The Electric Commentary

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Break out the cigars!

Congratulations are in order for the Drezner family.

Busy day at the office,

so blogging will be light. Yesterday was pretty rough too. I'll definitely have some football up tomorrow. This is killing me, I love conventions, football is starting (there should be some good cuts today, Hugh Douglas is already an Eagle again, Mike Anderson is gone for the year, and Michael Bennett is apparently afflicted with Fred Taylor Syndrome, or FTS) and my baseball team just lost 12 games in a row (Note to Milwaukee natives: Does this mean that we all have to make hamburgers for George Webb's?).

So much material, so little time.

In the mean time, Arnold Kling takes Paul Krugman to task over health care. Read Pauly K here, then Arnold here. Remember:

To a kid with a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

And if you can't wait a day for football stuff:

Ed Brayton has some fantasy football observations here. I like to think of myself as this guy:

The Smartass Commentator: As you might have guessed, that's me. He keeps up a running commentary most of the night, busting on people for some of their picks, but not all - he's quick to praise a pick, especially when someone nabs a guy just before he was going to. He also needles the people who are taking too long to make a pick, primarily to goad them into making a really bad pick, which affords him the opportunity to say, "You wasted all that time to end up with Brian Griese? Did he even make a team this year?" The Smartass Commentator's success is measured not so much in how he drafts, but in how many times during the night he hears, "Hey, fuck you, man". He also makes most of the requisite jokes. Some of my favorites from last night:

When Eddie George was picked #1 overall (no, I'm not making that up): "And the first player with prescriptions for both Viagra and Geritol is off the board. Didn't he break a hip?"

When the aforementioned chick picked Tiki Barber with the #2 overall pick (no, I'm not making that up either): "He must be cute"

When Jason picks Morten Anderson as his kicker: "George Blanda was unavailable?"

When drunk guy inquires who Ki-Jana Carter plays for this year: "He's backing up Rashan Salaam for the Bismarck Roughriders"

When Onterrio Smith (currently serving a drug suspension) is picked to backup Jamal Lewis (currently under indictment for drug trafficking): "You should rename your team Supply and Demand. Bet you can't wait for Ricky Williams to un-retire."


Good stuff.

And a new TMQ is up here.

Enjoy!


Canadian Jonathan is Attacking Virginia Postrel

According to this Dynamist post. I can only assume that the email she describes comes from none other than Canadian Jonathan. This troll came after me a while back for this post which led to some Electric Confusion concerning two Jonathans. It is now clear that some of the comments on the post were made by "Good Jonathan" and some were made by "Canadian Jonathan."

Monday, August 30, 2004

There is a lot of good stuff on the 'net today

The next few posts will get you off to a good start.

I love both conventions just because they are so ridiculous. Nothing more than pep rallies put on to support the drunken jock-ocracy that runs USA High. I'm so glad I'm not in the band anymore (saxophone) and have the option to skip out of the boring parts. I took John Kerry to task for his convention speech here, and I will definitely be granting the President equal time.

If you want to follow the convention, Ryan Lizza is in the thick of things here, the rest of The New Republic has it covered here, Instapundit points to RCNbloggers, who are compiling coverage of the convention here.

Have a nice day.

Tech Central Station is a great read today.

Especially this article on the connection between economic protectionism and apartheid. Poor Lou Dobbs.

And this critique of worker productivity numbers by Tim Worstall:

As [Berkeley professor of economics] Brad DeLong once pointed out to me in an email, you would expect hourly productivity (which the EPI is using) to be higher in Europe than the U.S., because of all the cost-increasing labor market restrictions there. Any business anywhere will avoid hiring workers beyond the point where productivity fails to match costs.

I've often wondered how France manages to have impressive productivity figures. This makes perfect sense:

If you raise to a company the cost of employing people they will employ fewer of them. More importantly, they will only employ those who are more productive than those higher costs. We would then expect to see the less productive workers not employed at all.

What do we in fact see in countries with high social costs associated with employment? Amazingly, high unemployment generally and especially so amongst the untrained young (I hope it isn't too much of a shock to you that those who don't know what they are doing are generally less productive than those who do). The EPI report tries to explain this away by pointing out that there are some European countries which do not have high unemployment rates, yet it fails completely to adjust for the various disability, sickness and make-work training schemes. The UK alone has 3 million people on Disability Benefit, some 5% of the population and while there are obviously people who actually are too ill to work and are worthy of society's support, it really does stretch the imagination to think that not a single one is a work-shy malingerer, or that for some (the benefit is higher than unemployment pay) it is an alternative to unemployment.


Now I know.


Respect for one's enemies...

From Thomas Jefferson.
(Hat tip, Alex Tabarrok)

Justice Richard Posner on the 9/11 Commission Report

In the New York Times, here.
(Hat tip, Virginia Postrel)

Why is James Lileks lurking around his quiet neighborhood at 3:00 in the morning brandishing a crowbar?

The same thing prompted him to say,

This morning I looked in the fridge and thought: What am I going to do with all this beer? The stupidest thing I have ever thought.

Read the whole thing here.

This could be fun...

Stephen Green has a very plausible scenario under which the presidential election ends in a tie. Woohoo!

Is your Fantasy Football draft soon?

You should read Peter King's MMQB column today. For the Packer fan:

Pick Najeh Davenport. You'll be able to get the backup Green Bay back in the eighth or 10th round, probably. And you'll be happy when you do. "The only thing standing between Najeh and a rushing title is Ahman Green,'' Brett Favre told me. What a load. Mike Sherman's going to try to get him eight or 10 touches a game, to lessen the load on Green, and if Green ever goes down, Davenport is a rumblin', stumblin', 145-yards-a-week bomb waiting to explode. Watching him run in training camp, he was the single most impressive player I saw this summer.

Peter forgets to mention all of the Bears due to have breakout seasons. I'm sure that it was just an oversight.

Andrew Sullivan is out of the hammock

and dishing it out to the left and the right (and taking it from the right as well).

Friday, August 27, 2004

Ahren is back from his Phishing trip.

It doesn't seem like it went very well:

instead of preparing for the worst possible situation, they prepared for the most likely situation (one can even see this if they just cull the facts from the drivle in these letters). it's a stupid way to go about things like this and a retarded way to live life in general. if you're throwing a party, and invite 30 people, you don't estimate that only 20 are likely to show up and that they'll drink an average of 3 beers each, then buy 60 beers to cover it with only an extra 6 pack for back-up. (well, maybe you do. but then again, maybe you throw shitty parties (like phish and gnp). you assume everyone you invited is going to come and probably bring a friend and that they're all gonna get shit-faced... so you get 2 kegs and 10 handles of hard liquor plus some wine and a case of mouthwash just in case it gets really desperate.

But apparently he still had fun. He also has a new cat (scroll down a bit).

Fun Friday

Because let's face it, at 3:00 on Friday afternoon, you don't want to work anymore.

Start with the Sports Guy's mail-bag:

While we're on the subject of pet peeves, I vent about this every Olympics, so forgive me for covering old ground ... but really, have you seen some of these sports in the Olympics this month? Wind-surfing? You get a gold medal for this? Freaking wind-surfing?!?!???!?! Are you kidding me? And how did beach volleyball become an Olympic sport when we already hand out medals for team volleyball? Isn't that like making three-on-three hoops an Olympic sport? In fact, why don't we just do that? And touch football, too. And wiffleball. Where does it end?

I mean, last week I threw something like 79 consecutive tennis balls down the sidewalk to the Dooze, using that ball flinger contraption they sell at Petco, and none of those 79 throws accidentally bounced onto the street. Can that be a sport? I honestly think I could beat anyone in the world at this. I'm like the Eric Gagne of tennis ball flinging. So where's my gold medal?

After you're finished with that, read about your future transportation (No, not the Segway):

It will probably take years after these technologies are developed before such vehicles are actually on the market. And Moore says it will take about 25 years to get to anything "remotely 'Jetsons'-like,'" a reference to the futuristic cartoon that fed many flying car fantasies.

And if the prospect of zooming around in a flying car got you all excited, get yourself under control using this time honored technique:

If the temptation seems overpowering while you are in bed, get out of bed and go into the kitchen and fix yourself a snack, even if it is in the middle of the night, and even if you are not hungry, and despite your fears of gaining weight. The purpose behind this suggestion is that you get your mind on something else. You are the subject of your thoughts, so to speak.

(Hat tip, Diztopia)

Isn't gluttony a sin too? In fact, isn't is a deadly sin? I'm pretty sure it is, I've even seen that movie Seven, with Brad Pitt. Oh well, I guess some sins are more equal than others.

