The Electric Commentary

Friday, June 30, 2006

Huge doping news in the world of sport

This year's Tour de France was destined to be unpredictable with the retirement of Lance Armstrong. The tour, which starts tomorrow, just got even more unpredictable. All of the experts were saying that the odds were in favor of either recent Giro d'Italia winner Ivan Basso of Italy or Armstrong's chief rival and 1997 Tour winner Jan Ulrich of Germany. Both Basso and Ulrich have been suspended after being named in a huge doping investigation in Spain. Forty-eight other riders were named as well.

This certainly makes it more likely that the yellow jersey might stay in American hands.

Update: This headline is hilarious.

Fun Friday, Part 3

Happy 4th.

Fun Friday, Part 2

Via Ace:

"[Timberwolves center Eddie] Griffin told the Pioneer Press a day after the accident that he crashed his car because he was reaching for a cell phone that had fallen off his lap. The complaint, filed in St. Paul District Court, alleges the crash occurred because he was 'under the influence of alcohol' and masturbating while watching pornography on a TV set in his dashboard."

Sunny Day, Keepin' The Clouds Away

Sitting in the sun for 3 hours makes you very tired. The series finale was absolutely exhausting, as the Cubs managed to counterpunch over and over, and even when they failed, they failed in spectacular fashion. I feel like Derrek Lee came up to bat with runners on second and third about 14 times in that game. The Brewers managed just enough offense to get to Turnbow (who was called on to end the eighth in a dire situation) and managed to escape with a 5-4 victory to take the series 3-1.

I was in the bleachers on Thursday, where people go to watch other people with some baseball in the background. In the 5th, some White Sox fans (who came to the game because they are unable to properly read a calendar) starting giving Ronnie Woo-Woo a hard time, which led to a fairly large fight. Even at Cubs' games the White Sox are responsible for the bad behavior.

The Cubs are about 200% better with Derrek Lee in the lineup. Even though he didn't have a great day at the plate his presence was constantly disruptive. While he was out there was no one to drive in baserunners. If Todd Walker and Aramis Ramirez got on, there was no one to pick them up. Lee should greatly improve the Cubs for the remainder of the season. This is by no means a great team, but they won't be as bad for the rest of the year.

The Brewers now face a tough stretch in which they will head up to the Metrodome to face the Twins, followed by a home series against the Reds. It's a good thing that they won 3/4.

It was fun going to 4 games in a week, but it was also exhausting. I'm thrilled that this is a long weekend, because I need a serious nap.

More on Flag-burning

I think Scott Adams sums up this issue just about perfectly:

I was delighted to learn that American politicians are trying to make it illegal to burn the American flag. That can only mean that my dedicated public servants have finally solved the problems of crime, drugs, war, poverty, terrorism, healthcare, immigration, and the mystery of why our children are such idiots compared to Norwegians. Evidently those issues are now under control. I was starting to worry that Congress was wasting my tax dollars doing stupid shit.

I heard Senator Frist compare the flag to a national monument. His point was that you wouldn’t want people to deface our one-of-a-kind historical treasures. Therefore we shouldn’t let people burn an American flag that is one of millions churned out every year by Chinese manufacturers. I think that was his best argument. I know it seems dumb when I recount it, but there was something about the robotic way Frist said it that gave me chills.

I consider myself a highly patriotic guy and I understand how people can get worked up over the flag being burned. I love my flag. But symbols are personal things, and everyone is free to interpret them however they see fit. For me, a flag that I’m NOT allowed to burn is a symbol that the government is too intrusive in my life. And it’s an insult to anyone who died to defend freedom. But that’s just me. You might prefer your symbols of freedom to have as many restrictions as possible.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Fun Friday, Part 1

This is Bill Simmons' time to shine.

Here is his NBA draft diary, in all its glory:

7:44 -- Random note: I really enjoy the name "LaMarcus." It's like his mom was sitting there thinking, "I like the name Marcus, but it could use just a little more oomph." If the Sports Gal and I ever have a boy, I'm pushing for LaBill Simmons. That name can't miss. Oh, who am I kidding? I'm destined to only have daughters. I never should have written that "Grading the Wimbledon Babes" column for my old Web site in '99, that's what killed me. Karma is a bitch. Wait, am I thinking out loud again?

