The Electric Commentary

Saturday, July 30, 2005

The Kelo Song


Friday, July 29, 2005

Really Really Unfun Friday

I got roped into helping a friend move today, although he does have this handy WiFi laptop set up. But blogging will be light, because blogging about moving is really boring. I think we're almost done, so there may be more later.

Old news, but worth mentioning.

Barry Alvarez is stepping down as coach of the University of Wisconsin football team after this season.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Sorry for the light blogging.

I've been doing a lot of around-the-house projects this week as well as upgrading my computer. I think I now have everything more or less in order, so normal blogging should resume tomorrow if not sooner.

In the meantime, if you can't get enough of the daylight savings debate, check out this and this.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

We need more oil spills!

They may prevent hurricanes.

Good luck to everyone taking the Illinois Bar Exam

Which is occurring this very minute. It's the second and final day of the big test, so I will shortly be joined in the attorney's union by hundreds of new colleagues.

Here is a fun fact about the Bar Exam:

If your cell phone goes off while you're taking it, you fail automatically. It happened once during yesterday's session and it tends to happen once or twice per year. The same goes for beeping watches, MP3 players, or any "similar or dissimilar devices."

Dissimilar devices? Only a law exam could contain that sentence.

Anti-Union Animus

P.J. O'Rourke was once arguing with Cornell West about drug companies, and Cornell got off on a long rant about how drug companies squander resources by researching frivolous drugs. West asked:

Would you prefer drug companies that looked for more remedies for sexual impotence or a vaccine for AIDS?

To which O'Rourke responded:

It depends on if I had AIDS.

I think the Union mentality is similar to that of Mr. West in this scenario. Unions concentrate on increasing the compensation of workers and improving their working conditions. They tend to make broad claims of improving societal working conditions in general. But it is important to remember that they can only do this for you if you are in the Union. And Unions have a vested interest in limiting the numbers that they employ. Even Unions cannot completely disregard the laws of supply and demand.

I can't get my brain around this mindset. I'm well aware of the historical importance of Unions, and I have little doubt that workers were screwed in the early 20th century, but today Unions really are dinosaurs, and I have several philosophical problems with them.

First of all, Unions derive their power from force and monopoly. I'm not a big fan of either of these. When a Union is certified as a bargaining unit they are granted an artificial monopoly. At that point management has to do business with them. It has no choice. This puts them in an awkward situation, in which they are forced into being actively hostile towards their work force. As for the force part of it, it's no secret that Unions still engage in strong arm tactics (not to mention cruel acts of peer pressure) to increase membership. Strikes are, more often than not, conducted using illegal tactics as the police force charged with keeping strikes in order is also unionized. And then there's the Mafia connection.

And labor law may be the most screwed up body of law out there.

Let's say that you're management, and your employees are engaging in a strike, which for legal purposes, we will call a labor action. If you decide to fire someone participating in that action and the National Labor Relations Board determines that you were motivated by "anti-union animus" in doing so, you're subject to penalties, including, but not limited to, reinstatement of the employee, and back pay.

When a group of workers are attempting to organize their "brothers" there are so many rules that management is almost bound to break a few. I'm not as well versed in labor law as I once was, but basically management must provide the tools of its own demise. They have to provide bulletin boards to post on, records of employees, and woe to the owners who make the reasonable observation that a plant may close if the workers unionize. The NLRB hates that.

And why are strikes even allowed? What rationale is there to prevent the firing of employees that refuse to work, especially if there are other people perfectly willing to do the job? I've always wanted to be a scab.

I'll admit that a lot of my anti-union animus stems from a visceral reaction towards collectivism of any kind. When you join a union you abandon your individual accomplishments and put your faith in the accomplishments of the sum total of your co-workers. Those of you that have co-workers can see the folly in this policy. My first real job (after my paper route) was as a cashier at a grocery store, and I was forced to join a union. What did I get for my membership? I got health care, a pension plan, and guaranteed raises at specific intervals. All I had to do to get this was pay dues which reduced my pay to basically minimum wage.

I was 16 years old.

I did not need a pension plan, or health care, or even guaranteed raises. The raises were geared towards long term employees, not kids with summer jobs (and part time jobs during the school year). I gladly would have traded all of these for an extra 50 cents an hour, but I couldn't because someone else was in charge of bargaining for me, and they did not have my best interests in mind.

I can't give up my individuality that easily. It bothers me. My old labor law professor, who was sympathetic to organized labor, drove out any last lingering sympathies for organized labor when she referred to union organizing tactics as engaging in "moral suasion."

Yeah, just like Al Capone.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Carnival of the Vanities

is now up at PratiePlace.

Thanks to Jane for the link.

Ironic Union Quote Of The Day

From this NYT article on the A.F.L.-C.I.O. split:

Then, in a statement that won rousing applause and that many union leaders said was directed at Mr. Stern in particular, Mr. Sweeney said: "And that makes me very angry. The labor movement belongs to all of us, every worker, and our future should not be dictated by the demands of any groups or the ambitions of any individual."

Why am I always stuck at O'Hare?

From The Slate's Austin Goolsbee:

Mayer and Sinai's study also identified the real culprit: the deliberate overscheduling of flights at peak periods by major airlines trying to increase the amount of connecting traffic at their hub airports. Major airlines like United, Delta, and American use a hub-and-spoke model as a way to offer consumers more flight choices and to save money by centralizing operations. Most of the traffic they send through a hub is on the way to somewhere else. (Low-cost carriers, on the other hand, typically carry passengers from one point to another without offering many connections.) Overscheduling at the hubs can't explain all delays—weather and maintenance problems also contribute. But nationally, about 75 percent of flights go in or out of hub airports, making overscheduling the most important factor.

American Airlines, for example, uses O'Hare as a hub and schedules a cluster of flights to arrive there from the east in the earlier afternoon. Another cluster leaves for points west and south soon after. In the 30-minute period between 2:45 p.m. and 3:15 p.m., American has scheduled about 18 takeoffs, not counting its regional flights. That comes close to maxing out the airport's capacity, without any other airline. Other airports are even more extreme. Continental has seven flights scheduled to depart during the exact same minute (11:45 a.m.) out of Newark, as well as almost 20 other flights in the surrounding half hour. Some of these flights leave late more than 80 percent of the time. The major airlines know perfectly well that these hideous statistics are inevitable.

Should Londoners abandon the Tube?

Tim Harford doesn't think so:

It turns out that the quarterly road deaths in London last year averaged 54. 52 people were murdered in the July 7th attacks (and four times more people travel by tube or bus than drive, cycle or walk). Leaving public transport is only going to be safer if the terrorists strike much more often in future.

Read the whole thing. He also links to an interesting paper by Gary Becker and Yona Rubenstein.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Kid Lit

Recently Harry Potter prompted some discussion of some of the other (some would say superior) kid lit enjoyed by bloggers in their youth. Both Paul Brewer and Oscar Madison have a soft spot for the The Prydain Chronicles (some may know of this series from the truly terrible Disney adaptation of The Black Cauldron). I also enjoyed this series, although I initially found it frustrating because Taran, the protagonist, lacks any supernatural power, strength, or even the ability to weave a decent blanket. He tries, but he is largely an observer to great events rather than an active participant. He plays his part, but he never makes the big play, so to speak.

While I liked the series in general, Taran occasionally failed in another capacity. I think he's supposed to relate to the average person, but he often seems too stupid to live up to those mild expectations. That being said, if you stick with the kid he does prove to have one remarkable quality about him, and the world would be a better place if more people shared said trait. Saying anymore would spoil too much.

I also enjoyed The Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper. Some of the heroes in this series have extraordinary powers, some do not, but everyone has to contribute to succeed. It draws heavily on Gaelic and Arthurian legend and contains some genuinely inspired writing. And the evil is genuinely evil.

The Chronicles of Narnia had their moments. The classic The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is quite good, as are the closely related Prince Caspian and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, but C.S. Lewis lost me a bit with The Last Battle, although I have an inkling that that was part of his point.

