The Electric Commentary

Sunday, April 30, 2006

C'était un rendez-vous

Usually, the L&N Line reviews movies, but today they're showing one. And it's well worth watching.

Evolution v. A Banana

If you haven't seen the now-famous video of Kirk Cameron and some other idiot trying to justify Creationism with a banana, now is your chance.

The gist of it?


It has a point at the top for ease of entry, and is just the right shape for the human mouth.


O-kayyyyy.

This one is too easy right? No matter what I say will be unoriginal, right? Whether I mention the numerous species of cows that fit in your hand, the numerous other cylindrical items that fit nicely into one's mouth, or the various other areas, some of which Christians consider unholy, that a banana might fit nicely into, I can't possibly add anything to the conversation, right?

Spamalot

I saw Monty Python's Spamalot on Thursday. It is a silly thing.

If you like the movie, you will probably like the musical version. The only glaring omissions are the "If she weighs as much as a duck than she must be a witch" scene, and the "you must answer me these questions three" scene, but the rest is still more or less intact. They take a few liberties, but after all, they needed to carve out some time for singing, and they actually do a clever job of condensing a few plotlines.

The worst part, by far, is the completely unnecessary Lady of the Lake, who seems to be included only to provide for a female role in the production. Most of her part consists of ridiculing Broadway conventions, and, as we all know, if there is going to be a ladyish part in a Monty Python production it should really be played by a man. However, as cringe inducing as she is, it does give you time to use the restroom so as not to miss the Black Knight, the killer rabbit, and the Holy Hand Grenade of Antioch.

I should also mention that Eric Idle decided to include "Always Look On The Bright Side of Life" in the show even though the song is from "The Life of Brian," and makes infinitely more sense when the singer is being crucified. There's also a South Park/Family Guy style number on the impossibility of making it on Broadway without any Jews. Frankly, it's funnier when Trey and Matt do it.

It's a good show for the solid Python fan, but may induce small amounts of boredom/eye-rolling in the laity. But I still liked it.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go polish my pocket protectors. And it's almost time for Doctor Who.

Ni.

The Tax Barons

Don Boudreaux does some number crunching:

The average price of unleaded 87-octane gasoline in 2004 was $1.88 per gallon. Today it's about $2.93 -- so, $1.05 per gallon more today than in 2004. Thus, at $2.93 per gallon, we Americans are spending $68.3 billion more per year for gasoline than we spent in 2004. (I'm crudely assuming that this higher price of gasoline doesn't cause the quantity demanded of gasoline to fall. Of course, to the extent that this higher price does cause quantity demanded to fall, the extra amount of money we spend on gasoline per year will be lower than $68.3 billion.)

Let's put this figure in perspective: According to this just-released paper from the Cato Institute, Chris Edwards reports that the annual cost in 1995 of complying with federal-income-tax requirements was $112 billion. In 2005, this compliance cost was up to $265 billion -- $153 billion more in 2005 than in 1995. Adjusted for inflation, this compliance-cost increase is $122 billion (in 2005 dollars).

Note that in 2005 our cost of complying with federal-income-tax regulations was $53.7 billion more, in real 2005 dollars, than the extra amount we're now spending compared to 2004, on an annual basis, for gasoline.

And Congress has the gall to pontificate about the alleged unacceptability of the higher prices now charged by oil companies.

The Packer Draft And More

Going into this draft, I thought that the Packers needed to address offensive line, defensive line, WR,and LB, and after it was all said and done, they had:

2 LB
3 OL
2 DL (both selected in the later rounds)
2 WR
2 DB
1 QB

Most of the players taken near the front of the draft will fill very specific needs right away. Taking a flyer on a QB can be a good idea and has worked for the Packers in past drafts, but if you're going to do it why not wait until the 7th round? Perhaps Ingle Martin will be outstanding someday, but QB is not a position of need for the Pack, and in the 5th round, there is still value to be had.

All in all, I'm pretty happy with this draft. If nothing else it shows that the front office is aware of the team's deficiencies and it has attempted to correct them. There are no obvious catastrophes (that's right B.J. Sander, I'm talking about you), and these players all seem to have potential. It will give us something to look forward to after the Brewers finish with their playoff run.

