30 March 2011

So about that.. war?

Libya doesn't appear to be going well. Or maybe it is. It's hard to tell exactly what our objective... is. Or is not. But basically, to expect Gaddafi's forces to sit out in the desert and patiently allow us to kill their heavy weapons so they cannot advance against rebels in their own country seemed a little silly. They've already adapted to a "no-fly" zone that included tanks and artillery by camouflaging their heavy equipment and weapons with civilian improvised vehicles instead.

No matter how well intentioned this intervention seems to have been (ie, that Gaddafi is a brutal dictator and he will kill many people if we do nothing), I think the appropriate questions were as follows:
1) What is our actual goal? Is it the removal of Gaddafi? The partitioning of the country? The "humanitarian" mission was, given diplomatic efforts here, basically requiring the former in order to prevent mass reprisals by the Libyan government, but we have explicitly removed that from the board.
2) How does bombing satisfy some humanitarian problem in the first place? I heard last week the interventions in Kosovo and Somalia described as a "success". Naturally the commenter involved was not a foreign policy expert, and might be described as a squishy liberal internationalist. Nevertheless, if these are considered by anyone as "successes", I'd have to wonder what their failures look like. The same applies to the fools who thought invading and conquering Iraq would be a great idea. We do no credit to ourselves to pretend that our guns and planes somehow introduce stability anywhere and everywhere they are used. In fact, we do ourselves no credit to pretend that this would even be a common response to our actions.
3) How does.. whatever our end goal is... impact the medium and long-term stability and prosperity of the region. The interventions in Somalia and Kosovo among others have had spectacular failures in the medium term as the governments that have formed generally organise reprisals against the former controlling interests, drove them out of the countries, or otherwise instigated unfair legal structures to punish. It sounds to me like the people we're intervening on the behalf of in Libya are not some noble rebellion of freedom and democracy either.
4) The best argument for this was that doing nothing damages our credibility among the Arab states and their people who are agitating for freer states. This has two problems of course. A) That Egypt and Tunisia already have their freer states, such as they are. And there are a myriad of institutional reasons for that (including that they were both dictatorships dependent on American aid and thus had instituted some liberal economic reforms, half-assedly making crony capitalist states) and B) That we are not supporting agitations elsewhere in the region. We are silent on Iran and Syria, and we have ignored and indeed supported the crackdowns in Bahrain and Yemen (the latter of which appears to be a complete failure). We may suppose that there are realist-pragmatic reasons to avoid interventions anywhere and everywhere that America might feel any interest to do so, but if so, then avoiding and ignoring interventions that look suspiciously like the one in Libya (Syria for example) and then intervening in Libya doesn't seem to make the most sense as a foreign policy doctrine.
5) How much will this cost us? It doesn't seem like a very short term engagement of force and it's quite expensive to launch missiles and fly combat air patrols. Maybe we cannot put a price on civilian lives that might be spared. But this assumes that our actions will in fact spare civilians. The actual event appears to be that they may not spare very many, if at all. Particularly if the fight drags on for many months precisely because we intervened in the first place.

29 March 2011

Near or far

This weekend I had a conversation among old companions which made clear what seems to be a pair of crucial differences between me and... pretty much everyone else.

1) I don't think most things change. That is, that in our lifetimes, and over the course of them, some things will shift, but in our day to day, week to week, even year to year timeframes that most people engage in thinking about, the most that changes is subtle and often at best superficial changes. Actual changes operate on a generational scale and most of them are not the sorts of things that people genuinely notice (or at least are encouraged to notice by media and politics and so on). We are told that politics has become nastier and the generation of young people and kids meaner and so on. To a student of history these changes are superficial, if at all noticeable. Human beings as a species live and breathe on a much longer time scale than an individual. Even our distinct cultures and social structures and institutions have long scale lifetimes that far exceed our own. And so they change very slowly and very rarely in significant ways. This sort of macro level analysis also applies to people. We seem to assume that very potent things and events change us. I'm not sure that they do that either. They seem capable of altering some of what we might find important, or how our priorities are listed openly. They don't seem to actually make us into malleable social creatures who radically and significantly change our behavior beyond a certain point. Very severe traumas might (major injuries or health conditions, and physical assaults like a fight or a rape ), but otherwise our individual changes seem slow and modest.

2) This one was more pronounced. Most people find themselves caught up in their own physical concerns over a day to day scale and do not throw themselves passionately and intellectually into an issue until it begins to affect them directly or personally. This is why you had many Tea Party types spring up in 2008-9 when the actual issues that supposedly motivate them began appearing back in 2002, or why people suddenly discovered a civil liberties streak when the TSA decided to use body scanners when these were issues that immigrants and minorities have dealt with for decades, if not centuries, and its immediate "security theater" aspect has existed at least since 2002 also. It's also why there's been a shift in attitudes toward homosexuals, especially among younger people, where they have direct access to a friend or family member who is gay or lesbian as opposed to the attitudes of older generations who have resisted these kinds of awareness (by creating cultural attitudes which suppressed open sexual knowledge of peers who deviated from a heterosexual norm).

