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Friday, April 14, 2006

World Class Federalists is moving, becoming even more World Class

Hello faithful readers. As of now, World Class Federalists in Paradise is moving to Typepad, and our new address will be www.worldclassfederalists.com!

This is an exciting step up for us. I have redesigned the site a bit, so it should be a little easier on the eyes, and we'll have a lot more functionality (like categories). Please update your bookmarks, links, etc., and thanks for your tireless support!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

"You want me to do it!"

There has been a lot of buzz lately on the so-called "Gospel of Judas" -- a 1700 year-old apocryphal manuscript that was discovered in the 1970s and which has recently been translated into english. This all seems nicely timed to coincide with the May release of the Da Vinci Code film, as Bainbridge notes.

The main idea of the text is that Judas was not so bad after all, since he was merely a cog (and a highly essential one) in God's magnificent New Testament plan. This seems to have been an attractive idea to the Gnostics and Cainites (who made it their business to rehabilitate Biblical villains). Of course, this was a central (and controversial) theme in Jesus Christ Superstar:
Jesus
Peter will deny me in just a few hours
Three times will deny me - and that's not all I see
One of you here dining, one of my twelve chosen
Will leave to betray me -

Judas
Cut out the dramatics! You know very well who -

Jesus
Why don't you go do it?

Judas
You want me to do it!

Jesus
Hurry they are waiting

Judas
If you knew why I do it . . .

Jesus
I don't care why you do it!

Judas
To think I admired you
For now I despise you

Jesus
You liar - you Judas

Judas
You wanted me to do it!
What if I just stayed here
And ruined your ambition?
Christ you deserve it!
So why is this such an enduring idea? I think it stems from two fairly natural philosophical instincts: anti-compatibilism (i.e., pre-determination is incompatible with free will) and consequentialism (rightness of act depends on goodness of consequence). Both of these, I wish we could kick.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

is it true?

South Park this week trashes the American media for failing to stand up for free speech in the Danish cartoon controversy, and claims that Comedy Central would not let them air a depiction of Muhammed in this week's episode. Of course, the Prophet has been on the show before, in the "Super Best Friends" episode from Season 5:


That episode originally aired July 4, 2001, but has been rerun normally, as far as I know, for years. I'm uncertain whether it has aired since the cartoon controversy began.

Update: Comedy Central execs admit they pussed out.

Update 2: The South Park Scriptorium has the clip that Comedy Central censored here. But it's probably a fake. (H/T: Jim Lindgren)

Saturday, April 01, 2006

mr. taliban

I've come across this message from the Yale Admissions office re: Mr. Hashemi, the former Taliban spokesperson who is now a non-degree Special Student at that fine institution. Personally, I haven't thought this was a big deal. It isn't Yale's job to judge the moral character of their candidates. From my understanding, the Special Student program is designed to admit people with non-traditional backgrounds who have academic potential and who can contribute something unique to the University. Though this guy may not have been my preferred choice if I were on their committee, his admission seems perfectly rationalizable.

But, what a pretentious bunch of gibberish and double-speak Yale's email is. I've commented on some of the sillier bits (emphasis mine):
Memorandum
From: Jeffrey Brenzel, Dean of Undergraduate Admissions
To: Alumni School Committee Directors

On February 26, the New York Times Magazine ran a cover story profiling Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, an individual who is currently taking undergraduate courses part-time at Yale in a special student program that does not award Yale degrees. Mr. Hashemi is a former member of the Taliban party in Afghanistan. At the age of 21, he visited the United States as a spokesperson for the Afghan government, a few months before the events of 9/11.
Could we skirt the truth a little more? This description makes it sound like he was a spokesperson for the Afghan government who just happened to be a Taliban party member, as opposed to a representative of the Taliban regime, actively engaged in defending their regressive policies. Imagine the difference between a Nazi party member who represented the German government vs. a Nazi party spokesperson who defended the detention and execution of Jews.
Following the invasion of coalition forces, he escaped Afghanistan and was later cleared twice by the State Department, both for a temporary visa and then a student visa granting entry to the United States.

