The Electric Commentary

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Two Questions

Answered by the Slate. I was wondering about both of these all day.

The first:
What is the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, and where do we keep it? Is it really just a giant underground vat of oil?

Answer:

According to news reports, the nation's Strategic Petroleum Reserve will soon be opened to help mitigate the decline in oil production in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In 2002, Brendan I. Koerner explained that the oil reserves are kept in underground salt caverns in Texas and Louisiana. "Should things get hairy, energy-wise … the president alone has the authority to order a 'drawdown' of the reserve, at an estimated rate of 4.1 million barrels per day," Koerner writes.


and is it crude, or processed?

Not all SPR oil is created equal. About a third of the stockpile qualifies as "sweet" crude, meaning that its sulfur content is less than one-half of 1 percent. The rest is more sulfur-laden "sour" crude. Sweet crude is more desirable among refinery pooh-bahs, but when we're in a bind that might require tapping the SPR, beggars can't be choosers.


Much more here.

Secondly, if New Orleans is below sea level, how did it get there in the first place?

Answer:

If New Orleans is below sea level, why isn't it underwater? Because it's protected by natural and artificial barriers. The city sits on the banks of the Mississippi, where sediment from the river had created areas of elevated land called "natural levees." New Orleans' earliest buildings sat on top of these levees, but as the population grew, houses were built farther inland at lower elevations. To create usable land, water had to be pumped out of the area, which in turn caused the ground to sink even lower. It's possible for part of New Orleans to exist below sea level because the levees that surround the city protect it (most of the time) from floods.

NFL Preview, Part 2: The AFC South

Tennesseein' is Tennebelievin'

Brett Favre is like Superman. (ed - Groan. What the heck is with the Brett Favre worship in the opening paragraph of a post on the AFC south? What gives?) Pipe down ed, if that is in fact your real name. I'm not talking about ability here, I'm talking about durability. Most of the time, Superman is never in any real danger. Sure, he takes some big hits now and then, but Superman knows that most of the villains he encounters will be unable to do him any harm. Favre's consecutive games streak is impressive, but a lot of good fortune and physical talent helped him out. Very good offensive lines protected him well. His armstrength allows him to throw off his back foot, reducing the risk of having to step into an onrushing defender. Sure, Favre gets hit, but he only rarely takes that "Oooh" kind of hit.

In the AFC South we find another tough as nails QB in Steve McNair of the Tennessee Titans. McNair is less like Superman, and more like Rocky Balboa. Every time I see McNair play he takes at least one incredible hit, but he always (well, usually) gets up, sucks it up, and keep playing even better. Where Superman is invulnerable, Rocky simply manages to endure all sorts of physical pain that would have most men crying and begging for mercy.

Steve McNair is about to endure Ivan Drago for the second year in a row, and it's probably not going to be pretty. The Titans have been hamstrung by injuries and by the salary cap, and look to be in rebuilding mode. Some people think that their offense will still be productive, but I just don't see it.

Drew Bennet has shown flashes of brilliance, that much is true, but will he be able to perform at that level consistently, without Derrick Mason around? And can Tyrone Calico be an adequate number two man?

Maybe, but their two QBs (and they will use both of them) won't have much time to get them the ball, and the oft injured Chris Brown and overrated Travis Henry won't provide much in the way of a rushing attack.

They still boast a few quality defenders like Keith Bulluck, but I don't recognize a lot of their players. They still have Craig Hentrich, which is nice, and Jeff Fisher is a great coach, but there is little talent here. They'll be bottom feeders and out of the playoffs.

If that didn't convince you, here are the Titans first six games:
@Pitt
Baltimore
@St. Louis
Indy
@Houston
Cinci

Maybe if they would have acquired a few offensive linemen instead of an extra RB. Oh well.

I like the new Houston team much better that the old Houston team. The Texans look like they're ready to take a step forward, and they'd better, because patience with David Carr is likely wearing thin. If Steve McNair is Rocky, David Carr may best be described as a punching bag. While Rocky chooses to step in front of those punches, David Carr is basically stuck out there on his own with a bunch of guys who want to put a whoopin' on him, so to speak.

The Texans didn't do much to improve their line, unfortunately (after a failed run at Orlando Pace), so I'm not sure why I'm so bullish on them. I suppose it is because I expect that their skill players will develop a bit more. Carr can now be considered a veteran, Dom Davis should be peaking, and the talented Andre Johnson has now had a year to develop a rapport with Carr and to completely learn the system. I also think that Jacksonville will fall back a bit, and Houston will be the beneficiary. However, they miss the playoffs in the strong AFC.

Let's talk Jacksonville, and another young QB, Byron Leftwich. He's a solid thrower, and he has shown flashes of greatness occasionally, but he doesn't have many weapons. Sort of like McGuyver. But even McGuyver had a Swiss Army knife. Byron's tools are old (Jimmy Smith) and broken down (Fragile Freddy, back to his fragile ways after an extended period of good fortune). The Jags were somewhat successful last year at slowing the game down and limiting the other team's possessions. Their defense is solid, but I don't think it's quite at the elite level.

This is precisely why I think they will have some difficulties. I still don't think they will be able to score, so the burden will once again fall on the defense, and and I think they face some pretty tough offenses.

To be honest I don't really have a good handle on this team. They've yet to impress me but they seem to pull out some good wins every year, and this year will probably be no different, but I think they do it with smoke and mirrors, and this year, they'll end up just behind the Texans.

One team I do understand is the Colts. Great offense, so-so defense. What more do you need to know? If they could put together some semblance of a respectable defense they would find themselves in the Super Bowl. But, they haven't. The offense will probably come back down to earth a bit, but this is still a great team, at least in the regular season. But right now Peyton Manning is closer to Sisyphus than he is to any superhero.

The fact that I don't have much to say about the Colts speaks volumes. (And sentences like that are a good way to avoid doing any research.) They are largely unchanged, and I expect the result to be largely unchanged. They'll win the division and lose, probably to the Patriots, in the AFC Championship game. But I'll have playoff predictions later.

Tomorrow: The NFC West: How bad is it?

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Want to help out a few Saints fans?

First they have to put up with a lousy football team. Then this hurricane comes along and floods their entire city.

Katrina was a huge disaster, and there are hundreds of thousands, and probably closer to millions of people that will be in need of some kind of aid. If you want to help out, you can donate to the Red Cross here.

Update: Just in case you have something against the Red Cross, here is a comprehensive list of other charities.

NFL Preview, Part 1: The NFC South

So you like Mike Vick, do you? You think he's the greatest thing since sliced bread, and that the Falcons will be a perennial playoff team and Super Bowl contender with him around (if he's healthy of course).

That's fine. Me? I like quarterbacks who can pass. The fact is that Vick is one of the worst quarterbacks in the NFL, and that the Falcons win in spite of his efforts, not because of them. He's a fine runner, but a running QB will only take you so far, and in a tough NFC South, it won't be far enough.

Is Atlanta a bad team? Certainly not. They have a fine defense (Pat Kerney, Rod Coleman, Ed Hartwell, Keith Brooking) and an excellent running attack, which is aided by Vick, but they are a one trick pony on offense, and, while this will sound incredibly cliched, if you can stop the run, you can stop the Falcons, because the Falcons simply cannot pass.

I also like teams with easy schedules. Here are the first 5 games for the Falcons:

Philly (On Monday Night)
@Seattle (On a short week)
@Buffalo (After flying across the country)
Minnesota
New England

That is a tough, tough opening schedule. It does get easier towards the end, but if Atlanta falls into an early hole, I don't like their prospects for getting out in a strong NFC South.

So who's going to finish ahead of them?

How about the Bucs?

They have managed to put together a pretty good offense with second year standout Michael Clayton paired up with Joey Galloway, at least until he gets hurt. And as long as he stays away from dogs and driveways, Brian Griese isn't half bad.

The defense isn't what it was in its glory days, but it is still formidable. Simeon Rice still provides an excellent pass rush and Derrick Brooks is still a very good LB. In fact, if not for Martin Grammatica's complete meltdown last year the Bucs might have already become a force to be reckoned with.

The Bucs will be one of the surprise teams of the NFL, and return to the playoffs as a wildcard team.

You all know about Carolina. Decimated by injuries a year ago, John Fox's team rallied to a near playoff birth, just barely missing out on the last day of the season.

This team looks poised for a return to 2003 form, when they lost to the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Jake Delhomme is a solid QB, Steve Smith is back from a broken leg (if you are going to suffer a terrible injury, this is the one to suffer), and Kerry Colbert seems to be emerging as a solid number two option, which just makes Rod Gardner even more dangerous at the three spot.
DeShaun Foster and Stephen Davis are expected to split time this year in a RB by committee, and should find success behind an improved line featuring former Packer Mike Wahle.

And we all know about the defense. Jenkins, Peppers, Morgan, Witherspoon, Minter.