Opposed to this, I can list dozens of topics which have little or no impact on me personally that I've written thousands of words on in my lifetime. I would suggest this means these are issues which I'm concerned about without any practical reason to be.
1) Gay rights, in particular gay marriage or civil unions. (I'm not gay and don't actually have any homosexual friends or family, at least that I know of)
2) Legalisation of narcotics and the general problems with the drug war. (I have no interest in trying them or in selling them).
3) Most forms of civil liberties abuses by police and prosecutors. (I'm not a "visible" minority and know very few people personally who've been directly abused by this institutional bias)
4) Overzealous international interventionism. (I'm a foreign policy realist, so waging some wars or aggressive actions seem occasionally justifiable, or inevitable, but we've been busy wasting blood and treasure a lot lately. That said, while I grew up partly in a military brat town among children of air force personnel, almost all of those children are not now serving in the military and are not in harms way).
5) Education policies, including sex education or theory of evolution or a handful of other supposedly "controversial" topics. (I don't have children). Along with how it is funded.
6) Parenting in general
7) Abortion rights. (I don't have a womb)

Plus a few things that effect me only incidentally (as they do everyone else)
8) Health care funding and national policy (I'm young and relatively healthy, though I do know a number of doctors, from family or friends).
9) Vaccinations. (Again, no kids, this one at least nominally effects me through herd effects)
10) Energy policy and related subsidies
11) Food subsidies and international trade barriers
12) Monetary policy
13) National budget (debt and deficit)
14) Tax policy (mostly effects other people far more than it does myself)
15) Corporate welfare and lobbying
16) Free speech issues.

And then there's the stuff I don't blog about very often, if at all.
17) Personal life
18) Friends
19) Love life
20) Work
21) Physical maladies

Now that's not to suggest that I take these things dispassionately and don't concern myself at all with them. I might see them as uninteresting to a potential reader as opposed to the things that I might think about deeply and often which other people do not spend much time thinking about at all. More importantly, I see these "near" things as harder to write about than things which are "far", and which have to be approached more dispassionately and objectively, if possible.

I also don't think that this is necessarily superior or better to have impractical concerns which at best only tangentially relate to one's own life as one's passionate causes and concerns. I suppose it even might be fair to say that often times it is in fact a vastly inferior method of lifestyle, because it neglects personal considerations and concerns which can, at times, consume far more energy and attention than they "should" when they are left unattended to for too long. A balanced life seems more useful and productive; where a person injects themselves not only into distant causes and works to right fundamental wrongs in our systems and culture that affect all people in those cultures, even minimally, but also to advance themselves personally and socially among their peers.

But that's also not how I tend to be.

21 March 2011

Quick hits

Japan: basically the nuclear problem is Three Mile Island. As we saw there in hindsight, the problem was mostly human psychology and not human physiology, much less nuclear physics. The real problem in Japan is the humanitarian crisis brought on by a tsunami, a massive earthquake, the problem of missing families and dead, destroyed property and economic (and human) value, and this is exacerbated by humans being moved around unnecessarily because of radiation fears that aren't quite warranted. Maybe it helps psychologically, but really it just terrorizes a people who have actually had a real radiation related history (ie, WW2's dramatic conclusion).

Also: there's a huge "what happens to us as America" problem. "NOT EVERYTHING IN THE WORLD IS ABOUT YOU!" is my reaction to this. Stop being a complete arrogant prick and start worrying about other people is the advice I'd offer Americans. I've seen worse impulses in our reactions to this (things like, eh, Japan's had a nuclear bomb dropped on it before, they'll be fine), but the fact that we're so focused on the nuclear situation and possible implications, what few there are, for nuclear power in America means we're avoiding dealing with the real world implications for real Japanese people who could use our assistance and concern. The actual impact of the Japanese disaster on America is mostly long-term economic trade and the psychological fear dredged up by radiation and nuclear power that goes back decades and has little or no real world evidence to support its existence. These are not things that should actually concern Americans, at least not in the present term. People who are suffering and require food, water, medicine, and shelter should.

Libya: I'm sure we want to signal our support for a humanitarian concern brought on by the slaughter of innocent civilians by a brutal dictatorship trying to retain control of "his" country. And to the extent that this is a reason for intervention, I'm fine with that. This is not the reason for intervention and more importantly, this is not the outcome of such interventions. Pointing us at Bosnia and Kosovo and Somalia doesn't engender a likelihood of successful results with a less repressive regime being installed instead and the general welfare of the people of a nation lifted by military force raised in their defence. Pointing us further at Iraq parallels really worries me. Yes we are agreed that Qaddafi is a bad man and should not have been entrusted with the governance of a country. What next? What do we propose to do about this? If there isn't an answer to that question, we should not be willing to even half-ass the situation and fight a war intervening on any side of the conflict. Maybe the justification is that we don't want another Rwanda-type humanitarian crisis that we "could have prevented" in a country we have somewhat more international strategic interests in (ie, Libya's oil). I'm not sure, and certainly not convinced that we could have prevented Rwanda. Maybe we could have simmered it and spread out the violence over more time, maybe more alcoves of survival would have been available. But we really don't have much ability to run into a country and install institutions that will grant, much less guarantee, not only stability and safety but a liberal pluralistic democracy in a tribalistic region. Again: see Bosnia, Somalia, and Kosovo. None of these is particularly better off. In most cases all support for one side did is allow that side to repress and slaughter the people who were repressing and slaughtering them prior to our intervention.

And in any case, the most pressing reasons I'm finding for the average American on the street to wish to intervene are to watch things blow up on TV. This has little to do with humanitarian goals. This isn't their fault so much. They just don't know dick about Libya, Libya's current political and military situation, and don't care to know. Things go boom, I'll watch seems to be the thought process.

First weekend notes

VCU had a 1.2% chance of making it to the sweet 16. Given that they had an extremely underwhelming defensive profile all season, the fact that they locked down two pretty good offenses in a row (plus one mediocre one) seems highly improbable. Also that they scored so much and so easily against Purdue. Who has a ridiculously good defense. In any case, the Kansas draw now is... pretty smooth the rest of the way. There's nobody ranked in the top 30 and even the potential final four matchup is probably no better than Wisconsin at #10 (BYU would have been interesting with Davies).

Less improbable things:
The ACC did very well. 3 teams in the sweet 16 and 7-1 record from 4 teams.

The Big East did poorly. 9-9 record from 11 teams with two of the more unlikely teams being the only ones left standing (ie, anyone not Pitt and not Syracuse, who were really the only very good teams in the conference, along with maybe Notre Dame).

