Thursday, November 19, 2009

Legal Opinions...Brought To You By Google

The Web (in general) and Google (in particular) spent the better part of this decade wreaking havoc on the newspaper, which previously had mono- or duo-polies in their local (respective) markets. The next decade may be spent doing the same to a highly-profitable niche: legal publishing.

Legal research is dominated by two companies: WestLaw and Lexis-Nexis.

Judicial opinions are public documents. But by publishing a vast swath of judicial opinions (and assigning them "official" book and page numbers, West established a defacto monopoly over the way cases are referred to, as codified in the standard reference. West also summarized cases by subject matter, in a system called "Headnotes."

(As an example, Smith v. Jones(*), 5 F.3d 123 means that the opinion in the case of Smith v. Jones can be found beginning on the 123rd page of the 5 volume of the "F.3d" series of case reporters. But "F.3d" is a series of books published by West, and in order to find the case, you need to either refer to the physical book or sign on to WestLaw. Contrast with a Bible cite, like John 3:16, which refers you to the 16th verse in the 3rd chapter of the book of John, but which is independent of any particular Bible publisher.)

(*)-Fictional case.

Lexis-Nexis developed its own system of citation (independent of West's bound books), and the two companies have essentially shared a duopoly over computerized legal research since the 1970s.

So Monday's rather understated announcement on Google's blog that Google will make legal cases available (without charge) on its Google Scholar site has potential long-lasting implications. West and Lexis will need to find ways to compete, and it is unlikely that their margins will remain unaffected for very long.

URL citations have been creeping into legal briefs and opinions over the past few years; Google is betting that that trend will continue.

And with AdWords alongside them?

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Value of the Gold Glove

The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract is clearly the touchstone (minus of course, about 241 references to The Karate Kid) for Bill Simmons' Book of Basketball (the BOB)(*). But Simmons also clearly looks to another James book -- Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame -- as a way to try and re-define what it means (in the respective sports) to be a HOFer.

(*) About which more later.

One tool for both analysis is the contemporary voting on awards: MVPs, All-Pro teams, Gold Gloves. James' view on contemporary evaluation of players is summed up as follows:

I advocate that we pay close attention, in evaluating Hall of Fame candidates, to the player's performance in award voting while active -- MVP voting, Gold Glove voting, in-season and post-season All-Star teams. If a player hits .267 with 63 RBI, but wins the MVP award, what does that mean at the time? It means that there was a widespread perception, at the time, that the player's collateral skills (defense, baserunning and leadership) were of exceptional value. Similarly, if a player drives in 162 runs and is hardly mentioned in the MVP voting, what does that mean? It means that there is a widespread perception, at the time, that the player's skills were not good.
The baseball Gold Gloves were awarded last week, and two surprises occurred in the American League: for the fourth time in the last six year, Yankees SS Derek Jeter was awarded a GG, and in the outfield, Torii Hunter and Ichiro each won their ninth consecutive GG, together first-timer Adam Jones (BAL).

Hunter, Ichiro, and Jones are not necessarily bad picks individually by themselves(*), but as highlighted by AP fav Joe Posnanski, the three necessarily cause the omission of Franklin Gutierrez; as explained by JoePos, Gutierrez saved perhaps 31 runs over an "average" centerfield in 2009, although alternative statistics show more in the range of 10-11 runs saved. In any event, there seems to be growing consensus that Guiterrez should won a GG.

Jeter has become a favorite whipping boy for GG critics; his win this year (after two years 'off') restarted the debate around his 'value', although JoePos argues that whether or not he was deserving this year, he had a better defensive year than in the 2004-2006 period, when he won 3 straight. (Or more to the point, over his career, Jeter gets to about 91% of the balls that the average AL shortstop gets to, which means that Yankees pitchers give up an extra hit (a ball not handled) every other game.)

But the larger question is what do we learn from GG awards?

JoePos posits that "We all know that the Gold Glove has become something to reward good offensive players who seem to be pretty decent in the field too." And perhaps that's good enough.(*)

(*)- Of course, such a definition makes the Silver Slugger award -- meant to reward the best offensive player at each position -- superfluous. Such analysis also does not explain the multiple awards to Omar Vizquel (only one GG season with OPS+ above 100) and Eric Chavez (won two GG with OPS+ in the 104-108 range.)

But in a world where the statistical analysis of baseball has broken through, and OPS+ and VORP are cited by mainstream publications, what does it say about the democratic process (as exemplified by Gold Glove voting, which is currently done by managers and coaches (not voting for their own players)?

Or perhaps, like Joe Morgan, the managers and coaches in voting for the Gold Gloves are trying to maintain the power of the "insider."

After all, how good a fielder can Franklin Gutierrez be if he's never won a Gold Glove?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Understanding the Risks

Arizona Cardinals WR Sean Morey admitted that he played last week despite still suffering the aftereffects of a concussion. While such news would normally fall under the category of "dog-bites-man" in the NFL, there is one surprising fact.

Last month Morey was named Co-Chair of the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) Concussion and Traumatic Brain Injury Committee. His Co-Chair is a doctor, the Medical Director of the NFLPA.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

"The Burden of Command"


MSNBC interview with NY News reporter James Gordon Meek.

Owning Two Wars -- and the Presidency







A few weeks ago in the WSJ, Peggy Noonan wrote of the moment in which a President 'owns' his Presidency. (The context was, in typical Noonan fashion, passive/aggressive partisanship: At what point does the public make Obama responsible for the economy? Her answer: right about now.)

In the last two weeks, it appears that Obama has taken ownership of the role of Commander-in-Chief. In the early morning of Thursday, October 29th, the President paid a late night visit to Dover Air Force Base as the bodies of 18 American servicemen who had died in Afghanistan were returned home.

A week ago, on Thursday, November 5th, thirteen people were killed (and almost 30 wounded) by alleged gunman Nidal M. Hasan. Although Obama's immediate response was criticized by some, his speech on Tuesday at the Fort Hood memorial service was well-received.

And finally, yesterday, he laid a wreath at Arlington for the first time as President, and then stopped by Section 60 of the Cemetery; the visit was recounted in a moving piece by a journalist who was there "off duty."

Against the backdrop of a pending decision on strategy in Afghanistan, Obama seems to have grown into the role of C-in-C this past fortnight.

And his actions over the past few weeks bring into sharper relief the outrageousness of the "dithering" statement by former VP Dick Cheney.

All Your Information Are Belong To Us

Interesting story in today's Globe about Google decision to allow its users to quickly (and easily) see what information the company's servers are storing. Putting this information together in one place (and on one screen) is (at least for Globe author Hiawatha Bray) somewhat disconcerting.

From the looks of the comments, most readers are in contrast "underwhelmed."

AP has written about privacy and security on the net before, so the set of information that Google has accumulated (through voluntary decisions by users) is in fact, somewhat limited.

But the article serves as a good reminder of the scope of electronic surveillance, and its impact on individual privacy. And for that matter, individual and identity security.

There's an App for That?!?!




The growing proliferation of robots (corresponding to the ubiquity of technology and/or drop(s) in prices) continues.

