Sunday, April 30, 2006

A Message to Those Who Live In Luxury:

And by that, I mean the people of the great nation of America, where even the lower classes live better than 99% of the world today, and where everyone is better off than 99.9% of everyone else in human history.

Stop complaining about gas prices!

I was shopping the other day, and noticed a polo shirt I liked - A shirt I liked until I noticed the $59.00 price tag. And I realized, that shirt represented about 20 gallons of gasoline. In fact, the difference in price between that shirt, and an $8.00 shirt at WalMart would be about 17 gallons of gas. The point is, Americans today are awash in luxury, and spend billions of dollars on consumer goods we don't actually need. Most Americans spend $100-$200 dollars per month on personal phone, internet, and cable services. Sure it's convenient, but is it all really needed?

This is not to bash consumer goods, or the American propensity to spend. Quite the contrary, these characteristics have helped make America the wealthiest nation in the world. However, our standard of living today is not a right to which we are entitled, and the outrage of individual Americans at the price of gasoline is self-righteous and selfish.

A news report I'm listening to as I blog just mentioned the rising cost of healthcare - Once again, everything has costs. If better medical care costs more money, than you may have to sacrifice financially in other aspects of your life. The same is true of gas prices. If the market fairly dictates higher prices, then you have to adjust accordingly, whether through driving less, or cutting spending in other avenues. Manage your life financially, and adjust to changing prices. So long as I see us living in luxury, I won't complain.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

The Lonely libertarian's Immigrant Solution

The following thought occurred to me the other day as I considered the historical similarities between the current immigration debate, and the debate of years past. Some of the story remains the same, whether it's Germans, the Irish, the Chinese, Jews, Italians, or Mexicans. In reality, despite what the law and order crowd may say, there is little that separates the illegal Mexican immigrants today from the immigrants of years past. As in the past, no real thoughts are being paid to laws or borders, only to mythical (and truthful) notion that America is the land of opportunity.

At the turn of the twentieth century, hundreds of thousands of immigrants poured into the country by way of Ellis Island. They hopped on boats back home in Europe with hopes and dreams of making better lives for their families and their children. They paid no attention to immigration laws and policy. And by and large, we let those immigrants in, and we are a better nation today for it.

What we need today is an Ellis Island on the Mexican Border. We have no such processing center today, and to all those concerned with both public health and national security issues, such a center would be a perfect solution to the real immigration problems of today. A modern day Ellis Island (maybe we could stick it in the middle of the desert and call it "Immigrant Oasis") would provide a mechanism for immigrants to cross the Mexican border legally, and would return some semblance of control over immigration to the government without building a wall, and without deploying troops.

The other part of the solution is the limitation of public assistance. We can't afford to bring the rest of the world to our standard of living, and offering the full array of social services to all immigrants would strain our budget beyond the breaking point. The question becomes, do we really care about helping people, or are we more concerned in keeping out standards of living that don't match our own high standards. Opportunities for work and higher wages help people- shutting our eyes and shutting our gates to the poverty of the rest of the world helps no one.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Go George, Go!

"Massive deportation of the people here is not going to work," said George Bush yesterday while attempting to revive immigration reform. Love him or hate him, you have to admit one thing about GW: He sticks by his guns.

More On Gas Prices

The insanity over gas prices has reached a fever pitch. I heard Connecticut's own Joe Liberman on the radio yesterday demanding that oil companies return some of their wrongfully acquired profits to the American people. Both Democrats and Republicans have called for investigations and special taxes on the "windfall profits" of Exxon-Mobil and their ilk.

And all the while, everyone forgets the role that prices play in helping to balance supply and demand. Sure, there are illegitimate reasons why prices might be high- collusion, price fixing, ect. But not one politician or pundit has come forth with any substantive evidence of such activity.

