The Electric Commentary

Monday, February 28, 2005

The Oscars

I really don't care about the Oscars, but I will make a few observations.

1. I've read nothing but bad things about Chris Rock's effort (mostly from conservatives, but also in the major newspapers). I though that he was fine. Do people not remember how bad the hosts often are? Surely he was better than David Letterman. His monologue was pretty good (If anti-Bush jokes turn you off, take a quarter out of your piggy bank, head on over to K-mart, and buy yourself a sense of humor. And take Spicoli with you. People have joked about the president forever. Get over it.) and his sketch at the Magic Johnson theatre (which included Albert Brooks for some reason) was amusing. He wasn't spectacular due to the constraints of television, but I though he was fine. His cut on Tim Robbins was very funny.

2. Also, while I object to censorship in general, I faced a huge ethical dilemma when I learned that the network censored Robin Williams speech about SpongeBob being gay. On the one hand, it was censorship, but on the other hand, it stopped Robin Williams from talking.

3. The academy always has a few beautiful women walking around on stage, I guess just for ambiance. Did anyone else notice the woman in the shiny gold dress that was at least 6"6'? She was HUGE.

4. Counting Crows should have one the musical award simply because the other songs were horrible, especially the song from The Motorcycle Diaries.

5. Terrible hair on most of the women. What is with the hard shiny mohawk/mullet look?

6. I though that Hillary Swank
looked good (I usually find her a bit horsey...no, that's too harsh. Let's say Kerrigany).

7. Selma Hayek looked great.

8. Why no clips of the shorts (especially the animated shorts)? No one watches these movies. The Oscars are the one chance that they have of catching someone's interest.

9. For more on last night show, click here, here, here, and here.

10. As for the winners, I can't really complain, as I didn't see any of them. I will eventually, I just haven't had time yet. I will say that despite not seeing any of the nominated movies I was correct about every major award except for best supporting actress (I thought Virginia Madsen would win). It just proves that the Oscars (like all awards shows) are mostly about hype. Of course Titanic already proved that. And Forrest Gump. And...

Lebanon

Apparently the government in Lebanon just gave up:

Prime Minister Omar Karami announced his resignation on state television, sparking cheers from thousands of flag-waving protesters gathered in central Beirut to demonstrate against his government and Syria's involvement in the country.

Mr. Karami said he did not want his government to become an obstacle to the good of the country. The announcement came as parliament debated an opposition-sponsored no-confidence motion in Mr. Karami's government.

This is excellent news. Hopefully democracy is just around the corner. Glenn has a nice roundup. Just keep scrolling.

Friday, February 25, 2005

The Answer to All Your Questions

The answer to this week's game is number 3, Dick Hertz. There is no one I know named Dick Hertz; however, Misty Havens is funny enough.

Krauthammer, Krugman, Kling

Charles on the historic Israeli withdrawal from Gaza:

Last Sunday Israel crossed two Rubicons. The Cabinet decided once and for all to withdraw from Gaza and dismantle 25 settlements -- 21 in Gaza and four in the upper West Bank. Yet, had Israel done only this, it would be seen, correctly, as a victory for terrorism, a unilateral retreat and surrender to the four-year intifada. That is why the second Israeli decision was so important. The Cabinet also voted to finish the security fence on the West Bank, which will separate Israeli and Palestinian populations and create the initial border between Israel and a nascent Palestine.

Pauly K on Social Security (shocking, I know):

The right wants to dismantle Social Security, a successful program that is a pillar of stability for working Americans.

Really? I thought that it was a pillar of stability for non-working Americans. That is the whole point after all. He also says:

So it doesn't matter that Social Security is a pro-family program that was created by and for America's greatest generation - and that it is especially crucial in poor but conservative states like Alabama and Arkansas, where it's the only thing keeping a majority of seniors above the poverty line.

I'm excited to see the left side adopting the whole "family values" idea. Now I can be annoyed by both parties equally. By the way, I'm still waiting for Krugman to actually explain why privatization is bad. The wait continues...

Arnold, logical fellow that he is, actually provides it, while at the same time explaining why one tiny little percent is so important when forecasting far into the future:

The other assumption that the actuaries make that troubles me is the assumption that the risk-free real rate of interest, meaning the interest rate after you take away inflation, will be 3 percent going forward. I think that this is way too high for a risk-free real interest rate in an economy growing at 2 percent. Moreover, we have a market-based measure of the long-term risk-free interest rate, derived from inflation-indexed Treasury securities. As J. Huston McCulloch's web site shows, that market estimate is closer to 2 percent.

What is the difference between assuming a risk-free real interest rate of 3 percent, as the actuaries do, and assuming that the rate is 2 percent, which is what I believe is more reasonable? This sounds like a trivial issue.

In fact, the assumption of a 3 percent risk-free real interest rate undermines Social Security reform in a number of ways. For example, it greatly reduces the "actuarial shortfall" of Social Security, making it appear that only small changes are needed to "fix" it.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

The NBA Trade Deadline

A quick recap:

The Bucks moved The Ghost Dog for Calvin Booth and Alan Henderson (for cap reasons). And to the Mavericks, I think I speak for all of Milwaukee when I say, SUCKERS!

The Big Dog was traded for Monster Mash.

Philly managed to acquire that guy from Michigan who can't count. You know, he was outplayed by Eric Montross in college. Oh, and he was paid in college and got Michigan suspended. Man, I love that guy.

The Cav snagged some Welsch guy.

UPDATE:

Big day in the NBA.

The Celitcs have Antoine Walker back (sending the glove to basketball hell in the process).

Baron Davis is a Warrior. More to come...

In minor deals, the Bucks also traded Mike James (who I like) for Wisconsin native Reece Gaines.

More minor deals here.

Ask and ye shall receive

On Tuesday I wrote:

When most pundits write about Social Security, they almost never mention the worker/retiree ratio. This is by far the most important stat regarding Social Security.

And, right on cue, Arnold Kling begins today's Tech Central Station column by stating:

To view Social Security correctly, always keep in mind that it is a tax-and-transfer system, not a pension system. Because it taxes current workers to pay benefits to current retirees, Social Security's critical parameter is the ratio of workers to retirees. As that ratio falls, the ability to use a given tax rate to meet promised benefits declines. This ratio will fall in the coming years for three reasons: the Baby Boom retirement bulge; a secular decline in the birth rate; and greater life extension -- people living farther past the legal retirement age.

Read the whole thing. It contains many shocking lines like:

Yes, this is an issue on which Krugman and I agree.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Canada, Part Two

Now that I've recovered from my aforementioned magical journey to the Land of Curling, I'd like to get into some actual topics.

On Canadian finances:

They views here seem to be normal, meaning the complete opposite of the views held by the current U.S. government. This article explains the situation rather well and even gives some some practical examples that my help GWB understand what it all means.

Canada had a budget surplus of $9 billion (CAD, obviously) in 2004, and I've found that there is a lively debate regarding this year's proposed budget. Canada is the only G-7 nation to run in the black for the last seven years in a row. So what did the crazy Canucks DO with all that extra money? They plowed it into the national debt, working to achieve the government's stated goal of bringing the debt as a percentage of GDP down to 25% (in 2004, the U.S debt equaled 62% of GDP). Crazy. And what do they propose to do with the extra cash THIS year? Why, the same thing of course. Although the Finance Minister is proposing to raise the personal income tax exemption, which would effectively negate the income tax liability of 800,000 low-income families. WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON HERE?! No reduction in capital gains taxes? No restructuring of the higher tax brackets? Although taxes here are higher here than in the U.S., Canadian citizens generally seem to accept that burden as the price they must pay to achieve their goals as a country. Basically, Canada is acting like a responsible person, paying down the debt and ensuring that federal programs are funded as promised. Now I know that nations are not people, but debt can threaten the safety and stability of a nation, just as it can a normal person.

Frankly, I think the U.S. could take some pointers. Certainly, there are elements of Canadian society that I don't agree with and that run counter to our national personality. However, the basic idea of developing programs the country sees as worthwhile and then actually sacking up and helping to properly fund said programs, all while maintaining a sustainable financial position, is the Right Way to operate. Instead we spend carelessly, pile up a huge national debt and watch it grow (this site is pretty cool). And while we're at it, we actually omit large chunks of future expenditures from our budget. (The main line of reasoning I've heard: "But we don't know how much it will cost..." To this I say, "No sh*t. I don't know how much I'll have to spend on car repairs this year, but when my car breaks down I damn well better have some money set aside to get it fixed." Even an estimate with future adjustments is better than nothing.)

