The Electric Commentary

Thursday, September 30, 2004

There are some sentences that you think will never

appear in a legitimate news story on CNN.com. Like, for instance:

The men have taken down the pole and converted the stage to a pingpong table.

Check out the whole story of these enterprising young lads here.

(Hat tip, Sports Guy's intern)

No title could do this story justice

so I won't even try.

As part of a rookie hazing ritual, Denney was wearing a Southern California cheerleader's uniform when he was shot. The outfit included high white boots.

"Our trainers said the boots may have saved Kyle from further injury," Swain said.

Read the whole thing. (Like you needed to hear that.)

So let me get this straight...

I am allowed to hang around on the sidewalk all night long and it is perfectly legal, but if I hang around on the sidewalk all night long with a blanket it is against the law and I get a $181 fine?

Update: Local law enforcement officers showed their understanding of law earlier this week when they arrested and fined Bucky Badger at the football game for crowd surfing.

Is this what are lawmakers intended? "No camping" means people waiting for tickets have to shiver? "No body passing" applies to the mascot? Hey, I hear there's a concert later this week, maybe they can issue a citation for excessive noise.

Punting in the 3rd round.

Dan's comment in the previous post reminded me that I had not written anything analytical about football in quite some time. And, of course, I love punting. But even I, lover of all things related to punting, could not support the selection of BJ Sander, punter from the Ohio State University, by the Green Bay Packers, in the 3rd round. There are many, many reasons that this was a stupid idea. It looks even worse now that Sander wasn't even able to win the job, but it was stupid even at the time.

1. Even if he turns out to be the greatest punter in history, the Packers could have selected him with a lower pick. I have heard Mike Sherman, and many pundits justify the pick by stating that the Packers needed a punter. That is all well and good, but just because I need a haircut does not mean that I should give up going to a Packer game to get that haircut. The barber will still be there tomorrow, just as Sander would have been there in the 4th, 5th, and 6th rounds, and likely could have been signed as an undrafted free agent.

Just because you need something does not mean that you should needlessly overpay for it.

2. BJ is the "holder of a B.S. degree in turf grass science from Ohio State." Now that, my friends, is a BS degree.

3. Three picks after Sander was selected (87th overall), the Falcons took QB Matt Schaub (90th overall), who had a stellar preseason and has garnered rave reviews around the league. For a team that wasted time and money on Tim Couch and is still searching for the eventual Favre replacement. He could have been a valuable addition. Who knows what other gems were passed on to acquire a bad punter.

4. BJ did not kick off well. For a team with Ryan Longwell, an accurate but weak-legged place kicker, it was important to find a punter who could also kick off. Yet in every preseason game that I saw, Longwell was still the kick-off man. Opponents starting field position is an enormously important stat. The decision to not improve on Longwell will be costly. Don't believe me? The Outsiders, as always, have number to back me up.

Sander has been an unqualified disaster, not only failing to earn the starting job, but also costing the team a pick that could have gone into getting a pass rusher, another defensive back, or perhaps the QB of the future.

Even the Badgers managed to find a good punter. And he even kicks a mean "coffin corner."

Packer drafts of the Mike Sherman era can be optimistically described as "interesting." The Coach/GM combo has rarely worked in the NFL and it appears to be failing again. Sherman needs to give up his general manager position and focus on coaching, lest my team end up drafting a waterboy in the second round next year.

(Note: For a detailed analysis on why the coffin corner is nonexistent in the NFL, read this highly technical analysis by William Krasker.

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Worlds Collide

Aaron Schatz, the editor-in-chief of FootballOutsiders.com, (See the "sports section" of the blogroll) has a nice article in today's New Republic (See the News/Magazines section of the blogroll):

Because NFL fans are so used to hearing black quarterbacks--Vick, McNabb, Culpepper, McNair, and others--described as "mobile" and blessed with "natural talent," it might be a bit of a surprise to read a scouting report on Leftwich at ESPN.com that states, "He is not a great athlete and he has marginal speed." Last year, Leftwich ran with the ball only 1.7 plays per game, twenty-fifth in the league among quarterbacks who played at least half the season. In fact, Leftwich runs so little that in college he actually played the final few games of his senior year with a broken leg. By the end of the year, Leftwich could not even walk down the field; his linemen had to carry him to the new line of scrimmage after each pass.

Good for Aaron, as the Outsiders consistently produce some of the best sports writing out there.

(Note: Something tells me that Gregg Easterbrook may have opened the door to this particular opportunity. The Outsiders made a savvy move when Easterbrook was fired from ESPN a few years back by hosting his column until he was picked up by NFL.com. They have slowly been making their way towards becoming a well known mainstream organization, and I believe that they are a bright success story, and a good model to follow for anyone peddling fairly obscure but useful knowledge on the Internet.)

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Whispers In the hospital…

Kellen Winslow – C’mon, you can do better than that. Get my leg elevated! This is war here, and the doctors aren’t going after my leg nearly enough.

Tommy Maddox – I wish I was Greg Maddux.

Lamar Gordon – Let me tell you something, that was the best injury I ever suffered. I’m lucky I just lost an arm, the next guy might lose his head. When I was running behind that line I felt like I was running through the junkyard at night, all the dogs were loose, and I was covered with bacon.

Stephen Davis – I hope that no one finds out I have Deshaun Foster on my fantasy team.

Deuce McAllister (who was on SportsCenter’s little trivia game the other day) Is it that surprising that I’m smart? Read the questions Linda! Faster!

Rex Grossman – Nurse! Nurse! Can you please change the channel, I don’t think I can watch The Mighty Quinn right now.

Steve McNair – Nurse Howie, Nurse Gina, It’s been a while. I’ll take the usual, make sure I have HBO, and a little hot fudge on my ice cream. Are we still bowling on Thursday?

Charlie Garner – Now I just sit back and let the Social Security checks roll in.

Grady Jackson – I’d like 4 steaks please. And some pork chops. And a chicken sandwich, no bun. I love this Atkins thing.

Julius Jones – Every morning they bring in the fruit cart. I like fruit, it’s good for you. She walks in, asks me if I want a banana, an apple, a pear. Inevitably he bust out with, “Orange, Julius?” I hate that. Did I mention that I went to Notre Dame.

And finally...

Rich Gannon – Why do I get the feeling that some Broncos fan somewhere stepped on a crack?

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Bill Hobbs is collecting stories of Vote Fraud.

As we have a few of those on the site, written by Danny, I submitted them. The list is getting long. Here is our entry:

Blogger Scott (Paul, actually, but no big deal) Noonan of Electric Commentary emailed me this report from Wisconsin where, he says, election fraud "happens all the time."

My brother (who wrote two posts on what will surely be vote fraud, links forthcoming) and I are from a suburb of Milwaukee, WI. I am now an attorney living in Chicago and he is a law student at the University of Wisconsin. He has noticed the following suspicious activity: Link 1. Link 2.

During the 2000 election I was fortunate enough to have the infamous "smokes for votes" scandal take place 2 blocks from my Milwaukee apartment (I lived at 531 N. 18th St. The bribery took place at the corner of 19th and Wells in downtown Milwaukee, just outside of the Milwaukee Rescue Mission, but also in front of the Milwaukee ABC affiliate. Easiest news story that they ever broke. Anyway, here are a few articles about that: Article 1. Article 2.

Finally, I was in law school at Marquette during 2000 and I know that many students voted more than once, because many students bragged about it. They were not caught, but it's so easy to do it in Wisconsin that you would have to be an idiot to get caught. You can register at the polls with some mail, that is all that it takes. Here is a relevant article.

Wisconsin and Ohio keep showing up on the voter fraud radar.

Update:

I almost forgot about a fairly major instance of vote fraud, during the recall election of Milwaukee County Board Chairman Lee Holloway. This involves forged absentee ballots. A few articles here and here.

Doughnuts: Is there anything they can't do?

Danny recently attended a little breakfast soiree with Professors Althouse and Smith, and a few other UW Law School bloggers. As a result we are mentioned in the most recent UW Law School Newsletter. Take a gander, you might find something interesting.

Dan Drezner and Al Gore, together at last.

University of Chicago Professor (and fellow Hyde Park resident) Dan Drezner has an op-ed in the New York Times today right next to former VP Al Gore. Dan writes on offshore outsourcing:

The data did show that from 1997 to 2002, annual imports of business, technical and professional services increased by $16.3 billion. However, during that same half-decade, exports of those services increased by $20.5 billion a year. In 2002 alone, the United States ran a $27 billion trade surplus in business services, the sector in which jobs are most likely to be outsourced. The G.A.O. correctly stressed that it is impossible to compute exactly how many jobs are lost because of outsourcing, but unless its figures are off by several orders of magnitude, there's no crisis here.

Like any true academic, Prof. Drezner provides footnotes here.

