Thursday, December 31, 2009

Lightning Round -- 123109

This year is almost gone. Good riddance.

  • If you read one thing today, make sure it's this piece from Peter Wallison in the Wall Street Journal. If you thought the housing bubble was a bad thing, consider this money quote: New research by Edward Pinto, a former chief credit officer for Fannie Mae and a housing expert, has found that from the time Fannie and Freddie began buying risky loans as early as 1993, they routinely misrepresented the mortgages they were acquiring, reporting them as prime when they had characteristics that made them clearly subprime or Alt-A. Alt-A loans, just so you know, are loans that lack sufficient documentation to use standard underwriting or have a very low down payment, or both. They are usually the leading candidates to default. There's a lot of them still out there. And we're on the hook for a lot of money, kids.
  • The new meme we're seeing is that President Obama is being held to much greater scrutiny than his predecessor Chimpy McHitlerburton over homeland security issues. And it's not fair, doncha know. Funny, I thought Barack Obama wanted this job.
  • Rush Limbaugh is in the hospital in Hawaii after suffering chest pains yesterday. As you can see from the comment section of the article, he has the well wishes of America. Well, at least some of America.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Benster and D Pick Your Bowl Games -- Big Ten and More, Baby!

We now return to our regularly scheduled HYYYYYYPPPPPE! So far, we did pretty good, picking those nasty Badgers over the Miami Candy Canes. Dad, I thought those Miami uniforms looked like candy canes! And they played like candy--

Watch your mouth, son. I hear ya knockin', though.

Now that most of the dumb bowl games, like the Stalingrad Bowl, are just a dim, pointless memory, let's actually pick some bowl games that people might care about. We'll save the BCS Championship Game for next week, though. Oh, one other thing: even though we promised to only pay attention to bowl games that people care about, we'll pick the Insight Bowl, too.

Insight Bowl: Minnesota Golden Brewsters (-2 1/2) vs. Iowa State Cyclones. Auntie Em! It's a twista! It's a twista! Dorothy! Come into the house and watch a couple of really bad teams play in a meaningless bowl game! It's twisted! But do you know what's really twisted? Tim Brewster. In his very first press conference, he proved he was a world-class blowhard. I was only 11 at the time and I could figure that one out! Anyway, I think the Brew Crew should pull this one out, just to prove how pointless it is. Gopher Nation 60, It's a Twista 10.

Wow, if you're that cynical when you're 14, I hate to imagine what we'll be seeing in a few years, Seabiscuit. But you're right -- this game is pretty much a joke. The Gophers are profoundly mediocre and Iowa State is, too. But at least the Gopher alums get a trip down to the desert. That's something. I'll pick the Gophers, too. Minnesota 24, Iowa State 21.

Outback Bowl: Au-barn War Eagle!!! (-7 1/2) vs. Northwestern Wildcat Offense. The only time I saw Au-barn was against the Crimson Tide, where they almost beat the Tide and showed Mark "I Struck the Heisman Pose" Ingram a thing or two. Northwestern's best win was when they beat the Badgers in Evanston. This ain't Evanston -- this is Tampa Bay, a noted shipping port, and the Cats will find out that their ship has sailed. War Eagle!!! 90, Northwestern 7.

Uh, no. In fact, I don't even think that Auburn is going to win the game. They are a pretty ordinary SEC team and while that usually is recommendation enough, it won't be this time. I really like the way Northwestern spreads the field and makes teams defend them. I would remind Grasshopper that the Wildcats also went into Iowa City and won. They won't be afraid of Auburn. Northwestern 31, Auburn 24.

Capital One Bowl: Penn State Paternos (-2 1/2) vs. LSU Bayou Bengals. Penn State. Joe Paterno. Got beat by Iowa. In Happy Valley. Going to play a team that gave the Tebows a run for their money. Sorry, JoePa. You won't be happy in this Valley. LSU 40, Penn State 0.

No one believes me, but I don't think the SEC is that good this year. LSU looked pretty ordinary in the games that I saw them play. Penn State probably has the best talent in the Big Ten this year. They definitely have the oldest coach. That may not be enough to win, but I suspect the Nittany Lions will give a good accounting. LSU 24, Penn State 19.

Alamo Bowl: Texas Tech Red Leach-Free Raiders (-7 1/2) vs. Sparty the Spartan. Mike Leach, this is your mother speaking! What I have told you about respect? You don't lock a kid in the closet, especially when the kid's dad has an ESPN microphone available to him 24/7. And he's probably going to sue your butt! Anyway, after that rant, it looks like the Red Raiders might be in a little bit of flux, because of the aforementioned coach, who I am happy to say is back to Middle Ages! Anyway, look for Sparty to play the Santa Anna role in this game. Sparty the Spartan 30, Texas Tech 19.

Ordinarily, I would have picked Texas Tech to win this easily. But this game is now just about impossible to figure. I don't know if the Texas Tech players will be happy to be rid of the Broom Closet Torquemada or if they'll fold up without their, ahem, colorful leader. Here's the thing -- the rest of the TTU coaching staff are Leach's henchmen. I think Sparty got a big gift and will have the wit to use it. Michigan State 31, Texas Tech 24.

Rose Bowl: Oregon Ducks (-4) vs. The Ohio State University Buckeyes. It's going to be strength against strength. The Ducks have a serious running game with LaGarrette (Manny Pacquiao) Blount and LaMichael (No, I haven't punched anybody) James. And I almost forgot to mention Jeremiah (Usain Bolt) Masoli, the fastest quarterback you will ever see. But, even though Jim Tressel usually dresses like a middle school science teacher (and I'm in middle school so I'm an authority on that subject), he always makes Ohio State competitive. But the Ducks are too fast for the Bucks. Quack Quack 100, Oh No 2.

How do you show someone shaking their head on a blog? That's what I'm doing right now. I agree, Oregon is the better team and should win. But a 98 point spread seems a bit much. Let's be a tad more conservative and figure that the Ducks won't score on every single play. Oregon 34, Ohio State 16.

Sugar Bowl: Florida Tebows (-13) vs. Cincinnati Bearcats. Hey, guess what? It's the Missing Coach Bowl! Urban Meyer is taking a leave of absence and Brian Kelly is simply absent entirely, having headed out to South Bend to get fed to the alums. Both teams feature good quarterbacks, with Tim Tebow highlighting the Gators and Tony Pike leading the Bearcats. Sing it with me, Decrepit: Oh where, oh where have our coaches gone, oh where or where can they be? One is taking pills and the other is getting killed, oh where oh where can they be! Florida 50, Cincy 49.

Huh. I'm not sure Florida has given up 49 points all season. They play pretty good defense, and they have their man Tebow. I suspect they'll win, but Cincinnati is a pretty good outfit and this one will be close. Florida 24, Cincinnati 20.

Fiesta Bowl: TCU Horned Frogs (-7 1/2) vs. Boise State Smurfs in Glendale, AZ. Two undefeated teams not playing for the national title? In the immortal words of Jim Mora, Playoffs? Playoffs? It's about time that the BCS went away and we had some playoffs! And as for the corrupt executives who run the BCS, they are who we thought they were! A good rant, won't you say, Dad?

Yes, very nice. Now aren't you supposed to pick the game, Seabiscuit?

Oh yeah. Good point. Blue Field Smurfs 84, Horned Frogs 83.

You seem a little unclear on the concept. That's a basketball score. Anyway, this is actually a good game and yet probably the most shameful thing that the BCS has done. They've essentially turned this game into the Island of Misfit Toys Bowl and segregated the upstarts from the big boys. I get the distinct impression that the big boys don't want to be embarrassed. I'm picking TCU, but it will be very close. TCU 31, Boise State 24.

Orange Bowl: Georgia Tech Ramblin' Wrecks (-4) vs. Iowa Hawkeyes. Guess who's back! It's my favorite whipping boy, Ricky Stanzi! He's returned from injury to face my insults! That's right, Ricky -- you better run, pally, the Big Bad Benster is after you! If you ask me, if Iowa had a better quarterback they could be playing the BCS Championship Game, or at least the Rose Bowl. Instead, they have to go to Miami and face the Ramblin' Wreck, which is most famous for beating Cumberland College 222-0. Oddly enough, I wasn't born then so I couldn't have predicted that score, although I would have. I'll actually be generous to Iowa. Iowa 222, Cumberland 0.

Ben, I think that Iowa is playing Georgia Tech, not Cumberland. Care to try again?

If you insist. Iowa 30, Georgia Tech 6.

