Archive for November, 2007

Optimism Watch

Monday, November 12th, 2007

Driving home, I heard the radio tell me that the Texas Longhorns could still get into the BCS.

Um, yeah. Maybe if a comet hits Dallas when the Big 12 Conference game is being played. But I doubt the BCS will give four bids to a top-heavy conference whose non-conference performance has been so crappy.

Bad FA’s

Monday, November 12th, 2007

We’re in baseball hot stove season, so CNNSI has a list of the worst free agent signings of the last ten years.

The things is that almost all of those deals were praised by the media at the time. And, with the exception of Albert Belle, every single one was blasted by Rob Neyer, Baseball Prospectus and every other “geekboy” analyst out there.

Gee, it’s almost like they knew what they were talking about.

What I Be Reading: Part I

Monday, November 12th, 2007

I read a lot. Not as much as I’d like. Not as much as Donna over at Moorewatch. A few books a month. But enough to add up to over 1100 volumes in my personal library, which ain’t bad for someone who reads as many science journals and blogs as I do.

I thought I’d start putting up the occasional post about books I’ve read. Not reviews — I don’t have time for that. But mention what I’ve read and whether it sucked or not.

So today I’ll start with an outstanding book I read recently – MIchael Lewis’ The Blind Side, which is really two books in one. The first describes in fascinating detail the rising important of offensive line play in the NFL. I did not know, until I read the book, that the blindside tackle is typically the second highest paid player on an NFL team.

The second story is about Michael Oher, an LT at Ole Miss. (Michael Lewis can be seen telling the outline of the story over at YouTube). Oher was a poor black boy from one of the worst parts of the country who was accidentally enrolled in a Christian academy in rich white Memphis. He had been held back for two grades, had a measured IQ of 80 and scored in the 3rd percentile of tests. A rich white family practically adopted him and began giving him non-stop tutoring. By the end of high school, he had a GPA high enough to get into Ole Miss (where he’s made the Dean’s List) and had a measured IQ slightly over 100. It’s astonishing to see the change in the young man and painful to think of all the black kids out there who have similar unrealized potential.

(Political aside – the system that almost permanently crippled Michael Oher’s mind is the same one that liberals utterly refuse to introduce competition to. What precisely are we preserving when we keep the money in “the system”? Granted, competition may not have helped Michael Oher, whose mother was a crack addict. But it couldn’t have hurt.)

The books also gets into some of the more disturbing things that define white southern culture – sports, God, class and new money. I wouldn’t want to live in either rich or poor Memphis.

Anyway, I thought to bring it up today because Lewis (whose more famous Moneyball is also outstanding — even if most people miss the point) has an article on placekickers in the NFL. Among other things, it confirms my belief that Bill Parcells is a horse’s ass. I’m so happy to see Dallas doing better without him. It also contains a new word I’m going to have to steal – Fanthropomorphism.

I’ve also recently read: It’s Getting Better all the Time by Simon and Moore, which is inspiring but already outdated. It catalogs how dramatically life has improved in this country and in the world over the last century; Summer of ’49, which was entertaining, in its way; and Without Feathers, which wasn’t as funny as I remember it being in college. Oh and another Asterix and Obelix comic, which are not only good but are reminiscent of childhood for me — I used to get them in both german and english as gifts from my godparents.

What the Hell?

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

Man, FOX’s animation block was on crack tonight. Every episode was some series-changing ep. At least Family Guy wasn’t as schmaltzy as Simpsons or King of the Hill (I don’t watch the series for years and that’s what greets me).

Repetitive Equine Assault

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

Jewcy piles on Murdock’s lamentable defense of torture.

Secondly, of course Khalid Sheik Muhammad sang when he was waterboarded. That is what happens when you torture people — they’ll tell you whatever they think you want to hear. No one, however, by dint of being tortured, magically becomes disposed to giving his or her interrogators reliable, accurate information; all that one hopes to achieve by confessing in the face of torture is to make the torture stop. It is up to interrogators to sort out useful information from non-useful, and doing so requires doing precisely the hard intelligence work that would obviate the need for torture as a means of extracting information in the first place. If the goal of an intelligence policy is to garner, well, intelligence, adding torture to the toolkit yields either zero or negative utility. (For an example of the latter, have a gander at the case of Ibn al Sheik al Libi, who is, yes, a Very Bad Man, who was tortured by the CIA at a black site near Kabul and “confessed” to his captors that Saddam Hussein had been providing training and materiel to al Qaeda fighters. God knows how al Libi might have gotten the notion that US intelligence services were seeking evidence of an Iraq-al Qaeda connection. One way or another, al Libi’s testimony made its way into Colin Powell’s infamous February 2003 presentation to the UN. Funny, that.)