They should win this division, and return to at least the NFC Championship Game.

As for the Saints, they're...the Saints. Not much has changed really. Same inconsistent QB, same Joe Horn, same Deuce.

They beat bad teams and lose to good teams. They'll probably make a little mini-run sometime during the year and then fall apart. If your team loses to the Saints, your team has problems.

They will bring up the rear in a very strong division that should produce two and possibly three playoff teams.

Tomorrow: The AFC South.

Top 100 Songs of X Meme

I usually don't due the whole "meme" thing, as my understanding of the term is that it refers to an idea that spreads like a virus. (And who wants a virus). But I like music, and nostalgia, and nostalgia about music, so this one seems fun. This particular meme works as follows. Take a look at the top 100 tunes from the year you graduated from high school, (go here, then type the year into the search bar) and find the tunes that would not immediately cause you to change the station. Paul Brewer brought this to my attention. He graduated in 1990, a particularly weak year. I graduated in 1996. Let's have a look, shall we (with commentary):

1. Macarena (Bayside Boys Mix), Los Del Rio - You've gotta be kidding me.
2. One Sweet Day, Mariah Carey and Boyz II Men
3. Because You Loved Me, Celine Dion
4. Nobody Knows, Tony Rich Project
5. Always Be My Baby, Mariah Carey
6. Give Me One Reason, Tracy Chapman - Not a great song, but certainly inoffensive.
7. Tha Crossroads, Bone Thugs-N-Harmony - Why no comma after the word "Bone"?
8. I Love You Always Forever, Donna Lewis - I have a friend (and former roommate) who loves this song,which is just one reason that I hate it.
9. You're Makin' Me High / Let It Flow, Toni Braxton
10. Twisted, Keith Sweat
11. C'mon N' Ride It (The Train), Quad City Dj's
12. Missing, Everything But The Girl - Like the deserts miss the rain.
13. Ironic, Alanis Morissette - It's like rain. Which the deserts miss. Isn't it ironic? Don't you think?
14. Exhale (Shoop Shoop), Whitney Houston
15. Follow You Down / Til I Hear It From You, Gin Blossoms - Anywhere you go, I'll follow you down. Even if all your songs sound the same.
16. Sittin' Up In My Room, Brandy
17. How Do U Want It / California Love, 2Pac - The non-Digital Underground Tupac song that I like.
18. It's All Coming Back To Me Now, Celine Dion - Me too. And it's horrible.
19. Change The World, Eric Clapton - Wasn't Babyface on this one too?
20. Hey Lover, LL Cool J - Back to back LL? He peaked with Around The Way Girl.
21. Loungin, LL Cool J
22. Insensitive, Jann Arden - I could have sworn that this song is ten years older than it actually is.
23. Be My Lover, La Bouche
24. Name, Goo Goo Dolls - A very good Goo Goo song that they did play at the Miller Brew-Ha.
25. Who Will Save Your Soul, Jewel
26. Where Do You Go, No Mercy
27. I Can't Sleep Baby (If I), R. Kelly - Who knew that he literally meant the word "baby"?
28. Counting Blue Cars, Dishwalla - Tell me all your thoughts on God...
29. You Learn / You Oughta Know, Alanis Morissette
30. One Of Us, Joan Osborne - Oh. Apparently Joan Osborne's thoughts on God are stupid. Dr. Evil's version is way better anyway.
31. Wonder, Natalie Merchant - Not great, but not horrible. Better than that stupid "Thank You" song.
32. Not Gon' Cry, Mary J. Blige
33. Gangsta's Paradise, Coolio - It's such a serious song that Coolio got pissed at Weird Al for his parody, Amish Paradise. He was dealing with serious issues here, man. This is Coolio we're talking about.
34. Only You, 112 Featuring The Notorious B.I.G.
35. Down Low (Nobody Has To Know), R. Kelly - Well this is just getting creepy.
36. You're The One, SWV
37. Sweet Dreams, La Bouche
38. Before You Walk Out Of My Life / Like This And Like That, Monica
39. Breakfast At Tiffany's, Deep Blue Something - We both kinda liked it.
40. 1, 2, 3, 4 (Sumpin' New), Coolio - Very serious. This is Coolio man! Coolio!
41. The World I Know, Collective Soul - Message from the video - "I get it! We're like the ants! Now I don't have to kill myself."
42. No Diggity, BLACKstreet (Featuring Dr. Dre) - I like the way they work it.
43. Anything, 3t
44. 1979, The Smashing Pumpkins - So far this is the best song on here. I think I'll listen to it right now.
45. Diggin' On You, TLC
46. Why I Love You So Much / Ain't Nobody, Monica
47. Kissin' You, Total
48. Count On Me, Whitney Houston and Cece Winans - No.
49. Fantasy, Mariah Carey
50. Time, Hootie and The Blowfish - What can I say, I have a soft spot for Hootie.
51. You'll See, Madonna - I don't remember this Madonna song.
52. Last Night, Az Yet
53. Mouth, Merril Bainbridge
54. The Earth, The Sun, The Rain, Color Me Badd - It's no "all for love" or "I want to sex you up."
55. All The Things (Your Man Won't Do), Joe
56. Wonderwall, Oasis - And all the roads we have to walk along are winding, and all the songs we ever wrote are whiny.
57. Woo-hah!! Got You All In Check / Everything Remains Raw, Busta Rhymes - Busta had a nice run for a while with his crazy stop-motion videos and kinetic lyrics. Then he sucked.
58. Tell Me, Groove Theory
59. Elevators (Me and You), Outkast - Check it out. Outkast is ten years old. Hey ya.
60. Hook, Blues Traveler - This video featured Ken Ober of the MTV game show "Remote Control." Just for that I must show some respect.
61. Doin It, LL Cool J - Wow, the Ladies really did Like Cool James this year.
62. Fastlove, George Michael - Not fast enough to evade that cops though.
63. Touch Me Tease Me, Case Featuring Foxxy Brown
64. Tonite's Tha Night, Kris Kross - How do these guys go to the bathroom? (And yes, I stole that from Beavis and Butthead.)
65. Children, Robert Miles - My favorite all time techno-type song. I think I'll listen as soon as 1979 is done.
66. Theme From Mission: Impossible, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen - I like U2 and all, but this is really boring.
67. Closer To Free, Bodeans - Everybody one, Everybody two, Everybody threeeeee.
68. Just A Girl, No Doubt - I did like this tune, but that hollaback girl song is so terrible that No Doubt is now forever tainted.
69. If Your Girl Only Knew, Aaliyah
70. Lady, D'angelo
71. Key West Intermezzo (I Saw You First), John Mellencamp
72. Pony, Ginuwine
73. Nobody, Keith Sweat
74. Old Man and Me (When I Get To Heaven), Hootie and The Blowfish - Not all Hootie though.
75. If It Makes You Happy, Sheryl Crow - Then it still can be that bad.
76. As I Lay Me Down, Sophie B. Hawkins
77. Keep On, Keepin' On, Mc Lyte
78. Jealousy, Natalie Merchant - Not as good as Hey, Jealousy.
79. I Want To Come Over, Melissa Etheridge
80. Who Do U Love, Deborah Cox
81. Un-Break My Heart, Toni Braxton
82. This Is Your Night, Amber
83. You Remind Me Of Something, R. Kelly - A fourteen year old girl, perhaps?
84. Runaway, Janet Jackson - Not as good as the Bodeans tune of the same name, or Runaway train, which focused the nation's attention on missing teenagers long before the nation's current epidemic of pretty, young, white, blond girls being abducted.
85. Set U Free, Planet Soul
86. Hit Me Off, New Edition
87. No One Else, Total
88. My Boo, Ghost Town Dj's
89. Get Money, Junior M.A.F.I.A.
90. That Girl, Maxi Priest Featuring Shaggy
91. Po Pimp, Do Or Die
92. Until It Sleeps, Metallica - A good late-era Metallica tune. Gets excellent treatment on the orchestral S&M album.
93. Hay, Crucial Conflict - Horses eat hay.
94. Beautiful Life, Ace Of Base - I don't see the sign anymore.
95. Back For Good, Take That
96. I Got Id / Long Road, Pearl Jam - A good post-Vitalogy Pear Jam song? Yes, it did happen.
97. Soon As I Get Home, Faith Evans
98. Macarena, Los Del Rio - Again? I'm convinced that the popularity of this tune is related to the 1/5 people who don't know that the Earth revolves around the Sun.
99. Only Wanna Be With You, Hootie and The Blowfish - Sometimes I wonder, if it'll ever end.
100. Don't Cry, Seal - Oh good. It did.

What's wrong with you people?

