Archive for October, 2007

Primary Pissing Match

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

For the most part, I’ve been ignorning the sleep-inducing “controversy” about when the primaries are scheduled. It crosses me as so totally pointless.

However, I do agree that the influence of a few key states over who becomes the Presidential nominee is worrisome. For example, Iowa’s early entry is part of the reason farm subsidies are so massive.

So here’s my simple solution, which I expect the politicians to stagger to eventually over the next 25 years while they sideswipe bad ideas like having the first 2012 primary shortly after the 2008 election

Picks some dates and then, each season, randomly assign states to each primary slot. That way, you retain the drawn-out primary that forces candidates to develop momentum but don’t give any one state too much power.

Well, either that or have the conventions serve a God-damned purpose and choose the candidate there…

My WS $.02

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

The World Series starts tomorrow. Let’s hope it’s fun. Right now, everyone is saying that the Red Sox will win in four or five games. I think that’s a bit optimistic. The Red Sox are likely to dominate the first two games in Fenway behind Beckett and Schilling. But once the series moves to Colorado, I can just see the slow Sox outfield chasing down balls into the gap while the young Rockies fly around the bases. And are they going to put David Ortiz at first base? Yeah, good luck with that.

Against the back of the rotation, I think the Rockies could take two of three and send the series back to Boston.

So, I’ll take Red Sox in six. But it should be an interesting six.

Stop Helping Me

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

You guys know I’ve sided against the torture-philiacs on the Right. I believe that the fight to stop torture and stick to the interrogation techniques described in the Army Field Manual is one of the critical political battles of our time.

But I have a message for Hollywood: Shut the hell up and stop helping us.

Last week saw the opening of the movie Rendition. Critics lavished praise, but more sensible voices pointed out the film was preachy and poorly made. It’s not polling well on IMDB either.

Tonight, it got worse. My wife and I like to watch Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Correction, we used to. It’s declined dramatically in the last few years.

Tonight’s episode was a dramatic turd about doctors supervising torture. It was a preachy, shrieking, out of place piece of garbage. (Question: where was the cause to bring in the SVU cops?) The episode had legal plot holes you could drive a truck through. But plot wasn’t the point. It was just an excuse for the actors to deliver impassioned monologues. I’ve never seen a bunch of people so pleased with themselves.

If you want to preach, preach. If you want to lecture, lecture. Don’t sell us poorly-written preachy lectures as thought it were entertainment. You do discredit to the debate when you rush out movies that are poorly made and wallow in simplistic black and white morality.

Whenever I see these preachy screeds oozing out of Hollywood, I feel dirty. It’s as though by siding with them on an issue, I’ve become contaminated by their ego. And I’m not the only one. At least half of the people who support torture do so because liberal elites oppose it with such smarmy self-righteousness.

Listen up, Hollywood. Every time you put some piece of crap out there to comment an issue, you drive people to the other side. Shut the hell up until you have something useful to say.

Torture is a debate. There are millions of people in this country who honestly believe it is a good idea. You are not going to persuade them by talking to them as though they were mentally-retarded eight-year-olds. Points have to be given and conceded; arguments have to be countered and defeated. Slapping a bunch of bumper stickers together and calling it a script does not add anything to the issue.

More on Obama

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2007

Earlier today, I blogged at Right-Thinking on the new wave of black politicians. I wanted to add a thought:

The reason for the rise of mainstream black politicians like Barack Obama and Shirley Franklin is the growing success of blacks in this country. I recently read, somewhat belatedly, It’s Getting Better All the Time by Stephen Moore and Julian Simon, which chronicled 100 great trends through the 20th century. America has practically become a paradise over the last century, but the progress of blacks has been nothing short of astounding. You may not think so to listen to Jesse Jackson, but take a look sometime at black rates of illiteracy, infant mortality and poverty in 1900 or 1950 and shudder. The improvement, particularly in the last 30-40 years, has been incredible. If African-Americans were their own country, they’d be the success story of the 20th century.

I grew up in Atlanta and witnessed this first hand. Atlanta not only has a substantial black population but is the epicenter of black higher education with no less than four quality historically black colleges. In just my lifetime, I’ve been stupidly amazed by the explosion of black-owned business, the surge of black presence in the suburbs and the rise of black middle and upper classes. On a recent trip home, I took a shopping trip to a high-end mall. Twenty years ago, the customers were almost exclusively white. Now, at least half are black.

For me, the rise of the black middle and upper class and the rejection of the race-baiting politics of the past crystallised with the 2002 defeat of Cynthia McKinney (my mother lives in her district). McKinney was specifically rejected by blacks in favor of the mainstream Denise Majette; then again for Hank Johnson in 2006.

