January 11, 2006
It seems ever-popular Teddy Kennedy got into it today with Arlen Specter during the Alito hearings. Kennedy is very interested in certain sealed records in the Library of Congress, to the point where he wants an executive session of the committee to grant a subpeona to open those records. But the below exchange was particularly interesting.
SPECTER: Well, weâ€™ll consider that, Senator Kennedy. There are many, many requests which are coming to me and many quarters. And, quite candidly, I view the request — if itâ€™s really a matter of importance, you and I see each other all the time and you have never mentioned it to me. And I do not ascribe a great deal of weight — we actually didnâ€™t get a letter, but…
KENNEDY: You did get a letter. Are you saying…
SPECTER: Well, now wait a minute; you donâ€™t know what I got. Iâ€™m about to…
KENNEDY: Yes I do, Senator, since I sent it.
SPECTER: Well, the sender does not necessarily know what the recipient gets, Senator Kennedy. You are not in a position to say what I receive. If youâ€™ll bear with me for one minute.
KENNEDY: But I am in a position to say what I sent to you on December 22.
SPECTER: Youâ€™re in a position to tell me what you sent.
Hey, Teddy… How did you send it? Hopefully you didn’t send it by the woefully inadequate United States Postal Service, did you? You should know not to trust government with anything; your feckless, incompetent butt is running it!
Repeat after me, Ted: UPS. You hear me? United Parcel Service. A private company. You know why? Signature confirmation. You can tell Specter exactly what day he received the letter and who signed for it. Can’t do that with the USPS, can you?
Government monopolies routinely fail their customers.
Kaat Vandensavel runs a Belgian government school, but in Belgium, school funding follows students, even to private schools. So Vandensavel has to work hard to impress the parents. “If we don’t offer them what they want for their child, they won’t come to our school.” That pressure makes a world of difference, she says. It forces Belgian schools to innovate in order to appeal to parents and students. Vandensavel’s school offers extra sports programs and classes in hairdressing, car mechanics, cooking, and furniture building. She told us, “We have to work hard day after day. Otherwise you just [go] out of business.”
“That’s normal in Western Europe,” Harvard economist Caroline Hoxby told me. “If schools don’t perform well, a parent would never be trapped in that school in the same way you could be trapped in the U.S.”
Vandensavel adds, “America seems like a medieval country . . . a Communist country on the educational level, because there’s no freedom of choice — not for parents, not for pupils.”
In kindergarten through 12th grade, that is. Colleges compete, so the United States has many of the most prestigious in the world — eight of the top 10 universities, on a Chinese list of the world’s top 500. (The other two are Cambridge and Oxford.)
Accountability is why universities and private schools perform better. Every day they are held accountable by parents and students, and if they fail the kids, school administrators lose their jobs. Public school officials almost never lose jobs.
Couldn’t have said it better myself. This country NEEDS to find a way to break the NEA teachers union, or it’s never going to get better.
Always remember, the NEA is acting in the interests of their constituents. Those constituents are teachers, not students. The NEA primarily wants more funding and smaller class sizes. What does that mean? Higher salaries for teachers, and a greater number of teachers required to fill those smaller classes. No correlation has been shown between either higher funding or smaller class sizes and improved student performance, but that doesn’t change a thing. What do they try to avoid? Accountability and merit-based compensation. The two things that are most likely to actually have effects.
One primary reason I moved was that I knew I couldn’t bring myself to put my kids into a California public school. I plan to be the type of parent that can hold enough accountability over my children to educate them regardless of the quality of school in which they’re enrolled, but the more help I have from the local school, the better. To engage in choice and competition, I had to either choose to spend scarce dollars while living in a very high-cost-of-living state on private schooling, or leave that state entirely. I’m very lucky in that I had opportunities to make that move through my company, and an understanding wife who wanted to move as well. I’d love to see people with less freedom (whether due to work, family, etc) have options for choice as well, but we need to eviscerate the NEA to have a chance at reaching that point.
First there was “The O.C.,” followed not long after by the verite version, MTV’s “Laguna Beach.”
Then came “Desperate Housewives,” taking the prime-time soap to levels not seen since the heyday of “Dallas” and “Dynasty.” Now, perhaps inevitably, someone is training cameras on non-actresses who live out their own dramas in an upscale community.
This spring, cable network Bravo will unveil “The Real Housewives of Orange County,” which will follow five women who live in a gated community in O.C., south of Los Angeles. In keeping with its fictional template, four of the women, among them a former Playboy Playmate and a “self-made” insurance broker, are in their 40s, while the fifth, a newcomer to the community, is younger.
Great… My wife never really watched The OC. But she loved Laguna Beach: The Real OC. Likewise, she never really got into Desperate Housewives, but when I told her about this new show, she seemed excited. So I have a feeling that once this comes on the air, I’ll have even more time for blogging!
