Thursday, December 28, 2006


Just in case my previous post was too cheery

What the Chinese are doing with their money. Sleep tight.

No posts until my internet gets connected on the 3rd so happy new year.

John O adds
: That's not all they're doing with the money. See here.


Chicago Real Estate

On the edge of a precipice.

The Chicago Tribune had an article outlining some local real estate woes. Not surprisingly a good deal of the overbuilding is condos. Recently my wife and I decided to move in part because she is due in the spring and we live in a duplex. Stairs and babies don't mix.

A friend of ours named Julia who is an apartment broker was helping us look around. Our one requirement was laundry in unit. We have gotten used to the convenience and, with a new baby, we weren't going to give that up. Julia starting showing us newly completed units which were just beautiful. Frankly, we got spoiled. Eventually we found a place that was 15% more than we are paying now but with many more features. We are in a 2 bedroom, 2 bath with dishwasher and fireplace but it hasn't been renovated in 10 years and everything is looking old. Apartments seem to get much more wear than owner occupied homes. Not that our old place is a dump but in comparison it can't hold up to a new kitchen with granite counter tops. (No more buying ice, it comes straight out of the fridge!) Add a jacuzzi tub, steam shower, a den, and rooms that are 50% bigger than our old apartment. Definitely worth the money.

We will lose our backyard but we never have used it. The people in the other apartments have dogs and don't seem to be very interested in cleaning up afer them. Also, we share an alley with a couple of restaurants and there is a big rat problem. I often hear/see them when I am taking the garbage out. In fact, my wife just spotted one walking around the backyard when I started typing this post. No lie. We also don't use our small deck off the second floor bedroom for the same reason. Not a great view.

Back to the point, we limited our search parameters to condos and we had a wide selection. Often with many amenities I would have never thought possible; oh jacuzzi tub how I will enjoy thee. All for the same price as or slightly higher. Take a look at the apartment section on Craig's List, searchword: Condo. This is not good news for the condo market and should mean rents will be coming down over the next year. Back to the Tribune:

Fitch Ratings, for example, recently said housing is in a fairly severe, multiyear contraction--one that isn't based, as previous slowdowns have been, on rising interest rates and a sharply slowing economy. It's being driven by perceptions, the Fitch analysts said.

"A negative buyer psychology seems to have become pervasive," Fitch reported this month. "The expectation or fear is that home prices have peaked and buying now would be a mistake."

Frustrated condo seller David Waters said he buys that.

"I suppose part of it is people are waiting to see if prices drop even further," said Waters, who, with his wife, Joette, has been trying to sell his Edgewater two-bedroom unit since August, without a single offer despite several price reductions and incentive offers.

"Because experts were predicting [the market slowdown], things tended to snowball," Waters said. "People bought into the fear that it's going to be a tough sell. When people start believing it, it makes it real." [Emphasis added.]

Mr. Waters stated clearly the psychological state that drives booms and busts. That is why it is near impossible to predict the end of a boom or bust using economic theory. A rush to buy or sell an asset like a stock or house often exceeds what is rational considering substitute investments or income. Economists, who aren't caught in the frenzy, can only point out that asset prices are above growth trends.

As the article says, we are in a stand off between buyers and sellers. I don't think the sellers will win. 2007 could be a very bad year.


Steven Pearlstein of WaPo: An Economic Pillar on the Verge of Collapse.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


Kerry snubbed

Powerline and Ben of Mesopotamia record the snubbing that 'Jon Karry' received during his recent trip to Iraq.

This is a true story....Check out this photo from our mess hall at the US Embassy yesterday morning. Sen. Kerry found himself all alone while he was over here. He cancelled his press conference because no one came, he worked out alone in the gym w/o any soldiers even going up to say hi or ask for an autograph (I was one of those who was in the gym at the same time), and he found himself eating breakfast with only a couple of folks who are obviously not troops.

What is amazing is Bill O'Reilly came to visit with us and the troops at the CSH the same day and the line for autographs extended through the palace and people waited for two hours to shake his hand. You decide who is more respected and loved by us servicemen and women!


While in Iraq, things didn't get much better for Senator Kerry. Rumor has it that somebody gave his helicopter flights the designation "Weasel 61." (Legend has it that when Senator Clinton visited Afghanistan, her bird was assigned "Broomstick 11" as its code name). Before taking off, supposedly the helicopter pilot jumped out of the front seat while the rotor was turning (an extremely rare event), approached the rear of the bird, and asked Senator Kerry to autograph a copy of the photograph below.