The older generation of black politicians were playing to a different base. They were campaigning to people who were old enough to remember when several hundred blacks were lynched every year in this country; people who had their heads smashed in Civil Rights marches and witnessed Jim Crowe and George Wallace. People who had personal experience with racism that was open, blatant and proud. People who could remember, as I recently read about in I Was Right on Time, the days when black America was invisible to the media.

Today’s black voters knows that there is still racism and discrimination in this country. But they are far more optimistic and far less angry. They are concerned with issues like taxes, jobs and crime. Obama and the new generation of black leaders are simply the crest of this wave of progress. The know that the fight isn’t over, but they know it’s going well.

What?!

Friday, October 19th, 2007

I’m looking through Overlawyered’s feed and find this:

The wedding was lovely, except for the flowers: They were the wrong color.

So says the bride, Elana Glatt, who was so miffed at the florist that she filed a lawsuit alleging breach of contract.

She says Posy Floral Design on East 72nd Street substituted pastel pink and green hydrangeas for the dark rust and green ones she had specified for 22 centerpieces.

OK, I can understand this. You paid for certain flowers; the florist didn’t prove them. So you take them to court. But…

They flowers cost $27,435.14. The lawsuit asks for more than $400,000 in restitution and damages.

$27,435.14? $27,435.14?!?!! Twenty-seven thousand four hundred thirty five dollars and fourteen cents?!?!?!!

That just under twice what my own wedding cost — honeymoon included! We bought our flowers wholesale. I arranged them (yes, me – conservative troglodyte Mike). Everyone loved them. Including everything — fancy bouquets and all, we just broke $500 on the flora.

Christ, people spend too much money on weddings.

Bonus Round: Having a brand new little girl myself, this story really gets to me. What the fuck is wrong with people?

Friday Morning Linkorama

Friday, October 19th, 2007
  • Philadelphia is telling the boy scouts they have to pay the standard rate if they want to use city facilities. Penn and Teller did a wonderful expose’ on how the scouts have been taken over by the Religious Right. I’m fine if they want to exclude gays. I’m not fine with them getting free goodies from the government when they do it.
  • Yep, the Democrats sure are fighting pork.
  • Jonathan Rauch has one of the best articles I’ve read on the Iraq War.

    Some optimists say that in Army Gen. David Petraeus, Bush has finally found his Gen. Grant. That may or may not be true, but it is beside the point. The problem is that Petraeus has not yet found his President Lincoln.

    Read the whole thing. (Hat tip, Lee).

  • Cracked has the worst twist endings in movie history. I agree with their #1 choice. David Gale was a rancid movie and featured one of the most uncomfortable sex scenes in movie history. Signs, massive whomping plot holes and all, was very good. Some twist endings do work: Fight Club, the original Planet of the Apes, The Sixth Sense. Here’s a way to discriminate. If a movie is all about the twist ending, it will usually suck. If, however, it holds together and the twist ending is just an extra, it usually works.
  • Gregg Easterbrook was a running item at TMQ on the earliest appearance of Christmas decorations, music and sales. I can’t remember where, but I recently saw the first appearance of “war on Christmas” hysteria. Ugh.
  • My Job Prospects

    Thursday, October 18th, 2007

    Well, this is depressing:

    It’s easy to wish upon a star — but if you want to make a living studying them, things get quite a bit tougher.

    Take a look at any astronomy-themed Web site, or tune in to a science television program, and you’re sure to be dazzled by the wonders of the universe. Black holes! Dark matter! Colliding galaxies!

    What you won’t hear is what many graduate and post-doctoral students in astronomy today know all too well — permanent, tenure-track jobs in the field are rare.

    Last year was a bad year for jobs. I know a number of top-notch people who got precisely zero offers. Not being a top-notch person myself, I didn’t even get short-listed. Were it not for the funds remaining on my HST grant, I would be out of astronomy right now. And I’m convinced that if I don’t land a big NSF grant, my astronomy career will be over by August.

    This has been going on for a while — it’s the spooky music that underlies the beautiful images you see from Hubble. Astronomy programs have been graduating way more Ph.D.’s than there are permanent jobs.

    I started doing astronomy in 1993 and have enjoyed it immensely. Graduate school was one of the poorest but best times of my life and the people I suffered with are still my best friends. If I leave the profession after 15 years, I won’t regret the time I’ve spent here.

    But I do sometimes wish they’d be a little more realistic with incoming graduate students.

    Most Boring Post-Season?