I'll admit -- the Big Ten gets no respect and hasn't earned much lately, to be honest. But I can't figure out why Georgia Tech is favored in this game. Iowa is what they always are: resourceful, tough and a very good defensive squad. Georgia Tech is a good ACC team, but frankly that doesn't mean as much as people think. I suspect that Iowa will win and that Ricky Stanzi will play well, despite my son's misgivings. Iowa 24, Georgia Tech 13.

That's probably enough HYYYYYPPPPPE! for now. Of course, I'm probably going to have to ask Obama to investigate the BCS. Four undefeated teams, only two get the chance. It's not right, baby! Ben out!

Too Big, Too Slow, Too Good

Congratulations to the Wisconsin Badgers. And so much for the "U."

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Radio Free Dilettante — 122909

iTunes spins the color wheel:

Last Five:
Black Country Woman, Led Zeppelin
Fair, Ben Folds Five
Red Barchetta, Rush
Paint it Black, Rolling Stones
Should I Stay or Should I Go, The Clash

Next Five:
Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler), Marvin Gaye
Everything Merges With the Night, Brian Eno
Same Old Scene, Roxy Music
Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love, They Might Be Giants
Jesus Just Left Chicago, ZZ Top

Bear Down

What a great football game last night. If you ever wondered why the NFL remains so wildly popular, despite all the foolishness, yesterday's game is a great explanation. Just a few quick thoughts:
  • All over Chicagoland and elsewhere, Bears fans are wondering where this #6 guy was all year. My son the prognosticator has given Jay Cutler much grief this year, but you have to give Cutler a lot of credit; he played a beautiful game.
  • I don't know if this game is enough to save Lovie Smith's job in Chicago, but I would say this: I don't know that da Bearz would find a better coach than the one they have now. If the Bears ownership wants to know where the problems lie in the organization, I'd suggest they consult a mirror.
  • The old saw goes that it doesn't matter who you play as much as when you play them. The Vikings are circling the bowl now because they are finally getting hit with the injuries that other teams faced earlier in the year. It's quite clear that Antoine Winfield has not recovered from his earlier foot injury; he got beat badly on the last touchdown and on a few other plays, which is something I've not seen happen before. I don't know why Pat Williams didn't play, but without his presence in the middle the Viking pash rush wasn't much of a factor. Much commentary will be made about Adrian Peterson's fumble or other offensive failings early on, but the bottom line is that the Vikings defense was the problem last night.
  • Having said that, the Vikings are in a bad spot because they no longer have the advantage on either line. Bryant McKinnie looks like a shadow of himself and Anthony Herrera was pretty much awful last night. Every team left in the NFC playoffs has at least one top-notch pass rusher on the team. If the Vikings don't get things fixed on the offensive line, they won't win.
  • So the Saints get beat in their own house by Tampa Freaking Bay and the Vikings can't close the deal. So we can't figure much of anything, can we? Which leads to the question --who do you like in the playoffs? Based on the way the teams are playing now, you could make a case for or against any of the six NFC teams that will be in the playoffs getting to the Super Bowl. Based on what I've seen, the best team right now is probably the Eagles, but I think they could be beaten by any of the other teams. One thing for sure -- I'm glad that I don't work at one of the Vegas sports books, because it's awfully hard to rank these teams.
  • One other scenario that now is open: the Vikings could end up hosting my beloved Packers in the first round. That could be a festival of hype, doncha think?

Monday, December 28, 2009

Benster and D Pick Your Bowl Games -- Emergency Early Bowl Edition

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program for our thoughts on the ever-intriguing Champs Sports Bowl, which features the following squads:

Beloved Wisconsin Badgers (+3 1/2) vs. The U, in Orlando, FLA. You'll pardon us for ignoring the prestigious Meineke Car Care Bowl and the Stalingrad Bowl, but we'll pick it up here for this game, since it involves a team we actually care about. Meanwhile, I understand that Decrepit needs extra time to thoroughly analyze the Insight Bowl, in all its glory, because as we all know Decrepit is thoroughly lacking in insight. But anyway, let's talk about this game. I don't pay a lot of attention to the ACC, but I do that "the U" (a/k/a Miami for those of you who don't speak gangsta) is 9-3 and features quarterback Jacory Harris, who I know nothing about, but I really like saying Jacory Harris. Anyway, I wonder if the Miami defense can stop big John Clay. I guess we'll find out. Bucky Badger 42, Gansta U. 24.

Hmmm. You have much confidence in the Badgers, young fella. Wish I were as confident as you are. The Miami Hurricanes are not as fearsome as they once were, and the Badgers are much better than they were when these two schools played back in 1989. Much has changed since then. The key will be this: can the Badger defense frustrate the talented Mr. Harris and cause him to make mistakes. The guess here is that they will, but that the very fast Miami defense will frustrate the big hogs on the Badger offensive line. It's going to be more low-scoring than the absurd over/under (58). I'm being a shameless fan here and going with the Badgers, against my better judgment. Wisconsin 24, Miami 21.

We'll be back later with picks of the Insight Bowl and all the other Big Ten tilts, and we might throw in a few other choice games, because we are feeling the HYYYYYPPPPE! Ben out!

Back to Green

The uprising in Iran continues to gain strength. In this context, green is the color of a very necessary revolution. So we again wear green in Mr. Dilettante's Neighborhood. And read the very hopeful link from the Times of London and a veteran observer of the Iranian scene, Robin Wright.

Dayton's Bluff

I'm grateful, really I am, that the local media are ever-vigilant in reporting every wacky statement or action that Michele Bachmann undertakes. It's good stuff to know.

Still, I wonder, why are we only finding out about Mark Dayton's, ahem, issues now? Scott Johnson at Powerline is wondering, too. He shares an interesting personal anecdote:

At a charity auction in 1994 or so I won the opportunity to have Dayton take me and a friend to lunch at the Minneapolis Club. The lunch occurred toward the end of Dayton's tenure as the Minnesota state auditor. At lunch we argued politics and found nothing on which to agree. The lunch was extremely unpleasant because Dayton seemed to be unable to disagree agreeably. Dayton nevertheless put me on his Christmas card list for roughly the next five years.

Over those five years Dayton used his Christmas cards to discuss the dissolution of his two marriages, his entry into rehabilitation for alcoholism and related therapy issues. His psychiatric challenges were no secret to the many people on Dayton's Christmas card list, including virtual strangers like me.

Now, that's news we could have used, right? If you'll recall, Dayton was elected to the United States Senate in 2000 and served one highly erratic term there. He is best remembered for closing his office in 2004 because of terror threats that he perceived. No one else did, of course.

Now, you might remember that personal behavior was a big issue in the 2000 election. The behavior in question? That of Morgan Grams, the son of then-Sen. Rod Grams. That got a full airing locally, of course. Mitch Berg sums up matters well:

What’s less speculative is the Twin Cities’ media’s disingenuity in covering the “story”. This is a media market where every aspect of Michele Bachmann’s personal and legislative lives, from her speeches to her choice draperies to the supposed inner workings of her marriage and family are virtually a cottage industry among the local mainstream (to say nothing of lefty “alternative”) media. It’s a place where the antics of Morgan Grams became front-page news at precisely the moment they had to be to affect his father Rod’s defense of his Senate seat against Dayton (even though Grams hadn’t had custody of the boy in many years). Where misinformation about Norm Coleman’s apartment was unquestioningly accepted and reprinted during the past Senate race. Business connections between GOP stalwart Tim Commers and Governor Pawlenty and then-State Auditor and current GOP gubernatorial candidate Pat Anderson got pored over by everthing the Twin Cities media had, looking for a scandal they just couldn’t quite find.
Mitch is right to chronicle such things, even though he and I both realize that complaining about media bias is ultimately a mug's game. Things aren't going to change because there's no incentive for the local media to change. The Lori Sturdevants of the world are going to carry water for the DFL, even as their sinecures crumble around them. The local reporters are going to continue retailing whatever nonsense the Dump Bachmann people put out there. It's who they are and what they do.

What strikes me as odd is this: in 2000, Dayton had credible DFL opposition in the primary, including tort lawyer supremo Mike Ciresi and state official Rebecca Yanisch, who could have been Amy Klobuchar with a 6-year head start. So why wasn't Dayton vetted back then? I'm geniunely curious.

Tipping point?

Things have heated up rather dramatically in Iran in the last day or two. Not surprisingly, the clampdown has come, but it may be too late. There's a lot of information at the link and a lot of pictures here. Keep reading and watching. If the Iranian people can topple the horrible regime that has simply operated the same old tyranny under different management, it could be a huge game changer.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Yemenis Respond to Brooke Shields

If you're old enough, you might remember back to the early 80s when Calvin Klein wheeled out a nubile, jailbait-aged Brooke Shields to coo about what came between her and her Calvin Klein jeans. The ads suggested with a noticeable lack of subtlety that la Shields might be going, uh, commando. The ads were considered pretty explosive at the time.

