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Thursday, March 07, 2013

The Bill James Mailbag

Why they’ll never be another 300-game winner in your great-grandchilds children’s lifetime! (Kuenster-speak)

Has CC overtaken Halladay with regard to the chance of getting to 300 wins? I thought that was actually somewhere on the site but I can’t find it (or do I just need to buy the new Handbook to find out?)

Both Sabathia and Halladay had negative seasons in terms of their standing as 300-Win candidates, but Halladay much worse.  Verlander is now the #1 300-win candidate in the game, at 38%, with Sabathia at 37%, which is down from almost 50% a year ago. 

I think you’ve shared your formula for the “300 win chance” before, but perhaps you could ‘splain…as I see it, CC needs 109 wins to get to 300, Verlander 176. Every time i look at someone’s chances, I assume that they’ll at least need to pitch until about 40 to get to 300 wins (a fairly common age for modern-era 300-game winners to reach their goal). So CC’s got 9 more years of pitching (he starts the year at 32 years of age), and he needs to average 12.1 wins/year, to get to 300 at age 40 (though his 41st birthday comes July 21st of that year). Verlander starts the year age 30, so he’s got 11 more years to get to 40, but he has to average 16 wins/year to get there. It seems to me that you’ve weighed Verlander’s youth quite heavily to have his chances be BETTER than CC’s. Some other notables: King Felix 13.5 wins/year; Kershaw 14.9, Cain 16.5, Halladay 16.8, Buerhle 18.0, Weaver 18.0. Am now ready to have my methodology destroyed.

Age is relevant but not VERY relevant.  We don’t MUCH care whether a pitcher is 30 or 32.  What matters most is his momentum.  CC made on 28 starts in 2013.  The thing that identifies pitchers who are going to get to 300 wins, historically, is that they stay in the rotation and keep pitching.  CC had done that until 2012.  In 2012, he didn’t.  It’s a step backward.  It reduces his momentum, and makes it less likely that he will last long enough to get to 300 wins.

Repoz Posted: March 07, 2013 at 06:43 AM | 71 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history

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   1. nymusix Posted: March 07, 2013 at 07:39 AM (#4382648)
I get what he's saying about momentum, but when it's a guy like CC Sabathia, who has quite consistently made 30+ starts for many years now, can't we assume that the 2012 season is more of an outlier, and that he remains a strong candidate to get to 300? I can't imagine that one season with four fewer starts drops that percentage by *fifty* percent.

Also, I wonder if the formula takes into account those players who are *almost* at 300 wins and decide to pitch that extra season or two solely to get to that magic number.
   2. Jack Carter, calling Beleaguered Castle Posted: March 07, 2013 at 07:45 AM (#4382650)
I don't believe it does. It's a pretty crude formula, iirc. It also doesn't take into account whether Sabathia missed four starts to attend a funeral or because of an injury to his pitching arm.
   3. Lassus Posted: March 07, 2013 at 08:03 AM (#4382654)
This year is going to shed percentage points off CC's chances like a husky in June.
   4. bobm Posted: March 07, 2013 at 08:28 AM (#4382659)
Favorite toy

The favorite toy is a formula created by Bill James that estimates the probability that a player achieves a cumulative statistical goal.

The formula has four inputs:

1) Number needed to achieve goal.

2) Projected seasons remaining for the player. This is calculated by the formula (24 - .6(age)). Any player still playing regularly has a minimum of 1.5 seasons remaining, regardless of age.

3) Established level for that statistic. James calculates this as (last season*3+second to last season*2+third to last season)/6. Additionally, the established level should not be below 3/4 of the total in the most recent season [see note below].

4) Projected remaining total, which is simply the last two numbers multiplied.The chance of getting to the goal is calculated as:

[Projected remaining total - (Number needed/2) / Number needed]


http://www.baseball-reference.com/bullpen/Favorite_toy
   5. The District Attorney Posted: March 07, 2013 at 08:41 AM (#4382663)
Apparently it's not Favorite Toy.
I'm wondering, since the most predictive staistic for future wins is not present wins, if the Favorite Toy could be adjusted to assign a win total based on strikeouts for the purposes of determing momentum towards 300.

Well, first, we don't use the Favorite Toy in any way in connection with pitchers. And second, the system that we do use already does that. It has an "alternate wins" component in it now, so that a pitcher with 15 wins and 200 strikeouts is treated differently than a pitcher who has 15 wins and 120 strikeouts.
BTW, a funeral that could make a pitcher miss four starts sounds kind of awesome...
   6. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: March 07, 2013 at 08:41 AM (#4382664)
Nobody will win 300 games ever again. Or 200 games. Or 100. (Actually, no one will win another game, at any level of baseball, from now on.)
   7. Dag Nabbit is part of the zombie horde Posted: March 07, 2013 at 09:05 AM (#4382674)
Bill James in one of his handbooks a few years ago did a new version of Favorite Toy. I don't have the math w/ me right now. I think it has a more generic name like Career Milestones or something like that.
   8. Rants Mulliniks Posted: March 07, 2013 at 09:15 AM (#4382676)
Hey Bill, luckily I escaped communist Russia by high school, thus avoiding four years of "Lenin Thought" that my mother had to endure. Instead, thanks to Mrs. Magin, I'll never forget “We Polked 'em in '44; we'll Pierce 'em in '52," "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!" and "Ma, Ma, Where’s my Pa, Gone to the White House, Ha, Ha, Ha." But other than James K Polk, I couldn't tell you a thing about their policies.
Asked by: moscow25
Answered: 3/7/2013
None of them ever used drones to execute people without trial.