    Thursday, October 18th, 2007

    I love baseball, but this post-season has been one long snooze-fest. Four sweeps, one near-sweep. Boston has forced a sixth game and could come back to take the series after being down 3-1. But even then, the post-season has been dull for those of us who live below an altitude of 5,280 feet.

    I wanted to check just how boring 2007 was turning out so I devised a quick and dirty way to rank the post-seasons. It works like this:

  • Every game played gets 1 point.
  • Each game get 0.2 extra points for a lead change or tie. So tonight the Sox led 1-0. The Tribe tied it. Then the Sox took the lead for good. 0.4 points. Now if the Tribe had scored a run in the 1st and another in the second, that would have been 0.4 points; but had they taken the lead with two in the 1st, that would have only been 0.2 points. The system rewards a little drawing out of the game.
  • Extra innings or a last at-bat victory is worth an extra 0.5 points.
  • Finally, the game is credited with 1/(margin of victory). So a 1-run game gets an extra point. A five-run game only gets 0.2 points.
  • It’s arbitary, I know. It gives the same weight to an 18-inning game as a 10-inning game. It weights early rallies as much as late ones. It doesn’t account for runners left on base, which is why Game 7 of the 1991 World Series comes in at only 2.50. It weights an exciting game one as much as an exciting game seven. It doesn’t care if a team has come back from being down 3-0.

    In other words, it’s quick and dirty.

    I’m not really looking to rank the greatest game in baseball history. What I’m looking for are series — and post-seasons full of series — that go the distance with lots of exciting close games. And I don’t have the computer resources to do a more thorough job. This one can be calculated just by looking at the line score.

    Anyway….

    (more…)

    Ants and God

    Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

    Now this is interesting.

    WORKER ants accurately gauge their life expectancy, regardless of their actual age, and take on riskier tasks as they feel their days ebbing away.

    In social insects such as ants, bees and wasps, workers change tasks depending on their age. Older workers do the relatively risky foraging outside the nest, while younger ones engage in safer maintenance tasks within it. By extending the workers’ average life span, this fine-tuning helps to maximise the fitness of the colony. However, no one knew whether the division of labour in ants was activated by age-related physiological changes or through some other mechanism.

    A key argument for atheim is that human beings are the only animal that know they will die. Our sense of mortality forces us to make up fairy tales about God and the afterlife to compensate.

    Of course, this isn’t true at all. The atheists are asserting something that is not proven. We are discovering every day that animals are smarter than we think. Elephants bury their dead, for example. But if we now have evidence that ants know they are mortal, that blows a key plank of atheism right out of the water.

    See what I mean? Atheism can be a belief system too. When you assert that animals don’t know they are mortal with precisely zero evidence to support this position, that’s no different than asserting that God has a white beard.

    Snore

    Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

    For the first time since March, I am not going to be watching Sportscenter tonight. There is no football, no baseball, nothing except boring hockey and NBA.

    This just show you how stupid the people who run baseball can be sometimes. The Red Sox and Indians have a completely unneccessary off day today so that baseball will have games 6 and 7 on Saturday and Sunday. I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but those are football days. If they played the games out like sane people, the ALCS would have the stage completely to itself tonight, then again on Friday.

    Idiots.

    A Hideous World

    Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

    In what kiind of a world does Firefly get cancelled after 13 episodes but Caveman is allow on the air? Even seeing the commercials makes me angry.

    Sendler

    Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

    Just a peek at what the Nobel Committee passed up. I’m sure there are many more.

    We Don’t Torture

    Tuesday, October 16th, 2007

    Read these letters from actual military officers who have done and who have endured interrogation (unlike, say, Rush Limbaugh or Dick Cheney).

    We ex-POWs don’t look kindly on sadistic behavior, especially when it degenerates into torture. Kyle is right, it doesn’t do much to get useful info, it only gives the sadist some thrills.

    When I read things like this, I am filled with such immense pride in our military. They are far better men than their commander in chief.

    We Were Wrong

    Monday, October 15th, 2007

    A fascinating article, if economic theory fascinates you, on how the predictions of doom and gloom following oil price hikes were wrong.

    An analysis by economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta demonstrated that oil shocks had significant effects on the macroeconomy before 1985 but not after. The authors argued that the federal price control regime of the 1970s was the true cause of the recessions that decade. Economist David Walton at the Bank of England likewise argued that wage rigidities in the 1970s were the culprit responsible for that dismal decade. And economists at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland offered evidence that oil price increases never have and never will cause inflation. They calculated that a doubling of oil prices would lead to a one-time increase in commodity prices of about 3-percent.

    All the new analyses agree that the more flexible economy that we have now, allows us to cope more easily with oil price shocks.

    Again and again — sometimes the best thing the government can do about a problem is nothing.