Thursday, December 27, 2007

And the very last on Ron Paul (for now)

Earlier in the week, Megan McArdle asked just what a Ron Paul protest vote actually means. A little late to the party, I commented here. Here's a taste of what I had to say:

The problem is just what you've said- maybe there's a lot to like about Ron Paul, but what if the only policies he's likely to affect as president are policies you disagree with?

Forgetting about Iraq, I can't shake from my head the idea that Ron Paul wants to bring our troops home from around the globe and not deploy them again unless we're attacked. As far as I'm concerned this is idealistic and shortsighted and would threaten global stability. I'll consider candidates who have different strategies in regards to foreign policy and American power but it's hard to take seriously someone who's not even willing to play the game. And this is just foreign policy here, not the gold standard or any of the immigration stuff he's likely to wield considerable influence over as president.

I'm glad many of you support Ron Paul - And I know he's as honest a politician as they come. But what Megan is asking is what a vote for Ron Paul actually means - voting is like any other economic calculation and the ramifications of our votes are important. Should a vote for Ron Paul be a protest vote behind a losing cause? I think any liberty-minded individual could stand behind that. Or is a vote for Ron Paul just a vote for a lesser evil? If that's the case, then you need to think very hard about what programs Paul will and will not be able to enact.

Two people actually took the time to respond to me, here and here . What stands out most to me is not the foreign policy discussion, but this particular passage from the first response by someone going by ScottyC:

I can say this with absolute CERTAINTY. The standard of living of the average American citizen will decline dramatically over the next few years. How bad it gets - I'm not sure. But the debts are so huge already that there is no way they can actually be repaid. We will either dilute the debts (through inflation) or just outright default (or some combination of the two).

This is what I tend to take home from Paul and his supporters- not the sunny, optimistic libertarianism that celebrates human ingenuity and the spirit of the individual but a dark and gloomy libertarianism that fears national power, fears the rest of the world, and fears the economy is going down the toilet. Along the same lines, Hit and Run links to a post by Reason contributor Tyler Cowen that expresses sentiments similar to my own.

The Ron Paul phenomenon reminds me of the old America First movement, with Misesian 100 percent reserve banking theory on top. He is making (one version of) libertarianism much more popular by allying it with nationalist and also states' rights memes. That includes his stances on immigration, NAFTA, China, devolution of powers, and "The Constitution." Even when the policy recommendations stay libertarian, I fear that the wrong emotions will have the staying power. Evaluating a politician is not just about policy positions; for instance personally I am skeptical of most forms of gun control but I worry when a candidate so emphasizes a pro-gun stance.

That sums up my Ron Paul concerns in a nut shell- the fear that the wrong emotions will have staying power.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Why 16-0 Matters

John Kinkade spent the 11:00 hour this morning on ESPN radio to play "What If" in regards to the Patriots attempt to go all out in their quest for 16-0. What if Tom Brady gets hurt? What if the Pats lose out on a chance for their fourth Super Bowl ring? What if a plane crashes into Gillette Stadium and the entire Patriots team is engulfed in a giant ball of fire?

Kinkade's Patriot bashing reached the height of absurdity with a make-believe monologue from the future, chastising Bill Belichick and praising Giants coach Tom Coughlin for having the foresight to sit his players for the playoffs. As Popeye would say, "It's all I can stands and I can stands no more!"

In calling for the Patriots to rest their starters Saturday night against the Giants, Kinkade and the other commentators like him have missed the boat in their single-minded focus on possibility of a horrible tragedy. The Patriots have every reason to go out and play this game, reasons that I will list below:

1- If you asked the Patriot players if they'd rather go 15-1 and win the Super Bowl or go 16-0 and lose in the first round of the playoffs, they'd probably wonder why you're not giving them the option of 19-0. At this point of the year, the Patriots realize that they're playing not just for another Super Bowl Championship, but for their place among the greatest teams of all time. Of course they want that championship, but they want more. They realize they're on the brink of being the greatest team of all-time and why would you not want to play for that every bit as much as playing to win that championship?

2- To go along with point number 1, individual records do matter. Brady and Moss getting the touchdown records matters because of what that does for the teams place in history. Do Brady and Moss want those records? Of course they do. But let me tell you who wants those records even more than they do- each and everyone of those offensive linemen. As a guy who played on the offensive line in high school, blocking for a back who smashed any number of school records, I personally know what these records mean to linemen.

3- You don't take your foot off the pedal. Just ask the Colts. Two years ago, they were flying along at 13-0 before they eased up- they won one of their last 3 regular season games, took a week off in the playoffs and proceeded to get beat at home by the Steelers. History is full of similar stories - Not just teams letting up, but teams using momentum from the end of the regular season to propel them to the Super Bowl. That's not to say this is a be all end all proposition, but just ask yourself- when was the last time you remember an important player getting hurt in a supposedly meaningless late season game?

4- The difference between playing the next week and getting a week off and the difference between healthy and hurting. The Giants have to rest their players against the Patriots because they're going to be playing a wild card game on the road the following week. They've had Plaxico Burress playing all season without a functional ankle and they have a number of other walking wounded. The Patriots, technically, could have sat their starters this past weekend against Miami- they didn't because the troubling possibility of an injury isn't nearly as bad as the thought of having a month layaway between meaningful games. The Patriots are also not in the same position as the Colts, who've valiantly fought their way through an injury riddled season to emerge 13-2. The point is that teams are in different positions. The Patriots want to continue their steam roller ride of a season, the Colts are doing all they can to get healthy for that Patriot rematch and the Giants are just looking for a slight breather before looking for Tom Coughlin's first playoff win on the road.

5- Perhaps most frustrating is John Kinkade's impression that this is all about individual records. Yes, the individual records matter, but that's not all the Patriots are playing for. As I mentioned above, there's a lot to be said for continuity, keeping your foot on the accelerator and taking each game as it comes. For John Kinkade to say the Patriots have turned away from everything they've done to make themselves great is just asinine. Just look at the history.

In 2004, with the number 2 seed in the playoffs locked up, the Patriots played the NFL's punching bag, the 49ers, the final week of the season- same situation, but no records and no perfect season at stake. For those of you who were wondering, the Patriots played their starters for about three quarters, with backup quarterback Rohan Davey taking over for Tom Brady in the middle of a drive that extended from the 3rd quarter to the 4th. That drive led to a Patriot touchdown, sealing the Patriots 21-7 win.

Last year, the Patriots played their starters into the 4th quarter of a game against Tennessee, a game that saw Rodney Harrison go down for the playoffs with a knee injury. In the end, as both the Patriots and Colts both won road games in the second round of the playoffs, the game could have played a role in determining the site of the AFC Championship game- had the Colts lost their game week 17, the AFC Championship would have been played in Foxboro, not Indianapolis. So at the time, the game did hold some meaning as the number 3 seed was still up for grabs, but before last year, no 3 and 4 seed had ever played for a conference championship. And as a Patriot fan looking back, Rodney Harrison might have meant a hell of a lot in that Colts game, especially considering that the Patriots are 5-0 in games he's finished against Peyton Manning.

The Patriots have a history of playing one game at a time, methodically going out each and every week and giving their all. It's not just about records, accomplishments or undefeated seasons it's the fact that this has been their method for greatness- they stay focused and play each and every game like it might be their last.

NFL commentators always like to talk about trap games- games where teams may look past weaker opponents to the more marquee matchups. The Patriots this year faced two such games this year, with the Dolphins and the Redskins, sandwiched in between games with the undefeated Cowboys and undefeated Colts. The Pats crushed the Dolphins, 49-28, rolling to a 42-7 halftime lead and absolutely demolished the Redskins, 52-7.

The Patriots play each and every game, focusing in on each and every opponent- they do this better than any other team in league history, so much so that most of the rest of the sports world is sick of it. Some of the "respect" they give their lesser opponents is certainly a load of bologna- but the hard work and preparation they put in is not for show. The non-Patriot sports fans gets sick of the seemingly egotistical Patriots talking about "humble pie," but that's really what this team is about. It's not that they don't recognize how good they are, it's that they recognize that you only get better with a maniacal drive toward self-improvement that scrutinizes each and every little mistake, an attitude that starts at the top with Belichick and Brady. This team takes nothing for granted and I'd expect nothing less in this last game of the season.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Bill Simmons Waxes Nostalgic

Would it hurt Bill Simmons to do a little research and not write as if he's talking off the cuff about the quarterbacks he remembers from when he was a teenager? Last week in his NFL picks column, the Sports Guy lamented the sad state of quarterback play in the NFL.

Throw in four expansion teams and the number of (Cleo) lemons has apparently tripled. Just look at the quality QBs in 1990: Marino, Kelly, Elway, Montana, Esiason, Cunningham, Simms, Everett, Aikman, Rypien, Moon, DeBerg, Gannon, Harbaugh, Kosar, Krieg, Majkowski, O'Brien, Schroeder, plus two backups (Young and Reich). Any of those guys could have won 10-plus games if they were surrounded by good players.

Well, how many QBs could you say that about now? Ten? Twelve?

Obviously there were some great QB's playing in 1990. Marino, Kelly, Elway, Montana, Aikmen and Moon are all Hall of Famers. Esiason and Simms were close to that level and Randall Cunningham was certainly playing at a Hall of Fame level in 1990. But Jay Schroeder? The magic man Don Majkowski? Ken O'Brien - I mean seriously, Ken O'Brien? Why don't you just put Tony Eason on the list and be done with it.

