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Showing posts from November, 2011

Duke v Ohio State

It was like the Arizona game in last year's NCAA tournament. They are more athletic than us and that gave us problems on offense. Curry, Dawkins, and Kelly were basically invisible. They couldn't get their shots off and when they did they weren't going in. I'm not sure that is the sole reason Coach K benched them for most of the second half. But that was a big reason we lost.

The only two starters that played fairly well were Rivers and Mason Plumlee. Rivers was his usual self, getting into the lane when he wanted and making a few contested layups. It was a typical game for Rivers. But he scored more because he took more shots. He still needs to develop a better jump shot and make better decisions. Mason did a decent job on Sullinger. He wasn't great defensively and he didn't convert the shots he got on the offensive end. The rest of the team, which consisted of a lot of bench players, didn't really add much. It was mostly Rivers and Plumlee. And they were…

Congressional oversight

Ezra Klein has a nice chart up showing how, since the 80s, the number of hearings in Congress has steadily declined. Ezra interprets this as a decline in Congressional oversight of federal agencies.

The political science research that I'm familiar with says that Congress generally takes a non-aggressive approach to oversight. Attention is called to an agency and a hearing is called when something grabs their attention, such as a big mistake or a scandal. So we might assume, like Ezra does, that because Congress isn't calling as many hearings they aren't overseeing agencies as much as they should be.

Given the conservatives in charge during big chunks of this period, I think that's probably correct. But I'm not sure simply the number of committee hearings shows that point. I want to point out other political science research regarding the nature of committee hearings in Congress. The data shows that most hearings feature people who agree with the majority party th…

BSG

Poor Dee. She really gets the emotional shaft throughout the series. First Billy is killed right in front of her. Then she marries the guy she was kind of cheating on Billy with and he proceeds to go from a ripped, good looking guy to a overweight guy who isn't the soldier he once was. Now we find out that Lee cheated on Dee with Starbuck when they were on New Caprica. And now that they are back on Galactica and blowing off steam during a boxing tournament, we find out that Lee and Starbuck still have feelings for each other. Emotions can be complicated enough under normal circumstances. Being on Galactica must make them even more complicated. I hope Dee finds some stability. And I hope Lee and Starbuck finally sort out their feelings for each other.

Speaking of the boxing tourney, Adama uses it to send a message to the crew, which basically sounded like he got soft on them and didn't want it to happen again. This was played out by showing a lot of flashbacks to the crew on N…

Firefly: the Tams

I touched on this on twitter but I wanted to flesh it out a little more. I was watching the episode "Safe". The crew is taking some cattle to a far off planet. They get there and the non-muscle part of the crew go into town so Mal and the muscle part of the crew can make a deal for the cattle. Shepard Book gets shot and Simon and River get kidnapped. Mal decides to leave so that they can get Book some help, leaving Simon and River for the time being.

Throughout the episode we are shown flashbacks of Simon and River. In one they are kids. Simon is doing his homework. River is correcting the math in the textbook. Their dad gives Simon some computer type thing in exchange for him becoming a brilliant doctor. Another one is Simon telling his parents something is wrong with River. They brush it off as River playing a game and warn Simon about hurting his career by interfering. Basically they want to show how much Simon has given up in order to save River.

I'm not sure if it…

Obama's Thanksgiving speech

I didn't see it because who really cares. But someone saw it and is mad:

Critics of President Obama felt little holiday cheer after the president did not thank God in his Thanksgiving-themed weekly Internet address. They immediately took to Twitter and the Internet to voice anger and disbelief.

"Somebody ought to remind Obama (and his speechwriter) that when Americans sit down around a meal today and give thanks, they give thanks to God."
Someone ought to remind that person that not all Americans sit down and give thanks to god. Millions don't for one reason or another; whether they don't believe in a god or don't have the means to eat a nice Thanksgiving meal. And the president is under no obligation to acknowledge god in a speech. In fact, I'd argue that if he is obliged to do anything, he is obliged to leave religion out of the political arena.

What we, the president and these critics, ought to be thankful for is that we all live in a free country whe…

Why people don't like Obama

Andrew Sullivan ponders that question today. I'm feeling link lazy. So go to the Beast if you want to read it in full. Basically he makes the reasonable points that he helped keep the economy from being worse than it was, passed a form of universal healthcare, oversaw the ousting of bin Laden and Qadaffi, and has conducted himself in a more or less presidential manner. That's all true. And of course that hasn't prevented the right from completely freaking out over everything he has done.