January 10, 2006
Brain scientists want high schools to start later so teens can sleep. Research shows that body clocks run later in teens than in adults and younger kids: In teens, a sleep-inducing hormone doesn’t start rising till 10 or 11 p.m. and doesn’t let up till 8 a.m. Some high schools are starting later; others are considering it. Skeptical parents say adjusting the school day would 1) interfere with after-school jobs and 2) give in to teens who stay up late playing video games or chatting on the phone. But some scientists say 1) we should respect kids’ sleep needs the way we respect their nutritional needs, and 2) sending them to school at 7 a.m. just teaches them to dope themselves with coffee.
My senior year, they scheduled the AP Physics and AP Chemistry classes for the same time period during the day. The Physics class was over-full, so they wanted to break it into two sessions, but that room was booked all day long. Classes started at 7:20 for most students. So they created a period for those of us dedicated folks starting at 6:25 AM, so that we could come in early and get our AP Physics fix. I bought a coffee maker for the room, and we’d have coffee every morning during class… It was quite a good time.
They enticed us into this arrangement by offering us early departure each day. Fall semester that year I got out of school at noon every day. Spring semester, I got out of school at 1:30, but ended up having an hour and a half for lunch each day. That was a fun year…
As for performance, I got a 5 (the highest possible score) on both halves of the AP Physics test, so maybe it’s just the fact that– unlike most current high schoolers– I wasn’t all doped up on behavioral modification drugs.
In the past, I’ve discussed some of the changes taking place over the years of the role of the quarterback in football. In that discussion, I talked quite a bit about how the interplay between offense and defense has changed the entire style of the game, and how it is a constant battle between the two.
In college football, about 15-20 years ago, the option offense basically disappeared from most programs. The option is called such because there is in essence, one basic play called, but based on the decision of the quarterback, the play can develop along several different “options”. For a short description of how it works, the offense lines up in a normal set, the quarterback takes the snap, and starts down the line as in a quarterback sweep. At the same time, the running back is running the same direction, a few yard farther behind the quarterback (but ahead of him laterally), waiting for the quarterback to pitch him the ball. The quarterback has a decision to make based upon the defensive end. The defensive end can choose to move to tackle the QB or float out to be ready to tackle the running back, but he can’t do both. So if the defensive end comes after the QB, the QB pitches to the running back, who now has open field to run. If the defensive back moves to cover the running back, the QB keeps the ball and turns upfield for a several yard gain.
The basic goal of any offensive scheme is to neutralize advantages inherent in a defense. Because typically only a few offensive players on a team will ever recieve the ball, yet all defenders tackle, it is necessary to beat defenses in a numbers game in which they hold a distinct advantage. The goal for any offense is to get a ball-carrier or receiver into one-on-one matchups, forcing a defender to react to the actions of your offensive player, a situation in which they can make mistakes allowing big plays. Defenses are based on assignments, of finding a specific area of the field that is their responsibility to defend. Against running plays, a defensive end’s job is to be the “contain” man on plays heading outside, forcing plays inside where the rest of the defense is waiting. Brian Urlacher, linebacker in the Chicago Bears very formidable defense, said recently in an interview that the strength of the defense is that everyone knows and executes their assignment. Essentially, defenders know where to be to stop plays, and as long as they make it to their assignment, they will either stop the play or disrupt it enough to allow other defenders to support them.
The option forces the defenders not to perform their assignment, but to make decisions. This puts them at a disadvantage, because whatever decision the defensive end makes defending the option will be the wrong one. Whichever player he defends, if the quarterback reads him correctly, won’t end up with the ball. For a very long time, the option was prominent in college football. But no longer. The speed and talent of defenders has ensured that they can beat the option. If the defensive end defends the quarterback, the outside linebacker will move into position to defend the running back. If the defensive end defends the running back, the outside linebacker will plug the hole the quarterback intends to run through, stopping the play for no gain.
College offenses left the option, and soon started running the spread offense (sometimes called the West Coast Offense). The idea of the spread offense is that with the speed of defenders, your optimal strategy for beating defenses is to move those defenders far away from each other. When you run a spread offense, you’ll commonly have anywhere from 3-5 receivers across the entire width of the field. You get one-on-one matchups, and those matchups are commonly between a wide receiver vs. a linebacker or safety, which heavily favor the wide receiver. In addition, if you run the ball from the spread, the linebackers and defensive backs sitting back for pass support are farther away from the play, giving you a greater chance to make good yardage.
The spread offense is a good offense, but it has a problem. It requires players to execute nearly flawlessly to be able to beat a defense. First, the offensive line is crucial. On many pass plays, you will only have 5 blockers, and if the offensive line breaks down, it makes for an easy sack. Second, the quarterback needs to be exceptional at reading defenses and reading his progressions. The offenses’ best receivers will still be usually covered by cornerbacks (the defense’s best players at pass coverage), and the quarterback needs to quickly read which receiver is open and get him the ball quickly and accurately. Third, if you’re unable to establish the run, the defense can keep linebackers back in pass coverage to ensure there is nobody to throw the ball to. Last, the spread is based upon high-percentage short passes and yards gained after the catch. It is easy to end up in 3rd-down and long situations which hamper your playcalling ability, and thus very easy for drives to be stalled. The spread, just as it is starting to gain widespread acceptance, is starting to look more and more like the Run & Shoot looked in the pros: a good offense against weaker competition, but not capable enough to be dominant when it counts.
