Wednesday, December 29, 2010

An Unfit Governor

Chris Christie has demonstrated during this moment of crisis that he is unfit to be serve as Governor of New Jersey. During last weekend's devastating snowstorm that stranded me in Kansas for two days, parts of New Jersey got 32 inches of snow in 24 hours. This is roughly the equivalent of Antartica being dumped on your house. Twice. However, Christie was busy embarking on a 'Disney World Vacation,' and failed to return from Disney World to oversee the response.

Christie's failure to return during an emergency, particularly when given a week's notice to prepare for returning, has been described as a deriliction of duty. I fear this bombastic talk takes our eyes off the ball. Here's the ball: what lunatic would visit Disney World during Christmas? I'd rather sit around the hotel and have the busboy drum my forehead with a pin hammer than leave my room.

And here's the craziest part: Christie actually had an opportunity to escape! Many a man has been drug into the hell that is Disney because his wife and kids wouldn't stop whining about how it would be a fun opportunity to spend time together because he simply couldn't negotiate a way out. Christie, on the other hand, has the greatest excuse ever: 'sorry hon, but Antartica just got dumped on New Jersey (twice). Gotta go rescue the state. I'll try to get back as soon as possible, but this looks like one sticky wicket of a situation. So if the State of New Jersey needs me longer than anticipated, you navigate the teeming crowds of screaming, vomit-covered children without me.' And just like that, Christie would be a free man.

The conclusion here is obvious: Chris Christie is the most incompetent man in the face of emergency I've ever read about. Not because of his abscense - the Secretary of Transportation and Adjucant General should be the primary responders to snowstorms, even if the Governor is available. Additionally, I don't know if the state would be any more well off if Christie had returned. However, his refusal to exploit the most opportune excuse to escape Gehenna exposes him as unfit to continue serving as Governor; even in a state as grisly as Jersey.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Clemente Effect

I'm taking K-State's loss to Florida on Saturday pretty hard, and postpone sleep while thinking what-if. What if Dennis Clemente had one more year of eligibility, how great would the Wildcats be?

I haven't been sold on this team since watching them play. I bought into the preseason hype, but they looked good (not great) against Virginia Tech, ditto against Gonzaga. Then they looked shitty against Duke. Didn't watch'em again during their string of second-tier victories before the Florida game, but game reviews painted their accomplishments as pedestrian. People bemoan the rebounding and grittiness advantage that was on greater display last year, but I look more closely at what Pullen has done.

The point guard just isn't scoring points like he used to. His shooting percentage has been downright atrocious, with games such as 1/12 against Duke, 5/17 against Loyola Chicago, and 2/11 against Washington. He's getting more steals and rebounds while committing fewer personal fouls this season, but just doesn't look as good as last year. Why? The answer lies somewhere over in Israel.

I believe Clemente was that instrumental to K-State's success last year. The NBA didn't want him because he simply couldn't provide that killer scoring threat - instead, he was an enabler. He was quick, had excellent vision, and created. This is what great guards do, and without that, Pullen is having a hard time transitioning into his new role.

We could also call this the CJ Effect, because it happened first and is much starker in every respect. CJ Lee's last year at Michigan, he wiggled into a starting role, earned a first-round upset, and almost beat out Blake Griffin's Sooners for a Sweet Sixteen birth. CJ didn't put up 20-point games. Didn't have to. He brought that leadership, vision, intangible blend that makes wins. Everyone in the Ford School agreed; the difference between 2008-09's Big 10 wins and 2009-10's let down was the lack of an enabler. And the Ford School knows - we almost won a game in intramurals (we're impartial AND know the game).

End of the day, K-State lost a lot more that 16 points/game when Clemente left. Even if you disregard what he did on the defensive end (which was a lot), his presence allowed Pullen to thrive. Now he's struggling. And that's got me a little nervous headed into conference play. Yes, we need our bigs to man up - but we need a creator even more.

The measure of a players greatness shouldn't be measured by his scorecard, but what his team accomplishes. Unless he's a runner. Then it's just what he accomplishes.

(Growing my Pullen Beard in 2009)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Actions v. Words

The best 'satirical segment used as commentary' I've ever seen on the Daily Show (and they've had some damn good ones):

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Lame-as-F@#k Congress
Daily Show Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogThe Daily Show on Facebook

(note: Facebook refuses to transfer html codes from here to my Facebook notes whenever it randomly trawls around my RSS feed and won't convert the video. You can, however, view the clip here (self-promotion) or here.

I was big supporter of Obama's decision not to wear a flag lapel during the primaries. I rooted on Cantor being taken to the woodshed regarding the platitude of 'freedom,' and how often politicians use it to attack opponents in crass and pathetic ways. Yet the royalties observation is the most spot on thing ever. I'm open to conversations regarding what (if any) additional benefit level is appropriate. However, it's worth noting this isn't the first time the health risks of the dust around the Trade Center have been obfuscated - the Bush administration previously lied about the health risks these responders face, and it's not up for debate. It's not a 'did Bush really lie about WMDs?' question. They were definitely, deliberately lying about health impacts of asbestos in the dust. Which may lead us to understand the real reason so many Senators despise the idea of paying for these benefits - it relies on informed medical and environmental understanding. Which comes from scientific understanding. Which means someone's using science. Which, as we know, is the platitudinal Republican's greatest fear.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Making the Sisters of the Poor Poorer.

Ohio State President Gordon Gee: classic conservative jackass. While most recognize him as the originator of some idiotic statements regarding non-BCS schools' legitimacy, he's displeased the masses before. He lasted for 2 years at Brown before being run out, accused of treating the school more like a Wall Street corporation than an Ivy League university. He then went to Vanderbilt, where he came under criticism for lavish personal spending and running up a huge tab renovating his university-provided home. There are other reasons to contend he's not a good person. Serving on the board of coal company Massey Energy, he stepped down in 2009 after the company caused toxic coal sludge spills and oversaw multiple mining accidents resulting in the deaths of their workers.

To be honest, most of the above doesn't really tug at my heart strings. The Boise State/TCU jabs, however, make him sound like a trust fund kid opposed to the inheritance tax. His contention, that Ohio State should be able to bowl for national championships but not outside schools, is like saying it's not fair the government is gonna take your money. Well, no, they're not. If your parent's estate is worth $50 million, that's their money. You never worked for it. You never did anything to earn it. You, yourself, have failed to make a contribution to society entitling you to 100% of what someone else earned.

Same for OSU. You think OSU is entitled to something others aren't because of the conference they play in? Well, let's examine three schedules according to the Sagarin rankings: OSU: 68th most difficult; TCU: 82; Boise: 70th. Gee's specific comment was that unlike TCU, Ohio State isn't playing the little sisters of the poor. So what about god-awful teams Marshall, Ohio, Eastern Michigan, Indiana, Minnesota (or even 7-5 Miami)? Are we expected to simply overlook the fact Ohio State's schedule had exactly one ranked team (Wisconsin, who steamrolled OSU 31-18). A rule that dictated any team playing for the national championship to exhibit a strength of schedule ranked at least in the top 50% of the nation would leave Ohio State on the outside looking in. Ohio State isn't playing the little sisters of the poor, just their inbred cousins.

Back to the tax thing, this reeks of the unearned sense of entitlement so prevalent in today's society. Ohio State has done nothing to justify why being in a BCS conference means they should be allowed to play in the national title game. The Big East and ACC have been horrible - Virginia Tech is the only redeemable school out of either conference. They simply fail to bring anything to the table that the WAC (with three ranked teams) can't. Except for legacy. And now we've gone full circle about twice. I have something and you don't. Regardless of our respective actions, this system shall remain. My school is historically powerful, ergo, it should be granted privileges yours isn't - even if you've worked harder and accomplished more. My family is historically powerful, ergo, I should be granted more privileges than you - even if you've worked harder and have accomplished more. I received an artificial head start, and will be damned if the government takes a dime of money I didn't earn.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Let's Talk About...