Yay Bill!
   9. BDC Posted: March 07, 2013 at 09:56 AM (#4382691)
I like to do pitcher comps in terms of Starts, simply because top starters still do get almost as many GS as they have for the past 120 years or so, and because starters still get a large share of decisions; winning 300 isn't about pitching as many innings as Phil Niekro or Gaylord Perry, it's just about racking up the Ws. I found this comps list interesting: it's centered on Sabathia in terms of career Starts through age 31, and is ranked by career Wins through 31:

Player            W  GS   Age     IP
Bob Feller      208 363 17
-31 2929.0
George Mullin   208 388 21
-31 3341.2
Robin Roberts   206 386 21
-31 3127.2
Hal Newhouser   200 369 18
-31 2922.1
Vic Willis      195 375 22
-31 3189.2
CC Sabathia     191 383 20
-31 2564.1
Greg Maddux     184 365 20
-31 2598.1
Dave McNally    181 384 19
-31 2652.2
Vida Blue       178 380 19
-31 2789.1
Don Sutton      176 387 21
-31 2812.0
Steve Carlton   168 364 20
-31 2704.0
Milt Pappas     168 373 18
-31 2567.2
Lee Meadows     168 366 20
-31 2850.2
Ken Holtzman    167 381 19
-31 2679.0
Bob Friend      153 370 20
-31 2749.1 


IOW, within that fairly narrow band of Starts, nobody who had more Wins than Sabathia through age 31 reached 300, though Bob Feller might have but for war service; that's hard to say. But lurking just below him on the list are Maddux, Sutton, and Carlton. There's ample time for Sabathia to win 300, but as with any such projection, it's hugely uncertain whether he'll have the longevity to do it, or indeed will stay on teams good enough to get him there.
   10. BDC Posted: March 07, 2013 at 10:13 AM (#4382700)
I started to do an analogous list for Verlander, but there's just a huge number of pitchers who have made ~232 starts through age 29; it's not a very informative list. Oh heck, here's the top ten in Wins among 29-year-old pitchers with pretty much exactly as many starts as Verlander:

Player               W  GS   Age     IP
Pete Alexander     160 233 24
-29 2104.0
Jesse Tannehill    153 235 19
-29 2058.1
Pedro Martinez     132 229 20
-29 1693.0
Noodles Hahn       130 231 20
-27 2029.1
Justin Verlander   124 232 22
-29 1553.2
Jack Taylor        119 231 20
-26 2057.0
Lefty Tyler        113 234 20
-29 1987.0
Andy Messersmith   112 235 22
-29 1836.0
Red Donahue        111 232 20
-29 2043.0
Bill Doak          107 234 21
-29 1784.0 


Can't be bad to have Alexander as a comp, though a distant one, but the list is obviously much more all over the map than Sabathia's: a function not just of Verlander's age but his relative "inexperience" at that age.
   11. John Northey Posted: March 07, 2013 at 10:13 AM (#4382702)
I remember doing league wide favorite toy projections using the Lahman database and it actually was pretty good at guessing how many players would reach various milestones. IE if the total odds came out to 800% then 8 guys would reach it normally. Have to run it for 2012 and 300 wins just to see where it is at now.
   12. Greg Schuler Posted: March 07, 2013 at 10:22 AM (#4382710)
Hey Bill, luckily I escaped communist Russia by high school, thus avoiding four years of "Lenin Thought" that my mother had to endure. Instead, thanks to Mrs. Magin, I'll never forget “We Polked 'em in '44; we'll Pierce 'em in '52," "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too!" and "Ma, Ma, Where’s my Pa, Gone to the White House, Ha, Ha, Ha." But other than James K Polk, I couldn't tell you a thing about their policies.
Asked by: moscow25
Answered: 3/7/2013
None of them ever used drones to execute people without trial.


Yay Bill!


If Polk (assisting Texas is its rebellion) or Tyler (from his military background) had the technology, they sure would have authorize drone strikes. Pierce - probably not, but then again, drone strikes have increased under a president who won the Nobel Peace Prize, so who really knows.

As far executing without trial - meh. The people being blown up aren't nice White European folks and therefore don't obviously deserve a trial or jurisprudence (take that for what you will - the men responsible for massacring millions in Africa roam free while Europe went to great lengths to capture the Serbs responsible for a much smaller genocide - which was on TV, of course). It's also much harder to capture them with acceptable losses and put them in jail and then on the stand and release all sorts of top secret goodies and whatnot. Then again, is a Viper or Hellfire or Griffin rocket blasting you to kingdom come any worse or better than a Mozambique Drill in a dark alley or your palatial fortified compound?
   13. Morty Causa Posted: March 07, 2013 at 10:40 AM (#4382721)
The justification for objecting to drones--is it like a humanitarian one, like with the use of atomic weapons, or is it a legal one? If it's a legal one, what does that do to using police action against those engaged in insurrection or ongoing terrorism. For instance, if this justification had walked in 1861, could Lincoln have prosecuted the Civil War? Could Eisenhower had done what he did in Arkansas? Could MacArthur and Hoover have taken action against the Bonus Army? The US calvary against the Indians (yeah, I'm not making this easy).
   14. Tom Nawrocki Posted: March 07, 2013 at 10:47 AM (#4382728)
I get what he's saying about momentum, but when it's a guy like CC Sabathia, who has quite consistently made 30+ starts for many years now, can't we assume that the 2012 season is more of an outlier, and that he remains a strong candidate to get to 300? I can't imagine that one season with four fewer starts drops that percentage by *fifty* percent.


