The Electric Commentary

Friday, March 30, 2007

The NIT Champs

Are a bunch of...well, read for yourself.

Heh.

Hot Doug Fined

From the Trib:

Chicago officials issued the first fine for violating the city's ban on the duck liver delicacy, known as foie gras, to the owner of a hot dog restaurant.

Doug Sohn, who runs Hot Doug's "The Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium," agreed to pay $250 Thursday for the first-time offense.

He had been openly serving foie gras-laced hot dogs for many months at his restaurant on the city's northwest side after the ordinance banning the delicacy took effect in August 2006.

Sohn acknowledged in February that he had taken the city's warning letter about the duck or goose liver delicacy, framed it and placed it on his counter. He also advertised ingredients for the specialty dogs on a board hung near the front door and on his Web site.

He was cited in February for serving the foie gras and city officials confiscated the meat.

Sohn could have faced up to a $500 dollar fine under the ordinance, according to Tim Hadac, a spokesman for Health Department.


Doug Sohn has been begging for this moment, and he will undoubtedly make back the amount of the small fine with the increased publicity that he has received. He had his warning notice from the city framed and set up next to the cash register.

Hot Doug's is an excellent restaurant, and Doug is one smart guy.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Saturn's Hexagonal North Pole



Weird.

When Privatization Fails

When Republicans are running the show they usually push for privatization of certain government functions. When the Walter Reed fiasco came to light, conservatives pushed it as an example of failed nationalized health care, and liberals pushed it as an example of failed privatization. The fact is that both sides are correct, although neither understands why.

While the private sector in undeniably more efficient than the public sector, this is not due to any magical pixie dust. The private sector is efficient because of competition, not because of "privatization." Econ 101 teaches that monopolies are lousy, inefficient, and exploitative, and the text makes no distinction between government and private monopoly. Most people have to deal with a cable television provider that is basically a monopoly, and most people are unhappy with this company. (Note: I am not a fan of my cable company. I have Comcast and while they have not been as much trouble for me as they have been for my friends, they have not performed well. There is theoretically a competitor of Comcast's called RCN, but they do not serve my area.) Cable providers are private companies, but they always seem like government entities when you are forced to deal with them. I'm not sure that I wouldn't rather deal with the DMV.

Much of government privatization consists of simply replacing a government provider with a private provider which leaves whatever incentives previously existed to motivate the government provider intact. It changes nothing.

If Veterans get free or cheap health care at certain government hospitals, or they get subsidies to use certain select private hospitals, those hospitals will have to perform pretty poorly before Veterans shell out their own money to switch to better hospitals. This provides an incentive for the hospitals to cut corners until they reach that point. After all, the government is going to pay them anyway.

Moreover, government privatization often takes the form of a subsidy. Instead of government handling the job, some connected company will get the job. This is not necessarily less efficient than the government simply running the operation, but neither scenario is desirable.

I don't want to give the impression that I am in favor of government run anything, but it is important to realize that most of the time "privatization" is more of an election-year buzzword than a constructive policy.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Chris Buckley's New Book

Thank You For Smoking is brilliant. This sounds good too:

Mr. Buckley has a worrisomely tough time laying the groundwork for this premise, but his idea soon yields the exquisitely dizzy, Wodehouse-style mischief that is his specialty. Although his jumping-off point is generational warfare, it leads straight into a riotous morass of political ambition, with a screwball array of special-interest schemers embroiled in intricate, back-stabbing machinations. As one character sweetly summarizes this author’s outlook: “My, my, my, how very different are the workings of government from what we all read about in books as children. I wonder, do the Founders weep in heaven?”

If they do, they also chuckle — and wait worriedly as the huge, spoiled baby boom cohort of America’s population prepares to barge in. The title of “Boomsday” refers to the point at which this generation becomes eligible for Social Security — and ready to demolish the federal budget. So the book invents a prophetic heroine named Cassandra Devine who sounds a rallying cry to her fellow 20-somethings. Stop paying taxes, she urges, and create financial incentives for boomers to commit suicide. To his credit Mr. Buckley knows that this plan goes far enough. It’s much funnier to watch how these ideas are mauled by the legislative and electoral processes than to keep on one-upping them with wilder demands.

Opening Day Approaches


I'll be there on April 2nd when the Brewers face off against the Los Angeles Dodgers of Los Angeles. (So will Danny.) This season shows more promise than any season since former rookie of the year Pat Listach graced the diamond. They are the hot pick to win the central, they're starting pitching is excellent on paper (Sheets, Capuano, Suppan, Bush, Vargas, and then after Vargas sucks for awhile, Yovani Gallardo), and the offense should be much improved with an extra year for the young kids, the addition of Johnny Estrada, and healthy seasons from J.J. Hardy and Rickie Weeks.

Even if they suffer injuries (as all teams do) they are very deep on the bench. The bullpen is a bit of a question mark, but Turnbow appears to have righted the ship, and even if he doesn't he'll have a quick hook. Cordero should be fine in the closer role, Matt Wise is fine, and everyone else has a defined role.

The Brewers' biggest threat is the Cubs, who are trying to prove that no matter how stupid your management is, $300 million will still put you over the top. It truly became spring yesterday when Kerry Wood went on the DL, but for once the Cubs are prepared for life without Wood and Prior. Kind of.

They have Carlos Zambrano, perhaps the NL's best pitcher, and Jason Marquis, perhps the NL's best hitting pitcher. Of course once you take the bat out of his hand he's not actually very good as I believe he had the highest ERA of any starter in the NL last year. They spent a million-billion dollars on Ted Lilly, an unspectacular lefty.

After that it's Rich Hill and...

Wade Miller? Hmmmmm.

Offensively the Cubs should be much better. Gone is the vastly overrated Juan Pierre, replaced by the expensive but hugely talented Alfonso Soriano. It is hard to overstate just how big of an upgrade this is. Soriano, with a healthy Derrick Lee and Aramis Ramirez should give the Cubs some bang, but let's remember, they're still the Cubs.

Matt Murton is one of their most productive players, but they don't know it. He will likely platoon much of the year, whereas Jacque Jones, who could actually use a platoon (234/.261/.416 against lefties) we see most of the time in right. They overpayed in the offseason for some guy names Mark Derosa, and short stop is still a huge question mark.

Still, the Cubbies will probably be neck and neck with the Brewers all season, which should make for a nice rivalry. While it is hugely irritating that fans at Miller Park are usually split about 50/50 when the Cubs visit, it is also more fun to be in a stadium where both sides are cheered. You generally only get that during the NCAA tournament and English soccer matches, but a good Cubs/Brewers tilt will rival any of them. Wrigley, for all of its charm, is usually more about the party than the game no matter who is there (Possible exception: Cardinals), but at Miller park everyone is very interested in the antics on the field.