The latest example: as mentioned earlier, a lab at MIT has developed a application for the iPhone that allows a user to connect to a relatively cheap ($5,000 or so) quad-rotor helicopter available from Ascending Technologies GmbH.

What is key to the application is that the robot is finding 'its own way.' As demonstrated in the video, the user simply identifies an end point, and the mini-UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) plots its path to the target. (Presumably avoiding obstacles, like the vertical column seen in the video, in the process.)

The UAV is equipped with a camera, making the military applications obvious: seeing around corners, looking at the top of roofs for snipers, examining possible IEDs. But the availability of the components (and lost cost thereof) will mean that 'bad guys' will also have the technology. In addition, one could imagine civilian users who might also use the device for less-than-admirable ends.

In her talk on Tuesday, Dr. Cummings alluded to the Federal Aviation Administration's concern about these micro UAVs. Indeed, the FAA has started to issue regulations and related certificates for such UAVs: Honeywell received one of the first certificates in 2005 to test an untethered UAV on the Laguna Indian Reservation (about 45 miles from Albuquerque); interestingly, the FAA, in issuing such a certificate, evaluates the airworthiness of the entire system, not just the drone. Among the FAA's current requirements, there must be a ground observer or an accompanying “chase” aircraft must maintain visual contact with the drone, to insure that there is no interference with other aircraft. In February 2007, the FAA published medical certification requirements for pilots who are 'operating' UAVs.

This field will clearly continue to grow, and the FAAs ability to safely manage US airspace will be an ongoing challenge. Introduction of such mini UAVs in a battlefield situation (over Afghanistan or Pakistan, for example) will require coordination between various service.

(As an aside, radio-controlled (RC) model aircraft are subject to other rules, and are not supposed to be flown more than 400 feet off the ground.)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Bird on the Refs

Larry Legend weighed in this week on the problems of NBA refs:

I know our league has got the best officials in the world. I think overall they do a tremendous job. There are different ways that different officials officiate, but we should be very honored we do have the best.

Does that mean the NBA officials are the best basketball officials in the world?

Or, considering that Bird was talking about the problems that baseball umps had in the 2009 post-season, is he claiming that NBA refs are the best sports officials in the world?

Hmmmm..

Wired for War Comes to Cambridge

PW Singer, author of Wired for War, spoke yesterday at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL).

Picking up on his book, Singer spoke to a full lecture hall that seemed evenly split between undergrad, grad, and faculty. He emphasized the fact that development of military robotics -- whether designed for defensive or offensive capabilities -- was outstripping (by far) legal, ethical, and scientific analysis of the impact that such new devices have on human's capacity to make war. Instead, he spoke of scientists and robotic developers who believed that such "non-scientific" concerns were not their concern, or that the developers would be able to maintain control over the robots (rather than policy-makers.)

Singer also spoke of the speed of this change, and the impact it has been having on both young soldiers (who can fly a drone over Pakistan from North Dakota, for instance, without even having a pilot's license) to senior policy-makers (whose understanding of the rate of deployment of such weapons is, at times, woefully behind the curve.)

There was some discussion of a recent New Yorker article about the Predator and Reaper (a more-heavily armed Predator) programs. The article expressed special concern about the drones operated by the CIA, which author Jane Mayer maintains, does not have the same experience or procedural limits on indiscriminate targetting as does the military. Indeed, the UN (through its Committee on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions) recently demanded that the US make showing that such CIA-operated drones are within the bounds of international law.

Singer was joined on stage by MIT Professor Missy Cummings, a former Navy fighter pilot. Her work is in the field of unmanned flight, and she discussed a few of her ongoing projects(*).

(*) - More to come on this.

Finally, it is clear that in the post-9/11 era, funding for robotics and related projects will be dominated by the Defense Department. From the Navy (like Japan) studying baseball-playing robots to self-driven cars, it clear that military uses (and plain old military research) will drive this field. And as Singer noted, such research funding comes with costs.

A recording of the Forum is expected to posted online shortly at the MIT Technology and Culture site.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Things That Make You Go Hmmm... (NBA Edition)

* Disgraced former NBA ref Tim Donaghy has written in book while in prison for the last year. After Triumph Books (an imprint of Random House) apparently bought the rights to the book last year, it is alleged that pressure from the NBA made them re-think, and ultimately decided not to go forward with the project. Deadspin has excerpts (also, in fairness, the source for the NBA-is-killing-the-book rumor) from the book, some of which are explosive (i.e., that refs regularly bet on games, or on events within the game that they had control over, like who would be the first to call a technical foul.)

The excerpts on fellow NBA referees are more damaging than any allegation of betting on NBA games. Here's what he has to say about Dick Bavetta:

Studying under Dick Bavetta for 13 years was like pursuing a graduate degree in advanced game manipulation. He knew how to marshal the tempo and tone of a game better than any referee in the league, by far. He also knew how to take subtle — and not so subtle — cues from the NBA front office and extend a playoff series or, worse yet, change the complexion of that series.

The 2002 Western Conference Finals between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Sacramento Kings presents a stunning example of game and series manipulation at its ugliest. As the teams prepared for Game 6 at the Staples Center, Sacramento had a 3–2 lead in the series. The referees assigned to work Game 6 were Dick Bavetta, Bob Delaney, and Ted Bernhardt. As soon as the referees for the game were chosen, the rest of us knew immediately that there would be a Game 7. A prolonged series was good for the league, good for the networks, and good for the game. Oh, and one more thing: it was great for the big-market, star-studded Los Angeles Lakers.

In the pregame meeting prior to Game 6, the league office sent down word that certain calls — calls that would have benefitted the Lakers — were being missed by the referees. This was the type of not-so-subtle information that I and other referees were left to interpret. After receiving the dispatch, Bavetta openly talked about the fact that the league wanted a Game 7.

"If we give the benefit of the calls to the team that's down in the series, nobody's going to complain. The series will be even at three apiece, and then the better team can win Game 7," Bavetta stated.

As history shows, Sacramento lost Game 6 in a wild come-from-behind thriller that saw the Lakers repeatedly sent to the foul line by the referees. For other NBA referees watching the game on television, it was a shameful performance by Bavetta's crew, one of the most poorly officiated games of all time.


* While anyone who's ever watched an NBA game closely will tell you that particular refs can influence the flow of a game. Refs certainly have a role in other sports, as well, although their effect is rarely so pronounced -- or so discussed. Even when a baseball umpire misses a call (or two), it is seen as just that: a missed call. Not part of an orchestrated plan emanating from the Commissioner's office. (Indeed, the missed calls in this year's ALCS resulted in umpiring changes for the World Series. Missed calls in the NBA are treated with the transparency and openness of a failed Five Year Plan in the old Soviet Union.)

* Donaghy has creditability problems, no doubt. But Bill Simmons is a favorite of the league; his new book (The Book of Basketball) on the history of the NBA(*) is number one on the New York Times best-seller list, and his calls are taken by NBA Commissioner David Stern (see BOB, page 137, footnote 89)(**)

(*) - More to come on the BOB.