Here is the YouTube Hall Of Fame.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

It's Raining In Chicago, 72 Miles South...

While I have had cause to celebrate the Brewers and denigrate the Cubs for the past two days, it is now time to have a good old-fashioned bitch session.

The Brewers appeared poised to take game 3 in this four game series when Billy Hall belted a Bobby Howry breaking ball over the left field fence for a two run HR and a 3-1 lead. The Cubs had self-destructed the previous evening when Ryan Dempster and Ronny Cedeno committed terrible errors, allowing the Crew to steal game two, and after Hall's dinger the team and the crowd seemed dejected. However, it is at this point that Ned Yost made the most common strategic blunder in all of baseball. And at this point, it is necessary to make a small digression.

A few months ago I went to a book signing by some of the Baseball Prospectus guys, including Nate Silver. While I was there, someone asked Nate for his opinion on the most common mistake in baseball. His answer was something like this (Note: From memory):

I think that most managers and most teams have strategy down pretty well at this point, but there is one thing that still really bothers me, and that is the use of closers. I don't really understand the logic behind saving your best reliever specifically for the ninth inning, other than to generate a pitcher with a large number of saves. It creates an infexibilty in the team's strategy, and it creates situations in which bad relievers are forced to pitch in the most important, and often the most nerve-wracking portion of the game.

Teams should, obviously, I think, use their "closer" at any point in which the game appears to be on the line. It is easy to preserve a three-run lead for one inning. It is much more difficult to get a key strikeout in a bases-loaded jam. Conventional stats, and especially saves, contribute to this problem, but I'm surprised that more teams don't see through it.

(Note: He was more eloquent than that.)

Back to the game. The top of the eighth inning featured the Cubs' three best hitters, Todd Walker, Derrek Lee, and Aramis Ramirez. If the Brewers could get through the inning relatively unscathed they would face a relatively weak lineup in the bottom of the ninth including Henry Blanco, Ronny Cedeno, and a pinch hitter (Matt Murton, Neifi Perez, or John Mabry). It made all kinds of sense to bring Derrick Turnbow in for the eighth to handle the meat of the order, but instead, out trotted Dan Kolb. Kolby proceeded to serve up nothing but cheese, giving up a double to Walker, and a scorching HR to Lee on the first pitch. After that, the wheels came off. Turnbow, who was warming up for the ninth, never got in the game as the Cubs did not have to bat in the ninth.

This was far from the only Brewer flaw in this game. Geoff Jenkins dropped an easy fly ball, Chad Moeller grounded into an inning-ending rally-killing bases-loaded double play, and dropped a throw from Jenkins that very well might have gotten a Cub baserunner at home plate. It's actually somewhat surprising that the Crew was as close as they were. (An achievement that should be credited to a stellar outing from Dave Bush, who surrendered only a wind-aided HR to Juan Pierre. He was matched at every turn by good-looking Cub rookie Carlos Marmol.)

The Brewers can still take 3/4, and I fully expect them to, but this was a disappointing loss. These are the ones that haunt you in September.

Finally, I would just like to mention that Chad Moeller is terrible, and that I would rather have Henry Blanco, which is truly saying something.

Ahren agrees, although he is not as diplomatic.

Flag Burning

I would like to file for a motion of summary judgment against Brian in this flag burning amendment discussion. For you non-lawyer types, summary judgment basically means that, even if I concede that everything you say is correct, your conclusion is still wrong. At Brian's blog he tries to make the case for an amendment to the US Constitution that would prohibit flag burning. Here's a sample:

First, contrary to what most Americans assume, current free speech protection has not been a fundamental American right for most of our history. Most people agree that the original intent of the First Amendment free speech protection was freedom from prior restraint. The First Amendment was not presumed to protect people from the consequences of their words. To be fair, there were some who argued for a more expansive understanding of free speech even in the founding era, but even they would be shocked at the types and scope of speech we allow today.

