The Fallacy, and the Failure

It has become a common refrain, from Republicans who want to deflect responsibility to angry Bernie-loving Democrats to your garden variety against-the-grain think pieces: Donald Trump’s victory was the fault of Hillary and the Democrats.

Yes, it’s a bizarre type of logic to claim the people who didn’t vote for Trump are responsible for his election. But contrarian reasoning is how you get noticed in an overflowing media landscape, even though the argument is flawed in two distinct ways.

The argument proffered in the “it’s Hillary’s fault” camp is founded on the premise if the Democrats had simply nominated a better candidate, then Trump wouldn’t be president. Even if you grant that a better candidate would have won, and that’s arguable though not provable, it doesn’t naturally follow that this was the cause of the loss. This conclusion derives from a bit of flawed reasoning I call the Fallacy of the Isolated Factor.*

This logical breakdown is an idea I first came across in my days covering sports. Specifically, it was during a 1994 game at Purdue against visiting Seton Hall. The Boilermakers, who would go on to a No. 1 seed and loss in the regional final that year, beat the Pirates 69-67 on a Sunday in January.

After the game, one of the reporters, or perhaps it was SH coach P.J. Carlesimo, remarked that “rebounding was the difference in the game,” a comment based on the disparity in rebounding between the Glenn Robinson-led Boilers and the Pirates. However, the Hall had a chance at the end, missing a corner 3-pointer at the buzzer that would have won the game. Had that shot fallen, the rebounding disparity wouldn’t have been the difference at all. And Purdue’s fans and coaching staff would have looked at some other statistical disparity or stretch of play or individual breakdown, to find its own “difference.” The search for a single difference, very common among sportswriters and anaysts, was a fool’s errand.

The same thing could be said about the 2016 presidential campaign. Yes, it’s possible the Democrats would have won the election with a better candidate (such as Bernie or Biden). It’s also possible the Dems win if Comey doesn’t make his surprise announcement 10 days before the election. Or if Podesta’s emails hadn’t been hacked. Or if white Midwesterners had a better understanding of the economic issues working against them. Or if Wisconsin and other states hadn’t successfully restricted voting in the years before the election. The point is, any number of factors could have swung the election the Dems’ way, even with a candidate as flawed (both real and perceived) as Clinton.

Now, it’s true that when you hold all the other variables firm and change the facts of a single one, you can see a different result, whether in a ballgame or an election or any other event. That’s particularly true in a situation where an outcome is closely contested. But the same is true if you change a different variable. The flaw is believing the single variable that you’re examining, the Isolated Factor, is the “cause” of a result.

There was no “single cause” for the Trump victory, as there is very rarely a single cause for anything. But we like to ascribe one, because as people we don’t like complexities when a simple solution can be suggested. And we like concrete explanations, even when the real answer is much less well-defined.

But running afoul of the Fallacy is not the only problem with the Dems Are to Blame for Trump theory. Because it also ignores the simple fact that the Democrats had no bearing on Trump winning the Republican nomination to begin with.

The 2016 race for the GOP nomination featured the largest field in memory, a 17-person roster stacked with all types of competitors. Former governors and senators and private sectorians. It offered rock-solid conservatives, Rockefeller Republicans and a rock star Libertarianish character. Republican royalty and Grand Old Party crashers. You had one guy who made his bones busting unions, another who did so busting criminal enterprises and another who busted her own company. Pragmatists and ideologues. A handsome, young Latino and a grotesque, beach-going Jerseyite. Policy wonks and seat-of-the-pants decision makers. You had various shades of brown people, and the guys who don’t like brown people. You had a second crazy dude in the race, but a pleasant one. You had a genial idiot. And you had whatever radioactive gunk Ted Cruz is composed of.

And from that glorious smorgasbord of options, of delightful menu items ranging from heart-healthy entrees to decadently delicious desserts, Republican voters opted for the spoiled potato salad. Yes, the GOP looked over the entire buffet and chose to give the country food poisoning.

Republican voters decided the best choice was the thrice-married, proud adultering sexual deviant (and the only guy in the entire Republican party more icky than Bill Clinton); a long-time Democrat with no electoral experience; a thin-skinned bully who combines proud ignorance with unwarranted self-confidence and an awful temperament; a man with questionable ethics in every facet of his existence; a person who supports none of the traditional hallmarks of small-market conservatism, but expresses admiration for authoritarian and murderous dictators; a man who blasts foreigners even while he’s barely intelligible in his native tongue; a man with a history of racist comments and behavior, including five years of leading the unfounded claim that the previous office holder was not entitled to his position; and a man whose connection to Christianity can best be described as “at least he’s heard of it, I think.”

