The Electric Commentary

Thursday, November 30, 2006

The Chicago Tradition Continues

A few weeks ago I did a rather lengthy post on the new Cook County Board President Todd Stroger. As scandalous as that story was, it has actually gotten worse:

Steele confirmed this week that she will exploit a legal loophole in the county's pension system to boost her retirement income. Let's leave for another day the question of whether something that's legal is therefore right. This much is unarguable: Steele can tell herself she's entitled to a pension sweetener that's rich enough to cause rapid-onset diabetes. She can't tell herself, though, that she's earned the big bucks she'll collect. Consider:

After almost 20 years as a member of the Cook County Board, Steele has spent four months as interim board president, earning a salary that calculates out to $170,000 a year. But her brief stint as president adds a huge boost to her county pension (which comes on top of the public pension she earned years ago as a schoolteacher). Slice and dice the numbers, county taxpayers, and they come down to this: Until this summer you were paying Bobbie Steele $85,000 a year to be a part-time county commissioner. Now you'll pay her $136,000 a year--plus an annual cost of living increase--to stay away.

You see, while John Stroger was incapacitated due to his stroke, and before his son Todd takes over, board member Bobbie Steele has been serving as interim Board President. While she is still holding the presidency she has decided to retire, meaning that she will not get a board member pension, she will get a board president pension.

Lovely. Guess what, it gets better. Since Steele is retiring from her board seat, and we already had an election, someone is going to have to replace her. Guess who?

Interim Cook County Board President Bobbie Steele said Wednesday that her son was the best person to replace her on the board, seeking to add a new chapter to the rich Chicago tradition of politicians pulling their children up the ranks.

Steele touted her son as she defended the decision to double her pension by retiring just three weeks after winning another term as commissioner.
(Emphasis mine.)

This is my fiefdom.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Communist Grocery Store

Back when I lived on Chicago's south side my neighborhood had one grocery store: The Hyde Park Co-Op. It was expensive, but at least it sucked. Rotten produce, never any diet coke, rude employees, and high prices worked to make it the worst grocery store that I have ever seen. Just before we moved there the Co-Op opened up a new branch just 4 blocks away. I don't know this for sure, but I'm willing to bet that the local alderman worked to freeze out competition in the area in favor of this "local flavor" because it's idiotic to have two branches of the same store 4 blocks away from each other. Predictably, the second branch lasted only a few years, and the space has now been vacant for 2 years.

I really don't need much. A Jewel or a Dominics would have been a huge improvement, but for some reason, even though the North Side is lousy with Jewels and Dominics, they just couldn't open one in my 'hood.

It's tough to build a grocery store in an urban area, and this article explains why:

As obvious as the needs are, and as well-documented as the opportunities for profit may be, it takes forever to get an urban supermarket deal done — 10 years in the case of the first Pathmark in Newark; nearly as long before Publix opened its doors in the inner-city Atlanta neighborhood of East Lake. One reason is simple bureaucratic clumsiness. “Urban environments have an arcane development process and a lot of companies don’t have the stomach for it,” says Buzz Roberts, who has run a supermarket assistance program for the nonprofit Local Initiatives Support Corp. “You can do two or three stores in the suburbs in the time it takes to do one in the inner city.”

Hat tip, Reason.

What Did We Get For Doug Davis?

Let's first dispatch with Dana Eveland and David Krynzel. Ahren points out that Krynzel is blocked in a well-stocked outfield anyway, and he probably is at best a platoon player. Here's a list of injuries that the 25 year old has suffered:

1. Thumb injury.
2. Broken foot.
3. Hit in head by Rick Ankiel.
4. Broken Clavicle in mini-bike accident.

This guy is a combo of Kellen Winslow Jr. and Charles Rogers. For a guy with pretty limited pop, he's also lousy at getting on base has suffered severe declines after each injury. He puts together an occasional short stint of quality ball that keeps him around, but this kid probably tops out as a platoon player.

As for Eveland, he's a fat, hard-throwing lefty with lousy knees and no out pitch. I don't need to consult my baseball prospectus here. Eveland gets hit hard by righties and lefties alike. You'd think that his velocity and his slider would at least qualify him for LOOGY status, but his slider stays over the plate far too often, and he overthrows his fastball in tight situations which takes away his movement. He's also likely to get injured.

Doug Davis on the other hand, is a quality starter. A durable lefty, an innings eater, and a reliable quality start every time out make Davis a valuable commodity. I could even see him turning into a Jamie Moyer type as time goes on, if he can cut down on his HRs. Losing Dougie is big, and the Crew better be getting something in return.

When considering Johnny Estrada it's worth remembering that he was actually pretty good until his confusing collision with Darin Erstad a few years ago. That said, he's declined since then, he has a bad back, and since he's a catcher he will likely hit the wall pretty quick. He allegedly handles a pitching staff well, but I don't believe in that as a skill, so I'll ignore it. Maybe Estrada rebounds and he will likely split time with Mike Rivera (we still have him, right?), but it's hard to see how Estrada provides much more than replacement level. (In 2005 he has a VORP of 3.5 and a WARP of 3.1, in 2006 he had a WARP1 of 2.9.)

Greg Aquino is a converted infielder with a good arm. My guess is that Mike Maddux thinks that he can turn this kid into something. He's no spring chicken, but when you convert you lose a few years and his arm is probably younger than the rest of him. He's shown promise, and while his ERA has fluctuated wildly, his PERA tends to rest in the 5.00s. (His EQERA, like his ERA, is all over the map).

I'm guessing that the coaches see something in this kid that they can fix in short order. His somewhat advanced age and his "project" nature make him a stereotypical Doug Melvin scrap heap acquisition.

As I've been reading Baseball Prospectus to check these guys out, I've noticed a pattern in the pitchers. They are almost all described as "homer prone." Perhaps the Brewers see this as a correctable problem, or indicative of something else. Anyway, the label also applies to Claudio Vargas. Nothing really jumps out at you about Vargas, but he has at least been solid. Ahren, in his analysis, compares Vargas to Davis and finds them roughly equal, and Vargas is likely cheaper. I can't find anything to disagree with there. One other positive about Vargas is that Miller Park (I think) should be a more pitcher-friendly park than Arizona's stadium, although I'm often wrong about parks off the top of my head.

I think the trade is a calculated risk. Estrada is probably junk at this point, but Krynzel and Eveland are also garbage. When the Brewers trade players, the first place to look is the pitchers that they acquire, and it's at least plausible that they will replace Davis's production for less money (in the near future) and possibly pick up another valuable arm as well. They are, once again, counting on Mike Maddux to work his magic, and it's not a bad strategy. I'm luke-warm on the trade, but it's certainly not a stupid trade, and it has potential.

Finally, the Astros are just insane for giving Carlos Lee that much money. If you like fat, slow, defensively challenged corner outfielders with old-player skills coming off of a contract year in which they played 33% better than at any other time in their careers, well then this deal is for you.