First of all, this basic premise is false as even Brian concedes in this phrase:

To be fair, there were some who argued for a more expansive understanding of free speech even in the founding era,

But even if we concede that the intent of the First Amendment is to prevent governmental "prior restraint" (and indeed, this is a large part of it), that just makes my point (which is that a flag burning amendment is horrible, terrible, flies in the face of what makes America great, and does far more damage to the Constitution both aesthetically and functionally than fire does to a flag). A flag burning amendment is, after all, prior restraint. No extra-Constitutional jurisprudence would be necessary to invalidate such a law, and I suspect that the founding fathers would frown on any such attempt to do so.

Brian goes on to say:

Second, though I'll just mention it here, there is at least an argument accepted by some members of the Court that flag burning is not constitutional speech. For not every politically connected action is or should be constitutionally protected (like burning crosses in the yards of civil rights pioneers with the intent to intimidate or as some believe, giving unlimited monetary contributions to political candidates of your choice).

This argument boils down to semantics, but I think it is fairly obvious that flag burning is speech. Try this syllogism:

1. If I want to greet you, I will wave.

2. A wave is clearly speech. It communicates the message of "hi" through nonverbal communication.

3. A wave would never be construed as meaning "I want to fan you," which is an action potentially associated with a wave.

4. If a wave meant "I want to fan you," it may exit the realm of speech and enter the realm of conduct. Like punching someone in the face, for instance.

5. In order for flag burning to be considered conduct, and not speech, I assert that one of the following possibilities would have to be true:

a. I wish to use this flag to start a larger fire.
b. I am cold. Perhaps this can make heat.
c. I want to get high off of these flag fumes.
d. Someone else owns this flag. I don't like him/his flag.

However, most flag burners are communicating the following message:

a. I am unhappy with the policies of the United States.

This message has little to do with the actual combustion of a flag. It is clearly showing displeasure for the government that the flag represents. Occasionally, this message is even useful, as with the Vietnam War. However you feel about Vietnam, it was certainly legitimate to criticize the government for that action, and flag burning sent a very clear and very powerful message.

I must take the next paragraph sentence by sentence. I agree with most of it.

Third, the argument above seems to fall into the slippery slope fallacy. That is, if we set aside some speech that has been protected and no longer protect it, we will begin to lose the whole First Amendment.

Even if there is no slippery slope here (and I fear a slippery slope of resorting to Constitutional amendments for piddly issues), this is factually a weakening of the First Amendment. That fact, in and of itself, should be enough to subject the flag burning amendment to a great deal of scrutiny.

I think this just plain wrong. My sense is that Americans of all stripes are more committed to the ideal of free political speech than we ever have been.

I agree. It is precisely the reason that this amendment flies in the face of not only the ideals of the founders, but of the ideals of most people.

Sure we have debates over campaign finance reform and university speech codes, but we all generally agree on the value of free speech. And current debates are nothing compared to the limitations on speech throughout American history. I would ask this--do we really think that an amendment prohibiting anti-war speech is soon to be proposed, passed by Congress, and ratified by the states? I think not.

Except that this is a ban on anti-war speech. This amendment puts the government in the position of prescribing the methods by which one can disagree with the government. That is an evil concept, and the First Amendment exists specifically to prevent such a thing.

Perhaps the most perverse concept that Brian asserts is as follows:

The Constitution is not a sacred or Scriptural document that we should not mess with. It is a supermajoritarian legal document that sets out the basic framework and values we agree upon as a people in large supermajorities. Constitutions have no cosmic or metaphysical essence. There are good Constitutions and bad Constitutions and everything in between.

Brian is correct. The Constitution is nothing of the sort. But neither is the Flag! In fact, if we're deciding which item holds more significance as a symbol of the nation, I cast my vote with the Constitution. If the Constitution is not so important that we may amend it willy-nilly (an idea which Brian defends in this essay), then surely the flag is not so important as to warrant any legislative action at all. If we are treating national symbols with such disrespect, let us treat all of them equally.

I will conclude with this:

Vast majorities of Americans believe strongly in free speech, and find nothing un-American or dangerous about saying that burning the very symbol of our freedom goes too far. Since the Court thought differently, let's display our commitment to country and freedom by amending the Constitution to say so.

I believe that the preceding paragraph can be summed up as follows:

Let us show our commitment to freedom by removing a small portion of it.

