The Electric Commentary

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Oscar Responds

Oscar Madison responds to this post, here:

As I argued previously, numerous factors render it difficult to compare player performance across time. I forgot to mention, that any serious baseball fan knows that there are numerous factors that skew player performance records even among contemporaries. A hitter who plays 81 home games in a hitters park, like Houston or Denver for instance, will likely have inflated hitting statistics. Furthermore, we also know that a hitter will compile better numbers and perform better if he bats in a better lineup – a great hitter in a weak lineup can lose lots off his performance stats because opposing teams consistently pitch around him. And speaking of which, Barry Bonds (steroid allegations aside) might well have 100 extra home runs by now had opposing teams refrained from the arguably “unsportsmanlike,” or at least unsporting practice of pitching around him and intentionally walking him to the tune of 150 to 200 walks per season the last few years.

I dropped a response in Oscar's comment section and Tom Bozzo and Oscar have both responded via e-mail and in the comments section here. Check it out. And if you're interested in the steroid controversy make sure to read Oscar's full account here (scroll down about half way, and then keep scrolling).

Busy, Busy, Busy

Plus Blogger is being bitchy, and I don't have time to keep reposting things over and over. At least not today.

Before I go, I would like to mention one last thing. Here at the EC we write a lot about the politics and law surrounding alcohol and drunk driving. The following is an important item that needs to be reported. If you are pulled over by a cop for drinking and driving, and you're attempting to think of ways to beat the Breathalyzer, you can cross this off the list.

Eww.

(Hat tip, Dave Barry)

Under Construction

If I have any spare time today or tomorrow, I will be experimenting with new templates for the blog, so if it looks strange at any point, now you know why. Professor Althouse informed my brother that the EC looks very strange when you use Apple's Safari browser, and I've been meaning to shop around for a new look anyway. Now is as good a time as any.

By the way, if Blogger has been ticking you off as much as it has me, Althouse has a tip that may help you:

By the way, blogging from Blogger has been really pesky lately, but you can bypass all the problems by working through Flickr, which is what I'm doing now. Click "blog this" above a photo and you can get to a "compose your blog entry" window, click post, and get the post up immediately, without the Blogger hangups!

Update: There are some nice templates here.

Update 2: Blogger is making this very difficult. My apologies for any glitches that you encounter.

Update 3: I really liked the last one I tried, but I couldn't get it to accommodate a group blog. Alas.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Racist Police Chief to Cost Milwaukee Around $5,000,000

If there is one word that describes the tenure of Art Jones as Milwaukee's Chief of Police, it is "race-based." (OK, one hyphenated word.) Rarely is a man so consumed by concerns of race and race relations. I lived in Milwaukee during the conclusion of Jones' tenure, and he was truly a wretched chief. The police force was in constant disarray, units were reassigned and disbanded haphazardly and without any clear plan or explanation. The gang unit was disbanded, and, shockingly, gang violence increased. While every major metro area in the country saw crime fall dramatically, Milwaukee basically held steady.

Now Jones' racist actions are going to cost the city big-time. 17 officers filed suit against Jones and the city claiming that they were the victims of discrimination with regard to promotions. They easily won their case, and will probably win an average of $300,000 each for back pay. (I suspect that the city will be on the hook for legal fees as well).

This is somewhat ironic, as Jones rose to prominence through a similar suit in 1974:

As a young officer, Jones was part of a 1974 complaint and a follow-up lawsuit that led to court orders to improve the hiring and promotion of minority officers. As the city's first permanent African-American chief, Jones engaged in discrimination himself, the jury found.

and predictably filed a discrimination suit against the city when he was fired.

What is now obvious is that Jones was not fired because he was black, but his race certainly did have something to do with it. Jones may very well have been a victim way back when he filed his first discrimination suit, and perhaps some good came of it, but his obsession with his own race, and his constant one-man conquest to right all racial wrongs by promoting minority officers over and over, even when they were not qualified, will do more to undermine his cause than to promote it.

He has destroyed the credibility of those that he promoted, which is a shame. Most of those officers, if they were not truly qualified at the time, may have been qualified after a few years, but Jones has destroyed them. The community, and the rest of the force will almost certainly look down on them, even though they were simply taking advantage of what was presented to them. Racial tension in the department will almost certainly increase. The city, already strapped for cash, will be hit very hard by this. It is simply a disaster.

And Jones still doesn't get it:

"I believe that it is a blow to diversification, and I think that's very important to a municipal police department, especially here in Milwaukee," he said.

Jones also defended his record, saying that his promotions included four white females, three black females, two black males, two Hispanic males and one male Pacific Islander with an "understanding" that more than half his 41 promotions to captain were white men.

He's still looking at skin color before qualification

Thankfully, this is now all but over, and the Milwaukee Police Department can hopefully move on to serious business, like, you know, catching criminals and stuff.

One last thing. I was immediately curious about the racial make up of the jury, but the Journal-Sentinel only gives us this:

The eight-person jury - three white men and five women - (emphasis added) took slightly more than a day deliberating before they brought back the verdict, which U.S. District Judge Thomas Curran read while the hastily assembled group of almost all the plaintiffs sat, tight-lipped, in chairs ringing the small courtroom where they had waited out the trial.

Were the women also white? If so, this is an odd way of wording the sentence. If not, isn't it worth mentioning the racial breakdown of the women. Either way, it is unclear.

I guess I'll never know.

UPDATE:

I actually e-mailed the author of the article, Derrick Nunnally, and he responded. Basically, the Journal was also unaware of the racial breakdown of the female jurors. It is clear that there were at least three white female jurors, one black female juror, and one of ambiguous ethnicity. The documents that definitively list the ethnicities of the jurors is still being withheld by the court, which is why the article is ambiguous as to that point. Mr. Nunnally also stated that they included the ethnicity of the males because 1. It was clear that they were white, and 2. White males were the plaintiffs in the case.

Thanks to Derrick Nunnally for his promptness, candor, and clarity in answering my question.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Feel Like Murdering Someone?

At the Volokh Conspiracy, Orin Kerr notes a law review article written by Michigan State Law Professor Brian Kalt. Professor Kalt has noticed that, due to a quirk of Federal and Constitutional law, you can commit basically any crime in the Idaho region of Yellowstone Park. His case is fairly solid:

Say that you are in the Idaho portion of Yellowstone, and you decide to spice up your vacation by going on a crime spree. You make some moonshine, you poach some wildlife, you strangle some people and steal their picnic baskets. You are arrested, arraigned in the park, and bound over for trial in Cheyenne, Wyoming before a jury drawn from the Cheyenne area. But Article III, Section 2 plainly requires that the trial be held in Idaho, the state in which the crime was committed. Perhaps if you fuss convincingly enough about it, the case would be sent to Idaho. But the Sixth Amendment then requires that the jury be from the state (Idaho) and the district (Wyoming) in which the crime was committed. In other words, the jury would have to be drawn from the Idaho portion of Yellowstone National Park, which, according to the 2000 Census, has a population of precisely zero. (The Montana portion--should you choose to rampage there--has an adult population of a few dozen, which might nevertheless present Sixth Amendment problems as well. )

The Constitution entitles you to a jury trial and an impartial jury of inhabitants of the state and district where the crime was committed. The U.S. Code steps on the rusty nail; it makes it impossible to satisfy both provisions in the case of the Yellowstone State-Line Strangler.

Assuming that you do not feel like consenting to trial in Cheyenne, you should go free.

I highly recommend reading the whole thing, and staying out of the non-Wyoming sections of Yellowstone for a while. You can download the article here.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Drinking 101

Maybe if young adults stop viewing alcohol as a taboo, they won't abuse it quite as much. Colby College has the right idea:

Colby officials say the program is just one component of the college's alcohol education efforts. "There are some who say the college should take a just-say-no approach, but I don't think that's realistic," said Janice Kassman, dean of students.

It was the notion that college life seemed to include just two types of alcohol consumption -- too much or none at all -- that prompted Catherine Welch, the student government president, to suggest the get-togethers. College administrators gave the OK.

In a room off a dining hall, an average of 30 to 50 students come and go from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on select Fridays. It is a tasteful affair, with white tablecloths and $1 drinks served by a bartender in a tuxedo shirt and black pants.

The students can learn about the beer and wines by reading handouts or talking to wine distributors and brewery owners who may show up. Featured wines have come from Argentina, Chile, California, Oregon, Australia, New Zealand, Sicily and South Africa. Beers have included ales, porters, stouts and Belgian-style varieties from breweries in Maine, Vermont, New York and California.

On a recent night, most of the students came simply to enjoy a drink with friends over dinner. Some said they now feel more informed.

Katie Lucas, a junior from Milwaukee, said knowing a chardonnay from a pinot grigio from a sauvignon blanc will help at business dinners for her summer job at an investment firm. "It's good to know your preferences so you can sound confident," she said.

If alcohol is truly a concern on campus, moderation is definitely the way to go, and a good way to extol the virtues of moderation is to introduce some sophistication. Classes and events like this are certainly not a cure all, but they are better than nothing at all.

