The Electric Commentary

Friday, September 30, 2005

Fun Friday, Part 2

The Tragedy of the Bunnies.

See if you can make it past level 2.

"In the race for the designation of American's dumbest state...

...Alabama is Carl Lewis and the other 49 might as well be Stephen Hawking."

Ed Brayton on Judge Roy Moore, State Sen. Gerald Allen and now Sen. Hank Erwin.

"New Orleans and the Mississippi Gulf Coast have always been known for gambling, sin and wickedness," wrote Sen. Hank Erwin, R-Montevallo, in a column, according to the Birmingham News. "It is the kind of behavior that ultimately brings the judgment of God."

Erwin said he was awed, but not surprised after surveying the damage to hard-hit regions including Gulfport and Biloxi, Miss., and the fishing town of Bayou La Batre on the Alabama coast.

"Warnings year after year by godly evangelists and preachers went unheeded. So why were we surprised when finally the hand of judgment fell?" he wrote. "Sadly, innocents suffered along with the guilty. Sin always brings suffering to good people as well as the bad."

"America has been moving away from God," continued the former talk-radio host and now a media consultant and senator. "We all need to embrace godliness and churchgoing and good, godly living, and we can get divine protection for that point.

"The Lord is sending appeals to us," he said. "As harsh as it may sound, those hurricanes do say that God is real, and we have to realize sin has consequences."

Erwin said the catastrophic storms are part of a pattern evident in the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, claiming God has removed an umbrella of protection from America due to an increase in abortion, pornography and prostitution.

"If you are believer and read the Bible, you know sin has judgment," Erwin said. "New Orleans has always been known for sin. ... The wages of sin is death."

Fun Friday, Part 1

Chad Johnson, Lord of the Dance.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Gruden v. The Packer Secondary

Michael David Smith paid very close attention to the way that Tampa Bay coach John Gruden created mismatches in the Packer secondary on Sunday in his Every Play Counts column. It's a must read for a Packer fan. Poor Michael Hawkins. Here's a clip:

Tampa Bay’s first drive demonstrated the way Gruden’s offense uses formations with three receivers clustered together to create mismatches, often getting the primary receiver matched up against the weak link of the opposing team’s defense. In the Packers’ case, the weak link is rookie fifth-round draft pick Michael Hawkins, and the Bucs targeted him on both of the key passes on their opening drive, which resulted in a touchdown. Facing a third-and-10 at the Green Bay 37-yard line, wide receiver Michael Clayton lined up split to the right, with tight end Alex Smith and flanker Edell Shepherd also on the right of the formation. Brian Griese knew that Smith would release down the middle of the field, and the crossing pattern of Clayton to the inside and Shepherd to the outside would create one-on-one coverage with Hawkins on Clayton. That is a huge mismatch, and Clayton slanted inside, grabbed the Griese pass and gained 18 yards.

After four straight Williams runs, the Bucs were down to the Packers’ 5-yard line. Joey Galloway lined up wide to the right with Ike Hilliard on his inside in the slot. A play fake to Williams kept the Packers’ linebackers close, and Hilliard’s presence inside kept the safety there. That meant one-on-one coverage for Hawkins on Galloway. Griese rolled to the right, where Hawkins was stuck: He could maintain coverage on Galloway and let Griese run in for a touchdown, or he could pressure Griese and leave Galloway alone in the end zone. He chose the latter, and Griese easily tossed the ball to Galloway for the touchdown. Gruden knew the Packers had to respect Williams’ presence on the fake and Hilliard’s inside route, and that isolated Hawkins in the end zone.


Read the whole thing, if for no other reason than to get inside the mind of a very good coach.

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

OK, I'm swamped right now, and I'll comment more on this later, but I have to at least mention it. The Conglomerate just informed me in this slight decrease in my quality of life. From Christine Hurt:

A faculty member here at Illinois just sent out an informative email alerting us that the Illinois Bar Association enacted rules today making CLE mandatory and creating a mandatory "bridge the gap" type CLE program for new attorneys. Sigh.

Who argued for mandatory CLE with a straight face? In my experience (with Texas), mandatory CLE requirements simply create an industry for CLE providers. Attorneys can choose to spend a lot on out-of-town CLE programs at nice hotels, perhaps in Cancun, Aspen, or elsewhere, or spend a minimal amount on an online CLE that streams audio and/or video through your computer while you pay rapt attention. Like any education, one can get either a lot or a little out of CLE depending on how much attention you spend choosing and attending the CLE, but most people I would assume get little out of it.

I would argue that mandatory CLE raises the cost of being in the legal profession without a commensurate benefit to either the profession or the public. I can understand how it could be hard to eliminate mandatory CLE once it is enacted, but I would like to know who in Illinois thought that after all these years, mandatory CLE would be a good thing. Are grievances lower in states with mandatory CLE than in states without it?


CLE can be useful. Mandatory CLE is a gigantic waste of time. This is awful.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Madison Police Department links alcohol to crime downtown.

In another display of brilliant logic, the MPD has clearly demonstrated that liquor licenses=Crime!

"Nicole DeMotto, data analyst for the MPD, said she analyzed crime data and citations starting in 2003, and research shows a strong enough correlation between the density of liquor licenses in the central district and of crime and violence in the area. Because of the high density of both these factors, DeMotto concluded that reducing the number of liquor licenses downtown would ultimately decrease the number of violent occurrences."

Nevermind that the DOWNTOWN also has the most PEOPLE. If we really wanted to cut down on violent crime, the only surefire solution is getting rid of the people. But that just doesn't seem practical to me. I think I have a better solution. See if you can pick it out of the article. Here is what people on both sides of the drinking debate have to say:

“Violence and disorder are clustered in the same locations as where there are a cluster of liquor licenses,” DeMotto said. “We also see the incidents cluster at bar time.”

Central District Capt. Mary Schauf said reported incidents spike between midnight and 3 a.m. and are particularly high at bar time.


But Marsh Shapiro, owner of the Nitty Gritty and member of the Alcohol License Review Committee, made it clear the hoard of humanity at bar time should not be blamed entirely on the taverns. “People at apartments and house parties like to be downtown to be there for the last hurrah at bar time,” Shapiro said in response. “So they go to State Street at bar time to continue their night.”

It seems to me that the problem might be that everyone is leaving the bar at the same time. Could it be that bar time itself is to blame?

This Looks Big:

DeLay Indicted.

The perils of arguing against an idiot.

For nearly six years now Democrats have been calling George W. Bush a moron. He can't put a coherent sentence together, he has admitted only one mistake (taking responsibility for Katrina screwups) to date, and he seems to be screwing up Iraq, which pisses me off because I think that the democratization of Iraq would have been a very good thing.

But forget about all of that for a minute. Texans probably think that W sounds just fine, he did admit a mistake, and President's make foreign policy snafus. It happens.

The fact is that Democrats and Republicans are locked in an ideological battle. Each believes that implementing their policies will make the country and the world a better place, while enacting the opponent's platform will lead to a country filled with either slack-jawed, bumbling, racist hicks being ruled by four rich oil corporations or, alternatively, communist, possibly homosexual hippy deadbeats with STDs.

The Democrats are, of course, in favor of stopping us from making people feel bad. They're preferred method of doing so is to pretend that all inequality is based on some kind of "ism," and then, when someone is a victim of some kind of ism, to give them some of my money. Or your money. Not the victim's money though.

You know, everyone wins and no one loses, and we want to give people benefits strictly based on their skin color, but we're not racist, and that's not insulting to minorities at all, and greed is bad but we need more tax money, and we need to get the money out of politics but we like free speech, (as long as no one hears it) and we're open minded and consider all opinions so long as we agree with them, and you must be some kind of privileged insensitive white male for writing this.

They also want to fix any perceived problems with the world without regard to cost. The Kyoto treaty, increased funding for Social Security, higher wages for unskilled workers, etc.

Some of these may be good ideas (note: not the Kyoto treaty) but the only way to figure that out is by examining the benefits and the costs.

Republicans, on the other hand, don't like to take your money. They like to take money from the unborn. You know, your kids, your grandkids, etc. It's easier that way, as they cannot yet vote. (Note: I also think that this goes a long way towards explaining the Republican stance on abortion.) They do this by pretending to cut taxes for you. Cutting taxes is often a good idea. Taxes in this country used to be intolerably high. However, it is only a good idea to cut taxes if you also hold down spending. If you do not do this second step, you are only deferring taxes.

Republicans claim that they're good at holding down spending, and, at least in terms of discretionary spending, this used to be true. Lately, Republicans have fallen in love with spending. They want to fly to the moon and build bridges to uninhabited places and give big contracts to people with connections, and give free drugs to old people while arresting young people who paid for their drugs.

While Democrats don't want you to hurt anyone's feelings, Republicans want you to be a good person. You know, don't do drugs, m'kay, and don't buy beer on Sunday and don't have sex, and don't use any protection while you're not having sex, and make sure that you stare directly at the Ten Commandments behind the judge while he's sentencing you for having the wrong kind of sex, and consider Intelligent Design along with evolution even though they just made it up out of thin air and it has no scientific basis, and drive 55.

As you can see, other than the desire to waste your money on a bunch of worthless garbage, the parties are very different. They want to boss you into doing completely different things. This is why calling the president a moron is such a bad idea.

Democrats, apparently, don't have much faith in their ideas. As I reread the list above I can't say that I blame them. If they had faith in their ideas, the moment that they lost power to the Republicans they would have made a wager. They would have stated that they were beaten, fair and square, and that now the country will get to see what it's like to be run by Republicans. In other words, they would have assumed that the Republicans would screw things up, and they would have tied this eventual failure to Republican philosophy.