The original profile in the New York Times has produced other media stories, including some that have been critical of Yale for allowing a former Taliban member to take courses here. If you have seen this coverage, you may have questions about it, or you may receive questions from applicants, parents, school counselors, or other alumni in your ASC area.

Within the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, we are responding to inquiries with two comments. First, some articles have stated that Mr. Hashemi is occupying a place in Yale College that would otherwise be available to another undergraduate student from the United States or abroad. This is not the case. Mr. Hashemi has not been admitted to Yale College as a degree-seeking undergraduate.
This is highly misleading. Just because Hashemi isn't a degree-seeking undergraduate doesn't mean he isn't occupying the spot of another student. The non-degree Special Student program is limited in size, and he is there in place of someone else. It is also not uncommon for non-degree students to apply as degree students after a year or two, and if they have been successful in their coursework, they have a very strong advantage in the admissions process. Aside from the obvious advantage that the admissions committee sees success at Yale as correlating strongly with success at Yale, non-degree students don't have to go through the regular pool of over 20,000 freshman and transfer applicants. They instead are selected by the Special Student admissions committee, which has their own dean as a member. Hashemi has said he intends to apply to the degree program in just such a way. This opportunity is certainly being denied someone else.
Rather, he obtained approval last spring to take courses part-time as a non-degree special student. A small number of non-traditional students use this program to earn a limited number of college level credits. If Mr. Hashemi applies for a degree-granting, we would review that application in due course.
See comments above. Also, I presume that should be "degree-granting program."
Second, in the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, we are following well-established policy of not commenting publicly on Mr. Hashemi’s case, just as we refrain from commenting publicly on anyone who is a potential candidate for admission. In your work as an admissions volunteer representing the office, we ask that you not make public comments as well, unless you simply seek to clarify the point that Mr. Hashemi has not been admitted or enrolled in a degree-granting program at Yale.
So the official response is not to comment at all, except to distance Yale from the guy as much as possible. What a lack of loyalty. Where's the, "We refuse to comment on the specific factors that went into Mr. Hashemi's application review, but we stand by this and every other admissions decision, under the criteria outlined in [wherever the non-degree Special Student admisisons criteria are outlined], any public controversies notwithstanding."?
We know that with respect to his presence on campus, views will differ sharply and that you may hear from some who feel strongly on both sides of this issue. You may also have strong feelings of your own, and I would welcome hearing your feedback or having you forward to me correspondence that you receive from others.

I would also just like you to know that we deeply appreciate the enormous efforts that you and your interviewers have made to reach this year’s record number of 21,100 applicants for places in the Class of 2010. In the last two ASC newsletters, I have reported some impressions of my first year as Dean, and I will share some further thoughts with you when we complete the regular decision cycle.

Yours for Yale,
Jeffrey Brenzel
Dean of Undergraduate Admissions
Yes, he actually signed, "Yours for Yale." What a tool.

the day the music died

This is not an april fool's joke. Suge Knight has failed to show at yet another hearing in his $107 million litigation with imprisoned drug dealer Michael Harris, whose lawyer calls this "a death sentence for Death Row Records." Knight's attorneys appear to be mounting the Ostrich Defense -- that is, they're sticking their heads in the sand and ignoring the neverending string of adverse rulings.

Tupac needs to come out of hiding and right this sinking ship, or his albums are going to end up remixed by P. Diddy.

Oh please, please, let this case go to the Supreme Court.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

media use of passive voice criticized

CNN is running a story under a very typical MSM headline: "Rumsfeld's Iraq-Germany analogy disputed."

It is not news that someone in the world disagrees with public officials. Usually these articles are a total joke, and the disputing parties are fringe special-interest groups or liberal college professors. Besides, if the dissenters really are important enough to merit a story, put them in damn the header.

In this case, the people criticizing Rumsfeld's analogy are Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski. An obviously better headline would be: "Former top officials dispute Rumsfeld's Iraq-Germany analogy." An even better one would be: "Kissinger disputes Rumsfeld's Iraq-Germany analogy."