From the NYT:

Dr. Miller's data reveal some yawning gaps in basic knowledge. American adults in general do not understand what molecules are (other than that they are really small). Fewer than a third can identify DNA as a key to heredity. Only about 10 percent know what radiation is. One adult American in five thinks the Sun revolves around the Earth, an idea science had abandoned by the 17th century.(Emphasis added.)

That hurt my brain. I've got to go lie down.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Normal wagering not doing it for you?

Why not try Longbets. From Steve Levitt:

Other bets at the site:

At least one human alive in the year 2000 will still be alive in 2150. (68% agree)

The universe will eventually stop expanding. (only 35% agree).

Some bets that have been offered, but so far have no takers:

By the year 2150, over 50% of schools in the USA or Western Europe will require classes in defending against robot attacks.

By the year 2020, the tickets to space travel - at the least to Moon, will be available over the counter.

By 2030 all surgical anesthesia will be administered and monitored by computers, with no need for professional medical supervision beyond the surgeon.

The roof is decidedly not on fire.

We really don't need no water.

Here are some hurricane bloggers.

Here's a webcam at LSU.

The Superdome has a bunch of refugees inside of it, and a hole in the roof.

Good luck to everyone in Katrina's path.

Hitch v. Stewart

I like Christopher Hitchens. That said, Jon Stewart takes him apart here.

(Hat tip, Marginal Revolution)

Update: In the interview, Hitch talked about an essay that he was writing. Had he just read the thing he might not have gotten into so much trouble.

Friday, August 26, 2005

I guess I'm addicted to being pasty-white.

The newest addiction wreaking havoc on the nation is:

Anywhere from one-quarter to one-half of people catching rays at the beach may actually be addicted to tanning, according to new study findings.

After interviewing 145 beachgoers, U.S. researchers found that a significant portion met a series of addiction criteria traditionally used to diagnose alcoholism and other substance use disorders.

These findings suggest that regular sun-tanners may have a new type of substance disorder involving ultraviolet light, write the authors, led by Dr. Richard F. Wagner, Jr., of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.
(Hat tip, Nick Gillespie)

Fun Friday

Hit the links.

Flying Spaghetti Monsterism

This has been making the rounds.

OPEN LETTER TO KANSAS SCHOOL BOARD

I am writing you with much concern after having read of your hearing to decide whether the alternative theory of Intelligent Design should be taught along with the theory of Evolution. I think we can all agree that it is important for students to hear multiple viewpoints so they can choose for themselves the theory that makes the most sense to them. I am concerned, however, that students will only hear one theory of Intelligent Design.

Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.

Read the whole thing. It's priceless.

And here's the Wikipedia Entry.

(Hat tip to Texas Scott and The Raving Atheist)

Hawaii to Create Gasoline Shortage

Oh yeah, this will work.

Let's start at the Cafe:

The belief in magic never dies. Politicians in Hawaii apparently believe that ink on paper (backed up by policemen with guns) can keep the cost of gasoline lower than the price that would prevail on the market.

They're wrong. Shortages and queues will result from Hawaii's price controls on gasoline -- shortages and queues that will cause motorists to suffer higher costs than otherwise for each gallon of gasoline they manage to buy.

The silver lining around this politically induced foolishness is that it makes the teaching of economics easier.

And The Coyoteblog makes an important point:

Beyond the obvious run-up in world-wide oil prices and Hawaii's logistical isolation that raises all of the prices on the island, the article on CNN identified one other possible culprit for high prices: the state government

"Higher-than-average taxes on gasoline in Hawaii contribute to those high prices. The state levies a 16 cent per gallon tax, and various local authorities add on other taxes.

In Honolulu, for example, total state, federal and local gas taxes amount to about 53 cents per gallon, one of the highest rates in the United States. The national average, according to the American Petroleum Institute, is about 42 cents per gallon"


Update: This is interesting, from Megan McArdle:

Weirdly, it is imposing that price not at the pump, where it would at least lower prices to consumers, but at the wholesale level.

In traditional economic theory, when prices are capped, consumer demand keeps going strong but suppliers curtail supply, leading to the shortages that those who were sentient in the seventies will remember--long lines for gas, alternate day gas purchases, and so forth. More recently, this is basically what happened in the California blackouts, although there were added wrinkles there due to defects in the regulatory setup of the electricity market. I'm not sure what happens if you cap wholesale prices. There are two plausible scenarios. Wholesalers will undoubtedly curb supply in response to the price caps. The resulting mismatch between supply and demand could simply result in higher prices as consumers get into a bidding war for the available gasoline; in that case, the market will clear, and a handsome windfall profit will be transferred to gasoline station owners from the pockets of consumers and wholesalers. Or, the gasoline station owners may be afraid to raise prices for fear of attracting regulatory attention, in which case the result will be shortages and rationing. I'd bet on the former, and would also bet that there is a powerful gasoline station owner's lobby which has been agitating fiercely for wholesale price caps.

What should the President read?

Well, "books" are a good start.

The Washington Examiner tells us that G-Dub is currently reading John Barry's "The Great Influenza: The Epic Story of the Deadliest Plague in History," Mark Kurlansky's "Salt: A World History" and Edvard Radzinsky's "Alexander II: The Last Great Tsar." Not too shabby.

They also ask for recommendations:


" 'The Republican War on Science,' by Chris Mooney." - Kevin Drum, washingtonmonthly.com

" 'Guns, Germs, and Steel,' by Jared Diamond - you can't go wrong with that one." - Dan Drezner, www.danieldrezner.com

"Bush might take a pass at Nathaniel Hawthorne's great but generally underappreciated 1852 masterpiece, 'The Blithedale Romance,' which is set at a utopian community where everything goes awry. Each of the main characters has a very specific, monomaniacal way of viewing the world and, as the story's disastrous events unfold in death and destruction, each realizes that the world is a much more complex place than they ever allowed. It's a dark allegory about American exuberance and optimism that, when you think about it, should be required reading for not just the president but elected officials everywhere." - Nick Gillespie, editor, Reason magazine

" 'The River War,' by Winston Churchill. It's Churchill's first literary effort and it's about the attempt to reconquer the Sudan by the British. As an account of the clash between Western arms and Arab culture, it's a pretty good primer for the morass the president finds himself in today. And it's a great read." - Andrew Sullivan, AndrewSullivan.com; senior editor, The New Republic; columnist, Time magazine

" 'The Killer Inside Me,' by Jim Thompson. It's the story of a homily-spouting small-town Texas sheriff who practices a kind of water-torture-by-cliché, driving citizens mad with his aggravatingly bland blather. (A sample: 'Another thing about the weather,' I said. 'Everyone talks about it, but no one does anything. But maybe it's better that way. Every cloud has its silver lining, at least that's the way I figure it. I mean, if we didn't have the rain we wouldn't have the rainbows, now would we?') Also, he kills people." - Ana Marie Cox, aka "Wonkette," www.wonkette.com

My own recommendation? The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein.

It contains information about the inner workings of terrorist cells, the benefits of small government, the advantages of superior technology, and the heroes in this story actually run a successful war of liberation. (More here.)

The heroes also speak with an odd accent that makes them sound a bit stupid to most people.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The Carnival of the Badger

is here. For all of your Wisconsin blogger news needs.

In other news, I'm pretty tired from my "complicated league" fantasy football draft last night. (By the way, the guy who runs the complicated league recently made this movie. Neat.) It ran on way too long, and some guy put in an offer sheet on Torry Holt for 15 bucks and I only had 8 bucks of cap space left. I did managed to keep him by putting him on IR, but if I ever want to play him I'll have to clear some more space, which means I'll probably end up trading him. That's still preferable to not matching the offer, in which case I would have only received a 6th round pick as compensation. At least this way I can get some kind of value.

Anyway, they point of this was to explain that I was tired, but I sort of lost my train of thought. Blogging maybe light. It may also be incoherent and rambling. I'm haven't decided yet.

This seems pretty interesting.

And apparently The Brothers Grimm isn't very good.

Here's John Paul Stevens on Kelo and Raich:

Addressing a bar association meeting in Las Vegas, Justice Stevens dissected several of the recent term's decisions, including his own majority opinions in two of the term's most prominent cases. The outcomes were "unwise," he said, but "in each I was convinced that the law compelled a result that I would have opposed if I were a legislator."

In one, the eminent domain case that became the term's most controversial decision, he said that his majority opinion that upheld the government's "taking" of private homes for a commercial development in New London, Conn., brought about a result "entirely divorced from my judgment concerning the wisdom of the program" that was under constitutional attack.

His own view, Justice Stevens told the Clark County Bar Association, was that "the free play of market forces is more likely to produce acceptable results in the long run than the best-intentioned plans of public officials." But he said that the planned development fit the definition of "public use" that, in his view, the Constitution permitted for the exercise of eminent domain.