But more than the outrage from the right, Andrew has a harder time pinning down why liberals aren't happy with Obama. I think a big part of the problem for liberals were our expectations for Obama coming into office. We had just suffered through 8 years of the ridiculous Bush administration. And at the end of that we suffered a big recession. On top of that Obama came in with the uplifting and hopeful rhetoric that suggested that he wanted to change things and implement strongly libera…

Devils and Dolphins

I was kind of looking forward to Duke playing Memphis in the Maui Invitational. Duke held up its end of the bargain by beating Tennessee fairly handily tonight. But Memphis lost to Michigan. I didn't see that game. But it looked like Michigan beat Memphis at its own game, using their athleticism to play up tempo. That could be a problem for Duke because we aren't that athletic at guard and struggle to keep athletic teams out of the lane, which happened tonight against UT.

The Dolphins put a beating on the Bills Sunday. The defense has been playing like I thought they could before the season. They haven't allowed a TD in 3 games and they are finally forcing turnovers. They did such a good job against the Bills that the offense didn't have to do much in order to score. But unlike the first seven games of the year, the offense took advantage of being in the red zone and scored more than enough to win.

Basically everyone is playing better. Both lines are doing well. Dans…

The super committee: I called it, kind of

It appears the 'super committee' didn't reach a deal for deficit reduction. So now the spending cuts are supposed to be triggered. And the Dems seem to be on board with letting them go through. Here is what I said when they cut this deal:

So the more I think through this the more inclined I am to agree with Kevin Drum (who I cited in my previous post) that its unlikely whatever comes out of the committee will be agreed upon. The interests competing against each other are strong and have leverage within this divided gov't. Given that and an already agreed upon solution if they don't sign off on the committee's plan, I think it will be very difficult to avoid the trigger. And because Obama and Democrats didn't do too bad of a job in the debt ceiling deal, that trigger will actually cut stuff that needs to be cut.
I wasn't completely right. A lot of people have come out since then and said that it will be difficult to really cut certain things in the autom…

Authority in the US

What is the deal with authority in this country? It seems like across the country there are people in power who are using force to try and harm the Occupy movements. Here is one example that seems to be similar to others I've heard reported:

Without any provocation whatsoever, other than the bodies of these students sitting where they were on the ground, with their arms linked, police pepper-sprayed students. Students remained on the ground, now writhing in pain, with their arms linked.

What happened next?

Police used batons to try to push the students apart. Those they could separate, they arrested, kneeling on their bodies and pushing their heads into the ground. Those they could not separate, they pepper-sprayed directly in the face, holding these students as they did so. When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats. Several of these students were hospitalized. Others are seriously injured. One of th…

Balanced Budget nonsense

The House debated the Republican proposed Balance Budget amendment to the Constitution. And I had to listen to the nonsense for most of the day. Basically, its a bad idea because it would require ridiculous majorities in order to increase taxes. So bringing in the proper amount of revenue in order to balance the budget would be very difficult and would force huge cuts in spending. And they are trying to implement this while arguing for more tax cuts.

That's ridiculous in its own right. But even more so is the fact that Republicans believe they have to change the Constitution, that sacred document they value and claim we must strictly adhere to, in order to get the budget under control. Putting aside the merits of balancing the budget, why do they feel its necessary to amend the Constitution to do it? For most of the post war period the budget hasn't been balanced. Even during the great conservative utopia that was the Reagan administration there was a big deficit. Yet there w…

Community

In case you haven't heard, NBC has left Community off its spring schedule. Apparently that doesn't mean its cancelled. Its just getting some time off. Still, that doesn't seem like a good thing. I understand it doesn't get good ratings. For some reason mass audiences don't like smart tv. That or NBC hasn't used Alison Brie enough in its advertising. Suffice to say, I'm extremely disappointed by this news. I love the show. Despite its uneven season thus far, its still my favorite show on tv. I hope it gets a chance to continue its run.

On to tonight's episode. This episode was right up the show's alley. They have Abed do another documentary, this time in the mold of Heart of Darkness, which is the documentary of the filming of Apocalypse Now. Jim Rash (the Dean) and Joel McHale were really great. The Dean takes on the role of directing a commercial for the school. And Jeff plays the Dean. I've heard a lot of people complain that Jeff never grows.…

Congress' unpopularity

A lot of posts are making the rounds on blogs regarding the extremely low approval rating for Congress. This one in particular from Ezra Klein is amusing. The polls are telling us something important. But I'm not sure its as simple as Congress is doing a really crappy job right now.

Though that is true. Congress is at a very partisan and deadlocked point. The Republicans in the House are really far out to the right. Thus the Democrats in the Senate won't pass their extreme bills. And the Republicans in the Senate are taking advantage of the rules of the Senate in order to prevent anything Democrats wants from getting passed. This is certainly part of why its doing a bad job and thus why people don't approve.