My dad, who is not Canadian, once told me (after I'd done a horrible job of mowing the lawn) that I can't go through life acting as if someone is going to come along behind me to fix things up. That's good advice. The Canadians seem to get it. It'll take some work, but I think we can get there.

Oh, and GWB... go out and mow that lawn AGAIN.

Big Sports News

Wow!

Randy Moss is probably a Raider.

Shaq needs an MRI.

Travis Diener's career at Marquette is over.

Drew Bledsoe is now a Cowboy.

And the NBA trade deadline is tomorrow. Will Michael Redd remain a Buck?

In Honor of Jose Canseco

I give you:

The Roid King

(To the tune of The Rain King, by Counting Crows, from August and Everything After.)

When I think of playin'
(Delivered to me in a black briefcase)
I think of throwin' down into my gullet some
pills and liquids and all other
instruments of injectin' my bod
in the back of a black sports car

Wouldn't let you test me
When I was playin' before, but you deserve a little more

(Chorus)
When I played, I was never ever clean
Androstenedione, and that unknown Sheffield Cream
Mac is shootin'......The Mets are trippin'
And I am the Roid King
(Chorus)

I said Barry, Barry, Barry,
Why's your head so big*
It can't go outside
I'm scared it might not fit through doors
I'm alive.....not Caminiti
If there's a single clean MVP
I'd sure like to meet him
Wouldn't let you bleed me
When I was playin' before but you deserve a little more

When I played, I was never ever clean
Jason G is lookin' a little lean
Sam's been corkin'
And "it's" been shrinkin'
And I am the Roid King

Hey, I only wanted the same as anyone
Anderson's suspicious 50 home runs
Oh, it seemed that me and Mac were such good friends
After all, he let me inject him in the end.

When I think of playin'
(Delivered to me in a black briefcase)
I think of lyin'
runnin' round in a field and flashin' leather
Shootin' up my body with Mac, Kenny, Sammy and Jason
in the back seat of my black sports car.
Still don't believe me?
Cause I've done this before...and I could use a little more

When we played we were never ever clean
The biggest guys, that this sport has ever seen
We've been lyin'
and I've been drinkin'
and I am the Roid King

Yeahhh!!

*For more information on Barry Bonds' giant head click here, and watch the Sports Guy cartoon, "The Juice."

Just For Fun

I know I said I would be posting less often, with longer posts, but this is just a little too fun not to share.

It's time for a game!

Of the names below, choose the one that is not the actual name of a person in my classes:

1. John Madden
2. Allen Iverson
3. Dick Hertz
4. Misty Havens
5. Ted Simmons


Answer to be revealed on Friday!

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Canada, Part 1

Just to warn you all, I'm in a strange mood. I think it's the water. Or the long "O's".

On my adventures in Canadia:

Very recently, in the wee hours of Monday morning to be exact, I found myself in Canada. That's right, I found myself there. Sunday started off just fine, but sometime that night, through no fault of my own, I was whisked away on a journey that ended with me mingling with our friendly neighbors to the north at about 1:30 AM Monday morning. In a taxi line. At the Toronto airport. In a blizzard. Through no fault of my own.

It's amazing to me how many people use passive statements like that to implicitly pass off blame for something they caused. Take, for instance, the pilot of my plane during this magical journey. As we were about to land at the Toronto airport, which was experiencing blizzard conditions at the time, our plane was forced to do a "go around", which involves very nearly landing and then pushing the throttles to full power and banking sharply up and the left of the airport. Apparently, we had to do this because "we found ourselves spaced too closely behind the aircraft in front of us." Hmmm. How did that happen? I'm glad it wasn't the pilot's fault. Later, after a successful second try, the plane finally parked and people started to get up and prepare to deplane. During the process, however, the pilot came over the intercom and asked everyone to sit back down so the plane could be moved backward. Apparently, we were "experiencing problems with the jetway because we'd found ourselves parked too close to the terminal." Hmmm. Once again I ask, "How did that happen?" Did the hand of God move us too close to the terminal? Did I just witness a miracle?

So, as I had begun to tell you, I found myself in a taxi line of approximately 100 people at the Toronto airport at 1:30 AM in blizzard conditions. Good times, good times. There was a steady stream of cabs (approximately one every ten minutes), so I needed to get creative. Luckily, the black market was in full force. But first, a comedic interlude. As I was standing in line, I witnessed a guy accuse an unlicensed limo driver of breaking the law (no way?!) and then proceed to verbally berate the driver and his family. The limo driver replied that he hoped the man enjoyed the two-hour wait he had in front of him. While I understand the need for some controls on airport transportation, the legal avenues were obviously not meeting the demand. And at that point it was utterly ridiculous for the man in line to get so upset about people stepping in to fill the gap. I was lucky enough to find a driver who didn't understand the hopelessness of my predicament, allowing me to talk him down from $60 to $40 Canadian (roughly 5 US Dollars). This gave me the distinct pleasure of riding 25 miles with three other strangers in a 1947 (est.) Lincoln Towncar with rear wheel drive and balding tires, which I promptly dubbed White Lightning (in my head). Sweet. White Lightning managed fairly well on the highway, but had trouble when we finally exited into the unplowed metropolis of Toronto. As ol' Lightning fishtailed through the streets of Toronto, I nearly lost my life no fewer than three times. The first two involving city buses and the third a cement abutment directly outside the door of my hotel. That would have really sucked. When all was said and done the driver and his trusty steed, White Lightning, dropped me off in one piece at my hotel at 3 AM for the low low price of a small stack of paper that's much too colourful to actually hold monetary value. Seemed like pretty good deal to me.

I hope they put White Lightning out to stud soon. He deserves a bit of fun after that brutal ride.

To be continued...

The Return.

I realize that my contributions to this blog of late have been scant; however, I have had absolutely no desire to write, and being that I do this for fun and not for profit, no desire = no posts. I will continue to contribute in the style that has defined my last several posts: longer, less frequent, more researched and generally more boring.

On that note, I have been reading a book by the psychologist and political scientist Erich Fromm titled Escape From Freedom. Fromm is a member of the famous (or infamous) "Frankfurt School" of philosophers along with Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer. The Frankfurt school is best known for its development of "The Authoritarian Personality" as a way to explain the psychological susceptability of some to anti-democratic propaganda.

One of the phenomena discussed in Freedom is the connection of Protestantism to the rise of modern capitalism. In Friday's post I will examine this idea and give insight as to why Escape From Freedom should be required reading for the politically aware.

Wolfe on Thompson

Tom Wolfe's WSJ tribute to Hunter S. Thompson is simply fantastic. Read the whole thing.

(Hat tip, Ann Althouse)

The Dog Days of Winter

A.F.

After Football is a rough time of year. Everything seems to take a bit of a break. Even the news cycle seems a bit slow to me (which is actually a good thing). These dog days are especially tough for me right now because we're dogsitting, and yesterday the dog in question started having what can be politely be referred to as "stomach problems" or more accurately as, "explosive diarrhea." It's bad. Seriously. We're going to have to hire this guy. However, with no sports to speak of, a slow news cycle, and a tiny bit of spare time, I think we should take some time to reflect on some things.

1. The NHL is stupid.

You already knew this, of course. Mainly the players are stupid, as they want to be paid like they play a major sport. However, the real reason that they're stupid is that they're missing a golden opportunity to build hockey into a good "TV Sport." Hockey has always been a lousy televised sport. You can't see enough of what is going on, you can't tell players apart, and it moves too fast. However, I recently watched a college hockey game (Ohio State v. Michigan) on HDTV, and all of Hockey's problems magically disappeared. You could tell players apart. The wider screed allowed you to see the forwards and defensemen simultaneously, and you simply can't lose track of the puck because it's so clear.

The NHL should get behind HD 100%. As it's still a bit pricey to own a set, they should invest in bar specials, and heavily promote venues containing HD sets. After they settle this little labor dispute of course.

2. I once played an entire game of The Settlers of Catan with three other people in which no one ever rolled a seven. Had this happened at a craps table in Las Vegas I would now be living on a small private island in the Caribbean. But it didn't. It happened during The Settlers of Catan.

3. When most pundits write about Social Security, they almost never mention the worker/retiree ratio. This is by far the most important stat regarding Social Security.

