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Showing posts from August, 2011

Rationality in action redux

A while back when tornadoes did a lot of damage to Mississippi I talked about how Haley Barbour was acting rationally when he criticized Eric Cantor for wanting to offset any relief funding with spending cuts elsewhere. Well, Cantor is saying the same thing about FEMA funding after the hurricane that hit the east coast. This time its Republican governor Bob McDonnell of Virginia that comes out against Cantor:
Virginia GOP Gov. Bob McDonnell, breaking with Cantor, on Tuesday suggested that deficit-spending concerns should not be a factor as Congress and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) respond to the hurricane.

“My concern is that we help people in need,” McDonnell said during his monthly radio show. “For the FEMA money that’s going to flow, it’s up to them on how they get it. I don’t think it’s the time to get into that [deficit] debate.”

When its your people and their votes on the line, you are less willing to compromise. In fact, even Cantor has previously asked for rel…

Dick Cheney is right

He says that the torture he approved of was legal. Dahlia Litwick explains why he is right:

But the real lesson of In My Time is not that Cheney "got away with it," though I suppose he did. It's an admonishment to rest of us that the law really matters. The reason Cheney keeps saying that torture is "legal" is because he has a clutch of worthless legal memoranda saying so. Cheney gets away with saying torture is "legal" even though it isn't because if it were truly illegal, he and those who devised the torture regime would have faced legal consequences—somewhere, somehow. That's the meaning of the "rule of law." That, rather than whether America should torture people, is what we should glean from the Cheney book.
As long as he is not prosecuted for approving of torture his actions were, in effect, legal. This isn't as if someone killed another person and got away with it. When someone gets away with murder or some other crime its …

Free money for the gov't

Ezra Klein explains:

The real yield on Treasury debt has, in recent months, turned negative. Sound impenetrably dull? Sure. But here’s what it means: free money!

Let’s start by defining some terms: The “yield” on Treasury debt is how much the government pays to borrow money. The “real yield” is how much it pays to borrow money after accounting for inflation. When the “real yield” turns negative, it means the government isn’t paying to borrow money anymore. Rather, the situation has flipped, and the government is getting paid to keep money safe.
Usually, the U.S. government has to pay quite a bit to borrow money. In January 2003, for instance, the interest rate on a seven-year Treasury was about 3.6 percent, which gave investors a yield of more than two percent after accounting for inflation. Right now, the interest rate is 1.52 percent, or minus-0.34 percent after accounting for inflation.

Here’s what this means: If we can think of any investments we can make over the next seven years t…

Where Chipper Jones ranks all time

Chipper is one of my favorite baseball players. He came up right when I was starting to pay attention to the game and following the Braves. So his career has pretty much exactly coincided with my relationship with the game. The same goes for my other favorite player, Ken Griffey Jr. But unlike Griffey, Chipper isn't widely considered to be a lock for the hall of fame. David Schoenfield gives us the numbers and ranks the top 3B:


"It helps that he has some ridiculous gifts. He was in a visiting clubhouse a while back, reading the crawl on a cable channel from about 30 feet away. A teammate said, 'You can read that?' Jones thought, You can't? He can remember hundreds, maybe thousands of at-bats, what he hit off whom. One night last week, after a game in which he saw two dozen pitches, he could remember in detail all but two or three of them: count, pitch, location, result. He watches game tape like a detective, and if a pitcher tends to slightly open …

Fins vs Bucs, a sign of things to come?

Chad Henne and the rest of the starting offense looked pretty good in their preseason game against the Bucs the other night. I saw a lot of three and four wide formations along with a lot of shotgun. Henne was quoted as saying that he didn't like the shotgun because he had to take his eyes of coverage in order to get the ball. But it appears he is getting more comfortable with it.

I liked the formations because our offense the past few years has been very conservative, a lot of two TE, a fullback, and only two WR looks. That obviously limits what you can do passing the ball. And when you can't run it well out of those formations you aren't going to fool the defense when you decided to throw it. Using more three and four wide sets could mean that if you pass well out of them it could open up the running game using those sets.

What I most liked about the offense was how aggressive Henne was. On every drive he attempted at least an intermediate pass with the goal of getting…

Poverty and collective action

This post is in relation to an discussion about inequality. I'm not all that interested in it other than to say that taxes are only a part of that issue. Many more things are driving the vast inequality in the US. So I just want to highlight this stuff about taxes in relation to the libertarian view of gov't and not inequality. The first two paragraphs I quote are from Penn Jillette and the third one is from the author Timothy Sandefur

It's amazing to me how many people think that voting to have the government give poor people money is compassion. Helping poor and suffering people is compassion. Voting for our government to use guns to give money to help poor and suffering people is immoral self-righteous bullying laziness.

