The Electric Commentary

Monday, July 31, 2006

Mark Belling's most nonsensical beliefs.

For those of you unfamiliar with Mark, he's a conservative talk show host in Milwaukee. I once sold a Mark Belling Bobblehead Doll for $167.50. Mark is fairly entertaining because he's loud, his silent producer Paul is funny, and he treats his callers with complete disdain. As most of his callers aren't very good, this works well.

Mark occasionally even makes a good point - when he's talking about economic issues, but when he leaves the economic arena he's often out of his league. This is especially true with regard to scientific issues. Listening to Mark is one of my guilty pleasures on those rare occasions when I'm in my car between 3-6, and I have compiled a list of Mark's most absurd beliefs. He should be mocked and laughed at when he discusses the following:

1. He does not believe in evolution, and he is apparently a young earth creationist.

Mark, deep down, knows that he sounds stupid on this point, which is why he has no problem hypothetically discussing the Earth as if it were billions of years old, but he always drops a few references to his belief in literal Bible interpretation. Mark claims to approach all subjects using logic. On this matter, he is clearly using faith. Faith's all fine and good, but no one should confuse it with logic.

I once heard him say the following when talking to a geologist:

I'll give you a book on the entire history of the Earth: THE BIBLE!

2. He believes that life begins at conception.

This is probably a slam at a big chunk of the population, but logic is not a democratic process. It is possible that life begins at some point during gestation, but claiming that life begins at conception, when an embryo is merely one single cell, is an insult to living people everywhere. Mark explained this decision as not at all based on religion. His reasoning was as follows:

a. It's not birth.
b. It's too hard to measure life during gestation.
c. Ergo, life begins at conception.

That's logic, I suppose. It's just very bad logic. Premise b is clearly the result of intellectual laziness. I don't know when life begins, but I do know that it doesn't begin at conception. No brain, no human life.

This comes up in the stem cell debate. To his credit, Mark has no problem with non-embryonic stem cell research like some conservative bio-Luddites, but his poor reasoning still poisons the well for a potentially fantastic technology.

3. Mark Belling believes that psychics can predict the future.

There was a radio psychic at one of his old stations and he often tells a story about an accurate prediction that she made, and he is now a believer. And yet no caller ever brings this up as a snappy comeback when being ridiculed.

4. He does not believe that man has any effect on global warming.

He often makes the faulty analogy about people not being able to predict tomorrow's weather correctly, let alone the weather for the next 100 years. This confuses weather, a short term phenomenon affected by many randomly fluctuating variables, with climate, a long term trend. It is the difference between predicting a specific car crash vs. predicting the number of car crashes in a year. You will be a lot closer on the latter than the former.

The disbelief in global warming hurts the credibility of conservatives, which is quite horrible, as many of their policy prescriptions are superior to those of the left. Not that conservatives are eco-friendly, by any stretch, it's just that when only one side has any credibility (as is the case here) we all suffer from a lack of diversity of opinion. The Kyoto Treaty is a stupid idea that would solve nothing, but conservative opposition seems petty.

Most of Mark's beliefs could be labeled as "controversial" but I think that these go a bit further, landing somewhere between ridiculous and hysterical. Oh, he also thinks that Christians are committing blasphemy if they see "The Da Vinci Code." It's actually a pretty funny show.

Just not how Mark intends it.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Fun Weekend

I was a bit complacent on Friday, and as a result it wasn't as fun as it could have been. As a very hot weekend winds down, why not take in some Summer Short Shorts?

What is your business worth?

From MR:

When customers call Cingular threatening to switch to another firm or asking for discounts operators see a handy thermometer that tells them the life time value (LTV) of the customer to the company. The higher the meter reading the more discounts the operator is allowed to offer the customer. The Consumerist has the details including excerpts from company documents explaining the system.

Congratulations to Ned Yost

For actually pulling Derrick Turnbow before he managed to ruin another game. And congratulations to Francisco Cordero for cleaning up the mess.

How To Beat Terrorism

It's becoming increasingly clear that conventional military forces are no good at fighting small, well-entrenched, quickly mobile para-military groups. I see several reasons for this:

1. Old school military conquests were largely about gaining territory, and territory is static. If you want a certain area, it makes sense to have a heavily armored force consisting of heavy vehicles and heavy weapons, because the land itself isn't going anywhere. If a bully wants to hang out on the monkey bars, he will likely be able to do so.