The Brewers play the Cubs during the first weekend series, and I'm almost looking forward to that game more.

I've got my brat recipe ready to go, I've got the day off of work, and I've got a bean-bag set adorned with the University of Wisconsin logo. I'm all set.

Here's to baseball.

(And as usual, I'll take the Polish in the sausage race.)

Here is my archaeological dig at Wrigley Field.

Here's an excerpt of the Baseball Prospectus Hope and Faith series on the Brewers.

Here's Ahren.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Neal Stephenson Reviews "300"

But such criticisms aren’t really worth arguing with, because they are not serious in the first place — and that is their whole point. Many critics dislike “300” so intensely that they refused to do it the honor of criticizing it as if it were a real movie. Critics at a festival in Berlin walked out, and accused its director of being on the Bush payroll.

Thermopylae is a wedge issue!

Lefties can’t abide lionizing a bunch of militaristic slave-owners (even if they did happen to be long-haired supporters of women’s rights). So you might think that righties would love the film. But they’re nervous that Emperor Xerxes of Persia, not the freedom-loving Leonidas, might be George Bush.

Our so-called conservatives, who have cut all ties to their own intellectual moorings, now espouse policies and personalities that would get them laughed out of Periclean Athens. The few conservatives still able to hold up one end of a Socratic dialogue are those in the ostracized libertarian wing — interestingly enough, a group with a disproportionately high representation among fans of speculative fiction.

The less politicized majority, who perhaps would like to draw inspiration from this story without glossing over the crazy and defective aspects of Spartan society, have turned, in droves, to a film from the alternative cultural universe of fantasy and science fiction. Styled and informed by pulp novels, comic books, video games and Asian martial arts flicks, science fiction eats this kind of material up, and expresses it in ways that look impossibly weird to people who aren’t used to it.



Read the whole thing here.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

TANSTAAFL

Tim Worstall reminds us that everything costs something:

When people talk about the cost of the health care system in the US they (rightly) note that money is spent on marketing and other overheads associated with raising the money to keep the system fed.

However, when they look at the costs of a single payer system, mysteriously, the costs of raising those funds disappear. Now the actual direct costs of raising tax money are not large. However, we know that all and any taxes distort behaviour, leading to there being substantial costs associated with any taxation.

Now this is only a question, not a statement, but is a single payer system actually any cheaper, once the deadweight costs of those taxes are taken into account?

(Also worth pointing out to those agitating for a single payer system in the US. The French system, the one that is generally rated as being number 1 globally, is neither single payer nor single provider. In fact, it is markedly less generous than either Medicare or Medicaid).

Quote Of The Day

via Warren Meyer:

it would be institutionally suicidal for a monopoly school system to do a good job of teaching market economics. The very fact that we continue to have a monopoly school system is retroactive proof that market economics has not been well taught. Monopolies, after all, tend to be frowned on by the economically savvy.

The Answer

On Wednesday I heard a late night Chicago sports talk radio host claim that if his team were in the Super Bowl, he would take Elway, then Montana, then Unitas, then Young, then Aikman, then Brady, then Manning. Bradshaw was in there too. He expressly said that he would not take Favre because he only won one Super Bowl. This brings us to the answers:

1. Brett Favre, in the Super Bowl Loss to Denver.
2. John Elway, in the Super Bowl win over Green Bay.
3. Trent Dilfer, in the Super Bowl win of the New York Giants.

I really hate it when people are absolutists about great players having to win championships. I'm get even more pissed off when analysts attribute great feats to players who had little to do with those feats.

Looking at the numbers above, it is pretty clear that Brett Favre outplayed John Elway in that Super Bowl. It's not even really close. But think about how much John Elway's legacy rests on that game. (It also relies on a Gary Anderson missed field goal and some extra curricular activity from Eugene Robinson.) I don't mean to say that Elway was anything less than great, but it's worth remembering that his Super Bowl wins were almost entirely due to a great offensive line and Terrell Davis.

The fact is that not only did Brett Favre outplay John Elway in their Super Bowl Showdown, but Trent Dilfer put up as good, if not better numbers than Elway in his Super Bowl performance. Is there any reason to consider these Super Bowls as important data points in the "John Elway is great" file?

And Brett Favre should not be penalized heavily for his Super Bowl loss. After all, he doesn't play on the Packer defensive line. The fact is that Brett Favre has performed better in Super Bowls than John Elway has. This is indisputable. He hasn't won as many, but in a team sport like football, even though the QB is the most important player, he is still only a small part of what makes a team successful.

If you were the GM of an expansion team, and you could have either the old John Elway, or the old John Elway's offensive line plus a replacement level QB, what would you take? Ask the same question for Troy Aikman in his prime.

I'd take the offensive line.

Now ask the same question of Favre in his MVP era.

That's why Favre is great.

(And nice work, Scott.)

Football Quiz

Who can tell me which QB's names belong behind these stat lines? A post will follow someone getting the correct answer (or failing that, tomorrow). The answers are very specific.

1. 25/42, 256 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT
2. 12/22 123 yards, 0 TDs, 1 INT
3. 12/25, 153 yards, 1 TDs, 0 INT

Strangest Double Feature In History?

Next week my local Brew & View theatre, which shows second-run movie double features for five bucks, and serves beer, has what I believe to be the oddest double feature in history:

8:00 - Reno 911
10:00 - Pan's Labyrinth


I'll see that.

Al v. Bjorn

Al Gore testified yesterday, but so did skeptical environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg. It should be pointed out that Lomborg isn't actually that skeptical about global warming, just about how we should handle it:

“We need to know just how many more heat deaths we can expect compared with how many fewer cold deaths,” Lomborg said. He cited statistics that showed that each year about 1.5 million people die from excessive cold in Europe, more than seven times the heat deaths. “That we so easily forget these deaths and so easily embrace the exclusive worry about global warming tells us of a breakdown inour sense of proportion,” Lomborg said.

On the issue of sea level change, Lomborg asked, “How is it possible that one of today’s strongest voices on climate change can say something so dramatically different from the est science (provided by the IPCC)?” He added, “IPCC estimates a foot, Gore tops them 20 times.”

Gore’s prediction that if Greenland melted or broke up and slipped into the sea or if half of Greenland and half of Antarctica id the same thing, sea levels worldwide would increase between 18 and 20 feet, Lomborg said, is “simply positing a hypothetical and then in full graphic and gory detail showing us what – hypothetically – would happen to Miami, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Beijing, Shanghai, Dhaka and then New York.”