I'm feeling overly optimistic about the Brew Crew right now, having watched them batter every Cub pitcher not named Maddux to the tune of 25 runs in two days. On Saturday, Prince Fielder hit one of his two HRs just a few feet from me into the right field bleachers. I'm sorry to say that the bathrooms on that side of Wrigley no longer have troughs, so feats like this are no longer possible. Alas.

Kudos to all Milwaukee fans who drove down for the game. We had a strong presence in the bleachers on Saturday, and only three of the six HRs hit by the Crew were thrown back onto the field. One Cub fan in my party was heard to remark,

It's like the frickin' Cardinals are in town.


It wasn't quite Miller Park South, but it was a much better showing than usual.

Finally, thanks to the NBA for throwing my Bucks a bone. They're still going to lose the series, of course, but at least they got to look good for one night. Michael Redd was outstanding, and the interior defense played as well as they have all year.

Saturday was a fun day all around. It was one of those days where everything just comes together beautifully. Good times, good drinks, good people.

Good weekend.

Saturday, April 29, 2006

Bush's Popularity Reaches All-Time Low

The Houston Texans shocked the world yesterday by signing Mario Williams, and passing on the consensus best player in the draft, Reggie Bush.

Which should make this a very fun draft, and for all of your draft prep, head on over to the Outsiders, where you can read about LenDale White's failed drug test, the Packers' receiver problems, draft strategy, and some oft-ignored football skills.

If you need to whine, here's the open thread.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Fun Friday

Sure, our politicians waste a ton of money on pork projects, but it could be worse.

Drug Prohibition and Mexico

Mary Anastasia O'Grady has an excellent column in today's Wall Street Journal (subscription only, unfortunately). Here's a snippet:

Nobel economist Douglas North taught us the importance of institutions in development economics. Yet prohibition and the war on drugs are fueling a criminal underworld that handily crushes nascent democratic institutions in countries that we keep expecting to develop. Is it reasonable to blame Mexico for what enormously well-funded organized-crime operations are doing to its political, judicial, and law enforcement bodies when we know that Al Capone's power during alcohol prohibition accomplished much the same in the U.S.? These are realities of the market, of supply and demand and prices under prohibition that no amount of wishing or moralizing can change.

A serious discussion about U.S. security interests has to begin by acknowledging the great cost of prohibition and the war on drugs to U.S. foreign policy objectives. A U.S. policy that unintentionally empowers brutal organized-crime rings is counterproductive to U.S. hopes for a stable and prosperous Latin America.

Fun Friday, Part 1

I'd like to have an argument.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Who is John Galt?

Tyler Durden, apparently. But who is Tyler Durden? I'll wager good money or fresh donuts that this movie sucks. Objectively speaking. I just don't think that Rand is going to translate well to the visual medium under any circumstances.

I am Jack's unsubtle dystopia.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Sour Grapes?

Are there any other reasons to distrust the NBA, or am I just a disgruntled Bucks fan? I've already explained the perverse incentives in the NBA, but there are other problems as well:

1. The NBA lacks a strong rule of law.

This is bad for nations, and it is bad for sports. When you enact laws, it is important that those laws be reliable, clear, objective, and enforceable. If a law is vague, it gives the enforcement agency leeway to abuse their power. The US Supreme Court loves to enact "balancing tests" as solutions to complex problems. Balancing tests are terrible because those people most affected by the law in question cannot rely upon any authority when they act with respect to that law. Sometimes their actions might be a crime, and other times not. Balancing tests have a chilling affect on the activities that they govern.

Fouls in the NBA are not objectively enforced (or defined, really). There is probably no solution to this problem. They cannot simply let players hit each other, but they also can't eliminate all contact. The happy medium is left up to the refs, and as a result, the definition of a foul changes on a game to game (and even minute to minute) basis.

Rules of this nature allow the refs to have a great deal of power, for better or for worse. This is not uncommon, of course. The strike zone in baseball is subject to similar manipulation, as is the pass interference penalty in football, however, the foul in basketball carries a high price which lead us to point two.

2. The Impact of foul calls increases as the game goes on because:

A. There is more information available to the official with regards to the closeness of the game, and his ability to affect the outcome, and more importantly,

B. As players accumulate personal fouls, the ref gains the power to remove a player from participation.

In the Bucks-Pistons game on Sunday, Michael Redd picked up his 4th foul with over 19 minutes remaining, sending him to the bench for extended periods of time, and rendering him powerless on defense. Until that point, both Redd and Hamilton were having problems at the offensive end, but after Redd's fourth, Hamilton picked up his offensive game, capitalizing on Redd's timidness/absence.

