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MVP: Correction and More

November 22, 2011 Leave a comment

Matt Kemp

[Christian Petersen / Getty Images / September 27, 2011]

I realized this morning, in reading about Justin Verlander’s receipt yesterday of the American League Most Valuable Player award, that my post on the matter last night had some errors. Tyler Kepner’s NYT article mentioned the last pitcher to receive the MVP, Dennis Eckersley in 1992, and I thought simultaneously “of course” and “how did I forget that last night?” I can blame the supposed list of MVP pitchers I relied on in Sports Illustrated, but I should have known better. And when I next checked my email this morning, there was a polite note from Joel suggesting that I might want to revise my post. This is my correction.

On being reminded of Eckersley, I also thought of Willie Hernández, who sure enough won the MVP in 1984. Like Eckersley, he was a relief pitcher. And Rollie Fingers in 1981. Oh, but maybe that’s the point. Maybe the SI list consisted of starting pitchers who received the MVP, not all pitchers. Well, if that’s the case, then they missed a starter too, Don Newcombe in 1956. Who knows? It was just a lousy list. I should have checked a more reliable source, such as baseball-reference.com. I apologize for my sloppiness.

As long as we’re on the subject, the National League MVP was announced today: Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers. With Verlander’s award in mind, I decided to take a look at the vote to see how pitchers fared. See for yourself. You’ll find that highest placed pitcher was Roy Halladay, named on 14 of 32 ballots and finishing 9th. Clayton Kershaw was on 11 ballots and finished 12th. Starting two positions lower, in 14th, players got just a handful of votes, with two more pitchers, Ian Kennedy and Cliff Lee, appearing in 14th and 15th and being named on 4 ballots each.

What to make of this? Not much, I suppose. But why did Halladay finish ahead of Kershaw after Kershaw dominated the Cy Young voting announced last week? (Kershaw received 27 first place votes along with 3 seconds and 2 thirds, while Halladay received just 4 first place votes along with 21 seconds and 7 thirds, both appearing on all 32 ballots.) Does it have something to do with Halladay’s team, the Phillies, making the playoffs, whereas Kershaw’s Dodgers, through no possible fault of his own, didn’t?

Speaking of the Dodgers, the more important question is why Matt Kemp finished second to Ryan Braun in the MVP voting. The two dominated the voting, the only ones to appear high up on all 32 ballots: 20 first place votes and 12 seconds for Braun; 10 firsts, 16 seconds, 6 thirds for Kemp. Shift six of Braun’s first place votes to second and six of Kemp’s second place votes to first and Kemp is the MVP. But as long as enough voters believe the MVP is an award for members of playoff teams only, we’ll keep having skewed elections.

There are bigger issues out there, I know. But as long as I was correcting yesterday’s post, I thought it worth exploring this theme again in light of today’s data.

PS In looking for a photo of Kemp, I found this column by Bill Plaschke in tomorrow’s LA Times (and the photo at top). Let me quote from it, the boldface emphasis being mine:

I need some dirt to kick. I need a base to throw. I need a big blue chest to bump. I need an explanation

How did the Dodgers’ Matt Kemp not win the National League most-valuable-player award?

Somebody tell me. Somebody show me. Use sabermetrics. Go to the video. I don’t care. If there is one piece of concrete evidence that says Kemp should not have been voted MVP over Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun, I want to see it.

This is a robbery greater than a Kemp leaping catch. This is a steal more blatant than a Kemp sprint. This is a hosing more definitive than when Kemp puts on his socks.

In voting by my fellow members of the Baseball Writers’ Assn. of America, Braun won the award Tuesday over Kemp, and it wasn’t really close, and it shouldn’t have been close. Kemp should have easily won, and if baseball ever needs instant replay, it is right now.

Kemp had more home runs than Braun. He had more runs batted in. He had more runs scored. He had more stolen bases. He had a better on-base percentage.

When you throw everything together and calculate the hot stat known as wins above replacement, which determines how many wins a player is worth to his team, Kemp led the NL and Braun finished second.

