30 April 2008

word games

So on 60 Minutes a Supreme defined 'torture' as 'not punishment', neatly eluding the cruel and unusual punishment phrase in the Constitution. In one of the rare instances of respect for him, McCain I think would disagree that torture is 'not punishment'.

We're getting pretty ugly on the redefining of terms so we can use 'enhanced interrogation' on 'enemy combatants', a term which strangely encompasses people in any country, not merely Iraq/Afghanistan.

29 April 2008

toast 2

To continue to peruse Rev Wright's remarks:

"Louis said 20 years ago that Zionism, not Judaism, was a gutter religion. He was talking about the same thing United Nations resolutions say, the same thing now that President Carter's being vilified for and Bishop Tutu's being vilified for."

It's interesting (if not surprising) that Carter is 'lumped in' with Farrakhan.... Accepting that the conduct of Israeli foreign policy has a tendency to belligerence (which may or may not be entirely rational given the tendency of its neighbours to belligerent activities in relation to Israel), I'm fairly sure 'Zionism' is not a religion at all. It might be best to be certain of what we're talking about.

Zionism is a political movement basing itself on the establishment and defence of a Jewish homeland state, specifically in Palestine. Essentially what this is saying then is that there is no reason for a Jewish homeland state, which may or may not be a valid argument, but isn't based on the political realities. The merit of the so-called 'two state' plan has been around for almost a full century (the British attempted it), but Palestinians/and or Arabs will have none of it. They invaded after a UN mandate in 1948 (which sort of nips the edge off the UN part of Wright's argument, most of the 'UN rhetoric' comes from the neighbouring Arab states, Iran, and whatever allies they have), and promptly lost several wars, some closer than others. It should have been possible for diplomatic resolution to find a way to purchase, partition or otherwise distribute land between Jews and Palestinians (who had been living alongside one another in one form or another in the area for many years prior). Diplomacy has completely failed as a result of perceived aggressions/injustices followed by active aggressions by both sides. Israel has legitimate security concerns posed by the persistence of hostile agents on its borders (Hez'bollah, Hamas notably), but it also persists in aggravating those concerns with belligerent and ineffectual posturing of its own. None of this means that Zionism is by itself 'a gutter religion'. It merely defines the impetus for the line of thinking that Zionism is wrong, generally associated with a pro-Palestinian viewpoint (though this is problematic as well). The essential assumption means that Jews have no stake in providing for themselves a nation state, which recent history may show is rather unremarkable in context. Nations are constantly balkanizing in many areas of the world, or at least dividing into autonomous regions, between ethnic and religious groups. If we were to presume that Jews have no rationale for this behavior, we would have to examine why other ethnic/religious groups have found reason to do so and question those assumptions as well (and they are indeed often questionable). It is possible, maybe even preferable, that "Zionism" be abandoned in favor of things like "Israeli/Palestinian-ism" (whichever one you want to call it), essentially a nationalistic/democratic viewpoint rather than a preference for a Jewish state. The impetus for a 'Jewish state' within Israel itself really kicked off after the successful occupation of Jerusalem and the establishment of that as the capital, along with the subsequent migration of more orthodox Jews. So really it all stems from those aforementioned wars, not some long standing political movement that differs only in the nature of the people involved from other similar regional issues (namely the breakup of Soviet-stans and other Eastern bloc states).

Looking over the history of black anti-semitic remarks, it is curious to find that the very agency (NAACP) at which Wright made this speech endorsed the Zionist movement and the foundation of the state of Israel. And yet now, it is entirely popular to make anti-Jewish commentary in black communities? Why? I have no idea, other than the sociological explanation that minorities are often more bigoted than the norm. It must not have always been so. In point of fact however, it must not always have been so that vociferous persons among those communities were so lacking in inspirational thinking and so willing to point fingers elsewhere to account for problems. It is interesting to note that such thinking is not only not unique to America, not unique to blacks, and generally always associated with a culture of economic or industrial failure (and accompanying political movements which insists on racial motivations, including ironically the KKK).



One other point which has evolved out of the story that won't die: Wright will have a book out later this year. I would guess strongly that it would be around October if Obama gets the democratic ticket nomination (even in the unlikely VP slot). I can't see this having a happy ending for Obama. As far as Wright's apparent ideological perspectives, some critical thoughts are in order.