I caught a glimpse of this once, but thought it was a joke. Unfortunately, it's not. After you watch it, make sure to take some time out from shoveling your sidewalk this week. During that timeout, smack yourself in the face with said shovel:

People often express fears re: the downfall of America. When 'The Situation' is winning policy debates, I'd argue we're already scraping the bottom of the barrel. Additionally, Bristol is now in an idiotic feud with Keith Olbermann. Best case scenario? Two people I contravene engage in the lamest gang war ever. Of course, we can all predict the final outcome: Sarah Palin earns a kill shot against Olbermann from a helicopter.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

180º Role Reversals

The ACC/Big 10(+2) Challenge is officially on, and the Big 12(-2)/Pac 10(+2) Hardwood Series is coming soon. The Big 12(-2) has done pretty well over the course of the four year series - particularly last year when it won 9-3, but let one slip away as A&M fell to Washington following a freak broken leg suffered by guard Derrick Roland (42 seconds in - not for the squeamish).

Unfortunately, this series is coming to an end, though we'll refrain from calling sour grapes resulting from the squabbles of this past summer. What I what to see is a full bore, Big East/SEC challenge. In football and basketball. The Big East would go 1-7 in the fall, with Vanderbilt providing the fodder to prevent a skunk. Then, an equally embarrassing record would befall the SEC's basketball teams on the hardwood.

I do envision one major obstacle to this set up. It's not ratings - people would watch Florida/Georgetown or LSU/UConn. More problematic is getting every SEC school to schedule at least one BCS team in football. Burn.

Good and Evil

The Wikileaks releases have been juicier than I anticipated, which makes me appreciate them for no other reason than selfish indulgence. What's interesting about society is that apparently these cables have all the power to hurt, and do nothing to help. Secret meetings, personal opinions, and pointed criticisms are now exposed that threaten to undermine diplomatic relations. Anti-US sentiment in Pakistan is booming. Evil.

Here's where it's interesting: you also have top diplomats on record saying 'gee Mr. President, maybe you should radically change your Middle East policy because as it stands, you're fomenting attitudes that will actually cause more Americans to be killed.' But Americans don't want to hear that, because it doesn't fit within their ignorant understanding of the world. So this leak could never result in any sort of policy shift.

In conclusion we see that Wikileaks's media grab is bad as it relates to putting lives at risk. We also see that it is worthless in demonstrating how offensive the Bush Doctrine really was, because people just don't want to hear that. 'Merica!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hippies, Shock Therapy, and Peas.

Today I forwent an 8 mile cab ride, and navigated the Albany bus system for just over two hours to save $22. I also probably saved like .0025 carbon credits or something. I got home, threw on a stained hoodie, curled under the blankets in my freezing basement apartment, and sipped loose-leaf tea while reading Naomi Klein's book on The Rise of Disaster Capitalism. I also took time to apply Malibu Hemp® moisturizer to my dry skin (a result of standing outside in the cold, waiting for the bus). I also haven't shaved in a week and my hair's starting to get shaggy again. Showered, but it was the only time this weekend. My only salvageable feature: bought a new suit at Jos A. Bank on Black Friday; I'm still a part of the consumer class, though hangin' by a thread.

I've always been intrigued when the mind/body's perception/reaction set directly contradict logic and reality. Food aversions are the classic example (I've associated whipped cream with pills for 14 years now - it still tastes like the nasty medicine embedded inside a gelcap). I've encountered a new example recently. I've been hooked up to a heart monitor about two weeks, with four little pads attached to wires that essentially provide a 24/7 EKG heart read-out for my doctor. I sometimes get these phantom seizures where the electrodes are attached, presumably a holdover from physical therapy history. In high school I underwent electrical stimulation to heal a badly sprained thumb and then for shin splints to continue running throughout my senior season. I also had several sessions over the past year as part of my therapy regimen for my back.

Due to this extensive history, I think the electrodes generate the anticipation of shocking a muscle group. It's not constant, but sometimes I'll be sitting around and my chest will exhibit a random little spasm. It's intriguing, though provides about as much evolutionary advantage as disliking peas because you once ate them before drinking half a bottle of Jäger. Conclusion: the body is as logical as Glen Beck sometimes.

For the record, I still like peas. Especially frozen peas. I love me some frozen peas with butter. Or just eating them frozen. Love'em. I've never really liked Jäger.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Corporations Aren't People (Don't Tax Them)

I don't like corporate income taxes, and would prefer them to be reduced if not eliminated. I justify this with a desire to also retool marginal income tax rates and taxes on dividends that, while not empirically driven, does a good job conforming to my world view. I'm more than happy to tell you about why I'm pretty sure I'm more right than other people on this if you like.

One interesting aspect of my modification is the implication on capital investments. Currently, firms can write off the depreciation in value of their capital purchases (e.g., computers, trucks, and machinery). This would be eliminated when no taxes are ever paid. The new equilibrium probably has a different bundle with fewer capital inputs - there's less comparative advantage to buying more things.

However, I'm more curious about the implications for economic stimulus. Governments will temporarily grant accelerated depreciation schedules so that firms can write off investments sooner, making the investment 'cheaper' and spurring economic growth. As the Obama Administration continues debating how to give companies breaks that encourage economic development, it would be interesting to see how the discussion changes once you can no longer write off depreciation (because you're not paying taxes in the first place).

Other methods to use tax breaks to induce growth still exist - the biggest being payroll tax reductions. This year, stimulus policy provided the opportunity to avoid payroll taxes on new hires that had been previously unemployed. Making this the only option (since you can't depreciate your capital) means that we can encourage firms to hire, but not necessarily make things. Given the likelihood the government actually goes along with this (none), I say we make Delaware our own personal laboratory for implementing different tax schemes every five years and assessing the impact. If we find a successful formula, awesome. If things go horribly wrong, no worries - nobody cares about Delaware.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Nothing is Wrong With Kansas - I Just Don't Want to Live There

Frank Thomas, the (in)famous author of What's the Matter with Kansas?, is perplexed why Kansans consistently vote against their self-interest (as defined by Thomas). He's wrong, obviously. Kansas voted in Republicans for the Governorship, both Senators, and all four Representatives (you don't even want to see how decisively they swept the state house) hoping to further their self-interest. Fortunately, none of them support small government. They're anti-free market (witness massive subsidy programs), love interventionalist policies (Iraq, anyone?), and siphon wasteful pork barrel spending to the state every year by propping up Boeing and Raytheon. Increasing the Pentagon's budget is awesome as far as Wichita and Riley County are concerned. Don't even get me started on Cuban policy (boycotts for everything except wheat!) and foreign food aid. We don't vote against our interests because we simply don't vote conservative - he just doesn't like that we don't vote Democratic. And yes, I still sent in my Kansas absentee ballot this year.

It seriously benefits Kansas to vote for big government Republicans. If you subtract taxes paid from federal funds received, Kansas gets over 19K more than it pays in taxes PER PERSON. We don't even have 3 million people (ranking 33rd), but rank 25th in payments from the federal government. You know who pays more in taxes than they get? Democratic voting states. We totally vote to give ourselves money all the time - we just don't want to share it.

I'm amazed at how many educated people have actually read this book. Not only read it, but were impacted by it. I tell academic Democrats that I'm from Kansas, and a solid 50% of them mention this book. The myriad converses are not true (e.g., conservatives do not care to mention this book, taxi drivers do not mention this book, etc.) I've never read a book about another state's politics; my birthplace is obviously more interesting than yours. I went to listen to Thomas speak while attending Washburn. He's smarter than I am. It's not that he said anything profound, but I could hear it in his tone. When people talk down to you, they're operating on a higher level. They're also not pro-democracy. "The best argument against democracy is a 5 minute conversation with the average voter." - Winston Churchill

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The NBA is Boring

Really, it is. I don't agree with those who prefer the NFL over college football, but can at least understand their position. There's no excuse for their basketball counterparts. The only hope they had was for Miami to win about 85% percent of their games - creating a villain to root against that's power enough to maintain intrigue but not so powerful as to squander hope and thus interest.