But Congressional approval ratings are rarely very high. I think its important to keep that context in mind because I think it helps explain whey they are so pathetically low right now. Even if the economy was growing quickly and we were clearly on track almost half …

Life has meaning because its meaningless

Andrew Sullivan recently posted something from a reader who was a former atheist who converted to christianity. Most of the time I enjoy when Andrew posts things along these lines. He makes it no secret that he is a catholic. But he also presents all different kinds of opinions. One such opinion in response to the converted person was this from Will Wilkinson. First the person's reason for converting:

If everything that we call heroism and glory, and all the significance of all great human achievements, can be reduced to some neurons firing in the human brain, then it's all destined to be extinguished at death. And considering that the entire span of homo sapiens' existence on earth wouldn't even amount to a blip on the radar screen of a 5-billion-year-old universe, it seemed silly to pretend like the 60-odd-year life of some random organism on one of trillions of planets was something special. (I was a blast at parties.) By simply living my life, I felt like I was livi…

A serious conversation about Iran

That's what John Johns wants from Republican presidential candidates. Here are some of the issues he raises:

The problem with these arguments is that they flatly ignore or reject outright the best advice of America’s national security leadership. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, retired chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, former congressman Admiral Joe Sestak and former CENTCOM Commander General Anthony Zinni are only a few of the many who have warned us to think carefully about the repercussions of attacking Iran. Two months ago, Sestak put it bluntly: “A military strike, whether it’s by land or air, against Iran would make the aftermath of the Iraqi invasion look like a cakewalk with regard to the impact on the United States’ national security.”

Meir Dagan, the recently retired chief of Israel’s Mossad, shares the assessment of the Americans cited above. He noted earlier this year that attacking Iran “would mean regional war” and went on to say th…

Coach K on Paterno

As a Duke fan I obviously love Coach K. He is kind of the Paterno of basketball, or was until the whole Penn St thing blew up. But while I think his talents can be applied outside of basketball, I don't worship the guy as a person and think he is some Ghandi-like human being. Here is proof that he has his own biases and shouldn't be worshiped as someone above the rest of us:

“Well, I think, unless you’re there, it’s tough to comment about everything,’’ Krzyzewski said. “I just feel badly for him and whatever he is responsible for, it’ll come out and hopefully it’ll come out from him.

“I think one thing you have to understand is that Coach Paterno’s 84 years old. I’m not saying that for an excuse or whatever. The cultures that he’s been involved in both football-wise and socially, have been immense changes and how social issues are handled in those generations are quite different.

“But as we judge, remember that there’s just a lot there. There’s a lot,lot there. I think he’s a …

BSG

Its a little weird how relevant this show still is to current politics. I just watched the scene where they are about to execute Gaida for helping the cylons but found out at the last second that he was actually helping the rebels on New Caprica. The small group that was putting people on "trial" let him go. And the next scene was Adama and Roslin being told about the group and objecting because everyone has the right to a trial with representation.

That was just minutes after I posted on Michele Bachmann, many in the GOP, and Obama not upholding the rule of law in much the same way they weren't on BSG. What I didn't mention that was said during the debate by some candidates was that they supported Obama's death panels and their decision to kill an American citizen living in Yemen, not to mention his 16 year old child. This is basically what they were doing on the show. On the show they are literally fighting for their survival. And even then it isn't right.…

Just making things up

Not that I would have expected anything less from Michele Bachmann. But its still something to behold when a person running for president just flat out lies, or is so delusional that they can convince themselves of this kind of crap:

"[Obama] is allowing the ACLU to run the CIA" Bachmann asserted. "We have decided we are going to lose the war on terror under Obama." The ACLU, which issued a scathing report on Obama's civil liberties record earlier this year, would probably disagree. The ACLU concluded that "most [Bush-era] policies...remain core elements of our national security strategy today." Bachmann also said the CIA was no longer interrogating anyone, which is false. The CIA is part of the interagency High Value Detainee Interrogation Group, or HIG. Also, prior to 9/11, the CIA didn't actually have an interrogation program.
As Adam Serwer points out, if the ACLU really ran the CIA things would be a lot different. The ACLU actually values the …

Duke vs Belmont

That was a lot closer than I would have liked. But everyone insists Belmont is a good team. And for the most part I agree. Not many teams can go into Cameron and consistently come back from double digit deficits and make it a single FG possession at the end. Not only that, they did so with Duke playing fairly well. So I think its safe to say that Belmont isn't just a cake walk of a team. We'll see that more definitively when they play Memphis next.