Meanwhile Albert covers the President's superior debating skills, and offers advice:

Senator Kerry can also use these debates to speak directly to voters and lay out a hopeful vision for our future. If voters walk away from the debates with a better understanding of where our country is, how we got here and where each candidate will lead us if elected, then America will be the better for it. The debate tomorrow should not seek to discover which candidate would be more fun to have a beer with. As Jon Stewart of the "The Daily Show'' nicely put in 2000, "I want my president to be the designated driver.''

Al Gore watches The Daily Show! Maybe if he had been watching four years ago...

Barbra Streisand shatters the unintentional comedy scale

Maybe celebrities should be encouraged to discuss politics. Here's Barbra:

Never mind that CBS's story included substantive and uncontested evidence that Bush didn't show up for duty when he was supposed to, that he skipped a required physical that grounded him from flying, and that he mysteriously received an honorable discharge.

Yup, completely uncontested.

(Via Drudge)


Tuesday, September 28, 2004

More on health care.

Tech Central Station has two good posts today. In the first, Sally C. Pipes and Benjamin Zycher take on Dr. Marcia Angell, author of a new book about how drug companies need to be regulated. The good bits:

No one would pay much attention to the views of an economist with respect, say, to the causes of heart disease. Why then are prominent physicians accorded prime-time attention when they pontificate on the economics of pharmaceutical development?

and

Apart from Angell's confusion between drug prices and total spending ("costs"), she complains that the U.S. is the only advanced nation that does not regulate drug costs, and that, accordingly, other nations spend far less on drugs than does the U.S. Angell forgets to mention that as a result of those foreign price controls, the foreign pharmaceutical sectors are in long-term decline, with diminishing investment, R&D spending, and therefore drug development. The ensuing implications for the future alleviation of human suffering are obvious, and Angell's silence on this score is loud indeed; so much for the children.

Read the whole thing.

One of my favorite economists is Arnold Kling. He does a great job of reducing fairly complex economic problems into real world example. Here are a few snippets from his column today:

Joan, a friend of mine who teaches in the Prince George's County, Maryland public schools, was bragging to me about her health care plan. Evidently, one of the options that she has is to pay a small fee -- I believe she said $15 a year -- to obtain coverage for eyeglass prescriptions. This coverage allows each person in her family to obtain new eyeglasses once a year at relatively little cost.

If you were to ask Joan where the money comes from to pay for her eyeglasses, she would answer "The insurance company," as if the company that administers the benefit program is some sort of Fairy Godmother handing out checks. In reality, the money for Joan's family's eyeglasses comes from one or more of the following sources:

Other school system employees, whose wages are reduced in order to help subsidize Joan

Students in Prince George's County, for whom fewer resources are available

The taxpayers of Prince George's County. They are subsidizing Joan, who lives in a wealthier county and who can afford to send two of her children to expensive private colleges and a third to a private high school in the area

Joan is not splitting the check. She is passing the buck. Someone else is bearing the cost, which makes Joan a winner.


and

One of the most serious impediments to rational debate on health care is the misuse of the term "health insurance." What we call health "insurance" in this country was never designed to insure the consumer. Instead, its purpose is to insure steady, reliable incomes for health care providers. True health insurance is the economist's equivalent of a unicorn -- we can describe it, but none of us has actually seen it.

If you're still interested, you can read his book, Learning Economics, online, here.

Junk Science and Our Ridiculous Drinking Age

Two of my favorite topics are discussed over at reason.

Monday, September 27, 2004

Winning Without Scoring, Scoring Without Winning.

Paulitis

I'm starting to think that my predictions actually have some influence on the NFL. I have a long history of injuring people by drafting them onto my fantasy team, and I have been more proficient than usual this season. I've drafted Kellen Winslow (twice) Todd Heap, Deuce McAllister, Stephen Davis, Kevin Jones, and Garrison Hearst. I've also single-handedly torpedoed the Dolphins as I have owned all of there skill players within the last 365 days. Perhaps the strongest argument that I exert some unholy influence on the NFL is the fact that Jeremy Shockey is not hurt for the first time in his career, and I just so happen to not own him. You're welcome Jeremy.

In non-me related injury news...

So, what happened this week. Rich Gannon got a brutal helmet to helmet from Derrick Brooks, and they X-Ray his back. His back? How does that work? Shouldn't they look at his head? Was the hit so hard that it transferred force all the way through his spine? Why stop there, why not X-Ray his pinky toe? And all that did was allow the Raiders to put in a better QB anyway.

The Bucs on the other hand my have eclipsed the Dolphins and 49ers as worst offense ever. It's impressive that the three worst offenses ever are all playing at the same time (maybe four if you count the undefeated Jaguars). The Bucs had very few skill players on offense going in to last nigh, and then Charlie Garner blows out his knee. No Keenan, no Thomas Jones, no Meshawn. Just Billy Schroeder, Charles Lee, Josh Bidwell (Go Packers!) and Tim Brown, who managed to get in his 100th TD catch just before his scheduled daily prune juice.

This is how messed up and chaotic the NFL is. These two teams were just in the Super Bowl. One traded away all of their best players, acquired all of the other team's over-the-hill players, and is now one of the worst teams in the league. The other is totally revamped, with few familiar faces (other than Woodson and a few RBs, and for the moment, Gannon), and they have a good shot at winning their division again. The only conclusion: No one knows what they are doing.

And by the way, how many skill players are you allowed to have? The Raiders played Gannon, Collins, Rice, Curry (Hmmm, Rice Curry), Gabriel, some dude named Courtney, Jolley, Fargas, Wheatley, Crockett, Zereoue, Redmond and Whitted. And that's off the top of my head. Is that everyone? Is there some lonely guy who never got off of the bench? Is it not incredible that none of those players has distinguished themselves enough to grab a firm starting job? What a fantasy nightmare. Speaking of nightmares,

Bob Slowick isn't sleeping well...

Say everyone, I've got an idea. Since we are playing against perhaps the smartest QB in the league, and certainly the best at picking up and exploiting blitzes (note: as long as Willy McGuinest isn't involved) why don't we blitz every down.

This Packer defense is now officially a disaster. They need a fat guy and another corner, STAT. And it is increasingly clear the Slowick doesn't know what he is doing. Blitzing works when it is unpredictable, and it works better early in the season. It can be a powerful tool used to create turnovers. Carolina was obviously unprepared, but no one else will be fooled. This is reminiscent of the Bears old "46" defense, but not many teams can pull it off. The Bills ran it last year, not exactly a successful model. Meanwhile, Ed Donatell seems to have Atlanta clicking nicely.

4th and 26 was not Ed's fault, and I've felt that he was a scapegoat for a long time. Reactionary moves can often spell trouble and this looks bad. The Packers do not have the personnel to run a blitzing defense, as you need good, shutdown cover corners for that. They need to generate a pass rush with 4, or they will lose a lot.

And what a waste! Brett was great. Javon was great until he was stripped. You can not get outmuscled in that situation. It ruined a great day. But still, if the defense shows up at all, that play does not matter.

I'm worried about next week too. Warner has looked good, and the Giant line has been coming together nicely. Brett is definitely going to be gimpy, and Michael Strahan may be able to get a real one this time. I'm predicting doom until I see a change in the defensive scheme.

Celibacy

Meanwhile, the Jaguars, traditionalists always, have decided to be winners without scoring. They almost never allow any offensive penetration.

Enough of that. They are quite simply atrocious on offense, but there defense has kept them in every game, and they have been able to do just enough in the end to win 3 games. They are now being anointed as the new "Panthers." I don't know about that, but defense is clearly still the way to go. It has been the story of the last several Super Bowls, and, well, just look at the Chiefs.

What got in to Thomas Jones?

Seriously. Was it the same thing that got into Barry Bonds? If the Bears didn't have massive injury problems of their own, I think they would be pretty good. Granted saying "if Gurlacher wasn't injured" is like saying "if Ken Griffey wasn't injured," or "if Fred Taylor..." but still, they look to have found a pretty formidable offense.

Fortunately, they are the Bears, and they still have DT (TD backwards), and they are seriously banged up, so no threat yet, but be wary. They're out there. Waiting...

Outrage!

I was watching one of those list shows last week, top 10 QBs of the 90s (how soon before we get the "list show channel" by the way?) and I was outraged. Number 4 was Steve Young. Fair enough. Now I already had Brett penciled in at 2 and Elway at 1 (Not my opinion, but conventional wisdom) and Brett pops up at #3. Now I'm trying to figure out, "who could be #2?" Montana? No way, he was way past his prime. Same with Marino and Kelly. Who else could it be? Finally, it was revealed to be:

Troy Frickin' Aikman.

I almost fell out of my chair. Here is what I don't get. Emmitt Smith is often denigrated when ranking the RBs because he ran behind a truly great offensive line. Why then, does Troy Aikman get a pass on this? The O-line is at least as important for QB as it is for RB. After all, Troy wasn't exactly mobile out there. A little slower than Bernie Kosar in his prime. Having time to sit in the pocket was crucial to Troy, and when his line started to deteriorate at the end of his career, so did Troy's brain.