People need to be fed, medicated, educated, clothed, and sheltered, and if we're compassionate we'll help them, but you get no moral credit for forcing other people to do what you think is right. There is great joy in helping people, but no joy i…

Should a pitcher be considered an MVP?

I don't feel like getting into the numbers yet. I just want to think about this theoretically for now. I had long held that pitchers shouldn't really be considered for the award of most valuable player. The standard logic behind that belief is that a pitcher only plays once every 5 days. While I don't find that argument to be as convincing as I used to, it still has some merit. But as with my other posts on this topic, it all depends on how you define value.

A pretty standard measure of value is how many runs you create or save, and then how that compares to the rest of the league. If you compare pitchers and position players without taking into account how often they appear a game there shouldn't be many reasons to say a position player is more valuable to a pitcher. The one thing I think you could say for the position player is that he is not only helping add runs, but with his defense he is helping prevent runs. And he is probably preventing more runs with his defe…

Ron Paul and conservatism

Putting aside the fact that he won't win the Republican nomination and that he has a few good stances on issues, its often overlooked just how extreme some of what Ron Paul believes is. Here is Matt Ygelsias laying out Paul's view on abortion:

He has also stated “I believe beyond a doubt that a fetus is a human life deserving of legal protection, and that the right to life is the foundation of any moral society” and noted that his states’ rights take on abortion law is purely opportunistic “It is much more difficult for pro-life advocates to win politically at the federal level.” This makes perfect sense. If you believed, as Paul and other abortion criminalizers do, that legal abortion is a form of mass murder comparable to the Nazi genocide you obviously wouldn’t believe in any principled way that the mass murder is fine as long as the perpetrators have to drive from Idaho west to Oregon in order to perpetrate it.
This is perhaps the most distinct break with states' right…

I've got no motivation

I'm listening to Green Day right now. That's a line from one of their songs off Dookie. Its kind of how I feel right now. I haven't felt much like blogging lately. I've finally got some job stuff going on. So I've been focused mainly on that. Hopefully it results in making money soon. You don't really understand how expensive a college education is until you start getting the bills.

But hey, I guess its my fault that I took two years to find out what I wanted to do with my life. That resulted in me hitting the job market at the worst possible time to do so over the past 50 years. Though one of the reasons I blog is that our elected officials aren't doing nearly enough to help people out during this time. And that pisses me off because there are a ton of people out there a lot worse than me.

I wish I knew something about Libya. That's the big news story in politics right now. And I guess the other reason I haven't blogged much is because I don'…

Japan, WWII, and nuclear deterrence

Gareth Cook has an article providing an argument that Japan surrendered to the US in WWII not after we dropped atomic bombs on two of their cites, but after Russia invaded Manchuria. Its an interesting theory. I'll get to the deterrence part in a bit. Here is more on what he thinks Japan really did:

On Aug. 6, the American bomber Enola Gay dropped its payload on Hiroshima, leaving the signature mushroom cloud and devastation on the ground, including something on the order of 100,000 killed. (The figures remain disputed, and depend on how the fatalities are counted.)

As Hasegawa writes in his book “Racing the Enemy,” the Japanese leadership reacted with concern, but not panic. On Aug. 7, Foreign Minister Shigenori Togo sent an urgent coded telegram to his ambassador in Moscow, asking him to press for a response to the Japanese request for mediation, which the Soviets had yet to provide. The bombing added a “sense of urgency,” Hasegawa says, but the plan remained the same.

Very late …

My first look at Austin Rivers as a Dukie

Duke is over in China playing some friendlies, kind of like soccer does I guess. This gave me the opportunity to get a look at the new team and its new additions. The main addition is Austin Rivers, the number 2 ranked freshman according to espn. His first game in a Duke uniform wasn't shown on tv. But he had 18 points and 5 assists. That's pretty solid. My first impression of him was ok.

He kind of looks like a tweener. He is a little taller than most point guards. But he seems a little less bulky than a lot of shooting guards. I don't think this will be a big deal for him in college. Nolan Smith did just fine playing both guard positions and he was about the same size, if not a bit shorter. Rivers also has an odd looking jump shot like Nolan did. Its hard to tell from far off, but I don't think its too much of a problem fundamental wise. Most of his shots were on line. He mostly had a problem with range.