"repeated his view that the government created the AIDS virus to cause the genocide of racial minorities"

I believe this line of thinking goes back to the Tuskegee Experiment. That however dealt with syphilis and ended at least a decade prior to the AIDS epidemic, more likely much farther back still. If we're going to accuse a government conspiracy, it may make sense to be aware of what facts may be uncooperative for that conspiracy. AIDS for example initially afflicted homosexual men and specific blood disorders at phenomenally higher rates, not these racial minorities. It is only now with different cultural norms for sexual contact among racial minorities, notably blacks, that AIDS would be making it's 'intended target' suffer. Despite this, AIDS is roughly treatable and containable in HIV form and with simple precautions isn't very easily acquired. I would have to say that if the government wanted to use a virus to exterminate some race, it would be extraordinarily difficult to engineer one that would specifically target one race over another owing to the massive amounts of genetic cross-breeding that have occurred over thousands of years. This AIDS was invented by government to kill off (insert repressed minority) is pretty silly. The more prominent 'black' cultural theory dealing with drugs and the CIA has at least more credibility, but is still equally and fundamentally ignorant. Accordingly, the percentage of blacks who believe this line of rubbish is correspondingly low (10-15%), but the fact that a significant portion does believe it is alarming to say the least.

"had to distance himself, because he's a politician, from what the media was saying I had said, which was anti-American"

Two flaws here. First, the media doesn't have to 'say what you said', they're using your own DVD to 'say what you said'. IT'S YOUR WORDS, shut the hell up and stop pretending you're being misrepresenting. If anything, his rhetoric since then makes me believe that he was underrepresented by those statements, not misrepresented. Second, Obama distanced himself slowly and with incalculable timing, as befits a politician with little track record like himself. What he should have done, and what I had thought he tried to do, was explain what his own views are in relation to the inflammatory things Wright said in his sermons. Obama managed to point out in a very adult and sensible manner that racial tension exists, and that people do sensibly adopt very radical views in relation to this tension which cannot be easily dismissed or ignored (even though they should be). Most of Wright says doesn't stand up to determined scrutiny of facts, but as with most people committed to ideas, it's not like facts are going to get in the way of what he thinks is right. Sounds vaguely familiar to some other people in politics lately (both of the last two presidents for example).

"He positioned himself as a mainstream voice of African American religious traditions" -- This may be, based on the rhetoric of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. But that doesn't make it mainstream or tolerable. And besides this, very little of these systems of belief stand up to reality (much like any other system of religion actually, but we'll ignore that problem for a moment). It is difficult if not impossible to have a cogent series of arguments with people who are willing to discard factual assertions in the process of making their own points.

Which brings me to several more serious assertions. "He did not put me in chains, he did not put me in slavery, and he didn't make me this color." -- This is in reference to Farrakhan. I'll ignore his defence of Farrakhan's anti-Semitic commentaries for a second and focus on this line of reasoning.
BLAMING PRESENT DAY WHITE AMERICANS FOR SLAVERY DOES NOT ADVANCE BLACKS AT ALL. None, zero, zilch, nil, nada. Obama said as much, Oprah has pointed this out. Cosby has, along with many others. We, or at least I, have done nothing which has enslaved anyone. I despise people equally, regardless of their racial heritage, and I likewise tolerate people regardless of it. Race matters not at all if I am making decisions about who I would associate with (intellect reigns supreme here), who I would prefer to work with (competence here), etc. Apparently it does matter to people like Rev Wright. This notion is unsurprisingly bigoted. The next problem with this line of reasoning is that it asserts that 1) slavery is a uniquely European-African problem. It is decidedly not. And 2) that white Europeans were not the people who came forth and decided to abolish slavery, in Africa (after they had already done so in Europe). It is ridiculous nonsense to blame people for a mistake they recognized and corrected themselves almost two centuries ago in some cases.
"Britain has apologized to Africans. But this country's leaders have refused to apologize. So until that apology comes, I'm not going to keep stepping on your foot and asking you, does this hurt, do you forgive me for stepping on your foot, if I'm still stepping on your foot." -- So to continue in this line of reasoning, it is assumed that somehow a formal apology (along with some fiscal considerations) will somehow erase the social and economic differences between blacks and whites. Dubois would hardly have agreed, as he had stated over a century ago that if the central racism that deterred and caused some separations between races were to be cast out of existence, it would not result in instant equality at all. The culture must adapt, must grow and learn how to succeed. It is entirely possible that that culture cannot succeed in its present form and would need to adopt changes. At present black cultural leaders seem to be suggesting that it is white America's lack of 'acceptance' that holds blacks back. Most people can find some basis in this argument, but it really holds no water. There are elements of any heritage or cultural memories that are worth treasuring. Trying to presume that successes over a thousand years ago however must translate into success now is foolish. The world changes, cultures change, people change. Learn, adapt, move on. And stop waiting for an apology from people who haven't done anything to offend you themselves.