(**) - Referencing that Stern believes that the advent of cable TV had a bigger impact on 'saving' the NBA than the arrival of Bird and Magic; both events occurred around 1980] "How do I know this? I called the commish and asked him. We talked for 35 minutes."


* Simmons himself has written extensively on the problem with NBA referees, including during the playoffs last spring:

We still don't know why certain referees get assigned to certain games, why Bennett Salvatore always seems to be involved when a home team needs a win to change the momentum of a series, why Joey Crawford keeps getting assigned to Spurs games, why Danny Crawford keeps getting assigned to Mavericks games, why Bill Kennedy would get assigned to a big Celtics game only six weeks after an argument cost Doc Rivers money. We are told that referees don't matter, but that's the thing: They do...

One other thing to chart: Does the NBA "control" the outcomes of certain games by assigning referees with certain call patterns? For instance, the 2008-09 Celtics were the most physical team in the league. Let's say they were leading a series 3-2 and the NBA wanted a Game 7. Would it assign some of its most whistle-happy refs to that game? Or let's say the NBA needed Utah to pull out a must-win game at home. If it had one or two refs with a history of being intimidated by tough crowds, would it feed them to the wolves in Utah? So let's see this stuff on paper. We have hundreds of stat-obsessed lunatics tracking Derek Jeter's defensive range or unearthing new ways to rip off VORP; we couldn't find a few of them to pick apart officials and assignments?


* And in the BOB (page 131), here's Simmons on the 1977-78 season:

The bad luck extended beyond Walton going down: the league barely missed out on a Sixers-Nuggets Finals in '78 ("Thompson versus the Doctor!") and a thoroughly entertaining Spurs-Suns Finals in '79 ("Davis and Westphal take on the Iceman!") If Stern had been running the league in '78 or '79, you might have seen that decade's equivalent of Dick Bavetta or Bennett Salvatore reffing a few of those pivotal Spurs-Bullets, Sixers-Bullets, and Nuggest-Sonics games. And you know it's true.(FN 79)

(FN 79)- Four perfect candidates: Seattle at Denver, '78 (Game 5, series tied at 2); Philly at Washington, '78 (Game 6, Bullets leading 3-2); Seattle at Phoenix, '79 (Game 6, Phoenix leading 3-2); Washington at San Antonio, '79 (Game 6, Spurs leading 3-2). The less sexy team won all 4 of those games. Um, this never happens anymore. Not sure if you've noticed.


* Bavetta himself told the Orland Sentinel that he may retire at the end of the year.

* Unexpected retirements are an NBA tradition in the Stern era.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pedro Redux

After a losing -- albeit commendable -- performance in Game 2 of the World Series, Charlie Manuel gives Pedro Martinez the ball again tonight in Game 6.

And not unlike Grady Little back in 2003, Manuel stayed with Pedro past the 100-pitch mark, and it almost cost the Phils: after giving up just two hits (both of which were home runs), Charlie sent Pedro out for the 7th, and he gave up two straight hits before being relieved (the first runner, Jerry Hairston, Jr., eventually scored.)

The Phils' bullpen has been shaky all season. Pedro is almost sure to need help from the pen. 37-year old Andy Pettitte is pitching on short rest.

Must see TV indeed.

Another Look at Chicagoland's Past


















Some more Chicagoland history: the above photo shows a temporary ski slope once built at Soldier Field (built in the mid-1950s, just before Old Man Daley took office.)

Hard to believe that these weren't more popular.

Hard to also believe that, given they were still being built in the late fifties, these couldn't be a complete "Mad Men" episode.

Here's one that gives AP vertigo just looking at it, from Vancouver:



















Hat tip, Deputy Dog.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Boss















On the day that Boston goes to the polls to determine whether Tom Menino should be given a fifth term, it is fitting to remember Mike Royko's classic portrait of Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley, "Boss."

Royko is a throwback to an earlier era of journalism: more urban (rather than urbane), a true child of the city, and one who is both attracted and repulsed by the exercise of power.

He also paints the portrait of a Chicago rife with racial tensions: "[c]ontaining the Negro was unspoken city policy. Even expressways were planned as natural man-made barriers, the unofficial borders. The Dan Ryan, for instance, was shifted several blocks during the planning stage to make one of the ghetto walls."(p. 137)

(This Chicago is different from, but the inheritor of, the one that met Barack Obama twenty years later, as portrayed in his book, Dreams from My Father. But Old Man Daley's Chicago is the one that First Lady Michelle Robinson Obama was born into, and grew up in.)

Other vestiges of the old Chicago live on. Son Richard Michael, the current mayor (since 1989; he will break his father's record for longevity if he serves out the current term), has a cameo in "Boss", but his influence on current politics is felt. Current Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is a former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools; the younger Daley created the job of CEO after convincing the Illinois State Legislature to place the school system under his control. (Interestingly, the independence of the school board is played to political advantage in Royko's view, by the elder Daley.)

In "Dreams", Obama paints Chicago as his "native" land; the place where he learned who he was. But there is a history of that land, and Royko's portrayal of the elder Daley provides some insight as to the Chicago that met the young Obama.

A Breakout Season for Dementia

The 'epidemic' of head injuries among athletes may be turning a corner, as in the last ten days, the issue has broken through in the public consciousness:

* Malcolm Gladwell used his high profile column in the New Yorker to analogize the NFL to dog fighting (and somewhere, Michael Vick laughs. Or cries.) Gladwell also narrated a slideshow that provides graphic evidence of the effect that the sport has on brains.

* Last week, Congressman John Conyers held hearings on the effects of concussions and the NFL's response to them. Among the people testifying: NFL Commission Roger Goddell, and SLI representatives including Dr. Robert Cantu, Dr. Ann McKee, and Chris Nowinski.

* On Deadspin, a prominent sports blog, Michael Oriard, a former Notre Dame and Chiefs offensive lineman wrote about his own concussion history -- and perhaps a warning of its future:
One of Roger Goodell's worst nightmares has to be the possibility that football will come to be regarded as boxing is today: a potential and very violent path to celebrity and wealth that only the most economically desperate would consider and that the vast majority of Americans find unpalatable.

We need much more research — on large number of former players, over a long period of time — to know just how dangerous football is to the human brain. Knowing the answer might be a blow not only to the NFL but to all lovers of football. But continuing to not know might be considerably more painful for those who play the game.


(Disclosure: Sports Legacy Institute (SLI) is a client of Henshon Parker, LLP)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

WWGD?

The Phillies send Pedro Martinez to the mound tonight at Yankee Stadium after taking a 1-0 World Series lead last night. Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel was roundly criticized after pulling Martinez in Game 2 of the NLCS despite a 1-0 lead and just 87 pitches (through seven innings).

At the time, the Phillies bullpen seemed shaky: Brad Lidge had lost the "closer" job late in the season, and ended the year with an 0-8 record and a 7.21 ERA. (A year ago he had been 48-for-48 in regular season and post-season saves.)