Of course, such a clear headline might make it more difficult for the article to support its strained implications. Rumsfeld wrote: "Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis." One might think that the "dispute" involved something substantive, like an argument that turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be just fine, or at least that handing postwar Germany back to the Nazis would be much worse. But the substance of Kissinger's (and even Brzezinski's) criticism is that there were no post-war Nazis to hand Germany over to. "[T]he opposition was completely crushed," Kissinger says. While this may render Rumsfeld's analogy inelegant, it doesn't even make the analogy invalid, much less undermine the argument. Rumsfeld could just as easily have said, "Turning our backs on postwar Iraq today would be the modern equivalent of ressurecting the Nazis and handing postwar Germany back to them."

Monday, March 20, 2006

unbiased like Spielberg in Munich

Amazon.com has come under fire from pro-choice groups. Apparently when customers searched for "abortion," the search engine would automatically suggest, at the top of the results, "Did you mean adoption?" Cute. Amazon has instructed its engine not to do this any more, but apparently that isn't enough. As the NY Times notes:
Customers, however, are still offered "adoption" as a possibility in the Related Searches line at the top of an "abortion" search results page. But the reverse is not true.
This strikes me as being an unequivocally fair and "neutral" sentence, the very neutrality of which reveals an ideological bias in its writer. Much like Spielberg's evenhandedness in Munich.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

as if the Iditarod wasn't progressive enough already

Despite years of animal-rights activism, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race -- a grueling 1100-mile trek that commemorates the 1925 "race" to bring diptheria serum to the people of Nome -- has perservered and grown in popularity. Now, having already achieved unprecedented gender-equality (women have won the event five times), their big tent is getting even bigger:
NOME, Alaska -- Rachael Scdoris and her Iditarod sled dog team were navigating a treacherous cliff, crisscrossed with switchbacks, when her sled slammed into a thick spruce tree.

"It was the worst run I've ever done," said [Scdoris].

Scdoris managed to recover from the fiasco in the Alaska Range and crossed the Iditarod finish line in the post-midnight chill of the old gold rush town, becoming the first legally blind musher to bring a sled dog team more than 1,100 miles from Anchorage to Nome.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

sometimes i thank Yale for rejecting me

I don't understand the cult of Jack Balkin. Everyone in the blogosphere seems to be falling over themselves to praise his recent post on the FAIR litigation.

Let me summarize it for you:

1. "Why I joined the litigation":

Obviously responding to arguments that liberal law professors are dishonest and/or out of touch, Balkin says that it's worth it to push pointless half-assed legal arguments when the cause is just, even if they might lead to bad law and bad results in other areas. While so doing, he stresses that he really meant to support an alternative, even more crackpot theory of the case that would allow the Court to overturn Dale and rule for FAIR at the same time.

2. "What the FAIR opinion does":

Balkin sees some silver linings: First, he thinks Roberts has conditioned his opinion on Law Schools remaining breeding grounds of corporate hackery. (Perhaps this is why he thinks bigshot Yale could have won an as-applied challenge). Second, if you squint very hard and tilt your head sideways, you see that FAIR "narrows" Dale, by suggesting that Dale doesn't apply to circumstances that Dale doesn't apply to.

3. "What the FAIR opinion leaves unresolved -- and why the military may not be happy with the result":

Balkin predicts a knock-down drag-out affair over the question of whether Law Schools can really protest against the military recruiters they let on campus. Apparently, if something is so obvious that all eight Justices endorse it without feeling the need to explain themselves, this makes it ripe for litigation.

Monday, March 13, 2006

somewhat shocking follow-up

I was looking into the breakdowns for some of those polls in my post about the new Allen/Romney abortion position below. One of the current polls is this one by Ipsos/Associated Press. This is actually one of the more pro-choice polls, finding that 52% of the respondants believed that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, and only 43% of respondants believed that abortions should be illegal in all or most cases.

But the poll goes on to ask "Regardless of your opinion about abortion, do you think the federal government should decide whether abortion should be legal or not, or should each state government decide?" 46% said that it should be decided by the federal government, and 43% said by the states.