Before getting to the quarterbacks of today, let's actually look at who was a good quarterback in 1990. Elway, Marino, Montana, Kelly and Moon? Check. Troy Aikmen? He was in his second year on a losing Cowboy team, throwing 11 TD's and 18 INT's. Boomer? Check, although he did throw 22 INT's on the year. Cunningham? Hell yeah- for those of you who may not remember, Cunningham was basically a Michael Vick who could actually throw the ball (3,400 yards and 30 TD's passing to go along with 900 yards rushing on the year).

Phil Simms? Of course. Jim Everett? Yeah, probably an underrated passer. Mark Rypien? He had a great season the following year when he took the Redskins to the Super Bowl, but as of 1990 he had never played a full season. Steve DeBerg? He did have a good year in 1990, throwing only 4 picks and taking the Chiefs to the playoffs. Rich Gannon? It was his first year as a starter with the Vikings and he threw 16 TD's and 16 INT's. Jim Harbaugh? It was his first season as the hands down starter of the Bears and he threw 10 TD's.

The often injured Bernie Kosar suffered through one of his worst seasons in 1990, but he probably gets a pass based upon past performances. Dave Krieg? Same as Kosar- not a great year, but he was a solid QB in the 80's. Don Majkowski had a magical 1989, but, quite frankly, sucked in 1990. Ken O'Brien threw 53 TD passes from 1987-1990. Not that special. The problem is, for anyone whose ever watched football, is that we'd take someone like the Chad Pennington of today over Ken O'Brien. Jay Schroeder actually had a good season in 1990 ... but I don't know.

So basically, this puts our quality list at 12, not including Don Majkowki or Jay Schroeder, not including the young Jim Harbaugh, Rich Gannon, and Mark Rypien, but including the ugly seasons of Boomer Esiason, Dave Krieg, and Bernie Kosar.

My McBlogging friend actually got the ball rolling on this topic with an e-mail he sent me a few days ago. Here's his list of the today's quality QB's.

Brett Favre - Top 5 all-time, possibly the best all-time, on pace for 4000 Yards and 30 TDs
Tom Brady - Best QB season of all-time. Maybe.
Peyton Manning - Still Peyton Manning. Also does more for his offense (audibles, play calling) than arguably any QB, ever.
Tony Romo - A young Brett Favre. Has already eclipsed every Cowboys single season passing record and there's two games left.
Drew Brees - He's having an "off year" and he has 25 TDs and 3500 Yards
Matt Hasselbeck - Has been finally been "unleashed".
David Garrard and Jeff Garcia - Take nothing off the table as Simmons said. They'll always keep their teams in a position to win.
Carson Palmer - He's a throwback pocket passer and he's certainly having one of his worst years, still, his talent and potential surpasses a lot of QBs.
Marc Bulger - Played well when healthy. Will definitely bounce back next year.
Ben Roethlisberger - He's almost ahead of his time. Has great size, great mobility and a strong arm. Has done wonders for the Steelers.
Derek Anderson - One year wonder? I don't think so.
Jon Kitna - Say what you want about his performance but the guy inspires teammates and that counts for a lot.
Donovan McNabb - Having a down year but he can still get the job done.
Jay Cutler - Considering this is his first full season, I think he's done fine. He could definitely be great.
Matt Schaub - If healthy, he could've had a very good year. Considering the best Texan RB this year was Ron Dayne, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

I don't think there's any debate about Brady, Manning, Favre, Romo, Carson Palmer, Brees, Hasselbeck, Roethlisberger, and McNabb being quality QB's. Jeff Garcia has the solid history and the solid season, while Garrard is getting it done this year. Kitna is going to pass for 4,000 yards for the second consecutive season, so he's on the list, and like a few of the guys on the '90 list, Marc Bulger gets in based on past performance. That puts us at 13 - I've left out Derek Anderson, Jay Cutler and Matt Schaub, but they'd warrant consideration. So do Eli Manning and Chad Pennington, at least if QB's like Ken O'Brien are in the 1990 conversation.

And finally, there are all the young guys- Vince Young, Matt Leinart, Alex Smith, and Brodie Croyle.

Now certainly, there aren't the number of high caliber QB's today that there were in 1990. But that's just because the league is changing and there are a larger number of young QB's. In 1990 we weren't sure that Elway, Kelly, or Moon were Hall of Famers. Today we can say the same thing about QB's like Carson Palmer, Drew Brees, and Matt Hasselbeck. Ultimately, it's just much easier to look back at the past nostalgically rather than realize that Bernie Kosar was a less mobile, weaker-armed version of Chad Pennington.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ron Paul On The Brain

Try as I might, I just can't seem to whip up enough enthusiasm to call myself a "Ron Paul supporter." Supporter just seems so .... I don't know, so establishment. And yes, Ron Paul is the anti-establishment candidate, but actually campaigning with all those stickers and buttons and whirly-ma-jigs seems so untoward - but, you know, untoward in the establishment sort of way.

Maybe it's the fact that I've never supported a candidiate for office before and have my heart set on losing my campaign virginity by opposing the evil Richard Blumenthal's run for governer of Connecticut in 2010. Or maybe it's Ron Paul's insistince on pushing the gold standard and his support from 9-11 truthers. Who the hell knows. The point is, I'm conflicted. At this point, I'm not posed with the question of whether or not I'd vote for him in a two or three way race, so let's just keep the discussion focussed on the primary. (And, accordingly, avoid the question of whether or not I'd just him to be in charge of American foreign policy.) My biggest problem is that I'm just not sure I like him as the voice of libertarianism. As I've written before, I think Paul can come off as nativist and reactionary.

The interesting thing about Paul is that he may be the most meaningful outside the establishment candidate to grace either of the major party primaries in a long while. His position on the war and his stalwart opposition to the Bush style of governance has even endeared Paul to many liberals, who seem to be fighting their own battles on the subject of the libertarian candidate. For example, this back and forth about Paul on the Democratic Underground boards, seems to be common in liberal circles- so much so, that some of the commenters wonder why so much more attention is being paid to Paul than to some of the Democratic candidates.

Meanwhile, over on her Asymetrical Information blog at the Atlantic, libertarian-leaning Megan McArdle is fighting off the hoard of Ron Paul supporters. Her biggest complaints? Paul's obsession with the gold standard, the insanity of some of his ideas, and the fact that Paul stands no chance at winning anything.

I'm sympathetic to Megan McArdle's point of view, although I admit that I know very little about monetary policy and the desirability of the gold standard. I am rotting for Ron Paul to do well and continue to shake things up- shaking up the political establishment is always a good thing. And as McArdle points out, Ron Paul should be the ultimate refutation of the idea that money buys elections. Paul has been the leading GOP fundraiser for months now, yet continues to poll in the single digits. But for now, at least until the primaries come around, the story in lonely libertarian land is still that the Texas Congressman with two first names just can't win my heart.

Calorie Counting When You Exercise? Think Again

The lonely libertarian's father always tells him that Gina Kolata is one of the only science writers worth reading in the New York Times. Pieces like this one, Putting Little Weight In Calorie Counting Methods, are probably the reason why. When so much science reporting in today's media is focused on the next big scare, it's nice to see a reporter taking the latest fad to task. Personally, I knew something wasn't quite right when I was told getting up to get that doughnut burned 50 calories.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Reasons why hate and envy never make for good political theory

This past weekend, Reason's Matt Welch asked, Is it "apartheid" to pay for extra fire protection?

The question was posed in response to liberals Naomi Klein and Rick Perlstein, who saw something terribly wrong with the fact that insurance giant AIG was providing their own fire fighters to supplement the public fire fighters who were already fighting the Southern California wild fires this past fall. This service was available only for homes in specifically at-risk areas for a premium of $19,000 per year. Or in other words, this was a service for really rich people in really rich homes, in an area where primarily rich people were being displaced and affected by the fires.

Klein called it “disaster apartheid,” proof that “the country is indeed in the grip of extremists who are determined to act out the biblical climax—the saving of the chosen and the burning of the masses.”

Perlstein called it “a sickening indication about how the conservative mania for privatization is beginning to create two Americas: One that is protected from fires, and one that is not.”

But as Matt Welch points out, Klein and Perlstein's criticism is,

almost the exact inverse of what L.A.’s influential socialist/apocalyptic critic Mike Davis argued in his famous 1996 essay “Let Malibu Burn,” which complained bitterly about “public subsidization of firebelt suburbs,” “cheap fire insurance, socialized disaster relief and an expansive public commitment to ‘defend Malibu.’ ” Davis resented—and rightfully so—a system of government incentives that rewards development in fire zones that no private companies would insure while transferring tax money from the poor to the rich.

As Matt Welch points out, if the public shouldering the costs of protecting these expensive, at-risk homes from fire is a problem and private fire protection service is a problem, then the only solution is to let the rich of Southern California burn. No, that's not literally what Klein and Perlstein want, but the implications are quite clear. This is what you get when you combine wealth envy, the fear of the monster of privatization, and a blind faith in the concept of public services.

The sad thing is, this is where libertarians and liberals should be able to come together- the sentiment should be, "good, don't make the rest of us pay for rich people to have their rich homes in fire prone areas." Instead we get nonsense like "disaster apartheid," and rants about how the rich paying to protect their own homes will destroy America.

The Nation joins the lonely libertarian in objecting to .... health and safety regulations?

Yeah, I'm like totally for real. This month's edition of the Nation has a brief, to-the-point piece on the USDA's animal ID program. And wouldn't you know, the program hurts small farmers and seems to be the brain child of government regulators and large agribusiness.

I think I'm in love ... it's just nice to see the liberal Nation actually taking a look at how government regulation hurts the little guy ... and it's nice to see a the liberal Nation questioning a policy that's supposedly been made for our health and safety.