Lomborg said stronger and more frequent hurricanes have been cited as a calamity of global warming, yet the most reputable scientific sources have drawn no firm conclusions. “When Al Gore tells us that there is a ‘scientific consensus’ that global warming is making hurricanes more powerful and more destructive, it is incorrect.”

The recent increase in human suffering and economic impact as a result of tropical cyclones “has largely been caused by rising concentrations of population and infrastructure in coastal regions,” Lomborg said. “There are many more people, residing in much more vulnerable areas, with many more assets to lose,” he said. “In the U.S. today, the two coastal South Florida counties, Dade and Broward, are home to more people than the number of people who lived in 1930 in all 109 coastal counties stretching from Texas through irginia, along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts.”

Gore’s assertions that malaria has increased as a result of global warming are similarly flawed, Lomborg said. “Like most stories, there is at core some truth to the claim that malaria will increase with temperature, but it is a small part compared to richness and health infrastructure,” he said. “Even if we could entirely stop global warming today…we would only change malaria risk in 2085 by 3.2 percent.” Even with a “stringent climate policy” Lomborg said studies show “there is little clear effect by the 2080s.”

“Compare this to current expectations that we can cut malaria incidence to about half to three‐fourths by 2015 for about $3 billion annually – or 2 percent of the cost of Kyoto,” Lomborg said.


More here.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Why Are So Many Americans In Prison?

Not enough mental institutions:

Percentage of American adults held in either prison or mental institutions in 1953 and today, respectively: 0.67, 0.68

Percentage of these adults in 1953 who were in mental institutions: 75

Percentage today who are in prisons: 97

That is from Harper's Index, April 2007 issue.

Why Does America Have A High Infant Mortality Rate?

Too much health care:

To reduce infant mortality, then, we need to prevent premature births, and if that fails, improve care of premature babies once born. (Prematurity is also linked to other problems; for example, it's the leading cause of mental retardation and cerebral palsy in children.) But modern medicine isn't good at preventing prematurity—just the opposite. Better and more affordable medical care actually has worsened the rate of prematurity, and likely the rate of infant mortality, by making fertility treatment widespread. According to a 2006 Institute of Medicine report, the numbers of women using assistive reproductive technology doubled from 1996 to 2002. At least half of their pregnancies culminated in multiple births (twins or more), which are at high risk of premature delivery.

Meanwhile, no amount of money or resources seems to reduce the rate of preterm births.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Books That I Hate: The Celestine Prophecy

This lovely piece of fantacrap by James Redfield was a big hit in the late 90s. It deals with a man who starts to believe in new-age bullshit when he starts noticing a bunch of odd coincidences in his life. Of course, we all have odd coincidences in our lives, this is why we have the word "coincidence," but this guy's coincidences lead him to join a group of freaky weirdos who have noticed that same thing.

Soon he's seeing auras, sharing energy with trees, and learning about a global conspiracy to exploit these new-age powers for evil.

The new-age lessons, called "insights" are being sought by the government. I'm not sure why the government has decided to spend a bunch of your tax dollars to learn to share energy with trees.

Oh wait.

Never mind.

In college I had a class on utopic/dystopic literature. It was a poli-sci class and the prof focused everything on communism because he was an expert on China.

Anyway, We had to write one report on a Utopia book of our choosing (It could not be "Utopia" or anything else on the reading list). This made it difficult because the reading list was very comprehensive (although in retrospect I should have chosen Brave New World which was not on the list.) Anyway, someone asked if the Celestine Prophecy would be OK and he said that it would. I think that about 75% of the class picked it. Many others picked Ishmael, and a few took a book called "Ecotopia" or something like that.

I did Celestine. I gave my report first (oral and written) and my first sentence was "We should not have been allowed to read this book for this project as it is complete drivel." I received and A, and made everyone else's completely shitty reports in which they heaped praise on the book sound completely ridiculous.

Anyway, The Celestine Prophecy and its sequels, should not be read, touched, or looked at. One telling fact is that shortly after Celestine became a hit, new-age pop-culture suddenly became obsessed with "angels." Near the end of The Celestine sequel, The Tenth Insight, the characters are saved by angels who stop bullets. I'm pretty sure that Redfield just glommed on to whatever his readers were interested in at the moment.

He's not even a principled purveyor of new-age tripe.

Money = Speech

When I talk to any person who is in favor of "campaign finance reform" like the McCain-Feingold Act, they almost always say something like:

I'm all for free speech, I just want to regulate money.


This is like saying that you are for "free speech" but you would like to regulate writing utensils. It is a sentence that shows a great ignorance about the nature of money, and an even greater ignorance about the nature of freedom.

Money is simply a proxy for trade, nothing more. The default for trade is the barter system, in which I'll trade you some butter for your guns. Bartering is difficult sometimes. After all, you may not want to trade an entire gun every time you need some butter. Maybe you don't need that much butter, and butter spoils after a while. To solve this problem we invented money. Money improves on barter in several ways, but three of the more important way are that:

1. It allows you to trade your labor to the person who values it most, even if they cannot trade back the specific good that you desire,

2. It simplifies trade so that instead of striking a deal with 10 people to get eggs, milk, sugar, shortening, baking powder, food coloring, cocoa, butter, etc., you can trade with one person to get money, and then acquire the rest of the goods at your leisure.

3. It allows you to trade your labor now, for goods tomorrow. This is not just a matter of convenience. It also allows for investment.

Money is simply a proxy for whatever it is that you wish to trade for.

When the McCain-Feingold act passed, the government was telling you that if you are going to spend your money (in other words, trade your labor) on certain types of political speech, you would need to follow certain rules. You can only trade some of your labor to the candidate directly. You can't trade your labor for time in front of a camera, in print, or on a radio station a certain number of days before an election unless you start, or donate to, a specific kind of corporation.

This is ridiculous. Trade is your only means of procuring certain services. Congress, through this act, basically said:

You still have free speech, just grab a milk carton (as long as it's under 14 inches high) and start speaking on your local street corner. Sure you can't buy any space in the New York Times, or on prime time television, but you can still speak.


When the Supreme Court, in one of it's worst rulings ever, upheld this law it basically said that if you wanted to engage in political speech close to an election, you were not permitted to engage in trade (except in limited circumstances defined by congress).

Milton Friedman once famously wrote that no one person in the world can build a pencil:

"Nobody knows how to make a pencil. There's not a single person in the world who actually knows how to make a pencil.

