A Fair and Balanced celebration

Rumor has it that at midnight (Central), Fox News will be covering the arrival of the new year in the Central time zone by covering the ball drop in my home town, Manhattan, Kansas (The Little Apple). They are going to Manhattan (the big one) for the Eastern drop, Vegas for Mountain (I think), and L.A. for Pacific. Rather than go to Chicago, Houston, Dallas, Kansas City, or wherever, Central gets The Little Apple.


Relief pitchers

ESPN.com published a couple of articles this week making the Hall of Fame cases for Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter. Good stuff, though of course it's no substitute for my analysis, which is after the jump.

Career statistical overview
Rick Aguilera3183.577.1886-8189557
Goose Gossage3103.017.47124-10737681
Doug Jones3033.307.2569-794640
Lee Smith4783.038.7371-926802
Bruce Sutter3002.837.4368-710512
John Wetteland3302.939.4648-4517523

  • This is the first year on the ballot for Aguilera, Jones, and Wetteland.

  • Rick Aguilera was named to three consecutive All-Star games from 1991-93.

  • Goose Gossage was named to nine All-Star games and led the league in saves three times. He won the Rolaids Relief Award in 1978.

  • Doug Jones' first productive Major League season came at age 31. He was named to five All-Star teams.

  • Lee Smith is baseball's all time saves leader and won the Rolaids Relief award three times. He was named to seven All-Star teams, including five consecutively from 1991-95.

  • Bruce Sutter was named to six All-Star teams and won the Rolaids Relief Award four times. He won the Cy Young in 1979 and was the World Series MVP in 1982.

  • John Wetteland won the Rolaids Relief Award in 1996 with 43 saves, and also had 7 postseason saves that year on the way to being named the World Series MVP. He appeared in three All-Star games (1996, 1998, and 1999). He recorded 40 or more saves four times.

Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersly, and Hoyt Wilhelm are the only relief pitchers in the Hall of Fame. Eckersly was inducted partly on the strength of his starting pitching, while Wilhelm and Fingers were recognized for their contribution to the evolution of the position. Wilhelm and Fingers, then, provide the only known criterion for admitting a pure reliever to the Hall of Fame. Namely, historical significance.

Bruce Sutter, along with Dan Quisenberry, Goose Gossage and a few others, pioneered the shift from general purpose reliever to specialized closer. Quisenberry and Sutter were the elite closers for their era, this even though their save numbers fall short of those posted by modern closers. Arguably, Sutter made a contribution to the evolution of the position and should be admitted to the Hall on that basis. A better argument, though, would make reference to the fact that Sutter dominated his position for six seasons.[1]

Sooner or later the voters are going to have to figure out what the standard is for a Hall of Fame reliever. This year, Aguilera, Jones, and Wetteland each showed up on the ballot with 300+ saves. That number seems to be the standard for a good, but not great, run as a closer. But what about Lee Smith? He's been on the ballot for three years and has been getting about half the votes needed for admission. This even though he's the all time saves leader with 478. By any reasonable standard Lee Smith is a Hall of Famer. The question is, how long will it take the voters to settle on a reasonable standard?

1 As an olde tyme Royals fan, I can't help but notice that these arguments for Sutter also apply to Quisenberry. Since that's so, I'm perplexed and offended by the fact that Quisenberry received only 18 votes in his single year of eligibility, while Sutter began with over 100 and has climbed to 344, a whisker short of election.


Dumb joke blogging, Bellman edition

We get a lot of hits from Sweden. Why? Well, because those swinging Swedes have a whole genre of dumb jokes called 'Bellman jokes' and if you google a string that includes 'Bellman', 'dumb' and 'jokes' we rank pretty high. Yay for us. But I can't help thinking that the average Swedish googler is disappointed to click through to this site only to discover that none of our dumb jokes are about Bellman.

Not any more.
  • Bellman, a Russian, and a German wanted to see who could swim from Europe to America the fastest. First out was the German. He swam 1 kilometer and drowned. Next came the Russian. He swam 1 mile and then drowned. Now it was Bellman's turn and he swam and swam until he almost reached the coast but he got tired and swam back.

  • There was a Norwegian, a German and Bellman, and they were all bragging about how small their fathers were. The Norwegian proudly stated that his father slept in a dresser drawer. The German said, "Bah, my father sleeps in a matchbox." Then Bellman said, "I don't have a father... He fell off a ladder and died when he was picking strawberries..."

  • Bellman was pushing a heavy wheelbarrow up a hill. When he was almost at the top the wheelbarrow tipped over and Bellman got so angry that he swore out loud. Just then a priest walked by and said, "If you use foul language, Bellman, you'll never get to heaven." To which Bellman replied, "I'm not going to heaven, I'm just trying to get up this hill!"

  • Bellman once tried to learn how to play golf. He hit ball after ball on the driving range without much success. "I've tried with six different clubs and I still can't hit the damn ball!" he sighed. "Maybe it's not the clubs' fault," suggested his golf instructor. Bellman looked down. "Can it be the ball's?"

  • A Dane, a Russian, and Bellman were walking through the forest when they came upon a track. "I think it's an elk track," said the Dane. "No, no," said the Russian, "it's clearly a bear track." Bellman didn't have time to answer because he was hit by a train.