The SEC did poorly except for Florida who had an easy bracket draw and Kentucky who's actually good. Both Conference USA teams losing immediately: also not very surprising. Memphis at least made it exciting.

Kansas looks really, really good. So does Ohio State (Big Ten generally doing pretty well as usual also at 7-5)

A whole bunch of close games were determined by some strange calls (especially the Syracuse and Pitt games), silly fouls (Pitt again), and poor out of bounds execution (especially the Washington and Texas games).

18 March 2011

Speaking of symbolic actions

Obama seemed to be getting along just fine handling Egypt and Tunisia. And now this...

Between the utter disaster that has been the administration's civil liberties track record, its refusal to account for immoral and immodest foreign policy initiatives of both its own and of Bushv2.0, its punitive measures against whistleblowers to the point of inhumane treatment (Bradley Manning and even his media allies), and its now modest embrace of escalating wars against countries with whom we have no strategic interests at stake (and no means of ensuring that even useful moral imperatives like humanitarian constraints will result in "good outcomes"), I have decided that he can go fuck himself.

I don't care who runs against him now. I'm not voting for him even if Palin had a serious shot at winning. Of course, she still doesn't. In fact things like this make it even less likely since there's nothing for them to argue over since liberal internationalism is basically the same policy outcomes as neo-conservatism, complete with hawkish impracticalities, and dismissive attitudes toward realistic concerns and questions about "mission objectives" and "necessary forces and military commitments to achieve long-term goals". Now, I didn't vote for Obama in the first place (nor that idiot McCain), but I had held out the weak hope that the country would be modestly better off than if some moron Republican candidate (Romney, Pawlenty, Gingrich, etc) ended up in office and my semi-weak endorsements would be among many who opposed such an outcome. Now I'm pretty sure it doesn't matter who ends up in office, policy outcomes that I would like to see engaged with, on national security (more security theater?, no thanks), on foreign policy (Afghanistan, Iraq, and now more of the same in Libya, ending up at best like Kosovo?), and on domestic issues (ending the drug war, having serious budget discussions and taking their policy suggestions seriously), will not be treated with any importance by anyone who is broadly considered a candidate for this high office.

I will instead focus my energy on opposing and marshaling opposition to the insanity of local and state laws for occupational licensing and DC can go to hell for all I care.

17 March 2011

Symbolism is immoral

Agreement is hard

Especially when people disagree over the evidence before they start disagreeing over the eventual value sets they are deploying. I'd note that this is a common problem for libertarians both with left and right leaning persons; that they are more interested in complex signaling games rather than the actual effect and efficient methods of their purported policy preferences. So we get minimum wage laws and rent controls, even though these are actually empirically harmful to poor people from the left, and we get anti-drug criminalization, SWAT raids, and ever more proposed invasions for "regime changes" from the right.

There are however two differences
1) The right is more diligent in defending its "evidence", to the point of denying reality in order to advance claims of success. (ie, deposing Saddam caused the Egyptian revolt against Mubarak several years later... ). Liberals/lefties seem to accept more readily when they are wrong about most things empirical (economic data).
2) The right is less diligent in defending its value set. It's emotionally harder to argue against something like "But I want to do something to help poor people", even if what they are proposing to do has nothing to do with helping poor people. It's a lot harder to argue for something like "we should repress non-white poor people around the globe to provide more comfort and security for white middle class people". But these do appear to be the symbolism involved for meaningless and ineffectual policies. Maybe there's some better conception for right-wingers to be made, but I'd be extremely skeptical that it holds up.

Another similar vein
to recommend.

Some of these are particularly interesting claims.
1) "Suggesting money matters in politics more than empirical evidence indicates" - This comes up all the time, as we then see things like the evil Koch empire as the orchestrated villain opposing everything on the left. Nevermind what they actually do with their money, or that there are left organs doing the same things, or opposing them, and thus canceling each other out. Or that having more money available doesn't avail candidates of easy political victories.
2) Evaluating political programmes on a case by case basis rather than as part of the whole budget. This one does seem like a problem of not prioritizing trade-offs. Government cannot do everything.
3) Reluctance to use public choice theories - this comes up a lot with regulatory capture.
4) "Sins of omission". I love this one. Back during the banking crisis, there was this refrain of "we need more regulation". The correct refrain was we need "better regulation", and probably less. Given what I've learned about the extent and inanity of regulation on the local or state level, I'm confident we need LESS. Much less regulation. Not more.
5) Labor unions as awesome sauce. Not so much historically.
6) Fiscal>Monetary. Not so much. We'd have been a lot better off if most of these Keynesians had reversed this equation.
11) I've seen the same problem from right-wing non economists (ie, keep your hands off my medicare!), and I'd say part of the reason this debate isn't had is that right-wing media makes hay of "death panels" whenever the idea comes up. Even though ANY reasonably affordable medical and health system results in decisions that will lead to some people dying who could be saved with proper medical care. Asking why insurance company bureaucrats are inherently better than government ones doesn't get you anywhere either.
13) I'm not sure that right-wing non-economists are willing to face up to the success of Denmark or Sweden (Europe is socialists!, never mind that those two actually have much less economic regulation, and thus more economic freedom, than we do), but there are certainly issues with left-wing non-economists facing up to Chile and Singapore. If there's a similar disconnect at the academic level, that's a problem.
1b) That whole inflation fear is really, really infectious and dangerous. It more or less caused the second depression in 1937, and it's not helping us very much right now either. If you really want austerity from governments, one way to get there is to let monetary policy run the ball instead of fiscal. Part of this is a nationalistic insistence on "strong currency". Even though this results in trade imbalances.
3b) The tax debate is really annoying. I shouldn't have to keep pointing at Laffer curves and ask what major economic harms are caused or avoided by keeping marginal tax rates down 3%.
5b) If we really want those HSAs, you're still going to have to have mandates to make it work. I'm okay with that as long as taxpayers have more control than governments because there does seem to be a modest public goods case for access to appropriate health care. And HSAs are at least less expensive and look more like actual insurance than the American conception of "health insurance"
6b) Attacking the ACA is a blood sport for right-wing economists, and it's certain that some of these cost controls are toothless. Some are not.
9b) Market failures are overlooked. Government failures (such as regulatory capture) are easy to find too, but actual market behavior which fails under these regulatory regimes is still a problem.