"He praised the communist Sandinista regime of Nicaragua" -- I'm not as put off by this, mostly because it doesn't surprise me. People who don't like American capitalism tend to love communists (Chavez, Che, etc). I agree fundamentally that communist theory presents some advantages, but these advantages do not translate into the real world. People just aren't wired for intrinsic reward value systems yet. While capitalism has gaps and flaws, it does at least allow people to chase after things to sate that internal value system with tangible and accountable goods (until they wake up a realize what actually matters to them, which usually happens when they have enough money and stuff or they read too much Marx).

More on Farrakhan in a few.

22 April 2008

a place for my stuff


This was a funny analysis of how inventory has been transferred as a business problem to a people problem. Carlin has the routine on how a home is just a pile of stuff with a lid on it. Well people are essentially over-stuffing their piles because of how products are sold and because they don't keep track of their stuff very well either. Try to imagine all the sunglasses and writing implements that have been lost. Or the amount of food that we consume in half-thought out meals, zoning out in front of the boob tube while some nonsensical show is on interspersed with advertising for products we don't need (I really have to wonder about all the ED commercials... seriously are that many old people unable to get it up or are we just worrying them to death? And how many of them are watching a basketball game anyway.) In a country without budgets and without some accounting for our own inventories, it's no wonder that businesses can 'take advantage' of us.

It would be ok if we all had more or less endless supplies of income to dispose of in this way.. but we don't.

21 April 2008

rigged for silent run


Since I have one of these things, I was much disturbed to see it being assailed, even indirectly. I am not by any means one of the 'evil rich', at least not right now. In fact I'm basically one of those people who wouldn't have health insurance at all but for this nifty new idea. There are two things I like about HSAs. They are run by the individual, and they're a savings device. They're awesome for young healthy people and entrepreneurs (the future of America). They're not as great for families and sick old people. That doesn't mean there shouldn't be a place in the market for them.

Fortunately the Senate will probably kill this one, maybe. That old 60-40 filibuster comes in handy when people are stupid. What does this bill actually accomplish? Nothing. The IRS already audits transactions from HSA accounts. They could very easily buy the company's software that is pushing for this bill if it was truly necessary and efficient or helpful.

I'd have to wonder, based on all this rhetoric that government (at least THIS government) is terrible at doing things why we're supposed to accept government operating and running a complex operation like health care, even just the provision of insurance. I can accept that 'health care' is considered a 'right', because I certainly would like to be treated if I break my leg sometime. But most of 'health care' is actually voluntary treatments for minute or at least non-life threatening issues. Some of this is preventive care and I certainly applaud it. Some of it is unnecessary because the spending for health care not only isn't made by the actual consumer, but lacks any transparency. We don't know how much it really costs (and thus can't 'shop' around), and we don't pay the bill anyway so we don't care. This is a recipe for disaster. So to resolve this, somehow or other government is going to determine what sort of care is mandatory and necessary (like the article mentioning chiropractors, etc) and then pay the bill. I don't see how this proposed solution resolves the actual problem.

The reason and problem is the rising cost of health care which is driven by the improper marketing of health care, the insane obsession with marginal health gains by American consumers, and the generally decreasing healthy lifestyles of those consumers. Those lifestyles can be readily adjusted because there are medications or procedures that help, which is fine, but it's rather lazy to use the fall-back position as the first line of health defense for an individual. We can't keep marketing drugs that nobody knows what they're for. And people really need to consider what they're paying for (whether or not it is them or their employer, or their taxes, doing the paying) and whether that payment is granting gain in health and lifestyle of appropriate value. It may not be, but we don't know. Having our taxes pay for health care doesn't make it free, doesn't reduce cost, and doesn't make it clear how we're consuming health care in this country. I don't see how it could possibly help right now. So if Congress could quit screwing with something that is actually helping, thanks.