Starting the season 6-5, this didn't happen. Not yet. Maybe it's true, they simply need time to jell. And maybe Miami doesn't deserve a great team. I don't know why, but I don't think they do. I really hate the Heat right now. It's inexplicable - I often root for the Celts. I was stoked when Garnett and Ray Allen ended up in Boston. This was another powerful trio colluding to win The Finals with star power. Yet I find them lovable, with Big Baby making the most acrobatic plays a doughboy can while Rondo displays the greatest disparity between talent around the basket and talent around the three point line since Shaq. Who's also now with Boston, and is the definition of lovable. When Nate Robinson steps onto the floor, the only thing I can think of is Matt Alemu and Sunday Morning Hoops. If Jason Kidd was 6 inches shorter, a Kidd/Robinson square-off would be the professional version of Adornato/Alemu. What's not to love?

I've never been a fan of Paul Pierce, KU phenom or not. He excites me as much as Chris Bosh does, which puts the two teams on equal footing. Can't fault Lebron for wanting to be on a great team; I'd also want to play on a great team. I'd even rather be the #5 runner on a great XC team than the #1 runner on a crappy one. Maybe it's because Wade already has his ring - superteams are meant for great players that have been denied their rightful place on top. Nowitski/Lebron/Bosh? That would be more acceptable, with Kidd running point. It still wouldn't excite me. Maybe it's because I don't really like Bosh. And maybe it's because I will always love KG's passion. The point is, I quit caring about the Hornets after they moved to New Orleans, and will never care for the Bobcats. I find myself rooting for a team from Boston instead, which is cause for getting my head checked.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

To Staying Ranked!

Having nothing better to do with my Saturday but lick my ER wounds, I sat down to watch the K-State/Texas game with the intent of attempting an actual report on it. A purely intrinsic pursuit, I thought it might be interesting to try a full write-up, encapsulating the holistic experience much the same way might cover a top-10 matchup with national intrigue.

What happened: I got bored after K-State went up 31-0. When that expanded to 39-0 in the 3rd, I zoned out; casually glancing back to revel in the beat down before becoming bored again and flipping to another channel. (That eight point expansion courtesy a 2-point conversion after Josh Cherry had his PAT blocked, picked it up off the bounce, and ran it in. Beautiful). Yet as embarrassed as Texas was, I'm still trying to grapple with how dominating the performance can be considered.

K-State only completed 2/4 passes for nine yards (2.3 yards/attempt) - yet this was a rushing attack Air Force and Georgia Tech have consistently used to annihilate opponents in the era of spread. As Taylor Martinez has shown, one needn't air it out to score points. UT did outgain K-State in yardage, 412-270. The game summary:

This makes it difficult to gauge the showing. Clean game on both sides, though a couple stupid UT mistakes allowed KSU to continue otherwise stalled drives. We were horrible on 3rd down. But five interceptions is AWESOME, especially against a heralded quarterback. Should we be disturbed that the defense caught 250% more passes than the offense? As of today (Thursday), Snyder still refuses to anoint a starting QB (an historically familiar bugaboo for purple fans). This means Mizzou has no idea what to expect. Carson Coffman had been displaying precision accuracy over his past two games while running for a couple touchdowns. Backup Collin Klein also runs - but with speed. He ran for 127 yards against UT. Mizzou must spend half the week's practice preparing for the option, half on nickel coverage. Which makes me not want to dwell on the past, so much as get really excited for the future.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Why the US Chamber of Commerce (Should) Support Clean Tech

Inconsistent tax policies are bad for business growth. This is a regular contention, explaining frustration when state governments provide tax breaks one year and revoke them the next. An uncertain business climate isn't good for encouraging investment. The transitive connection is that any economic uncertainty hampers business growth, ranging from serious debates over minimum wage increases to energy costs.

This creates a fascinating argument for increasing renewable energy development in the utility sector. According to the NY Times, wind energy development this year has dropped 72% from 2009. Renewable energy costs continue to drop, but the decrease in demand for fossil fuels during the recession has caused coal, oil, and gas prices to drop faster. However, once the economy begins growing again, we expect fossil fuel prices to reverse trend and escalate.

Reliance on natural gas and coal will always portend varying energy price inputs. This is particularly true for natural gas - coal is a more stable commodity. Therefore, coal would theoretically produce a better business climate. Yet renewable energy options provide even greater stability (wind turbines always cost the same amount to spin).

Following this logic, clean energy should enhance GDP growth, ceteris paribus. We can accept this if renewable energy costs are, on average, the same as that from coal or gas over time, because they provide more consistency. There should also be a comparative advantage if wind energy is slightly more expensive than the average cost of fossil fuel energy, because it's still providing that consistent climate that business investors love. The question is, how much more expensive before this is no longer the case? 3¢ per kWh? 1¢? So low that, although existent, it is negligible for all but the most energy intensive industries?

We know that fossil fuel scarcity will continue pushing coal and gas prices up over time. We also know that technological breakthroughs will continue to bend the cost curve of clean tech development down. So as clean and dirty options become increasingly cost competitive, the attractiveness of providing consistent input prices should push the case for wind, solar, and other options over the top for the business community. The caveat here is the necessity of foresight. Wind power is still more expensive to development today. The question is whether this justifies not planning for tomorrow.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Bush on Katrina

"It's always my fault. I mean, I was the one who should have said: 'A) Don't take my picture, B) Let's land in Baton Rouge, La., C) Let's don't even come close to the area.' The next place to be seen is in Washington at a command center. I mean it was my fault."

George Bush has described this picture as a huge mistake, which caused him to appear "detached and uncaring," according to Huffpo:

I have no recollection of this photo damaging his reputation. Maybe it did, and I simply wasn't paying attention. Personally, it doesn't bother me. If anything, it's the image of a man deeply troubled by the disaster that took more American lives than any given year of the Iraqi invasion. He's now personally confronted with this destruction and its implications. But really, I don't care much for pictures.

Attempting to encapsulate a man with one picture can be telling, but is rarely fair. I don't care about the photo. I also don't think much of photos used against politicians for having hugged unpopular Presidents - you don't snub the President. If papa wants a hug, you give papa a hug.

The saddest part of this is that Bush said he was hurt when the public reacted poorly to a picture and Kanye stated Bush didn't like black people. If you want to demonstrate remorse, this is about the most insubstantial thing to regret. Politicizing a once important and effective program by putting Brown in charge of FEMA - now that's the decision you should regret. Because people died. The pathetic, delayed reaction was directly responsible for the death of Americans. And human life is infinitely more precious than public perception of a fucking picture. Memoirs are put up or shut up time; man up and accept fault for something more substantial than a superficial portrayal.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Split Chambers

It's just after ten pm, electioneering night. Looks safe to say expectations will be confirmed: Dems keep the Senate, Repubs take the House and the legislatures in about 75 states. Gerrymandering will be brought to you by the elephants for the second consecutive decade, so congrats if you happen to swing that way. No word yet on who gets the unenviable task of directing New York's State Senate.

In the finest example yet that the Tea Party movement really has no idea what 'representing the constitution' means, Russ Feingold is getting destroyed in Wisconsin. I mean absolutely annihilated. It's not about the country's betterment - it's jingoism and politics for the sake of jingoism in politics.

Monday, October 25, 2010

My Economic Stimulus

I've long been a critic of the campaign process, both in terms of time and dollars spent. Posturing for position on the ballot begins years in advance for Senate and Presidential seats, and I equate campaign ads with fastfood marketing - billions spent on 30 second sound bytes with zero substance. Obama's refusal of public financing in 2008 embodies this distaste.

In a system I once characterized as out of control, the spending really has become out of control. According to the Washington Post, for the week ending October 17, outside groups alone have spent $68.2 million. Three GOP candidates (Meg Whitman in California, Rick Scott in Florida and Linda McMahon in Connecticut) have spent $243 million so far - just of their own money!

So with literally billions spent on rent-seeking activities that don't generate capital or jobs, here's my proposition: 1:1 matches for all political activities until we achieve true campaign finance reform. If you want to give $3 million to the National Association of Realtors, that's fine. But then you spend another $3 million in providing market liquidity and generating product demand. Or providing states money to hire more police officers and teachers. Or something else that actually benefits society. Because I've seen what the major mortgage companies have accomplished recently, and it makes me suspicious that the $2 million the National Association of Realtors is spending every week on influence peddling could find a better way to assist America.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Tonight's Game of the Week

The Wishbone, the Wildcat, and other offensive innovations all have their moment in the sun before defensive coordinators adapt and a new system must be melded (or simply reintroduced). My hero Gregg Easterbrook has written a bit on how today's prolific spread offenses will meet the same fate, and Oregon's attack will look mortal five years from now. With about four minutes left in the OU/MU game, I got a glimpse of what could help unravel its effectiveness.