The one thing that immediately jumps out about Rivers is his a…

Tim Tebow and religion

Gregg Doyel's column on Tim Tebow has been getting some press. I watched it debated on 1st and 10 whether or not his column was fair or foul. Here is the Tebow quote Doyel criticizes:

"Others who say I won't make it are wrong," Tebow told the Denver Post on Thursday. "They don't know what I'm capable of and what's inside me. My family and my friends have been bothered by what's gone on, and I tell them to pay no attention to it. I'm relying as always on my faith."
Doyel drew that quote from this Woody Paige column. Doyel is quoting the whole quote that Paige got. The reason I went to the Paige column is that I don't think I can really asses what Tebow meant when he said he is "relying...on my faith". Does that mean he is relying on his faith in order to deal with the people who are saying he won't be a good player? Or does he mean, as Doyel suggests, that he will start because its god's plan for him to start and be…

Ricky Perry is catching up on the crazy

The Texas governor has finally entered the presidential race. The other candidates have been campaigning for at least a few weeks now. So Perry is a little behind in getting people to pay attention and support him. Let's check in on how he is doing:
In response to a question from Danny Yadron of the Wall Street Journal, who asked Perry if he was suggesting that Obama didn’t love this country, Perry replied: ” I dunno, you need to ask him.”
We're out of the gates with suggesting the president doesn't really care about the country he is running. That's a familiar and safe one to go to first. But its a classic for a reason. Strong opening.

Texas Governor Rick Perry, who entered the presidential campaign on Saturday, appeared to suggest a violent response would be warranted should Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke “print more money” between now and the election. Speaking just now in Iowa, Perry said, “If this guy prints more money between now and the election, I dunno …

Where do rights come from?

I've been having this discussion on the Miami Dolphins message board and I wanted to expand on it some more here. First lets define what a right is. In an inadvertent way, one of the guys on the board did a good job. He said:
Now if anyone truly believes their rights are granted to them by man, then you're not a free man. You are nothing more than a slave whose granted privleges based on your behavior and conduct, nothing more.
Rights are privileges that are given to you based on how you act. The example I used in response to him was using the right to bear arms (more on this right later). If you kill someone you don't still have the right to bear arms. You are thrown in jail and stripped of that right, and others. You may even be stripped of the most fundamental right, that of life. That quote from him is the end of him saying that god gives people rights, he even quoted Jefferson in the DoI.

I quoted his post because it shows the opposing view to mine, which is that rig…

Jose Constanza over Jason Heyward?

Is Fredi Gonzalez serious? I've watched a few Braves games on and off over the past week and I noticed Constanza getting a lot of playing time. I thought Fredi was just giving Heyward some more time off than usual since Heyward had been hurt. And that may the case and we just aren't aware of it. But Grant Brisbee shows that Constanza isn't just getting mop up time while Heyward recovers.

But there's a pretty good chance that Gonzalez is going down a dark path. Jason Heyward is in a pretty serious gutterfunk right now. He's hitting .222/.317/.403 for the season, and that's a pace he's sustained for the last couple of months. Jason Heyward is also certainly one of the three best outfielders the Braves can play. Those two points aren't mutually exclusive. It wasn't a question before the Braves acquired Michael Bourn or while Chipper Jones' injuries allowed Martin Prado to shift to third base, but now things are a little fuzzy.

Jones is back, Prado …

Van Halen and brown M&Ms

I can't believe it took me this long to post about Van Halen. Van Halen is arguably the greatest hard rock band ever. I'd even say one of the greatest bands ever. Even if for some insane reason you don't like them, you can't deny that their influence is vast.

If I could only pick five songs to put on my ipod one of them would be Hot for Teacher (I'm not sure of the other three, the second song would be Detroit Rock City). And not only did they make great music, they were quintessential rock stars. They always looked like they were having fun and they were larger than life.

One of those infamous stories about their rockstar lifestyles was the fact that in their contract for concerts they put a clause in that required a bowl of M&Ms with all of the brown ones taken out be placed in their dressing room backstage. At first you think, that's kind of crazy. But here is why they did it:

At the heart of any major concert is the contract. Much of the text of these…

Maternity leave

This issue came to my attention from a somewhat unlikely place, Megyn Kelly from FoxNews. Here she is reacting to some moron who criticized her maternity leave:

KELLY: What a moronic thing to say…Is maternity leave, according to you, a racket?