16 March 2011

Pot odds

First round
Utah St 27.2% on ESPN vs 60.1% log5 (pomeroy's system)
Belmont 20.2% vs 39.1%
Marquette 42.9% vs 53%
Gonzaga 32.2% vs 53%
Clemson 17% vs 51% (the 51% has moved up since yesterday's drubbing of UAB, they started at around 31%, but this was because they had to also beat UAB first)
USC/VCU 16.4% vs 39.1%
ODU 39.5% vs 51.1%

Long shots
Morehead St is about 5% vs 12.5%. Wofford is similar. As is UCSB (but as a 15 seed). Bucknell is 3.1% vs 16.7%. If I was going to take any of the top 4 seed lines as an upset, that's the one I'd hit.

Not much value to pick Richmond, Missouri (in round one), Michigan St, Florida St, Penn St, or Georgia. Even Oakland is about dead on.

The real value picks emerge as the rounds continue

Washington 15.7% vs 37.7%
Utah St 10.4% vs 26.9%
Missouri 5.7% vs 19.3%
Florida St 5.7% vs 16.2
Richmond 6.3% vs 14.9%
Gonzaga 11.7% vs 22.2% (and this 22% probably undersells because BYU's rating doesn't include Davies being out)
Marquette 6.3% vs 19.4%
Cincinnati 7.7% vs 28.7%
UCLA 8.9% vs 16.8%
Belmont 5.6% vs 20.5%

Picking against Kansas St, Georgetown (yes, even as an underdog), and Florida all look interesting, but UConn and Carolina are by far the most cost effective and most obvious picks on there to go against.

Long shots:
Illinois/UNLV are running about 2%, both are about 13-14%, Clemson is also at 2% and is about 11% All the one seeds are overvalued somewhat as well, but it's less likely to nail that one. There's almost no value in picking against San Diego St.

Further into the tourney
San Diego St 31.9% vs 47.1%
Texas 19.5% vs 32%
Washington 5.8% vs 19.7%
Purdue 31.1% vs 41.8%
Louisville 16.6% vs 25.2%

No value in taking Michigan St as underdog.

Long shots:
Cincinnati 2.7% vs 11.8%
Gonzaga 3% vs 11.1%
Utah St 1.4% vs 11.9%
Belmont .8% vs 8.7%

After that, the percentages are all pretty long odds because each team has several chances to get knocked off earlier, even the big dogs.
Purdue gives some odds for final four contention. 7.7% vs 20.9%
As does Texas 10.5% vs 20.4%
And San Diego St 11.9% vs 20.7%
Kentucky is very mild 8.2% vs 13.9%
Keep avoiding UConn is basically all I'd really offer. 25.2% vs 7.2%. Carolina is also ugly.

There's not much value in the title contenders as there was last year (Duke was an amazing undersell by the field and was about dead even with Kansas in projected percentage). You can squeeze out a little if it's Duke, Pitt, Texas, or even San Diego St. And if you don't take UConn. In general, the public oversells the top seeds primarily on advancing to the title and final four, but they seem to have worked this out by the title itself.

14 March 2011

Right cycles

Something which cycled around after the WBC court decision on facebook seems to be a trumpeting of the second amendment over the first. Far be it for me to start a debate over which amendment is more important, at any point in a society's history, to individual liberties (at this point for us, it is clearly the first, though if we lived in Libya right now, it might not be), but the crucial elements were the glaring flaws in the proposed superiority.

First, it correctly posits that the ruling protects the right of protests held at military funerals, no matter their content. But then it somehow determines that a public protest may be held on private property. It may not. This is referred to as trespassing. Secondly, it somehow would conclude that a military funeral would be held on what is determined to be private property. Again, this is not the case. Military cemeteries are deemed to be public grounds. Third, the court only held that we cannot bar people from protesting, but it made no determinations over what are usually considered reasonable restraints. For instance, people cannot hold their rallies at 4 am, or as aforementioned, on private property, or violate noise ordinances in neighbourhoods that have them. It is often considered sensible (though I'm not sure this is as reasonable as a time or public nuisance law constraint) to place ranges of distance surrounding certain public forums (such as cemeteries, but often including convention centers and other public offices).

In other words, I don't see what people are getting so worked up about here. I probably find the WBC and its underlying message and political goals more abhorrent than the people who are busily running around complaining that there are troops being buried while they spread their words of hatred. And yet I don't particularly care that they're allowed to spread that message in a very public way. If you don't like it, leave them the fuck alone. They will shut up or find something else to do with their time and energy and money than harass people. It's easier to shut the blinds than to go get the shotgun in order to move someone out of your personal view.

Let's talk about

Sex. Again. It seems.

There's yet another survey of sexual habits, this time of teens and college age students. The headlining point is that there appear to be fewer such people having sex. There isn't very much analysis in the study of why that is. Many conservatives seem to presume that it's because of their lovely abstinence only programmes. Those seem, when they were widely used, to have not worked (as in, they did not produce the sort of drop seen here, or more precisely they produced other effects which have now been countered, such as increases in teen pregnancies or STD transmission).