"In order to make a pencil, you have to get wood for the barrel. In order to get wood, you have to have logging. You have to have somebody who can manufacture saws. No single person knows how to do all that.

"What's called lead isn't lead. It's graphite. It comes from some mines in South America. In order to make pencils, you'd have to be able to get the lead.

"The rubber at the tip isn't really rubber, but it used to be. It comes from Malaysia, although the rubber tree is not native to Malaysia. It was imported into Malaysia by some English botanists.

"So, in order to make a pencil, you would have to be able to do all of these things. There are probably thousands of people who have cooperated together to make this pencil. Somehow or other, the people in South America who dug out the graphite cooperated with the people in Malaysia who tapped the rubber trees, cooperated with, maybe, people in Oregon who cut down the trees.

"These thousands of people don't know one another. They speak different languages. They come from different religions. They might hate one another if they met. What is it that enabled them to cooperate together?

"The answer is the existence of a market.

"The simple answer is the people in South America were led to dig out the graphite because somebody was willing to pay them. They didn't have to know who was paying them; they didn't have to know what it was going to be used for. All they had to know was somebody was going to pay them.

"What brought all these people together was an enormously complex structure of prices - the price of graphite, the price of lumber, the price of rubber, the wages paid to the laborer, and so on. It's a marvelous example of how you can get a complex structure of cooperation and coordination which no individual planned.

"There was nobody who sat in a central office and sent an order out to Malaysia: 'Produce more rubber.' It was the market that coordinated all of this without anybody having to know all of the people involved."


The US government now requires that, if you wish to speak close to an election, you build the pencil yourself.

"We don't want to regulate speech, just money," they say.

Then why is it that they only want to regulate the money that goes to buy speech?

Friday, March 16, 2007

Ace's Harrowing Adventure

Read all about it, here. And way to get quoted by FOXNews Ace, that's how you know you've made it.

Borrrrrrrrrrrinnnnnnnng

What a bunch of terrible games yesterday. I mean, that was like watching a bunch of NBA games. Even the VCU upset wasn't that unexpected. Let's hope that the underdogs have a better showing today. Except for Texas A&M CC.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Marquette Is Screwed

Jerel McNeal will not play in Marquette's first round game against Michigan State. He has a bum thumb. Marquette has a really tough draw as they have North Carolina waiting for them should they get by MSU somehow. McNeal is probably Marquette's most important player. He is the only player who can reliably create his own shot, whereas Dominic James tends to force bad jumpers. This will allow him to force more of them.

Wisconsin, on the other hand, got a very favorable draw. They still can't beat any team with solid interior defense, but the only really threatening team that I see is Florida in the far off future.

Wisconsin has taken a lot of crap for their offense lately, but it's important to remember that they finished the season @MSU, @OSU, MSU, Purdue (neutral), MSU (neutral), OSU (neutral). That's a tough schedule, much of it on the road, and with no possibility of catching your opponent unprepared. Izzo, Matta, and Ryan all know each other inside and out, and the players are all well aware of what their opponents are trying to do. They know how to defend against each other, and all are above average to excellent defensively.

As soon as Wisconsin gets to play an unfamiliar team they will probably put up a ton of points and absolutely destroy them. This team did average over 70 points a game, after all. Pundits kept talking about Wisconsin's scoring problems during selection Sunday, but the schedule had much more to do with that than anything else. Butch's injury hurts, but it's not like he was a star on the team. They'll be fine.

Monday, March 12, 2007

I Know! Let's Imprison Homosexuals!

Normally I wouldn't care about a blogger with the limited reach of Lucas at Wild Wisconsin, but a few things make him worth mentioning. The first is that he writes for the more high-profile (at least in Wisconsin) Badger Blog Alliance. The second is that he attends Patrick Henry College, which produces an amazingly high number of White House interns:

As time went on, it also attracted notice because of a perceived closeness with the Bush administration, which had given the school's students a number of White House internships and opportunities. In the spring of 2004, of the almost 100 student interns working in the White House, seven were from Patrick Henry College, which had 240 students at the time.


But the real reason that I'm linking to this is that it is sometimes good to be reminded that there are people out there who actually think like this:

Learning From Africa

Nigeria has a law that is working its way through its government that would assign a five-year prison sentence on anyone practicing homosexuality. Would American Christians support the same type of legislation if it came before our government for a vote? We are on comfortable ground talking about legislation and constitutional amendments to keep marriage between one man and one woman. Fine. But if we are going to be consistent, if we truly believe that homosexuality is wrong, then is there a reason why we wouldn't support such a law? Are we afraid of those who would laugh at us? I can see the comments already to this post--most wouldn't even be charitable and I will be openly mocked even to entertain thoughts about this law.

But we must be consistent and we must stand up for the truth even if it hurts.


I'm speechless. I am without speech.

Friday, March 09, 2007

I Want One

Technology is cool.

Hope And Faith in the Brewers

The Baseball Prospectus book likes to point out all of the negatives of your team, but the site has been running a series of optimistic articles on every MLB team, and they are very optimistic about the Brewers. I think you need an account to read the whole thing, but here is an excerpt:

But aside from what might be, the what is looks solid. In a division that appears to be redefining medioparity, the Brewers as currently constructed have the fewest things that need to go right in order to reach the top of the standings. The Cardinals have to be carried by a shaky pitching staff and three creaky stars. The Cubs are already feeling the weight of renewed (and expensive) expectations. The Astros are still looking for an identity at the end of the Bagwell/Biggio era. The Reds are relying on Ken Griffey, Jr. to stay healthy and on Adam Dunn to be a bit more than Russell Branyan.

All the Brewers have to do is what all winning teams do: stay within themselves and stay healthy. It’s that last part that’s hard. Up the middle, J.J. Hardy has spent four of the last five years dealing with major injuries. Rickie Weeks has a history of wrist problems. Ben Sheets has spent the better part of two years fighting to overcome a muscle tear, something he’s just now coming to mechanical terms with. The team doesn’t need career years from anyone, just solid and reasonable production. They don't even need someone to “step it up” or “take it to the next level,” two clichés you’ll hear about virtually every team. Improvement would be welcomed, a peak year would be accepted, but it’s not one of the necessary ingredients for a World Series run. Bill Hall doesn’t have to be the next Robin Yount and Ned Yost doesn’t need a wooden leg to bring this team back to October.