4. Milwaukee and Madison are raising their minimum wages. While I disagree with minimum wage laws in principle, as they tend to create unemployment and consequently deny much needed working experience to younger people, my views on the issue are not set in stone. Some economists make a good case that the effects of minimum wage laws on employment are minimal. But one thing that I do know is that it is incredibly stupid to raise your minimum wage if no one else does. It will drive jobs out of the city. The cities want the state to follow suit, but this tactic strikes me as nothing more than the cities asking to be saved from themselves.

5. The Bucks should trade Michael Redd. I like Mike, but his value is very high right now, he's a free agent at the end of the year, and because he's a shooting guard he is almost certainly going to make too much money next year. Moreover, the Bucks already have a serviceable shooting guard in Desmond Mason, who is currently playing out of position at small forward. And as I've pointed out before, the most important Buck is still Toni Kukoc.

6. The Brewers cannot possibly be as bad as they were last year. Getting Carlos Lee for Scott Podsednik and Luis Vizcaino was a steal.

7. I find it slightly depressing that Andrew Sullivan still posts more often than I do, even though he's "retired."

8. I've been thinking of auctioning off my Mark Belling Bobblehead on E-bay. You're probably wondering how I got something like that. Good question.

Mark is a conservative talk show host in Milwaukee. He can be entertaining, but lately he's been getting crankier. As I now live in Chicago I haven't heard Mark's show for a few years, although I heard he had a small problem over a slip of the tongue.

Every year Mark has his annual "current events quiz." He asks trivia questions for three hours, and whichever caller gets the most correct answers in a row wins. It's fun, and the prizes are good (huge TVs, for example). As a bonus, every 30th question or so is a bobblehead question, and a few years ago I managed to get a bobblehead question correct. So now I have this bobblehead that I don't really want on display.

E-bay has always seemed like such a pain, but now we have these E-bay drop centers opening up all over town where you can just bring in your stuff and they will sell it for you. That sounds easy enough. I wonder how much it's worth.

Update: Wow, I wonder if this guy managed to get his asking price!

Update 2: Nope. But this is still pretty good if he pulled it off.

Update 3: (From David Bernstein) Who pays hundreds of dollars for these things?

9. I finished reading The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon. It's a very good quick read about an autistic 15 year old attempting to figure out who killed his neighbor's dog. He is extremely logical and mathematical, and you really get a sense of what thinking is like for an autistic person (Haddon spent some time working with mentally and physically handicapped children in the mid 80s) .

Ann Althouse read it too.

10. On March 11th the Shedd Aquarium is having a nice fundraiser:

Send winter packing when you attend Spring Break 2005. Swim on over Friday, March 11 th from 8:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m. for an evening of fun with the fish. Dance to the sounds of DJ Warp and sample beer, wine and tropical drinks by Grey Goose and Bacardi. Indulge in some of Chicago’s best food while exploring Shedd’s 90,000-gallon Caribbean Reef exhibit. On-site parking is available and starting at 11:00 p.m., complimentary trolley service will shuttle guests from Shedd to the post party at one of Chicago’s hottest clubs.

Funds raised benefit Shedd’s education programs serving more than 400,000 children each year.

For more information, including online ticket sales, please click here.

The cost is $45. I'll definitely be there. I can't really think of a cooler place to have a party than in the middle of a bunch of giant fish tanks.

11. Finally, Evan had a contest, but it's already over.

Monday, February 21, 2005

The Gates

Danny thinks that The Gates resembles a construction site, no doubt due to their somewhat unfortunate orangeness. However, I think that The Gates are quite beautiful. The best way to see them is from the sky, in motion, and as with almost all of Christo's work, it's more striking if you can see a lot of it. When the wind blows in Central Park, the gates all come together into a large orange river, and it's really quite spectacular. Danny was kind enough to post my comments at the end of his post, along with a few links to other Christo works.

One thing that we agree on is the greatness of the addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum, by Santiago Calatrava. Take a look at some of his past projects, here, here, here, here, and check out the Google Image Search results here.

And for the record, I thought that the infamous "Blue Shirt" (by Dennis Oppenheim) was ugly, but you can decide for yourself.

Happy Presidents' Day!

In honor of this day, in which some lucky people don't have to work, and the rest of us have their commute times cut in half because of it, here are the lyrics to the song "James K. Polk" by They Might Be Giants. (Listen to a snippet here.) Polk truly was our most underrated president.

In 1844, the Democrats were split
The three nominees for the presidential candidate
Were Martin Van Buren, a former president and an abolitionist
James Buchanan, a moderate
Louis Cass, a general and expansionist
From Nashville came a dark horse riding up
He was James K. Polk, Napoleon of the Stump

Austere, severe, he held few people dear
His oratory filled his foes with fear
The factions soon agreed
He's just the man we need
To bring about victory
Fulfill our manifest destiny
And annex the land the Mexicans command
And when the votes were cast the winner was
Mister James K. Polk, Napoleon of the Stump

In four short years he met his every goal
He seized the whole southwest from Mexico
Made sure the tarriffs fell
And made the English sell the Oregon territory
He built an independent treasury
Having done all this he sought no second term
But precious few have mourned the passing of
Mister James K. Polk, our eleventh president
Young Hickory, Napoleon of the Stump

Friday, February 18, 2005

Stupidity! I cast thee out!

I'm going to be out of the office most of the day, so I figured I should provide something for people to read, it being Friday and all.

Start at Danny's place, where he talks about exorcism class.

Then read Krugman, Krauthammer, and Kling, in that order.

I recommend this account of a debate between Howard Dean and Richard Perle. Seriously, who throws a shoe?

Apparently Mercedes now sucks. That's too bad.

Jeff Jarvis asks the tough questions:
Do we really need legislation about farts?

And finally, don't forget to vote!

Thursday, February 17, 2005

Good Things About Jimmy Carter

I'm not a big fan of Jimmy Carter. I think his recent meddling in foreign affairs is self serving and destructive, his energy policy was terrible, his foreign policy was terrible, and there was that whole stagflation thing (although I believe that Carter deserves blame for exacerbating, not causing, that particular problem). Just thinking about it puts me into a state of malaise. But it's important to remember that all presidents have positives and negatives. At the Conglomerate, guest blogger Brett McDonnell points out a few of the positives:

Of course Carter had many problems as president, but any serious conservative should respect several critical accomplishments. First, Carter deregulated the trucking and airline industries. Those were the beginning of the modern deregulation trend, and they remain today perhaps the most clearly successful examples of deregulation in the U.S. Second, Carter appointed Paul Volcker as chair of the Fed. Volcker was the key figure in taming inflation, and hence is due much of the credit for the prosperity of the 80s, once the Volcker-induced recession was over. Not to mention that a serious conservative should respect someone who served in the Navy for many years.

Good points all. President Carter has taken some ribbing today from the right side of the blogosphere as he's had a nuclear sub named after him, and they see this as ironic. (Powerline is way over the top on condemning Jimmy in this post. Although to be fair, Brian Leiter is way over the top in condemning Powerline (and really really over the top in condemning Glenn Reynolds) in this post. Everyone's a fascist. C'mon.) But Carter has contributed a great deal, including military service, and we should take care to remember the whole man.

Can we get Alberto Gonzales to put a stop to this?

Seriously, this is a travesty of epic proportions.
(Hat tip, Vodkapundit)

Would you like cut millions of dollars from the federal budget?

Stop doing stupid things like this:

- The Bush administration said Wednesday it would seek to reinstate an indictment against a California pornography company that was charged with violating federal obscenity laws. It was Attorney General Alberto Gonzales' first public decision on a legal matter.

Sure we've got terrorism, white collar crime, theft of government funds, voting irregularities, and a veritable plethora of serious issues, but we're going to focus instead on dirty movies. While I understand that some government officials are bound to focus on dirty movies, I prefer that they do so in their own homes, and not in court. That's just gross.

Anyway:

While acknowledging the importance of the constitutional guarantee of free speech, Gonzales said selling or distributing obscene materials does not fall within First Amendment protections.

I guess he knows it when he sees it. While acknowledging the importance of libel and slander statutes, I would just like to mention that I saw Mr. Gonzales murder someone last night. Seriously, what does Gonzales' statement even mean? I grant that First Amendment jurisprudence does not in fact cover obscenity (whatever that means) but is bringing an action that has already been dismissed really an efficient use of DOJ resources?