Maybe a few brave democrats did this, but if they did, I don't remember it. What I do remember is the constant refrain: George Bush is an idiot. Claiming that the president is a drooling nincompoop takes the onus off of Republican philosophy and places it on the man himself. Not only that, it assumes that if the President was a smarter man that his philosophy might actually work!

The Democrats have, essentially, left the Republicans a loophole. If W goes down in flames, they can simply disown him, find someone intelligent, and start over.

This is the peril of arguing with an idiot. It is very likely that you will win, but if you do win, no one cares. You've just beaten an idiot. And while there is almost no benefit to a victory, a loss carries a terrible stigma.

The Democrats have squandered an opportunity to make enormous gains by simply connecting a president's mistakes to his philosophy. They will probably make some headway during the elections next year, but if they ever want the presidency back, they must stop simply ridiculing their opposition, and start showing some respect, whether or not it is deserved. If their ideas lack so much substance that they are reduced to childish name calling then they need to get some new ideas.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Just as I suspected

Societies worse off 'when they have God on their side'

RELIGIOUS belief can cause damage to a society, contributing towards high murder rates, abortion, sexual promiscuity and suicide, according to research published today.

According to the study, belief in and worship of God are not only unnecessary for a healthy society but may actually contribute to social problems.

The study counters the view of believers that religion is necessary to provide the moral and ethical foundations of a healthy society.

"In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, STD infection rates, teen pregnancy and abortion in the prosperous democracies."

"The United States is almost always the most dysfunctional of the developing democracies, sometimes spectacularly so."

I'm not sure how much stock I would put in this study. It's a tough thing to prove either way. There are plenty examples of secular Western Nations that have low crime/abortion/suicide/teenage pregnancy/etc. But there is only one Western nation, The U.S., that is religious. And although it does have higher rates of all of these things, it's tough to say that religion is the only factor at work. It certainlynly not the only factor at work in all of the screwed up non-Western nations. I think we should take a serious look into whether religion is worth it. It does appear to be a major problem in both the U.S. and the Third World.

"It is the curse of all arguments from How Things Have Always Been: They come with built-in expiration dates."

Check out Reason's Julian Sanchez on "Traditional Marriage."

Sanchez points to the incredible variety of types of marriage chronicled in Stephanie Coontz's survey Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy, or How Love Conquered Marriage. It begs the question: What the hell are the right-wingers talking about?

Out of the worst tragedy, the American spirit...

cries out. What a great country!

A hospital in West Yorkshire, England is fighting for the rights of those too small to fight for themselves

Cooing at new-born babies banned

A statement from Calderdale Royal Hospital in Halifax said staff had held an advice session to highlight the need for respect and dignity for patients.

On one ward there is a doll featuring the message: "What makes you think I want to be looked at?"

Because every parent hates it when people think their kids are cute. I wonder what the penalty is?

Time is on my side...

The Patriots last second win on Sunday was aided by a clock operator error that added 52 seconds to the fourth quarter:

The error occurred at the beginning of the fourth quarter. With 14:51 remaining, Steelers receiver Cedric Wilson ran a reverse and was held to no gain; the play ran the clock down to 13:59.

A false start was called on Steelers guard Kendall Simmons on the next play, but instead of resetting the clock to 13:59, the clock operator set it back to 14:51 -- the time before Wilson's running play began. No one noticed the error, including the officiating crew.


While there is no way to tell if this error would have affected the outcome of the game, it certainly didn't help the Steelers, who lost on a last second Adam Vinatieri field goal.

Whoops.

Serenity: Reaver Madness*

Joss Whedon must be a student of the spaghetti western (and specifically The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly). Even in his various "vampire shows" the snappy one-liner, preferably delivered in the midst of deadly combat, was a staple. Those moments of quick wit kept Buffy and Angel light and breezy where they would have been dark and depressing. Whedon shines in these moments, and they are by far the most enjoyable parts of Serenity, his first feature length movie based on his failed (but beloved by a strong cult following) "Firefly" series.

Whedon repeatedly turns conventional sci-fi on its head. In one scene, the ship's Captain is going on a dangerous mission alone and gives his crew the following message just before he leaves:

Captain: If I'm not back in an hour, take the ship...and rescue me.

Crew member: What? But the ship...

Captain: Yeah. Come and get me. I don't want to be left behind.


I have never seen an episode of Firefly before, so I went into the theatre with no knowledge about any of the characters or overarching plot of the story, but aside from missing a few inside jokes I don't think it matters that much with regard to understanding the story (as for appreciating the story, that's another matter entirely).

Serenity is a small, perpetually damaged ship commanded by Captain Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion, who played the woman-hating priest Caleb on Buffy the Vampire Slayer). At some point in the past the ship rescued a doctor named Simon (Sean Maher) and his sister River (Summer Glau in a genuinely annoying performance). River is sort of a Goth version of Milla Jovovich's character in The 5th Element. She's been brainwashed by the evil communistic "Alliance" and occasionally goes crazy and beats everyone to a bloody pulp. She is a psychic, and she knows something important, although she doesn't know what it is.

Rounding out the Serenity crew is the first officer Zoe (Gina Torres), Malcolm's old flame Inara (Morena Baccarin), alpha-mail soldier/weapons guy Jayne (Adam Baldwin, often a scene-stealer), and engineer/mechanic Kaylee (Jewel Staite) who is perpetually horny and likely exists to provide fantasy material for nerds everywhere. Rounding out the cast is Wash (Alan Tudyk), the pilot, who has some of the best lines in the movie, and is clearly the film's best actor.

The Serenity world consists of "civilized" areas under the control of the aforementioned Alliance, and outpost planets that used to be independent, but lost a war at some point and are now occupied territories. The Serenity crew members are (at least partially) veterans of this war, on the losing end. The outpost planets have an old west feel, and natives speak with (sometimes unfortunate) old west accents, and tend to shoot first and ask questions later.

Complicating matters for everyone are the Reavers; cannibalistic barbarians who can somehow fly spaceships. No one knows where they came from...

The Alliance wants River back and to get her they dispatch a very civilized assassin with no name (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who savagely murders anyone who gets in his way. Most of the movie consists of Serenity dodging Alliance forces while occasionally pulling a job (they are smugglers/robbers by trade) for someone. Whedon keeps the action moving along, which is good because a few of the "emotional scenes" are eye-rollers, although they are still not as bad as similar scenes in Star Wars.

Serenity is pretty entertaining. Other than a few overly hammy soliloquies the plot managed to hold my attention, and I laughed a lot. More than I thought I would. I also felt like I was watching a TV show. I guess that's not entirely a bad thing, especially since I saw the movie for free, but it was a little strange to be in a theatre while having the genuine impression that I was at home watching TV.

The main reason for this is that Whedon's transitions from scene to scene feel as if there should be a commercial break. Whenever two people are having a conversation and they finish it up, one will walk off screen while the other says a few last words that only the audience and that character can hear. At one point Simon asks River if he thinks it is a good idea to leave Serenity and she responds "yes, it's dangerous." He agrees and walks out of the scene at which point she adds "for them" to no one in particular.

However, these are minor complaints if they are complaints at all. Firefly was, after all, a TV show, and Serenity uses all of the same actors and same writers. Star Trek has been making mad cash off of this formula for eons and Serenity is certainly more entertaining than any of those movies.

I should also mention that Nathan Fillion is very good in the lead and really carries the movie.

While Serenity isn't a great movie, it's a good popcorn flick probably worth a rental, but I'm glad I didn't have to fork over ten bucks to see it.

Serenity is also a very libertarian movie. Dan Drezner has more on that, as well as a solid review from the perspective of a Firefly fan.


*Title for post chosen due to possible blogospheric overuse of the title "Serenity Now!"

Monday, September 26, 2005

When I Drink Alone...

Sometimes when you ban one thing you accidentally end up banning another. At the Volokh Conspiracy, Todd Zywicki has a few examples:

My cousin owns a bowling pro shop in upstate New York. Last year a law was enacted that prohibited smoking in bowling alleys, in all parts (including the lounge). In response, half of the bowling leagues at that alley folded (nearly taking his pro shop business with it, incidentally). Putnam is talking about the decline in community over a long period predating last year; nonetheless, I thought this story was an interesting example of the surprising and unintended social effects that can arise from a seeming unrelated regulation. More people are "bowling alone" in upstate New York this year than last, but it has little to do with Putnam's explanation.

Similarly, I recall that when I lived in Mississippi, one of my colleagues observed that he thought that one reason why "social capital" levels tended to be lower in Mississippi than elsewhere was the historic prohibition on the sale of liquor by the drink in bars and restaurants (lifted relatively recently). He hypothesized that this one law gave rise to a custom of entertaining in ones' homes, rather than in public houses like bars and restaurants. This, he believed, led to a general atrophying of the public sphere not only in terms of parks, but also in terms of lower levels of public trust and civic-mindedness. I don't know if it is true, but if so, it is another interesting example of the phenomenon. For what it is worth, when we lived in Mississippi we always went to friend's homes for dinner, which we do much more rarely in Northern Virginia. Such social cultures, of course, are highly network goods, and thus become highly path-dependent and difficult to later change.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Serenity Advance Screening Notes

Being a member of "the press" is hard work. You have to get there 45 minutes early (at least) because there is no guarantee of a seat. And you have to post this synopsis on your blog:

Joss Whedon, the Oscar® - and Emmy - nominated writer/director responsible for the worldwide television phenomena of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE, ANGEL and FIREFLY, now applies his trademark compassion and wit to a small band of galactic outcasts 500 years in the future in his feature film directorial debut, Serenity. The film centers around Captain Malcolm Reynolds, a hardened veteran (on the losing side) of a galactic civil war, who now ekes out a living pulling off small crimes and transport-for-hire aboard his ship, Serenity. He leads a small, eclectic crew who are the closest thing he has left to family –squabbling, insubordinate and undyingly loyal.