2. Most "terrorist" groups, for lack of a better term, are not immediately concerned with territory. They are concerned with annoying people. I realize that equating the deaths of civilians with mere "annoyance" may be slightly offensive, but I think it's fairly accurate. After all, their goal is not to beat you, but instead to make your goal as unpleasant as possible to the extent that you give up. If you're a bully and hanging out at the monkey bars, and a group of monkeys steal your hat and play keep away with it, you may just decide to leave the monkey bars to the monkeys and go hang out at the slide.

3. The US tends to bomb the heck out of everyone, and then roll in with ground forces later (if at all). Terrorist groups know this, and have moved to a model in which they use many different fortified bunkers for storage and hiding. They are disaggregated, and largely immune from airstrikes. As a result, it will take many more bombs to kill an entire squad than in the past, and a modern military's "softening up" airstrikes are now ineffective.

4. Civilian deaths are terrible for an established military, but just fine for terrorists. This is largely the media's fault, but it is a fact, nonetheless. When terrorists kill civilians they get press, attention, and their ability to "annoy" grows. When a military kills civilians they are vilified and told by the rest of the world to stop attacking. This allows terrorists to hide their members and their supplies in civilian establishments. If the military bombs the civilian household, they look like monsters. If it is revealed that terrorists were present, the terrorists look like monsters, which is good for them. Either way they win.

5. Established militaries fight at the behest of the populace. They are susceptible to popular support or popular criticism. Terrorist organizations are like shell corporations. They are funded by states, but not controlled by states, and therefore offer the funder states deniability. Granted, most of these states do not allow popular dissent anyway, but this insulates the states from even foreign pressure.

The theme here is decentralization. Terrorist cells and militias are growing more decentralized, and they are becoming more adept at taking away the built-in advantages of a military force. The US Military is responsible to the people, but Hezbollah is responsible only to Hezbollah. Moreover, the US Military is built for real wars against other militaries with tanks and bombs and navies.

So, what are some possible solutions to this problem? First of all, the military could use a shot of innovation. I have no idea how to accomplish this, other than advocating for a more diversity (intellectual, not the other kind). In other words, they need an Ender.

They should also begin to use prediction markets as a tool. Some wise legislators attempted to institute these a few years ago, but they were shouted down as being "horrific" and "denying human dignity." There may be some ethical problems with markets in which you can wager on terrorism, but the fact is that these markets work. (For more on prediction markets I highly recommend James Surowiecki's The Wisdom of Crowds.)

Finally, the US should probably look into some sort of decentralized military fighting force made up of small teams of terror cell sized mini-forces. The force in question should have wide latitude to follow up intelligence leads as they see fit, and to deal with them as they see fit. There is probably some sort of constitutional problem with this. It would be difficult, after all, to make such a force accountable to the public, and I don't have a good solution, but someone else can figure out the checks on this group. I'm merely advocating its existence.

I am also aware that this probably sounds a bit too much like Team America for some people.

Lastly, such a force would change the incentives of defense contractors. The good ol' military industrial complex is very good at building big weapons that do big damage, but terrorists are getting adept at dodging big damage. What we could use is an infusion of individual weapons. One of our goals should be to make every US soldier a walking (no, a running) fortress. I'm talking Inspector Gadget and James Bond here. Better bullet and shrapnel resistance, better detection and recon tech, and better personal weaponry. If terrorism persists as the big military threat, bounty hunting may be as valuable as capturing cities, and our troops should have the tools to be the best soldiers and the best bounty hunters.

I'm not sure if any of this would help, but I do know that Hezbollah has shown itself to be up to the task of taking on the Israeli army thus far using the techniques mentioned above, and the Iraqi insurgency seems to have staying power as well.

Regardless of how you feel about these two wars, or war in general, if we are going to fight these forces, we should definitely be able to win. As it stands today, I'm simply not sure that we can. They have adapted to the market of war. We, with our centralized military, are stagnant.

(Note: When I talk of a lighter, faster military I am not talking about Donald Rumsfeld's military. He seemed to advocate a lighter, faster conventional force. I think that that is a stupid idea, for the reasons stated above. We still need conventional forces to fight conventional wars, but we also need a new kind of military.)

(Note 2: Of every topic I could possibly blog about, I am probably most ignorant of military strategy, but this makes sense to me.)

Friday, July 28, 2006

Fun Friday, Part 1

I couldn't find the 2-fisted slobber video, or the old racing sausages video, or the Randall Simon hitting a sausage with a bat video. Fortunately, Ace has rough clips from the Simpsons' Movie.