Wednesday Morning Quarterback: Stats and The Running Game

I didn't bother writing on the Patriots latest victory, 20-10 over the Jets on Sunday, as the weather made the game almost too brutal to watch. But I've had two posts sitting for nearly two weeks on the relative importance of the running game and allow me to summarize what I'd been trying to say: The running game is a relatively unimportant part of playing winning football. As the Patriots showed against the Eagles and the Steelers, you can put points on the board and win football games when you wholly abandon the running game. As the Patriots showed against the Jets, you can run the ball relatively well and fail to put points on the board when you can't get it done in the passing game. As Ron Jaworski has always said, throwing the ball puts points on the board and throwing the ball is what wins football games.

Part of the reason football fans can be so focused on the running game is football historically was about running the football and more recently, we tend to hear a lot about the need for a balanced offense. Balanced offenses are all well and good, but no one ever told the Dolphins that they needed a balanced offense when they won back-to-back Super Bowls in the 70's, throwing 7 and 11 passes in their two Super Bowl wins.

Then you have fools like Mike Martz, who tend to give a bad name to the passing game. The thing is, the reason Mike Martz can be so dumb is not because he's so pass happy, but because he's shown time and again throughout his career that he's not willing to adjust his offensive schemes- it's not just that he doesn't run the ball, but it's that he lets his quarterbacks sit in the pocket and get murdered while looking for the big play. Just think back to the Patriots-Rams Super Bowl in which Martz continued to throw down field despite the Patriots defensive maneuverings and failed to get the ball to Marshall Faulk even though the Patriots were practically begging the Rams to run the ball. It wasn't about the passing game or the running game, it was about stupidity.

For all the stats the Patriots have put up through the passing attack this year, they haven't accumulated those stats by pounding square pegs into round holes. They've attacked defenses where they felt there was room to attack and when the weather and a defensive alignment that had 8 and 9 people standing around at the snap seemed to weight against the passing game, they returned to the ground game.

Obviously, winning football teams must be able to run the ball and throw the ball somewhat effectively. Really good teams have lots of weapons and can attack a defense in any number of different ways. As I've noted before in this blog, football is not baseball, and standard statistical measures can often times fail to tell the real story. Take for example the all-too common stat that's supposed to prove successful running games win football games- Yes, teams with more yards rushing and more carries tend to win games, but this statistical disparity is because teams with leads tend to run at the end of games while teams that are behind tend to be throwing the ball.

Total yards generally tend to be imprecise measures of offensive effectiveness. If a team puts up 250 first half yards, but only manages to kick 3 field goals, missing one of them, then those yards don't mean very much. Similarly, a big play in the running game, say a 50 yard run, will detract from your defensive stats, but is ultimately meaningless if it doesn't lead to a score. As I pointed out a few weeks ago, the Ravens ran all over the Patriots for two drives, putting up two touchdowns- but the Patriots defense stiffened up, holding the Ravens to three consecutive three and outs with the game on the line.

There are stats that mean more than others- third down conversion percentage is important, as are, obviously, turnovers. But even all turnovers are not created equal. A 3rd down interception at mid-field that ends up having the same effect as a punt isn't the same as a blocked punt returned for a touchdown.The point is that when it comes to football, statistics aren't as important as what you see with your own eyes. I've always said Tom Brady is one of the best quarterbacks of all-time and this year he has the numbers to prove it- only, I didn't really need the numbers to prove what I've seen with my own eyes.

Doggy Doctors, Part II

I was originally going to respond in the comments, but then figured that the Doggy Doctors response deserves it's own place in the blog. Here's the response I was going to leave:

Thanks for taking the time to respond and let me just say that I'm 100% serious. I think you responded mostly to the difference of how easy it is to see a doctor as compared to a vet, but I also meant the ease at which one can shop around for prices- Just try doing that with people doctors and see how far you get.

But the main point I was trying to make is the one you make down at number 5- the fact that we pay for virtually all of our health care expenses through insurance is one of the reasons we have such a screwed up system. Insurance is effective in protecting against catastrophic costs and unforeseen expenses- insurance is not an effective mechanism in covering routine expenses- if it was, we'd cover more of our routine expenses with insurance, but the fact of the matter is that health care is the only routine cost covered by insurance.

Your not entirely wrong with the points you make, they just need to be taken in the context of a pet system of health care where people pay costs up front versus a people system of health care where costs are paid by third parties.

Most of your argument comes down to basic supply and demand, but heres the thing- with all the regulations and third party payments the basic working of supply and demand gets fucked up. In a truly functioning market, the rules of supply and demand means that prices will rise when demand exceeds supply. The higher level of demand eventually leads- if possible- to an increase in supply, which in the long run will theoretically bring prices back down.

But the basic idea is that when supply is limited, prices will go up in order to best ration the available supply. That way, people who might have gone to the doctor for their minor cough or cold at X price, would think twice when X doubled - while people with more serious conditions would want to see the doctor for either X or 2X.

We get lines at doctors- and we're unable to compare prices- because our health care system is completely third party payer oriented. Doctors may bill different prices to different patients for the same sorts of conditions, not based on need, but based on what the various insurance companies or Medicare is willing to pay. It's a screwy system because it doesn't respond to market forces. People are not able to shop around for prices and people don't respond naturally because they are not footing the bill.

I don't hold any illusions that our system of health care will ever work precisely the same way the pet system of health care works - I'm just fascinated how we have a system of delivering health care that works smoothly and efficiently, yet no one is willing to look to that system for hints or suggestions as to how to make our own system better.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

War Tax Protesters

Via Alternet comes this call to resist paying war taxes.

As a libertarian I suppose I'm supposed to be sympathetic to tax resistance, but I'm just not sympathetic at all. Especially when the calls for tax resistance comes from the same liberals who would happily take my money to double or triple the budgets of the freedom crushing EPA and FDA.

This isn't really about moral opposition to taxes, it's really just an ineffective form of protest that could get you into a lot of trouble. Those who really believe they should have the right to do this- withhold taxes for government activities they disagree with- are really just offering up a system in which all taxes would be voluntary. After all, if you're not paying for the war, then I'm not paying for the EPA and FDA.

Of course, no wacky liberal anti-war tax piece would be complete without the concluding comments of a wacky anti-tax Ron Paul supporter who really does believe in eliminating taxation as we know it.

I salute the War Tax Resistors.

The worst tax dollars are those that go to war and killing innocents.

Actually, all taxes are “death taxes.”

They are collected by threat of death. If you refuse to pay, eventually the State comes to seize your property at gunpoint. If you further refuse, the guns are drawn. If you further resist, you will be killed.

Most of what the State does would be considered a crime if done by ordinary people. Taxation = robbery and slavery. IRS collection methods = violation of fundamental Bill of Rights freedoms. Wars = murder on a mass scale. Government schools = kidnapping and brainwashing. The draft and compulsory national “service” are kidnapping. Military “recruiting” is based on fraud and lies. Prisons are vile cesspools that torture human beings and create more criminals. The enforcement of “victimless crime laws” against pot smokers and sex workers is neo-Prohibitionist tyranny.

The very existence of the IRS and tax forms makes all Americans fearful of their government, afraid to protest for fear that their lives will destroyed by the IRS.

The State is a gigantic criminal gang. It has bamboozled society into thinking it is necessary, and that its worst crimes are actual “services” that we should be grateful for. Surely this is the hoax of the ages.

To stop the State’s crimes, cut off its life blood, high taxes. Especially the income tax.

RON PAUL has introduced legislation to do this – to repeal the income tax outright, and replace the lost revenues by slashing government spending, beginning with the warfare state.

NO SINGLE MOVE would do more to reign in the bloody activity of the State than this.

I really hope that I'm not supposed to be the crazy one. Here's the thing. I've always admired the taxation is theft argument as a rhetorical device, but have had trouble believing it works as a practical matter. If you want to call me a statist libertarian, so be it, but anyone who accepts the state does have a role to play would be hard pressed to oppose any and all forms of forced taxation. Remember that the American Revolution was fought over taxation without representation- the point being that democratically elected officials do have the power to tax. I'd love to see the current tax code scrapped and replaced with a low percentage rate flat tax, but I think that's where notions of libertarian reform differ greatly from notions of libertarian revolution.

I don't mean to spark a tax debate, I only wanted to point out that the argument for eliminating all taxation is about as popular as the argument for eliminating all personal property. Oh, and that peace-loving feel good types can have some really stupid ideas.

"And what would you like for Christmas, little girl"

This is the sort of story you just can't make up: Woman Accused Of Groping Mall Santa. And, no lie, the story starts just like this:

A 33-year-old woman who posed for a picture with Santa Claus at Danbury Fair Mall over the weekend wanted more than a photo, police said.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Doggy Doctors

A few weeks back I had to take my black lab to the vet for a fertility test- well, technically, the dog's not mine, she belongs to my soon to be step-mother-in-law, who just so happens to be a lab breeder. My fiance and I keep and take care of two of her dogs, Devon, a 4 year-old black female and Callahan, a year and a half old chocolate male. We're trying to get Devon to have her second litter of puppies and the trip to the vet was to get a blood sample to see just how fertile she was.

This is only the second time I've taken the dogs to the vet, but let me just say that both times were great experiences. Great, at least when compared to my own trips to the human doctor- shorter waits and a friendly staff that actually seems happy to see you. My labs are both very personable, so a trip to the vet is actually quite the excursion for them- a car ride and a chance to meet and smell new people.