It would be useful to ask teens who did not have sex why that is (and why people who did why that is as well). I think we would find there are a number of reasons.
1) Fewer opportunities. Sexuality concentrates among the sexually active and sexually appealing
2) More competing interests. The rise and dominance among, in particular, upper-middle class kids for extra curricular activities might crowd out the necessary social time required to have sex, and especially to have sexual relationships.
3) More competing goals. The rise of college-oriented lifestyles leads achievement centered people to avoid doing things that might impede that goal, ie, they avoid having regular sexual intercourse to prevent pregnancies.
4) Real abstinence. Keep in mind that this was a group of 15-24 year olds and even with a supposed focus on abstinence, only 27% (up from 22%) have NOT had sex (I'm unclear as yet what definitions were applied to what was termed "sex", as the study also mentions some other... more diverse behaviors than regular sexual intercourse). I'm also not sure why that age range was used. I'd be more interested in 13-18 year olds sexual patterns and then 18-24 year olds, where marriages are more common, consent laws are universal, and fewer moral qualms thus raised about such sexuality.

Among the more racy elements, it appears, as was the trend in other studies, that there's a rise in anal sex and homosexual experimentation (particularly among women in both categories). I'm sure neither of those are trends that would greatly amuse the abstinence-conservative crowd. More to the point, I'm not sure a rise in anal sex is a socially desirable avoidance of sexual intercourse and pregnancy as it carries increased risks of disease and requires appropriate safeguards (plus I cannot imagine it's sexually pleasurable for every woman who tries it on utilitarian grounds).

I'm not sure if they studied sexting either, though I'm guessing that it's merely a more pervasive news story than a new and real problem (ie, there've always been sexually adventurous teens who've been photographed in various stages of undress by other teens, or themselves. The difference is that we treat it as a crime now because we misguidedly believe some random pedophile could someday get ahold of the photos because we have wider distribution systems through social networks and cell phone cameras).

Finally, what seems odd about the entire fight is that nobody seems to actually care very much to ask the central question of the debate and see if it even matters: "is it good/bad/whatever that many and indeed most teens and college students are sexually adventurous, curious, and, eventually, active" (the median age still looks like 17 even with the slight rise in abstainers) is the central question.

Is this even a societal concern? Shouldn't it be more individually determined? Say by the parents and teens/students themselves? It would seem like the only societal concerns are things like teen pregnancy (and teen abortion rates as well) and in particular the spread of disease among teens and young adults. If we have done an appropriate job educating teens and our children on the risks and behaviors to avoid those risks (including perhaps abstaining or at least avoiding excessive sexual promiscuity), then I'm not sure it matters whether teens then proceed to have sex or not. That is at best a tangential concern to the things that can actually be manipulated by social forces.

We concern ourselves with it primarily because parents are made uncomfortable by the idea of their children's active sexual lives as they get older and develop independent social roles and links. In other words, we concern ourselves with it because parents wish to maintain an illusion of control over their children without having to do the work required to actually retain any real influence over their decisions and habits (ie talking to their kids about sex and pair bonding and so forth). Parents are lazy and biology is not. If we quit wasting social resources accommodating parental laziness, and focused those resources on dealing with real teenage irresponsibility (ie, not using condoms or birth control for example) we'd be better off.


Final rankings (with top 100 record, second is any non-top 100 loss)
1) OSU 19-2
2) Duke 17-4
3) Kansas 21-2

4) Texas 13-7
4) SDSU 13-2
6) Pitt 16-5

7) Kentucky 13-8
8) Purdue 15-6-1
8) BYU 11-4

10) Wisconsin 12-8
11) Notre Dame 17-6
12) Louisville 15-9
12) Syracuse 15-7
14) Washington 10-7-3
15) North Carolina 16-6

16) Connecticut 17-9
17) Belmont 2-3-1
18) Utah St 5-2-1

19) West Virginia 13-11
20) Illinois 10-11-2
21) Arizona 8-6-1
22) Florida 16-3-4
23) UNLV 8-7-1

24) Cincinnati 9-8
25) Villanova 11-10-1
26) Georgetown 14-10
27) Vandy 10-9-1
28) George Mason 5-3-3

29) Gonzaga 8-7-2
30) Marquette 10-14
31) Kansas St 9-10
32) Missouri 7-10
33) Clemson 10-8-3
(Virginia Tech is 34, 8-8-3)
35) St John's 13-9-2
35) Temple 5-7
(St Marys is 37, 4-7-1. Unlike Va Tech, they don't have much of a beef for not getting in).
(Maryland is 38, 4-13-1, again, not exactly world beating record here)
39) Xavier 7-4-3

40) Michigan St 10-13-1
41) Butler 6-4-5
42) Richmond 5-5-2
43) Michigan 10-12-1
43) Florida St 6-9-1
(New Mexico is 45, 5-7-5)
46) Texas AM 9-8

(Wazzu is 47, 7-9-3)
48) USC 8-9-5
49) Penn St 11-13-1
50) Old Dominion 7-5-1
51) Tennessee 12-12-2
52) UCLA 7-9-1

53) Oakland 4-7-2. Oakland's the last auto-bid team that looks like a potential spoiler. Memphis sucks by comparison.
(Colorado and Alabama are 54th, 8-10-3, and 6-9-2, Colorado has a reasonable beef for inclusion over some of the at larges below them)
57) Georgia 6-11
59) UAB 6-5-3

85?) VCU 7-7-4

I don't understand why UAB gets in and Virginia Tech does not (and also Clemson does on that criteria) or why VCU gets in.. at all.
On to the actual pick like things

USC over VCU
Clemson over UAB

East region
This is a weird region. There are two teams here I wouldn't have even put in the tournament (Georgia and UAB), and other than Ohio St and Kentucky it's kind of bunched together in the middle. There appear to be 3 "4" seeds playing here for example.