So we’ve started to see a resurgence of the option. Not the standard option, mind you, because that is an offense that has been shown in past years to be unable work in modern times. Defenses are simply too fast. Now, however, the spread-option has started to come into favor. Mainly developed by Urban Meyer, former coach of the Utah Ute’s and current coach of the Florida Gators, and has been picked up as the primary offense for the Purdue Boilermakers. At the same time, I’ve seen it used somewhat by the Ohio State Buckeyes and the West Virginia Mountaineers. The spread option is based upon the same principles as the standard option, but utilizes the spread formations found in the spread offense.
The downfall of the option run from a tight formation is that you have fast defenders in the middle of the field, with the speed to beat your running back to the corner and stop the play before it develops. One of the downfalls of the spread formation is that the run threat can be less effective, because you’re relying on a small number of blockers to open a hole for your running back. The spread option attempts to develop a running game strong enough to slow down the pass rush and force linebackers to defend the run, which then makes the spread passing game more effective.
When you spread the field, have the cornerbacks, safeties, and a linebacker or two worried about a passing play, because you have 3-4 receivers spread wide. If your quarterback runs option, you now have 5 blocking offensive linemen on maybe 3 defensive lineman and 2 LB’s. You don’t block the defensive end, as he’s the guy you’re forcing to make a decision. He has to account for either the running back or the quarterback, and if you run the option correctly, whoever he bites on won’t get the ball.
With the field spread, you’re creating a difficult matchup for the defensive end, and the people who would normally be in position to give him help (linebackers and defensive backs) are spread too far from the point of attack to stop the play. All the speed at linebacker doesn’t matter if they’re still worried about defending the pass. The defensive end makes his decision, and either the quarterback takes the ball inside the defensive end for 5 easy yards, or he pitches the ball to the running back in the open field, who can break a big play.
The triple option is similar. In the triple option, you have an additional running back that starts by making a dive towards the interior of the line. Again, the decision is dependent on what the defensive end does. If the defensive end, who you don’t block, stays put, waiting to defend the outside play, hand the ball off to the dive back and have 5-6 offensive linemen blocking 3 defensive linemen and 2 linebackers, giving the running back a good chance to make some strong yards. If the defensive end goes inside to defend the dive, you don’t hand the ball off to the dive back; and your quarterback and running back have the entire side of the field open to run the option normally, giving you a good chance at a big play.
This is made even more difficult to defend with the addition of the spread-option-pass. The spread-option pass, much like a standard play-action pass in football, is when you show the defense the option (a running play), but the quarterback pulls back and passes the ball. When you are known for showing option, pulling back from it and passing, you freeze the linebackers and defensive backs that have to support the defensive end in run defense, making the option more effective when you actually run option instead of passing.
The spread option is a whole new wrinkle on college football, and is effective if you have the following:
1. A quarterback with decent mobility who consistently reads the defensive players properly and makes the right decisions.
2. An elusive running back, able to make plays in the open field.
3. The ability to mix the pass in often enough to keep linebackers and defensive backs from leaving their pass coverage assignments to defend the run.
In football, the offense has the advantage of initiative, but usually the disadvantage of numbers and angles. To succeed, an offense has to not only execute plays well, but plays need to be designed to force defenses into making mistakes. The option is excellent at forcing defenses to make decisions, and once decisions are required, mistakes are inevitable. It is also designed so that when defended properly, it will still result in some positive yardage. The balance had swung to the defense, in that defenses were able to stop the option, not giving up yardage even when making slight mistakes in their defense. The spread changes that balance, by punishing those defenses for their mistakes, and slowing them down just enough when defending it well to gain positive yardage.
It remains to be seen what will occur next, and just how far the spread option will pervade college football. If a few teams become successful running the spread option attack, defenses will need to develop new schemes to defend it, and it is unclear how they can successfully defend both the spread and the option simultaneously. Combining the advantages of the spread and the option gets offenses what they’re looking for: one-on-one matchups in both the run and the pass. All it then takes is decent execution, and you’re going to put up yards and points. For defenses to stop this attack, they need to recruit exceptional athletes capable of beating offensive players in one-on-one matchups, or they need to find entirely new defensive schemes. Since it’s nearly impossible to recruit that many phenomenal athletes on any one team in college football, it’s going to come down to coaching and schemes. For those of us who appreciated the strategic intricacies of football in general, it will be quite interesting to see how this one plays out.
In a debate with a friend over a Georgia judge calling an ID requirement a poll tax if required for voting, that friend said that it’s really just a way to keep poor lazy people from voting. Of course, she didn’t put it like that, but I can read between the lines. She said that illegal immigrants and legal voters won’t really try to cast illegal ballots, because there’s just not much of a point to doing so. After all, how many people do you think really take voting seriously enough to do it illegally, but not legally?
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, enough to sway an election:
The grimy stucco storefront at 169 Trinity Ave. houses the Atlanta Recovery Center, a shelter for homeless men fighting drugs and alcohol. It also is home â€” on paper, anyway â€” to 208 registered voters.
