This and That

  • Will there be a rematch after #1 Ohio State beat #2 Michigan last weekend? I don’t think it will happen provided either USC or Florida (and possibly Arkansas) wins out. The result eliminates Notre Dame’s title hopes because there’s no way they can let a team that lost by 21 to Michigan at home in the title game over the team that beat them.
    carr_defeat.jpg

    I think it’s best to avoid a rematch if possible. Going into the game, I kind of viewed this as a semifinal game with the loser out because it would just create more controversy if, say, there was a rematch and Michigan won by one at a neutral site. Given those two results, it’s pretty much impossible to say the Wolverines should be the undisputed champions. It’s just like the NFL playoffs where the top ranked team got home field advantage and won to get into the Super Bowl.

    I think Michigan’s probably better than USC, Florida, or Arkansas…but I think it should be one of these three that get the championship shot provided at least one of them finishes with one loss. It’s just like in the Final Four or NFL playoffs when the two best teams sometimes just happen to meet in the semis instead of the final.

  • George Carlin had “Seven Words You Can Never Say On Television”. Michael Richards’s new act is “One Word You Can Never Say To Hecklers”.
  • ron_zook_rocks

    The Illini finish the season 2-10 after a loss to Northwestern. Given that they’re not getting smashed by 50 points like they did last season, but I’m pretty sure this isn’t the result that the university had in mind when they hired him. In his first two seasons as coach, Zooker is 4-19. What was Ron Turner’s record in the two years before he was fired? Yep, it was 4-19.

  • And, what do those ingenious Republicans do after losing the House for the first time in 12 years? Re-elect the same House leadership that lead them to the defeat. Not to be outdone, the Democratic House leader incompetently tries to purge dissent by endorsing an ethically candidate against her former House leadership opponent. In other news, common sense, ethics, decency, and real change seen frantically running away from the Capital building.

How You Like Dem Apples?

If Karl Rove is supposed to be the architect of a permanent Republican majority, then last night he pulled off an architectural feat not seen since the construction of the New Orleans levees. For three elections he was Bush’s election zen master. Last night…not so much.

karl_rove

In case you missed it, the Democrats gained control of both the House and Senate for the first time in 12 years. In the House they picked about 29 seats, which is pretty amazing considering how much redistricting and campaign finance reform have entrenched incumbents in recent years. It also may be the first time ever a party hasn’t picked up a single seat previously held by the opposition.

In the Senate, Democrats more than likely picked up six seats to get a 51-49 majority. More impressive is the fact that all six were against incumbents (PA, RI, OH, MT, MO, VA) whereas pick-ups normally come for open seats instead. Of the five open seats in this cycle, two were blowouts held by the Dems (VT, MN), two were closely held by Dems (NJ, MD), and one was closely held by Republicans (TN). Ironically, losing Tennessee would actually probably be better for the Republicans in the long run it because then they would have Harold Ford (a photogenic, young, Southern, black male) as their token Democratic supporter in the Senate instead of Joe Lieberman (an old, white, New England male who somehow manages to sound both constipated and condescending simultaneously).

Divided government has worked pretty well in the past, so it’ll be interesting to see what it spews out now. I have no clue what the heck the Dems want to do other than raise the minimum wage and complain about Iraq. So, it’ll be interesting to see how they handle being on the offensive instead of defensive. Even though raising the minimum wage is generally frowned upon by economists, it seems to be a solid, reliable populist issue for the Dems (five state initiatives to raise minimum wage passed last night; none were defeated). It’s akin to the way Republicans like to lower tax first thing when they gain power.

Equally interesting, will be how the Republicans recover. I think a good barometer of whether the party really plans to change (as opposed to just pay the concept lip service) is whether or not they elect Mike Pence as the new minority leader in the House. Unlike a lot of the Republican power brokers of the Bush era, he’s a hardcore limited government politician. If they elect John Boehner instead, then that probably signals more of the status quo for the Bush governing philosophy (i.e., big government spending, increased government and executive power).

And, of course, The Onion puts the whole election in perspective: Politicians Sweep Midterm Elections: Resounding Victories In All States, Counties, Cities, Towns.