Finally, I'm looking forward to all of the crazy protests at the RNC. I'm sure that there will be all the usual "Bush is racist/Hitler/kicks puppies, etc." protests, but this guy deserves extra points for creativity, even if this particular tactic may not be that effective.
(Hat tip, and Happy Birthday, Instapundit)

Enjoy the weekend!


The NCAA: Helping Kids Succeed

Mike Williams was a promising young student at the University of Southern California. His accounting skills had garnered praise from all of the top universities since he was a freshman in high school and a few of the bigger firms even contemplated making an offer before Mike set foot in a college. He eventually chose USC due to their strong reputation and connections to the big California firms.

Mike had the big time in his sights since he decided to become an accountant at the age of 4. He looked up to all of the famous accountants, and put all his efforts into training to be just like them. He spent his recesses during his formative years balancing the books on an extensive baseball card collection. Soon he moved on to marbles, comic books, and eventually, cars. If it could be recorded using double entry bookkeeping principles under GAAP, Mike recorded it using double entry bookkeeping principles under GAAP.

In his senior year of high school, Williams created an innovative new method for amortizing goodwill that is just now being implemented at the top levels of accounting. It allowed for a much more rigorous record of goodwill value while still allowing fair dispensation of that value for tax purposes. This achievement brought Mike considerable fame in the profession. If the top firms were considering him before, they were positively giddy over the prospect of landing him now.

Williams’s success continued in his first year of college. Stated one professor,

Mike was not just brilliant in class. He was also instrumental to the completion of a few highly technical projects. Some of our professors have moved on to bigger and better things specifically because they had Mike helping out on projects.

Mike’s college exploits did not go unrewarded as, at the end of his sophomore year, USC’s business school scored an unprecedented number one ranking thanks largely to Mike's stellar work in the accounting discipline. Unfortunately, during the summer of his sophomore year, things took a turn for the worse.

Mike was considering signing on with a big firm and foregoing his final two years at school. He was so accomplished that many firms were salivating at the prospect of picking him up, and the offers coming in were to good not to investigate. It had been a rough few years in the accounting industry, what with the epic Enron, Imclone, and Tyco scandals. The big firms were desperately in need of new talent, but unfortunately a license is required to practice, and without at least one more year in school, Mike would be without that license. A recent court ruling had given Mike hope that he might be able to forego the licensing requirement, so he hired an agent to help him make the best decision. After all, if the ideal situation did not come up, he could always go back to school. Or so he thought.

In the middle of the summer, the court ruling was reversed and Mike became ineligible to practice. However, when he attempted to return to school, he was denied entrance. A body called the NCAA (National Collegiate Accounting Association) governs college accounting programs and there is, in the NCAA by-laws, a prohibition against employing an agent while still in school. Mike had fired his agent, anticipating this problem, but the NCAA ruled against him anyway, stating that allowing such a thing would destroy the amateurism of the schools program, and give USC an unfair advantage when recruiting top accounting talent.
Mike was stuck. He could not work for the firms, even though they all wanted to hire him, and he could not return to school to hone his skills.

Despite the setbacks, Mike keeps a positive attitude:

I'm glad it's over. Now the firms can move forward and I can move forward. I'm disappointed. I did everything asked of me. I don't know yet what I'm going to do. I'll just relax for the weekend and balance a few books I have left over. I'm kind of done with it right now.

USC vice president and legal counsel Todd Dickey said while the ruling could be appealed, the matter was closed.

At this point, we don't believe it would be useful to go through those processes. We think the NCAA has firmly made up its mind.

So Mike Williams, accounting phenom, waits quietly in his Los Angeles apartment, awaiting the day that he can finally begin his career. Mike is a smart guy, and he still can’t quite get his mind around the purpose for the rule:

I’m ready, the firms think that I’m ready. What exactly is the big deal?

End Article

Does this sound ridiculous to you?

Is it any more ridiculous than what really happened here?

Thursday, August 26, 2004

AFT spin and charter schools

Check out this Tech Central Station article on the Teacher's Union's misinterpretation of charter school progress. I sort of have a grudge against teacher's unions. In my previous life I was an elementary education major. I was also opposed, somewhat vocally, to joining the student sect of the Wisconsin Education Association. I think this may have contributed to my not getting into the UW-Eau Claire school of education. About a year later I got accepted to several top law schools. I guess I should be glad for the crappy politics in the education field since they helped me point my life in a better direction.

A top-notch fisking

Of these goof-balls by Jon Rowe is here.

Marginal Revolution

On a recommendation from Virginia Postrel I have added Marginal Revolution to the blogroll. They have not disappointed. I have enjoyed Tyler Cowen's frequent contributions to The Volokh Conspiracy for a long time, and he is equally compelling at Marginal Revolution, as are the co-bloggers, James Surowiecki, Eric Helland, and co-founder Alex Tabarrok. Here are a few to get you started:

Darwin and vitamin D.

Was Einstein wrong?

Enjoy!

P.A.C.E. is at it again.

For those readers that are not familiar with Madison, Wisconsin, I would first like to bring you all up to date on P.A.C.E., drink specials and the law. UW has a bit of a reputation for being a party school. For some reason this does not sit well with the UW administration or local government. It's strange because we also have a reputation for being an excellent University. Nevertheless, this has created an ongoing battle between totalitarian government and community heads versus very smart students that really like to drink.

The first step in this battle began with the creation of a group called Policy Alternatives Community Education or P.A.C.E. They were also given a sizable government grant. The goal of P.A.C.E. was to force students to spend more money. Actually, their goal was to cut down on binge drinking by targeting all bar patrons.

P.A.C.E. somehow persuaded nearly all of Madison's downtown bars to participate in a voluntary drink special ban to see if it cut down on incidents of drunk driving, disorderly conduct, fights and the like. If it "worked" they would presumably use their data to help convince lawmakers to sign the bill into law.

Meanwhile, the Memorial Union, a very popular bar that is funded by the University and that has never had drink specials, decided to extend its closing time to 2am. Did they have something to gain by the higher prices at competing bars? I think so.

The voluntary ban didn't work. The results showed that drunk driving, disorderly conduct, fights and the like went up.

But that wasn't the end of it. If you have a brain you've probably figured out what happened next. The bars agreed to raise their prices, as competition was no longer a concern for them. When Sue Crowley, the Project Director of P.A.C.E., was asked how she felt about the bar owners not being particularly angry with P.A.C.E. because they're making more money now, Ms. Crowley replied "I know that," and then went on to state that one of the overriding objectives of P.A.C.E.'s project was to "price [students] out of over-consumption."

Can you say "price-fixing"? Can you say "law suit"? That's right, when you try to screw smart kids that like to party out of reasonably priced drinks by breaking the law, you're going to get sued.

A law firm from Minnesota filed a class action suit against P.A.C.E., the 23 bars that participated, and the University on behalf of UW students.

So did the government and community heads learn anything from this little endeavor? Apparently not. There is still a push for a nighttime drink special ban on the part of the Alcohol License Review Sub-committee. One bar owner had this to say: "You have an enforcement policy. The city attorney can go after a bar that over serves or serves drunks. There's all kinds of laws on the books that will address these problems."

Indeed.

The Carnival of the Vanities is up...

Here. And we're teaching night class this week.

Welcome Carnival Patrons! Have a look around.

Cheers!

(Thanks to Martin Lindeskog)

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Pat Robertson Asks the Tough Questions

Like this one:

"The entire world is being convulsed by a religious struggle; the struggle is whether … the moon god of Mecca, known as Allah, is supreme, or whether the Judeo-Christian Jehovah God of the Bible is supreme."

The moon god of Mecca? Yikes. These kids and their imaginations. Okay, I realize that this issue is serious business to some people so I shouldn't trivialize it but Pat Robertson is just too goofy. I'm no theological scholar but I was under the impression that the god of Islam and the god of Christianity were the same dude.

Since I don't have any stake in who will win this deity battleroyal I'm free to sit here and be cynical about statements like this. Mr. Robertson does not see that his beliefs are pretty much the same as those of the people he condemns. That his club is no different from their club. That his god is the moon god of Mecca. The story just has a few different characters and it doesn't end quite the same in their version.

Update:

Jon Rowe discusses Gary North, among other things here.

Does Soda Make You Fat?

Of course it does but it might not be the most significant factor in America's fat war. Check out this post over at Volokh.

I'll drink to that.

Fisking time!