15 April 2008

airline merger plus or minus


Two things. One the most profitable and respected company is still Southwest (they did slip some this year because of the inspector flap and delays from that). Not Northwest-Delta. Both of these two are close to the bottom on the all important 'customer satisfaction' lines. A merger of crappy companies is just more crap. The top companies of airlines are all discount travelers, Southwest, Jet Blue, etc. The most profitable carrier in Europe operates on a similar method. Many of the profits are recouped in fees or expenses for items that people seem to assume they should get (food/drinks/etc-- water should probably still be free whenever they take it away from us at the security line).

The biggest problem for airlines is the hostage holdings whenever there's a delay of people stuck on an airplane that isn't going anywhere. People can get used to delays from weather and even mechanical problems (though that's the more unnerving of the two). It's the way these delays are handled that poses problems.

Second, airline fares are undoubtedly going to have to go up some because of rising jet fuel costs which have done in several smaller carriers. They cannot however go up much because people have already basically stopped flying owing to the frustrations with rising secondary fees, delays, and mechanical issues. So the reality is for the bigger full fare companies to survive they're going to have to either merge or change their operations, ie stop acting like monopolies in a competitive environment. In other words, I don't care if 80% of the flights are done by 3 companies. Many of those flights are either A) business travelers who don't care what the cost is or B) international flights, where again, the cost isn't a big deal. So long as the domestic flights' costs can be battered down by a few efficient and effective smaller carriers, we're not in any danger. Shut the hell up and quit worrying us over the freakin' airplanes.

14 April 2008

surrounded by idiots


Fed Chairman came out with yet more disturbing statistics.. principally that roughly 53% of these questions can not be answered correctly by high school seniors. I'll grant that high school seniors probably don't have a great deal of fiscal experience with loans and so forth. But it would be best that they at least are aware of what that experience should look like so they aren't taken advantage of by the financial industry. The financial industry itself is not automatically evil, but it is designed to make money from yours. So it might be best to understand how to use it to make your own money work more efficiently without first getting screwed in the process.

Of the questions themselves I only have two beefs.
"If you went to college and earned a four-year degree, how much more money could you expect to earn than if you only had a high school diploma?"
The answer to this question is actually not valuable, despite its frequent quotation in both high school courses and colleges. The difference in economic impact of a degree actually varies depending on what the degree is in and, more importantly, who received a degree. Logically speaking people who are motivated to receive educational advantages provided by colleges are likely to have some levels of success in other endeavours anyway owing to a strong motivation or other basic skills that allow them to successfully complete college coursework. For example, many people who go to college are likely to go there because it would provide access to better careers, but are succeeding at college and going because of other factors such as personal motivations and intellect, which have intrinsic economic value of their own and cannot easily be separated from the bland statement of how much "a college degree" adds. In any case, the answer is 70%, which isn't quite what I'd say it adds, but is the statistical answer. There are plenty of people who forego college educations because of business opportunities that offer considerable personal advantages well in excess of this 70% figure (professional athletes, artists, or entrepreneurs). Many of these people fail anyway, but of those that do succeed, it could be said that if they possessed the drive and skill to finish a college course instead, they would have done so (possibly diminishing their lifetime accumulation of wealth to do it). It does add some median value to an individual, but it's difficult to say that that value even approaches 70%.

College is merely a paying experience for training and honing of skills that may or may not be useful in later job experiences. Ideally it is the development of critical thinking skills and other processes that are not fully investigated by primary education, the expansion of broad bases of knowledge into more specific and specialized areas that one is both interested in and skilled at developing working knowledge out of. But this is merely an idealized way of saying college is usually a degree market for more and more people.

The second question I would wonder about, though it's obvious what the question wants as the answer, is the life insurance one. Nobody 'needs' life insurance, even people with children. It isn't required by law as car insurance or even health insurance is in some places. Life insurance is actually a want, a provision for survivors (and if it's setup right, a provision for yourself as well). I'd argue that technically the person with the greatest 'need' is the old couple because they're more likely to die, and as a result they're more likely to pay through the nose for it (if they haven't already paid for it that is). People tend to want life insurance when they start families, but conversely we're taught to get rid of it (by the insurance companies) when we're about to make use of it, when we might actually 'need' it. Weird huh?