On an obvious pass play, Blaine Gabbert drops back and Oklahoma fails to generate much penetration into the backfield. Their D-Line was tired, defeated, and stuck in 2nd gear. But when Gabbert brought his arm forward to throw, the defensive end jumped up and knocked down the football. In a system designed to wear down defenses while relying on dink and dunk passes, there may be a lesson to be taken from this play - particularly as offenses are employing smaller, quicker quarterbacks.

With OU down by nine points and approximately 2:30 to go in the game, Bob Stoops punted on 4th and 10. Oklahoma had no timeouts, and was obviously conceding defeat. WTF? Then I realized - Oklahoma was so backed up, a turnover on downs would've given Missouri the ball in the red zone. Rather than give his team a chance to win, Big Game Stoops's only concern was minimizing the damage in the eyes of the polls - in a bowl game, he would've gone for it. I encourage all voters to drop the Sooners an additional three spots from where you believe they should be ranked as karma for having no spine.

It bears mentioning that yesterday I described Mizzou as a 'legit top ten team' when they were in fact not ranked in the top ten. In order for that to be the case, they would have had to win their game against Oklahoma today. Which they did. Which means I'm simply that good.

Today's loss to Baylor killed a small piece of me. Ditto for this sore throat I've had for five straight days now.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Finally, a Worthwhile Statistical Regression

A lot has been written on election theory and the influence of polls on voters. They’re self-reinforcing in two big ways: they discourage voters who support a trailing candidate (‘what’s the point in voting, the Reuters Poll says we’re going to lose by six points’), and sway undecided voters by identifying a frontrunner (appeal to popularity fallacy). I’d bet that the BCS polls have a similarly negative effect on the USA Today football rankings.

The first BCS standings came out Sunday. Boise State was supposed to reign over all, with TCU notching a lofty ranking as well. Yet the entire nation gasped in collective horror as Oklahoma was designated the greatest team in all the land, followed by the Ducks of Oregon. Now I know there are better teams than OU, and the fleshy polls do too. That’s why they’ve been ranked #5 or so all year. However, every ESPN article written over the past week regarding the Sooners identifies them as ‘#1 Oklahoma.’ This is wrong.

Assuming OU wins this weekend, they’re going to climb in the human polls. This will be defensible, as it will entail a victory over a legit top ten team in Missouri. Yet what if OU beats Colorado by nine points, and no other top ten teams lose? Or if OU has a bye? Would they still rise in the rankings – an effect of the #1 status bestowed via data processor?

It would be interesting to hold weekend performance constant and use BCS rankings as the dependent variable. Maybe somebody already has. With 12 years of usage, we don’t yet have a large pool to use. However, I have an inkling your beta level will indicate voters’ preference (or at least tendency) for making the team leading the BCS the recipient of more #1 votes.

Voters take their cues from other voters, who take cues from preseason rankings, which take their cues from the previous year’s success. Historical reputation creates an undue bias throughout. Polls are highly fallible due to voter reliance on cues and an inability to function in a vacuum. What’s worrisome is that the BCS rankings unduly enhance this foible.

Get On the Bus!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

50 and Still Sexy

Being the skinflint I am, I try to keep my concert ticket purchases ≤$20, willing to explore $25 in special circumstance. Yet when the opportunity to experience Bad Religion came around, money was no option (in truth, it was a $30 option). Greg Graffin has few equals, heading one of the most impactful punk bands in American rock history. Consider the following:
• This tour celebrated Bad Religion's 30th anniversary, with Graffin at the helm every one of those years.
• 15 studio albums, 2 EPs
• Guitarist Brett Gurewitz founded Epitaph Records (they've brought you music by The Offspring, Rancid, NOFX, Green Day, Alkaline Trio, and Weezer, among others. Maybe you've heard of some of these?)
• It's Bad Religion!

I ended up hitting an unexpected homerun when I discovered the night of the show that the Bouncing Souls would also be playing. I was literally experiencing a slice of American punk history - with American Jesus blaring through the speakers, I may as well have been moshing as Congress was passing DADT and the Brady Bill.

Wait Dave - you moshed?


What was that like?

What do you mean?

Well, weren't you scared?

I've gone to battle against my high school's football team and almost met my death once on a Chinese freeway. Comparatively, this was child's play.

But aren't you a little small to be moshing?

Actually, I was the tallest guy there.

Fine smartass - bet your BMI was the lowest there. Most of those cats are hardcore.

That's fair, but you have to look at the flip side.

Which is?

When you're this skinny, your elbows are weapons. I was cutting jokers in the pit.

So how'd you make out?

I made out with no one.

Seriously, did you remain pretty unscathed?

My body was covered in bruises when I got home. It felt like after the first day of football practice with pads.

Anything positive come out of it?

It's good to see there's still only one rule - if someone falls down, pick them up.

And the best part?

Owning the center for about 10 seconds. It's absolutely invigorating. All eyes on you, you're the king of the mountain. It entails the respect, adrenaline, and machismo that accompany such a position.

Anything else you'd like to mention?

This was one of the coolest opportunities to observe water's various properties. The drummer had a constant cloud of steam rising from his shoulders. Also, the condensation brought me back to my wrestling day.

How's that?

There was so much moisture in the air from all the sweating, there was a constant leak onto the stage from the ceiling. That's how you know the place was rocking.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Tree-Hugging for Dummies

According to a couple weeks ago, Senators are agreeing with President Obama's call to break up the climate bill. Could this be the better approach? As we saw with healthcare (’93 and ’09), market reform, and other attempts at sweeping pieces of legislation, giving this many people a say in a complex issue may not be a good thing – 100 Senators are obviously incapable of developing an efficient mechanism for delivering sensible policy, and throwing a bunch more Representatives in the mix simply makes it more interesting. Add the Executive Branch, and kiss a reasonable policy outcome goodbye.

An effective climate bill is best designed by 5 people (2 energy experts, a climate scientist, a political scientist, and me) in a room absent the undue influence of lobbyists, self-preservation, and idiocy. I’ve long defended China’s unofficial climate policy of 'invest in smart renewable and energy efficiency,' and I think it works better here too (e.g., Obama’s stimulus package). Make energy efficiency incentives our primary GHG reduction vehicle, not carbon derivatives; I’d rather our main focus be on saving money, not manipulating it. By doing it piecemeal and only passing the stuff that makes sense, you can avoid situations like “coal plants will have to have permits to pollute, but then we’re just going to give them away because they can’t afford it in the short-term, but fertilizer producers will always get free permits through 2025 because it’s so energy-intensive, but…” (FYI: that was just a snippet of Kerry-Boxer.) I think cap-and-trade can theoretically work, though it’s not my preferred method. I don’t think cap-and-trade can be passed in America without creating some seriously inefficient market distortions.

Another idea: Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN) has come out for legislation limiting the 3Ps (the pollutants sulfur dioxide, nitrogen and mercury), rather than greenhouse gases. This is an interesting idea, because it provides a method for limiting GHGs without this being the stated purpose. Even the most vehemently anti-science conservatives must acknowledge the harm of mercury pollution. Coal combustion just happens to be large creator of mercury pollution. Alexander could simply work in a bipartisan manner to reduce the things that cause deleterious health impacts in children. As luck would have it, actions taken to reduce asthma and cancer locally also happen to have rockin’ global externalities. Unstated intentions, intended consequences.

Another Marathon in the Works?

I spent 20% of my paycheck last weekend on shoes and shows.

I purchased my first pair of running shoes since 2008 on Saturday, hopefully turning the page on a couple bad years of injury and apathy. I requested a running evaluation as well, curious as to what two breaks, three dislocations, and a sprain over the past 22 months have done to my running form. Apparently, I’m as inefficient as ever (this may be difficult to believe for anyone who witnessed the uncoordinated mess I was in high school cross country). The post-eval conversation went something like this:
Helpful, yet older employee: You need inserts.
Me: No! That’s for old people! I’m not old – you’re old!
HYOE: While this may be true, when your feet strike the ground you’re about as gracious as a three-legged camel on ice.
Me: Lalalalallalalalalala…

I ended up buying the inserts, but it was with an extremely begrudging attitude. Tomorrow I’ll describe my weekend’s brush with American rock history.