I think Xavier got a little over seeded, so that makes the 6-11 game interesting. I'd take Marquette there even though the game is in Cleveland. Washington looks like a potential upset (again) in the second round. Carolina isn't anywhere near as bad overseeded as New Mexico, which should be carried as it's own talisman of insanity (much like putting VCU in this year), but it's still vulnerable. The one part that worries me there is Washington having to travel across country to play in Charlotte, which usually messes up west coast teams. Neither of the 12 seeds looks like an upset special for West Virginia, but West Virginia itself looks a vulnerable 5. 8-9 is a pretty good toss-up.

Most interesting matchup and probably toughest for Ohio St in the region is Kentucky in the Sweet 16. If they win that, they'll probably make the finals, and almost certainly make the final 4. If they lose, Kentucky might make the finals. The committee overall has some rough 1-4 matchups (other than Pitt who might be facing a 12 or 13 seed). If they end up playing Syracuse, the game is in Newark, but I don't think it will matter very much.

West Region
This region is top loaded. There are 3 top 5 teams here. The 1-4 with Texas vs Duke looks dangerous for the 1. Probably whoever wins that one is a Final Four team.

Connecticut is easily the weakest of the 3 seeds. Look for Bucknell or especially Missouri to knock them off. Cincinnati is less likely as they look like a vulnerable 6 anyway (plus they'd have to beat Missouri, who is, naturally, pretty good anyway). 7-10 game as with above, doesn't look very interesting. Memphis is one of the worst 12 seeds, and Arizona a solid 5, so not so much there. If Oakland were playing any of the other 4 seeds, especially Louisville, I'd consider an upset there. Tennessee-Michigan is kind of a meaningless game, but I'd say take Tennessee.

Southwest Region

Kansas has an easier run up top. They can be beaten, but I don't think that's UNLV, Illinois or Louisville's strength to do so. Louisville might be messy, but I still don't see them winning that game. Keeping Kansas from scoring is not the same as being able to score yourself, which Louisville hasn't been able to do reliably for a few years now. They're also going to get killed on the boards.

Meanwhile Purdue limped in on two straight losses, and that's usually not good. The only good fortune here for them is that none of the rest of their early pod looks impressive either. St Peter's is a 16 seed disguised as a 14. Georgetown might be the only option there to upset, as neither 11 seed is very good. The other good fortune is that they're playing in Chicago. Since Notre Dame was about right on the seed line, I'll go ahead and take them over Purdue. They really don't have much to contend with early on. Richmond would be better served if they hadn't been screwed on their seed this year. They're better than a 12, but they're not suited to beating a 5 seed. Pit them against Georgetown or Texas AM and I'd consider it. UNLV-Illinois looks like Illinois could win, but they've been playing very strangely down the stretch. Both of them were underseeded a little, as they're better than Georgetown or Vanderbilt or Texas A&M especially (speaking of which, I'd take Florida St I suppose, but neither of them is very good).

This is the weirdest region to me. Both the 12 and 13 seeds I have rated higher than the 2 seed, for example.

I would watch out for Wisconsin against Belmont, as Belmont really gets after the defense and can shoot the lights out. Wisconsin's defense isn't that great, secretly masked by their really efficient, and really slow, offense (they also have the kiss of death, lost last two coming in, problem). Really they'll have a tough time against both them and Utah St. Utah St jumped right out and said "pick me" when they put a very weak 5 seed (Kansas St) up against them. The games are also in Tuscon, which is still out west rather than making for that jet lag game. K State doesn't actually read like a highly vulnerable 5, but they're up against a very, very good 12.

In other news, St John's is overrated. Take Gonzaga. In fact, you could probably take them all the way to the elite eight this year as BYU hasn't suited up one of its better players and Florida is only about as good as Gonzaga. Florida looks really, really weak for a 2 seed. Butler-Old Dominion is an odd game. I guess take Butler, but the game is in DC. Don't expect either to make much noise against Pitt, Butler maybe better suited than ODU. Take Michigan St in round one over UCLA and maybe round two as well. If you haven't noticed, I expect this region to be extremely messy, and look very strange by round 3.

13 March 2011

Bracket thoughts

1) VCU wasn't even on my list of teams to monitor after they lost to ODU last week (really prior to that, when it was clear that Wichita St wasn't very good either). They're about #80, and you generally have to be in the top 50 for an at large bid.
2) UAB was about comparable to some of the teams that got hosed (Colorado, Alabama in particular).
3) Virginia Tech got hosed again.
4) Pitt's region has pretty much nobody of consequence in it. BYU is about right sans Davies. Florida should be swapped with Kentucky. Florida is seeded as a #2 and is the 6th best team in that region. I'm a little confused with the Belmont-Utah St 12-13 (the seedings aren't surprising, little conferences get no respect.. but that they're both in the same region seems odd).
5) Duke has 3 top 5 teams in their region. They like hitting the defending champs with a bunch of talent I guess. Texas got hosed. 4 seed? They actually seem to get screwed every year on this stuff. 8 seed last year was way below their level.
6) Ohio St has 3 teams in a row seeded #3, #7, #2 in that order... and dropped off the list of title contenders. Kentucky might have moved up into it by getting a 4 seed. Still looks like Duke and Kansas only.

11 March 2011

Thing I don't need to comment on

So now there's a sting on NPR, supposedly the director hates conservative tea parties (and loves Madeira). This is shocking... ? I don't tend to listen to NPR much for news (BBC seems more objective), but it also covers a ton of stuff that you don't get anywhere else in the major outlets (particularly Faux). If you are listening to it for actual news, you can kind of tell there's a slant, but it's not anywhere near the Faux slant, which is like a canyon straight down into conservative-ville. It's not a "super-ultra-mega-liberal" slant the way Faux operates for right-wingers because you don't get something like a Nader/Kucinich-ville vision of things.

What was more amusing was the take down of Peter King.