And here's a link to their site.

I'll have a review on Tuesday, assuming I get in of course.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Weekend Movies: Poor Ebert

First Deuce Bigalow 2, and now this:

"Dirty Love" wasn't written and directed, it was committed. Here is a film so pitiful, it doesn't rise to the level of badness. It is hopelessly incompetent.


Fortunately, there are some winners as well.

The L&N crew seems generally positive about this weekend, with mildly positive reviews of Corpse Bride, Roll Bounce, and Flightplan.

On Monday I'm going to an advance screening of Serenity as, get this, a member of the press. Instapundit explains:

MOVIE SEEKS BLOG REVIEWERS: The PR folks for the forthcoming Joss Whedon (Buffy, Angel, etc.) science fiction movie Serenity are inviting bloggers to advance screenings. (List of cities here via an Excel document that didn't quite format right, but it's legible). It's free, and all they ask is that you blog something, good or bad, about it.

If you're interested, email 'em at rsvp@gracehillmedia.com and they'll put you on the list.


Maybe I'll see Dan Drezner (who provides this nice link to Townhall.com where you can find out where it's playing and sign up) while I'm there.

Insane Weatherman of the Day

Former Idaho weatherman Scott Stevens thinks that the Yakuza caused Hurricane Katrina. He's quit his weatherman gig for Channel 6 to pursue his theory full time:

Since Katrina, Stevens has been in newspapers across the country where he was quoted in an Associated Press story as saying the Yakuza Mafia used a Russian-made electromagnetic generator to cause Hurricane Katrina in a bid to avenge the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima. He was a guest on Coast to Coast, a late night radio show that conducts call-in discussions on everything from bizarre weather patterns to alien abductions. On Wednesday, Stevens was interviewed by Fox News firebrand Bill O'Reilly.


Oh, great. Not only are we getting hit by hurricanes, but our Mafia is also being severely outcompeted. Maybe it's all the fluoride in the water. Or potatoes, it could be potatoes.

(Hat tip, Drudge)

Fun Friday, Part 2: iD1G1T +iPod.

Here's a random 10 song shuffle from my iPod that you can listen to using the magic of iD1G1T.

Enjoy!

1. Gleaming Auction, Snow Patrol

2. Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key, Billy Bragg and Wilco

3. Deeper Shade of Soul, Urban Dance Squad

4. Exit, U2

5. It's a Shame About Ray, The Lemonheads

6. This is the last time, Keane

7. Mr. E's Beautiful Blues, Eels

8. Radiation Vibe, Fountains of Wayne

9. Omaha, Counting Crows

10. You or Your Memory, The Mountain Goats

Fun Friday: Phil Loves Ninjas Edition

Frequent EC commenter Phil likes ninjas. He was a big fan of the Urban Ninja. The Urban Ninja has apparently inspired a few more Urban Ninjas.

This guy isn't as Zen as the UN. On the other hand, he selected Vanilla Ice's Ninja Rap (from the soundtrack to the motion picture, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2: The Secret of the Ooze) as his background music.

This guy might just be a gymnast, but he pulls off a few neat tricks.

Let no one say that I don't shamelessly pander to my audience.

What is economics?

I like Stephen Karlson's answer:

"Economics is about sex, death, and why the lines are longest at the roller coaster."

I should have noticed this quote myself, but I didn't, so a tip o'' the cap to Russ Roberts who has several other interesting quotes at Cafe Hayek.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

All Things Wisconsin

The Carnival of the Badger gets its first liberal host at Paul Brewer's Public Brewery. Paul went with the classic but underused "Carnival" theme this week. Nice.

Check it out.

(And thanks for the link.)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Oxford to eliminate students as a means to boost their reputation.

Apparently Oxford, one of the most prestigious universities in the world, is thinking about eliminating its undergrad program to "maintain its international standing." Also, they're in the red to the tune of £200 million. While most businesses selling a high demand product would simply raise prices, Oxford is instead going to simply eliminate the product line.

I suppose you're thinking that maybe Oxford already charges an arm and a leg, and can't raise prices anymore. Well...


It makes clear that Oxford's problems over the next five years will not be resolved by the rise in student tuition fees to £3,000 a year from 2006.

£3000! Where can I sign up! According to the currency calculator that's about $5,426. No wonder they're losing money, they're charging 1/5 of what comparable US Universities charge. Harvard, for instance, charges $28,752 just for tuition (of course, it costs much more than this in reality). Cornell charges 23,500. The University of Chicago? $31,629.

Oxford is on the verge of taking a ridiculous step here. If they are not going to provide a world class education (except to grad students, of course) what is the point of even having Oxford?

I wonder if the government has anything to do with this...


But Oxford was losing at least £7,000 a year on every undergraduate and tuition fees would cut the deficit by only £1,000, it said.

"Under these circumstances, growing student numbers whilst maintaining a commitment to the quality of the student experience would lead to unsustainable losses," the report said.

It added: "Oxford's reputation for undergraduate education resides in the quality of its teaching, not the number of students admitted. Indeed, increases in the latter are capable of compromising the former."

The university could set its own fees for graduate and international students, but not for British and European Union students. The report added: "When considering the issue of shape and size it will be necessary to take account of these financial considerations." (Emphasis added)

Shameful.

(Hat tip, Jodi)

ProTrade update

In the comments section of the previous post Mike asked why this was not gambling. I figured that they had probably copied a futures market model and that they would be OK under US law, and I compared it to the Iowa Electronic Market. I may have overstated my case a bit, as Christine Hurt writes at The Conglomerate:


Initially, participants will be given play money, but the site plans to eventually charge a fee, keep fees in escrow, and distribute 97-98% in prizes. I would suggest charging an "administration fee" and offering stated, non-fluctuating prize amounts, similar to other fantasy sports sites. Or, get a no-action letter from the SEC like the Iowa Electronic Markets. In time, the distinction between illegal sports gambling and recreational fantasy sports and information markets is going to get blurrier and blurrier. I hope so -- then the federal government may have to make a decision as to what is legal and what is not, and back that up with a consistent policy statement.


Read the whole thing, including the comments where guestblogger Mike Madison raises an IP issue.

Apparently it is far from clear what legally constitutes gambling v. investing.

Searching for streaming music on demand?

Ace Cowboy found an utterly stupendous fantastically brilliant streaming audio search engine. You can find a streaming version of almost any song. It's called iD1G1T.

Check it out, as it seems too good to be true.

Here is U2's "Wide Awake in America" EP.

Here is Digable Planet's "Rebirth of Slick".

Here is Soul Coughing's "Soft Serve."

Here is the Violent Femmes' "Add It Up."

Give it a try.

ProTrade

A while back Football Outsider Aaron Schatz and a few other people helped to start up ProTrade. Today they have a write up in the Washington Times:



In an NFL fantasy competition, points typically are based on yards gained, with bonuses for touchdowns and field goals. At season's end, the jackpot goes to the fantasy team owner with the most points.

Statistics are important in ProTrade, too, but the system tries to provide more context by analyzing the situation in which a play occurs. As an example, a three yard run on fourth-and-2 would be worth more than a three-yard run in a third-and-20 situation.

The system is probably too complicated for at least half the nation's fantasy sports players, but ProTrade "will feed into the fanatical, obsessive types who are constantly looking to suck more entertainment value out of football," said Fantasyguru.com publisher John Hansen, who has been following the fantasy sports craze for 11 years.

Mr. Kerns, 28, created ProTrade with 32-year-old Jeffrey Ma, an MIT graduate with a penchant for numbers and gambling. While still in college, Mr. Ma and his buddies became so proficient at counting cards in blackjack that they carted away millions of dollars from Las Vegas casinos, inspiring the best-selling book "Bringing Down the House." (Mr. Ma is Kevin Lewis in the book).

It's not all stats geeks though:



"It's going to take fans to a whole new level of fantasy," predicted Bill Walsh, the former San Francisco 49ers coach and a member of ProTrade's advisory board.

ProTrade initially will be confined to trading NFL players, but the San Mateo, Calif., company expects to add the NBA and Major League Baseball after working out licensing agreements.

"Our mission is to change the way people think about sports," said Mike Kerns, a ProTrade co-founder and former understudy to venture capitalists and sports agents.

The idea drew its inspiration from the 2003 Michael Lewis best-seller "Moneyball," which dissects the statistical analysis Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane used to obtain players he considered undervalued by the rest of the baseball market.

How does it work?


At the outset, basically for the first half of the NFL season, no actual money will be exchanged in ProTrade's market; each participant will get a virtual stake of 25,000 coins to invest.

But capitalism will fuel the market's activity, with weekly prizes awarded to the portfolios with the best investment returns. Later this year, traders will be allowed to create their own competitive leagues and set their own entry fees, with a $5 minimum per entrant.

ProTrade will hold all the entry fees in escrow and then distribute jackpots, minus a 2 percent to 3 percent commission, to league participants who generate the best investment return. ProTrade hopes to make money from those commissions and advertising on the site.


I think it sounds interesting and I may try to put a league together at some point. If any readers happen to be interested, drop a comment or shoot me an e-mail.

Tip o' the cap to Marginal Revolution.

Let's end with a quote from former San Francisco 49er Brent Jones:


Former San Francisco 49ers tight end Brent Jones, a member of ProTrade's advisory board, believes most players will stay away from the site. "There are a lot of guys out there who aren't going to want to see what they're really worth," he said.



Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Perhaps the greatest educational video game ever.

No, not Carmen San Diego. Wuss.

