is a delicious irony in the fact that Richard Morgan’s Sept. 28 Sunday Review essay, “Kicking the Facebook Habit,” resembles nothing so much as a Facebook post. There he sits at his computer, composing a post about why he no longer posts. And it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he gives his entry a “like.”
JOEL CONARROE New York, Sept. 28, 2014
To the Editor:
Unfortunately in today’s society the idea of a sense of mystery is not having a Facebook page . . . actually, that would make a great tweet.
ZEV JONAS New York, Sept. 28, 2014
To the Editor:
I have a solution to the Facebook problem that serves me well: I have never been on Facebook and never will be.
The first postseason game is about to start. Now is the time to go out on a limb and predict the winner of the World Series. Are you bold enough to do so? The teams, for those of you who haven't been paying attention, are as follows:
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Kansas City Royals
Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles
St Louis Cardinals
San Francisco Giants
My pick? Detroit Tigers. Reason? Starting pitchers.
Yesterday afternoon, Katherine and I took seven-year-old Luki (Katherine's grandson; my step-grandson) to the Ballpark in Arlington to watch the Texas Rangers play the Oakland Athletics. It was the final game of the 162-game season. Oakland needed to win to stave off the Seattle Mariners. The Rangers had nothing at stake except pride. Oakland won, 4-0, which allowed it to clinch one of the two American League wild-card spots.
The sun during the game was intense, in part because of passing clouds. (Yes, clouds intensity the sun's rays.) We had front-row seats in the third deck, looking directly down on home plate. It got so hot that, by the third inning, we moved upward into the shade. The Rangers finished the season strongly, winning 14 of 26 games during September and 13 of the final 16. Their record of 67-95 was worst in the 15-team American League and 29th-worst overall (out of 30 teams). We'll have a new manager next season, Ron Washington having resigned unexpectedly a couple of weeks ago. Our pitching staff was devastated by injuries this year. If these injured pitchers come back in the same shape in which they left, we'll be fine.
As of a few minutes ago, 437 professional (credentialed) philosophers had signed a statement to the effect that they will no longer participate in Brian Leiter's philosophical ranking system. Their reason is that he has brutalized certain members of the discipline. In reading some of the commentary on this sordid affair, I occasionally see someone try to insulate Leiter's character from his actions. It is said that one can condemn his thuggish behavior without questioning or condemning his character.
But what is character, and how is it manifested? Character is manifested in behavior. One is what one does, especially if what one does falls into certain discernible patterns. (Saying, as in vilifying, defaming, mocking, degrading, insulting, threatening, and disparaging, is a kind of doing.) Leiter has a long history of brutalizing people, including law professors, lawyers, law students, philosophy professors, philosophy students, and various and sundry others. (See the addendum to this post.) He has referred to United States Supreme Court justices as "lunatics" (Clarence Thomas) and as "depraved and repellent" (John Roberts). He has savaged the likes of Ronald Dworkin and Thomas Nagel, neither of whom, to my knowledge, had ever mentioned Leiter, much less criticized him or his work. No wonder Jules Coleman (my former teacher at the University of Arizona) refers to Leiter as "complicated." That's a polite word for "mentally ill."
Why is this individual's character out of bounds? Why is everyone bending over backward to avoid finding fault with his thuggishness? (Thuggery is an action; thuggishness is a character trait.) If I had to hazard a guess, it's that most of Leiter's critics share his leftist political values. Were he a conservative or a libertarian, he'd have been cast out of the discipline long ago. Until recently, when he attacked the wrong people (viz., women), his thuggery was a small price to pay in order to enable his vicious attacks on theists, conservatives, Straussians, Continental philosophers, et al. As Martin Luther King Jr once said, "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice." I knew that Leiter would eventually get his comeuppance. I just didn't think it would happen so soon.
Addendum: Leiter has been brutalizing, threatening, and intimidating people for over 15 years, without interruption. Read this. By the way, the number of signatories has increased to 455.
David Brooks laments the decline of people’s belief in the ability of government to address society’s problems. This was contrasted against how a few generations ago people were comfortable with large government organizations and institutions and the good work they did.
This decline of the Organization Man is a direct result of 35 years of conservative dogma. It was most cleverly delivered by the sainted Ronald Reagan, who said “the nine most terrifying words in the English language are ‘I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.’ ”
When all that two generations have been told is that government is the problem, how can anyone expect a different result?
CONSTANTINE BARIS Locust Valley, N.Y., Sept. 17, 2014
Note from KBJ: People don't need to be told that government is the problem. They experience it—in their dealings with the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Bureau of Land Management, the local zoning authority, the local police department (which issues tickets to law-abiding citizens merely to raise revenue), Homeland Security, airport authorities, the border patrol, and so on. The federal government is far too intrusive; it is staffed by self-important, indifferent functionaries (some of whom would make good Nazis); and, under the Obama administration, it has become frighteningly politicized.
The weather is changing in North Texas, albeit slowly. I rode my bike today in 80º temperatures. The trail was lightly trafficked, so I kept a good speed (averaging 17.52 miles per hour for 30.6 miles). I pedaled 397.8 miles in September, which is an annual pace of 4,773.6 miles. I'm on track to have my third-best mileage year in 2014, of 34. Next year, I'm shooting for my second-best mileage year, of 35. What a joy it is to be able to ride! I can't imagine a life without cycling.
I got to wondering how rare it is to win four consecutive divisional titles, as my Detroit Tigers have done. I'll limit myself to the American League. According to Baseball Reference, there have been only eight streaks of four or more divisional (or league) titles. Here they are:
9, New York Yankees (1998-2006)
5, New York Yankees (1949-1953)
5, New York Yankees (1960-1964)
5, Oakland Athletics (1971-1975)
5, Cleveland Indians (1995-1999)
4, Detroit Tigers (2011-2014)
4, New York Yankees (1936-1939)
4, New York Yankees (1955-1958)
That's pretty good company. If the Tigers win the Central Division title again next year, there will be only one streak that is better: that of the Yankees between 1998 and 2006. Go Tigers!
Addendum: In the National League, the Atlanta Braves won 11 consecutive divisional titles between 1995 and 2005. Unfortunately for Braves fans, that run produced only one World Series title.
Re "Airstrikes could be start of a long fight" (Editorial, Sept. 24): By ignoring history, the editors choose permanent war. Yes, extremist groups in Syria and Iraq use brutal killing to recruit more fighters. What a surprise.
On September 16, 2001, professor of peace studies John Paul Lederach's essay "The Challenge of Terror" noted that recruitment happens on a sustained basis and increases during open warfare. Read the whole essay. It predicted everything we've seen these 13 years and the peacemaking opportunities we missed.
On March 17, 2003, two days before we invaded Iraq, I wrote you that "Our armed forces, like the Israelis, can defeat any military force and seize any objective. But we are about to discover, like the Israelis, that military victory does not—can not—create peace."
This latest military action does not begin anything. We planted abundant seeds of violence. Now we are harvesting abundant violence. May God save us from our stupidity.
This man is a disgrace to academia and a danger to his impressionable students. There is no logical incompatibility between religion and science. Science describes what's in the box. It has nothing to say about whether there is something outside the box (much less about its nature). Scientism consists in applying the concepts or methods of science to nonscientific realms. David Barash is a scientist in this sense.