Speaking of explosives, as you've likely heard, we came perilously close to having a terrorist blow a plane out of the sky on Christmas Day. It appears that the terrorist received training and special undergarments in Yemen.

In Yemen, it appears what comes between someone and their Calvins is underwear laced with PETN.

So what to do about those Yemenis currently held at evil, awful Gitmo? Well, like the movie title says, it's complicated, as Politico reports:

Growing evidence that the Nigerian man charged with trying to blow up a commercial airliner as it landed in Detroit Friday spent time in Yemen and may have been fitted with customized, explosive-laden clothing there could complicate the U.S. government’s efforts to send home more than 80 Yemeni prisoners currently at Guantanamo Bay.

Since Yemenis represent almost half of the roughly 200 remaining prisoners at Gitmo, new hurdles to their resettlement could spell more trouble for President Barack Obama’s plan to close the island prison while transferring a limited number of detainees to a prison in the U.S. Six Yemeni nationals were returned home earlier this month, and officials hoped more transfers would follow.
Politico, ever the master of euphemism, is referring to the dude's underwear. Yeah, I suppose you don't want to send 80 Yemeni commandoes who were all active in fighting the Great Satan back to the place where they make the Calvin Klein Semtex line of exploding underwear.

I know, I know, Gitmo is doubleplus ungood evil evil !!!ELEVENT!Y! evil because Darth Chaney and Chimpy McHitlerburton were fond of using it to house the innocent victims of their corrupt regime and whatnot. But may I ask an impertinent question? Why the hell would you send anyone to Yemen?

The White House had no comment on how Abdulmutallab’s history might impact future prisoner releases or official dealings with Yemen.

Axelrod! Where are my focus group results?

However, U.S. officials have worked intensely in recent months to support the government of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh and to obtain assurances that Yemenis returned home would not take part in violence.

Well, as long as we have assurances, it'll be okay, then. Right?

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Be Not Afraid

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

Jesus is here. Be not afraid. And Merry Christmas to you.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Guilty Pleasures Part Sixty -- Benster Rocks Your World

Well, lookee here. Benster is in the house for Guilty Pleasures!

Just proving what a Renaissance Dude I really am. I can dish out the tunes. And you know I can dish out the HYYYYYYYYPPPPPE!

That much is clear, Seabiscuit. So what kinda music do you want to feature here this evening?

Well, how about you pick one, then I pick one and we'll see where that takes us?

Okay. Sounds good. Even though we are right up against the holidays, I think we'll avoid holiday music, since we've already done that and frankly, I get a little sick of it after a while. So let me see. One thing I like to do is to pick songs on my Facebook account in honor of someone's birthday. As it happens, today is the birthday of Luther Grosvenor, who played under the name "Ariel Bender" in the British band Mott the Hoople. And Mott the Hoople was a very good band indeed. In fact, young dude, I would like to commend to your attention this little ditty:

So what is your take on that one, young dude?

Okay. Unlike some other British singers, when you hear this guy (Ian Hunter) sing you can tell he's very British. And I was trying to get his haircut until you forced me to go to the barber shop the other day. Trying to keep the young dudes down, aren't you?

That's my job. And I do it well.

Buddy, I've got news for you! Uh, no.

Wait a minute. Isn't that my line?

Not this time, refugee from the 70s! And I'm glad that I'm growing up in the 21st Century, when they actually know a thing or two about fashion! Whoo, that's cold!

Accurate, too. So what song do you want to pick, young fella?

Well, since life's been good to me so far, let's find old Joe Walsh and let him tell you about it!

Well, what do you think of that one, old dude?

I've never been sure what to think of this song, Benster. It's a pretty famous number and you'll hear it probably every half hour or so on some classic rock radio station in the country, but I could never tell if he was making fun of himself or making fun of his fans. 30 years later, I'm still not sure. But that gives me an idea for another song. You mentioned the word life.

I did. I did taw a puddy tat!

I have no idea what brought that on. Anyway, here's a song about life, from only a year later, but very different. The name of this band is Talking Heads, playing here on the Old Grey Whistle Test in London in 1979:

This ain't no party. This ain't no disco. This ain't no foolin' around, youngblood. So what say you?

In the immortal words of Bugs Bunny, what a maroon! What a Ta-Ra-Ra-Boom-De-Ay! I know stuff about life during wartime. It's not pretty and I want to see what happens if they lived through wartime. They sure wouldn't be singing about discos! I bet they'd sing a very different tune if they had to face a Panzer division!

Good point. Can't argue with that, Seabiscuit. So what else do you have for me?

Well, as you might know, one of my favorite movies of all time is Miracle. And the song they play over the closing credits at the end is one of my favorite songs. It's by Aerosmith and it's about time that you dream until your dreams come true, old dude!

Now that's some music, Decrepit. And I'll bet you even remember it when you weren't so decrepit, back when you were cool.

There are a lot of my old friends who read this feature, Benster, and they might argue that I've never been cool, but we'll leave that aside. That's another classic rock fave, so I think you're doing a fine job in replacing Fearless Maria this week, although she did pop over and offer that Steven Tyler is wearing some really weird clothes in that video.

That's her thing. Unlike Maria, I'm not exactly a good fashion expert, except on football uniforms. And I really hate these uniforms.

Hard to argue that, Benster. Anyway, you said the word uniform. So that means I have to break out this one from the Gang of Four, circa 1982 or thereabouts:

This song is wrong on so many levels, old dude. And Maria tells me it's not even as bad as this one.

Well, hardly anything else is that bad, young fella. Maybe you need to pick a better song. Whaddya got?

Well, since you asked so nicely, I think it's time to change it up with David Bowie. Turn and face it, Decrepit!

So, I have a question, old dude. What's up with all the weird outfits that Bowie was sporting in that video? I like the song, but the outfits, uh, not so much, you wascally wabbit!

You're asking me to explain the 1970s? I'd have an easier time explaining the 1790s. But we have no video from then. In fact, thinking about it makes me a little crazy. But which crazy?

Did you just sneak in 3 songs? You're dethspicable! You know what -- that's just low. I'm not letting you get the last word, Decrepit! Here we go -- here's a song for you!

Old man, look at my life. I'm a lot like you were, all right. And now it's time for all those old men who read your blog to pick their favorite song of this group of ditties. Put your favorite in the comments section, dudes and dudettes. And in the immortal words of Porky Pig -- Th-th-th-that's all, folks! Ben out!

Fearless Maria and D Pick Your Games -- Week 16

Wait a minute. Where's Benster?

Remember, Dad? You told us to switch this week. Benster will be doing Guilty Pleasures and I'm doing picks! And people, do not laugh, because I know a little bit about football!

I don't doubt that, Maria. I've long known that when it comes to the fantasy football team that you and Ben have, you're really the brains behind the operation, right?

No, I barely do anything. I only help out when it's necessary.

See, that's leadership, Maria! You just proved my point. Anyway, should we pick the games?

Sure thing. First, let's start out with this one:

Seattle Sea Ziploc Bags (+14) vs. Glorious Green Bay Packers. I hear that the Seahawks are okay and obviously I know that the Packers are very good, but I am on the Vikings side of the family. That doesn't mean that I hate the Packers, though. Green Bay 35, Seattle 8.

Well, you're a little nicer about this than your brother! That's good, because sometimes I just shake my head when I see the picks he makes. Anyway, the Packers need this game to ensure a playoff position and the Seahawks are not really doing very much these days. So I suspect you are about right, Miss Maria. Green Bay 38, Seattle 17.

Tampa Bay Creamsicles (+14 1/2) vs. New Orleans Saints. On our fantasy football league team, we have Drew Brees. And I already know that he is seriously very, very, very good. Maybe one of the best quarterbacks in the National Football League. So I predict that he will lead the Saints to victory. New Orleans 56, Tampa Bay 6.

Hmm, now you're starting to pick the games like your brother. Not that you would be wrong this time, because the Saints are very good and need to keep winning, while the Tampa squad may be only the 4th best team in the state of Florida, assuming that the Gators could probably give them a game. I like the Saints to win big, too. New Orleans 40, Tampa Bay 13.

Motor City Kitties (+12) vs. San Francisco 49ers. Well, the Lions are terrible, as I've seen in previous posts. So terrible, in fact, that they haven't even won 4 games yet. So Lions fans -- seriously, why are you rooting for this team? They're terrible! They probably sell overpriced merchandise just to make any money, because no one would buy a ticket to see them lose! San Francisco 28, Detroit 3.