For those concerned with "windfall" or "obscene" profits, prices are not directly connected to profits. If there is no anti-competitive activity going on, and the market is determining prices, then it seems ridiculous to say that any profit is "too much." The problem with these tax proposals are numerous. What is a "windfall profit" and how would such a figure even be set? For example, if the figure was set at 10 billion dollars, why would 10 billion dollars be considered to be "obscene" and subject to special taxes, but 9.9 billion dollars be perfectly acceptable? And would such a tax apply to all businesses, or just to the oil industry? Applying such a tax just to the oil industry seems patently unfair.

People are mad because an essential good is expensive, and politicians are desperate to do something about it. If gas prices are high for market reasons, yeah, that sucks, but the last thing we want is to make the government more involved. After all, when has government involvement (or even better, special taxes) actually resulted in a lower costing product?

I didn't think so.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Just What Is Our Internet Future?

Via Randy Banrett at the Volokh Conspiracy comes this Wall Street Journal article on blogging, the coarsening of language, and internet culture in general.

I generally like Randy Barnett, but trying to simplify social interaction on the internet with quantifiable terminology seems just as simplistic as trying to understand American culture (whatever that means) through a brief glimpse in the window.

The internet, in its infant stages today, is in the midst of the ultimate state of nature. It's not just that there are so few extrinsic rules, but the limits and standards we place on ourselves are utterly lacking. It took human society hundreds, or thousands of years to develop to where we are today- the internet will take some time too. The real shapers of the future of internet culture are not going to be the 40-year old political bloggers, but the teenage MySpacers, and everyone else who has grown up in the wilds of the internet's "natural state."

I guess I'm just less interested in what the internet says about us and more interested in what this future is going to be.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Pro-Choice? More reasons to stay out of the cultural battle on abortion

The lonely libertarian had the following e-mail forwarded to him the other day:

When a 17-year-old Indiana girl walked into what she thought was a Planned Parenthood clinic, her mother and boyfriend beside her, she never imagined that it was a trap — a deceitful setup by anti-choice zealots.
You can read her alarming story below — including how people from the fake clinic came to her high school and publicly humiliated her — but it's not an isolated incident.
The anti-choice movement is setting up so-called "crisis pregnancy centers" across the country. Some of them have neutral-sounding names and run ads that falsely promise the full range of reproductive health services, but dispense anti-choice propaganda and intimidation instead. And according to The New York Times, there are currently more of these centers in the U.S. than there are actual abortion providers!
A bill has just been introduced in Congress to stop the fraudulent practices of fake clinics, but it desperately needs more support.
Tell your representative to take a stand: anti-choice extremists must not get away with this any longer!
The Story: An Indiana mother recently accompanied her daughter and her daughter's boyfriend to one of Indiana's Planned Parenthood clinics, but they unwittingly walked into a "crisis pregnancy center" run by an anti-abortion group — one that shared a parking lot with the real Planned Parenthood clinic, and was designed expressly to lure our patients and deceive them.
The group took down the girl's confidential personal information and told her to come back for her appointment, which they said would be in their "other office" (the real Planned Parenthood office nearby). When she arrived for her appointment, not only did the Planned Parenthood staff have no record of her, but the police were there — the "crisis pregnancy center" had called them, claiming that a minor was being forced to have an abortion against her will.
The "crisis pregnancy center" staff then proceeded to wage a campaign of intimidation and harassment over the following days, showing up at the girl's home and calling her father's workplace. Our clinic director reports that she was "scared to death to leave her house." They even went to her school and urged classmates to pressure her not to have an abortion.
This cruel and fraudulent behavior shows exactly what's behind the proliferation of these centers. That's why this new bill is so important: it would make it illegal for any entity to advertise abortion services if it does not provide such services.
Worse yet — the Bush administration has used $60 million in taxpayer dollars to fund these propaganda machines. This has got to stop!
Help bring attention to this outrageous practice. Please contact your representative today!
With your help, we can put an end to the fraud and deceit that women across America are facing in their most vulnerable moments.
Cecile Richards
Planned Parenthood Federation of America

Something about the e-mail didn't seem quite right - namely the claim that there are more fraudulent anti-choice centers throughout the country then there are actual abortion providers. The picture the e-mail paints is frightening, almost too frightening to be true.