One purportedly is 102 years old. Four are sex offenders who list the shelter as their permanent residence. Twenty of the 208 have cast ballots at least once since 2004.
It’s anybody’s guess, though, as to where they actually live or where they should be registered to vote. With at least three registered twice, it’s not clear how many of them really exist.
Georgia relies on an honor system that assumes voters live at the addresses they submit when they register. These addresses determine voters’ precinct assignments and, consequently, the elections in which they may cast ballots.
The honor system failed in the Atlanta City Council’s 6th District, the Journal-Constitution found.
Five votes separated the two candidates in November’s election. But the newspaper identified seven voters who claim as their home addresses one of two UPS Stores on Monroe Drive, where each rents a mailbox. Another voter in the 6th District last November recorded his address as an apartment at 541 10th Street N.E. â€” the location of the tennis courts at Grady High School.
None of those eight â€” whose ballots could have swayed the election’s results â€” should have been allowed to vote while registered at inaccurate addresses. But they are just a few among at least 2,000 in Fulton and other metro Atlanta counties who claim to reside at addresses that are not residential at all.
Now, in anything but a very close race, simple statistics will probably show that the number of illegally cast ballots is miniscule compared to those that are legal. And if Florida in 2000 is any indication, the inability of people to successfully be literate and comprehend a ballot– knowing who they’re actually voting for– is probably a bigger problem than illegal ballots. While it might be smart for the future of the country, even I’m not ready to call for an IQ test as a precondition to vote. But is it too much to ask that there be at least some accountability?
Five votes in one Atlanta City Council district. This is, without a doubt, within the statistical margin of error of any election. No matter what, there is no certain way to prove that this election was decided correctly. But that doesn’t mean that we should leave open as many loopholes and potential avenues for fraud as exist today. Even if we do solve the problem of addresses and require someone to show ID, it won’t solve the problem completely (as when I lived in California, I never actually updated my driver’s license address despite moving about 4 times). But it might narrow the margin of error. And if we narrow the margin of error, people may grow more certain that their own vote will be counted correctly and not cancelled by a vote cast illegally.
After the 2000 Presidential Election, and constant electoral battles at the state and local level since, is it too much to ask that we take this process seriously? When we (unfortunately) allow government to grow so large that the people running it have enormous, nearly unchecked power, I consider it important that the people rightfully elected to wield that power are the ones who reach office, not simply whoever has the better lawyers. I understand it’s asking a lot to expect government to be able to successfully purge illegal voters off the rolls without stripping the rights of legal voters; and to enact policies that ensure that voting is a fair process, a right open to all who are legally entitled to exercise it. But if we can’t trust our government to ensure that our elections are decided correctly, how can we trust them to do anything else?
Hat Tip: Matt Duffy
January 9, 2006
The Bush administration has illegally stopped making public detailed tax enforcement data, which has been used to show which kinds of taxpayers get the most and toughest audits, a noted tax researcher says.
As the story later shows, it does sound like the IRS is acting in violation of a court order, but I wouldn’t necessarily trust the charge being leveled by a “noted tax researcher” instead of a lawyer or judge. And it’s not shown whether this activity is at the behest of the Bush administration. I’ll go on with the rest of the story, which sounds like a government agency dodging accountability (certainly consistent with previous Bush administration behavior), but I wanted to point out a couple of things that don’t necessarily add up here at the beginning. The charges that it is illegal (with any certainty) or that it is related to the Bush administration (with any certainty) are unsubstantiated.
Syracuse University Professor Susan B. Long said in papers filed in U.S. District Court in Seattle late last week that since Nov. 1, 2004, the Internal Revenue Service has violated a 1976 court order requiring the release of the data.
IRS spokesman Terry Lemons responded Friday, “We do not believe we are in violation of the court order.”
Long, who has researched and written about federal tax administration for more than 30 years, used the Freedom of Information Act to win the court order in 1976 directing the revenue agency to provide her regularly with its data on criminal investigations, tax collections, the number and hours devoted to audits by income level and taxpayer category and other enforcement records.
Since 1989, her FOIA requests have been submitted by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a data-research organization at Syracuse of which she is co-director.
TRAC has used the records to report in 2000 that the Clinton administration was auditing poor people at a higher rate than rich people and in 2004 that business and corporate audits were down substantially and criminal tax enforcement was at an all-time low. TRAC also reported that in fiscal 2002-2004 IRS audited on average only a third of the largest corporations, which control 90 percent of all corporate assets and 87 percent of all corporate income.
Now we’re getting somewhere. Susan Long and her organization are acting as a watchdog to ensure that our government isn’t playing favorites. I’m not sure if there is a political motivation behind her group or not, but the more watchdogs looking after the government, the better. Which is why it’s especially pernicious that they’ve stopped responding to her requests.
They’ve been lax in providing any data past Mar 2004. The last time they presented any new data was Nov 2004, when they provided the report detailing activity until Mar 2004, and they again responded in April 2005, but there was no new data in this report. Susan Long had been requesting data annually (by court order, she apparently is entitled to data on a quarterly basis), but has been ramping up the rate of her requests since the IRS stopped complying.