That's actually possible, Maria. The Lions are trying, really they are, but they don't have a lot of talent. The 49ers have at least some and they have a chance to get back to even for the year if they win this one and the next game. That's progress. I think they'll make progress this week. San Francisco 31, Detroit 16.

Minnesota Vikings (-7) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. Ben told me that I have to rip on da Bearz. So I am sorry, Gino and Rich, you don't get the week off from abuse of your team. And now, come on down to Fearless Maria's Restaurant! Today on the menu there's a cheese and pickle sandwich and the famous Jay Cutler Cold Cut Sandwich! Mmm, wow, we've got a full house today, because the Vikings defense (3 Guys and a Mullet) are here. And they all want the Jay Cutler Cold Cut Sandwich! That's no surprise! And it would be a big surprise if da Bearz won this game. Victory Vikings 32, da Bearz 17.

I'll have to visit that restaurant some time, Maria. Anyway, what will be interesting here is that Brett Favre, long famous for being a cold weather quarterback, hasn't been playing very well in the cold lately. In fact, the last time he was in Chicago he played very poorly. This time he has a better team with him, though, and da Bearz are worse. So I think the Vikings will win, but it won't be easy. Vikings 24, da Bearz 20.

Dude, do you really think the Vikings are only going to win by 4 points? They've got the legendary Adrian Peterson! He always makes sure the game ends with a good score! And I think this post is going to end pretty soon, too. Oh, but Dad, one thing?

What's that, Maria?

I like this one better. But that's okay. Merry Christmas everybody!

Home Truth

Professor Reynolds notes environmentalist opposition/NIMBYism in re: nuclear power and solar panels and concludes, quite rightly:

If you’re going to tell me that carbon dioxide is an unparalleled catastrophe for this planet, you’ve got to be willing to demonstrate your sincerity by, you know, endorsing other forms of energy. Otherwise, I’m inclined to think you’re a lying opportunist or something.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

12th of 10 - Which Way to Go?

As we discussed before, the Big Ten conference is thinking about expansion again. Last week I suggested a few potential candidates and asked the vast Dilettante readership to weigh in. Based on my initial suggestions and the deep thoughts of my well-respected readers, our list appears as follows:

Notre Dame
Iowa State
Boise State (from Night Writer)
Cal Poly (from a wise-guy anonymous commenter, likely from the Fox River Valley)

I'm guessing the Cal Poly suggestion was tongue-in-cheek, so we'll set it aside.

Here's what I think.

First, the Big Ten is rightly proud of its academics. It is the only major conference in which every member school is also a member of the Association of American Universities, a consortium of the top research universities in the country. I would be shocked if the Big Ten chose any school that is not also an AAU member. As a result, I am highly confident that Night Writer's bold suggestion of Boise State will have zero chance of going forward.

So if we look at the rest of the schools on the initial list, we see that all of the schools except Notre Dame and Kentucky are AAU schools. Notre Dame is a special case but has already rejected membership in the Big Ten, so I do not think it will be offered a second chance. It's difficult to see the advantage of bringing Kentucky into the league, either. So the list would be as follows:

Pittsburgh (Big East)
Rutgers (Big East)
Syracuse (Big East)
Iowa State (Big XII)
Missouri (Big XII)
Nebraska (Big XII)
Texas (Big XII)
Kansas (Big XII)
Vanderbilt (SEC)

I would also suggest three other AAU members who might fit, all from the ACC:


What I suspect is this: the Big Ten would like to add a school that fits academically. It also wouldn't mind hurting one of its rival conferences by taking away a prominent school. But ultimately this is about one thing: football.

A few weeks back, the nation's attention was focused on the SEC and Big XII championship games. These games determined the participants in the BCS championship game. The Big Ten's season was over a month ago.

While the Big Ten cherishes its academic standards, it also wants to win championships. Adding the right team would allow the conference to have a championship game and to get into the mix for the BCS. And that is why the teams on the list are the most likely candidates to join. But which one? I'll address that tomorrow.

Here in Minnesota, Our Courtesans are Value Priced!

It's become evident that Washington D.C. is what used to be called an "wide open" city. And big spending Harry Reid has been providing little bits of multi-million dollar tribute to all the belles de jour. Ed Morrissey provides the list of lovelies and their, ahem, prices.

First, let's see what Nelson got:
Changes for Sen. Ben Nelson (Nebraska)

Nelson secured more than just 100% federal funding for Nebraska’s Medicaid expansion, the list of “sweeteners” (also called the “Cornhusker kickback” by Senate Republicans) includes:
• An exemption from the insurance tax for Nebraska non-profit insurers, with language written in a way that only applies to Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company and Blue Cross Blue Shield Plans (BCBS) of Nebraska (and Michigan). According to news reports, Nelson’s office states that BCBS “would pay between $15 million and $20 million less in fees under the Senate bill than it would have without a change.”
• An exemption from taxes for Medicare supplemental (“Medigap”) insurance providers. Specifically, Mutual of Omaha, will not have to pay taxes on Medigap insurance, while reports also indicate that this tax break will be extended to other companies.
• Some changes requested by Nelson would benefit people across the country, such as the inflation adjustment to the $2,500 cap on tax-exempt contributions to Flexible Savings Accounts (FSAs) and exemptions for nearly 55 physician-owned hospitals that have a provider agreement to participate in Medicare by August 1, 2010 (pushed back from February 1, 2010).
Other courtesans scored big, too:

Changes for Sen. Levin (Michigan)

• According to reports, Like Nelson, Levin sought an exemption from the $6 billion annual fee for non-profits, as non-profit insurers make up 76% of industry profits, but drew opposition from liberals. Ultimately, Levin got an exemption from the insurance tax for Michigan non-profit insurers, with language written in a way that applies to Blue Cross Blue Shield Plans (BCBS) of Michigan (and Nebraska).
• Furthermore, the amendment changes the extension of section 508 hospital provisions so that hospitals in Michigan (as well as Connecticut) have the option to benefit under them if it means higher payments.

Changes for Sen. Landrieu (Louisiana):

• Landrieu was one of the first Senators to secure a sweetheart deal, aptly nicknamed the “Louisiana Purchase”; she traded her support for bringing the bill to the floor for a $300 million increase in Medicaid funding for Louisiana. The underlying bill was cryptically written to increase federal Medicaid subsidies for “certain states recovering from a major disaster” during the past 7 years that have been declared a “major disaster area” — and is meant to replenish the decrease in federal money resulting from an “abnormally inflated” per capita income in Louisiana following Hurricane Katrina. This was due to an influx of insurance dollars, federal grants and increased labor wages.
Changes for Sen. Sanders (Vermont):

In addition the Vermont FMAP increase, the amendment includes a provision pushed by Sanders to provide an additional $10 billion in funding for community health centers and the National Health Services Corps which he argues would provide primary care to 25 million more people.

Changes for Sen. Bill Nelson (Florida)

As noted above, Nelson was able to secure a deal to keep Medicare Advantage plans enrollees in Florida grandfathered in. Notably, when McCain tried to offer an amendment to allow all enrollees to be grandfathered in, 57 Democrats voted against it.

Changes for Hawaii: The Manager’s Amendment singles out Hawaii as the only state to receive a Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) extension.

Changes for Sen. Lieberman (Connecticut): It amends the extension of section 508 hospital provisions so that hospitals in Connecticut (as well as Michigan) have the option to benefit under them if it means higher payments.

Changes for Sen. Dodd (Connecticut): It was a mystery until just revealed that Chris Dodd’s state will benefit from a cryptically awarded $100 million for a “Health Care Facility” at a public research university that contains a state’s sole public academic medical and dental school—criteria designed to apply to the University of Connecticut.
Meanwhile, Max Baucus, Reid's traffic cop who was most recently noted for his dalliance with a staffer, got a little something for the effort, too:

Changes for Sen. Baucus (Montana):

• Baucus secured a pilot program in the amendment to “provide innovative approaches to furnishing comprehensive, coordinated, and cost-effective care” to certain qualified individuals. A qualified individual “is an environmental exposure affected individual…who resides in or around the geographic area subject to an emergency declaration made as of June 17, 2009.” And who might these select few individuals be? Well, according to EPA, “On June 17, 2009, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson issued a Public Health Emergency (PHE) finding at the Libby Asbestos Superfund site in northwest Montana.” This provision would help residents of Libby by allowing them to sign up for Medicare benefits.
Let's set aside how horribly unseemly all this is for a moment. Here's the question: if congressional courtesans from other states are getting paid, what the hell did Franken and Klobuchar get for us? Near as I can tell, all Franken got was a chance to garner the applause of the harp seals in the Netroots when he decided to gavel down Joe Lieberman. And based on the available evidence, Klobuchar got to enjoy some bean dip or something at the Obama Super Bowl party.