First stop in my investigation, the bill itself, H.R. 5052, available here. (Just input the number of the bill in to the search function.) The important part of the bill:


(a) Conduct Prohibited- Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the Federal Trade Commission shall promulgate rules to prohibit any person to advertise with the intent to deceptively create the impression that such person is a provider of abortion services if such person does not provide abortion services .

(b) Enforcement- The Federal Trade Commission shall enforce the rules required under subsection (a) as if a violation of such rules were a violation of section 5(a)(1) of the Federal Trade Commission Act (15 U.S.C. 45(a)(1). The Commission shall enforce such rules in the same manner and by the same means, powers, and duties as though all applicable terms and provisions of the Federal Trade Commission Act were incorporated into and made a part of this Act.

The second part of the investigation? Discovering just what these pregnancy crisis centers actually are. It turns out, these are the Pro-Life movement's answer to abortion clinics, providing alternatives to abortion for poor and unmarried pregnant women. The letter attempts to connect all of these organizations to this one incident, with no evidence offered to support this assertion. These "pregnancy crisis centers" that outnumber abortion service providers are perfectly legitimate organizations, and absent any other evidence, the incident described in the letter is likely not the rule, but the exception.

Now, this proposed act could have two possible effects. One would be negligible, in that it would prohibit the sort of fraud that is already prohibited by existing law. For example, the scenario mentioned in the Planned Parenthood letter is certainly illegal under existing law. The other effect would be further reaching, looking to limit or possibly restrict the ability of these Pro-Life organizations to advertise their services. Perhaps the law could even be used to restrict the use of the term "pregnancy crisis center."

Basically, either the law is completely unnecessary, or open to potential abuses. Because regardless of your views on abortion, Pro-Life groups certainly have the right to offer alternatives to abortion, as part of their right to discourage women from turning to abortion.

This is why the lonely libertarian stays out of the abortion debate as much as possible. Either this proposed law is unneeded, or is the antithesis of "choice."

If they're telling parents and kids what to, does this mean we have a 'Big Momma' government to fear?

"No More Sodas In Schools!" is what the local headlines tell me this morning, as Connecticut waits for the House to approve a bill banning the sale of all soda in public schools. The Senate passed the bill by a 24-8 vote.

But neither the article, nor the politicians involve address the real concerns such a bill raises. After all, banning unhealthy foods isn't such a horrible idea, given that we are talking about children. However, given the hundreds of public school systems, and thousands of public schools in the state, does it really make sense to force every school to engage in the same ban? If we're talking about children's health- and in certain instances, children's choices- then why not simply let local school boards decide on their own policies. Or better yet, let individual schools decide. Either way, give parents a more direct voice in these decisions that affect their children. This just smacks of nanny statism. The problem isn't the ban itself, the problem is the lack of regard given to the choices of individual parents and the individual school systems where such individual parents can actually wield influence.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Weapons of Mass Consumption

"The problem here is that you're dealing with a segment where you have these huge obesity issues and you're making eating Big Macs and double cheeseburgers look like it's fun and exciting," said Jerome Williams, a professor of advertising at the University of Texas, Austin, and one author of an Institute of Medicine report last year on the marketing of junk food to children and teenagers.

Or so reported the New York Times, in today's business section. Dr. Williams comments would be a whole lot funnier if his concern wasn't reflected in the tone of the rest of the Times article. One can imagine the possible solutions. Government should restrict advertising that makes such dangerous products look fun and exciting. Insane, of course, but I admit, it'd be rather fun to be the guy who gets to decide what products actually are fun and exciting and can be advertised as such.

Update (1:15 PM): The impact of Dr. Williams statement just dawned on me. The problem isn't that we're advertising Big Macs as fun and exciting, it's that we're advertising Big Macs to Blacks and Hispanics as fun and exciting. Doesn't that just make everything better.