Dissent From Above

Now that we have Google Earth, no one can hide:

In the run-up to the country's parliamentary elections this Saturday, cyber-activists in Bahrain are using Google Earth to highlight the excesses of the ruling al-Khalifa family. It's always surprised me that more authoritarian regimes do not block access to Google Earth. Bahrain has tried in the past, but its efforts to do so proved mostly futile. And since Google ratcheted up the resolution of its images of Bahrain, Google Earthing the royal family's private golf courses, estates, islands, yachts, and other luxuries has become a national pastime. Most Bahrainis have long known that these things existed, but they've been hidden behind walls and fences.

Monday, November 27, 2006


00:00, END. Fun Tatupu Fact: On the Simpsons halloween episode "King Homer" the island natives' language is just the name of former NFL player Mosie Tatupu repeated over and over. Mosie is the father of current Seahawk LB Lofa Tatupu.

Alright, I'm heading to bed. Thanks for tuning in to the EC Packer LiveBlogCastQuickUpdateThingy. We'll do it again soon, hopefully with better results. In the meantime, I look forward to Wisconsin destroying some poor SEC team in the Capitol One Bowl.

Heh. I'll bet someone lost a fantasy game on that Favre fumble.

(And don't forget to pick up your copy of Dare to Dream, written and Directed by David Orgas, starring fantasy league member Bryan Madson, now on DVD.

2:00, Q4. Mitch channels the Cowboy:

(After the pick at about 6:00 ...) In an ode Ace, I'll go there ... the last time Favre completed a pass like that was the last time he lost a family member. Yeah, it's wrong, but I've been reading too much slack lately.

Brett's out there agains for one last, drive. And it's the two minute warning. I need another beer, or four. They really blew this game, and it was a real team effort. When he entire team plays this badly, it's time to look at the coach.

BTW, Shaun is still washed up, despite his 200 yard performance. Moving the ball on the Pack proves nothing, and even Joe Theisman makes a smart comment once in a while.

3:00 or so, Q4. As there is nothing positive to report, I'd like to point out that the commenters just made a pretty funny Quantum Leap joke. And it didn't even involve Ziggy.

Hey, a Greg Jenning sighting! I love Greg, but the knock on him is that he can get lazy on his routes, acommon complaint of deep threats.

While I'm on the subject of wideouts, what's with the Saints? Every guy on the team looks like an All-Pro! Copper? Henderson? Who are these guys?

And we have full Brett Thermo-nuclear meltdown. Stick a fork in this one, it's over. Let's see what else is on.

Over on The Colbert Report, Target is recalling some toys. Ah, Basic Instinct is on American Movie Classics. That makes sense. OK, back to ESPN to see if it's improved...

4:35, Q4. The Packers desperately need a TD here to get close and to rest the defense. By the way, I think that there is basically no chance of that happening.

And....Brett gets picked off. That should just about do it.

Except for the turnovers they have played terribly tonight, no better than against the Patriots. It's not like Seattle has been a juggernaut this year, but they've had their way with the Pack.

Oh, and Shaun Alexander, if I heard correctly, just broke his career high in carries. Good idea for a guy just back from injury.

We're now under 5:00. Time, she is a wastin'.

6:13, Q4. Let's just go to the comments, shall we:

Scott K (Not Scott H):

That's one of the worst roughing the passer calls I have ever seen. If there is one problem with the NFL it's there obsession with protecting the can't hit them high or low...they might as well just incorporate the halo rule for the quarterback. What a crock...

Followed by Mitch:

Oh come on ... the worst rule in professional sports is the NBA rule preventing players from bringing their guns to the arena.

True dat, double true!

The fellas are doing good work down there.

Can someone please knee Jerramy Stevens in the junk again.

8:44, Q4. The defense has been terrible except for the takeaways. Meanwhile, Scott H chimes in:

Oh fuck the refs already. Some pansy ass delay of game penalty. Some confusing ass holding penalty. Then this hitting the QB at all during a pass call. Fuck the refs. Seriously. Corn cob sodomies for them all.

I couldn't agree more, a good ol' fashioned Nebraska Prom Night for all of them.

The refs really are having an awful game, but the Packers haven't put much together for some time now. The defense has to make a stop at some point, this is getting ridiculous.

As I write this Seattle is challenging the spot and losing. Will they go? I would. Mack Strong up the middle again, especially now that the ground is in better shape.

Or Shaun outside. Yuck. Only another turnover can save the Pack now.

9:08, Q4. Cullen Jenkins was just victimized by a terrible call that may cost the Pack dearly. For once Theisman is right. Hey, sun shines on a dog's ass every now and then.

On the replay it looks even worse. I mean, that's just awful. That's 3 games this week that have been effected by QB wussiness.

At least they killed Jerramy Stevens again.

10:11, Q4. Hi, I'm O.J. Simpson, otherwise known as "The Juice." And folks, the Juice is loose, and he's coming after you! My recent book, "If I did it" was pulled by publishers, but this was only a temporary setback and soon I will be selling books and doind some much needed improvements on my tax shelt...home.

In addition to my new book, "If I Did It," you can now enjoy an entire series of books from your favorite newschannel personalitiess. There's Gary Condit's "If I tied her up, put her in the trunk, and drove the 94 Civic onto a boat to Hong Kong never to be seen again." Next you'll receive Ted Kennedy's "If I left that woman to die." And of course, everyone's favorite new work, "If I Did Him" by Mark Foley.

Future presidential nominee Hilary Clinton also pitches in with the new fiction-financial book, "If I Had Insider Info on Cattle Futures," and the thriller "If I Murdered Vernon Jordan."

And of course, you wouldn't want to miss Kobe Bryant's "What we would have done that night, aw yeah."

All of these, as well as my book, can be yours for one low price of $99.99. Why spend all of that cash on E-Bay when a cornucopia of celebrities and politicians can entertain you with these completely fictional works of literary genius.

Just send check or money order, along with your address, marital status, and work hours to The Juice, P.O. Box 412, Kissimee FL.

You won't regret it.

Especially if you get away with it.

14:11, Q4. Have I mentioned that I hate Shaun Alexander? This dates back to an old fantasy grudge in which Shaun posted good superficial numbers, but in reality played terribly with the exception of 2 games in which he score 8 total TDs. I did win those two weeks, but I lost a lot more than I won.

And just like that the lead is gone. D-JAx gets his tippy-toes in and the Hawks will go for two.

And convert.

Does the offense have anything left in the tank? Can they mount a drive in response?

Stay tuned, for the thrilling conclusion, after this word from OJ Simpson.

1:18, Q3. In honor of Steve Young's visit, here's a picture of Mormon underwear. It's weird.

Meanwhile, Seattle forces another punt and suddenly the lead is in all sorts of Jeopardy. Celebrity Jeopardy, Rock'n'roll Jeopardy, etc.

The Packer passing game has really been stymied except for the Driver play. One major shft in the Packer passing game is the real lack of a pass-catching RB. Herron comes in to catch passes on third, but you rarely see anything on first or second down. The lack of a pass-catching TE leaves a big hole in the Packer passing game despite the above-average WRs.