Jim Gogek has an editorial in the New York Times today (Bugmenot is working again) about the failure of the government to curb underage drinking. Anyone who’s ever worked for a beer company (like me) knows exactly how to solve this problem, or at least the social ills attributed to it – legalize it. Of course, no one at a beer company could ever say this (except Pete Coors, who has been refreshingly frank on this issue in the Colorado race for the Senate), as it would be "irresponsible" and lead to lawsuits, but they all know that it is true. The limited prohibition of alcohol to the underage has predictably similar results to the widespread prohibition in the early twenties. The activity that is banned continues to go on, but it becomes dangerous. The reason that it becomes dangerous is that it is removed from public scrutiny.

I grant you that gangsters are not running alcohol lines into high schools, but when teenagers drink they must do so without supervision. This is a recipe for disaster.

Say you have 16-year-old son. He’s generally a good kid, but he is also subject to the normal temptations and subsequent bad judgement of all 16-year-olds. You are currently in the process of teaching him how to drive. At first he was nervous and skittish, but now he thinks that he knows it all, displaying the invincible attitude typical of his demographic. The next time out he comes up to an intersection too fast and, in a nice bit of irony to drive the point home, knocks over a stop sign. What do you do?

Sure you may suspend his driving privileges for a while to punish him for being irresponsible, but ultimately, you go back on the road with him. You hope that he learns from it, at least enough to run to the grocery store for mom so you don’t have to. There are a lot of responsibilities that kids grow in to; driving is just one example. Why then do we completely prohibit the consumption of alcohol for teenagers and young adults, and therefore remove the ability to learn to drink properly.

Imagine if you were simply issued a car at the age of 21 with no drivers ed. OK, scratch that, you probably think that you would have performed fine. Instead, imagine that your most irresponsible friend was issued a car at 21 with no training. You know the kind of person I’m talking about. I refer to him as "bar fight guy." Sure he might be a bad driver now, but in those first few weeks with his new car, he will probably be downright dangerous, and with no one there to correct his developed behavior, he may never improve. Without instruction in an activity, poor execution can become habitual.

This would be stupid policy for cars, and it is stupid policy for alcohol. Let’s get to the article.


Putting Caps on Teenage Drinking
By JIM GOGEK
Published: August 25, 2004
La Mesa, Calif. — A year ago, at the request of Congress, the National Academy of Sciences issued a nationwide strategy to reduce underage drinking. It hasn't been adopted, and since then more than 3,000 Americans have been killed and nearly 1 million injured in traffic crashes, shootings, stabbings, beatings, drownings, burns, suicide attempts and alcohol poisonings - all linked to underage drinking.

Hysteria! Will somebody please think of the children! Frankly, these numbers are not even that bad. 3,000 is pretty low, and notice the non-committal language: all LINKED to underage drinking. This connection appears tenuous, however, without the proper hysterical mindset, a savvy New York Times reader might actually think about the contents of an article.

And there have been more than 1.1 million property crimes and nearly 400,000 incidents of high-risk sex among youths, according to research conducted over the years by our institute.
Are these incidents also connected with underage drinking?

How many incidents of high risk sex among youths would there be without underage drinking? There would certainly be fewer incidents, but how drastic would the reduction be? Is drinking the problem, or is it binge drinking? Are 18 year olds drinking a can of Natty Light, stealing bicycles, and using said bicycles to attract the ladies?

This week, nearly 1,000 prevention advocates and alcohol law enforcement officers are meeting at a conference in San Diego to promote the recommendations from the National Academy report. But despite their dedication to the cause, they probably won't succeed - without a lot more help from Washington. A few federal agencies have taken small steps, and two pieces of legislation have been developed but sit languishing. Lawmakers may be too preoccupied right now to tackle a thorny social problem. And the power of the alcohol lobby makes everybody in Washington skittish.

First of all, you should always be suspicious when someone attempts to justify a position through sheer force of numbers. So 1,000 people are meeting in San Diego, so what?

And here is the meat of the argument. We need more laws to curb this underage drinking! Sure it’s illegal, taboo, and frowned upon by most of society, but with just a few more laws, we can finally get a handle on the problem, because if there is one characteristic that teenagers all share, it is respect for the law. Also, there is no way that further government condemnation of alcohol will make it cooler than it already is. That would never happen.

Moreover, lobbyists do not make Washington skittish, and especially not these lobbyists. One of the fundamental truths in Washington is that no matter which way a legislator decides to vote, there will be money coming in from someone. Most people get campaign finance backwards. They imagine a quid pro quo in which first the legislator votes, and then a contribution is made. The reality is exactly the opposite. Interest groups make donations to candidates who will vote for them in order to keep them in office. In other words, they support candidates who share their ideology. So, no one fears lobbyists in Washington because legislators who benefit from certain interest groups will almost always agree with their position already. This is especially true of alcohol-related issues. It is a surprisingly ideological battleground, largely due to the somewhat unique nature of the 21st Amendment. But I digress…

To do so little in the face of this preventable death and injury toll - particularly when the victims are children - is astonishing. The report provided specific proposals, from a national media campaign and the establishment of an independent prevention foundation, to curbs on alcohol advertising and increased enforcement to stop sales to minors. So far, the federal government has set up an interagency committee that's supposed to send a report to Congress later this year on what to do about underage drinking. Without real political commitment, that report - like the National Academy study - will be ignored.

Once again, won’t somebody please think of the children! Look at what Gogek proposes here. A national media campaign, just like the campaign against drugs and smoking, but for alcohol.

(Note: Have you ever noticed that the anti-smoking commercials are much more shocking and harsh than the anti-drug commercials. Think about it. The anti-smoking ads typically speak of cancer, death, speaking through a voice box, lying, greedy corporate executives, and various other unseemly problems. The anti-drug ads, on the other hand, tend to show consequences that are only tangentially related to the actual drug use. This is especially true of anti-pot campaigns. There are two that stick in my mind.

One takes place at a party. Two teenagers, a boy and girl, are sitting on the sofa sharing a joint. Eventually, she passes out and he starts to take advantage of her. She makes some weak resistance, but is too incapacitated to do anything about it. The second ad shows an SUV ordering food at some fast food joint’s pick-up window. They can be heard laughing and playing loud music. They are clearly stoned. They pull out of the restaurant and ram a passing car.
Notice that the negative consequences of the anti-drug ads are unrelated to the actual effects of the drug. The message is not that pot causes cancer or laziness or dread-locks, but that it causes rape. This strikes me as a terrible message that undermines the seriousness of rape. The second ad, while not as disingenuous as the first, still dodges the issue. We all know that drugs impair your judgement and reaction time. Did we need an ad to tell us that? So why is the legal drug treated so much more harshly than the illegal one?)

These ads have accomplished nothing. The kids that want to follow the rules will. They generally have responsible parents, and common sense. The kids that want to be rebellious will see this as a perfect target to attack. I now look forward to a bombardment of anti-drinking ads, especially since I will be paying top dollar for them.

The two underage drinking bills won't move any time soon. The more comprehensive one, introduced in July, is utterly underwhelming: it would provide a paltry $19 million to combat a problem that costs the nation about $62 billion a year. The financing is for research, prevention projects and support for the interagency committee. The bill also includes a one-time appropriation of $1 million for a national media campaign. Compare that to the federal youth antidrug media campaign, which in fiscal year 2005 alone will receive $145 million. All told, the federal government spends 25 times more on illegal drug abuse prevention than on underage drinking prevention, despite the fact that alcohol kills six times more youths than all other drugs combined.

We need more money! The call of the legislative social engineer during mating season. Actually, this paragraph is very informative. We’re spending $145 million on those stupid anti-drug commercials! Does anyone seriously think that some kid sees an ad and decides not to smoke pot or have a drink because of it? I once had this idea to start a company that made generic rubber superballs. I would then start an ad campaign claiming that the government wanted to ban them, and soon. I would say they were hazardous to health, dangerous if thrown, a choking hazard, sort of like that old "happy fun ball" skit on Saturday Night Live. I bet I couldn’t keep them in stock. Then I would build a big money bin like Scrooge McDuck. But I digress...

Shouldn’t the government spend 25 times more combating the use of an illegal substance than they do combating a legal substance? Doesn’t that make sense? As for the claim on that last statistic, I believe that the prohibition of alcohol on those 21 and younger is more responsible than anything else is. After all, drinking in and of itself will not kill anyone, and especially a teenager. In fact, it’s quite healthy in moderation. It is binge drinking that is unhealthy and sometimes deadly, and binge drinking is a rebellious act. Binge drinking occurs when someone is presented with the opportunity to drink, it is taboo for him or her to do so, and another opportunity to do so may not present itself in the near future. The natural human response to this situation is to take advantage of the current situation to the fullest extent possible.

Prohibition will result in dangerous behavior utilizing the product that is prohibited. Write it down.

The other bill focuses on only one facet of prevention - the illegal purchase of alcohol. It would help bars and liquor stores buy new technology that can detect fake ID's and would finance state alcohol law enforcement departments so they can do their jobs. This bill doesn't have a sponsor yet.