It’s a team of depth and options, of possibilities and probabilities. The Brewers are the only team in the league which could take an injury at almost every position and still have a solid replacement there the next day (aside from Sheets going down again). There’s no team in the division with the bench depth and versatility. There’s no bullpen in the NL with the combination of role players, power arms, and potential. With all that, the team simply has to do what’s expected. For once in Milwaukee, that’s enough.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

"Well tonight thank God it's them instead of you"

Marginal Revolution's Africa Fact of the Day is actually quite infuriating:

Advertising Age calculates that around $100 million has been spent blanketing billboards and magazines with images of Bono and other "celebrities", while the total sum raised for Africa is $18 million.

Just to be clear... Total spent on making Bono more famous = $100 million.

Total spent on drugs for Africans = $18 million.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Bias and the Associated Press

In my post below about Professor Kaplan, some anonymous commenter takes me to task for criticizing the Associated Press's treatment of the story. This is stupid, because my post had very little, if anything, to do with the media coverage of this Kaplan mess. And I never mentioned the AP story. But just for kicks, here's the Associated Press's headline for their article about Kaplan's response letter:

Wis. professor acknowledges remarks about Hmong caused pain

And here is the letter.

Read the whole thing. The story itself is actually pretty fair, but why use that headline? It makes it sound as if Kaplan was admitting he was wrong. I don't think we was.

Union Roundup

Jay Bullock is (sort of) taking me to task for my anti-union post the other day. He appears to be in favor of the "Employee Free Choice Act" for the standard non-reason that management has too much power. Management, of course, doesn't get it's power from the state. Unions do that. Management gets power through hard work, luck, risk-taking, and competition. Unions get there power from the fact that if you don't treat them as the government directs, the government will take away a bunch of your stuff through force. In my opinion, even legal union procedures constitute larceny by a goon squad.

Jay, and everyone he links to, cites the following study:

22% of workers surveyed said management "coerced them a great deal.' 6% said the same for unions. During the NLRB election, 46% of workers complained of management pressure. During card check elections, 14% complained of union pressure. Workers in NLRB elections were twice as likely as workers in card check elections to report that management coerced them to oppose (it's worth noting that in card-check elections, 23% of workers complained of management coercion -- more than complained of union coercion). Workers in NLRB elections were more than 53% as likely to report that management threatened to eliminate their jobs.


I would respond by pointing out that in both secret ballot elections and card check elections the most vocal union supporters are taking a risk. I will certainly not sugar-coat management tactics in defeating union drives. They can be harsh, merciless, and sometimes illegal. However, in a card-check election the average worker is exposed not just to pressure from the goon squad, but also to retribution from the goon squad. When everyone is forced to publicly state their position it opens the door to everyone being intimidated, especially after the fact.

Secret ballots are supposed to be secret, that is how they ensure that workers are expressing their true feelings. If there is a problem with ballots not being secret (which I haven't heard) that is a separate issue. Secret ballots should ensure that workers who vote for a union measure that is defeated suffer no consequences AND that workers who vote against a union that is eventually certified suffer no consequences.

Tactics during the union drive are just campaign commercials. Maybe management will threaten to shut down the plant. So what? That is a real risk of unionizing. Layoffs? Also a real risk of unionizing. Management should be using these threats.

I'm also not shocked that the stat cited above has "union pressure" during a card check election at only 14%. Those responding to the survey had to hedge their answers against the likelihood of being labeled as scabs if the union won. Union intimidation probably prevents an accurate survey from ever being taken.

But let's get to a few links.

Tyler Cowen offers this deal:

I propose a deal. I'll agree that unions, in the best natural experiments we have, boost wages by about 10 to 20 percent. On the other hand, will Ezra (and others) agree that unions are mostly detrimental to the rate of economic growth?

If so, the utilitarian evaluation will boil down to the choice of discount rate, keeping in mind that under the left-wing account the gains follow mostly from redistribution more than from wealth creation.


He then adds:

Union supporters? Do we have an epistemic deal about how you are willing to lower the growth rate? And can we pull your true discount rate from the Stern/global warming debates? (I recall Jane once writing that a zero discount rate would require her to revise everything she believed, but I think the opposite is sooner true.)

Oh, did I mention that the union wage premium, especially for private sector employees, has been declining and may be disappearing altogether?


And one more:

To some extent higher union wages translate into higher prices for consumer goods. Over a five year time horizon I'll guess at 50 percent pass through, adding that most of these goods are bought by other laborers. Just to be flippant, for each dollar gained by a union member, I'll guess that labor market "outsiders" lose 50 cents.

Notice we haven't even counted negative effects on the rate of future economic growth, or for that matter costs to employers.

We already don't have workers, viewed as a class, coming out ahead.

I would be curious to hear the numbers assumed by those who wish to encourage labor markets by law. I would be curious to hear how much they think, over say a ten-year time horizon, wages deviate from labor productivity.

Inquiring minds wish to know.


Megan McArdle asks the following about the "Employee Free Choice Act":

Let me put it another way. What do pro-union organisers think of card check--and delivering the cards to employers as well as union organisers with no penalty, should the union fail, for firing or otherwise making life miserable for the yes votes? If you think that this is in some way wrong on principle, then how is it not wrong for unions?


Finally, let's give Jay equal time:

The Brawler writes about unions so I don't have to. All youse who are afraid of imaginary union goons (like the scary 300 pound men of Paul Noonan's fevered imagination) are apparently unfamiliar with the facts.

In the next sentence of the very same post Jay write the following:

Speaking of studies that burst conservatives' imaginary-world bubbles, it turns out that immigrants--including illegal ones--boost pay more than prison populations.


Of course those same immigrants see their opportunities greatly reduced by measures like the "Employee Free Choice Act" by pricing them out of the market, and immigrant labor drives up wages for reasons that unions inhibit. Immigrants take lower-skilled positions and force those who want higher wages to obtain more skills and take better jobs. As the LA Times put it:

UC Davis economist Giovanni Peri, who conducted the study, said the benefits were shared by all native-born workers, from high school dropouts to college graduates, because immigrants generally perform complementary rather than competitive work.

As immigrants filled lower-skilled jobs, they pushed natives up the economic ladder into employment that required more English or know-how of the U.S. system, he said.

"The big message is that there is no big loss from immigration," Peri said. "There are gains, and these are enjoyed by a much bigger share of the population than is commonly believed."


The labor inflexibility and artificial wage premiums delivered by unions are detrimental to this type of free market labor force allocation. That is why immigration helps to drive economic growth while unionization tends to kill it.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The Nudiscope

From Will Saletan:

Psssst. Want to see Susan Hallowell naked? Look at the Feb. 24 New York Times. She's on Page A10.

