27 September 2016

Did Hillary Clinton win last night's debate?

If we were able to conjure up a completely objective standard by which to judge last night's debate, I don't think any reasonable person would conclude otherwise. But as I have said elsewhere, politics is about perception. Politics is not really about facts--it never really has been. The media, and the Clinton campaign, are obsessed with fact-checking. My timeline is filled with "gotcha" fact-checking of both candidates' statements.

Regardless, the obsessive fact-checking reflects a media that is (in my opinion), actually trying to be objective (even if they're failing at that, too). Nonetheless, it also shows that the media is also woefully out-of-touch with a significant portion of the electorate. The people telling you Hillary decisively won the debate are the same people who told you Trump was consistently losing the Republican debates. The people telling you Hillary decisively won the debate are the same people who told you Trump could never win the nomination. Politics is, in fact, highly subjective in a way that the media can probably never capture. What a Hillary supporter sees as her careful dismantling of Trump's previous statements comes off to a Trump supporter as a rehearsed talking point delivered with a fake, cringe-worthy smile. In some cases, what the candidates say matters less than how they say it. This is particularly true with Trump.

What this ultimately means is that the candidates have to be judged through a different lens. The standard by which each candidate needed to meet was and is different. Trump didn't need to "win" this debate. He is not a typical candidate (in this very not-typical 2016) and really, only needed to clear a series of relatively low hurdles: Don't make a major gaffe; don't say something patently offensive. No doubt, there are some among you who will argue that he couldn't even do this. Nonetheless, you're looking through the wrong glasses. If nothing Trump has done within the last year derailed his candidacy, surely nothing he did last night will do that, either. Anything he said or did last night was minor. Hillary Clinton is judged against the usual presidential debate standards, and in that regard, she too did nothing which would signal a significant change in the race. You may think that I'm setting the bar too low for Trump. I don't think I'm setting the bar at all, I'm just telling you where I think it is.

As someone who will not vote for either of these two candidates, but acknowledging that I'm not exactly unbiased (as none of us are), I thought Trump did as well as he could have expected for about the first 30 minutes. He came across as forceful and no-nonsense, and had Hillary on her heels. She was defensive, rehearsed, and wooden. During the second half, Hillary was much stronger, and Trump (quite ironically), lost his debate stamina and lost any focus he had. The blows he tried to land missed widely.

In the end, listening to the talking heads was hilarious. They've been wrong every time for the last year and they expect us to listen to their analysis now. Quite frankly, nothing last night will change the current state of the race. No amount of fact checking matters at this point. We're stuck in a very close race where Hillary likely has a small lead. To be continued...

03 September 2016

2016 Philadelphia Eagles 53-man roster (FINAL)

As compared to my final projections (as adjusted consistent with the Sam Bradford trade), I correctly predicted 50 of the 53 final roster spots (I was 49/53 the last two years).

QB (2): Wentz, Daniel
RB (4): Mathews, Sproles, Barner, Smallwood
WR (5): Matthews, Agholor, Green-Beckham, Huff, Turner
TE (3): Ertz, Celek, Burton
C (2): Kelce, Wisniewski
G (4): Barbre, Seulamo, Brooks, Andrews, Gordon
T (4): Peters, Johnson, Tobin, Vaitai

DE (6): Barwin, Curry, Graham, Smith, Means, Braman
DT (5): Cox, Logan, Allen, Hart, Vaeao
LB (4): Hicks, Kendricks, Bradham, Tulloch
CB (6): McKelvin, Brooks, Carroll, Mills, Rowe, Smith
S: (4) Jenkins, McLeod, Watkins, Maragos

P: Jones
PK: Sturgis 
LS: Dorenbos

02 September 2016

2016 Philadelphia Eagles projected 53-man roster (FINAL)

An update to my training camp versionNFL rosters have to be down to 53 by Saturday.

EDIT (9/3/2016): Sam Bradford traded to Vikings. Vaeao (DT) added to roster and Shittu (DT) moved from Longshot to Next Five.

QB (2): Bradford, Daniel, Wentz
RB (4): Mathews, Sproles, Barner, Smallwood
WR (5): Matthews, Agholor, Green-Beckham, Huff, Turner
TE (4): Ertz, Celek, Burton, Pantale
C (2): Kelce, Wisniewski
G (3): Barbre, Seulamo, Brooks
T (4): Peters, Johnson, Tobin, Vaitai

DE (6): Barwin, Curry, Graham, Smith, Means, Braman
DT (5): Cox, Logan, Allen, Hart, Vaeao
LB (5): Hicks, Kendricks, Bradham, Tulloch, Goode
CB (6): McKelvin, Brooks, Carroll, Mills, Rowe, Smith
S: (5) Jenkins, McLeod, Watkins, Maragos, Reynolds

P: Jones
PK: Sturgis 
LS: Dorenbos

Bold are last five guys.
Next Five: Greene (G), Shittu (DT), Tavarres (LB), Shepherd (CB). Countess (S)
Longshots: Gordon (G), Gause (LB)

Note: Lane Johnson (T)'s roster spot is predicated on the fact that he hasn't been suspended (yet). If and when that happens, I would assume Greene (G) or Gordon (G) might have a shot at the last roster spot.

02 August 2016

2016 Eagles projected 53-man roster (training camp version)

The last two seasons (2014, 2015), I made predictions on the projected 53-man roster for the Philadelphia Eagles. Both seasons I correctly predicted 49 of the 53 final roster spots. Now that I feel comfortable understanding Chip Kelly's selection process, we get to start over with Doug Pederson. This is Andy Reid, Part II.

As I said last year at this time, the Eagles roster will undoubtedly undergo a number of changes between now and September due to any number of factors. A half dozen or more names could change. But if the team had to pare its current roster to 53 right now, based on players that the team currently controls, what would that roster look like? Here's my look as training camp is underway. The five players in bold are my last five (bubble) players.