I would actually like to see something similar to this for kids in their mid-teens. The idea that binge drinking is cool is driven into teenagers on a regular basis by their peers and in pop-culture, and learning to drink in moderation, in a controlled environment is a good idea. I've made the driver's ed analogy before and I'll do it again. Would you like your 21 year old daughter to simply be issued a car on her 21st birthday with no instructions or training, with the exception of what her friends tell her?

This article has some criticism of the program too, all of it stupid:

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says drinking by college students contributes to about 1,400 student deaths each year, along with 500,000 injuries and 70,000 cases of sexual assault.

I can't believe that National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism is against drinking. I though that they would be for it. And they even have ready to go statitstics! Seriously, can we stop quoting interest groups in news stories? I have a better idea: Let's play Mad Libs!

The National Institute on "Noun" Abuse says that "Adverb" "Verb" by "Group of People" contributes to "Horrible Tragedy."

For instance:

The National Institute on Wristwatch Abuse says that excess tightenings by businessmen contributes to a slowdown in productivity, unsightly blue hands, and frequent amputations.

or

The National Institute on Cow Abuse says that inappropriate milking by unibrowed farmers contributes to a lack of sensitivity in cow udders as well as horrible bovine/human monsters roaming the countryside.

or

The National Institute on Wicker Abuse says that excessive weaving by the Amish contributes to poor posture in wicker aficionados, and a severe drain on the wicker reed industry.

Quoting the positions of special interest groups is not news. Let's move on:

Henry Wechsler, director of College Alcohol Studies at the Harvard School of Public Health, said colleges should not be in the business of providing alcohol to students, who already have plenty of drinking opportunities at fraternities, bars and parties.

"This free flow of alcohol is one of the problems around binge drinking," Wechsler said. "It's ironic that giving more alcohol should solve the problem."


Actually I'm not sure that CNN is reading Weschler properly. His quote, I think could be interpreted as "pro booze-class" or anti booze-class. Assuming that the quote is "anti booze-class," couldn't you also say something like:

Colleges should not be in the business of providing reading assignment to students, who already have plenty of reading opportunities at their apartments, libraries, and in the john.

or

Colleges should not be in the business of providing housing for students, who already have plenty of rental opportunities in the city.

Of course, colleges have a certain expertise on what books are especially important for students to read, and can offer insight into their meanings and significance. Colleges and Universities also feel that the dorm experience creates a sense of community that is beneficial to new students. Why is drinking so different? Why do colleges have nothing to offer with regard to sophisticated, adult drinking customs?

One thing that I am sure of is that the "free flow of alcohol" is not the problem. Rarely has there been a product with a more inelastic demand curve. I mean, when we had prohibition people were making alcohol in bathtubs at huge personal risk! People are going to drink; they should know how to do it properly.

Friday, March 25, 2005

Check it out.

They finally discovered how to make fire in West Virginia!

Fun Friday

Since Kling, Krauthammer, and Krugman all took the day off today, we'll provide some lighter material. A few years ago the cartoon Animaniacs featured a song to the tune of the Mexican Hat Dance that mentioned every country in the world. Unfortunately it did not feature every country, it included some non-countries, and it relied on a lot of filler words to make the rhyming and meter work. Sasha Volokh thought that he could do better, and so he has:

The Countries of the World
Alexander "Sasha" Volokh
to the tune of "The Mexican Hat Dance," inspired by The Animaniacs; current as of 5/20/97

Russia, Slovenia, Sweden, Armenia, Norway, Great Britain, Ukraine,
Belgium, Andorra, the Vatican, Monaco, Italy, Portugal, Spain.
Ireland, Albania, Greece, Lithuania, Latvia, Finland, Estonia,
Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg, France, Macedonia.

Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Belarus, Azerbaijan, San Marino,
Moldova, the Netherlands, Denmark, Bulgaria, Bosnia-Herzegovino.

Yugoslavia, Iceland, Romania, Poland, Croatia, Morocco, Algeria,
Malta, Tunisia, Cyprus, Kuwait, Georgia, Lebanon, Israel, Syria.
Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Iraq, Arab Emirates, Jordan, Qatar,
Chad, Eritrea, Bahrain, Ethiopia, Egypt, Benin, Cote d'Ivoire.

Cameroon, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Senegal, Yemen, Oman,
Somalia, Togo, Liberia, Guinea-Bissau, Niger, Mali, Gabon.

Tanzania, Namibia, Malawi, Libya, Guinea, Cape Verde, The Gambia,
Equatorial Guinea, Sierra Leone, Sao Tome and Principe, Zambia.
Mauritania, Ghana, Angola, Botswana, Burundi, South Africa, Rwanda,
Mozambique, Central Africa, Congo Republic, Lesotho, Djibouti, Uganda.

Zimbabwe, Maldives, Kenya, Swaziland, Congo, Mauritius, Comoros, Sudan,
Seychelles, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, Iran.

Myanmar, Turkmenistan, Laos, Afghanistan, China, Vietnam, Kazakhstan,
Mongolia, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Fiji, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan.
Marshall Islands, Tajikistan, Tonga, Uzbekistan, Western Samoa, Bhutan,
The Philippines, Northern and Southern Korea, Papua New Guinea, Taiwan.

Kiribati, Australia, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Brunei, Indonesia,
Tuvalu, Nauru, Japan, Vanuatu, New Zealand, Palau, Micronesia.

Bolivia, Ecuador, Chile, El Salvador, Panama, Suriname, Paraguay,
Venezuela, Guyana, Brazil, Argentina, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Uruguay.
Trinidad and Tobago, Honduras, Barbados, Republic Dominican, Cuba,
Guatemala, Colombia, St. Kitts and Nevis, Jamaica, Antigua-Barbuda.

Nicaragua, Peru, St. Lucia, Bahamas, Grenada, Belize, Costa Rica,
Dominica, Canada, Mexico, Haiti — [pause] — United States of America!

Covering Dylan is Hard?!

I read this article by Dana Stevens in the Slate this morning and I had the same reaction as Professor Althouse. First read this quote:

No living human could reproduce the precise blend of vanity, pathos, and smarm that Ricky Gervais, the co-creator and star of the British series, brought to the character of David Brent, but Carell wisely re-imagines the role from the ground up; his version is less a buffoon than a dickhead, with the knitted brow and aggressive physicality of Ben Stiller. He also wears his self-loathing closer to the surface than his predecessor did; where Gervais was wrapped in a cocoon of self-regard, Carell seems constantly on the verge of a temper tantrum, or possibly tears. Carell understands the needy, unlovable Michael Scott from the inside out. But some characters belong to the actor that created them; stepping into such a role, any other performer is as doomed as a singer covering a Bob Dylan song. (Emphasis added).

Now how could someone actually write that? All Along The Watchtower, anyone?

Bob Dylan is a great songwriter and an accomplished musician, but his performances, especially over the course of my lifetime, leave a lot to be desired. You can't understand Bob Dylan anymore. Back when he was still in his prime you could at least make out what he was saying, but now it sounds like he has a kazoo stuck in his throat. His ability to perform has never lived up to his writing and recording prowess, but now he's just abysmal.

Covering Dylan is a great way to generate a big hit, and, as Althouse points out, many people have done exactly that:

Dylan made his way into public favor through the work of the artists who covered him -- Joan Baez; Peter, Paul & Mary; The Byrds. A great thing about Dylan has always been how wonderfully well his songs transform in the hands of another singer.

Amen.

Shocking News of the Day

My jaw hit the floor when I read the following at Marginal Revolution:

Ratio of active workers at General Motors to retirees on its pension rolls: 2:5

Total pension costs of the company per vehicle it produces: $675

Those are from Harper's Index, April issue.

Wow.

Snake! Snake! Oh, it's a snake!

Well, I'm out of my pool. I had Oklahoma State winning it all, but Salim Stoudamire sent them home with a very difficult fadeaway jumper with 2.8 seconds remaining. Alas.

UWM put up a better fight than I thought they would, and if Ed McCants could have made any shots at all they might have stolen this game, but Ed was ineffective largely because of the Illini defense (which is also why Joah Tucker was able to get free so often).

Tonight the Badgers take on Julius Hodge and the N.C. State Wolfpack. It should be a tough game, but really, if you are the Badgers, you have to take advantage of not playing a single-digit seed in the tournament to this point. The Badgers should be able to pull this one out, although it will be a tough, grind-it-out style game.

I also look for Tom Izzo to lose to Duke yet again, Villanova, missing Curtis Sumpter, to go down to North Carolina, and Kentucky to blow out Utah.