Friday, October 15, 2010

$ Can't Buy Poll Love

Fingers remain pointed surrounding the breakdown of the Big 12(-2) over the summer, with many still keyed on Texas. The big bad bullies down south were too greedy, wanted too much money. CU and Nebraska had no desire to live in a conference of such disparity (for good reason - who will compete with the already dominant program). With that in mind, let's examine the Longhorns' current standings in the polls: ....

That's right, sitting at a sad 3-2, UT finds itself as one of those 'other team receiving votes.' Additionally, preseason BB rankings came out today. And how high does the proud program find itself? Wait - nowhere.

There's a second wrinkle of succulent irony in the preseason rankings. As much of a brouhaha that has been made about the Big 12(-2) North not being able to compete with the South, ESPN suggests otherwise. While 3 North teams are in the top 15, only Baylor (#17) from the South managed to wiggle into the rankings. That's right, the privately funded and low-budget Bears are responsible for representing all the big boys with oil money from Oklahoma and Texas. Is competing in basketball the equivalent to competing in football? No. But in Texas's case, they don't seem to be competing much in either (check games 1 and 4).

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Basic High School Civics Required

Republicans v. Democrats. Fear v. Hope. These are generic yet oft-used characterizations, and a debate over their merits is for another day. The Dems should've flipped strategies and commandeered fear, making people afraid of a Republican takeover. It's too late now, but this nationwide, concentrated effort starting a couple weeks ago could have paid big dividends. There are a couple caveats to my approach. The first is that it would only work on the base. The second is a basic demonstration of civic knowledge is expected of the base. (This could prove problematic.)

Gerrymandering, errr, redistricting will take place in 2011 and be determined by the legislators elected next month. Dispassion surrounding the status quo is one thing, but the prospect of being cracked and packed into obscurity over the next decade is another. A solid month of telling Dems they'll be permanently stuck in obscurity has to be more effective than the current method: promising to fix an unsavory health care bill you were responsible for.

I guarantee you redistricting is on fewer than 5% of voters' minds. I also don't see how the strategy backfires. You can't flip the strategy, because the Red base is already fired up. Only the Dems are searching for a way to get people excited about voting, and I don't see them coming up with anything better. A battle over who controls the next decade wouldn't even the balance of enthusiasm, but would help smooth the imbalance between the two sides. Then it boils down to who can sway the independents, which would at least give the Democrats a chance.

One more caveat: Democratic leadership has to act competently whilst pursuing this tactic. This proviso likely the most insurmountable of all.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Undefeated: Nothing to Show, Nothing to Lose

I find myself aimlessly wandering the streets at night, lost and confused in a brave new world I do not understand. My Wildcats remain undefeated entering the month of October, and are receiving votes in both AP and Coach's polls. Even more rare, my Chiefs are the sole undefeated team remaining in the NFL. (I've honestly forgotten what it's like to root for a team and have them emerge victorious.) Both have huge match-ups coming, each being in the unique situation of having little to lose but much to gain.

Kansas State doesn't have a lot to hang their hat on, with successes to-date being adequate. They beat a much different UCLA team than Texas lost to (literally, due to injuries), should've got beat at home against UCF, and took out Iowa State by a single score. Missouri State.

Kansas City finds itself in an equally questionable esteem. Squeakers against their first opponents, no victories over a winning team, and the undefeated stat is misleading b/c they're really only 3-0; receiving a bye this weekend didn't hurt their road to owning the league's only unblemished record.

This is the discourse surrounding each team, and is almost interchangeable (lame passing game, no real great defense personnel upgrades, wily yet unproven coaching staffs that may have outlived their luck…) Yet this weekend provides extraordinary opportunity for both to establish legitimacy. If Kansas State loses to Nebraska on Thursday, the entire nation will pause for five seconds before declaring 'we knew they were posers,' and flipping the channel. But if they win, a victory over UN would likely vault them into the top 20 (I'd say a ten point win lands them at #17). A loss wouldn't be met with surprise, but a win would be viewed credibly and carry staying power because of the accompanying 5-0 record.

Kansas City needn't worry about poll standings, but I'd still like to see them get a bit more respect on the national level. Problem is, they still haven't earned it. Beat the Colts on Sunday, and they'll get theirs. Not only will the West seem very winnable, but success is indicative of the ability to achieve success. Playoffs.

Both contests remain heady tasks, and the underdogs from Kansas won't be favored for a reason. Win, however, and something special is a possibility for both.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

James McMurtry - We Can't Make It Here (Anymore)

Electricity usage exhibits a massive demand curve, peaking in the afternoon and sloping down at night. The peaking plants used to produce afternoon power are highly inefficient to operate (see graph), and drive up your utility bill. Although electrical bills reflect the average price of production, peak power really skews this calculation. Thus, programs and policies such as smart metering are gradually gaining support as governments look for solutions to smooth the natural demand curve.

There are some really cool things you can do with smart metering. I even wrote a policy proposition paper over smart meters to land my current job. Ironically, I'd like to see smart metering rendered useless.

My approach to solving issues of demand curve requires a technological leap or two, but isn't that far off. As energy storage systems (batteries, flywheels, pump storage, etc.) become more efficient, you can (economically) store more energy to release during peak demand hours. Then you can smooth the supply curve and produce at a constant level all day long. At four in the morning power plants would produce excess that is stored. At four in the afternoon electricity is underproduced, but the excess is then released into the system.

This makes electricity really cheap because crappy peaker plants are phased out. As a result, we get to keep more energy-intensive industries at home. As the U.S. postures closer to a tariff tit-for-tat with China, we might even regain some lost manufacturing such as steel production. Making tangible things domestically again would be really, really sweet. Additionally, more efficient energy storage solves problems of intermittency with renewables and makes the hippies happy.

Cheaper electricity, economic development, facilitation of clean energy, and awesomely huge flywheels across the nation. Furthermore, the prospect of smoothing production without screwing with demand minimizes deadweight losses. These are things you can't argue with. The title of this entry is one of my top 5 favorite songs. Even if you're not a fan of Americana, it's hard to argue with the greatness of this joint.

Look How Much Peaking Power Costs In The Summer!

Graph stolen from: 'Demand Side Management,' Energy User News, August 2004, Volume 29, No. 8

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

White, Black, Green: I Like Bags of Tea, Ranked Thusly

I don't have any great desire to live in a house - as long as I've a decent sized kitchen and some storage space an apartment is just fine. What I would miss is a garage/work area. That's the real reason home ownership is important to me.

We've had a week now to examine the impacts of last Tuesday's primary results. The Tea Party (Express) caught more than a few stares, and has proven itself a force to be reckoned with. I want to respect these guys as a small government proponent, I really do. But until I see a Palin rally highlighting the inappropriateness of government intervention in prostitution, marriage, and drug use (particularly marijuana), I fear the rhetoric remains superficial. Also, you can't be neocons anymore - even your misguided attempts to idolize Reagan gloss over the fact he got the hell outta Lebanon and was much more prudent about putting troops on the ground (terrorization of Nicaraguans notwithstanding). True conservatives hate meddling in the affairs of other nations, particularly via military action. The best hope for tempering this teabag movement of with reasoning may come from an unlikely source: the man once mocked for hosting a show with puppets making crank calls as a lead in (more on this later in the week).

I set a really lofty goal for myself yesterday. I'm scared to reveal it because there's a fair chance I'll fall flat on my face, and talk without action is bragging without having done anything. But I'm gonna try, cognizant of the fact that sometimes you simply bite off more than you can chew. Like a hippo.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

They Took Our Jerbs!