Brewers Trade Lee

Breaking News:

Having come to the conclusion that they wouldn't be able to re-sign leftfielder Carlos Lee and with the playoffs a faint hope at present, the Milwaukee Brewers pulled the trigger Friday and sent Lee to the Texas Rangers in a six-player deal.

The Brewers dealt Lee and minor league outfielder Nelson Cruz to the Rangers in exchange for outfielders Kevin Mench and Laynce Nix, reliever Francisco Cordero and minor league pitcher Julian Cordero.

I think trading him was the smart move. But do we really need outfielders that bad right now? And why throw Cruz, a solid young triple-A outfielder in with that? One of the outfielders we got sucks ass to my knowledge. Why did we get outfielders anyway? I'd rather see Gwynn and Hart play than some scrub from the Rangers. Our infield is hurting right now. And there must be some catcher out there better than Miller. And although it's cool to have two pitchers named Cordero, hasn't Francisco been sucking quite a lot lately? I guess I don't know enough about it to comment right now. Paul? Ahren?

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Monopoly Innovates

Monopoly is now a cashless society. Which is nice, because the banker always used to cheat:

Monopoly board game players can now pay for properties with debit cards. Game makers Parker have phased out the standard multi-coloured cash in a new version. Players will instead use a Visa mock debit card to keep track of how much they win or lose. It is inserted into an electronic machine where the banker taps in cardholders' earnings and payments. Parker said replacing of cash with plastic showed the game was moving with the times. Spokesman Chris Weatherhead said: "The new electronic Monopoly reflects the changing nature of society and the advancement of technology."

Hat tip, MR.

The Diploma Privilege

In Wisconsin, you do not need to pass a bar exam in order to practice law so long as you graduate from one of Wisconsin's two law schools; UW and Marquette. We are the last state in the U.S. with this diploma privilege. Because of this, 2/3 of the lawyers in the state, including me, never took a bar exam.

I sort of have mixed feeling about the diploma privilege. On one hand, I don't think licensing is really necessary at all and the requirement of a license, or even the requirement of a law degree, helps make legal representation cost-prohibitive to a lot of people. But sometimes I wish I had been forced to take it because you learn a lot studying for it. Of course I've learned a lot these first few months of practicing too. But the idea behind the diploma privilege, is sound--keep graduates from Wisconsin's two very good law schools here in Wisconsin.

Last night one of our local stations had this puff piece on the news. The piece characterizes the diploma privilege as some sort of loophole that 2/3 of the lawyers in the state managed to sneak through. The story never mentioned that Wisconsin is rare in that the only law schools in the state are highly ranked. It never mentioned that their curriculum focuses on Wisconsin law, just like the bar exam does for non-Wisconsin students. It never mentioned that our bar exam has a very high pass rate.

In the story, they interview some guy that went to Thomas Cooley law school in Michigan. I just looked at Cooley's website. Their top 25% LSAT score would not likely get an applicant into either Wisconsin or Marquette. Not by a long shot. It would be about 9 points shy of Marquette's average and about 12 shy of Wisconsin's average.

After graduating from Cooley, this guy then went on to fail the Wisconsin bar exam 5 times. He is not allowed to try again. This was supposed to seem unfair in light of the fact that 2/3 of the lawyers in the state never had to take it.

I bet that a lot of great lawyers come out of Thomas Cooley law school, but I also bet that if it were located in Wisconsin, we would get rid of the diploma privilege pretty fast.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A Real Sausage Fest

As you all know, the single most enjoyable part of any Milwaukee Brewers' home game is the sausage race. The sausage race is great. Aside from being highly entertaining, it also teaches us that Germans wear lederhosen, Italians have gigantic mustaches, and Polish people where sunglasses and Freddy Krueger sweaters. I don't know why they do this, but apparently they do.

Today, the Brewers and Klement's Sausage Co. announced that they're adding a fifth sausage, the Mexican Chorizo. I'm extremely happy with this decision. For the most part, people of European ancestry do not get angry about their stereotypes. Italian people occasionally get ticked off about Mafia references, but that problem usually takes care of itself, if you get my drift.

So what will the Chorizo look like?

The newest sausage mascot is expected to be adorned with a mustache and a sombrero and will sport the traditional colors of green, white and red.

I'm really looking forward to this. I don't think it will be that big of a deal among actual Mexicans, who often use this imagery in their own restaurants. I suspect that, like the Irish, they've mostly come to terms with it. But I'm still willing to bet that it will make some people uncomfortable. And someone will probably write some stupid immigration column using this as an example.