That wasn’t on me, or Hillary, or Debbie Wasserman Schultz, or the gang at MSNBC or George Soros (excuse me, I have to step away to pledge my undying allegiance to our dark overlord at any mention of his name)…………………………………….(cue dilly dallying music)………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………… OK I’m back. Where was I? Oh, yeah, we didn’t have anything to do with the Tangerine Nightmare winning the primary, thus unleashing his brand of idiocy on a public who was apparently voting, en masse, completely stoned. When it comes to the ascendancy of 45, whatever factor you want to assign the lion’s share of the “blame” to, it starts right there.

*The Fallacy of the Isolated Factor is almost certainly not my creation. I’m sure it has a much more sciency name and background, complete with graphs and proofs and even a few random Greek letters, rather than sharing blog space with photos of Rush Limbaugh and Chrissy Teigen accompanied by phony quotes. But as long as I don’t bother to investigate that possibility, I can continue to claim it as my own.

They Said What?


18z9jkmbbpg82jpgThe backlash against the NFL protests is one of those areas where two groups of people simply can look at the same situation and see two very different things. Foes see this as disrespecting the flag and the country and the people who fought to protect it. I see it honoring the flag and the country and the people who fought to protect it, because the lawful ability to remonstrate against the government is one of the very things that makes the U.S. what it is.

And I’ve always respected individuals who will stand up for something they believe, particularly if they put themselves at risk. And even more so if the risk they’re taking is largely for someone else’s benefit.

Colin Kaepernick, for starters, wasn’t protesting to enrich himself, but primarily to improve the life’s of others. He did so at risk to his career and his reputation. I respect that, just as I respect Tim Tebow kneeling during games to show his faith. And both of them suffered, in different ways, from that willingness to put their convictions ahead of their careers.

To others, Kaepernick’s act is beyond the pale, and he needs to find a more fitting place to protest. But protest is not supposed to be comfortable, and can’t be to work. It has to shake us up.


The 200: 84-67

84           Miss Misery   Elliott Smith

83           Life In A Northern Town  Dream Academy

82           Get a Gun             The Connells (You Tube)

81           That’s When I Reach For My Revolver   Mission of Burma                                                        

80           See These Bones    Nada Surf (You Tube)

79           Sheena Is A Punk Rocker   The Ramones

78           Voices Carry   ‘Til Tuesday

77           Shell-Shock   New Order

76           One More Time   Joe Jackson

75           Crank     Catherine Wheel

74           Orinoco Flow       Enya 

73           Weston Super Mare   Celebrity Pilots

72           Hopeless   The Wrens

71           Apply Some Pressure         Maxïmo Park (You Tube)

70           Future Foe Scenarios         Silversun Pickups

69           Crash     The Primitives (You Tube)

68           Hazel     Weekend            

67           Vapour Trail   Ride                                                                            


82 – With some bands on the list, it’s easy to understand why they remained obscure. Their music simply doesn’t have widespread appeal. Then there’s the Connells. In a more sensible, orderly world that recognized solid pop songcraft, they would have been stars, instead  of just some guys from Chapel Hill.


80 – I guy I knew online (and later met before a concert) who was in a band called IfIHadAHiFi. The name was a palindrome, as was the stage name of each of the band members. Nada Surf, the band behind “Popular” wanted to title an album with that name, but initially balked because of “some noise band from Milwaukee.” Eventually, they said screw it, and named an EP “IfIHadAHiFi.” The band responded by naming its next EP “Nada Surf.”


73. I wanted to provide a You Tube link for this song, but as with most Celebrity Pilots work, it’s incredibly difficult to find. I own the band’s first disc, but the follow-up is tough to track down, even in this era of access to virtually everything. ‘Tis a pity, as the Pilots created some damn catchy music.


70 – What Smashing Pumpkins might have sounded like today, if Billy Corgan hadn’t been so damn full of himself.


68 – Not to be confused with the third e gone Weeknd.


67 – Vapour Trail is the greatest fade out song I’ve ever heard. Ride recognized that in its original pressing of the Nowhere disc, though I’ve only got the one with the bonus tracks tacked on.


Smoking some kind of pipe


On the off day between Games 2 and 3 of the World Series, the New York Yankees joined the other cool kids in the playoff loser bunch and parted ways with their manager. Cutting-edge decision making like this is what keeps the Nationals, Red Sox and Yankees ahead of their loser brethren in Denver, Phoenix and Minneapolis.

Though initially sold as a mutual parting of the ways, it was later revealed that Yankee GM Brian Cashman wanted Girardi gone. So he’s gone.

While I like Dusty Baker (more to come on him later), and John Farrell did win a WS in Boston, I think the Yankees are making the biggest mistake. In my view, Girardi has consistently gotten better than expected results from the Yankees in his 10 seasons there, just as he did in his one season in Miami.