C'mon guys -- you need to do better than that. Harry's spreading the money around. Don't just give it to him for free!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Radio Free Dilettante — Mandatory Coverage Edition

Music is a mandate, doncha know.

Last Five:
Do It Fluid, the Blackbyrds
Going Out of My Head, Luther Vandross
At Last, Etta James
Turn to Stone, Electric Light Orchestra
Lithium, Nirvana

Next Five:
You Haven't Done Nothin', Stevie Wonder
Rock Steady, Aretha Frankline
Love Music, Earth Wind & Fire
Lost Highway, Hank Williams
All Strung Out, April Stevens and Nino Tempo

Lightning Round - 122109

Time is short:
  • Anytime something scandalous is happening, remember the most important "lesson of Watergate": Follow the money.
  • So they were trying to take on that AGW thang at Copenhagen, right? Sure they were.
  • And remember: when we follow the money, it's important to remember where the money is coming from. And since we're talking about money, here's the money quote:

"The United States cannot force foreign governments to increase their holdings of Treasuries," Zhu said, according to an audio recording of his remarks. "Double the holdings? It is definitely impossible."

"The US current account deficit is falling as residents' savings increase, so its trade turnover is falling, which means the US is supplying fewer dollars to the rest of the world," he added. "The world does not have so much money to buy more US Treasuries."

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Alea iacta est

Live it. Love it. Own it.

Senate Democrats said Saturday that they had closed ranks in support of legislation to overhaul the nation's health-care system, ending months of internal division and clearing a path for quick Senate passage of President Obama's top domestic policy priority.

Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) secured the pivotal 60th vote after acceding to the demands of Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) for tighter restrictions on insurance coverage for abortions, along with increased federal aid for his home state and breaks for favored health-care interests.
We all own it now. Even if you didn't want the government to take over health care, it's going to happen. We can vote out every single one of the scoundrels who are passing this thing, but it will survive them. And there will be no getting rid of it.

Congratulations to those "true conservatives" who pulled the lever for Dean Barkley to teach that RINO Norm Coleman a lesson. You really showed 'em. Congratulations to the Peggy Noonans and Christopher Buckleys of the world, who had every reason to know what the result of their perdify would be. Congratuations to Doug Kmiec, who assured everyone that voting with the Democrats was the best way to preserve life. I hope you enjoy your time as Ambassador to Malta. Maybe you can stay there.

Congratulations to all of you. Elections have consequences. You now get to enjoy the consequences.

The next big growth industry? Maquiladora hospitals. And remember, you heard it here first.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Week 15

Hey guys! Before we get down to bidness, I have a quick shout out: today is Mrs. D's Birthday!!!! Can you feel the HYYYYYYYPPPE!!!

Hype doesn't begin to cover how I feel about Mrs. D, Youngblood.

That's good, Decrepit. Way to stay loyal there, old timer! Anyway, we thought about starting the Bowl Extravaganza this week, but it's awfully hard to get too excited about the New Mexico Bowl and the St. Petersburg Bowl, which I believe is being played in Leningrad. These games feature no one we care about in the least. In fact, I'd have been more interested in the Stalingrad Bowl.

I think the Germans lost that one, Benster.

That's what I heard, too. So let's just stick with the National. . . Football. . . League! Plenty of HYYYYYPPPPE there.

Minnesota Vikings (-7 1/2) vs. Carolina Pathetics. A year ago, the Panthers were the #2 seed in the NFC playoffs. Then Jake Delhomme laid an egg on national television, and the Panthers have been bringing the stink ever since. Minnesota should eat up DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart and they don't even have to worry about that silly Delhomme dude, since the Panthers are going with the immortal Matt Moore. Whoever the heck he is. Vikings 50, Pathetics 17.

The lyrics of the old song were "in my mind, I'm going to Carolina." Of course, James Taylor was a bit of a wimp and in my mind it doesn't make much sense to pick the Panthers, either. So I'm going to agree with the Benster, but as always I'll be a bit more circumspect about the score. Vikings 31, Panthers 14.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (+1) vs. Pittsburgh Stillers. A few weeks ago this game looked very difficult, but since then the Stillers have lost to the almighty Chiefs, Raiders and Browns. That's not exactly what you want to do. Recent history tells me that Green Bay should win this game, as the Packers have won 5 straight. But here he have tried and true theory about "desperate teams at home." Pittsburgh is desperate. Rodgers and Company 17, Tomlin and Friends 10.

I don't know what to think about this. I believe the last time the Packers won in Pittsburgh was about 1879, so the history that Seabiscuit likes to mention does not favor the Green and Gold. However, Pittsburgh is playing quite poorly at the moment. I'm hoping that I'm wrong about this, but. . . . Steelers 21, Packers 16.

Arizona Schizophrenic Cardinals (-10 1/2) vs. Detroit Common House Pets. The Cardinals are a Jekyll-Hyde team this year. How do you explain them killing the Vikings one week, then getting killed by the 49ers the next? Arizona's troubles on Monday were due to losing the turnover battle. Detroit doesn't exactly have the world's most feared defense, though. Ask the Ravens, who put up 48 points on the House Pets last week. Look for the good doctor this week. Dr. Jekyll 90, House Pets 0.

Uh, no. The Lions are pretty lousy -- no doubt about it. But they'll play better this week. Not that it will matter so much. Cardinals 34, Lions 13.

Bear Down Chicago da Bearz (+10) vs. Baltimore Edgar Allan Poes. So now we turn to my other favorite NFL whipping boy, Jay "Ryan Leaf" Cutler. Cutler is arguably the worst quarterback in the NFL. Granted, he doesn't exactly have the best weapons around, but I have to ask you something, Gino -- how could your team trade for that prima donna? He's even worse than Mr. Ochenta y Cinco in terms of silly behavior. Anyway, after that rant, da Bearz are just playing out the string and Baltimore is fighting for a playoff spot. Baltimore 40, da Bearz 13.

Hmmm. I don't know about this one, grasshopper. I have no reason to believe this, but I think da Bearz are going to play well this week. Why? If I knew, I'd say. Call it a hunch, or maybe a brain cramp. Da Bearz 17, Charm City Birds 16.

So, you actually believe that da Bearz are going to win with Jay "Ricky Stanzi" Cutler? Guess what, da Bearz? Maybe you should draft Ricky Stanzi this next year. You can never have enough terrible quarterbacks in Chicago. Ben out!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

I Have to Ask

It's not going well over in Copenhagen at the Global Warming Tent Revival, but there's reason to hope. Hugo Chavez is in the house:

President Chavez brought the house down.

When he said the process in Copenhagen was “not democratic, it is not inclusive, but isn’t that the reality of our world, the world is really and imperial dictatorship…down with imperial dictatorships” he got a rousing round of applause.

When he said there was a “silent and terrible ghost in the room” and that ghost was called capitalism, the applause was deafening.

But then he wound up to his grand conclusion – 20 minutes after his 5 minute speaking time was supposed to have ended and after quoting everyone from Karl Marx to Jesus Christ - “our revolution seeks to help all people…socialism, the other ghost that is probably wandering around this room, that’s the way to save the planet, capitalism is the road to hell....let’s fight against capitalism and make it obey us.” He won a standing ovation.

Very nice. Thrifty Scot over at Boots On noticed that our very own greener-than-thou state representative, Kate Knuth, is over in Copenhagen and has been tweeting away. One of Kate's tweets is as follows:

After days of science, policy, negotiations, and protesters, inspirational speech by Sen Kerry at #cop15 was appreciated. Now let's deliver.

We'll leave the absurd notion of an "inspirational speech by Sen Kerry" aside for the moment. Okay, Kate, I have to ask -- what, pray tell, do you want to deliver?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

12th of 10

The Big 10 Conference is again thinking about expansion and, as before, speculating on which team ought to join makes for a fun parlor game. Herewith is a by no means exhaustive list of potential candidates to join, in no particular order:

Notre Dame
Iowa State

So let's the play the parlor game: if you were adding one team from this list, which one would you add? And why? I have my view on the matter and I'll offer it anon, but I don't want to color the discussion. Yet.

Land of the Free, Law of the Vague

I said this yesterday on one of the comment threads:

The correct number of regulations is the smallest number that gets a good result, because hugely complicated regulations can make criminals out of people who are acting in good faith.

There is a larger problem to face, though: laws that are almost impossible to understand because of how vague they are. In an excellent column, Gene Healy points out the following example:

Michael Drebeen, a deputy solicitor general in the Obama administration, had a rough morning last Tuesday. He argued two Supreme Court cases back to back, defending a notoriously vague federal criminal statute -- and the justices worked him over vigorously.