Finally, I'm now officially sick of the Bruce Pearl thing (you would be too if you lived here), but I'd like to offer up one last point:

Getting angry at Bruce Pearl for the sanctions leveled against Illinois is just like a Bears fan getting angry at Don Majkowski for the "over-the-line" touchdown. Maybe Don was in front of the line of scrimmage when he threw the ball, and maybe he was not, (Note: He was, of course, not in front of it), but even assuming that he was in front of it, how is it his fault that the refs screwed it up? Bears fans should be angry with the replay official and the refs, but Majkowski had no influence on the ruling. It is not Majkowski's fault that the Bears "were screwed" and it's not Pearl's fault that the Illini were screwed.

Now, let's all watch the Badger cartoon. It is, after all, Badger Day.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

A positive item about Illinois

For the record, I think that Illinois is going to just destroy UWM tonight. UWM runs a press defense, and I don't think that they can win playing any other way. Illinois has three outstanding guards in Dee Brown, Luther Head, and Deron Williams (who would look mighty nice in a Bucks uniform next year), and they will not have a problem breaking the press. UWM's strength is their guards, and the Illinois guards are just better.

I also like Oklahoma State to beat Arizona, Louisville to upset Washington (and make the seeding committee look sillier than they already do), and Bobby Knight's Red Raiders to beat up on West Virginia.

The 50 Book Challenge

can be found here.

#8. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
#9.The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell
#10. The Final Solution, by Michael Chabon

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is about a world in which magic exists but has been forgotten, and how two magicians return magic to England. It's a fun read, and actually more of a comedy of English manners than a fantasy a la Tolkien.

Norrell is an academic. He sits in his study all day and all night reading books. He's overly cautious, and skeptical of anyone else practicing magic, often employing the arm of the state to prevent anyone else from joining in his studies.

Strange is more entrepreneurial. He goes out into the world and simply does magic. He never backs away from a challenge, although he is occasionally careless.

The most compelling part of the book is actually contained largely in the footnotes, and lays out a compelling mythology of Northern England which was ruled for 300 years by the greatest magician in history, John Uskglass, The Raven King. It is definitely worth a read (although it is quite long) and do not skip the footnotes.

The Tipping Point deals with certain phenomenon that mirror epidemics in how they spread. Gladwell discusses things like fads, fashion, Sesame Street and Blues Clues, and Paul Revere. I think that the idea of information as an epidemic is an interesting one and I've actually (somewhat coincidentally) read a few other (fiction) books dealing with the subject recently (Lullaby by Chuck Palahniuk, and Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson). A very interesting book.

The Final Solution finds Chabon writing a Sherlock Holmes story. Holmes is never mentioned by name, and it takes place in his elderly years, but it is very clearly him. Holmes, now retired, has turned to bee keeping as a hobby. One day a small boy passes buy with a parrot on his shoulder and almost touches the third rail of a train track. Holmes saves the boy, and in the process discovers that the boy has recently escaped from Nazi Germany, is mute, and that the parrot spews forth a series of numbers for some reason. Murder and mayhem ensues, and Holmes must come out of retirement to solve the case.

A nice short read.

On deck:

Lummox, by Mike Magnuson
Gravity's Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon
The Diamond Age, by Neal Stephenson

Creating Criminals

That is precisely what we did when we lowered the drunk driving blood alcohol level from .1 to .08, and now it's costing people their lives. How? From Radley Balko's most recent TCS article:

Alcohol industry advocates and civil libertarians made two predictions after .08 and roadblocks went national:

(1) Arrests would go up, triggering new outrages and calls for even more stringent laws aimed at curbing drinking and (as opposed to drunk) driving.

(2) Highways would get less safe, as cops, courts, and jail cells that could be used to pursue actual drunken drivers would instead be used to apprehend social drinkers.

We've certainly seen plenty of point one -- state legislatures are falling all over themselves to pass extra-constitutional policies aimed at "cracking down" on impaired driving.

Unfortunately, point two is proving correct, too.

After two decades of decline, alcohol-related deaths are inching upward again. It's important to point out that data from NHTSA on drunk driving fatalities and traffic deaths is significantly flawed. The "alcohol-related" figure includes all accidents where alcohol is in any way involved, including for example, an accident in which a sober driver strikes a drunk pedestrian. The Los Angeles Times concluded a few years ago that the number of cases in which a sober person was killed by a drunk driver is about one-fourth of the figure put out each year by NHTSA.

Nevertheless, since .08 and ubiquitous roadblocks, alcohol-related deaths are climbing again. Opponents of alcohol-control policies see this as vindication of their objections to roadblocks and .08. Oddly enough, a press release issued last week by the National Transportation Safety Board offers further proof that they may be right.

It's title? "Hard Core Drinking Driving Fatalities on the Rise."

"Americans are more aware than ever before of the dangers of drinking and driving," the release begins. "Few realize, however, that drunk driving fatalities continue to rise -- and that thousands of them are caused by extreme or repeat offenders known as "hard core drinking drivers."

The study goes on to point out that these "hard core" offenders account for 40% of traffic accidents but account for just 33% of drunk driving arrests.

It's actually worse than that. If we look at "fatalities" instead of "accidents," drivers with a BAC above .10 account for 77% of the alcohol-related body count. And the average BAC in fatal accidents involving alcohol is .17. Put another way, motorists with very high blood-alcohol levels account for an increasing percentage of highway fatalities, but a decreasing percentage of arrests.

Clearly, we're allocating limited law enforcement resources toward the wrong pool of offenders.

Read the whole thing.

Apparently steroids do not enhance your ability to coach.

Heh.

(Actually, this may prove to be a fairly big story.)

Perhaps I can offer some cheese to go with that whine.

I've written about controversial topics hundreds of times before, but never have I been inundated with as many e-mails as I have over this post on Bruce Pearl and Illinois. Some of these e-mails have even been thoughtful, and contained no spelling errors. None have been convincing. (Note: Much of this is due to a comment I dropped at the Illini Wonk blog.)

The one thing that could change my mind is if someone could offer some evidence that Bruce Pearl doctored the tape, as was alleged in almost every e-mail I received. I find this highly implausible (Occam's Razor and all), but I suppose it is not impossible.

Why is it implausible?

1. The Thomas/Illinois scandal was rigorously covered. A doctored tape would have been a huge story.

2. A doctored tape would have undoubtedly destroyed Bruce Pearl's career. And what would he have gained from it, exactly?

3. Do you think that they actually have the technology to doctor a tape in Iowa (Note: Included solely in an attempt to get e-mail bombed by angry Iowans).

4. No one sued Pearl, Iowa, or the NCAA over the tape. A defamation suit against someone with a doctored tape as evidence is as close to a slam dunk as is possible.

5. What was Pearl's motivation for faking a tape? Schools lose recruits all the time, it's not a big deal. For Pearl to do this would have taken some motivation besides simply losing a recruit.

But, if you have evidence (preferably a link) with regard to the alleged doctored tape, drop them in the comment box. I'm open to persuasion, but I doubt that you will find much.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Gaming the System

UW Law Prof. "Oscar Madison" is firmly against adding an asterisk to records set by players using steroids. He cites 3 purposes of baseball statistics:

Baseball records are a factual record of player performance that function as (1) an aid to memory, (2) a basis to compare the abilities of current players, and (3) a basis to compare the abilities of players across time.

The major thrust of his argument seems to stem from the fact that raw, unadjusted baseball stats are not a good comparison of players over time. For instance:

Frank Baker, third baseman for the Philadelphia Athletics in the 1900s and 1910s, was one of the foremost home run hitters of the dead ball era but never hit more than 14 homers in a season. He certainly had reason to gripe about the bright, new tightly-wound and frequently changed baseballs of the 1920s that Babe Ruth hit out by the dozens.

Prior to 1920, it was legal for pitchers to doctor the baseball with spit, vaseline, tobacco juice or sandpaper. Since 1920, that has constituted "cheating," though numerous pitchers prided themselves on getting away with such cheating, such as notorious spitballer, and Baseball Hall of Famer, Gaylord Perry.

And he drops the obligatory Roger Maris comparison:

Bunning now makes a shibboleth out of Roger Maris's 61 home runs, but he pitched in the AL that season and should remember that many people both among baseball fandom and officialdom did not want Maris to break Babe Ruth's record. And when he did, Major League Baseball, in its wisdom, decreed that Maris's home run "record" would have an asterisk in the "official record books" to signify that his 61 home runs surpassed Ruth's 60 homes only in a qualified sense: Maris hit his 61 in the modern 162 game season, whereas Ruth played in an era of 154 game seasons.

A few years ago, that asterisk was properly given up as idiocy. I think it would be further idiocy to put asterisks next to Mark McGuire's 70 home runs, or Barry Bonds' 73, or any accomplishments by players found to have used illegal steroids, let alone to "wipe out" those records.

It seems to me that Madison undervalues his second function of statistics: Comparing the abilities of current players. Because steroids are illegal, and not used by every player, certain players had an unfair advantage against their peers. It is as if Mark McGwire and Jose Canseco were using aluminum bats on the sly. Obviously then, the statistics that they have accumulated will be inflated not just over the course of history due to rule changes, advances in technology, etc., but also over current players. Perhaps Mike Greenwell has a point, no?