The photo is, of course, the famous response to Kerry's bad joke about our soldiers being stuck in Iraq. Couldn't have happened to a nicer guy.

Broomstick 11! Bwahahahaha.


It's a ...

...for those who want to know, we found out the sex of our baby. Although we haven't decided which gender: male, female, or maybe something in between. We will consult the proper authorities on this. So if you want to know follow this link. During Inna's last pregnancy she dreamed about the sex of the baby and was correct and she did the same early in this pregnancy. It is amazing what the unconscious mind tells us.

We are very happy that the baby is healthy.


The Good Truth, the Bad and the Ugly Lie

Victor Hanson poses a good question:

So how, aside from killing jihadist terrorists, can we defend ourselves against the insidious spread of radical Islam? Here are a few starting suggestions:

His list then follows. While all are good points I think this is the most important in that it does not get enough attention:

Appreciate the history and traditions of a unique Western civilization to remind the world that we have nothing to apologize for but rather much good to offer to others.

I don't think we as citizens or our government speak out enough on the positive role the U.S. has played in world history. The tiresome drum beat of the negative message via the 'ugly American' or bad U.S. Government seems to get way too much press and social credibility. The facts point to a positive message and that ought to get more attention.

Monday, December 25, 2006


New Blogroll

I removed the defunct The Daily Cause and added Mom and Pop Investors. It is Chicago based and writes very well about the economic issues of the day.



Do not mail list

I guess you can reduce the amount of junk mail you get by signing up to this list. (Sorry George C. Scott, it is junk mail.) Via the Consumerist.

Saturday, December 23, 2006


The Chicago Tribune Misleads Its Readers

Below is a scan of the center portion of the front page of today's Chicago Tribune:

The caption beneath reads:
In Cape Canaveral, Fla.: After some last-minute suspense courtesy of the weather, space shuttle Discovery glided home on Friday to conclude a 13-day. 5.3 million-mile mission that included rewiring of the International Space Station. Showers over Florida had forced NASA to consider backup sites in California and New Mexico. In Houston: Discovery's signature twin sonic booms caught the attention of Nilam Ali (center left) and others, though the spacecraft was still out of sight. Story, Page 3
Without reading the caption, which is just below the fold, one is left with the impression that these people are pointing at Discovery or that they are witnesses to its landing. But these people didn't even get a glimpse of the the shuttle! Which leads me to wonder: Just what exactly are those two children pointing at?

And why does a photo of Muslims in Houston smiling and looking skyward (most, to my untrained eye, in different directions) in reaction to Discovery's sonic booms warrant such a prominent position on the front page of a Chicago based newspaper? Houston is a thousand miles from Cape Canaveral. Why do these two photos even belong together? What message is the Tribune trying to convey by combining these two photos in this way?

But the biggest unanswered question I have is this: How did photographer Mayra Beltran come across these people?

I'd be very interested to know.


I got a Playstation 3 !!!

I don't know if I was lucky or what but I managed to find one at a Gamestop store in a mall on Fullerton west of Ashland. What a mess. I was out running some errands and happened to be near this store so I thought I would drive by. Well I pass the store and look in the window and see Playstation 3 boxes stacked up, both the 20 and 60 gb versions. Well parking was impossible. I mean none. I went next door to the Dominick's parking lot a got lucky as someone was leaving then hoofed it to the Gamestop.

When I got in the door I asked the first salesman I saw if they had PS3s. He said, "I don't know, ask the manager." 'But you have the boxes in the window?" "That is just a display." D'oh. Now it seemed unlikely that they had them in and I was a little miffed that I had wasted my time coming here. There was a young girl in a tedious conversation on the phone, I assumed this girl was the manager so I waited while she had her conversation. This went on for a few minutes and I contemplated leaving but my effort made it seem worth staying to ask the question for which I was sure I knew the answer.

Just then another employee came out of the backroom and I snagged him. "Any PS3s back there?" "There were when I took my break." My heart soared. He went back and came out with the box. It seemed impossible to me. Well not impossible. I had been monitoring the prices on Craig's List and they have come down to slightly more than retail. Also, gaming blog, Kotaku, had this post about multiple PS3 sightings. I trust the markets to provide information and this time they told me that the scarcity of the PS3s was exaggerated. That is why I bothered driving by the store. Otherwise, the proximity of Christmas made getting one seem highly unlikely.