I'm hugely in favor of more sausage diversity (if you share my passion, you must eat here at some point), and far from stealing the jobs of the Polish, Brat, Italian, or Hot Dog, the Chorizo will only serve to motivate his competitors, and drive sausage-racing innovation to places that we have never seen.

Welcome, humble Chorizo.

Update: I can't find the classic Sausage Race video either, (nor can I find the 2-fisted slobber), but here's a pretty good race:

Update 2: Here's an article about the two-fisted slobber and negative marketing campaigns. And as the comments of the article correctly note, that picture is not the actual slobber, but a cheap knock-off.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Where's "The Love" At Wal-Mart?

The Trib had a big story on Chicago's proposed Big Box ordinance, which would require Big Box retailers exclusively to pay a $10 minimum wage plus $3 of benefits. Here's an inspiring quote:

Toni Foulkes tells customers there's a reason the cakes she sells at a South Side Jewel store cost more than cakes at Sam's Club.

"They don't put love in 'em like I do," she says. "And their employees don't make what I make."

She's on the front lines of a fight to make Chicago the first major city to require retailers like Sam's Club owner Wal-Mart to pay a "living wage" of at least $10 per hour with $3 in benefits by 2010. For her, the struggle comes down to a simple equation: All workers are threatened unless communities hold big corporations accountable for paying better-than-poverty-level wages.

Perhaps Ms. Foulkes would not need the city to raise her competitor's prices if she made better cakes. To the Trib's credit, they actually write a balanced article here. They also interviewed Lisa Cox:

Cox, the Wal-Mart worker, isn't following the debate closely, but she looks forward to no longer commuting to work at a suburban Northlake Wal-Mart when the West Side store opens five minutes from her home. She makes $13.47 per hour as a supervisor, making sure checkout lines flow smoothly and greeters and cart-gatherers keep customers happy.

The 40-year-old single mother dropped out of high school in the 11th grade and worked two jobs while raising her son. She started at Wal-Mart eight years ago as a part-time cashier, making $7.25 per hour. "You don't have a problem moving [up] at Wal-Mart," she said. "There's nothing I can't do."

With some hard work, Cox makes $13.47 at crappy old Wal-Mart. How is Ms. Foulkes' union helping her out?

She lives on the same block in West Englewood where she learned to ride a two-wheeler, rooted in a life revolving around decorating cakes and training workers in Jewel's bakery, volunteer work and community activism. She made about $35,000 last year at her $12.85 per hour job, including overtime.

Damn Wal-Mart and their high-paying ways.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Ned the Slow

Finally, our long national nightmare is at an end.

Unfortunately, Dan Kolb may actually be worse than D-Bow, so we may just be starting a new nightmare. In fact, the Brewer pen is so bad that I may be able to continue with Freddy Krueger analogies for 5 or 6 more closers. I don't really have a suggestion on how to fix this problem other than to get better pitchers (and to not play the guy with the 27.00 ERA in the month of July), but I do know that D-Bow should have been benched, at the very least, 4 games ago. At this point he and I have an equal chance of saving any given game.

What a disaster. I'm not even sure that they can be considered "in the race" anymore, and it is almost entirely the fault of Ned Yost and Derrick Turnbow.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Random Thought

Only a few people will understand this, but fortunately, most of them read my blog.

I believe that there are two types of people in the world:

1. Those who prefer the "Jack of Diamonds" method of partner selection in the game of Sheepshead, and

2. Those who prefer the "Call an Ace" method of partner selection in the game of Sheepshead.

Moreover, I believe that the former group (group 1) is inclined to prefer the designated hitter rule, as used in baseball's American league, whereas the latter group (group 2) will prefer to see their pitchers bat.

I may be wrong about this, but it makes sense to me. I am firmly in the "Call an Ace"/National League camp, by the way, as both sets of rules make for superior matches.

I believe that the sets of rules in group 1 represent lazier games, created solely to boost their popularity among the masses. The "Jack of Diamonds" rule injects an unnecessary amount of luck into what is otherwise a very skill-based game, and the DH injects an unnecessary amount of offense (at the expense of strategy) into baseball.

Fantasy Football

The Football Outsiders recently posted their FF predictions, which I purchased today. You can download the predictions in Excel spreadsheet form and enter your league parameters for a customized projection.

Very cool.

Fun Friday, Part 2

J-Stew and The Daily Show, on Bush's first veto.

(Hat tip, Nicole)

Fun Friday

Penn and Trey Parker talk about Isaac Hayes, Sean Penn, and how South Park had a cartoon version of Muhammad way before it was cool.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Render unto Caesar...