I'm talking about Oregon Trail. Clay, at DeadlyHippos.com, recently interviewed Phillip Bouchard, the creator of the original Oregon Trail. It's fascinating. Here's a tidbit:


9. In retrospect were bullets too cheap in this game and did children gain a false sense of security as to how easy it was to kill a buffalo?

Unfortunately, in real life it was all too easy to kill a buffalo with a rifle. In later decades hunters would kill vast numbers of buffalos and take only the tongues. So I wanted kids to feel a sense of shame for killing too much and then wasting the kill. That was one of the reasons for allowing the player to carry back no more than 200 pounds of meat. I wanted the kids to develop a sense of conservation while playing the game – to say “We should not shoot more meat than we can carry”. Our field testing showed that this lesson was indeed effective.

On the other hand, I wanted to force the player to master certain skills in order to be successful at hunting. Some other versions of The Oregon Trail made hunting too simple and too easy – in my opinion. In my version, you could move the hunter around the screen in 4 directions and fire the gun in 8 directions – using various keys on the keyboard. Furthermore, I put obstacles on the screen that the animals could run behind. So it requires some practice to master the hunting skills and be successful. Consequently, some new players – and most adults – complained that I had made hunting too difficult. But a visit to any school provided ample evidence that legions of kids – mostly boys – had completely mastered the hunting interface.

Finally, the false sense of security was a double-edged sword. After you get into the mountains, game animals become scare, and there aren’t any more buffalo to shoot. It’s easy to starve in the mountains, and each time you go fruitlessly looking for game, you waste of day of travel time.


Read the whole thing. And don't miss the emulator at the end of the interview!

I (that is, the character named Paul) always got Gangrene or Typhoid or some other horrible disease, but I always had a few people make it, and I ruled at the river crossing.

(Hat tip, FARK)

The NYT "Grey Lady" Market

John Tabin noticed a few things. He noticed that the NYT, now charging for their op-eds, syndicates those same op-eds to other papers. He also noticed that you can read these papers online for free. He then took the enterprising step of starting a blog to find free NYT op-eds.

Here's yesterday's Pauly K op-ed.

Enjoy!

I agree with Jimmy Carter about something.

He recommends photo IDs for voting. And he addresses concerns about questionable laws in certain states:

Former President Carter, a co-chair of the commission, said he was hesitant about the free photo ID proposal at first, but laws passed in some states like Georgia convinced him that a national approach was a better idea. Republican lawmakers in Georgia pushed through legislation that requires a new voter identification card that costs $20 for five years.

"Some states have passed abominable laws that are a disgrace to democracy," Carter said.

In Atlanta, voter and civil rights organizations challenged the Georgia law in federal court, contending in a suit filed Monday that it would disenfranchise minorities and the poor. Nineteen states require voters to show identification; five request photo ID, the National Conference of State Legislatures said.

The commission proposed that voters who don't have the card could cast a provisional ballot and produce the photo ID later. States also would have to promote the photo ID card aggressively.

The commission recommended improved voter registration lists, requiring a verifiable paper trail for electronic voting machines and rotating regional primaries, while warning that "Americans are losing confidence in elections."

"Some foreign countries have gone far beyond us in making sure that voting procedures and registration of voters is at a high level of true democracy," said Carter, who has monitored elections around the world.

Carter's co-chair on the private commission, former Secretary of State James Baker, acknowledged that "there is room for improvement" in a system he believes remains strong.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Bill the Tank! Bill the Tank!

The late William Rehnquist's granddaughter Dana, on her grandfather:

College freshman Dana Rehnquist was on her way to dinner with her brother and grandfather one night a few years back when the grandfather, a big movie buff, announced that he had just seen a "really raunchy" film.

He loved it so much, he said, that even when his disgusted friends wanted to get up in the middle and leave, he ordered them to stay put.

The chief justice of the United States Supreme Court, it turns out, was professing his admiration for the frat-house film Old School.


Hat tip, Wonkette via Orin Kerr.

At least we know what he was wearing under his robes.

Yes, it's "National Talk Like A Pirate Day"

Well shiver me timbers. That explains some of what I saw at the courthouse this morning. At least, that's what I'm going to assume.

Goodbye Pauly K, John, Maureen, Bob, Nick, David, Tom...

Today is the day that the NYT starts charging 50 bucks a year for their columnists.

How 'bout, no.

You can, however, still read the op-ed contributors for free, like, for instance, Ann Althouse.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Fun Friday, Part 2.

Here are some pages of a creationist graphic novel, featuring dinosaurs attacking the Ark. Note that demons are riding some of them. This is one of those cases where a picture is worth a thousand hilarious words. Take a look.

(Hat tip, Jesse Walker)

Charles in Charge.

Charles Krauthammer has an excellent op-ed in today's Washington Post. The subject is the damage that Roe v. Wade has done to Supreme Court nominations.

Originalism is itself highly problematic, the worst judicial philosophy except for all the others, because they permit unmoored and arbitrary constitutional interpretation -- and thus unmoored and arbitrary judicial power. The learned senators, however, really don't care much about originalism, except to the extent that it would, almost by definition, make Roberts a categorical opponent of Roe . Which is why Roberts denies that he has any ideology, any "overarching judicial philosophy," and is nothing more than an ad hoc, bottom-up type of guy.

Maybe he is. Maybe he isn't. But he knows that if he dares to say otherwise, he gets Borked. If, on the other hand, he pretends to have a mind so scrubbed of theory that he is at a loss to explain gravitation itself, he gets to be chief justice of the United States for 40 years.

In 2000 Al Gore declared that he would not nominate a justice who did not support Roe. Dianne Feinstein says today that if she determines that Roberts opposes Roe , she will be compelled to vote against him. For Democrats, abortion is an open litmus test. For Republicans, it is a test of agility: Can they find the nominee who might be against Roe but has been circumspect enough not to say so publicly and who will be clever enough to avoid saying so at his confirmation hearings?


This is what we are left with. The judicial branch deals with so many different issues, but we nominate justices based on one and one alone.

Read the whole thing.

Movie Reviews Galore!

At the L&N Line. They've been busy this week, reviewing Just Like Heaven, Cry Wolf, Lord of War, Venom, An Unfinished Life, 2046, and Capote. Head on over, and just keep scrolling. Here's an excerpt from the review of Cry Wolf:

More gimmicky horror; one that you can peg the surprise ending a mile away on. Cry Wolf concerns a whole bunch of spoiled rich kids going to a private school who like to play games, and within the first few frames I wanted them all dead and someone to get away with it.


Sometimes reviews of bad movies are the most fun.

Fun Friday, Part 1.

French Archery!

Markets in everything:

Here's a new book:

The Straight Girl's Guide to Sleeping With Chicks.

I plan on producing the vegetarian's guide to churrascarias this fall.

This book comes on the heals of this study from the CDC:

The proportion who had same-sex contact in their lifetimes was 6 percent for males and (using a different question) 11 percent for females (figure 5).

Survey participants were asked if they were sexually attracted to males, to females, or to both. Among men 18-44 years of age, 92 percent said they were attracted “only to females,” and 3.9 percent, “mostly” to females. Among women, 86 percent said they were attracted only to males, and 10 percent, “mostly” to males. The percentage attracted “mostly to males” was 3 percent in a survey conducted in 1992, compared with 10 percent in the 2002 NSFG.

Spreading this information around the internet is going to result in a 40% increase in guys getting slapped by their girlfriends.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Living Speed Limit

This is the first subsection of Illinois's speed limit law, 625 ILCS 5/11‑601 (a).

(a) No vehicle may be driven upon any highway of this State at a speed which is greater than is reasonable and proper with regard to traffic conditions and the use of the highway, or endangers the safety of any person or property. The fact that the speed of a vehicle does not exceed the applicable maximum speed limit does not relieve the driver from the duty to decrease speed when approaching and crossing an intersection, approaching and going around a curve, when approaching a hill crest, when traveling upon any narrow or winding roadway, or when special hazard exists with respect to pedestrians or other traffic or by reason of weather or highway conditions. Speed must be decreased as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person or vehicle on or entering the highway in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to use due care.


This may appear to you as a straightforward set of rules on sensible driving, and certainly, some justices would agree with you. They would say that this statute tells us to drive responsibly, taking care to notice the environment around us, not exceed the speed limit, and perhaps, drive even slower than the limit in some instances. These "strict constructionists" have some appeal with conservatives and libertarians, but is this really the best way to read the law?

After all, cars have existed for quite some time now, and most of the ideals captured in this statue are a bit outdated. Shouldn't the law conform with a more popular sentiment? Shouldn't the law have more public support? Why are we bound to rely on the interpretations of old, retired, white men, who wrote the laws regarding cars before cruise control! Does that make any sense?

I believe that the drafters of this statute left it intentionally vague. They realized that they did not know everything at the time, and that driving would evolve and change over time. And with these changes, we must read their wisely-crafted document using our modern senses. For instance, this sentence:

The fact that the speed of a vehicle does not exceed the applicable maximum speed limit does not relieve the driver from the duty to decrease speed when approaching and crossing an intersection, approaching and going around a curve, when approaching a hill crest, when traveling upon any narrow or winding roadway, or when special hazard exists with respect to pedestrians or other traffic or by reason of weather or highway conditions.


Is this really still applicable with today's modern cars? Anti-lock breaks and air bags have made safely achieving higher speeds a reality. High performance tires make accelerating around a curve a joy, and high intensity halogen headlights allow for better performance on narrow country roads. Weather is less of a factor as well. Really, in these modern times, our governments primitive concerns for our safety are severely misplaced.