Troy Aikman is certainly a good QB, but would anyone, starting a team from scratch, take Aikman over Favre? No way. Aikman is a nice pocket passer, but he is basically Kurt Warner (think about it) or Drew Bledsoe. They were both good, accurate passers that played in Super Bowls, but both needed a lot of time to be able to function effectively. Without that line (and Irvin, and Novacek) he's nothing.

More tomorrow.

Thanks to Mitch for the cool graphic at the (groan) Big O web site.

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The Carnival of the Capitalists is...

here. Check out the weeks' best postings on markets, economics, and a little comparison between the television industry and the drug industry by yours truly.

Thanks to Evelyn Rodriguez, at Crossroads Dispatches for hosting.


Sunday, September 26, 2004

Liveblogging problems

So my computer has been on the fritz until now, but since no one is reading at this point, we'll try it again some other time. But..

Jacksonville is weird. How do they keep winning?
And what are we, the frickin' Chiefs?

Until Monday...

Saturday, September 25, 2004

It's like a whole other Country

I came across a new (to me) blog written by a fellow 2L at UW. He's posting under the name "Two-l McTwo-L" but it's painfully obvious to me, as it would be to every other law student here, who he is. But I'll protect his anonymity. I'll just say that he is one of the most interesting people I've ever met and has a very unique perspective on things. He's also a very good writer which makes for a good blog. It's worth a look.

So that's how he does it.

Respek!

Campaign Finance

One of my favorite topics. Professor Althouse has a great post about campaign finance and how it figures into two major elections in Wisconsin.

Friday, September 24, 2004

Attention Football Fans!

Assuming that my computer is working and I have all of my work taken care of, I will be liveblogging the Packer game on Sunday as an experiment, just to see how it goes So, if you will be watching by a computer, check it out. I'll try and update every 5 minutes or so, but really just as the mood strikes me. Feel free to leave comments. See you then.

Drugs and Television

There is a lot of crap on television. In fact, people tend to get nostalgic about the "good old days" of television. For some it’s "The Honeymooners" and for others it’s "Mash" or "Cheers" or "Cosby." However, the recent increase in crap on television is one of the greatest developments in the history of entertainment.

"Crap on TV" is viewed by most people as a symptom of something negative. They look at it as a sign of declining cultural standards, a lack of creativity, even a sick society. It is, in reality, a symptom of unprecedented creativity, diversity, and quality.

Twenty short years ago there were three networks plus PBS. They offered a limited variety of shows. Sitcoms and dramas in primetime, soaps during the day, news at 5:30, late night talk shows, and an occasional sporting event were offered up by every network. The networks did produce some quality shows, but most of the time they produced crap. However, because there were only a few choices, the crap was not as pervasive as it is today, and the few good shows seemed great by comparison.

Fast-forward to 2004. We now have several hundred channels and the crap count has reached astronomic levels. There are shows called "Wife Swap" and perhaps more horribly, "Trading Spouses," which must be a rip off of the former. There is a show in which people eat horrible things for money, at least seven shows featuring fat, bald middle-aged men with hot wives, and an entire channel devoted to home and garden care. However, it was not all bad news. "The Sopranos" and "Sex and the City" put HBO on the map and spawned viewing parties across the country. Other networks started experimenting with quirky shows as well, breaking away from the cliches of the typical network show.

USA came up with Monk, about an obsessive-compulsive detective. It is basically a quirky version of the old fashioned detective show (a la "Sherlock Holmes," or, if you prefer, "Murder She Wrote"). FX produced "The Shield," a gritty detective drama that cast officers as corrupt anti-heroes. TLC took a popular British show, "Changing Rooms," and Americanized it into the hugely popular "Trading Spaces." And a group of 100,000 or so nerds has now single-handedly managed to get "Farscape" back on the Sci-Fi Channel on two separate occasions. This last feat was accomplished through the awesome power of DVD sales, which has further increased the ability of networks to cater to very specific tastes.

In the days of the "Big Three" networks, successfully competing required drawing as large an audience as possible. There were only 2 competitors, and as a result, if a show failed to draw several million people it had to be cancelled. A network had to cater to wide ranging tastes, and when one attempts to cater to everyone they usually satisfy no one. This was the situation of television production for as long as there had been television. With the introduction of DVD, a cheap, compact means of recording and distributing large high-quality collections of programs became feasible. Suddenly, a show did not need to draw millions of viewers to be a success. If a network could sell 100,000 DVD collections at fifty dollars each, the show would be as profitable, if not more profitable, than if it had been a big hit. Networks could cater to even smaller audiences and re-release old shows on DVD for almost no overhead cost.

The result of this surge in productivity has been a lot of crap, but it has also created enough "good" programming so that there is not enough actual time to watch it all. And as this is the case, it doesn't matter that all of the crap exists. Crap is a necessary byproduct of innovation, but the good results are worth every "Out of This World," and "Bob Patterson."

So what does this have to do with drugs? Simple. As with television, people tend to focus on all of the "Perfect Strangers" that results from drug development in the US, while ignoring the "Sopranos" that are produced.

There are a few major criticisms of pharmaceutical companies in the US, and I assert that each can be applied with equal force to television production.

People claim that drug companies have a lot of unnecessary overhead, as they employ a lot of bureaucratic staff, advertising departments, managers, in addition to R & D. First of all, you could make this argument about any company, but, if a drug company is being inefficient, then shareholders should abandon it and it should go out of business. Drug companies, like all other companies, are trying to make money. It is logically inconsistent to accuse them of taking in record profits and at the same time accuse them of employing too much overhead, yet people do this all of the time. It would be like accusing HBO of employing an advertising department instead of focusing solely on show production, while at the same time claiming that they were "overcharging" and taking in "record profits." This argument makes no sense.

People also claim that advertising is worthless for a drug company, and that it drives up costs. This charge also makes no sense. The argument is that money that could go into research or lowering prices instead goes into an ad campaign, but this is not how ad campaigns are funded. Ads are run with the intention of bringing in more revenue. They do not cost money, they make it. This money can go into R & D, or into lowering prices to increase competitiveness, and if an ad fails to do so, then the company will stop running the ad. When NBC advertises that "Scrubs" is on Tuesday’s at 8:00, the money they used to broadcast the ad did not drive up costs for their advertisers, nor did it detract from the production of "Joey." In reality, the value of "Scrubs" is increased, which is a benefit to advertisers, and may even keep "Joey" going for a few episodes longer than it otherwise would.

Finally, people often complain about the production of seemingly frivolous drugs, or of drugs that are basically copies of existing drugs. This is in stark contrast to many other countries where drug production focuses on "serious diseases." I will refer to this as the "foreign system."
The foreign system is just like the old three-network set up of television production. They attempt to cater to a broad audience and as a result, focus only on widespread health problems. Cancer, heart disease, lung disease, and other common (and serious) problems are researched, and I admit that some truly important breakthroughs have been produced in this fashion. In the American system, we have a dynamic drug industry that caters not only to the diseases of the masses, but also to ailments that affect a small number of people, or that treat less serious illnesses. This system has many beneficial side effects.

First and foremost, the American system creates a larger knowledge base. Diverse research can lead to techniques that are applicable for multiple ailments. Perhaps someone looking into a cure for sickle-cell anemia could stumble upon a cure for Leukemia. It may have seemed silly to sell a show on DVD when "The Sopranos" first attempted it (Note: another show probably did this first, but for the sake of argument, I am going to assume that it was "The Sopranos"), but because they did so successfully, other networks followed suit, and I now own several seasons of "The Simpsons."

Second, the American system protects minorities better. Some people have rare ailments. In a centralized system, it is inefficient to devote much time to rare diseases. However in the American system, as long as those people provide a market, they will be serviced. While many people may be afflicted with a "Seinfeld," we should not simply ignore those that are afflicted with a "Farscape," yet this is precisely what happens under the foreign system.

P.J. O’Rourke was recently on "Real Time" with Bill Maher. He was arguing with Cornell West about drug companies, and Cornell got off on a long rant about how drug companies squander resources by researching frivolous drugs. West asked:

Would you prefer drug companies that looked for more remedies for sexual impotence or a vaccine for AIDS?

To which O’Rourke responded:

It depends on if I had AIDS.

This is the beauty of the American system. In the foreign system, a disease is deemed to be important by researchers and politicians. In the American system, a disease is deemed to be important by the people suffering from the disease.

No health care system is perfect, but it is worth remembering that we get what we pay for. In countries with centralized health care, everyone does get to watch TV, but the set is stuck on "Full House." In America you still get "Full House," but for a little more you can get "The Sopranos," and "The Sopranos" is worth every penny.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

Chic and Blog Used in Same Sentence!