"Dr." Kent Hovind is probably the most ridiculous person that ever walked the Earth. He's certainly my favorite young Earth creationist. And he just plead not guilty to the tax evasion charges filed against him. However, he entered this plea "under duress."

Hovind, who calls himself "Dr. Dino," owns Dinosaur Adventure Land at 5800 N. Palafox St., Pensacola, a creationist theme park dedicated to debunking evolution. For years, he has claimed that he is employed by God and has no income or property because everything he owns belongs to God. He believes man and dinosaurs inhabited the earth together and has offered a $250,000 reward to anyone who can offer him satisfactory proof of evolution.

Hovind's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Kafahni Nkrumah, told U.S. Magistrate Judge Miles Davis at a hearing Monday that his client did not want to enter a plea because he does not believe the United States, the Internal Revenue Service and the U.S. Attorney's Office "have jurisdiction in this matter."

When pressed by Davis to enter a plea of either guilty or not guilty, Hovind said he wished to enter a plea of "subornation of false muster."

And why don't the IRS and the U.S. Attorney's Office have jurisdiction?

Because Hovind lives, "in the church of Jesus Christ, which is located all over the world. I have no residence" and "he is employed by God and has no income or property because everything he owns belongs to God."

So that would mean that if, say, some government agents wanted to go to Hovind's house, that would be fine because it's actually God's house, right?

In a 2002 lawsuit, Hovind complained that he feared "Gestapo actions of the Internal Revenue Service agents against him." He posted a "special notice to local, state and federal government agents, employees and inspectors" saying they could not come on his property without "prior written consent."

I'm just confused now. Is it his property or God's property. What I am sure of is that this trial is going to be hilarious. The guy has more money than God (or is it God's money?) and he's going with the public defender and entering pleas like "subornation of false muster."

Veto Virginity Gone Forever

The President finally vetoed something:

WASHINGTON -- The White House is gearing up today for President Bush's first veto in over five years as president, as he prepares to sign a veto message overturning a bill authorizing federal funding for new lines of embryonic stem cell research.

The president will veto the bill today before making a public appearance in the East Room of the White House with several families who have "adopted'' embryos and given birth to them — so-called "snowflakes.''

While I'm against federal funding in general, I'm in favor of living as long as is humanly possible, and so if we are going to have federal funding for something, I'm in favor of using it for this. That said, the emotional pandering going on over this vote is just awful. "Snowflakes?!"

Frozen embryos are not people. Yet. They may become people, as was the case with these children, but they are not people as of this moment, and we should not treat non-people like we treat people. Actual people will be hurt in the future (probably) by restrictions on stem cell research. Why do I say that they are not people? Because they don't have brains. (And because they can be frozen, thawed, and still used. Freezing an actual person will kill the person). If you have no brain activity, you are not alive.

This is not like abortion, where people want to draw some uncomfortable, arbitrary line. Calling a frozen embryo a person is an insult to people everywhere.

More here.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Poll Question: Teacher Salaries

I'm just curious. Let's say that you have high school age children. Would you rather that their teachers be licensed by the state, or make $100,000 per year?

I would rather see them make close to six digits, because that would ensure that the brightest, most qualified, most productive individuals would be interested in teaching my child. It is, of course, quite possible for some idiot to scam his way into a $100,000 job. It happens all the time. But at that level of compensation the teacher pool is also drawing from the doctor pool and the engineering pool and the lawyer pool. That's one smart pool.

As it stands now, the teaching profession can't really compete with the other professions in terms of pure monetary compensation (although that whole "summers off" thing is quite attractive in its own right), and I suspect that the overall quality of applicants suffers somewhat as a result.

This is not to say that today's high school teachers are bad. I had several very good teachers at my entirely mediocre public high school, but I would say that the bad outweighed the good by a substantial margin. Some people truly love teaching, and they will probably do a good job regardless of pay and benefits, but some people (most people, probably) need a bit more.

On the other hand, I am of the opinion that state regulations are of no value whatsoever in ensuring quality and ethical standards in a given profession. I'm a member of two state Bar Associations, and I see no reason that either organization should exist. Bar Associations, as far as I can tell, are basically unions which drive up the wages of lawyers by limiting access to the workforce, and which, in turn, engage in rent-seeking by charging outrageous dues and by requiring attendance in Continuing Legal Education classes which are, to be perfectly frank, a complete joke.

While neither factor should be the sole criterion in deciding which teacher is better, I would feel slightly better with the well-compensated teacher.