How Do You Make Voting Decisions?

voting_dummies

As we got our sample ballot in the mail this week, it strikes me that making informed decisions in the voting process is obscenely difficult. There’s just way to many candidates and questions that I don’t feel that I have sufficient information to make an informed decision. So, my question is: what recommendations do you have for making more informed voting decisions? In particular, how do you choose on local candidates, like city council, school boards, state senators, state representatives, and state officials? (Finding information about federal candidates and governors is easier)

The easiest thing to do is just pick which party you generally agree with the most and vote a straight ticket, but this doesn’t seem like a very good way to vote to me. I’d like to consider each candidate independently.

At a seminar one time, the speaker hypothesized that the reason voter turnout is so low in the US relative to other countries is the overwhelming amount of choices voters face. Rather than just going to vote for you Member of Parliament, you have to decide on everything down to county coroner. I kid you not…in the 2004 election we had to vote for the county coroner complete with their Republican and Democrat labels. What exactly the party labels mean in this circumstance I have no idea and even less of an idea why we have to vote on this position as opposed to, say, the city council appointed someone for the position.

hanging_chads.jpg

This year, we have ballot questions like, do you vote to add the parcel of land at such and such intersection to Champaign city limits. I have no clue how to even decide on this. Then, there’s the bond levies for some fire department. Who wouldn’t want money for fire departments, but there must be a downside that I need to know to make an informed decision. And, then, there’s those silly Urbana-ites who got their ballot questions: (1) Should we bring the troops home from Iraq? and (2) Should we impeach Bush/Cheney?. We’re supposed to be voting…not taking non-binding opinion surveys on issues under a separate jurisdiction.

For ballot questions, I think I’ll just adopt the philosophy of voting NO by default unless I have an explicit reason to vote YES. The rationale being that YES votes generally cause action on the part of the government and limiting the actions of the government as much as possible (e.g., divided government) is generally a good thing IMHO.

Concealed Weapon Permits and the Impending Apocalypse

I’m no lover of the NRA (I think they could do more to blacklist dealers known to be selling illegally), but the opposition is just clueless if this NY Times article is representative of their argument.

Sure enough, a year ago the State Legislature passed a “concealed carry” law, which means that it’s legal to carry a concealed weapon if you have a permit. So that no one misses the point, the Legislature has also turned Minnesota into what is called a “shall issue” state. If you apply for a concealed-weapon permit, the local authorities must grant it to you.

This is what I’d expect of Florida, which recently passed a “shoot first” — also called a “shoot the Avon lady” — bill. I’d expect it of Texas too. But Minnesota? I grew up thinking of Minnesota as a socially progressive state.

Every concealed weapon, with very few exceptions, is a blow against the public safety.

deadwood2

Where to start? How about statistics? Concealed weapons laws have been in effect for quite some time in many states. Two states, Alaska and Vermont, require no licensing to carry guns. Yes, Ben and Jerry’s socially liberal, “We proudly elect a socialist to Congress” Vermont has the most permissive gun laws in the country. Notice that not once in the article does the author present a single statistic showing that these states have become Deadwood while the two remaining states that completely outlaw concealed weapons (Illinois and Wisconsin) remain utopias of non-violence. Why? My guess is such statistics don’t exist or surely you’d use them to make your point in such a prominent publication.

So, the entire argument is pretty much based on a feeling! Concealed weapons just don’t feel right even if those no statistical evidence of the “blow against public safety”.

This article is condescending in that the author appears incredulous that a vast majority of citizens can actually carry a gun in public and not go postal the first time someone flips them a bird. In other words, the author thinks that people start behaving like five-year-olds the second you let them carry a gun. Amazingly, I think most people have enough discretion to know that there’s going to be serious ramifications for using a gun, legally or illegally, and they’re not going to do it unless they feel that it’s absolutely necessary for their or their loved ones’ well-being. Plus, most people don’t find any joy in inflicting pain on others (and the ones that do have plenty of other means of doing so…baseball bat, knives, hatchets, chained maces).

If you want to talk public safety, the more likely cases are probably similar to those of 56-year-old, wheelchair-bound Margaret Johnson.

Margaret Johnson might have looked like an easy target.

But when a mugger tried to grab a chain off her neck Friday, the wheelchair-bound 56-year-old pulled out her licensed .357 pistol and shot him, police said.

Margaret Johnson, who lives in Harlem, has a permit for the weapon and does not face charges, Grimpel said.