Justice Stevens said he also regretted having to rule in favor of the federal government's ability to enforce its narcotics laws and thus trump California's medical marijuana initiative. "I have no hesitation in telling you that I agree with the policy choice made by the millions of California voters," he said. But given the broader stakes for the power of Congress to regulate commerce, he added, "our duty to uphold the application of the federal statute was pellucidly clear."


When we get John Roberts in front of the Senate will someone please ask him if he knows what the words "public" and "private" mean, and the difference between the two? Scalia needs to lend Stevens a dictionary or two.

Ann Althouse adds:

Of course, you understand, that a judge who talks like this — Scalia does it too — is really bragging about how principled he is.


Hey, TMQ did his NFC preview on Tuesday (natch) and I missed it. Ah, here it is.

Google's getting bigger. I even found this on Google news.

Looks like rambling and incoherent won out. It's probably better that way.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Bill Hall: Hero.

This should be a challenge on fear factor:

Hall quickly manufactured another run, stealing third and continuing home on catcher Paul Lo Duca's throwing error. Considering what Hall ingested before Yost informed him 30 minutes before the game he was starting in place of Branyan, it was somewhat amazing he felt fast enough to attempt a steal.

"I was on my second piece of pizza and I had eaten about 20 mini tacos," said Hall. "When he told me, I was a little full. I got on the treadmill and got loose. But game time, I was all right. I felt a little lighter."

Pat Robertson: Not just and idiot...

But also a reliable idiot. From Dan Drezner:

So, I see Pat Robertson has spoken out in favor of offing Venezuelan President/strongman Hugo Chavez.

Hmmm... about two years ago, Pat Robertson spoke out in favor of supporting indicted war criminal, former Liberian President/strongman Charles Taylor.

And two years before that, there was the whole 9/11 commentary (although Robertson later said that he had "not fully understood" when he was agreeing with his guest Jerry Falwell).

Readers are invited to identify the target of ire or defense that will make Robertson look like a foreign policy jackass in the summer of 2007.
Some nice comments follow.

We must put a stop to this milk abuse!

From the Ace Cowboy (Go read the whole thing.):

A batboy who accepted a dare Sunday by trying to drink a gallon of milk without
throwing up has been suspended by the Marlins for his actions.

The unidentified batboy will not be allowed to work the upcoming, six-game homestand at Dolphins Stadium against the Cardinals and Mets from Aug. 29 through Sept. 4. The Marlins refused to comment on the suspension.

But Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Brad Penny, who offered $500 to the batboy if he could drink a gallon of milk in less than an hour before Sunday's game, was angry about the decision.

''It's kind of ridiculous that you get a 10-game suspension for steroids and a six-game suspension for milk,'' Penny said.


What? What did he do?

Quick! Confiscate all the saltines from MLB dugouts!

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

The NFL offseason in 30 seconds.

Just so everyone knows where everyone is in time for their fantasy drafts,


Ready? Go!

Randy Moss was involved in the biggest trade of the year moving from the Vikings to the Raiders in exchange for LB Napoleon "Dynamite" Harris. It's too bad that Randy sucks on grass because almost all of his games are on grass this year.

Harris will be joining an improved and revamped Viking defense that acquired Fred Smoot from the Redskins and Darren Sharper from the Packers. Smoot leaves a Redskin squad that still looks formidable on defense, but that did little to address their offensive woes. Their QBs are still terrible. They traded their best WR, Lavranues Coles, to the Jets for Santana Moss and lost Rod Garner to the Panthers.

The Panthers also stole Mike Wahle from the Packers, who just hemorrhaged players in the offseason. They also saw Marco Rivera depart for the Cowboys where he will protect Drew Bledsoe, late of the Bills, who will be replaced by second year man J.P. Losman who won't be handing off to Travis Henry.

That's because Travis left for the Tennessee Titans where he'll split time with the frequently injured Chris Brown. He'll probably end up hurt again as the Titans saw tackle Fred Miller take off for the Bears, and Steve McNair and Billy Volek may have a tough time finding open men as Derrick Mason left for Baltimore. He will attempt to make Kyle Boller actually look good as he replaces Travis Taylor who headed west for the Vikings.

It's possible that he'll be catching a few passes from new Minnesota backup QB Brad Johnson who was run out of Tampa Bay in favor of either Brian Greise or Chris Simms. They'll be throwing to the terrible Ike Hilliard who will be replaced on the Giants by Plaxico Burress, late of the Steelers. The Steelers grabbed Cedrick Wilson from the Niners, who grabbed Johnnie Morton from the Chiefs, who grabbed Sammy Knight and Patrick Surtain from the Dolphins, who picked up Vonnie Holliday from the Chiefs, and Tebucky Jones from the Saints. The Saints signed Az Hakim from the Lions, who signed Marcus Pollard from the Colts, (who still employ Jim Sorgi for some reason,) and Jeff Garcia from the Browns.

The Browns just lost the underrated Andre Davis (not to be confused with Andra Davis, of course) to the Patriots, who accidentally (I assume) acquired David Terrell from the Bears, who stole Mushin Muhammad from the Panthers, and Doug Brien, who missed two important kicks last year but is still better than Paul Edinger, from the Jets.

The Jets lost the excellent Lamont Jordan to the Raiders.

Where Randy Moss now sucks on grass once in a blue moon.

Edinger? He ended up with the Vikings. The former home of Randy Moss, and current home of Napoleon "Dynamite" Harris...

Isn't it nice when everything comes together?

I'm so proud...

Good work boys. Good work. Wisconsin is the number one party school this year:

Halloween, football games and State St. bars help fuel an environment of heavy student drinking, she said. Students enter UW expecting a lot of partying, and that's what many want.

"I think people will be proud that we're number one," Borrelli said.

But university officials who have been working to
curb binge drinking on campus said the survey did nothing to address a serious
problem on campus. They questioned the survey's legitimacy.

"High-risk drinking continues to be a top health issue on college campuses across the country," Chancellor John Wiley said in a written statement. "Junk science that results in a day of national media coverage does not do this issue justice."

The university has banned alcohol in dorms that house underage students. For the second year, Wiley has sent letters to the parents of incoming freshmen about the high-risk drinking that occurs during the first six weeks of classes.

Susan Crowley, director of prevention services at UW-Madison Health Services, said these efforts are paying off.

She pointed to student surveys that show that the school's binge rate, defined as binging at least one time within a two-week period, dropped from 67% in 1999 to 59% in 2004. Binging is defined as five drinks or more for males and three or more for women.

Wisconsin has this Animal House thing going on, particularly with the university bigwigs and deans. I wouldn't be surprised if several students were on double secret probation. It is very silly.

The only way to curb drinking at Wisconsin is to move the school out of Wisconsin.

Until then, we're number 1!

Monday, August 22, 2005

Pop!

Just so everyone knows, this is what a bubble looks like.

Black Gold. Texas Tea.

Disaster! Impending doom! What will happen to us if these high oil prices keep going higher!?

Peter Maass at the NYT thinks we're headed for a global recession. Looks like hard times ahead. Or, maybe not:

What most of these doomsday scenarios have gotten wrong is the fundamental idea of economics: people respond to incentives. If the price of a good goes up, people demand less of it, the companies that make it figure out how to make more of it, and everyone tries to figure out how to produce substitutes for it. Add to that the march of technological innovation (like the green revolution, birth control, etc.). The end result: markets figure out how to deal with problems of supply and demand.

Which is exactly the situation with oil right now. I don't know much about world oil reserves. I'm not even necessarily arguing with their facts about how much the output from existing oil fields is going to decline, or that world demand for oil is increasing. But these changes in supply and demand are slow and gradual -- a few percent each year. Markets have a way with dealing with situations like this: prices rise a little bit. That is not a catastrophe, it is a message that some things that used to be worth doing at low oil prices are no longer worth doing. Some people will switch from SUVs to hybrids, for instance. Maybe we'll be willing to build some nuclear power plants, or it will become worth it to put solar panels on more houses.


That's Steve Levitt, taking Maass to school. But it doesn't end there.

Here's Don Boudreaux. Here's Jay Hancock. Here is the Coyote Blog:

One of the problems with oil is that governments have a real problem with allowing supply and demand to operate. I have wondered for a while why Chinese demand has kept growing so fast in the face of rising prices. The reason is that the Chinese government still is selling gasoline way below market rates, shielding consumers from incentives to reduce consumption. On the supply side, I also wondered when I was in Paris why gasoline prices as high as $6 per gallon were not creating incentives for new sources of supply. It turns out that nearly $4 of the $6 are government taxes, so none of this higher price goes to producers or creates any supply-side incentives. Instead, it goes to paying unemployment benefits, or whatever they do with taxes in France.