Sabathia also won "only" 15 games last year, which was his fewest since 2006. I imagine that helped drop his projection as well.
   15. zonk Posted: March 07, 2013 at 10:50 AM (#4382729)
If Polk (assisting Texas is its rebellion) or Tyler (from his military background) had the technology, they sure would have authorize drone strikes. Pierce - probably not, but then again, drone strikes have increased under a president who won the Nobel Peace Prize, so who really knows


I have a hard time imagining any past Presidents who wouldn't have used them had they been available - including our most beloved... Heck - I'd say most would end up grouping closer to Andrew Jackson (who probably would have insisted on manning the controls himself). FDR certainly would have. Lincoln, ditto. Reagan, absolutely. I think even Washington would have. I feel pretty sure Teddy Roosevelt would have (even sobered by his Spanish-American war experience, TR had a serious 'imperial presidency' thing going and wasn't one to defer to Congress).

Three possible names stick in my mind as maybe not (at best): Ike (and only second term Ike at that), Thomas Jefferson (though, TJ had a tendency to abandon his principles when it suited his office), and maybe Jimmy Carter (and I'd say he's at best a 1 in 3 shot to NOT have employed them).

Doesn't mean it's right or that I'd agree with the choice... just that I think it's what we are as a nation, if not a species...
   16. AROM Posted: March 07, 2013 at 10:53 AM (#4382731)
Both Sabathia and Halladay had negative seasons in terms of their standing as 300-Win candidates, but Halladay much worse. Verlander is now the #1 300-win candidate in the game, at 38%, with Sabathia at 37%, which is down from almost 50% a year ago.


If Halladay is around 25%, then the odds are that one of these guys will get to 300 wins. We just have no idea which one it will be.

   17. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: March 07, 2013 at 10:54 AM (#4382732)
Not to get away from drones and Morty's question in particular, but Bill said:
The Presidents between Polk and Lincoln were a feckless lot who dithered around and didn't really deal with the Nation's problems, or even try to--disturbingly like our own time. This led them into civil war, and it will again if we don't tone down the rhetoric and get to work on these issues. But nobody wants to hear it.



[Also from the current mailbag: I'd like to echo that Cabot's Seriously Sharp cheddar cheese is indeed a worthwhile thing to plug.]
   18. Lassus Posted: March 07, 2013 at 10:56 AM (#4382734)
I'd rather talk about cheese than rehash drones that could be don ein the March OTP thread.

Does anyone but me really really like dubliner cheese?
   19. bookbook Posted: March 07, 2013 at 11:01 AM (#4382737)
Oh, good. I think we need some racism on the BTF boards. Let's grade genocides, and find the European ones less dramatic than others! There's some woeful miscomprehension of history.
   20. Ron J2 Posted: March 07, 2013 at 11:10 AM (#4382747)
#15 I'm not sure about Madison. He personally took a very non-expansive view of presidential powers. (even as president during the War of 1812)

But he also ended up with Jackson and Harrison as important generals and neither of them would have blinked at drone strikes. Actually about the only reason either would not have used drones is that they wouldn't have cared about collateral damage and would have opted for more conventional strikes.
   21. zonk Posted: March 07, 2013 at 11:13 AM (#4382749)
Not to get away from drones and Morty's question in particular, but Bill said:

The Presidents between Polk and Lincoln were a feckless lot who dithered around and didn't really deal with the Nation's problems, or even try to--disturbingly like our own time. This led them into civil war, and it will again if we don't tone down the rhetoric and get to work on these issues. But nobody wants to hear it.


Nothing like a little Broderism to make one feel superior :-)

While it's true that Tyler, Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan were 'feckless' - each for their own unique reasons - it really ought to be noted that the "Nation's problems" during that era weren't something that could simply be 'dealt with' and one couldn't just 'get to work on them' in the manner that James apparently felt they should have. In fact, all 4 -- to some extent -- did "deal with" the Nation's problems, compromising in shifts and shafts over what was ultimately an uncompromisable issue.

In effect - those 4 feckless Presidents were what the village wise men (the council to which James apparently wants membership) always tend to tell us we need more of: Compromise, abandonment of principle, 'reaching across the aisle', 'getting things done'. It's the alternative -- my way or the highway, provoking conflict, sounding defeating the other side -- that the village wise men always hate because they lack the appropriate 'bipartisanship'.

The wide old men of the Republic only like the Lincolns after they've been dead for generations...
   22. The District Attorney Posted: March 07, 2013 at 11:13 AM (#4382750)
Not to get away from drones, but this is a baseball discussion board and there are already two political threads on Hot Topics.
   23. GregD Posted: March 07, 2013 at 11:15 AM (#4382752)
The Presidents between Polk and Lincoln were a feckless lot who dithered around and didn't really deal with the Nation's problems, or even try to--disturbingly like our own time. This led them into civil war, and it will again if we don't tone down the rhetoric and get to work on these issues. But nobody wants to hear it.
What's interesting to me is how powerful the idea of an Imperial Presidency is even to people who critique it. Within a few words, James (rightly in my narrow view) derides the idea of a president conducting secret strikes without congressional authorization, and then derides past presidents for somehow not using their superpowers to avert crisis. Without seeming to acknowledge the contradiction between those two positions--presidents powerful enough to singlehandedly resolve crises will be powerful enough to do some nasty ####, and presidents who are externally constrained from doing nasty #### won't be powerful enough to singlehandedly resolve crises.

The power of Congress, the surging Whig party (which believed in a powerful federal government but envisaged that power through Congress), the backlash to the Jackson years, and the untimely death of presidents meant that we had a system of major congressional power from the 1840s to 1861.