The 1988 law at issue aims at public corruption and corporate misconduct, but sweeps far too broadly, criminalizing schemes to "deprive another of the intangible right of honest services."

If that language seems a little, well, intangible to you, you're not alone. Hurling hypotheticals, the justices strained to find a limiting principle that could prevent the law from covering an employee reading a racing form on the clock (Stephen Breyer) or calling in sick to go to a ballgame (Antonin Scalia). Of some 150 million workers in the United States, Breyer told Drebeen, "I think possibly 140 million of them would flunk your test."
We see way too many examples of this sort of vague legislation going on and a lot of it ends up in the front of the Supreme Court. And it really hurts all of us. Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Radio Free Dilettante — Cold December Afternoon Edition

A very puzzling narrative, indeed:

Last Five:
Chloe, Spike Jones and His City Slickers
Stomp, The Brothers Johnson
Goin' Back, The Byrds
Jamie's Cryin', Van Halen
I Gotcha, Joe Tex

Next Five:
Too Many Fish in the Sea, the Marvelettes
Car on a Hill, Joni Mitchell
Streams of Whiskey, The Pogues
Delirious, Prince
Trampled Underfoot, Led Zeppelin

Lightning Round 121509

Still following the AGW beat, but some other stuff, too:
  • Clive Crook in the Financial Times brings up several important points in this column, but here's the key one: "Once scientists are engaged as advocates, science is in trouble. Like intelligence agencies fitting the facts to the policy, they are no longer to be trusted. The IPCC may be serving a righteous cause, but it is not the honest broker this process needs. It has made itself a political agency – at times, a propaganda unit. All this, the public can see." Indeed, if the public chooses to. Read the whole thing.
  • Speaking of honest brokers. . . during the Watergate scandal, the key admonition was to follow the money. Rajendra Kumar Pachauri, the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), is a busy man. Follow the money here. And by all means, read the whole thing.
  • Mitch Berg celebrates the 30th anniversary of the release of one of my all-time favorite albums, the Clash's London Calling. It's amazing that we are 30 years on. And to my ears, the album hasn't aged a bit. Mitch identifies two of his favorite songs in the post. Here are two of mine.

Monday, December 14, 2009

4 years of Dilettante

The date actually passed yesterday, but it's worth noting: this feature began its existence four years ago. After over 1,750 posts, we're still going strong. There are a number of very good blogs that have gone away in the last year and it's easy to understand why. It's tough to keep coming back to face the blank screen. It's a joy, too. Thank you for reading. And thank you for your support and your challenges. I'm guessing the coming year will be a lot of fun.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Conventional Wisdom

“We need to get some broad based support, to capture the public’s imagination…So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements and make little mention of any doubts…Each of us has to decide what the right balance is between being effective and being honest.” – Prof. Stephen Schneider, Stanford Professor of Climatology, lead author of many IPCC reports

“We’ve got to ride this global warming issue. Even if the theory of global warming is wrong, we will be doing the right thing in terms of economic and environmental policy.” – Timothy Wirth, President of the UN Foundation

“No matter if the science of global warming is all phony…climate change provides the greatest opportunity to bring about justice and equality in the world.” – Christine Stewart, former Canadian Minister of the Environment

“The data doesn’t matter. We’re not basing our recommendations on the data. We’re basing them on the climate models.” – Prof. Chris Folland, Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research

“The models are convenient fictions that provide something very useful.” – Dr David Frame, climate modeler, Oxford University

“I believe it is appropriate to have an ‘over-representation’ of the facts on how dangerous it is, as a predicate for opening up the audience.” – Al Gore, Climate Change activist

“It doesn’t matter what is true, it only matters what people believe is true.” – Paul Watson, ex-member of Greenpeace commenting on the secret of Greenpeace’s success

“We are on the verge of a global transformation. All we need is the right major crisis…” – David Rockefeller, Club of Rome executive member

“We are close to a time when all of humankind will envision a global agenda that encompasses a kind of Global Marshall Plan to address the causes of poverty and suffering and environmental destruction all over the earth.” – Al Gore, Earth in the Balance

“The goal now is a socialist, redistributionist society, which is nature’s proper steward and society’s only hope.” – David Brower, founder of Friends of the Earth

“If we don’t overthrow capitalism, we don’t have a chance of saving the world ecologically. I think it is possible to have an ecologically sound society under socialism. I don’t think it is possible under capitalism” – Judi Bari, principal organizer of Earth First!

“Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn’t it our responsibility to bring that about?” – Maurice Strong, first Executive Director of the UN Environment Programme

“The only hope for the world is to make sure there is not another United States. We can’t let other countries have the same number of cars, the amount of industrialization, we have in the US. We have to stop these Third World countries right where they are.” – Michael Oppenheimer, Environmental Defense Fund

“Complex technology of any sort is an assault on human dignity. It would be little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy, because of what we might do with it.” – Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute

“My three main goals would be to reduce human population to about 100 million worldwide, destroy the industrial infrastructure and see wilderness, with it’s full complement of species, returning throughout the world.” – Dave Foreman, co-founder of Earth First!

“A total population of 250-300 million people, a 95% decline from present levels, would be ideal.” – Ted Turner, founder of TBS and CNN

“It’s terrible to have to say this. World population must be stabilized and to do that we must eliminate 350,000 people per day. This is so horrible to contemplate that we shouldn’t even say it.” – Jacques Cousteau, interview with the UNESCO Courier

“If I were reincarnated I would wish to be returned to earth as a killer virus to lower human population levels.” – Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, patron of the World Wildlife Fund

“The extinction of the human species may not only be inevitable but a good thing.” – Christopher Manes, Earth First!

“If you haven’t given voluntary human extinction much thought before, the idea of a world with no people in it may seem strange. But, if you give it a chance, I think you might agree that the extinction of Homo sapiens would mean survival for millions, if not billions, of Earth-dwelling species … Phasing out the human race will solve every problem on earth, social and environmental.” – Les U. Knight, founder of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement

“Childbearing should be a punishable crime against society, unless the parents hold a government license. All potential parents should be required to use contraceptive chemicals, the government issuing antidotes to citizens chosen for childbearing.” – David Brower, first Executive Director of the Sierra Club

Saturday, December 12, 2009


If you've ever had a hankering to undertake some statistical analysis (and let's be honest, who hasn't), the always entertaining Iowahawk shows you how the famous AGW hockey stick was constructed. If you have a half hour and a computer, you can make your very own. And when you're done, you'll understand a little bit more about how we got to where we are.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Benster and D Pick Your Games -- Week 14

College football is just about done with the regular season, but now we get to see the advantage of the BCS. BCS stands for Bad Computer Software! What do you think Dad?

I'm not sure, Seabiscuit. What should I think?

Anyway, let's get down to business. I like the way you ducked that one, Decrepit.

Army Cadets/Black Knights (+14) vs. Navy Midshipmen at Philadelphia. Hey, Cadets and Mids -- can you FEEL THE HYYYYYPPPPE! Gonna visit the bars? Then see which service academy is better?

Uh, Ben, sorry to interrupt, but the service academies have a code of conduct and I'm guessing they won't be doing too much carousing before the game.

Whatever. Anyway, back to the game. Navy beat Notre Dame, which isn't as big an accomplishment as it used to be. But it does mean something. Army is an okay team, but they're a long way from the days of Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside. These days, they're almost always on the outside. Looking in, that is. Mids 40, Cadets 21.

So you still have the HYYYYYYPPPPE machine going, young fella? Ah, that adolescent thing is so soothing, isn't it? Weep for me, America. Anyway, I think the Mids will win the game, too. Navy has had the better of this rivalry for the most part for rather a long time now. Navy 31, Army 14.

Cincinnati Ochocincos (The Artists Formerly Known as Bungles) (+6.5) vs. Minnesota Vikings. For all those Spanish speakers out there, Chad Ochocinco really means "Chad Eight Five." The dude really needs to take a remedial Spanish class. It should be Ochenta y Cinco, but he apparently didn't have his head screwed on right. Minnesota got its butt handed to it by Mr. Warner last week and Cincinnati is going to do the same thing. Throw the ball to Ochocinco in the end zone. I want him to steal Ragnar's horn. Linguistically Challenged 50, Vikings 17.

Uh, no. Nice point about Mr. Ochocinco's lack of chops in speaking Spanish, but otherwise I don't know what you're thinking, Grasshopper. The Vikings are actually now a desperate team at home. That's the winning formula, as we've learned. Watch for them to bounce back, although it won't be easy. Vikings 27, Bengals 20.