All this, and Kemp batted in a lineup filled with mediocrity while Braun had the benefit of batting in front of the man who finished third in the MVP voting, the mighty Prince Fielder.

[snip]

Braun won the MVP award because many writers have come to associate “most valuable” with “postseason,” and while the Brewers won the Central Division the Dodgers went nowhere.

Never mind that five other NL MVPs since 2000 have come from teams that didn’t reach the playoffs. Never mind that the last time a Brewer won the MVP award, Robin Yount led the 1989 team to a fourth-place finish.

And, really, never mind that the actual MVP ballot contains the mandate: “The MVP need not come from a division winner or other playoff qualifiers.

Categories: Baseball

Justin Verlander’s MVP

November 21, 2011 1 comment

Justin Verlander throwing no-hitter, May 7, 2011

Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers was named the 2011 American League Most Valuable Player today. This wasn’t exactly a surprise, but it’s notable, as he is the first pitcher to be named the MVP since Roger Clemens in 1986. As you can see in the table included in the linked article, there was a time when pitching MVPs were common. From 1931 to 1945, pitchers were named MVP nine times (Lefty Grove, Carl Hubbell twice, Dizzy Dean, Bucky Walters, Mort Cooper, Spud Chandler, and Hal Newhouser twice). However, since then, pitchers were named MVP only seven times. There was Jim Konstanty in 1950; Bobby Shantz in 1952; a sixteen-year gap until the 1968, the famous year of the pitcher, when both leagues’ MVPs were pitchers (Denny McLain and, of course, Bob Gibson); Vida Blue just three years later, Clemens in 1986, and Verlander today.

I don’t have a lot at stake in this, but for what it’s worth, I’m in the group that believes pitchers shouldn’t be MVPs. Gibson in 1968? Well, maybe. What a season! But otherwise, forget it.

What I find especially frustrating is the distortion introduced into MVP balloting by the belief of many voters that the MVP has to be on a playoff team. The reasoning is that if a player can’t “lead” his team to the playoffs, other players, on playoff teams, must be more valuable, essentially by definition of the word “valuable.” This is a year when that distortion had a visible effect. Let’s take a look.

First, a review. In each league, MVP voting is done by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America, two for each of the league’s teams. Since the American League has 14 teams (for now, until Houston moves over in two years), there are 28 voters. Each voter ranks up to 10 players, from first to tenth. A player gets 14 points for each first place vote, 9 for second place, 8 for third place, 7 for fourth place, and on down to 2 points for ninth place and 1 point for tenth place. Those first place votes carry an extra premium, thanks to the weighting.

In this year’s voting for the American League MVP, which you can study at either of the two sites I’ve linked to, Verlander was on 27 of the 28 ballots, with 13 first place votes, 3 seconds, 3 thirds, 4 fourths, 1 fifth, 2 sixths, and 1 eighth. This yielded 280 points. Jacoby Ellsbury of the Red Sox was second with 242 points. He appeared on all 28 ballots, with 4 first place votes, 13 seconds, 4 thirds, 1 fourth, 4 fifths, 1 sixth, and 1 tenth.

Here’s the problem, or what I see as the problem anyway. The Red Sox collapsed in September, a historic collapse. But through no fault of Ellsbury’s, and even with their collapse, they were one pitch away from making the playoffs. Papelbon had two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the ninth of the last regular season game (which we missed while eating at Poppy) and nearly got the out that would have put them into the playoffs. Let’s say they made it. I’m thinking that instead of Verlander getting 13 first place votes and 3 seconds to Ellsbury’s 4 first place votes and 13 seconds, they would essentially have been reversed. But let’s say even just four voters reversed them. Four voters who put Verlander first and Ellsbury second instead putting Ellsbury first and Verlander second. Had that happened, Ellsbury would have finished with 262 points to Verlander’s 260.