Even in the US, which is typically more comfortable with the operation of the laws of supply and demand than other nations, the government has been loathe to actually allow these laws to operate on oil. During the 70's, the government maintained price controls that limited demand side incentives to conserve, thus creating gas lines like the ones we are seeing in China today for the same reason. When these controls were finally removed, a "windfall profits tax" was put in place to make sure that producers would get none of the benefit of the price increases, and therefore would have no financial incentive to seek out new oil supplies or substitutes. Within a few years of the repeal of these dumb laws, oil prices fell back to historical levels and stayed there for 20 years.

Pirates!

For some reason there has been much written on the subject of pirates lately.

First, Douglas R. Burgess Jr. writing in Legal Affairs notes a similarity between piracy and terrorism, and the lessons that the United States should take from the former (Hat tip, ALD):


By the 16th century, piracy had emerged as an essential, though unsavory, tool of statecraft. Queen Elizabeth viewed English pirates as adjuncts to the royal navy, and regularly granted them "letters of marque" (later known as privateering, or piracy, commissions) to harass Spanish trade.

It was a brilliant maneuver. The mariners who received these letters, most notably the famed explorers Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh, amassed immense fortunes for themselves and the Crown, wreaked havoc on Spanish fleets, and terrorized Spain's shoreside cities. Meanwhile, the queen could preserve the vestiges of diplomatic relations, reacting with feigned horror to revelations of the pirates' depredations. Witness, for example, the queen's disingenuous instructions saying that if Raleigh "shall at any time or times hereafter robbe or spoile by sea or by lance, or do any acte of unjust or unlawful hostilities [he shall] make full restitution, and satisfaction of all such injuries done." When Raleigh did what Elizabeth had forbidden - namely, sack and pillage the ports of then-ally Spain - Elizabeth knighted him.

This precedent would be repeated time and again until the mid-19th century, as the Western powers regularly employed pirates to wage secret wars. After a series of draconian laws passed by George I of England effectively banished pirates from the Atlantic, the Mediterranean corsairs emerged as pre-eminent maritime mercenaries in the employ of any European state wishing to harass another. This situation proved disastrous. The corsairs refused to curtail their activities after each war's conclusion, and the states realized that they had created an uncontrollable force. It was this realization that led to the Declaration of Paris in 1856, signed by England, France, Spain, and most other European nations, which abolished the use of piracy for state purposes. Piracy became and remained beyond the pale of legitimate state behavior.

If this chronology seems familiar, it should...


Next, we have Christopher Hitchens writing in the NYT Review of Books, on The Pirates LaFitte, By William C. Davis, The Barbary Wars, By Frank Lambert, and White Gold, by Giles Milton:


Slavery of another type was part of the subtext of the Laffite affair. The American officer most determined to close down Barataria was a 25-year-old naval lieutenant, Daniel Tod Patterson, who had spent unpleasant time as a captive in Tripoli (today's Libya). His experience was not uncommon. The evidence of the best modern historians -- Linda Colley's ''Captives'' being the most salient work -- is that upward of a million Americans and Europeans were kidnapped or enslaved by the Barbary States, the North African provinces of the Ottoman Empire, in the 17th and 18th centuries. Command of the Strait of Gibraltar gave the Barbary monarchs a huge strategic advantage. They kidnapped human property not only on the high seas but also from towns as far north as Iceland as well as from Ireland and the western peninsula of Britain.

More recent angst between the United States and the Arab and Muslim world has revived interest in the half-forgotten Barbary wars, during which Jefferson and Madison dispatched successful naval expeditions to punish the piratical regimes in Algiers, Tripoli, Tunis and Morocco. (The words ''to the shores of Tripoli'' in the first line of the Marine Corps hymn enshrine the memory of the first conflict in which American troops were deployed overseas.) In ''The Barbary Wars,'' Frank Lambert deals with the macro element of this campaign: the economic imperative underlying it. In ''White Gold,'' Giles Milton takes a more micro approach, generalizing the story of the many victims through the horrific experience of one English captive.


Finally, an updated version of the classic Sid Meier videogame, Pirates! was just released for the X-Box.

Pirates was one of the very first non-linear video games out there. A friend of mine had an early version of this game when we were growing up (How early? To get the game to boot up you had to put the 5.25" floppy disk into the computer before you turned it on.), and we spent way too much time on it. However, Pirates! is also a rare blend of education and entertainment. It came with a full map of the world, and it dealt heavily in European politics of the 17th-19th centuries. Real world events often ended up shaping your actions. I'm quite sure I learned more European history from that game than I did in high school.

It also spent a lot of time romanticizing pirates. Had it been released in 1717 (in the Middle of Edward "Blackbeard" Teach's reign of terror) it would have caused a public outcry.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Putting things into perspective

Read this story from The Onion:

Evangelical Scientists Refute Gravity With New 'Intelligent Falling' Theory

KANSAS CITY, KS—As the debate over the teaching of evolution in public schools continues, a new controversy over the science curriculum arose Monday in this embattled Midwestern state. Scientists from the Evangelical Center For Faith-Based Reasoning are now asserting that the long-held "theory of gravity" is flawed, and they have responded to it with a new theory of Intelligent Falling.

"Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, 'God' if you will, is pushing them down," said Gabriel Burdett, who holds degrees in education, applied Scripture, and physics from Oral Roberts University.

Burdett added: "Gravity—which is taught to our children as a law—is founded on great gaps in understanding. The laws predict the mutual force between all bodies of mass, but they cannot explain that force. Isaac Newton himself said, 'I suspect that my theories may all depend upon a force for which philosophers have searched all of nature in vain.' Of course, he is alluding to a higher power."

--

Proponents of Intelligent Falling assert that the different theories used by secular physicists to explain gravity are not internally consistent. Even critics of Intelligent Falling admit that Einstein's ideas about gravity are mathematically irreconcilable with quantum mechanics. This fact, Intelligent Falling proponents say, proves that gravity is a theory in crisis.

"Let's take a look at the evidence," said ECFR senior fellow Gregory Lunsden."In Matthew 15:14, Jesus says, 'And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.' He says nothing about some gravity making them fall—just that they will fall. Then, in Job 5:7, we read, 'But mankind is born to trouble, as surely as sparks fly upwards.' If gravity is pulling everything down, why do the sparks fly upwards with great surety? This clearly indicates that a conscious intelligence governs all falling."

--

"Anti-falling physicists have been theorizing for decades about the 'electromagnetic force,' the 'weak nuclear force,' the 'strong nuclear force,' and so-called 'force of gravity,'" Burdett said. "And they tilt their findings toward trying to unite them into one force. But readers of the Bible have already known for millennia what this one, unified force is: His name is Jesus."

Fun Friday, Part 2.

If the previous post doesn't reflect your vision of "fun," why not watch the new Homestar Runner cartoon instead?

Fun Friday, Part 1: Sports Edition

Aaron Schatz, Roland Beech, and a few other stats junkies have put together a pro football player futures market. It seems to be very well designed and could be fun to play.

It may also end up giving everyone some useful information, as markets tend to do.

Check it out here.

Wisconsinites have their priorities in order.

During a tornado:

At the Stoughton Country Club, the roof was sucked off the building. Lenny Peaslee, head chef, crouched behind the bar in the basement, where about 40 people waited out the storm.

"We saw stuff flying and basically buried our heads," said Peaslee, who was cooking steaks when somebody shouted to get in the basement. He said some guys grabbed their beers as they raced down the stairs.

"They thought it might be their last one," he said. "They wanted to have one in hand."

Miller 150th Anniversary Party

Tomorrow is Miller Brewing Company's 150th Anniversary Brew-Ha, featuring Bon Jovi, The Goo Goo Dolls, and Robert Randolph and the Family Band. The party/concert will be at Miller Park in Milwaukee, and you can't buy tickets, you can only win them. I've managed to score a couple of tickets and while I'm not a huge fan of anyone playing (Long Way Down is a pretty good Goo Goo Dolls tune, and maybe Bon Jovi will concentrate on Slippery When Wet), but it should be a good time.

This will be my second consecutive weekend at Miller Park. Last weekend I watched the Brewers scrape together a measly two hits against the Reds, but it was still fun. Plus I got a Lyle Overbay bobblehead doll. I'm not kidding.

This Sunday, I have my first fantasy football draft, one of my favorite events of the year. This should be a fun (but busy) weekend.

Have a good weekend everyone.

Krugman misses the point.

Pauly K accuses Republicans of vote fraud in the past two elections in today's column:

In his recent book "Steal This Vote" - a very judicious work, despite its title - Andrew Gumbel, a U.S. correspondent for the British newspaper The Independent, provides the best overview I've seen of the 2000 Florida vote. And he documents the simple truth: "Al Gore won the 2000 presidential election."

Two different news media consortiums reviewed Florida's ballots; both found that a full manual recount would have given the election to Mr. Gore. This was true despite a host of efforts by state and local officials to suppress likely Gore votes, most notably Ms. Harris's "felon purge," which disenfranchised large numbers of valid voters.