In hockey the ref can take out a player for 2 minutes (5 in egregious situations) but only in basketball does the ref have the power to neutralize a player for such an extended period of time.

There is really nothing that can be done about this. "Player contact rules" are judgmental by their nature. Perhaps at some point technology will allow for a perfect strike zone, but as long as guys are crashing into each other, officiating is going to be more of an art form than a science.

Earlier I compared the NBA to the WWF, but it's really more like figure skating. In Olympic figure skating, only 5 people have a realistic shot at winning. These skaters have established reputations as stars and they will enter the competition with a built-in advantage. Often, a fall will only knock a skating star from first to second place. Even if a less accomplished skater performs perfectly, they have little chance of catching the Slutskya's of the world.

That is the context that we should keep in mind when evaluating the NBA. And remember, a few years ago some judge's conspired in figure skating to screw some Canadians out of a medal. When judging is involved, no sport can possibly be entirely credible. It is simply impossible.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Fair and Balanced

You're going to love this:

Does media bias affect voting? We address this question by looking at the entry of Fox News in cable markets and its impact on voting. Between October 1996 and November 2000, the conservative Fox News Channel was introduced in the cable programming of 20 percent of US towns. Fox News availability in 2000 appears to be largely idiosyncratic. Using a data set of voting data for 9,256 towns, we investigate if Republicans gained vote share in towns where Fox News entered the cable market by the year 2000. We find a significant effect of the introduction of Fox News on the vote share in Presidential elections between 1996 and 2000. Republicans gain 0.4 to 0.7 percentage points in the towns which broadcast Fox News. The results are robust to town-level controls, district and county fixed effects, and alternative specifications. We also find a significant effect of Fox News on Senate vote share and on voter turnout. Our estimates imply that Fox News convinced 3 to 8 percent of its viewers to vote Republican. We interpret the results in light of a simple model of voter learning about media bias and about politician quality. The Fox News effect could be a temporary learning effect for rational voters, or a permanent effect for voters subject to non-rational persuasion.


(Hat tip, MR)

UPDATE:

Hmmmm. Or perhaps not.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Warning:

Coca-Cola Blak is the most vile substance ever created by man or beast. Four sips was all that I could tolerate, and I quickly developed a severe headache and nausea. It tastes like a syrupy tin can, and not only does the taste stick with you for hours, it also makes other cola products undrinkable.

Do not, under any circumstances, ingest this product. It should be confined to automotive use only. I'd wager that even Bill Cosby hates it.

Quote of the Day

Civilization rests on two things; the discovery that fermentation produces alcohol, and voluntary ability to inhibit defecation. And I put it to you, where would this splendidly civilized occasion be without both?


From The Rebel Angels by Robertson Davies, the first book of The Cornish Trilogy.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

How long before some NBA player cold-cocks an official?

What an infuriating "sport." I know that the Pistons are a better team than the Bucks, but how does that justify the officials aiding the better team? When I first read Moneyball, one stat stuck in my head:

Even the worst team in the league will beat the best team in the league 15% of the time in a seven game series.


I'm paraphrasing, but the above quote is essentially correct. Is this even remotely close to being true in the NBA? Maybe I'm emotionally out of whack on this issue, and I'm just perceiving things improperly. Ever since the refs handed the Eastern Conference Championship to the Sixers in 2000-2001 by suspending Scott Williams for a bogus flagrant foul ( the "Iverson is a little twirp" foul), and awarded Iverson a million-billion free throws in game 7, I've thought that the NBA is crooked. It's so bad that now, when there is any controversial play I assume that the call is crooked faster than you can say "Dick Bavetta."


Then again, isn't the NBA set up to be crooked? Isn't it basically professional wrestling? After all, the NBA has never sold parity to its fans. It has sold Michael Jordan (Hulk Hogan),Larry and Magic (The Rock and Stone Cold Steve Austin), and Shaq (Andre the Giant). When baseball is highly competitive, more fans watch the games for a longer period of time. When football is competitive, people don't just watch their local team (although the possibility of a championship does keep them interested), they watch every team, they play fantasy football,and they follow the draft.

When there is parity in Basketball, people don't watch.