Gas Price Hysteria

The lonely libertarian has heard a great deal in the news lately about out of control and skyrocketing gasoline prices. Obviously, the price of gasoline affects nearly everyone's bottom line, but as this MSNBC piece points out, when adjusted for inflation the gas prices of today are nowhere near the prices of the late 70's and early 80's.

The public tends to enjoy placing blame and responsibility for high gas prices, regardless of the complexities of the market. And the lonely libertarian tends to think this is solely out of people's concern for their own pocketbooks. After all, while gas prices remain under $3.00 per gallon, the average price of a gallon of milk this month is $3.23 per gallon.

Not that milk and oil are one and the same, but it's always interesting to note how high gas prices, subject to the complexities of an oil market I can not begin to understand, are met with self-righteous indignation, while milk prices, which have been kept artificially high by the government since the New Deal, are met with nothing more than a shrug.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Things I've Never Understood

From today's Times, "Librarians win as U.S. relents on secrecy law." Call me crazy, but this whole library records thing is the one pro-civil liberties, anti-war on terror argument I've never been able to wrap my brain around.

First, I don't understand who would think that their library records are private. After all, the library I frequent proclaims itself to be a "public library" and is funded through local tax dollars. Sure, I don't expect the library to share all their records with the FBI, but even before the Patriot Act I would have never thought that other government departments would be prevented from seeing them.

Then there's this notion of a gag order that the government has just relented on. Of course, I can see the argument that this is political speech, and libraries should have the right to protest and tell the world when their records are being requested. Yet at the same time, that seems like an awfully easy way for a terrorist to discover he is under much closer surveillance than he had thought.

If you want privacy from the government, maybe you shouldn't work for the government, or patron their libraries.

Cartoon Wars- Did Comedy Central Puss Out?

The general reaction in the blogosphere seems to be that no one is quite clear on what happened at the end of last night's South Park episode. Did Comedy Central pull the plug on the depiction of Muhammad, or was it done purposely by Trey Parker and Matt Stone?

Who would have ever thought that South Park would become too smart (and as the episode self-mockingly pointed out, "too preachy") for us all.

Update (2:10 PM): It looks like Comedy Central did puss out. More power to Matt and Trey.

One Final Scalia Thought

Why all the nitpicking? Maybe the lonely libertarian is just jealous and bitter that the Supreme Court Justice didn't come to HIS school.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Adults Still Don't Get It: Dateline Does MySpace

This past weekend on NBC's dateline, more MySpace hysteria.

The worst part about this hysteria is the utter cluelessness of the adults who are so concerned. The Dateline piece featured interviews with Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist and Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal. They may or may not understand the technical details of MySpace, but it was blatantly obvious they had no comprehension of the culture behind MySpace, or of youth internet culture to begin with. Not that this lack of understanding is such a terrible thing, but that lack of understanding would seem to preclude the sorts of legislative and legal solutions they're proposing.

This is not to gloss over the problem of child predators on the internet, merely to point out that the solutions urged by politicians, parents, teachers, and the media all lack any sort of basis in reality. The focus of the Dateline piece seemed to be the revealing of confidential information- full names, addresses, phone numbers, even specific future plans. Of course, as MSNBC reports, "Experts interviewed for this article could not cite a single case of a child predator hunting for and finding a child through a blog. But there are cases of children being lured through other Internet services, such as chat rooms."

The real issue isn't MySpace, the social networks created via the internet, or teenagers revealing confidential information. The real issues are parenting, and teaching children what is and what isn't appropriate. People, including young teenagers, meet via the internet all the time. Rather than scaring them with stories of predators, adults should be teaching their kids the safe ways to go about it. If your concern relates to sexual content, well, once again, your concerns go beyond MySpace. As a society, we seem to have a problem with the sexualization of our kids at younger and younger ages, but this is hardly unique to MySpace. If your daughter is posting provocative photographs of herself on MySpace, my guess would be that the website and the internet are the least of your concerns.