What exactly does James think the presidents could have done (once Polk finished his Mexico annexation plans)? Sat everyone down for a chat? Talked to Seward and Hammond about how much they had in common? Even if somehow a Washington Consensus sank in, what would have happened? When compromises were forced through, Northern doughfaces got destroyed by the voters in congressional elections. And many Southern states were electing increasingly virulent Southern rights guys, even if the political networks tried to keep outright secessionists from office.

I could imagine a president trying to squash Douglas' Kansas-Nebraska Act and a very adept president, perhaps, being able to sway some congressional votes. That would be something. But why would Southerners have accepted that outcome? K-N was the least acceptable thing they wanted.

They weren't in conflict because they failed to understand each other or needed leadership. They were in conflict because they had a clear sense of conflicting values, their parties had been sorted in ways that made this clearer, and the political system couldn't resolve such a conflict in a way the loser would accept.
   24. zack Posted: March 07, 2013 at 11:16 AM (#4382753)
The problem with drones, as with all military technology, is that they un-dis-incentivize violence. The more American lives something costs, the less likely we are to do it. This principle is exemplified in ICBM's, which could wipe out the rest of the population of the world with no domestic losses. Good thing we have mutually assured destruction!
   25. zonk Posted: March 07, 2013 at 11:17 AM (#4382754)
#15 I'm not sure about Madison. He personally took a very non-expansive view of presidential powers. (even as president during the War of 1812)


I thought about Madison... I agree with you regarding his personal opinions on executive power -- but I think, much like Jefferson -- he found those principles irreconcilable with carrying out the duties of the office. I look at this flip-flop on the bank of the US for one; his experience with the inadequacy of a militia-based military once the War of 1812 commenced for another. Maybe he'd be a reverse Ike -- no drones in term 1, drones in term 2.
   26. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: March 07, 2013 at 11:19 AM (#4382757)
Does anyone but me really really like dubliner cheese?

I enjoy it, but it's not in my top 5.
I'm not sure if you used movie analogies to describe my cheese enjoyment if I'm a genre guy or simply middlebrow. For example, if it came from a goat, I'm probably not going to like it. If it's in the Cheddar family, I will. Favorite is Cotswold/Abbeydale.
   27. zack Posted: March 07, 2013 at 11:28 AM (#4382771)
If it's in the Cheddar family, I will

Sometimes I think about quitting my job and going into cheesemaking, just to produce a single variety of extra, extra, extra, extra sharp white cheddar. Not that I don't like other cheeses, but if I had a single focus, that would be it. And now cheese looks all wrong. Cheese cheese cheese chease clease cheeze.
   28. The Good Face Posted: March 07, 2013 at 11:28 AM (#4382773)
The justification for objecting to drones--is it like a humanitarian one, like with the use of atomic weapons, or is it a legal one? If it's a legal one, what does that do to using police action against those engaged in insurrection or ongoing terrorism. For instance, if this justification had walked in 1861, could Lincoln have prosecuted the Civil War? Could Eisenhower had done what he did in Arkansas? Could MacArthur and Hoover have taken action against the Bonus Army? The US calvary against the Indians (yeah, I'm not making this easy).


A lot of the discussion about drones is muddled because there are so many different buckets drone use can fall into, and people who get hot and bothered about one may not necessarily get upset about another.

Just off the top of my head we have...

1. Drones used in a declared war against enemy military forces on foreign lands. I imagine everyone other than dedicated pacifists are generally OK with this one.

2. Drones used in a Congressionally sanctioned military operation against foreign "terrorists" on foreign lands. There's a lot of heat about this, but I think it mostly comes down to whether you think the military operation is justified to begin with.

3. Drones used against foreign "terrorists" in foreign lands, but without Congressional knowledge or approval. How would we feel if Osama bin Laden had been killed by a drone strike in, oh, let's say Bangladesh? This often seems to make people uneasy if they stop to think about it, but fortunately, since it's people they don't know getting killed very far away, they don't have to.

4. Drones used against U.S. citizens in foreign lands, without due process. This seems to be where a lot of people draw the line.

5. Drones used against U.S. citizens in the U.S., without due process. If we ever get to the point where a majority of U.S. citizens are OK with this, we'd honestly be much better off scrapping the republic and getting ourselves an absolute monarch to run things. We may be there already, but this would be definitive proof for me.
   29. zonk Posted: March 07, 2013 at 11:31 AM (#4382775)
Acquiescing to the will of the thread, I will say this about cheese...

There's not a single style, flavor, or type of cheese I don't love - generally, the sharper the flavor the better... but I have to say, I've radically cut it from my diet (not entirely, but I've throttled my enjoyment of it way back) and with very little other changes in diet, I'm in better shape than I've been in a good decade... I hate getting old.
   30. Der-K and the statistical werewolves. Posted: March 07, 2013 at 11:33 AM (#4382776)
I remember being a kid on a tour of a cheese factory and, in the gift shop, they were selling a test cheese, one with extra extras (three or four), compared to their usual extra and extra extra sharps. Anyway, ooooooooh.

Mostly agreed, TGF.
   31. zack Posted: March 07, 2013 at 11:33 AM (#4382778)
6. Drones used against U.S. citizens in the U.S., without due process, against people who advocate, even indirectly, against cheese. Most people wonder why it hasn't been done already.
   32. Morty Causa Posted: March 07, 2013 at 11:37 AM (#4382783)
28:

4 and 5 do not fully characterize the propositions. It should be "citizens engaged in terrorist activities" in foreign lands or in the US. Since when does constituted authority and enforcement agencies have to give due process to those engaged in violence?

