Monday, January 30, 2006

"Life is like a box of chocolates"

The current regime has spoke at length about the value of democracy and justifiably so. A number of studies have demonstrated that democracies simply don't go to war with other democracies (although they have no such compunction with non-democracies). This idea is, in large part, the ideological basis or justification for our adventure in the territory formerly known as Iraq.

That being said, not all democracies are created equal. A lot of press, rightly, is being given to the election of the Hamas to the Palestinian Parliament. This marks the first time that the (former?) terrorist group has controlled the Palestinian government and immediately led the US to cut all aid to the Palestinian National Authority. The US position is that as long as Hamas advocates the elimination of the state of Israel, then they should not receive support from Western democracies. A fair point.

Anyway, I don't want to talk about Palestine today. That's getting plenty of press. Instead, I want to talk about a country that is undergoing a radical and amazing transition, much to the chagrin of the US. The country: Bolivia.

As some of you may have heard, Bolivia recently elected Evo Morales as its president. Morales is notable for two reasons: he's the first member of the indigenous (Indian) majority to win the presidency and he's a former coca farmer.

I don't want to give a full primer about Bolivia, but it should be sufficient to say that Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in South America, it is becoming a larger supplier of coca, and it's presumably where Mike Tyson was headed when he famously quipped, "I'm heading to Bolivian." No matter who is in power, it's going to be tough to make things work in Bolivia.

Morales is going to be very interesting to watch, if for no other reason, that he's a total wildcard. For example, upon taking office, he immediately slashed his salary in half, something that will probably lower all government salaries since there is a statutory prohibition on government employees earning more money than the President (much like in the US). I'm not convinced that's the most clever strategy (high salaries draw talent, low salaries send talent abroad and it might fuel corruption), but it does, at the least, have galvanating symbolic importance with the chronically impoverished public and it should result in more teachers.

At any rate, the most important aspect of the new Bolivian president is his stance on coca production. The US has been unrelenting in its position that coca producing nations need to do two things: destroy the coca crops and prosecute/extradite producers and traffickers. And Bolivia is the world's 3rd largest producer of coca which makes it a "country of concern" for the State Department. Therefore, Morales' appointment of a coca farmer as his "drug czar" is unlikely to win friends in Washington.

The new Czar, Felipe Caceras, has a simple strategy: don't ruin the coca farmer, just stop production of cocaine. This policy is clever because in poor countries, farmers will always produce the crops that earn them the most money. Coca isn't going away. But, focusing counternarcotics resources on the production and trafficking of the end product (cocaine) is certainly a more equitable and effective use of resources. Only time will tell if it works, but I applaud the thinking because it's long overdue, not just in Bolivia, but across South America.

The US has spent trillions of dollars on a decades long ineffective and bloody campaign to eradicate cocaine at the source to no avail. Sometimes you have to know when to hold 'em and when to fold 'em and the US has been raising the bet on a losing hand for too long. So I applaud Bolivia and Morales for taking a step in a different direction.

Bolivia is equally fascinating, however, because it is part of the leftist shift in Latin American politics. Morales is a socialist. Not the Soviet style, throw them in the gulag, seize their pay, distribute the money among the elite, and get a trashy mistress to drink icy vodkas with while you cool your heels as your ritzy dacha type of socialist. No, Morales is the latest of South American socialists that seem genuinely committed to the democratic process but are strongly rejecting the corrupt practices of the right wing parties that have dominated in decades past. This shift is disconcerting to US policymakers, perhaps because of the eminently vocal Hugo Chavez, but also because Morales is making his affiliation with Chavez and Fidel Castro no secret. There is the very real concern that US influence in South America could be waning. Colombia remains the US's strongest ally, but the list of "friends" is shrinking. Vexing, I'm sure, for the Bush administration.

This will be an interesting story to watch over the next few years not just because of what's happening in Bolivia, but also for what it means in South America. The shift away from aerial fumigation to cracking down on drug cartels is a much needed experiment in counternarcotics. The US "war" on drugs has failed to such an extend that one wonders why we don't just legalize it and deal with the consequences. Now that one important player in the coca market is departing from tradition, essentially legalizing coca, the regional implications are clear. Either the move will improve anti-trafficking efforts or Bolivia will become the next hub for the coca cartels. I hope that my (soon but not soon enough!) travels in South America will take me to Bolivia so that I can see with my own eyes and report on the developments of the Morales presidency.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Quick hits

Ann Coulter...still an arrogant ho.

...I'm really enjoying this story. Can't keep 'em out no matter how much money we spend. Reminds me of a story I heard about an enterprising Colombian cocaine trafficker that built a 2-man submarine to carry 2 tons of Bogota Bullion northward. The Colombian military found the sub, but the point remains - there's a market, you can't stop it.