Now, I expected that a majority of those who thought abortion should be illegal would say that it should be decided by the states, and that a majority who thought it should be legal would say that it should be decided by the federal government. But, much to my surprise, the results were almost uniform in both camps.

Abortion should be illegal: 47% Federal government, 43% States
Abortion should be legal: 48% Federal government, 44% States

This means that 66% of respondants either said that abortion should be illegal, or that it should be left to the states (43% + .44 * 52%). Conversely, it means that only 25% of respondants believed both that abortion should be legal AND that the federal government should decide (.46 * 52 %).

If these numbers are an accurate reflection of opinion -- and not just that people have no idea what they're talking about (compare, for example, the large majority of people who disfavor overturning Roe v. Wade) -- the switch to the Romney/Allen position could be a total coup, turning a dog of an issue into a big Republican winner.

Update: Why is that so 66% meaningful? The implicit assumption is that nationalist pro-lifers would support the overturning of Roe regardless. Therefore, the 66% number comes from summing the people who explicitly endorsed the outcome of overturning Roe (the Romney/Allen position) and those for whom overturning Roe would be a step in the right direction. This seems reasonable to me. My concern is that the pro-choice people who endorse federalism here are merely doing so "in theory" rather than "in practice" -- i.e., they think abortion policy should be determined at the state level, so long as that policy is pro-choice (and I don't mean that as a dig - it's a rational position).

national Abortion strategy

George Allen, the current conservative darling for the 2008 Republican nomination, took a somewhat surprising position on Meet the Press this Sunday. He stated that he believes the abortion question should be decided on a state-by-state basis. When pressed as to whether, therefore, he believed it would be okay for a state to allow any abortion at any time during pregnancy, he essentially (with some hemming and hawing) agreed. Similarly, though he disagrees with South Dakota's lack of exceptions for rape/incest or life/health of the mother, he said they should be allowed to set that policy if they choose. So I have two questions:

1) How does he reconcile this position with a national ban on Partial Birth abortion? I think he probably just overstated his case, and really meant to maintain that a few things are so heinous they should be nationally banned, but that everything in the grey-area should be left to the states. Only a handful of conservatives have actually argued that the national government shouldn't be involved in the PBA debate. Does that make them faint-hearted federalists?

2) Does this represent a trend in national Republican abortion strategy? From Reagan to Bush, every Republican presidential nominee has endorsed a national ban on abortion, with some exceptions - enforced by Constitutional amendment, if necessary. This new position -- that it should be left to the states -- was not so surprising when endorsed by Mitt Romney, as a perceived liberal. But with a solid conservative taking the same tack, perhaps this means Republicans are retreating and realizing the efficacy of the middle-ground.

As a side-note, I happen to think that the Romney/Allen position is wise, for a number of reasons:

1) It makes the Democratic position, of abortion-on-demand everywhere, seem extreme and anti-democratic by comparison.

2) It mitigates the political problems of the abortion debate to the Republican party, particularly if the Court seems to be inching closer to overturning Roe. No matter how principled they may be, a lot of pro-choicers in blue-states will simply care less about this issue if they know that the Republican candidate is not trying to outlaw abortion in their back-yard.

3) It synergizes the Republican position with the actual effect of overturning Roe. A majority of the country opposes such a ruling, but this is largely because most people incorrectly believe that this would outlaw abortion everywhere. Even people who endorse significant restrictions on abortion frequently think overturning Roe would be too extreme.

For a great sense of american abortion schizophrenia, read through this summary of polling.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

per curiam dissents?

Nelson Lund and Craig Lerner have an article on NRO endorsing several Supreme Court reforms, including the elimination of signed opinions:

"Truly unpretentious judicial servants should have no need to put their personal stamp on the law, and the practice of doing so has contributed to a lot of muddiness in the Court’s work. We propose that Congress require that all Supreme Court opinions, including concurrences and dissents, be issued anonymously. If the justices could be shamed into complying in good faith, we would see fewer self-indulgent separate opinions, less flamboyant majority opinions, and more reason for future justices to treat the resulting precedents respectfully."