The Minneapolis Star Tribune featured a story on the gaining popularity and influence of blogs. That's right baby, the Electric Commentary is put forth by a group of men that are not only fashion savvy and ahead of current trends, but also a political force!

The New York Times tells you how to save for your retirement, and calls you stupid.

The NYT is vehemently against "privatizing Social Security," that is, allowing people to take a portion of their normal Social Security contribution and putting it into a tax free retirement account of their choosing. It's long, but how could I resist?

Among the clear-cut policy differences between President Bush and Senator John Kerry is each man's take on Social Security. In his acceptance speech at the Republican convention, Mr. Bush said, "We must strengthen Social Security by allowing younger workers to save some of their taxes in a personal account." Mr. Kerry, in his acceptance speech, said, "I will not privatize Social Security."

Mr. Kerry is right, and Mr. Bush is wrong. The president's plan would do the opposite of what Mr. Bush claims. It would weaken Social Security, hurt the economy and endanger many workers' retirements by pushing them into unreasonable risks in the stock market. If Mr. Bush were a broker peddling stocks to low-income, uninsured, indebted individuals like many of the Americans who would be included in his plan, he would be violating rules that require brokers to recommend only suitable investments.

The NYT gets off to a terrible start by making the assumption that many/most people would use their privatized funds to invest in the stock market. Some undoubtedly would, and more power to them, but those interested in safer investments have available things like CDs and government bonds. Both pay a higher rate of interest than Social Security. In fact, Social Security in its current form is one of the worst investments that a person can make. Your best case scenario, after adjusting for inflation, is that you will receive back about what you paid in with no interest accumulated! How is that less risky than sticking you money in a certificate of deposit?

Also, when did the President push the Stock Market? And when did Kerry offer a solution? “I will not privatize Social Security” is not a solution. It is merely an endorsement of a status quo that will run out of money at about the same time I will be retiring. But I’ve been reassured by Senator Kerry that this is risk free for me.

When responsible politicians talk about "fixing" Social Security, what they generally mean is finding a way to guarantee a basic level of financial security for the elderly while closing the gap that will develop over time in the system's finances if nothing is done. Social Security's trustees plan for solvency over 75 years. Currently, the program is projected to come up short in 2042, when it will be able to pay about 70 percent of the promised benefits. That's a lot of money, but the gap can be bridged over the next 38 years with a package of modest reforms, which we will discuss in a future editorial.

These “responsible politicians” are talking about:

1. Paying more money out and,
2. Bringing more money in.

Apparently they did not plan very well for the next 75 years. Notice there are no plans on how the “responsible politicians” will accomplish this. I will be waiting for that future editorial. Have any “modest reforms” in history ever raised an additional 500 billion-1 trillion dollars?

What Mr. Bush proposes - allowing workers to divert some of their Social Security taxes into personal investment accounts in exchange for agreeing in advance to receive a much-reduced guaranteed government benefit when they retire - would neither provide retirement security, nor take care of the solvency of the Social Security system. And it would wreak havoc with the overall federal budget.

So, making workers more self-sufficient and agreeing to not take money later will not reduce the burden on the SS system. Interesting accounting. Also, providing people with an interest-bearing tax-free savings account will not provide security. This is the part where they are calling you stupid, by the way.

In proposing personal accounts, Mr. Bush has promised to retain the current benefits for today's retirees and for those who are nearing retirement. So for some 40 years, workers would be making deposits into their accounts with tax money that - under the current system - would have been used to pay the benefits of those who are retired. The government would have to make up the difference, and Mr. Bush has no reasonable plan for covering this cost, which is estimated to be at least $1 trillion.

But there are options. Higher taxes (which will certainly be needed if SS is not privatized), spending cuts (ditto), and borrowing (the least desirable but most likely). The President may not close the gap in the best way, but some gap is going to have to be closed whether SS is privatized or not. The cost in the future will probably be higher because as the “zero hour” approaches and it becomes apparent that borrowing will be necessary, interest rates will skyrocket. If borrowing is less available, taxes will likely require a bigger hike, and/or spending a bigger cut. At this moment we have flexibility. This is not an easy problem, but it is better to deal with it now, rather than waiting for our backs to be up against the wall.

That leaves three general possibilities: immense government borrowing, draconian cuts in other programs or higher taxes. In a 1997 report by President Bill Clinton's Advisory Council on Social Security, those who favored ample mandatory personal accounts proposed a national sales tax of 1 percent and $1.2 trillion in government borrowing.

If offsetting steps were not taken immediately, the reduced cash flow in the transition period would drive the Social Security trust fund into the red about 15 years earlier than is currently projected. That, too, would require wrenching fiscal moves - borrowing, spending cuts, tax increases - to avoid default on the government's obligation to retirees.

When workers in a partly privatized system reached retirement, they would find that higher interest rates caused by huge deficits, reductions in government services or higher taxes had offset some - if not all - of the sums they had accumulated in personal accounts. And they would get smaller government benefits than they would if Social Security had been reformed in a more sensible way.

But these options will still be the only options if SS is not reformed. There are only a few ways for government to raise money, and this is the list. And apparently all cuts are draconian in the eyes of the NYT. The last sentence is truly bereft of logic. Even if we accept that higher interest rates would be inevitable – and this assumes that borrowing funds this effort, not taxes or spending cuts – high interest rates are only bad for the government and borrowers. If you are saving, high interest rates are good! You can purchase debt instruments and get a very high return. Most retired folks have less debt, as they have spent their lifetimes paying off mortgages. Most retired folks also have more savings. So even in the worst case scenario leveled by the Times, the private investor still comes out ahead. And we’re still waiting to hear about that “sensible way.”

However Social Security is reformed, when younger workers retire, their benefits are likely to be smaller than the benefits promised to current retirees. But a partly privatized system would produce a cut that's likely to be bigger and an income that would be far less reliable. That's because the government benefit is cut more deeply under privatization, and how much you can actually accumulate in a personal account would depend on the stock market. Anyone who lived through the 1990's knows that investing in stocks can leave you with less than you started with.

Privatization would invite overexposure to the stock market - a risk that is not justified by the potential return. Most people who already save for retirement rely heavily on stock investments through 401(k)'s and other savings plans. Even workers who have traditional pensions are more exposed to the stock market than ever, as employers increasingly strive for outsized stock market returns to make up for inadequate contributions to their plans.


Did you notice the subtle implication that benefits will be cut? Think about the consequences for a politician if he mentioned such a thing, not that it is a bad idea. And again with the stock market. I’ll respond again. Because these are private accounts, they need not go into the stock market. There are other more secure options that people are perfectly free to choose. And notice that the example used for criticism uses an analogy to pensions and how they have come to rely on the market. Pensions are just like SS. They are retirement accounts managed by people other than the retiree who are obligated to keep them properly funded. Private pension providers, unlike the government, can not just raise taxes or borrow to meet their obligations, hence the stock market investing. The Times here is criticizing private pension providers for attempting to maintain solvency and praising a system that does not even pretend to have a plan for solvency.

And people without pensions or enough income to save money in retirement plans generally do not belong in the stock market at all. Stock investing makes sense only after you have accumulated an emergency cash reserve, are adequately insured and have paid off consumer debt. Personal accounts within Social Security would perpetuate the wrongheaded notion that the stock market can bail everyone out. It can't. Mr. Bush does everyone a disservice by implying that it will.

Thank you, NYT for your advice. I’m glad to see that you have entered the field of financial planning. This is so paternalistic. If you think that it is a good idea, you should not be able to invest in the stock market. Even a mutual fund is too risky for the Times. I advise the Times to pick up a copy of the Wall Street Journal, where they can read all about bonds, CDs, Christmas Clubs, etc. The market can not bail everyone out, and no one has argued that it can. But it can be a good investment for many, and not just under the circumstances listed by the Times.

The personal account idea also does nothing about another big reason that Social Security needs reforming: people are living longer. Unless the government mandates that people convert their personal accounts into private annuities, retirees are in danger of outliving their money, leaving them to survive on the meager government benefit. And they would lose the inflation protection built into government benefits, which is increasingly important the longer you live. Those most at risk of impoverishment are old women, who live three years longer than men on average and are far less likely to have private pensions.

Social Security is adjusted for inflation after payment begins, but it does not accumulate anything that could be considered interest before that. Your money loses value every day that it sits around waiting for you to retire. Of course, it doesn’t just sit around; it gets paid out to current retirees, which causes the problem in the first place. If people live longer (and they do) they will probably also work longer. If someone is going to retire within the next 10 years, and it appears, based on the medical science of the time, that they will live for another 30, they will probably make sure that they have enough money for at least that long before retiring. SS right now, on the other hand, will not last long enough to take care of me. Unless I pump more money into it.

There is a broad social argument against privatization, which is that we all lose if our fellow citizens come up short in their quest for secure retirements. By taking the financial risk out of growing old, Social Security has had remarkable results for society at large. Poverty among the elderly is now 10 percent, down from 30 percent in 1960. Like any sound insurance system, Social Security works by broadly pooling risks. It protects everyone because it includes everyone. Personal accounts move Social Security away from a comprehensive system to one in which it's increasingly every man for himself.