Hallowell runs the Transportation Security Administration's research lab. Four years ago, she volunteered to be scanned by a backscatter X-ray machine, which sees through clothing. She was wearing a skirt and blazer. But in the picture, she's as good as nude.

Now it's your turn.

Song Of The Day

On last year's Casimir Pulaski Day The Rising Jurist mentioned that CP Day...

It's also the title of a fantastic Sufjan Stevens song.


Here's Sufjan:

Loaded Terms

I find loaded terms very interesting. For instance, I like how the warring factions of abortion describe each other. I especially like how the "anti-choice" side refers to the pro-choice side as "pro-abortion." Now the anti-choice crowd is arguably anti-choice, and arguably pro-life, and the pro-choice is arguably pro-choice, but it's tough to make the case that they're pro-abortion. To the best of my knowledge no one is actually in favor of abortion. But the anti-choicers use the epithet anyway.

Another favorite is "frankenfood." This is a term that Luddites apply to genetically modified crops, which at this point is actually all crops. But even though genetically modified foods are perfectly safe and responsible for saving the lives of billions of people, the "Organic Food" movement won the argument as soon as they came up with the term.

Every controversial law that gets passed comes with a fluffy name. The most famous is the USAPATRIOT Act, and I've recently blogged about the Employee Free Choice Act. Free choice! What's not to like?

Preventing gays from marrying is "protecting marriage." Socialist health care is "Single Payer Health Care." Note that they don't mention who the "payer" is. Creationism is "Intelligent Design." $10.00/hour is a "living wage." The free market is the "race to the bottom."

Voodoo economics, rising inequality, family values, reliance on foreign oil, trade deficit, ignorant old-school baseball analyst.

Supply-side economics, lifting all boats, paternalism, efficient energy policy, domestic capital surplus, Joe Morgan.

These terms are surprisingly effective and many arguments degrade into cliche-ridden diatribes because of their power. And arguments that deal in loaded terms frequently end in childish name-calling.

After all, if you can summarize an entire position with one word or phrase, what is to stop you from summarizing a whole person with one word or phrase. The media could be a bit more vigilant in choosing terminology. They contribute to the problem.

So what am I?

1. Pro-fun. I support fun activities in opposition to neo-prohibitionists and the "family values" crowd, or as I call them, the anti-fun crowd.

2. Small government. I call my opponents "Republicans" and "Democrats" even though it's kind of mean.

3. Pro-science. I call my opponents "stupid."

See? Childish name calling. It's not healthy.

Happy Casimir Pulaski Day!

The weird Polish holiday that actually gives some Chicagoans the day off.

It also means that it's time for the Polish Joke Challenge again.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Books That I Hate: Life Of Pi

Life Of Pi is about a liar, and is written by a self-important moron named Yann Martel. The cover of the book claims that the book will "make you believe in God." It says this because Martel thought that including the phrase would sell more books.

"Life of Pi" is about a kid named Pi who gets stuck on a lifeboat in the middle of the ocean with a Tiger named Richard Parker. His family owned a zoo and while they were moving the Zoo the ship went down and only Pi and the Tiger survived. He survives starvation, the Tiger, and a parasitic island that tries to eat him, as well as an encounter with a blind man in Pi's exact situation to make it all the way across the ocean. He then reveals that the entire story is a lie and that the animals, including the tiger, were just people.

That's it. The stupidest part of the book is the island that tries to eat him. I'm sure it's a metaphor for something, but by this point I was eye-rolling big time. The real reason that Martel claims that it will make you believe in God is that Pi's big lie is supposed to relate what the authorities on the other side of the ocean need to know, not the actual truth. He is communicating the rather trite sentiment that it is the story that counts. This is meant to excuse the lack of literal truth in religious text and justify the parable-method of religious revelation. Fine, but at least in this case of biblical parables an allegedly valuable lesson is related. Most parable teachers (think Aesop) understand this. Martel doesn't have an overarching lesson though, he's content to let the fact that his character is a liar be the lesson. The whole story is merely a twist Aesop's story of the scorpion and the frog, and it's not much of a twist.

The book also contains a helpful "Book Club Discussion Guide" in the back that asks you to identify symbolism where none existed in an effort to make you think more of the book in retrospect. This is very clever as it adds pages without requiring any more work of Martel.

Pi is simultaneously too clever and too stupid for his own good. He rescues the Tiger when letting it drown is clearly the way to go, yet he also develops an ingenious Pavlovian conditioning program. Martel also goes for pure shock value as Pi is forced to eat disgusting foods (he even tries Tiger feces) and suffer starvation and too much sun.

Aside from the idea that lying is OK, the other big metaphor is that we often don't see huge things that are right in front of us. Martel continually repeats that if we turned a city upside down that a veritable jungle of animals would fall out. The stupid parasitic island also evades detection even though it's huge and, you know, eats people.

"Life of Pi" is the ramblings of a madman dressed up as profound philosophical insight. Reading it was akin to eating tiger feces. At least he had one valid metaphor in there.

Labels:

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Reason #2 To Dislike Obama

At a recent labor rally in Chicago, Barack Obama said the following:

With Democrats in control of Congress and seeking to boost a sagging labor movement, Illinois' two senators and other local officials appeared at a Chicago rally this morning to promote legislation that would make it easier for workers to join a labor union against the wishes of a company.

"We will pass the Employee Free Choice Act. It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when," said Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). "We may have to wait for the next president to sign it, but we will get this thing done."


This terribly misnamed bill is just a terrible piece of legislation. Let's pretend that next October of 2008, one month before the presidential election, that Obama is facing off against John McCain. Let's assume that you're taking a walk in your neighborhood, maybe heading to the grocery store, when a group of four Obama supporters come up to you. Two of them are scary 300 pound men. They shove a sheet of paper in your face and tell you that if you're "interested" in voting for Obama that you can do so right now by signing this bit of paper. One of the men is brandishing a baseball bat and staring suspiciously at the taillight of your car, or your dog. What would you do? Some of you, maybe most of you, would sign the paper.

The "Employee Free Choice Act" would allow union elections to be run in this fashion.

As of now, when a union is attempting to organize some industry they gauge the interest of the workforce by taking a poll by collecting cards. If you sign the card and turn it over, you're showing your interest in starting a union, however, the ultimate vote to unionize is conducted the same way that we conduct real elections in America; the secret ballot. Companies and unions are required to use secret ballots for the same reason that real US elections use secret ballots. People can express their true opinions absent coercion or consequences in a secret ballot election. This law would allow the card collection to be used instead of a secret ballot election.