And as for the concern that he’s not the right guy to lead this next crop of young Yankees, I can’t fathom how that’s a reasonable conclusion. Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez and Luis Severino were not expected to be this good, just as longstanding outfielder Brett Gardner before them was not seen as a 30-WAR player when he was coming up in the New York system. The Yankees have a terrible habit of getting better than anticipated play at the big-league level up and down the roster. If that’s not on Girardi, then who is responsible?

For many Yankee fans, it must be Brian Cashman. While I think Cashman is a pretty solid GM, it’s remarkable that he’s managed to survive almost 20 seasons in charge of the Yanks without a whiff of criticism. Essentially, he’s managed this by getting credit for everything that goes right, while the poor decisions are blamed on any of the Steinbrenner boys, dead or alive. Hell, a recent commenter at BTF, in reaction to the Girardi firing, noted he’d done a good job in hiring Joe Torre and Girardi, so he was worth trusting. That must be the next evolution on the Cashman Love Story, giving Cashman credit for things that happened before he even became GM.

But what the hell, I’m game. Herewith, the Top 10 greatest moves made by Brian  Cashman.

10.* Drafted Aaron Judge

9. Grabbed Aaron Small off the scrap heap.

8. Considered, but ultimately turned down, deal with Senators for Aaron Burr following his solid 1803 campaign.

7. Traded domestically reprehensible closer to Cubs for hot prospect Gleyber Torres.

6. Shrewdly signed free agent closer who had just won Game 7 of the World Series

5. Snookered Derek Jeter, trading 35-year-old middle reliever for AL MVP from 2029-2033, inclusive.

4. Integrated baseball

3. Traded for Babe Ruth, the key move in creating Yankee dynasty.

2. In deadline deal with Indians, acquired Manhattan for $24.

1. Obviously, extended contract of Yankees GM Brian Cashman.


World Series Game 1: HR-heavy diet is bad for MLB’s health

The Los Angeles Dodgers are the proud owners of a 1-0 lead in the 2017 World Series behind a dominating outing from Clayton Kershaw and his bullpen pals Brandon Morrow and Kenley Jensen. The game turned in the bottom of the sixth, during the most magnificently bearded confrontation in World Series history.

With Chris Taylor on first and two outs, Justin Turner took a swing at 1-2 Dallas Keuchel offering and deposited in the left field seats on what looked like a harmless, if deep, flyball off his bat.

Turner’s homer followed matching solo shots from Taylor leading off the bottom of the first, and Alex Bregman’s equalizer in the fourth. Thus, all four runs scored on dingers.

This is nothing new for the 2017 playoffs. Through 32 games of postseason play, there have been 262 runs scored. Exactly half have been plated by a homer. This followed a season when MLB easily set a new record for long balls in a single season.

Homers are fine, in moderation. And MLB has tipped way beyond balanced diet into dinger gluttony.

Baseball is better when the ball is in play. And we only need look back at a few recent postseasons to see evidence of this.

In Game 7 of the ALCS, the turning point was not Evan Gattis’ homer to open the scoring, or Jose Altuve’s opposite field shot to double the ‘Stros lead. No, the most memorable play was Todd Frazier’s grounder to third in the top of the fifth, where Alex Bregman was able to nail Greg Bird with the potential tying run.

Bregman’s play was magnificent. His throw to catcher Brian McCann, the former Yank, needed to be perfect to nab Bird. And it was, with McCann barely needing to move his mitt to get the out. Repeated viewings allowed us to marvel how McCann managed to hold on to the ball, and his glove, and avoid injury. And we could see what kind of chance Bregman had at a double play had he opted to go to second (none, by the way. If he’d tried to get the lead runner, he’d have gotten nobody out). If Bird is safe, the Yankees have tied the score, with runners at first and second and just one out. We might have been looking at an entirely different result if the gamble hadn’t paid off.

A poorly struck ball gave us the game’s best, most interesting play.

Two years earlier, we had a similar situation in Game 5 of the World Series. With his Royals trailing by a run in the bottom of the ninth, Eric Hosmer raced home on a one-out bouncer to third, scoring when Lucas Duda’s throw to the plate sailed wide of catcher Travis d’Arnaud. The Royals won the series three innings later. Hosmer’s mad dash was another fascinating gamble, and was again worth watching over and over to gauge just how the play unfolded, and how it might have unfolded differently.