Maybe because it is a bad idea. Assuming that this is a problem at all, it is an unsolvable problem for one simple reason – kids can always get an adult to buy it for them. It is not necessary to have a fake ID to buy booze, just a cool older brother, or better yet, a 21-year-old guy who lives in your dorm. All of the expensive technology in he world will not stop this, so why waste money on it?

Meanwhile, advocates in community coalitions and in some government agencies are being pushed backward. Underage drinking prevention groups have had their grants reduced or eliminated by strapped state and local governments. A federally financed information system to track state alcohol laws and policies faces significant cuts. Alcohol law enforcement departments, chronically underfinanced and understaffed, have been hit by budget cuts in many states. Maine decided to get rid of its department altogether, leaving liquor law enforcement there in chaos.

Perhaps they are being cut because they are ineffective. And why does the federal government need to track state laws? They are the exclusive responsibility of the state. And good for Maine. Another aspect to this enforcement is that for every officer combating the heinous crime of underage drinking there is one less officer to combat violent crime, or something actually dangerous.

As the history of tobacco control demonstrates, when the government fails to address a serious social and health problem, trial lawyers step in. In the last nine months, class-action lawsuits have been filed against alcohol producers by major law firms in the District of Columbia, California, Colorado and North Carolina, among other states. These suits, similar to those filed against the tobacco industry in the 1990's, allege that the alcohol industry unjustly profits from what they term unfair and deceptive marketing practices aimed at underage drinkers. The failure by Congress and the Federal Trade Commission to address industry marketing tactics has left the door open for litigation.

I hope this litigation falls flat on its face, but it probably will not.
I have never seen an argument like this before. We should regulate so that people will not sue? First of all, regulations tend to create causes of action, not eliminate them. This makes litigation more likely, not less likely. Once an industry faces significant regulation, any violation of a regulation will leave them open to lawsuits. This is just common sense. Stating that under-regulation of tobacco led to tobacco lawsuits is ludicrous. The industry went for years without a major lawsuit. It is only recently, when regulations have become more stringent, that a successful lawsuit was finally maintained. It is also worth noting that the government itself was the plaintiff. This paragraph seems misplaced. The message is that if you’re sick of lawyers, then you should support regulation. It is a stupid point.

Bold government initiatives can be effective. This summer, we're celebrating the 20th anniversary of the minimum drinking age of 21, signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1984. That legislation has saved an estimated 20,000 lives. An adequately financed, nationwide plan to reduce underage drinking, adhering to the National Academy report, would save even more lives. But so far, it looks like underage drinking will only be fought by impoverished advocacy groups, a scattering of state officials and trial lawyers who see the story of tobacco litigation about to repeat itself.

I’m celebrating nothing, and believe it to be one of Reagan’s failures.

It is now 2004. Gogek claims that this legislation has saved an ESTIMATED 1000 lives a year. In a country of 250 million, that is statistically insignificant. I assert that if the drinking age were abolished and parents put a focus on responsible drinking that binge drinking would cease to be a problem in all but a few cases. I’m encouraged by his last few sentences. It is a travesty that in this country an 18-year-old can be sent off to war but he or she can’t buy a beer.

This is an issue where regulation has clearly made things worse. Throwing money at the problem and increasing regulation will only make it worse, and continue the spiral, until finally no one will be allowed to drink.

Of course by that point it won't matter anyway, since we'll all be too hammered to care.

Dave Matthews pees on Illinois

Story here.

A nice cool draft

I've finally recovered from Monday night, so I can actually think enough to write a draft summary.

The draft has come and gone (at least my first draft) and a good time was had by all. The complicated league involved a lot of wheeling and dealing, as well as some savvy salary cap management. (A primer for the uninitiated: there are 2 portions, an auction and a draft. The top 25 players from last year are in the auction, and the draft is like any draft except that the players taken in the first four rounds are like restricted free agents. Other owners can make offers on them, and you have to match the top offer to retain the player). The spending was a bit more restrained this year, as the owners involved, perhaps inspired by the New England Patriots, resisted spending big bucks on star players and instead concentrated on depth. One owner in particular refused to even win an auction player, saving his salary cap room to steal players from the other big spending owners, like me (although I managed to protect Mr. Portis anyway. Haha.).

Here are some observations:

1. I tried a new strategy this year for the auction. I added up the combined cap room of every owner going in, discounted 20% (what I figured everyone would save to protect their restricted free agents) and then assigned values to all of the auction players, using up all of the rest of my cap space figure. By doing this, I thought that I would be able to tell whether or not people were spending too much early, allowing me to get bargains late, or vice versa. It worked fairly well, although since people didn’t spend like they normally do, I overestimated the total amount of money out there.

2. I got Daunte Culpepper for 18 bucks and I felt like a genius. He’s atop 3 QB, guaranteed and in my opinion he should have gone for at least $22.

2a. Danny got Peyton Manning 18 picks later for 17 bucks. He went for 29 last year. I’m starting to feel like less of a genius.

2b. Brett Favre went for $8.50. I’m officially an idiot. Daunte is a better fantasy QB, but he’s not 10 bucks better.

3. Brian Crowley set the fantasy football world record for attempting to draft the most players that had already been taken. I’ve never seen anything like it. Brian had the last pick in the draft, so he always made back to back picks at the end of one round and the beginning of the next. We draft defensive players in this league, and at one point he attempted to draft Rodney Harrison and Jamie Sharper at the same time. Both were already gone and both on the same team. This is annoying but at least it results in some time tested rips like asking in a mocking tone, “hey, is Tomlinson still available” in the 13th round. Good stuff.

4. I kept up my streak of selecting drug addicts (Jimmy Smith, Julius Peppers) with my selection of Ontario Smith. I’m so proud.

5. We had the draft at the Sunset Bowl in Waukesha, WI. We ended up in the kiddy arcade room, because it was the only room with sufficient table space. The machines were all turned on, and every 3 minutes or so this one game made this horrible noise in an attempt to get you to play. Like Krusty the clown yodeling for 30 seconds as loudly as possible. I eventually turned it off, but I don’t think I can go in a Chuck E. Cheese or anything like it for at least a year.

6. Good cheeseburgers at the Sunset Bowl. In the bar they also have a very nice TV setup too.

7. The most expensive player taken was Ladanian Tomlinson at $25.50. He edged out Priest by $.50. I paid $24 for Portis, the same price as Ahman Green.

8. The lowest auction player? Jon Kitna, who set the record with a $2 price tag. It is pretty amazing that a QB who outscored Clinton Portis fantasy-wise last year will not even start for his team this year. Keenan McKardell was second at $8. Man did that guy get ripped off.

9. No one picked Brock Lesnar.

10. Someone did pick Ricky Williams. Good luck with that. Can I interest you in the rights to Barry Sanders? He might come back.

11. Roger flew in from Alaska to be there. Now that is dedication.

12. I believe Stephen Davis went for a mere 2 bucks. That was the steal of the draft.

13. On the way to the draft, I drove by the Elegant Farmer. I did not know that I would do this, as I was following Mapquest directions through back country Illinois, and I don’t really care about the Elegant Farmer (although my wife likes it quite a bit), but it was nice to see the Smiley Barn again on a road trip. It was incredibly stupid of the old Smiley Barn owners to get rid of the face when they became the Amish Barn, and it was similarly brilliant of the Elegant Farmer to purchase it. For those of you that don’t know what I’m talking about, here is a picture.

14. A fun time was had by all. The last 3 or 4 rounds tend to drag a bit, which is silly because at that point it’s a crapshoot. You’re picking fullbacks, tight ends, and defensive linemen. It should take like 5 minutes to do the whole back end. Shot clock?

15. A production note: The season is a mere 2 weeks away. I will probably try to have everything football related posted by Wednesday every week, by the early afternoon. If you have firewall problems at work, let me know, although you can’t read this right now, so putting it on the site is kind of stupid. I’ll e-mail it to you, old school style.

16. Finally, since I live in Chicago, I am inundated by Bears updates. Believe it or not, they are getting pretty cocky down here, especially the radio personalities. They seem to think the world of Rex Grossman and Justin Gage, and that Adawale Ogunleye will be enough to get them into the playoffs! Seriously. This raises my prospects of the entertainment value of the upcoming season immensely, as nothing in this world is better than seeing the high expectations of a Bears fan crushed into little itty-bitty pieces.

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A failure of nation building

Rand Simberg chronicles one of the biggest nation building failures of the United States.

It's not what you might think.
(Hat tip, Instapundit)

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Shhh, don't tell anyone

that outsourcing is good. Check out this post by Virginia Postrel on the coverup of an outsourcing study's results.

