Sunday, November 18, 2007


I think I have been blessed with a small vocabulary. Why blessed? Because I have a driving need to be understood. It frustrates me when I am misinterpreted. Because my vocabulary limits me to simple words, I must keep my language plain and simple. Sometimes it is frustrating not to have the exact word I need immediately available, but I make do. If I had a vocabulary like William F. Buckley I would be tempted to show it off, just as he does, and leave many readers baffled, just as he does.

I mention this because a few weeks ago Scott Adams did a couple of essays on cognitive dissonance. Now I know he needed to have a name for the ailment he was writing about and perhaps that is a label others had put on the ailment before, but it left me, and I would guess 90% of his readers, scratching their heads. The few who were in the loop were delighted to write in and dispute the label. Tweedledee and Tweedledum.

But the two essays were an excellent job of reporting and observing. Note that Adams does nothing more than report and observe:

Recently I saw the best case of cognitive dissonance I have ever seen. It was on Bill Maher's show, Real Time, which I love. Bill was interviewing Danish economist Bjorn Lomborg, who has a book about global warming, called "Cool It." The economist made the following points clearly and succinctly:

1. Global warming is real, and people are a major cause.

2. When considering the problems that global warming will cause, we shouldn't ignore the benefits of global warming, such as fewer deaths from cold.

3. The oceans rose a foot in the last hundred years, and the world adapted, so the additional rise from global warming might not be as big a problem as people assume.

4. Developing economical fossil fuel alternatives is the only rational solution to global warming because countries such as China and India will use the cheapest fuel, period. If only the developed countries who can afford alternatives change their ways, it’s not enough to make a dent in the problem.

The Danish economist’s argument doesn't fall into the established views about global warming. He wasn't denying it is happening, or denying humans are a major cause. But he also wasn’t saying we should drive hybrid cars, since he thinks it won’t be enough to help. He thinks we need to make solar (or other alternatives) more economical. That’s the magic bullet. His views don’t map to either popular camp on this issue, and it created a fascinating cognitive dissonance in Bill Maher (a fan of hybrid cars) and his panelists. Here are their reactions after the interview:

Rob Thomas said the interview "...confused the shit out of me." (Yet the economist was completely clear and communicated well.)

Salman Rushdie said, jokingly, that what he heard was "There's no connection between smoking and lung cancer." By that he meant the author was denying that fossil fuels contribute to global warming. (The economist said exactly the opposite, and clearly.)

Bill Maher said, "...20 years later, this guy is going to say, 'You know what? Yeah, there is global warming." (The economist already said exactly that during the interview. In fact, his entire book is based on global warming being true and hastened by fossil fuels.)

You can see the full transcript for yourself here. The interview is about 60% into the show.

Bill Maher is a brilliant guy, whether you agree with his views or not. Salman Rushdie is brilliant too. I don’t know about Rob Thomas, but he looks bright enough. Why couldn’t these three people hear anything the economist was saying? It looks to me like a classic case of cognitive dissonance . They literally couldn’t recognize that the economist was on their side because he suggested considering both the positive and negative effects of global warming.

And then here is an excerpt from his second essay a couple of days later:

But here’s the most interesting part. My blog on how Bill Maher and his panelists misunderstood Lomborg has caused a new round of cognitive dissonance. I have now been labeled a supporter of Lomborg’s arguments simply because I said I understood what he said on a TV show. Check this out. It’s somewhat jaw-dropping:

Now let me opinionate. Global warming has become the new religion. Like all religions, if you don’t accept all the dogma, you are labeled a heretic. Not to pick on any one religion because they all have these faults, in the Catholic religion you can accept the father, the son and the holy ghost, but if you doubt Mary was virgin you are ladled a heretic and excommunicated.

Lomborg was labeled a heretic by the panel and excommunicated because he did not buy into all the dogma. It is a fascinating story for many reasons one of which would seem to be the need for humans to latch onto unthinking dogma and treat it with reverence. And, as Adams says, these are brilliant guys. There must something in the human makeup that makes religion, any religion, a necessity.

In the highlands of Vietnam they believe in wood spirits and build their houses in a manner to thwart their entry. But that is another story.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


If I were ever to get into a fantasy baseball league I would go for all middle range players. I’d never go for a super high priced super star. If you avoid the high prices you can fill your bench with competent, productive players. Some would be busts, but odds are some would have breakout years. In the end, you should have a competitive team.

I think the same thing works in the real world of baseball. Fill every position and the bench with competent players and hope for a breakout year from some. If you give one player a third of the team budget you must get deadwood fill-ins (replacement level) players for some positions.

Player agent Scott Boras is asking 35 mil a year for the services of Alex Rodriquez according to reports.

NEW YORK -- The Yankees were told by agent Scott Boras that they could not meet with Alex Rodriguez unless they presented an extension offer that guaranteed the star $350 million "as a floor."

That seems like a lot of money taken by itself but let’s see what that much money could have bought in the past season.

Miguel Tejeda SS with 18 homers and 81 RBIs made 14 mil.

Jose Guillen RF with 23 homers and 101 RBIs made 9 mil

Mike Lowell 3B with 21 homers and 120 RBIs made 9 mil

One had an off year, one had a good year and one had an excellent year based on their career statistics. Combined, filling three positions, they hit 62 homers and knocked in 302 runs. Combined, filling three positions, they made 32 mil. Two will be free agents and Tejeda is reportedly available for trade. All three shouldn’t cost much more than 35 mil for next season.

That’s what money will buy and that would be my druthers