This idea clearly goes too far. In a scathing solo dissent, I think I could "name that Justice" in 6 words or less -- and it could encourage both laziness in majority opinions and radicalism in dissents. However, an intriguing possibility would be to make every opinion "unsigned" with respect to the joining justices. In other words, the "Opinion of the Court" would be unsigned, and concurrences/dissents would be signed "J. Scalia and J. Ginsburg, dissenting," etc.

One benefit would be that it might force justices to find actual consensus rather than permitting shabbily reasoned opinions slide because only one Justice is fully accountable. Also it might help resolve problems that arise when one Justice joins a majority opinion "in full" and then writes a concurrence criticizing or limiting it -- thus becoming a "super justice" in the eyes of many law professors. Lastly, it would almost certainly kill the scenario where a Justice writes the "Opinion of the Court" even when they have only a minority for parts of the opinion. If the opinion were unsigned, the Justice would have to write a separate concurrence w/r/t the part that doesn't carry a majority.

solomon proves that law professors are liberal hacks?

Johnathan Adler on Bench Memos has a post about how the Solomon case outcome proves that the cornucopia of prominent law professors who joined the FAIR v. Rumsfeld litigation either "live in ivory towers oblivious to the real world" or "proceeded with the case because they put their political views . . . ahead of their legal judgement." (Of course this assumes that the Court got it right. While I think it did, and the reasoning is very persuasive, this may not be true of every unanimous opinion it issues.)

This gets at the dual-role of law professors. They aren't judges who are required to divorce their political views from their analysis, but they aren't quite politicians either. As teachers, you would expect there is some duty of law professors to teach from their head and not from their heart. But as lawyers, professors are encouraged (if not expected) to get involved in litigation for the causes they believe in -- and we would never criticize a lawyer for taking a dog of a position if it's the best he can do for his side.

I think that either the professors were simply wrong in their analysis of the law (though their political prejudices may have clouded their reasoning), or they were acting appropriately in their roles as advocates. If, however, they were to teach the positions they took for political reasons, while understanding their falsity, it would be most pernicious.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

yes, two liberalish oscar-related posts in a row

I would like to respond briefly to the Roger Ebert argument that "Crash was just the better picture." Note that he didn't say "the Academy, as a group, just preferred this film." If that were the case, it would be begging the question, as I want to know why the Academy, as a group, went for the less-credentialed film. Any individual may hold an opinion as to the relative quality of two films with near-impunity, but a group as large and diverse as the Academy does not take positions on whimsy -- there is causation. As many filmgoers deny aesthetic truth, I think Ebert's position raises some very interesting philosophical questions.

He seems to be suggesting that 1) there IS an aesthetic truth-of-the-matter, 2) that Crash was the better film, and 3) that this was causally related to it winning the Academy Award. Leaving 1) and 3) aside (especially 3, which seems almost ludicrous looking at the Academy's history), let's focus for a second on 2: If there is objective truth about movie quality, how can we discern what it is? Surely not from the opinion of Roger Ebert. In fact, we have certain (imperfect) heuristics that are meant to settle these disputes. They include various critic's awards, guild awards, polls, compendiums of opinion, top-10 lists, and even correlate factors like number of nominations or box-office, etc. Not that these things are wholly accurate, but when there is disagreement, the position that has these things on their side is stronger. Now there are a lot of systematic problems with this method -- for example, it favors bigger films with broader appeal than 'brilliant' films with limited appeal, it favors a particular type of film that appeals to the non-representative sample of people involved, and it frequently includes irrelevant criteria (like who has been 'snubbed' recently). At the end of the day, though, it is clear that this system has endorsed one of these films. With the exception of the Academy, almost every element in this heuristic favored Brokeback, right down to boxoffice.