Green Peace v. Black Gold Violence

From Glenn:

WHEN 35 Greenpeace protesters stormed the International Petroleum Exchange (IPE) yesterday they had planned the operation in great detail. What they were not prepared for was the post-prandial aggression of oil traders who kicked and punched them back on to the pavement. “We bit off more than we could chew. They were just Cockney barrow boy spivs. Total thugs,” one protester said, rubbing his bruised skull. “I’ve never seen anyone less amenable to listening to our point of view.”
Another said: “I took on a Texan Swat team at Esso last year and they were angels compared with this lot.” Behind him, on the balcony of the pub opposite the IPE, a bleary-eyed trader, pint in hand, yelled: “Sod off, Swampy.”

Somebody put a muzzle on him

I would just like to point out that Howard Dean, a few days ago, said the following to the Democratic black caucus:

"You think the Republican National Committee could get this many people of color in a single room?," Dean asked to laughter. "Only if they had the hotel staff in here."

That is all.

(Hat tip, La Shawn Barber)

And the spam isn't even kosher!

From The Globe and Mail:

Pining for the kibbutz?

An indignant Israeli is suing a pet shop that he says sold him a dying parrot, reports the Ma'ariv newspaper. Itzik Simowitz of the southern city of Beersheba contends the shop cheated him because the Galerita-type cockatoo not only failed to utter a word when he got it home, but was also extremely ill. Mr. Simowitz adds that the shop owner assured him the parrot was not ill but merely needed time to adjust to its new environment.

Heh.
(Hat tip, Marginal Revolution)

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Chemical Weapons used on UN Troops!

Apparently a strong depressant was used on UN inspectors in order to stop them from investigating certain practices in Iraq. It brought a halt to the entire operation! The details:

At another monitoring site where the UN was supposed to check humanitarian aid supplies, Mr Ventham noticed "the team leader and his fellow countrymen [the nationality is unstated] spending the majority of their time in each other's rooms drinking vodka as opposed to managing and leading the team".

(Hat tip, Stephen Green, of course.)

Ground Control to Major Tom.

Is there life on Mars?

The scientists, Carol Stoker and Larry Lemke of NASA’s Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, told the group that they have submitted their findings to the journal Nature for publication in May, and their paper currently is being peer reviewed.

What Stoker and Lemke have found, according to several attendees of the private meeting, is not direct proof of life on Mars, but methane signatures and other signs of possible biological activity remarkably similar to those recently discovered in caves here on Earth.

Weird Item of the Day

I'm with Megan McArdle on this story. Huh?

UPDATE: More here.

Meta-Atheism

Heh.

Also, if you've never read Tabarrok's Offer, you should, but don't quit before the end.

Drezner on Syria

Dan Drezner has a nice roundup of posts on the situation in Syria on the heels of the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. From The New York Times' Steven Weisman and Hassan Fattah:

In Beirut, large crowds went to the site of the explosion, which investigators said appeared to be the work of a suicide attacker who managed to drive in between cars of Mr. Hariri's motorcade. Another theory was that the bomb had been placed in a sewer or under the pavement.

Though there were some in Lebanon who argued that the murder might have been engineered by Al Qaeda, presumably to punish Mr. Hariri for his ties to Saudi Arabia, demonstrators mobilized throughout the country to blame Syria. In Damascus, Syrian officials continued to vigorously deny involvement in the explosion.

In Sidon, Mr. Hariri's hometown, Syrian workers were attacked by dozens of protesters before the police intervened, and hundreds of Lebanese marched with black banners and pictures of the slain leader. A mob also attacked a Beirut office of Syria's ruling Baath Party.


Dan also has a nice roundup of Kyoto posts here.

TMQ in the NYT

The good bits:

In practice, cap-and-trade systems have proved faster, cheaper and less vulnerable to legal stalling tactics than the "command and control" premise of most of the Clean Air Act. For example, a pilot cap-and-trade system, for sulfur dioxide from coal-fired power plants, was enacted by Congress in 1990. Since then sulfur dioxide emissions have fallen by nearly a third (the reason you hear so little about acid rain these days is that the problem is declining - even though the amount of combustion of coal for electricity has risen.)

A pleasant surprise of that 1990 program was that market forces and lack of litigation rapidly drove down the predicted cost of acid-rain controls. Now Mr. Bush proposes to apply the same cap-and-trade approach to the entire power industry, in the hope that market forces and fewer lawsuits will lead to rapid, relatively inexpensive pollution cuts.

Here is the real beauty of the Clear Skies plan, something that even its backers may not see: many economists believe that the best tool for our next great environmental project, restraining greenhouse gases, will be a cap-and-trade system for carbon dioxide. Should President Bush's plan prove that the power industry as a whole can be subjected to a sweeping cap-and-trade rule without suffering economic harm or high costs, that would create a powerful case to impose similar regulation on carbon dioxide, too.

Monday, February 14, 2005

The Other Greenhouse Gas Treaty.

Gregg Easterbrook constantly points out that environmental trends continuously improve without regard to which party is in office. Of course Democrats are viewed as responsible environmentalists while Republicans continue to be viewed as the proprietors of Kentucky Fried Panda franchises (It's Finger LingLing Good).

In this New Republic article he mentions that the Bush administration just entered into a rather large greenhouse gas reduction treaty:


Last July, Bush announced an international agreement for global reduction in emissions of methane, the most potent of the common greenhouse gases. Discussion of action against global warming centers on carbon dioxide, which receives the bulk of attention for reasons we will get to in a moment. But molecule by molecule, methane has 23 times more atmospheric warming effect than carbon dioxide. The White House's July 2004 agreement requires the United States, United Kingdom, India, Ukraine, Mexico, and Italy to reduce global methane emissions by an amount equal to roughly one percent of all greenhouse gases released to the atmosphere by human activity. Surely you are thinking, One percent--that's not much. But the best-case outcome for the Kyoto treaty is roughly a one percent reduction in atmospheric levels of greenhouse gas.

Needless to say you've probably never seen a front-page article with a headline like, BUSH TAKES STEP TO CUT GREENHOUSE GASES. The press corps has relentlessly pretended the Bush anti-methane initiative does not exist. According to a scan of Nexis by New Republic super-intern T.A. Frank, no American newspaper put Bush's methane regulation initiative on the front page when the agreement was announced; most said nothing at all about it. Another chance to mention the initiative came in November 2004, when China, which is on a pace to pass the United States as the leading source of artificially emitted greenhouse gases, joined the anti-methane partnership. In November, Brazil, Russia, and Nigeria, a greenhouse player because of its oil industry, also joined. Again, very little notice from journalists; The Washington Post did note the development in a short article on page A24.

Read the whole thing.

The 50 Book Challenge, Numbers 3, 4, and 5

The Deptford Trilogy, by Robertson Davies.

The 50 Book Challenge.

#3 - Fifth Business
#4 - The Manticore
#5 - World of Wonders

Boy Staunton was a wealthy Canadian sugar baron in the early 1900s. He had beautiful women, an unlimited supply of money, political power, and fame. He was always larger than life, and those who knew him were to some extent crushed by his shadow. He dies in a freakish car accident that may or may not have been murder, and we see the background of those affected by Staunton in life through the tales of three people.

The first (Fifth Business) is Dunstan Ramsey, and eccentric schoolteacher and an expert on Saints (although he is not Catholic). He grew up with Boy and was throughout his life his closest friend. When they were very young Boy threw a snowball (with a rock in the center) at Dunstan which he managed to avoid. However, it struck the mother of Paul Dempster (World of Wonders) which caused the premature birth of Paul, as well as his mother's loss of sanity.

This event sets in motion the fantastical interactions between the characters, all of whom had love/hate relationships with Staunton. Dunstan always lived in his shadow, his son David (The Manticore) could never fill his father's shoes, and Paul's premature birth caused him to be undersized and constantly ridiculed. But this is not a typical murder mystery.

Davies spends most of the trilogy discussing myth and perspective. Ramsey sees the tales of saints as instructions, not to be taken literally. They are short, memorable instructions on how to live life. He believes that people create myths all the time, because it's easier to understand the world through a story than it is through a list of rather boring facts. He seems to attack reason in favor of emotion, but really he sees myth as a synergy of the two.

The Manticore looks at David Staunton, son of boy, through a Sopranos style psychiatric visit. In his sessions, David learns about the characters in his own personal myth. David the Hero, the Villain, the Romantic, and the Monster. Through his observations we see that Boy never connected with anyone, even his own family. He was constantly trying to make himself as big as possible, and his family and friends were merely props.