Part of what sparked this conversation on Oscar's blog was why Harry Potter appeals to childless adults. I think I have an answer. It is reasonably respectable to be seen reading it. The English boarding school system on display in the books is reminiscent of college, and most people feel a great deal of fondness and nostalgia for their college days (or, failing that, the college days of those rowdy kids in Delta House). It contains action sequences, rarely will you become bored with the dialogue, and the endings rarely fall into the "happily ever after" model, so anything can and does happen.

Many people are also crazy about Holes by Louis Sachar, which weaves several plot lines into a beautifully imagined finale.

I also really liked Interstellar Pig by William Sleator, but I'll leave that for another time.

Beauty and Brains?

Like Kevin Arnold and most males that grew up watching The Wonder Years, I had a HUGE crush on Winnie Cooper, AKA Danica McKellar. It tuns out that McKellar is more than just a pretty face. She's a math geek too. In fact, she just co-authored a theorem called the Chayes-McKeller-Winn Theorem. Her website even provides math tutoring online. Is this woman perfect?

(Hat tip Enochs)

Stephen Green on the AFL-CIO split.

He tells a fascinating story, and notes a major irony:

Others said competition might be good for the labor movement.


The London Shooting

Based on the facts that we have so far, I believe the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes by London police officers was justified. I base that on this account from the NYT:

Having found the address in a backpack left behind by one of the bombers in the failed attacks on Thursday, the police were watching the building where Mr. Menezes lived. But they failed to realize, apparently, that there was more than one apartment there. So when Mr. Menezes left the building to go to a job on Friday, they followed him. They trailed him onto the No. 2 bus, bound for the Stockwell subway stop, a little more than 10 minutes away.

When Mr. Menezes began to enter the station, witnesses said, he was surrounded by plainclothes officers who shouted at him to stop.

According to the police accounts, the officers identified themselves and were suspicious partly because he was wearing a bulky jacket in the summer weather, suggesting that he was concealing something. Mr. Menezes ran. He jumped over the turnstile, ran down an escalator and stumbled into a train, where he fell face down. Witnesses said the police then shot him five times in the head and neck, killing him. (Emphasis added.)

Assuming that this account is accurate, can anyone fault the police for their actions?

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Daylight Savings Kills

Adding to the argument for either making daylight savings permanent, or eliminating it altogether, we have this study, from Marginal Revolution:

...following the spring shift to Daylight Savings Time (when one hour of sleep is lost) there is a measurable increase in the number of traffic accidents that result in fatalities. Furthermore, it replicates the absence of any “rebound” reduction of accidents following the fall shift to DST (when the opportunity is present for an additional hour of sleep).

Friday, July 22, 2005

Ron Baily's third and final dispatch from the Creation Conference

Is here. "God Said It, That Settles It"

Science and scripture cannot contradict one another, and if they appear to do so, then there is something wrong with the science.

This is what's wrong with America. Read the whole thing.

Fun Friday: Harry Potter Edition

Dave Kopel writes what is essentially an academic treatise on the book, here. Beware, it is spoiler-filled.

Check it out.

We're good at soccer. Who knew?

Congress looks to extend daylight savings time.

Excellent. I would be ok with keeping it all year. I'm sick of it getting dark at 4:30 in the winter.

Check out the opposition:

According to some senators, farmers complained that a two-month extension could adversely affect livestock...

Wait a minute. American cows can tell time? That's unbelievable! We must never allow mad cow disease into our country, as it would lay waste to our apparently super-intelligent cow population.

(Hat tip, Christine Hurt.)

Worst. Name. Ever.

This poor man. At least he's a professional athlete though. Think about how bad it would be if he was a janitor.

He is discussed in Al and Vivek's first Scramble for the Ball column of the season, at Football Outsiders. Today they cover the AFC West and the NFC West.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Althouse and Wonkette can read between the lines.

And I think professor Althouse and Wonkette might be on to something regarding this NY Times article:

Court Nominee's Life Is Rooted in Faith and Respect for Law


John Roberts went to private school, first next door to his family's parish at Notre Dame, and then to an all-boys boarding school, La Lumiere, a bucolic retreat on a pond in nearby LaPorte.

No girls around. That's okay. It's good for a young man. Right?

competed in wrestling

Guys rolling around on mats. No big deal.

John Roberts was also on the student council executive committee (he lost the race for senior class president to his best friend), the student activities committee, the editorial board of The Torch student newspaper and the drama club.

Drama club? THE TORCH? Flame on. Wait, there's more:

The school yearbook from 1972, his junior year, shows he played Peppermint Patty in the production of "You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown."

Peppermint Patty? So he played a girl in a play who may or may not have been a pre-lesbian. Nothing weird about that.

Check out the pictures in the article too. Althouse also notes that he married his wife when they were in their forties and adopted their children. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

And the news story that will yield the most obvious political cartoon goes to......

James Doohan, of TV's Star Trek is dead at 85. Doohan became famous for playing Scotty, the Enterprise's chief engineer with a thick Scottish accent. So if there is actually a heaven, I wonder how he will get there? If heaven is a place in the sky, somewhere above us, will Scotty need to take a plane or a helicopter to get there? Hmmm. There must be some way off of the planet's surface for the chief engineer.

E.S.K. is liveblogging the Brewers

at the WisconsinSportsBar.

China moves towards a free floating currency.

China has ended the practice of pegging the yuan to the dollar.

There certainly is a lot going on over there.

(Hat tip, Ace Cowboy)

Update: Dan Drezner has thoughts:

For the U.S., I'm not sure a two percent revaluation is going to affect trade one way or the other. The rule of thumb has been that a ten percent revaluation would lower the trade deficit by one percent, so this won't have that big of an effect on the trade balance (and I would wager that the J-curve effect with such a small revaluation will be longer-lasting). The bigger effect may be political, in that this could eases protectionist pressures in Congress. On the other hand, it could also convince yahoos like Senator Schumer that this is the way to pressure the Chinese into making foreign economic policy concessions.
And don't miss the linked Wall Street Journal article by Michael Phillips at the bottom of Dan's post. (You can get free access to the WSJ through his link.)

Ronald Bailey's Second Dispatch

I didn't get to it yesterday, but Reason's Ronald Bailey filed his second report from the 2005 Creation Mega-Conference:

Lisle agrees that God could have created a mature universe, but he harbors reservations about that "solution." Why? Supernova 1987A. Lisle points out that the star that exploded into Supernova 1987A is 170,000 light years away. Since the universe is only 6000 years old that means that the light which appears to be a supernova is actually from an object that never existed depicting an event that never happened. Lisle declares, "God would not create little movies of things that never happened." However, I am wondering how Lisle knows for sure that the heavens are not just a divine planetarium projection on a gigantic crystal sphere enclosing the solar system? Never mind.

This "Red State Blog" thing is paying dividends.

I've been linked at Election Projection. They specialize in "Conservative Political Commentary during the election off-season." The Badger Blog Alliance must be spreading the word.

Thanks to Scott for the link.

Update: The word continues to spread.

Thanks Dean.

Recruiting at the L.A. Times.

The Los Angeles Times has named Dean Baquet as their new top editor. Why do you care? There are two reasons:

1. The Los Angeles Times is now the largest American newspaper ever to be led by a black journalist.

2. New York Times editor Bill Keller said this of him:

"Dean's a prince -- a world-class investigator, an inspiring editor and a barrel of fun." But Keller said he hoped Baquet would start "fighting fair" in luring staffers: "He has this habit of telling recruits there's something in the New York water that makes your penis fall off." (Emphasis added.)

Rarely has the editor of one of America's premiere newspapers had such glowing words for the editor of one of America's other premiere newspapers.

And for the record, I always buy bottled water when I'm in New York.

(Hat tip, MDS)

Panic on the streets of London

again. Details are sketchy so far.

Update: The BBC is reporting that it is a relatively minor incident:

Minor explosions using detonators only have sparked the evacuation of three Tube stations and the closure of three lines, a BBC correspondent has said.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

My hometown is turning into Springfield.

