Monday, September 12, 2005

The Umpire Analogy

Today, in his confirmation hearing, John Roberts offered his role on the Supreme Court (capitalization used advisedly) would be that of a baseball umpire. He specifically alluded to the principal role of the umpire; calling balls and strikes. He, the umpire, is neither the pitcher nor the batter.

Very clever, John. On closer inspection, you chose badly.

Let's look at what the umpire does. Many of us are not aware of the history of umpiring. Until just a few years ago, there were National League and American League umpires. There are two sets of ground rules, the most apparent of which is the "designated hitter": the American League uses it; the National doesn't. Guess which league's games I'd rather watch.

In the last few years, Major League Baseball (MLB) has been slow to reorganize itself. For way too long, the "commissioner" of MLB has been an owner, Bud Selig of the Milwaukee Brewers. This is akin to the prosecutor serving as the judge, not to tread on the baseball - legal metaphors _tooo_ heavily. My agida for Bud Selig is best left to a sports blog, not here. But what remains is my difficulty with the "umpire" analogy. One of the good things "commissioner" Selig did a very few years ago was to break a long-standing tradition of the umpires union and merge the umpires of the two leagues. A strike and rancorous settlement settled the issue.

Do you know what the biggest issue, at least as perceived by this fan was: There were _two_ different versions of the strike zone. It was long apparent to any careful watcher of the game that each league had it's own idea of a ball or strike. Let me tell you what I think the rules say: a pitched ball, any part of which passes over any part of the home plate, above and including the batters knees and below the armpits is a strike; failing this, the pitch is a ball.

This shouldn't be difficult to interpret. But, over the years it seems, the American league took what should be a vertical box (higher that it was wide) and converted it to a horizontal box (wider than high). As an insight to what has happened, watch an American League game, yet today. And look at those pitches just over the batters belt: you can pick them out easily. The catcher doesn't move his glove in the least. It's still often called a high pitch. Sending umpires to one school is clearing up the cross-league incongruity. But, hey folks, let me tell you a secret: Rookies and 2nd year players are asking the veterans, has this ump come up in our league?

So, let's turn this analogy back on John Roberts: which league did you come up in? The one that views individuals as the arbiter or the one that views institutions as such?

If you have some time on your hands, follow this link to umpire Bill McGowan.

Friday, September 2, 2005

Dear Readers,

( I posted this on the email list last week; since someone observes that 88% of the obese live in red states, I thought I'd support the allegation. )

Today, (8/24/05) tne Newark Star Ledger published an article, listing "Fat American" by state. The table rank orders a state and the percent of the population considered "obese", by the Trust for America's Health. A Body-Mass-Index of 30 (or greater) is considered obese. In full disclosure, your editor flirted with this number last year; now there's no question; i've got obese well in hand, "as they say".

To the data. I then pulled up the Federal Election Commission data for Bush-Gore 2000 (it was easier to find than Bush-Kerry), and calculated Bush's percent of the two candidates vote for each state. Both these data are tabulated on the "states" spreadsheet. The sheet titled "obesity,Bush Vote" is a chart showing the tabulations. The Bush percent is the Y axis, the Obesity is the X axis.

You get a general sense from the data that the more obese you are, the more likely you are to be a Bush voter regardless of the state you live in. Overall, in the US, the number is 30% cooreleation. I guess this says, if you are obese, you are 30% more likely to be a Bush voter.

On closer inspection, there are five states which are almost "off the charts". They show high Bush vote percent, and generally lower obesity. Interestingly, if these states are separated from the rest, their coorelation cooeficient is 94%, nearly a straight line! And these are not co-incident, or scattered around the country. On the "states" sheet, they are identified by a key of 1, from highest obese incidence to lowest: Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Montana, and Colorado. This would testify to a culture which is both more fit and more likey Bush voters. The coorelation for the other states with both data is 64%. If you don't live in the high country, you are nearly two-thirds more likely to be a Bush voter if you are obese.

Please comment, and help me give this some exposure.

-- Marty McGowan
The News' Dark Time