First of all, that's simply not "a simple truth." In fact, even if you grant everything else asserted by Gumbel and Krugman as fact, it is still not true that Gore won. Gore's problem was never a lack of people who intended to vote for him. Gore's problem was having voters too stupid to read the instructions (I cut some slack for the elderly. They are not stupid, just elderly). The battle was all about interpreting ballots, and, while the Supreme Court may have overstepped a bit by taking the case, the substance of their decision was correct. Having the intention of voting is fine, but it's not enough. You are responsible for actually casting a valid ballot as well.

But Krugman is not all wet here. He's probably right about some of the funny business in Florida. Krugman's problem is that he blames Republicans, instead of blaming power (or gerrymandering, a much larger and bi-partisan problem). Take a look at this paragraph:

But few Americans have heard these facts. Perhaps journalists have felt that it would be divisive to cast doubt on the Bush administration's legitimacy. If so, their tender concern for the nation's feelings has gone for naught: Cindy Sheehan's supporters are camped in Crawford, and America is more bitterly divided than ever.


This assumes that Americans would not be divided if Al Gore were president. That is, of course, a ridiculous notion. Simply having a Democratic president does not unite the country. Also, Cindy Sheehan doesn't have anything to do with this.

Meanwhile, the whitewash of what happened in Florida in 2000 showed that election-tampering carries no penalty, and political operatives have acted accordingly. For example, in 2002 the Republican Party in New Hampshire hired a company to jam Democratic and union phone banks on Election Day.

Everyone in Milwaukee already knows that election-tampering carries little or no penalty. For a refresher click here, here, here, and here. It is at least possible that Bush won Wisconsin in both 2000 and, more likely, in 2004, but lost out due to fraud. For every dirty trick played by a Republican, the Democrats tend to answer in kind. And that is why simply laying the blame on the morals of a particular party is such a waste of time (as well as space in the NYT).

Let's skip ahead a bit:

The D.N.C. report is very cautious: "The purpose of this investigation," it declares, "was not to challenge or question the results of the election in any way." It says there is no evidence that votes were transferred away from John Kerry - but it does suggest that many potential Kerry votes were suppressed. Although the Conyers report is less cautious, it stops far short of claiming that the wrong candidate got Ohio's electoral votes.

But both reports show that votes were suppressed by long lines at polling places - lines caused by inadequate numbers of voting machines - and that these lines occurred disproportionately in areas likely to vote Democratic. Both reports also point to problems involving voters who were improperly forced to cast provisional votes, many of which were discarded.


I have no doubt that this is true, but it's tough to blame Republicans for long lines and a lack of voting machines in highly Democratic areas. The fact is that for all practical purposes you are responsible for providing adequate voting resources to your party, not the other guy's party. This is pretty obvious, because if you govern a district that voted for you, (and really, where else would you govern?) you have an incentive to increase turnout in your district and supply voting resources, especially during a national election. You only want to discourage voting if you're unpopular.

This is where gerrymandering enters the picture. For most officeholders it doesn't matter if 10% of the vote gets screwed up or lost or walks away because the line is too long, because most officeholders in the US have safe seats. They have safe seats because they get to draw their own districts, and they can do so in such a way to create segregated districts: Almost all Republican or almost all Democrat. Job security is concern numero uno.

It is this practice which really bit Democrats in the ass for two consecutive elections. The punch-card butterfly voting machines in Florida probably were faulty and inaccurate, but until 2000, did anyone care? Presidential elections were usually blowouts and thanks to gerrymandering most of the lower state and federal officeholders were safe enough.

Too, Wisconsin's obscenely permissive voting laws (no photo ID required, and you can register at the polls) were never a problem for most Wisconsin politicians. Milwaukee and Madison have been solidly Democratic for a long time, and much of the rest of the state is solidly Republican. There are some contested areas, of course, but for the most part having permissive voting laws probably didn't hurt anyone.

However, when everyone finally experienced an incredibly close Presidential race, the inefficiencies in everyone's voting laws were magnified, and instead of enacting reforms, many have simply chosen to exploit these inefficiencies. As maddening as that is, it should not be surprising.

Pauly then makes a related point:

The Conyers report goes further, highlighting the blatant partisanship of election officials. In particular, the behavior of Ohio's secretary of state, Kenneth Blackwell - who supervised the election while serving as co-chairman of the Bush-Cheney campaign in Ohio - makes Ms. Harris's actions in 2000 seem mild by comparison.

And then there are the election night stories. Warren County locked down its administration building and barred public observers from the vote-counting, citing an F.B.I. warning of a terrorist threat. But the F.B.I. later denied issuing any such warning. Miami County reported that voter turnout was an improbable 98.55 percent of registered voters. And so on.


These are real problems, and to Pauly's credit, they are very specific problems, but they are, again, hardly unique to Republicans. Along with Wisconsin, the Dakota's also experienced irregularities (especially South Dakota in the 2002 race between John Thune and Tim Johnson. Wall Street Journal reporter John Fund covered that race here.). The real problem here is the ability of one party to enforce or not enforce the rules on the actual day of an election. This can also be tied to gerrymandering. A one party district will necessarily lack the oversight and accountability provided by competition.

As it turns out, Krugman basically agrees with me, he just doesn't realize it:

Our current political leaders would suffer greatly if either house of Congress changed hands in 2006, or if the presidency changed hands in 2008. The lids would come off all the simmering scandals, from the selling of the Iraq war to profiteering by politically connected companies. The Republicans will be strongly tempted to make sure that they win those elections by any means necessary. And everything we've seen suggests that they will give in to that temptation.


Krugman is still and economist, first and foremost. And if economists know one thing it is that people respond to incentives. He makes the case that Republicans may cheat in the future because they have a lot on the line. Fair enough. But the fact that Republicans have so much on the line means that Democrats have just as much, if not more on the line, and with it comes the same temptation. Everything I've seen suggests that they will give in to that temptation. I do, after all, live in Chicago.

Here's a quote from Jim Glass (at scrivener.net, via Tim Worstall) that nicely sums up Krugman:

Here's a simple irony Paul Krugman will never understand:

Milton Friedman and the small-government types on the right take Paul Krugman's complaints about the character of government much more seriously than Paul Krugman does.

(They take Brad DeLong's complaints more seriously than DeLong does, too.)

That's why they want small government.

Heck, I take Krugman's complaints about government more seriously than Krugman does. Politicians operate by consolidating power, rewarding friends, granting favors for favors received ... Yup, that's what they do! That's why I don't want to give them 11 points more of GDP (65% more) to play with.

But Krugman, while lecturing us ceaselessly about the evils and incompetence of the politicians in Washington, does want to give it to them. Go figure that out.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Remember when they still made candy cigarettes?

Man, were those tasty.

OK, so they actually tasted like sugar coated chalk, but I always took a certain glee in the sheer perversity of such a candy. I always thought that Gummy-Joints and Heroin S'mores (melt the chocolate in a spoon, poor into syringe shaped graham cracker) would be right around the corner. I should have figured that Heroin S'mores would be over the line. I mean, we can't be encouraging kids to play with fire like that.

Anyway, if you're looking for kid-safe products shaped like adult vices these days, you may have some problems finding them. Fortunately, Japan has the answer:

SAGA (Kyodo) Kidsbeer, a nonalcoholic brew aimed at children, is catching on with young drinkers and is posting monthly shipments of 75,000 bottles, according to maker Tomomasu Co.

The beverage, one of whose ingredients is the Latin American plant guarana, sells for around 380 yen per 330-milliliter bottle. The bottles themselves are colored brown to make the drink look even more like its more potent counterpart, the company said.

The drink started out as Guarana, a cola beverage that used to be sold at the Shitamachi-ya restaurant in Fukuoka, run by 39-year-old Yuichi Asaba.

Asaba renamed the sweet carbonated drink Kidsbeer, a move that made it an instant hit.


And don't miss the slogan:

"Even kids cannot stand life unless they have a drink."


(Hat tip, Julian Sanchez)

N.C.A.A. ends anti-trust suit by acquiring competition.

Did this really happen? Can this really happen? If you recall, the NIT was suing the NCAA for anti-competitive practices because the NCAA has a rule that requires member schools to enter the NCAA tournament if they are invited.

So what do you do if you're accused of anti-competitive practices? Eliminate the competition!

The N.C.A.A. settled an antitrust suit yesterday by buying the preseason and postseason National Invitation tournaments for $56.5 million. As part of the settlement, the semifinal and final games of the N.I.T. events will continue to be played in Madison Square Garden for at least the next five years.

The suit had been brought by the Metropolitan Intercollegiate Basketball Association, which is made up of five New York City universities: St. John's, Manhattan, Fordham, New York University and Wagner. All five are N.C.A.A. members. The metropolitan association, which owns the N.I.T., had accused the N.C.A.A. of trying to kill its tournaments.