First we have this bear walking around, and now nearby Watertown has a tire fire that won't go out. This sounds familiar somehow:

Tonight, we salute the silver anniversary of the Great Springfield Tire Yard Fire. Twenty-five years, and still burning strong!
-- Kent Brockman hosts `Eye on Springfield', ``Flaming Moe's''

Senate Hearings

Now comes the really fun part. I love Senate Confirmation Hearings, they're great. Most Senators planning to oppose the nominee feel the need to ask questions, but there are only so many questions that you can ask someone, so after a while the Senators start to lose focus a bit. I seem to remember Senator Kohl (D-Wisconsin) asking John Ashcroft the equivalent of "Do you think you can get along with everyone?" How do you answer that? I would have said "I pwomise to pway nice, Mr. Kohw." This is one of the reasons that I will never face a Senate Confirmation Hearing. I would also say things like this:

1. Calm down Senator Kennedy. I know you disagree with my judicial philosophy but it's not as if I drove some woman off a bridge or something.

2. I'm really getting the 5th degree here, Senator Byrd. You'd think I was a former KKK member or something.

3. Mr. Lott, your questions don't seem well organized. Maybe you could segregate them a little better.

4. Mr. Feingold, Mr. McCain, I would like to discuss the first amendment for a moment.

There's really only one thing I want to know from any given candidate: Strength of Precedent (Stare Decisis) v. Original Intent. What do you think?

That's it. I might inquire about their views towards the commerce clause, or the takings clause, but my first question should implicitly cover those subjects.

In my humble opinion there is no good reason to follow bad precedent. (Those who defend stare decisis will tell you that it is important to have settled law, and it is, but if the law is bad, keeping it settled just to keep it settled is stupid. Moreover, nothing unsettles law quicker than a balancing test.)

But no Senator will ask a question like this. They will, instead, attempt to discover Roberts' views on abortion. I'm sure that he won't have any fun with these questions, but he should. For instance:

Senator: What are your views on abortion.

Roberts: I have been pro-life in the past, but meeting you has opened up my eyes to the pro-choice point of view.

Senator: What is your opinion of Roe v. Wade?

Roberts: If it's hot out I prefer to wade, but in general I would prefer to stay dry.


Roberts: Boooorrrring.

Roberts: Wade would destroy him. Did you see him play at all this year? I think if he would have been healthy that the Heat would have won it all. Very unfortunate. Who does Roe play for?

If asked whether or not he is a judicial activist:

Roberts: I'm in phenomenal shape.

I'm quite sure the whole thing will be a painful, pointless exercise. In other words, it will be like any other day in Congress. But at least it will be more fun to blog about. The worst thing that can happen to any congressman is having his words heard by the entire nation.

Stupid Law of the Day

From Reason. Apparently I'm a criminal in Holland:

The Dutch Secretary of Transportation, Karla Peijs, has decreed that loose objects are no longer allowed in Dutch cars, as everything that isn't tied down might become a projectile in the event of crash. So starting next January, drivers unlucky enough to be caught with an open glove compartment, a handbag on the floor, or an unsecured book on the backseat, will face hefty fines.

This Roberts guy might not be so bad.

Ann Coulter doesn't like the nomination.

It's D.C. Circuit Judge John Roberts.

I know nothing of John Roberts, so here's the NYT on the subject, and here's the Instapundit's typically comprehensive list of links to articles and posts on the subject.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

See, this is why I'm waiting to see for sure.

ABC reports that it's not Edith Clement:

July 19, 2005 -- Judge Edith Clement -— perceived by many observers as a potential frontrunner for the Supreme Court seat vacated by Justice Sandra Day O'Connor — is not President Bush's choice for the high court.

An informed source told ABC News they had spoken with Clement and said she received a phone call from the White House this afternoon. According to the source, Clement was thanked for meeting with the president and sharing her views on the Supreme Court, but that the administration has decided to go in a "different direction."

(Hat tip, Ed Brayton)

Reason at the Creation Conference.

Reason Magazine's Ronald Bailey is at the 2005 Creation Mega-Conference. Here's a snippet:

I was surprised to learn from the theologian John Whitcomb, co-author of the seminal creationist book, The Genesis Flood (1961), that Noah's ark carried 1,000 different kinds of dinosaurs as well as all of the other species. Whitcomb's book has sold more than a quarter of a million copies in English. The conferees revere Whitcomb—he is the only speaker so far who has merited standing ovations.

Whitcomb doesn't just take godless evolutionists to task; he is also critical of Christians who accept progressive creationism or intelligent design. Progressive creationism as represented by Dr. Hugh Ross fails because Ross accepts (1) the Big Bang; (2) that animals were supernaturally and periodically created over many millions of years; (3) that Adam's rebellion did not introduce death into the animal kingdom for the first time; and (4) that the Flood was local to Mesopotamia.


Former Klansman Demands that Students and Federal Employees Learn About the Constitution.

It's now the law. Via Reason:

Tucked into a massive appropriations bill approved without fanfare late last year by Congress is the requirement that every one of the estimated 1.8 million federal employees in the executive branch receive "educational and training" materials about the charter on Constitution Day, a holiday celebrating the Sept. 17, 1787, signing that is so obscure that it, unlike Arbor Day, is left off many calendars.

That's not all: The law requires every school that receives federal funds -- including universities -- to show students a program on the Constitution, though it does not specify a particular one. The demand has proved unpopular with educators, who say that they don't like the federal government telling them what to teach and that it doesn't make the best educational sense to teach something as important as the Constitution out of context.

"We already cover the Constitution up, down and around," said August Frattali, principal of Rachel Carson Middle School in Fairfax County. But, he chuckled, "I'm going to follow the mandates. I don't want to get fired."


It appears that Bush will nominate Edith Clement of the 5th Circuit.

But I've screwed up too many stories on Supreme Court Justices lately to believe anything until I actually see it happen.

Andrew Bogut

Good thing:

He showed some feistiness in getting tossed from a summer league game. Getting tossed is a bad thing, but it sounds like the ref had a quick hook, and it's nice to see that our center of the future isn't going to put up with any crap.

Bad thing:

During the game he was absolutely abused by David Harrison. Who is David Harrison? Exactly.


It was a frustrating day for Bogut, who was 1-for-7 with 6 points and four fouls when he was ejected. He was also dominated on the defensive end by Pacers center David Harrison, who scored 14 points in the first half with Bogut guarding him.

I'm going to go out on a limb and say that an unheralded second year player never dominated Tim Duncan in summer league.

The 50 Book Challenge: #20

The 50 Book Challenge.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling

This is probably my second favorite book of the series. If not for some annoying relationship issues (and an implausible reaction by Ron to a certain action by Harry) it may have been my favorite.

Gone is the annoying angst ridden Harry of book five. Instead we have an intrepid detective. He's impulsive, but he's on the ball. In fact, it doesn't strike you just how on the ball he is until you get near the end, and then it hits you that it is his friends that are distracted. There are surprises and twists at the end, but so much is left unsaid by Rowling that drawing too many conclusions from the ending will probably lead you astray.

You can find summaries and plot points all over the internet, and it's truly hard to discuss anything specific about the book without revealing much, so I'll just say the following.

This book was much more engrossing than the last two. It flows quickly, and it keep hitting high points to maintain your interest. It will make an excellent movie. And the final book, I suspect, will be well over 1000 pages. A very good beginning of the end.

On deck:

Gravity's Rainbow, by Thomas Pynchon (on page 250).
Guns, Germs, and Steel, by Jared Diamond.
Interface, by Neal Stephenson and J. Frederick George

If you've finished the new Harry Potter book

click here, for some speculation that I think is absolutely dead on.

If you have not, do not click on the link. It will wreck the book for you. You've been warned.

School district funds spent on teaching questionable subject matter

No, I'm not talking about teaching creation or intelligent design. It's not THAT stupid. But the San Bernadino school district seems to be missing a piece of the puzzle in their quest to to improve black students' academic performance, send more of them to college, and have fewer dropouts. Their solution is to teach "ebonics."

Mary Texeira, a sociology professor at Cal State San Bernardino, commended the San Bernardino Board of Education for approving the policy in June.

Texeira suggested that including Ebonics in the program would be beneficial for students. Ebonics, a dialect of American English that is spoken by many blacks throughout the country, was recognized as a separate language in 1996 by the Oakland school board.