As for the actual responses.
1) Only 40% got this right. FIXED income is right in the answer. ..the most common response was actually the couple with children. But as that case makes no assertions about the couple's income or the variability of it.. even common sense process of elimination should say that there's something different about the right answer.
2) 42% got this right. Roughly 50% somehow bought the first two (that we have a national sales tax and that it's removed from our pay).
3) Hooray 88% know to put money in banks
4) Only 36% got this right. I can forgive the low total I suppose, but again what's different about the right answer: FIXED is right in the answer.
5) 56% got this one right. Perversely the next most common answer is the one that is MOST wrong -- the last one. Technically the middle two are stupid too, but people do need clothes (on sale) or vacations. Taking out loans when they are exceeded by gains in other areas isn't always wise either, but at least it nets some growth.
6) 48%.. I suppose another 33% at least knew they could get the report if they're turned down. I'm amazed at the 14% who think credit reports are run by the federal government.
7) 56% . That sales tax thing is really throwing some people.
8) 36% .. Apparently I need to explain what a 401k is again (37%). And I wish the 23% who said SS were right..
9) 40%. 32% said stocks, but stocks are at least liquid and can be cashed in immediately if need be. Home equity requires loan qualifications and lots of questions asked by the bank issuing the loan, generally a pain in the ass.
10) Hooray 60% of people can do word problems.
11) Apparently people are terrified of stocks: only 17%?!! A savings account at 41%!!! Other than online banks offering 4% or so, you're getting almost nothing in a savings account. In theory there are series I US savings bonds that do get very good rates of return because they're indexed to inflation but you can't buy them anymore because it was only in the initial run that they offered tremendous fixed rates in addition to inflation adjustments. No wonder people complain about the 'growing gap between rich and poor'. Only rich people are putting money places where it will grow apparently.
12) 46% .. I can sort of forgive the 33% who think their parents will have to co-sign because they've probably had parents paying the bill the whole time on their own cards. They're still wrong of course.
13) 47% This one is sort of tricky because people seem to assume that taxes go down as you get more money because the politicians always say the evil rich aren't getting taxed. As a result plenty of people assumed it would go up 'a little'. The 15k figure is important because that's the first tax line for AGI brackets, they could have gotten much more confusing had they used larger numbers.
14) 75%. At least they know what a job is.
15) 71% I'm actually surprised this is so high. Maybe all those spam ads for credit elimination on the radio don't work. I am confused as to how the federal government is diverting income tax revenue to pay off your credit cards as the second answer.
16) 51%. I think the question should have explained briefly that they were putting the money somewhere generating interest. But at least most kids figured that assumption out.
17) 40%. Health insurance is a confusing business for most to figure out, including economists. But I'm fairly sure they don't cover children once adults unless it's specified on the policy to do so.
18) 68%. There's some assumptions involved here, like whether or not Don's friends are co-workers/bosses. But even so, it's true that improving your skill set makes you inherently valuable.. whether a company recognizes this with increasing wages is another assumption but a safe one.
19) 13%. Many credit cards do offer fraud protections that do not require the card holder to pay anything. That's not required but it's a competitive feature, somehow people mistook this for federal legal requirements in overwhelming numbers. The correct answer here was actually the least common response.
20) 68%. At least people know what fees are
21) 57% I'm surprised this number is so high when many people seem to respond so well to messages to tax corporations and 'rich' people (usually small business owners).
22) 37%. Most forms of insurance don't do a good job of explanations. Liability is usually what is legally required, but it doesn't cover you at all, not even if you or your passengers go to the hospital. I would have hoped enough people would know what liability means, but obviously the vocabulary deficiency isn't helping.
23) 43% . Collateral for loans is a big deal. I would have to wonder why people don't understand why their credit card interest is so much higher than car or home loans. It's possible to get other loans with favorable terms with other "fixed" assets as collateral as well.
24) 48%. What with all the harping teachers do on this figure, I'd have expected a higher number. Obviously not everyone is paying attention. (22% said 10 times as much.. they may be in for a considerable disappointment).
25) 28%. Everything else says US or is insured by the FDIC regulation (bank). State offer their own regulations but they're not federal.
26) 51%. 32% seem to have 'agreed' with me that old people 'need' it more. But it's obvious the question refers to the potential for economic catastrophe that insurance protects against (in this case the children's futures).
27) 82% know how to spend money
28) 48% This one was perhaps the most disappointing. It shows a complete lack of understand of what corrosive effects credit card interest has to create great financial harm.
29) 54% Credit history is universal, much like medical history is becoming. But apparently people still assume we live in the stone age where businesses don't talk to one another to reduce their risks
30) 33%. Again people don't understand collateral -- 29% said getting an additional mortgage wouldn't help. It doesn't say what the dumbest thing to do is, it just asks what won't reduce the rate.
31) 27%. Again 40% of people will be sorely disappointed when they discover their savings accounts are open to taxation. There are ways to save money without taxes true, even inside a savings account. But a plain old savings account is regular income and isn't the best way to grow money beyond a certain point (besides which it probably isn't growing anyway with the puny rates of interest)