...Finally, the Econ slammed to a halt, or did it? There will be considerable debate about the impact of Katrina on the growth numbers, but one thing is clear: the combination of natural disasters, poor management (Ford Motor), globalization, high energy costs, and skyrocket Federal debt are raising a ton of warning flags. Personally, this is going to work out well for me since I'll be out of the US when the recession kicks in. So, after the housing crash, I should be looking to buy in the US and won't have to purchase property at exorbitant prices. But for the millions of American's not as fortunate as I, better start saving now.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

This one's going to smart

Remember that whole, "we needed to go beyond FISA because we needed to monitor foreign suspects in a quick time frame" and "we're at war, we should be able to surveil the enemy" and the "congress knew, we briefed them, they authorized it in the Iraq war resolutions"? Time to say:


Actually, I'm not the one calling BS. That's been done by others, I'm just passing along the news with my own personal disgust added in.

FACT: Senator Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) proposed amending the FISA warrant standard from "probable cause" to "reasonable suspicion" in 2002.

FACT: The Bush administration said...NO.

From the Post (emphasis mine):

"During Senate debate over DeWine's amendment in July 2002, James A. Baker, the Justice Department's counsel for intelligence policy, said in a statement that the Bush administration did not support the proposal "because the proposed change raises both significant legal and practical issues."

The administration rejected DeWine's proposal, according to the Post, because it was unclear that it was constitutional and it would create practical problems.

Shabby reporting at best. Actually, the administration's terms were MUCH more specific. As quoted by NY blogger Glenn Greenwald, Baker went on to explain that the Patriot Act had established more than sufficient flexibility to conduct necessary wiretaps:

"The reforms in those measures (the PATRIOT Act) have affected every single application made by the Department for electronic surveillance or physical search of suspected terrorists and have enabled the government to become quicker, more flexible, and more focused in going "up" on those suspected terrorists in the United States.

One simple but important change that Congress made was to lengthen the time period for us to bring to court applications in support of Attorney General-authorized emergency FISAs. This modification has allowed us to make full and effective use of FISA's pre-existing emergency provisions to ensure that the government acts swiftly to respond to terrorist threats. Again, we are grateful for the tools Congress provided us last fall for the fight against terrorism. Thank you."

And the final point that put the kibosh on DeWine's proposal, from admin mouthpiece Baker:

"The Department of Justice has been studying Sen. DeWine's proposed legislation. Because the proposed change raises both significant legal and practical issues, the Administration at this time is not prepared to support it."
So, in conclusion, the King George is correct when he says "we briefed Congress". He's only lying about the details. Their briefing was, "hey, no thanks, FISA will do just fine" and then, after reassuring Congress that FISA was great, they did an end around and abrogated FISA anyway.

So, in sum, what we have here is:

- A Government analyst and spokesman concluding that the "reasonable suspicion" standard is unnecessary and unconstitutional.
- A government analyst and spokesman concluding further wiretap powers are not needed.
- King George and crew lying to Congress and telling them they didn't need an expansion or dilution of FISA to conduct the war.
- Unconstitutional wiretaps that included innocent Americans.

I'd say this story just got a LOT worse for King George. It's one thing to spy on people and say it's justified because we're "at war". It's a whole 'nuther ballgame to blatantly and specifically lie to Congress.

Impeachment hearings anyone?

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Harball with Matthews

Just want to pass on this link. Apparently, it's now envogue for "mainstream" journalists to now compare Democrats to Osama Bin Ladin. I don't watch Hardball anyway, but if I did, I'd protest it.

Proving I'm Not a Kneejerk Liberal

First the fluff.

Isiah Thomas, the embattled General Manager of the New York Knicks and a guy that recently threatened ESPN funny man The Sports Guy, has been accused of sexual harrassment. I don't have a clue if there is any truth to the lawsuit, but I found one thing in the filing to be absolutely hysterical. The complaint alleges that part of Thomas' grand strategy for bringing the Knicks back to respectability was to schedule more Sunday home games to start at noon so that the opposing team would frequent several strip clubs that Thomas is associated with the night before, get intoxicated, and play sluggishly. Because basketball players love strip clubs.

I'm not sure which part of this story I'm enjoying more: the claim that Thomas has associations with NY strip clubs or the idea that the Knicks are such a poor excuse for pro basketball that they actually need the Strip Club Advantage to win games. Either way, more egg on the face for Isiah and the Knicks and ultimately the NBA.

Anyway, to turn political for a moment, I'm a bit perturbed by claims like, "It's 68 degrees in January, it must be global warming." I've done quite a bit of academic research on the matter and one thing is very clear in my mind - global warming is a hell of a lot more complex than most people understand. Which is why, ultimately, I'm a bit pissy about the latest claim by NASA that last year was the "warmest on record". Not only does the latest study claim that last year was the warmest in recorded history, but also the study claims that the planet has warmed 1 farenheit over the last 30 years. Here's why they're wrong:

1) We can't measure global temperatures: We simply don't have the capability. If we had effective satellite data, that would be a start. But we don't. The NASA writeup clearly states the error potential:

"Error sources include incomplete station coverage, quantified by sampling a model-generated data set with realistic variability at actual station locations, and partly subjective estimates of data quality problems (4)."

What this means is, they have satellites that have partial coverage, that they then use to extrapolate a general picture. The error rate of this is extremely high (and something they vastly underestimate) because we simply don't know enough about climate to extrapolate data on a global scale.