Part of the reason that poverty is low among the elderly is already personal investment and private pensions, which begs the question, why is it bad to have more private savings. Those that are poor are those that survive solely on SS. SS does pool risk, however, when a risk is pooled and the system failed, it is a disaster for millions of people. When risk is on the individual, that individual has a huge incentive to get it right.

The “every man for himself” phenomenon is also alive and well in SS, as it is when any commons is a provider of resources. One of the problems of Social Security is that everyone on it has an incentive to get as much out of it as possible. I think that Abraham “Grandpa” Simpson said it best:

"I didn’t earn it, I don’t need it, but if they miss one payment I’ll raise hell!"

None of these arguments deter Mr. Bush and other advocates of personal accounts. For them, Social Security is primarily an ideological struggle. Social Security supports retirees by shifting income from the young to the old via taxes, and from the rich to the poor via the formula for calculating benefits. To Mr. Bush and his supporters, taxation and redistribution are anathema, and Social Security is an anticapitalist ploy to squelch initiative and growth. Those same arguments were leveled against Social Security when President Franklin Roosevelt established it in 1935, and when its constitutionality was upheld by the Supreme Court in 1937.

For Democrats it is also an ideological struggle. So what? Privatizing SS makes sense. Doing nothing about it does not make sense. That is the only important issue. Is it good to shift money from young to old (which incidentally shifts money from poor to rich)? After SS is shifted to the old, it is then shifted again so that the poor elderly get more and the rich elderly get less. Social security may not be an anti-capitalist ploy, but it is certainly anti-capitalist, which is precisely why it is running out of money.

Let’s assume that you are a responsible person and you save up all of your life. You are forced to participate in the social security program not for your own good, but because if you did not, there would not be enough money to support those who are not responsible if the responsible are not included. Stating that it is for your own good (if it is a worthwhile argument at all) only applies to you if you do not save any money. Finally, stating that something was upheld by an FDR Supreme Court for the purpose of bolstering an argument is pretty worthless, as all FDR era Supreme Court decisions were coerced by FDR, who threatened to increase the size of the court to ensure a sympathetic majority.

There is not positive solution offered in this article, nor does Kerry offer one. Personal accounts may not be a cure all, but they are a good start, and certainly better than the status quo. Even though the Times claims hat they will offer up positive ideas in the future, they make several arguments in favor of the current system in the course of the editorial. If they truly favor the current system and simultaneously detest taxes, “draconian spending cuts” and borrowing as much as they say they do, I suspect the reason that they side-step offering solutions is because they don’t have any. The current system can only be maintained with a lot of extra government income, there is no way to magically create money out of thin air. If they think that raising taxes or borrowing or cutting spending or some combination is a good idea, they should come out and say so. However, if they decide to do so, their argument against private accounts completely falls apart. They have nothing.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Changed my mind...

I would like to apologize to Prof. Smith for befouling his comments page. I don't need to call people hacks to advance an argument, I'm better than that. And his site is certainly better than that as well.

My apologies.

The rest of my comment, however, I still feel is quite strong. Which makes debasing it with childish name calling so much the worse.

Lesson learned. Be more diligent. Reread everything as if you are a neutral party.

Stewart v. O'Reilly

Wonkette has the transcript. The good bits:

STEWART: We come on right after, I believe, puppets that make crank calls...

O'REILLY: Yeah.

STEWART: ... so we are, I think, the appropriate follow up...

O'REILLY: Yeah, and that's a great lead-in for you.

STEWART: It's a wonderful show, by the way.

O'REILLY: Puppets can't vote, but these dopey kids who watch you can.

STEWART: They actually can -- in Florida, they can.

O'REILLY: Puppets can vote in Florida.

STEWART: As long as they vote Republican.

O'REILLY: And they haven't committed a felony.

STEWART: And they haven't committed a felony, that's exactly right.

The Injured Jock

Health care prices are soaring, but why? The answer is simple: runningbacks. Stephen Davis, Deuce McAllister, Edgerrin James, Priest Holmes, Shaun Alexander, Julius Jones, Michael Bennett, Garrison Hearst, Najeh Davenport, Lee Suggs, Travis Minor, and Moe Williams have injuries that have/will cost them playing time. Tight ends have faired just as poorly as Kellen Winslow II, Todd Heap, Jim Kleinsasser, and Jermaine Wiggins have all gone down to an injury over the last two weeks.

With several rich new patients out there, hospitals and drug companies have been making a killing. One anonymous doctor said that :

Why we just had Tommy Maddox in here, charged him five-hundred bucks for a few Advil. And we really cleaned up on the Viagra.

Investors have seen the prices of health companies skyrocket as arthroscopes and knee braces are being purchased by the ton. The Minnesota Viking alone purchased several truckloads of rehabilitation equipment. Some are concerned that goods are in short supply. Said Jacksonville Jaguars RB Fred Taylor:

How am I supposed to get a new "groin-o-matic" if Joey Galloway is out there buying them all up?

However, a few are resorting to more creative solutions. Chicago Bear Charles Tillman, recovering from a sprained right knee looked to the internet for help:

I was searching around e-bay and I stumbled across the knee brace used by Joe Theisman to keep his leg from falling off! Only 58 bucks! So now my knee is set properly and I have a wonderful piece of football memorabilia. I wonder if I could get Lawrence Taylor to sign it.

Still, some players are calling for action to be taken. Jeremy Shockey of the New York Giants made a plea to Congress late Tuesday, asking them to require softer grass, better pads, and more comfortable cups.

John Kerry, speaking at a campaign stop in Indianapolis, called for subsidized medical care stating:

How would the residents of this fair city feel if Marvin Manning was unable to play simply because the price of an ankle support has gone up 3oo% over the last three years?

President Bush had a different take on the matter, as he was interviewed from his Texas ranch on Tuesday.

My opponent and I differ greatly on this issue as I am in favor of keeping the hands of government away from Fred Taylor's groin. I am, however, sympathargic.

What is clear is that help will not be arriving any time soon. Players will have to make due with what they have, even as the problem spreads to other sports. Said Barry Bonds:

I've noticed the cost of "supplements" shifting upwards for some time now. It's like everyone is doing it.

When asked for comment, Jason Giambi declined to give a statement and claimed he had to run to "feed his parasite."

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Smith and Althouse v. Leiter

There is quite an argument going on at the sites of the UW Law Professors today. Brian Leiter is a Professor of Philosophy and runs the Philosophy and Law Center at the University of Texas, and he posted this commentary on Rathergate. Basically, he thinks that it is a non-story especially when compared to Michelle Malkin's stupid book defending internment during World War II. Gordon Smith points out that Malkin's book is not worth covering because it is so far outside the mainstream. No one has been paying attention to it:

With respect to the publication of Malkin's book, Brian claims that this is an "actual issue" because ...? Not clear why. As far as I can tell, public perception of the internment is at least as settled, perhaps even more settled, than public perception of George Bush's service record. And the conventional wisdom about the internment -- that it was a racist and regrettable policy -- seems to be right. Moreover, Eric Muller provides a compelling case against Malkin's account, thus lessening the already narrow space for controversy. Finally, Malkin does not have the same standing in the public eye as Rather, and as far as I can tell, Malkin's book has attracted very little attention from the public at large, certainly far less than any broadcast of 60 Minutes. In short, far from being an "actual issue," the publication of Malkin's book looks like a non-issue.

Leiter responded in the comments section as did I. Here is what I wrote, fisk style:


1. That CBS used a bad justification for a true proposition doesn't change the important fact, which is that the proposition is true. So you and I manifestly do not agree about what is trivial and irrelevant.

Not a Socratic method user, are we Brian?

You know, I introduce false evidence into court all of the time, but since my underlying point is always true and well known by the Court, they let it go. And it doesn't hurt my credibility at all either. There are 2 stories here. Obviously you think that "Bush is a draft dodger" is relevant. Fair enough. And you don't think that "CBS used forged documents, probably knowingly, to bolster a point that most people knew anyway, and this kills their credibility." is not a story. That makes you a hack.

2. "Know-nothing journalist" is not an ad hominem. An ad hominem is an argument of the form, "What X says is false, because of who X is."

I don't care for MM. I think she is engaging in the time-honored tradition of capitalizing on shock for profit. But you do not seem to grasp the concept of the word "nothing." The phrase "Know-nothing" indicates a total lack of knowledge on any subject. It is an ad hominem, as your example nicely points out, because you claim that MM possesses no knowledge without support (your example of her error is specific to one instance and would not justify a label of "know-nothing), and use that characterization to undermine her (admittedly incorrect) point. Language matters my friend.