Glorious Green Bay Packers (-3) vs. Bear Down Chicago da Bearz. Gino, I've got news for you, pal. Jay Cutler reminds me of a combination of Ryan Leaf and Rex Grossman. Jay Cutler could probably do just as well as Jay Glazer, or maybe Jay Leno. Anyway, Matt Forte also reminds me of former Packer great Keith Woodside, except not as good. Without Mr. Urlacher, the Swiss Cheese that is da Bearz defense will get torched by Mr. Rodgers and the Land of Make Believe. Packers 90, da Bearz 10.

So your sister Fearless Maria is sitting over in the other room saying, "Ben, that's not going to happen." She's also suggesting that you need to expand your vocabulary and stop using "meanwhile" so much. Da Bearz were looking pretty good earlier in the season, but that's gone now. As for our green-clad heroes, things are looking better. But not 90-10 better. Packers 31, da Bearz 16.

Motor City Kitties (+13 1/2) vs. Baltimore Edgar Allen Poes. Well Detroit, I assume you know what I think of your so-called professional football team. Baltimore is coming off a disappointing loss to the Packers in Mr. Rodgers' Neighborhood. Even with a short week, this game is going to be a piece of pie. Mr. Poe 50, Common House Pets 16.

We've seen the Ravens and the Lions in the last two weeks, and based on that, I can safely say that neither team is especially impressive. We'll give the Ravens the nod based on home field advantage and the common sense of knowing that the Lions just don't win very much. Ravens 24, Lions 21.

Oregon High School Football Championship: Hillsboro High vs. Jefferson High. Okay, I don't know anything about these teams. I have never even heard of these high schools. Dad made me pick this game because his pal Chuckwagon Boy lives out in Oregon and his kids attend Hillsboro High. So I'm picking Hillsboro. Hillsboro 3, Jefferson 0.

I'll be honest, I don't know anything about these teams either. But let's hear it for Hillsboro High! Hillsboro 24, Jefferson 17.

New Orleans Saints (-10 1/2) vs. Hot-Lanta Falcons. Since Decrepit made me pick that weird game, here's a more normal one. Something's cookin' on the bayou! The Saints are led by fantasy star extraordinaire Drew Brees, my man. Atlanta is probably going be without my other fantasy league stud, Michael Turner "The Burner" and their QB, Matt Ryan. Hate to be you, Chris Redman! Saints 102, Hot-Lanta 7.

I'm not sure there's even enough time in a game for a team to score 102 points, Youngblood. But given your propensity to pick absurd routs, this one was destined to happen. Here's what I don't get -- if you wanted to pick a normal game, why did you pick one team to score 100 points? I'm just aghast. Oh, and the Saints will win. But not by 95 points. Saints 42, Falcons 24.

Anyway, if you're going to pick a team to score 100 points, pick the Saints! Ben out!

Drip, Drip, Drip

The details continue to emerge in the Climategate story. Today we learn about the problematic "Briffa reconstruction." Steve McIntyre at tells the whole sordid tale, and you should definitely read the whole thing, but here are a few highlights.

First, some brief background. Keith Briffa is one of the climatologists who worked at the East Anglia CRU. He supplied much of the primary data, based on studies of tree rings from bristlecone pine trees, that form much of the rationale that led to the famous "hockey stick" model that shows a dramatic increase in global warming in recent years. Bristlecone pines are especially important, because they live for thousands of years and thus we could glean data about conditions going back to at least A.D. 1000.

There was a problem with the data, though: it was cherry-picked. This was not public knowledge for a long time, but McIntyre finally was able to go through the data here. And the problem is pretty simple: without the cherry-picked data, the assumptions about warming didn't hold up. The East Anglia CRU didn't want to release the information, despite repeated requests. McIntyre tells the story here:

CRU staunchly refused to provide the measurement data used in Briffa’s Yamal reconstruction. Science(mag) acquiesced in this refusal in connection with Osborn and Briffa 2006. While the Yamal chronology was used in a Science article, it originated with Briffa 2000 and Science(mag) took the position that the previous journal (which had a different data policy) had jurisdiction. Briffa used the chronology Briffa et al (Phil Trans B, 2008) and the Phil Trans editors finally seized the nettle, requiring Briffa to archive the data. As noted before, Briffa asked for an extension and, when I checked earlier this year, the Yamal measurement data remained unarchived. A few days ago, I noticed that the Yamal data was finally placed online. With the information finally available, this analysis has only taken a few days.

If the non-robustness observed here prove out (and I’ve provided a generating script), this will have an important impact on many multiproxy studies that have relied on this study. Studies illustrated in the IPCC AR4 spaghetti graph, Wikipedia spaghetti graph or NAS Panel spaghetti graph (consult them for bibliographic refs) that use the Yamal proxy include: Briffa 2000; Mann and Jones 2003; Jones and Mann 2004; Moberg et al 2005; D’Arrigo et al 2006; Osborn and Briffa 2006; Hegerl et al 2007, plus more recently Briffa et al 2008, Kaufman et al 2009. (Note that spaghetti graph studies not included in the above list all employ strip bark bristlecone pines – some use both.)

As it turns out, the data did not support the hypotheses of unprecedented warming. And this was a problem for the climatologists who have been driving the narrative. And now, thanks to the e-mail trail that has emerged from the CRU, we have an idea of how the climatologists dealt with the problem. McIntyre:

Much recent attention has been paid to the email about the “trick” and the effort to “hide the decline”. Climate scientists have complained that this email has been taken “out of context”. In this case, I’m not sure that it’s in their interests that this email be placed in context because the context leads right back to a meeting of IPCC authors in Tanzania, raising serious questions about the role of IPCC itself in “hiding the decline” in the Briffa reconstruction.

Relevant Climategate correspondence in the period (September-October 1999) leading up to the trick email is incomplete, but, in context, is highly revealing. There was a meeting of IPCC lead authors between Sept 1-3, 1999 to consider the “zero-order draft” of the Third Assessment Report. The emails provide clear evidence that IPCC had already decided to include a proxy diagram reconstructing temperature for the past 1000 years and that a version of the proxy diagram was presented at the Tanzania meeting showing the late twentieth century decline. I now have a copy of the proxy diagram presented at this meeting (see below).

The emails show that the late 20th century decline in the Briffa reconstruction was perceived by IPCC as “diluting the message”, that “everyone in the room at IPCC” thought that the Briffa decline was a “problem” and a “potential distraction/detraction”, that this was then the “most important issue” in chapter 2 of the IPCC report and that there was “pressure” on Briffa and other authors to show a “nice tidy story” of “unprecedented warming in a thousand years or more”.

We'll discuss how this was done in the next post. Meanwhile, read McIntyre's post in full. It's long but hugely significant.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Guilty Pleasures Part Fifty-Nine: The Ho Ho Wii Christmas Extravaganza

Dad, it's Christmastime! Thump thump thumpity, thump thump thump, look at Fearless Maria go!

Wait, isn't that an Easter song?

No, Dad! You're thinking of Peter Cottontail! Get the cotton out of your ears and listen. That's Frosty the Snowman! Maybe you should go back to kindergarten and learn the words, because that's where I learned it!

When I was in kindergarten, I don't remember singing Christmas songs.

But I'll bet you spilled glitter all over your pants in art class. Bet that messed up your Garanimals pretty good, huh?

Actually, yes Maria. It did.

But Dad, you've got us off track. We're supposed to be doing Guilty Pleasures and I want to do some Christmas music!

So you're thinking about Christmas, Maria? Why on earth would you be thinking about that?

Excuse me, sir. It's already December 10th. Didn't you hear Ella Fitzgerald going by?

That's a happy sound, Maria. Ella is a wonderful singer and that's one of my favorites.

Glad you like it, Dad. Say, if I pick good songs will you get me a Wii for Christmas?

Maybe. You're off to a good start so far.

Dad, I think we need to take a vacation. How about to the Holiday Inn?

What's at the Holiday Inn, Maria?

Well, according to guys in the 1940s and the attractive ladies who seem to be hanging around the grand piano, there's a good chance of a:

So who is that attractive lady who barely does anything, Dad?

Her name is Marjorie Reynolds. She was in that movie, but I'm not too up on the rest of her career.

It's Christmas, Dad. I'll give you a break on knowing that. But am I still in the running for the Wii?

Yep, if you keep picking winners, you're in good shape.

Well, Mom plays this one all the time.

That's Nat King Cole. A wonderful singer.

And he was a merry old soul, right?

I believe that's right, Maria.

Benster just whispered a suggestion in my ear. How about this?

If I didn't know better, and I don't know better, I'd think that Ben was trying to sabotage you.

Ben! Knock it off! I want that Wii! And so do you, Mister.

Maria, you don't want to be so hard on your brother, now do you?

I guess not, Dad. Ben wants a second chance. Try this one, Dad!

I'm not sure he's helping your cause, Maria.