But don't take my word for it. They say it better in footnote 8:

"Another source of difference is the method of averaging over the world, given the fact that data is not available everywhere. In the GISS method, we divide the Earth in four latitude belts. Within each belt the region with data is weighted by area. The anomaly for the entire belt is then taken as the anomaly for the portion of the belt that has data. The global anomaly is then the area-weighted mean of the four belts. This method gives equal weight to the hemispheres, but if one of the belts has little data that is not actually representative of the entire belt, substantial error can occur."

Yep, they're averaging data and substantial error can occur.

Other problems with measuring temperature include:

- We can't accurately measure ocean temperature. There are various sampling methods, none of them are reliable. We get a range, but it's not precise, nor is it necessarily indicative of a global phenomenon. In short, isolated temperature sampling is not generalizable.

- Temperature data is often skewed by the urban heat island effect. In short, cities are warmer than rural areas. Buildings and roads absorb and retain heat. That causes spikes in the data. Scientists are aware of this, but compensating is complicated, especially since they don't adequately understand all of the various feedback mechanisms like the effect of Sulfer Dioxide (a cooling agent).

- Data points don't indicate "global" warming. The fact that it doesn't snow in London anymore doesn't mean that the world is warmer. It just means that London is warmer because it's a massive city that elevates the average temperature enough to nudge it out of the snow zone.

There's a lot more (most of which I've forgotten), but the point is obvious: If we knew half of what we think we did, we'd wouldn't have to study climate anymore.

2) Even if our measurements NOW are good, measurements from 10-100 years ago were NOT good. The crux of the study is not what the absolute temperature is - it is that we are warmer NOW than we were BEFORE. That, in short, is a bunch of nonsense.

It's not nonsense because it's not true. It's nonsense because it's unproveable. We simply don't have reliable temperature records from before 1980 (when we launched the first satellite system to look at temperature) and it's laughable to suggest that temperature readings from 1950 are even remotely accurate since those readings are entirely based on the temperature found in urban areas.

All of this pisses me off because it does a disservice to the cause. I honestly don't know if we are warming or not. But I can say there are two clear reasons to shift away from fossil fuel use:

1) CO2 emmissions are responsible for 90,000 US fatalities a year from air pollution. At least, that was the figure in 1998. I imagine it's gone up. We have a clear need to detoxify our air to save American lives. Think about it. That's 30 9/11's a year just because we haven't devoted the resources to finding effective renewables.

2) Vulnerability to unstable, Middle Eastern dictatorships: America's troubles in the world can be linked to one enduring reality - our addiction to fossil fuels. Eliminate that and there is no Iraq, there are no troops in Saudi Arabia, no Al Queda, etc. But we've got our fingers deep in the pie simply because we don't have a viable alternative. We need independence from oil for the simple reason that it is unhealthy for a strong power to be so vulnerable to weak powers, not to mention the gross harm these relationships have inflicted on the world.

Thus, I'm a bit peeved everytime I see a new NASA "study" on global warming. Grandiose claims about rising temperatures just opens the debate up to enterprising Republicans that are clever enough to use some of the arguments I listed above to undercut the agenda. Instead of talking so much about the apoctalyptic implications of global warming, we should be discussing the day in, day out impact of fossil fuel use on our country and the word.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

America's Playground

It is absolutely insane that the conservative religious wingnuts that are so prominent in this country haven't targeted Las Vegas, the city of Sin, as a place to spread their puritanical ways. Thing about it. They target SpongeBog Squarepants yet they don't even mention the city of carnal desires? I'm betwixt. Does the wingnutia that seems to run this country not realize that Vegas is organized around the three great vices of: gambling, boozing, and sex? Well, I won't be the first to tell them, that's for sure.

The bachelor party in Vegas did not disappoint. The last time I visited the city I was about 10 years old and that was on a train that may or may not have stopped in the city. So I pretty much saw bright lights and not much else. So this time, Vegas was basically all new to me.

We stayed at the MGM Grand hotel and casino. Very nice. I only have two complaints: showers built for Ewoks and not enough monkey butlers.

I have to say, the people who design casinos are very clever. You never see a clock, so you have no idea what time it is. You never see the outdoors, so you never know if it's night or day. And there are tons of things to charm your attention away including: lights, bells, whistles, gambling, restaurants, bars, clubs, scantily clad women, and the ever so popular spectator sport "trophy wife or pro". Other fun endeavors included the games "Real or Fake" and "30 or 50".

My point: Vegas is the new Silicon Valley. The women are all either trophy wives, specially built by Dr. Nick or they're professional hires, escorts if you will. Men with money can get anything they want - it's just a matter of how they pay for it. Some men show up with plastic Barbies on their arms that they "bought" in the legitimate sense. Golddiggers that will be with anyone if the money's good.

Others are the "I have no shame" types who simply don't care if anyone knows that the woman on their arm has only been rented for the night. It's Vegas, baby. They're available and they're busy. For example, the following questions were asked by various members of the Vegas public to our party:

"You guys looking for a massage with a happy ending?"
"You guys looking for full service girls?"
"You guys wanna get laid tonight?"