This was the latest MySpace news here in Connecticut. I'm not concerned about MySpace. I'm worried that 12-year old girls are meeting a 22-year old guy in the first place, regardless of how the rendezvous was arranged.

Law Students Who Don't Know The Constitution

Justice Scalia is speaking to the UCONN Law School today. Yesterday he taught the lonely libertarian's girlfriend's Constitutional Law class. Not to be outdone, Quinnipiac's Law School invited this guy. So UCONN got SCOTUS, and we got CNN. Great.

Expanding on why UCONN students don't deserve Scalia's visit is this opinionated column from this past weekend's Hartford Courant's New England Magazine. One of the students concerned with the Scalia visit had this suggestion:

"At the student lunch after the Scalia lecture," he wrote in an e-mail exchange among law school students, "could we have a Ben & Jerry's ice cream social to accompany the luncheon? We were thinking of a theme along the lines of `Exercise your constitutional freedoms while you still can - choose your flavor and toppings.'"

Of course, we don't have any Constitutional right to ice cream flavors or toppings. A federal ban on flavors or toppings would be just as valid under the Commerce Clause as are laws restricting drugs and other items found to be dangerous. Provided a health-based rational could be articulated, Congress would be within it's power to restrict this precious freedom of choice. Scalia would support such a law under the Constitution, even if he disagreed with it. And so to would everyone else on the Court, paticularly the members of the Court's liberal wing who have never shied away from upholding the authority of the federal government.

The point is, laws restricting ice cream are just as dumb as sodomy laws, but don't blame Scalia for upholding the Constitution.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

"Hey, you're cute! If you get me some pot, I'd like, really appreciate it."

From The Agitator, this is just horrid.

Drug cops in Falmouth, Mass. sent a hot, young female cop to pose as a student at the local high school. She befriended several adolescent boys with low self esteem by pretending she was interested in them, then she asked them to get her marijuana. If you've ever been a high school boy, it won't surprise you to learn that they came through, even though most of them had no history of drug use at all, much less of drug peddling.

This is the sort of story that makes you feel sorry for the kids roped into all this, but isn't the real problem one of general police tactics in the first place. Does it really make any of us safer to have police engage in these undercover sting operations in order to uncover violators of victimless crimes? (Drugs obviously come to mind, but think of how common prostitution stings are as well.) Has any evidence ever been presented that such undercover operations have any impact on the percentages of crimes in which there are victims, or even that society gleams any net benefit from such operations?

Any first year law student can tell you the difference between crimes than are mala in se (bad in and of themselves), and crimes that are mala prohibita (bad because they are prohibited and the government says they're bad). Everytime I hear of stories like this I wonder why we have crimes that are mala prohibita in the first place.

Let's Be Honest, The Issue Here Is Not Really Immigration

The real issue isn't immigration, but welfare, or so says this piece by Brian Doherty at Reason. Take the issues of welfare and social services out of the equation, and the debate over immigration becomes something else entirely.

Maybe just as simple as Eugene Volokh points out that, "Illegal immigrants just do the jobs Americans won't do for the same low wages that illegal immigrants will take, and it helps our economy to have the jobs done at those low wages." Eugene complains it doesn't sound so good, but why not? Sounds like a healthy free market to me.

The real issue seems to be the arrogance of Americans today, totally oblivious to how good we have it here. Why should we let in only as many immigrants as our social safety net will support? It seems not only illogical, but just plain uncaring to deny immigrants entrance to the country based on the capabilities of our own social services, when the country they are immigrating from may have no social services in the first place. And 5 dollars per hour in the U.S. is much better than 5 dollars per day in Mexico.

What's the real story? It's much easier to ignore poverty and suffering if it's happening in another country. And quite frankly, it's disturbing when matching our wealthy standard of living becomes an entrance requirement in the United States.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

"We Have To Have Limits Because Of Assimilation"

Or so said Rush Limbaugh on the radio earlier today. Finally, a caller had made the point that perhaps the solution to our immigration problem was to let more people in to the country legally.