Update: Dan Drezner has more on this including a link to the study results.

Question:

What would make a sport in which the winner is picked by a panel of human judges less legitimate?

Answer: Letting the competitors judge themselves. Or worse, letting the crowd be the judge.

This is basically what is happening to Paul Hamm at the moment. There was an error in the scoring that should have put South Korea's Yang Tae Young in first. He did not challenge the error according to protocol but now there is a huge stink about splitting the gold with Hamm (would he still get to keep the silver? I'll be checking eBay if the second gold is awarded). I don't know thing 1 about gymnastics. I knew even less about figure skating when all of this crap was happening two years ago. But I do know a great joke that was told to me by my Contracts Professor Stuart MaCaulay. I've posted it before but it is even more appropriate here.

Three umpires are sitting in a bar discussing the method by which they make their calls.
The first umpire says, "I calls em as I sees em."
The second umpire says, "I calls em as they is."
And the third umpire says "They ain't nothin till I calls em."

Thanks

To Virginia Postrel for the link and welcome Dynamist readers. Virginia linked to a post I wrote about crappy CDs at the library. It might not be the library's fault.

U.S. Women's Softball Had The Most Dominant Olympic Performance

Ever? Maybe. Australia scored a run in the fifth inning in the gold medal game , the ninth game of the Olympics for the American women. It was the first run scored against them. They went 54 2/3 innings without being scored upon. They outscored their opponents 51 to 1.

Hamm and Turkeys

As some of you know, last night I attended the fantasy football draft for what I call my "complicated league." Because the league is so complicated, the draft takes several hours and by the time it was finished I just decided to sleep at my parents house in Wauwatosa rather than drive back to Chicago's lovely south side in the middle of the night. I figured that I would just get up a little earlier than normal and beat the traffic down to Chicago, which, as it turned out, worked quite well. Actually, it did not take that much longer to get from Milwaukee to work than it normally does to get from Hyde Park to work (Note: "work" is located in Hoffman Estates, IL).

When I drive long distances I usually flip around the talk radio dial and this morning I listened to Mike and Mike on ESPN, which featured Mike Golic, the former NFL lineman, and Erik Kuselias who was in for Mike Greenberg. They were talking about this article in USA today, in which Christine Brennan urges Paul Hamm to give up his gold medal because it would make him a beloved figure, and a hero:

He would part with something extremely dear to him, the gold he fought so hard to win the other night, the gold he has dreamed of since he was a little kid in a gym in Waukesha, Wis. That's no small gesture. But precisely because the gold is so meaningful, Hamm would reap benefits he cannot yet imagine; addition by subtraction, if you will.

Erik Kuselias agreed fully with her, and he took it a step further, stating that Hamm was obligated to give up the medal. He felt that Yang Tae-young was screwed by the system and that Hamm was morally obligated to surrender the gold to make things right.

That is complete garbage.

The scoring issue stems from Yang's parallel bars routine, in which his start value was listed as 9.9, making 9.9 the maximum score that he could attain. Upon reviewing tape after the competition it was determined that Yang should have received a start value of 10.0. Those who want Hamm to relinquish his medal assert that his would have boosted Yang into the lead.

Hogwash.

The events of the all-around final do not take place in a vacuum. Scores are publicly available and the leader board affects the choices made in subsequent routines. It is very much like a golf tournament, where a player may try a riskier shot on a long par 5 in an attempt to make eagle, if he is down by 3 shots with only 2 holes to play.

The point is, if the scoring had been changed at the time (as it should have been, the Korean coaching staff was responsible for challenging the starting score ruling before the next event started) either Hamm or Yang may have performed differently in the final rotation. Yang may have choked, or he may have chosen an easier routine. Hamm may have performed even better, or slipped out of the medals altogether. We will never know,which is precisely why the process for challenging this sort of mistake is so important.

In baseball, when a mistake is discovered in the 5th inning that costs a team a run, we do not simply add that run to the team's total after the game. Doing so would be unfair to the other team, which played the rest of the game assuming that they had that extra run. In football, we require teams to challenge plays via instant replay before the next play is run. The Koreans had a chance to fix this mistake at the time, and they failed.

This particular type of scoring problem is not even uncommon. Kurt Thomas (the gymnast, not the basketball player) on Mike and Mike this morning claimed that this probably happened 3 or 4 times during these games. The reason is that starting scores are not fixed. They depend on what you actually attempt to do during your routine. Forget to attempt a handstand? That might take from your starting score, not just your ending score. Think about what happened to Blaine Wilson earlier in these games:

Wilson hit his head trying a move he hasn't performed much lately due to a mix-up with judges over scoring. At podium training Wednesday, judges said the move, which was valued higher at the last two world championships, wouldn't be worth as much this time. So Wilson went to what was supposedly a less risky trick. (From Sports Illustrated)

This kind of change, while annoying, happens sometimes.

Finally, when officials viewed the tape afterwards, they also discovered that Yang had 4 "holds" on the bars instead of the permitted 3. The deduction for this is two-tenths of a point. If we are going to be "fair" about it, Yang actually should have had a lower score going into the final rotation, not a higher score.

I do not subscribe to the "rules are rules" mentality. I believe that rules should be followed if they make sense or serve some purpose. Many have said that just because the Koreans were late with their protest does not mean that it should be precluded. This attitude condemns the rule without analysis. The rule is sound and it should be enforced in this instance. Yang should be content with his bronze, and fire his coach. Hamm should keep his gold and wear it proudly.

E.M. Swift, writing for Sports Illustrated, says it better than I ever could.

By the way, if we are going to start reviewing things after the fact, can we get a reversal on this, and maybe this (against a Korean, mind you).

What about this, and definitely this.

Bush, Kerry and the SBVT

I am having a hard time trying to figure out why Kerry is so interested in having bush denounce the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth ads that criticize Kerry's military record. It seems to me that there are basically two ways to react to these ads. One way is to believe them. If you believe them, your opinion of Kerry will probably change for the worse whether Bush had anything to do with the ads or not. Whether or not Bush denounces them will probably have little impact on their believability. Bush is the farthest thing from a credible source on what was going on in Vietnam in the late sixties.

The other way to react to these ads is to not believe them. If you do not believe them you will most likely see the ads as a despicable smear campaign. If this is the case you will probably form a negative opinion of those responsible for making the ads.

The SBVT are supposedly independent of The President but many Americans are unaware of all of the nuances of campaign finance law, especially in its new and ridiculous incarnation. Most Americans that see an anti-Kerry ad assume that "the Bush People" are responsible. Unless, of course, he publicly denounces the ads.

So after Bush denounced the ads (sort of) you have two different ways to react. You can believe them as if they are factual, which should change your opinion of Kerry for the worse. Or you can believe that they are a disgusting, deplorable and dishonest smear campaign that, thanks to Kerry's prodding, we know Bush was not involved with and which he does not agree with.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Enjoy your meal...

because if you don't, we'll sue you. A Dallas restaurant owner is suing a Dallas Morning News restaurant critic for a bad review. His restaurant was awarded 4 out of 5 stars and the comments included some mistaken ingredients. The lawsuit alleges fraud, malice, defamation and an "attempt to cripple the business of one of Dallas' finest new restaurants." I wonder if this will open the door for other suits against critics. Roger Ebert beware. Maybe customers could sue restaurants for fraudulent menu descriptions. The Dallas Morning news should consider a countersuit.

I have my first football draft today,

And I'm a little bit under the weather as well (either beer or Quizno's. Before you go for the obvious "beer" answer you should know that I have had exactly 5 (five) beers over the last 5 days, so I wasn't exactly pounding them down), so my blogging will be light today. Also, I have work to do. Thanks to Danny for picking up the slack today.

I'll leave you with this.

A friend of mine has recently acquired an LCD-HDTV of 40+ inches. I've seen a few HD broadcasts before in bars and at Best Buy, but until it's in a living room, you don't know what you are missing. As my friend said, "I'm not sure if I can watch regular TV anymore."

The HD channels are separate from the non-HD channels, so you can watch the same thing at the same time and compare. It's incredible. (Note: another awesome feature is the split screen: you can have two different channels going simultaneously, one on each side of the television).

We were watching a Colts preseason game. The Colts drafted Jim Sorgi (Why do NFL teams keep drafting Badger QBs? Brooks Bollinger is a Jet, and now this? Don't they watch game film?).

On that TV, it has never been so clear that Jim Sorgi sucks.

I have not had one sip of alcohol

If we're going to drink doughnuts, we might as well breath booze. The fad diets are certainly getting people to think creatively.