Capture Rapture Fever


Taxes 'round The World

From Greg Mankiw:

Here are the marginal tax rates as estimated by Ed Prescott for the 1990s:

Germany .59
France .59
Italy .64
Canada .52
United Kingdom .44
Japan .37
United States .40

These figures include both income taxes and consumption taxes, such as the VAT. Both types of tax distort the consumption-leisure tradeoff (and the tradeoff between market work and home work).

If a person earns a dollar in the marketplace, she gets to consume 60 cents of goods and services in the United States, but only 41 cents in Germany and France, and 36 cents in Italy. These are large differences in incentives to work.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Something seems wrong with this headline:

Owens Says He Was Misquoted in Autobiography

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Fun Friday

Can I borrow your axe?

After that, how about some Pong?

Why Does The National League Suck?

Here are some theories:

1. The Yankees extremely high payroll, along with the existence of bitter rivals, the Boston Red Sox, lures a disproportionately high number of star players into the AL.

2. The DH allows AL teams to carry superior offensive players, and having an extra star offensive player makes a great deal of difference, even if he is just an extremely good pinch-hitter during NL-rules games.

3. The pitchers of the NL do not perform as well under pressure, as they get some relief when the pitcher's spot bats.

4. "Small Ball" is overly romanticized in the NL, as managers used to having pitchers sacrifice also have their good players sacrifice.

5. NL clubs are forced to keep bench player who specialize in a specific defensive position perhaps foregoing some offense, as they will generally have to stay in the game as part of a double switch. American League bench players can, in general, be offensively focused, or specialize in hitting either lefties or righties.

6. The AL is simply going through a lucky period.

7. The two richest NL teams are, if memory serves, the Cubs and the Dodgers. Both have been plagued by incompetent management.

8. The AL has one fewer team in its Western Division, which means that, in general, teams will have less frequent and shorter road trips.

It's strange that the AL is so dominant, especially in the All-Star game. It's one thing to have a league in which, on average, the talent is superior. It's quite another thing to have one league with vastly superior stars. Should the stars of the AL make more than their NL counterparts on the free agent market? It certainly appears as if it would be justified. If anyone has any other theories, I would like to see them.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Should The Brewers Trade Carlos Lee?

It's tempting to sign a player who happens to be having a great season to a big-money, long-term deal, but we should remember a few things about El Caballo before we throw 5 years and 60 million at him:

1. He's fat. And he's getting fatter.

2. He's one year older than I am, which means that he will be 31 next year.

3. This is his best season ever. He usually hits .260 with 30 bombs. Good, but not great. This season wreaks of Adrian Beltre.

The Baseball Prospectus has this to say:

The thing about Lee's closest comparables (Ivan Calderon, Kevin McReynolds, Ted Kluszewski) is the worthy caution there: all three fell off cliffs shortly after their thirtieth birthdays. Calderon and McReynolds took terrible care of themselves, while Klu just couldn't stay healthy. There is no way to know if contemporary conditioning might keep Lee from joining this them, but he's in a walk year, and going to seed now would cost him eight large over a few years.

4. He will Never have more value than he does right now.

5. While the Brewers are in the hunt, this is largely a function of the sorry state of the NL, and not due to any exceptional talent from the Brewers. This is not entirely true, as the Crew may soon get Big Ben and T.O. (Tomo Ohka) back, but even with some improved pitching, they will probably need some more talent to seriously compete.

6. I'm told that the Crew is stacked with outfield prospects in addition to the Major League ready Corey Hart.

7. Here's Baseball Prospectus writer Dayn Perry on free agents in a walk year:

According to this table, players: (1) perform better in their walk years, (2) do so at an age that doesn't lend itself to peaking, and (3) perform better in their walk years than they do in their pre- or postwalk seasons.

-Baseball Between The Numbers, Page 202.

In short, if the Brewers resign Lee, he will likely never approach this level of play again, and given that fact, he may very well not be a valuable part of the future anyway. The future of the Brewers will be built on Prince Fielder, Ricky Weeks, J.J. Hardy, Bill Hall, and Chris Capuano, and not Carlos Lee.

While trading him in what is a legit playoff race would be hugely unpopular, it is the smart move.

Snakes On A Plane

I just stepped out for a beer with a friend who had been stranded in the loop by a fire on the Blue Line. The tavern in question had on the All-Star Game, as you would expect, and said bar had filled up with patrons representing many non-Chicago major league franchises. As a result there was an occasional smattering of applause for Vlad's HR, and David Wright's HR, and a few impressive pitches. At some point, however, the bar erupted into unanimous cheering and applause. As I turned to see what the commotion was about, I was not confronted by A-Rod or Big Papi, but by Samuel L. Jackson shooting a harpoon at a cobra.