This brings up a lot of very troubling questions. It goes without saying that I don’t trust the IRS. But now they appear to be actively hiding what they’re doing, and have stopped providing some of the data they readily gave in the past. From all I know of government, they’re not just trying to reduce workload, because every bureaucrat in existence loves to have more people working underneath them.
Are they actively trying to hide certain data? Is this data something that we, as a public, would find compelling to know? Is the Bush administration tied up in this at all? I’d like some answers.
(cross-posted at The FairTax Blog)
IRS Hiding Its Tracks, As Usual :: The Fair Tax Blog linked with IRS Hiding Its Tracks, As Usual :: The Fair Tax Blog
With a national championship, a litany of school records and one spectacular Rose Bowl performance, Vince Young figures he’s done all he can at the college level. So, the Texas quarterback is going to the NFL.
Young announced Sunday he’ll skip his senior season to enter the NFL draft, taking the leap many expected after leading the Longhorns to a 41-38 victory over Southern California for Texas’ first national title in 36 years.
“It’s been a really fun ride. It’s been really beautiful, and I’ll cherish my memories for the rest of my life,” Young said at a campus news conference to announce his decision.
“I feel like I accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish in college,” Young said.
And he immediately set the bar for his pro career pretty high.
“I will not let you down. I will be a hard worker and do what it takes to not only be a role model, but make it to the Hall of Fame, and that’s the biggest it can be,” Young said.
Wow. Vince must not be known for his modesty. Already predicting a hall of fame run?
Of course, from what I’ve seen, barring injury, he’ll make it in there. He is just that good. After watching his performance in the Rose Bowl, I believe he should have taken the Heisman race, not Reggie Bush. As my coworker said to me, he made USC’s defenders look “silly”. Anyone who can have a level of performance that far ahead of defenders on one of college football’s best teams has something truly special.
I know most Texas fans are sad to see Vince leave, but frankly, he had nothing left to accomplish with the Longhorns. He’s a cut above, and he needs to make his jump now.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger doesn’t plan to change his schedule even though he received 15 stitches in his lip for injuries sustained when his motorcycle collided with a car, his spokeswoman said.
The governor was expected to keep his appointments Monday, spokeswoman Margita Thompson said.
Schwarzenegger was riding his motorcycle Sunday with his 12-year-old son, Patrick, in the sidecar, when a car backed out of a driveway in the Brentwood section, Thompson said.
He rides a sidecar?! No wonder he couldn’t avoid the car. Motorcycles are light, agile, and maneuverable. When you strap a sidecar onto them, all of a sudden they lose all handling advantages they once had over a car. I’m sure Maria probably wanted him to start riding a bike with a sidecar to be more “safe”; adding a sidecar to a motorcycle is anything but. As a sidecar proponent puts it:
The ride is something like, well, maybe a truck with two bad left shocks? Seriously, I’ve ridden a few and all have types their own unique suspension and ride but all that I’ve ridden share some of the same ride characteristics. Because of the nature of sidecars, your high seating position on the bike and lean out (discussed later), you feel like you are being thrown away from the chair when you hit bumps. Trust me – the sensation goes away after a while.
Glad to hear he and his son are both okay, though. I know people who’ve walked away from very high-speed crashes with no injuries, and people who have hurt themselves badly in “minor” low-speed crashes. But, I guess you can’t injure Conan, huh?
*The term “hack” is typically used to describe motorcycles with sidecars. Because so many sidecars are additions to what used to be a perfectly good motorcycle, rather than a part of the original design, they have gotten the term “hack”.
January 8, 2006
The Indian capital has seen its first winter frost in 70 years as a cold wave sweeping in from the frigid heights of the Himalayas killed more people in northern India overnight.
The capital city of 14 million people ordered schools shut for three days beginning Monday as the mercury for the first time since 1935 plummeted to 0.2 degrees C (32.36 F) Sunday, leaving mounds of ice on cars parked in the open.
White-laced streets greeted early risers in New Delhi but any novelty value brought by the cold temperatures soon died as frost on power cables sparked partial power cuts across large swathes of the crowded city, the privately-run BSES utility provider said.
In 1935, Delhi recorded minus 0.6 degrees Celsius.
The real question is: How long it will take to blame this on global warming?
With this news, however, comes sadder news.
The toll from the cold wave, meanwhile, rose to 137 as the eastern Indian state of Bihar reported that 10 people, mostly homeless, had died of the cold since the beginning of last month.
Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous and one of its poorest states, so far accounts for 104 of the deaths, police spokesman Avinash Mehrotra said in the provincial capital of Lucknow.
It is always sad to see, no matter whether it is the US or elsewhere, that even with the tremendous increase in standard of living, we still see such large numbers of poor and elderly people die simply due to heat or cold. Only two and a half years ago, we saw almost 15,000 die in France, a modern, industrialized nation, due to heat.
I’m sure it’s simply wishful thinking to believe that we may someday completely eliminate this problem, but I know it can be made better than it is today. But the experience of France vs the US shows one thing is true: it will be capitalism, not government, that makes the biggest dent in solving this issue. People are best able to fight heat and cold when their standard of living allows them to afford homes with heat and air conditioning. Capitalism is the absolute best engine towards achieving that reality.