I can't believe that I even have to write something like this. It should be self evident by now that this is a ridiculous idea that politicians drag out every election cycle in an attempt to pander to the overly patriotic.

This amendment does not protect the flag at all. It protects the government. They don't need any more protection. They have tanks.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Miller Park South

There was a stiff wind blowing in off the lake yesterday in what was likely to be a pitchers duel. You always get a quality start from Chris Capuano, and while Greg Maddux has struggled lately, windy conditions tend to dampen his mistakes.

Instead, the Brewers pounded four HRs through the stiff breeze en route to a 6-0 shutout win. Prince Fielder hit 2 of the 4, giving him 4 HRs in Wrigley this year, and if my calculations are correct, that is more than any Cub except Jacques Jones. Carlos Lee got the crew off to a good start by hitting a bomb out to left with Jenkins aboard.

Capuano was fantastic as usual. His curve and change-up kept every Cub batter save Neifi Perez off balance for the duration of the evening. Capuano also induced double play grounders from both Derek Lee and Aramis Ramirez.

I was in the cheap seats for this game (the 500 level) and it's actually a great place to sit. Rain was threatening all night, and we were covered, and you can easily see the whole field from way up there. Those Brewer homers are right about at eye level.

Tonight I'll be back to watch rookie Zach Jackson take on Cubs' ace Carlos Zambrano. This is a tough matchup, but Jackson has shown some promise, and you never know when Big Z will suffer a nervous meltdown. This will be the Cubs' best chance to steal a game, and if they blow it, they'll probably implode for the rest of the series.

This should be fun.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

The Week to Come

This week, the Milwaukee Brewers play a four-game series in Wrigley Field against everyone's favorite National League whipping-boy, the Chicago Cubs. I have tickets to every game of the series. This should be fun.

(Note that blogging will either be light or baseball focused. And probably influenced by Old Style.)

Weekend Recap

It's not that my weekend was that interesting, it's just that it lends it self well to an outline-style summary.

1. My team won a beach volleyball match on Chicago's North Ave. Beach, 3-0. Much revelry followed.

2. Went camping at a friends plot of land near the Wisconsin Dells.

3. Drove to said space via I-94 through Milwaukee as opposed to I-90 through Madison on the theory that toll construction on I-90 would slow things way down (there are also 5 tolls on 90 as opposed to only 2 on 94).

3a. Ate lunch at Hot Doug's. It was exquisite.

4. We got to see the this crazy guy's freeway sign, the Mars' Cheese Castle, and of course, this sign.

5. Once camp was set, we drank beer and played this delightful game, whose name shall not be mentioned here. Alas, my team was soundly defeated.

6. We then played some random, equally intoxicated folks at beach volleyball. We were soundly defeated, which actually says more about our drinking skill than our volleyball skills.

It is at this point that our story takes a turn for the worse.

7. I found ticks (note the plural) on me. Some leg hair was lost in the tick-removal process. Fortunately, they were wood ticks and not deer ticks, although deer ticks are tiny and I may not have found them yet.

8. It rained. A lot. For a long period of time.

9. I burned my finger on boiling tree sap. As it was raining, we kept a few logs close to the fire in an attempt to keep them dry/ready to burn, and while this worked, it also resulted in me grabbing a log that was a little too close to the fire, and briefly becoming fused with it.

10. It rained all night.

11. I'm told that I snored. I am not told this solely by people who were in my tent.

12. Upon packing up the gear in the morning, it is discovered that one of our brethren has locked his keys in his car "in his bag." Triple A is called. The locksmith attempts to use the following implements to open the car:

a. What appears to be a door jam.

b. What appears to be a giant paperclip.

At this point, the locksmith was heard to utter the following, somewhat disconcerting phrase:

Hmmm. Interesting.

He then retrieved the following tools from his truck.

a. Two more door jams,

b. An inflatable air bladder. It resembled the device that you use to take your blood pressure.

c. A long, straight wire.

This did the trick, however, it set off the car's alarm system, which would not have been a problem had the keys actually been in the car. The observant among you had, I'm sure, already deduced that they were not actually in the car. A mad scramble ensues among the beeping, and it is (thankfully) quickly discovered that the keys are actually rolled up in a tent. The beeping stops. All is right with the world.