And, as this is the case, doesn't it call into question the wisdom of speed limits in general. Later, in section (d), the statute reads:

(d) Unless some other speed restriction is established under this Chapter, the maximum speed limit outside an urban district for any vehicle of the first division or a second division vehicle designed or used for the carrying of a gross weight of 8,000 pounds or less (including the weight of the vehicle and maximum load) is (1) 65 miles per hour (i) for all highways under the jurisdiction of the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority and (ii) for all or part of highways that are designated by the Department, have at least 4 lanes of traffic, and have a separation between the roadways moving in opposite directions and (2) 55 miles per hour for all other highways, roads, and streets.


If the stated rationale for these limits is no longer applicable, as is the case in section (a), should these limits still be enforced as law? Clearly not. Moreover, the primitive thinking of this legislature is on display even in the specific limits, with their 8,000 pound weight limit. With today's SUVs and Hummers, the average person can easily carry that much weight safely at higher speeds. The 8,000 pound limit is a relic of balloon tires and tail fins. It seems almost quaint, really.

We can also learn from our European neighbors across the Atlantic. The Germans abandoned speed limits on their autobahns years ago, which made sense with their well crafted automobiles. It hardly made sense to put a limit on the performance of a high end German car, and as America has made gains in the quality of the autos that it produces, as well as an increase in quality imported cars, following their lead on the law is only sensible.

Finally, it is entirely possible that the drafters of this law meant to create a penumbra of other driving duties that they had not yet contemplated. After all, they wrote that:

Speed must be decreased as may be necessary to avoid colliding with any person or vehicle on or entering the highway in compliance with legal requirements and the duty of all persons to use due care. (Emphasis added.)


What could they have meant by this "due care?" In this era of road rage, perhaps they meant to create a culture of politeness on the road. It may be illegal to give someone the finger, put a sticker of "Calvin peeing on a Chevy" on the back window, or blast loud rap music with the windows down.

Perhaps we should simply be required to use our cell phones to dial 911 when we witness an accident. Maybe, as we understand the risks of global warming more completely, this clause commands us to buy hybrids and other fuel efficient vehicles.

These options all require study, but I am confident that the state judiciary will be able to sift through the various options and arrive at a modern, sensible interpretation of this statute, hopefully involving several balancing tests.

While laws against speeding are clearly archaic, the wise men who drafted these laws left it up to future generations to see to it that the spirit of their great statute lives on. It may not protect the victims of speeding anymore, but it should protect those that need protecting, be they victims of global warming, road rage, or some other calamity that we have yet to discover.

Having a living speed limit is the only way to attain progressive vehicular change.

Except for changing the law, of course.

But that's just silly.

Free Milwaukee Brewer Tickets!

The Brewers are giving away all tickets for their final game on September 29th free of charge.

Question of the day

From Offpeak via Ace Cowboy.

Is this real?

I think it is.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Razor Blade Wars Reaching Critical Mass

This is getting ridiculous. Actually it's already ridiculous:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Gillette Co. (G.N: Quote, Profile, Research) on Wednesday unveiled its newest shaving system, a five-bladed razor called Fusion with a trimmer on the back of the cartridge aimed at the 50 percent of men who have mustaches and beards.

Fusion is Gillette's latest product geared at maintaining the company's leading share of the world's razor and blade market.

It has one more blade than the Quattro sold by rival Schick, a unit of Energizer Holdings Inc. (ENR.N: Quote, Profile, Research), plus a trimming blade on the back of the pivoting cartridge for shaping facial hair, trimming sideburns and shaving under the nose.


I'm going home and building a 9 bladed razor out of my old Sensor razors.

Time is short: Stories in one sentence.

Tom Delay is stupid.

Rep. William Jefferson (D-New Orleans) is a jackass.

New Orleans could be dirtier, and may soon be livable.

For some reason Tim McGraw keeps singing during halftime of Monday Night Football and he needs to go.

One of the three people who failed New Orleans pumped up the Saints before their win last week:

Courageous team, huh? Here's what I like about them. Paul Tagliabue wanted to address them Saturday night. They said no thanks and chose, instead, C. Ray Nagin, the mayor of New Orleans, who spoke so powerfully about his city and the failure of the administration and the relief efforts and FEMA ... straight from the shoulder, pow!


How odd. (Ok, that was more than one sentence, but I thought it was quite strange, given actions like this.)

This is just cool.

Busy day today. Back to work!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Yes, it's stupidity, but what's important is that it's collective stupidity

I'd like to make up some snide or humorous comment ridiculing the content in the article that I'm about to link to, but I really can't add anything. I admit it, in the field of ridiculing unions, I've been bested by a union:

The shade from the Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market sign is minimal around noon; still, six picketers squeeze their thermoses and Dasani bottles onto the dirt below, trying to keep their water cool. They're walking five-hour shifts on this corner at Stephanie Street and American Pacific Drive in Henderson—anti-Wal-Mart signs propped lazily on their shoulders, deep suntans on their faces and arms—with two 15-minute breaks to run across the street and use the washroom at a gas station.

Periodically one of them will sit down in a slightly larger slice of shade under a giant electricity pole in the intersection. Four lanes of traffic rush by, some drivers honk in support, more than once someone has yelled, "assholes!" but mostly, they're ignored.

They're not union members; they're temp workers employed through Allied Forces/Labor Express by the union—United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW). They're making $6 an hour, with no benefits; it's 104 F, and they're protesting the working conditions inside the new Wal-Mart grocery store.

"It don't make no sense, does it?" says James Greer, the line foreman and the only one who pulls down $8 an hour, as he ambles down the sidewalk, picket sign on shoulder, sweaty hat over sweaty gray hair, spitting sunflower seeds. "We're sacrificing for the people who work in there, and they don't even know it."


That's just the tip of the iceberg. It gets even better. Really, I'm just speechless.

Tip o' the cap to Cafe Hayek.

Monday Night MVP: Kevin Mathis

I've seen Vicky play enough to know that he can be neutralized by a fast middle linebacker(Brian Urlacher is particularly skilled in Vick containment). Once the fairly useless Kevin Mathis engaged Eagle middle LB Jeremiah Trotter in single combat before the game, getting both players ejected, stopping Vick on the ground became an impossible task for the Eagles.

I would love to know who started that fight, but either way, for getting the Eagles most important defensive player out of the game, Kevin Mathis, you are our Monday Night MVP.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Breaking News

L.A. is having a huge power outage. No word yet on why.

Ironman Wisconsin

Yesterday was the fourth annual Ironman Wisconsin race. I sat this one out but was definitely itching to be on the course while I watched the competitors go by from the comfort of the patio of Borocach Irish Pub, Guinness in hand. The average temperature in Madison in early September is somewhere in the mid-sixties. For the third year in a row, it was over ninety degrees for the big race. And it was windy. Last year, Ironman Wisconsin set a record for most competitors. This year it set the record for most competitors not finishing the race. Just over 2000 started and just under 400 dropped out.

But the race was a success nonetheless.

Ute Mueckel of Luegde, Germany, was the top woman, finishing 21st overall in 10 hours, 11 minutes and 22 seconds, and New Berlin, Wisconsin's Lauren Jensen finished second at 10:18:30.

Andriy Yastrebov, from Kiev, Ukraine, won overall in 9 hours, 1 minute and 34 seconds. His finish was more than five minutes better than runner-up Peter Jacobs of Sydney, Australia (9:06:47). Yastrebov's performance was capped by an amazing 3:05.26 marathon. He had this to say:

"It was good weather for me," Yastrebov said of the temperatures that hovered in the low 90s. "It was hot, but I like it. The heat is my (type of) weather. The heat, I didn't feel it at all."

Andy Meehan, a fellow UW Law student was the top local male finishing 40th overall in 10:39.18.

The Roberts Confirmation Hearing

Ann Althouse is blogging this farce, in which Republicans attempt to fawn over the nominee with Larry King like barn-burners whereas Democrats lecture a judge about the law, and then give campaign speeches. Here's Ann on Wisconsin's own Herb Kohl:

Herb Kohl. My son Chris (age 22) just came home. He looks at the TV and says, "Hey, that's our Senator." He watches for about eight seconds, then bursts out laughing and says: "What is the point of them lecturing him like this?" I just say, "Yeah, I know." Kohl says his standard for voting on a judicial nominee is "judicial excellence," which he proceeds to define as containing four elements. Chris says, "'Judicial excellence.' What bullsh*t." Kohl says: "Justice, after all, may be blind, but it should not be deaf." Me: groan.


Ughh. She thinks that Russ did a better job:

Russ Feingold. I don't know why Wisconsin gets two Senators on the committee, but we do. Feingold gets the first laugh I hear from the assembled crowd, when he comments that Roberts looks "healthy," after pointing out that Roberts is up for a lifetime appointment. Roberts and his wife both look like the think it's highly amusing. Of course, he's setting up his statement about how intense the scrutiny ought to be. Of all the Senators, Feingold makes the most articulate argument for why Roberts should answer detailed questions. He's the best speaker on the committee — probably the smartest too.


Of course, if Roberts was smart he would take my advice and give answers like this. Oh well.

Oh Crip! He's a Crapple!

Yes, we're screwed. Donald is a fine #2 receiver, but everyone else is untested, and Turd is Turd.

(By the way, what was Robert Ferguson doing getting cramped up? I know he blocks on running plays and runs special teams, but what the hell? I understand Grady Jackson cramping up, and Ahman Green has his whole sweating problem, but when your job is running quickly repeatedly, how do you let your conditioning go like that. And while we're picking on Turd, what's with the alligator arms on Brett's interception? He wasn't even going to get hit.)

But focusing on a few individual plays and saying "what if this and what if that," while fun, isn't terribly productive. The bottom line this week was that a lack of discipline put the team in difficult situations time after time. Penalties have an enormous impact on a game. If you're consistently in 3rd and 8+ you're just not going to have much success. And penalties, especially offensive penalties, are so very preventable.