This isn't the best night to write this criticism. Kobe Bryant was obviously fouled in a crucial portion of the Suns-Lakers game and no call was made. Fouling Kobe and getting away with it is probably the highlight of Tim Thomas's career, other than the 15 boards he grabbed today (by the way, I hate Tim Thomas for basically ruining the Bucks). However, the fact remains that the Bucks had no chance of winning tonight, and everyone knows it. None. Zero. And, as I said, the Pistons are a better team. But upsets in general should happen more often than they do in the NBA, and in the NBA, there must be a reason that they do not.

The reason is simple. The other two major sports, football and baseball, benefit from a competitive environment, and the rules and officiating reflect that.

The NBA benefits from stars succeeding, and the rules and officiating, and more importantly, the results, reflect that. The Bucks have as much of a chance to win this series as Koko B. Ware did to win the WWF Heavyweight Title over Hulk Hogan, because the Bucks and Koko are playing under the same set of rules. You beat who you should beat, and you lose when you should lose, and nothing that you do will change that fact.

What a deplorable "sport."

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Happy Earth Day

Instead of watching Captain Planet reruns on Boomerang today, I suggest heading over to your local book store to pick up Bjorn Lomborg's classic, The Skeptical Environmentalist. Not only will it make you smarter, but your purchase of a book will slightly increase the demand for paper, which will increase the demand for trees, which will increase the number of trees on earth. You could plant a tree of course. Some people do that on Earth Day. Just remember that you can accomplish basically the same thing by purchasing paper products. The more books, paper plates, newspapers, boxes, etc., that you buy, the more trees will be planted by tree farmers in the future.

And since we are in no way running out of landfill space, you don't even have to feel bad about those paper plates.

On this Earth Day, remember first and foremost that the Earth spends most of its time trying to kill you. Environmentalism shouldn't focus on the Earth itself, the Earth is just scenery. It should focus on people (and animals and plants, yes, but people first).

The often romanticized "primitive state of nature" was a terrible time where death and disease was the norm. The best thing that we can do for the environment, and for ourselves, is to learn more and continue to invent new technologies. It is the only way we will ever get off of coal and oil for power. It will help us live longer. It will aid in the restoration of the environmental damage that we have caused. It will make the world a better place.

Those that would impede advancement are the true enemies of the environment. In fact, when you're finished reading Bjorn, why not add a few more incentives to the tree growers and pick up Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near too?

It's about 74 degrees out right now, sunny, with a nice breeze, and I think I've spent enough time behind a computer for the day.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Fun Friday: Beaver Edition

Get your mind out of the gutter.

I've been saying "rape and incest" around the office lately. You know, to sound smart.

This guy might be the world's biggest moron:

"I think 'rape and incest' is a buzzword," said [State] Rep. Joel Dykstra about not including those conditions in the abortion bill. "It's a bit of a throwaway line and not everybody who says that really understands what that means. How are you going to define that?"


How do you even respond to something like that? No one slapped this guy?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Drugs v. Wal-Mart

Remember when the President passed his prescription drug plan and prohibited the government from using their considerable leverage to bargain for lower prices? He was (correctly) criticized for this decision. I don't want the government involved in health care to this extent, but if they are, they have a responsibility to taxpayers to get the best price possible (without resorting to coercion).

It is not uncommon to hear these same people (sometimes in the same breath) criticize Wal-Mart for using their considerable bargaining power to extract lower prices from their suppliers. Typically they feel sympathy for these suppliers, as they tend to be smaller than Wal-Mart, and people regard Wal-Mart as a bully.

But isn't Wal-Mart simply doing what the government should be doing?

Hamm's, The Beer Refreshing...

Courtesy of YouTube:

I, Robot

Everybody has experienced a sense of “losing oneself” in an activity – being totally absorbed in a task, a movie or sex. Now researchers have caught the brain in the act.

Self-awareness, regarded as a key element of being human, is switched off when the brain needs to concentrate hard on a tricky task, found the neurobiologists from the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot, Israel.

The team conducted a series of experiments to pinpoint the brain activity associated with introspection and that linked to sensory function. They found that the brain assumes a robotic functionality when it has to concentrate all its efforts on a difficult, timed task – only becoming "human" again when it has the luxury of time.


That's from New Scientist, via Marginal Revolution.