Someone has a gun to a hostages head--a police sniper shoots him. Unconstitutional? You needed to bring him to trial first?

How would these restrictions work, and what would be the real-life ramifications if those restrictions were in place?
   33. zack Posted: March 07, 2013 at 11:39 AM (#4382787)
Someone has a gun to a hostages head--a police sniper shoots him. Unconstitutional? You needed to bring him to trial first?

A drone strike as they are mostly used would be more analogous to the police sniper following him home and shooting him through the living room window. Which many people would rightly have a serious issue with.
   34. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: March 07, 2013 at 11:43 AM (#4382790)

A drone strike as they are mostly used would be more analogous to the police sniper following him home and shooting him through the living room window. Which many people would rightly have a serious issue with.


Not analogous at all, as the police can simply go arrest him. It's U.S. soil.

Analogous would be the police sniper following him, the hostage-taker crossing the Mexican border, and the sniper, unable to follow him, gets out of his car and shoots him dead across the border.

I think many people wouldn't have a problem with that.
   35. The Good Face Posted: March 07, 2013 at 11:59 AM (#4382800)
Analogous would be the police sniper following him, the hostage-taker crossing the Mexican border, and the sniper, unable to follow him, gets out of his car and shoots him dead across the border.

I think many people wouldn't have a problem with that.


We should take care we don't conflate actions taken while the criminal is actively perpetrating a crime with actions taken when the criminal is sitting at home in his underpants eating a burrito. It's often justifiable to use lethal force against a criminal who is presenting an immediate threat of death or serious injury to other people. It's not justifiable when it comes to using lethal force against a guy who is not an immediate threat AND who can be arrested or otherwise dealt with by existing law enforcement infrastructure. A guy who's living in the hills of Bumfuckistan plotting and carrying out terrorist attacks? Now we're in a grey area.
   36. Morty Causa Posted: March 07, 2013 at 12:02 PM (#4382803)
So, an avowed terrorist who claims he's making war against the US, while engaging in violence, you bring him before a court, or get court sanction? Or does he have to be served and brought to court?

How about if someone steals your car and is driving away? Do you get to shoot at them? When this comes up, as it does, many here think you do. Do you?

Seems as if a lot of those who believe the one balk at merely reporting it to the authorities, but there's no due process given in that instance.
   37. Morty Causa Posted: March 07, 2013 at 12:03 PM (#4382805)
Can you entertain the idea that someone can be actively engaging in violence against the United States? If you can shoot those people while they are actually being violent, why not drones? Moreover, in a war, if you wait for your enemy to actually be firing at you, you have placed yourself at a grievous disadvantage? At, by definition, terrorists are at war against the country. We have to wait for them to be in the act of killing some people.

Note the qualifications of the argument. This is just testing propositions. That’s what we should be doing, not just accepting things as givens.
   38. GregD Posted: March 07, 2013 at 12:12 PM (#4382815)
Can you entertain the idea that someone can be actively engaging in violence against the United States? If you can shoot those people while they are actually being violent, why not drones? Moreover, in a war, if you wait for your enemy to actually be firing at you, you have placed yourself at a grievous disadvantage? At, by definition, terrorists are at war against the country. We have to wait for them to be in the act of killing some people.
A lot rides on the definition of actively there. Putting people in imminent danger? Plotting something specific that will have a good chance of putting people in imminent danger? Meeting with truly terrible people who would like to put people in imminent danger? Recruiting people in hopes of building enough muscle to attract the attention of those truly terrible people?

I would set the net broadly in nations where we are at war, tighten it somewhat in nations where we are cooperating with the home nation, and tighten it further in nations where we are operating solo in other nations.
   39. Greg Schuler Posted: March 07, 2013 at 12:16 PM (#4382820)
Oh, good. I think we need some racism on the BTF boards. Let's grade genocides, and find the European ones less dramatic than others! There's some woeful miscomprehension of history.


Well when I find millions dead as opposed to thousands and very little done to find and try those responsible, yes, I would imagine the fact that the the central and west African genocides perpetrated in the 1990s (and even continuing today) are inherently more reprehensible than the thousands of deaths in the Balkans. One genocide isn't better than the other. The fact the Europeans decided to go to great lengths to find the Serb perpetrators and prosecute them was driven by the public perception of those media reports (look at the state of the Netherlands after Srbernica, for example). Despite the hot air from the Hague, very little effort has gone in to finding the leaders responsible in Rwanda or west Africa (Charles Taylor found himself a nice exile in Nigeria, for example, rich with blood diamonds) and bringing them to prosecution. Africa itself cannot do and likely has little interest in doing so, as fractured as the continent is. If Europe pretends to be the world's court, then it should act as such.

The fact that white people died nightly on the evening news in the Balkans certainly galvanized NATO into responding, however tepidly. Not seeing millions of brown and black people die in the jungle did little to galvanize the UN to send in the same level of military force (though when they did it was as corrupt and inefficient a force as one could fine, so much so that Anan seriously considered hiring mercenary outfits to clean up the mess).

So yes, if by categorizing a million people dead in central Africa as more horrible than thousands dead in the Balkans makes me a racist and mis-comprehending history, then please feel free to categorize me as such and make sure you do so with as much disgust and addled feelings as you can muster. All genocide is deplorable, but deserve special attention and merit all attempts at justice.
   40. Greg Schuler Posted: March 07, 2013 at 12:22 PM (#4382826)
1. Drones used in a declared war against enemy military forces on foreign lands. I imagine everyone other than dedicated pacifists are generally OK with this one.