The worst thing about torture may be that it makes us less safe.

I Heart Huckabees

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

Mike Huckabee. Choice of the Christian Right. Choice of the Fair Tax Movementarians. Likely nominee. And, in the words of one man, “more ethically challenged” than Bill Clinton.

Some former staffers of then-Gov. Mike Huckabee and one current employee of the office that did some of the destruction are saying that the media shouldn’t assume that all computer data and other documents were destroyed in the aftermath of Huckabee’s order to literally wipe the slate clean after he left office.

Huckabee had ordered that the hard drives in 83 personal computers and four servers be destroyed. That equipment and data resided in the state Capitol, a state office in Washington, D.C., the Arkansas State Police airport hangar, the governor’s mansion, and the Arkansas State Police drug office. Additionally a number of paper documents were shredded and burned.

If this twerp is the GOP nominee and Clinton is the Dem, I’m voting third party. I’m not going to join in a contest to see which corrupt Nanny-state, big government, secretive Arkansas twerp gets to shred the Constitution for the next four years.

More Spinelessness

Sunday, November 11th, 2007

I blogged earlier this year on ESPN’s “experts” spinelessly predicting that every NFL team would do about as well as they did last year. FireJoeMorgan points me to this article, which not only predicts that the league will, in sum, go 262-250 over the second half of he season, but spinelessly predicts that every team will play exactly the same as they have in the first half. Twenty-nine teams are predicted to be within 1-game of their first half performance. Detroit, Jacksonville and San Fran are predicted to be within 2 wins. No team is predicted to collapse or surge.

Fucking hell, what is the sports media’s job? Do they have any insight whatsoever?

Phelps

Saturday, November 10th, 2007

Over at the conspiracy, Volokh makes the case that Fred Phelps shouldn’t have been found liable for picketing military funerals. He makes some good points, although I stand my impression that politics should not intrude on a private event. I oppose speech codes and am a big supporter of free speech, so my stance is not set in stone.

On the other hand, as noted by Overlawyered, Fred Phelps is vicious psychopath who has no problem abusing the law to get his way.

And then there are the lawsuits. Phelps himself is a disbarred attorney who was long known for massive litigation; at one point, he personally had almost 200 lawsuits pending in federal court. Although his congregation includes only about 22 adults, at least 14 of those have law degrees.

The church has its own law firm, Phelps Chartered, which is staffed by church members and which has repeatedly filed suit against its perceived enemies (see Halting Abusive Lawyers).

In addition to suing the chief of police and various Kansas judges and politicians, it has sued one district attorney three times for “malicious prosecution.” Even private citizens who filed criminal complaints against the picketers found themselves embroiled in lawsuits — or, perhaps by coincidence, with roofing nails littering their driveways.

Maybe $11 million is a bit much for this specific sin, but when you include things like this:

WBC members have picketed the funerals of Bill Clinton’s mother, Sonny Bono and Frank Sinatra. Even Bob Dole, Jerry Falwell, the Ku Klux Klan, Santa Claus and the 17 sailors killed aboard the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen last October have been attacked as “fags” or “supporters of the fag agenda.”

One little girl, going with her parents to see the “Nutcracker” ballet in a Topeka hall, had WBC pickets hiss at her: “Did your Daddy stick in his prick in your ass last night?”

I think it becomes apparent that this lawsuit is about the sum total of hatred and abuse they have heaped on anyone and everyone.

“There was a woman working at my restaurant who was gay,” says Jerry Berger, an attorney and owner of Topeka’s Vintage Restaurant. “Phelps told me, ‘If you don’t fire her, we’re going to put you out of business.’” The Westboro Baptists proceeded to picket the Restaurant “literally every day” for about three years. Berger eventually sold the restaurant and the woman quit.

Phelps didn’t. He followed the unfortunate woman, picketing at her new job, and “he still pickets the restaurant all the time,” Berger said in a recent interview. “And now, he pickets my law offices every Tuesday.”

Can we not declare insane and lock up a group of people who do things like this?

The article goes into the depressing amount of support this creep has gotten; but also into the people uniting against him.

Waterboarding

Friday, November 9th, 2007

A simple Q&A on the history and practice of this barbarism. Anyone who says this is fine with them has absolutely no business being in a position of power.

Thursday Night Linkorama

Friday, November 9th, 2007
  • You’re kidding me.

    Programs that focus exclusively on abstinence have not been shown to affect teenager sexual behavior, although they are eligible for tens of mil lions of dollars in federal grants, according to a study released by a nonpartisan group that seeks to reduce teen pregnancies.