Our "no thank yous" or "that would pretty much shut down my impending marriage for good, so I'm gonna have to decline" were instead heard as "yes sir, immediately give us your card and continue to insist on negotiating with us because 'no' means 'yes' in this town!"

Not even the whores in Amsterdam were as pushy.

Still, Vegas adds to the medley of flavors that form America and I won't begrudge their choice to be downright the dirtiest city in the US. I may not be much of a gambler and I may not be much into "whiskey and whorin'," but who am I to judge. It's bringing money to a region of the US that would otherwise be completely empty and the locals don't complain much.

At any rate, other highlights of the trip included:

- An absolutely fantastic meal at Smith & Wollensky's;
- Sharing an elevator with a Miss America contestant (hands down the most attractive woman I've ever seen in person)
- The Sports Book
- Hanging with the guys (my friends are a diverse bunch)
- the Buffet at the Aladdin
- walking the streets with open bottles of beer and not having to worry about the Puritan Police

I could go on, but I think you get the point. In Vegas, money is everything. I highly doubt I'll ever be in the class of people that can buy anything I want (like a Monkey Butler!), but I witnessed just that in Vegas. And, in that sense, Vegas is the most honest place on earth. The one fundamental reality that continues to define human civilization is that money talks. A lot of "civilized" places in the world hides behind a veneer of culture and sophistication. Not Vegas. Show up in a limo and get treated like royalty. As long as the credit's good, anything goes.

If I do go back to Vegas someday, I would do a few things differently. First, screw blackjack. It's a stupid game that fails to entertain. Everybody plays it because it's got great odds, but to me, it's boring as hell. The tough decisions of having to hit on 12 or 13 are really not that tough. No, poker's the game. If I'm gambling in the future, I'll gamble at the craps table, poker table, and the sports book.

Second, I'd stay at the Luxor. That's the pyramid with the spotlight coming out of the top. I just totally digged the whole Egyptian theme. In fact, I think a simple rule of Vegas is that everytime back you have to stay at a different casino. They're just too glorious to frequently inhabit the same one. The Bellagio, for example, was brilliant and obviously of the highest class (with the added feature of enabling a few too many Ocean's 11 jokes).

Third, bring more cash. There's nothing like a $4 ATM fee in addition to the $2 Wachovia charges. Ouch.

Last, gamble better. Next time, I'll try not to drop $100 on a blackjack table in under an hour. In fact, I'll try to gamble sober as well. I was up when I was mostly sober. I lost big when I wasn't. Let that be a lesson. Free drinks don't have to be alcoholic.

Anyway, that's about all I got to say. A special thanks goes out to all the guys. I had a great time; I hope you did too. Next stop: Bogota.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Work a day

Obviously, I have no future in football prediction. Still, I will not lament the end of the Redskins season. They had a good year, played exciting football, and can easily move up next year. One more wide receiver probably would have been enough this year. At any rate, I'm off to Vegas tomorrow for an extended Bachelor's Party so I'm not going to go into anything lengthy today. Instead, I have a list of things I found enjoyable over the weekend:

- The Redskins knocking out NFL MVP and Seahawks RB Shaun Alexander in the 1st quarter. Nobody likes a glory hog who just wants to set records. Especially not one with a uni-brow.

- Peyton Manning who, after playing a wretched game, threw his entire offensive line under the bus with the "we had some protection issues." I would have enjoyed this even more if the O-line had said, "we had some throwing issues." What a sore loser. I will now officially always root against Petyon Manning.

- The Patriots losing. Now maybe all those Pats fans who are oh so convinced that Brady and Belichek can do no wrong will have a nice tall glass of shut the hell up.

- The Wizards trouncing of the 76ers yesterday at MCI Center - but only because I had awesome seats just behind the visitors bench and I'll never get enough of Chris Webber's whiney face.

- Wedding Crashers. Vince Vaughn called Owen Wilson a "nob"! Hilarious movie and propagates the term "nob" into cultural venacular.

- Sitting on my ass all day on Sunday, steadfastly refusing to brave the cold or do anything productive. It was good to be a lazy bastard for once.

That's about it. I was particularly displeased with the return of cold weather. The Redskins loss was disappointing, but still positive. And I completely ignored politics over the weekend because I'm just not able to stomach things at the moment. At some point, someone has to say "enough" and prosecute King George. Al Gore got into the mix, the Dems are stirring it up, yet the GOP obfuscation machine just carries on like this is all just the order of the day. Shame on them.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Weekend Pics

The second round of the NFL playoffs kicks off tomorrow and I couldn't be more excited. Well, ok, if the Skins were playing at home, I could be - but there's always next year. Let's get to the pics.