They were applauding the trailer for Snakes on a Plane.

I've never seen anything like it.

This thing could be huge.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Another Summerfest has come and gone.

I had a nice concert-filled weekend to cap off this year's Summerfest. On Saturday Paul and I saw Milwaukee favorite Willy Porter followed by Guster at the Miller Oasis. It was a solid show. The last few times I've seen Willy he essentially ignored his first two albums; "The Trees Have Soul" and "Dog-Eared Dream." Those two are definitely my favorites of his. I think that may be a commentary on how untrained my ear for music is, or maybe I'm just nostalgic for when I used to see him at town fairs and stuff when I was a kid. Willy's more recent work seems to get a lot more critical acclaim and anyone listening to it can tell it's probably harder to play. But the old stuff is just more enjoyable to me. Anyways, he played quite a few of the good ol' songs and it was an enjoyable show. I'm guessing a lot of our non-Milwaukee readers have never heard Willy Porter. If that's the case, I strongly suggest you check him out. He really is one of my favorites. Guster was good too. I'm not a huge fan, but I've seen them a few times and thought whey were great.

Last night I saw the Goo Goo Dolls and Counting Crows. We left for the show amid a downpour wearing rain gear. It didn't look promising. But by the time we were to our seats the rain had stopped and the Polish moon was shining over the Marcus Amphitheater. Goo Goo Dolls were first. They always sound like their music was written and produced by a team of Disney executives and commercial jingle writers to be "radio-friendly rock" or something like that. But when you see them live, you can really tell that they are into their stuff and want to put on a good show. And they do. They're also one of those bands that I forget just how many good songs they've had until I'm at the show.

Counting Crows followed. I have sort of mixed feeling about this band. I absolutely love their studio work. All of it. But this was my 8th concert and 7 were mediocre at best. Although this one certainly wasn't the worst I'd seen, it was indeed mediocre. The problem is that Adam Duritz (who was sporting this haircut last night) usually gets too wasted. Or maybe he's just a little brain-dead. And he just talks through all of his songs. He never really sings. And they always slow the tempo down on just about every song. I'm all for showing some variation in your performances, but when I hear "Rain King" or "Mrs. Potter's lullaby", I want it to rock. There were some key moments to the show though. One was "Hangin Around" in which Duritz actually sang. Perhaps it was because they brought out the opening band to play with them and their singer sang the second verse and Duritz didn't want to be outdone. The other great moment came when Duritz was introducing the next song and said something like this:

Duritz: "I wrote this song about a girl I met 6 or 7 years ago when we were touring with Live. We were playing a show in Chicago... "

Crowd (interrupting and overrepresented with Chicagoans due to the Brewers-Cubs game that day): "YEAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH"

Duritz: "It's just a fucking city."

Milwaukee Portion of the Crowd: "YEAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH"

Also, did you know that a group of crows is called a "murder"? That song makes much more sense now.

#1 Single

The #1 single on the day I was born was Abba's "Name Of The Game." The #1 album? Bread - "The Sound Of Bread."

You can find out what was #1 on your birthday here.

(Hat tip, MR. And while you're there, check out this post on the electric car:

General Motors lost two billion dollars on the project, and lost money on every single EV1 produced. The leases didn't even cover the costs of servicing them.

The range of 130 miles is bogus. None of them ever achieved that under normal driving conditions. Running the air conditioning or heater could halve that range. Even running the headlights reduced it by 10%.

Minimum recharge time was two hours using special charging stations that except for fleet use didn't exist. The effective recharge time, using the equipment that could be installed in a lessee's garage, was eight hours. ...

Read the whole thing.)

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Fun Friday, Late Night

Oh, Snap!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Fun Friday, Part 3

Bork, Bork, Bork!

Fun Friday, Part 2

This episode of South Park:

has been nominated for an Emmy. No foolin'.

Twisting and turning, you're feeling the burning,

You're breakin' the Kyoto Treaty:

Since 1990, Germany has cut its emissions by 17.5 per cent, more than any other country in the European Union. Its Kyoto target is a 21 per cent cut, but on 28 June the environment ministry revealed that it would only require a further 0.6 per cent cut from its major industrial emitters between now and 2010. To make matters worse, it exempted new power plants from any limits until 2022. The government says it will make up the difference by encouraging German motorists, who are now allowed to drive on some highways at unlimited speeds, to drive more slowly.

Okay, show of hands. Who thinks that the government will be successful in slowing down motorists? Or will they actually enforce speed limits?