I’m not necessarily in favor of adding asterisks either, as I believe that proper skepticism towards current players will always exist in baseball fans, and that’s good enough. However, this is an interesting position for Oscar to take in light of recent events.

You see, recently Oscar Madison and Tom Bozzo conspired together to move up the rankings of the Truth Laid Bear Ecosystem through trickery. For those of you who don’t know, NZ Bear at The Truth Laid Bear developed a system for ranking blogs based on incoming links and traffic. Madison and Bozzo simply linked back and forth over and over again until their blogs started moving up in the rankings. They have now been banned from the ecosystem for the stunt, although Madison has since apologized (Note: For the record, I don’t think that Madison was really attempting anything nefarious, and basically just wanted to see if he could do it).

Of course the Ecosystem is merely a method of measuring the performance of a blog. Its chief function is to let people know how their blogs stack up against the blogs of others. Madison seems to think that a high ranking is some kind of honorary award, but such a function would be, at best, a distant second in terms of its importance and its fit with the logic of the Ecosystem.

If we follow Oscar Madison’s logic, shouldn’t Ecosystem users give full faith and credit to the ill-gotten links and rankings that Madison and Bozzo achieved with their experiment? After all, a Madison-to-Bozzo link is still a link as much as a Jason Giambi home run (Circa 2000) did in fact fly over the fence.

The fact of the matter is that Barry Bonds’ ill-gotten home run record contaminates baseball records in the same way that the Madison-Bozzo stunt contaminated the Ecosystem. It put bad information into the system, and because of it everyone else’s position was affected. The primary function of statistics in my view, is to convey accurate information, and while it may not be necessary to add an asterisk due to the stigma that is sure to attach itself to many current players, it would certainly be more accurate to include the asterisk than to omit it.

The Carnival of the Vanities is...

at CodeBlueBlog. Thanks to the good Doctor for the link. The Carnival is quite excellent this week.

The linked post was actually written by EC resident public policy guru Jason, and not by me (I wish), and it's definitely worth a read.

And don't miss this post at Off Wing Opinion about a (in my opinion much needed) change in Title IX enforcement policy.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

The Drug War

Over at Bushwood, Danny links to two posts by Gary Becker and Richard Posner (of the Becker/Posner blog) about the drug war. One thing in particular caught my attention.

Gary Becker states:

After totaling all spending, a study by Kevin Murphy, Steve Cicala, and myself estimates that the war on drugs is costing the US one way or another well over $100 billion per year.

While I favor the legalization and taxation that Becker recommends, I couldn't help wondering whether or not $100 billion/year is enough money to simply purchase all illegal drugs in existence. If it is not, I am willing to bet it is very close.

Why some fans and alumni of the University of Illinois are a bunch of whiny babies.

If you're following the NCAA tournament this weekend, and UW-Milwaukee in particular, you're bound to hear a few stories about UWM coach Bruce Pearl's history with Illinois:

His transgression? Pearl was an assistant coach at Iowa in 1989 when he secretly taped a telephone conversation with the high school star Deon Thomas. The tape was said to implicate an Illini assistant for offering cash and a vehicle for Thomas's commitment. Pearl then handed the tape to the N.C.A.A.

After an N.C.A.A. investigation, Illinois was put on two years' probation in 1990 for improprieties in the basketball program, though the N.C.A.A.'s report never cited Pearl's allegations.

While Pearl was recruiting Thomas for Iowa, Thomas stated that Illinois had offered him a substantial sum of money and other perks if he would attend. This was clearly intended to entice Iowa to offer a similar deal. Pearl did not tape Thomas until their second meeting, in which Thomas (quite stupidly) repeated the same statement about Illinois. Pearl, now with evidence that Illinois might be breaking NCAA regulations, turned the tape over to the NCAA. A subsequent NCAA investigation did not reveal any impropriety with Thomas. Indeed, it appears that Thomas was lying the entire time. (Note: This point is still open to some dispute.) However, the investigation did uncover numerous NCAA violations that were completely unrelated to Thomas, and sanctions were imposed.

Illinois fans, Thomas, and University of Illinois-Chicago head coach Jimmy Collins, (a former assistant at Illinois) are just beside themselves with anger over this. (Quote from Thomas: "It's kind of hard to forgive a snake.") My question to them:

What did Bruce Pearl do that is in any way unethical, sneaky, or illegal?

He had evidence that a competitor was cheating. He had no special obligation to protect the University of Illinois from anything. In fact, if he had any duty, it was to do exactly what he did and turn them in. Pearl was acting ethically:

Dr. Tom Davis hired Pearl at Boston College and then Iowa. He was impressed with Pearl as an undergraduate and put him to work promoting B.C. basketball, resulting in Pearl's roles as the mascot and advertising salesman.
"Whatever jobs we had, he was willing to do it," Davis, now the Drake coach, said in a telephone interview.


"There were no winners," Davis said about the incident with Illinois. "But Bruce did things the right way. He stayed at jobs longer than he should have to learn more. Most guys go the other way and take the big money or jump around. But he's an excellent coach and a people person who has done a great job at Wisconsin-Milwaukee and everywhere else he's ever been."

He had evidence that a highly touted player was attempting to cheat. What good would it do to look the other way? At this point, Iowa was on the brink of engaging in a serious breach of NCAA regs. Pearl would have been negligent if he had not at least informed his superiors at Iowa of the situation (which he did). When Thomas made his nefarious statement he immediately put Pearl's program in jeopardy. The subsequent taping was as much a defensive measure as it was an offensive one.

He did not release his evidence publicly, and instead turned it over to the proper authorities. Pearl did not engage in a smear campaign or anything of that nature. The NCAA handled everything.

Illinois fans will hear none of it. They blame him for the sanctions that they endured, rather than looking at their University, which did, after all, break the rules. To this day, Jimmy Collins, who coaches in the Horizon league with Pearl refuses to shake Pearl's hand after games. This makes Jimmy Collins a crybaby, and I have almost no respect for the man.

If you hear anything this weekend about how Pearl "screwed the University of Illinois" or any other such nonsense, just remember the above, and remember that college basketball would be well served to find more Bruce Pearls:

Pearl said if he faced a similar situation today, he would not hesitate to turn in a competitor that he believed violated N.C.A.A. rules. "Regrettably, I would, because of principles and because I'm a bit of an idealist," he said. "A lot of people got hurt. It's unfortunate."

Mike is back from China

The L&N Liner has an interesting and comprehensive account of the trip, as well as a lot of pictures. Check it out.

Arnold Kling has a wager:

From TCS:

Instead, I am prepared to make the following bet: ten years from now, it will be objectively clear that the United States provided significantly better health care to its citizens between 1990 and 2005 than did other developed countries. From the vantage point of 2015, the policy blunder of the past fifteen years will not be that the United States spent too much on health care, but that other countries spent too little. The socialized systems, forced to ration health care because tax revenues are not sufficient to pay for state-of-the-art care, are constraining their citizens from being diagnosed and treated as well as Americans.

I am not denying that waste exists. However, I contend that the difference between health care spending in the United States and that in other countries cannot be accounted for by the wasteful items that critics have identified.


This is a fantastic article featuring a lot of useful facts, like:

An urban legend has it that close to half of all health care spending comes in the last year of life. The facts are somewhat different. The most thorough study, by Donald Hoover, et al, finds that 27 percent of Medicare spending takes place during the last year of life.

Overall, 22 percent of health care spending on people over 65 takes place in the last year of life. However, only 1/3 of U.S. health care spending is for people 65 and older. Thus, as a percentage of overall U.S. health care spending, spending on the last year of life amounts to about 7 percent. That is high, but not staggering.


and

Physicians are paid more than twice as much in the United States as in other developed countries. Because physician services are about one fourth of all health care spending, we could eliminate one eighth of our health care spending by reducing doctor salaries to the levels of other countries.

The other big factor is utilization of high-tech procedures, such as MRI's, CT scans, and open-heart surgery. If Americans would cut back on the utilization of these procedures, that would reduce health care spending by hundreds of billions of dollars.


I agree with Tyler Cowen that this could be my favorite Arnold Kling essay.

And while you're over at Marginal Revolution, don't miss this injection of sanity into the Social Security debate:

I agree that Lieberman is confusing an increase in the nominal present value of the debt with an increase in the cost of fixing social security but in correcting Lieberman both DeLong and Krugman meander towards the opposite error - that the costs of fixing social security is not increasing.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

No good, worthless #$@%!

(Editor's Note: The Carnival lists the author of this post as Paul. It was actually written by Jason.)

Once again, our government is making decisions that have little hope of producing the ostensible results. And yes, I am suspicious, since I assume the people running the country know people smart enough to point out the limited impact of this policy.

The Senate has cleared the way for private development of oil reserves in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. I think this is a horrible, horrible idea.