The Phillies' pen has been better in recent games, and perhaps Manuel will feel confident in that performance. But in another cold night in the Bronx, the ghost of Grady Little will undoubtedly be lingering over Pedro and his manager as the dreaded 100-pitch limit approaches.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Midnight Madness on M Street





Georgetown opened its 2009-10 college basketball season with a "Midnight Madness" tribute to the King of Pop.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Drudge Speechless

At approximately 5:50AM ET, the New York Times has been reporting for 15 minutes that Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize in a "stunning surprise."

The Drudge Report, which is traditionally right-leaning, remains headlined with "Dems Plot Second Stimulus," together with a photo of Nancy Pelosi; there is no mention of the Peace Prize on the site.

Even Drudge is speechless.

And, as they say, what a difference a week makes in politics.

Or perhaps its just the change in Scandinavian cities.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Scoring

The summer doldrums that dragged down the Health Care bill -- and President Obama's poll numbers -- can be linked almost directly to the CBO's preliminary analysis that 'scored' the "Affordable Health Choices Act" as adding approximately $1.0T to the deficit over the 2010-19 period.

The CBO is of course the Congressional Budget Office, which is the non-partisan Congressional agency that provides analysis of the budgetary impact (i.e., adding to or reducing the deficit) for all Congressional bills. That analysis begins and ends all questions and debate.

So the report this afternoon that the CBO has scored the current proposal (the Senate bill) and found that it will reduce the deficit by $81B over the 2010-19 period is good news for the Administration, and its allies in Congress.

If the numbers hold up, then Health Care is: Done and Done.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Whip Counts

AP hopes that the White House has a better sense of the whip count in the Senate (and House, for that matter) on health care than they did (clearly) with the International Olympic Committee in Copenhagen.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The NFL Edges Closer to Dementia

Today's NY Times reported on a long-awaited NFL-commissioned study on the prevelance of dementia (and other forms of illness, such as kidney and prostate problems, heart attacks, and ulcers). Randomly calling former players who were in the League for at least three seasons, the study's preliminary findings indicate that dementia and other memory-related illnesses were running close to 5 times expected rates.

HPLLP client(*) Sports Legacy Institute has been long at the forefront of the connection between multiple concussions and memory-related illnesses, including Alzheimer's. The NFL has been 'slow-walking' a response pending the results of the study reported today.

Now with data in hand, the pace of addressing the concussion problem -- both for professional athletes and (perhaps more importantly) for youth and college sports -- may increase.

(*) - HPLLP advised SLI in its partnership with the Boston University School of Medicine.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Case of the Missing Emails

The Case of the Missing Emails has been roiling Boston's City Hall for the past few weeks. To recap, one of Mayor Menino's top aides, Michael Kineavy, has been routinely deleting his incoming and outgoing emails so that they would not be backed-up or otherwise retained on the City's servers. This is, as the papers carefully put it, an "apparent" violation of state law; the Mayor characterized it as an "'honest mistake'" that was blown out of proportion thanks to election "'silly season.'"

The law in question has some pretty clear penalties: up to a five hundred dollar fine, a year in prison, or both. While the fine may not get anyone's attention, a year in prison certainly should, as Samuel Johnson once quipped, focus one's mind.

The recovered emails were released in slow-motion over the weekend, and the sampling that were printed in the Globe yesterday showed the political process at its worse: the Mayor "blowing up" (former supporters); his "very long memory" and so forth.

Another public figure with an aversion to email comes to mind. This financier was also subject to laws requiring email retention, although he contemplated violating them (and apparently had to be convinced not to do so). In the end, he decided to print the emails out on hard paper -- to eliminate the possibility of an automated search -- and then converted the paper copies to microfiche when the volume of paper overwhelmed storage areas.

The name of the financier who spent so much time and effort to 'erase' his firm's email tracks? Bernie Madoff.

...And we're back

Sorry for the summer hiatus...perhaps like old friend Manny Ramirez, taking some time off in August is good for the fall.

File under: Allerton Being Allerton?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

A Different Kind of "Wardrobe Malfunction"

Any list of most influential books of the 20th century must include George Orwell's 1984. And the world that is described -- with oversight of private lives, double-speak, and torture -- is one that seems, given the modern world, to be coming closer and closer.

So it not surprising that Amazon, which is trying to convert readers from paper-and-binding physical books to its new Kindle e-book reader, would want to offer the classic work. In keeping with the Brave New World of Web 2.0, Amazon allows alleged copyright holders to essentially self-publish, by uploading works to its Kindle site, to then be purchased by Kindle owners.(*)

(*-The economics of Kindle publishing are interesting, and worth further exploration: apparently Amazon claims 70% of revenue from newspaper sales, and a right to further distribution. Nonetheless newspapers are lining up to be part of this "new revenue stream" despite getting the short end of the proverbial stick. Well, if there's one thing that the last 10 years have proven, it's that newspapers can adapt to a post-local-monopolistic world. Oh wait.)

But self-publishing(**) carries its own risks, including the possibility that a judgment-proof entity can upload content for distribution that it does not actually own. That's exactly what apparently happened when MobileReference, which is owned by an entity called SoundTells, uploaded its version of 1984 and Orwell's "Animal Farm"; unfortunately for Amazon, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, not MobileReference, owns the American rights to both Orwellian works.

(**-Amazon also allows its Kindle owners to effectively "self-publish" but sending themselves via email a text that is then converted to a Kindle-friendly-format. Undoubtedly some of these conversion are of text for which the Kindle user in question does not have proper rights. Amazon's exposure there, however, is not certain.)

What happened next re-defined the oft misused concept of irony: Amazon removed the illicit copies of 1984 from its Kindle storefront, which made sense because Amazon was at risk for copyright infringement damages. But Amazon didn't stop there. It also took the unprecedented step of deleting copies of the books from individual Kindles. Poof! (***)

(***- Amazon did have the common sense to refund its customer's purchases. It should also be noted that even under the terms of its license agreement with its Kindle customers, Amazon did not have the right to delete material because it granted to its customers the right to a "permanent copy of the applicable digital content.")

There is no clear analogy in the 'old-fashioned' world to what Amazon did. If a book seller went to your house to reclaim a illicit copy of a physical book, you would have an action for (among other things) trespass. Even recalls in the case of faulty products depend on customer's voluntarily returning the goods in question to the manufacturer (or retailer) for a new product or refund.(****)

(****-"Voluntary" recalls refer to the voluntary action by the good manufacturer, not the end-user.)

Even given the apparent violation of the terms of its own (self-serving) license agreement(*****), Amazon will probably not face extensive litigation risk; it probably sold very few copies of the illicit texts through MobileReference, and Houghton Mifflin may not pursue the matter.

(*****-In fairness, most 'shrink-wrap' license agreements are self-serving; courts generally have allowed them to be enforced despite the fact that few, if any, users actually read them. Instead, a click-through "I Agree" page is usually binding.)

But the incident does create a business problem for Amazon: one of the the good features about the Kindle is that you keep a record of your reading on Amazon's computers (in case you delete -- either accidentally or otherwise (i.e., for memory space reasons)). But the ability of a corporation to delete your personal reading material -- for copyright or other reasons -- brings to mind its own version of "Big Brother."