But getting back to the point, I noticed the same thing I had noticed in my previous trip to the doggy doctor. Vets are cheap and easy to make an appointment with- And you can shop around for pricing quite easily. When it came to Devon's fertility test we chose the vet we did because the price at the vet we went to was about half the price of a more expensive local vet.

The question I had a few months ago, the question I still have after going back to the doggy doctor, is why can't human doctors work this way? If you've got a good answer, I'd like to hear it.

Radley Balco, doing God's work in covering yet another botched SWAT raid

Radley Balco reports on another yet another isolated incident in which a SWAT team busts down the wrong door. Miraculously, no one was hurt in this incident despite the fact that shots were exchanged between the terrified victim and the well-armed police force. Balco really nails the kicker:

The catch-22 comes when the suspect, like Mr. Khang, or like Cory Maye, or like Cheryl Lynn Noel, justifiably feels threatened and acts in self-defense. Then "we need the element of surprise," dubiously morphs into, "They should have known we were the police."

If the point of a door busting raid is surprise, how is an innocent person inside supposed to know that the masked men storming their home are actually police? Balco has chronicled hundreds of these botched raids and his reporting is by no means the end of the story. The only argument here is that these types of SWAT raids should be rare- far less common then they are today. If you reduce their number and frequency you'll have less of a chance of a tragic mistake. For those who would defend these tactics as they are used today (and would therefore write off the innocent victims of such raids as acceptable collateral damage) I would have to ask this- where is the evidence that such raids are needed and where is the evidence that such raids actually prevent more harm then they cause?

Global Warming Philosophy

This one's left over from last week. I guess this debate started in response to comment's from Cato's Jerry Taylor that scientists as scientists don't have much of a role to play in the policy responses to global warming- according to Taylor, this should be the job of economists. This produced an outcry from some members of the slighted scientific community. You can read Taylor's responses, here and here.

Take a look at the post at gristmill and take the time to read through the comments. What seems abundantly clear is that much of the debate about global warming isn't really about climate science or economics, but about philosophy. Many of the commenters seem to reject economic considerations altogether as part and parcel of a rejection of the fundamental assumptions on which economic calculations are made- that economic growth is a good in and of itself and that such growth is good for humanity. These rejections seemed to be based- at least in part- on the non-scientific and apocalyptic notion that human society has a sustainability problem.

I believe such thinking is how we get comments like this, from someone named Andrew Eisenberg:

However, in practice for such a complicated and swiftly changing field as climate science, neither of these hold. We do not know the true cost of not acting because the science is not complete. Therefore, we cannot accurately determine the benefits of acting without many more years of further study. Yet, we do know that by not acting, disasterous consequences will occur (we just do not know how disasterous they will be.

Note the ultimate rejection of both economics and climate science. And note the unfounded assumption- not acting has disastrous consequences, while acting will have benefits. This to me, is the most baffling aspect of the global warming squawkers, this blind faith that any action taken to prevent global warming will have benefits. The entire point of making economic calculations is to make sure that the cure isn't actually worse than the disease- that is, to determine that a large scale plan to prevent global warming isn't actually more harmful to the economy and peoples well being then the effects of global warming itself.

I suppose I could be faulted for making idealogical conclusions when it comes to global warming. The thing is, I'm not completley opposed to any action, I just beleive, very strongly, that any large scale action to combat global warming should be made very cautiously and only when there is enough information on hand to take appropriate action. I guess I just find such a point of view preferable to the one that says we need to act right away because any action we take will have to have positive effects.

Be Afraid - Your Children Are Being Terrorized In Cyberspace

This is the sort of article- Bullying in Cyberspace- that just rubs me the wrong way in so many different places. And if that sounds disgusting, that's the idea.

First, I hate the term cyber-bullying. And yes, it makes sense as a term, but no, it's not a big problem. Do boys pick on each other? Sure. Do girls spread nasty rumors and make nasty comments? Of course they do. Is this a major social problem? Not really. For every young girl who commits suicide there are millions of girls who just brush the nastiness away. For every Columbine, there are millions of outcast teenagers who dress in black and eventually grow up to be fairly normal adults. The media hooks us on to the sensational stories and convinces us of a national problem before we really have the chance to absorb what has happened.

Yes tragedies do happen. But this is not a solution:

The council [National Crime Prevention Council] started offering free software this week that parents can use to find out whom their kids are talking to online and what they are saying.

The McGruff Safeguard software, named after the nonprofit council's crime-fighting dog, allows parents to access daily logs that show what websites their kids are visiting and provides them with copies of their children's instant messages.

The tracking software, which is easily installed on a computer, lets parents preset screens to alert them to sexual conversation, hateful words and self-destructive behavior. Parents can also set their own "watchwords" and subscribe to a free service that alerts them immediately by e-mail or cellphone message when watchwords are detected.

Since when did spying on your kids become good parenting? It's sort of sick that the world has become a place where parents teach their children that the watchful eye of of big brother is the only way to stop tragedies from happening. This is what I just don't get- if you don't feel your kid is mature and responsible enough to handle full blown internet access, than restrict what they can do- don't give them their own computers, don't allow them online if your not home, and restrict what websites they can go to. But if you do feel your kids is fairly mature and responsible, well, why not let them venture into the world of the internet on their own, just the same way they'll be going off into the real world on their own in a few years.

Even worse is the continued real-world bullying of Connecticut attorney general Richard Blumenthal.

Attorney General Richard Blumenthal said he plans to reintroduce legislation in the next few months that would require social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook to use software that verifies users' ages and identities. Similar legislation failed in the legislature this past year.

Blumenthal said he is also working with a national attorneys general task force to pressure social networking sites like MySpace to use the identification software nationwide.

"We're very concerned about [Internet predators]," Blumenthal said. MySpace says identity verification can't be done, Blumenthal said.

"We say there are ways to do it."

Of course there are ways to do it, but other than a system requiring a credit card for access, I can't imagine what those other ways might be. In terms of political pressure Blumenthal might have some success, but as a purely legal matter, you can't force internet sites to require age and identity verification. Adult sites can be forced to do just that because of the material they are providing - but I can't imagine any court ever upholding a restriction aimed at a certain type of non-adult website. I don't know all the nitty gritty of First Amendment law in this respect, but I just can't imagine it would be Constitutional to force certain types of websites to require identity verification. After all, as a technical matter, blogs are virtually indistinct from social networking sites ... and imagine a law that would not allow you to use a site like blogger to write an anonymous blog.

Everyone gets all worked up about protecting the children, but few of the scare mongers ever take the time to understand or even care about the restrictive measures they propose.

And I know I refrain from being mean and nasty in this blog ... but Richard Blumenthal, you're a greasy, slimy, fascist pig. Now I feel a little better.

Friday, December 14, 2007

More Mitchell Report Blowback

I don't think I need to take the time to find links to the Mitchell report and all the coverage it's receiving in the sports media. If you care about baseball at all, I'm sure you can find it. Anyhow, I glanced at the report and it wasn't all that exciting. Nothing like the Starr report back in the Clinton-Lewinsky days - now there was a report to get your blood pumping. Just a few comments on this snoozer and a few clarifications for my McBloggin' buddy.

1- First, let's just clarify what hearsay is for our non-legal audience. Hearsay is defined as an out of court statement used to prove the truth of the matter asserted - It is generally not admissible in court as evidence against someone, although there are exceptions to the rule. The idea is you can't use someones out of court statement- "I used steroids" to legally prove that they actually used steroids. Much of the Mitchell report is based on these sorts of statements.

2- Second, it appears the evidence against some of the named players is based solely on canceled checks. But legally speaking, the fact that a player wrote a check is not proof that he knew specifically what that check was going to be used for. Some players have claimed that these were checks they wrote for legal supplements.

3- All the legal mumbo jumbo is very important here in terms of action Bud Selig may wish to take. I don't see how- based on this report alone, any action whatsoever could be taken against the named players. There was no due process and no chance for the players to respond. More importantly, it would certainly be a violation of the collective bargaining agreement. To actually punish individuals, Selig would literally have to conduct hearings, and I can't imagine that would be the messy situation baseball would want to put itself into.

4- In terms of public opinion, McBlog! is right - If you were innocent why wouldn't you take the opportunity to defend yourself and speak to Senator Mitchell and clear your name in the court of public opinion?

5- I'll reiterate my point from before, that I don't think this report is going to hurt baseball nearly as much as the media would have you believe. Plenty of people are disappointed, but I doubt all but a few old school baseball fans are actually shocked. I mean seriously, did anyone really believe Bud Selig's feigned anger or his talk that, wow, now we really need to get serious about steroids? That sort of self-righteous indignation is what really irritates me on this issue. I can forgive players for their silence, but I have a hard time accepting this holier than thou attitude from ownership, the league offices, and the U.S. Senate. Hell, the only people who have been truthful on the issue is the fans, who've had no problem expressing a wide variety of points of view on the steroid issue. And the truth is, some don't care at all and most don't care enough to let it keep them from the game. We've always liked baseball in spite of Bud Selig, not because of him, and whatever he does or doesn't do now in regards to steroids isn't going to change that.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Come On ... I Mean, Come On. When Did the New York Times Become the Onion?

The New York Times editorial page is right about one thing. Republicans aren't very honest with the American people when it comes to taxes and the budget. Of course, the editorial page isn't very honest either (nor are the Democrats). "Repealing the Bush tax cuts" means raising taxes.

Sometimes it just seems as though the New York Times editorial board lives in some sort of scary, twisted alternate reality. If you were to come from another culture and read this editorial without knowing anything else about the United States you would think that we are a country where the poor pay more in taxes than the rich and the government barely has enough money to function. Oh, and perhaps most scarily, achieving great things requires ever increasing sums of tax revenue.