Have you ever opened a bag of Double-stuffed mint Oreos? Say you're dieting. As long as that bag remains closed, it (and you) is safe. But one day, you go to the gym. When you return from the gym, you're tired and hungry. Those Double-stuffed mint Oreos are calling your name. And one or two couldn't hurt. And it WOULD make you feel better right now. But then you'd erase the effects of your workout. You'd continue to be unhealthy and lethargic. And you WON'T just have one or two. The creamy, minty goodness will draw you back again and again. The next thing you know, you're on your way to Jewel at 1 AM for another bag.

So it is with development of this kind. Once you break the seal, so to speak, it becomes easier and easier to encroach on other formerly pristine areas. To make matters worse, it doesn't make the country leaner in the long run. It may make people feel better in the short term (the country's collective sigh that we're "doing something" about high oil prices), but it won't actually have a noticeable effect on the worldwide market, and it will stifle research into conservation and alternative solutions.

Let's get real though. It will make the major American oil companies happy, and I happen to know of someone who knows some people in the oil business. Oh wait, he used to (poorly) run his own oil business. Coincidence?

Let's break it down.

THE FACTS
The U.S. consumes 20 million barrels of oil a day. A DAY. Approximately 12 million bbl/d are imported from various sources (top sources are Canada, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Nigeria).

The USGS estimates that there are 5-15 billion barrels of recoverable oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Industry experts estimate a peak production capacity of 1 million bbl/d, which is 1/20th of the CURRENT U.S. daily demand.

For comparison purposes, the tiny United Arab Emirates has proven oil reserves of 98 billion barrels, or approximately 10% of the world's oil reserves.

According to the Department of Energy, oil from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would not be available to the market for ten years after the ANWR is opened to development, and peak production would not be reached for 2 or 3 DECADES after that.

"In early 2000, the Energy Information Administration (EIA), in response to a Congressional request, issued a report on potential oil reserves and production from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The report, which cited a 1998 U.S. Geological Survey study of ANWR oil resources, projected that for the mean resource case (10.3 billion barrels technically recoverable), ANWR peak production rates could range from 1.0 to 1.35 million bbl/d, with initial ANWR production possibly beginning around 2010, and peak production 20-30 years after that."


THE "RESULTS"
1. Reduce U.S. dependence on imported oil.

  • Not for ten years, and even then, only by 1/20th. In fact, the oil may not even find it's way into the U.S. market. Oil production developed privately will be sold on the open market. It's proximity to the lower 48 states makes it likely that much will find it's way here, but that's not necessarily the case.

2. Create jobs.

  • Not many. And the ones it will directly create are in a very specific industry. Many say that the ancillary effect will be to save millions of jobs in the industrial heartland, but that is short-term thinking. I say it's better to start pumping efforts into R&D and creating jobs on the cutting edge of alternative energy technology rather than saving jobs in a declining sector of the economy.

3. New technology makes it possible for oil companies to extract the oil with limited environmental impact. The oil field will only require 2,000 acres in the 19 million acre Refuge area.

  • No frickin' way. See the Oreo cookie argument. First of all, when have the oil and mining industry failed to create huge environmental issues where ever they develop large-scale operations? With oil, transportation is the riskiest part from an environmental standpoint. The current Alaskan pipeline has leaks, as all pipes do eventually, especially ones that are over a thousand miles long. It also creates an unnatural barrier in one of the last untouched spaces in the Western Hemisphere. This creates problems for herd animals (barrier) and migratory birds (oil pollution).

4. Reduce oil prices.

  • The sad part is that when Bush and the Republicans talk about this issue, many Americans probably believe that opening the Refuge to production will directly and significantly affect oil prices. This is simply untrue. While it's beginning production will officially put the ANWR reserves on "the books" of proven world reserves (thus increasing the total theoretical supply), the amount is not enough to actually effect the global market. Think about it: One million barrels a day added to the current global production of about 84 million barrels/day doesn't amount to much. And that minimal impact won't even be realized for ten years.

So why are we doing this? If the ANWR is a key component of Bush's energy policy, I'm terrified to see what else he's been kickin' around the Oval Office. Let's get real and start thinking long-term. I know this is one think at which Americans generally do not excel, but we have no choice. Yes, we're going to have to suck it up in the short term, but given the right incentive, our economic system has shown remarkable flexibility, ingenuity, and creativity in the past.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Mascot-Based NCAA Pick Review

Our mascot picks have outperformed our actual picks in rather spectacular fashion (although I haven't suffered any major losses yet in either bracket). After the carnage cleared last night we were correct on 27 of 32 games, including:

5 Alabama Crimson Tide
12 UW-Milwaukee Panthers

Alabama is confusing. What exactly is Crimson Tide? Is it that red algae that is extremely poisonous to most life? Is it simply red water? Is it water stained red through some sort of horrible battle? And if it is, why is it represented by an elephant?Whatever it is, these panthers are ready to kill it…or at least take a swim and pee in it. Joah Tucker and Ed McCants lead UWM to another 12 over 5 upset.

and

4 Syracuse Orange
13 Vermont Catamounts

Syracuse, concerned about alienating…I don’t know…the sunburned maybe, dropped the word “men” from their name. Now they’re just “The Orange.” That’s so incredibly stupid that I’m going to take the Catamounts, even though I don’t know what they are. (Note: Actually, I do: Short-tailed wildcats with usually tufted ears; valued for their fur.)

and even

3 Kansas Jayhawks
14 Bucknell Bison

Can a Jayhawk defeat a Bison? Not with all the Rocks and Chalk in the world. Take Bucknell, for the upset of the tourney.

Calling the three largest upsets of the first round while still maintaining a respectable 27/32 overall? Not too shabby.

Friday, March 18, 2005

This should be a stern reminder to us all . . .

. . .as to what happens when countries decide to fund the arts, health care, and anything else that can't turn sand instantly into glass when dropped from 60,000 feet. Damn you Norway, how are you going to spread freedom with this??!?

On the bright side, I think I've just discovered something cooler than abevigoda.com

Capitalist Swine!

We must fight against the rich! We must work towards a more egalitarian society!

Oh, wait...

(Heh.)

I found this post at Marginal Revolution. While you're there check out these 13 mysteries of science.

A Quick Note About Peter Gammons

As I was driving to work this morning I heard ESPN baseball reporter Peter Gammons ripping everyone involved in the Congressional Steroid Hearings (which, by the way, are stupid for numerous reasons, but we'll discuss this later). Gammons was hard on McGwire, relatively soft on other players (He said something along the lines of "most players I've talked to just want to get a policy in place and move on. They don't want to be dragged down into this." I'm paraphrasing of course, so the quoted language may not be entirely accurate.), but especially tough on Commissioner Alan H. "Bud" Selig and Union Kingpin Donald Fehr. Gammons was critical of their feigned ignorance, stating that they must have known about the steroid problems for years. He also stated that if Fehr "really was ignorant of the problem, that he should go talk to a player." He does, after all, represent them.

While Selig and Fehr deserve a lot of criticism, I would like to address Peter Gammons for a second:

Peter, if this was such a wide spread problem, and if talking to the players was all it took to understand the severity of the problem, where the hell were you ten years ago? You are, after all, a reporter, no? It is your job to investigate and discover newsworthy bits of information about baseball. Moreover, you have a reputation as an insider. So, Peter, did you know about the extent of the problem? You seem to be well connected in the sport. Do you know of any specific players who have been using steroids over the last ten years? If so, why haven't you reported it? If not, as the problem is so widespread, why didn't you know about it? Either way, aren't you incompetent? Perhaps baseball has allowed this to go on for too long, but didn't you let them get away with it?

Before you go around throwing stones at the Commish, the Kingpin, Canseco, McGwire, and everyone else, you may want to install some vinyl siding on your glass house. And if I was an attention-seeking member of Congress, and I heard Gammons say what he said on the radio this morning, he would have a subpoena in front of him the next day, because I have reason to believe that Peter Gammons has inside information about the participants of a rather large illegal drug ring. Hypocrite.

I just had to get that out of my system.

What to do today.

I'm not in the mood to read Pauly K today. (OK, not true. I did read him but he ticked me off by stating that Latin American free market development was to blame for Latin American problems. Not only is this a gross oversimplification, it's also not true. Until you can do business in Latin America without having to bribe 50 people at a time, it's going to suffer. They lack a strong rule of law. This is a terribly important point. Krugman must know this, but it would not serve his larger point, so he left is out. How Academic. Anyway, I'm not going to obsess over it. But if you want to, here it is.)

I'm in a good mood due to St. Paddy's and the Tourney, so I'm not going to spoil it by reading things that I know will bug me. As a distraction, may I recommend the latest installment of James Lileks' Diner? It finishes a little slow, but in the first ten minutes you get to hear the following things:

1. Louis Farrakhan singing a calypso tune about a famous recipient of a sex change operation.
I'm serious about this. It's hysterical. I think it's called, Is he is, or is he ain't.

2. An old episode of the radio show Suspense, starring Peter Lorre, in which his female co-star accidentally, and very clearly, drops an F-bomb. This is circa 1954. What's amazing is how they all seem to ignore it, like they can't even bring themselves to realize it happened.