The defense is now exhausted and the washed up Shaun Alexander is running all over them. It's only a matter of time before Seattle grabs the lead at this rate. Remember that even in the first half the Seahawks were moving at will. Only turnovers stopped them. The defense needs to adjust and take something away, and they need to do it RIGHT NOW.

6:15, Q3. Shaun has 126 yards? Really? Wow.

Here comes a bogus pass-interference penalty. Oh, it's just holding.

Alert! Mormon in the booth! Oh, it's just Steve Young. He's a direct descendant of Brigham Young. Then again, so is almost every Mormon, as Young had about 1700 wives. Brigham, not Steve. Steve only has 12.

DJ Tanner pulls in a TD pass and Uncle Joey is not happy about it. Josh adds his 13th point and suddenly it's a 2-point affair. Whoa Nelly.

8:27, Q3. The ever-vigilant Mitch informs us that Matt is up to a solid -7 due to his yardage. Man, his receivers aren't just high, they're wasted. Except DJ Hackett. Didn't Candace Cameron play him on Full House?

Shaun Alexander makes an appearance now that the snow has let up, and converts a first down. The field is improving and turnovers will now be rarer. That's good, it plays into the hands of the leading team. And that's us.

10:32, Q3. So what team is actually a contender in the NFC? The Bears are actually pretty good just based on defense, but they've looked mortal on several occasions. Seattle, even if they do come back to win this game, is just the best team in a bad conference.

Everyone is really geared up about the Cowboys since the Romo change, but I don't averreact to a few games. They look ok, but they still have a lackluster o-line, and that's not good. I would take a strong front four over the Cowboys, even a mediocre team like Carolina. The Saints? They can't play defense. Nice story, good/great QB (I really like Drew Brees), but that's not enough.

(Ouch. Tough hit on Jerramy Stevens, bringing down boos. Tough year for that guy. He gets booed for every drop and he got kneed in the junk earlier this year. I know he's a jerk and all, but jeez.)

(Also, shouldn't Mel Gibson and Michael Richards star in a movie together where play two mismatched cops who drive around solving hate-crimes? It might not help out their images, but I bet it would make a ton of cash.)

I don't know who to like in the NFC. Bears By Default, I suppose, but this conference is open to any team that gets hot.

15:00, Q3. We're back. Greg Jenning did a nice job shaking tacklers and picks up a first down. I like Jenning a lot, and I don't think he's fully recovered from his ankle injury yet. And THERE GOES DONALD DRIVER FOR THE TOUCHDOWN!

I love that crossing route. They run it every game, usually for over 20 yards. Driver may be the best crossing route runner in the NFL.

00:00, Halftime. Mitch would like to correct himself. Matt's actually a solid -12. The anti-Josh Brown.

The Pack will take a knee and head in for some coco. Not a terrible first half because they're up, but it certainly should be a lot better. When you waste opportunities like the Pack did, you can't feel too good about your chances. Let's hope the Packer offense adjusts, because I'll bet the Seahawks do.

Time for a halftime Pit-Stop/Refill. Back in 5.

:23, Q2. I love that they showed the "We'll take the ball" clip and they're praising him for it. How idiotic.

This is like the old Seahawks the way they're dropping balls. Maybe Koren is making extra cash during his suspension by passing out the wacky weed to his old teammates. And on cue Nate Burleson drops a sure touchdown.

Josh hits a chippy for a first half 12-spot. He's my kicker in FF, BTW.

1:23, Q2. Mitch points out (in the comments) that Matt currently rates a -9 points in Fantasy Football. Although it looks like he's about to improve a bit. Stupid Marquan Manuel.

1:44, Q2. A few NFL observations. Baltimore's offense is getting wayyy to much credit. McNair hasn't been very good, and Lewis hasn't been very good. They've been lucky and the defense is still first rate, but they're the anti-Colts.

As for the Colts, they can't play D. So they beat a McNabb-less Eagle team. So what? Clearly, San Diego is the best team in the AFC. They play in a tougher division than Indy and they have the total package.

And don't get me started on the Bears. Paper tigers. Everyone realizes that Rex Grossman throws a lousy middle-range pass, and they're taking away deep routes. Bernard Berrien was only effective because of a penalty. They will have a tough time down the stretch, although they'll look fine against the Vikings next week. The Vikings suck.

Just for fun, here's a list of overrated QBs:

Eli Manning.
Jake Delhomme.
Steve McNair (formerly underrated)


See, that's why liveblogging is fun. You can be in the middle of a thought and some guy named Hodge from Iowa who you have never heard of before, but who I already like better than Nick Barnett, picks off Matt and takes it to...the...Hooouuuussseee!

By the way, I'm on my third beer, and I'm down to Miller Lite, not that there's anything wrong with Miller Lite, of course, it's just that I had Guinness and Pilsner Urquell. But hey, beer is beer.

3:34, Q2. Doesn't it seem like Seattle has had the ball forever? Even though we have 3 TOs to their 1? What gives? This doesn not bode well for the rest of the game, in fact, all sorts of bad omens are popping up. Wasted turnovers, Jimmy Kimmel, etc.

Josh Brown will try yet another FG in the snow. He can't make 3 in a row, can he? Perfect again.

This is a good time to mention that the Idiot Kicker just got cut in favor of Martin Grammatica. How the mighty have fallen.

8:30, Q2. While Seattle is driving after Green Bay squandered a TO and great field position, let me recommend a great Christmas present for any Nascar fan, or just a fan of good cinema. I can also make up for not visiting a friend when I was in Milwaukee last weekend.

The guy who runs my most complicated fantasy football league made a movie. Not a documentary, an honest-to-god movie. His name is David Orgas and it's called Dare to Dream: The Alan Kulwicki Story. It's a great story and David gives it the treatment it deserves. After a fairly wide release in the south and in Wisconsin (in other words, in Nascar country) it is now available on DVD. You can purchase the flick right here.

Meanwhile, Josh Brown kicks another figgie to make it 7-6.

Oh, and Jimmie Kimmel is in the booth. Yeh.

12:31, Q2. Chuck Woodson takes it right back, and Ahman puts them in great shape. What do you call on third and goal? I like rollouts with a trailer on the front and back of the endzone, stationary target in the middle. It gives you a ton of options, and it's unlikely that you'll take a bad sack. Straight passes limit your options to the outsides (maybe the center back with a big target) and runs, while nice from the 3 yard line in, are going to be tough in the snow.

What's with the broom guy sweeping snow? They couldn't get him a shovel?

What kind of a crappy call was that? You take a shot there. A FG is no sure thing here.

What did I just say?

15:00, Q2. The NFL rule against breathing too hard on QBs cost two teams yesterday. Everyone saw Vince Young escape a Giant defender who thought that the play was over on a fourth down that would have ended the game. Instead Young escaped and scampered 19 yards for a first down. The Giant's lack of finish was probably the result of a questionable call earlier in the game that Gave Young and the Titans a first down on a fourth down play.