But no, letting more people in could never be the appropriate solution- only stricter laws and sending people out. Sure maybe we do need limits, but our economy is thriving today with millions of illegal immigrants in the country. So why couldn't they have come in legally? The lonely libertarian just doesn't buy the over used conservative arguments. The real issue isn't the rule of law, national security, or the economy, the real issue is the fear of an immigrant influx and the threat to traditional American culture. And the real solution- fewer restrictions and a more efficient legal immigration system is ignored by all sides of the debate.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Now That's What I Call Reality TV

A very good read from Ann Althouse, posting on Congress's thoughts of placing cameras in the Supreme Court during oral arguments.

I'm all for it. I think oral arguments would be more exciting than 24, Battlestar Galactica, or Monday Night Football.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Protesting Scalia

Justice Scalia is coming to Connecticut. Of course, he won't be stopping here, at Tier III Quinnipiac university School of Law, but he will be speaking at UCONN. And it has come to the lonely libertarian's attention that students at UCONN are engaged in preparations for protests of his visit. My question: Why?

Disagree with Scalia, fine. You can even think he's an ass- read his dissent in Lawrence v. Texas and you'll see why people might think that. But why on earth protest the visit of a noted scholar, and preeminent jurist at an academic institution? Of course, this is part of a growing trend of protest against speakers with whom people disagree. But the higher you get on the academic ladder, the more incredibly stupid it seems. After all, this is a 20 year member of the Supreme Court speaking at a law school.

Personally, the lonely libertarian thinks this another example of how the protest is increasingly not just about the oppressed, but about the privileged. If Scalia was coming to Quinnipiac, you can bet here would be no organized protests. Even the very liberal members of the faculty and student body would be thrilled to have a Supreme Court Justice coming to our school.

It may seem completely off topic, but the recent protests in France over new employment laws are very much related. The point of the laws is to spur job growth, which can be difficult when it is near impossible to fire anyone, as it has been in France for some time. The laws would allow employers to essentially try new employees out over a period of several years, retaining the un-French option of firing them without cause.

Why is this relevant? Put simply, it's the sense of entitlement and privilege that pervades throughout the rich nations of the world today. For the students protesting in France, these labor laws may or may not be beneficial. For the unemployed poor, immigrant (and predominantly Muslim) population, the laws will undoubtedly reduce unemployment which has reached astronomical levels. Meanwhile, at UCONN, the organization to protest a sitting Supreme Court Justice continues.

Just What is Poverty Anyhow?

Interesting piece from John Cassidy in the New Yorker on the relativity of poverty, along with some interesting criticism from Reason's Julian Sanchez.

One could go back and forth all day as to the meaning of poverty, and how to determine who is and isn't poor. But that ignores the fact that poverty is merely a social construction, and the real issues are precisely what those of us with money can and should do to help other people.

For instance, maybe people in the United States may feel poor compared to the wealth they see around them. But is it a better use of money to give such people money so they feel less poor, or to give aid and money to foreign countries where starvation, malnutrition, and disease are facts of life. Actually, much of this steams to the immigration debate going on today. People- conservatives and liberals, have a vision of the way the world should be, and whatever doesn't fit into that vision is ignored.

The fact of the matter is, at this point in time, everyone in the world can't have the lifestyle of a middle class American family. Hoping for it doesn't make it so, and pretending much of the rest of the world isn't struggling to subists doesn't change things. What's so offensive about Cassidy's piece is the arrogance it exudes- Relative deprivation of consumer products is one thing, and the struggle to survive, to make a better life for oneself and one's family is another, far more important concept.

Monday, April 03, 2006

"D" for Duhhhhh

The lonely libertarian's girlfriend probably put it best as we left the theater after seeing "V" for Vendetta: "Why would V want to blow up a historic symbol of democracy to make a political point?" Why indeed.