The Mitchell Report

I just have to get this out before the Mitchell report is released later today, naming the names of players involved in nefarious drug use during baseball's steroid era. I don't care who's named and I don't care whose on the list. Truth be told, as a libertarian I don't care all that much about the steroid issue. I think it's an opportunity for moralists and self righteous types to here themselves talk and reminisce about the good old days, when baseball players only abused alcohol, were indentured to the teams they played for, and conspired to throw World Series games. If you sense a wee bit of sarcasm it's only because I don't think this is going to be devastating for baseball in the way the media is making it out to do be. The strike was far, far worse- At least we know this time that pitchers and catchers will be reporting in February.

Do I want to just gloss over and ignore the whole steroid issue? Well, yes and no. The thing is, whether I think it's a dumb law or not, steroids are illegal. And as such, players who used them were breaking the law- now, that part really doesn't bother me so much. The only thing that does grind my gears is the fact that the players who basically did the right thing by staying within the law may have been at a disadvantage. I don't have a problem with Barry Bonds's home run record, but it doesn't seem quite right that a contemporary of his like Ken Griffey Jr. may have lost out on a chance to be more competitive with Bonds because he chose to stay within the law. I just don't like good guys faced with the choice of having to break the law to keep up with someone like Bonds.

In that vein, in a twisted kind of way, I say the more names on this report the better. Steroids as something Jose Canseco did secretly in the bathroom means you really have to question individual numbers. Steroids as a prevalent issue that players maintained a sort of code of silence about? If that were the case, then the innocent players I felt so bad about in the last paragraph are sort of culpable themselves. But the individual names? I could care less. It's not going to stop me from drafting them in my fantasy baseball draft next spring.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Book Store Blues

I was doing some Christmas shopping last night at one of the super mega book marts, attempting to secure some non-fiction gifts for some friends and relatives (generally, it's a bad idea to gift fiction, unless you know someones specific tastes), when my mind wandered to Jacob Sullum's Saying Yes: In Defense Of Drug Use. No, I didn't actually find the book in the store, but it popped into my head as I started to think about gifting books that had influenced my life and really changed the way I think about political or philosophical issues.

I wondered, "Can you really change someones mind with a book? Or at some point as we get older do we become so stuck in our ways that we can't really hear any argument that runs contrary to what's been ingrained in our heads?"

I've been solidly libertarian since college, but that doesn't mean my mind has been closed. For all of us, certain truths tend to be more basic and more powerful than others and as a libertarian it would be hard for me to be persuaded by arguments that go against the basic tenants of individual freedom. But on issues on the political fringes and questions ostensibly outside the political realm, I think I prove to be more malleable, or at least open to good, solid arguments.

In the context of last night's train of thought, I realized that Sullum's book really changed my views on drugs. Before reading Saying Yes I was firmly in the anti-prohibitionist camp, but followed the typical "lets deal with drugs as a health issue not a legal issue" line. Saying Yes opened my mind to problem with what Jacob Sullum termed "voodoo pharmacology." The notion that some drugs are so powerful that they essentially rob their users of free will and turn unsuspecting users into out of control addicts. The truth is far more sobering (pardon the pun). As Sullum explains in the book, peoples experiences with drugs vary according to the individuals own body chemistry, the circumstances of their drug use, and their expectations for that drug use. So much of what we're taught, particularly by anti-drug propagandists, is that certain substances are bad in and of themselves. Using both statistical and anecdotal evidence, Sullum makes the point that the so-called dangerous illegal drugs are no different than any other substances we take. They're not bad in and of themselves, it's only what we do with them that is good or bad.

This wasn't an entirely earth shattering revelation for me, as it sort of fit into my pre-existing libertarian view that people are best suited to make decisions for themselves because only you know about what sort of person you are and what your life has entailed. Still though, my mind was opened to a very unpopular sort of argument.

Back to the present where I'm thinking of giving a certain liberal I know Milton Friedman's Capitalism and Freedom for Christmas. I wondered last night (and still wonder) whether you can change someones mind about the benefits of the free market. Perhaps this Christmas will be a test because I think you can change the liberal mindset on this issue.

I think most individuals with anti-market biases don't base their biases in basic economic theory as much as they do distrust of corporate power- and as a libertarian this is somewhat understandable. Part of the problem is convincing those with anti-market beliefs that Enron style corruption and corporate influence on government is as undesirable to free marketers as it is to them. I don't think that part is all that difficult.

The difficult part is convincing those who are opposed to a free market system because of the legal "victims" of market behavior- individuals who lose their jobs following corporate changes or economic shifts and the low salaried employees who struggle to make ends meet while corporate fat cats collect big pay checks. This is where the macro argument that a free market is more effective and maintains a higher standard of living than any other system is extremely important. This is also where Milton Friedman's idea of a negative income tax is helpful. A negative income tax takes material poverty off the table as an objection to free market capitalism as it sets an income floor that every citizen would be guaranteed. Additionally, such a plan supports libertarian notions of individual autonomy and limited government, as convoluted welfare systems and inefficient and costly social service bureaucracies are eliminated. The real point is that yes, you can adopt a free market, limited government ideology without having to give up concern and compassion for the poor and the disadvantaged.

Is such an argument convincing? We'll see. It's a bit further of a stretch than my changing my views on illegal drugs, but maybe it's not so far a stretch as to be unbelievable.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Health Food

Greg Beato of Reason on how McDonalds keeps us thin. Or at least thinner then we would be if we ate at Mom and Pop joints all the time.

During the first decades of the 20th century, lunch wagons, the predecessors to diners, were so popular that cities often passed regulations limiting their hours of operation. In 1952, three years before Ray Kroc franchised his first McDonald’s, one out of four American adults was considered overweight; a New York Times editorial declared that obesity was “our nation’s primary health problem.” The idea that rootless corporate invaders derailed our healthy native diet may be chicken soup for the tubby trial lawyer’s soul, but in reality overeating fatty, salty, sugar-laden food is as American as apple pie.

Nowhere is this truth dramatized more deliciously than in basic-cable fare like the Food Channel’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives and the Travel Channel’s World’s Best Places to Pig Out. Watch these shows often enough, and your Trinitron may develop Type 2 diabetes. Big Macs and BK Stackers wouldn’t even pass as hors d’oeuvres at these heart attack factories.

Yet unlike fast food chains, which are generally characterized as sterile hegemons that force-feed us like foie gras geese, these independently owned and operated greasy spoons are touted as the very (sclerosed) heart of whatever town they’re situated in, the key to the region’s unique flavor, and, ultimately, the essence of that great, multicultural melting pot that puts every homogenizing fast food fryolator to shame: America!

Instead of atomizing families and communities, dives and diners bring them together. Instead of tempting us with empty calories at cheap prices, they offer comfort food and honest value. Instead of destroying our health, they serve us greasy authenticity on platters the size of manhole covers.

Monday, December 10, 2007

More Monday Morning Quarterbacking

I think most football fans- other than the most arrogant Patriot supporters- have gone as far as to anoint the Patriots as the league's 19-0 champion. 16-0 may seem inevitable, but the playoffs are an entirely different story. Of course, I wonder if many of the same fans who criticize those who anoint the Patriots, are similarly certain that this years Championship Games will feature Green Bay at Dallas and Indianapolis at New England.

I'm just curious - does anyone really give another team in the league a legitimate of getting to the conference championship games? Remember, getting there is going to involve going through Indy, New England, Green Bay, or Dallas. Three times in the last four years, not just one, but two teams have been upset in the second round of the playoffs. In 2003/January 2004, the Panthers beat the Rams in double overtime, 29-23 and the Colts beat the Chiefs 38-31. In 2005/January 2006, the Steelers upset the Colts 21-18 and the Panthers got by the Bears 29-21. And finally, last year, the Colts beat the Ravens 15-6 and the Patriots beat the Chargers 24-21.

This year I think Pittsburgh and Seattle are teams that shouldn't be overlooked, but the top 4 really do look that much better than everyone else. Of the the top 4 teams 5 losses, 3 of those are amongst each other. The only losses outside the group were the Packers early season loss to the Bears and the Colts ugly game against the Chargers. An upset are too may be statistically likely to happen, but I certainly wouldn't want to put any money on it.

Maybe the question needs to be asked- Are these the top 4 teams the league has ever seen in a single year? Off the top of my head I'd have to say yes, but admittedly I haven't thought it out too hard. It's just a fascinating question, particularly because it removes much of the emotion of supporting or opposing one particular team.

Monday Morning Quarterbacking

So the Pats are 13-0 and as I suspected, the Steelers did not give the Patriots the same kind of game the Ravens did. A few observations from the NFL weekend.

1- The Steelers had some success early on pressuring Brady and pressing the wide receivers. The Patriots did catch them off guard with the deep play action touchdown to Moss and the double lateral to Gafney, but even after the second long touchdown, the game was not out of hand at 24-13. After the Steelers went three and out, they seemed to panic and abandon their game plan, opting instead to play off the Patriots receivers. The Patriots responded by scoring 10 points on their next two drives, eating up the clock with short passes to Wes Welker and Jabar Gafney and locking up the game.

2- Speaking of abandoning game plans, facing a 3rd and goal at the 1, down 31-13, the Steelers decided against two straight power runs, opting to go with a ill-advised fade pass to Santonio Holmes and an end around to Hines Ward. For the Patriots, their trickery was designed to take advantage of the sometimes overly aggressive Pittsburgh secondary. That's called being smart. For the Steelers, trying to get cute on a defense that's strength is it's discipline is just stupid.