And I should mention, MR blogger Tyler Cowen has a new column in the NYT today:

For the first time, economists are studying these phenomena scientifically. The economists are using a new technology that allows them to trace the activity of neurons inside the brain and thereby study how emotions influence our choices, including economic choices like gambles and investments.

For instance, when humans are in a "positive arousal state," they think about prospective benefits and enjoy the feeling of risk. All of us are familiar with the giddy excitement that accompanies a triumph. Camelia Kuhnen and Brian Knutson, two researchers at Stanford University, have found that people are more likely to take a foolish risk when their brains show this kind of activation.

But when people think about costs, they use different brain modules and become more anxious. They play it too safe, at least in the laboratory. Furthermore, people are especially afraid of ambiguous risks with unknown odds. This may help explain why so many investors are reluctant to seek out foreign stock markets, even when they could diversify their portfolios at low cost.

If one truth shines through, it is that people are not consistent or fully rational decision makers. Peter L. Bossaerts, an economics professor at the California Institute of Technology, has found that brains assess risk and return separately, rather than making a single calculation of what economists call expected utility.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Man Diving Into Urinal

The Hamm's post reminded me of this for some reason. Ewww.

(Hat tip, Nicole)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Bad Beer Review: Hamm's Golden Draft


One of my local pubs (Sheffield's, best beer garden in town) features a "Bad Beer of the Month" and this month, they featured the deplorable Hamm's Golden Draft.

Hamm's is a great brand. They used to advertise in such a way as to be offensive on several different fronts. First and foremost, Hamm's definitely appealed to children. How do I know? When I was a child, I thought that the bear (and the cartoon commercials featuring the bear) was really cool, and I also knew the words to the jingle. I'm all for beer and alcohol, and I frequently defend alcohol advertising on this blog, but in retrospect those ads make me a bit uneasy.

Even so, Hamm's commercials appealed to very young kids, not teenagers, and very young kids will not drink beer under any circumstances. When you are 6 years old it tastes "yucky." It is therefore better to have a cartoon mascot than some teen idol, I suppose.

Secondly, the aforementioned jingle:

From the land of sky blue waters (waters),
Hamm's the beer refreshing,
Hamm's the beer refreshing,
Hamm's...


is probably offensive to Native Americans. The tune is reminiscent of the Braves' tomahawk chop chant, and that is clearly the image that they were going for back in the day.

Perhaps it is unsurprising that Hamm's, or at least Hamm's Golden Draft, tastes like yeasty water with a hint of tin, and maybe a bit of Sprite. It isn't even a good chugging beer, as it is not particularly smooth, and its overly sweet finish is almost certain to make for some bathroom nastiness later in the evening. Not so much beer as beer-flavored soda-pop, HGD is slightly more drinkable than Schlitz and Huber, but not nearly as pleasant as the more mainstream bad beers like Old Style, PBR, and my "bad beer favorite," Red Dog.

If you are looking for an economical choice, you can do better than Hamm's. Don't get suckered in by the ads. The collectibles may be cute, but the beer is decidedly urinesque.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Fun Friday, Military Edition

Here's an interview with insurgents gone awry.

Here's some fun with expensive equipment.

(Hat tip, Keith)

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Fun Friday, Ninja Edition

Watch out, Phil:

Federal Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearm agents, on campus for a community training project, detained Jeremiah Ransom of Macon Tuesday as a "suspicious individual" when they spotted a masked figure darting near the Georgia Center.

Ransom told The Red & Black student newspaper that he had left a Wesley Foundation pirate vs. ninja event when he was snared by agents with guns drawn.



(Hat tip, Ace)

Fun Friday, Geocentric Edition

Robert Sungenis is nuts. From MDS:

He has just completed a 1,000-page tome, "Galileo Was Wrong," the first in a pair of books he hopes will persuade readers to "give Scripture its due place, and show that science is not all it's cracked up to be."

Geocentrism is a less-known cousin of the intelligent design, or anti-evolution, movement. Both question society's trust in science, instead using religion to explain how we got here - and, in geocentrism's case, just where "here" is.

Fun Friday, Mookie Edition

Buckner, Mookie, and the rest of the 1986 World Series (well, the important part), with complete play by play, played on RBI Baseball. This is fantastic.

Courtesy of Ace Cowboy.

You can go far with a humble paperclip.