Topeka Capital-Journal headline today:

Kobach to outline new SoS role

Acknowledging their refusal to properly capitalize (a constant bugbear of mine), it's important to move on and focus on what this will mean. While the outcome is anyone's guess, smart money is on the snake oil salesman further extending his anti-immigrant agenda into the Secretary of State position. Some derivation of a definition that calls for eliminating voter fraud and prosecuting second tier causations wouldn't be surprising. Then he just needs to demonstrate how an undocumented worker could possibly vote (committing voter fraud), and it's within his job purview to hault it. Our second tier causation in this instance being illegal immigration, Kobach could then assume responsibility for eliminating the scourge in the state of Kansas. Voila, Kobach can now do whatever's necessary to prosecute undocumented workers in Kansas given their potential to commit voter fraud. As an added bonus, he just happens to know a private law firm able to assist the state in eradicating this menace.

I'm not sure what Kobach's price was for 'advising' on the Arizona provision, but he got paid consulting fees for writing unconstitutional legislation that was struck down within a couple months. Kansas has enough budget problems without paying this jackass for worthless legal advice - let's not put him in office.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Already Praying for Basketball Season

At least the ACC should be, because it got embarrassed this weekend. You know who didn't get embarrassed? Michigan, Kansas, and the Dakotas. Seriously, a North or South Dakota team has beaten KU and Minnesota in consecutive weeks. I'm also impressed with how Oregon really looks ready to step up and replace USC.

Other sporting news requiring comment:
-The Royals picked up Pat White. I've never attended a minor league game, but would like to seem him play.
-Penn State finally lost a volleyball match. I watched the national championship last year, and even then they looked dominant. Stanford finally got their number.
-Colorado won't be joining the Pac-10 next year, and I don't blame the conference. I'm sure they're experiencing buyer's remorse, especially after sampling the product they bought this summer (CU got beat down 52-7 by California today). Personally, I don't think this is fair. I want to kick them out of the Big 12 now.
-I don't know if BYU's pursuit of independence was a good gamble. If you think the Mountain West becomes a BCS conference, it's probably not a good gamble. Granted, the MWC is losing one of its consistently best teams in Utah. However, Air Force, TCU, Boise State, and Fresno State form an undeniable core of talent to argue for BCS bowl game inclusion. Add BYU to the mix, and that's a better top half than most BCS conferences can offer (looking at you, ACC). Add solid bowl teams Nevada and Wyoming, and I can't imagine an Arizona or Missouri team having tremendous success in the MWC over the next decade.
I've digressed a bit to justifying the Mountain West receiving BCS automatic qualification, but with reason. If the conference does (and it should) earn its way in, BYU passes up the opportunity for mucho dinero garantizado shared by the schools every year. BYU wants to be the 'Mormon' Notre Dame? Notre Dame whined its way into a deal it didn't deserve, and the football establishment should repeat its mistake. BYU shouldn't expect to profit from the BCS getting smart. And the idea that there's enough national interest to warrant a major television deal? That dog just ain't gonna hunt.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Who's Ready?

September 9, 2010: a U.S. District Court judge rules 'Don't Ask Don't Tell' unconstitutional. Additionally, the ruling contains a rebuttal of the argument that openly gay military personnel adversely affect readiness; it even argues that the policy has a 'direct and deleterious effect' on the military. As evidenced by my previous work, I should be a district judge for coming to this conclusion six months sooner. That's right, I win the race to prove DADT bad.

I'm not a liberal, but I'm increasingly considering myself a Democrat. Democrats seem to be owning things that facilitate military success in recent years. Climate change mitigation (which Pentagon papers have now identified as a threat to our soldiers' lives in future years): Dem-owned. Not doing stupid stuff to offend Muslims and thus not incite violence in the Middle East (i.e., oppose Islamic community centers, proclaiming a Muslim president would be evil, etc.): Dem-owned. Opening overseas dialogue to encourage reconciliation and avoid brinksmanship: Dem-owned. Keeping our eyes on the ball in Afghanistan by not invading Iraq: Not Repub-owned, but the spineless refusal to oppose the invasion meant the Dems were essentially providing tacit support. Point is, if a Republican says we should do it to support the military, someone's making money off the deal.

I've been taking another stab at 'A People's History of the United States,' and have come to the conclusion there's no excuse for having money and not making more off of war. The next time government gets a little neoconny (we'll see how November elections go), if you aren't investing in Boeing and General Dynamics, you don't deserve your wealth.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Comparing the Middle East to Vietnam is soooo 2005

This is one of those posts that was more relevant a month ago, but tonight I'm stuck in a hotel room with nothing to do - so it gets addressed today. Enjoy:

Much was made last month as our engagement in Afghanistan marked quote 'the longest war in American history.' I'm not sure how I feel about this. The stat itself assumes an entry of 1963 and withdrawal in 1973 (we were actually there longer) from Vietnam. What's bigger is that over 5 million people died during this conflict. Afghanistan doesn't even come close in terms of blood and treasure, and we've yet to place boots on the ground as long as they were in Indochina; deeming the two fit to compare isn't a measure I'm ready to take.

I worry making the time comparison alone without context does a disservice to our understanding of history and political realities. Additionally, the fact that everyone from John McCain to David Gregory calls Afghanistan the longest war in U.S. history furthers the myth that a war is a war if you call it a war. (Similarly, a war isn't a war if you don't call it one.) So let's start calling Afghanistan missionary work or something, our involvement in Indochina remaining the longest recognized war in U.S. history.

We also need a single definition when we use the word war. If you want to say war is a situation where U.S. troops are deployed and suffer military engagements, that's fine. Call the measures in Afghanistan a war, even though there is no country or leader to fight (various factions lead by tribal warlords notwithstanding). But by this definition, we had a century of warfare whilst cleansing the country of Native Americans. Our War Against Savages (WAS) was ten times longer than the Afghan War. The War on Drugs continues with no immediate end in sight. And yes, Americans have paid for excursions into foreign lands while prosecuting the War on Drugs. We paid more during WAS though.

To quench your thirst for a bigger dose of Vietnam War history, statistics for U.S. soldiers: 536,000 deployed. Over 10% KIA, over 50% injured - and these numbers don't come close to the civilian and military losses experienced by Cambodia, Northern, and Southern Vietnam. So call the nation-building in Afghanistan a war, but you disrespect the 5 million that perished in Indochina by glossing over 20% of the past century in throwing around the headline 'longest war in U.S. history' while failing to furnish context because it sounds catchy.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Sexy Time

If I'm a sex ed teacher and a rational actor, I press strongly for my school to adopt an abstinence-only program. This was particularly true during the Bush years, when millions of tax dollars where given to schools willing to adopt such a curriculum. Either way, rational actors do what is most likely to keep them in a job. This means maximizing the number of children entering the school system, so that demand for your job is high. And this means abstinence-only education programs. Boom!

Monday, August 16, 2010

To Protect Freedom, We Must Destroy It

Opposition to the Islamic community center (minaret-less mosque?) within walking distance of Ground Zero is one of the most important stances that we as Americans can take to ensure our safety. Understanding that in 2001 we were attacked because 'they hate our freedoms' ('they' being Muslims, who are inherently terroristic in nature), the best way to dissuade future attacks is to limit freedom of religion, affiliation, and organization. And nothing can better prove our country's commitment to limiting the freedoms of its citizenry than a systematic dismemberment of the 1st amendment. Please stop this construction, for the sake of our safety and the safety of our troops overseas. Pray that the lawsuit to block its development is successful.

In September I'm moving to New York, while Marya is headed to DC. Tuesday night's news covered a story on a koran-burning to protest the new mosque development. News stories like this are fun - they allow for unique debates such as 'who's newly adopted residence faces the greater terrorist threat increase due to such acts of jingoism and bigotry?'

What is it with Christians buying books to burn anyway? It's like a vegetarian buying meat to burn - you got your market signals totally bass ackwards. Similar to book burnings, my veggie scenario also has a name. It's called BBQ, and is best accompanied by football and Keystone Light. Yes folks, it's August, and football season is upon us. Praise be to Bill Snyder.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Greenback Party

I'll consider myself a man of modest upbringing. It looks like I'm about to take a job that makes eating and having money incompatible, because I'm afraid of remaining unemployed the rest of the year if I don't. I've always found wealth interesting, and wonder if I'll ever accumulate any. Unfortunately, it appears I'll never make enough money to run as a populist political candidate. $70 million of your own money for your campaign before you get to the primaries? Wow.