I was so giddy that I even bought the store's extended warranty; something I never do. This is my Christmas present to myself and now I promise I will shut up about Playstation 3. At least, about finding a PS3. I am sure I will post about playing it. This also raises the question about Sony's position. They could be in trouble with the console being too expensive and, therefore, the number of units in homes likely to be much less than the competing consoles for a while.

Friday, December 22, 2006


Duke rape case charge dropped

Wendy Murphy still not embarrassed.



The charges of kidnapping and sexual offense still stand. Given the release of DNA evidence the rape charge is ridiculous. The other charges are merely highly improbably so Nifong is keeping them on to save face. Nifong is in danger of becoming a verb. As in, to prosecute for political reasons.

Mary K Ham from HotAir:

It’s Durham. It’s full of a bunch of liberal white people who love to get yelled at by black people and a bunch of liberal black people who are happy to oblige them. This story scratched that white guilt itch soooo good, they just couldn’t let it go, even though it was pretty clear from the beginning that the story was a little off.

The national media liked the white, privileged lax boys rape hard-working exotic dancer single mom story, and they ran with it, too. As a result, many lives, seasons, careers, and a successful sports program have been seriously messed with by a D.A. who couldn’t back off on the narrative, either, lest he feel the wrath at the ballot box from those whom he denied their white guilt orgy.


Moscow Doctor held accountable

My wife was just watching the Russian news on RTR and there was a story about a doctor in Moscow who was held accountable in the death of a mother and her baby. The story said this is the first time a doctor has been found to be responsible for medical malpractice in Moscow. We will post more on this story later when we get more details but we are both happy to see this. As you might know, we have our reasons.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


I've Been Everywhere, Man...

Well at least it feels that way sometimes...

But when I listened to Johnny Cash sing the rest of that song I realized I hadn't been to all that many places off the beaten path. I have been to Seattle, San Diego, Portland Maine, Miami, and many places between racking up almost 44,000 miles along the way (yes, I counted) through 42 states. I had given this some thought at various times this past year as I would come across the occasional blog post or media mention that 2006 marks the 50th Anniversary of the Interstate Highway System.

As useful as this system has been for me in my travels, lately I have been thinking of the less crowded and more scenic roads that prove to be a more enjoyable drive. Or perhaps ride. Over the last few years, inspired by the kiddofspeed and the journey (not the depression!) of the Ghost Rider, I have been considering a motorcycle trip rather than packing up the car and road tripping the usual way.

Of course this would require the proper license and equipment. Most importantly an actual motorcycle. Over the past few months I've discussed this a few times with friends and those I've met who are knowledgeable on the subject. Each has a different opinion. One thing I find interesting about the opinions is that some base their selection of motorcycles more on image than function. I don't want to join a frat or a community as some people make it sound like, I just want to figure out what bike would be best for me. That is not on my Christmas list for Santa this year though as I plan on taking lessons in the Spring and perhaps purchasing one after that. So it is a little early for a Honda or Harley debate right now.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


A Christmas message from the Duke

Monday, December 18, 2006


Don't email Danny Bonaduce

"Write me again you freaks and the FBI will be on your door tomorrow."

A truther caught Danny Bonaduce eating lunch and made it his job to try and convince him that 9/11 was an inside job. Bonaduce was having none of it and let the guy know he did not agree with him. I thought Bonaduce showed a great deal of restraint while someone who was not invited to join him interupted his meal.

Well it didn't end there. Listen to Bonaduce describe some of the vile email he and his family received from the truthers. Boy, I hope these clowns get a knock on their doors.

The FBI gave him some advice about how to guarantee their involvement; worth a listen just for that.


John Gotti Meets Tony Soprano

In Vitaly Dyomochka:
In 2003, flush with extortion money, Dyomochka told his leather-jacketed, thick-necked associates that he wanted to make a crime series. Not a Hollywood-style blockbuster, but their very own lowlife hustles brought to the screen with all the verisimilitude of real goons playing real goons.

When one of his underlings laughed at the apparent absurdity of it all, Dyomochka-- channeling Robert De Niro's Al Capone--whacked him with a baseball bat.

That, at least, is how it played in the movie, called "Spets," a Russian abbreviation of specialist.

The nine-hour, seven-part series tracks the gang's feuds with rival groups as they jostle for control of scams in and around a massive secondhand car market in Ussuriysk.

Cars are a particularly lucrative source of underworld cash in the Far East because of the huge numbers of used vehicles imported from Japan and destined for sale across Russia. And Dyomochka was the uber-outlaw of Ussuriysk.