It would not, as the Tribune put it, make it "easier for worker to join a union." It would make it easier for unions to force workers to join a union.

No Democrat would tolerate this method of holding elections in the political arena, but they almost all support it in the labor arena. It is a complete sellout to a special interest without any support in their overall philosophy.

Don't be fooled by this bill's misleading name, it would be a terrible blow to American companies, and worst of all, it would lead to an increase in labor unions.

Reason #1 to dislike Obama can be found here.

*Real* debating, Pan's Labrynth, and book #3

Debating about politics is rarely a good idea, but I still like to do it. For a while I blogged about politics a fair amount and was a regular commenter on several Wisconsin right-wing and left-wing blogs. People on both sides seemed to have this "us versus them" mentality. They were so petty too. It got really frustrating so I've mostly shied away. But the other day I decided to visit a right-wing blog call "Real Debate Wisconsin." Real Debate Wisconsin's blog description says this:

Too often in today's political landscape discourse is kept among those who agree. This is not a blog to promote that. We discuss ideas here, we ask that you keep your tone in check and respect those who are willing to share.

Get it? It's all about debate. Real debate! It almost implies that different opinions would be welcomed. What bugs me about this guy, as well as the good majority of other right-wing and left-wing political blogs I've read, is what complete hypocrites these people are. Real Debate Wisconsin is a prime example.

What brought me over there was his post about the same busted bingo game that I talked about the other day. He compares it to immigration. He first quotes the newspaper article which says:

"Yeah, this is nickel-and-dime stuff," Dams said. "But no matter how small it is, I had to do something. I can't give someone permission to break the law."

Then he adds this:

Ok so in Wisconsin (or Greendale) no matter how small it is we can't give someone permission to break the law...Can anyone say ILLEGAL ALIENS? Communities all over this state where there is a police directive to not care about the legal status of residents?

Now, I think this is a fine comparison to make as long as you take the same position on both issues. If you think that cops should be lax when it comes to the small stuff regardless of what's on the books, then you should be against cops breaking up a bingo game AND be against enforcing immigration laws against illegal immigrants who aren't causing problems. Now obviously there are some policy arguments you could make against more open borders, but this guy at Real Debate Wisconsin has repeatedly suggested that a major problem (if not the major problem) with illegal immigration is the simple fact that they didn't go through the proper channels, fill out the proper paperwork, wait their turn etc. The letter of the law is what's important to him with respect to immigration. This being the case, if he wanted to be consistent and not a hypocrite, he would have to be in favor of the cops busting up this old-lady bingo game with tea towels on the line. So I asked in his comments section whether this was his position. I was mostly playing dumb since I know that he is a hypocrite and that's not his position. Anyway, to make a long story short, he banned me from his comments section. It was allegedly because I said something vulgar, but I didn't. I think I referred to someone as an "A-hole" or a "D-bag" or something like that. And I wrote it just like that, not even spelling outthe whole word. He allegedly has a "no bad language" rule "no insulting others" rule or some other such nonsense, but he enforces said rule very selectively. So much for enforcing the letter of the law. I think it's obvious that he just bans people when they disagree with him and he can't argue on the merits. So much for *Real* Debate.

On a completely unrelated note, I saw Pan's Labyrinth last night.

What a weird movie! Don't get me wrong, it was pretty good. Maybe even really good, but really weird for sure. I'm not quite sure who the target audience for a movie like that is. When I saw the previews, I expected it to be more like Labyrinth. And in some ways it was, but the bad guy is a lot scarier than David Bowie. It's about a girl name Ofelia that moves with her pregnant mother to a military compound in the woods headed by her mother's new husband, a Captain fighting guerrillas in Franco's Spain in 1944. She creates this imaginary world where she has to accomplish three tests in order to become immortal. The movie juxtaposes this magical fantasy story over the Spanish civil war. At times it's magical, awe-inspiring and whimsical, and then, for good measure they throw in an extremely brutal murder. The previews led me to believe that it was a kids movie (maybe just because it's a fantasy story and the protagonist is a kid) but this movie is very violent, and graphically so. I really liked the movie, but what surprises me is how many other people liked it so much. It seems like the target audience has to be adults that like fantasy stories, art, European history and war movies. I had no idea that there were enough of us to make this movie a hit.

I also finished book #3 of 25 for the year (yes, I'm behind schedule already).

Blink, by Malcolm Gladwell was both enjoyable to read and interesting. I'm not going to review it because Paul already did that here and I would just be repeating him. Next up will be #4 The End of Faith by Sam Harris, #5 The Gunslinger by Stephen King, and #6 The System of the World by Neal Stephenson. Maybe not in that order.

Leonard Kaplan

There's a pretty big stink going on regarding some comments that UW Law Professor Leonard Kaplan said regarding Hmong people in a Legal Process class.

Professor Kaplan allegedly said that: "Hmong men have no talent other than to kill" and "Hmong women are better off now that Hmong men are dying off in this country" and "all 2nd generation Hmong end up in gangs and other criminal activity" "all Hmong men purchase their wives, so if he wants to have sex with his wife and she doesn't consent, you and i call it rape, but the Hmong guy is thinking 'man, i paid too much for her!'"

A Hmong student in his class sent out an email about it, which became a mass email, and now it appears pretty much out of control. The response from the Law School, from what I can tell, has been pretty pathetic. What they should be doing is finding out what he really said and in what context he said it. Then maybe they should act on it. Instead, they've been catering to these blind accusations. Dean Davis attended a forum in which he apologized the the offended parties and "praised Kaplan's accusers for the way they had handled their concerns and promised to provide cultural awareness programming next month." Cultural awareness programming? Is Kaplan, or anyone who teaches in the law school, really in need of cultural awareness programming? Kaplan teaches classes on law and culture, and law and theology. His expertise is in psychology and the law or something like that. Anyway, the response has been ridiculous. Ann Althouse has actually been providing what appears to be a fairer treatment of the story than you'd find in the paper (she notes that the Milwaukee JS article linked to above is the first main stream article that actually reports on the story).

I had Professor Kaplan for two classes, both during my final semester of law school. Based on my experience with Kaplan and after following these stories in the news I would bet that these two things are true: (1) He totally said the things he is quoted as saying, and (2) Anyone who believed that when he said those things he was actually expressing his opinion or belief is an idiot that doesn't deserve to be in law school. Kaplan's teaching method isn't exactly "traditional." It isn't exactly what I'd call "good" either, but that doesn't make him a biggot. He likes to get a discussion going, and he really likes to talk. In the course, you would read a bunch of books and articles about philosophy or jurisprudence, and then go to class and talk about baseball or something like that. The discussion is rarely very linear but it does relate back to the reading material, sometimes. But Kaplan wanted you to think. He did make outrageous statements to try to get you to respond to those statements. Everyone in the class with half a brain knew he wasn't serious most of the time.