The study then asked classification questions. There wasn't a huge gap between men and women (men did do slightly better). Families who owned homes did slightly better than renting families. People planning to go to on to BA/BS degrees did a bit better than their contemparies (which doesn't necessarily mean they know more about money but that they're probably better at figuring out questions). Naturally as one's parents made more money or had higher education, one's score improved. 'Whites' scored better than other racial groups. Asians made up a fairly small sample, so I would take the slightly lower score there with a grain of salt. The explanation of money to one's children has a significant impact, but it does require that one understand how to use it effectively in order to do so.
The more interesting nuggets. Kids who didn't use credit cards at all scored higher than those that did, but having no bank account to speak of was a serious blow. Kids who had had any job at all scored slightly higher (probably because they know how to look at a paycheck), but not decisively so. Having had a course with a stock market game seems to have helped. Not taking any college entrance tests (ACT/SAT, etc) seems to be a bad indication as well.

I take it they redid the SAT scoring recently (so I've learned from wiki). The 'over 2000' threw me for a bit. 1480s apparently aren't what they used to be.. Although those section averages are pitiful. 518? 503? 497? For all the focus on math scores being so low, those reading/writing ones are even lower.

08 April 2008

the perils of guns over butter


This was in Albania a couple of weeks ago.

It’s probably a bad idea to keep old weapons laying around (instead of selling them to insurgent groups). Apparently they’ve acquired the typical Russian madness of not throwing away the old stuff (I’m told the Russians have old tanks from the 50s laying around and not because of independent collectors or war-buffs).

07 April 2008

ncaa post pickings

Major points from pre-tournament. The Pitt bandwagon was a good one to go against the grain on. Picking them to lose to ORU was a stretch, but nevertheless, having them knocked out quickly was no surprise. Clemson did of course lose out quickly as well. So the conference tournament seeding still shows it’s colors as a useful criteria. They did come out fast and furious against Nova, but blew it anyway. That was impressive and apparently forgettable.

Bad road teams losing 1st round: Vanderbilt, Oregon, UConn (with some help from a blown ACL).
2nd round: Notre Dame, Pitt (vs MSU though), UNLV, Kansas St, Marquette, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Purdue. Michigan St was the only Sweet 16 poor road team and beat a subpar team to get there. Kansas St over USC by this theory was really the only surprise, but they were playing in Omaha.

My upsets that did well: Siena over Vandy. West Virginia over Duke (I goofed this one the same as last year with Wisconsin and took the other 1st round team to win). Kansas over Carolina was a big shot later. In a weird way picking Memphis over Texas was a big deal, same with Michigan St over Pitt.

Seed breakdown: UCLA was the weakest 1. Carolina was weak on D, UCLA couldn’t score and it showed throughout the tournament. Memphis did get the worst draw, but won anyway. Kansas had an easy time of it.
2) Tennessee was probably the weakest, but managed to win because Butler missed about five million layups. They got destroyed by a good Louisville team as their "reward". Duke losing was more due to matchups (as is usually the case with Duke) and West Virginia being a very underrated 7 seed. Georgetown loss was a bit of a surprise, but in retrospect, Davidson was just pretty good and Hibbert had a way of disappearing.
3) Louisville turned out to be pretty damn good. By the numbers they were supposed to be, but the eye test wasn’t there when I’d seen them play. They looked too herky-jerky on offense to go places. Stanford almost proved out well with Marquette (overtime games are tough). I can’t quite figure how Wisconsin looked that bad on offense versus Davidson, but obviously they’d have had the toughest draw anyway (USC or K St, then Davidson or Georgetown, then Kansas, no thanks). If they’d have won, I’d have about half my sheets that would have nailed the Elite Eight.
4) Both Vandy and Pitt were predictably and obviously weak.UConn’s best player blew out his knee in the first half which didn’t bode well for the rest of the game and overtime. Only Washington St was decent here.
5) Only Michigan St looked particularly strong. Clemson looked ok but had other factors that precluded a strong investment of pickings. Drake was the ’weakest’ link but none of these teams looked great, merely better than the 4s
6) Marquette was the best 6 and probably should have won the Stanford game but stopped attacking the twins inside (both had 4 fouls). Oklahoma was weak. And OJ Mayo is perhaps the most annoying name in history for an overrated recruit to have.
7-10) Davidson looked pretty damn solid, especially playing essentially home games early on. BYU-AM game was the tough one.
In retrospect Indiana-Arkansas should have been easier for me to call.