GALLAGHER: Well, do men get maternity leave? I can’t believe I’m asking you this, because you’re just going to kill me.

KELLY: Guess what honey? Yes, they do. It’s called the Family Medical Leave Act. If men would like to take three months off to take care of their newborn baby, they can. [...] Just in case you didn’t know, Mike, I want you to know that the United States is the only country in the advanced world that doesn’t require paid maternity leave. Now I happen to work for a nice employer that gave me paid leave. But the United States is the only advanced country that doesn’t require paid leave. If anything, the United States is in the dark ages when it comes to maternity leave. And what is it about getting pregnant and carrying a baby for …

Reaction to the Westen article

I've read a lot of bloggers reacting to Westen's article that I cited in my post entitled "What's wrong with Obama?". The consensus doesn't like it, mainly because he overstates the power of presidential rhetoric while not really addressing the institutional barriers in the way of the Obama getting the policies he wants. I think most of that criticism has been right. Westen does overstate it.

And I mentioned in the first paragraph of my post that probably the biggest problem with Obama passing more liberal policies has been the 60 vote barrier that you need to pass bills through the Senate. That is not something any other president has had to deal with on the type of consistent basis Obama has had. You could even argue that not many presidents have had to deal with such a combative House. Just look at what happened last week as evidence for that. So even before Obama got into office and had to deal with unique barriers, it was hard for presidents to get all …

The Braves' new lineup

I watched the Braves play for the second time since the Michael Bourne trade and I liked what I saw. The lineup went: Bourne, Prado, Freeman, Uggla, Jones, Heyward, Gonzalez, and Ross. That's pretty solid even without the best catcher in the game, Brian McCann.

Bourne had an inning that typifies his value. He got on base, stole second, advanced to third on a bad throw to second, and then scored standing up on a sac fly from Uggla. Freeman walked in front of Uggla because there was one out and they didn't want to risk giving Freeman anything to hit. That speaks to how good Freeman has been because Uggla is absolutely on fire right now. And Prado grounded out before Freeman because he hit a hard grounder to short when the infield was in trying to keep Bourne at third.

So basically Bourne did about 75% of the legwork in creating that run. When McCann comes back I'm not sure who teams are going to want to pitch to when Bourne and Prado get on base. Freeman, McCann, Chipper, …

What's wrong with Obama?

From a liberal perspective its hard to definitively say. There are certainly many structural barriers that prevent a strong liberal agenda from being passed, perhaps the strongest since he came into office being the fact that you now have to get 60 votes to get anything passed in the Senate. But I think many political scientists who would first and foremost point to those types of structural things would also have to concede that there is something else going on with Obama that prevents him from being as liberal as liberals would like. Drew Westen has some thoughts. First the problem:

Like most Americans, at this point, I have no idea what Barack Obama — and by extension the party he leads — believes on virtually any issue. The president tells us he prefers a “balanced” approach to deficit reduction, one that weds “revenue enhancements” (a weak way of describing popular taxes on the rich and big corporations that are evading them) with “entitlement cuts” (an equally poor choice of word…

Why I love Community

It was a rerun last night. But it contained one of my favorite lines of the show. Spoilers if you haven't seen it. Pierce is in the hospital. So the gang is sitting in the waiting area. The camera focuses on Annie who seems a little freaked out. She says she doesn't want to die in a place like this, that people shouldn't die where magazines go to die.

That prompts Shirley to say that she wants to die surrounded by her family. That prompts Jeff to say that is the only way he wants to be with his family. Then Troy chimes in with his plan that he and his friends have laid out if one of them dies.

When one of them dies, the others agreed to make it look like a suicide that was spurred on by the fact that Firefly has been canceled. I laughed just typing that. After he says that he leans over to look at Abed, who is running a camera for a documentary he is filming of the gang at the hospital, and tells him they are going to get the show back on the air someday.

Not only is it…

Pre-season college football rankings

I've come around to supporting the BCS. There are parts of the formula I don't agree with. But I don't think its a bad way to determine who plays in some bowl games and for the national title. Around the Horn just brought up one aspect of it that I absolutely disagree with.