I've been knocked off of the political fence...

by this announcement. Kerry/Edwards in 2004! Hey, in this election it is as good a reason as any.

The pot calling the kettle black.

The Pope recently issued a statement condemning human cloning for scientific research and "the arrogance of man." He noted:

"The sense of power that every technical progress inspires in man is well known. The attempt by man to appropriate the source of life by experimenting with human cloning is example enough."

So what does John Paul 2 think about the sense of power inspired by a really old book, legions of followers, a ceiling painted by Michelangelo, a silly hat and a throne?

He also notes:

"The way taught by Christ is another: it is that of respect for human beings."

So why doesn't he show some respect for human beings and let science develop treatments for the diseases that plague so many of them if, afterall, that is the way of Christ.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Michael Phelps is a class act

The United state set a world record in the 400 medley relay. The butterfly leg took just 50.28 seconds. Michael Phelps did not swim it. Although he earned the spot on the relay when he won gold in the 100 fly, Phelps gave his spot to team mate and silver medalist Ian Crocker. Crocker had a tough meet. He was sick for the first few days which showed in his dismal performance in the 400 freestyle relay. Phelps wanted to give his toughest competitor another chance to prove himself. Crocker certainly did prove himself by swimming a split that Phelps has never matched. The relay would have won with either man. It would have set a world record with either man. Phelps put his team before himself. He was content with the records he already had, three meals at McDonald's and a front row seat for Crocker and company's amazing performance. Phelps is the same age as this guy and just as talented. He could have the biggest ego in the world but he doesn't. At least he doesn't seem to. In interviews he is always humble and gracious and honest. He may not have broke Spitz's record but he had an impressive Olympics. I'm sure he will have another shot at it in 2008.

Friday, August 20, 2004

More animosity for the scientific method

Eugene Volokh talks about a New York Times reporter who is troubled by an economist that has successfully predicted elections based only on economic factors. Read the whole thing.

More Herbert Vote Fraud Nonsense

Last week New York Times columnist Bob Herbert wrote an article indicating that state troopers have been attempting to intimidate elderly black citizens in Florida to keep them from voting. I commented here. He is back again today with another column on the same subject. (Note: Bugmenot is not working and has not been for some time now. More on this when I have more information.) It adds no new information, but contains several incendiary anecdotes, including the revelation that state troopers carry guns! He sets this up as if troopers are storming into the homes of widows with machine guns:

The officers were armed and in plain clothes. For elderly African-American voters, who remember the terrible torment inflicted on blacks who tried to vote in the South in the 1950's and 60's, the sight of armed police officers coming into their homes to interrogate them about voting is chilling indeed.

Just one paragraph later we find out, from one of the women who received a visit, that:

When they removed their jackets, I noticed they were wearing side arms. ... And I noticed an ankle holster on one of them when they sat down

Troopers with side arms! Alert the New York Times! And an ankle holster to boot!

I thought that this investigation sounded similar to something that happened in Milwaukee recently (see my first post, link above), but Herbert dismisses it as an unnecessary witch hunt:

"The documents were reviewed by F.D.L.E., as well as the Florida Division of Elections. It was determined that there was no basis to support the allegations of election fraud concerning these absentee ballots. Since there is no evidence of criminal misconduct involving Mayor Dyer, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement considers this matter closed."

However, it seems as if there is more to the story than Bob is letting on. Stuart Buck has been keeping tabs on this story through the Florida newspapers and has put together some compelling evidence that an investigation is warranted. Take this excerpt from the Orlando Weekly:

The most talked-about absentee voter in the mayoral race -- because she is mentioned in Mulvaney's lawsuit -- is 86-year-old Bertha Starks. Starks received a ballot, and soon after Thomas came by her house to pick it up. But she erroneously thought she was missing the ballot for the Democratic presidential primary -- she wasn't a registered Democrat, and wasn't able to vote in that race -- so she had her housemate sign the envelope for her and give it to Thomas. Starks says he promised to return with the presidential ballot. Starks says she never did vote. In fact, when interviewed by the Mulvaney camp a week after the election, she said she still expected Thomas to return with her ballot. But elections records show her absentee ballot was turned in.

This sounds to me like a justification to talk to a few elderly women. Especially if they are being taken advantage of (although not in the way Herbert would have you believe). Or,

On May 17, Brian Mulvaney and Tim Love -- the former Ken's brother and business partner, the latter a Samuel Ings campaign worker who later joined the Mulvaneys -- marched down to the FDLE office on West Robinson Street to plead their case. (I was thrown out when FDLE officials found out I was a reporter.) They were there to show the FDLE 42 sworn affidavits alleging that Thomas may have broken, or bent, the law to assure Dyer's re-election. Whether it's enough to prompt an investigation remains to be seen. What's for sure, despite what you may have read in the Sentinel, is that the issue isn't dead.

Or, how about this:

There was one common thread throughout all the affidavits collected by the Mulvaneys, and it's something that interests the FDLE: In nearly every case, interviewees said they didn't request an absentee ballot; they just got one in the mail. State law is clear that you don't get an absentee ballot unless you specifically ask for one, by phone or mail.

Knowing this, the investigation seems perfectly justified. Oh, and you should read the whole thing. (Hat tip, the annoyingly anonymous Juan Non-Volokh. Although, if he's a judge or something like that, then I am OK with it.)

Trackbacks here and here.

Taking steps to end torture.

I've been either dating or married to my wife for over 7 years now, and consequently, I know better than most the horrors of walking for long distances next to a woman who has chosen to wear "cute shoes" which were obviously developed during the Spanish Inquisition as a means of converting the unstylish to the true faith. (Note: I am also convinced that this is also the reason orthopedic shoes seem to be a mandatory part of the modern nun's uniform.)

Someone is finally doing something about it:

The lengths to which companies will go to research, create and test their shoes is both admirable and absurd. The improvements in high heels have been incremental, the technology ever-changing and bragging rights quickly claimed. Two enterprising companies -- one on the East Coast and the other on the West -- are indicative of the newest high-heel cobblers currently thumping their chests.

Oh! shoes, based in Portland, Ore., is trying to solve the high-heel conundrum by slowing the speed at which force is absorbed by the body. By dissipating the impact, the body is protected from the equivalent of a sucker punch.

Insolia, in New Hampshire, focuses on geometry. Its designs decrease the angle at which the foot rests in the shoe, essentially trying to make a three-inch heel feel like a one-inch version.

The two companies have rolled out podiatrists and orthopedic surgeons to testify to the comfort of their wares. They have incorporated technology gleaned from military footwear, ski boots and hiking shoes. They have sent their pumps out for biomechanical testing in order to measure stability, cushioning and the rate of impact absorption. One male product developer has even clomped around his neighborhood in a pair of size 11 heels to get a firsthand understanding of what it means to walk in a pair of two-inch sling-backs.

(Hat tip, Virginia Postrel)

If I had a cat...

and I was crazy I would get it botox injections and then take it to this cafe. Some pet owners have some really messed up priorities. Hey Satan, is it getting cold down there?

Olympic Swimming Politics

After winning the gold in the 200 backtroke, Aaron Peirsol was disqualified and later reinstated as the winner. French judge Denis Cadon said he illegally rolled on his stomach and kicked off the wall on one of his turns. Peirsol appealed and won due to an error in reporting the foul. This occurred days after Peirsol accused gold medal winning breaststroker Kosuke Kitajima of Japan of using an illegal dolphin kick during the 100 breaststroke.

I don't know swimming as well as Peirsol and I'm no French referee but this sounds like a lot of politics. Was Kosuke using an illegal kick? I didn't see the 100 Breastroke but it sure didn't look like it in the 200. However, he was being watched more closely in the 200 because of Peirsol's comment and a dolphin kick off of the walls would be more useful in a shorter, closer race.

As for Peirsol's DQ, my only question is how do you do an illegal backstroke turn? Is it even possible? The backstroke turn is simple. You swim into the wall. You flip over. You turn and you push off already on your back. The only way you can really do an illegal turn in backstroke is if you flip over too early going into the turn. However, the official says that he was on his front going out of the turn. Unless he had a HUGE brain-fart this seems very unlikely. We certainly would have seen it if he had. The announcers would have been all over it. They were not.

Can low-fat dip be a meal?

Don't look now, but the new slimmed down Ron Dayne is having a pretty good preseason. The former Heisman Trophy winner and poet (favorite simile: I like football) had his second good game in a row last night carrying 12 times for 63 yards and a touchdown. Ron, who once posed the immortal question "how come dip can't be a meal?" dropped close to 30 pounds in the offseason and looks quicker and tougher than at any point in his career. Moreover, new Giants coach Tom Coughlin appears to have figured out the best way to use him. Dayne despite his size is not a power back. He is best when he gets outside and can take on linebackers and DBs, not when he's pushing defensive linemen. One of the reasons for his college success was that college linemen tend to be the size of NFL linebackers (See Na'il Diggs), and he could push them around at will, but he was always slow to the hole, relying on his power to burst through. In the NFL that has not worked for him, but he seems to have altered his running style. Good for Ron.