Of course, this doesn't prove that Ebert's claim that Crash was a better picture is wrong. If he is right, however, we must account for the complete failure of the rest of the credentialing system -- It was so uniform that I doubt it can be chalked up to variance. Either the system is wholly unreliable -- which does not seem to comport with Ebert's belief that the Academy got it right for the right reason -- or you must believe that there was some pro-Brokeback bias that directed those groups to choose it despite it being the lesser film. Perhaps the critics, guilds, brits, and filmgoing public all had a pro-homosexual agenda that mattered more to them than their critical integrity. Or perhaps the bias lay elsewhere.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

deconstructing oscar

Brokeback Mountain went into the Academy Awards as the prohibitive favorite to win Best Picture, having won the New York and Los Angeles film critics awards, the Golden Globe for Best Drama, the Producers, Directors, and Writers Guild awards, the British Academy award, and even the Independent Spirit award. It also grossed the most of all the nominated films, had the most nominations, and won Best Director. Plus I really liked it. So how did it manage to lose to Crash? Aside from the "peaking too early" tautology, there are a few common arguments that people will make:

1) Crash is set in Los Angeles. One of the "rules" of Oscarwatching is that the Academy loves movies about their town.

2) Crash is an ensemble piece starring half of Hollywood. The degrees of separation between your average academy member and Crash are probably significantly lower.

3) Brokeback Mountain is about gay cowboys.

I don't think 1) is that persuasive. L.A. movies may do fairly well (see, e.g., Mulholland Drive, L.A. Confidential, The Player), but they haven't managed a win in at least a couple of decades. 2) is more persuasive, and the concept helps explains travesties like A Beautiful Mind beating Fellowship of the Ring and Gladiator beating Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. 3) is almost certainly a big factor. Despite their public liberalism, the Academy is still full of old men who are probably uncomfortable with homosexuality. Plus Crash is about race, which is a much less polarizing social issue that everyone can get behind, and it provides conscience cover for closet homophobes.

There's one other issue that may have tipped the balance, and that's Brokeback's bipolar Oscar campaign. I think it had two opposite problems: First, it tried way too hard to hide the gayness of the movie in its marketing. Since the initial poster which showed Ennis and Jack as Titanic-style doomed lovers, there has been almost no hint of homosexuality in any of the t.v. commercials or trade ads, which have all favored visuals of both main characters with their wives or herding sheep rather than with each other. To me, this demonstrated a lack of guts on the filmmaker's part, as it ran away from a compelling relationship between the two male leads. If the filmmakers can't buy it themselves, why should we? Second, the movie was pushed by its promoters as being a vitally important social message about intolerance. This caraciture may have distracted from the film's better qualities, or even fomented resentment among voters who felt they were being blackmailed. Not only would a less political message perhaps have been more palatable to people with some degree of actual homophobia who may have been willing to recognize the film on its merits, but the more political message may have turned off many voters who are quite tolerant themselves, but who don't think that society is really out to lynch every homosexual. By highlighting the film's "importance" rather than its quality, it becomes a referendum on an issue, and you lose a lot of support from Academy members unwilling to vote for the entire homosexual agenda. Of course, the movie really IS about humanizing homosexuality and promoting tolerance, but it does this by using old-fashioned characters and storytelling to show the viewer that the love between Ennis and Jack is both very difficult and very real. The marketers should have let people see this, and let the message speak for itself.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

From SOTU

"In a system of two parties, two chambers, and two elected branches, there will always be differences and debate. But even tough debates can be conducted in a civil tone, and our differences cannot be allowed to harden into anger. To confront the great issues before us, we must act in a spirit of good will and respect for one another – and I will do my part."

Amen. If I had a dime for every mean-spirited non-productive comment I hear from our conspiracy-theorizing friends, law school would have been paid for long ago. Disagreement is proper and healthy -- anger is dangerous and ultimately futile.

O frabjous day!

"[I]f the Dems filibuster . . ., the cloture vote will surely succeed."

I'm chortling in my joy.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

How "boneheaded" was Reggie Bush's muffed lateral?

Despite having a statistically great game -- 82 yards rushing on just 13 carries and 95 yards receiving -- Reggie Bush has been panned for his "poor" performance in the Rose Bowl. This is probably largely because of his "disastrous" lateral attempt at the end of a very nice reception in the first half. To hear it from sports commentators, you would think this play was the stupidest thing since Jim Marshall rumbled 66 yards for a safety -- and it could even hurt his standing as the #1 pick in the draft! But how bad was it really?