What's really important here is that Germany (and the UK) was picking up the slack for much of the rest of Europe, which can ill afford such draconian measures. Even though Germany's progress still looks good on paper, they are Europe's largest polluter by a substantial margin and a small failure in Germany undoes much of the work of Europe's other nations.

Fun Friday, Part 1

The Brothers Chaps are back from vacation, which means we finally have a new HomeStar Runner!

Sports Notes

Cappy may have lost the vote, but he probably won two games tonight. First and foremost, he dominated the Cubs, pitching a complete game shutout in which he threw under 100 pitches. Cappy was dominant from start to finish, which had the added bonus of resting a weary bullpen. The pen wore itself out in last night's 13 inning win over the Reds, and having a day's rest will probably win the crew at least one more game in this series. It's really a shame that he didn't make the All-Star team. He sports a nifty 3.21 ERA, has only 2 non-quality starts all year, and his super-sweet pickoff move makes him all the more valuable.

Still, the Brewers finally managed to crack .500, and with 3 more against the Cubbies before the break, they can really make some hay this week,

I'm also very happy with the Bucks' trade of T.J. Ford for Charlie Villanueva. I think Villanueva has the potential to be an All-Star in the future, and at worst he'll be a solid presence. Few NBA big men possess his offensive ability and he should only get better. His game is reminiscent of Dirk Nowitzki's game early in his career.

T.J. was a nice player, but his height and his inconsistent offensive game will probably keep him out of the upper echelon.

Wisconsin sports are kicking along nicely right now.

In closing, I really hate penalty kicks, and if no one scores a real goal in Sunday's World Cup final, I might just fall asleep.

If I may shamelessly shill for a moment...

Hi, I'm blogger and fantasy football champion Paul Noonan.

Do you have problems at your fantasy draft? Do people snicker when you take Mike Vick every single year? Still think that Kurt Warner is a franchise QB? Ever spoken the following phrase?

I know which Bronco running back will be featured this year!

Are you planning on drafting Ahman Green, Priest Holmes, Jamal Lewis, or Curtis Martin early on?

You need Pro Football Prospectus 2006. Last year, I used the superior advice in PFP 2005 to get Tiki Barber for 70 cents on the dollar, grab Matt Hasselbeck, and pick up Mike Anderson after many inferior RBs were already off the board.

Seriously though, The Outsiders do an excellent job of prognosticating the futures of your favorite footballers and there is no greater resource to have for a fantasy draft than the Prospectus. Plus, frequent EC commenter Michael David Smith is one of the contributors, and his football work is always original and insightful.

You can pre-order your PFP 2006 here, as I did today.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Good News for Bad Knees

We can now grow cartilage:

Tissue engineering can effectively fix damaged knee cartilage, researchers have shown for the first time. Cartilage cells donated by patients were grown on scaffolds in the lab before being implanted back into their knees. More than a year later analysis showed the cartilage had matured successfully, even in patients with osteoarthritis.

Tissue engineering uses a mixture of biology, chemistry and materials science to grow tissues in the lab just like those in the body. Until recently, most research has taken place in the lab.

Just when you thought they convicted Ken Lay...

he found a way out.

Lay apparently died of a heart attack at his vacation home at the age of 64. Under the 5th Circuit's abatement rule, because Lay's conviction was pending appeal, it will be treated as if it never existed. You can't label a guy guilty when his appeals have not been exhausted, right. And now, since the civil suit can still go on, it will be severely hindered since plaintiffs cannot rely on the criminal conviction as proof. Lay, that slippery bastard.

Against Democracy

I meant to get this out for the Fourth, but fate (and beer) intervened.

Don't get me wrong, democracy is great. It beats every alternative form of government out there. Democracies don't go to war with other democracies, they are freer, better places to live.

That said, much of what makes America great is extremely undemocratic. Much of the Constitution is concerned with protecting the rights of individuals (or minority parties). On this site we often speak of the First Amendment with (deserved) reverence, but the First Amendment is an undemocratic ideal. If the majority ruled on speech, much speech would be illegal.

Civilization requires that someone be in charge. The great advantage of a democracy is that to some extent everyone is in charge, and this slows down the natural tyrannical inclinations that leaders have. However, those tendencies still exist in democracies just as they do in dictatorships. Government still grows, seemingly without end.

So this Fourth of July, stop for a minute to give thanks for separation of powers, for the Bill of Rights, and for every other protection that the Founders created in order that you should be protected from the vote of your neighbor.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Simpsons on Flag Burning

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