3- You probably won't hear it much from the media, but the Patriots defense played one hell of a game. This is an offense that's currently eighth in the league in scoring, despite playing several games in monsoon conditions (3-0 over the Dolphins ring any bells?), yet the Patriots maligned defense held them to 13 points and only one touchdown, shutting them out in the second half.

4- The Patriots rush defense gets a horrible rap. It's nowhere near dominating, but it's also nowhere near bad. The Steelers did gain 181 yards on the ground, but 53 of those yards came on the Steelers final two drives, when the score was already 34-13 and the outcome of the game was no longer in doubt. To see what the Patriots rush defense really looks like, just examine it drive-by-drive, as opposed to looking at raw numbers.

The Steelers scored a field goal on their first drive, but Ben Roethlisberger was the difference maker- Willie Parker managed 5 carries for 10 yards. On the Steelers next drive, Parker carried once for 3 yards. The Steelers scored on their third drive of the day on Roethlisberger's pass to Najeh Davenport. Parker did bust a 30 yard run on that drive, but it was his longest of the day. The Steelers fourth drive resulted in a field goal, and Parker carried 3 times for 9 yards. Parker busted out with a 19 yard run on the Steelers first drive of the second half, but the Steelers had to punt. After the Pats scored to make it 24-13, Parker carried twice for 5 yards and the Steelers went three and out.

As the old story goes, sometimes the numbers don't match reality. Other than the Ravens, when they rushed the ball down the Patriots throats for two touchdowns in the third quarter of last week's Monday night game, no team this year has been able to rush the ball in a way that would be effective to beat the Patriots. Period. If you recall back to the Colts game, Joseph Addai tore up the Pats on the games first few drives, gaining 67 yards on his first 10 carries. Problem is, all those yards only led to 3 points. The Colts ended up putting 17 more points on the board, but Addai only gained 45 more yards on his final 16 carries. And just to return to that Ravens game- 13 carries for 95 yards on the two touchdown drives, 23 carries for 71 yards the rest of the game and only 10 points.

Generally, running the ball well is an effective game plan when controlling the clock is important and you can hold your opponent to 10-15 points. But points are scored through the passing game and to beat the Patriots you need to score enough points. Putting up 100+ rushing yards is a meaningless statistic is you don't score any point off it and generally, the Pats have not been given up points to their opponents rushing games. As a Pats fan, I'm far more concerned about an Eagles type game plan, which picked up the Patriots blitzes and scored points with drives sustained by quick passes to the middle of the field.

5- This all gets to my next point that the Patriots offense is unstoppable. Two games this year under 30 points? Only 4 games in which their offense has been "held" to only 3 touchdowns? I think the Eagles, Ravens, and Steelers (until they abandoned it) all had the right idea about how to stop the Patriots offense. If you sit back and react, you'll end up like the Bills or Redskins. The problem with playing a defense that requires constant pressure on both the QB and receivers is that it's physically demanding and that mental errors- like those made by the Pittsburgh safeties yesterday- can be amplified to the extreme. I think the Patriots are going 19-0 because I don't see anyone that can stop them - I'm sure the Colts, Cowboys, and Packers can keep up with the Pats in the playoffs, but then you're still left with playing Tom Brady and all those weapons in a close game.

6- By the way, the Colts won in Baltimore last night, 44-20, after jumping out to a 37-7 halftime lead. It just goes to show how much difference a week really makes in football. No one would doubt 1- Patriots, 2- Colts, 3- Steelers, 4- Ravens, but the Ravens certainly didn't play like the number four team on the list last week. My point, as always, is not to look too deep into what a single week's performance means - and the same holds true for the Steelers, who are the kind of team that still has the potential to give both the Pats and the Colts trouble in the playoffs. If the Patriots play them again I won't expect it to be as easy.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Lawmakers seek popular political solution to non-existent problem they don't understand

Special thanks to the lonely libertarian's father, who pointed out yesterday that USA Today is on board with the food scare hysteria. As I pointed out a few weeks ago, the worst part of these stories - and the Congressional response - is the complete and utter lack of understanding of the food industry, testing laboratories, and the science behind food safety.

It's funny that ordinary Americans and the media make a big fuss about the Patriot Act and the government's record of incompetence when it comes to national security, yet when it comes to something like food and science, people are completely blind to the fact that Congress legislates even more incompetently than they ordinarily do.

Things To Like About the Ron Paul Campaign

According to Reason's Brian Doherty, independent-minded, free-thinking Ron Paul supporters have created the Ron Paul blimp in order to promote their favorite candidate while avoiding FEC regulations. It seems pretty damn brilliant - and yet another indication of how our system of campaign finance laws is just an absolute mess.

NFL's 40 Greatest Playoff Games Since 1990

What started as an e-mail exchange with my McBlogging buddy turned into the genesis of a really fun blog post. I've been watching football since the 80's and one thing I've always found interesting is that football history is written in such a way that some of the best stuff is forgotten. Case-in-point, football fans are bombarded with Super Bowl highlights and Super Bowl memories every year at Super Bowl time, but the rest of the post-season is usually just a side bar. The truth is that there have been some great post season games in the NFL, particularly in recent years. What I have here is the list of the top 40 post season games since 1990 - I use 1990 as a start date because I was 10 in 1990 and saw most of these games and 1990 was the year the NFL switched from 5 to 6 playoff teams per conference and expanded the Wild Card round.

The rankings are certainly debatable, but without further ado, here are the NFL's top 40 playoff games since 1990. Super Bowls not included.

1. 2001 AFC Divisional Playoff: Patriots 16 Raiders 13 (OT) - The Patriots dynasty begins, Brady and the tuck rule, Vinatieri's kick, and Phil Simms getting hit with a snowball.

2. 1990 NFC Championship Game: Giants 15 49ers 13 - The Niners dynasty ends, Leonard Marshall nearly ends Montana's career, and Roger Craig's fumble leads to Matt Bahr's game winning field goal.

3. 1992 AFC Wild Card: Bills 41 Oilers 38 (OT) - Frank Reich leads the greatest come from behind win in NFL history after the Bills trail 35-3 at the half.

4. 1999 AFC Wild Card: Titans 22 Bills 16 - The Music City Miracle.

5. 2002 NFC Wild Card: 49ers 39 Giants 38 - Garcia and TO lead 4th quarter comeback, Trey Junkin becomes the Giants Bill Buckner.

6. 2006 AFC Championship Game: Colts 38 Patriots 34 - Colts overcome 21-3 deficit, Manning beats Brady in the playoffs, finally gets to Super Bowl.

7. 1998 NFC Championship Game: Falcons 30 Vikings 27 (OT) - Gary Anderson misses first field goal of the season, Falcons come back in improbable fashion to beat the NFL's all-time highest scoring team.

8. 1991 AFC Divisional Playoff: Broncos 26 Oilers 24 - John Elway leads another 4th quarter comeback - Broncos beat the run and shoot.

9. 1993 AFC Wild Card: Chiefs 27 Steelers 24 (OT) - Joe Montana ties game at end of regulation, wins game in overtime, solidifies his status as the NFL's all-time best quarterback, beating a good defense with J.J. Birden and Willie Davis at wide receiver.

10. 1998 NFC Wild Card: 49ers 30 Packers 27 - Steve Young to Terrell Owens for a 25 yard TD at the very end of regulation.

11. 2003 NFC Divisional Playoff: Panthers 29 Rams 23 (2OT) - Steve Smith beats Rams late, sends Panthers on a Super Bowl run.

12. 1993 NFC Wild Card: Packers 28 Lions 24 - The legend begins as Brett Favre beats the Lions with a 40 yard touchdown to Sterling Sharpe with under one minute remaining.

13. 2005 AFC Divisional Playoff: Steelers 21 Colts 18 - Pittsburgh's improbable upset, Bettis's fumble, Big Ben's tackle, and Vanderjagt's missed field goal.

14. 1995 AFC Championship Game: Steelers 20 Colts 16 - Captain Comeback, Jim Harbaugh, just misses the Super Bowl by inches as his hail mary lands on Aaron Bailey's stomach and slips to the ground.

15. 2006 AFC Divisional Playoff: Patriots 24 Chargers 21 - Brady and the Patriots overcome a 21-13 4th quarter deficit for yet another playoff win.

16. 1997 NFC Wild Card: Vikings 23 Giants 22: Vikings score late, recover onside kick, and kick the winning field goal, shocking the Giants at home.

17. 1994 AFC Championship Game: Chargers 17 Steelers 13 - Stan Humphries hits Tony Martin in the 4th quarter for the lead and Neil O'Donnell's comeback drive comes up just short of the endzone.

18. 2003 NFC Divisional Playoff: Eagles 20 Packers 17 - Donovan McNabb beats 4th and 26.

19. 2003 NFC Wild Card: Packers 33 Seahawks 27 (OT) - We're gonna get the ball, and we're gonna win, Matt Hasselbeck throws interception to Al Harris that gets returned for a touchdown.

20. 2002 AFC Wild Card: Steelers 36 Browns 33 - The Tommy Maddox-Kelly Holcomb aerial duel totaled a combined 796 yards and 6 touchdowns.

21. 1996 AFC Wild Card: Jaguars 30 Bills 27 - Mark Brunell and the Jags first big upset, coming from behind to win in Buffalo.

22. 2002 AFC Divisional Playoff: Titans 34 Steelers 31 (OT) - Joe Nedney misses two shots at game winning field goals, gets a second chance in overtime after a roughing the kicker penalty.

23. 1997 AFC Divisional Playoff: Steelers 7 Patriots 6 - Kordell Stewart's tightrope down the sideline is the only touchdown of a defensive struggle.