Pittsburgh at Indianapolis

A lot of analysts and hype-meisters are saying that Pitt has a chance in this game. I'm not one of them. Yeah, the Indy offense is gimmicky and likes to play tricksssesss. But no, Pitt isn't going to win. Not in Indy. The Colts are designed to play their best football indoors. Home field advantage means that Indy will not only have the crowd on their side, but also will not have to deal with environmental factors that could slow down their offense. Besides, does anyone seriously believe that the Bengals would have lost last week if Carson Palmer had not been injured? Indy 30, Pitt 17

Carolina at Chicago

I saw this game back in November. The final score wasn't a blowout, but the game was never in question. Chicago did one thing against Carolina that no other team has done as well - get to the quarterback. I've never been a fan of Panthers QB Jake Delhomme, so it was especially gratifying to watch him self-destruct against a Bears team with pretty much zero offense. Expect a repeat performance. The Bears are at home, they're fired up, and their defense is Fing fantastic. In addition, the Panthers are in a classic trap game situation. They dominated last weak against a vastly overrated Giants team, they're riding high, and they've become a media darling pick. Go the other way. Bears 20, Panthers 3.

New England at Denver

A lot of people (and I mean an assload) are saying that the Patriots are going to score an upset. I'm not one of them. Denver is a strong team. I'm not happy about the Jake Plummer situation in Denver ("the Snake" has never been a good QB until this year), although I do like his pornstar mustache. But really, this game is about the Denver rushing game. The Broncos pound the football and I'm not convinced that the Patriots can neutralize that. If the Patriots do try to stack the line to shut down the run, then Denver will go over top and expose a very weak Patriots secondary with long passes down the field. Should be a good game to watch, but with Denver at home and rested, I'll take the Broncos 24 to the Patriots 20.

And finally....

Washington at Seattle

I'm not going to pick against Washington, no matter the odds. Any team that can play the worst offensive playoff game in NFL history and still win has something going for it. I don't know if this is a team of destiny just yet, but they have several things going for them that I like:

1. They beat the Seahawks already this year. Most people say this doesn't mean a whole lot. But I think it helps the defense. Gregg Williams has already seen the Hawks offense. He knows what they do. The Redskins players know what the 'Hawks do. We'll be ready. Williams would have gotten them ready anyway, but having had a previous game in which the defense played strong helps the confidence going in.

2. The 'Hawks had one of the weakest schedules of all playoff teams. When this is brought up, analysts retort, "they didn't set the schedule," which of course misses the point. Winning 13 games does boost the confidence of a team, but one has to wonder if that is false confidence. The last time this team was tested was at home against the Giants - a game they should have lost but the Giants kicker shanked three field goals - a rare occurence indeed. Seattle has always been a neurotic team and I'm not convinced they're battle tested enough to win this football game.

3. Seattle is a finesse team that doesn't play well against physical teams. There are several prominent commentators that have made this point, always caveated with, "the Redskins are too banged up to win, but if healthy..." They've got a point. Portis isn't entirely healthy. Brunell looks like the Sloppy Jalopy. We lost Renaldo Wynn last week with a broken arm. And we still won. Expect the Skins to continually punch the 'Hawks in the mouth. They won't like it.

The one guy the 'Hawks have that causes me undue worry is Joe Jurevicious. He's a big ass wide receiver that is the one guy on the team that is used to physical football. If we can shut down Jurevicious without help, then the defense will stack the box and continually stuff Shaun Alexander.

So, in conclusion, if the Redskins play a disciplined, aggressive, and physical football game, I fully expect a stunning victory that will shock the world. It should be a very good game. But at the end of the day, I'm not going away from my team. Redskins 31, Seahawks 20.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Scalito Fatigue and Democracy

In the midst of a truly hellish work week, I'm taking this time out to express my extreme exasperation and frustration with the Democratic party. Hours of possibilities and instead of brutal, grilling type questions, the Senate Dems waste time pontificating. Sigh. I guess that's what I expect these days.

Anyway, I'm totally pissed off at that jackass King George. What a total f*ckstick. Here's a claim:

"Democracy is best served by shutting the f*ck up."


King George is getting tired of all the criticism of his little war in Iraq. Apparently, King George thinks Democratic criticism of the war brings, "comfort to our adversaries." The burgeoning constitutional scholar stopped short of using the word "traitor" when describing his Democratic opponents, but one wonders when that particular moniker will make an appearance.

At any rate, it's all a bunch of bullsh*t any way you cut it. So far, the President has employed the following lines when responding to criticism on the war in Iraq:

"We're winning" (laughing hysterically, ICBS)
"Criticizing the war jeopardizes our troops" (because they're all fragile emotionally, ICBS)
"Criticizing the war in Iraq risks our democracy" (because democracy is founded on shutting the f*ck up and doing what your government tells you to do, oh wait, ICBS)

There are more, but that's all I can stomach at the moment. The point is, at every single juncture, King George has attempted to shut down the very elements that are critical to a vital democracy - debate, exchange of ideas, and yes, criticism. When he doesn't have an answer to a particularly thorny question, King George returns to a "loyalty, patriotism, support the troops" mantra that smacks of exploitation and dishonesty. It makes me sick.

We have a King that would prefer to sacrifice the lives of thousands of innocent American troops out of "respect" than debate the mission and exit strategy.