It also reminds one of the infamous Justin Timberlake/Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction" incident in 2004 at the Super Bowl. At the time, TiVo's flacks rushed out with the statement that the incident was the "most watched" event in the history of the recording device; but in a case of shooting-oneself-in-the-foot, that very metric raised the question of how TiVo's management knew that fact. And what else did they know about the viewing habits of their customers?

A few days later, a more-chagrined TiVo had to reassure its customers that the individual information of viewing habits were not being monitored; but the spectre of such monitoring -- and what it means for privacy -- still lingers in the air five years later.

Amazon can't make such an 'aggregation' claim; its records indicate clearly who bought what reading material, and what material is actively on the particular Kindle device.

It's simply, Jeff Bezos (and Jonathan Zittrain) might say, a question of "trust."

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Synethesia Part II

Coincidentally, a new video appeared on the motiongrapher site today, from Terri Timely (a directing duo made up of Ian Kibbey and Corey Creasey), depicting the effects of synethesia on two brothers.

Separated at Birth?








MLB Umpire Joe West and ND Football Coach Charlie Weis

If You Are In NYC Tomorrow...
















Stop by the Conde Nast Building at 4 Times Square from 6pm to 8pm on Thursday, June 25th. Friend of AP Erik Rosen has put together an exhibit of art inspired by synethesia, or the visualization of sound as color. He developed the idea while recovering from a stem cell transplant.

The above depicts "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" by the Rolling Stones. He also has pieces inspired by Bruce Springsteen, the Beatles, and Bob Dylan.

The exhibit will be open through July 20th.






"Thunder Road"

Monday, June 15, 2009

Wired for War


















"Wired for War", by P.W. Singer, is a far broader book that the title indicates (although the subtitle -- The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century does give some indication.) Rather than limit his inquiry into the the current state of the robotics world, Singer covers the entire gamut of how wars will be fought in the next century.

But he does spend some (first) exploring the current state of the world. He identifies two current robots: PackBot, built by iRobot; and Talon and its "pissed-off big brother" SWORDS (Special Weapons Observation Reconnaissance Detection System) built by Foster-Miller.

Singer considers himself a child of pop culture, and references to film, books, and even video games are littered throughout the text. Some of the references are direct, as when he wonders whether Star War's C-3PO will be the future shape of robots; others are more obscure. But Singer is at his best when he can merge the influence of science fiction -- from Asimov to the original Star Trek; from James Cameron (director of Terminator) to J.K. Rowling (the 'invisability cloak' described in Harry Potter is inspiring scientists today -- to show how culture influences scientists and their expectations of and for robotics.

Singer also wonders and writes about the role that robots will play in the warrior culture. Separation of the warrior from his opponent has long been a theme of technologic advance (after all, even Japanese samurai eventually acknowledged that their swords were no match for a peasant with a gun). But Singer notes that the very fact of "going to war" -- heading off to a distant place where the laws of normal society are suspended -- no longer applies when a Predator drone can be flown over Afghanistan by an operator who can finish his mission and be home in time for dinner.

The book also raises the topic related to robotics: artificial intelligence. As systems become more and more sophisticated, human oversight becomes an temporal impediment to resolving a conflict successfully. In other words, if machines are waiting for human approval of a pre-emptive attack, the opportunity will be lost, and the machine (and perhaps one or more humans) will suffer as the result. But the alternative: humans ceding control to machines without "human fail-safe" is a topic that, as Singer records, is not one very many scientists working in the field wish to discuss.

Singer does a admirable job of identifying issues that the new technology will raise. While he doesn't try to predict outcomes, he also points to a future that will continue to challenge us. The book is well-worth reading for those who are looking to quickly grasp a state of the robotics/AI world, as it applies to war-making. And in a post-9/11 environment, defense budgets and political resistance to casualties means that more, not less, resources will be available for placing machines "in harm's way."

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Kwik Kwiz

Which former Red Sox hurler reminds you of Larry Bird: Keith Foulke or Curt Schilling?

A story in this week's Globe (surprisingly highlighted by Dan Shaughnessy today):
Knowing he was too injured to pitch, oft-maligned Keith Foulke (now trying to make a comeback) retired in February 2007 one day before he would have collected $5 million from the Indians just for showing up at work. Here's what Foulke said to the Globe's Stan Grossfeld when asked about Curt ($8 million for not pitching in 2008) Schilling: "He's got to wake up and look himself in the mirror every day."

Here's how Larry Bird's retirement went down:

When Bird finished the 1991-92 season, the prognosis was grim; his body had finally worn out. His contract contained a two-year option for $4.5 million a year, which would automatically take effect on August 15 if he didn't notify the club of his retirement. On August 12, Bird went to see [Celtics CEO Dave] Gavitt and announced he was going to retire. Gavitt, aware of the August 15 deadline and of all the years of dedicated service Larry had given the Celtics, asked him whether he wanted a few more days to think it over. "I know what day this is," Bird replied. "If I'm not going to play and know I can't play, I'm not going to take the money. I'm not going to take one cent I don't earn."

Friday, May 29, 2009

When Amazing Happens from 15 Feet

The NBA's playoff ad campaign is brilliant: a pianist plays stark thirds, an empty basketball court and arena slowly (thanks to a reverse-CGI) filled to life with Kobe to Shaq...Bird's steal...Magic's Junior Sky-hook.

There's one other "Amazing" highlight that brings the NBA's past to its future: Dr. J's swoop. For NBA fans of a certain age, it defined all that basketball could be -- power, mid-air acrobatics, and grace. That moment was seared -- thanks to countless replays -- on the mind of millions.

But who saw it live? Only the 18,000 or so in Philadelphia's Spectrum who were in attendance for Game Four of the 1980 Finals. For everyone else, the 1980 Finals were consigned to late night television -- speaking of amazing -- on 'tape delay.'

The NBA of the late 1970s was a much different league than the one declared "Fannnn-tastic" just a few years later. It was a league that had gone through the 1970s built on terrific teams (the post-Russell Celtics, Knicks, and Lakers in the first half of the decade, the immortal Blazers in 1977), but after the ABA merger, it was a with little defense, little charisma, and little fan support (the 1979-80 Lakers drew 582,882, good for 3rd in the League; the Lakers this season drew 778,877, a 33% increase in numbers, good for 8th in the League.)

But presented with two well-known (thanks to the 1979 NCAA Final) and marketable stars -- Magic and Bird -- the NBA turned to a star-based system. The teams became identified by single players, and thanks to the leadership of the two most prominent; renewed interest in college basketball created interest in the pro game, culminating with the 1984 draft (3 of the top 5 players were eventual Hall of Famers, highlighted by His Airness, and the other was Sam Perkins, who played in 1286 games(*)) and interest and attendance spiked, from 450,331 (10,983 per game) in 1979-80 to 641,616 (15,649 per game) ten years later.

(*-While NBA games played is not the only measure of a player to be sure, it's more games than every player drafted at #4 from 1985 to 1994 (Rasheed Wallace was the #4 in 1995, and he's still active. Inserting footnotes in the text -- Hat tip to Joe Pos.)