As well as turning his own buddies into actors, Dyomochka enlisted some rival gangs, a Ussuriysk theater troupe and cameramen from the local television station.

Sunday, December 17, 2006


Hacker Sentenced, Jeremy Hammond gets two years

A message from ProtestWarrior:

In a victory for free speech and property rights, Jeremy Hammond was sentenced to two years in federal prison to begin in January 2007. He must also pay $5,250 in fines and restitution and is barred from consorting with other "hacktivists" for three years following his sentence. Despite the light sentence, Hammond's imprisonment will undoubtedly send a message to would-be hackers that property rights and rule of law still apply.

The light sentence may be explained by unusual statements of fact and character that were made by Judge James B. Zagel during the sentencing hearing. As reported in the Chicago Tribune, Zagel brushed aside Hammond's plans to rob victims out of millions of dollars as a lapse in judgment rather than willful and malicious credit card fraud, saying, "all 19-year-olds are idiots." He also characterized the theft itself as "countering speech [Hammond] found wrong ." Considering Hammond's history of violence and crime, Zagel's bizarrely euphemistic characterization of Hammond's actions reveals a misplaced compassion.

Before Hammond's trial, he used the now-defunct website freejeremy -- archived here -- to plead with the Internet community for support. In his pathetic attempt to sway public opinion, he denied the allegations and claimed that he was "being targetted [sic] by law enforcement for his political activism." Hammond even went so far as to accuse ProtestWarrior of fabricating the entire story. Fortunately, the evidence against him was so strong that even the most "compassionate" judge couldn't save him from a conviction.

During the course of the investigation, ProtestWarrior intercepted a number of chat logs between Hammond and his anarchist cohorts. The logs include detailed plots to charge millions of dollars in fraudulent transactions, to publish personal and financial details of political activists, and to execute similar attacks on other conservative websites. Now that the trial is over and Hammond is about to be thrown in prison, ProtestWarrior is preparing these logs for release to the public.

The ProtestWarrior organization is currently being revamped, both online and on the streets. And a new PW project is in the works, so stay tuned.

-Kfir, Alan, and Rob

Saturday, December 16, 2006


Has Matt Drudge gone over to the Darkside?

Matt Drudge, who may or may not be a willing accomplice to the distortion of news reporting, must be held responsible for the dissemination of the bias in the liberal press. Studies have shown that the readership of the Times is down — as it is in other liberal publications — and so are the television ratings of the alphabet networks and CNN and MSNBC, while Fox News is up.

Nevertheless, the propaganda of the enemedia — an excellent descriptive term coined by one poster to — continues to sully news coverage, thanks to Mr. Drudge. A study of press bias by a professor of political science at the University of California-Los Angeles, Tim Groseclose, listed the Drudge Report as one of the most liberal sites on the Web because it consistently posts articles from left-of-center sources.

Drudge is my home page so I am definitely adding to his massive number of hits. I like his site because it often includes interesting scientific news but I have noticed his turn to the left. In particular, he has not credited bloggers on the right with stories they have broken nor is he inclined to give equal billing to right leaning pundits. For now, I will keep him but I will keep an eye out for an alternative. Maybe Bookworm's Room? She is prolific.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Duke Rape Accuser Pregnant?

This is according to her cousin who is being interviewed on Greta Van Susteren's show the "victim" will give birth nine months after the rape. WOW! I wonder which one of the guys whose DNA was on her, besides the three accused Lacrosse players and her boyfriend, is the father?


First Playstation 3 orders

Someone was reading my mind. You can order a PS3 for delivery on January 5th from the Gamestop's website. The catch? It is bundled with a lot of games you are not going to want.

This Sony PlayStation 3 60GB Most Wanted bundle includes the following items:
  • Sony PlayStation 3 60GB Game System
  • PS3 Wireless SIXAXIS Controller
  • Untold Legends: Dark Kingdom
  • Madden NFL 07
  • Ridge Racer 7
  • NBA 07
  • Full Auto 2
  • Resistance: Fall of Man
  • Resistance: Fall of Man Official Strategy Guide
  • 1 Year Product Replacement Plan
  • 12 Month Game Informer Subscription

At least this way Sony is going to get the money and not the PS3 hoarders. Speaking of which, prices for PS3s continue to fall on Craig's List. (It is not uncommon to see 60 bb PS3s for $800 whereas $900 seemed to be the floor up until yesterday.) Sony has promised 2 million shipped worldwide by the end of December and 6 million by March. This is a pretty big ticket item and it has competition which is doing well. Because of this we might be seeing them on the shelves sooner than expected.