An amazing blow to public safety, I know. The author would have been much more satisfied if the attacker just mugged the gun-less disabled lady and got reported to a police force that doesn’t have the resources to track down such thugs. That’s the way society is supposed to work in the author’s mind.

deadwood

Finally, the author does a terrible job of representing the constraints of “shall issue” laws. Reading this article, you’d think anyone could just go in an get a permit. In reality, you’re not issued a permit if you have a history of mental problems, physical violence, restraining orders, or a judge has deemed you unfit. In short, it treats people as responsible adults capable of handling a concealed weapon by default and only bars exceptional cases. This contrasts with states that have “may issue” laws where the government is free to deny a permit for no reason even if you meet the minimum criteria set forth in law (in practice, “shall issue” sometimes effectively operates like this in some municipalities).

Democratic Target #1: Joe Lieberman?

The Democrats have a golden opportunity in this year’s elections based on the polls that show a discontent with the Republican president and Congress. So you you’d think they’d be dedicating their efforts towards defeating Republican incumbents. Instead, their number one target at the moment appears to be Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman based on these recent posts on the liberal Mecca, the Daily Kos. Did Karl Rove take over the Daily Kos? Given the Republicans’ dismal performance, I’ve got to imagine that there’s a big smile on Rove’s face to see the Democrats’ in-fighting making headlines. Makes the Dems look more like McCarythy-ists rather than a party prepared to lead with bold, new ideas.

Playing Politics With Religion

If there is any doubt that politicians just spew crap that they totally don’t believe in, check out Congressman Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA). He supports displaying the Ten Commandments in Congress, but then can’t even name more than three of them. And they’re important to him because?

I’m sure that there’s a ton of politicians on the left that just pay lip service to groups like labor and pro-gun control advocates, but it’s always funny to see one get caught red handed in hypocrisy.

Dover, Pennsylvania Better Look Out

If Pat Robertson has a vendetta against Dover, Pennsylvania, they should be extra scared now. Not only did God leave their city in response to school board election, but thanks to his “Age-Defying Shake”, it looks like Pat now has the physical superpowers to single-handedly wipe the city out of existence:

Did you know that Pat Robertson, through rigorous training, leg-pressed 2,000 pounds!

Evidently, when he’s not advocating the assassination of foreign leaders or blaming America for 9/11, he’s now found time to build super human strength thanks to his shakes. Clay Travis from CBS Sportsline puts this feat in perspective:

There is no way on earth Robertson leg presses 2,000 pounds. That would mean a 76-year-old man broke the all-time Florida State University leg press record by 665 pounds over Dan Kendra. 665 pounds. Further, when he set the record, they had to modify the leg press machine to fit 1,335 pounds of weight. Plus, Kendra’s capillaries in his eyes burst. Burst. Where in the world did Robertson even find a machine that could hold 2,000 pounds at one time? And how does he still have vision?

New York Liberals are the Model of “Tolerance”

John McCain give a commencement speech at the New School in New York. Audience members whose views are to the left of him give a new definition of “tolerance”:

No sooner had Mr. Kerrey welcomed the audience to the university’s 70th commencement than the hoots began to rise through the Theater at Madison Square Garden. Several graduates held up a banner aimed at Mr. McCain, an Arizona Republican and likely 2008 presidential candidate, declaring: “Our commencement is not your platform.” Other students and faculty members waved orange fliers with the same message.

The heckling continued when Mr. Kerrey returned to the lectern, with one audience member shouting, “You’re a war criminal!”

Good thing they’re not “intolerant” people who aren’t mature enough to listen to views they don’t agree with!

Those Pesky Approval Ratings

Here’s a well-written essay that is probably indicative of why Bush’s approval ratings are so low: An Apology from a Bush Voter.

I’m saying today, I was wrong to have voted for George W. Bush. In historic terms, I believe George W. Bush is the worst two-term President in the history of the country. Worse than Grant. I also believe a case can be made that he’s the worst President, period.

You can make a case that Abraham Lincoln did what he had to do, the public be damned. If you roll the dice on your gut and you’re right, history remembers you well. But, when your gut led you from one business failure to another, when your gut told you to trade Sammy Sosa to the White Sox, and you use the same gut to send our sons and daughters to fight and die in a distraction from the real war on terror, then history will and should be unapologetic in its condemnation.

In fairness, I don’t believe a Democrat president would have gone into Iraq. Unfortunately, I don’t know if President Gore would have gone into Afghanistan. And that’s one of the many problems with the Democrats.

I believe that George W. Bush has taken us down a terrible road. I don’t believe the Democrats are offering an alternative.