Almost every "hands to the face" call on the DBs was bullshit though, and Jeff Triplette is by far the league's worst official (Watch for him. That guy loves the limelight, and he loves to bail teams out. I've never been able to pick out a team that he prefers (although I have a friend that swears he has it out for the Lions), the guy loves to wipe out big plays. I don't think that "Trip" had much of an impact on this game, as the Packers were terrible all by their lonesomes, I just thought that I would mention it for future reference.

And while Javon did push off a bit on the infamous play, all Packer fans know that if that was really offensive pass interference, that Michael Irvin would have retired from the NFL with no catches and the Aikman Cowboys wouldn't have won any Superbowls, not that I'm still bitter about that.

Believe it or not, a few positive things did come out of this game. Seriously. Don't completely panic yet. (Note: I still think they'll finish around 6-10.)

1. First of all, holding Kevin Jones to 87 yards on 25 carries is impressive, and should make Lions fans everywhere nervous. That guy is really good, and I was impressed with our linebacker pursuit, especially Nick Barnett.

2. 3 Detroit points are the result of a bullshit fumble call. You remember. The one that slipped out of Favre's hand? It was going forward, and clearly an incomplete pass. I know this to be true and can prove it beyond any doubt. When you bring the ball backwards and lose it, it turns and flops about all randomly, however, when Favre "dropped" that ball, I noticed two things about it:

A. It traveled forward (a dead giveaway in a situation where no defensive contact was made with Favre. There is only one way that a ball can move forward in this situation, and it requires the QBs arm to be moving forward). But more importantly,

B. It was a frickin' SPIRAL. You've all probably played a game of football at some point. Maybe in high school, maybe just in pickup or intramural. Has anyone ever fumbles a spiral before? Without being touched by a defender?

I didn't think so.

Why no challenge? I don't know. What I do know is that the refs let that play be a fumble because they knew that they had replay there to catch their mistake, and no ref wants to be accused of the quick whistle. So they let the play go on and the Lions received an ill-gotten 3 points.

3. The Lions are tough to run on. Green didn't have a great game, largely due to the fact that the Pack was playing catchup all afternoon, but he had an excellent yards per carry, which bodes well for the future. Najeh, however, dropped a deuce all over the hamper that is Ford Field.

4. While B.J. Sander can't hold very well, he did punt well, averaging 41.3 yards with a long of 49. Not great, but not too shabby. (By the way, I know the punter has nothing better to do all day than learn to hold, which is why they do it, but it's really stupid not to have the backup QB hold. If disaster strikes at least there is some chance that he can make something out of it. What's a punter going to do (by the way, what the punter should do, if he has time, is attempt to drop kick a field goal. But no one will ever do this.) Even better than the backup QB would be a backup RB or WR, who might be able to score on a run. This eliminates the "ineligible man downfield" problem.)

5. Except for the penalties the pass defense was very good. When Marcus Pollard and Kevin Johnson are the other teams leading receivers, you've done a fine job.

There were tons of bad things, but I'm sure that you've all already gone over them in your heads. I know I have. There is one more positive that I'll leave you with.

6. Next week the Packers play Cleveland. In a week where doormats Miami and SF both scored huge victories, the Brownies lived up to their expectations. Dilfer had 2 picks, they fumbled a bunch, and they couldn't do much defensively. (I'm a bit worried about Reuben Droughns though.) It should be a good week to get healthy. And since the Bears play the Lions next week and I think the Bears will win, we can get right back into first (and that's just sad. Go NFC North!)

And, as I've mentioned before, Jake Plummer sucks.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

We suck at measuring poverty.

I say this all the time, because clearly we're better off today (even our poor people), than we were x years ago, where x is any positive number. Nicholas Eberstadt has an op-ed in the NYT that explains why this is true:

The profound flaws in our officially calculated poverty rate are revealed by its very intimation that the poverty situation in America was "better" in 1974 than it is today. Those of us of a certain age remember the year 1974 - in all its recession-plagued, "stagflation"-burdened glory. But even the most basic facts bearing on poverty alleviation confute the proposition that material circumstances in America are harsher for the vulnerable today than three decades ago. Per capita income adjusted for inflation is over 60 percent higher today than in 1974. The unemployment rate is lower, and the percentage of adults with paying jobs is distinctly higher. Thirty years ago, the proportion of adults without a high school diploma was more than twice as high as today (39 percent versus 16 percent). And antipoverty spending is vastly higher today than in 1974, even after inflation adjustments.

In the face of such evidence, what do you call an indicator that stubbornly insists that the percentage of Americans below a fixed poverty threshold has increased? How about "a broken compass?"

The soundings from the poverty rate are further belied by information on actual living standards for low-income Americans. In 1972-73, for example, just 42 percent of the bottom fifth of American households owned a car; in 2003, almost three-quarters of "poverty households" had one. By 2001, only 6 percent of "poverty households" lived in "crowded" homes (more than one person per room) - down from 26 percent in 1970. By 2003, the fraction of poverty households with central air-conditioning (45 percent) was much higher than the 1980 level for the non-poor (29 percent).

Besides these living trends, there are what we might call the "dying trends": that is to say, America's health and mortality patterns. All strata of America - including the disadvantaged - are markedly healthier today than three decades ago. Though the officially calculated poverty rate for children was higher in 2004 than 1974 (17.8 percent versus 15.4 percent), the infant mortality rate - that most telling measure of wellbeing - fell by almost three-fifths over those same years, to 6.7 per 1,000 births from 16.7 per 1,000.

The poverty rate is out of step with all these other readings about deprivation in modern America because it was designed to measure the wrong thing. The poverty rate has always been derived from reported household income. (Exigency played a role here: at the start of the war on poverty 40 years ago, those income numbers were already available from the Census Bureau.) But a better gauge of a household's material deprivation is not what it earns, but what it spends. When we look at spending patterns, we immediately see a huge discrepancy between reported incomes and reported expenditures for low-income Americans.


There's more. Read it all.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Fun Friday, Part 3

Tommy Lasorda apparently hates the Philly Phanatic. As luck would have it, I recently met the Philly Phanatic as he (She? It?) was at my friend Jay's wedding, and I can attest to the fact that he/she/it is a perfect gentleman/woman/thing.

I'm not kidding.

Check out the photo.

Fun Friday, Part 2

If football isn't your bag, check out the Urban Ninja. (Note how amazing it is that this guy was not shot.)

Fun Friday, Part 1

Betting with Bill. The Sports Guy has his weekly guide to wagering up.

Ace Cowboy has his season predictions up too.

And I'm having a football picking contest with ESK at the Sports Bar.

NFL Preview, Part 8: The NFC North

This is one messed up screwy division filled with strange and incomplete teams. A few weeks ago if you would have asked me who was going to take the North, I would have told you the Detroit Lions. After watching them play in the preseason, I'm not sure what to think.

Let's ignore the preseason though, and go with what we know, Joe. (Whoa.) We know that Joey Harrington isn't very good. We also know that Jeff Garcia was clotheslined into broken-fibula-land. (Not that it really matters. The preseason made him look completely washed up.) So we have an inconsistent QB all year.

Kevin Jones, I still believe is very good, as is Roy Williams. But that's all I've got. The defense, which I thought was improved (and will still give the Packers fits just because of their huge defensive tackles) has looked lack luster. This team has talent, but I could see them finishing anywhere from 4-12 to 12-4. As the NFC North is terrible, they'll probably finish at least 6-10, and with some luck they might squeak out a few more victories. I think that they finish 3rd in the division with a middling record.

Just ahead of the Packers.

You guys aren't going to like this. I think the Pack will have a very, very bad year. Before you excommunicate me and put up border guards to keep me from coming back up there, let me explain. Let's look at the facts:

Last year the Packers went 10-6. Of those 10 wins, 5 were against the NFC North. I think the Packers are clearly worse than last year. Same defense (unless Jim Bates can work miracles). Worse offensive line. Older Ahman Green (who is already in steep decline). Bad special teams. All of this will hurt us.

The Lions are a bit better. Roy Williams is healthy. They get a full season of Kevin Jones. Charles Rogers is still intact. Marcus Pollard has joined the team. When you picture the Lions playing the Packers, does anyone see Kevin Jones having anything less than 150 yards and 2 scores? They've always been bad at running against the Lions too. Bad news.

And let's not forget that the Bears did beat the Packers last year when Grossman was still healthy. What do we know about the Bears? They have a good defense with good LBs. Kyle Orton cannot possibly be worse than Hutch or Krenzel or Quinn. Even if he's only average, heck, even if he's bad, he's still better than what they had last year. They were bad at WR. They signed Mushin Muhammad. They had a bad O-Line. They signed a few of those. None of these players are terrific, but they are all HUGE improvements over last year. Finally, they improved their kicking game with the strong-legged Doug Brien.

Again, we are worse, and they are better.

What about the Vikings? The loss of Moss will hurt the offense, no question. But will it hurt them very much? More than what they've gained on defense? I recall them playing pretty well when he was hurt last year. And their defense is much much better, because let's face it, it couldn't get much worse. The Vikes last year were probably worse than the Pack on D, as evidenced by two narrow 34-31 victories by the Pack. (And against the Packers D, is there really that much difference between Moss and Burleson?)

Now they have Darren Sharper. They have Fred Smoot. They have Corey Chavous and Antoine Winfield. They added Sam Cowart from the Jets to play Middle LB, and landed Napoleon Harris in the Moss deal. The line looks formidable as well, with the still developing Kenechi Udeze, Kevin Williams, Darrion Scott, and Pat Williams. This is not just a better defense. This is a good defense.

Again, they got better, while the Packers got worse.