"Ebonics is a different language, it's not slang as many believe,' Texeira said. "For many of these students Ebonics is their language, and it should be considered a foreign language. These students should be taught like other students who speak a foreign language.'

Okay, even if it wasn't just slang, aren't other students who speak a foreign language taught ENGLISH, not the foreign language they already speak? Isn't speaking regular English pretty essential to success in academic performance, college, getting a job and that sort of thing? Maybe I'm confused by the description of the class. Maybe it is essentially a mis-labled English as a second language class. If that's the case I can see the point. But is that the case?

What's worse

than being caught in a hurricane for your entire vacation?


Congratulations to Big George Hincapie

Lance Armstrong is poised to win his 7th Tour de France. Throughout all seven, George Hincapie has been his first lieutenant on the US Postal/Discovery Channel team. In the cycling world it's tough for more than one rider on a team to make a statement in a stage race. Although Hincapie has had some individual glory in some tough races, winning this year's Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne, and placing second at the Paris-Roubaix Classic, we know him best as Lance's strongest domestique. He's an all around rider, like Lance. He climbs well and he can sprint with the best of them (he was fourth in the Tour prologue). But yesterday Big George (at 6'3" he a monster for a cyclist) made a hell of a statement by winning the most difficult stage of the entire Tour. Hincapie joined an early breakaway in the 127 mile 15th stage through the Pyrenees. He sat at the back of the breakaway waiting for Lance to join him but when the Breakaway had an 18 minute lead on Lance and the rest of the Pelaton, George was given the go-ahead from his team officials to race for himself. He pulled away with only Spanish climber Oscar Pereiro of Phonak. With 300 meters to go, the race was all Hincapie. Pereiro can climb, but Hincapie can climb AND sprint. He's a class act and he deserves the win as much as he deserves the podium girl (the babes that present stage winners with their flowers and with kisses on the cheek) that he married.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Michael Crowley on L. Ron Hubbard

in The Slate.

I know a fair amount about Scientology. I did not, however, know this:

In the mid-1940s, he fell in with John Parsons, a wealthy and brilliant young rocket scientist in California, who also happened to be under the tutelage of the infamous satanist Aleister Crowley (no relation to yours truly, thankfully). According to Russell Miller's damning biography of Hubbard, Bare-Faced Messiah, Parsons was a science-fiction fan who briefly hosted Hubbard at his Pasadena, Calif., mansion, which featured a domed backyard temple and a rotating cast of occultists and eccentrics. Parsons described Hubbard as his "magical partner," and together the men engaged in a rite in which Parsons tried to impregnate with an antichrist child a woman he considered the whore of Babylon, a goal that Crowley had long promoted. With Rachmaninoff's "Isle of the Dead" playing in the background, Hubbard allegedly chanted spells over the copulating couple, according to Miller and others. (Ultimately Hubbard would steal Parsons' girlfriend and allegedly bilk him in a Miami yacht venture.) Years later, when Hubbard had grown famous and realized the antichrist episode didn't comport with his image as a man of culture and wisdom, he would reportedly claim to have been working on an undercover mission for U.S. Naval Intelligence to investigate black magic.

or this:

A week later he was dead. Scientology attorneys arrived to recover his body, which they sought to have cremated immediately. They were blocked by a county coroner, who, according to Scientology critics, did an autopsy that revealed high levels of a psychiatric drug (Vistaril). That would seem like an embarrassment given the church's hostility to such medications (witness Tom Cruise's recent feud with Brooke Shields), but it didn't stop the church from summoning thousands of followers to the Hollywood Palladium days after Hubbard's death.

News item the San Diego Tourist Bureau should ignore


SAN DIEGO -- Drinking toilet water out of your faucet is an idea that is getting closer to reality for people living in the city of San Diego.

The $210 million plan to recycle sewage water is now on the desk of the City Council's Natural Resources Committee. The proposal calls for highly treated wastewater to be piped to the San Vicente Reservoir, where it will mix with raw river water.

The mixed water will eventually be distributed to faucets citywide. The plan is the only one of its kind in California.

Harry Potter Musings

Yes, I bought the book this weekend, and I would be finished had a I not suffered an enormous computer disaster yesterday. As it is I have 150 pages left, which is good, because it ensures that I won't give anything away. I'll have a full "50 Book Challenge" review later.

1. This book is much better than the last one. Whiny Harry is no more.

2. Either this book includes topical allegory to the war in Iraq, or I have just been trained to read everything as an allegory to the war in Iraq.

3. This book is very fast paced. You will fly through it. It seems to consist mainly of exposition setting up the seventh and final book. So far it has been all set up with little payoff. Everything is still a mystery.

4. Ron and Hermione have replaced whiny Harry. There is too much "Moonlighting" crap going on here.

5. This book is largely a history lesson on Voldemort.

6. The overarching lesson of the last book was that the government can and will abuse it's power with almost any justification. This book continues this theme with the new Minister of Magic. It also deals with the perils of becoming obsessed with a single solitary issue at the expense of other important goings on.

7. I don't know who dies yet, so I can't give it away, but I'm pretty sure I know who will die.

8. This book is also better than the last two because it is more concise. Rowling doesn't hang on every detail. She moves from important point (or red herring) to important point.

9. I received a "Harry Potter Band" (like the Lance Band, but green) with my purchase. They were, lamentably, out of Harry Potter glasses which were distributed to the kids at the midnight release party. Can we end the band thing now? I know that many of them are for a good cause, but it's getting a little out of hand. The Cubs even have one.

10. On the train today about half of the riders had the book.

Thanks to the Badger Blog Alliance

and The Wigderson Library and Pub for the links. The BBA has me listed as a "Red State Blog." Interesting. I'd say that compared to the almost every contributor to the BBA that I certainly belong in the "Purple" camp (as I am on the WisOpinions list) if not the Blue camp, but a link is a link. Besides, all you have to do to find out where I stand politically is to read the blog for 30 seconds.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Fun Friday, Part 2

What can I say, I'm a sucker for lists.

Nerdy Joke of the Day

From David Tufte, Here.

Africans understand the problems of Africans. Rock stars do not.

There is an excellent column in today's NYT by Jean-Claude Shanda Tonme, consultant on international law and a columnist for Le Messager, a Cameroonian daily. You should read the whole thing, but here's a clip:

Don't the organizers of the concerts realize that Africa lives under the oppression of rulers like Yoweri Museveni (who just eliminated term limits in Uganda so he can be president indefinitely) and Omar Bongo (who has become immensely rich in his three decades of running Gabon)? Don't they know what is happening in Cameroon, Chad, Togo and the Central African Republic? Don't they understand that fighting poverty is fruitless if dictatorships remain in place?

Even more puzzling is why Youssou N'Dour and other Africans participated in this charade. Like us, they can't help but know that Africa's real problem is the lack of freedom of expression, the usurpation of power, the brutal oppression.

Neither debt relief nor huge amounts of food aid nor an invasion of experts will change anything. Those will merely prop up the continent's dictators. It's up to each nation to liberate itself and to help itself. When there is a problem in the United States, in Britain, in France, the citizens vote to change their leaders. And those times when it wasn't possible to freely vote to change those leaders, the people revolted.

In Africa, our leaders have led us into misery, and we need to rid ourselves of these cancers. We would have preferred for the musicians in Philadelphia and London to have marched and sung for political revolution. Instead, they mourned a corpse while forgetting to denounce the murderer.

(Hat tip, MDS)

Chris v. Ebert

Seeing any movies this weekend? Here's L&N Liner Chris's reviews of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Wedding Crashers.

For a different perspective (especially on Wedding Crashers) check out Roger Ebert here and here.

Negative Ghost-Rider, the pattern is full.

An F-18 buzzed my office yesterday. Actually, they were flying by all day and it was awesome. The Blue Angels are in town for an air show on the lake front and have been flying through the city. It's amazing how fast and how close to the buildings they are flying.

Fun Friday, Part 1

A former star of the "The Dukes of Hazzard" TV show is urging fans to skip the forthcoming movie version, calling it "a sleazy insult."

Ben Jones, a former Georgia congressman who played the wisecracking mechanic Cooter on the popular series from 1979 to 1985, said profanity and sexual content in the film make a mockery of the family-friendly show.