Brian Urlacher was also victimized by Tom Brady who fakes a slide and juked the all-pro out of his jock. I pity the next QB who tries that on Mr. Urlacher.

Back on TV Brett throws an ill-advised pick to Kelly Hearndon. Brett was relying far too much on Daniel Franks' athletic ability. Bubba is good when he's standing still and can use his body. On the run he's a huge liability, especially that far down the field where DBs have more time to react.

3:35, Q1. I think that we should start pronouncing the Heisman Trophy as the "He's-man trophy. Just to see if we can get Joe to change his name back.

Nice kick by Josh Brown. I didn't think anyone would try a kick that long in this weather. I hate Capital 1 commercials.

Nice touch, ESPN playing Pearl Jam during a Seattle game.

5:40, Q1. You're watching two washed-up RBs here. Shaun Alexander was overworked last year and you've already witnessed the consequences with the broken foot, but he also won't be as effective. He's looked good so far in the slick weather, but they'll adjust and shut him down. Likewise, Green has looked good this year only because of the new zone blocking scheme. He's good for one cut and a slight power finish. There is no chance that the Pack will resign Green at the end of the year unless he takes a cheap 1-year deal, but that's pretty unlikely.

Green probably still has some value in the right system, but the Packers are moving to a system where RB-by-committee will probably be the order of the day.

As Shaun coughs up the ball, doing his best Ahman Green, I hope that they continue to keep it on the ground. The Packer secondary is vulnerable. D'oh, another first down. That was the same play as Matt's last pick, except that this time he (correctly) checked down.

10:35, Q1. We'll take the ball, and we're gonna score! Matt Hasselbeck to Al Harris, a classic combo if ever there was one. Matt looked sharp on his first pass, but he's probably rusty, and snow is no way to knock off the rust.

15:00, Q1. Snow must be good, right? Great start as Woodson picks off the tipped pass and Ahman takes it in for a touchdown!

We come to you live from my livingroom where my new HDTV does not yet get an HD signal due to a mixup with the cable company. It should be remedied by next Sunday. It's a big improvement though.

This is the Packer season right here. If they drop this one, they're really out of it. Normally they would be out of it already, but the general sadness of the NFC, the Giant choke yesterday, the injury to McNabb, the Bruce Gradkoski era, and Portis injury, the flumoxing Carolina decline, the Seattle problems, the continuing Vick debacle, and an easy schedule have kept them alive.

This game will come down to Favre. Remember, before he got hurt last week he was terrible. I'm betting that the near-injury served as a wake-up call, like when Rocky is fighting Tommy Morrison and he starts halucinating about Burgess Meredith. Of course, we all know that that movie didn't really happen, like the new Rocky movie.

We're off to a good start. 7-0 Pack! Updates will appear at the top or this post, so hit refresh occasionally. All spelling mistakes will be left intact.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

It's Just A Medical Problem

For some reason we don't consider certain ailments to be medical in nature. Death, for instance, is viewed as some mystical quasi-religious part of life, when it's really just a medical problem that will be solved at some point. Another is obesity/high cholesterol/fatness. Will Saletan tackles girth in a very clever Slate piece:

In fact, we're already working on it. Food abstinence, like sexual abstinence, was the original option. Then came the rhythm method: no snacking between meals. Randy teens fortify their resolve at True Love Waits; hungry adults do it at Weight Watchers. To relieve the hots, there's safe sex; to relieve the munchies, there's SlimFast. With foams and jellies, we can kill sperm in the reproductive tract; with lipase inhibitors, we can neutralize fat in the digestive tract. The pill blocks pregnancy by fooling your body into thinking it's pregnant; appetite suppressants curtail eating by making your body think it's full.

Read it all, but just in case you don't, here's the uplifting ending:

Intestinal bypass is no picnic. It's traumatic, and it means taking supplements for the rest of your life. The ideal solution would be to find the same benefits in a pill. Wouldn't you know it, two studies have come out this month suggesting that a compound called resveratrol neutralizes the harmful effects of a high-fat diet in mice. "Guilt-free gluttony might not be a fantasy," scientists concluded in Nature.

Life is good. And getting better.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The War On Beer Pong

Seriously, why not just outlaw fun:

Researchers who study drinking games say they can cause serious problems, contributing to binge drinking and the negative consequences, such as drunken driving, that go along with it. One study of college students found that nearly half the male respondents who played drinking games said they did so to facilitate romantic interactions and sexual encounters.

"Drinking games are a structured way to drink heavily," said Brian Borsari, a researcher at Brown University who has studied drinking games and who wrote a paper summarizing studies on the subject. "One motivation is to get people drunk. There is a link between alcohol use and sexual assault."

A national association of fraternities and sororities recently strengthened its risk management policy prohibiting drinking games, citing beer pong as a specific activity that should not be tolerated. Many colleges now include warnings as part of their freshmen orientations.

But this is just funny:

Alex, the freshman at Marquette, is among the female students who dislike beer pong for reasons of hygiene. She is convinced the pingpong balls are covered with germs and would prefer that they not make it into her beer.

Marquette Defeats Evil

Nice job Warriors. It's rare to see any Wisconsin team play Duke, and not only did Marquette win, they won convincingly. Dominic James is the best point guard in college basketball. Duke had no answer for James, who scored at will, and opened up shots for everyone else.

Monday, November 20, 2006

The Best Rivalry In Football?

Ohio State-Michigan doesn't have anything on these guys:

Six years ago, in the bitter chill November air, best of buddies, yet bitter rivals, made a pact. They agreed to a competition of courage, endurance, strength and will that would soon prove to be the pinnacle of events in the Greatest Village in the World that is Skokie. The two most dominating Super-Powers met to determine the true leaders of the community the only way they knew how: in a field of play. The Indians fought the Jews, both honorary and true, with all of their heart and gave the fine Village of Skokie some newfound pride.

Schedule and official Indo Jew Bowl T-Shirts here.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

A Bunch Of BCS

I think that Michigan and OSU should play again in the title game. This makes all kinds of sense. Of all of the one loss teams, Michigan boasts the most impressive resume. They have only one loss to the consensus best team in the country. USC lost to Oregon State (Trojans lose to Beavers!), and Florida lost to Auburn. You may remember Auburn as the team that Wisconsin destroyed last year in their bowl game. Notre Dame is a joke. There is no plausible case that ND is better than Wisconsin, and it is a travesty that they may yet play in the title game.

Here are some stupid "conventional wisdoms" that my keep Michigan out:

1. Losing later in the season is worse than losing earlier.

Uhm, why? In no other sport is this true. It's not like a late season baseball win moves you up two games in the standings. That would be asinine, and this "what have you done for me lately" attitude that some pollsters adopt is ridiculous.

2. OSU already won, why should Michigan get a second chance? And if Michigan wins, can you really call them the Champs?

First of all, we play the title game at a neutral site for a reason. This game was at OSU. Second, in many sports, teams routinely play each other during the regular season, and then again in the championship game. This would be no different. It's not like this game was scheduled specially just to eliminate one team, this is the normal Big 10 schedule.