Maybe the general weakness of the NFC will save them. Maybe Mike Tice's incompetence, Matt Millen's brilliant Personnel moves, and the Bear's general "Bearness" will elevate the Packers. But I look at there schedule, and this is what I see:

Sep 11 @Detroit 4:15pm L
Sep 18 Cleveland 4:15pm W
Sep 25 Tampa Bay 1:00pm L
Oct 3 @Carolina 9:00pm L
Oct 9 New Orleans 1:00pm W
Week 6 BYE
Oct 23 @Minnesota 1:00pm L
Oct 30 @Cincinnati 1:00pm L
Nov 6 Pittsburgh 4:15pm L
Nov 13 @Atlanta 4:15pm L
Nov 21 Minnesota 9:00pm L
Nov 27 @Philadelphia 4:15pm L
Dec 4 @Chicago 1:00pm L
Dec 11 Detroit 8:30pm W
Dec 19 @Baltimore 9:00pm L
Dec 25 Chicago 5:00pm W
Jan 1 Seattle L

That's 4-12. Now I'm probably overly pessimistic. I get like that sometimes. Maybe they sweep the Lions and the Bears. Maybe they beat Tampa. Maybe they beat Seattle. But at Carolina? At Cinci? Pitt? at Philly? At Baltimore? No way. That's five losses right there.

So what do I see in this division?

1. Minnesota: Between 10-6 and 12-4

2. Chicago - 8-8 or so.

3. Detroit - 7-9 or so.

4. Green Bay - Between 4-12 and 6-10.

I hope I'm wrong, but I don't think I will be.

Winning on Sunday would be a good start.

At least Will's still has free cheese curds.

NFL Preview, Parts 6 and 7

This is going to be a quickie. Let's start in the NFC East, home of the T.O.

I think the NFC East is pretty easy to pick, which is a good thing, because time is short today. This division hasn't changed much. The Eagles are the class of the NFC in general, and certainly of the East. Sure, they could blow up at some point due to internal turmoil, but even if they do, they're still better than everyone in the division, with the possible exception of the Cowboys.

Speaking of which, at least the Cowboys did something in the offseason. Drew Bledsoe's best days are 10 years behind him, but he can still wing it if his line is solid enough. When I see the boys I see a poor (desperately poor) man's Aikman (immobile but accurate QB), a poor man's Emmitt in Julius Jones, and a poor man's Novacek in Witten. Toss in Keyshawn and the woman and it doesn't look too bad. They might even make the playoffs. But probably not.

The Redskins suck at playing offense. They had QB problems (and line problems) all of last year. So what did they do? They added Casey Rabach at center and kept all of the same guys otherwise. Including the QBs. That's terrible.

Poor Clinton Portis. It's going to be a long, rough, year. A terrible team with a good defense. They'll finish in the bottom of the NFC.

As bad as the Skins are, at least they can play some defense. What can the Giants do well other than hand off to Tiki Barber? Nothing really. Maybe playing an extra home game will save them from be completely terrible, but that's it. I'll bet Plexiglass is quitting on routes by week 5.

A bad team in a bad division.

Moving right along, Let's talk AFC North. And let's get Cleveland out of the way right away. All the little chicks with the crimson lips say Cleveland sucks. This is the worst team in the NFL along with the 49ers. Dilfer. Droughns. Braylon Edwards. That's all I've got. Wager against them frequently.

Pitt was very good last year, with an elite defense and an above average offense. This year I see a tough division (except for Cleveland), a slight regression by BenRo (which started last year), a fat Duce Staley, an injured and old Bus, some dude named Willie Parker, and a distinct lack of plexiglass.

Assuming that 15-1 was a statistical outlier and they were actually a 12-4 team last year, I think they fall all the way back to 9-7 this year.

I think that will put them even with the Bengals, who will look to get right on defense. They also need Carson Palmer to continue his development. Even if he just remains at his current level he's not a bad QB, and they should score plenty.

But what of Marvin's defense? Will he join the long list of coaches that have teams which can't excel in the given coaches specialty? (See: Tony Dungy, Brian Billick, John Gruden, although I expect that to turn around this year). I think they'll be slightly better, and they'll be ever so close to a playoff spot.

Baltimore takes it home. We know they can win with very little offense, and they should improve this year. Derrick Mason gives them an actual NFL caliber WR, Heap should be back, Jamal Lewis is fine, and if he's not, Chester Taylor is a more than adequate backup. Will Kyle Boller reach a level above "sucks ass?" I don't know, but I don't think it matters much, and I actually think he's better than he looks. You try throwing to Randy Hymes and see how long your NFL career lasts.

These predictions involved me looking at no stats or schedules or anything, but I've got to get the NFC North done before I leave today, and time is short. The problem in the AFC is that there is too much quality. I still haven't decided on the last wild card yet. Playoff predictions will be coming soon, but I'm leaning towards Cinci and the NYJ.

You may be right. I may be crazy.

Technical Note

Just in case anyone else is having a similar problem, my sitemeter isn't working right now (it does not appear to be registering hits, and I also cannot get to the site).

A Bad Idea

The President has a new man in charge at the President's Bioethics Council. Leon Kass wasn't very good to begin with. His replacement, Georgetown University bioethicist Edmund Pellegrino, seems much worse.

Here's Reason's resident bioethicist, Ron Bailey:


Pellegrino has been active in the national political debate over various biotech developments. For example, he participated in a press conference sponsored by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.) in 1999 opposing all human embryonic stem cell research. At the press conference, Pellegrino urged that a congressional ban "should be extended permanently to include privately supported as well as federally supported research involving the production and destruction of living human embryos."

The bottom line: Pellegrino's appointment as chairman of the President's Bioethics Council will, if anything, increase that body's opposition to a lot biotechnological progress.



This reminded me of a post that MDS wrote yesterday which made an excellent point on the President's support for (ugh) "Intelligent Design." Clearly he's the guy we want regulating complex developments in medical science:

Read the whole article, and you'll see that because of Mbeki's complete ignorance of science, he wasn't able to discern the difference between the real medical breakthroughs that have been made in the fight against AIDS and the fools who espoused the idiotic idea that anti-retrovirals were toxic and there was no proof that HIV caused AIDS. As dhodge said to me, "It's very reminiscent of the ID/evolution debate in the US in many ways. A head of state propping up lies and pseudoscience in the hope of political (or perhaps financial) gains. Fortunately, no one is the US is dying due to ID."


At least, no one is dying yet.

Update: Stephen Green chimes in:

Getting coal or oil was a simple, mechanical process. All we needed was the wit to save up some capital, and the luck to have those natural resources under oil soil. Building cars and ships wasn't much different, but required more brains, less brawn, and a lot more capital. Computer chips require a ton of capital and lots of brains; the only natural resource needed is sand – and you can find that most anywhere. So as we've progressed, we've relied less and less on resources and muscles and mechanisms, and more and more on brainpower - human capital.

So what do I mean when I say biotech dwarfs all are past glories? Because biotech holds the promise to exponentially improve and indefinitely extend our human capital.

How bright is the future of a nation whose best minds can contribute to the economy for a century or more, instead of a mere 40 years?

How bright is the future of a nation that can produce better minds in an ever-growing portion of the population?

How goddamned stupid are some people, for wanting to put a legal cap on our human capital?


And concludes:

The starter's pistol has fired, and our President and his Council are busy tying their shoelaces together. As another, smarter President Bush once said, "we're in deep doo-doo."

Thursday, September 08, 2005

A Good Idea

This proposal by the University of Virginia's Edgar Olson is circulating among the blogosphere's economists and political wonks:


HOUSING THE POOREST HURRICANE VICTIMS
By Edgar O. Olsen

What the people displaced by Hurricane Katrina need most now is housing. Hundreds of thousands of families are now living in temporary housing and shelters, sometimes little more than tents, throughout the south central region. These families cannot wait for new housing to be built.

Fortunately, new construction is not necessary to solve the immediate problem. Enormous numbers of vacant units in the region are available for immediate occupancy by families with the ability to pay rent — and a simple expansion of HUD’s largest housing program would provide even the poorest families with the means to rent these units.

The rental vacancy rate in the United States is at a historically high level. For all metropolitan areas as a group, it is over 10 percent. The largest metropolitan areas in the south central region have some of the highest vacancy rates – 15.6 percent in Houston, 14.4 percent in San Antonio, 12.8 percent in Dallas, 12.2 percent in Memphis, 13.1 percent in Birmingham and 18.5 percent in Atlanta. Vacancy rates for smaller metropolitan areas and non-metropolitan areas are also at historically high levels. In short, many rental units in the south central region and throughout the country are available for immediate occupancy by people with the ability to pay the rent.

Fortunately, no new federal program is required to match families suddenly needing housing with an existing stock of vacant apartments. The United States government already operates a program that would enable low-income families to pay the rent for these units. The Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program currently serves about two million families throughout the country. It enables participants to occupy privately owned units renting for up to, and somewhat above, the local median rent. Enormous numbers of vacant units could be occupied immediately by families with these housing vouchers.

Congress could show its bi-partisan resolve to respond to this emergency housing crisis by acting promptly to authorize a sufficient number of additional Section 8 vouchers to serve the poorest hurricane victims.

Since many victims have had to travel quite a distance to obtain temporary shelter and many will have to move further from New Orleans to obtain permanent housing within a reasonable time, these vouchers should be available to any public housing agency in the country to serve families displaced by the hurricane. To avoid delays in getting assistance to these families, the vouchers should be allocated to housing agencies on a first-come-first-served basis and any low-income family whose previous address was in the most affected areas should be deemed eligible. We should not take the time to determine the condition of the family’s previous unit before granting a voucher.