24. 2000 AFC Wild Card: Dolphins 23 Colts 17 - Lamar Smith's run concludes a big game and wins it in overtime.

25. 1999 AFC Wild Card: Dolphins 20 Seahawks 17 - Dan Marino has one last game winning drive.

26. 1999 NFC Championship Game: Rams 11 Bucs 6 - The Bert Emanuel rule of what constitutes a catch is born.

27. 1990 AFC Wild Card: Dolphins 17 Chiefs 16 - Dan Marino throws 2 late touchdowns and Nick Lowrey misses what could be a game winning field goal.

28. 2004 NFC Wild Card: Rams 27 Seahawks 20 - The Rams take the lead with 2 minutes left, Matt Hasselbeck takes the Seahawks all the way to the Rams 5, but can't tie the game.

29. 1994 AFC Divisional Playoffs: Chargers 22 Dolphins 21 - Stan Humphries leads the Chargers back from a 21-6 half time deficit.

30. 1991 NFC Wild Card: Falcons 27 Siants 20 - Chris Miller wins it on a 61 yard pass to Michael Haynes with under 3 minutes to play.

31. 2000 NFC Wild Card: Saints 31 Rams 28 - The Saints first ever playoff win is clinched with Az Hakim's fumble.

32. 1991 AFC Wild Card: Oilers 17 Jets 10 - Oilers stop Jets twice inside the 5 yard line in the 4th quarter.

33. 2001 AFC Wild Card: Raiders 38 Jets 24 - Wild 4th quarter in which 36 points were scored, only is settled when Charlie Garner scores on an 80 yard run with 2 minutes left in the game.

34. 2006 NFC Wild Card: Seahawks 21 Cowboys 20 - Tony Romo and the botched snap.

35. 2006 NFC Divisional Playoff: Bears 27 Seahawks 24 (OT) - This was just last year, it went to over time, and I remember watching it, but it strikes me as one of the more dull overtime games in recent memory.

36. 2003 AFC Wild Card: Titans 20 Ravens 17 - See above, except without the overtime as Gary Anderson wins it on a 46 yard field goal.

37. 2006 NFC Wild Card: Eagles 20 Giants 17 - Eli Manning brings Giants back, but does it too early as Jeff Garcia gets the Eagles in range to kick a winning field goal.

38. 2003 AFC Divisional Playoff: Patriots 17 Titans 14 - Freezing cold game won by Vinatieri with 4 minutes remaining.

39. 2004 AFC Wild Card: Jets 20 Chargers 17 (OT) - Nate Kaeding misses an overtime field goal, Marty loses, Herm Edwards wins.

40. 2004 AFC Divisional Game: Steelers 20 Jets 17 (OT) - See #39 as what happened the previous week to the Jet's opponent happened to the Jets, Doug Brien misses two game winning field goals and the Steelers win it in overtime.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

TV Blogging, As The Effects of the Writers Strike Loom Large : House

I wanted to take a few minutes before we all forget what scripted television actually looks like to recommend a few shows to my tv watching friends and readers. I want to write about two- House and Pushing Daisies- that I don't think any of my friends or readers actually watches. I'll start this entry with House and try and get to Pushing Daisies later on.

First, House is currently in it's forth season, although it seems to have finished it's stock of finished episodes for the time being. I started watching the show during season two and quickly fell in love with the character of Dr. House, the shows take on human nature, and the shows unyielding skepticism in the face of a public that seems to be far more interested in the supernatural and mystical.

Dr. House is one of those all time great tv characters who probably gets shortchanged by some potential viewers because he comes across as this obnoxious, eccentric, arrogant prick. All those adjectives are true, but Dr. House is fascinating because he combines those characteristics with a logical, inquisitive mind, and the inherent contradiction of an anti-social personality and a burning desire to understand why people do the things that they do. He's entertaining in his defiance of social norms and conventions, yet also endearing as that same defiance aids him in solving medical mysteries and curing ailing patients.

The show is set up as a medical mystery. Similar to the way in which the X-Files would have a new victim to start the show every week, House always opens with the latest medical case collapsing from an as yet unknown medical problem. The medical mystery is the show's basic structure, which, at times, can get a bit dull - the best episodes showcase a patient who helps to brings out an emotional or personal conflict with House or his team of doctors and answer (or perhaps raise) interesting questions about human nature. The show delves into questions of truthfulness and questions about just what happiness is. On the surface, the show makes viewers decide whether they'd want a doctor like Dr. House- brilliant but no bedside manner- or a doctor with less competence who might sugarcoat the truth. But deeper than that the show is asking the meaning of the conventions that make us tip-toe around death and demands sympathy before action.

Finally, it's nice to see a show that maintains such a strong foundation in science. It seems today as though a lot of dramas on tv are about ghosts, spirits, or something supernatural. House has shows in which reality is brought in to question - we have dreams, we have hallucinations, but there is always a proper scientific and medical explanation. At the same time, the show is very fair to faith and spiritual beliefs - it doesn't question deeply held beliefs, only the ostentatious displays of faith healing, magic, or communication with the dead. Additionally, it's just plain nice to see a tv doctor putting tv patients in their place when it comes to things like avoiding vaccinations and overly all-natural diets.

House isn't the best show on tv - I think it's formulaic structure prevents it from being as interesting as it could be. A show like the X-Files blossomed because it moved beyond it's initial conventions and became something more than the show about UFO's and monsters of the week. While House could never have the same opportunities that the X-Files did as a science fiction show, there's no reason it can't vary from it's typical structure. Case-in-point was last night's third season repeat of what I like to call "House on a Plane." House is on board a plane home, when other passengers begin to show mysterious symptoms. It puts the character in a different situation and just adds a little variety to the routine.

Regardless, House is enjoyable and well worth watching. For those of us who tend to get involved in heavily serialized dramas, it's nice to enjoy a change of pace show that actually has closure every week. For those that haven't watched it, I'd give it a try - at least unlike those serialized dramas you can basically jump in at any time. I believe the show is done with it's new episode run, but I think Fox plans on showing repeat episodes several nights a week during the writers strike - And reruns are also shown Thursday and Friday nights on USA.

Are The Poor Really Getting Poorer?

Professor Walter Williams has a great column on Income Mobility, countering the Lou Dobbs's, John Edwards's, and Mike Huckabee's of the world.

The Nov. 13 Wall Street Journal editorial "Movin' On Up" reports on a recent U.S. Treasury study of income tax returns from 1996 and 2005. The study tracks what happened to tax filers 25 years of age and up during this 10-year period. Controlling for inflation, nearly 58 percent of the poorest income group in 1996 moved to a higher income group by 2005. Twenty-six percent of them achieved middle or upper-middle class income, and over 5 percent made it into the highest income group. Over the decade, the inflation-adjusted median income of all tax filers rose by 24 percent.

What about claims of a disappearing middle class? Let's do some detective work. Controlling for inflation, in 1967, 8 percent of households had an annual income of $75,000 and up; in 2003, more than 26 percent did. In 1967, 17 percent of households had a $50,000 to $75,000 income; in 2003, it was 18 percent. In 1967, 22 percent of households were in the $35,000 to $50,000 income group; by 2003, it had fallen to 15 percent. During the same period, the $15,000 to $35,000 category fell from 31 percent to 25 percent, and the under $15,000 category fell from 21 percent to 16 percent.

If you listen to the media and many politicians, the economy is in trouble. I prefer common sense.

Libertarian Means Local

This little libertarian kerfuffle seemed like a lot of fun. First, Dan Mitchell at Cato called Congressional efforts to ban candy, soda, and fatty snacks from school lunches "Nanny State Foolishness." This prompted responses from Matthew Yglesias and Ezra Klein who both point out that there's nothing wrong with nannying children and there's nothing wrong with eliminating unhealthy options for children. Finally, Julian Sanchez and Megan McArdle weigh in on the debate, Julian making a philosophical point about federalism and local control, Megan making the practical point that local school boards usually have fairly good reasons for making the choices they make- And those reasons are not because they're stupid or they don't like their children.

I think Julian and Megan are right on target, but I'm blogging here because I feel like this sort of debate highlights the lack of understanding most people have over issues that pit the federal government against state and local governments. Federalism can be a big word for some people, so I'd rather just talk about local control. Certain issues demand uniform, across-the-board responses. I just don't think much of anything regarding education- particularly school lunches- demand a uniform federal response.

The real issue is not what the specific policy should be regarding schools and junk food. The question you need to ask yourself is whether reasonable people could disagree about what the specifics of a junk food policy should be.

Julian Sanchez puts it best:

If you think it's obvious that there's an Objectively Correct Answer to any question, and that we know it—should little Bobby be allowed candy, or kept to a strict wheat germ regimen?—then allowing local variation just means giving the rubes a chance to fuck it up.

Ezra Klein really misses the boat on this issue wondering why it gets libertarians get all "hackled up." The point is that most libertarians recognize that when it comes to this issue- and a great deal of other issues that the federal government involves itself in- there is no one right answer. And most libertarians aren't arrogant enough to assume they, or anyone else, has the right answer about what schools should offer for lunches. Libertarianism at it's heart is about the recognition that the individual is best suited to make decision for his or herself. Certain issues- like public school lunches and whether to offer snacks and candy and soda- demand group solutions, but keeping in line with their regard for the individual, libertarians think that these issues should be resolved by as small groups as possible. This way, individuals retain the most influence and actually have a voice in the ultimate policy outcome.