The question is who can harness the “We Don’t Want Bush, Hillary, Hasert, Pelosi, Frist, Kerry, DeLay, Feingold, Rumsfeld, Kennedy, Cheney, or Dean” vote? I sense that voters aren’t too pleased with the state of either party right now.

In the latest Survey USA polls, Bush only has three states in the entire country that give him an approval rating of 50% or better. Even Texas gives its native son a -14% disapproval spread!

The NCAA Continues Its Quest to Remove All Traces of Native American Culture

It’s political correctness that would make Orwell proud as the NCAA is evidently intent on making sure the next generation has no knowledge of the existence of Native Americans. Now, the phrase “Tribe” is forbidden from college campuses.

The NCAA has added William & Mary to its list of schools subject to restrictions on the use of Indian mascots, names and imagery in the governing body’s championship events.

William & Mary will be allowed to keep its “Tribe” nickname, but can’t use it in NCAA championship competitions and also is barred from holding NCAA events.

Random Tidbits from the Web

  • Amidst the MySpace hysteria, Congress proposes banning access to the site from libraries and schools. Isn’t telling teenagers “No” the most effective way of ensuring that they will do the activity? In other news, I think I’ll change my career track to be a “MySpace Pedophile Bounty Hunter”. Seems like that’s the hottest career there is right now…if your business card says that you can pretty much write your own paycheck I’ll bet.
  • The search engine business gets all middle school with Yahoo pimp slapping Microsoft: “My impartial advice to Microsoft is that you have no chance. The search business has been formed”.
  • A list of the top 50 most visited domains. Sadly mattandleighann.com hasn’t cracked the list yet. I’ll bet we were number 51 though. 🙂
  • You’d better stop working on your hyperspace teleporation device and stick to your day job. John St. Clair of Puerto Rico already owns the US patent on the technology. In other news, the US Patent Office loses its last shred of credibility.
  • George W. Bush gets pwned by Bill Clinton in a poll of Americans. Even in Bush’s most popular signature issue, taxes, Clinton out polls him by 51% to 35%! You know it’s not good when more people think Bill Clinton is more honest than you. With a 29% approval rating in hand, I think it’s safe to say that, short of catching Osama Bin Laden, this president’s never going to be anywhere near a 50% approval again.

Bush Must Be a Lame Duck

As if sub-40 approval ratings aren’t enough, I think you can pretty much say the nail’s in the coffin for the Bush Administration’s legislative visions when the following is written in The National Review, the flagship conservative publication:

I’ve never voted for a Democrat in a general election in my life, and I don’t expect to anytime soon, but it’s been impossible for me over the past couple of years to get enthused about the Republican party. I voted for President Bush twice, and contributed to his campaign twice, but held my nose when I did it the second time. I don’t consider myself a Republican any longer. Thanks to this Administration and the Republicans in Congress, the Republican Party today is the party of pork-barrel spending, Congressional corruption — and, I know folks on this web site don’t want to hear it, but deep down they know it’s true — foreign and military policy incompetence. Frankly, speaking of incompetence, I think this Administration is the most politically and substantively inept that the nation has had in over a quarter of a century. The good news about it, as far as I’m concerned, is that it’s almost over.

Is Iran Next?

Fresh of the resounding success of an “undeclared civil war” in Iraq, it looks like the US is increasingly leaning towards a sequel involving Iran:

A government consultant with close ties to the civilian leadership in the Pentagon said that Bush was “absolutely convinced that Iran is going to get the bomb” if it is not stopped. He said that the President believes that he must do “what no Democrat or Republican, if elected in the future, would have the courage to do,” and “that saving Iran is going to be his legacy.”

One former defense official, who still deals with sensitive issues for the Bush Administration, told me that the military planning was premised on a belief that “a sustained bombing campaign in Iran will humiliate the religious leadership and lead the public to rise up and overthrow the government.” He added, “I was shocked when I heard it, and asked myself, ‘What are they smoking?’ ”

At some point, I think that the US is going to have to realize that the nuclear genie is out of the bottle and new strategies are required to deal with this fact. Heck, Pakistan is one bullet away from nuclear bombs being in the hands of Islamic terrorists. It’s not a sustainable strategy to just keep bombing regimes out of existence. Military resources and international goodwill towards the US are finite resources that will get exhausted eventually. As the article mentions, there are some very critical questions to ask about taking this direction with Iran:

Any American bombing attack, Richard Armitage told me, would have to consider the following questions: “What will happen in the other Islamic countries? What ability does Iran have to reach us and touch us globally—that is, terrorism? Will Syria and Lebanon up the pressure on Israel? What does the attack do to our already diminished international standing? And what does this mean for Russia, China, and the U.N. Security Council?”