For two weeks, a federal jury in Manhattan had heard the N.I.T.'s case. In his opening arguments, Jeffrey Kessler, the N.I.T. lawyer, said the N.C.A.A. "deliberately set out to get a monopoly, to eliminate competition, to make it impossible to compete."

At a news conference yesterday at the Garden, Myles Brand, the N.C.A.A. president, and John Sexton, the president of N.Y.U. and spokesman for the metropolitan association, acted like old buddies. (Actually, both were reared in Brooklyn.)

"We've resolved all our differences," Brand said.

Sexton called the agreement "a victory without defeat" and said it would make for a stronger N.I.T.

Of course, when there is competition, "victory without defeat" is tough to come by.

Update: From The Sports Law Blog:

The settlement described above proves to be more of a sale agreement: the NCAA has purchased the NIT for $41 million, along with furnishing a $16 million pay-out in order to end the litigation. Thus, any potential rivalry by the NIT is eliminated. This outcome, of course, contradicts everything the NIT had claimed to be fighting for -- namely, becoming a legitimate rival to the monopolistic NCAA (which, with its purchase of the NIT, becomes a true monopoly). Instead, the NIT has sold itself out, and allowed the NCAA to not only continue, but expand the very practices that the NIT had claimed were deleterious to basketball fans.


Indeed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Another Jesus Sighting

Jesus has been spotted on a Pierogi, which is some sort of polish dumpling according the the article. The dumpling was sold for $1,775 to GoldenPalace.com, the same online casino that bought the famous Grilled Jesus Sandwich last year.

The London Murder

It now appears very likely that Jean Charles de Menezes, shot and killed by police in London shortly after 7/7, was murdered by the police, and that the police attempted to cover it up. Ace has a nice roundup of links:

Unlike earlier police reports, new documents, photographs and testimony leaked to the media are now showing Jean Charles De Menezes wasn't acting suspicious at all, he wasn't running from police, he wasn't wearing a bulky, padded jacket, he didn't have a big bag, he didn't vault the barrier, he actually got on a train and sat down in a seat before being tackled to the ground, and then once he was pinned down, he was shot seven times in the head and once in the shoulder. Three other bullets missed.


When I first read this story the details made it sound like a "good shooting," but in the comments section of that post, MDS made an excellent point which now looks downright brilliant:

Why did they let him get on the No. 2 bus if they thought he was planning to commit an act of terrorism?


The police originally justified the shooting in part because once he was on the train it would be "too late," but based on what we've seen from terrorists in London, letting him on a bus also made it "too late."

That comment made me rethink the whole scenario, and indeed, it now appears that the police were entirely in the wrong here. Great catch by MDS.

And my sympathies and condolences to the de Menezes family who have had to deal with a family member not only being murdered, but also being falsely labeled as terrorist. I hope they get the justice they deserve.

Sometimes it is difficult being a libertarian.


This is one of those times:

Emmons and his wife, Virginia, rent out the two flats in the duplex. They live in their own Original property on Dale Lane. Emmons, whose company specializes in artwork and repair of Original chimneys, has created chimney ornamentation for 135 of the Greendale Original homes in the village during the last 21 years. Village officials established guidelines last year to maintain the homes' historic and architectural integrity, including direction for chimney ornamentation.

The guidelines suggest ornamentation be no more than 2 1/2 square feet per side and have no more than a 3-inch projection from the surface. Big Bird, who is blue because he is on Bluebird Court, is much larger. Emmons argues that he didn't violate the guidelines because the bird is on top, and not on the side of the chimney.

Village officials said that even if neighbors on Bluebird Court liked the bird, it would have still likely faced the same outcome. It was built without a permit and doesn't adhere to the guidelines regarding decorative ornamentation, argue Village Manager Joe Murray and Village President Scott Leonard.


If you actually like the bird you can sign this petition.

Hat tip to Ahren, who also picked out the best quote in the story:

"It's changed our way of life. It has infringed on our privacy. It has caused a lot of heartache on the street," said Ardith Weitkunat, a Bluebird Court resident. "This is totally inappropriate for the top of a house."

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Beware to those who run afoul of Ebert!

You may end up on this list, with the likes of:

"B.A.P.S."

The movie doesn't work, but was there any way this material could ever have worked? My guess is that African Americans will be offended by the movie, and whites will be embarrassed. The movie will bring us all together, I imagine, in paralyzing boredom.


or

"Sorority Boys"

I should be a good sport and go along with the joke. But the joke is not funny. The movie is not funny. If it's this easy to get a screenplay filmed in Hollywood, why did they bother with that Project Greenlight contest? Why not ship all the entries directly to Larry Brezner, Michael Fottrell and Walter Hamada, the producers of "Sorority Boys," who must wear Santa suits to work?


or

"Freddy Got Fingered"

This movie doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels.


There's much, much more where that came from.

Cafe Hayek on Niger, Social Religion (or lack thereof).

The posters at Cafe Hayek read the same terrible WaPo article on Niger that I did, and they've been gathering a ton of information on the subject. You know, like a reporter normally would. You can read all about it here, here, here, and here. It's quite illuminating.

Don Boudreaux also makes a nice observation about the ways in which people view government:

Most people who understand and accept this Smith-Hayek insight become what we might call "social deists."

A social deist assumes that sovereign power is necessary to design and maintain the foundation, but not the superstructure, of society. That is, a social deist regards conscious design and maintenance of the "constitutional" level as necessary. Upon this foundation, social order grows unplanned.

Social deists are contrasted, on one hand, with "social creationists." Social creationists are members of that species of juvenile thinkers who regard conscious, central direction by a wise and caring higher human authority as necessary for all social order - not only for the foundation, but for all, or much, of what the foundation supports.

Economic central planners are prime examples of social creationists. In their view, government must not only create and enforce law (society's foundation), it also must plan the course of the economy (society's superstructure) - for example, which good and services to produce, and how to produce these.



You can read the whole thing here.

President in favor of having people confuse porn, wholesome family sites.

Can anyone out there explain to me the logic of this position:


The Bush administration is objecting to the creation of a .xxx domain, saying it has concerns about a virtual red-light district reserved exclusively for Internet pornography.

Michael Gallagher, assistant secretary at the Commerce Department, has asked for a hold to be placed on the contract to run the new top-level domain until the .xxx suffix can receive further scrutiny. The domain was scheduled to receive final approval Tuesday.

"The Department of Commerce has received nearly 6,000 letters and e-mails from individuals expressing concern about the impact of pornography on families and children," Gallagher said in a letter that was made public on Monday.


The position of the administration seems to be that porn will decrease or go away if this domain name is prohibited. All of the points made by the administration attack porn in general, and do not address the issue of the consequences of allowing for this new domain name. This is idiotic, and if you're a "Family Values Republican" it is extremely counterproductive.

Let's get a few things straight. First of all, it is easy to find porn. Secondly, it is so easy to find porn that it is easy to accidentally find porn. I was under the impression that conservatives were against this. Lastly, there will always be porn on the internet because there is a huge demand for porn.

If only there was some way to make porn on the internet easily identifiable. Some type of easily recognizable symbol we could attach to each site that would allow concerned parents to warn their kids (or set their internet blockers).

A few years ago, some Republicans and Democrats had similar ideas:


At the time (November 2000), politicians lambasted ICANN's move. Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., demanded to know why ICANN didn't approve .xxx "as a means of protecting our kids from the awful, awful filth, which is sometimes widespread on the Internet." Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., told (click for PDF) a federal commission that .xxx was necessary to force adult Webmasters to "abide by the same standard as the proprietor of an X-rated movie theater."


I personally don't think it matters one way or the other. Porn on the internet is like money in politics; no matter how many restrictions or labels you put on it, it will still flow to those who desire it. But if you are a parent with concerns about your kid on the internet, doesn't it help your cause if porn is clearly labeled as porn?

This is a no-brainer, which, I suspect, is exactly why the administration got it wrong.

Monday, August 15, 2005

If it's not a stain on the freeway or an $18,000 grilled cheese sandwich, it's winking garbage.

I enjoy watching idiots flock to "miracles." Last year's grease stain was hilarious, unless you had to commute past it like Paul did. And the $18,000 grilled cheese is just about the definition of gullible. Here is a story of a statue of Jesus that allegedly opened one eye.

"I looked up, and saw the eye was open and light blue, like the sky," said Dones, 52, who is partially blind himself and goes by the nickname Sly.

"God wants the people to know he's present," the unemployed man said, adding that he found the statue in a Jersey City garbage bin a year ago."

Parting seas to winking garbage. Miracles just ain't what they used to be. I do like the image of a winking Jesus though.

If it's not one thing, it's small, super dense particles.

This is just strange:

FORGET dangers from giant meteors: Earth is facing another threat from outer space. Scientists have come to the conclusion that two mysterious explosions in the 1990s were caused by bizarre cosmic missiles.