We have a King that would prefer to send our troops to combat without the best available body armor because it's "too expensive" yet we can blow billions on missile defense and Halliburton contracts.

We have a King that has no qualms about upsetting the very fabric of our democracy by continually breaking the law.

This just makes me sick. I've never felt, ever, that the very foundation of the American expirement was in jeopardy before. This last year changed that in me. The fact that most Americans are either not paying attention or are just uneducated to the point that they don't understand the stakes makes me even more afraid.

Someone once said something like, "Tyranny doesn't happen over night. Liberty is chipped away bit by bit, peice by peice until one day, you wake up and realize your rights are gone." I always thought that was a bunch of melodramatic Animal Farm-esque BS. Never again.


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

ScAlito This

Hearings underway, Scalito dodging tough questions on abortion and, noteably, a sexist alumni org that he was a part of after leaving Princeton called the "Concerned Alumni of Princeton". This group opposed, among other things, allowing women to attend Princeton. ScAlito listed himself as a member on his 1985 job application to the Federal Government.

Today, under fire from Sen Leahy (D-Vt), Alito denied being a member, claiming he didn't remember any such membership. Yeah, that's the ticket. He doesn't "remember" being a part of the Concerned Alumni of Princeton, but if he did, it would only have been because that organization was opposed to kicking the ROTC off campus.


Either ScAlito is:

a) A liar for putting an org on his resume that he wasn't a member of, or,

b) a member of a sexist, elitist org.

So, in sum, Bush's latest submission to the highest court in the land is not only a Right Wingnut, but he's also a dishonest or sexist bastard.

"You're doin a heckaofjob there Brownie!"

Monday, January 09, 2006

New Feature

I'm introducing a new feature today. This will be a semi-regular feature of Nob Central that allows me to make succinct, consumable commentary instead of full scale rants. Without further ado:


The kickoff.

Claim: The New York Giants are going to the Super Bowl
ICBS: Maybe next year.

(Sorry, just getting warmed up.)

Claim: Democrats took money from Jack Abramoff.
ICBS: Nope. Took money from Native American tribes, but not Abramoff. See here.

Claim: Publishing the story about secret wiretapps helped Al Quida.
ICBS: Terrorists are smart enough to know they're always under wiretaps.

Claim: Alito is neutral politically, with quality character.
ICBS: Alito is a conservative hackola who would roll back civil rights, abortion, etc with a strict constitutionalist view.

Claim: Charges against Texas Rep Tom DeLay are politically motivated.
ICBS: Nine, Republican judges upheld the charges, sending the Bugman to trial.

Claim: 60% of what Bill O'Reilly says is false.
ICBS: Actually, 95% of what O'Reilly says is false.

Claim: The US was well prepared for the Iraqi invasion.
ICBS: Actually, merely providing body armor could have prevented thousands of casualties.

More to come.

Friday, January 06, 2006

More NFL Ranting

I'm drinking the Kool Aid. Washington 42, Tampa Bay 10. I take everything good I said about the Bucs back. Over. Rated. The thought of the Redskins dominating that Bucs team in Tampa Bay is enough to bring tingles down my spine. Is it Saturday yet?

AFC Rankings

I don't have the time or energy to really get too in depth about the AFC, but I'll throw a couple things out there.

I rank them like this:

1. Indianapolis
2. Denver
3. New England
4. Cincy
5. Pittsburgh
6. Jacksonville

Not that this ranking really matters. I don't think the difference between the teams is that vast. Jacksonville had a cupcake schedule and I don't think they're going anywhere, but it's not out of reason. They play pretty good defense and New England isn't exactly a dominant power this year (last victory against a tough opponent...September 25).

I like Denver, but I don't think they can beat the Colts in Indy, although I do think they would beat the Patriots. If the Steelers were playing at home, I'd take them over Cincy. But they're not, so I'm taking the Bengals.

Indy is obviously the favorite, but I don't think they're as awe inspiring as the ESPN hype machine wants them to be. In fact, I was thoroughly unimpressed with their play in the San Diego game. Three things stood out:

1. It didn't look like the Colts were having any fun - In fact, it really looked like the offensive players (Manning, James, and Harrison) pretty much hated each other. I don't have any real evidence to back this up, but I think they have (or had before Dungy's son committed suicide) real chemistry problems. That doesn't bode well for Super Bowl aspirations.

2. The Colts offense is, well, gimmicky - Manning pretty much gets up to the line of scrimmage, calls plays, and then spends 5-10 seconds trying to draw the defense offsides. Every. Single. Time. Not only is that completely unappealing aesthetically, but it just seems sort of petty. I understand trying to draw the defense offsides as a strategy. But when you try it every down, the defense will get used to it.

3. The Colts are still a finesse team - San Diego had the blueprint for beating the Colts. Smack them in the mouth, repeatedly, and they'll fall behind. The Colts don't like to get too physical. They don't have a Jon Runyan type or a Joe Jacoby or even a Mike Sellars who is going to beat up on the opposing D. And Manning in particular isn't a guts and glory kind of guy. The Chargers repeatedly hit him, sacked him, and got in his face and that was the difference. The first team that smacks the Colts around is going to beat this team.