3. But Rutgers is undefeated! (Ed: Not anymore). And so is Boise State.

Yes, but Rutgers plays in the terrible big east. They play no one, and either Michigan or OSU (or Wisconsin for that matter) would beat them by 20+ points. It's nice that Rutgers is having a good season, but their degree of difficulty is pretty sorry. Boise state is in Idaho and plays on a blue field, and BCS rules specifically ban these things.

I want to see this game again. I watched it in an evenly divided bar and it was fantastic. No one wants to see OSU-Rutgers. No one.

Call your local AP voter today, and tell him to keep Michigan #2. And while you're at it, tell him to move Notre Dame below Wisconsin

What is wrong with Brett?

Most of the time when Brett screws up it's because he's been put in a bad situation, 3rd and 12s and whatnot, but in this game it looks like he's just missing everyone.

Oh, and now he's hurt. Lovely.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Freed Man.

Milton Friedman made people realize that simply having good intentions is not good enough. Free To Choose was the first economics book I picked up, and it completely changed the way that I think.

Here is Milton being grilled on TV, and teaching the host a lesson.

All of the prominent econbloggers are paying their respects.

Here's Alex:

Milton Friedman loved liberty. Even today, chills run down my spine whenever I read the slashing opening to Capitalism and Freedom.

President Kennedy said, "Ask not what your country can do for you - ask what you can do for your country."... Neither half of that statement expresses a relation between the citizen and his government that is worthy of the ideals of free men in a free society.

Damn right

and Tyler.

Here's Megan.

Arnold has this to say:

What struck me was that Friedman won the Clark Medal, given to the economist under 40 with the most achievements, in 1951. At that time, he had published none of the works for which he is famous, either inside our outside the economics profession. Well, maybe one--the Friedman-Savage utility function (1948). He received the most prestigious award that the profession offers, and in hindsight he had not even gotten started.

Greg Mankiw pays tribute here:

The Friedmans are best known for their articulate and unwavering defense of the free market. Their policy objective is, simply, "the promotion of human freedom." This goal, they tell us, "underlies our opposition to rent control and general wage and price controls, our support for educational choice, privatizing radio and television channels, an all-volunteer army, limitation of government spending, legalization of drugs, privatizing Social Security, free trade, and the deregulation of industry and private life to the fullest extent possible." Milton and Rose were libertarians--aggressively vocal libertarians--before libertarians were cool.

Here is Brad Delong:

There's a story that at lunch at the White House in 2002 he told George W. Bush exactly what he thought about Bush's unpaid-for tax cuts. We will miss him.

Tim Worstall has links.

The folks at Reason weigh in here.

Dan Drezner has a few interesting facts.

Virginia Postrel has more.

Tommy Isn't Running

If anyone is interested, former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson will not run for president. He may think that he will, but won't. Don't get me wrong, I like Tommy. Wisconsin needed a lot of fixing and Tommy did a fairly good job.

But the fact is that when Tommy speaks, he sounds like a yokel.

Now I have a Wisconsin accent, of course. I say my Os and As funny. I sometimes use strange grammar like in the previous sentence. And I call drinking fountains "bubblers." Normally if you have an accent, other people with that accent sound normal to you, but even I can hear Tommy's Wisconsin accent, and that's not good.

Some of you are probably thinking, "Sure he may sound like a yokel, but have you heard the current president?" Good point. There's a big difference though. The Texas accent reminds a certain segment of the population of heroic cowboys. It's actually a positive to some. The Wisconsin accent, on the other hand, is somewhere between the hilarious Minnesota accent and the Chicago "Superfan" accent, and that is what people think of when they hear it.

This isn't fair, of course. But unfortunately, it's true. Give it up Tommy, you've got no shot.

What is more annoying?

The fact that many radio stations are already playing Christmas music, or the fact that the annual conservative war against the "war against Christmas" is already starting up? Twice on the radio this morning I heard Christmas Carols as well as conservatives threatening to boycott Best Buy for refusing to use the word "Christmas" in their ads.

Happy Holidays.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


1. Forests are getting bigger.

2. Pregnant? You're eating for two...generations.

3. A new worry for religious conservatives.

4. The pitch that science created.

Faith and Evolution

Richard Dawkins has been making the book tour stops lately (including the most recent New Scientist podcast) promoting his new book, The God Delusion.

I've read a bit of this book at the book store, and in it Dawkins seems to make a mistake (at least I think it's a mistake) that many militant atheists make in their argument. They typically argue that religion leads to stupidity. This is simplified a bit, but it seemed to be the gist of The God Delusion and it's definitely the theme of closet Buddhist Sam Harris's The End of Faith. I believe that this theory reverses cause and effect.

One of my pet theories for which I have no evidence is that religion is the product of a certain evolutionary force which causes your brain (and the brains of most animals) to equate correlation with causation. For instance, a deer that runs away whenever leaves rustle will likely outcompete a deer that only runs away occasionally when the leaves rustle. Rustling leaves may not always be a predator, but even if it does indicate a predator only 1% of the time, the cautious deer will survive where the lazy deer will not. There are some mistakes that animals cannot afford to make

We are wired to pick up patterns. I was guilty of this just the other day. My extended family shares a Packer season ticket package and whenever I'm in the end zone seats the Packers lose on the last play of the game. Just this year I was there for the Rams game. A few days later I was talking to Danny on the phone and I jokingly said that I can't sit in those seats anymore because I was clearly causing them to lose. The fact that this thought occurred to me at all tells us something about human nature.

I'm fairly sure that this is how religions (and superstitions) get started. Some person or tribe probably encountered good or bad fortune and connected it with some unrelated act like killing a goat or praying or whatever. By random chance the two events may have coincided again, or perhaps it just seemed that way as people have a tendency to disregard events that don't fit a pattern. At any rate, religion likely evolved as a side effect of our pattern-sensing ability.

I have not read Dawkins' book, but I did peruse a portion that specifically discussed potential root causes of religion, and nowhere did I see my idea. The closest he got was positing that the ability to indoctrinate young children with unquestioning belief is evolutionarily beneficial. This isn't a bad theory but it doesn't really get to the root of religion, it merely deals with the spread of religion.

With the development of the scientific method we're no longer slaves to our instincts, and we now understand that correlation does not necessarily indicate causation, but it takes conscious effort to think this way all of the time, and most of the time our pattern-detection still serves us well, especially for everyday run-of-the-mill tasks. It is for this reason that I claim that "stupidity" causes religion.

South Park recently ran an episode (which was highly critical of Richard Dawkins) in which Cartman ended up in the future, and militant atheists were in a constant state of war over some petty disagreement. The point was that if there was no religion that people would still fight over stupid crap. I suspect that Dawkins would answer that atheists are smarter than that. In The God Delusion he speaks highly of the "consciousness raising" ability of evolution. And as far as the current situation is concerned, he's right. Most scientists are atheists, many Nobel winners are atheists, and certainly evolution was a revolutionary step towards solving one of the great mysteries of the universe (and displacing religion in the process).