13. We drive home. Upon entering my neighborhood, our progress is impeded by a gaggle of homosexuals. We do, eventually, manage to get back to my apartment. I have a long history of getting screwed by parades, and I get almost no enjoyment out of watching parades, so I find this especially annoying. When I lived on the south side it was always this parade. If you are on the south side and this parade is taking place, you are staying on the south side until it is over. Escape is impossible. Resistance is futile. Now I have the gay pride parade. Oh well.

14. I realize that, despite all of that, the good outweighed the bad, and it was worth it.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Fun Friday: Horrifying Edition

At your own risk...

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Fun Friday, Part 2

I just like that this clip involves Matt Tracker and T-Bob.

Fun Friday, Part 1

Let's hope The Misfits never see this video:

The Utter Predictability of Incompetence.

This column, by Bill Simmons, is one of his better efforts:

"2. Bennett Salvatore -- Always one of the worst, he took it to another level this season. If you see him on the court at the start of the game, get ready for about six technicals, two near-brawls and both coaches having to be restrained by their assistants at various times."

Why is this relevant? Not only did Salvatore officiate Game 4 of the Suns-Lakers series (the one where Kobe tied it at the end of regulation and won it at the end of OT on two shaky non-calls on Nash, both by Salvatore), not only did Salvatore officiate Sunday night's Game 5 (in which Miami had a 40-12 free-throw advantage at one point), but Salvatore called the foul on Wade's final drive in overtime (remember, the call where ABC couldn't find a replay to show that anyone touched him?) even though he was standing at midcourt a full 35-40 feet from the play, and even though two other refs were closer to the play. Not only was that NOT his call, he butchered it.

Considering I brought this up LAST spring, do you find any of this a little strange? Why aren't the best referees calling these games? Why do the worst ones always seem to get assigned to games in which it would be better for the league if the home team won? Why am I the only one who notices this stuff or seems to care? Why do I find myself watching these games and concentrating more on the one-sided officiating than some of Wade's spectacular plays? As my buddy House e-mailed on Monday morning: "I don't think I can take much more of NBA refs insisting on controlling the outcomes of the most significant games. The NBA is a disgrace and should be completely embarrassed. I hate this game."

(Tip o' the cap to Mitch)

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Sorry about the slow blogging...

It's been and will continue to be a rough week. I'll do what I can.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Whaling on the IWC

Interesting and somewhat distressing news from Drezner.

Monday, June 19, 2006

The NBA Should Be Embarrassed

Last night was a disgraceful display of "officiating" in which the Miami Heat were handed a victory that they did not deserve. I like Dwyane Wade, I went to the same school as Dwyane Wade, but Dwyane Wade's flopping and diving last night makes the average International Soccer Star look like Rambo in terms of pain tolerance. His final free throws to put the game away came on a play in which he was not touched. Hubie Brown correctly stated that the call could have gone against either Dirk or Devin, as neither one so much as breathed on Mr. Wade, and as such were equally entitled to the bogus foul.

Mark Cuban may incur the largest fine in the history of professional sports by the end of this series, and he will be completely correct. I don't know why I still watch. I suppose I like to complain. BUt really, who wants to watch a free throw contest? What a travesty.

Vote For Us!

We've been nominated for MKE Blog of the Week!

(Note: This post will stay at the top for awhile.)

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Great Stuff

At the L&N Line, my favorite internet pop-cultural commentators/critics. Head on over for a lengthy wrap-up of the TV season, the latest in sports, and reviews of Cars, The Omen, An Inconvenient Truth, and The Lake House.

Just keep on scrollin'.

Weekend Eco-Reading

My favorite science writer, Ron Bailey, reviews Al Gore's movie:

Gore has won the global warming debate—the world is warming as a consequence of human activity, chiefly the loading up of the atmosphere with carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels. Yet he feels that he must exaggerate the dangers by propounding implausible scenarios in which sea levels rise 20 feet by 2100. He pretends that the science is settled with regard to the effect of global warming on hurricanes. And he pushes a scientifically tenuous connection between the spread of diseases and global warming. These are little inconvenient truths that cut against his belief that global warming constitutes a climate emergency. On balance Gore gets it more right than wrong on the science (we'll leave the policy stuff to another time), but he undercuts his message by becoming the opposite of a global warming denier. He's a global warming exaggerator.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Fun Friday, Part 4

Stewie at Harvard:

Fun Friday, Part 3

Ace has some fun videos, including a bunch of skits from the short-lived MTV show, The State.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Fun Friday, Part 2

It's not great, it's just...