I'm not sure if this is real or not, but MR seems to think so:

My name is Kyle MacDonald and I am trying to trade one red paperclip for a house. I started with one red paperclip on July 12th, 2005 and I am making a series of trades for bigger or better things. My current item up for trade is one year in Phoenix. Do you want one year of FREE rent in Phoenix? Pop your offer over to me at (oneredpaperclip@gmail.com)... You can see the current offers here. I live in Montreal Canada but will go anywhere in the world for the right offer.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Immigration, The French, French Immigration, Health Care, The Brewers, And People We Like.

Remember the "other" French riots? The Muslim riots? Almost seems like ancient history, doesn't it?

Those riots were to some extent the result of overt racism, but they were largely the result of a 40% unemployment rate among the immigrant Muslim population in France. These people simply cannot find work, and it is difficult in France to start a business. They are permanently on the dole, even though they would like to work.

Fast forward a few months and we get to the new French riots. These riots consisted of students, unions, and communists protesting against a proposal that would allow for young workers to be fired at will. The unemployment rate among people under the age of 26 in France is around 25%. It would have been a much needed reform that would hopefully have led to greater reforms later, and boosted a stagnant economy. Instead, they are now doomed.

Does anyone see a problem with this?

France has a very stiff labor market. There is not much turnover, it is difficult to fire anyone, and consequently, there is not much growth. The rioters in the most recent protests were fighting hard to preserve the status quo because they currently benefit from these protections at the expense of those 25% of unemployed youngsters and 40% of unemployed immigrants. 75% will always beat 25%. If you rob Peter to pay Paul, you can always count on the support of Paul.

Is there any reason for France to deny these immigrants (or young people) employment because they will work for less?

Now, let's move to the US. Immigration is the topic of the day. Many in the citizenry fear that illegal aliens steal our jobs, depress wages, threaten our security, wreck our culture, and increase crime. I covered some of this in an earlier post, and a few of these complaints are viable. Crime does increase in high immigrant areas, however, I believe that the black market culture created by our immigration laws is more responsible for this than anything, in very much the same way that our drug laws are responsible for the seedy drug culture that exists in parts of the country. I've addressed many of these concerns before, however, by far the most prominent anti-immigration argument that I have read is that they drain our government services. I hate this argument.

Here in the US, we have embraced this argument. It is similar to the Coyote Blog's Health Care Trojan Horse Strategy which can be summed up as follows:

Step 1: Convince populace to enter into a "commons" arrangement, such as insurance, or social security, where some people pay in, some people take out, but the extent to which you take out is unrelated to what you put in.

Step 2: Use new arrangement to boss people around by saying things like:

a. They're driving up my health care costs!
b. I don't want my tax dollars to go towards supporting that lifestyle!
c. These immigrants are using our services!

Of course, the real problem here is not immigration or smoking or obesity or homosexuals. It is socialism, or at least, socialistic policies. The solution to these problems is not to exclude certain people, but to end expensive and inefficient programs. As a practical matter this will probably never happen, however, that being the case, the next best solution is to force immigrants to pay into the system. This can be achieved by simply making them citizens.

In my previous post I lobbied for tall fences but wide gates. Illegals are a problem, but the best way to solve this is to make it simpler to become legal. This is simply free trade. It gets right to our freedom of contract.

If someone can do some job better and/or cheaper, does the government have any right to tell that person "no"? By doing so, they deny someone gainful employment, and they deny another person the right to hire whoever they want. And based on what?

Nothing more than "birthplace."

Another frequent argument is nationalism. This is the idea that citizens in a nation should get preferential treatment because those immigrants are from somewhere else. I hate nationalism (and patriotism).

I should briefly clarify. It is fine to love your country, but you should do so for a reason, not just because you were born here. I love this country because it's more free than most countries, and it provides its citizens almost limitless opportunity. I would like to think that, had I been born in some shit country like North Korea, I would have no patriotic feelings. Loving a country simply because you were born there is idiotic, and it is certainly no justification for excluding someone from gainful employment. Nationalism of this sort is based on faith, and you know how we feel about faith around these parts.

Nationalistic faith should be reserved for the Brewers, Packers, and Bucks. With rooting interests, no one gets hurt. (Except Ben Sheets.)

This post was inspired by an excellent comment section debate at Ethan's blog, featuring Ahren, Rashid, and Ace Cowboy.