So, if I have this right, and I think I do, Ellsbury lost the MVP because Papelbon failed to throw one last strike against Baltimore in the bottom of the 9th of their final game (box score here). With Ellsbury suddenly reduced to being a member of a non-playoff team, and the other obvious MVP contender among everyday players, Toronto’s José Bautista, also on a non-playoff team, the holier-than-thou purists who had to uphold their theory that only players on playoff teams are worthy of being MVPs scrambled to elevate Verlander to the top of the ballot, costing Ellsbury and Bautista the MVP that one or the other deserved.

And that’s how a pitcher won the MVP for the first time in a quarter century. Verlander had a great season. He deserves recognition. And he got it, as the unanimous choice for the Cy Young award. But he shouldn’t have received the MVP.

Categories: Baseball

The Crowded Grave

November 20, 2011 Leave a comment

I have mentioned in several posts my ordering, and then waiting for, Martin Walker’s fourth novel in the Bruno, Chief of Police series, The Crowded Grave: A Bruno Courrèges Investigation. I was alerted to the series’ existence in Marilyn Stasio’s NYT Sunday Book Review crime roundup on Labor Day weekend, in which she briefly noted Black Diamond, Bruno number three.

This was perfect timing, as I have explained before, as we were in New York that weekend, about to head to Nantucket. A few days later, when I finished the Lee Child thriller I had downloaded for the trip, I bought the first Bruno book, the eponymous Bruno, Chief of Police It starts slowly, introducing us to the characters populating the fictional Dordogne town of St. Denis before bringing on the crime. But soon I was hooked, leading to my downloading and reading The Dark Vineyard and Black Diamond.

Black Diamond having been published just in August, I anticipated a long wait for Bruno 4. But I wasn’t thinking straight, what with Martin Walker being British and these being British books. Once I came out of my stupor and looked on the Amazon UK site, I discovered that I wouldn’t have to wait long at all for the British publication of Bruno 4. In fact, it was out already. The Crowded Grave, just out, the end of September. Unfortunately, I couldn’t download the Kindle version, that being unavailable here until US publication of the hardcover. I ordered the UK hardcover.

I wrote earlier this afternoon that I delayed reading it because I didn’t want to be in the middle of a hardcover when I headed to Chicago, which I did a week ago. Instead, I read Agassi’s autobiography, Open, finishing it Monday afternoon on the return flight. I had armed my Kindle with another book for the trip, just in case I finished Open, and began the new book on our flight’s descent. More on that book in a separate post to come. Tuesday I read a little more of it, but Wednesday I decided I wanted to get back to St. Denis without further delay.

St. Denis it was. Just a taste on Wednesday night, a little more on Thursday night. Come Friday evening, just 60 pages in, I could no longer resist. Instead of focusing on live coverage of the Presidents Cup golf competition from Melbourne, Australia, I turned my attention to southern France, the latest crimes and conspiracies with national and international implications into which Bruno’s small town was plunged yet again, and the most wonderful network of friends on whom Bruno relies. By Saturday morning, with a five-hour break for sleep, I had knocked off the final 300 pages of the book.

As I have written before, Bruno is marvelous company. He has found a welcoming home in St. Denis, cradle of early humans, home of the best food and wine that France has to offer. He can’t leave, even if love might call him elsewhere. It’s not going to happen. And who can blame him? Who, indeed, doesn’t want to join him?

Well, as the books make clear, not everyone wants to. Life in St. Denis can be limiting to one’s career. Fortunately, Bruno himself shows no interest in choosing career over his home, his friends, his view of the valley, and the joy of the seasons’ rhythm, even as he demonstrates in book after book that there’s not a wiser cop in all of France.

Now I must endure the long wait for Bruno 5. In the meantime, perhaps Gail and I can begin planning a visit to Bruno’s neighborhood.

Categories: Books, Travel

Open

November 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Four weeks ago, I wrote about having to decide which of three books to read, Alexandra Fuller’s memoir of a decade ago, Don’t Let’s Go to the Dogs Tonight: An African Childhood, or Ian Rankin’s latest Edinburgh crime novel, The Impossible Dead, which had just arrived in the mail. Plus, a third book was on its way from UK Amazon, Martin Walker’s latest in his Bruno, Chief of Police series, The Crowded Grave.