As for Duke, I think everyone expected things to be a bit rough. Finding a new point guard is tough. Seth Curry is naturally a two guard, or a scoring point guard. Now he has to balance running the offense for the benefit of everyone else and finding ways to get his own shot. Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith had to make this transition the past two years. I'm not sure Seth is quite as good as they are. But given time I think he can make it work. He did so fairly well tonight.

Perhaps the biggest question mark coming into the season…

Community

Tonight's episode, Annie's Move, continued the somewhat seesaw tendencies of this season. The previous episode, Advanced Gay, fell a bit flat. But just like Remedial Chaos Theory, this episode got things back on track in an awesome way. I'll try not to give away spoilers by recapping everything that happened.

The focus is Annie's move to live with Troy and Abed. Its hard to go wrong with those three. Annie was her typical sweet and adorable self. Troy and Abed were slightly less awesome than usual, but effective. The rest of the characters were used effectively, specifically the Dean and Jeff. They were the funniest parts of the episode. And after Advanced Gay it was nice to see the show move away from lazy stereotypes (which Dan Harmon apologized for) when doing a story about a gay person.

It was also nice to see Britta provide a counterpoint to Shirley's religious evangelization, which she didn't do last week. One thing I miss from the first season is Britt…

The ACA gotcha question

Adam Serwer spells it out:

What the law's critics will seize on, however, is Silberman's observation that although the government argues that "the Government does stress that the health care market is factually unique," it "concedes the novelty of the mandate and the lack of any doctrinal limiting principles."

While "novelty" isn't inherently an issue when it comes to the constitutionality of a given law, the "lack of any doctrinal limiting principles" is the most powerful argument critics of the ACA have, the idea that if the government can force you to buy health care, it can force you to do anything. Silberman describes this argument as "troubling, but not fatal," because of prior legal precedent supporting the ACA. The law's defenders unquestionably have legal precedent on their side. But its opponents have an incredibly effective political argument based on constitutional first principles.

More importantly, althoug…

Israel, Iran and nuclear weapons

Andrew Sullivan has a post on the argument for and against Israel attacking Iran. There is sufficient reason for Israel to feel threatened by Iran, and Iran's allies that border Israel. And for some reason, Iran feels threatened, or maybe just doesn't like Iran. Israel has nuclear weapons and the support of the biggest military in the world. So it never made sense that Iran would directly attack Israel.

But Iran seems dedicated to obtain nuclear weapons. And Israel seems to be firm in the belief that it would be very bad if Iran did so, which is why there is so much speculation on whether Israel will attack them. But is Israel correct to assume that it would be a bad thing? I don't think the answer is clear.

If you side with Israel, your thinking is either that Iran will use nuclear weapons or they will use the increase of power the weapons would give them in order to be more aggressive in the region. If you think Iran will actually use its nuclear weapons, give them to …

Rick Santorum on gay marriage

I normally wouldn't give Santorum the time of day. But he was on CSPAN for a while today and I had no choice but to hear some of it. And while his position is not surprising, I wanted to talk about his logic. When asked about his opposition to gay marriage, he talked about how its best to raise kids in a traditional male/female household. So because its probably favorable to raise a kid in a heterosexual household, Santorum wants to deny marriage to gay people.

The topic of what type of household environment is best for children is a separate issue from gay marriage. I've talked about this before but I wanted to drive home the point again. Marriage is simply a social contract between two adults. And aside from the declaration the contract entails, there are some fairly minor legal implications that go along with it. That's all marriage is. It has nothing to do with having and raising kids. You don't have to get married in order to have kids. Nor do you have to have kid…

BSG

I haven't posted on the show since the end of season 2 and the beginning of the cylon occupation on New Caprica. As always, the show tackled difficult issues head on. They went from abortion to voter fraud. Baltar goes against his scientific opinion and calls to occupy New Caprica for the sake of getting public opinion on his side and thus win the election. Roslin sticks to her principles and doesn't pander to the masses.

Baltar gains in the polls and looks to have won the election. Roslin calls her contacts within the military, which is an odd choice to oversee an election (which is addressed), and gets them to alter votes. Roslin then tells Odama what she did and explains that she thinks Baltar is working for the cylons. Oddly its Odama who rejects the fraud for the sake of democratic principles. I forget his exact reason, though do remember that he doesn't want Baltar to win. Perhaps his experience and endearment to Roslin has shaped his views and values the importance…

Dolphins vs Chiefs

We can't even suck properly. Instead of staying on pace to get the first pick we destroyed the Chiefs. After giving up the most sacks in the league up to today, Matt Moore was barely touched and was therefore able to sit back in the pocket and have a good day throwing the ball. Brandon Marshall even won his battle with the sideline, the endzone, and apparently Vontae Davis and caught a TD pass to cap off a good game.