The Bear Patrol

Homer: Not a bear in sight. The Bear Patrol must be working like a charm.
Lisa: That's specious reasoning, Dad.
Homer: Thank you, dear.
Lisa: By your logic I could claim that this rock keeps tigers away.
Homer: Oh, how does it work?
Lisa: It doesn't work.
Homer: Uh-huh.
Lisa: It's just a stupid rock.
Homer: Uh-huh.
Lisa: But I don't see any tigers around, do you?
Homer: Lisa, I want to buy your rock.

Well, that scene kept running through my head as I read a post by Ruth Rosen at TPMCafe about all the wonderful things we should be thanking government for as we pony up our taxes this weekend.


That's from Julian Sanchez at Reason. Read the whole thing.

You know what they said? Well some of it was true!

Be careful about your taste in music:

Security staff at a British airport stopped a businessman from catching a flight because the songs he had asked a taxi driver to play on the car stereo made the driver suspicious, police said.

The songs: "London Calling" by The Clash, and "Immigrant Song" by Led Zeppelin.


More here, including a slightly different account of the story.

While you're at MR, read this too.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Sick

I hate being sick, but I guess it's been awhile. I was due.

I've been meaning to write some more about France, and about their protesting to maintain unemployment. What a strange place. If unemployment here got even close to that high there might be riots. France might be a lost cause at this point.

I must also report that while NyQuil is still nominally effective because it knocks you out, the new reformulated DayQuil does nothing. Nothing!

Monday, April 10, 2006

France Surrenders

Yet again. I suppose it was inevitable.

What a screwed up country.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Fun Friday, Part Baseball

Baseball season is in full swing. With the possible exception of Baseball Stars, the greatest baseball video game ever is RBI Baseball. Here, you can download a sweet little Rom for RBI 2K6, featuring the original RBI Baseball with updated teams and rosters. You can read all about it here and here.

Fun Friday, Partman Bartman

The Cubs have their home opener tomorrow. In celebration of that game, here is the Bartman play.

Fun Friday, Part Juggling War

First, this guy did some routine with three balls, and then this guy did it with five, as a throwdown.

Hey, it's no stupider than 8 Mile.

Fun Friday, Part the Third.

It's Strong Bad's Sesquicentennial at H*R.

Fun Friday, Part 2

What would life be without rapping prince Zachary (Morris).

All these ladies have fat feet!


Oh snap! He did not.

Fun Friday

Some enterprising atheists have started a post-rapture delivery service.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.

Here is a website full of great libertarian quotes, like:

Where morality is present, laws are unnecessary. Without morality, laws are unenforceable. – Anonymous


and:

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. – C. S. Lewis


and:

Vices are simply the errors which a man makes in his search after his own happiness. Unlike crimes, they imply no malice toward others, and no interference with their persons or property. – Lysander Spooner


Enjoy.

(Hat tip, MR)

Immigration

In an effort to distract folks from the war in Iraq, immigration is now the topic of the day. Oh well.

Some people, conservatives mostly, are concerned about the state of the "rule of law" when it comes to immigration. My question is, when the rule of law begins to degrade is it generally the fault of the people or of the government? The best example I can think of is the drug war, which makes a mockery of the FBI and federal law in general, and turns a very high percentage of the population into criminals (and felons, at that). People will only follow laws that they respect, and have little power to undermine the rule of law. Government, on the other hand, can craft all sorts of complex and contradictory laws. They alone have the power to make legislation into a joke.

The fact that we have so many illegals here is a shame as they are easily exploitable, but the solution is not to toughen up our borders. It is, instead, to expand our gates. I should point out that Thomas Friedman wrote essentially the same thing in this morning's NYT (behind the wall, of course).

Immigration is no different than free trade, and tough immigration barriers are an impediment to the gains of free trade. The more human capital that we can get in this country, the faster the country will grow and prosper, and poor immigrants are often among the most hard working and diligent, so I say give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. Unless you think that is a stupid sentiment, of course.

Many cite September 11th; The ultimate red herring in this debate. Immigration had nothing to do with 9/11. As a rule, poor Mexicans tend not to work for Al Qaeda. This entire line of argument misstates the effects of porous borders. Here's a handy chart:

People who want to be here and will do whatever it takes and jump through whatever regulatory hurdles are presented to carry out their mission - Al Qaeda

People who would like to work in the US, because it beats working in Mexico, but not if they have to fill out a bunch of cumbersome paperwork, pay cash that they don't have, wait for years, and ultimately have their fate determined based on whether or not the Washington D.C. area Starbucks ran out of Maple Scones today - Mexicans


When you talk security, you are not discussing a problem at the margins. Terrorists will get into the country. "Forms in triplicate" will not deter them. Poor, migrant workers seeking a better life can be dissuaded at the margins, with bureaucracy.