That being said, the Colts are still the favorites. They've got a great offense and a good defense and they have home field advantage. But I don't think they're invincible or any nonsense like that. In fact, if the Redskins and Colts make the Super Bowl, I'll take the Skins. But realistically, that's not going to happen. Realistically, we'll have two finesse teams (Seattle-Indy) duking it out in a gentlemanly sort of way with the Colts winning 52-37.


I watched some of the Texas-USC game the other night. Very exciting, very entertaining. But if I ever hear a single person say, "college football is better than the NFL" I'll be laying a titanic sized smackdown. There's no argument for college football. Everything is better about the pro game and anyone who thinks differently is truly not paying attention. Just go ask Steve Spurrier which is the tougher game. (Since my university did not have football, I am untainted by college affiliation.)

I love it when Dave Letterman gets political

...Especially at the expense of Bill O'Reilly.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Ranking NFC Teams

I'm a total contrarian and I'm looking for any angle to believe the Redskins can actually get to the Super Bowl, so I've spent a few minutes this morning backing up a theory I have about the NFC's sacrificial lambs for this year's Super Bowl. Basically, when I see a record, I don't think, "wow that team must be good." The quality of those wins is a relevant factor. Seattle's 13 wins looks good, but when you look a little deeper some things become clear.

First, Seattle played in the JV division of the NFC - which is saying a lot since the Bears didn't exactly have the steepest competition in the NFC North. Here's a ranking that shows the strength of schedule of the playoff teams:

1. Washington - 10 games against winning teams, 5 against playoff teams
2. New York Giants - 9 games against winning teams, 4 against playoff teams
3. Tampa Bay - 7 games against winning teams, 5 against playoff teams
4. Chicago - 7 games against winning teams, 5 against playoff teams
5. Carolina - 7 games against winning teams, 4 against playoff teams
6. Seattle - 5 games against winning teams, 4 against playoff teams

Obviously, Seattle didn't have a tough schedule.

Further, the only NFC team with a winning record against playoff teams was...drum roll...the 2005 Washington Redskins. Here's that ranking:

1. Washington - 3-2 against playoff teams
2. Seattle - 2-2 against playoff teams
3. NY Giants - 2-2 against playoff teams
4. Chicago - 2-3 against playoff teams
5. Tampa Bay - 2-3 against playoff teams
6. Carolina - 2-3 against playoff teams

The last bit of data: Record against teams with a winning record (including playoff teams):

1. Seattle - 3-2 against winning teams
2. Tampa Bay - 4-3 against winning teams
3. Washington - 5-5 against winning teams
4. NY Giants - 4-5 against winning teams
5. Chicago - 3-4 against winning teams
6. Carolina - 3-4 against winning teams

A few final points:

One of Seattle's big wins was against Indianapolis, but should be discounted. The Colts starters barely played in that game, so Seattle basically had another JV team to beat up on.

The Giants had 9 home games this year since the Saints game to start the season was relocated to New York. Worth mentioning because it pisses me off and because they didn't win any road games against good teams.

Tampa Bay had the fortitude to lose to both the New York Jets AND the San Francisco 49ers - two of the worst teams in the league.

Carolina only lost to one bad team all season - the New Orleans Saints in the opener.

What does all this mean? Let's face it, not a whole lot. But I find it very interesting that while pretty much everyone in the sports media world is knocking down Jacksonville for having a weak schedule, pretty much no one is even mentioning the fact that the weakest schedule for any playoff team was found in Seattle.

From the Rank Incompetence Hall of Fame.

Good to see people are just as stupid today as they were yesterday.

Hint: Google News search terms: Narnia and WTO.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

NFL Playoff Time

Sorry about the dearth of posts. It's been a nobilarious time over here at Temp Central and I've been alternatively considering various homicidal schemes and counting the money as it rolls in. But, we've reached a breathing point, which was timed mighty nicely since an ubernob just eradicated a bunch of work that took half a day to do and I was pondering the various ways to ply his flabby flesh into the dishwasher and lock his ass in there on heated dry for all eternity.

Which, of course, leads me to the subject of the day: NFL Playoffs.

Who can win the NFC for the right to get slaughtered by Indianapolis in the Super Bowl? Well, when it comes down to it, I think only three teams have a real shot: Chicago, Tampa Bay, and Washington. One thing the playoffs don't like are finesse teams. And the Giants, Seahawks, and Panthers are finesse teams. When the Panthers went to Chicago in November, it only took a couple of swats to the face before the Bears had control. Teams like that aren't built to win in the playoffs, especially with Jake Delhomme on the road. The first team that smacks Hasselback to the ground or stuffs Shaun Alexander is going to find paydirt against Seattle. Likewise for the Panthers and Giants.

(Special Note: NFL coaches are notoriously not much smarter than the average kitchen table. All bets are off if one of my three favorites don't play physical football against the finesse teams.)