Fun Friday, Part 1

Here we have the creepy Joseph Smith Sphinx. I hear it used to be next to the Colossus of L. Ron Hubbard.

The World's Greatest Music Festival

It is quite strange that the world's greatest music festival takes place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but it does. Summerfest, as usual, has done a bang-up job signing bands this year, and there is something worth seeing every day of the week. It is still two weeks away, but it's never too early to take a look at the lineup. Plus, you may need to make travel plans. On June 29th, we have:

1. Blue Oyster Cult (Yes, yes, More Cowbell indeed.)
2. Bodeans
3. Keane
4. Common
5. REO Speedwagon (They designated an entire stage to Classic Rock this year.)
6. The Red Walls (I like this band.)
7. Elvis Costello and the Impostors f/Allen Toussaint
8. Carbon Leaf

That's just on opening night. And headlining the first two nights, we have Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Pearl Jam. Not too shabby. And remember, you only have to pay the to get into the park ($15 bucks this year) to see any band except the headliner.

More immediately, if you're looking for something to do in the Chicago area this weekend might I suggest the Taste of Randolph Street which will feature Uncle Tupelo offshoots Son Volt (in many ways superior to their more famous cousins, Wilco), as well as old favorites Toad the Wet Sprocket. Incidentally, every small Chicago festival is vastly superior to the rather unimpressive Taste of Chicago. You'll have more fun for a better price.

I love the summer.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

King Peter

Courtesy of MDS we have this bit of wisdom from SI's Peter King:

And while we're at it, how dumb does Pennsylvania look for not making helmets mandatory? I heard a state legislator on the radio this morning say that this accident wouldn't cause him to change his mind. It's about human rights, he said. Riders should not be forced to wear a helmet.

I've got one for you, Mr. Politician. Let's repeal seat-belt laws, and gun laws, and minimum drinking ages, and let's just let America be the Wild, Wild West. Do what you want, when you want.

Laws are made to protect people, even when they think they don't need protecting. Wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle is about as basic as one can get in terms of human safety. It's irresponsible to argue the other side.

Perhaps we should ban Mr. King's annual run of egg nog lattes. After all, they are very high in fat and cholesterol, and clearly endangering one of our nation's most hallowed sports writers.

King has this exactly backwards. Of all of the potential laws out there, helmet laws are among the least justified. The negative consequences of going helmet-less on a bike are almost entirely internalized to the rider. Helmets, after all, do not prevent accidents. (In fact, if motorcycle enthusiasts follow the general trend, then helmets probably increase the frequency of accidents by providing a sense of security which allows for more risk taking. They also probably suffer a slight visual impairment.) They merely reduce the severity of accidents, and when a rider makes the decision to ride without a helmet, they are fully cognizant of that fact. While the injuries to Roethlisberger may be tragic, it is difficult to plausibly blame anyone but Roethlisberger for the state in which he now finds himself.

The state is justified in regulating an activity only when that activity inflicts negative externalities onto third parties. While I am not a fan of smoking bans, a governmental smoking ban is 1000 times more justifiable than a helmet law just based on dry-cleaning costs.

And seat-belt laws are every bit as unjustified as helmet laws (except for children, I suppose). The exact same arguments apply.

As for firearms, while the freedom to own guns is guaranteed by the 2nd amendment, guns at least do pose a threat to third parties, and so some regulation may be justified in some circumstances.

You all know how I feel about the drinking age. (If you do not, here is the short version: It is criminal to stop 18-year-olds from drinking, and teenage drinking should be allowed with parental consent and supervision so that teens can learn to drink properly.)