In attempting to thwart terrorism, conservatives instead put up an artificial trade barrier. They condemn people to a worse life simply because they had the misfortune to be born in Mexico, and they raise the price of our food in the process.

On the surface it may not seem like I disagree with them to a large extent, but the difference in incentivizing legal immigration by keeping illegals out vs. incentivizing legal immigration by letting more legal immigrants in is huge.

My solution is more cost effective, it is better for the rule of law, it is better for the economy, it is better for both the US and Mexico economically and for security, and it is better for the individuals attempting to make their lives better.

Militarizing the border any further is bad for international relations, it is extremely wasteful, and diverts resources from true national security problems.

However, more than anything else, my solution can actually work. "Better enforcement" even if it was somehow morally preferable, is simply not pragmatic. We would eventually wind up with the functional equivalent of a second drug war. To some extent we already have one. We should learn from that mistake.

I am not in favor of throwing open the borders willy-nilly, but if someone wants to try and make it in the US, it should be a one day affair, not a one year affair.

More, from the Coyote Blog:

What does it mean to be living in this country? Well, immigrants have to live somewhere, which presupposes they rent or buy living space from me or one of my neighbors. Does the government have the right to tell me who I can and can't transact with? Most conservatives would (rightly) say "no," except what they really seem to mean is "no, as long as that person you are leasing a room to was born within some arbitrary lines on the map. The same argument goes for immigrants contracting their labor (ie getting a job). Normally, most conservatives would (rightly again) say that the government can't tell you who you can and can't hire. And by the way, note exactly what is being criminalized here - the illegal activity these folks are guilty of is making a life for their family and looking for work. Do you really want to go down the path of making these activities illegal?

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Lollapalooza

I just bought my tickets. This could be a very fun summer. I think I'll try to see Death Cab, The Flaming Lips, The Shins, The New Pornographers, The Eels, Aqualung, and maybe sneak in the RHCP or Wilco or Iron and Wine, or Ween if there's time.

And they're probably holding back a few big names too.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Brewers Win!

5-2.

Jeff Cirillo gets the big hit off the bench. D-Bow looks unhittable (even though he gave up a hit). El Caballo and J.J. went deep.

A great start.

Extremely Random Baseball Predictions

1. Brewers: 90-72

2. Prince Fielder will not win Rookie of the Year. That will go to some player in a red uniform.

3. Prince Fielder will hit precisely 27 HR.

4. The Cubs will finish no better than 4th in the NL Central. The White Sox will finish behind the Indians in the AL Central, and behind the A's in the wild card, and miss the playoffs completely.

5. Jim Thome will break down. Bobby Jenks will implode, perhaps literally.

6. Ben Sheets will miss significant time.

7. The Cardinals pitching staff will suffer one bad injury and fold like a house of cards. They will still hold off the Brewers, but just barely.

8. The Phillies will win the East. The Braves finally fail.

9. The Dodgers will win the west. Barry Bonds will be intentionally walked, but most pitchers will just throw at his head.

10. The F*ckin' Yankees will win the East. Boston will not finish second.

11. The Angels will win the West.

12. AL MVP? Travis Hafner.

13. NL MVP? Albert Poo-Holes, of course.

14. Major injuries? I predict that Thome, Jim Edmonds, Ensberg, C.C. Sabathia, the Morneau/Mauer combo, Gary Sheffield, most of the Mets and Dodgers, and Tejada will see some major time off this year.

15. Breakout? Wily Mo, of course.

16. The Steroid Investigation will show that a bunch of guys did steroids. And nothing will happen to anyone

17. The Royals management will all be savagely gunned down by a disgruntled Zack Greinke.

18. It will be 42 degrees tomorrow, with an 80% chance of rain, as I tailgate before opening day in Milwaukee.

19. Doug Davis will get the win over Oliver Perez, D-Bow picks up the save. Prince and Carlos Lee hit dingers.

20. Win - Polish
Place - Hot Dog
Show - Italian


 
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