January 7, 2006
There’s a reason I’m not often allowed in the kitchen… Looks like a hurricane came through…
Yep, today was the first attempt at brewing. In about 4-6 weeks, after it completes first fermentation, second fermentation, and about 2 weeks in bottles, I’ll get a chance to sample my work. But everything seemed to occur just as the directions said it would, so I think it will turn out well.
Overall, this was a very interesting project. If nothing else, I’m going to start learning a lot more about what makes beer into beer, what affects the flavors and colors, and how to craft the taste one is searching. During the brew process, I opened and smelled the first package of hops, and immediately thought it smelled like beer. At the end of the brew process, when it came time to add the second package of hops, I opened those and suddenly realized exactly where the “Irish Red Ale” flavor came from. That package of hops smelled like a bottle of Killians. Very nice.
So here is the current state:
Next up, some Phat Tyre Amber Ale
January 6, 2006
AMSTERDAM (Reuters) – Dutch troops helping earthquake survivors in Pakistan have complained that while they are subject to an alcohol ban, Spanish and British soldiers laugh at their austerity and turn up drunk at their campfire.
“We were told before we arrived that alcohol was banned in this country or else very difficult to get hold of and we accepted this,” one soldier told the Dutch daily De Telegraaf.
“The Spanish drive around with cars full of Heineken … and the English laugh at us when they show up at our campfire drunk,” another Dutch soldier said.
Remember when you used to get grounded as a kid? While you were stuck in your room “thinking about what you’ve done”, your friends are all playing in the yard across the street, loudly and boisterous, and you’re stuck trying to find ways to
tune them out amuse yourself (is it any wonder I love reading so much)?
I see life doesn’t change much when you become a soldier. Maybe we should send some books their way?
In an ominous election-year sign for Republicans, Americans are leaning sharply toward wanting Democrats to take control of Congress, an AP-Ipsos poll finds. Democrats are favored 49 percent to 36 percent.
“I don’t think anyone is hitting the panic button,” said Rich Bond, a former Republican National Committee chairman. “But there is an acute recognition of the grim environment that both parties are operating in.”
“If the Democrats had any leadership or any message, they could be poised for a good year,” Bond said. “But in the absence of that, they have not been able to capitalize on Republican woes. Because of the size of the GOP majority, Democrats have to run the board, and I don’t see that happening.”
Wow… 49 percent to 36 percent? That’s a pretty big margin. Things are looking pretty grim for the Republicans…
Or are they?
It seems that of the people polled, a large margin would like to see a change. But with gerrymandered districts and no correlation between this poll and the voters in contested districts, there’s not much real news here.
So I look where I always look, Tradesports.com. TradeSports currently has two contracts running. The two below contracts are traded on a scale of 0 to 100, where 100 will be the value of the contract if the Republicans gain control, and 0 will be the value if the Democrats gain control. It’s a rough estimate, but you can consider the value of the contract a percentage estimate of how likely it is that the contract’s result occurs:
SENATE.GOP.2006: Currently trading at 76.1
HOUSE.GOP.2006: Currently trading at 70.3
So the people laying their money on the line think it’s pretty likely that the Republicans will keep Congress. Given their performance, I wouldn’t mind a little gridlock, but I prefer the Republican Congress/Democrat President variety, as it results in the best fiscal results we usually ever see. But for everyone pulling for a Republican congressional victory in 2006, it is not yet time to fret.
As you can all see, there are a much greater number of ads sprinkled over on that left sidebar. I have chosen to work with affiliate programs rather than something like Google Adsense, as it gives me more control over which ads I display and which I do not.
All ads displayed on The Unrepentant Individual will satisfy a few possible reasons:
1. It will be a product/web site that I personally use.
2. It will be a product/web site that I would consider using.
3. It is a product/web site that comes recommended to me from a source I trust.
I have arranged this into a few main categories, and will explain below. I will regularly update this post and keep it linked on the left sidebar as different ad programs may be added and/or deleted.
PartyPoker: This is my personal choice of poker sites. I’ve used it for about 2 years now, and have never had a bad experience with their service (other than losing, of course!). It has become the most widely used poker site, from what I understand, and is the first one I would recommend.
TradeSports.com: This is an interesting site. TradeSports is an online futures market, dealing with sports, politics, current events, etc. What separates this from a betting site is that you are trading contracts, not placing bets. For example, if you think Hillary Clinton is going to win the ‘08 Democrat nomination, you can buy the contract. If this becomes more likely between now and then, you can sell the contract for higher than you bought it, without waiting for whether or not the nomination actually occurs. You can trade sports during an actual game, so if the team you’ve bought at 20 gets a huge lead, you can sell them at 80, making a big profit before the game is finished. If they then don’t cover their spread, you’ve still made your profit. I think it’s a highly novel idea. I personally don’t trade there, but I do go there to get a better idea of what people think might happen than with polls. For example, I think people are more likely to accurately judge whether or not a certain person gets elected if they’re putting their own money on the line than if they happen to be home to get a pollsters phone call. So I do use the web site, even though I don’t trade there.