This reminds me - Bush was not an 'everyman'. The next Republican presidential candidate will be just as out-of-touch as Obama is. Please don't vote for someone because Scott Brown drives a truck.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Punishing 'Green' States

Following the EPA's release of its design for regulating utility GHGs, the Senate is addressing the issue with renewed gusto. However, increased disbelief in climate change and adamant Republican opposition means a lot needs to happen for this bill to pass (in the end, Republicans would rather give the EPA greater control over utilities than accede to compromise).

So, what does a new bill need to guarantee passage? For starters, lots of giveaways to coal plants and pork to Senators on the fence. Liberal states like New York, Oregon, and California will receive fewer permit giveaways or other forms of financial assistance. Therefore, they will be subsidizing Oklahoma's coal plants after already investing in their own renewable energy and efficiency projects. On top of this, as a general rule you're also talking about the states with higher rates of productivity, ergo higher tax remittances.

Summary: states that pay the most in taxes will be funding pork projects in states that failed to take adequate steps to protect the environment in order to achieve votes necessary to regulate coal plants that will be exempt from regulations in the highest polluting states. Such is the danger of being a first mover when assistance is made available to actors that wait. Who else is excited about climate legislation finally passing in the US?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Tosh.0, Doobies, and Other Non-Intellectual Pursuits

My sophomore year I almost got a job doing database entry for the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, and the only questions they asked were if I had ever smoked marijuana or been convicted of a crime. Anyone seeking a security clearance is asked the same question on marijuana - this government is serious about preventing hardened criminals from infiltrating the system. Yet assuming the nation becomes more reasonable and legalizes the substance, is this question still appropriate? Personal feelings of how idiotic present drug laws are aside, it begs a pondering.

The reversal of a law denotes an acknowledgment of either 1. misplaced judgment in crafting the original statute; or 2. a change in circumstances making the original reasoning no longer relevant. An altered marijuana policy scenario is likely both - present policy is wrong, which was reflected by a change in public opinion which shifts to legalization. However, there's no real moral high ground in breaking the current law - it's a law you're expected to abide by, even if you don't agree with it. A democracy is generally better off when people follow the laws prescribed by government. Problems arise when individuals only obey what they believe should apply to them, for no individual should be above others.

So, is it appropriate to expect a security clearance seeker to have abstained from the sticky icky, even after its legal reception? While I believe it should not be a question directly asked, abstinence remains an expectation. Though the codified criminal code is currently an infringement on civil rights, there is no moral righteousness in subverting it. Public defiance for the purpose of bringing attention to the issue is one thing - rolling a doobie and watching Tosh.0 in your living room is not. You've broken the law, yet in doing so failed to influence the trajectory of marijuana policy. Because even if I can provide a damn solid case against current policy, to say I'm more judicious than our lawmakers is more pretentious than cause for absolution - even if it's true.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Reflections From a 20-Hour Layover

Remember when offered the opportunity to offset the carbon emissions of your flight with some sort of e-carbon credit? For about $15 you could negate the CO2 from your flight by paying for like new trees or something. I'm sure they simply calculated the average fuel usage for a trip of XX miles, and multiplied by the carbon intensity of the fuel used for the flight. What I'd love to be a part of is looking at the real footprint of a plane ticket (while being exempted from having to partake in the necessary regressions).

The difference b/t what I want to do, what's probably done: that plane is flying with or without you - it's not like a car's carbon footprint which is entirely dependent on your driving habits. You'd actually have to calculate the likelihood that your ticket creates a tipping point, wherein a bigger plane is needed to transport everyone. Multiply that probability by the additional intensity of a larger plane, and you've got the carbon footprint of a plane ticket.

I don't know how this would work with the standby system, but it probably further diminishes the probability of you being of consequence. Additionally, I'm making a strong assumption that airlines react to demand by allocating larger or smaller planes to each trip. i really have no idea if this is the case, as the capacity to be responsive would take on an additional burden (i.e. having to store additional planes in the hanger). Predictive modeling would ballpark it pretty well, which I'm sure already occurs, but I'd like to know the extent. Then I could extort carbon offset companies by demonstrating how much the market signal of a single ticket really is, the carbon cost it really incurs, and get paid not to tell anyone else.

Willing to go in 50/50 with someone possessing in-depth knowledge and personnel access in the airline industry. Immediate proceeds will go towards paying for the ticket I just purchased, as I missed my plane and am sitting in the airport waiting for a second flight I definitely didn't budget for.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Observations from a week of Kansas conservative talk radio (the best option available whilst hauling wheat):

It's common to paint Democrats/liberals as intellectuals (which is bad - you'd rather have someone setting policy that you feel comfortable having a beer with, not someone who reads). However, I wasn't aware of how strongly Obama's ego was derided on talk radio. What's interesting is the interplay between this and the egotistical facade expected of major radio talk show hosts. Every episode is a reminder of how they accurately predicted something two years ago, that Nobel Prize winner Krugman is a doofus compared to their downhome understanding of economics, and they know exactly what's going on. Obama is then criticized for 'lecturing us.' Not surprisingly ironic, just interestingly so.

I don't know if it's more intriguing or frightening with how facts are presented on these shows. Fox and MSNBC have their respective 'issues' in how the news is spun, but it's amazing how Hannity will just straight up lie. Some is merely spin, but distortions also exist that no sane person properly equipped with facts would ever agree with. You want to merely dismiss it, but the ideas that oil merely dissipates in the ocean and it's impossible to reliably run machinery on natural gas reach millions of voters everyday. Many more than Air America (which I may begin describing as Al Franken's greatest joke to date).

Tiarht is running one of the most pathetic, rhetorical campaigns ever. We're used to campaigns light on substance, heavy on labels; he's taking it to a whole new level. You encounter an ad for that Senate race about every 20 minutes, with Todd running about two for every one ad Moran puts on. Moran's are 100% defensive in nature (he's obviously taking the 'enjoy your lead and don't do anything stupid to lose it' approach), and simply says he's conservative enough to represent Kansas. I've heard if you do a cross-comparison, they essentially share an identical voting record. The only real difference is that Moran has a spine, which is why he should get your vote in the primary. Your alternative is a man proud of earning Sarah Palin's endorsement.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Albeit this space typically reserved for saying something insightful (at least at some rudimentary level), it has a different place today. I was looking around this afternoon and saw that the paper I wrote last summer was finally published by the Great Lakes Commission. Feel free to cite to your heart's content.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Alternative Big XII Scenarios

According to, my Wildcats may have a chance of staying in a competitive Big 12(-2) yet. The defections of Nebraska and Colorado threw the conference's future into doubt, and that future runs through Texas. While Texas continues to hold the process hostage, some favorable light shines:

-Colorado was really a parasitic school, and took more money from the Big 12 than it generated.
-The conference gets to renegotiate its TV contract in 2011, and as long as those marquee Texas/Oklahoma match-ups remain, revenues should double.
-That's right, double, putting payouts on par with SEC receipts.
-Texas will be allowed to continue the pursuit of its own college network (a desire that cast a shadow onto the Big XII's future even before the Big 10 mentioned its interest in Mizzou).

So the exodus of the Big XII South and subsequent conference demise may be more exaggerated than first thought. Opportunities for expanding the conference back to 12? The CEO of FedEx is prepared to pay upwards of $10 million a year to a BCS conference that will add Memphis (that's right Texas - even more money!), and the Big XII cements itself at the top of the college basketball world. In my own little fantasy world, we'd either raid Arkansas from the SEC for a second team, or (wait for it)…

take Notre Dame and slap the Big 10(+2) in the face. In examining these options, Arkansas is a natural rivalry and still plays its former Southwest Conference opponents (especially Texas) in pre-conference action regularly. The school also betrayed the SWC in bolting for the SEC in the 90s, demonstrating its willingness to switch sides.

