Posts Tagged ‘Symposium’

Joba Revisited

A fist pump does not a setup man make

A year ago, Tim and I finished up a Symposium on whether Joba Chamberlain belonged in the Yankee bullpen (what Tim thought) or in the starting rotation (what I thought). Now, with the benefit of hindsight, it looks like Tim was right. Chamberlain struggled mightily down the stretch last season—in August and September he was 2-4 with a 7.51 ERA—and he has been in the bullpen since Opening Day 2010. Not only that, but he’s been pretty good in that role. Through his first 17 appearances his ERA was 2.16—over two and a half runs lower than his ERA last season. Since then he’s had three bad appearances that have swollen his numbers, but overall Joba has held opponents scoreless in 19 of 25 appearances in 2010.

Having Said That, I’m still not sure I lost the argument. For one, Tim’s central point—that the 2009 Yankees needed Joba more in the bullpen than they did in the rotation—didn’t really pan out. To quote Tim: “Please note that the entirety of the Joba Debate has been framed under the assumption that Hughes and Wang will be, at the least, serviceable sub-5.00 ERA starters. If Hughes doesn’t ultimately cut it or Wang doesn’t make the expected comeback, the debate is largely moot.” Of course, Wang didn’t make the expected comeback, Hughes didn’t “cut it” as a starter, and Joba didn’t move to the bullpen… and 2009 still worked out pretty well for the Yankees. Continue reading

First Amendment Symposium, Part III: Why Rights Still Don’t Matter

So, Josh exercised his right to free speech by responding to my critique of rights with his own defense of rights. His defense was valiant, yes, but doomed.

Let’s start right at the beginning, with Josh’s attempt to define the ineffable concept of a “right”: “If X has a right to do something, he is legally protected from interference by Y. In other words Y has a correlative duty not to interfere with X’s right. So, if X has a right to speak freely, then Y has a correlative duty not to interfere with X’s speaking freely.” This doesn’t really help us much, does it? A right means that Y—Y, as defined by Josh himself, “being any other individual or the government”—has a duty not to interfere with that entitlement. So, technically, every single time you interrupt someone you have violated someone’s right to free speech, since you’ve interfered with that person’s speaking freely. Apparently, that person now has legal recourse against you. By this standard, public school teachers who force students to raise their hand before speaking have collectively committed the gravest assault on our free speech rights that the U.S. has ever known.

Of course, this is ridiculous because Josh’s standard is ridiculous. A right protects you from any interference? That’s simply not true empirically. Continue reading

First Amendment Symposium Part I: Why The First Amendment Is Drastically Overrated

Now that Josh has concluded his eight month-long analysis of the Bill of Rights,* it’s time for we at NPI to finally face facts: The Bill of Rights as a whole is incredibly overrated. The Ninth and Tenth Amendments are glorified addenda, the Seventh is, as Josh said, dull, the Third has been pretty useless, and the Second is essentially gibberish. The entire document is in desperate need of a proofreader (seriously, the grammar in that thing is offensively ambiguous).

*And in depressingly anticlimactic fashion, I might add: Oh, the First Amendment is first and the Second is last? How original! Is he also going to write something about how rainbows are pretty and chocolate tastes good?

And yet the Bill of Rights remains incredibly popular. Demagogic political figures appeal to it for justification of any principle they want to espouse; citizens regard it with a scriptural sanctity even though polls show that most of them don’t know what it says. In other words, the Bill of Rights is basically the secular version of the Bible. And not much of that has to do with its proscription on troop-quartering.

You don’t have to be a constitutional scholar to know that the Bill of Rights’ reputation with the public is largely the result of the First Amendment, specifically the freedoms of speech and the press. And yet it is this part of the Bill of Rights that is the most overrated. Continue reading

Symposium: The Function of Film

Josh’s complaint that Up merely made him feel good instead of forever altering his weltanschauung prompted me to consider a deeper question: What is the relationship between a film’s quality and the feeling it evokes in its audience?

This is a broad, intimidating, and largely unanswerable question—at least not within the space of this blog. I can only try to speak from my own, admittedly idiosyncratic experience with film.

The imposing opening question boils down to me like so: Can one be unentertained by a great film, and can one be entertained by a bad one?

The first half of the question is prima facie simple to me: No. Any film that fails the basic criterion of entertaining its audience falls short of the designation “great.” And yet I know of several films called “great” that I personally have not, or would not, enjoy. The first that comes to mind is Saving Private Ryan, which ranks 56th on IMDB’s “Top 250” and receives a score of 90, or “Universal Acclaim,” on Metacritic. These two scores represent a reasonable enough cross-section of viewers and critics to call this film great.

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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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Introducing….The Symposium!

We here at NPI are proud to introduce a new feature to the blog. It’s called the “Symposium.” Basically, it will be a series of posts in which some of us debate a given topic and go back and forth on it. You see, brilliance is often amplified when great minds come together and disagree. As John Stuart Mill once said, “He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that.” Also, discord is fun. A lot of these debates will probably involve one of us defending an absurd premise, but we will always have a point. Because you never really know you’re right unless you’re confident someone else is wrong.

Our first symposium, coming shortly, will feature Josh and John debating the concept of anchoring. Brace yourselves…