Sportsbook.com: This is a pretty standard sports betting site. As with Tradesports, I don’t actually bet here, but that’s more due to the fact that I don’t bet on sports very often to begin with. Sportsbook.com is where I go to get my lines for my prediction posts. One particular feature I like is that they will show the betting trends on any given line. Knowing how others are betting can affect how you might lay your own bets, so this is a useful feature for the bettor.
Casino Partners: The other poker/casino links are from CasinoPartners. There are several of these, all linked through the same company. Again, I don’t use this personally, but this is the one that comes most highly recommended by Jacqueline Passey, who knows a lot more about affiliate programs and online casinos than I do. I do plan to give Titan Poker a try as well, just to check it out. But the signup bonuses for all of these casinos are quite lucrative, and seem like a decent organization so far.
My Favorite Things
Food, wine, etc…
US Playing Card Company: Obviously, if you haven’t yet gathered that I love (and hate) poker, you haven’t been reading my site. The US Playing Card Company is a source for playing cards, poker sets, etc.
Starstruck/Proteam: This is a sports apparel site, with merchandise from just about every team in existence. Their Purdue selections are a little thinner than I would like, but that’s not particularly surprising.
Wine.com: I like wine! I have very particular tastes in wine. Much of the boutique wines that I like are not widely distributed, and never make it to Georgia retail stores. Often, if I’m to find the wines I’m looking for, it can get very difficult. Wine.com solves that, as well as having a wealth of gift products and wine knowledge.
Kegworks.com: Again, I like beer. I like all things beer! Kegworks.com has kegerators, wine refrigerators, and quite a lot more. They carry bar accessories, bar furniture, beer-related apparel (with a whole section devoted to Guinness). I have a feeling when the time comes to build the bar in my basement, I’m going to be spending some money at Kegworks.com.
Foodnetwork.com: I like food! This one, however, is chosen more because of how big a fan my wife is of the Food Network. I think in about 40 years, my wife will have completely transformed into Paula Deen. Of course, it’s not like I never watch it either, I like learning food science from Alton Brown, a fellow nerd.
Overstock.com: I can’t give a stronger recommendation for online discount retailers than Overstock.com. It’s one of those web sites that you to in order to find out what things you didn’t know existed but really needed. Most of what they sell are deeply-discounted from retail cost, many times 25-75% off. Very good deals. In our old apartment, we got our bed from Overstock.com, as well as an end table. I’ve bought speakers, computer equipment, etc. The best part? Flat-rate $2.95 shipping. No matter what you order, shipping is only $2.95. That bed and end table? Shipped for $2.95. I have no idea how they do it, but if I want something heavy, I always check Overstock.com just for the shipping savings. My link on the sidebar is a monthly promotional banner, so each month might even have an added savings.
netMagazines.com: There’s no particular reason for netMagazines.com other than if I were to want a magazine subscription, places like this would be where I would go. After getting married, I was highly encouraged to let my Playboy and Maxim subscriptions expire, so I currently have no magazines coming. But if I’m going to get some in the future, this will be a heck of a lot quicker and cheaper than waiting for the kid selling subscriptions for his soccer team to come by…
Amazon.com: Self-explanatory. Everyone uses Amazon. The main key here is for individual product links I put into posts, rather than the hope that you’ll click on the sidebar ad. One thing I do like about Amazon is their new link system (still in Beta test, so only half of my readers see it), where mousing over an Amazon product link pops up a little window for that product.
Affiliate Referral Links
LinkShare: Much of the above retailers work through LinkShare. If you’re a blogger and want to get involved in affiliate marketing, this link will refer you to them. There are quite a lot of retailers on the LinkShare network, enough that you’re bound to find some that fit your particular interests. In addition, this is where Overstock.com works through, which is how I found LinkShare in the first place.
Casino Partners: If you want to get involved in affiliate marketing for Casino Partners, this is the referral link over to them.
January 5, 2006
Strap yourselves in, folks, this is gonna be a long one… Due to length, I’ve decided to post most of it below the fold. (Cross-posted at The Liberty Papers)
In response to my piece, Common Sense Offends ACLU, addressing the ACLU’s opposition towards the behavioral screening procedures imposed by the TSA in certain airports, commenter John Newman brought up some questions. John believes that federalizing aviation security matters is Unconstitutional. He advances two particular arguments.