2. Drones used in a Congressionally sanctioned military operation against foreign "terrorists" on foreign lands. There's a lot of heat about this, but I think it mostly comes down to whether you think the military operation is justified to begin with.

3. Drones used against foreign "terrorists" in foreign lands, but without Congressional knowledge or approval. How would we feel if Osama bin Laden had been killed by a drone strike in, oh, let's say Bangladesh? This often seems to make people uneasy if they stop to think about it, but fortunately, since it's people they don't know getting killed very far away, they don't have to.

4. Drones used against U.S. citizens in foreign lands, without due process. This seems to be where a lot of people draw the line.

5. Drones used against U.S. citizens in the U.S., without due process. If we ever get to the point where a majority of U.S. citizens are OK with this, we'd honestly be much better off scrapping the republic and getting ourselves an absolute monarch to run things. We may be there already, but this would be definitive proof for me.


That's all well and good, but when the Pentagon streams the drone strikes on Twitter (as the IDF has done), how will that change the perceptions? People are generally accepting of the drone strikes except when innocents are killed (either by legitimate mistake, or through willful ignorance) or when those vehemently opposed point of that drone strikes could kill you right now legally in the US of A if the government decided you were worth a Griffin in the tail pipe.

As far as US citizens in the foreign land scenario, that's probably happened. The amount of intelligence collected and disseminated before the drone strikes is impressive and lawyers (true, government lawyers) are involved throughout the chain of command. You can read rueful stories from operators about a great chance that was sunk by the dang lawyers (the veracity of those stories remain open to debate, but are frequent enough to be believable).

To me, drones are simply mechanical assassins, no different than Tom Berenger sniping a target in a far off land with Billy Zane.
   41. Greg Schuler Posted: March 07, 2013 at 12:27 PM (#4382834)
The justification for objecting to drones--is it like a humanitarian one, like with the use of atomic weapons, or is it a legal one? If it's a legal one, what does that do to using police action against those engaged in insurrection or ongoing terrorism. For instance, if this justification had walked in 1861, could Lincoln have prosecuted the Civil War? Could Eisenhower had done what he did in Arkansas? Could MacArthur and Hoover have taken action against the Bonus Army? The US calvary against the Indians (yeah, I'm not making this easy).


The three most common complaints about unmanned vehicles killing people tend to be the absence of a human at the killing field (although the same argument can be extended to the bomber pilots flying miles above and killing indiscriminately. A lot of revisionist history of the bomber campaign in WW2 makes this quite clear); the legality of killing someone, anyone, in a country without the express written consent of the host nation (Yemen would sign tomorrow, Pakistan would likely want some aid money) and the efficiency of it (French drone strikes put the Mali issues to rest rather quickly, moreso than the Mirage or Rafale sorties).
   42. Morty Causa Posted: March 07, 2013 at 12:47 PM (#4382854)
To me, drones are simply mechanical assassins, no different than Tom Berenger sniping a target in a far off land with Billy Zane.


I see that perspective. But assassins are used in war and in military conflicts short of declared war. Back in the '60s I really liked the Matt Helm spy assassin thrillers (I highly recommend them; they are beautifully paced and are a window into the zeitgeist of that Cold War period), and I remember his saying, what I do is lot less reprehensible than dropping a bomb (or the bomb) instead on a mass of people.

Here, you've merely given the assassin a remote control. Nothing is being done that hasn't been done or won't be done when confronted by war or by terrorism. Few people, I think, believe a Timothy McVeigh shouldn't be taken out before he actually wreaks havoc, if that's what can be done with less damage to yourself and others. Yes, that's giving government a serious carte blanche, but the alternative.... There are no perfect choices. Sometimes there are no good ones. You just choose your poison. I'm not comfortable with that, but then that angst should be part of war. It shouldn't be the thing that disposes of the issue, maybe.
   43. SavoyBG Posted: March 07, 2013 at 01:51 PM (#4382907)
Nobody will win 300 games ever again. Or 200 games. Or 100. (Actually, no one will win another game, at any level of baseball, from now on.)


That's what SHOULD happen. Wins and losses are team stats and never should have been awarded individually to pitchers.

   44. ecwcat Posted: March 07, 2013 at 01:57 PM (#4382914)
Get over yourself.
   45. Ron J2 Posted: March 07, 2013 at 02:44 PM (#4382975)
#36 I'd like some form of judicial oversight. My problem with something like a drone strike (secret) court is that it's tend to become a rubber stamp. That's not oversight, it's giving cover to the act.

All that to ay that I think it would be tricky to arrange. A strong standing advocate would make it work to my satisfaction but I can't see anybody setting it up that way.
   46. Rants Mulliniks Posted: March 07, 2013 at 02:52 PM (#4382983)
Does anyone but me really really like dubliner cheese?


I like Dubliner a lot. Those cows must eat fresh grass year round, its the sweetest unsweetened cheese I've ever had.
   47. Jim Wisinski Posted: March 07, 2013 at 03:07 PM (#4383001)
And many Southern states were electing increasingly virulent Southern rights guys, even if the political networks tried to keep outright secessionists from office.


Huh, so one political side of the country was electing nuttier and nuttier people while the top guys tried to prevent the worst nuts from gaining power.

Sounds familiar!
   48. BDC Posted: March 07, 2013 at 03:34 PM (#4383016)
Wow, I post a couple of comps lists and cheese and drone discussions break out. That doesn't usually happen. Usually it just kills the thread.