    The study found that while abstinence-only efforts appear to have little positive impact, more comprehensive sex education programs were having “positive outcomes” including teenagers “delaying the initiation of sex, reducing the frequency of sex, reducing the number of sexual partners and increasing condom or contraceptive use.”

    “Two-thirds of the 48 comprehensive programs that supported both abstinence and the use of condoms and contraceptives for sexually active teens had positive behavior effect,” said the report.

    Abstinence and condoms. Abstinence and condoms! Abstinence AND condoms, you microcephalic Religious Right twerps!

  • Reports are coming in that kids are taking a lot more diabets medication. I have to wonder, however, if this actually means there has been an increase in diabetes or an increase in medication. Kids are taking more of every drug these days, despite being healthier than ever.
  • On that note, the ideal weight? Slightly over. Let’s see the Health Nazi wriggle out of this one. They do note that despite the better outcomes, there are some health disadvantages to being overweight. I’m inclined to agree. The whole point of the debate is that an enjoyable life is better than a miserable on that last a year or two longer. And as an overweight person, I find I have less energy and verve. But, of course the biggest problem with being overweight is that it cuts into your chances of getting laid. Now let’s try and see the Health Nazis sell that.
  • IE

    Thursday, November 8th, 2007

    What a piece of crap.

    Driver’s Ed

    Thursday, November 8th, 2007

    The Law of Unintended Consequences strikes again:

    TMQ urged drivers’ ed teachers to teach young people not to drive in caravans, which cause distractions and crashes. Daniel Barbour of Richmond, Va., notes in a comment that could apply to the laws of many states, “Virginia’s new laws regarding the number of passengers new drivers are allowed to have in their cars actually promote caravan driving by young drivers. Virginia’s laws state that: ‘If you are under 18 and hold a learner’s permit or a driver’s license, Virginia law says you may only carry one passenger who is under age 18 while you hold a permit and during the first year that you drive. After that, you may only carry three passengers who are under age 18, until you reach age 18.’ While the obvious intent of this law is to help prevent the new driver from becoming distracted by passengers, my personal experience with this a few years ago while I was that age is that this law indirectly promotes caravan driving, which as you pointed out is a very big distraction, especially for the lead driver. For example, if a group of six friends under the age of roughly 18 — it depends on how old they were when they obtained their licenses, otherwise the three-passenger rule might be in effect — want to drive somewhere, they are essentially legally required to take three separate cars, all of which will inevitably follow each other around town, caravan-style. By trying to remove one distraction from teen drivers, state legislatures have practically mandated another.”

    No to Good Schools

    Thursday, November 8th, 2007

    It’s really depressing that school vouchers keep losing. But it’s hardly surprising. They are opposed by one of the wealthiest, most powerful, most shameless, most vicious special interests in the country. God forbid we should quit doing what hasn’t worked for the last thirty fucking years.

    Vouchers don’t stand much of a chance in referenda, which is why the teacher’s goonions love to put them up for vote. The reason is that the majority of parents either (a) have access to the good public schools; (b) have the money for private schools and don’t want those nasty poor kids getting in; (c) have the money for private schools but support “the system” out of guilt or misguided ideology; or (d) have neither the time nor the money to get educated about the idea and so listen to whatever lies are being poured into their ears.

    The only people who lose here are poor people, poor kids, teachers in inner city schools, principals, the United States, the human race and the planet Earth. But at least the teachers unions get their membership and influence, the Democrats get their campaign donations and rich people keep poor kids out of their schools. So who cares if everyone else gets it in the ear?

    Me? Next time I give to charity, I’m going to find one that provides scholarships for poor kids.

    Radiohead

    Thursday, November 8th, 2007

    So how’s the Radiohead experiment going? Pretty damned well:

    The first concrete analysis of Radiohead’s innovative pay-what-you-like plan for latest album In Rainbows shows thirty-eight percent of those who downloaded the title indeed chose to pay something, while 62 percent kept their change in their pocket. ComScore (NSDQ: SCOR) data (via release) shows 1.2 million people visited the site in the first 29 days of October (it was launched at the start of the month).

    The average price paid was $6 on a globalized basis but Americans were more generous, coughing up $8.05 – factor in the freeloaders, however, and it’s more like an average $2.26 on a worldwide basis and $3.23 from Americans. The most common amount offered was below $4, but 12 percent were willing to pay between $8 and $12, around the typical cost of an album from iTunes.

    Keep in mind, this is mainly a promotional tool. Read the comments. Radiohead is actually not making much less than they would through a record company while generating tons of buzz and goodwill (which will mean ticket sales).

    This is great news.