World of Wonders finds Paul Demptser, now the world's greatest magician, playing the part of Robert Houdin in a movie. He relates the tale of his life to the filmmakers (as well as Ramsey and his friend Liesl) to create some subtext for the movie. Paul (now called Magnus) suffered a great deal of trauma, and ended up with a traveling circus. He eventually worked his way up in the theatrical world, as the magician in a slightly better circus, as the stunt double for a theatre troupe which was still holding on to the old romantic style of theatre in its last days, and finally as the world's greatest magician.

The three tales tell us more about the ways in which people see the world than about some mysterious death. It is about myth, mystery, emotion, and ideals.

These books are character driven, and while the plot is interesting, it is the characters that are truly engrossing. It is extremely well written, as Davies has a way with words that few authors can match. Highly recommended.

Previous entries:
The Dark Tower (Spoiler Warning)

On Deck:
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
The Road to Serfdom, by F.A. Hayek

The Pro Bowl

I watched exactly 5 minutes of the Pro Bowl yesterday, and in those 5 minutes Joe Theismann said the following:

That's just Antonio Gates showing his incredible ball-adjusting ability.

and

Torry Holt just found an opening, and Michael Vick just relaxed and stuck it right in there.

Then I had to turn it off.

Neal Stephenson in Reason

One of my favorite authors in one of my favorite magazines.

Speaking as an observer who has many friends with libertarian instincts, I would point out that terrorism is a much more formidable opponent of political liberty than government. Government acts almost as a recruiting station for libertarians. Anyone who pays taxes or has to fill out government paperwork develops libertarian impulses almost as a knee-jerk reaction. But terrorism acts as a recruiting station for statists. So it looks to me as though we are headed for a triangular system in which libertarians and statists and terrorists interact with each other in a way that I’m afraid might turn out to be quite stable.

Read the whole thing.
(Hat tip, Instapundit)

Friday, February 11, 2005

Fun Friday

French people playing "basketball."

Really, I think that says it all.

(Hat tip, Marginal Revolution)

Krugman, Kling, Krauthammer

It's Friday, time for the big papers to pull out their big guns. But let's start with Arnold Kling, who's having some issues with computer rebates. He starts off with this quote from Ed Foster:

… the average claim rate on the rebate fulfillment house's table was about 25 percent.

"Now, here's the interesting part," the reader wrote. "The rebate fulfillment house will GUARANTEE IN WRITING to the manufacturer that the percentage of rebates claimed as presented in this table will not be exceeded. They will eat the cost if it is."

Small wonder then that the rebate house sometimes just can't see that receipt you're certain you included in the envelope. If they wind up paying the rebates out of their own pocket, it makes sense to just pay off those who scream the loudest. And small wonder the vendors are tempted to offer these magical discounts on their products. If one rebate fulfillment house won't guarantee to keep your costs low enough, just use a slightly sleazier one that will.


Read the whole thing.

Next, we have Pauly K on the budget. Obviously he's not a fan, but even he couldn't find fault with one provision (which he puts in parentheses. We wouldn't want word getting out that Pauly agreed with the President about something):

(Yes, Mr. Bush proposes to cut farm subsidies, which are truly wasteful. Let's see how much political capital he spends on that proposal.)

Finally, Charles on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict:

What we can say about Abbas is that while we (well, some) knew that Arafat was dedicated to perpetual war, Abbas is not. That is a start.

Indeed.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Al Franken was in Predator?

I guess that only applies to governors.

He may be running for US Senate (in Minnesota).

(Hat tip, Powerline)

UPDATE: Nope, he's not in Predator. I mean, he's not running.

(Hat tip, Will Collier)

Mmm, paper.

I know where I'm eating tonight:

...the sushi made by Mr. Cantu, the 28-year-old executive chef at Moto in Chicago, often contains no fish. It is prepared on a Canon i560 inkjet printer rather than a cutting board. He prints images of maki on pieces of edible paper made of soybeans and cornstarch, using organic, food-based inks of his own concoction. He then flavors the back of the paper, which is ordinarily used to put images onto birthday cakes, with powdered soy and seaweed seasonings.

At least two or three food items made of paper are likely to be included in a meal at Moto, which might include 10 or more tasting courses. Even the menu is edible; diners crunch it up into a bowl of gazpacho, creating Mr. Cantu's version of alphabet soup.

Read the whole thing.
(Hat tip, Marginal Revolution)


Warning: Don't Screw With Wal-Mart.

If you try to unionize a Wal-Mart, they will go "labor-nuclear" on you and just shut down the store.

If you want a nice union job, why not go work for some store that already has a union? Driving along the freeway I constantly see signs stating that we should patronize unionized stores. I'm fine with that, but what about those of us who want to patronize non-unionized stores? Shouldn't we have that option? Is that not a valid position to take? Wal-Mart obviously does not want to join the ranks of the organized, so why not let them be instead of trying to force them to adopt what they view as an abhorrent ideological system?

Megan McArdle has more.

How many pizza places are in your zip code?

Use the new Google Maps service to find out.

(Hat tip, Professor Smith)
(By the way, there are 10 pizza places in my zip code.)

The Super Bowl

Now that I've had a few days in stressful meetings, almost being set on fire, suffering from smoke inhalation, etc., I feel I can offer some insight into the Super Bowl.

First of all, the more I think about it the more I'm impressed with the Patriots offense. I think the defense gets most of the credit, and there have certainly been better offenses before, but rarely have they been so safe and at the same time so productive. Teams with big defenses often fall into the Raven's mold and maintain a caretaker offense that has the task of simply not losing the game. The Patriot offense adheres to this principle while at the same time putting up big numbers.

And for those who disparage Tom Brady as a "system quarterback," I ask you this. Aside from the Monday Night Meltdown against the Dolphins, can you recall Tom Brady throwing a pass that was even close to being intercepted? He probably does, but my mind immediately focuses on the 15 or so balls that McNabb threw that should have been picked just in the Super Bowl. Watching Brett Favre play every week you know that even in his cleanest games he throws at least one ball directly to the opposing team nearly every week. With Brady the opportunity for turnovers rarely even presents itself. It is this aspect of his game that evokes Joe Montana (and Steve Young) .

It's truly amazing that the Eagles kept is as close as they did as they suffered 4 turnovers (although the final McNabb interception was a desperation heave, and not as important as the previous 3). Whether or not McNabb was ill at the end of the game, to me he looked out of sorts all day. His passes were wobbly and often behind his receivers. Brian Westbrook made a Max McGee like grab, swiveling his body nearly 180 degrees to bring in the ball on what should have been an easy dump off.

It's even more amazing that the Eagles kept it close as they did not enjoy a large special teams advantage. Both David Akers and porn-star punter extraordinaire Dirk Johnson should have enjoyed significant advantages over their Patriot counterparts, but both Adam Viniateri (who is only slightly worse than Akers) and Josh Miller were up to the task. Indeed, Miller made what was probably the play of the game when he pinned the Eagles on their own 5 with under a minute to play.

So why was this game close?

One reason is that Josh Miller punted 7 times as opposed to Dirk Johnson's 5 times. Philly's ability to stop New England leveled the possession battle a bit. Penalties also hurt New England early, preventing them from building a lead. They suffered false start penalties on their two opening drives that led directly to punts. Because of this Philly was able to get on the board first, and, for a time, stay ahead in the battle for field position.

New England's halftime adjustments (and their many, many, many screen passes to Corey Dillon combined with repeated passes to Deion Branch over the middle) would eventually shift things in their favor, but early on, despite a few turnovers by McNabb and LJ Smith, the New England offense was stymied.

Therefore, one of the reasons that the game was close is because New England didn't really get going until the end of the third quarter, and lacked the time to build up a large lead.

On the Eagles side of things, they have a lot to look back on and second guess, but I believe the turning point of the game came right at the end of the first half. New England had been on the brink of knotting the score at 7, however an uncharacteristic missed handoff by Brady resulted in a fumble, which was scooped up by Eagle defensive tackle Darwin Walker at he Eagle 12 yard line. At this point the Patriots had already failed to capitalize on two Eagle turnovers, going three-and-out both times. If the Eagles could make something out of this rather lucky turnover they could take a fairly commanding lead into halftime. Instead Westbrook lost a yard on first down and McNabb misfired to Westbrook and Fredex on the next two plays. The Eagles used up no time and failed to pick up a first down, essentially rendering their lucky turnover moot. Dirk Johnson compounded the problem with an uncharacteristically bad 29 yard punt (which Troy Brown returned another 4 yards), giving the ball to NE at the Eagle 37 with plenty of time left. Shortly thereafter Brady hit Givens in the corner of the end zone and instead going into halftime up 7-0 or 10-0 (or even 14-0) the Eagles and Pats were tied.