It is worth listening to just for those two things.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

What a great day! Today is the start of the NCAA tournament and St. Patrick's day. Those of Irish descent celebrate St. Patrick's day in honor of St. Patrick, who heroically drove all of the snakes out of Ireland by drinking 8 Guinnesses, followed immediately by 8 shots of Jameson, and then inappropriately hitting on every single one of them.

(Note: Certain scholars believe he must have consumed much more than the 16 servings attributed to him in order to find snakes attractive and at all human-like, as he had previously not shown any great affection for snakes, but whatever the actual case, the 8 and 8 story has now become firmly entrenched in Irish lore. Other scholars claim that the true numbers are 80 and 80, and the fact that he was able to consume such an amount without dying is actually his "third miracle" which eventually lead to his Sainthood. This account is hotly contested by The Church for obvious reasons.)

He followed up his "snake charming" with numerous attempts to pick up actual women with the following line:

You see this Shamrock here? This little guy can tell us a lot about the Holy Trinity. I could offer a more thorough explanation back at my place...

Pick up lines have certainly changed a lot over the years, haven't they?

Anyway, in honor of this momentous occasion every male of Irish descent dresses up in green, puts on a silly hat, and goes into a bar to courageously drive out all of the women, just as St. Patrick did with the snakes. (Note: Once you become a married Irish-American gentlemen the tradition changes just slightly. You still go to a bar. You still consume an unhealthy amount of extremely dark beer. In the end though, your wife drives you out of the bedroom to sleep on the couch.)

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to have my daily potato and Lucky Charms.

So have a happy St. Patrick's Day, and enjoy the games.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

The Carnival of the Vanities

is at Bird's Eye View.

Thanks to Jay for the link.

Hootie Sells Out

You may not have thought it possible for a member of Hootie and the Blowfish to sell out (for obvious reasons), but Darius Rucker has sold out. Every time I see that creepy Burger King commercial based on "The Big Rock Candy Mountain" I think, "Is that Hootie? Couldn't be."

But it is.

If you want to be deeply disturbed (it also features that creepy big-headed king) you can watch it here.

It will not put you in a hand-holding mood.

An Economist Has Dinner

From Alex Tabarrok:

I am in Miami for a few days. My guidebook has this to say:

"Miami restaurants are notorious for slow, arrogant service, by the time you finally get your cutting-edge dish of pan-roasted, pan-seared whatever, the trend that created it may well be long over."

I can verify, last night I walked out of two restaurants. A little while later the guidebook also notes:

"...many restaurants top up the bill with a 15-18 percent gratuity ..."

Also true, as in Europe Miami restaurants tack-on the "gratuity" automatically.


What the guidebook falls to mention is that the latter fact explains the former.

When you're finished with that, read about how we're going to be blown to smithereens by Yellowstone.

And also check out Tyler Cowen's spirited debate with Max Sawicky.

Twisting in the Wind

At The Slate, David Edelstein talks about the worst surprise twist endings in movie history (Note: There are a lot of spoilers here). Heres a clip:

The Village
I saw the twist ending coming within the first ten minutes, and spent the remaining eight hours of the film coming up with better twist endings:
- The village is on the bottom of the ocean
- The village is in a frighteningly plausible apocalyptic near future
- The village is surrounded by dinosaurs
- The village is on the moon
- The village is part of an elaborate reality TV series
- The village is microscopic, and located at the center of an atom
The Village is remarkable, as its twist ending is not only worse (or at least less interesting) than that of any other movie, it's worse than any other ending that is conceivable. In mathematical terms, the value of twist ending in The Village is less than epsilon, for any epsilon.

Maybe it's the fact that my Red Line train caught on fire again

but this article by P.J. O'Rourke struck a chord with me this morning:

Heritage cites the Minneapolis "Hiawatha" light rail line, soon to be completed with $107 million from the transportation bill. Heritage estimates that the total expense for each ride on the Hiawatha will be $19. Commuting to work will cost $8,550 a year. If the commuter is earning minimum wage, this leaves about $1,000 a year for food, shelter and clothing. Or, if the city picks up the tab, it could have leased a BMW X-5 SUV for the commuter at about the same price.

(Hat tip, Ann Althouse)

Thanks to the Illiniwonk for the link

here. As a Badger fan I wish nothing but misery on his team. At least for a while. I do always pull for the Big Ten teams if any remain after Wisconsin is eliminated but I don't see Illinois getting past a few of the elite teams if Dee Browns continues to struggle, or if they end up facing a dominant center/big man (See: Ohio State's Terence Dials). They have not been their dominant selves as of late and they are vulnerable unless they shape up quickly, which is why I believe they will not win their region.

Monday, March 14, 2005

EC Tourney Picks

Welcome to the annual Electric Commentary NCAA first round picks. As always, all selections are based on strength of mascot. Also as always, because it is stupid to assign city names to the four regionals, we have assigned alcoholic beverage names instead, as that makes as much sense to us. Let’s get started.

Pinot Noir Region

1 Washington Huskies
16 Montana Grizzlies

While you might think that a group of Grizzlies could defeat a group of Huskies, the smaller huskies will be able to conceal themselves in the vast potato fields of Idaho (which, for NCAA purposes, are located in Albuquerque) and sneak up on the unsuspecting grizzlies. Plus I’m not going to pick a 16 over 1 upset. It’s not happening. And when it does, no one will predict it without having made the same crazy prediction every year. I’m not going to be that guy.

8 Pacific Tigers
9 Pittsburgh Panthers

In this feline fight the slightly larger and stronger Tigers will barely overwhelm the Panthers. Take Pacific.

5 Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets
12 George Washington Colonials

Our first 12 over 5 upset finds the battle tested Colonials swatting away Bynum, Jack, the tall curly-haired guy, and the rest of the pesky Yellow Jackets.

4 Louisville Cardinals
13 La.-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns

Louisville is ranked 4th in the country, and this seeding is a travesty. I was getting really upset with Seth Davis and Clark Kellog on Sunday as they repeatedly stated that Louisville should be moved down and that Florida should get a 3 seed (despite not being ranked nationally). Idiots. Louisville is in a tight spot here, especially since birds don’t fair all that well in my system. Fortunately for them, when the Cajuns Rage they tend to drink quite a lot and pass out. Pitino’s crew takes out their frustrations on the hapless Cajuns.

6 Texas Tech Red Raiders
11 UCLA Bruins

Bears are scary, but Bobby Knight is scarier. The Red Raiders hold off the bruins by throwing chairs at them.

3 Gonzaga Bulldogs
14 Winthrop Eagles

Still not “the Zags.” The Bulldogs are a legitimate final four threat this year, and they will manage to subdue the pesky eagles. Gonzaga is my Pinot Noir Final Four selection.

7 West Virginia Mountaineers
10 Creighton Bluejays

As previously stated, birds don’t do so well in my system. The mountaineers may not be fierce warriors, but they should be able to fend off the Bluejays.

2 Wake Forest Demon Deacons
15 Chattanooga Mocs

What the heck is a Moc? Let’s see…Googling…It appears to be a bird. Perhaps a Mocking Bird? If that Mocking Bird can’t shoot…At any rate, the Demon Deacons not only manage to beat Chattanooga soundly, they also outlaw dancing. Wake keeps winning until they encounter Gonzaga. Or Kevin Bacon. One of the two.

Beer Region

1 Illinois Fighting Illini
16 Farleigh Dickinson Jersey Devils

The savvy but politically incorrect fighting Indians will use their relationship with the land to defeat their nemesis, which appears to be a striking hockey team. Despite Martin Brodeur’s best efforts, the Illini win in a blowout.

8 Texas Longhorns
9 Nevada Wolf Pack

Wolfpacks are large groups of fierce predators looking for fresh meat. Longhorns are cows. ‘nuff said.

5 Alabama Crimson Tide
12 UW-Milwaukee Panthers

Alabama is confusing. What exactly is Crimson Tide? Is it that red algae that is extremely poisonous to most life? Is it simply red water? Is it water stained red through some sort of horrible battle? And if it is, why is it represented by an elephant?

Whatever it is, these panthers are ready to kill it…or at least take a swim and pee in it. Joah Tucker and Ed McCants lead UWM to another 12 over 5 upset.

4 Boston College Eagles
13 Penn Quakers

Quakers are pacifists, and we all know that pacifists are losers. The noble eagle will exploit this fact, pecking away at the helpless Ivy League champ.

6 LSU Tigers
11 UAB Blazers

The tigers tear apart what is essentially a shirt. UAB doesn’t belong here, and LSU will prove it.

3 Arizona Wildcats
14 Utah State Aggies

I actually think that Utah State wins this one, but officially, we don’t know what an Aggie is, so we’ll go with Lute Olson’s squad.

7 So. Illinois Salukis
10 St. Mary's Gaels

The Obscure Mascot Battle. Uhmmm, OK. We do know that the Saluki is a dog. What’s a Gael? According to Saint Mary’s website:

"A Gaelic-speaking Celt of Scotland, Ireland, or the Isle of Man."

