Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tiger vs Michael

Angelos linked to a story by Bill Posnanski recently (I'd leave the link but this is an email post). The story was about Tiger and how he's an enigma. He related a story about Tiger and Michael Jordan playing in a pro-am together. They were joking around until they both hit the green and had makeable putts. Something like 15' for Tiger and 5' for Michael. They had a situation where they both had putts within their respective abilities, but not gimmes. Being the uber-competitive guys they are, the joking subsided and they concentrated on winning. Tiger nailed his and then stared down Michael, who yipped and pulled his putt left. Michael said "I'm a professional, but not at this game." Posnanski says "Everyone laughed, including Tiger. But the point was
made."

I read this and it didn't feel right to me. If the point is that Tiger is a more fierce, unflappable competitor, I don't think this story shows that. It's not fair to Jordan. Mental toughness comes in different flavors. The kind of toughness it takes to stand over a 12' putt to win a tournament and sink it is one variety. A related but different variety is the toughness it takes to run down the court with tens of thousands of people screaming at the top of their lungs, body nearly
worn out, people waving flags and towels, defenders jostling you and running at you full speed, and swish a 30' game-winner. If Tiger can make that 12' putt in those conditions (I have this mental image of a sweaty Phil Mickelson charging Tiger as he's standing over his putt),
then maybe I'll grant that he's tougher than Jordan. Until then, I'd call it a draw.

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Those Zany McCainiacs!

So yesterday we heard Tim Pawlenty attempting to make a favorable comparison between John McCain's "energy policy" and Barak Obama's, stating that McCain favors a gas tax reprieve and offshore drilling and Obama opposes both. Today I read this on The Carpetbagger Report, in response to the Obama campaign's efforts to help downticket races in places like Texas and Wyoming (where he can't expect to win in the general).

I found the McCain campaign’s response rather amusing:

“It’s revealing that Barack Obama has now been forced to expand the states on his map because he’s so weak in traditional Democratic targets such as West Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee and Florida, not to mention his ongoing problems in Pennsylvania and Ohio,” said McCain spokesman Brian Rogers.

Can we just go ahead an add a laugh track now? Otherwise some people might get the idea that they're actually serious.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Tale of Two interviews

I heard two interesting interviews on NPR today while driving home.

The first was a short interview with Tim Pawlenty and Michele Norris. Pawlenty was trying to defend McCain's energy policy (it's hard to type that without snickering). Here's the money quote (paraphrased)

Pawlenty says there are "striking differences" between the Arizona senator and his rival, Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, when it comes to energy policy. For instance, McCain supports offshore drilling for oil, as well as the creation of a gas tax holiday. Obama opposes both proposals.
He also mentions that Obama opposes expanding nuclear power. He says this like these are supposed to be bad things. McCain supports a gas tax holiday that everyone, even his own campaign, agrees will do little to nothing. He supports domestic oil drilling, calling it a short-term solution. Of course, not one economist, supports McCain's idea that drilling will provide any short-term (less than 10 years!) relief. Pawlenty's got a tough job trying to defend this so-called energy policy. It really makes him sound dumber just by making the attempt.

In the second, Robert Siegel interviewed George Charamba, a spokesman for Robert Mugabe. In a combative interview, Charamba denies that there's any violence against Tsvangirai and his supporters. He claims, "All the reports that you are dealing with are reports that are coming either from the British machinery or from the American machinery". When Charamba defends the upcoming runoff as legally required, Siegel brings up the fact that Mugabe and his party lost the presidential and parliamentary elections. Charamba acknowledges this, but dismisses the results because he said the people "voted on their stomachs", due to Western sanctions. It's amazing how this guy can calmly argue that the first election didn't count, but this runoff election does. All the while denying the thuggery and murder taking place. It's unbelievable. Can we stop referring to Mugabe as president and just start calling him dictator? He seems like the kind of arrogant asshole that would be bothered by this, if it spread in the media.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Snarky Amazon reviews for Denon's dumb-ass $500 Ethernet cable

It's always fun to make fun of stupid people, but it's even more enjoyable when people are actually paying someone to cater to their stupidity. That's why I always enjoy making fun of audiophiles who think they can hear the tiniest differences in music, and therefore pay obscene amounts for cables that can't possibly make any difference. This $500 ethernet cable isn't quite as funny as the $8000 speaker cables I saw a while back, but the reviews are the hilarious part.