As an aside, and as a prelude to the rest of the postseason, I must take umbrage with the sheeplike behavior of the wider sports media re: Rex Grossman. As some of you may know, the Chicago Bears won the NFC Central division on the strength of their defense. They can run the ball a little bit, but their quarterback play is, in a word, atrocious. Perennial injury threat Rex Grossman, the man who missed almost all of his first two pro seasons to injury only to break his ankle in this, his third season, and miss the first 14 games, has now taken the helm from the incumbent starter Kyle Orton. This "bold" move has led to a cacophony of media voices claiming that Chicago now has the ability to win the Super Bowl because:

a) the defense is awesome
b) Grossman is vastly superior to Orton; and,
c) the Ravens won the Super Bowl a few years ago with a similar formula.

It's my duty, to beat that booty.

a) The Defense

It's awesome, there's no doubt about that. But as good as the 2000 Ravens? Maybe in some measures but in one critically important area they're not even close: yards-per-carry against. This stat is a measure of how many yards an opposing rusher gained on average per attempt. The 2000 Ravens allowed an amazingly low 2.69 YPA. The 2005 Bears, a good, but not unworldly 3.6 YPA. (The Seahawks, by comparison, have an identical average.)

The Bears defense is great. I saw them play at Soldier Field this year. They can turn a game quick. But the playoffs is about running the football and I'm just not sold on the Bears ability to do that. So, lets shelve the talk of this being the second coming of the 2000 Ravens until they actually get to the Super Bowl.

b) Grossman vs. Ortman.

A couple things to note: Orman is a vastly more experienced NFL QB than Grossman. Ortman might be a rookie, but in 3 seasons Grossman has played in exactly 8 games. That doesn't mean he's worse than Ortman, but it does mean he hasn't had to face the adversity of throwing three INTs in a game, for example.

Statistically, the two QBs are pretty similar. Neither would be classified as "good" by any standard and the moniker "decent" might also be out of reach. That being said, Grossman is probably moderately better than Ortman, but as the Wolf famously quipped in Pulp Fiction, "Let's not suck each other's (members) just yet." A moderate improvement from incredibly weak to less incredibly weak a Super Bowl Contender does not make. Even more worrying for Bears fans is that Grossman has played in exactly 2 games this year and thrown exactly 39 live balls.

If I'm a Bears fan, I'm not just worried that Grossman will get clobbered and reinjured, I'm worried that he's expected to do too much.

c) Ravens Model

The Ravens won in 2000 with Trent Dilfer at QB. Dilfer is the prototypical game managing QB. He doesn't do anything bad, but also doesn't kill you either. The theory is, dominant defense + QB that doesn't kill you = Super Bowl victory. Sorry Charlie, Dilfer was vastly better than Grossman when he won the Super Bowl in at least two ways: he was a 7 year veteran and he completed 60% of his passes (versus 51% for Grossman).

Plus, the other clear weakness of the Ravens model is that the strategy depends on the defense getting a lead early and then the QB not killing you. If the Bears have to come from behind to win, well, I don't think they can.

So, no, Da Bears won't win the Super Bowl this year, but they might come close.

Weekend Matchups

Saturday kicks off the wildcard round and my beloved 'Skins are taking on the fighting Bucs down in Tampa Bay. As I'm completely partial in this matchup (and feel that the Skins were robbed the first time they played), I think the Skins will win this one. The Skins physical offensive line versus a slim, yet feisty Bucs D will create problems. The Bucs love to play the Cover 2, which is basically a form of the zone, a defense that plays to the strengths of a speedster like Moss. If Brunell can deliver the ball to Moss in space, he'll make the big plays.

On the defensive side of the ball, the hype is all about Rookie of the Year Cadillac Williams for the Bucs. Short and sweet is my retort: 20 rushes, 10 yards. The Redskins defense is a runstuffing defense that just dominated against the Bucs running game in November. I expect more success for Williams defense.

The bottom line: I don't think the Bucs can effectively run the football against the Redskins. That means we win. Washington 28, Tampa Bay 20.

In the other NFC matchup, we have the truly unpredictable New York Giants-Carolina Panthers game. Both teams were victim to sportswriters infatuation disease and have been a constant source of annoyance tothis Redskins fans all season. Fortunately, the Skins dominated the Giants in December, finally exposing two things: the Giants defense stinks and Eli Manning can't beat a good team by himself. I like the Panthers in this one, 20-10.

Over in the AFC, we have two easy predictions. First, the Steelers take a dominant ground game into Cincinnati. So far, the media tide seems to favor the Steelers. Pitt has had a great run to get to the playoffs playing physical defense and doing what they do - running the football. Most people appear to be forgetting two things: Pittsburgh only has two quality wins this year (at San Diego, Cincy) and that the Bengals beat the Steelers in Cincinnati on December 4th, 38-31. Beating bad teams (or the NFC's vastly overrated Bears team) doesn't make you the favorite when the game is in Cincinnati. Bengals 33, Steelers 27.

Finally, the defending Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots take on Jacksonville. Everybody else is saying it, so I will too. Jacksonville hasn't beaten a good team since October, had the weakest schedule of any playoff team, and doesn't really do anything good on offense. Pats 20, Jags 13.

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