It is also worth noting that Philly didn't even try to score after this sequence despite having over a minute to do so (they started the drive with a draw play to Westbrook which lost three), which foreshadowed the end of the game nicely.

The Patriots, as they always do, simply played solidly on both sides of the ball. The Eagles lost because their offense let them down in key moments.

Simple, really.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Check Your Quarters!

The ugly Wisconsin quarter might be worth $500!

Italics

For some reason my blog has become italicized. I have no idea why. I use italics to offset quotes, so until this issue is resolved, just be aware that my quoted text is indistinguishable from my normal text.

Andy Reid's Onside Kick

Was it the right move? William Krasker has the answer:


Let q denote Philadelphia's probability of winning the game if they recover the onside kick. Let p denote Philadelphia's probability of winning if they kick deep and force a three-and-out. Finally, let θ <> 0.5 p,
which reduces to

q / p > 2.5 − 2 θ.

We suspect that q is at least 2.5 times as big as p. (In fact, our estimates would be q = 0.18 and p = 0.07. ) Therefore, even if θ is zero — meaning the Eagles have no chance to win following an unsuccessful onside kick — the onside kick is still the correct choice. A more reasonable value for θ is 0.5. With that value, the onside kick is correct provided q is more than 1.5 times as large as p. That surely is the case, so we feel confident that Reid made the right decision.

The Carnival of the Vanities is

at the Coyote Blog. Thanks for the link!

Dan is right about Althouse being right about Lileks being wrong about Crumb.

Lileks has been less funny, but everyone who is driven by politics suffers a lull after the election. Some of his family stories can be cute and amusing, but they get repetitive day after day. Lileks can always fall back on his style, but his best stuff always comes from conflict (in my opinion) and he hasn't had a good conflict in a while.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Cough, Cough

Posting will be light today. You see, I've been a bundle of nerves all day as there was a fire at the Roosevelt "L" stop this morning as my train was going through it. No huge flames or anything, it was just filled with smoke. It was disconcerting, and we took some of the smoke with us for the rest of the trip (the train actually made the stop). I've been light-headed since then and I can still taste it. It must have been pretty minor, as I have yet to see a news story on it, (plus we made the stop), but for everyone in my train car it was serious (and we were delayed at Cermak/Chinatown for 20 minutes while it was extinguished). Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that I'm feeling a bit ill, and that occasionally the public transportation here spontaneously bursts into flames.

UPDATE: OK, this is getting weird. Now there are Firemen walking around work, and there are a few trucks outside.

Monday, February 07, 2005

This guy used to be in my class.

Evan's advice to Law Professors is a hoot.

Fat Tuesday

Tomorrow is Mardi Gras, which is French for "pretend you're Irish." Mardi Gras is strange because it is not so much a holiday as it is a reaction to a holiday. I suppose that Lent isn't really a holiday, more of a holiday period, but you get the idea. Lent is the 40 days before Easter in which Christians give up certain things in preparation for Easter.

I like Mardi Gras precisely because it illustrates a fundamental part of human nature. If you deny someone something that they want, and at some point they are given the opportunity to have that certain something, they're going to go crazy and consume as much of it as possible. Mardi Gras is simply a natural extension of that principle. In fact, I believe that over time people have attempted to ban all sorts of new activities and products during Lent just so they can do them and eat them during Mardi Gras (Like peeing in the street, for instance). How else do you explain the existence of cake filled with sugar? (you may be thinking that all cakes are filled with sugar, but I mean literally filled with sugar, as in, there are grainy bits of sugar in the cake.) What's next, beer with pure alcohol swirls? Of course these are pretty pedestrian examples of the crazy stuff that people come up with, but the work firewall prevents me from linking to anything racier. Just use your imagination. Or the Google image search engine. Whatever.

The behavior inspired by Mardi Gras should serve as a cautionary tale for anyone seeking to ban anything. (If the goal of said ban is to curb irresponsible behavior, that is.) One of the reasons that people under the age of 21 engage in "binge drinking" more frequently than old people (like me) is because every opportunity to do so is a rare treat. They live in perpetual Lent, with an occasional respite at the random houseparty. There but for the grace of a fake I.D. goes the underage drinker. The speakeasy/gangster culture of the roaring twenties also reflected this tendency.

I have nothing against Lent. At least it's voluntary, and if people want to participate in some voluntary carnal forbearance, more power to them. And as far as voluntary bans go, it's a pretty good one. After all, without it non-religious folks would never have a good excuse to get wasted on a Tuesday. We are essentially free riding on their fasting. In fact, if you're not of the church-going persuasion, and you are partaking of and enjoying Mardi Gras, you owe a debt of gratitude to all of those people giving something up for Lent, and you should also be encouraging more Lentesque periods of religious observance. Why can't we have Samedi Gras the day before Advent?

Of course I like Lent because the decreased demand for beer will make it cheaper for me.

Just remember that if you seek to deprive people of something that you consider to be "irresponsible," you may very well create reverence for the activity. Think about the festivals that would occur if the government or a major religion stated that as of next Saturday, X would be banned where X is something that you enjoy.

Pizza fest. Beer fest. Doughnut fest. Beer fest. Hmmm. Time to use the Google image search engine again.

Alldumb and Beerpong

Wow, I believe I've been linked here. The Sitemeter says that AllDumb is sending me a ton of traffic. The EC site has almost 400 hits already today, which is way above average. Unfortunately, due to the firewall here at work, I have no idea what the linking post looks like. I do know that they're linking to my beer pong/health care post, which makes sense. So welcome to AllDumb readers, I think.

And if you like that, post, try this one too.

UPDATE:
OK, now I've seen it. Very nice. Thanks to AllDumb for the link.

About Those Super Bowl Predictions

I told you all I'm very good at predicting the winners (especially against the spread) in the last three games of the year. Granted, I was wrong about everything else in the Super Bowl, but I was right when it counted (that's 4 years in a row of correct Super Bowl predictions by the way). I'm shocked that the Eagles were able to keep the game as close as they did given that they lost the turnover battle by 3. I bet that Eagles fans are just going crazy wondering what would have happened if McNabb had thrown one less pick (more detailed analysis to come). Let's check out the results:

Prediction - The Pats will win.
Reality - They did.

Prediction - The Eagles will cover.
Reality - They did

Prediction - The score: 27-21.
Reality - The score: 24-21. Not too shabby. I was only off by a Viniateri field goal.

Now it gets a little rougher.

Prediction - Corey Dillon will crack 125 yards on 27 carries or more.
Reality - Well, the entire Pats team had 27 carries (not counting QB), but Dillon had only 18 carries for a measly 75 yards. Oh well.

Prediction - Greg Lewis will catch at least 2 throws of 25 yards or more.
Reality - He caught one, an important TD. On McNabb's other deep throws he was wildly inaccurate. If he catches 2, the Eagles probably win.

Prediction - Jeff Thomason will catch a touchdown.
Reality - Uhm, no. The other TE, LJ Smith did, but not Jeff.

Prediction - Brian Westbrook will not have more than 75 yards rushing, nor will he have more than 50 yards receiving.
Reality - So close. Only 44 yards on the ground, but 60 big yards through the air, plus a TD. Although he could easily have gotten over 100 if not for a few crucial drops.

Prediction - Mike Vrabel will force a turnover.
Reality - He scored a TD, had 4 tackles, and a sack, but no turnovers. Had I just moved one linebacker over and picked Tedy Bruschi, who should have been the MVP (7 tackles, a sack, and an interception), I would have been fine.

Prediction - There will not be more than 2 turnovers in the game.
Reality - Is five less than 2?

Smart bet MVP - Tom Brady
Money bet MVP - Mike Vrabel, Pats. Greg Lewis, Philly.

Real MVP - Deion Branch (11 catches, 133 yards).

Hey, specifics are tough. Especially if the game gets sloppy, and that was a very sloppy game. But at least I was right about the important stuff.

More analysis to come, and post-season awards on Wednesday or Thursday.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Marquette under fire

My law school alma mater is taking some "liberal bias" criticsm for shutting down a College Republican fundraiser for the Adopt a Sniper foundation (even Glenn is on it).