3. That CBS News did a story on Bush's draft dodge does not make CBS partisan.

No, lying to make the point makes them partisan. Relying on Bill Burkett as a source without corroboration makes them more partisan. If Burkett was in concert with the Kerry campaign and CBS failed to check this out or was complicit (not a sure thing, but worth investigating) then they are very partisan indeed.

4. My point, as indicated by the title of my posting, is that the self-important pretense of many bloggers to be radical forces for the truth is silly, and that there is, as Professor Muller noted, a "double standard" here: a trivial issue gets a huge amount of attention, a serious issue where one might, like Professor Muller, make a real contribution, gets very little.

The serious issue is in the eye of the beholder, and Prof. Smith makes a compelling case, as MM is largely ignored by everyone and Dan Rather is not, that the serious issue is in fact being covered. You see, professors do not decide what is or is not important, everyone does. MM's views are controversial. So are the views of the KKK. After all, racism is an important issue. Should we constantly cover how wrong KKK members are? How their views don't stand up to any notion of fairness or science or morality? Should we do this at the expense of all other subjects? Of course not, because they are idiots and no one cares about them. The issue they care about has long since been settled for most people, just like internment, which is why wasting time covering MM is not nearly so important as covering Rathergate.

Incidentally, I object to your harsh treatment of straw men, as you have torched at least 5 or 6 since this discussion started. Please, leave the straw men alone, lest you find yourself being defended by Malkin.

Ann Althouse administers a blogoshpheric spanking here.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

The story of "Turd"

I think that based on Sunday's performance against the Bears, it is worth recounting the origin of one Robert "Turd" Ferguson.

Since I was a little kid the Packers have had a habit of passing on University of Wisconsin players in the draft, often in favor of lesser talent. In the event that they have picked a UW player (Randy Wright, I'm looking in your direction) they have often been disasters (Mark Tauscher being a recent exception). In 1985 the Packers passed on Al Toon (whom Danny recently defeated in a triathlon). Al was a very good receiver and probably would have helped, but the Packers did get the excellent left tackle Ken Ruettgers instead so it is hard to take issue with the pick (well, except for the fact that the greatest wide receiver in history went 9 picks later). It did, however, start a trend.

In 1992 the Packers selected highly touted midget Terrell Buckley from Florida State in an effort to lull the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions into a false sense of security. You see, the Lions possessed giant receiver Herman Moore, and the Vikings had a rather tall fellow named Jake Reed along with a few guys named Carter. By drafting Buckley the Packers hoped to make the Lions and Vikings so overconfident that they would just stop trying. Unfortunately the strategy backfired and led to Herman Moore averaging about 800 yards per game.

A few picks after the Pack picked T-Buck (who is so despised in Green Bay that his name has become a pejorative, as evidenced by reference of former Packer anti-hero T.J. Rubley as T.J. Buckley), the Eagles selected cornerback Troy Vincent from Wisconsin, who is not a midget, and who went on to play in several Pro Bowls and anchor one of the best defenses of the 1990's.

Fast forward a few more years to 2001. Again the Packers have an opportunity to draft a standout Wisconsin player, WR Chris Chambers. He would eventually fall to number 52, and the Miami Dolphins. Instead the Packers selected the raw and unproven Robert Ferguson, out of Texas A&M. This is also the draft in which the Packers squandered a first round pick on Jamal Reynolds (Note: Between Robert and Chris, excellent DT Kris Jenkins and shutdown corner Fred Smoot were taken. Six picks after Chambers was taken Travis Henry was drafted. All could have been Packers. In the third round the Packers selected Bhawoh Jue (#71) and Torrance Marshall (#72). Both have been disasters (Jue had several key penalties against the Bears). They missed the opportunity to draft Steve Smith (#74), and Kevan Barlow (#80). But I digress.).

Ferguson did not manage to get on the field his first year save for one game. He caught no passes and had no impact. They could have used him. The primary receivers in 2001 were Antonio Freeman, well into his free fall, Bill Schroeder, and Corey Bradford. Donald Driver was on the bench, but still a year away from his breakout season.

The Pack still managed a successful year, but were steamrolled in the playoffs by the Rams. You may remember this game as Brett's 6 interception performance, but the play of the wide receivers contributed greatly to all but 2 of them.

Chris Chambers, on the other hand, was forced to catch passes from one Jay Fiedler, the greatest QB in NFL history to graduate from Dartmouth. Despite this noticeable handicap, Chambers caught 48 balls for 883 yards (18.4 yards/catch) and scored 7 TDs. After a slower (and injury plagued) 2002 he rallied to post 963 yards and 11 TDs in 2003.

Imagine replacing Ferguson's first year with Chambers'. Would the Packers still have lost to the Rams? Without the turnovers in that game (mostly caused by WRs) it was fairly close. The Packers are often credited with exposing the Rams system in that game by beating up on their WRs, a strategy that may very well have led directly to the Patriots Super Bowl victory.

A little more offense may have changed history. But that is just one of the reasons that Robert is "Turd." He runs routes incorrectly. He drops balls. He misses downfield blocks. And, in truly frustrating fashion, he shows flashes of brilliance. In the preseason he was catching bombs. He made a nice play for the lone Packer TD on Sunday. But then in the big moment, he let's you down.

Against the Bears on Sunday he managed to get behind the defense at the beginning of the fourth quarter. Brett hit him in the hands in stride. It would have been a huge gain (maybe a score) and would have immediately shifted momentum back to the Pack. But he dropped it.

He does this every week. He'll make a nice play and I'll casually mention to a friend that maybe it's time to drop the "Turd" label. Invariably on the next play the label comes racing back.

So he remains Robert "Turd" Ferguson, for which I have to thank Burt Reynolds (OK, Norm MacDonald). After all, Turd Ferguson is a funny name:

Alex Trebek: Mr. Reynolds has apparently changed his name to Turd Ferguson.

and

Alex Trebek: Burt Reynolds?
Burt Reynolds: That's not my name.
Alex Trebek: (disgusted) All right - Turd Ferguson?
Burt Reynolds: Whaddaya want?
Alex Trebek: You buzzed in.
Burt Reynolds: That's just your opinion.
Alex Trebek: I hate my job!

(PS: There were plenty of goats in this game (AHMANNNNN!!!!!) but we'll get to them later, along with the increasing problem of NFL runningbacks driving up the cost of healthcare in America.)

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Monday, September 20, 2004

Contract This!

After talk of stealing away my city's baseball team through "contraction," it makes me beam with pride to see them play like champions year after year after year. The Minnesota Twins won their third consecutive American League Central title despite (and this is my favorite part) not having a top 10 AL leader in runs, hits, triples, home runs, RBI, or batting average. No superstars, no franchise players, just solid pitching and all around good baseball. It's fun to watch and has brought me back to watching a game that I had, for a time, given up on. Now if we could only beat the Yankees...

The Fat Lady Sings

I came across, by way of Drudge, this attempt by Michael Moore to rally the liberal troops in their time of need. It's a good read if you've recently swallowed some poison.

Enough of the handwringing! Enough of the doomsaying! Do I have to come there and personally calm you down?

I wouldn't exactly call the effect you have on me "calming" Mike, so please don't.

Geez, this is embarrassing! The Republicans are laughing at us. Do you ever see them cry, "Oh, it's all over! We are finished! Bush can't win! Waaaaaa!"
Hell no. It's never over for them until the last ballot is shredded. They are never finished -- they just keeping
[sic] moving forward like sharks that never sleep, always pushing, pulling, kicking, blocking, lying.

Those damned kicking, pushing, lying sharks!

They are relentless and that is why we secretly admire them -- they just simply never, ever give up. Only 30% of the country calls itself "Republican," yet the Republicans own it all -- the White House, both houses of Congress, the Supreme Court and the majority of the governorships. How do you think they've been able to pull that off considering they are a minority? It's because they eat you and me and every other liberal for breakfast and then spend the rest of the day wreaking havoc on the planet.

I think, Mr. Moore, that the answer to your question lies within your question. How do "they" beat "us" when only 30% of Americans are Republicans? Because not everybody looks at things in terms of "us" and "them" like you do. I should hope that no more than 30% of Americans agree with the Republican stance on all, or even most issues. But the same goes for Democrats. What's your source on that statistic anyway and why don't you give the equivalent on the other side? And Mike, isn't it about time to perpetuate a stereotype?

If I hear one more person tell me how lousy a candidate Kerry is and how he can't win... Dammit, of COURSE he's a lousy candidate -- he's a Democrat, for heavens sake! That party is so pathetic, they even lose the elections they win! What were you expecting, Bruce Springsteen heading up the ticket? Bruce would make a helluva president, but guys like him don't run -- and neither do you or I. People like Kerry run.

There it is. All democrats make lousy Candidates. All of them. Not one of them would run as fine a campaign as, say, The Boss. Not even....

My friends, it is time for a reality check.
2. Kerry has brought in the Clinton A-team. Instead of shunning Clinton (as Gore did), Kerry has decided to not make that mistake.

