Archive for June 3rd, 2009

Symposium: Joba Should Stay in the Rotation

In his last game (against the Indians), Joba Chamberlain pitched a 1-2-3 eighth inning on the way to a Rivera save and a Yankees win. Oh yeah, he also pitched the first seven innings, giving up only four hits and two runs. That was probably more important.

This shouldn’t even be a debate. Anyone who knows anything about baseball knows that a starting pitcher is more valuable than a relief pitcher. In fact, anyone who knows anything about ANYTHING knows that, if someone is good at something, you want him to do that thing MORE. Continue reading

On Empathy and the Law

According to President Obama, “I will seek someone who understands that justice isn’t about some abstract legal theory or footnote in a case book. It is also about how our laws affect the daily reality of people’s lives.”  While Obama valued legal prowess as a necessity for becoming a Supreme Court justice, “empathy” was a tiebreaker that ultimately led to the nomination of Sonia Sotamayor.

There have been two main lines of thought on empathy since Obama has emphasized it. Dahlia Lithwick of Slate and other liberal commentators maintain that understanding the feelings of other people is frequently beneficial for reaching good legal decisions: “When did the simple act of recognizing that you are not the only one in the room become confused with lawlessness, activism, and social engineering? For a group so vociferously devoted to textualism and plain meaning, conservative critics have an awfully elastic definition of the word empathy.”
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Greetings from Book Expo America Part I: Steven Tyler comes off as an Arrogant Jerk at the Keynote

The Book Expo America (or BEA to us in the know, as I have become since I got a nametag, or “badge,” to us in the know) is held every year—this year in the pride of New York City, the Javits Center. For those not in the know, the BEA is a big deal in the publishing/bookselling business, as it is the largest convention of its kind.

So what am I doing there? I am crashing it to give you loyal NPI readers the inside dope on all the stuff those “Big Book” fat cats don’t want you to know about. (Sorry, that’s probably the title of Kevin Trudeau’s new book.)

Our first stop on the BEA tour bus is Thursday’s keynote, which was covered accurately, if all too briefly, by New York. The focus of this year’s keynote was “rock star memoirs,” with Steven Tyler and Clarence Clemons. Apparently, this reflects the crisis of confidence in the publishing industry (which is a whole other story), as the conference has usually had political heavyweights in this role. Continue reading

Symposium: I am not Delusional

Josh, it seems to me that your argument comes down to this paragraph:

“Unless John is completely risk-averse, he should be attending shows if the expected value (based on reviews and reputation) meets a certain threshold, say the ‘really good’ threshold. What about price? Well, his price cap should be based on his initial willingness to pay. If he were originally willing to pay $15 for a ‘really good’ comedy show, then—if that expected value is met—he should still be willing to pay $15.”

There are two problematic concepts here: a) the “really good” threshold and b) my willingness to pay.

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Meet the Mets

It was an all-too familiar scene at PNC Park Monday night. The Mets, coming into the game with the semblance of a hot streak and cruising early with a 5-0 lead, coughed up a substantial lead, the final blows coming in the bottom of the eighth, and lost to the pedestrian Pirates—a team that each year adds to its legacy as one of history’s worst.

Mets’ fans couldn’t help feeling déjà vu. The same process had played itself out in Pittsburgh twice before. In 2007, the Amazins led 5-0 and 7-3 before allowing five runs in the final two innings—including three in the eighth—in a 10-7 loss. In 2008, they only blew a 2-0 lead, but it was three eighth-inning runs against the powder keg of a Mets’ bullpen that again felled them.

This is just exposition, though, to the larger point. There is a reason Monday night’s loss, which occurred on June 1 and after the Mets went 5-1 on a homestand, hurts more than it should. There is a reason every Mets’ loss now hurts more than it should. And it is the reason rooting for the Mets is now fundamentally different from rooting for any other baseball team.

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Symposium: Delusional Anchoring

I maintain that John’s use of anchoring is, in fact, delusional.  John saw one free comedy show (ASSCAT at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, in case you were wondering) that he really enjoyed.  The guest monologist and the cast of the show change on a weekly basis, but for the purposes of this argument I’ll assume that the show is very good on a weekly basis.

John should have a willingness to pay for comedy shows independent of the actual cost of a particular show. So, let’s say his willingness to pay for a “really good” comedy was $15 before he saw any comedy show. Then, he goes to UCB and his willingness to pay drops to zero (well, it’s actually higher than zero because of opportunity cost and cost of travel…). This does not make sense unless John is the most risk-averse person in America. The fact is reviews and friends’ suggestions are imperfect but we use them anyway because they have some use. Gran Torino, for instance, got very positive reviews but based on what the reviews were praising, it was very clear to me that I would not like the movie (I did not see the trailer). Likewise, I trust the judgment of certain friends on particular topics more than others (I generally do not trust Tim, for instance, when it comes to french fries).

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Symposium: Non-Delusional Anchoring

Now, Josh got upset with me the other day for not wanting to see a $12 comedy show because I had just seen a free show and was skeptical that this show would be “$12 better.” He accused me of anchoring. Basically, anchoring means that I am letting an arbitrary piece of information (in this case, that I happened to have seen a show for free) play an irrationally large role in my decision. As Josh said to me “it’s arbitrary that you saw UCB (the free show) first…if I didn’t tell you about that and just told you about this, you probably would react differently.”

Of course, Josh is right that I would have reacted differently, and there are definitely times when anchoring leads to very irrational behavior. But I maintain that it makes sense in this instance. Continue reading