Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Civil War in a Larger International Historical Context - Cinco de Mayo edition

Last May 3 I published a post called The Civil War in a Larger International Historical Context which discussed how in the 150th anniversary of the Civil War there were similar conflicts in Germany, Italy, and Japan which would have many repercussions for the US and the world to this day.  It has become one of my most read posts.

This May 2 I realize that there was another conflict south of the US border which also had reverberations for many years to come that is having it's 150th anniversary this year.  The conflict began when Mexican President Benito Juarez refused to make debt payments to European nations in the wake of the Mexican American war of 1846-1848.  As a response Emperor Napoleon III of France (Nephew of the first Napoleon husband of Josephine, who came to power in the revolutions of 1848) sent a military force of 8,000 to Veracruz in 1862 to establish an empire in Latin America while the US was busy with the Civil War.  The French army the marched on the state of Puebla a Mexican Army was able to repel them on May 5.  This is what Mexicans celebrate on Cinco de Mayo which is mistakenly thought of as their 4th of July here.

Napoleon III did not give up his dream of empire however and invaded again in 1864 with a force of 30,000, drove Juarez from power and installed his cousin as Maximilian I Emperor of Mexico.  This empire did not last as the US Civil War ended the next year and the US aided Juarez in defeating the French army.  President Andrew Johnson (who succeeded Abraham Lincoln thanks to John Wilkes Booth) would not let this violation of the Monroe Doctrine stand and supported Juarez with weapons.  Napoleon III could not help because of the uprisings in Germany and Italy.  Maximilian I was executed in 1867.  By 1870 Napoleon III and President Johnson would be out of office and France would never have a monarch again.  A period of instability and dictatorship did follow in Mexico which also lead to a period of immigration to the US in the next century,

I considered adding this story to the Civil War post but thought there was enough for it's own post as I, like many other Americans overlooked cultural issues beyond a narrow view.  I wrote the first post to expand viewpoints but realized I needed to expand myself.  Hopefully Cinco de Mayo can be recognized as more than an opportunity to sell tequila and cerveza.

There are efforts in the State of Arizona which has passed a law banning ethnic studies.  The Tucson school district was forced to cancel it's acclaimed Mexican-American ethnic studies program.  Here is a discussion of the controversy on Democracy Now! followed by a follow up on a teacher being fired who refused to follow the policy.
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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Draft Logic

ESPN & the NFL Network have come out with blanket coverage of the National Football League draft which is the largest gym class method of picking teams (I was never picked first even for dodge ball).  A lot of intelligence is expended on these picks as can be seen in this famous exchange between ESPN's Mel Kiper (in the clip above from 1994) and the Indianapolis Colts Bill Tobin (seen below, introduced by a mustached Keith Olbermann). Two years later the Colts almost made it to the Super Bowl.

The logic of the draft is simple. The team with the worst record (the Colts this year) from the last season gets to choose first from the top players coming out of college while the team with the second worst record picks second and goes down the line until it gets to the Super Bowl Champion who picks last in the round.  The picks are a reflection of which players are available and what the team's needs (or what the teams believe that their needs) are.  The exchange above shows how passionate people's beliefs about a teams needs can be. Steeler's coach Chuck Noll was called a genius for his drafting in the 1970s which built their dynasty in that decade.  Later he was heavily criticized for passing on Dan Marino in 1983 (although almost every other team did too except Miami which picked next to last that year). Imagine what problems could be solved if all that energy and talent were trained on the real problems of the world such as cancer and global warming.

This method of picking players for pro sports teams works well in evening out the talent among the teams, along with the salary cap.  This kind of purposeful selection does not work for surveys, polls, and clinical trials because the selections made are a reflection of the selectors biases.  Such a survey was done in the 1948 Presidential Election where pollsters selected individuals to meet a quota for gender and other variable in order to make the sample representative according to the variables that they thought were important and the picture at the left was the result.  Random sampling has been used since 1948 because it is unbiased with respect to all of the other that are not accounted for by the researchers or coaches.  Random sampling may not work for the NFL or other pro sports leagues but high school/junior high gym classes could benefit from randomly assigning kids to teams and having them work together. That would encourage kids to cooperate more.

An example of a Monte Carlo experiment would be to have a group of fans pick their fantasy league teams using the draft method and then have a computer select the league by random using a computer and compare how their respective teams perform over the season.  Some teams may differ but overall they will be similar.

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