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Radical Muslim Hearings
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The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Radical Muslim Hearings - IRA Terrorism
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Reza Aslan's comment that he "heard Peter King is a dick" was also appropriate. The guy is clearly a bigoted moron posing as a national security expert. There is an issue with Islamic radicals, clearly. But the security theater he's engaging in doesn't help us at all. Continuing to disparage loyal American citizens even as they cooperate with the FBI to work against terrorist and other violent threats, while completely discounting the possibility of terrorist activity conducted by non-Muslims (around the world, like the IRA or Tamil Tigers or terrorism by other domestic sources), yes, you are a moron. Thanks for playing, sir.

Oliver's closing statement of "that whole fucking forest is accountable and must be felled" seems to be how we're playing this one.

Speaking of conservative-tea partiers, Rand Paul actually did reasonably well versus Stewart the other day too. He struck me as less populist than Stewart for instance (not terribly surprising). Though I disagree with his Austrian-ism on the central bank explanation for the housing collapse, he at least articulates the problems of regulatory capture and other libertarian critiques of government interference in the economy pretty well. I certainly agree that letting the banks fail would have been fine, but I think injecting some QE at the time would have eased the process of demolishing the dumber banks (like AIG). My critique isn't so much central banking, there were many other regulations and problems with the banking system in this country that can be examined and shown to play large roles in distorting the housing market and causing a financial collapse.

Before the madness

Weekend is sorting out some upsets, as usually happens. Some of the crazier developments:
1) Notre Dame is being talked about as a #1 seed. I have them #11. They're jumping over Duke and Pitt, as well as Texas and Purdue and BYU, plus a couple other teams who are in my opinion about as good as Notre Dame (ie, other 2 or 3 seed quality teams like Wisconsin, Kentucky, or San Diego St, of course they beat Wisconsin, but lost to Kentucky). They do have a very good top 100 record (17-5), but Pitt and BYU and Duke all have similarly good records. (16-5, 11-3, 14-4). Still, if Notre Dame gets a #1 seed, I expect me to pick them out early, and not to make the elite eight without an extremely favorable draw. They will clearly be the weakest #1 seed. Don't even get me started on North Carolina if they get one.
2) Colorado played their way in. At the moment they are #55 on my list. The real issue is that there are about a dozen teams ahead of them that probably wouldn't (and shouldn't) get in either. Colorado at least has some good wins (including 3 over Kansas St).
3) Alabama-Georgia is being talked about as a elimination/in game. Both of these teams are out on my list. Georgia at least has a respectable number of wins over top 100 teams (6), but so does Boston College, UAB, and even Memphis. None of these are teams I'd consider right now as anything more than decent. More strangely, the Illinois-Michigan game today could also be viewed as an elimination-in game, as is the Clemson-Boston College game. These two are more comfortably in (Illinois is still in my top 20, Michigan is listed as one of the last teams in), and Clemson looks safer, Boston College wouldn't be a travesty if they got in either. I think this reflects the disparity between efficiency ratings of the SEC and other weaker conferences and the Big Ten/ACC, and the RPI system which looks favorably on the SEC for reasons I cannot explain.

Here's the list right now
1) Ohio St
2) Kansas
3) Duke

4) Texas
5) Purdue
6) Pitt

7) BYU (dropping off the pace)
8) San Diego St
9) Wisconsin
10) Kentucky
11) Notre Dame (climbing, but with Pitt gone, can't climb enough)

12) Syracuse
12) North Carolina (I have no idea why they're getting #1 seed buzz either)
14) Louisville
15) Washington (glad they won last night, probably iced Wazzu's chances in the process)

16) Connecticut
17) Belmont
18) Utah St (needs to win their tournament to be entirely safe, but should knock out some crap team that doesn't need to be in if they don't. Their RPI is pretty damned high too)
19) Illinois (that they're still this high should say much about how weak it is out there. That said, they did beat Gonzaga, North Carolina, Oakland, and Maryland, and took Texas to OT, end run of losses in conference puts them on the bubble seems a little strange, considering Villanova has a similar profile).
20) West Virginia

21) UNLV
22) Florida
23) Arizona
24) Vanderbilt
25) Cincinnati

26) Villanova
27) George Mason
28) Georgetown

29) Gonzaga
30) Kansas St
31) Marquette. (brutal 10-14 top 100 record, looks very much like a Georgetown team that missed the cut a couple years ago, tells you just how bad it is this year).
31) Missouri
31) Virginia Tech (first real bubble team, and they were better last year when they didn't make it)

(big gap here)
34) St John's
34) Temple
36) Maryland (still on outside looking in)
37) Xavier
38) St Marys
39) Clemson (same record against top 100 as Texas A&M and still on the bubble?, I don't get the bubble this year)

40) Texas AM

Of the auto-bids so far, obviously Belmont is still interesting. Gonzaga's about where they have been for a couple years now (middle of the road). Butler's not nearly as good as last year. Neither is Old Dominion. Oakland is interesting where they will be, probably a 12-13 seed with a chance at an upset. Everybody else so far is a 14 seed or lower. That said, the 13s and 14s at least are a little better than usual. Wofford's basically the same team as last year rating wise and is a seed line lower. Maybe a couple more bigger tournament upsets and they sneak upward.

09 March 2011

Miami Heat still losing

I'm not that surprised really. They've benefited from a pretty easy schedule most of the year, and this stretch is fairly brutal by NBA scheduling standards.

The two surprising factors:
1) They haven't figured out that Wade should be handling the ball at the end of games. LeBron is not as bad in the clutch as he has been this year, but he's not as good as Wade at attacking the basket and creating plays. He's always had a coach who doesn't know how to draw up a play for him and so settles on these LeBron-23-heave calls instead. They also both should be willing to pass to someone other than themselves (Chalmers or James Jones especially as good shooters). Oh and Bosh shouldn't be touching the ball at all unless he's in the post at that point in the game.