Reggie was being tackled around the 20 yard line when he sees Brad Walker running along beside him with daylight to the endzone. To figure out the "boneheadedness" of his play, we need simply to aggregate the costs and benefits of the possible outcomes, and compare that figure to what he gave up to make the play -- that is, a first down on the 18. Now, as I see it, there were 3 possible outcomes: 1) Walker catches the ball, in which case he is in for a touchdown. Value: ~(7). 2) Walker fumbles and USC recovers. Value: same as the value of going down. 3) Walker fumbles and Texas recovers. Some percentage of the time, Texas may return the fumble, but overall they are likely to only get average field position. Therefore, value: ~(0).

Now, let's do some Case Interview-style estimations. While USC has a deadly good offense and would eventually run all over Texas, this was not apparent at this point in the game, when USC led only 7-0 early in the 2nd. However, I'll stick with some high-powered numbers and say that they score a touchdown in that spot about half the time, and a field goal half of the remainder.

Thus the value of going down would be about .5(7) + .25(3), or about 4.25.

Now, based on the small sample of this game, in which 1 of 2 lateral attempts succeeded, let's say the chances of Walker catching the ball are 50%. Since there were roughly twice as many Texas players in the area, let's say the chances of Texas recovering a fumble were about twice as good as USC's.

Thus the value of the lateral would be about .5(7) + .33(0) + .166(4.25), or ~4.2.

Therefore the total boneheadedness of the play would be about .05 points. As a rough statistical rule, every 100 yards in football is worth about 10 points. Thus, by comparison, if Bush made this same mistake 10 times in one game, it would add up to about the "boneheadedness" of a single false-start penalty.

Of course, I might be underestimating the USC offense (even from Bush's perspective), so let's presume an unworldly 6 points per posession in that spot: the value of the gaffe would still only be -1.5 points, or on par with a 15 yard unnecessary roughness penalty. Incidentally, the same "mistake" in the NFL, where red-zone offenses are much worse, has a very strong chance of being net positive. Perhaps we should put Reggie's crucifiction on hold for a bit.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I would hate for the World Class Federalists in Paradise to throw a shoulder out patting ourselves on the collective back, but...

From opinionjournal.com:

Why Conservatives Are Smarter

Writing in the Jerusalem Post, Jonathan Rosenblum of Jewish Media Resources ponders the careers of Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice-designate Sam Alito, and in the process makes an excellent point about Ivy League conservatives and liberals:

Because of their minority status it is far more difficult for conservative students to entertain the illusion that all smart people think like them. They are exposed to many obviously bright young men and women whose opinions on almost every issue vary radically from their own. . . .

Being forced to recognize that there are different points of view helps make bright young conservatives such good debaters. They learn early on the limited persuasiveness of shouting at someone with whom they disagree, "You're an idiot." Of necessity they have to develop the ability to cast their arguments in ways that appeal to those starting from very different premises. . . .

Liberals can be wonderful people, and boon companions, but they often have a hard time dealing with people of opposing views--especially when they cannot dismiss them out of hand as idiots. Too often they have spent their entire adult lives surrounded almost entirely by those who think just like them, and it comes naturally to dismiss those of other views as intellectually or morally challenged.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Airline cell-phone ban

Since the safty problems with using cell-phones are long-past, the ban on their use should be lifted. Those who want the government-enforced ban to remain in place for non-safty concerns, because they claim some kind of "right" to a quiet flight, are being rather silly. First it is obvious no such "right" exists, if airlines don't choose to sell it, just as noone has a right to an airline flight that a company does not find economical to offer.

Second, the free-market would, of course, properly balance the interests of those who want to use cell-phones with those who don't want them used around them. Perhaps, by analogy to smoking, there would be cell-phone sections of flights, or cell-phone only flights. Different airlines might adopt different policies to properly fill the two market niches. Either way, it would be much better than the blunt instrument of a government ban laughably "justified" by safty concerns.

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