Proponents of junk food type ban proposals usually have good intentions. But how can even the best intentioned come up with a plan that meets the needs of each of the hundreds of thousands of school systems across the country. Maybe some schools are supporting their sports, music, and art programs solely from soda machine and junk food revenues. Maybe some school systems have poor kids who eat junk food because they're hungry and maybe some school systems have rich kids who stock up on junk food with extra money they get from their parents. Some parents will tell their kids to eat junk food while others will tell their kids to eat healthy. The point is, a law could never be passed that adequately reflects the unique nature of each individual school system in the country. Yet for some reason, politicians keep trying to do just that.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Still Unbeaten

It looks like my McBlogging buddy beat me to it, but theres no way I could not blog about last nights Patriots-Ravens game. I'll make a few of my own observations before responding to McBlog.

1- Have I mentioned Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback ever? To put up 27 points, on the road, in the wind, with that crowd, and with that defense as fired up and playing at the high level it was playing at ... it's nothing short of amazing.

2- The Patriots got beat up last night. Last week I said they got punched in the mouth- this week they got pounded from start to finish. Every other team in the league will take notes that you can run on the Patriots and you can make their defense look old. Vince Wilfork played a great game eating up double teams, but Richard Seymour got blocked man on too many times, and every single one of the Patriots linebackers looked slow and could not shed blocks.

3- Despite getting pounded for three quarters, the Patriots defense some how managed to stand tall and stop the Ravens in the 4th quarter.With a 24-17 lead, the Ravnes got the ball back in the 4th quarter after sacking Brady on consecutive second and third down plays and returning the ensuing punt to the Patriots 31 yard line (which became the Patriots 26 after a penalty). With all the momentum going against them, the Patriots defense held. The Ravens drive went McGahee no gain, McGahee 1 yard, Kyle Boller stupid interception. The Ravens got the ball back again, with 8:41 left and a four point lead. McGahee 2 yards, McGahee loss of 1 yard, Boller incomplete. After the Ravens defense forced another Patriot punt, the Ravens had the ball with 5:21 and a chance to run out the clock. Pass to McGahee for 7 yards, McGahee run for 1 yard, pass to McGahee for 1 yard. It was awesome. It was like one of those classic war movies where the bloodied and over matched heroes could not afford to give an inch to the enemy. Just like in the movies, the Patriots held their ground.

4- Kevin Faulk is a great football player- he picks up the blitz well, catches the ball, and runs well when the Patriots really needed him too. And that tackle and strip of Ed Reed had shades of the Troy Brown play against the Chargers in the playoffs last year, which, just so happens to be another game in which the Patriots were physically over matched.

5- The Patriots were somewhat effective running the ball last night. Maroney and Faulk combined for 20 carries for 77 yards- Not great numbers, but passable, particularly against a Ravens defense that was giving up under 2 yards per carry on an ordinary day. Interestingly enough, the majority of the Patriots runs came from the shotgun. They've done this all year, but they seem to be getting more and more effective at it. I think the Patriots can run the ball when they need to. And, they can convert some short yardage situations. What worries me is that without Sammy Morris they don't have a back like a McGahee that can run in bad weather, chew up clock in the second half, and take over games.

And on to McBlog! .... Of course the Patriots had some luck last night. Good teams generally do have luck go their way. As to the Patriots being a finesse team .... ehhhhhh .... Whatever you want to call them, they did manage to beat one of the most physical teams in their most physical game of the year. I'm not saying that there's not some truth to the finesse label, only that I'm not sure it means much of anything. The Patriots already won the most physical game of the year. What more can their opposition do in the realm of being physical to beat them?

Updated 12/4/2007 @ 4:25 PM: I want to be clear about something. The Ravens were the better team on the field last night. There's nothing odd about saying this. Football fans tend to get caught up talk of who's good and who's bad while forgetting that the talent level between the teams at the top and the teams at the bottom is really quite small. You see much, much wider gaps in talent in high school and college football, but in the NFL just look at how quickly teams can go from elite to struggling or from mediocre to elite. The point is that shocking upsets are not always the shocks we think they are. Any given Sunday any one NFL team can beat another- we see this year in and year out and we're always somehow shocked when it happens.

The truth is that the best teams are not the best teams because of superior talent- talent is certainly a factor, but talent alone doesn't win you anything. Coaching counts a hell of a lot (see Bill Belichick versus Brian Billick). So does preparation and most importantly, execution. The Patriots blowouts this year- particularly the recent ones of Buffalo and Washington are example of what happens when a bit of talent executes flawlessly and the other team just plain doesn't show up.

Last night the Ravens showed up and for three and a half quarters they executed far better than the Patriots did. The Patriots talent dropped balls and got dominated at the point of attack. The Ravens talent dominated the line of scrimmage, ran like he actually was the best RB in the NFL, and intimidated the Patriots receivers. The fact that the Ravens had underachieved the rest of the season means nothing in the moment- and by the moment I don't just mean the game, but each individual play each individual battle in that game. And in the same vein, what the Patriots did to Buffalo and Washington meant absolutely nothing last night.

This is the beauty of sport, and more specifically the beauty of football where you only have one game, one chance. This is why last night was incredible- it would still have been incredible if the Patriots lost, just more personally painful.

I've written so much on this subject because I think both the Patriots and the Ravens deserve praise for last night's game. It's rare to see a game played at such a high level and it just goes to show you that won-loss records don't always tell us everything about a team. We tend to put so much stock in what teams and players have done and so little in what they are actually doing. I don't mean that past performance can't be a predictive tool, only that past performance means next to nothing in the heat of battle in a hard fought game.

At the end of the day, good teams are good teams because they do all the right things on a consistent basis. Bad teams struggle because they are not consistent in their preparation and execution. This is an important part of the Patriots quest to go undefeated this season. The Patriots have a chance to do it, not because of the way they executed at a high level against teams that let themselves get walked all over, but because of the high level that they execute in adverse circumstances and tight games. Four teams have given the Patriots a game this year and all four times the Patriots came out on top. Last night was the first night that they really needed fortune to fall in their favor, but I don't think any team could ever win 19 games without a loss without having a bit of good fortune. So with at least 5, hopefully 7 games left, we shall see.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Religion Versus Generally Applicable Laws

I'm usually not a big fan of Professor Stanley Fish, but on his New York Times blog, Fish raises the interesting question of whether the free exercise of religion requires that exceptions be made from generally applicable laws. In this case the question revolves around monkey meat, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, and African religious practices.

Professor Fish puts the question quite succinctly:

Do we begin by assuming the special status of religious expression and reason from there? Or do we begin with the rule of law and look with suspicion on any claim to be exempt for it, even if the claim is made in the name of apparently benign religious motives?

I agree with Professor Fish that there are no good answers here- but I'd also add that this is yet another argument for a more libertarian form of government. The more laws there are regulating personal, moral behavior, the more likely these conflicts are to occur. And is monkey meat a personal, moral, religious issue? Well, just ask a Hindu about cows.

What About Hawaii?

The BCS has announced it's championship game for 2007- it's going to be LSU and Ohio State.

The lonely libertarian has never been a big fan of college football, and the reasons why can be explained rather succinctly. While it is stupid that Division 1-A college football does not have a playoff system, there's nothing to say college football has to work the same way college basketball works. What really just irks the hell of me about Division 1-A college football is the way the BCS is set up and the way in which about half the teams playing Division 1-A college football are essentially ineligible to win a national championship.

The BCS represents the Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, ACC, and the PAC-10, but just put yourselves in the shoes of a college football player competing in Conference USA, the Mountain West, the Sun Belt, the WAC, or the MAC. There are, by the way, 51 schools in those conferences. And just imagine if when you started your season you were told that no matter how many games you won, no matter how well you played, you would not have a chance to play for a national championship.

This season, Hawaii won the WAC, and finished it's season at 12-0. In the rest of the nation there were only two one-loss teams- Ohio State and Kansas, both at 11-1. Yet because the WAC is not a BCS conference- and because the teams in non-BCS conferences are considered lesser teams, Hawaii is not allowed to even compete for a shot at a national title. If the level of play in these conferences is that inferior, then why are these conferences part of Division 1-A in the first place? Further division of college football would be perfectly acceptable, but it should be natural that every team has the chance to compete for some sort of national championship outside of their conferences.

And it's not as though the situation with Hawaii is unusual. It has happened before in recent years. Even after bowl games, Boise State of the WAC went 13-0 in 2006 and in 2004, Utah of the Mountain West went 12-0.

For all the talk of the need for a playoff system in college football, any system that is created needs to include undefeated teams from the minor conferences- There is no need to put all minor conference winners into a playoff system. For instance, this year Troy won the Sunbelt conference with an overall record of 8-4. They haven't done anything to deserve the right to compete for a national championship. But Hawaii at 12-0 deserves a shot. In my perfect world, you would have a field of 8 in a 3-week playoff. This year, Hawaii would join Ohio State (11-1), Kansas (11-1), LSU (11-2), West Virginia (10-2), Virginia Tech (11-2), USC (10-2), and Missouri (11-2). Remember, the fun of a playoff system is the fun in arguing who just makes the cut and who just misses it. In such a short season, losing just one or two games means- and always has meant- that you may lose a shot to compete for a national championship. But it's just insane to have a system where a team, from day one, has no hope of winning a national championship.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Salt Wars, Episode V: The FDA Strikes Back

Lot's of blogging from the weekend to catch up on, but I couldn't go to bed without getting to this: FDA debates stricter regulation of salt in food. And Michael Jacobson, evil leader of the Center For Science in the Authoritarian Interest, is quick to enter the fray:

"Clearly, salt should be considered generally recognized as dangerous, not safe,"