I also had him for a class called Law and Theology, or something like that. In one class discussion he said something like "Atheists have no morals. You certainly can't know right from wrong if you don't believe in some god, right?" This is something I'd find offensive if I ever found anything offensive. Now I realize that some of the dumber portions of America actually believe this, but Kaplan is a smart guy, so I knew he was just trying to elicit discussion. Instead of writing down his statement and sending out emails and demanding apologies and sensativity training, I raised my hand and told him he was wrong. I said that was ridiculous, that it's arrogant to think you know enough about how your brain works to say you know why certain things seem right to you and certain things seem wrong to you, that Atheists don't do bad things at a higher frequency than theists, that the Atheist that pushes a child out of the way of a moving bus, losing his life in the process is actually more moral than a person that would do the same believing they will go to heaven for the act, etc. Some egghead grad students took Kaplan's side, but it was obvious to me the Kaplan was helping to facilitate my arguments. It was a good discussion. I think it was exactly what he wanted to happen. Of course, the chances of that happening with this Hmong student are slim, since SHE WASN'T EVEN IN CLASS when he allegedly made these comments. Those Hmong people always skip class. [kidding]

Friday, March 02, 2007

Science!

First we have some soccer science:

The researchers studied 200 video clips of penalty kicks from real matches. In 174 of those cases, the goalkeeper stood an average of 10 centimetres to one side or another, and in 103 of those the kick went to the wide side. The fact that the goalkeeper was no more likely to dive to the wide side suggests that his initial positioning was accidental, and not a conscious strategy, says John van der Kamp, one of the Dutch research team.

To test the idea further, the researchers projected an image of a goal and German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn onto a screen. Then they asked volunteers to kick a football at the screen. Volunteers were unable to consciously detect displacements of up to about 10 centimetres. Nevertheless, they were more likely to kick to the wide side of the goal.

The difference was not great – kickers were only 10% more likely to kick to the wide side. But considering the long odds facing a goalkeeper, this is a definite improvement, van der Kamp says.


Next we have some nano-news:

Like aerogels, the nanorod layer is full of voids. This reduces the refractive index of materials to just 5% above that of air and opens the door to novel materials with useful optical properties, the researchers say.

As well as boosting the efficiency of silicon solar cells, allowing them to absorb more light energy, the coating could reduce reflective losses in devices like LEDs. The new materials could also improve photographic lenses and mirrors that selectively reflect specific wavelengths.


And finally, we have new pictures of Saturn.

How Does RadioShack Stay In Business?

I always purchase the MLB radio package so that I can listen to Brewer games no matter where I am. As a courtesy to some of my officemates I thought that I would purchase an FM transmitter (like an iTrip) and have a little mini-baseball broadcast in the office (don't worry, while I don't have the express, written consent of Major League Baseball I do have implied oral consent) for those slow days. Plus we have a lot of non-native Chicagoans in the office and this would give them a chance to occasionally hear the Tigers or Reds or whatever.

One of my friends has been doing this for years with his Sirius Sattelite Radio and the Howard Stern Show, and while I've always considered it legally risky to broadcast Howard in an office (note also that I hate Howard Stern), he's never had any complaints and his FM transmitter works really, really well. If you're curious, it is this one.

There is a RadioShack just outside of my office, so I figured I would stop by and see if they had anything like this.

They did not. They had a cheapish, ugly version that ran only on batteries and had no range. They were also not helpful and didn't seem to understand what I was looking for even though they carried (crappy versions of) the item.

This got me thinking, have I ever had a good experience at RadioShack?

It seems like I find myself in a Radioshack maybe twice a year. The last time I went in I was looking for one of these so that I could listen to the NCAA tournament in an area that did not get AM radio signals. They, once again, did not have it. The Walgreens next door had it.

Yet somehow I was not surprised at my failure to find this RADIO at RADIOshack. I seems like they never have exactly what I'm looking for.

It's disorganized, small, and they used to ask for your phone number when you bought batteries. They are clearly not a "volume-based" retailer, but who would ever buy a big-value high-margin item at RadioShack?

The Loop is littered with RadioShacks, which makes me think that they specialize in impulse buys, but in my experience the humble Walgreen's drug store actually carries more impulse electronics at lower prices.

I'm not sure what RadioShack is up to, but I'm never going into one again. The Simpsons said it best:

Homer: We'll search out every place a sick twisted solitary misfit might run to.
Lisa: I'll start with Radio Shack.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Decommissioning the T-Bird

For the last 7 years or so I've been the proud owner of a 1994 Ford Thunderbird. She was "eggshell" in color and had a burgundy interior. I bought her in 1999 or 2000 from some jackass in cowboy boots. His name was Max or Jax or Ace or something like that. I'm pretty sure I overpaid. After I bought it, I looked in consumer reports and found that the '94 T-Bird was on the "worst-buys" list. The main problem was that they had crummy transmissions. About a month later, my transmission crapped out so I had it rebuilt to the tune of $1000 or so. It had a big V-8 engine, but I'm pretty sure only 4 or 5 of those cylinders were firing. In 2003 the rearview mirror fell off. Nothing bumped into it or anything, it just fell off. In 2005 I was driving her up to Green Bay for a Packer game. As we were pulling off the freeway onto Lombardi Avenue, I was rear-ended by some lady. The collision resulted in some minor body damage to the back right corner of the car and a broken taillight. The estimate to fix the damage was about $2,500. Since the car was only worth about that, they considered it "totalled" and cut me a check. I spent it on other things and continued to drive the car. Last week I was driving her home from a hearing in Elkhorn, Wisconsin and blew a tire, which I changed in approximately 90 mph winds. The next day, shortly after the odometer crossed over $173,000 miles, I took her in to get new tires and an oil change. The mechanic said that they found some "front end problems." He said that my "ball joints" were incredibly loose. Then he said, "look, it'll cost a grand to fix them, which I know you're not going to pay for that car. I'm not feeding you mechanic-BS. It is very dangerous to continue to drive that car." So I had to say goodbye to the T-Bird. I went straight to the Toyota dealership and got a great deal (if I do say so myself) on a 2003 Certified Pre-Owned Toyota Camry.
In spite of all her problems, the T-Bird was a good car. Farewell ol' girl.



 
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