The coaches rankings is part of the formula. I don't think using what coaches think of teams should count for 1/3 of the formula. But its not the worst measure they could have. However, the fact that the coaches rankings is done before a game is played is completely dumb. In theory, it is very difficult to know what teams are going to be good and which aren't before they play a game. Its even kind of difficult to know what teams are good after they have played a few games. Things like opponent strength and just luck in how well the team starts out the season can affect how good a team looks early on. So even having the rankings come out after a few games isn't really the best indication of …

Why wasn't the stimulus bigger?

That's a question not many seem to want to ask. That's especially the case for many conservatives who think the federal gov't is the same as an ordinary household, or even states. To them there shouldn't have been any stimulus at all. Now that a liberal is in the white house, deficits are the worst thing ever and the reason for our economic troubles.

But the current deficit is just a symptom of our economic problems, not the cause. And the stimulus Obama signed off on is a significant chunk of the deficit. Yet we still have a really crappy economy with 9% unemployment. The stimulus was supposed to stall the decline and even add jobs. It didn't happen the way the administration said it would. Here is why:

Output in the third and fourth quarters fell by 3.7% and 8.9%, respectively, not at 0.5% and 3.8% as believed at the time. Employment was also falling much faster than estimated. Some 820,000 jobs were lost in January, rather than the 598,000 then reported. In the …

Which team got the better deal?

The Phillies getting Hunter Pence or the Braves getting Michael Bourne. This article lays out the argument for Pence. and calculate WAR in different ways, but both rate Bourn as the more valuable player since 2009:

FanGraphs WAR, 2009-2011
Bourn: 13.3
Pence: 9.9

Baseball-Reference WAR, 2009-2011
Bourn: 11.8
Pence: 6.4

The differences in value primarily come from different methods in evaluating fielding (FanGraphs likes both players' defense better than B-R).

You don't have to agree with or even like the WAR statistic. It's just a tool -- a very good one, in my opinion -- in evaluating player performance. I think the main confusion or disagreement comes in understanding the position importance. Bourn is compared to other center fielders; Pence to other right fielders.
Honestly, I wouldn't have guessed Bourne was the more valuable player. So as a Braves fan I'm happy the numbers bear that out. We desperately needed a center fielder…

A completely non-political post

Two of my all-time favorite movies were on today. One you will certain know and the other you might not. Its mob week on AMC and you can't have mob week without The Godfather. And rightfully so, it leads off the week. I can watch Brando and Pacino in this movie on a continuous feedback loop. They are just awesome. And the rest of the movie is just beautifully done. I've seen it and part II at least ten times and I'll continue to tune in. It kind of goes without saying that if you haven't seen this classic you should watch it. The only complaint I've consistently heard is that its long, which it is. But its well worth your time.

The other movie was Serenity. It was on one of the few channels that would show a sci-fi western. With Cowboys and Aliens getting poor reviews and not making much money, it seems like the mesh up of genres doesn't appeal to large audiences. Serenity also didn't do all that well at the box office. But I have yet to hear of someone wh…

What will come of the debt ceiling deal

I've done a lot of reading and thinking about the deal and while I maintain that Obama has embraced governing to the right of most liberal's preferences and I don't trust him to deliver many more good liberal policies, I do think this deal isn't terrible when you consider all of the circumstances. I mentioned the fact that the spending cuts come a little later down the road, thus not hurting the economy too much right now. The other big thing is that defense spending is part of the automatic trigger that gets cut if the plan that comes out of the committee isn't agreed upon.

I also said earlier that my money is on Obama and Dems agreeing to a bad deal. I should expand on this because there is a lot of context and I'm not so sure they will be as eager to embrace a bad deal as they were this time. This thing with having to agree on whatever plan the committee comes up with or else spending cuts are automatically triggered is important. Both parties wouldn't …

Faith no more

Not the band with that one famous song. Rather, my feelings about Obama's ability to govern effectively as a liberal president. I've written a lot about rationality in politicians. I'm pretty certain that when Obama orders his preferences, reelection is higher on his list than advancing a liberal policy agenda. This debt ceiling crap has gone on for so long that I don't remember if I actually believed he would reach a "good" deal. But given what I've read about what has been agreed upon, I'm not going to bother thinking he can get a good deal on anything while Republicans control at least a chamber of congress.

According to most, this deal is bad. Here are two different accounts of how bad it is. Here is Jon Chait:

The debt ceiling agreement is a horrible piece of legislation. It ratchets down already too-low domestic discretionary spending caps and imposes painful sacrifice on the middle class with little asked of the rich. Obviously, though, you can…