Wait a minute. I'm no historian, but wasn't Clinton a (gasp) Democrat? Wouldn't that make him a lousy candidate? Is Kerry insane? Wasn't the Dole A-Team available?

1. The polls are wrong. They are all over the map like diarrhea. On Friday, one poll had Bush 13 points ahead -- and another poll had them both tied. There are three reasons why the polls are b.s.: One, they are polling "likely voters." "Likely" means those who have consistently voted in the past few elections. So that cuts out young people who are voting for the first time and a ton of non-voters who are definitely going to vote in THIS election. Second, they are not polling people who use their cell phone as their primary phone. Again, that means they are not talking to young people. Finally, most of the polls are weighted with too many Republicans, as pollster John Zogby revealed last week. You are being snookered if you believe any of these polls.

Mike did you poop on your atlas? So you can provide us with these two links but nothing about WHICH POLLS YOU ARE REFERRING TO or HOW THEY COMPILE THEIR RESULTS. I'm sure there are polls that compile their results in the manner you say and there are pols showing the results that point out, but by now, we know you Mike. Unless you give me some reason to believe that these are in fact the same polls, I don't trust you any more than Old Country Buffet does.

3. ...Do not let those well-produced Bush rallies of angry white people scare you. Turn off the TV! (Except Jon Stewart and Bill Moyers -- everything else is just a sugar-coated lie).

Hey, lets perpetuate another stereotype! And do you ever stop thinking about lies and sugar?

4. Conventional wisdom says if the election is decided on "9/11" (the fear of terrorism), Bush wins. But if it is decided on the job we are doing in Iraq, then Bush loses. And folks, that "job," you might have noticed, has descended into the third level of a hell we used to call Vietnam. There is no way out. It is a full-blown mess of a quagmire and the body bags will sadly only mount higher. Regardless of what Kerry meant by his original war vote, he ain't the one who sent those kids to their deaths -- and Mr. and Mrs. Middle America knows it. Had Bush bothered to show up when he was in the "service" he might have somewhat of a clue as to how to recognize an immoral war that cannot be "won." All he has delivered to Iraq was that plasticized turkey last Thanksgiving. It is this failure of monumental proportions that is going to cook his goose come this November.

So this war is as bad as Vietnam and people in the National Guard deserve to be referred to with quotation marks around "service." After all, they're not really soldiers. They aren't really "serving" their country. Where do you get off Mike? And quit referring to our troops as "kids." They are men and women who chose to fight for their country and they deserve our respect.

WAKE UP! The majority are with us! More than half of all Americans are pro-choice, want stronger environmental laws, are appalled that assault weapons are back on the street -- and 54% now believe the war is wrong.

Back to the "us" and "them." Bush's record on the environment has been severely misconstrued by people in the "us" camp. It's actually pretty good, or at least it could be. And is that 54% of people that don't use their cell phone as their primary line that believe the war is wrong? Just curious.

Just for me, please? Buck up. The country is almost back in our hands. Not another negative word until Nov. 3rd! Then you can bitch all you want about how you wish Kerry was still that long-haired kid who once had the courage to stand up for something. Personally, I think that kid is still inside him. Instead of the wailing and gnashing of your teeth, why not hold out a hand to him and help the inner soldier/protester come out and defeat the forces of evil we now so desperately face. Do we have any other choice?

Sadly, Mike, we do. And people like you push me towards it every time you open your narrow minded, ideological, polarizing, intolerant, cognitively dissonant mouth.

Putting things into perspective

Lileks hits the ongoing Rathergate debate nail on the head here:

"We understand that there has been some controversy over the newly discovered Michelangelo painting featured in “60 Minutes” expose of curatorial malfeasance at the Metropolitan Museum. Some outside experts note that close analysis of the wood frame reveals the presense of modern staples, and while we agree this is curious – as are the words ‘Abiline Frame Shop’ engraved into the wood – it is hardly conclusive. Others have questioned the use of acrylic instead of oil paints, and the presence of nylon fibers embedded in the brushstrokes have led some to question whether the painting is indeed 500 years old. These are issues worth pursuing, and we will redouble our efforts. But it’s a little bit frustrating to see all this reduced to a debate over slivers and threads, instead of the real question, namely, how did Michelangelo’s “Madonna of of the Dealership” include a 1957 Chevy Bel-Air rendered with such astonishing detail, half a millennium before the car was designed? That’s the issue we think should be the focus of our attention.”

And if it was later proved that someone did send a 1973 LTD back in time, and it showed up in a Titian painting? No one would buy it. Fruit of the poisoned FOREST, at this point.

Friday, September 17, 2004

For the stats geek.

I often link to the Football Outsiders as their "DVOA" and "runningback batting average" stats are very useful. If you like that, you need to check out William Krasker's Football Commentary:

Green Bay at Carolina (9/13/2004) [Recap]

With 3:33 to go in a scoreless first quarter, the Packers had 4th down and about 3 inches to go at the Carolina 24 yard line. Mike Sherman decided to attempt a FG rather than go for the first down.

The probability of picking up 3 inches must be at least 0.75. Using that figure, and performing Model calculations analogous to those shown earlier , we find that Green Bay's probability of winning the game if they go for the first down is 0.545. If a 41 yard FG were a sure thing, then kicking the FG would actually be slightly better, achieving a probability of winning the game of 0.548. However, NFL kickers make only about 77% of FG attempts from 41 yards. If the FG misses, Carolina takes over at their 41 yard line, and Green Bay's probability of winning the game is just 0.456. It follows that if the Packers attempt the FG, their probability of winning the game is 0.77 × 0.548 + (1 − 0.77) × 0.456 = 0.527. So, it seems that it would have been better for the Packers to go for the first down.

Tuesday Morning Quarterback lambasted the Panthers for their decision to punt with 10:05 remaining in the game, down 24-7, and facing 4th and 2 at their own 33 yard line. While we concur with his conclusion that Carolina's best chance to win the game is to go for the first down, our criticism is tempered by the realization that Carolina was almost certain to lose the game regardless of what they did. If we use TMQ's figure of 56% for the chance of converting on 4th and 2, then according to the Model , the Panthers have a 0.0037 probability of winning the game if they go for it, versus 0.0028 if they punt. We believe in giving your team the best possible chance to win (see our comments above ), but after a certain point, avoiding injuries to key players starts to dominate.

That is some serious analysis. I like anything that improves on "traditional statistics," just because I'm always amazed that they continue to exert a lot of influence on actual decision making. Baseball was especially bad about keeping bad stats until Bill James and Billy Beane (and a few others) came along, and I'm glad that it is spreading to other sports.

I especially think that basketball is due for a major overhaul, but we'll leave that for another time.

Simbotics!

From the Sports Guy:

(Hey, here's a question: Is Charles Rogers's collarbone officially threatening to replace Fred Taylor's groin as the most unreliable body part in the league? Or does Freddie's groin have one more tug left in it? And where does Ken Griffey's hamstring fit into this? Okay, that was three questions.)

And I agree completely with his Jets pick. Only favored by 3 against the Chargers? Ka-ching!

Resident's of small towns in western Dane County angry over Ironman race attempt to murder competitors.

Apparently, after the Ironman course was swept prior to the race, somebody dumped a load of nails on the most treacherous stretch of the race causing several flat tires. The lengths these people will go to. People train for hundreds and hundreds of hours and some asshole farmer wants to ruin it because of a little paint on the road.

These low-carb diets are...

getting ridiculous.

Let's get wasted!

But first, let's read about those who want to stop us (and those who wanted to stop us when we were stil under 21, in the long-long-ago).

Glenn Reynolds and Dave Kopel wrote this for the National Review:

One of the justifications currently offered for "cracking down" on young adults like Jenna Bush is that, supposedly, young adults frequently engage in "binge drinking." Frightening statistics are trotted out in support of this claim. But in fact, the commonly used definition of "binge drinking" is preposterous. "Binge drinking" is said to occur anytime a woman has at least four drinks, or a man has at least five drinks, over any continuous period of time.

Thus, if a Jewish woman attends a Passover seder, and drinks the ritual four cups of wine, that's "binge drinking." Or if some men get together for a football double-header, and each man drinks a six-pack of Budweiser over the next six hours, that's "binge drinking" — even though neither the Passover women nor the football men are even remotely close to blood-alcohol contents that would make them unfit to drive.

Now let's suppose that somebody actually drinks enough so that their BAC is too high to drive — a woman goes out to dinner with friends and has five glasses of wine over an hour and half. She is (horrors!) drunk. What's wrong with that — as long as she doesn't drive? It's true that some people who get drunk do irresponsible things, like start fights in bars, or drive, or have unprotected sex. But the vast majority of times that people get drunk, none of these things happen.

Read the whole thing. And then read this from Radley Balko:

Underage Drinking. And MADD-Bashing.