But, while atheists and evolutionists may be smarter as a group, at the moment, than religious folks, it does not necessarily follow that religious folks would become smarter by becoming atheists and evolutionists. In fact, I would assert that those most likely to remain religious throughout their lives are more likely to adopt evolution as a belief through faith, not reason.

I personally know several people who currently believe in evolution on nothing but faith. They don't really understand it, and they either can't explain it or explain it incorrectly, but they still believe it because they know that smart people believe it. This may be more sensible than faith in God, but it is still faith.

The fact is that not everyone cares enough to learn about every topic, and for those topics that they find boring they rely on experts. I don't mean to criticize here, as for the most part this is extremely efficient, however, it means that no matter how intelligent your idea is, "stupid" people will still believe it.

People like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris believe that eliminating religion would solve many problems. Dawkins has a series on BBC which featured an advertisement showing the World Trade Centers standing tall with the caption "Can You Imagine a World Without Religion?" While I agree that the towers would likely still be standing without religion, there's no telling what other ill-conceived ideas would have gained traction in its place. (They need a refresher on "replacement level.")

Dawkins and Harris believe that the problem is religion, but I believe that the problem is people. Religion exists almost everywhere in the world. It appears to be a natural part of human evolution. While I applaud Dawkins' effort to bring enlightenment to the present-day world, harping on and on about the past atrocities of religious people places an unrealistic standard on those people, something which Dawkins admonishes others for in his book when discussing the evils of Stalin and Hitler. (He asserts that when comparing their atrocities to those of civilizations past, we must separate their "evil intentions" from their advanced technology. He makes the case that Hitler and Stalin are no more evil than many ancient warlords, they just had guns.)

As with Harris's book, I agreed with Dawkins on most points, it is just the little differences, the snipes, the over-the-top rhetoric, and the lack of perspective, that takes him from being the George Will of atheists to being the Ann Coulter of atheists. That's probably a bit harsh. Let's say the Sean Hannity of atheists.

If you are an atheist you will probably like it. If you're not, it will almost certainly piss you off.

(Note 1: Dawkins also gets on his high-horse about the hick portion of the US (Dawkins is British.) I have no problem bashing the American South but while Europe may be more enlightened spiritually, they adhere to their fair share of nonsensical beliefs, many of which are economic in nature, in complete contradiction of all available evidence.)

(Note 2: At one point Dawkins asserts that "hate speech" is illegal in the US. This is not the case. In fact, you can actually make a fair amount of money engaging in hate speech.)

(Note 3: Ron Reagan's Secretary of the Interior, James Watt, never said the following: "We don't have to protect the environment, the Second Coming is at hand." Dawkins trots out this "quote" on page 288. Grist Magazine originally reported the quote which was then repeated by Bill Moyers and has now lodged itself into the memories of everyone attempting to make religious people look bad. Grist ran a correction here. (Scroll all the way down to the bottom.)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Football Notes

1. No, I'm not eating crow about Wisconsin, first of all because I'm a Wisconsin fan so I'm happy that they won, but secondly because while Donovan played well and ran well, Stocco is still clearly better, and Iowa is completely incompetent.

2. Congrats to Wisconsin for cracking the top 10. Will the BCS punish them next week just for playing Buffalo?

3. There were a number of laterals in the NFL this week, plus whatever you'd like to call that play in the Eagles game where Buckhalter caught a bank-shot off of an Eagle receiver. Greg Jennings made a nice lateral to Donald Driver. In the words of Lou Brown:

Nice play Jennings. Don't ever fuckin' do it again.

4. In the unlikely even that my pathetic Super Bowl pick Tampa Bay wins tonight, they will only be a game behind my other, equally terrible Super Bowl pick of Cincinnati.

5. Cincy may have the worst defense in the league. How good was Odell Thurman?

6. Stop trying long FGs against the Bears. Please. All my Bear fan friends are back on the Super Bowl bandwagon, but the offense didn't play that well and the Giants were very banged up. I still think this roller-coaster has a few valleys left.

7. What are the odds of the Badgers winning in Iowa the same weekend that the Packers win in Minnesota. Individually these are rarities. Together it is almost impossible.

8. Guess who?

A. Points For: 249. Points Against: 189

B. PF: 250. PA: 174

C. PF: 189 PA: 199

A is the undefeated Colts. B is the 5-4 Dallas Cowboys. C is the 6-3, first place Seattle Seahawks. By the way, even though the Hawks have given up more points than they have scored, they do have the best differential in the NFC West.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Workin' For The Weekend

I'm going to see The Decemberists this weekend. Not familiar? Here's a performance. I don't have audio on this computer, so I don't know if it's a good performance, but it will probably give you some idea:

I'd also like to mention that if UW QB John Stocco doesn't play this weekend, there is little chance that the Badgers will defeat Iowa, as backup QB Tyler Donovan is incompetent.

I'm guessing that Stocco will make the start.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Loser League Time

Don't forget to sign up for the Football Outsider Loser League, where you try to put together a team of the least valuable players (note that they must see the field or they are penalized) in the NFL. You can sign up here.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Welcome To The Machine or, The Glorious Coronation of King Todd

For some background, see the post right below this one, and this Chicago Tribune article.

The current president of Cook County is John Stroger. He's a fixture of machine politics down here. Many county employees are Stroger friends, relatives, or the friends and relatives of Stroger's cronies, or business partners, etc. Most of these employees are also purportedly incompetent. What's important to note is that if a non-Stroger won the presidency, many people would stand to lose their ill-gotten jobs. Fortunately for Stroger, this machine is of the well-oiled variety. He's got the Mayor on his side, which is worth its weight in gold, and the large number of connections that Stroger has accumulated over the years gives him a large built-in constituency. Add this to the fact that Stroger is black, and a Democrat, and he is almost unbeatable in the Chicago metro area.

But this time was going to be different. John Stroger was actually challenged in the Democratic primary by a non-machine Democrat named Forrest Claypool. Claypool and Stroger were running neck-and-neck as the primary drew near. A few days before Chicagoans everywhere went to cast their largely meaningless primary votes, an interesting thing happened.

John Stroger had a stroke.

How bad was it? No one knew.

You see, Stroger's campaign sealed off his hospital room. Every so often one of his cronies would appear and offer assurances that the old man was OK. They would claim to have just spoken with him, and claimed that he was in good spirits, and would likely make a full recovery. It sounded as if Stroger was perfectly fine, and completely capable of staying in the race. However, despite the testimony of his cronies, no reporters ever interviewed Stroger. They were turned away at every advance.

Stroger made no appearances even as the primary approached. Election day arrived, and still, Stroger kept to himself in his hospital. Despite this uncertainty (or perhaps because of it), Stroger narrowly defeated Claypool to gain the nomination. As this is Chicago, shenanigans were suspected. It is very likely that had Stroger's true condition been disclosed, it would have meant victory for Claypool.