I was hoping that Professor Hurt would comment:

I am assuming that this organization only raises funds and provides dissemination of training information to legitimate U.S. military and police snipers, but the website actually never says that. It speaks more broadly about "the sniping profession." When I first read the article, I thought that the snafu was based on a poor name ("Adopt-A-Sniper" sounds like something out of Soldier of Fortune for mercenaries) and poor slogans ( "1 Shot, 1 Kill, No Remorse, I Decide."), but after looking at the website, I'm less enthusiastic about it. If this was a U.S. government program, I think I would be more defending of the students and argue that war is not pretty. If we are going to support war, then we have to support even the cold, ugly parts of it.

She concludes:

My favorite part of the article, however, was the statement by the students that Marquette administrators are "ultra-liberal." I almost fell out of my chair.

Me too. Maybe spending so much time in Madison has desensitized me, but Marquette never struck me as being "ultra-liberal" in any way. In fact, as Marquette is a Cathloic/Jesuit institution, it has it's share of conservatives in positions of power and in the student body.

I think they should have left the College Republicans alone, but I suspect that shutting them down was based more on public relations than on silencing conservative speech.

Super Bowl

The Patriots are heavy favorites in this game, and with good reason. They are powerful on both sides of the ball, they play good special teams, and they don't make mistakes. They led the league in the Outsider's overall efficiency DVOA stat (the Eagles were fourth) and they absolutely took apart #'s 2 and 3 on the list already. That being said, Philly is a completely different animal, and they may be able to capitalize on a few of the Patriot's weak spots.

In my opinion Carolina came up with a good blueprint on how to beat the Pats in last year's SuperBowl. They combined a strong running game (only 16 carries, but the long run by Deshaun Foster and a few other long plays resulted in the Panthers only running 49 total plays) with a few deep passes (Muhammad has 4 catches for 140 yards, or 35 yards a catch) and put up 29 points on an excellent defense. They also suffered only one turnover (a fumble by Delhomme). If John Kasay doesn't kick a ball out of bounds the Panthers are probably the defending champs right now.

If the Eagles can duplicate that game plan, they have a shot, and they have the personnel to do so. I don't think that Owens will be much of a factor, but even if he can occupy defenders he will greatly contribute to his teams cause. Deep passes will be a key for the Eagles, and their best deep threat is their #4 WR, Greg Lewis. Lewis has become a real deep threat in the past few weeks (2 catches for 65 yards in the NFC Championship game, 2 for 64 in the divisional round) and he will have to catch at least 2 long balls in the Super Bowl. Should Lewis be held in check, it is still possible that Freddie Mitchell and Todd Pinkston can pick up the slack. Even though he's an idiot with a FroHawk, and Rodney Harrison will probably severely injure him sometime in the first quarter, Freddie Mitchell is also a capable deep threat (as is Todd Pinkston if the Wizard grants him some courage before Sunday). But Lewis is the key in the passing game.

The running game is of primary importance. Staying out of obvious passing situations is an absolute must against the Pats, and Brian Westbrook has to have a big game on the ground. Andy Reid likes to use Westbrook as a WR out of the backfield, but the speed of the Patriot linebackers can make this difficult. Their best bet in the passing game is to get Westbrook lined up outside as a true WR, and to stay away from screens and dump-offs.

As for the Patriots, I expect Belichick to call a conservative game. The real risk for the Patriots is turning the ball over, and he knows it. In last year's Super Bowl, Antowain Smith and Kevin Faulk combined for 32 carries. With the addition of Corey Dillon, I fully expect the Pats to equal, if not exceed that amount. The Eagles defense is capable of causing turnovers if an offense gives it the opportunity to do so. Brian Dawkins, Michael Lewis, Lito Sheppard and Sheldon Brown are all capable of big plays, and the blitzing style of the Eagle defense (and Javon Kearse) provides them with plenty of opportunities. That said, I think the Pat's offensive game plan will be similar to the Eagle's plan. Run first, throw deep.

Prediction: The Patriots win, but it's close. I've heard that the spread is up to 8 or so. I think this will be a relatively mistake free game. If that is the case, it will be close. It's always possible that the Patriots will get a few turnovers and steamroll the Eagles, but I don't see it. McNabb is generally careful with the ball, and has the option to run rather than forcing it into coverage.

So:
The Pats will win.
The Eagles will cover.
The score: 27-21.

Specific predictions:
Corey Dillon will crack 125 yards on 27 carries or more. Greg Lewis will catch at least 2 throws of 25 yards or more. Jeff Thomason will catch a touchdown. Brian Westbrook will not have more than 75 yards rushing, nor will he have more than 50 yards receiving. Mike Vrabel will force a turnover. There will not be more than 2 turnovers in the game.

Smart bet MVP - Tom Brady
Money bet MVP - Mike Vrabel, Pats. Greg Lewis, Philly.

So there you have it. Enjoy the game, and read the Outsider's preview too, because they actually know what they're talking about.

L&N Line picks here.

Krugman, Kling, Krauthammer

It's Friday! Time for our weekly triple dose of politically balanced commentary from the New York Times, Washington Post, and Tech Central Station.

I'll give you three guesses as to the topic of Pauly K's column this Friday. Social Security? Correct! How did you ever guess? He states that the President's plan is functionally equivalent to having people borrow in order to buy stocks. Of course he never makes the point that the current plan has people borrowing to buy government bonds (if we use proper accounting practices and actually account for promised future benefits for people like me, anyways). But that is what I am here. Next, can you find the inconsistency in the following paragraphs?

The only way to get ahead would be to invest in risky assets like stocks, and hope for higher yields. But if the investment went wrong and you earned less than 3 percent after inflation, your benefit cuts would leave you poorer than if you had never opened that private account.
So people are expected to take a loan from the government and use it to buy stocks, and if that turns out to have been a mistake - well, too bad.


Experts usually tell people to plan for their retirement by investing in a mix of stocks and bonds. They disapprove strongly of speculation on margin: borrowing to buy stocks. Yet Mr. Bush wants tens of millions of Americans to do exactly that.

Did Pauly just state that the way in which Social Security is currently funded is stupid? I think he did. He sets up a strawman who will only purchase stocks for his retirement (from scarecrowing) and criticizes him based on "the experts." But those same experts must be critical of the current system as well if they support a diverse investment portfolio. And, of course, the only way that one can invest in a diversified portfolio is if they have control over the account. Oh well, on to Arnold.

Can we boycott Saudi Oil as a political tool? Will it do any good? That is the topic of Arnold Kling's TCS article today:

Energy conservation sounds like a painless way to lower the Saudis' income. Who could be against conservation?

The point to keep in mind is that any oil conservation program will do two things. First, it will reduce our ratio of oil consumption to Gross Domestic Product (GDP, the total value of goods and services produced each year). Second, oil conservation will reduce GDP. The reason it will reduce GDP is that we will have to substitute other factors of production, including labor, capital, and more costly forms of energy, in order to conserve on oil.

I have received emails suggesting that the United States should aim for a 10 percent reduction in its energy consumption, because this would cause a significant drop in the price of oil. But how much would this reduce our GDP? Perhaps by as much as 10 percent. Even if it only were to reduce our GDP by 5 percent, that would be $500 billion. If your goal is to change the foreign policy of Saudi Arabia, my guess is that there are ways of doing so that would cost less than $500 billion.

The reality is that energy conservation is a feeble tool for foreign policy. Significant conservation could be very costly to our own country. It might have only a small effect on Saudi oil revenue. It is not at all clear that a drop in Saudi oil revenue would bring about favorable changes in their policies toward terrorism.


I agree that it's generally a good idea to separate trade/economic policy from politics. I'm against almost all trade restrictions for exactly the reasons Arnold states, "it hurts me more than is hurts you."

I'll leave you with Charles Krauthammer:


Why weren't Iraqis dancing in the streets on the day Saddam Hussein fell, critics have asked sneeringly. Some Iraqis, the young and more reckless, did dance. Others, I suspect, were too scared, waiting to see how things turned out. Would the United States leave them hanging as in 1991? Would it leave behind a "moderate" Baathist thug in its place?

Nearly 22 months later, Iraqis seemed convinced that there would indeed be a new day. And that is when the dancing started -- voters dancing and singing and celebrating, thrusting into the air their ink-stained fingers, symbol of their initiation into democracy. It was an undeniable, if delayed, feeling of liberation. Said one prominent Shiite spokesman: "We are celebrating the end of tyranny."