Perhaps the best argument against both helmet and seat-belt laws is that the natural negative consequences far outweigh the legal consequences in severity. This is an area where everyone makes an informed decision. Mr. King, do you really think that a $50 fine would have dissuaded Big Ben where the prospect of broken bones and a lost career failed to do so? I think not.

In this country, people should be free to make their own decisions, even bad ones. Some bikers may value the feeling of the wind in their hair more than the .1% chance of death that they may face. That may be stupid, but it is not for anyone else to decide.

Mr King, you should be careful when you advocate banning some activity that people enjoy. Eventually, someone may come for that latte.

The Coyote Blog has more:

By the way, helmet laws are a particularly interesting bit of nanny-statism, since motorcyclers are such a small percentage of the population. In most states where this law gets passed, the votes of people who will never ride a motorcycle and for whom the law will always be irrelevant generally overwhelms the wishes of motorcyclers themselves. I wonder how many women who piously preach that the government can't tell us what to do with our bodies typically vote for helmet laws that tell people, uh, what they can do with their bodies.

Chicago Wants To Raise The Wages Of Wal-Mart Employees

How high do you think they would like to go? $8? $9? How about $13?

Under two "big-box" proposals pending before the council, operators of large stores in the city would be required to pay their employees a minimum of about $10 per hour in wages and another $3 in fringe benefits.

"There is a tremendous amount of opportunity that can be lost, not just by Wal-Mart but by other businesses that would be affected by this," Bisio said. "If you were a businessman, why would you want to continue to invest millions and millions of dollars ... and subject your business [to a requirement] that applies to some, but not all? It is an unfair ordinance.

"If you want to raise it for all businesses, if you want to do it to all retailers, then you might have something," he continued. "But not like this."

The ordinance, which would probably also effect Costco, which I do patronize, basically doubles the minimum wage for stores of a certain size. Some aldermen believe that Wal-Mart will develop stores in the city anyway:

Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd), who supports the big-box ordinance, said that passage would not change Wal-Mart's plans.

"We won't lose them," he said. "Wal-Mart wants to come into Chicago because they see the market. They see how much is being spent in Chicago proper. They want to be here. They just have to pay a living wage."

Really? It is a fact that Wal-Mart refused to open a store on the south side earlier this year when threatened with similar legislation, and it is a fact that Wal-Mart once fired all of their butchers and suspended their meat and deli section completely rather than allow a butchers' union (they now provide only pre-packaged meat). Wal-Mart is conscious of the bottom line, but they are also somewhat principled. They don't just give in to stuff like this.

The effect of this ordinance, if it passes, will be to place an artificial limit on the size of a store, to drive business out of the city and into the near suburbs, to drive out jobs, and to raise prices. Most of this will hurt poor people. The government of the city of Chicago is especially talented at hurting poor people.

Monday, June 12, 2006

World Cup Fever

The atmosphere around the office today is a bit like NCAA Tourney time. It's kind of fun. Unfortunately, the US already trails the Czech Republic 1-0 in the early going, and the US team appears to be struggling mightily.

Fact of the Day

From Steve Levitt:

Finally, when they read the safety instructions at the beginning of the flight, they go through the whole song and dance about “in the unlikely event of a water landing…” and all the precautions in place to deal with that happening. My friend Peter Thompson did some research on this. At least going back to 1970, which by my estimation encompasses over 150 million commercial airline flights, there has not been a single water landing! (Some planes explode and fall into the water, but he couldn’t find anything resembling a water landing where any of those instructions might help you.) So perhaps 15 billion customer trips have heard that 10-15 second set of instructions without it ever being useful to anyone.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Sports Notes

- The Brewers have apparently righted the ship, getting quality starts from Dave Bush, Cappy, and Doug Davis to take the series from San Diego after getting blasted by the Pirates and Nationals. Much of the credit for the resurgence should go to Bill Hall, who busted out of his slump, and who continues to hit big HRs. He's also been stellar defensively at short, to the point that I now think he is superior to J.J. Hardy at the position. As of now, Bill Hall should be getting major All-Star consideration.

- The NY Mets now feature players named "Endy" and "Lastings." And Lastings is apparently very, very good.

- Kudos to the Baltimore Ravens for landing Steve McNair, the first competent QB in Ravens' history.