Let's see what this will bring about: career comps for Sibby Sisti, utility infielders centered on him and ranked by Rfield:

Player          Rfield   PA OPS+  SB       Pos
Nick Punto          72 3175   75  98 456
/D8379
Bob Bailor          36 3206   77  90 96458
/7D1
Jimmy Brown          3 3831   85  39       456
Wayne Causey        
-8 3722   89  12       645
Rollie Zeider       
-9 3690   80 224  4563/798
Don Zimmer         
-10 3593   77  45   546/279
Roy Hughes         
-16 2879   78  80     456/3
Desi Relaford      
-40 3347   73  81 645/798D1
Sibby Sisti        
-44 3371   79  30  456/9783
Mark Lewis         
-68 3051   82  29     456/


   49. Srul Itza Posted: March 07, 2013 at 05:29 PM (#4383162)
drones are simply mechanical assassins


I agree. The question is, do we have objections to assassinating our enemies, sometimes with collateral damage, when there is often no other feasible option for getting at them?

Now, if this person really is an enemy of the nation, plotting or aiding acts of terror, does the fact that they hold US Citizenship, as opposed to being "aliens", make a difference?

Based on what happened with Bin Laden, the issue of whether there is some other feasible option for getting at them, may not be as clear. Then again, that little trip involved a great deal of pre-planning, a lot of risk, and a lot of money. In the world of going after the bad guys, the fact that Bin Laden was so stationary for so long may be unusual. It may be that in most instances, we get a tip that Abu Ben Blowemup is going to be in a small secluded village of East Bumfuckistan for only a short time, and with only a few hours notice. Not enough time to draft briefs and schedule oral argument before the High Court of Extreme Prejudice, much less build a scale model and send Seals for 3 weeks of training.

At the end of the day, assuming the preconditions of "very bad man" and "very hard to get to otherwise" as met, I don't lose a lot of sleep over the assassination, largely because I believe that this sort of thing has been going on for a very long time; the use of drones to carry it, aside from the increases in collateral damage, does not really change the moral equation, it just increases the opportunities.

I would not object to the list of "very bad man" being vetted somewhere along the line by some one. The reality of the country having a sanctioned, authorized "hit list" might be a little creepy, but we live in creepy times.



   50. Walt Davis Posted: March 07, 2013 at 05:43 PM (#4383194)
Three possible names stick in my mind as maybe not (at best): Ike (and only second term Ike at that), Thomas Jefferson (though, TJ had a tendency to abandon his principles when it suited his office), and maybe Jimmy Carter (and I'd say he's at best a 1 in 3 shot to NOT have employed them).

I'm going with William Henry Harrison.
   51. StHendu Posted: March 07, 2013 at 05:47 PM (#4383205)
Just off the top of my head we have...

1. Drones used in a declared war against enemy military forces on foreign lands. I imagine everyone other than dedicated pacifists are generally OK with this one.

2. Drones used in a Congressionally sanctioned military operation against foreign "terrorists" on foreign lands. There's a lot of heat about this, but I think it mostly comes down to whether you think the military operation is justified to begin with.

3. Drones used against foreign "terrorists" in foreign lands, but without Congressional knowledge or approval. How would we feel if Osama bin Laden had been killed by a drone strike in, oh, let's say Bangladesh? This often seems to make people uneasy if they stop to think about it, but fortunately, since it's people they don't know getting killed very far away, they don't have to.

4. Drones used against U.S. citizens in foreign lands, without due process. This seems to be where a lot of people draw the line.

5. Drones used against U.S. citizens in the U.S., without due process. If we ever get to the point where a majority of U.S. citizens are OK with this, we'd honestly be much better off scrapping the republic and getting ourselves an absolute monarch to run things. We may be there already, but this would be definitive proof for me.


For #1, there is a distinction among foreign lands. Declaring war on Iraq does not reasonably lead to bombing Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, or other countries. As of now, we know of 8 countries where our military has used drone strikes and, not only is that unacceptable to even people other than dedicated pacifists, it is considered a war crime and increases the amount of people willing to wage war against the US. Our government (most republicans and democrats) now act on the belief that the entire world is a war field, and anybody declared an 'enemy combatant' without any proof or charges can be instantly killed. There is absolutely no oversight to this, and no due process. It's counterproductive and it's friggin expensive.
   52. smileyy Posted: March 07, 2013 at 05:47 PM (#4383207)
Sheep's milk cheese is the new market inefficiency.
   53. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: March 07, 2013 at 06:12 PM (#4383243)
I'm going with William Henry Harrison.


Isn't he a little old for you?

Not to mention dead?

Still, I guess a cheap date is a cheap date.
   54. Gonfalon Bubble Posted: March 07, 2013 at 06:23 PM (#4383252)
A hovering drone at the inauguration could have kept the rain off William Henry's head.
   55. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: March 07, 2013 at 07:54 PM (#4383382)
Declaring war on Iraq does not reasonably lead to bombing Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, or other countries.

Sure it does. Our enemies are not dedicated to any particular nation they are dedicated to a cause. We are at war with that cause and those who fight for it should have nowhere to hide. Anything less than this will be very ineffective.

The question is, do we have objections to assassinating our enemies, sometimes with collateral damage, when there is often no other feasible option for getting at them?

Not at all. And eventually we'll get over the idea of 'no other feasible option'. Even if you could squeeze a special ops team in there, why risk our men when a couple of hellfire missiles will do the job? The current push back on drones will seem very quaint in about five years.
   56. Eugene Freedman Posted: March 07, 2013 at 09:01 PM (#4383450)
Bill knows very little about air traffic congestion.
   57. The District Attorney Posted: March 07, 2013 at 09:09 PM (#4383458)
From a more recent mailbag answer:
There is a Seinfeld episode from the 1990s about Elaine dating some guy who has the same name as a New York serial killer; I can't remember what the name was.
(It was Joel Rifkin.)