"Basically, they trashed our show," said Jones, who read a script of the Warner Brothers movie, which is scheduled to be released next month. "It's one thing to do whatever movie they want to do, but to take a classic family show and do that is like taking 'I Love Lucy' and making her a crackhead or something."

That's from Reason's Jesse Walker, who immediately follows this quote with:

Strong words for a guy called Cooter.

I, for one, am saddened that I have never lived in a district represented by Congressman Cooter.

Rehnquist will not retire.

He says that he will serve "as long as his health permits." My new prediction is that he will die in office before he retires.

But what about prayer for faraway monkeys?

Cool science news, from The Slate.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Labor Policy: Put your kids to work!

What prompted all of this discussion of labor policy all of a sudden? I received two e-mails over lunch asking my opinion of a certain labor policy. MDS referred me to this blog post about "sweat shops at sea:"

Take a used cruise ship, fill it with programmers, and park it three miles off the US coast so that it is no longer subject to US laws and regulations (like OSHA rules, overtime pay, etc). Pay the programmers less than $22,000 a year and make then work 10 hours a day. And then say that since the ship is so close to America, that it's really a way of keeping American jobs at home.

It sounds to me more like indentured servitude than a decent job opportunity.

  • Although the article says that each programmer will have their own room, what about spouses or children? I suspect they won't be welcome.
  • They say that the pay is $1,800 a month, they don't mention whether the employees will have to pay for things like laundry service, medical care, entertainment, or other amenities -- it could well be that most of their cash will go right back to the employer.
  • The article mentions 'shore leave' for employees, but how often, and how much leave? And what happens if an employee decides to quit, or has a family emergency, or has some other reason for needing to get off the boat?

The telling comment, it seems, is this one: "The pay is about three times what they earn in India today." That will make those jobs highly desirable to Indians if not Americans. And with the ship parked so close to the US/Mexico border, it doesn't take much imagination to cook up a scenario where you import a boatload of programmers through Mexico, put them on the ship in international waters, and bingo, you have a totally unregulated sweatshop where the inhabitants cannot get away without permission unless they're willing to risk a three-mile ocean swim.

It's a situation bursting with the potential for abuse.

I have absolutely no problem with this plan, other than the fact that it probably won't work. First of all, if you are engaging in the act of computer programming, you are not in a sweat shop. Secondly, as the economist in me always says, if someone can do something cheaper than you can, let them do it. Find something more useful for yourself. However, while I applaud this company's creativity, and their skirting of the law, I just don't think it's practical. They say themselves:

The pay is about three times what they earn in India today.

So how exactly are the planning to keep their prices competitive if they're paying such high wages? What would prevent an Indian company from simply undercutting them?

Professor Drezner has similar reservations, and makes a few additional points:

There are a lot of things that don't make sense to me about this business model:

1) How can they pay three times the Indian wage but maintain similar pricing levels?

2) How are cultural differences eliminated by moving developing country programmers from their country of origin to a ship three miles off the U.S.?

3) Is evading U.S. regulatory strictures (payroll taxes, health insurance, labor standards) the only thing that makes this venture even close to profitable? If so, what does that say about U.S. regulations?

Indeed. I was already in the labor mind set today because Virginia Postrel has an excellent column in the NYT today on the subject of child labor, in which she states the following:

WHEN Americans think about child labor in poor countries, they rarely picture girls fetching water or boys tending livestock. Yet most of the 211 million children, ages 5 to 14, who work worldwide are not in factories. They are working in agriculture - from 92 percent in Vietnam to 63 percent in Guatemala - and most are not paid directly.

"Contrary to popular perception in high-income countries, most working children are employed by their parents rather than in manufacturing establishments or other forms of wage employment," two Dartmouth economists, Eric V. Edmonds and Nina Pavcnik, wrote in "Child Labor in the Global Economy," published in the Winter 2005 Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Most people who are offended by sweat shops don't properly consider the alternatives. They simply wish to close down the offending plant, or force it to offer higher wages and better conditions (of course if the plant does this the incentive to operate in an impoverished area disappears, leaving the surrounding population unemployed). How do you alleviate child labor then?

In a paper published in the Winter 2005 Journal of Human Resources, "Does Child Labor Decline With Improving Economic Status?," Professor Edmonds found that child labor dropped by nearly 30 percent over this five-year period. Rising incomes explain about 60 percent of that shift.

The effects were greatest for families escaping poverty. For those who crossed the official poverty line, earning enough to pay for adequate food and basic necessities, higher incomes accounted for 80 percent of the drop in child labor. In 1993, 58 percent of the population fell below the poverty line, compared with 33 percent five years later.

"Child labor does not appear to vary with per capita expenditure until households can meet their food needs, and it then declines dramatically," Professor Edmonds wrote. (His articles may be downloaded at

As usual, economic growth is the key to alleviating a symptom of poverty. But encouraging policies to stimulate economic growth is just one of Postrel's suggestions. Read the whole thing to find out the rest.

It is unfortunate that there are so many places where children must toil in horrible conditions, but the alternative generally consists of toiling in a different set of horrible conditions.

Finally, Don Boudreaux at Cafe Hayek offers his thoughts on Postrel's column, and his co-blogger Russ Roberts makes as an interesting point about Wal-Mart:

There's a simple way to look at it. Wal-Mart doesn't offer health insurance or pay more than they do because they've found that they can attract enough workers with the pay package they currently offer. Period. For other companies, they have to offer health benefits to attract workers. They reason they offer health insurance isn't because they're socially responsible or kind or altruistic. They find that to compete for workers they have to offer it.

Paradoxically, Wal-Mart doesn't determine what it pays its workers or what benefits it offers any more than you can set the price of your house when you want to sell it. Suppose houses of similar quality and location sell for $500,000. You're free to set any price you want, but if you set a price of $1,000,000, you're going to wait a long time for a buyer. Oh, you might get a slight premium above $500,000 because you did such a nice job renovating your kitchen. Or maybe a little less if your taste in kitchen's is real different from most people's. You don't set the price of your house.

Update: That reminds me of this Simpsons episode, featuring this quote:

See that ship over there? They’re re-broadcasting Major League Baseball with implied oral consent, not express written consent—or so the legend goes.
-Homer Simpson

The Coyote tries to get a liquor license...


My Soon-To-Be Federally Protected Hobby

Congress is trying to outlaw internet gambling, which sucks, but every cloud has a silver lining. All three versions of the bill contain this language:

S. 627, 108th Cong. s. 5361(1)(E)(viii) (2003): "any participation in a simulation sports game, an educational game, or a contest, that (I) is not dependent solely on the outcome of any single sporting event or nonparticipant's singular individual performance in any single sporting event; (II) has an outcome that reflects the relative knowledge of the participants, or their skill at physical reaction or physical manipulation (but not chance), and, in the case of a simulation sports game, has an outcome that is determined predominantly by accumulated statistical results of sporting events; and (III) offers a prize or award to a participant that is established in advance of the game or contest and is not determined by the number of participants or the amount of any fees paid by those participants."

That's right. If one of the three bills in Congress right now passes, at least Fantasy Football (and other fantasy sports, but really, who cares about those) will be excluded from the definition of gambling as a matter of Federal Law.

Big tip of the cap to Christine Hurt, who laments her status as a FF widow. My condolences. I'm married to one, so I can relate.

Stewart v. Goldberg

Bernard Goldberg was on the Daily Show last night promoting his new book, 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America. You can watch the video at Crooks and Liars. It's pretty amusing.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The NHL is back.

More here and here.

Best Drudge Headline Ever.


Soccer in Milwaukee

Investors in Milwaukee are making a push to bring professional soccer to the city. Well, more professional soccer anyway.

A prominent Milwaukee sports attorney is heading a group seeking to build a 20,000-seat soccer-specific stadium downtown and secure a Major League Soccer franchise. Marty Greenberg, a well known attorney who also is chairman of the State Fair Park Board, said Thursday that the proposed stadium would be part of a mixed-use development that would include retail and housing. Greenberg said the privately-financed development could cost anywhere from $300 million to $500 million.