After reading a little further into Fuller’s memoir, I switched to the Rankin book, which I wrote about two weeks ago. The Bruno book then arrived, providing a new dilemma. Worse, I would soon be off to Chicago (on the trip I have written about here and here) and I don’t travel with physical books. What’s the point of owning a Kindle if you carry books with you? And what happens if you finish a book on the plane? That meant I would have to delay reading Fuller and Walker in favor of a book on my Kindle.

What to choose? There was that Agassi autobiography I kept putting off, Open: An Autobiography. Maybe its time had come.

I had read all about it when it came out two years ago, but wasn’t motivated to read it until my friend Werner urged it on me a short time later. That evening, taking advantage of Amazon’s sample option, I downloaded a short bit from the beginning. Agassi opens his book with what turns out to be a riveting account of his famous 2006 five-set US Open match with Marcos Baghdatis. The sample ended before the match did, forcing me to buy and download the full book just so I could get to the end of the match. Then I put the book aside for another day. With the Chicago trip, another day had come.

Following the opening chapter, Agassi gets down to chronological business, starting at age seven. A week and a half ago, I began with the age-seven chapter, to make sure this was a book I would want to take on the trip. To my surprise, I immediately realized that “riveting” wasn’t just a characteristic of Agassi-Baghdatis match, or of the opening chapter. The entire book is riveting. I read Agassi’s description of hitting balls shot at him by the machine his father designed, learned of his father’s background, and knew I was hooked. If I wasn’t careful, I would finish the book before I even got on the plane.

Well, I was careful. That didn’t happen. But I spent all my time on both flights reading Open, until finishing it with an hour to go before our Seattle landing. (To be more precise, I spent all my time reading except when we were below 10,000 feet and not allowed to use electronics, which, as anyone who flies with a Kindle knows, is yet another absurd rule forced on passengers by the inane, insane airplane travel gods.) So many great tales. There are the matches themselves, which only get to be a bit tiresome near the end. But best are the relationships.

There’s Brooke Shields of course. Their marriage. Her guest appearances on Friends. The divorce. Barbra Streisand and Agassi’s brief interlude with her. Stefanie (her preferred name, as we learn) Graf, the love of his life. The hints, in his mind, that he was meant to be with her. The irony of Brooke Shields putting a photo of Graf on the refrigerator as the model of what she wanted her body to look like as she planned their wedding. And the men in Agassi’s life too, most notably his father, but also the three people who were such an important part of his career: his brother, one of his childhood friends, and his trainer Gil Reyes. Anyone who watched Agassi over the years at the majors would always see Reyes in the stands and hear about their bond. The book explains it.

I know, that doesn’t make the book sound so interesting. A big-time tennis pro, his women, and his pals. That’s pretty much it. But really, the book is much richer than that would suggest, and more entertaining too. It’s worth reading just to get to the part where the Agassi and Graf fathers meet for the first time.

And it’s an especially good choice for passing the time on two flights.

Categories: Books

Return from Chicago

November 20, 2011 Leave a comment

[WSJ interactive graphic (click on it)]

A week ago now, I was flying from Seattle to O’Hare for an overnight stay at the O’Hare Hilton and a meeting the next day. Thanks to the mileage I have accumulated in United’s Mileage Plus program and the rarity of our flying on United, when I do book with them, I always try to use up some mileage with an upgrade to first class. This trip to O’Hare is an annual one, and I have learned from experience that I can expect to get an upgrade on the flight there but not on the return. This year was no different. And for the second consecutive year, I got a lesson in what makes everyone hate flying.