The really great part about this is that Elaine suggests that the guy change his name to "O.J."

(Yes, the show is that old.)
   58. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: March 07, 2013 at 09:40 PM (#4383481)
Sure it does. Our enemies are not dedicated to any particular nation they are dedicated to a cause. We are at war with that cause and those who fight for it should have nowhere to hide. Anything less than this will be very ineffective.

Seems to me, though, that we need a declaration of war from Congress, one that has the words "Declaration of War" in it.
Otherwise, it's just "we're at war with anybody we say we're at war with, forever." And I'm pretty sure that's not what the Founders intended. If the President could do that, it seems like Washington (for example) could have claimed "war powers" against the Native Americans, imprisoned "Indian sympathizers" until that "war" was over, etc.
   59. zonk Posted: March 07, 2013 at 09:51 PM (#4383491)

Seems to me, though, that we need a declaration of war from Congress, one that has the words "Declaration of War" in it.
Otherwise, it's just "we're at war with anybody we say we're at war with, forever." And I'm pretty sure that's not what the Founders intended. If the President could do that, it seems like Washington (for example) could have claimed "war powers" against the Native Americans, imprisoned "Indian sympathizers" until that "war" was over, etc.


Unfortunately, there is such a thing -- the AUMF... Congress wanted to dodge the issue and that monstrosity came to pass and still exists.

Sunset it, revise it, admit that giving ANY administration essentially undefined and unending powers to conduct asymmetrical war -- I'm all for it... I just think that, fundamentally, too many horses have left the barn at this point.
   60. Morty Causa Posted: March 07, 2013 at 11:15 PM (#4383553)
58:

Just as a matter of interest, as to the Civil War, how did the declaration of war against the rebelling states read?
   61. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: March 07, 2013 at 11:27 PM (#4383563)

Seems to me, though, that we need a declaration of war from Congress, one that has the words "Declaration of War" in it.


We did; the AUMF. That's more of a declaration that we got for most of our wars.
   62. Fred Lynn Nolan Ryan Sweeney Agonistes Posted: March 08, 2013 at 12:23 AM (#4383620)
Just as a matter of interest, as to the Civil War, how did the declaration of war against the rebelling states read?

Dunno. Since it wasn't an international conflict (and we made damn sure nobody recognized the CSA's sovereignty) I'm guessing there wasn't anything formal at all there.

The AUMF is not a declaration of war with the words "Declaration of War" in it.
Congress dodged the issue, sure, but that doesn't make it right. And just because we've been doing stuff like this for years doesn't make it right, either.
   63. Lassus Posted: March 08, 2013 at 12:54 AM (#4383646)
I like Dubliner a lot. Those cows must eat fresh grass year round, its the sweetest unsweetened cheese I've ever had.

I only discovered it a couple of years ago and have yet to tire of it.
   64. Morty Causa Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:00 AM (#4383653)
Well, what does make it right--keeping in mind that, as Justice Jackson once put it, I think, the idea is that this thing called our constitutional system should work?

I mean, we fought wars with other countries, made incursions into other countries, we fought internal wars, between the states and with the native tribes, and all that doesn't matter when it comes to precedent? I don't think that's the way to handle the decision to go to war or to take military action. Indeed, such a requirement might one day come to haunt us.
   65. PreservedFish Posted: March 08, 2013 at 03:19 AM (#4383781)
I used to be a cheesemonger.

Under the influence of this book I have been feeding my 1 year old daughter a cheese course with almost every meal. Today she had and enjoyed some stinky Taleggio for lunch.
   66. OsunaSakata Posted: March 08, 2013 at 06:51 AM (#4383802)
That was a Final Jeopardy this week. All declarations of war were between 1812 and 1942.
   67. Rants Mulliniks Posted: March 08, 2013 at 09:14 AM (#4383828)
Sure it does. Our enemies are not dedicated to any particular nation they are dedicated to a cause. We are at war with that cause and those who fight for it should have nowhere to hide. Anything less than this will be very ineffective.


Hook, line and sinker!!
   68. Rants Mulliniks Posted: March 08, 2013 at 09:18 AM (#4383830)
Sheep's milk cheese is the new market inefficiency.


My favourite cheese, by a fair margin, is Manchego (from sheep's milk). My wife won't let me get chickens or pigs, but maybe she'd relent on a sheep.
   69. GregD Posted: March 08, 2013 at 12:06 PM (#4383980)
Just as a matter of interest, as to the Civil War, how did the declaration of war against the rebelling states read?
Lincoln declared a state of insurrection existed, issued a proclamation about a blockade, and called Congress into special session. It would be unprecedented, as far as I know, to issue a declaration of war against a domestic insurrection. The Confederate Congress did declare war on the United States (after stating that Lincoln had essentially declared war on them.)
   70. BDC Posted: March 08, 2013 at 12:58 PM (#4384027)
The legal history of the Civil War is exceptionally complicated, and of course there's quite a literature devoted to it: Mark Neely's Fate of Liberty is one of the best-known books, though it deals largely with how Lincoln dealt with disloyalty in states that stayed in the Union. There were lots of de facto agreements between the two armies about observing the laws of war, and also much confusion about how to deal with areas of seceded states that came back under Union control.
   71. GregD Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:04 PM (#4384035)
Also really good: John Fabian Witt's Lincoln's Code.

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