Pot odds looks:
Picking someone other than Carolina looks to be working out well. I picked Kansas 90% of the time, Memphis the others. Go Jayhawks in other words.
Picking Michigan St worked.
Picking Oklahoma didn’t.
Picking against Vandy worked (if I’d taken Nova more often)
Picking Washington St worked.
Picking USA would have been stupid, so despite the temptation I didn’t.
Should have picked against Duke more (the anti-UCLA strain showing there, nobody other than Duke could have beaten them in that bracket)

Arizona, Gonzaga went cross country and lost.
Duke, Stanford, and Indiana all did rather poorly (Stanford did get 2 wins at least) for the 6 of 10 teams.
SEC predictably sucked. Big Ten may have won the NIT but didn’t manage much beyond that. Billy Packer needs to shut it on the ACC or whatever the RPI thinks is the best conference each year. That should have been the Big 12 and Big East anyway, or the Pac 10.

05 April 2008

job losses and other random quibbles

"Do you know someone who has lost a job?"

CNN poses this as a question on its web-page today. I ask philosophically, what does this question mean?

There are several ways someone can ’lose’ a job. They can quit. They can be dismissed for poor job performance (or other related factors, such as substance abuse or sexual misconduct/harassment). Or the company can either transfer their job elsewhere or cut jobs generally (or go out of business entirely). I’m presuming that it is this last subject that CNN is truly concerned with, given the level of interest in recessions. But guess what. The question doesn’t specifically ask do you know someone whose job was downsized or outsourced. It is plainly asking if you know someone who ’lost’ their job, as if they simply misplaced it and it was a separate feature from their performance or the performance of their company/business (some people actually start businesses of their own). The bland availability to mis-characterize this question is sickening. It doesn’t even have a specified time frame. How many people ’lose’ their jobs over a lifetime?

More importantly it doesn’t ask what that person has done about it. Did they get a new job, if so what kind, or even did they start a business of their own? Did they go back to school, if so for what purpose? Or are they sitting around collecting unemployment while they decide what to do about it. All of these are much more pertinent questions than: Did you or someone you know lose their job. Jobs are constantly being lost, moved, restructured and so forth. To expect that people will receive life-long employment is ridiculous as it essentially freezes their abilities in place without some internal motivations (a resource that I see both underrated when it rarely exists, and overrated in that it usually doesn’t).

When the media asks pertinent questions again and honest questions again, I will be impressed. Perhaps they’re too busy watching politicians evade such simple questions as "so that’s a no?" by saying they don’t understand the question (yes that’s a dig at Hillary). So now they’re tired of asking honest and direct questions of real people, presuming they can’t understand what a reporter is asking them either. Obviously if educated and intelligent politicians can’t answer questions, surely the great unwashed masses will have no better luck; forgetting that it is these masses that somehow put these morons in office in the first place.

Incidentally the pork book came out for the FY 2007. Hillary was 13th on the list of Senate porkers. Barack is 70th. McCain had a fat zero next to his name, which tied him with precisely 4 other Senators. Only 5 (McCain, DeMint, Coburn, Feingold, McCaskill) . The House was worse with only 10 out of 435. Even Ron Paul had 8 earmarks. Worst offender wasn’t "the bridge to nowhere" guy (Stevens). It was Cochran from Mississippi, and yes, he’s -R.

01 April 2008

colbert wisdom

"The greatest threat to capitalism is: Spicy Hot Doritos. ... no no.. Regulation!
Consider this, in 1938 FDR passed the largest child labor law.. and then the very next year Hitler invaded Poland. Coincidence, ...Yes. "

Brilliant. Priceless. This to be followed by investment in rat rakes.