Personally, I can wait. I'm too busy until the end of January to think about playing video games.


Another reason for falling prices:

We’ve just received information from a reliable source that Amazon will soon have the Nintendo Wii and the Sony PlayStation 3 readily available. There is no specific date currently set, but it will be “in the coming days.”

So if you’ve been checking back at your local Best Buy every day or contemplating paying a premium for a system on Ebay, you might want to consider giving it sometime. The Amazon systems will surely be offered at MSRP and given the nature of the information, it sounds like there are plenty of systems.

As always, we’ll keep you posted as more develops on this.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Playstation 3 prices dropping on Craig's List/eBay

You still can't find them in stores. I suspect speculators are hanging around and picking them up as the meager shipments come in. Still, you can go on eBay or Craigslist and pick up the premium 60 gb PS3 for $900 or less. Well maybe not Craigslist.

When the victim arrived, the seller and an accomplice got out of a white 2003 Ford Explorer, approached the victim with a black bag and told him the PlayStation 3 was inside, the sergeant said.

The buyer peered into the bag, saw a box and asked that it be opened before he handed over the cash, police said. The seller balked and said, ``What, don't you trust me?'' The two then agreed to exchange the money and bag at the same time, Mazzone said.

Once the seller had the cash, he and his accomplice scurried to the Explorer, sped out of the parking lot and drove through a red light, the sergeant said.

I imagine the scammers were not clever enough to change the license plates so they probably will get caught. Caveat emptor. I plan on waiting until Sony produces enough of them so I can safely walk into a major retailer and buy one. Newly produced, high tech items aren't something you want to buy without a receipt. Or in the parking lot of a McDonalds.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Germany to ban online gambling

At least they are being honest about their motivations.

Germany's federal states plan to ban Internet gambling, according to draft documents to be discussed by the country's state premiers on Wednesday, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.

Despite pressure from the European Commission to open up Europe's gambling market to competition, ministers from most states want to sign off on new rules aimed at protecting their lucrative monopoly as lottery operators, said Handelsblatt. [Emphasis added.]

None of that sugar coated, what about the children garbage. Just, "We've got to protect our racket."


Car Talk helps you find a mechanic

Just type in your Zip code. (Via The Consumerist.)

They even offer reviews. This is a review of Ashland Tire & Auto which told me that my Maxima's brakes were shot and it did not make any sense to fix them. That piece of advice cost them over $1500.00. That is a mechanic you can trust.


Free Motorola Headsets

With Bluetooth.

Is it worth it, Bill? Bill? Where are you?



Monday, December 11, 2006


New Straw Poll

Friday, December 08, 2006


Global Warming and Beyond

I hope to read this over the weekend (via Drudge) :

Washington D.C. - Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the outgoing Chairman of Environment & Public Works Committee, is pleased to announce the public release of the Senate Committee published booklet entitled “A Skeptic’s Guide to Debunking Global Warming Alarmism. Hot & Cold Media Spin Cycle: A Challenge To Journalists who Cover Global Warming.”

While it is good to see someone in Congress stand up to the global warming alarmists we need many more "skeptic's guides" to challenge journalists and to inform the general public. How about one on Iraq for starters.

John O adds:
Leftist propaganda isn't just assaulting the truth. Wretchard posts about Israeli attempts to rebut accusations of war crimes leveled against the IDF:
It's a story of too little and too late. The Left had no difficulty in painting a portrait of a New Guernica with digitally altered pictures, fake sources, unsupported accusations, racist charges and whatever else they could think up even as the bombs were falling. Now Israel produces the grainy, real pictures to show that it was the Hezbollah which committed the war crimes. That's a serious accusation supported by serious proof. But how can these low-resolution UAV images compete with the full color, staged photographs of New York Times cameraman Tyler Hicks? No, the IDF has been beaten in the propaganda war and it will be beaten again in the next few months if Lebanon turns hot. Beaten because it did not have the infrastructure -- the "concerned" committees, speakers bureaus, media houses, legal aid shops, international organizations and an army of writers -- to compete with the lie.
Shrinkwraped comments:
...the West is losing the information war because the "means of production" of "news" is overwhelmingly in the hands of people who do not see themselves as members of Western Civilization; instead the leftists and quasi-leftists populating the news media see themselves as on a mission to make this world a better place for the poor and down trodden. Unfortunately, they have shown themselves to be spectacularly incapable of separating the lofty rhetoric of their "higher truth" from actual behavior and we are all left at risk because of their "good intentions."
We need more than just members of Congress to step up, as Dr Sanity points out:
Until and unless those of us still committed to objective reality, reason, and truth stand up to the empty dogma of the left and expose it for the destructive malignancy it is; it will continue to eat away at our national soul, and place all our precious liberties at risk. We must stop being on the defensive and cease catering to the dark, empty vision to which the left's dogma is utterly committed.