As it turned out Stroger was in no condition to run or govern. The logical next move would have been for the Dems to select Claypool, who was quite popular, but instead they selected John Stroger's son Todd. I'll let the Tribune Editorial Board explain:

Remember how Chicago's Democratic bosses lied to voters earlier this year? Remember their assurances that John Stroger would return after his stroke to lead the Cook County Board? Once the deadline for other candidates to file papers for Stroger's seat passed, the bosses did what they'd plotted all along: They put Stroger's lightweight son, Todd, on the ballot to cement their control of county jobs and contracts. But it turns out that wasn't the end of their disdain for voters--especially African-American voters:

The Tribune's story Sunday about 11th-hour efforts to mobilize black turnout for Todd Stroger and Gov. Rod Blagojevich included a revealing quote from a Democratic strategist: "You don't have to do anything but get them out, and the time to get them out is the weekend before the election."

Here's what that strategist means: Black voters won't protest the long waits to see a doctor and all the other shabby service people get from Cook County. If we just wind them up and point them toward the polls, they'll do whatever the Democratic Party tells them to do.

This is the essence of machine politics, and relying on the built-in coalition.

Todd Stroger was opposed in the general election by a fairly credible Republican named Tony Peraica, but the already arduous task of winning in Cook County as a Republican was made that much harder by the underhanded tactics of Tuesday evening. These included a delayed delivery of votes, (As of 9:00 this morning, 75% of the districts in the entire state of Illinois had reported their results. In Chicago, only 61% of districts has reported by that time. Someone is going to have to explain to me how an entire state can report faster than a lone city, especially when the state in question contains the city in question.) as well as questionable access to the county building that was granted to the Stroger campaign in the middle of the night, and which prompted a 1:00 am raid by the Peraica campaign.

In the end Stroger easily defeated Peraica, which is no surprise to anyone who followed the race. The fix was in months ago. The Strogers will now get to keep their incompetent cronies in place in their wasteful county agencies. The machine will press on, and Todd Stroger will likely remain the County President until the day that he suffers a stroke and is forced to put his son in his position, King Todd II.

Long live the king. I'm going to go back to plowing my field.

(For more on machine politics, see this Slate Explainer:

City government experts point to a political culture that's been in place for more than 100 years. This culture dates back to the late 19th century, when a gambling-house owner named Michael Cassius McDonald created the city's first political machine. Under machine-style rule, those in power would hand out contracts, jobs, and social services in exchange for political support.

Chicago's large immigrant population made it easier for political machines to grow in power. Poor ethnic communities could be played off against one another and manipulated with petty gifts. In exchange for political support, ethnicities would be given virtual fiefdoms within city government; the Irish, for example, were given police work, and the Italians jobs at the transit authority...

In Chicago, corruption persisted, to some degree because the city never had the benefit of a reformist mayor like New York City's Fiorello LaGuardia, who had political ties to FDR. Instead, Chicago moved towards a one-party system that made it even more vulnerable to corruption: The city's last Republican mayor left office in 1931. Today, not even the Democratic primaries are competitive—for the most part, once you're in office, you stay there. The weak campaign finance laws in Illinois probably helped to stave off competition in recent years.

The star power of Chicago politicians may also contribute to the city's continuing problems with corruption. Incumbents tend to be big personalities who get celebrity coverage in the local papers—which sometimes translates into ethical leeway from voters. (In cities like Los Angeles and New York, local politicians take a back seat to the media celebs.)

The Amazing Politics of Chicago

The story of Cook County President-Elect Todd Stroger deserves more time than I'm going to give it. Maybe tonight I'll write a post on the whole, sorry affair, but in the meantime:

The returns trickled in after a wild night during which a defiant Peraica called into question the integrity of the vote and led a march with supporters from their campaign hotel on North Michigan Avenue to the county administration building in the Loop, where votes were being tallied.

Earlier, Peraica blasted delays in vote counting and vowed to go to court later today to make sure "votes are protected."

Tempers had flared overnight and one person was arrested at the city and county election headquarters after supporters of Peraica and Stroger converged on the building long after polls had closed.

Moving on a bit:

Around 1 a.m., the first Peraica supporters began filing out of taxis in front of the county building after leaving the candidate's election night headquarters at the Inter-Continental on Michigan Avenue. Soon after Peraica arrived at the building on foot, at least two dozen people simultaneously tried to enter through a revolving door, some of them becoming trapped.

Security guards blocked the door shut, locking people out, but opened it moments later as people swarmed into the lobby. At the same time, Chicago police moved into the building to reinforce the security guards.

Security wouldn't allow Peraica access to the Board of Elections offices on the fifth floor where Stroger's campaign team was already speaking with election officials.

About 20 minutes after security held Peraica supporters at bay, the candidate was allowed up to the fifth floor while Stroger supporters squared off with some of his backers on the sidewalk outside.

Good times. We'll have a little more later. The entire story is a bit like the Kevin Kline movie "Dave" and a bit like "Weekend at Bernie's."

What Is The "Institution of Marriage?"

It sounds like a place where they lock you up with your spouse and monitor you for signs of mental illness. I spent much of the last two days bothering conservatives from Wisconsin on their blogs and attempting to get them to answer the following question:

If gay marriage was legalized, would it have any effect on your marriage?

Only one person (Dean), actually answered the question. (He correctly answered, "no.") But everyone else (including Dean) cited the damage that it would do to "the institution of marriage." I am unclear as to what constitutes the institution of marriage. Is it some generic term for the sum total of marriages in the country? I don't get it. I can't even think of any other non-ridiculous possibilities.

The question that I always ask is part of a deeper question. If it doesn't effect your marriage, why would it effect anyone's marriage? (Except for the marriages of gay people, obviously it would effect those.)

I make this point to argue against the point that banning gay marriage somehow "protects marriage." If no actual marriages are effected by the ban, than what exactly is being protected?

Well, Wisconsin went out and added a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage anyway. This was not surprising, but I'm still shocked that enough fuss was made about this issue to actually amend the Constitution. I look forward to repealing this amendment in 20 years or so.

At least I got my gridlock. I predict that the gridlock will make the Dems look great and propel them into the presidency, at which point they will control the executive and legislative branches and start screwing stuff up.

But hey, two years are better than nothing.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Should You Vote? Part II

Let's go to Scott Adams on this one:

But my favorite example, and the cleanest, can be seen in the comments on this blog for the past week. Many of you said, in essence, “No matter how ignorant you are, you have a responsibility to vote,” and its dumber cousin “If you don’t vote, you don’t have a right to complain.”

It doesn’t take much critical reasoning to shred those ideas. I’m fairly certain we have the right to complain any time we want. It’s called Freedom of Speech. And we certainly have the right to NOT vote for any reason we want. Being ignorant has to be in the short list of good reasons for not voting. But this flies in the face of whatever you were brainwashed into believing when you were a kid.