This game also had one extremely annoying announcer moment. The Fox team of Collinsworth, Aikman, and Buck called the game, and at one point, they all thought that Ron had fumbled at the one yard line. He had not, and it was obvious upon replay. Ron was dragging a defensive lineman on his back about 2 feet from the goal line. He went down about a half yard shy of scoring, where his elbow hit the ground which caused him to drop the ball. Now, anyone who's ever watched John Madden call a game knows Madden Math, which is as follows (2 versions):

Version 1 (for purposes of whether or not a runner is down):
1 knee =
1 arm, 1 elbow, 1 back, 1 head, 1 thigh, 1 chest, 1 shoulder, and of course, 1 cheek.

Version 2 (for purposes of whether or not a legal catch was made):
2 feet =
1 arm, 1 elbow, 1 back, 1 head, 1 thigh, 1 chest, 1 shoulder, 2 hands (I think), and of course, 1 cheek.

Dayne clearly had his elbow down. The three in the booth, I think were concerned with only the question of TD v. No TD, and in their collective minds, only a fumble could result in no TD, and consequently they all called it as a fumble, completely forgetting the possibility of just being down. What is really irksome is that even after a commercial break and several chances to review the replay they were all too cowardly (or worse, unobservant) to notice their mistake. Then they had the nerve to get on the refs about it. I guess it's preseason for everyone.

It is worth mentioning that Ron actually did fumble on the next play (even low-fat dip will give you greasy hands) but was saved by an off-sides penalty. He took the next carry in for the score. Ron might be worth keeping an eye one. He has the talent to be a good back, and assuming his hands are better than Tiki Barber's hands (a big assumption after last night) he could see some serious playing time.

Finally, the best pro Badger runningback of the last half century will no longer be Terrel Fletcher!

Also

Packer fans might want to take a look at this article from The Outsiders. The message: Calm Down!

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Bonus Trackback! (Hey, it deals with beer and bears.)

Adopt a Sniper?

Do you want blood on your hands but have a problem with pulling the trigger yourself? You're in luck! These people can help.

Business as Usual

Before the war in Iraq began, the far left denounced it as a war for oil. There were humors that Cheney's former Haliburton company would be given preferred access to Iraqi oil and government contracts.

Turns out those rumors were true. Haliburton was given said access in the form of a no-bid contract. So much for those free-market Republicans. But that doesn't smack of corruption just enough so...then there were the accusations of Haliburton overcharging the government. These may or may not be true, but it doesn't help that $8.8 billion can't be accounted for and neither the govenment nor Haliburton has enough people to keep track of all the money we give them. We can't let them get away with this!

I sure hope the Pentagon does something about holding Haliburton accountable.

This isn't the conspiracy theory nightmare scenario that the left predicted before the war; it's worse. I don't believe this is a simple error. People are getting rich at the expense of our government with inside help. This is by far the most egregious case of poor goverment planning in my lifetime and the Bush administration must be held accountable for it. The lack of oversight and planning in Iraq is sickening. You may be a dove, you may be a hawk, but how can anyone defend such a botched execution. I want my $8.8 billion back.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Bush and Science

4,000 scientists, including 4 dozen Nobel Prize winners have signed a declaration that condemns the Bush administration's misuse and distortion of science according to this story. And this is just about enough to knock me off of the political fence. The thing that bothers me most about the President is that he makes decisions based on faith and his goofy beliefs.

The federal government relies on hundreds of scientific and technical panels for advice on a wide range of policy issues. Advisers range from wildlife biologists who provide expertise on endangered species to physicists who help guide the development of new weaponry.

scientists charge that the Bush administration has violated its side of the bargain in two ways: By manipulating scientific information to suit political purposes and by applying a political litmus test to membership on scientific advisory committees.

Bush's top science advisor said this about Stem Cell research: "The really important questions here are ethical questions; they're not science questions."

This is alarming. There is something wrong when the president's top science advisor does not believe that stem cell research is a science issue. If this is not a science question then why did Bush's science advisor address it? The ethical issues surrounding stem cell research are sketchy, debatable and sometimes imaginary. The scientific issues are real. But the Bush Administration rarely seems to care about anything real. For example:

A panel of experts, by a 28-0 vote, declared a drug safe for over-the-counter sales in December, they expected the Food and Drug Administration to approve it for nonprescription use soon thereafter.

But six months later the agency disagreed, citing a lack of data about the safety of the drug for 11- to 14-year-old girls.


Three physicians on the FDA advisory panel protested in an editorial published by the New England Journal of Medicine, claiming the agency was distorting the scientific evidence for political reasons.

The drug in question: a morning-after contraceptive known as Plan B.

"A treatment for any other condition, from hangnail to headache to heart disease, with a similar record of safety and efficacy would be approved quickly," the protesting panel members wrote.

This is disgusting and it is dangerous. It is also a decision that was obviously not based on science.

The associated press writer of this story unknowingly makes a statement about science that, to me, seems to echo the Bush administrations view on science.

Incorporating science into government has always been a sensitive proposition, given the vast differences between them.

Scientists collect evidence and conduct experiments to arrive at an objective description of reality — to describe the world as it is rather than as we might want it to be.

Government, on the other hand, is about anything but objective truth. It deals with gray areas, competing values, the allocation of limited resources. It is conducted by debate and negotiation. Far from striving for ultimate truths, it seeks compromises that a majority can live with.

This is the problem. Government decision makers should be collecting evidence and conducting experiments to arrive at the best possible outcomes. Every decision the government makes is an experiment. When Bush made the decision to limit research on stem cell research and US progress in the area slowed down while European progress increased resulting in new developments and economic and business success, that was an experiment. When he sends troops to Iraq or Afghanistan or removes troops from Germany, that's an experiment too. Not amking "Plan B" availble over the counter is an experiment. Having a political litmus test for approving science advisors is an experiment. Every increase or decrease in taxing or spending is an experiment. Every tariff is an experiment. Every speech the president gives is an experiment. We can see the results of these experiments. The problem with Bush is that most of the time he ignores the results. I realize that people are not electrons or rats in a maze. We will never find absolute perfect answers through these kinds of experiments but we can find the best compromises that a majority can live with.

The scientific method, with all of its flaws, is the best means of decision making no matter what the decision is.

Can this be true?

A headline in the Wisconsin State Journal claims that Viking Fans are Smarter Than We Think. It seems that Minnesota high schoolers have somehow managed to tie Wisconsin in average ACT scores. Wisconsin has been first for the past twelve years. This is a little troubling but at least it was our neighbor. It should still be clear to those on the coasts where the smartest people in the country are from, even when this was the big story in today's edition of the other WSJ.

Ah, the wonders of nature.

If you read nothing else today, make sure you read this article from CNN.com.

(Hat tip, Jodi)

We've been thanking a lot of people lately,

which is great, because we've been getting a lot of links. We need to thank just a few more.

First to Evan Schaeffer for a permalink. Nice.

Second, to Pennywit for linking to my lamentation on the Chili Cheese Burrito.

Third, to Jim Gilliam for linking back to us after Ryan linked to him. He provided the O'Reilly v. Krugman file.

Fourth to Danny, who takes the time to Google us every so often and find out who's been reading us.

Thanks to everyone!

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

The 100th Carnival of the Vanities is...

here.

Are You Taking Notes Kerry?

So, a Republican Congressman can say this,but Kerry can't.

Thanks...

to Bill Farah for the link. Bill was a senior on the UW-Eau Claire Cross Country team when I was a freshman. He taught me about dark beer and Hitchcock and leaving a wet edge when you paint your house. Apparently he is a writer now.

Man Gets 30 Months for Killing Autistic Boy

He was trying to perform an exorcism to cure the 8-year-old boy's autism. He will also be put under state supervision for 7 1/2 years. The sentence bars Ray Anthony Hemphill from attempting any more exorcisms during the next 10 years "without formal training in the practice." So if he takes exorcism 101 at the community college he can kill all the little kids he wants?

They should make this guy wear a sign that says, "I killed a little kid because I watch too many movies."

A very good Onion this week.

My favorite:

Homosexual Tearfully Admits To Being Governor Of New Jersey

You can read the whole issue here.

It is a crime.