However, I think the Notre Dame option is even more intriguing. It switches from one great basketball conference (Big East) to another, and gets $17-$20 million guaranteed every year for football. The football thing is important, because I don't see NBC resigning a huge contract for a consistent 7-game winner. Additionally, Notre Dame played Washington State in San Antonio in 2009 as a 'home game' in a shameless ploy to enter the fertile recruiting ground of Texas. Joining Texas' conference and establishing a firm pipeline, maybe creating its own TV station, and not having to deal with Big 10 administrators that have been reproving Notre Dame for years? Oh yeah, I think it could happen.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Democrats are Wrong, but Republicans are Wronger, and the Senate's Wrongest

There's nothing more fun in politics than pointing out the other side's hypocrisies. Although this does little to further intellectual inquiry, it makes for great political theater. In comparing healthcare and market reform, I will attempt to provide the facade of doing both.
I'm of the personal opinion that Chris Dodd's reform package is about the best you could expect of the Senate. While not perfect, it has some important components. The one component Republicans contend it lacks is eliminating the concept of 'Too Big to Fail.' What's interesting is that few (if any) Republicans are pushing for size restrictions. Rather, they clamor for a provision that says we will not bail out any financial institutions in the future - thus eliminating the moral hazard created by our rush to mollify AGI's asshattery as the sky's falling down.
This pie in the sky fancy is about as disingenuous as the healthcare budget numbers Democrats were peddling earlier this year. A quick recap of what's bothersome: the current tax exemption for health insurance means that, as a general rule, we have an incentive to overconsume health insurance. This is why you end up with the so-called 'gold-plated' health insurance policies. The Senate was too scared to tackle this issue today, and instead wrote in the bill that they would be taxed starting in the year 2018. This tax was then used to calculate the long-term budget impacts of the healthcare bill.
I call this disingenuous because it doesn't take a policy degree to guess the likely future. Come 2017, Congress will come under pressure to amend the legislation and prevent new taxes, it will, and the financial solvency touted by Obama will be thrown out the window.
The same applies with McConnell going to the Senate floor and screaming about the 'institutionalization of bailouts.' It really doesn't matter how much power you give regulators - when shit hits the fan, they'll be on Capitol Hill demanding the power to prevent Citigroup from going under, and (assuming the President has a lick of sense) it will be done. When faced with the prospect of disaster, policy will be amended (regardless of long-term consequences).
I may be giving McConnell too much credit here in pretending he's merely disingenuous - he's lying to advance his party's standing while hurting America. When you look at what happens under the Dodd bill, no institution is saved. The government may take it over and chop it up into little pieces, but it is an entirely different company in which the stockholders lose their shirts. And that's really the crux of the matter - when you understand you'll lose your investment if a company goes under, you'll either search for a safer investment or demand a greater rate of return. Which is what this bill does. Which makes McConnell wrong. Again. Upon review, nothing too earth-shattering in this paragraph.
I still contend derivatives trading contributes absolutely nothing to the economy.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Bling Bling

I dislike when people wade into subjects they almost passably understand and make definitive comment (think Peace Corps volunteers who know everything about fixing developing nations because they spent two years teaching English somewhere or TFA volunteers who could fix education if just given the reins). I'm also gonna do it right now; prepare to learn why hedging in the stock market is bull, and doesn't help America.

We open the prosecution by calling on Adam Smith. In his famous work The Wealth of Nations, he identifies land, labor, and capital as the three factors of production and the major contributors to a nation's wealth. The stock market hinges on liquidity, and isn't involved in rapid land transactions. It also doesn't deal labor (unconstitutional). Therefore, if we are to assume the body contributes to our national economy, it must be through an infusion of capital.

I buy this to an extent. When a corporation goes public, it allows investors to purchase a portion. The arrangement provides an infusion of cash, allows for the purchase of capital goods and becomes an economic driver. (A simplistic take, but generally correct.) What's problematic is when we treat subprime deals and subsequent betting with equal deference.

Two factors should determine how a loan is calculated: level of risk and transaction costs (operating costs of the lender captured here). Now in our system you can lower your level of risk by taking out insurance on the loan, effectively betting against it (when you're dishonest about it, Goldman Sachs can get in trouble). This decreases the cost of the loan, undervaluing the inherent level of risk. I don't think this is good for America.

An argument exists for supporting this hedging. Economic undertakings are risky, and demand an infusion of capital that isn't guaranteed to pay off. A business start-up that may never have gotten off the ground can be given the chance to flourish because, at the margin, hedging insurance makes the loan just cost-effective enough to work. We all profit as the next Berkshire Hathaway is born.

This fantasy of some economic boon facilitated by lending on the margins is fantasy. Loan fees should reflect the full risk of investment - if the risk of default is too great to grant without insurance, it's probably not a good loan to be making. There's an argument that when you bundle multiple loans and hedges, you can come out ahead (more loans are repaid than default) while capital is still generated. I say even more capital and profits are generated by encouraging safer loans.

The solution must consider who you want to shoulder the burden of the default. AIG obviously failed when everyone started going under and collecting their insurance payments. A bank forced to keep enough in reserves won't have this problem: you can eat the bankruptcy with your reserves! Of course, AIG could've also been forced to keep enough reserves to cover payouts, but not even China has that much money.

I actually wouldn't oppose the idea of hedging with insurance in moderation, much like I support acts of vigilantism on a limited basis. Unfortunately, we both know it's unrealistic to believe moderation would ever be observed if allowed. Limiting bank size is a smart, essential policy. Limiting market insurance of subprime lenders is even more important. At the minimum, it needs to get spread around more. A limit on market share or some other mechanism would be excellent. Would economies of scale make this unreasonable because smaller insurance companies can't shoulder bets on defaults? All the better. Our unemployment rate is still above 10%, and I graduate in less than a week without a job. If a trade-off must occur, you can bet I think growth should've been tempered in favor of sustainability.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

You're Invited!

Dear President Barack Obama,

First, I would like to congratulate you on choosing the University of Michigan to provide the commencement address to the class of 2010. (You may think it odd for me to be congratulating you on this decision, but I believe all smart choices should be commended.) As a graduating Master of Public Policy Student at the Ford School of Public Policy, you should know that I'm totally stoked about your arrival - even if we do share our differences on both policy approaches and methods of governance.

As you are likely well aware, John F. Kennedy once used the stairs of the Michigan Student Union to outline his vision of the Peace Corps to the world. We boast a proud, progressive history here that captures the American Dream while ushering in bold new ideas to make this nation even greater. Commencement addresses can be an excellent platform to reveal grand visions that produce laudable fruition, e.g., the Marshall Plan, and high expectations are set for the plan you will provide to over 100,000 onlookers. *Spoiler Alert*: Does our potential to become America's Clean Energy Hub have a role in the inspiration you hope to instill in us?

Additionally, I would like to take this time to formerly extend an invitation to celebrate the graduation of the Class of 2010 at Das Pink Haus. The residence of 902 Brown is a mere two blocks from the stadium, greatly reducing your travel time. During our time together you will find the bathrooms clean, the furniture comfortable, and the space spacious. It is occupied by masters students at the Ford School of Public Policy, and includes many a loyal supporter. Drinks we be on the house, for your money will be no good here (unless, of course, you don't mind printing a little more to help out some guys graduating with pesky student loans). In return for your visit, we promise impartial feedback on the new plan you will introduce on May 1. Economic, statistical, cultural, and other analysis is assured from some of the best future minds in the business. A personal concentration in the nexus between the environment and energy systems enhances my personal excitement regarding your proposal for a new generation of sustainable energy systems (sorry if I'm dictating content too much here).

We'd like to keep the event low-key, so try to invite too many friends over; Carol Browner and a couple others are free to stop by, but they're gonna have to chip in $5 for a plastic cup. I know you're an extremely busy man responsible for fixing a legacy of problems caused by past and present forces, so you needn't respond immediately to this invite. However, an RSVP (including regrets) by April would be much appreciated so we can determine what to do with roommate Jason Arredondo (he's an entrenched member of the Chicago political machine, and would be no good to have around you). If you have any other questions, or need me to text presidential convoy instructions, please don't hesitate to contact me. My number is (785) 580-XXXX. It's easiest to reach me in the morning, but I can take a call in class as long as I don't miss too much lecture. Good luck putting GHG emissions back on the table, and I hope to hear from you soon.


Dave Thoman

P.S. Tell Bob Gates he also drinks for free.