Middlebury College President John M. McCardell, Jr., in yesterday's New York Times
To lawmakers: the 21-year-old drinking age is bad social policy and terrible law. It is astonishing that college students have thus far acquiesced in so egregious an abridgment of the age of majority. Unfortunately, this acquiescence has taken the form of binge drinking. Campuses have become, depending on the enthusiasm of local law enforcement, either arms of the law or havens from the law.


Neither state is desirable. State legislators, many of whom will admit the law is bad, are held hostage by the denial of federal highway funds if they reduce the drinking age. Our latter-day prohibitionists have driven drinking behind closed doors and underground. This is the hard lesson of prohibition that each generation must relearn. No college president will say that drinking has become less of a problem in the years since the age was raised. Would we expect a student who has been denied access to oil paint to graduate with an ability to paint a portrait in oil? Colleges should be given the chance to educate students, who in all other respects are adults, in the appropriate use of alcohol, within campus boundaries and out in the open.


And please - hold your fire about drunken driving. I am a charter member of Presidents Against Drunk Driving. This has nothing to do with drunken driving. If it did, we'd raise the driving age to 21. That would surely solve the problem.If only the damned anti-alcohol fanatics would listen. Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal ran a front-page story that casts a better light on the absurdity of the neoprohibitionist position than any of my rants ever could:
When Gregg Anderson told his parents that he planned to celebrate his senior prom at an all-night beer blast, they were alarmed. Gregg and his pals intended to party at Scarborough Beach, a 40-minute drive from this Providence suburb. Worried that the teens would drink and drive, William and Patricia Anderson came up with a compromise -- they invited Gregg and his friends to party in their backyard.


On the night of the party, Mr. Anderson stationed himself near the raspberry-colored front door of the four-bedroom house where he'd raised three sons. He read a Michael Connelly novel and collected car keys from his young guests. Then he slipped them into a bureau drawer.

Roughly 35 kids showed up. Some performed "keg stands," variations on handstands that involve holding beer guzzlers upside-down by their feet, so they can suck beer directly from keg taps. Others downed beer from a 16-inch "yard glass," which holds about 24 ounces...
...A few days after the party Mr. Anderson was arrested for providing liquor to minors. The charges were later dropped, but the story was picked up by newspapers and radio-talk-show hosts, one of whom dubbed Mr. Anderson the "prom dad."

...Soon the state began sponsoring radio spots urging parents not to host drinking parties for their children. In February 2004, state legislation was introduced to clamp down on parents and others who "knowingly allow" underage drinking. The bill, which went further than laws in many other states, was supported by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the advocacy group, and pushed hard by Rhode Island Attorney General Patrick C. Lynch. It fell victim to a legislative debate over whether it was too broad. The legislation's sponsors vow to introduce a revamped version of the bill next year...


...Most antidrinking advocates strongly disagree with the Andersons' strategy for dealing with the problem. "We want parents to understand that underage drinking is not just kids being kids, or a rite of passage. It is a serious -- even deadly -- problem," says Wendy Hamilton, president of MADD...

...The Andersons weighed those risks carefully before agreeing to host what became known around their community as a "key party" for Gregg, their youngest son. They knew that teen drinking in West Warwick was common. In a survey taken during the 2001/2002 school year, about 44% of West Warwick High School students said they'd drunk alcohol in the previous 30 days. Local teens regularly drank beer and wine coolers hidden away in a wooded area near a shopping mall, on nearby beaches or in their homes, according to interviews with students...

...Gregg, now 20 years old and an education major at Rhode Island College, was a pretty typical kid. In high school he played baseball, basketball and football and made spending money umpiring Little League games. He also started drinking on the sly in the ninth grade. "When my parents asked me if I was going to a party, I wasn't going to say I was going to a party," he says. But by the time he turned 16, he felt he should be more honest with them. "When I was a junior, I said to my mom, 'Hey, we really don't have any place to go. Do you mind if we have a few drinks here?' " Concluding that the teens were safer in their living room than someplace else, the Andersons occasionally let Gregg invite a few friends over Friday nights for card games and beer...

...Mr. and Mrs. Anderson set strict guidelines for the party the night of the prom. The kids would have to pitch tents in the backyard and spend the night. Mr. Anderson would lock the back gate and guard the front door. Nobody would be allowed to leave. Gregg says he and his friends arranged for an older acquaintance to supply them with two kegs of beer.

On the morning of the party, Mr. Anderson stopped by the local police station and told the officers on duty of the gathering at his home. "I wanted to be sure there weren't going to be issues," he says...


...Using Mr. Anderson as an example, MADD and other antidrinking groups ramped up their lobbying efforts to strengthen state alcohol laws. "Certainly, the Anderson case just confirmed for us that we need to continue to educate the public and change adult attitudes that support underage drinking," says Brenda Amodei, a public-health official for a division of the Rhode Island Department of Mental Health, Retardation and Hospitals.

The groups successfully pushed for a new law requiring that buyers of beer kegs register their names at liquor stores.Seems to me that MADD's actions here are far more nefarious than its usual statistical tomfoolery, junk science, and lobbying against common criminal protections for DWI defendants. Here, MADD's zero tolerance bullshit will mean dead teens.

Changing the legal drinking age to 21 hasn't stopped college or high school aged kids from drinking. Realizing that, the Anderson parents looked at reality: Either the kids drink in the woods or on the beach or in a motel -- then drive home -- or they drink at their home, with adult supervision, with their keys out of reach. MADD wants the Andersons punished for looking at the situation as it is, not as MADD would like it to be, and doing the one thing they could do to ensure the safety of their kid and his friends.


This is about as cut and dry as it gets. MADD's position here isn't anti-drunk driving. It's entrenched prohibitionist. Given the facts, they're pushing for a law that will unquestionably mean more drunk kids behind the wheel, and in all likelihood mean more deaths.
It's unconscionable. And they ought to be called on it.


How can anyone seriously defend practices like this? For a long time I've held the belief that MADD cares more about looking good than they do about keeping people safe. Now I know it.

They should throw back a few cold ones and lighten up.


Hello, I'd like to have an argument.

Eugene Volokh gets into it with an e-mailer.

Lileks quote of the day:

I’m sure there’s a good reason for hornets, but it’s lost on me. I don’t care what ecological niche they fill. I don’t care if they control the population of the Spitting Potato Beetle. They’re useless. It’s like living around three dozen self-propelled psychotic hypodermic needles.

You can read the rest of The Bleat here.

Kerry Plays Politics with Fear

"It's absolutely essesntial that eight weeks from today, on November 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again. And we'll be hit in a way that will be devestating."

-John Kerry

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Robot generates power by eating living things

British scientists are developing a robot that generates power by eating flies.

The idea is to produce electricity by catching flies and digesting them in special fuel cells that will break down sugar in the insects' skeletons and release electrons that will drive an electric current.

"Called EcoBot II, the robot is part of a drive to make "release and forget" robots that can be sent into dangerous or inhospitable areas to carry our remote industrial or military monitoring of, say, temperature or toxic gas concentrations," New Scientist magazine said on Wednesday.

If it works for flies, why not chipmunks? Or poor people? Maybe this wasn't so far-fetched.

Hat tip to Marginal Revolution.

In the mind of...

Before we look inside brains, does anyone notice anything funny about this list of Tampa Bay receivers?

Charles Lee, Bill Schroeder, Tim Brown and Frank Murphy.

Two former Packers? Does Gruden realize that Antonio Freeman is available again?

In the mind of…

Joey Galloway – Since I am old and injury prone, I always thought it would be nice to join the Raiders. What luck that they all decided to retire to Tampa the same time that I did.

Ronde Barber – So I’m an "Uncle Tom" am I? Well that doesn’t mean much coming from a racist like Keyshawn. You think he’s not a racist? Two words: Wayne Chrebet.

Jerome Bettis – Next guy who calls me "short bus" gets sat on.

Mike McKenzieJust kidding guys!

DTWHOOOOOOOO!! Yeah! Did you see that catch? I know you did. All right, second and nine.

Mike VanderjagtThat’ll learn him to call me an idiot. (Scroll about half-way down.)

Dante Hall – Why didn’t anyone clip him.

John LynchI got fined for that? I could barely even feel it. What is he like 3’4"? It’s not like I threw a chair at him or anything.

A.J. Feeley – Coach, I’m starting to feel a little sick, maybe you should put Jay back in for another week? Say, are you closer to signing any offensive linemen? No? Man, this stomach thing could be serious.

Steve Smith – You mean I get all the ice-cream I want?

Najeh Davenport – Another pulled hamstring. Man, that’s going to make squatting hard.

Marshall Faulk, Curtis Martin, and Emmitt Smith – That will show those young whipper-snappers. We old people can still contribute. Oh! Better get home, it’s almost time for Matlock.

And finally,

Brett Favre (to John Fox) – I would have signed a few offensive linemen.

Ah, Monday Morning Quarterbacks.

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