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Friday, June 20, 2008

Short-sighted

Obviously it's not a great insight to realize that people often act against their own best interests in pursuit of short-term gain, on both big and small issues. People care more about the economy now than global catastrophe in the future, corporations care more about the next quarter's earning report than about the long-term survival of the company, people smoke knowing that it's going to ruin their health one way or another. Sometimes something strikes you that brings it home, though.

I briefly met a woman earlier today who appeared to be in her 40's. She's attractive, well-dressed, obviously takes care of her appearance, etc... But she had skin that was just this side of leather. She had clearly spent a lot of time sunbathing or sitting under a tanning light. It amazes me, that with all the evidence walking around among us attesting to the damage that sun does to your skin (to say nothing of cancer), people will still sacrifice the health and appearance of their skin for a few years of bronzy glory. I for one don't see why people like the bronze look so much anyway. In any case, this woman would have looked noticeably more attractive with smooth, unwrinkled skin. And hey, it's her body, but since she clearly takes pride in her appearance, it seems out of place.

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Thursday, June 19, 2008

Would you drive yourself to jail?

This story got me thinking.

To recap, Samuel Israel was a hedge fund manager who defrauded investors out of hundreds of millions of dollars. He was convicted, sentenced to 20 years and out on bail while authorities prepared his medication (I didn't know they did that). This CNN story has a little more background.

First, thinking about this has got me wondering if long prison sentences are appropriate for monetary crimes. I'm sure this guy is an ass, and the amounts of money he stole very likely could have ruined lives (cf. Enron), but wouldn't forcing him to live as a pauper while repaying his victims be a better sentence?

Second, and the thing that kind of blew my mind a little, he was supposed to drive himself to prison to start his 20 year sentence. The guy's 48. Neither article says if there's any possibility of parole or time-off for good behavior, but apparently Israel considered it a death sentence. So what's he got to lose? I can't fathom calmly driving myself to prison to surrender what could very possibly be the last third of my life. And especially not if I was as narcissistic as this guy has to be. What the hell were they thinking? If this guy isn't out of the country already, I'll be very surprised.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Barbara LeBey responds

Hey look who found my McCainocrat post -

Hello John,
Since you reviewed my NPR interview, I thought it might be of interest for you to know that I did carefully review Obama's record and found it sorely lacking. I don't make hasty or emotional decisions. Hillary's voting record and her list of achievements is not nearly as liberal as the plans Obama has put forth. She is more of a centrist. Obama is an extreme liberal, really more socialist than even liberal. I am not willing to vote for a socialist. Race is irrelevant. I would feel the same way if Obama was 100% white. As for Hillary's endorsement and her request that her supporters transfer their support to Obama, I would have to say I don't follow blindly. Furthermore, if Hillary wants to continue to be an active member of the party and have a future with the party, she is compelled to get on board whether she actually believes in Obama or not. Personally, I'd like to see her run as an Independent--not likely. As a former judge and corporate lawyer, I have learned early on that a slumping economy does not revive with higher taxes, and leaders of rogue nations like Iran and North Korea respect might, not coddling. With enemies who hate us more than they love life, only strong leadership and a ready military will keep them at bay. Obama's plans are completely contrary to what I believe is the right course of action for our nation. So there you have it. The best, Barbara LeBey

Well, I have to say, I'm still confused. Barbara says she reviewed Obama's record and found it lacking. She says Obama is a socialist and Clinton is a centrist. I say they have very similar records and policy proposals. Rather than throwing out assertions, why don't we look at some facts -

  • Obama's Record - Barbara didn't say what she thinks is lacking in Obama's record, but I found some interesting stats here
    Senator Obama has sponsored or co-sponsored 570 bills in the 109th and 110th Congress.

    Senator Obama has sponsored or co-sponsored 15 bills that have become LAW since he joined the Senate in 2005.

    Senator Obama has also introduced amendments to 50 bills, of which 16 were adopted by the Senate.
    The summary is courtesy of a diary at Kos, but I confirmed the details at www.thomas.gov, the official congressional web archive. Co-sponsoring legislation isn't all that, of course, but it does show that Obama's been working and the kinds of issues he's concerned with. Then, of course, he has 8 years in the Illinois senate, but I suppose those years don't count.