But as teams -- and marketing campaigns -- were built around stars, the league had to make some tricky choices. Fans came out to the stadium to see Michael, Dominique, and Isiah, and it wasn't doing anyone any good to see them on the bench with foul trouble.

More important -- and more ominous for the integrity of refereeing -- stars became subject to kid glove treatment. In 1979-80, the top five in free throws attempted were Moses Malone (#1), World B. Free, Dan Issel, John Drew, and Reggie Theus. Malone and Issel were legitimate stars (both are in the Hall of Fame), but the other three were good, but not great players who played in a total of 5 All-Star Games.

Contrast with 1989-90, where the top five in FTA is dominated by Hall of Famers (Karl Malone, David Robinson, the Chuckster, Jordan and Patrick Ewing.)(**) FTA per game were also up slightly during the period, from 56 per game in 1979-80 to 57 per game in 1989-90, although defenses were becoming more physical in the era of the Detroit Bad Boys.

(**- Analysis of one year's top 5 FTA may not make the argument airtight, but here's top 5/FTA in 1978-79: Free, Malone (HOF), George McGinnis, Cedric Maxwell, and Drew; here's 1988-89: Karl Malone, Barkley, Jordan, Moses Malone, and Hakeem, all HoFers)

Here's another set of data: in 1977, Dr. J led the NBA in playoff FTA with 7.05 per game (134 in 19 games; in 1978, Dennis Johnson led with 7.22 FTA per playoff game (159/22 games); in 1979, it was Elvin Hayes with 6.84 FTA per playoff game (130/19 games).

In 1987, Bird led the league with 8.39 FTA per playoff game (193 FTA in 23 games); in 1988, it was Adrian Dantley with 7.73 FTA per playoff game (178/23 games); in 1989, it was Jordan with 13.47 FTA per playoff game (229/17 games).

In 2007, LBJ led with 9.8 FTA per playoff game (196/20 games); in 2008, it was Kobe with 9.23 (194/21 games); and currently LBJ leads with 14.5 FTA (188/13 games).

Weighted averages among the leaders: 1977-79 = 7.05 FTA per playoff game; 1987-89 = 9.52 FTA per playoff game; and in 2007-09 = 10.70 FTA per playoff game.

But by focusing on stars, and protecting them around the basket, the NBA turned into a multiple-rule league: one set of rules for regular season; and one for the playoffs had long been established. But by allowing stars to roam free -- and rewarding them with trips to the line, the NBA went down the road of creating "stars" and rewarding them. The trend has continued to the present day with the ultimate peak (nadir?) being reached in the 2006 Finals, when Deee-wayne Wade put the refs in his Fave Five with 97 FTA in the 6 game Finals.

So while getting refs younger or more in shape or less subject to home crowds may help alleviate some of the criticism that the calls are getting throughout the Internets, its also true that the double-standard has yet to be addressed, and is argubly getting worse.

So it wasn't just that LBJ got bailed out at the end of regulation in Game Four in Orlando; it's that he knew he would.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

MSM Discovers AI

Another sign that concepts around artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics are breaking through to the mainstream media (MSM): an article by John Markoff in the NYT's Week in Review.

While Markoff does not break much new ground -- he summarizes the rise of the concepts of "Singularity" and the ethical issues that AI may raise -- TWIR is a marker on the way to reaching opinion-leaders. In the old world of newspapers and magazines, a cover story on AI/Robotics in Time or Newsweek would not be far behind.

But in the brave new world of the MSM, there's no longer a clear formula for moving from techie journals, to creeping into the Science section of the NYT, to 'breaking out' into popular culture. And the fact that it's Memorial Day weekend -- and that much of Manhattan is out in the Hamptons (or wishing they were there like last year) -- may mean that AI is not quite ready for its coming-out party.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Which One Is It, Sir?

Dick Cheney yesterday, on President Obama's decision not to release additional photos from Abu Ghraib:
When President Obama makes wise decisions, as I believe he has done in some respects on Afghanistan, and in reversing his plan to release incendiary photos, he deserves our support.
Dick Cheney, also yesterday, on whether 'enhanced interrogation' helps recruit for al Queda:
Another term out there that slipped into the discussion is the notion that American interrogation practices were a “recruitment tool” for the enemy. On this theory, by the tough questioning of killers, we have supposedly fallen short of our own values...As a practical matter, too, terrorists may lack much, but they have never lacked for grievances against the United States. Our belief in freedom of speech and religion … our belief in equal rights for women … our support for Israel … our cultural and political influence in the world – these are the true sources of resentment, all mixed in with the lies and conspiracy theories of the radical clerics. These recruitment tools were in vigorous use throughout the 1990s, and they were sufficient to motivate the 19 recruits who boarded those planes on September 11th, 2001.
So the photos from Abu Ghraib would be incendiary, but the techniques themselves (which are featured in the photos) add no additional fuel to the fire?

It reminds one of another question:
KAFFEE: Then why the two orders? Colonel? Why did you--
JESSEP: Sometimes men take matters into their own hands.
KAFFEE: No sir. You made it clear just a moment ago that your men never take matters into their own hands. Your men follow orders or people die. So Santiago shouldn't have been in any dangor at all, should he have, Colonel?
JESSEP: You little bastard.
ROSS: Your Honor, I have to ask for a recess to--
KAFFEE: I'd like an answer to the question, Judge.
RANDOLPH: The Court'll wait for answer.
KAFFEE: If Kendrick told his men that Santiago wasn't to be touched, then why did he have to be transferred?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Your honor, Your Honor.

Allerton's Point usually defers to Decisionism for close readings and analysis of US District Court memos on Motions to Dismiss(*).

But when the ruling involves the son of a former Presidential candidate, suing an ACC school for the right play on the university's golf team, an exception must be made.

Andrew Giuliani sued Duke University and its current golf coach after Guiliani was dismissed from the golf team last spring (2008). (Giuliani had been 'recruited' to play golf by the prior coach, who died unexpectedly; Giuliani was not offered an athletic scholarship, so in essence he was 'recruited' to walk-on and tryout for the team.)

Giuliani asked the court to in essence, reinstate him to the team based on a contract theory. U.S. Magistrate Judge Wallace W. Dixon's opinion is a readable and entertaining loop through some of the 'signature holes' of North Carolina contract law in the educational setting. Bottom line: Giuliani's attempt to cobble together a contract through a combination of University policy manuals, bulletins, and assorted other documents ends up, to quote Judge Dixon, "in the drink."

Unsurprisingly, Judge Dixon finds a way to work in a Caddyshack quote into the memorandum; in dismissing Giuliani's promissory estoppel claim (which is somewhat surprisingly, not argued in his brief), Dixon quotes Carl Spackler (Bill Murray): "He's on his final hole. He's about 455 yards away, he's gonna hit about a 2 iron I think. "

At least Dixon didn't quote this section of Caddyshack dialogue:
Danny Noonan: I planned to go to law school after I graduated, but it looks like my folks won't have enough money to put me through college.
Judge Smails: Well, the world needs ditch diggers, too.