His first argument discusses the Constitution’s “fundamental right to travel”. It mainly consists of picking quotes from Supreme Court cases upholding the fundamental right of travel. I will first mention that the fundamental right of travel is not once mentioned in the Constitution, but may be built from penumbras emanating from some such or the like. But that’s not the crux of the argument. See the following quotes from John’s own selections of court cases (emphasis added below in italics):
require that all citizens be free to travel throughout the length and breadth of our land uninhibited by statutes, rules or regulations which unreasonably burden or restrict this movement
â€˜any classification which serves to penalize the exercise of that right unless shown to be necessary to promote a compelling governmental interest, is unconstitutionalâ€™
The right to travel, to go from place to place as the means of transportation permit, is a natural right subject to the rights of others and to reasonable regulation under law
fundamental personal right that can be impinged only if to do so is necessary to promote a compelling governmental interest
a â€˜fundamentalâ€™ one, requiring the showing of a â€˜compelling state or local interest to warrant its limitationâ€
At the minimum, governmental restrictions upon freedom to travel are to be weighed against the necessity advanced to justify them, and a restriction that burdens the right to travel â€˜too broadly and indiscriminatelyâ€™ cannot be sustained
is basically the right to travel unrestricted by unreasonable government interference or regulation
Note the words used, for they are important. “Compelling government interest.” “Unreasonable burden.” These are phrases which, in Constitutional jurisprudence, have very specific meanings. Another particular phrase that must be added is “strict scrutiny”. A Congressional Research Service paper on Constitutional objections to the showing of ID on airline flights (warning: pdf) covers the defense of the “right to travel” objection quite well:
The Court has declared that the constitutional right to travel consists of three different components: first, it protects the right of a citizen of one state to enter and to leave another state; second, it protects the right to be treated as a welcome visitor rather than an unfriendly alien when temporarily present in the second state; and third, for those travelers who elect to become permanent residents, it protects the right to be treated like other citizens of that state. In the context of transportation security, however, only the first prong of the right to travel appears to be relevant.
Consistent with its status as a fundamental right is the requirement that the governmentâ€™s action satisfy the constitutional standard of review often referred to as strict scrutiny, or heightened scrutiny. Under strict scrutiny the government must provide a compelling state interest for the burden and show that the means utilized are narrowly tailored to the achievement of the goal or, phrased another way, the least restrictive means available.
Given that the airlines are seemingly authorized to refuse service to anyone who fails to present proper identification, it appears that a strong argument can be made that there is an additional burden imposed on citizens who wish to travel by airplane. Thus, the inquiry should focus on the standard of review that should be applied. It appears difficult to argue that passenger safety and transportation facility security are something other than compelling governmental interests. Thus, it seems that, regardless of which standard of review is applied, the government may be in a strong position to argue that not only are the current security restrictions justifiable, but also that their burden on the right to travel is minimal and given the present conditions entirely reasonable.
From the look of it, to claim that the requirement that one shows ID in order to engage in air travel is unconstitutional appears to be– at the least– unsupported by Constitutional precedent. According to the court cases cited, regulations can legitimately be placed upon travel if there is a compelling state interest to uphold. One would think that stopping passengers from blowing up planes or hijacking them and flying them into buildings would meet even the “strict scrutiny” test.
So we must move on to John’s second argument, which is much shorter and yet at the same time, more difficult to answer. He asks where it is enumerated that airline security is a federal matter to begin with?
If the airlines want to impose security practises and procedures, I have no problem with that. Where is it enumerated in the Constitution that it is a matter for the federal government?
There are a lot of ways to answer this question. The first answer, although some creativity can change it, is that it simply isn’t in there. Article I, Section 8 has no provisions for regulation of airline security, nor does it ever claim that police power is the realm of the federal government. But two particular provisions might at least be able to be shown to have relevance:
To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas, and Offenses against the Law of Nations;
To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;
This is, of course, a stretch up there with those who might envision a “living Constitution”. But if we’re going to allow a “fundamental right to travel”, I’m asking for a little bit of leeway. As I said above, nothing in the Constitution gives the federal government police powers over the states. But here’s where you can find a bit of an AHA! moment. The bits in Article I, Section 8 regarding Piracies and Felonies on the High Seas are quite analogous to those of hijackings and bombings of commercial aircraft. Both involve non-government-owned vessels (i.e. the government did protect private merchant ships from piracy); and both involve territory separate from that of land under the jurisdiction of the several states.
Second, the whole bit about “repel invasions”. We are in a war against foreign and quite possibly partly domestic enemies who will use commercial airlines to attack our nation. I don’t like using the “national security” defense in most circumstances, but there is a certain point at which one might allow that protecting our buildings and populace from terrorists who will (and have) hijack aircraft with the purpose of using them as guided missiles to attack civilian targets is a reason for which we might want to take on government-ordained security procedures.
Last, John had suggested that perhaps if the airlines wanted to enact security procedures, that might be enough for him (although I don’t understand how he does not similarly support private hiring and firing practices). And if the airlines had secure cockpits and could not be hijacked, I might agree. But once the airplane becomes a guided missile filled with fuel aimed at a building, the equation changes. Just as states and municipalities have laws regarding drunk driving or speeding, which can turn an automobile into a 3,000 lb missile, the feds have airline security regulations to keep an airplane from doing the same thing. The only thing that gives the feds jurisdiction, though, is that the particular exigencies of airline travel require it.
Simply put, there are a lot of things about federal power that highly disturb me. This is one of the few that does not. I’m not one to suggest that we should federalize the airport screeners, following in Daschle’s footsteps; because I suspect the procurement of security is better handled by the private sector, while the requirements of security are best handled by the government.
Either way, John, I thank you for the good-natured and challenging debate. As always, when debating a formidable opponent such as yourself, I only learn more and improve my own understanding in the process. And, of course, I’m sure this won’t quite be the end of it
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