- Finally, is this guy the next Randy Johnson?

Fun Friday, Mario Edition

Here's "Live Action Mario."

(Tip o' the cap to Nicole)

And here's "Communist Mario."

Fun Friday, Part 1

Ah, those lovely British Summers.

At least they're world cup favorites this year. So they got that going for them. Which is nice.

Blogger is Back

Finally. Sorry about the slow week.

What Should Superman Do?

I agree with Tyler Cowen that Superman spends a lot of time wasting his talents, and that if he applied himself he could accomplish much more. Tyler suggests the following:

Darfur and the like aside, I have a few nominations for what Superman should do:

1. Become a research scientist.

2. Collect data for the Fed.

3. Fly around and tell people -- politely but very pointedly -- when they should accept lower nominal wages.

4. Perform amazing stunts on TV, become a big celebrity, and then preach the virtues of economic literacy; this is Dan Klein's suggestion.

I find it difficult to disagree with #1, and The Flash should probably help out. I would add:

1. Nuclear waste disposal worker.

He could either heave waste into the sun, or bury it deep underground.

2. Giant hamster wheel runner.

Superman could generate a great deal of electricity in this fashion. Superman is basically the world's greatest solar panel.

3. Overthrow every corrupt African government.

While Supes may not be skilled in nation building,he could certainly provide a great disincentive towards corruption in an area that sorely needs it.

4. Specimen

Supes ability to convert yellow sun energy into kinetic energy is unsurpassed, and learning more about the process would likely be a more valuable than any individual physical feat.

If you an do better, leave your idea in the comment section.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Blogger Issues

Blogger was down much of the day, which sucks, because I had a lot to write about. I have no time this evening, but check back in tomorrow for posts on Superman, Evil, The Brewers, and more.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Christianity teaches that death is the consequence of sin. Original Sin to be exact.

I do not believe this to be the case, and certainly, it is difficult to make the case that physical death is caused by sin. (Note: Many Christians interpret this passage to mean a "spiritual death," but I'm talking physical here.) After all, both good people and bad people eventually kick the bucket, as do lions, otters, jellyfish, daisies, okra, Venus Flytraps, and parasites. Surely, if anything in this world is innocent, it is the humble asparagus.

Yet most of us treat death as some mystical, unknowable phenomenon. Death, as it turn out, is not so mysterious, and death is becoming less mysterious by the day (as is aging).

Evolutionarily speaking, death is a survival tactic. Evolution is concerned not with individuals, but with species. After a pair of animals reproduce they no longer serve an evolutionary purpose. In fact, after the offspring has reached its prime, the continued survival of the parents actually threatens the survival of the offspring by diverting scarce resources away from their children. In the state of nature, death ensures that resources are allocated to those creatures that are most likely to propagate the species. However, once we leave the state of nature death becomes irrelevant and vestigial.

When we enter civilization we reach a point where scarcity and survival are only minor concerns. As a result, death no longer serves its purpose, and at that point we should begin to view death and aging as medical problems.

The fact is that all death is cell death. The more that cells replicate, the more prone they are to make errors, and eventually they stop reproducing altogether. It is likely that we will be able to treat these two conditions in the not-too-distant future.

For 99.99999% of human history, no man flew. Then, in 1903, two guys built an airplane, and now it is routine for man to fly. One of the great things about people is that once we figure out how to do something, it is generally only a matter of time before we do it. At this point, stopping death is largely an engineering problem.

For more on this subject, check out Ron Bailey's Liberation Biology and Ray Kurzweil's The Singularity is Near. The former deals more with the political hurdles to biotech research (stem cell research ban, etc.) and the latter deals more with the pace of technological advancement. Both are excellent.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Everyone knows that Jesse is the one with the drug problem.

Stupid Enquirer. Haven't they seen the video?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Fun Friday, Part 3

It's one thing to make a printer out of Legos, but it takes a genius to go the extra step and involve chocolate in the process.

(Hat tip, Virginia Postrel)

Fun Friday, Part 2

One more, for good measure.

Fun Friday, Part 1

What could be better for the Electric Commentary than the Electric Mayhem: Behind the Music?

By the way, Robot Chicken is a truly great show.

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