Of course, the best play of this type happened a year earlier, in the bottom of the ninth of Game 7 of the World Series, when Alex Gordon’s two-out single was misplayed into two extra bases by left fielder Juan Perez, and the world wondered whether the Royals would have been better served had Gordon tried to turn Perez’s miscue into the proverbial Little League homer. The subject was the source of debate for not just days afterward, but was even re-run by a Kansas City college team to test whether Gordon should have gone (their conclusion matched mine from the night it happened. Gordon’s chances of scoring were extraordinarily slim) the following spring. You can have Joe Carter going deep off Mitch Williams – give me the bottom of the ninth of the 2014 Fall Classic any day for intrigue.

I hope the 2017 World Series has a play like this for us. But as more runs are being scored by the homer, and more outs are being recorded by strikeout (Dodger pitchers fanned a dozen Astros last night), the chances of such an occurrence aren’t great. And that’s not a good thing for baseball.

Baseball is at its best when the ball is in play, when runners are moving on the paths. A homer is a moment of drama, but it’s over soon and any mystery is gone. But a single to center with a runner on second, well, that gets us wondering and watching.

The 200: 100-85



100         Our Haunt   Palomar  (You Tube)

99           Haunted  Poe

98           Downbound Train   Bruce Springsteen

97             Just Another Day    Oingo Boingo

96           23    Blonde Redhead 

95           Save It For Later  The Beat

94           Cutoff    Jawbox

93           Carefree    The Refreshments (You Tube)

92           God Monkey Robot   The Apparitions 

91           I Predict A Riot     Kaiser Chiefs 

90           Lightning Blue Eyes   The Secret Machines (You Tube)

89           History Repeating   Propellerheads               

88           First We Take Manhattan   Leonard Cohen

87           I Will Follow         U2

86           Smalltown Boy    Bronski Beat

85           (Antichrist Television Blues)    Arcade Fire 


98 – By far my favorite Bruce Springsteen song, just a beautiful, haunting track (which is why it follows those other two songs). However, if I made a Bottom 200 list, I’m positive the title track from the album this song is on would make the list. While well-intentioned, Born in the USA is a plodding aural atrocity, with Bruce making the strange musical choice to go with the vocals via foghorn delivery.

97 – I always tried to introduce friends and family members to the music I liked, since they likely had no access to it any other way. One of my biggest successes was turning my mom (aka the greatest human being I’ve ever known) onto Oingo Boingo, or as she called them, Boingo Boingo.

93 – The lead single to this album, Banditos, unfortunately burnished the Refreshments as disposable, if comical, lightweights, an idea reinforced when they supplied the title track to the cartoon King of the Hill. That’s a shame, as Roger Clyne is simply a wonderful songwriter, and the two Refreshments albums remain mainstays in my CD rotation.

87 – Tied with INXS for the band I’ve seen the most often live. They also provided my “most famous” concert experience, when they played at the former Hoosier Dome in 1987. After the Bo Deans opened up, the band announced that second act Los Lobos had plane trouble and they wouldn’t be able to perform, but they found a local band to perform in its stead. The band came out, announced it played both kinds of music, country and western, then proceeded to play a Hank Williams song (senior, not the one with all them rowdy friends who like to watch football), and an original. It wasn’t until the band was shown on the big screen when it became apparent that it was U2 dressed up in country garb.

Oddly, at the aforementioned New Pornographers show I attended earlier this year, a fellow concert goer was relating a tale of this show to a friend of his. It was an older crowd.

85 – One of two songs on the list that sound like they could be Springsteen songs. Interestingly, they don’t sound like each other. Spoiler Alert: the other song is by the Hold Steady.

The 200: Halftime

Mid-list interlude.

A number of songs/artists didn’t make the list, but it’s fair to bring them up.

Elvis Costello, who I saw this summer with Kiera, could have been on there for a number of songs, though I’m most fond of Beyond Belief. An inexcusable oversight.

The Talking Heads are an obvious no-show. In their case, while I like a lot of the Heads’ songs, I don’t know that I truly love any of them.

The Dears, a Canadian band whose frontman is routinely compared to The Smiths’ Morrissey for reasons that elude me, should have placed Thrones somewhere in here.

Had I compiled the list six months later, I’m certain that it would have included Powder (You Tube), a spectacular slowcore tune from a band that I had previously never heard of, though now I own all three of their discs.

The recently departed Tom Petty crafted a hell of a catalogue of songs in his 40 years of performing, but American Girl is his masterpiece.

In the intro, I mentioned the only artists that could justifiably have 10 songs in the Top 200 would be the Beatles, Elvis or the Stones, though in my case none of them produced anything I would include (for the record, my favorites from each are Norwegian Wood, Suspicious Mind and Sympathy for the Devil). Inexcusably missing from that list, and this countdown, is Michael Jackson. My favorite MJ song, Man in the Mirror, should have been included here.

I’m going to reserve the right to edit this entry as needed when other oversights occur.