2) Their record against top 10 teams is something like 5-13, and this becomes a big deal. This isn't that surprising for an Eastern conference team to have a poor top 10 record, as other than Boston and Chicago, there aren't any East teams with winning records. The third best record is New York at 9-12. Even Orlando is 8-12. For comparisons, Atlanta checks in at 4-14, while Memphis, barely in the playoffs out West, is 12-13. Even if you expand out to the top 16, theoretically the playoff teams, it's still just Boston and Chicago (Orlando is .500).

What's surprising I suppose is that it is Miami doing this, after having supposedly been talking titles this year. To people who observed this skeptically, this looked like a high 50 win team and not much of a threat. They're more or less like LeBron's Cavs have always been: racking up double digit wins in the regular season against inferior teams, losing to quality teams. I still would not want to play them in a 7 game series if I'm, say, Boston, but Chicago is much scarier (and consider that this is basically the same Boston team that took 7 games to beat the Bulls two years ago in the first round, but smacked down the Heat after underachieving all last year). It's always been a Miami team this year that looked a lot like Orlando of the last couple years (for somewhat similar reasons, poor clutch play being one of them), should be good, will be scary to play, and will probably lose.

What they needed was either a) someone who can lock down the other team's playmaker, especially a point guard. or b) someone who can patrol the paint on defense and clear the boards. Since they've had neither, every team in the league that has a good power forward or center or point guard has beaten up on them.

07 March 2011

Notes on the news

1) I celebrate the 8-1 decision permitting the despicable protests of the Westboro church. Laws are meant to protect everyone and free speech meant to protect free expression, regardless of whether we approve of it. Bad laws are very often made in order to punish very specific types of offensive behavior and result in overbroad interpretations from prosecutors, cops, and courts in order to punish or control more types of behavior. More to the point, we're not supposed to be having laws to try to govern and control speech and opinion. Hence the 8-1 decision (Alito continues to be one of the most inconsistent, weird, and frustrating justices in how he decides cases to me.)

I also don't understand some of the right-wing's understanding of "free speech". For example Palin's conception of it seems to be that we should have to support offensive speech when it suits her interests or those of her political allies and to suppress offensive speech when it becomes perceived as personally offensive (to her). We are required only to permit people to express themselves as is their right if they wish to do so, either as individuals or as organisations. We are not required to support their speech with money and attention, or to supply occupations to them that they may express more widely their opinions, however vile, and so on. Indeed, we are free to ignore entirely those opinions or their methods of expression.

Our "best" approach to these types of outrageous protests is to ignore them as idiotic and annoying, not to silence them as though they represent legitimate opinions posing a threat to established ideas or methods of political coercion.

2) Libya doesn't appear to be getting resolved any time soon and looks to be a very messy few months, if not years. I don't think it reasonable for us to mess with a no-fly zone, even if it were practical the insertion of Western forces gives Qaddafi some nationalistic backing, and more importantly doesn't give the eventual government as much national legitimacy (see: Iraq, Afghanistan, shah of Iran, Yemen, etc) . I don't think Qaddafi can stay in power without any significant concessions happening, nor see a means that this would happen, but he thinks he can put down a determined and armed rebellion even with 24 hour coverage of what is happening in his country. Too bad for him.

06 March 2011

NCAAs champ week edition

1) Ohio St
2) Kansas
3) Duke
Still not much separation here. Ohio St managed to score prodigiously over the downtrodden wing of the Big Ten though, so it now looks a little better on title contention. Duke fell a little off the pace losing to Carolina.

4) Purdue
5) BYU
6) Texas
7) Pittsburgh

Last year there was kind of a gap between the four one seeds and the rest. This year, the last one seed is basically the same as the next 3. BYU is out by virtue of suspending one of their starting players. Pitt will probably sneak in and get the last one seed now because Purdue lost a fluke close game to Iowa at a bad time and Texas faded down the stretch.

8) Wisconsin
9) San Diego St

10) North Carolina
11) Kentucky (prior to win @ Tennessee, which helps a little)
12) Syracuse
13) Louisville

14) Washington
15) Notre Dame
16) Utah St

17) Belmont. Got in pretty handily, won by 43.
18) West Virginia
18) Illinois
20) Cincinnati

21) UNLV
22) Florida
23) Georgetown. May be higher if Wright comes back in time for the tournament.
24) George Mason (prior to today's loss to VCU).
24) Vanderbilt
26) Arizona
26) Villanova

28) Connecticut

Auto-bids so far: Belmont is listed as 5 seed quality. They will get to play either a 4 or a 5 probably in the first round. I'm a little concerned they remind me of Utah St last year (lost to Texas AM in the first round, basically #21 vs #22 on my list), but they're actually pretty scary. I'll wait for the draw to come out, but I'd be comfortable picking them for a win, maybe two. Or picking them to lose right off if they get a beastly 4-5 team that shouldn't be down that far. Both Temple and Vanderbilt last year played very good, possibly superior teams in the first round and both lost (Cornell and Murray St respectively), so we'll see I suppose.

Morehead St looks like a "good" 15, UNCA knocked out a probable 13-14 seed and instead would be in one of the play-in games, or at least be a 16 seed. Harvard looks like a weaker version of Cornell, as a 13 seed if they clinch the Ivy. Princeton is much weaker than they are if they win out.

Teams of note in conference tournaments and bubble watching: Wichita State clinched an NIT bid by bowing out of Arch Madness early. As did Cleveland State in the Horizon. Maryland managed to play their way back down to something approaching reality from their previous statistical heights. Michigan, USC, Washington St, Clemson, and New Mexico all played back into contention for bids, though only Michigan and Clemson look to be getting the committee's attention. Minnesota, Georgia, Alabama, and Memphis all look pretty weak (despite Georgia being "in" on most projections right now).