The two objects were picked up by earthquake detectors as they tore through Earth at up to 900,000 mph. According to scientists, the most plausible explanation is that they were "strangelets", clumps of matter that have so far defied detection but whose existence was posited 20 years ago.

Formed in the Big Bang and inside extremely dense stars, strangelets are thought to be made from quarks - the subatomic particles found inside protons and neutrons. Unlike ordinary matter, however, they also contain "strange quarks", particles normally only seen in high-energy accelerators.

Strangelets - sometimes also called strange-quark nuggets - are predicted to have many unusual properties, including a density about ten million million times greater than lead. Just a single pollen-size fragment is believed to weigh several tons.


Moving along...

The scientists looked for events producing two sharp signals, one as it entered Earth, the other as it emerged again. They found two such events, both in 1993. The first was on the morning of October 22. Seismometers in Turkey and Bolivia recorded a violent event in Antarctica that packed the punch of several thousand tons of TNT. The disturbance then ripped through Earth on a route that ended with it exiting through the floor of the Indian Ocean off Sri Lanka just 26 seconds later - implying a speed of 900,000 mph.

The second event took place on November 24, when sensors in Australia and Bolivia picked up an explosion starting in the Pacific south of the Pitcairn Islands and travelling through Earth to appear in Antarctica 19 seconds later.


The universe is weird.

(Hat tip, Instapundit)

Update: Hmm. It appears that this article is several years old.

1. How did I not notice that?

2. How did that happen in the first place?

Those who had their property seized in Kelo...

may owe back rent.


Are you kidding? Click on this link and read the entire horrifying thing. Here's a horrifying snippet:

“The New London Development Corp., the semi-public organization hired by the city to facilitate the deal, is offering residents the market rate as it was in 2000, as state law requires. That rate pales in comparison to what the units are now worth, owing largely to the relentless housing bubble that has yet to burst.

I can’t replace what I have in this market for three times [the 2000 assessment],” says Dery, 48, who works as a home delivery sales manager for the New London Day .

…. And there are more storms on the horizon. In June 2004, NLDC (New London Development Corporation) sent the seven affected residents a letter indicating that after the completion of the case, the city would expect to receive retroactive “use and occupancy” payments (also known as “rent”) from the residents.

In the letter, lawyers argued that because the takeover took place in 2000, the residents had been living on city property for nearly five years, and would therefore owe rent for the duration of their stay at the close of the trial. Any money made from tenants — some residents’ only form of income — would also have to be paid to the city.

With language seemingly lifted straight from The Goonies , NLDC’s lawyers wrote, “We know your clients did not expect to live in city-owned property for free, or rent out that property and pocket the profits, if they ultimately lost the case.” They warned that “this problem will only get worse with the passage of time,” and that the city was prepared to sue for the money if need be.


More here, from Todd Zywicki.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Perceptions of Sexual Orientation

Paul Brewer links to a fascinating study on how people view homosexuality:

Belief that homosexuality is immutable is strongly associated with positive opinions about gays and lesbians ­ even more strongly than education, personal acquaintance with a homosexual, or general ideological beliefs. For example, about two-thirds of people who think homosexuality can be changed (68%) have an unfavorable opinion of gay men. By contrast, nearly six-in-ten (59%) of those who think homosexuality cannot be changed have a favorable opinion. This pattern holds even among groups of people who are similar in religious beliefs, partisan affiliation, and other factors.

There's more. Read it all, here.

Fun Friday, Part 2

An intrepid young filmmaker tries to do Morgan Spurlock one better in this new documentary.

(Hat tip, Tex)

Fun Friday

While I would normally send you here for movie reviews, I'm making an exception this week for two old timers who really know how to criticize.

I give you Statler and Waldorf (with an guest appearance from the Swedish Chef).

The Coyote on Railroad Labor

An excellent post. You should read the whole thing.

Beginning in the late 1930's, but really gaining momentum in the late 1940's, railroads began to replace steam locomotives with diesel engines. Diesel locomotives were more reliable, easier to maintain, easier to operate (no coal to shovel) and could go much longer distances without service (steam engines stopped frequently for more water). As this transition occurred, railroad companies very reasonably sought to eliminate the position of "fireman" on diesel trains. After all, without a boiler and coal to shovel, the fireman role was totally redundant on a diesel engine. Railroad unions were nothing if not gutsy, and in response they argued that not only would they not accept elimination of the fireman position, but they campaigned for an addition of a second fireman on diesel engines. Railroads found themselves in the position of actually having to fight a nearly successful effort to increase the number of firemen on crews. As a result, they ended up accepting the fireman role, and generations of railroad men cruised about the country on engines for the next 40 years, doing virtually nothing for their pay. Railroads were still fighting to eliminate the fireman in the 1990's. In some cases, railroads were actually forced to pay "lonesome pay" to some engineers when the firemen were removed from their crew. LOL.

When I read Atlas Shrugged I was well aware of railway labor laws already, and as a result the rather ludicrous laws that exist in said book never seemed that implausible, as it does to some. While Rand certainly doesn't shy away from hyperbole, most of the railway law in said book is based in fact:

If you have ever read Atlas Shrugged, you will find that a lot of the outrageous legislation in that story that seemed too stupid to be true actually have a basis in the history of US railroad law. Even the "railroad unification act" that seems totally over-the-top toward the end of the book is based on actual railroad law after WWI:

The Transportation Act of 1920 gave the Interstate Commerce Commission complete control over pricing, issuance of securities, expenditure of proceeds, consolidations, and the construction, use, and abandonment of facilities. The act set up a Railway Labor Board to mediate disputes. Its "recapture" provision required a portion of a company's earnings in excess of an allowable "fair return" to be diverted to railroads with relatively low earnings. Except for the most routine administration, almost everything owners might do was subject to federal regulation or dictation.


More on the transition of steam to diesel here. I am not very well versed on the subject, but apparently this specialized railroad labor law was later applied to airline pilots, with predictable results. It is interesting that the two industries covered by the RLA (railroads and airlines) have both seen every major carrier in their industry bankrupted over the last 50 years.

Pop Quiz

If the price of food is high, what does it mean?

Answer: It means two things. That the demand for food is high, or that the supply of food is low. In general, the demand for food is fairly constant. Everyone has to eat. Therefore, if the price of food goes up, we know that the supply of food is down.

Some economic illiterate at the Washington Post has a slightly different take. First, the title:

The Rise of a Market Mentality Means Many Go Hungry in Niger


You've got to be kidding. Let's look at his in depth analysis:

It is the result not only of food shortages but a host of other problems, including vendor profiteering, a government policy shift toward a free market, and a decline in the traditional culture of generosity that once helped communities in Niger survive cyclical periods of scarcity.

In a country adopting free market policies, the suffering caused by a poor harvest has been dramatically compounded by a surge in food prices and, many people here suspect, profiteering by a burgeoning community of traders, who in recent years have been freed from government price controls and other mechanisms that once balanced market forces.


Ah! I see. The problem is not a lack of food, as the market indicates, but simply the price of food. If we just lower the price of food everything will be fine. Except that it will cause us to run out of food (he does, after all, note that there is a food shortage). And it will scare away those providing food, as they have no incentive to sell. His note that food shortages are not just caused by foot shortages is pure genius.

Let's take a look at this logically. As this reporter notes, Niger is not a good place to grow crops:

Niger, a landlocked nation of 11.7 million, suffers through hunger crises about once every decade. The sandy soil holds water poorly, and only one acre in 30 is considered arable. A short rainy season can be disastrous for a country of subsistence farmers, and last year, farmers faced both a lack of rain and an infestation of locusts.


So what do you do if you can't grow your own food? You trade for food. Of course you have to have willing trade partners for that:

Much of the agricultural sector is still government-run. Worst of all, tiny Niger, in which only 15% of the land is arable and non-desert, depends on its neighbors for cereal imports every year. But this year, those command-controlled neighbors, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, and Mali, are restricting exports to Niger, despite the fact that they've signed trade treaties against such hoarding. In other words, Niger's children are starving because of a failure to trade freely, and not a failure of the free market.


Don Boudreaux further notes:

I’m also struck by this remark in the report:

"A U.N. report found that prices in markets in Niger have shot up sharply because of profiteering, said James Morris, executive director of the U.N. World Food Program, speaking from San Francisco. Some traders, he said, have raised prices in anticipation of the arrival of aid groups, which often buy food locally to save on transport costs."


Perhaps if the U.N. weren’t in Niger, traders would be selling food directly to starving people rather than waiting for well-meaning westerners to buy it.


Note also the lack of any discussion of the cause of the food shortage (other than Niger's poor farmland, which is a constant problem). His basic theory is that before these alleged market reforms took place, the generosity of the people would cause food to magically appear.

Now that's some good reporting.

Megan McArdle has a related story, here.


 
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