Thursday, February 03, 2005

A Word About Toni Kukoc

I recently added the SabrHoops site, 82 Games to the Blogroll Sports Section, and they provided me with a stat that I've been seeking for quite some time. I have long suspected that Toni Kukoc is the most important member of the Milwaukee Bucks. I believe that one of the primary reasons they have struggled this year is due to his decreased playing time. Well, now I have some proof.

Toni's net plus/minus is quite good, but I could have told you that from watching the team play. I don't know why coaches can't see it. He's still an offensive threat, he's not anymore of a defensive liability than any other Buck, and he's by far their best passer. Sure he's old, and slow, and white, but he improves the team when he's on the floor. His passing has increased value now that Damon Jones has moved on and TJ Ford is injured.

Toni got the start in the Bucks last game, contributed 33 minutes, scored 9 points and dealt out 5 assists in a Bucks victory over the Timberwolves. The Bucks have problems hanging with lowly Eastern Conference teams. Beating the T-Wolves (even a struggling T-Wolves team) is a major accomplishment.

People used to refer to Toni Kukoc as the greatest non-US player in the world. He still has a lot to offer, I just hope we get a chance to see it.

Learning made fun!

Courtesy of Sasha Volokh.

Thanks to Andrew Sullivan

I probably wouldn't have my own little blog if not for Andrew. His was the first blog that I discovered, and it was consistently one of the best largely due to Andrew's rather unique perspective on the world.

I first encountered Andrew's blog, believe it or not, thanks to Gregg Easterbrook and his Tuesday Morning Quarterback column, then on ESPN.com (now on NFL.com). Gregg, in addition to writing about football, also writes about politics for the Atlantic Monthly and The New Republic. Because of Gregg I made a habit of visiting TNR.com on a daily basis and soon encountered Andrew Sullivan, who used to be the editor of TNR and is still a frequent contributor. I enjoyed almost everything he wrote, but I always thought, "if only he would write a little more frequently."

At about the same time I was developing into my news-junkie habit by reading CNN.com and Foxnews.com everyday and trying to pick out all of the differences in their coverage. On Foxnews.com they occasionally link to a blog called TongueTied, which purports to point out instances of political correctness run amok. It is occasionally interesting, although I sometimes think that they stretch for material. However, if you scroll down the Blogroll at TongueTied (which used to be considerably shorter), you'll notice the name of Andrew Sullivan. "Just Andrew Sullivan?" I thought. So I clicked and I was quickly reading my first blog (Note: Yes, TongueTied is a blog too, but at the time it seemed like some weird little feature of FoxNews, so I don't count it).

It's oddly appropriate that the liberal TNR and the conservative Tonguetied/FoxNews conspired to lead me there. Andrew led to Instapundit, and Virginia Postrel (who has been kind enough to link us twice), and Dan Drezner (who guestblogged for Andrew about a year and a half ago, and was kind enough to link us once). And the rest followed.

Andrew is going on what is hopefully a temporary hiatus to write a book and take care of some other things. I can certainly understand that , as the volume of information that he generates is staggering. I wish him well and hope to see him back in the not to distant future, and I give my sincere thanks.

PS: I've never been linked by Andrew, but I was the one who sent in this Simpsons reference.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

A Busy Few Days

I've been just swamped for a few days. Tomorrow and Friday, I'll definitely have posts on the Super Bowl, (including yet another incredibly accurate pick) the State of the Union, Toni Kukoc, Andrew Sullivan, and much, much more.

Until then...

A Letter to my Congressman

February 1, 2005

TO: Congressman Sabo

FROM: Mr. Ryan Simatic

RE: 109th Congress


Congressman Sabo,
Allow me to point out a few things that may seem to be the obvious, but, with all due respect, may be the trees obscuring the forest. It is now the 109th Congress and as I’m sure you’re well aware, you are in the Democratic minority. Whilst your peers will be occupied pointing out the negative impact of Republican policy initiatives, it would behoove you to also point out what the Republicans are not doing as well. Allow me to expound.

As I’m sure you are aware, incumbents rarely lose, and you occupy a seat in a democratic stronghold that you have held continuously since 1978; indeed, your percentage of votes has not dropped below 62% since your initial election to congress, and your last Republican challenger garnered only 26% of the vote in 2004. Considering the prior statements, I would recommend that you use your relatively secure seat to harshly criticize the Republican agenda, whenever possible, in public, drawing specifics links to its lack of positive impact in your district and the state of Minnesota on the whole, while emphasizing your social agenda as tolerant and all welcoming in a true Christian fashion, and your economic agenda as prudent, prosperous, and fair. Your security will allow you to be harsh in your criticisms and paint a picture in which your views and your party are the obvious choice. You have been a career Democratic politician since you were 22 years old. It’s time to take some risks. Allow me to suggest five things.

Firstly, although the Republican majority likes to portray themselves as the party that rails against “big government,” they often support an agenda that interferes with people’s personal choice and civil liberties. Is this the way that “freedom” is exercised? It is obviously not, and you need to remind voters of your tolerant Lutheran upbringing and voting record against such invasive legislation. In the 107th Congress you voted against “Faith-Based Charities,” against banning homosexuals from the Boy Scouts, and against curtailing abortion rights. The ACLU rates your performance at 93 out of 100. Set an example, arguing that Minnesota wants complete freedom, positive freedom, and won’t stand for government intervention in our bedrooms.

Secondly, while you may be a member of the party of “big government,” it would be politically advantageous to further publicize your wish for “liberal decentralization,” that is, an agenda of compassionate liberal social causes that are dealt with at the local level and only aided by the federal government during extraneous circumstances. As a liberal that loves compassionate programs that strengthen our community, but hates paying for farm subsidies in Alabama, this theme resonates loudly with me and I’m sure it would resonate even louder with moderates and left-leaning Republicans that resist anything “big government.” I believe this should be more common in the Democratic Party and perhaps forming a group of likeminded representatives similar to your “Friends of Norway” organization would be in order.

Thirdly, as a member on the House Appropriations Committee and Transportation Subcommittee, you were instrumental in funding the Hiawatha Light Rail Line currently serving Minneapolis and Bloomington. Point out that such projects garner little support from Republicans, but are beloved by your constituents as well as those people who enjoy the line as residents outside of the 5th district, not to mention the tourists that generate tax revenues along the cross-district line. All policy proposals regarding mass transit should be fairly safe given the huge success of the Hiawatha Line in Minneapolis which comprises over half of your 615,000 constituents. Be sure to note that you spoke side-by-side with Gov. Tim Pawlenty on the opening day of the line in a display of bipartisan community. Projects such as the Hiawatha Line and the new Federal Courthouse (which you also spearheaded) play big in the 5th district because its intense urbanization (100%) allows the public to experience the positive power of government firsthand through interaction with these projects. Furthermore, this plays to the large influx of African immigrants (a sevenfold increase in the last decade) that has come to Minneapolis who have not yet lined up along the ideological fault lines of partisan politics. Do whatever you can to enlarge the light rail system and bring large-scale government projects to the urban core. This is your bread and butter as a member of the Appropriations Committee and Transportation Subcommittee; use it to your advantage and propose some example-setting legislation for transportation reform in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Fourthly, support Howard Dean for the party chair. In an article published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, you were sited as not pushing for any particular candidate. Support Dean as he is a liberal Dem who will be tempered by electoral politics when necessary; this is far better for the party than a chair that is too moderate and will not push for the leftist party base represented in your district when the opportunities arise. Republicans hate Dean because (amongst other things) they're threatened by his mobilization of the liberal base; that's good.

Lastly, in a brilliant maneuver that appeals to all Americans, you proposed a bill legalizing same-day voter registration in all states. Anyone attempting to block this bill will come off as attempting to stop people from voting (Republican Senator Jonathon Courtney has already done so). You can point to the success that this policy has had in Minnesota in bringing new people and young people into the political process; participation in the American experiment is something all politicians should champion. Give this bill a good deal of your political effort, and any other bill like it.

I know that confrontational politics are probably not your strong suit and such politics may catapult you into the national media spotlight; however, these are dark times for liberal and it is time that push back and show the American people that the party of Social Security and the New Deal still can make America and the rest of the world a better place for everyone, not just an elite few. Follow these five suggestions and hopefully they will push congressional politics into the right directions for years to come.

Kindest Regards,

Ryan Simatic
5th District of Minnesota


 
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