The Hardy Celts know how to tame man’s best friend. Take St. Mary’s in an upset.

2 Oklahoma St. Cowboys
15 SE Louisiana Lions

Cowboys carry guns. And know how to use them. Lions are ferocious, but they’re not playing the Oklahoma State Roy Horns here. Down the road a few games the Cowboys will knock off the Illini, and reach the Final Four.

Mint Julep Region

1 Duke Blue Devils
16 Delaware State Hornets

Coach K may not know how to pronounce his last name, but there is no way that he will ever come close to losing a first round game. Especially to insects. Duke reaches the Final Four...again.

8 Stanford Cardinal
9 Mississippi St. Bulldogs

Stanford’s mascot is a tree. Bulldogs pee on trees. Go with the Bulldogs. I would like to take a minute to point out that I have now picked two games based on an animal urinating on an inanimate object. Maybe I’ll make that my whole strategy next year.

5 Michigan State Spartans
12 Old Dominion Monarchs

The Monarchs will try to order around the loyal Spartans, but that will just make them mad. The mighty Spartans will slay the lazy and inbred royalty.

4 Syracuse Orange
13 Vermont Catamounts

Syracuse, concerned about alienating…I don’t know…the sunburned maybe, dropped the word “men” from their name. Now they’re just “The Orange.” That’s so incredibly stupid that I’m going to take the Catamounts, even though I don’t know what they are. (Note: Actually, I do: Short-tailed wildcats with usually tufted ears; valued for their fur.)

6 Utah Utes
11 UTEP Miners

As we know from My Cousin Vinny, Utes are young people. Miners, work in mines. Take Texas El Paso, even though Andrew Bogut is really good.

3 Oklahoma Sooners
14 Niagara Purple Eagles

Sooners are courageous pioneers. Purple Eagles are not real. Always take real things to beat fake things. The Purple also makes it easy for predators to spot them.

7 Cincinnati Bearcats
10 Iowa Hawkeyes

The Battle of things that are a combination of other things! On the one hand, we have a bear combined with a cat. On the other hand we have a hawk combined with…an eye. Take Cinci.

2 Kentucky Wildcats
15 Eastern Kentucky Colonels

If the Colonels were going up against chicken, we’d take them and their deadly combo of eleven secret herbs and spices. But if you try and deep-fry a wildcat you just end up with some bad scratches and a case of rabies. KY slides by.

Cosmopolitan Region

1 North Carolina Tar Heels
16 Oakland/Alabama A&M Golden Grizzlies/Bulldogs

Grizzlies and Bulldogs beat each other to within an inch of the survivor’s life. Tar Heels step on the survivor. The biggest blowout of the first round. May might score 50.

8 Minnesota Golden Gophers
9 Iowa State Cyclones

This one is just funny to picture. Take Iowa State after you stop laughing.

5 Villanova Wildcats
12 New Mexico Lobos

Now this is a tough call. We have Wildcats against Wolves. Villanova is very tough. There will be no 5-12 upset here. The Wildcats narrowly defeat the Lobos and start setting up for the Gators. We like Villanova for the Cosmo regional Final Four team.

4 Florida Gators
13 Ohio Bobcats

Billy Donovan is a great coach. I’m still mad at the pundits for putting Florida this high (it’s a travesty to have them seeded higher than Wisconsin), but they will destroy AN Ohio state university.

6 Wisconsin Badgers
11 Northern Iowa Panthers

The Panthers will take the smaller Badgers lightly and pay for it. Badgers can defeat much larger animals, and they will do so here. Zach Morley was clearly transported out of some Charles Dickens novel just to play basketball.

3 Kansas Jayhawks
14 Bucknell Bison

Can a Jayhawk defeat a Bison? Not with all the Rocks and Chalk in the world. Take Bucknell, for the upset of the tourney.

7 Charlotte 49ers
10 N.C. State Wolfpack

When you’re a prospectin’ for gold, you’d best keep a sidearm close buy. The 49ers are well armed. Unless the Wolfpack can sneak up on them, Charlotte will stay alive to spend their loot. By the great horned spoon!

2 Connecticut Huskies
15 Central Florida Knights

What’s that you say? I don’t have the guts to pick a 14 over 3 and a 15 over 2 in the same bracket? Especially when it involves last year’s national champions? Whatever. No Emeka, no Ben, no chance. The Knights heroically slay the Huskies! (OK, not really. UCONN wins this game by like 50 points. But stranger things have happened.)

So that’s your first round. Remember that this is for recreational purposes only, and losing money is not recreational for anyone. Your guess, as always, is as good as mine (Note: This means you will be wrong). Enjoy the games.

The Big Dance

I'll have my picks up sometime soon. In the meantime, if you don't read Yoni Cohen's College Basketball Blog, now is a good time to start. And read this column from Yoni at FoxSports. (Hat tip, Gordon Smith)

Also, check out Professor Smith's picks here.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Linked by The Slate!

Many thanks to David Wallace-Wells for the link in his Today's Blogs column. I've always wanted to be described as "irreverent Chicago lawyer Paul Noonan." And really, even if you disagree with the principle of a Fatwa, it is still the Best Fatwa Ever.

Vote for Me!

and for Danny.

On the Fundamental Interconnectedness of All Things.

In the Seinfeld episode, The Pitch (Part 1) the members of the Seinfeld gang are discussing possible topics for Jerry's show. Of course, it ends up being about nothing, but before that, George and Kramer come up with a few other suggestions:

GEORGE: All right, forget that idea, it's not for you....Okay, okay, I got it. You run an antique store.

JERRY: Yeah and...?

GEORGE: And people come in the store and you get involved in their
lives.

JERRY: What person who runs an antique store gets involved in people's
lives?
GEORGE: Why not?

JERRY: So someone comes in to buy an old lamp and all of a sudden I'm
getting them out of a jam? I could see if I was a pharmacist because a
pharmacist knows what's wrong with everybody that comes in.

GEORGE: I know, but antiques are very popular right now.


and Kramer comes up with:

KRAMER: ...And you're the manager of the circus.

JERRY: A circus?

KRAMER: Come on, this is a great idea. Look at the characters. You've
got all these freaks on the show. A woman with a moustache? I mean, who
wouldn't tune in to see a women with a moustache? You've for the
tallest man in the world; a guy who's just a head.

Fast forward a few years. HBO has three big hits with Curb Your Enthusiasm, Carnivale, and Deadwood and all of them are linked by that scene.

First, we have Curb Your Enthusiasm which is about, and stars Larry David, who is the basis for the Seinfeld character George Costanza. And in a way, CYE is about even less than Seinfeld is.

Next we have Carnivale, which certainly involves circus freaks. In fact, even those Carnivale characters who are not technically circus freaks are still freaks. HBO grabbed Kramer's idea and ran with it. Of course I think Kramer intended it as a comedy, but it's probably better this way.

Now at this point you're probably wondering what antique dealing has to do with Deadwood. That's a fair question. Deadwood is an old west action/drama set in an outlaw camp in 1877, and has nothing at all to do with antiques. However, one of the main characters of Deadwood, Al Swearengen, is played by Ian McShane. Back in the day, Ian McShane starred in a BBC series which aired in America on PBS and was watched by my Mom. It was called Lovejoy. And Lovejoy, played by McShane, is an antique dealer who gets involved in the lives of his customers and helps them out. It's not a bad show either.

So you see, without that conversation in The Pitch (Part 1), HBO might not be where it is today. Of course, they did make one other suggestion in that episode:

GEORGE: Come on, how hard is that? Look at all the junk that's on TV.
You want an idea? Here's an idea. You coach gymnastics team in high
school. And you're married. And your son's not interested in gymnastics
and you're pushing him into gymnastics.

Now I just have to get HBO to produce a live action version of this cartoon and the cycle will be complete.


The 50 Book Challenge

#6 and 7:

The 50 Book Challenge


6. 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) .

7. I also just finished The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek, which is a must-read for any politics/econ junkie. First publishes in 1944, Hayek makes the case that Nazism and Communism, rather than occupying opposite ends of the political spectrum, are actually brothers in arms. Neither ideology can survive without a powerful centralized government operating for the "benefit of the masses." Considering the time period in which Hayek was writing, his surprisingly accurate appraisals of the state of Europe in the post WWII era are very impressive. Hayek was derided in his day, but was ultimately vindicated by history.

While a few chapters show their age, in others (particularly when he talks of security) it is easy to forget that the work is 60 years old.

On Deck:

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke
The Tipping Point, by Malcolm Gladwell
The Final Solution, by Michael Chabon

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Well, at least they printed this letter

In the NYT letters section today, just in case you missed it:

To the Editor:

"The Senate on the Brink" (editorial, March 6) supports the "historic role of the filibuster," which is a curious position for a newspaper that 10 years ago said filibusters were "the tool of the sore loser" and should be eliminated ("Time to Retire the Filibuster," editorial, Jan. 1, 1995).