Clarity of thought, strength of moral purpose and unyielding adherence to the principles upon which this country was founded is all that is necessary to cure the spreading cancer of leftist ideology that threatens the very life of American values and ideals.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Mary Cheney's child and Gay marriage

On MND, an article was posted concerning Mary Cheney choosing to have a child and Gay marriage. In the article, a civil liberties question was raised trying to tie Ms. Cheney's choice and Gay marriage. How can you allow Mary Cheney to have a baby yet deny her the right to marry her partner so that the baby won't be denied the stability of a family with all the priviledges of marriage?

Ignoring the question of whether marriage really does add that much stability to modern families. There is a real difference among libertarian and social conservatives over homosexual unions and the rights granted to homosexuals. I would not deny Mary Cheney's right to reproduce so you know where I stand. Given that, how can I be opposed to her marrying? In a comment on MND I answered that question.

What is the connection between a person choosing to have a child on their own and gay marriage?

I think men and women should be free to choose to have children on their own. I also believe that it would be in the child's best interest to have two parents and that a man and a woman is the best choice in a two parent family. But I would not deny anyone the right to reproduce just because the best conditions are not available or they simple choose to live a non-conventional life.

I am opposed to Gay marriage because allowing same sex couples the same rights as heterosexual couples dilutes those rights. It is in societies best interest to promote marriage and reproduction in a manner that is best for children because society needs children in order to perpetuate itself. Gay marriage along with no fault divorce and onerous child support payments et al. all hurt heterosexual marriage by eroding the value of marriage, encouraging divorce and discouraging two parent, heterosexual unions. For these reasons gay marriage could arguably be less of a factor, however, it is not neglible.

I hope that all libertarian minded people who are disturbed by the state of marriage in the United States will not have their vision clouded by the civil rights argument made by advocates of Gay marriage. It is a smokescreen. You might have the right to buy whatever car you can afford but it is the priviledge of having a driver's license which society gives to those who meet the criteria for operating that vehicle. Marriage is too important an institution for us to continue dilute its meaning.


Deb Frisch Update

From MM. You might want to play this music while you read about Deb's giant leap into insanity. I guess becoming a fugitive from the law makes this website obsolete.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Is Obama Ready to be President?

Tony Blankley doesn't think so but makes a good point:

But I'll say this for Sen. Barack Obama: If, over the next 25 months, the young paladin can fend off Hillary's bad boys, Arianna's crazy boys and the GOP's back-room boys, he may in fact be ready for the big game against Osama bin laden's murderous boys.

The qualifications of Hillary and Obama are not my primary concern.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


BCS Gets It Right

For the wrong reasons

Unbeaten Ohio State will play 12-1 Florida for BCS national title. Michigan, 11-1, had been #3 with Florida #4 in the BCS rankings. USC, which lost to UCLA on Saturday was #2. Florida passed Michigan in the final rankings after an unimpressive victory over Arkansas in the SEC title game. Having played the tougher schedule between the two remaining major conference, one-loss schools, Florida deserved the nod. The computerized third of the BCS ranking formula rated both schools even. So it was up to the two polls to determine the outcome. ESPN's Pat Forde comments:
On Nov. 26, the Wolverines led the Gators by 86 points in the Harris Poll and 30 points in the USA Today poll. By Sunday morning there had been a 154-point reversal in the Harris poll and a 56-point swing in the USA Today poll.

That was shocking. If you were already predisposed to voting Michigan ahead of Florida, I didn't see enough in that game to merit that kind of turnaround. We certainly didn't see anything from Michigan to merit a demotion, given the fact that the Wolverines weren't playing.
Teddy Greenstein further explains the controversy:
Even Ohio State coach Jim Tressel got swept into the controversy after he decided not to cast a vote in the USA Today poll.

"We felt it was somewhat of a conflict of interest," he said.

You think? Had Tressel voted Florida No. 2, he would have dissed the Big Ten and given his top rival's fans fresh ammunition. Had he voted Michigan No. 2, it would have gone beyond bulletin-board material. He would have supplied new wallpaper for the Gators' locker room.