  • On tax policy, they really don't vary. Both support extending tax cuts for those earning under $250k per year. Both favor letting Bush's tax cuts expire for those making over $250k per year. Barbara says "I have learned early on that a slumping economy does not revive with higher taxes", yet she supported Clinton, who would enact essentially the same tax policy as Obama. Maybe she was voting for Clinton for other reasons, but she cites taxes and the economy in her comment here and in the NPR interview, so it appears to be a key issue for her. I checked several places for information, but a good summary can be found at here for Obama and here for Clinton.

  • Another key issue for Barbara appears to be foreign policy. There are some differences here, but they're not substantive, in my opinion. Here's an exchange from one of the debates
    Q: [to Obama]: Do you support normalizing relations with Cuba now?

    OBAMA: I would not normalize relations until we started seeing some progress [on the US agenda in Cuba]. But I do think that it's important for the US not just to talk to its friends, but also to talk to its enemies.

    CLINTON: I agree that we should be willing to have diplomatic negotiations and processes with anyone. I've been a strong advocate of opening up such a diplomatic process with Iran, for a number of years. Because I think we should look for ways that we can possibly move countries that are adversarial to us, toward the world community. It's in our interests and in the interests of the people in countries that are oppressed, like Cuba, like Iran. But there has been this difference between us over when and whether the president should offer a meeting, without preconditions, with those with whom we do not have diplomatic relations. And it should be part of a process, but I don't think it should be offered in the beginning

    Here's another-
    Q: Would you be willing to meet separately, without precondition, during the first year of your administration, with the leaders of Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba & N.Korea?

    OBAMA: I would. The notion that somehow not talking to countries is punishment to them is ridiculous. I think that it is a disgrace that we have not spoken to them.

    CLINTON: I will not promise to meet with the leaders of these countries during my first year. I will promise a very vigorous diplomatic effort but not a high level meeting before you know what the intentions are. I don't want to be used for propaganda purposes. But I certainly agree that we need to get back to diplomacy, which has been turned into a bad word by this administration. I will use a lot of high-level presidential envoys to test the waters, to feel the way. But certainly, we're not going to just have our president meet with Fidel Castro & Hugo Chavez & the president of North Korea, Iran & Syria until we know better what the way forward would be.
    Clearly they both favor engagement with our adversaries. They differ in details but not in intent. This is a clear break with Bush's foreign policy, and McCain's.

  • This idea that Obama is a socialist and Clinton is a centrist is silly. What does it mean to be a socialist? This is usually what right-wing people throw out as a slur anytime a Democrat proposes a government program. This Washington Post article has a pretty good rundown on the differences between Obama and Clinton in their Senate voting records. To start, they don't differ much - they vote together over 90% of the time. They have some real differences on the Cuban embargo and on gun control, but nothing substantial.

    The funny thing to me about this statement is that on the issue most likely to be labeled socialist - universal health care, Clinton is clearly to the left of Obama. Looking at Clinton and Obama on health care, Clinton has a clear progressive (socialist, perhaps) vison of universal health care involving mandates and universal coverage. Obama seems to support universal coverage, but doesn't support mandates and doesn't seem to have a clear vision as to how to achieve this.

After looking into these things, I can't see how a Democrat who cares about these issues can support John McCain. Maybe Maurinsky is right. She noted in the comments that "I feel confident reporting Barbara LeBey is definitely a Republican ... her whole comment (if that was actually her) is loaded with Republican talking points." I think it probably is the real Barbara LeBey (what possible purpose could deceit serve here?), and I agree that there were several right-wing talking points in the comment. I still lean toward my original assessment that she developed a (perhaps unconscious) antipathy toward Obama that really has nothing to do with his record or his stances on the issues.

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Saturday, June 14, 2008

Battlestar Galactica

So what did everyone think of that ending? Assume there will be spoilers in the comments if I still have any readers left.

Also, I'd like to take this opportunity to say that this mid season finale crap is bullshit. If you go for over six fucking months without a new episode, then it's not still the same fucking season. Just call them shorter seasons, assholes.

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Wednesday, June 11, 2008

McCainocrat?

I caught this interview on Day to Day yesterday - Madeleine Brand talks to lifelong Democrat Barbara LeBey about why she might vote for McCain instead of Obama in the general election.