V can be seen in one of two ways, both of which prove thoroughly unsatisfying. The first would be as a comic book type story (the film actually comes from a graphic novel) heavy on themes (terrorism, war, government propaganda) that are relevant today. The story itself isn't all that fun, and it's a struggle to find meaning in the symbolism. The "terrorist tactics" displayed by V in the film are likely to spur about as much controversy as the terrorist maneuvers of the rebel alliance in the original Star Wars. (Did you know there were over 100 innocent civilians on the Death Star!) Meeting brutality with brutality, force with force is hardly revolutionary. As one critic noted, the only people like to be offender here are fans of concentration camps.

The other way in which V could be seen is as an allegory of the politics of fear ever present in a post 9-11 world. This perhaps is more disturbing. Does the film condone terrorist attacks on our governments? Or is it just saying that "the right-wing governments" of today are no better than the vicious government of the film? Either way, it seems a bit extreme and disconnected from reality. Extreme can be used to make a point, but it's just not quite clear what that point is.

Story-wise, just go back to your X-Files and you'll see many of the same government conspiracy concepts raised ten years ago. Government conducting experiments on innocent people. Check. Government releasing a virus on school children. Check (see Season's 4 "Zero Sum"). Of course, in the X-Files, the conspiracies were much more diabolical and seemed much less transparent.

A power hungry leader coming to power with Hitler like abilities and Cigarette Smoking Man like conspiracies, ruling a police state with an iron fist is hardly the type of story to make a political point. Yeah, it's bad news ... but so what? For a much better futuristic film with a similar sort of political message, try last year's Serenity. The politics are a bit more subtle, and the movie itself is just a hell of a lot more fun than V.

Serenity isn't concerned with blasting the Bush Administration, but telling a Western-type story that we don't see so much from Hollywood anymore. Life in the Serenity universe seems unusually comfortable- except for those who don't care for the benefits of civilization, and would rather just be left alone. And Serenity isn't the story of evil, power hungry dictators, but government that exists for its own purposes and transcends its leadership- Government which truly believes it can create a new Eden for its people. At least to the lonely libertarian, it all seems a bit more relevant.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Beautiful Baseball Box Scores

I am, without a doubt, a football guy. When I was 8 I received my first football encyclopedia, and quickly became a vast repository of football history and statistics. And even as I get older, football still holds some magic- a sense of urgency that other sports can't hope to match.

Yet with yet another baseball season upon us, I find myself drawn in to the game that used to be America's unanimous past time. No, I don't plan on watching all that much baseball- I don't have the time to watch 100 games a year or more like I used to. And no, not to watch any particular team- As a Mets fan I am eternally pessimistic. While other Mets fans are hoping for a return to the Fall Classic, I have visions of an injured Pedro Martinez and Billy Wagner, another sub-par year from Carlos Beltran, and Carlos Delgado hitting 0.220.

No, baseball is still magical for another reason, one that can survive, and perhaps is even assisted by the internet era. And that is the baseball box score. So simple, yet complex- a small statistical table that can tell the full story of a three-hour game.

The other sports can't compete with baseball's statistical genius. As someone who has tried to follow basketball through box scores, I can tell you it is next to impossible. Basketball statistics don't show you the flow of the game- they don't tell you which shots were good, and which shots should have never been taken in the first place.

My beloved football statistics are just as bad, if not worse. In blowouts, losing teams pile up yardage, while winning teams willingly give such yardage up. And given the complexities of football, each 10 yard chuck of yardage can have completely different meanings.

Baseball statistics on the other hand tell a story. The box score gives you the complete picture, and the further you delve into statistical analysis (take for example, a player's batting average in the 7th, 8th, and 9th inning, in 1-run games, with 2 outs and runners on base.) the more detailed the picture becomes.

This is precisely why baseball was the most popular sport for such a long time- Prior to cable television, insta-highlights, and the internet, baseball was really the only sport that relatively isolated sports enthusiasts could follow. And while baseball may have declined in popularity in the modern world, it still holds a special place in my heart. Beautiful baseball box scores, statistical treasures that make sports accessible to all of us, from the 10-year old boy in 1932, to the busy law student of today.