The remaining 62 coaches gave an emphatic endorsement to Florida for the No. 2 spot, with 44 apparently voting the Gators ahead of the Wolverines.

The Harris Poll, made up of 114 former players, coaches, administrators and media members, also gave a solid edge to Florida. One of them, former Washington State and Iowa State coach Jim Walden, actually voted the Gators No. 1.
Many, including Forde and Captain Ed, maintain that this whole sordid affair is a compelling argument for tournament style Division I college football playoff. It is not.

A playoff would destroy the the one aspect of Division I college football which makes it truly unique in the world of sports: No team is ever guaranteed a second chance; to guarantee at least a chance to play for a national championship, you must win each and every game. The best illustration of this is the fate of Michigan this year. Under a tournament format, the loser of the Ohio State/Michigan game would simply receive a lower tournament cede. What was at stake in the game would have been akin to a winning a conference title in college basketball. Instead, both teams knew that the loser could still, with luck, get a second chance; but more likely than not, the loser was out of national championship contention. The game was, in essence, a playoff. While Michigan is arguably a better team than Florida, they have only themselves to blame for their fate.

The regular season frequently produces games games like this, though its not always this obvious at the time. Many games that appear this meaningful at the time turnout not to be. And sometimes the stakes are apparent only in retrospect. That is what makes the regular season in college football so compelling. Its something very special and should be preserved.

Though I think Michigan is a better team than Florida, and a Michigan/Ohio State rematch would make for a more compelling and competitive game, Florida deserves the spot due to its strength of schedule. They are the more accomplished team.

But the way the Gators were selected is scandalous. The 'human element' should be removed from the business of ranking teams altogether as bias and conflict of interest are inevitable in any polling system. Instead, teams should simply be ranked by fewest losses, with ties broken by a strength of schedule formula which uses both the winning percentages of a team's opponents and the winning percentages of their opponent's opponents, with 2/3 weight given to the former. To qualify for the national title game, a team's strength of schedule must fall within, say, the top two quintiles of all Division I schedules. Not a perfect system, perhaps, but at least the only 'human element' involved in the process is the one actually on the field.

Diego corrects: If you want to add a rule that you have to win your conference to make the BCS title game I can agree with that. But your strength of schedule basis for picking Florida is wrong. In fact it is ridiculous. They both played tough schedules in tough conferences. Your reasoning might hold up for Boise St. but not for Michigan. Florida played two non conference games: Central Florida and Western Carolina. I'm okay with a local game but when given a choice they went soft. Michgan played Central Michigan and then Vanderbilt but they also played Notre Dame. Give them credit for that.

Keep in mind that they are fighting for #2 here. If your only loss is a 3pt loss to the #1 team on their home field then you don't really have a blemish. You would think that a #2 team would lose to #1 on the road, no? But you would not expect a #2 to lose to a #9. There is the difference. Michigan played like a #1 or #2 team all season and finished that way. Florida did not. They did not play like a #1 or #2 team against Auburn. Same goes for USC against Oregon St. But I guess some games just don't count anymore. That is the situation that college football should try and avoid. The fact that every game counts is "something very special and should be preserved."

USC had no business leaping over Michigan after their ND win. And let's be honest. If the UofM/OSU game was played just last Saturday Michigan would be ranked #2. Florida is only in because of timing and some politics. Such reasoning behind the selection of Florida over Michigan places in effect a playoff but without the inclusiveness and excitement that should come with it. You don't have the pro system but you don't have the college system anymore either. This is a shame.

John O responds: Alas, I miscalculated Florida's strength of schedule in my head. (I guess I shouldn't have been so lazy.) In doing the math, Florida's opponents had a combined winning percentage of .568, Michigan's opponents, .587; the difference being .019 in Michigan's favor. So my conclusion was in error. Considering the schedules of the two schools were substantially similar in strength, however, it wasn't by any measure ridiculous.

(I must correct Diego on something. He overlooks the fact that Michigan's non-conference schedule included Ball State whereas Florida's included Southern Mississippi and perennial powerhouse Florida State, a local game where they hardly 'went soft.'

Also, if Diego believes it reasonable to expect a #2 team to defeat #9 team, would he be willing to make book on such a basis? If so, please let me know.)

Diego argues that Michigan's loss to OSU was, in the parlance of the NCAA selection committee, a 'quality loss,' which indeed it was. But this is a poor basis for distinguishing between teams; football games are binary. Whether or not Florida or Michigan had a quality loss, or for that matter played like a #1 or a #2 all season long, or finished that way, should ultimately be irrelevant. It matters only because the ranking process is so arbitrary, open to blatant manipulation. The ranking system I have proposed allows matters to be resolved where they belong -- on the field.