The trip there was so pleasant. Through security in a snap. First on the plane. Comfortable seat. Read a book. Had some lunch. Nothing special, but edible. Pleasant flight crew, attentive service. And before I was ready to put my book aside, we were taxiing to the gate. I got off the plane 22 hours before the return flight, which meant I could already check in for the return. Rather than waiting to do so on my computer, I got out of security down by the baggage claim carousels and went straight to a United kiosk. Once I swiped my credit card and the kiosk recognized me, I saw that I still hadn’t been upgraded to first class. A couple of weeks earlier, when I booked my seats, I was presented as seating options for the return a handful of middle seats in the rear of the plane. Or, I could pay $64 to buy one of United’s “extra legroom” seats. My choice was still limited, but I could get an aisle seat in one of the exit rows plus 5 inches of extra legroom. I decided to take it. The kiosk readout showed that was still my assigned seat. I confirmed it, indicated that I would have no bags to check in, then was offered for $44 the option of fast check-in (but I didn’t need it, I was checking in at that moment), fast security line, and boarding with the first group.

Was it worth it? Well, I’d already spent $64. I couldn’t bear the thought of another $44. On the other hand, I would be cutting things close the next day, as my flight would depart as the meeting I was attending would end, which meant I would have to leave the meeting early, and that meant I would try to make some calculation about how late I could stay and still make it through security and to my plane. That $44 might buy me another 15-20 minutes at the meeting, or if not that, at least more peace of mind.

No, I couldn’t do it. I would take my chances.

Monday, I left the meeting room in the O’Hare Hilton at 2:55 for my 3:15 flight. Down I went to the Hilton basement, off I headed to the main underground passageway that connects the United Terminal with the hotel, the parking garage, and the train to the Loop. Despite making this trip for years, I was surprised at how long it took me to get through the passageway, up the escalator, and into the lower level of United’s terminal. At least I knew the route to the escalator up to the departure level. Boarding pass already in hand, I went past the check-in counters to the security line. It was 2:05, the plane would board starting at 2:45. I should make it easily.

And I did, but not until going through 45 minutes that was the promised reminder of why flying sucks. I say nothing new here, but it’s all about submission to authority. Keep your mouth shut, obey orders, be treated like dirt, and you might just get on your plane.

There were two TSA agents checking IDs and boarding passes and two short lines to get to them. But the lines were barely moving, and it soon emerged that the reason was that our lines were continuations of long and backed-up lines to the conveyer belts and scanners. I chose the line to the nearer belt, which in principle made it shorter, but also made it the line of choice for waves of employees and wheelchair passengers who zipped (or were zipped) past us to the front. We would go 2-3 minutes with no motion, then have some progress. As we got still closer, I could see that once our bags were on the belts, we were being fed, along with the other conveyor belt line, into a single line of passengers being prepared for the rape scanners. The TSA official monitoring the line would, every so often, signal for someone to bypass the rape scanner and go through the traditional scanning device, but most people were rape scanned.

I got to the belt at last. Out came my laptop, my Kindle, my iPhone, my quart bag of liquids. Off came my shoes, my belt. I never remove my belt for regular scanning, but I knew I would need to for the rapescanner, so I dutifully did. And then I got onto the rapescan line. The TSA guy asked if I had anything in my pockets. No. He said to hold my boarding pass in front of me when I entered. Then I remembered my wallet, called out to him that I had it. Take it out and raise it above your head when you’re in the scanner. Okay. In another minute, I headed in for my rape scanning. Above my head I held the wallet and boarding pass. Out I went, standing in that idiotic holding area with the mats with feet drawn so you know what position to be in. I was released, headed to my bags and belt and shoes and quart bag of liquids and laptop and Kindle and iPhone.

Once I was properly assembled, it was past 2:30. I was in United’s B terminal, had to go through that underground tunnel to get over to C. I once loved the tunnel, when I first went through it in 1989, when it was new, with the music and the light show. It’s never been the same since they had to obliterate the music with announcements about watching your step when you get off the moving walkways. And it was crowded. And I wanted to get the heck over to the other end and up to my gate. Another thing about United at O’Hare. I also once loved those terminals. So much light, with the high ceilings and the windows. But that’s if you’re not consigned to the hell of the terminal ends, where they crowd what must be about 9 gates in an area with a dropped ceiling and inadequate ventilation. Gate C-25 is one of them.