Don't you like that song, Dad?

After hearing it about 4000 times, maybe not so much. But that's not your fault. So what other songs do you know about?

Maybe I should play it safe and play some more Bing Crosby:

I remember watching that when I was a kid, Maria. That was from Bing Crosby's last Christmas special and David Bowie was the guest star. It's a somewhat odd pairing, but now, more than 30 years later it's not so weird any more.

So how's that Wii coming along?

Well, we'll have to see.

Maybe I'll have to try this one, Dad!

I remember that one well too, Maria. It was Christmas 1984 and there was a terrible famine going on in Africa. A lot of performers decided to make a benefit record and if look closely you'll see a lot of famous singers, like Bono of U2, Boy George, Phil Collins, George Michael and Sting.

Who are the girls? Is that Bananarama?

Yes. They had lots of people involved in it.

Doing something nice for people at Christmas is cool, Dad! You know that I went to Feed My Starving Children last week, right? So I was trying to help feed the world, too!

That was a great idea, Maria. And there are a lot of other great charities you can help right now.

That's a great idea, Dad! But I think I need at least another song or two to make sure I get that Wii. So maybe you'd like one of these?

So those are definitely the Christmas (Parentheses) Pair of songs, huh Dad?

Yes, but well chosen.

Thanks, Dad. But now we need everyone else to make their choice. Send a letter to Santa Maria in the comments section!

Is This The Smoking Gun?

Potentially. There's a lot more at Watts Up With That? It's a long piece but very much worth your time. The very short version of this chart: The blue numbers are the raw data. The red numbers are the "homogenized" data following the addition of secret sauce. The black line indicates the amount of secret sauce that was used. The reason it was used? We're still waiting to find that out.

Meanwhile, as the worthies meet with furrowed brows in Copenhagen, there's a little trouble with one of their potential solutions to the issue they purport to address.

Occam-pational Hazards

Yes, it's time for Occam's Razor again. Let's start with a question for all of us evil AGW "Deniers": do you really think there's a massive conspiracy to falsify data and that the East Anglia CRU is some sort of criminal cabal, conspiring with other climate scientists?

I can't speak for anyone else, but my answer is: no. It's not likely that such a conspiracy could really work. However, there are other possible explanations. Megan McArdle at the Atlantic is on the right track:

I can imagine a sort of selection bias in the grant process. I cannot imagine hundreds of scientists thinking, well, I put ten years into getting my PhD--time to spend the rest of my life faking data in order to get some grant money! One, yes. All of them, no.

To me, the worry is the subtler kind of bias that we indisputably know has led to scientific errors in the past.
McArdle then turns to an example from the great physicist and popular science writer Richard Feynman:

We have learned a lot from experience about how to handle some of the ways we fool ourselves. One example: Millikan measured the charge on an electron by an experiment with falling oil drops, and got an answer which we now know not to be quite right. It's a little bit off, because he had the incorrect value for the viscosity of air. It's interesting to look at the history of measurements of the charge of the electron, after Millikan. If you plot them as a function of time, you find that one is a little bigger than Millikan's, and the next one's a little bit bigger than that, and the next one's a little bit bigger than that, until finally they settle down to a number which is higher.

Why didn't they discover that the new number was higher right away? It's a thing that scientists are ashamed of--this history--because it's apparent that people did things like this: When they got a number that was too high above Millikan's, they thought something must be wrong--and they would look for and find a reason why something might be wrong. When they got a number closer to Millikan's value they didn't look so hard. And so they eliminated the numbers that were too far off, and did other things like that.

Is that what happened in this case? It's a far more likely explanation than a massive conspiracy. McArdle:

That is the actual worrying question about CRU, and GISS, and the other scientists working on paleoclimate reconstruction: that they may all be calibrating their findings to each other. That when you get a number that looks like CRU, you don't look so hard to figure out whether it's incorrect as you do when you get a number that doesn't look like CRU--and maybe you adjust the numbers you have to look more like the other "known" datasets. There is always a way to find what you're expecting to find if you look hard enough.

Indeed. Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Blizzard Round

Same as a lightning round, but more weather appropriate. . . .
  • One of the things we're supposedly going to miss when the MSM goes belly up is the objective reporting that its members provide. Take for example this measured analysis of Joe Lieberman on offer from the Washington Post: "Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (Conn.) has once again inserted himself into the middle of an inflamed partisan debate, raising questions about his motives, his ego and his fickle allegiance to the Democratic Party, which forgave him after he supported Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for president." I hate it when a legislator gets involved in legislation, don't you?
  • We have been assured that one of the benefits of ridding ourselves of Republican rule is that the Justice Department would cease being so politicized. Here's some evidence of that.
  • I don't mind snow so much, but I just wish it wouldn't fall in my driveway or on 35W.
  • Almost got through this without beating the drums on AGW again. Almost. I would like to commend to your attention this piece from Joel Kotkin that appears in Forbes. Lotsa good stuff, but here's one key observation about Barack Obama's "Science Advisor," one John Holdren:

The notion that the hoi polloi must be sacrificed to save the earth is not a new one. Paul Ehrlich, who was the mentor of President Obama's science advisor, John Holdren, laid out the defining logic in his 1968 best-seller, The Population Bomb. In this influential work, Ehrlich predicted mass starvation by the 1970s and "an age of scarcity" in key metals by the mid-1980s. Similar views were echoed by a 1972 "Limits to Growth" report issued by the Club of Rome, a global confab that enjoyed a cache similar to that of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

To deal with this looming crisis, Holdren in the 1977 book Ecoscience (co-authored with Anne and Paul Ehrlich) developed the notion of "de-development." According to Holdren, poorer countries like India and China could not be expected to work their way out of poverty since they were "foredoomed by enormous if not insurmountable economic and environmental obstacles." The only way to close "the prosperity gap" was to lower the living standards of what he labeled "over-developed" nations.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but Ehrlich and Holdren don't have a great track record for predicting the future. They'd not last a minute at a Vegas sports book. So remind me again, why ought we be listening to them now?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Radio Free Dilettante – Blizzard of Imminent Death Edition

No, it's not hype. It's marketing.

Last Five:
Shine a Little Love, Electric Light Orchestra
Message in a Bottle, Police
World Where You Live, Crowded House
You Are, You Are, Curtis Mayfield
Minneapolis, That Dog

Next Five:
Song for the Dumped, Ben Folds Five
Independence Day, Bruce Springsteen
Honest I Do, Spinners
Winterlong, Neil Young
I Believe (When I Fall in Love It Will Be Forever), Stevie Wonder


Darn the luck.

In a massive security breach, the Transportation Security Agency (TSA) inadvertently posted online its entire airport screening procedures manual, including some of the most closely guarded secrets regarding special rules for diplomats and CIA and law enforcement officers.

The most sensitive parts of the 93-page Standard Operation Procedures were apparently redacted in a way that computer savvy individuals easily overcame.

The document shows sample CIA, Congressional and law enforcement credentials which experts say would make it easy for terrorists to duplicate.

Sounds like a problem, but let's look on the bright side. If having to scrap the current procedures leads to even longer lines at the airport, maybe some of the great unwashed will stop wanting to travel by air so much and just stay home, where they belong, and just reduce their carbon footprints.

And further, I'm not especially worried about governmental agents guarding information anyway; once we're all set up for that nifty new Obama Care, there's no chance that the results of my latest physical will end up on the internets. It's all good, people. It's all good.

Every Breath You Take

Stuff keeps happening faster than I can comment.

  • The moment of complete overreach has arrived -- the Environmental Protection Agency has declared that CO2 is a pollutant. Not to put too fine a point on it, but if CO2 is a pollutant, I've been polluting the air with every breath I take. And unless the enforcement agents are cyborgs, they have been too. There isn't any activity that I undertake that isn't potentially subject to regulatory enforcement now. I'd suggest that if the EPA were really concerned about setting a good example, they could have all their bureaucrats stop breathing. But that would be churlish. The good news? I suspect this move will go back to the Supreme Court and will get slapped down, even though the Supremes (perhaps) inadvertently gave this folly the green light back in 2007. But it never should have come to that.
  • Meanwhile, the Branch Carbonians continue to gather in Copenhagen for a week of holy ritual and holy writ. Many of these well-appointed scolds have been arriving in Copenhagen via private jet. An excellent point made here: "Taking a private jet to a conference on stopping global warming is a bit like traveling in a sedan chair carried by indentured servants to a summit on stopping human trafficking." These folks oppose incandescent lights. They apparently don't worry too much about incandescent hypocrisy. Read the whole thing -- lotsa good one-liners, including this one: “It’s too cold to walk from the hotel to the convention on global warming. Let’s take a limo!”