I wish I hadn't actually, because it's frustrating to listen to reasonable-sounding people spouting such nonsense. I've seen Hillary commenters online saying that they would vote for McCain, but they were so unhinged it was easy to write them off. This lady sounds like she's actually thought it through and decided that McCain's the better choice.

She begins by saying she doesn't like Obama's economic plan. That we can't afford to raise taxes, it would be bad for the economy, it would hurt small-business owners and cost jobs. I'm thinking how can a lifelong Democrat buy into supply-side economics? Madeleine then points out that there's no difference between Hillary and Obama's economic plan. Barbara says that's true but offers no further explanation.

Then she says he hasn't done anything, he's a blank slate upon whom people are projecting their hopes and dreams, but they don't know anything about him. I guess she hasn't seen his highly-detailed policy papers, examined his voting records, looked at his non-government resume. This inexperienced meme is such a load of BS.

Madeleine asks her if it's a vote for McCain or against Obama. She starts eulogizing McCain, about his economic policy, his immigration plan, his environmentalism and how he's a maverick.

Finally Madeleine asks about abortion, and mentions McCain's awful rating. Barbara sounds resigned and says that since there's already a conservative majority, it doesn't matter who the next two judges are, so she's going to vote on other issues.

What to make of all this? Barbara was a big Hillary fan, and yet she doesn't seem to believe in any of Hillary's policy positions, which are extremely close to Obama's, and antithetical to some of McCain's positions that she now supports. She trusted Hillary, but not enough to heed her call to work for Obama. I think what happened to Barbara is that she got so personally invested in Hillary, which grew to include personal antipathy for Obama, that she can't rationally discuss him anymore. I know some people may accuse her of closet racism, but I don't think so. I don't get the feeling she doesn't like black folks, she just doesn't like Obama. Barbara accuses Obama supporters of being irrational, of projecting our hopes onto him without cause, but I think it's clear that Barbara's the one not thinking straight. Or at least the one who's abandoning principles that she claims to have supported all her life.

I think there are a significant number of Hillary diehards who are in this group with Barbara. It's no longer about policy or the greater good, it's about punishing Obama. However, I really do think that the numbers overall are small and most of Hillary's supporters, especially those who are longtime Democrats, will support Obama.

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Tuesday, June 10, 2008

NBA Finals Commercials

So I'm sure you've all seen these split screen playoffs commercials that have been running all through the playoffs for what seems like the last six months or so. They have a new one in the Finals with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird which would be really neat except for some reason when seeing only half of these guys, they look really old and pathetic. Or maybe it's just seeing them in this unique way where I've so far only seen players in their prime. Anyway, as soon as someone saw the finished product, they should have scrapped it, because it's sad and not much else.

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Gas hoarding eyed as cause of Dartmouth apartment fire

This is what happens when we don't teach people math. There's no way, even without taking into account the risk of fire and damage to your property, that hoarding gas is going to be at all cost effective. I don't care how long they were going to try to store 45 gallons worth of gas, it's never going to be long enough to generate a reasonable profit. And if they were going to try to increase the volume of their hoard, they would have gotten into issues with storage space long before it got to any point that could potentially be profitable. So when you factor in what should have been the somewhat obvious risk of storing gasoline this way, it turns into a really horrible idea.

Also, there was one part of the article that struck me as odd.

State law prohibits storing more than a quart of gasoline in a home, including attached garages.

What the fuck? Do these people not have lawn equipment? I routinely had around 5 - 10 gallons of gas in my house for the lawn mower and edger. I can't imagine that anyone follows this law. They'd have to go to the gas station everytime they had to do yard work.

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10

That's how many free throws the Lakers took in game 2 of the NBA Finals tonight. And they hit them all. I'm not normally one to do much complaining about officiating, but that's fucking ridiculous. This compared to 38 for the Celtics. You expect the home team to get some advantages, but this is ridiculous. And even with that, the Lakers were within 2 with under a minute to play, when of course, it was decided by the officials as Paul Pierce drove to the basket and Derek Fisher grazed his finger and he hit the two free throws to basically put the game away. Hopefully, the Lakers get the same bullshit advantage in LA, but whether they do or not, they have to play a lot better, especially the bench. The reserves came up huge at times against the Spurs, but they've done nothing in this series so far.

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