By the time I got there, there were only 10 minutes before boarding, and it was a mob scene, with our Seattle gate and an adjacent SF gate boarding almost simultaneously. I checked the screens to see if my status had changed. I had to wait for the listing of the 40+ standby passengers. Then came the screen saying first class was fully checked in, then the list of people waitlisted for it. I was #34. That wasn’t going to happen. Off I went to find a restroom, then back to find that I was now #35 out of 39. Using mileage gives you pretty low upgrade priority.

And now boarding began. Group 1 was first class and everyone with various categories of United and Continental frequent flyer elite status. I was group 4. I was hoping maybe there were 8 or 9 groups, having forgotten United’s system. Then group 2 was called. All window passengers. Oh. Four groups then, fancy-window-middle-aisle. I would be last. It might be tight in the overhead bins, the great battleground of our country. I got on the phone with Gail to complain as group 3 was called. And then our gate agent announced that all group 4 boarders with roller bags would have to check them at the gate.

What to do? Hide? Sneak it on? Could I? Would they catch me? Within seconds, she was at my side shouting out for group 4 roller baggers. I reluctantly raised my hand. Without looking at me or saying anything to me, she examined my boarding pass, wrote some data on a baggage tag, tore off the top portion and handed it to me. I saw that she had written 309 for the flight number. I tapped her shoulder as she worked on the bag of the woman near me and asked why it said 309 when I’m on 929. Oh, she said, as she crossed out 309 and wrote 929, that was the last flight she worked.

I was not happy. I was near the gate, likely to be one of the first group 4 boarders, and suspected there would be space for my bag. As the group 3 line thinned, the woman near me, my group 4 partner, joined the line. Moments later, we were all invited to board, and I got on right behind her, among the first of the group 4 boarders. I got to the end of the jetway and saw no one prepared to take my bag. Just then, a baggage guy popped in from outdoors, saw my bag, and grabbed it. Darn.

I stepped on the plane and found yesterday’s first class flight attendant looking at me. We both recognized each other. She welcomed me back and I explained that I would be in coach this time. As I headed to the exit row, I saw with some odd satisfaction that the bins were all full. Until I got to my seat. Right above me was a space that would easily accommodate my bag. Across the aisle was space for 2 bags. And as people continued to board, some had bags with them that they filled the space with.

Why was I forced to check my bag? Why couldn’t a more intelligent system be used? I was hopping mad. I mean, I understood the idea that a simple uniform rule was easier to enforce than waiting for bins to fill up and people to pile into the aisles with bags that would need checking. But there must be a better way. I was already paying $64 extra for my seat. Couldn’t I get some benefit from that without being expected to pay another $42 for group 1 boarding?

I know, what’s the big deal? The cost of having my bag taken away was that I would have to wait 20 minutes at baggage claim. Not the end of the world. Would I pay $42 to save 20 minutes? Well, obviously, I answered that question. I didn’t pay. But I had all the extra aggravation, and I got home to a later dinner, and had less time at home that evening to get caught up on some work. And to read the blogs. And to do two days of NYT crossword puzzles.

I was reminded of the Wall Street Journal’s recent article in their The Middle Seat weekly feature, with the graphic at the top of this post. The opening paragraphs pretty much tell the story.

An airline ticket gets you a seat on a plane. But which seat, now that’s a different story.

Gary Zeune, a white-collar crime expert from Powell, Ohio, went online to check in for his Frontier Airlines flight from Denver to Dayton. The only seats available were middle seats in the back of the plane. Unhappy with the options, he decided to pay $25 extra for a “Stretch” seat with extra legroom.

When he boarded the plane, he found several empty rows behind the Stretch seats. Window and aisle seats he would have happily sat in were empty. Frontier blocked them when he checked online because he was on a low-fare ticket.

“They are lying to you and making it look like there are no seats,” said Mr. Zeune. “I’m not going to complain about the $25 itself. It’s the manipulation.”