I would add, how do you explain to moderate Muslims why we invaded Iraq (which didn’t have WMD) and Iran (which may have nuclear capabilities in the near future) when North Korea, a country that seems much more certain to have nuclear capabilities, basically gets a pass? Unfortunately, nothing about Iraq has inspired my confidence in the Bush Administration to handle Iran, diplomatically or militarily, in a competent manner.

The Societal Impact of Polygamy

I find it interesting to reason about the correlations and consequences of polygamous marriage versus gay marriage. If you’re interested in the topic, I found this article by Jonathan Rauch to be very well-written and informative regardless of your opinion on the matter. Most articles on the topic end up with more an emotional or religious debate. Rauch’s article, by contrast, takes a more objective look at what would be the likely societal impacts of legalizing polygamy based on empirical evidence. If you’re interested in the issue, I’d recommend reading the article.

Is North Korea Ahead or Behind the West on This Human Rights Issue?

A shocking, but not surprising revelation from a North Korea defector.

North Korea has no people with physical disabilities because they are killed almost as soon as they are born, a physician who defected from the communist state said on Wednesday.

Ri Kwang-chol, who fled to the South last year, told a forum of rights activists that the practice of killing newborns was widespread but denied he himself took part in it.

“There are no people with physical defects in North Korea,” Ri told members of the New Right Union, which groups local activists and North Korean refugees.

He said babies born with physical disabilities were killed in infancy in hospitals or in homes and were quickly buried.

The practice is encouraged by the state, Ri said, as a way of purifying the masses and eliminating people who might be considered “different.”

The article isn’t completely clear whether the practice is mandated or just encouraged by the state, but nonetheless, I think it is cause to assess some of our society’s own practices. Assuming that one is not an apologetic for North Korea’s actions (such a person would have acknowledge that North Korea is actually more advanced on this human rights issue than the US and most all of Western Civilization), there’s a fundamental question that must be asked:

Does the moral wrong come only from the state encouraging and/or requiring the deaths of disabled newborns or does it come from selectively killing infants based on their physical condition?

If the pressure to stop the disabled from being allowed to live came from peers rather than the government and the final choice ultimately lay with the parents, would these actions be considered moral? If you’ve kept up with this blog for a while, you probably know that I’m getting back to an issue that I wrote about several months ago in response to a Washington Post article about the social acceptance in the US of aborting babies because they test positive for Down Syndrome (I also wrote about the follow-up, counterpoint article from the same source). I have great difficulty in seeing how history will judge our society favorably for letting parents choose whether or not to end an infant’s life based on its physical attributes. Indeed, it seems to me that such discrimination is something that has constantly been fought against in the past. To phrase the question another way:

If the moral high ground throughout history is viewed as those who opposed behavior that removed, either actively or passively, the “weak” and different from a society, how can this action be viewed as anything but immoral?

Some questions comes to mind for anyone that would condone having an abortion solely based on the physical condition of the child:

If we expect equal rights regardless of disability after birth, is it wrong to expect the same prior to birth as well?

Would it not be a contradiction to tell a disabled friend that their life is every bit as valuable as anyone else’s one day and the next tell a different friend that she made the morally correct decision by choosing to abort her baby based exclusively on it having a physical disability?

To put this in a historical perspective, consider the early hunter-gatherer societies. From my small bit of knowledge of these communities, infanticide was widely practiced. I am almost certain that nearly all newborns with physical disabilities would be killed. The simple reason being if you have to travel several miles every few days, it’s difficult enough to handle non-disabled children, let alone those with special needs. Do we look at this and believe this to be a morally acceptable action to selectively choose which infants will die based on their physical condition? Now fast forward a few thousand years to our society when we have the luxury of a stationary abode and more help available for disabilities than at any time in the past. If we consider the hunter-gather society’s actions immoral, how much worse is the decision to selectively end lives in a our society which is much more conducive to raising disabled children?

Regardless of one’s view on abortion in general, I fail to see how anyone could find the selective termination of life to be anything but a great moral wrong. What the solution is, I don’t know, but I think it is an issue that our society needs to address.