Federal judicial appointments have certainly been controversial, but surely all Americans can agree that the rules for confirming judges should be the same regardless of which party has a majority.

Now you praise the filibuster as a "time-honored Senate procedure." In 1995, when Bill Clinton was president, you called it "an archaic rule that frustrates democracy and serves no useful purpose."

You disparage the Republicans' view that 51 votes should be enough for judicial confirmation. Yet the 51-vote rule is a consistent Senate tradition. By calling for an end to filibusters, the Senate is simply contemplating restoring its traditions by traditional methods you disparage as "nuclear," even though they were once endorsed by such leading Democrats as Senators Edward M. Kennedy, Charles E. Schumer and Robert C. Byrd.

John Cornyn U.S. Senator from Texas Washington, March 7, 2005

What do I think about this?
1. The NYT looks pretty wishy washy (and biased) here.
2. The filibuster has never been used to oppose judicial nominees prior to this administration.
3. The Democrats should not have started this trend. It is bad policy now, and it will bite them later.
4. The Republicans blocked many Clinton nominees, but not with the filibuster.
5. Republicans should not use the so-called "nuclear option," abolishing the filibuster for judicial nominees. It will not play well publicly, and it will be turned on them in the future.
6. That being said, I will not be surprised if they do it, and I can't really blame them.
7. So, basically they're all a bunch of babies.
8. By the way, there is a shortage of judges on the Federal Bench right now due to this pissing match.

The Viking Secondary

now contains Antoine Winfield, Fred Smoot, and...

Darren Sharper?!!!!

Son of a bitch! F*&$Sh#@29DA#@

AAHHHHH!!!!!

Blogger's working again

Finally. Oh well, you get what you pay for.

Ward of the State

The University of Colorado is about to make Ward Churchill a rich man. From Dave Kopel at the Conspiracy:

According to KHOW-AM talk radio host Peter Boyles, a very reliable media source has informed him that Ward Churchill's attorney, David Lane, has stated that CU will offer Ward Churchill a buy-out so generous that Churchill will never have to work another day in his life. Numerous other media sources in Colorado, including the daily newspapers, have confirmed that CU is negotiating a buy-out with Churchill. If these reports are accurate, CU President Betsy Hoffman's decision earlier this week to resign was well-timed, because the Churchill buy-out, which may be announced on Monday, would have ignited a firestorm of demands for her resignation.

The Churchill buy-out may be remembered at the single most self-destructive decision ever made by CU administrators. It will be a disaster for the University's fund-raising, and will significantly weaken the University's support in the state legislature. The state legislature is currently working to create a November 2005 ballot referendum to raise Colorado taxes by billions of dollars, primarily to support to higher education. It will be very difficult to convince voters that an institution which has enough money to give Ward Churchill millions of dollars desperately needs to take more money out of the pockets of families trying to balance their own budgets every month.The tragedy of the buy-out is that, if CU administrators had the nerve, there is an overwhelmingly strong case for firing Churchill based on academic fraud, as I detailed in a previous post.

The University of Colorado should be ashamed. Churchill should either be retained as a tenured professor protected by the principles of academic freedom, or fired due to the academic fraud that Dave mentions in the above post. The fact that Churchill is going to make millions of dollars for essentially being an idiot is repulsive.

Best Fatwa Ever

That's right. Osama Bin Laden.

Woohoo!

Favre is coming back.

Bankruptcy Bill

When Glenn and Markos agree on something (has it ever happened before?) and Congress is poised to do the opposite, it's safe to assume that Congress is wrong. So it is with the new Bankruptcy Bill.

The new Bankruptcy Bill makes it harder to declare bankruptcy. It is nothing more than a giveaway to special interests, specifically, credit providers. Glenn's analysis is precisely correct. Credit Card companies employ entire departments devoted to assessing the risks of lending to individual debtors and assigning individual interest rates. They have already taken potential bankruptcies into account in their projections. If credit providers are offering credit to risky individuals, or underestimating the number of bankruptcies in their projections, they have no one to blame but themselves. When the average company makes a bad fiscal projection, it does not go crying to congress. It simply alters its projections the next time around. The credit providers supporting this bill want to have their cake and eat it too. They want to continue with their risky lending practices without having to assume any of that risk. And because the lobby for poor people isn't very strong, they're likely to get it.

I grant that the growing unsecured debt in this country is a problem, but this is not the way to go about fixing it. This bill is regressive by its very nature and should be opposed by all. Instead it is likely to pass easily. What a shame.

You can help here.

Update:

Arnold doesn't address the issue (although he seems to endorse the Bill through his inclusion of HedgeFundGuy), but discusses it here. I still disagree. HedgeFundGuy has a point, but I believe that the expansion of poor lending practices (as well as the punitive new section of the law which leaves bankruptcy attorneys liable for their clients' mistakes) will offset these gains. This may seem paternalistic of me, however I still agree with Glenn that current lending practices often border on fraudulent. Certainly borrowers are responsible for their debts, but (to quote Glenn's best line of the day) at any rate, if bankruptcy law is "anti-freedom" then what's pro-freedom? Debtor's prison?

Megan agrees here. (Read the whole thing, it's comprehensive and really good).

The best case in favor of the bill is laid out by Todd Zywicki, here, here, here, here, and here.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

I'd just like to add...

that, Ryan's argument (see below) strikes me as being similar to saying that because someone has the same hair-style as Hitler, that he is the same person as Hitler. Ryan attempts to qualify himself by saying, "Before leaving comments please note that I have definitely criticized Bush personally, but really have passed no judgments on his/the Republican's methodologies."

But, if you are comparing someone to Hitler without the intention of attributing Hitler's evil to that person, what exactly is the point of the comparison?

Leadership

Ryan's post below has gotten me a little riled up. So much so that I'm returning to The Electric Commentary just so I can comment on it. It's not that it's entirely wrong. It's not even that it's a completely weak argument, its weakness ever so slightly mitigated by the acknowledgment that it's a weak argument--"at which point his credibility is irreparably damaged." My problem with it is that it is just too simple for Ryan. He uses the same strategy that he denounces fascist leaders for using.

Organizations like the NRA, Anti-Abortion groups and the Taxpayers League catch political novices with a watered-down "common-sense" version of right-wing ideology and the more new catches buy into these front organizations, the more likely it is that they will be politically socialized to the right wing.

Here's a watered down version of the left-wing ideology: "We're not the guys that are like Hitler!" If this isn't watered down, what is? If it isn't simplistic, what is? But people buy into it. If you don't think it brings in any new catches for the Dems, walk down State Street in Madison and listen to the hippies. They buy into it. Judging from his post, even Ryan seems to believe it at some level.

Now I don't know much about Ryan's highly regarded expert on totalitarianism, Hanna Arendt, except that she is a German philosopher who's most famous work is a very controversial comparison that likens fascism to communism. But I do know that if these are the five criteria of a totalitarian leader, my ass is a banjo. Now before I list them again, get a picture of a a real totalitarian leader in your head. Think Hitler. Think Mao. Think Che or Castro. Got it? Okay, now is the guy you are picturing "generally unimpressive but charming?" Totalitarian leaders are guys that can get their people all riled up. They yell and preach. They are excellent motivational speakers. They are, in a word, impressive. Do you really think Che could have convinced people he didn't even know in countries he wasn't even from to revolutionize when they didn't even want to if he wasn't impressive? Well, I suppose he'd kill them if they didn't, but maybe that's charming to some. But not to me. You know who was a great leader that was "generally unimpressive but charming?" Bill Clinton. That tuby hick is the most unimpressive person in the world until he really starts talking. Then you see that he's really smart. And charming.

Now keep that picture in your head of the totalitarian leader you were picturing. Is he "a bridge between the core of the ideology and the uninvolved?" I don't even know what that means. Everyone is uninvolved in a totalitarian regime. But you know what it reminds me of? When Bill Clinton went on MTV to try to get the slacker youth to turn out and vote. Remember? He played his saxophone on MTV and on Arsenio Hall. Then he talks about liberal ideas. And his underwear. And people voted for him.

Ryan admits that the third quality (Leaders are the embodiment of military brutality, but can appear normal to the outside world) is too strong for Bush, and the fourth (Statements are geared towards public consumption, but Public, Party, and Elite hear statements differently.) applies equally to democrats, and to any other type of leader of any kind for that matter, so I won't address them. They basically do apply to the totalitarians I was picturing.

The last quality Ryan lists to argue that Bush has the qualities of a totalitarian is that "Elites take words as policy." Again, this is true for every leader. It's even true of the fricken Queen of England and she's not even a real leader. Read the papers. It IS true that if Bush says anything, the talking heads will discuss it as policy but the same was true for Clinton and every other President we've had. The same was even more true for Kerry. He was attacked for being a waffeler and pundits on the left jumped to his defense by assuming policy based on what he had said in the past or in passing.

So cut the Hitler comparisons Ryan. You can do better than that.


 
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