Seat fees are the latest iteration of the airline industry’s new normal. Carriers are blocking more seats from advance-seat selection, especially for low-fare passengers. More crowded planes also make it tougher to get a desirable seat. As a result, more travelers are feeling pressured to pay a fee and reserve a seat rather settle for an assigned one—which could be a middle seat or not located next to their family members. Worse, those without assigned seats stand a higher chance of getting bumped from a flight.

I was thinking that maybe instead of paying a seat-choice fee, a fast security and early boarding fee, a food fee, a baggage fee, and so on, all while hoping to get a first class upgrade with my mileage, I should just be able to pay one large fee and get to ride first class to begin with. That would simplify things. Then I remembered that there is such a fee. I think it’s what they call a first class ticket, and it’s priced so high that the sum of all the other fees never comes close.

I suppose I should just suck it up. Pay the price or suffer. And spare others the complaints when I do suffer. No one wants to hear about it.

Categories: Travel

Our Militarized Police

November 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Police in Chapel Hill, November 13, 2011

[Katelyn Ferral, kferral@newsobserver.com]

I got home from Chicago Monday night and woke up Tuesday to the news of Mayor Bloomberg and the New York City police clearing out Zuccotti Park of Occupy Wall Streeters. Then I read a reference to Chapel Hill and stumbled on the photo above, accompanying an article in Raleigh’s News & Observer about Chapel Hill police clearing Occupy Chapel Hill protesters from a vacant car dealership on Sunday afternoon. I’m tempted to say the photo speaks for itself and leave it at that. But in case more needs to be said — really, is this what it has come to? Has the militarization of our country reached the point where small-town police forces operate like domestic armies? Are there not more benign ways to clear unarmed people from a space, assuming there’s good reason to clear them?

From News & Observer reporters Katelyn Ferral and Mark Schultz we learn that

Officers brandishing guns and semi-automatic rifles rushed the building at about 4:30 p.m. They pointed weapons at those standing outside, and ordered them to put their faces on the ground. They surrounded the building and cleared out those who were inside.

About 13 people, including a New & Observer staff writer covering the demonstration, were forced to the ground and hand-cuffed.

Those who had been outside of the building at the time of the arrests – including N&O staffer Katelyn Ferral – were detained and then let go after their pictures were taken. Eight people inside the building were cuffed and put on a Chapel Hill Transit bus to be taken to the police station to be charged with misdemeanor breaking and entering.

“Along with facilitating citizens’ ability to exercise their constitutional rights, it is also a critical responsibility of all levels of government in a free society to respond when rights of others are being impinged upon,” Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt said in a statement issued Sunday night.

“This weekend a group of protesters broke into and entered a privately owned building in downtown Chapel Hill. … The Town has an obligation to the property owners, and the Town will enforce those rights …”

Okay, go ahead. Enforce those rights. But with semi-automatic rifles?

The LA Times picked up the story Tuesday, with a link I might otherwise have missed to the statements of Chapel Hill’s mayor and police chief at a news conference Monday. Police Chief Chris Blue explained that the tactics used were “based on the known risks associated with anarchist groups.”

Those darn hippie anarchists. Meanwhile, the News & Observer requested an apology for the police behavior.

The News & Observer is seeking a public apology from the Town of Chapel Hill after one of its reporters was detained with protesters Sunday afternoon.

“She wasn’t doing anything illegal,” said John Drescher, N&O executive editor. “She was doing her job, and she identified herself as doing her job.”

Staff writer Katelyn Ferral arrived at the former Yates Motor Co. building at 419 W. Franklin St. about 4:30 p.m. to report on the occupation of the building.

Ferral was on the scene for approximately 15 minutes, interviewing people inside and walking around the site, when she heard demonstrators say police were gathering down the block.

When police approached the building, they ordered everyone to get on the ground, but they allowed Ferral to continue to shoot photographs. After a few more minutes they told Ferral to get on the ground as well.

Ferral told them she was a member of the media. She was wearing her press photo badge around her neck.

She remained face-down on the ground for about 15 minutes before she was cuffed with plastic zip ties and told to sit in a line with about 12 other people who had been detained.