Getting the poorest displaced families into permanent housing is an urgent challenge. It requires bi-partisan support for Congress to act promptly, quick action by HUD to generate simple procedures for administering these special vouchers, and housing agencies in areas of heavy demand to add temporary staff to handle the influx of applications for assistance. Even with the best efforts of all parties, the proposed solution will not get all the low-income families displaced by Hurricane Katrina into permanent housing tomorrow. However, it will be much faster than building new housing for them. And it will show them that the federal government cares about their plight and is working to do what it can to help.



And I agree with Will Baude's rationale for libertarian types supporting this:


It is worth noting the basic influence of political salience here. I suspect that a great many libertarians would like to cut federal welfare programs, but would also like to make sure that the programs we do have are good ones. This means that when it's clear that federal welfare is going to happen no matter what, the good-government libertarians speak out loudly, but when it is time to start cutting, they are likely to take whatever they can get.

Will the Karate Kommandos be there as well?

I wish that I had time to attend this event. You know, to get the other side's perspective. Plus I'll bet there'll be some kicking.

(Hat tip, Ed Brayton)

Where's the Scooby Gang when you need them?

Via the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (from the AP, of course):


The owners of a Japanese restaurant who claim their newly renovated building is haunted are being sued by their landlord for refusing to move in.

An offer to hold an exorcism was refused, according to the 2.6 million dollar lawsuit filed by the owners of the Church Street Station entertainment complex last month in Orange County Circuit Court.

The lawsuit also asks a judge to decide whether the building is haunted and, if so, whether the ghosts would interfere with the restaurant's business.

Christopher and Yoko Chung had planned to move their Amura Japanese Restaurant into the building in October 2004, but backed out of the lease.

The Chungs' attorney says subcontractors gave several documented reports of having seen ghosts or apparitions in the restaurant at night. The attorney also says Christopher Chung's religious beliefs require him to "avoid encountering or having any association with spirits or demons."


Did the ghosts ask him to play poker or something? Jinkies.

Update:

By the way, one of my favorite pubs in Chicago, The Red Lion, does a brisk business despite allegedly being haunted. The menu proudly boasts of this fact, proclaiming that you may see unexplained apparitions, hear strange noises, and, my personal favorite, detect "psychic smells."
I've been in the upstairs of the Red Lion alone a couple of times to use the bathroom (when the line gets too long downstairs they'll let you go into the upstairs even if it's closed for the night), and while there were smells, I'm fairly certain that they were not psychic in nature.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

NFL Preview, Parts 4 and 5

I fell behind so I'm going to have to take on some two-a-days.

Let's start with the AFC West. What can I say about Denver. It's the same old, same old situation. And Jake Plummer is the same old ball and chain. (Yeah.) Last year they were 10-6. The year before that they were 10-6. The year before that they were 9-7. So, a solid bet for this year is 9-7 or 10-6. We know that Mike Anderson can run (as long as Ron Dayne doesn't have any influence. By the way, what's up with Mr. "Why can't dip be a meal" anyway? I mean, I know that the theory is that anyone can run behind that line, but not only did he run behind that line, he beat out Quentin and Maurice!). We know that Jake Plummer only plays well when Peter King is watching. We know that Ashley Lelie and Darius Watts will underachieve, and that Champ Bailey will shut down the tight ends that he faces. And we know that Lenny Walls is tall.

They've also improved in the punting department with the addition of Todd Sauerbrun.

Is there any reason to expect anything different this year? Maybe.

The competition in the AFC West is improved. The Chiefs are better, the Chargers are apparently pretty good, and the Raiders added Randy Moss and Lamont Jordan. So where do I think the Broncos end up? Tied with the Chargers, in second, at 9-7 or so.

What of the Chargers? I think that a tougher division will bring them back down to earth. I also think that last season's 12-4 mark is probably a statistical outlier. I still think that Chargers are a good team with good weapons (Tomlinson, Gates, McCardell), but I feel that the schedule monster may bite them bigtime. Check out these out-of-division games:

@New England (Oct 2, coming off a Monday Nighter against the Giants in San Diego)
Pitt (Oct. 10)
@ Philly (Oct 23)
@ NY Jets (Nov 6)
Buffalo (Nov 20th, which could be chilly)
@ Indianapolis (Dec 18th)

Put that together with the 6 divisional games and you're looking at a rather steep mountain. I think that this team takes a step back, and may even miss the playoffs if they're not lucky.

So if those two teams tie for second, who's first and who's last?

I like KC to win the West, and the Raiders to bring up the rear.

Now the rear probably won't be that bad. Somewhere around 8-8, but I don't like Randy Moss on grass (either kind), I don't like the vertical passing attack (I think it creates too many turnovers), and I don't like their defense. According to NFL.com, the following people make up the LB corps and secondary for the Raiders: Nnamdi Asomugha, Stuart Schweigert, Derrick Gibson, Charles Woodson (who has declined a bit, in my opinion), Tyler Brayton, Danny Clark, and Grant Irons.

I think that they are going to have major problems stopping people this year. Actually, I think they look a lot like last year's Minnesota Vikings team. If I'm right, they'll score plenty of points, but still get smoked in a competitive division (there are no Bears or Lions to beat up on in the West).

Which leaves us with the Chiefs. I think that picking the Chiefs is a bit risky. They're kind of old. Trent Green is no spring chicken, Priest Holmes looks like he's in a prime "Marshall Faulk" style decline, and their receivers are still unimpressive (although Kennison is underrated).

So why them? I think they still have enough on offense behind what is still a very good offensive line. Larry Johnson is an adequate backup should Priest suffer an injury. But most importantly, they revamped their defense (finally). Sammy Knight and Patrick Surtain now anchor an above average secondary. And the oft-injured Kendrell Bell will bring some respectability to the linebackers.

Dante Hall is still there to receive preferential treatment from the refs on special teams as well.

I see a big year for these guys as long as injuries and Lawrence Tynes don't get in their way. They'll take the West in a close race.

In conclusion, Jake Plummer sucks.

Let's head across the nation to the AFC East, home of the defending champion New England Patriots. In the East we find a great QB, a good QB, a bad QB, and the Miami Dolphins QB.

Tom Brady is the great QB. (Before people start leaving annoying comments about how Brady is overrated or underrated or how Peyton Manning is actually a woman, please note that Brady has always been consistent, and has actually been getting better over time. He always completes 60% of his passes or more, always throws about 12 picks, and always throws 23-28 TD passes. It's nice to be able to bank on this kind of performance. And no, he's not better than Peyton Manning.) The Pats should still be quite good. Rumor has it that they're run defense is suspect, which you would expect with the loss of Tedy Bruschi.

This could actually spell some trouble for the champs. I try to look at things that have secondary effects, and allowing the opponent to have a strong running game could have profound effect. The defense will be on the field longer, the offense may have to take a few more risks, and the secondary may be exposed a bit.

I think that none of these things will actually happen because Bill Belichik won't let it. I also think that they Patriot offense will improve (I really like the receiving corps). I think they're back to their old dominant selves, badda bing, badda boom. They win the East, surprising no one.

If anyone can sneak past the Pats, it will be the Jets, featuring good but not great QB Chad Pennington. He may be great someday, and if he can replicate his 2002 performance someday may be soon, but first he needs to prove that his shoulder has fully recovered.

I'd be higher on the Jets, but they have a bit too much faith in Curtis Martin for my tastes. One of these days he is going to experience a decline. Will it be this year? I don't know. But I do know that they lost Lamont Jordan to the Raiders, and as a result, the Jets are operating without a net.

That said, I think that Pennington will recover and I like Lavranues a lot more than Santana Moss. Justin McCareins should be an adequate compliment on the other side. The defense looks fine, maybe even slightly improved. The schedule isn't easy, but it's also not overly difficult. I see the Jets in the 10-6 range, making the playoffs, and causing some teams to have fits.

I also see rookie kicker Mike Nugent honking a big kick at some point. I've seen my team play the "draft a kicker" game before. Not smart.

Ah, the Bills. Poor J.P. Losman. He just doesn't look very good. And really, other than being young, he doesn't have much of an excuse. Eric Moulds and Lee Evans are both above average WRs, Willis McGahee has looked good, and the defense features Troy Vincent, Lawyer Milloy, TKO Spikes, London Fletcher, Sam Adams, etc. Not too shabby. Everything that goes wrong in Buffalo will be put squarely on him, and with backup extraordinaire Kelly Holcomb lurking on the depth chart, his days are probably numbered.

The question of the day is, are the Bills good enough to win with a below average QB? I think they are, but having New England and the Jets in the division leaves them little room for error. They start with Houston, followed by the entire NFC South. If they get off to a fast start they may be able to sneak into wild card contention, but I don't see it. I think the Bills will be a big disappointment. I think they will have chaos at the QB position all year.

More than anything, I don't see how they have improved over last year's team. They were 9-7 last year with Drew Bledsoe, and while Drew was occasionally a disaster, I've seen nothing that would lead me to believe that Losman will lead a superior offense. They'll finish under .500, and out of the playoffs.

Calling the Miami QB situation bad would be an insult to bad QBs everywhere. It is impressive to think that this team failed to improve on Jay Fiedler in the offseason. It is also worth noting that Fiedler, of Dartmouth, and therefore smarter than your average NFL player, got out while the getting was good (well, maybe a year after the getting was good).

This team stinks. They have a bad offensive line, bad QBs, a college coach, and Ricky Willams and David Boston on the same team. The defense is still OK, but so what? They're going to be exhausted all the time because they're never going to get off of the field. They were 4-12 last year, and they might squeak out another 1-2 wins this year, but I don't expect much, and I doubt that I'll even get that.

In conclusion, Jake Plummer sucks.


 
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