Greenberg said he had met with Major League Soccer officials about bringing a franchise to Milwaukee. Simon Borg, an MLS spokesman, said he could not confirm that top MLS officials had met with Greenberg, but added that Milwaukee was a market in which the league was interested.

I think an MLS team would compliment Milwaukee pretty nicely. Milwaukee is a very soccer-friendly city by American standards and a stadium that size would be a nice addition to down town. The Wave does very well for an in door team in both attendance and winning championships. If an MLS team were marketed correctly, I think people would go. I sure would.

Frum taken out of context by Adler.

A few days ago I linked to this article in The New Republic by Ben Adler in which he asked some high profile conservatives what they though of evolution. He quoted David Frum as making this fairly odd statement:

How evolution should be taught in public schools: "I don't believe that anything that offends nine-tenths of the American public should be taught in public schools. ... Christianity is the faith of nine-tenths of the American public. ... I don't believe that public schools should embark on teaching anything that offends Christian principle."

Frum claims that this quote is very out of context in his blog at the NRO:

Then he asked me about whether I thought evolution should be taught in public schools. Here's the answer that he quotes in his survey:

"How evolution should be taught in public schools: 'I don't believe that anything that offends nine-tenths of the American public should be taught in public schools. ... Christianity is the faith of nine-tenths of the American public. ... I don't believe that public schools should embark on teaching anything that offends Christian principle.'"

Two ellipses in three sentences should stand as a warning to the reader that there's funny business going on here. Those are my words all right - but they are not words given in answer to the question in italics. They are answers to questions posed later in the interview, when Adler embarked on a very argumentative and tendentious line of queries about who should decide what gets taught.

I have no idea what proportion of Americans object to the teaching of evolution, but I very much doubt that it's 90% or even 50%. I was responding rather to a question about who should decide on public school curricula: parents or professionals. My sympathies are ever and always with the parents, in the full knowledge of how wrongheaded parents can be. At the same time, as I didn't go on to say, because I was losing patience with the argumentative Adler, I think that one of the great advantages of a system of private higher education is that it enables universities through their admissions criteria to influence the choices that parents make. I'm all for scientific education - achieved via market choice and democratic decision.

Religion and Hucksterism

The Raving Atheist links to an article from the Slate discussing the shift that many noted skeptics are making from pursuing television fortune tellers, psychics and other snake oil sellers to targeting mainstream fundamentalist politicians and their policies. The article notes that with this, they must also shift they're strategy from "debunking" to a more positive defense of science and reason. TRA fails to see the difference:

"The shift in targets is a good development, but I fail to see the distinction between the 'scientific' and 'debunking' strategies. Both employ science to demonstrate that a belief is false. And I think the Slate piece overstates the subtlety of religion. Most of it is pretty silly stuff: virgin births, men rising from the dead, elephant-headed deities. And rarely is any of it offered with even the pretence of proof, or an explanation of how the belief in some dopey dogma dictates a particular moral rule. Gays shouldn't marry because crackers and wine turn into flesh and blood when you eat them? Huh? What?"

I tend to agree with TRA that religion is no less ridiculous than spoon bending or fortune telling but I think the change in strategy is good. However, I think the crucial difference between conventional hucksters and religious leaders is that the latter actually believe what they are saying and that is a dangerous distinction. Uri Gellar knew it was a trick. Dion Warwick's psychic friends know that they can't really predict the future. Even Benny Hinn and other money grubbing TV evangelists know they can't really cure cancer by hitting someone with a coat and are just out to steal money. It's easy to just point out the strings or pull back the Wizard's curtain in these cases. But proponents of religion actually believe the things they say. They are convinced that reason is not always the best way to make decisions and when a person believes that, it is very difficult to change their mind using pure reason. You have to start with proposition that reason and science ARE the best tools for making decisions and constructing a world view. You will never get Pat Robertson or John Ashcroft or any other fundamentalist politician to say "you got me. It was all a lie." just by proving their beliefs to be illogical. First you have to convince them that they shouldn't believe in things that are illogical.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Dictated by the stupid.

Because some of you are morons I can no longer talk on my cell phone while driving. Well, that's not entirely true. If you're reading this it is exceedingly likely that you are not a moron, and I can in fact still talk on my cell with a hands free device. Except putting the hands free device on is a pain, and highly distracting and dangerous, so I refuse to do so unless I know in advance that I will be talking for a long time. However, I am not a moron, so if I do plan on speaking for an extended period of time I try to arrange for the conversation to occur while I am stationary. Therefore, I only make short, informational calls in the car (or answer them). In general, I say things like this:

1. Sorry hon, traffic is terrible.

2. Sure, I can pick that up.

3. Yeah, let's go there. That is a good price for Boddington's.

4. Pepperoni.

5. I'll be there before the previews start.

6. I can't talk right now, I'm driving.

Now I face a fifty dollar fine plus the real possibility that I will smart off to one of Chicago's finest, all because a bunch of you suck at driving.

To reiterate, I am perfectly capable of driving while talking on the phone. Really it's no different than talking to the person next to me. Moreover, for most of my commute my car is not actually moving. I suppose in those instances I'm not even technically breaking the law if I make a call, as that cannot be considered driving in any serious way. No no, I have nothing to do with this ban. Like most bans, it is all your fault.

So shape up. I'm getting sick of all of these bans. I don't want to be a criminal (although I suppose it makes me cooler than I otherwise would be), but I will be one if I must.

I've seen you around town, walking too fast on wet floors, sticking your hand in the Hippo pen at the zoo, sticking your head out of the L because you smell a musty tunnelly smell up ahead and want to know where it's coming from, and staring open-mouthed at the flock of pigeons overhead. And I know that you don't wash your hands when you come out of the restroom. You may run the water like Costanza, but your hands haven't touched water since this morning (if we're lucky).

You are the ones who should not be talking on a cell phone while driving. Don't lump me in with those people.

You know who you are.

Stuff I don't have time to get to.

I've been so busy at work that I barely had time to read anything today.

I only skimmed this Marginal Revolution post about how Southerners can use their hick speech to be more polite than Northerners like me, who are forced to say rude things like at the beginning of this sentence.

I merely glanced at this post by Chris at the L&N Line about the end of the supposed "box office slump."

And I didn't even read this post by Dan Drezner on offshoring. Not one word. Especially these words, quoting Suketu Mehta:

The rich countries can't have it both ways. They can't provide huge subsidies for their agricultural conglomerates and complain when Indians who can't make a living on their farms then go to the cities and study computers and take away their jobs. Why are Indians willing to write code for a tenth of what Americans make for the same work? It's not by choice; it's because they're still struggling to stand on their feet after 200 years of colonial rule. The day will soon come when Indian companies will find that it's cheaper to hire computer programmers in Sri Lanka, and then it's there that the Indian jobs will go.
Maybe I'll have something later.

Abreu! Abreu!

That was like the Neverending Home Run Derby last night. I think it may still be going on. It's too bad that The Nothing got Jason Bay though.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Stop by...

TheWisconsinSportsBar sometime. I'll be chipping in a post now and then.

Why does evolution have such a rough time

even though it's one of the most thoroughly researched and repeatedly validated scientific theories out there? Dennis Trumble thinks that people find creationism comforting:

Although this perpetual pattern of natal indoctrination and communal reassurance does not begin to encompass the full psychosocial breadth of this phenomenon-especially where adult converts are concerned-it does go a long way toward explaining the inordinate longevity of creationist mythology and why so many intelligent, well-educated, and otherwise rational people appear unable to step back and examine certain beliefs with a critical eye. Because creationist beliefs are both deeply rooted and profoundly comforting, it isn't hard to understand why certain people feel compelled to enlist any and all means at their disposal to discredit Darwin's theory. Nor is it difficult to imagine the sense of frustration they must feel when repeatedly told by scientists that their arguments are fundamentally flawed.

(Hat tip, the invaluable ALD.)

Buy Bushwood?!

1. I have a lot to do today so posting will probably be light.

2. Danny is rejoining the EC and we're going to operate from here on out as a family business. Question: What do we do with Bushwood? We can't just throw it away now, can we? It's too good.