(*)- And related matters, all as described in a Memorandum Opinion, Recommendation, and Order, 1:08CV502, USDC (Middle District of North Carolina)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

"Because it insults my intelligence"

Here are the corresponding numbers for New Hampshire, as reported by the AP:

Belknap - $6.6M total / $ 109 per person

Carroll - $63.1M / $1,334pp (!)

Chesire - $1M / $13pp

Coos - $2.6M total / $81pp

Grafton - $36.7M / $429pp

Hillsborough - $56M / $139pp

Merrimack - $21.1M / $143 pp

Rockingham - $48.4M /$163 pp

Strafford - $6.2M / $51pp

Sullivan - $2.7M / $61pp

"Only don't tell me that you're innocent."

The Associated Press has mapped stimulus dollars to each county in the United States. Here's how the county-by-county breakdown went in Massachusetts:

Barnstable - $17.4M total / $78 per person

Berkshire - $20.7M /$160 pp

Bristol - $100.3M / $184 pp

Dukes(*) - $4.1M / $268 pp

Essex - $50.5M / $68 pp

Franklin - $26.3M / $366 pp

Hampden - $8.9M / $19 pp

Hampshire - $20.3M / $132 pp

Middlesex - $100.1M / $68 pp

Nantucket - $7.7M / $733 pp

Norfolk - $24.8M / $38 pp

Suffolk - $108.6M / $151 pp

Worcester - $78.8M / $101 pp

(*) Dukes County is comprised of Martha's Vineyard.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Sports = Entertainment

From the dawn of history, professional sports was always co-existed with the "entertainment world."

Babe Ruth was either traded so that Harry Frazee could -- or could not -- finance "No, No Nanette." The Celtics usually have a long West Coast road trip in mid-February, so that travelling shows (currently "Disney on Ice") can use the Garden.

But it has only been in the past few decades that sports has morphed into entertainment. Red Auerbach, who was a link to the original NBA of the 1940s, refused to allow danceteams or other "modern" entertainment at the Garden. In 2004, he said: "They're just waiting for me to die so they can get cheerleaders."

(The Celtic Dancers are in their third year, beginning the first season after Red's passing.)

But the point of this post is not to complain about the post-modern "Fan Experience."

Rather, when Big-Time Sports began competing directly for the American consumer's entertainment dollar, a Rubicon was crossed.

Sports heroes have become treated like celebrities, been paid like celebrities, and begun living their lives like celebrities. Salaries followed.

But there's a difference between sports and pure entertainment: we don't care what entertainers have to do to stay at the top.

If Madonna needs a little help to stave off the next generation of teeny-boppers, no one cares. Sure, it's fuel for the tabloids and gossip pages, but no one cares. Her music either sells or it doesn't; in fact, we don't even care what 'post-production' needs to be done on the album to improve her voice.

And it's not just music -- body doubles abound in Hollywood: Julia Roberts got help from a body double in Pretty Woman. Halle Berry has received "double" help from Barbara Alexandre. And of course stunt men -- while being replaced by CGI in recent years -- have been around since the days of Eisenstein.

There's no pretext in show biz -- the entertainment is entertaining. If it's not, we won't watch, and don't care. And if the Big Star needs a little help -- from a surgeon, or a strength coach, or a teleprompter, or even a little pick-me-up in the morning, we don't see it, and we don't care.

But sports is -- or was -- different.

The competitive aspect of sports is what made it compelling. Could one athlete outtrain, outwork, or outlast their opponent?

We measure athletic achievements, both to separate them from one another, but also to show the separation from mere mortals.

The compelling images from our childhood are of superhuman achievement: Dr. J dunking from the foul line. Kirk Gibson limping to the plate, then fist-pumping around the bases. Michael Jordan ripping the heart out of the City of Cleveland.

What does it mean for our children's memories?

Jerry Seinfeld once famously summarized modern sports as follows: "You are standing and cheering and yelling for your clothes to beat the clothes from another city. Fans will be so in love with a player, but if he goes to another team, they boo him. This is the same human being in a different shirt! They hate him now! Boo! Different shirt!! Boo!"

When will we reach the point that we now root for our chemists to whip up better concoctions than the other team's chemists?

And will we pay $100 a ticket to see it?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Must-Wins




















Big night in playoff sports tonight:

* For the second series in a row, the Celtics have dropped the first game at home, leaving themselves in a "must-win" situation tonight. Ironically, the Cs might have been able to stick the Magic with their worst-ever-Game-One-loss-that-didn't-involve-Nick-Anderson had they been able to close the deal after storming back from 28 down. Instead, Gang Green needs a win and then more perimeter jump shooting in the Magic Kingdom (from the Os) rather than pounding the ball down to Dwight Howard or Rashard Lewis.

* Speaking of Lewis, his confidence has to be helped by the fact that for much of the game, he was being guarded by Brian Scalabrine. While Scal is not a stopper in the best of times, he has only recently returned to the lineup (Game 3 of the Chicago series) after suffering a series of concussions in February. Scal's post-concussion syndrome 'disappeared' the night that Leon Powe's knee was shredded, and he wears a headband as "cushioning"; it's perhaps the NBA's equivalent of giving Dumbo-the-Elephant a feather to hold to enable his to "fly." And repeated head injuries are very dangerous for the future health of the victim.

* Let's just not mention "Derrick Rose" anywhere around Scal. Please.

* In the Adams Division final, the Bruins need to show that they can match the Canes' intensity. After getting blown out in the opener, the Whale came back and showed up in Game Two; the Bruins now need to respond with an uptick themselves. And hope that Goalie Cam Ward is through standing-on-his-head.

* Finally, the Pittsburg Penguins also face a 'must-win' tonight, back home in the Igloo and down 0-2 to the Washington Ovechkins. While Sid Crosby has backed up his end of the Rivalry, he's not received a lot of help from NHL regular-season leading scorer Evgeni Malkin or (even) the 413's Bill Guerin. The Pens looked slow and old in the last 20 minutes on Monday night; they need to turn it around tonight.

* One more NHL thought: wouldn't you love to be a the guy who got to tell Commissioner Gary Bettman, "Oh, by the way, our franchise in Phoenix just filed for bankruptcy"?

Prime Minister's Question (PMQ) Time




John McCain campaigned (at least for a while) on the idea of coming before Congress to answer questions a la the British Prime Minister. But if after watching the above video, one imagines that a President McCain might have -- after cool reflection -- decided that an East Room presser was a better idea after all.

Bill Clinton was publicly encouraged to hold a PMQ by members of his own party, but demurred; PMQ was not an option for other Presidents (like 40 and 43, linked in this entry with the immortal words "What the President meant to say...")

Friday, May 1, 2009

Game Seven Notes

Most of the coverage of the Bulls-Celtics series is understandably focused on the drama of seven overtime periods in six games, and the fact that the teams are so competitive and evenly matched. However, a few points stand out despite all of the hard play:

Vinnie Del Negro.