Diego responds: I missed the non-conference games played in the 'conference' portion of the schedule. Florida State is not a soft opponent.

The next time a #2 plays a #9 I will take the #2 and give you 1 point. Or if you like I will give you odds of +101 for #9 to win outright.

If you are going to rank reams based on their accomplishments then just have a playoff. That way the most accomplished team will be the one that accomplishes the task of making it through the tournament. All accomplished on the field.

If you don't recognize the difference between 'quality losses' then why bother with quality wins? Both Michigan and Florida played tough shcedules. The losses are the only real way to compare the two.

John O responds: A few points:

I wasn't asking for a line on the next #2 vs #9 matchup. I simply wanted to point out that no bookie makes lines based on the assumption that the higher ranked team ought to win. A bookie who does this won't last very long.

Obviously a playoff would produce the most accomplished team as champion. Its just that I adamantly oppose a playoff for the reasons I stated in my post. Besides, I never said I want to rank teams based on accomplishment. My idea is to rank teams by lack of failure, with ties to be broken by an objectively defined measure of accomplishment, primarily for the purpose of producing a national title matchup. (Though I do think its a good way to rank teams in that it removes the 'human element' from the equation.) If you have any ideas about how to measure the quality of failure objectively, or eliminate the subjectivity inherent in any poll, I'm all ears.

Diego notes: Had Wisconsin beat Michigan they would be undefeated (they did not play OSU this year). I wonder if voters would be reluctant to have what would effectively be the Big Ten championship game played out in the BCS Championship game. That situation also would have made for some complaints.


Financing our cheap credit

I ran across this excellent explanation for why how the cheap credit that the Easy Al and, now, Helicopter Ben have used as financial crack to keep our economy bouyant in the face of the burst stock market bubble. We really are at the mercy of the Chinese.

The potential distortions of the Greenspan Indian Summer also spill over into globalization. The US has been running an unprecedented trade deficit. In the past such a sizable deficit (approaching $1T per year, or 8% of GDP) would cause the currency to collapse. Instead the Chinese have been providing a form of 'vendor financing' by keeping their currency artificially cheap. They build up US Dollar reserves from all the sales to the US, and then buy US treasuries, which keeps the Dollar bouyant and the US Federal deficit funded. At some level does it hurt us to send over pieces of paper and get back physical goods at low prices? If the pieces of paper become worth less by the Dollar dropping against the Chinese RMB, the Chinese take an enormous paper loss and we get lots of new toys. Sounds clever, but it is too clever. It does cost us. The coming drop in the Dollar will reduce our national net worth relative to China. On the one hand it looks as if China is funding our deficit; but on the other we are funding the growth of their economy. If we had done so as we used to by investment, we would accrue ownership of major parts of the Chinese private sector, and reap the benefits of these investments as we had previously in Europe and other parts of the world. Instead we have reaped our transient toys, and they have reaped a marvelous and robust economy.

The Chinese are beginning to withdraw that vendor funding. The Chinese currency has started to appreciate against the Dollar, and China is diversifying their reserves out of the Dollar into a basket of currencies that reflect their trade flows. The YE$ currency is emerging. The Dollar is still the major currency, and is over-represented in such a basket due to seniorage we receive for the world oil trade being in Dollars.

Of course they are at our mercy in that we could go into depression and stop buying their goods. Somehow that does not seem like much comfort. More like I am going to kill myself to make you feel bad because I'm gone. We can only hope that they and the rest of the world don't decide to start selling US treasuries at the same time.

Perhaps this would be a good time to link this.

Monday, December 04, 2006


The Litvinenko "assassignation"

AJ Strata points out something interesting things about polonium 210. Besides being difficult to produce and something that would have been easily traceable, it is expensive. So expensive that it might have been a multi-million dollar dose that killed him. Also, Litvinenko was involved with nuclear smuggling in the past. Which leads to this question, "Was Litvinenko involved in a plot to build a dirty bomb?" The autopsy should tell us how much he was exposed to and, as Strata notes, it should let us know if the Russians were involved or not.

The second option is quite frightening.

P.S. Litvinenko might have converted to Islam. Sweet dreams.

Friday, December 01, 2006


Two Feet of...

SNOW! I was going to save this photo for a cold day in January or February but today's weather has me longing for Spring already.

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