3. I'm having major problems with my home computer trying to install DSL, so until I get that fixed, posting might not be quite as frequent. I'm about ready to smash my computer in with a sledge hammer. Every time I manage to resolve some issue a new, much worse issue creeps up. I suppose that's just how it is, but it's quite irritating.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Paul Brewer Reviews The Pixies and Weezer

here. I've been meaning to check out the Martini Lounge too. It sounds intriguing.

And I'm glad that I could be of service.

Rehnquist to retire

At least according to Drudge.

And Stephen Green.

Orin Kerr is urging caution until it is confirmed.

Summerfest Weekend Picks

Tonight, admittedly, isn't the best night. The Wallflowers and Bodeans are really all you've got (still, that's not bad). And there is some good kitsch. Isaac Hayes (Shaft Theme, Chef on South Park), and Whitesnake (Here I go again on my own/Goin' down the only road I've ever known.) could be fun. Both The Donnas and Ingram Hill put on a good show as well.

Tomorrow though, things get good. The legendary .38 Special and the hippy favorite OAR are good options. Collective Soul generally puts on a highly entertaining show. They used to make a habit of playing a few songs of the headliner that night. Because of this I've heard Collective Soul play Evenflow. I have a feeling that they don't know a lot of Tim McGraw though. (Plus they have a surprising number of hits. Shine, Gel, December, Smashing Young Man, Heavy, Run, Where the River Flows, etc.).

Also, while I'm not a fan I believe that Shelby Lynne won and fair number of Grammy's 2 years ago.

And if I can make it on Sunday, I'll be at Better than Ezra (Good, The Reason That I'm Asking, Desperately Wanting, etc.), but Pete Yorn is also quite good (Life on a Chain, Strange Condition).Or go old school with Living Colour. And some American Idol person is playing, if you like that sort of thing. James Taylor headlines with his unique blend of adult contemporary folk rock.

Take advantage, because this is it folks.

My internet is veeerrry slloowwwwwwwww,

so posting will be light. But at least we can grow chicken nuggets in test tubes now.

Fun Friday: Summerfest Bingo

In honor of the last weekend of Summerfest, I've come up with this little game. Just print out the Bingo grid, grab a pen, head down to the lakefront, and start checking off boxes.

Update: Click on the image for the full size game. I've been playing with Blogger's new image function and so far this is the best that I can do.

Krugman, Kling, Krauthammer.

Pauly K on obesity.

Kling on Live8.

Krauthammer on O'Connor.

Fun Friday

Need an alias like a certain Atlanta quarterback? Just type your name into the Ron Mexico Alias Maker and you'll be good to go.

The dreaded Firewall is actually blocking this site today, but I've used it before. Please, call me Rock Congo.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Summerfest Picks

Plenty of choices this evening while you're toasting the Brits four or five times down at the lakefront. The Pixies and Weezer headline together. One of my personal favorites, Death Cab for Cutie, will play a 10:30 show. If hip-hop is your thing, Dilated Peoples will go on at 10:00. People tend to like Kenny Wayne Shepherd. And for some classic 80s rock, check out Night Ranger. I've got to get motoring out of here.

Also, in late breaking news, it looks like the Bucks new coach is Terry Stotts. That sucks.

London Attacked

Update 6 (Note: There is non-London material below):

From CNN:

The claim of responsibility from the group said it had repeatedly warned Britain.

"The mujahedeen heroes have launched a blessed attack in London," the statement said.

"Here is Britain burning now out of fear and horror in its north, south east and west. We have often and repeatedly warned the British government and people."

The statement said the group had carried out the attack after exerting "strenuous efforts ... over a long period of time to guarantee" its success.

"We still warn the governments of Denmark and Italy and all the crusader governments that they will receive the same punishment if they do not withdraw their troops from Iraq and Afghanistan," it said. "We gave the warning, so we should not be blamed."

Update 5:

The NYT is reporting 33 deaths and around 1000 injuries. CNN has more. And the WaPo is reporting that the Terror Alert for US Public Transit has been raised to Orange. I'm glad I drove to work today. For those of you in Chicago, the CTA Tattler is keeping tabs on the state of the L.

Here are some more pics from London. Here's a map of the strikes.

Al-Qa'eda likes to plan attacks on significant dates. At first this looked like it was intended to coincide with the G8 conference, but it is worth noting that the trial of Abu Hamza began on Tuesday. (Hat tip, Instapundit.)

Update 4:

As you would expect, Andrew Sullivan has a lot to say, as does Dan Drezner.

Update 3:

Stephen Karlson has a roundup as well, including the excellent Going Underground's Blog.

My deepest sympathies and best wishes to all of London, and all of England.

Update 2:

Jeff Jarvis links to some photos here, and more here.

More here from Tim Worstall.


Ace Cowboy has a comprehensive round-up of stories. We will also, apparently, have an official casualty report in the next hour, according to Christiane Amanpour.

By now you've heard about this.

Tons more here, here, here and here.

I'll update as more details become available. So far there are at least 2 dead (although this number will almost certainly increase as the day goes on), and hundreds of injuries. A group claiming to be related to Al-Qa'eda has claimed responsibility.

Radley Balko tears apart Morgan Spurlock


The consensus favorite deals with one of Spurlock's backers, ACORN. ACORN fights to raise the minimum wage. Unfortunately...

ACORN is a blatantly hypocritical activist group. For years, ACORN has tried like hell to avoid paying its own members the minimum wage required by law! This, as those same employees were working to raise minimum wages for everyone else.

In fact, ACORN actually went to court to fight for its right to pay wages below the legal minimum. What's more, ACORN made the exact same arguments its opponents make when arguing against higher minimum wages -- namely, that paying higher wages would mean the company would have to make do with fewer employees.

In a suit ACORN filed to exempt itself from California's minimum wage laws, the organization wrote in its brief:

"As acknowledged both by the trial court and California, the more that ACORN must pay each individual outreach worker--either because of minimum wage or overtime requirements--the fewer outreach workers it will be able to hire."
Straight from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce talking points! ACORN also has a history of union-busting, ducking overtime requirements, cutting late paychecks, and general anti-labor practices. In 2003, the National Labor Relations Board made the following findings about the organization:
- ACORN pays its field members $18,000 per year.
-• Field members typically work 54+ hours per week.
-• Field members are rarely given weekends off.
-• Field members are expected to canvas neighborhoods alone, sometimes at night.
-• ACORN is frequently tardy with member paychecks.
The whole thing is great.

Michael Redd to Remain a Buck

(Sigh of relief)

Details here.

Abrahamson for Supreme Court?

Tradesports, the site that lets you wager (actually it's a futures market) on anything and everything, has added the Chief Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Shirley Abrahamson.

(Hat tip, Todd Zywicki.)

Conservatives and Evolution.

Ben Adler (The New Republic) was wondering which prominent conservatives believe in evolution, so he asked them. When I read this I was surprised by how unsurprised I was with their answers. I tried to predict their answers in advance and I was very good. For instance, Dr. Charles Krauthammer you would expect to believe in evolution, and indeed:

Charles Krauthammer, The Washington Post

Whether he personally believes in evolution: "Of course."

What he thinks of intelligent design: "At most, interesting."

Whether intelligent design should be taught in public schools: "The idea that [intelligent design] should be taught as a competing theory to evolution is ridiculous. ... The entire structure of modern biology, and every branch of it [is] built around evolution and to teach anything but evolution would be a tremendous disservice to scientific education. If you wanna have one lecture at the end of your year on evolutionary biology, on intelligent design as a way to understand evolution, that's fine. But the idea that there are these two competing scientific schools is ridiculous."

Grover Norquist, on the other hand:

Grover Norquist, Americans for Tax Reform

Whether he personally believes in evolution: "I've never understood how an eye evolves."

What he thinks of intelligent design: "Put me down for the intelligent design people."

How evolution should be taught in public schools: "The real problem here is that you shouldn't have government-run schools. ... Given that we have to spend all our time crushing the capital gains tax I don't have much time for this issue."

Actually, most of the conservatives asked do believe in evolution, although a few are wishy-washy about it (Like Tucker Carlson. I'm not even sure what he believes).

Read the whole thing.


MDS has more, as does Ed Brayton.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Summerfest picks of the night.