* Despite criticism throughout the year, Del Negro has represented for the "413." And he's still looks like the same kid that Jimmy Valvano recruited with a-for-the-time high-tech innovation: an audio tape of a future "ACC Title game" where Vinnie wins the title for NC State.
* Say what you will, but the Bulls have a plan: run the ball down the Celtics' throat. When Derrick Rose squares his shoulders and runs north-and-south, no one can stop him defensively.
* Kirk-Hinrich-on-Paul-Pierce has been surprisingly effective, and not overused; Hinrich's quick hands allow him to both Pierce when he brings the ball down, and he also is athletic.
*While running out of TOs hurt him in Games One and Two, his teams have also been in position to win five of the six games so far. The Cs have escaped near-death experiences twice: down five (without the ball) with 2:30 left in Game Two and down 11 with 9:27 left in Game Five. They won't get out of a hole like that in Game Seven.

Celtics Guards off the Bench

* There's nothing more painful than watching a player who has lost the confidence to shoot, and it's now happened to both Stephon Marbury and Tony Allen. It's not "unselfish". It's not "working within the team." It's hoping the ball doesn't find you at the end of the shot clock. And it will. As John Cheney once said: "There's a reason why a guy's open."
* As to why Tony Allen was on the floor at the end of regulation (when the Cs had their best -- and really only -- chance to win last night), here's what Doc Rivers said:
"With an 8-point lead, if you're a good defensive team, all you have to do is play defense," Celtics coach Doc Rivers said. "You don't have to score again. You literally don't have to score again. But we didn't do that."
But that's why there's the 'offense-and-defense' substitution package, Coach.


Celtic Bites

* There's not much left in the tank for Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. Allen had a career playoff high last night, keeping the Celts alive in the second OT with two huge jumpers. And Pierce was immense in crunch time during Game Five. How long can this go on?
* You got Rondo'd. It's hard to believe, but a year ago, Rondo was still seen as the weak link on the Cs. Two years ago he averaged 6 ppg, 3 apg, and 3 rpg, and last year's 10.6/5.2/4.2 was seen as a big improvement. This year, and especially this post-season, has been a cosmic leap.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

If You Liked...

If you liked this ad...





You'll love this one:

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Hunting for Craic








For another look at the underbelly of the Celtic Tiger, you could do worse then pick up a copy of Bill Barich's new book, "A Pint of Plain."

Barich, who is an accomplished travel writer and a well-read lover of literature, moves to Dublin and proceeds to circle the country over the space of about a year, searching for the perfect, authentic Irish public house (or pub.) Long enamored of the 'traditional' Irish of memory, Barich quickly discovers that much -- of not all -- of what we Americans consider to be 'Irish' is really "fairytale Ireland."

The John Ford/John Wayne film, "The Quiet Man" animates Barich's search, and perhaps most disappointingly when he travels to Cong, County Galway, and discovers that the 'real' QM pub is actually "a whitewashed, thatched replica of Sean Thornton's White O'Mornin'", where he is treated -- for five quid -- to views of "authentic reproductions" of the costumes from the movie, and other props. All in all, a rather inauthentic experience.

But Barich also discovers that the "authentic" Irish pub experience is itself become commoditized, thanks to Guinness (now a Diageo brand) and the Irish Pub Company, which itself has built over 400 "authentic" pubs world-wide, including conversions from other types of bars to an Irish pub (Interesting fact: "if a British pub switches to an Irish theme, say, and refits its interior with tin signs, etched Jameson mirrors, and so on, its profits frequently triple."(p.48)

Thus the book is really a study of modernization and globalization upon a traditional culture that is perhaps the world's most romanticized. In the end, there are only a handful of 'true' Irish pubs that survive to the present day, and most of those are run by senior publicans who seem unlikely to pass the bar to a child; notwithstanding the inevitable ("& Sons") in the name of a IPC-designed pub.

The end of the Irish pub is the end of a way of life. The farmers and related trades that supported the pub are going away, outnumbered by the information workers of the Celtic Tiger that Barich saw throughout the Isle. Even as the country reels from the Great Unwind, those traditional jobs will not likely return.

But one can still yearn for a pint -- and a bit of craic -- after a long day on the links in a pub such as Tubridy's.

Which of course, in a global economy, has its own website.

Which is, one supposes, Barich's point.

"You Can Hear the Angels Sing"

Heard again recently on the streets of Boston: an Irish brogue.

And why is that 'news'?

For much of the past 150 years, America was the 'Great Escape' for those in Ireland. They came to escape oppressive laws(*), primogeniture, and a marginal agricultural economy. They came in large numbers in the 1840s (during the Great (Potato) Famine, when almost a quarter of the Irish population departed), and again at the end of the 19th century. And with almost one-in-ten Americans claiming ancestry, Irish-ness has gone from political pariah to political punchline. (Even the current President of the United States spells his last name "O'Bama" on March 17th.)

In more recent years, many young Irish would come over for a few years in their early 20s (usually on temporary visas), make some money, and return home to raise their family.

But in recent years, the pace of this latter emigration, temporary as it was, had slowed. The growth of the "Celtic Tiger" began in the 1990s, suffered a brief set back around the turn of the century, and then took off with a vengeance in the new millennium. And the rise of the Celtic Tiger meant that 'good jobs at good wages' for young Irish could be found in Dublin and Galway, and not just Boston and New York.



















But while the growth may have been initiated thanks to low tax rates and an educated workforce attracting global businesses, it also deregulated banking and financial services. The growth also quickly spread to real estate and housing development. (An interesting parallel can be drawn to another country that de-regulated quickly: Iceland. Michael Lewis' take on the 'kreppa' is here; Ian Parker's (New Yorker) is here.)

And the overheated Celtic economy boiled over. As Paul Krugman described earlier this week, Ireland faces a technical depression: a contraction of the real economy of more than 10% this year. And as the Irish banks crumbled, the government stepped in -- think: Celtic TARP. But the world markets are not as forgiving to little Ireland as they have been to the U.S. (so far.) According to Krugman, unless the government gets its deficit under control by slashing spending and/or raising taxes, lenders won't buy Irish bonds. And thus, the crisis (at least on the Emerald Isle) will get much worse before it gets better.

Which brings us back to the happenstance of hearing the brogue on the streets of Boston. With the Irish economy heading downhill, young Irish again will be likely showing up here in Boston, in New York, and Chicago, looking for work and a better chance.

It's Back to the Future. Celtic Style.

(*) - For example, in the eighteenth century, thanks to British-based laws: "A Catholic couldn't sit in the Parliament, or be a solicitor, a gamekeeper, or a constable. They weren't allowed to attend university, either in Ireland or abroad, nor could they keep a school. Instead they relied on "hedge schools," where itinerant teachers lectured students in the open air. Priests said Mass in secret, too, at rocks and sites known only to the faithful. A Catholic orphan had to be raised as a Protestant, while no Catholic could own property or receive it as a gift." Barich, A Pint of Plain, p. 153-54 (2009).

End of an Era - A.P. Edition



















Allerton's Point sends a shout-out to long-time NBA vet Dikembe Mutombo, whose career apparently came to an end last night following a knee injury.

His finger-wagging after a block shot remains a cultural milestone for those 'of a certain age.'