Again I remind you that I’m in favor of this sort of brainwashing for the sake of society. I’m happy that lots of people vote. The system would break down otherwise, and short of me being the dictator, I can’t think of a better system than imaginary democracy masking the naked ambitions of greedy capitalists. It sounds bad when you say it, but frankly I don’t have a better idea. I’m just happy I have a chance to be one of those greedy capitalists myself.

Now go vote me some tax breaks.

The Badgers Kill Time

Here, courtesy of MDS, is the end of the first half of the Wisconsin game.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Voting Recommendations

First of all, you probably shouldn't vote. Why? Here's Greg Mankiw:

Feddersen and Pesendorfer suggest that nonvoting has to be understood together with a related phenomenon--the decision of voters to skip some items listed on the ballot. This behavior, which political scientists call roll off, is common. Feddersen and Pesendorfer give an example of a 1994 Illinois gubernatorial race in which about 3 million citizens showed up at the polls, but only 2 million voted on a proposed amendment to the state constitution.

Anyone who has ever entered a polling booth can easily see why roll off occurs. You come ready to vote for your favorite candidate in some race you've been following closely, but then you face a whole list of races and ballot questions, most of which you know little or nothing about. What do you do? You could quickly make a decision based on your scant knowledge. But what if the contest is very close? Do you really want the outcome based on your almost random vote?

So you choose another course: You skip the item. In practice, this means that you are relying on your fellow citizens to make the right choice. But this can be perfectly rational. If you really don't know enough to cast an intelligent vote, you should be eager to let your more informed neighbors make the decision.

Feddersen and Pesendorfer suggest that not showing up to vote is motivated by the same reasoning as roll off. Eligible voters who are less informed about the candidates than their fellow citizens choose to stay at home, knowing the outcome will be more reliable without their participation. By not voting, they are doing themselves and everyone else a favor. If the ill-informed were all induced to vote, they would merely add random noise to the outcome.

Read the whole thing.

Anyway, if you do feel that you can contribute something by voting, I highly recommend going with my time tested strategy of voting to cause gridlock. My reasoning goes something like this:

1. Most politicians are either stupid or corrupt.

2. Stupid/corrupt people will do stupid/corrupt things.

3. There is no way to get smart/honest people in government.

4. Your best bet is to tie the hands of the stupid/corrupt people.

So, if the President is a Republican, you should vote for Democrats in the house and senate races. Simple as that.

Also, if you're in Wisconsin you should vote against the Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, because it's incredibly stupid to enact Constitutional law specifically to deny rights to the citizenry.

You should also vote against adopting the death penalty, because the government is lousy at killing people. Well, actually, they're good at killing a lot of people, but they're lousy at killing the right people. The death penalty is also more expensive than life in prison.

As for governor, you're screwed either way. Use the "create gridlock" strategy, but remember that the Wisconsin governor has more power than your average executive, so more prudence is called for.

Finally, if you're in Chicago, like me, voting is pointless, as all Chicago elections are either non-competitive or rigged. Instead, I recommend that you work an extra half-hour in the time that you would normally be voting, and then donate that money to charity.

Finally (part 2), I predict that the Democrats will take the House, but not the Senate.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Bret Bielema, The Genius

Not only was it funny to watch every Badger special teams player get a 20-yard, off-sides head start on Taylor Mehlhaff's kickoff with 25 seconds remaining in the first half, and crush the bewildered Penn State return man, and not only was it a feat of absolute strategic brilliance, which prompted one of my Penn State friends to text message me that "U guys suck," but it was also a brilliant protest against the idiotic new "speed up the game" rules that were instituted by the NCAA this year. Almost every football coach hates the changes.

College games are primarily slow because of the rule that stops the clock upon picking up a first down in order to move the chains. The NCAA apparently likes this rule and so they instead monkeyed with a bunch of other rules. This includes the change that starts the clock on the kickoff, and not when the ball is first touched.

Bielema deserved all kinds of credit for this, and I suspect that the NCAA will have to at least alter the rule because of it.

It was even funnier the second time they did it. And the third. And when the announcers figured out what they were doing. And it was topped off by Bielema's interview going into the locker room.

What a great game (as long as Stocco is OK).

Update: Here is ESPN's short recap:

Bielema did, however, get Paterno's blood boiling near halftime when the Badgers tried to run out the last 23 seconds of the half by intentionally going offsides on two straight kickoff attempts to take advantage of a new rule that starts the clock when the ball is kicked.

Paterno stormed onto the field to complain to officials, then emphatically waved off a television reporter as he headed to the locker room.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Bucks! The Bucks!

I've heard nothing but doom and gloom about the Bucks from the national media. I don't get it. Of course, I can't really trust them much. They didn't even tell me that Bogut was going play last night.

The fact is that the Bucks had a great offseason. Not good. Great.

First of all, the T.J. Ford for Charlie Villanueva deal was an absolute steal. Both Mo Williams and Charlie Bell are only small drop-offs from Ford, and the newly acquired Steve Blake is a great backup. (And a future starter. I used to have an irrational hatred for Steve Blake in college, but every time I've seen him in the NBA he's impressed me.) Charlie is a huge upgrade at power forward and he also allows Andrew Bogut to play his natural position in the middle.

Ruben Patterson is a huge thug, but he's an extremely talented thug, and you're allowed one thug per team. As long as he's not a complete jerk, he is a more than adequate backup for the injured Bobby Simmons.

Michael Redd is a good scorer, Brian Skinner has a few good games left in the tank, and Dan Gadzuric is a nice, high-energy bench guy.

I think that the Bucks might surprise people. They're set up to play high energy, up-tempo Phoenix Suns-style basketball, and I think that they will be able to take advantage of much of the Eastern Conference because of it. While the Bulls are improved (probably), the Heat appear to be much worse due to age. The Pistons look terrible without Ben Wallace (and Flip Saunders is just a terrible coach), and everyone else, except maybe the Cavs, appears vulnerable.

I'm hugely optimistic, and they will, at the very least, be hugely entertaining. Since apparently I can't predict anything anyway (See: Tampa Bay Super Bowl Pick) I'll make the hugely optimistic pick that they finish with the 4 seed in the East, ahead of the highly touted Bulls.

Supply Side Obesity

Supply side economics, basically, is the theory that tax cuts for the wealthy/middle class will "trickle down," via spending and investment, to eventually make everyone wealthier. "Lifting all boats" is the cliche. Moreover, the cuts will actually increase future taxes by taking a smaller percentage of a larger pie.

Most lefties, and the first President Bush, and I don't really buy supply side economics, at least not completely.

But, there is one area where lefties seem to adhere to this principle. In explaining the American obesity problem, one of the factors that they often cite is farm subsidies specifically, and the plentiful availability of food more generally. So basically they believe that the government:

1. Injects food into the "food economy" through subsidies to agribusinesses and other food companies.
2. That this creates an increased supply of food.
3. That this supply, through trade, eventually makes its way to the poor and middle class, causing enormous weight gain.

In other words, a subsidy at the top "trickles down" to even the poorest parts of society, making everyone fat, and gradually "sinking all boats," if you will.

I guess if the theory serves your preconceived notions, why not run with it?

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