After about 30 minutes police took her picture, took down her name, address, date of birth and drivers license number.

Ferral asked why she was being detained and was told that she was not on the bus with those charged with breaking and entering because she wasn’t inside the building.

Police told Ferral she would be arrested if she was caught on the premises again, Ferral said.

After she was released, Ferral was not allowed to take additional photographs and was told to go across the street.

During a press conference Monday, Police Chief Chris Blue said officers detained everyone that was either in the building or at the entrance. Ferral was treated like anyone else who was outside the front of the building, he said.

Meanwhile, back in New York … I was dumbfounded as I listened on Tuesday morning to the news of Zuccotti Park’s clearing at the matter of fact way NPR’s reporters gave the news. Is it really possible to talk about Mayor Bloomberg ordering the NYC police to empty the park without noting that Bloomberg is himself number 12 in Forbes’ list of the 400 richest people in America? Look, Bloomberg has done many good things with his money. (As a mathematician and one-time member of the Institute for Advanced Study, I’m especially fond of this.) But, I’ll say it again. He’s the 12th richest person in the US. He’s worth $20 billion, give or take. He bought himself the mayoralty of New York. In his eighth year as mayor, when faced with term limits, he had the law changed and bought himself a third term.

Maybe Bloomberg was a better choice than the alternatives. That’s not my point. My point is, this is no ordinary mayor. I don’t understand how his actions with respect to Occupy Wall Street can be described without reference to his wealth and its source. I don’t know how to take a news report seriously that doesn’t provide this context. I don’t know how to take NPR seriously. Any regular reader of Gail Collins knows that whenever she mentions Mitt Romney in her NYT columns, she provides a reminder that he drove the family to Canada on vacation with the family dog strapped to the roof of the car. I take her motivation to be that you can’t understand anything about Romney without knowing this. Surely a similar rule should apply to Bloomberg. No story should be written about his actions, especially those related to Occupy Wall Street, without a reminder that he’s the twelfth richest person in America, and yes, that he made his fortune on Wall Street.

Categories: Journalism, Politics

Carmine’s

November 13, 2011 Leave a comment

[From Il Terrazzo Carmine’s website]

I just finished a post about my current visit to O’Hare, mentioning in passing my fondness for the O’Hare Hilton’s Italian restaurant, Andiamo. Not the greatest, but comfortable. Perhaps it’s worth pointing out in contrast that two nights ago, we celebrated Gail’s birthday a day late at our favorite Italian restaurant in Seattle, Il Terrazzo Carmine. It is a continuing puzzle why we don’t eat there more often.

Sometimes we get there twice in a year, once for Gail’s birthday and once for mine. Sometimes just once. You may recall my post in March 2009 about our visit for my own birthday. (Well, non-birthday, since I didn’t have one that year, but I did get a year older, and that’s when we went.) That’s the time we had dinner in the bar, since we were too late to reserve a table, and Dale Chihuly dropped in to join the celebration.

This time Dale didn’t show. We had a good evening nonetheless. We always do. The menu never changes. But there’s always a risotto of the day, always yet another risotto served as a side dish with one of the dinner specials, always a soup of the day, a fish of the day, another three or four appetizer and main dish specials. Lots of variety. And the constant menu is plenty large. I’m invariably drawn to the cannelloni or rigatoni as an appetizer, to the rack of lamb or veal chop or pork chop or steak as a main dish. And then I hear the specials and want the soup, or the fish, or some other concoction. This time I went with the risotto special, with pancetta, and then the peppercorn steak with shoestring potatoes. Those potatoes are the greatest, one reason I can’t resist the steak.

For dessert, Gail was brought tiramisu with a candle in it. Then our (fabulous) waiter brought a tray with all the desserts to view. I resisted the profiteroles, difficult to do, and went with the pear tart, served with berries.

Let’s not forget the outstanding bottle of wine that accompanied the meal, a 2006 Brunello di Montalcino from Casanova di Neri.

I’m hoping this time we won’t wait another year for our next visit to Carmine’s.

Categories: Restaurants