Doug Kern has a fantastic article today at Tech Central Station about the costs of crime. The important part:

Poverty can be resolved through individual effort; crime cannot. We know what prevents poverty. Acquire as much education as you can, get a full-time job and work hard at it, get and stay married, and avoid substance abuse -- take these steps, and you won't be poor. Each step is within the abilities of even a below-average person. But how can individuals resolve crime? No amount of hard work or personal initiative will stop a mugger from waving a knife in your face. A responsible lifestyle won't put your car radio back after some thug steals it. For the crimes that afflict the poor, our society has only one approved solution: stop being poor, so you can move somewhere safe. Some solution.

Worse, crime corrodes the very ability of the poor to improve their own situation. Everyone knows that government corruption and incompetence leads to capital flight; no one wants to invest in a place where the rule of law is spotty and ill-enforced, because property rights become meaningless. The poor need investment opportunities more than anyone else -- but who wants to build anything in communities that aren't safe at night?


The threat of crime to business is too often ignored, and entrepreneurs are the keys to any successful neighborhood. They are more important than good schools, and more important than "government help."

When a neighborhood has a strong small business community, it will have less unemployment than other neighborhoods. Businesses create jobs, and while activists in blighted urban areas often look to the government to provide jobs the government is notoriously bad at this. Crime is the biggest deterrent to job creation in any given city, but government solutions generally take the form of subsidies, or "outreach programs" and other expensive nonsense. But small business growth is not just a boon unto itself. It also produces many positive externalities.

A strong small business community will also result in greater instances of home ownership. In general, where home ownership is increasing, crime is decreasing. Just look at this report from the Department of Justice:

Home ownership: Property crime, regardless of the type, occurred more often to those living in rented property. In 2002--
Households in rented property experienced 207, while those that are owned experienced 136 overall property crimes per 1,000 households.
Rented households were burglarized at rates 56% higher than owned households.
Households living in rented property had more than twice the rate of motor vehicle theft than those in owned property.


Small businesses also increase the tax base in the community. As schools are primarily funded though local property taxes, good schools follow good businesses. Measures taken to increase the quality of schools will be only marginally effective without proper funding, and funding can not be produced from thin air. If a community has no tax base, there is only so much educational reform that can take place.

Finally, the small business community will produce an educated and productive second generation. One of the great things about starting a business is that almost anyone can do it, from the most intelligent Harvard grad to the poorest immigrant just off of the boat. Many immigrant communities have grown surprisingly sophisticated and have formed credit-sharing cabals when traditional fund raising attempts have failed (See this link, dealing with Caribbean immigrants. A quick google search reveals that his strategy is used by all ethnicities). The only skill truly necessary to run a business is a strong work ethic. While first generation small business owners may remain uneducated, (and that is a shame) their children will often benefit immensely from their parents sacrifice. Most will take advantage of the superior education they receive and accomplish greater things, get better jobs, or come home and increase the efficiency of the family business.

Crime is the single biggest obstacle to small business owners. In high crime areas, there will be more shoplifting, higher security costs, and poor customers. Crime also severely restricts a business's hours of operation. It is difficult enough to succeed in ideal conditions, but in a high crime area, it is almost impossible.

When the government stresses job creation (not corporate welfare, but job creation aimed at helping the poor), crime is seldom addressed.

The conventional wisdom is that poverty creates crime, however there are countless examples of very poor low crime areas, particularly in the rural south. From the DOJ:

Urban, suburban and rural Urban residents had the highest violent victimization rates, followed by suburban resident rates. Rural resident had the lowest rates. In 2002--
Seven urban residents, four suburban residents and three rural residents per 1,000 were victims of an aggravated assault, and urban residents were robbed at about 4 times the rate of rural residents.
Suburban and rural residents were victims of simple assault at similar rates. Surveys of 12 cities in 1998 found that black residents in urban areas experienced a higher rate of violent crime than urban whites in a majority of the cities. See also
Homicide Trends in the United States and Data Online for characteristics of homicide victims by State and large locality.

On the flip side, there are almost no examples of high crime areas that are not infected with poverty.

Crime truly doesn't pay - and not just for the criminal.

Update:

More from Jon Rowe here, and Eugene Volokh here.

Shame Punishments

Or, My First Fisking:

There is an article by Dan Markle in the New Republic that examines shame punishments. Last week a federal panel from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that trial judges in western states can sentence convicts to be publicly shamed. Markle doesn't like this. He argues, using words like "clearly" and "simply wrong," that shaming punishments are unconstitutional and should not be used. His argument is abstract and isn't supported by any actual evidence except for an occasional vague reference to what psychological studies have demonstrated.

The Ninth Circuit ruling dealt with a man who was convicted of stealing mail. As part of his punishment he was forced to wear a sandwich board that said "I stole mail. This is my punishment" for eight hours outside of the post office.

Shaming punishments have experienced something of a recrudescence in state courts in recent years--which makes this federal ruling the latest development in an alarming legal trend.

So we have established that shame punishments are not "unusual." That might be relevant later.

The Ninth Circuit's ruling rests on bad reasoning and misinterpretation of the available evidence on public shaming. But the ruling is not just bad law; it also condones a practice that flies in the face of settled constitutional values. And now that the practice has the approval of a federal panel, there is reason to believe that the situation is only going to get worse--unless the Ninth Circuit reverses course.

Okay, what evidence? How is it misinterpreted. If you aren't going to present this evidence, you better not criticize anybody else for not having evidence later on. How do you know it's bad law? Has this guy stolen mail again? Was the sandwich board exceptionally expensive? What is so bad about it?

The trial court could easily have conducted some basic research into shaming punishments to find out their known effects, or asked for some briefing by the lawyers before setting out on its sentencing experimentalism. It did neither. On appeal, moreover, the Ninth Circuit panel was presented with various psychological studies demonstrating that, far from exercising a corrective influence, shaming punishments cause harm to the offender. Nonetheless the Ninth Circuit endorsed the trial judge's reckless guesswork.

We just talked about this. I also find it hard to believe that there was absolutely no evidence presented to the ninth circuit that shame punishments work. Besides, this is an experiment. How can we really know for sure how well these punishments work if this is such a recent trend. And punishments are supposed to cause harm to the offender. That's what punishments are. He was convicted of a crime and you think the proper thing to do in response involves absolutely no harm to him?

Yale Professor Dan Kahan and University of Chicago Professor Eric Posner defend shaming punishments on economic grounds. They argue that shaming punishments of some nonviolent offenders are desirable because they offer a cheap and feasible way of conveying social condemnation without incurring the steep costs imposed by incarceration. In this case, though, the shaming punishment was used as a supplement to incarceration, not as a substitute.

How much time did he get? Did he get the maximum prison penalty for his crime? Perhaps he did not and was given the shame punishment in place of an extra year. Perhaps it was a substitute.

Put simply, the Constitution's Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishments. Most lawyers can recite the Supreme Court's precept that the "basic concept underlying the Eighth Amendment is nothing less than the dignity of man." The Court further directs that we draw the meaning of that instruction from "the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society."

Okay, so the Eighth Amendment prohibits cruel and unusual punishments. We've already established that this kind of thing is not so unusual. So you must think it's cruel. I think you would be hard pressed to find people that agree. Especially if you compare it to prison, or even a fine. And as for this guy's dignity, he chose to throw it away. How does the sign affect his dignity when it is TRUE? The sign does not say "I drown puppies" or "I wet the bed." It says only what he actually did. The truth is a perfect defense to a libel charge. It is also perfect here. The "evolving standard of decency" is so full of problems I don't know where to begin. If, as a society, our standard of decency has evolved so much, than why are we still stealing mail? When our standard evolves enough that we no longer have certain crimes, then, and only then, can we say that the punishments that go with them can go the way of the dinosaurs as well.

Juxtaposed against this standard, shaming offenders is simply wrong, regardless of whether it is labeled rehabilitative or punitive. The very goal of shaming, as the dissent by Hawkins recognized, is the dehumanization of another person before, and with the participation of, the public. Before we permit democratic institutions to subject an offender to ridicule, scorn, and humiliation, we have to ask whether this kind of punishment comports with evolving standards of decency and the dignity of humankind. The answer is clearly no.

Uh uh.

Of course, from many people's perspective, standing with a demeaning signboard around one's body for eight hours in a public square is better than spending many more months locked up in the teeming and fetid pestholes that are some of our nation's prisons. But this merely shows that there's more work to be done in the name of decency and dignity, not less.

So, we're doing something that keeps people from being locked up in the teeming and fetid pestholes that are some of our nations prisons which are presumably indecent and undignified and this is somehow doing less work in the name of decency and dignity. Makes sense. And you must have left your solution in your other pants with your evidence.

More on this over at Volokh.

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