Reggie Bush had his second straight good game. He is finally comfortable and Brian Daboll has finally seemed to learn how to use him properly. Daboll and Nolan had really good days calling plays. Daboll dialed up the right routes at the right times. And Nolan used the blitz to get to Cassell a lot. It all finally came together and led to a great game.

I still want us to lose enough to get the first pick. Even with the win today we basically have no shot at the playoffs. In fact, even if we win the rest of our games we would only be 9-7, which would make us very unli…

South Park

One of the good things about the show is that they can stay up to date with what is going on with the world. In tonight's episode they played off the Occupy Wall Street movement. But they mostly used it as a way in which to tell a story about Cartman. Though my problem with that is I don't know if they were being serious when they injected politics into the story.

My biggest problem is that I didn't really find much in this episode to be funny. I can handle and even enjoy some of the nihilism and conservative leanings if they make it funny. That's not to say this episode contains those aspects. The reason I don't think this episode worked is because I'm not sure if there was some sort of message I was supposed to get or if they were just using the OWS and the 99% thing to make it completely about Cartman and his need for stuffed animals.

If it was just about Cartman growing up then I think its not a bad episode. But even then they never let the characters gro…

The hype around Andrew Luck

Luck is widely acknowledged as the top prospect in the upcoming draft class. Not only that, he is widely claimed to be the best QB prospect since Peyton Manning. I've even heard some people say he is the best since John Elway. Widely is being conservative. I haven't heard anyone state anything different, until Phil Simms.

Unlike Phil Simms, I don't have access to radio and tv shows. So the only people that get to hear my opinion are you fine people that read my blog and whoever I run into at work. But if I had the media access Simms does, you would have heard me say the same thing Simms said, which is that I don't think Luck has elite arm strength. Or, at least I haven't seen him display elite arm strength (and when I say arm strength, I mean how hard he throws the ball, not how far he can throw it).

Simms has seen more of Luck than I have. So he working from a bigger data set. But from what I have seen of Luck, he doesn't throw the ball very hard. That's…

Should we trust god with our money?

The office tv was on msnbc today. The phone was answering during most of the segment. But I did see a few seconds of a Congressman talking about a vote on whether to keep the phrase "In God We Trust" on our paper currency. I liked that the Congressman, who I think was from NY, said that we shouldn't have that phrase on our currency. But his argument wasn't that great. As I said, I couldn't really hear all of what he said. But what I heard was pretty watered down and not fleshed out.

This is a violation of the first amendment, specially the establishment clause. And I think its pretty clear cut. The federal gov't is explicitly endorsing a religious belief. It is basically saying that in financial terms, we as a nation endorse a belief in god, and think that belief will bring us good fortune. That's de facto establishing the US gov't as a theistic gov't.

Aside from the constitutional question, I think its weird and arrogant to have that phrase on …

The latest Herman Cain story

It was reported the other day that Cain was accused of sexual assault while he was CEO of the National Restaurant Association. As far as I can tell, that is the extent of the story, that he was accused of sexual assault and that he settled out of court. No one has reported what he allegedly did. And I haven't heard anyone assuming he did something wrong and then proceed to bash him.

Yet predictably, some people on the right have been complaining that this story is racist and another instance of the liberal media conspiring against conservatives. I'm not going to mention the names of some of the popular people making those accusations because they are moronic assholes who are attention whores. But as usual, I'm sure their basic sentiment is echoed by at least some conservatives.

Looking at this through a logical point of view, it doesn't make any sense to say that simply reporting on something that happened in Cain's past is an act of racism or a demonstration of …

Reassessing Libya

Spencer Ackerman says he got it wrong:

Lots of questions remain about the future of Libya. Will an insurgency develop? Will Gadhafi’s loose missiles be recovered? Will the U.S. keep a CIA presence in Libya, even as it says there aren’t any boots on Libyan soil? Will the security contractors seek more bids to augment the new government’s forces? Do the Qatari commandos who helped the rebels march to Tripoli head home?

And so, in the spirit of intellectual honesty, I need to concede that I got the Libya war wrong. Several Danger Room pieces under my byline ran this year predicting that Libya was an open-ended mission, lacked a clear plan for victory, and could lead to NATO peacekeepers battling post-Gadhafi insurgents. While reasonable people can disagree about whether the war was in the U.S. interest (or even legal), or whether President Obama portrayed it honestly, the fact is that the war successfully ended after eight months, contrary to consistent predictions on display here.
I was …