You can't go wrong tonight. The Violent Femmes, Local H, Umphrey's McGee, The String Cheese Incident, and of course, Eddie Money are all quality performers.

An excellent blog about Milwaukee,

and summer in Milwaukee can be found here.

More from Christine Hurt:

The topic of the web conference was a new blog called Play in the City, authored by Erin Leffelman. The Milwaukee tourism people wanted to harness the power of blogs, which the PR guy called "consumer-generated journalism," to communicate someone's personal experiences with Milwaukee's outdoor recreation amenities. (Did you know that Milwaukee is rated #1 in the country by Rand McNally in terms of green space? Did you know that Milwaukee has 15,000 acres of recreational space?) The overarching goal is to achieve a huge perception change in how non-Wisconsonians view Milwaukee.

I think the blog is great, and I wish that it had existed two years ago, when I thought we were moving to Laverne & Shirley-land. I never would have guessed that Milwaukee was such a gorgeous place to live, with many more recreational opportunities than the Western frontier in which I lived.


Good show, stupid politics.

Let's focus on the stupid politics. Mahalanobis has an excellent fisking of the Live8 Trade View:

Ah, autarky, the true Garden of Eden. If only Africa had less foreign investment, fewer imports, less private industry, boy, then growth would really hit a Rostowian take off. These guys clearly do not realize that Africa is not one of the more competitive continents, and the government is hardly constrained by competing businesses. They allow big business to the extent they can generate taxes and bribes, and look where this has gotten them. One of the more Western countries is South Africa,and ... no, wait, South Africa has one of the highest GDP per capital in the sub-Sahara.. The problem of Africa is not too many Bechtels and Starbucks, but too few.

and Mark Steyn, in the Telegraph, makes an excellent point:

Africa is a hard place to help. I had a letter from a reader the other day who works with a small Canadian charity in West Africa. They bought a 14-year-old SUV for 1,500 Canadian dollars to ferry food and supplies to the school they run in a rural village. Customs officials are demanding a payment of $8,000 before they'll release it.

There are thousands of incidents like that all over Africa every day of the week. Yet, throughout the weekend's events, Dave Gilmour and Co were too busy Rocking Against Bush to spare a few moments to Boogie Against Bureaucracy or Caterwaul Against Corruption or Ululate Against Usurpation. Instead, Madonna urged the people to "start a revolution". Like Africa hasn't had enough of those these past 40 years?

It was still a good show though.


I'm glad that my friend Brian joined the Blogosphere because people used to occasionally accuse me of being a conservative, and now, if that ever happens again, I can just send them over to Brian's blog and they can read the writings of an actual conservative.

Sandra Day O'Connor was not a friend of the religious right for obvious reasons, but Brian (and conservatives in general, including Justice Scalia) go too far in calling her stupid.

I think that the liberal and conservative paradigm for explaining behavior with which they disagree is to impugn their motivations. You hear "evil" and "stupid" and my favorite, "partisan." O'Connor was a wishy-washy judge, that much is true, but in this regard she wasn't any worse than seven of the other eight Justices on the court. Most people (and most Supreme Court Justices) are fairly predictable. If you give them power, they will exercise that power. Eight of the nine Justices are simply adhering to human nature. They act in ways that reflect their political preferences because they can. Four of the justices I would classify as staunch liberals (with Breyer as the most moderate), and their votes reflect their liberal leanings. Two I would classify as moderate conservatives (Kennedy and O'Connor) and they go back and forth. Scalia and Rehnquist are staunch conservatives, and tend to vote as you would expect. Only Thomas, also a staunch conservative, has a principled approach to Constitutional interpretation.

The big difference with O'Connor is that she wielded (and was willing to wield) a disproportionate amount of power due to her moderate nature, and due to the fact that she was often the deciding vote. This article by William Stuntz (who clerked for Justice Powell) says it pretty well:

One more similarity is worth noting, and it's one that should give pause in the midst of all the praise. If Powell and O'Connor had a single defining characteristic as judges, it was this: Both were very comfortable--too much so--exercising power.

I don't think they started out that way. I clerked for Powell his next-to-last year on the Court, and I remember listening to him talk about his early days as a justice. He was terrified. He thought he didn't know enough, wasn't smart enough, wasn't nearly wise enough to do the job. It shows in his early opinions, where he regularly writes of the need to defer to other institutions, and ultimately to the voters. I don't know Justice O'Connor, so I can't swear that she felt in 1981 the way Powell felt in 1972. But I bet she did. As with Powell, you can see it in her opinions in the early 1980s: the tentativeness, the discomfort with hurling judicial thunderbolts.

But that sensibility didn't last, for either of them. Before long, Powell was deciding national policy on affirmative action, abortion, and the death penalty--and loving it. O'Connor's has been the decisive voice on all those subjects, plus federalism and much of the law of criminal procedure. In Bush v. Gore, she came close to deciding a presidential election, as bold an exercise of judicial power as anything in the last half-century. For all the talk about O'Connor's lawyerly virtues--people said the same thing about Powell--Bush v. Gore shows that (as my Harvard Law School colleague Heather Gerken likes to say) she is more politician than lawyer.

Most people, when placed in O'Connor's position, would act in a similar fashion. That does not make them stupid, on the contrary, it makes them normal. The temptation to exercise power on the Court has only increased in the last twenty years. With every decision that is made because of political concerns instead of Constitutional considerations it becomes increasingly attractive for those that remain principled to give in and "fight back." I believe that partisan bickering finally led Justice Scalia to give up on his originalist/textualist ways (unless it is convenient) to join the policy fight.

I would offer a suggestion for a replacement for O'Connor, but no one that I would recommend has a realistic chance. In all likelihood we will end up with another politician who views the Court as the third, and most powerful, branch of the legislature.

Which leads us to Roe. The abortion debate garners strong feelings on each side (not much logic, but strong feelings). The single worst thing that Roe did was to take an extremely contentious issue, and to lock it in as an exclusively judicial issue. When that happened the court ceased to be a principled, independent body, and joined the realm of "politics-as-usual." From that point on the executive branch no longer appointed judges, they appointed abortion policy representatives. Every time we have a confirmation hearing, some Senator always asks, "Would you uphold a woman's right to chose." That is an improper question and everyone knows it, yet someone always asks. That question has no bearing on someone's competence to be a judge, and until Senators stop asking the question, the Supreme Court will continue on as a twisted mutation of what it is supposed to be.

The independent judiciary is all but dead.

Admiral James Stockdale has died.

Remember him? He was Ross Perot's running mate, and the butt of a classic Phil Hartman SNL sketch, but he was also a POW in the Vietnam War who went through an incredible torment to spare his fellow soldiers from similar torments.

Read more here.

Details on the world's least fun board game

can be found here. The game in question is called “Class Struggle: Game of Life in Capitalist America.” A few examples of "Chance" cards for the "Workers" of the game:

Workers finally understand that with America’s wealth and democratic traditions, socialism here will be different than what exists in Russia and China. A biggie – worth 5 assets.

Together with your fellow workers, you have occupied your factory and locked your boss in the toilet. Capitalists miss 2 turns at the dice.

Read the whole thing, and start placing your bids on E-Bay (Heh).

(Hat tip, David Tufte)


Check out this little eye teaser.

How does your foot taste, Jacques?

London has been awarded the 2012 Olympic Games, edging NYC, Madrid, Moscow, and the favorite, Paris. You probably heard Jacques Chirac's quote about how Mad Cow Disease was Britain's sole contribution to European agriculture. What you may not have heard was that he also said:

Only Finland has worse food in Europe.

While everyone expects the French to rip the Brits, and vice versa, this insult of Finnish cooking may ultimately have cost France the Olympic Games. There are two Finnish members of the IOC, Peter Tallberg and Jari Kurri. If the vote was as close as expected, Jacques' big mouth may have had a large impact.

Normally I wouldn't think that this kind of thing mattered very much, but I'm shocked that Paris lost the bid. I thought that they were a shoe-in. Everything I read had them as huge favorites. Congratulations to London.


From Dan Drezner:
London's Sun noted that although British and French International Olympic Committee members are banned from voting, two Finnish IOC members will be voting, and their ballots could be crucial.

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