QB (3): Bradford, Daniel, Wentz
RB (3): Mathews, Sproles, Smallwood
WR (5): Matthews, Agholor, Randle, Givens, Huff
TE (4): Ertz, Celek, Burton, Pantale
C (2): Kelce, Wisniewski
G (4): Barbre, Gardner, Brooks, Seumalo
T (3): Peters, Johnson, Tobin

DE (5): Barwin, Curry, Graham, Smith, Braman
DT (4): Cox, Logan, Allen, Martin
LB (6): Hicks, Kendricks, Bradham, Walker, Goode,
CB (7): McKelvin, Carroll, Rowe, Brooks, Mills, Rice, Shepard
S: (4) Jenkins, McLeod, Reynolds, Maragos, Watkins

P: Jones
PK: Parkey
LS: Dorenbos

Next five: Barner (RB), Vaitai (T), Tavarres (LB), Evans (CB), Countess (S).

27 June 2016

Ten post-hoc rationalizations for holding a new EU referendum

1. Since turnout was 70%, the 52% that voted to Leave didn't actually represent a majority of voters. [This is not how this works. This is not how any of this has ever worked.]

2. 52% is in the margin of error. [Polls have margins of error. Elections and referendums count actual votes. There is no margin of error.] See also: people lied to the pollsters.

3. A woman was interviewed on TV and said she had regrets about voting to Leave! [So? Voter regret has never been a valid reason for having a new election or referendum. This is not how this works. This is not how any of this has ever worked.]

4. 106 people on Twitter said something mean or racist! They're no different than Trump voters! [So?]

5. The stock market went down! [Yes, it did. You also noticed, perhaps, that the market was steadily increasing before the vote in the expectation of a Remain win. In fact, the FTSE is 10% higher than it was in February and higher than it was when the referendum was announced.]

6. Old people voted to take away the rights of the younger generation! [Generally, votes are not weighted according to age. Did you know many of those older people were the same ones who voted in 1975 to join the EU? You probably weren't alive then, or if you were, you probably couldn't vote then. If you did, you're one of those old people. Exactly how much should your vote be worth?]

7. 2 million people signed a petition! [Yes, 2 million online people did. Most of those two million people were probably among the many millions who already voted to Remain the first time. Many more of those people weren't eligible to vote anyways, or were trolls. Even so, the petition is worthless and is now being investigated for fraud. Even if 100,000 actual voters sign it, Parliament will debate the EU relationship starting today, which should be plenty to satisfy you.]

8. But Nigel Farage promised money to the NHS! [Yes, he did make a vague promise of returning money pledged to the EU; and yes, the Leave camp took this and ran with it and plastered it on the side of a bus; and yes, Farage later said he couldn't guarantee it. For reference, Farage represents UKIP, which has exactly 1 MP. Either way, if elections and referendums could be invalidated because of broken promises by politicians...]

9. Technically, the referendum wasn't binding! [Yes, you're right. How willingly would you embrace this argument if you were on the other side? If the people had voted to Remain yet Parliament voted to Leave?]

10. The UK government should renegotiate a new deal with the EU and then put it up for another referendum! [Have you been following the news? This was the basis for the first referendum. Anyways, the EU has said it won't deal again.]

Unspoken 11th post-hoc rationalization for holding a new EU referendum: We are enlightened and know better than the (pick one or more of the following:) old/racist/uneducated/ people who voted to Leave. Therefore we will do whatever it takes to undermine the legitimacy of the vote and do whatever it takes to justify overriding the will of the people; see #'s 1 through 10.

14 June 2016

On civility in political discourse

Part of the header on my blog says "promoter of civility in political discourse." I take that seriously. It's the standard I set for myself and it's what I expect of the people I associate with. This means forgoing the friendly confines of the echo chamber and engaging with people of all political persuasions. My list of friends and followers reflects that choice. I believe respectful discussion of issues from all different sides, especially sides we don't necessarily agree with, makes us all better because it exposes us to different perspectives and allows us to hone our own arguments. Underlying this exchange, of course, is civility.

The recent tragedy in Orlando has brought this approach into sharp focus. While most have continued to be civil, others have been less so. In particular, I am disappointed with incoherent attempts at arguments based solely in emotion, ignorant of history, circular in reasoning, and accentuated by ad hominem attacks. This does nothing to advance your position; it's quite the opposite. This does nothing to promote civility; it's quite the opposite. This does nothing to promote healing. It encourages the very echo chambers we ought to be avoiding. It does nothing to bring us together; it does everything to push us apart.

I welcome well-reasoned arguments in opposition. But please do so civilly. If you can't, I have no time for you.

13 June 2016

The Orlando shooting and the FDA's blood donation policy

I don't like the FDA. I really, really, don't like the FDA (but that's a subject for another day). Nonetheless, the FDA, as advised by the FDA Blood Products Advisory Committee and the HHS Advisory Committee for Blood Safety and Availability (now the HHS Advisory Committee for Blood and Tissue Safety and Availability), determined in December 2015 that it would only accept blood donations from men who have had sex with other men (MSM) if they did not have MSM contact within the last 12 months (the previous policy was an outright lifetime ban on such donations). It's unfortunate that such men who are willing to donate are not permitted to donate blood under the circumstances, but those committees that advise the FDA are made up of practicing doctors who specialize in these issues. They presumably have very good reasons for making these recommendations. Good medical reasons. You know, like science stuff. As much as I really, really, don't like the FDA, I trust the recommendations of these doctors more so than I trust the well-meaning recommendations of random people on social media. If you believe you have compelling reasons why the FDA should change course, I'm sure they've love to hear from you.