Friday dumb game blogging, lost souls edition

This week's game comes via Jay Bibby and is, well, a little odd. Scroll down to find the game, War of the Hell, and follow the link to Jayisgames for an English language explanation of game concepts.

Speaking of Jay Bibby's game blog, he's hosting a best of 2005 web games poll. Vote while you can.


[Possibly from French 'haridelle', gaunt woman, old horse, nag]

A woman regarded as scolding and vicious.


Translation wanted

Written on the restroom wall at the Conoco station in Royse City, Texas:

"North Korea, can you say Guam?"



Just in time for next Christmas, I've come up with ideas for a couple of educational toys. They're posted here in the hopes that a passing venture capitalist will see them and decide to finance my startup.

Yo-yo no-throw training device
Components: adjustable headband, elastic cord, safety goggles
How it works: Simply attach your toddler's favorite toy to the elastic cord and place the headband so that the cord connects at mid forehead. Now when your child throws her toy it will rebound and smack her on the head. Through the miracle of negative reenforcement, junior will learn that throwing things is bad.

Decibel shock training collar for tots
Components: collar with sound-sensitive toddler shocking device
How it works: The built in microphone measures the volume of your child's voice. If a pre-set volume is exceeded, a small shock is administered, humanely teaching your child to keep it down.
Note: In early testing, a slight problem with this toy has emerged. Here's a transcript from one of our tests:
Toddler A-37: Bwah bwah bway tway...Yay!
The last utterance exceeded the pre-set decibel limit and a shock was administered.
Toddler A-37: Ow!
The last utterance exceeded the pre-set decibel limit and a shock was administered.
Toddler A-37: Ow!
The last utterance exceeded the pre-set decibel limit and a shock was administered.

Our engineers are working to resolve this issue.

New labor blog

John Ryan, the principal officer of the Cleveland AFL-CIO Federation of Labor, has started a weblog. Well worth checking out.

In other labor blogging news, I'm hoping to restart the labor blogging roundup in a few weeks, after I get settled in Ann Arbor. I'm also hoping to put together some kind of labor blogging aggregation using bloglines or some such service. Stay tuned.


A reminder for later

The next time that folks argue that the left-wing bloggers are "unhinged," I need to be able to find this post, for starters. So, I'm blogging it now as a down payment on my eventual research.


Excerpts from my nephews' Christmas wish lists, part I

A, age 10
Segway Human Transporter
Comment: "only if you can afford it, and if you can, don't get anything else on the list"

Excerpts from my nephews' Christmas wish lists, part II

R, age 12
Pink Ice cubic zirconia

Excerpts from my nephews' Christmas wish lists, part III

R, age 12
Men's sterling silver wedding band


Dumb game blogging, bad blogger edition

For the last week I've been sitting on a post that I promised to write for a friend, and here it is Christmas Eve eve and all I've been doing is writing about transit strikes and dodging bullets. Bad, bad blogger.

On the other hand, I broke the 10,000 point barrier.

The flaw in the law

Now that the NYC transit strike is apparently over, I've managed to find time to take a look at the Taylor Law. As I mentioned before, I'm suspicious of any law that takes away a union's right to strike. That said, I'm willing to believe that there may be some strikes which are so disruptive that a legitimate public interest is served by outlawing them.

If you're going to ban strikes, however, you'd better make damn sure that workers have a viable alternative. In the case of public employees in the state of New York, the alternative is to submit to binding arbitration at the hands of the Public Employees Relations Board. The problem with this is that appointment to PERB is (more or less) controlled by the same people who control appointment to the board of the Metropolitan Transit Authority. That is, both boards are appointed by the governor[1] and confirmed by the legislature.

The upshot is that public employees in the state of New York lack both a right to strike and the right to substantively neutral arbitration. Throw in the fact that there appear to be no penalties for violations of the Taylor Law by employers, and it's pretty clear that the legal playing field is uneven.

1 In the case of the MTA, the governor makes appointments partly on the basis of recommendations from NYC, surrounding counties, and other stakeholders.

Violent Video Games given Reprieve in California

A Federal judge has issued an injunction against California's Violent Video Game law.

Fortunately for parents all over the country, there is a new video game coming out that teaches children to be mindless drones, the type of inculcation kids need these days.

There's also a longish post on the educational aspects of video games at the Fireside.



[Latin 'praetermittere', from 'praeter', beyond]

tr. v.
1. To disregard intentionally or allow to pass unnoticed or unmentioned.
2. To fail to do or include; omit.
3. To interrupt or terminate.

Conspicuous consumption carols

speed laces
From a whole website devoted to cool stuff--Smart Stuff--here are a couple really cool stuffs:

Speed laces: Never tie your shoe again. I hope these work, and if they work, I hope they catch on.

The Water Cone: You can't buy this thing, but you can apparently purchase the product. That is, they are looking for someone to buy the patents and trademarks in order to make a bit of money. What it does is use the power of the sun to desalinate sea water, rendering it suitable for consumption and, presumably, very small scale agriculture. Never let that potted plant die again!

There ain't no easy way out

With the fine against the union growing by $1 million each day, Mr. Toussaint may well hope to shoot the moon, reasoning that the financial penalties might grow so large, and bankruptcy so certain, that his union might just as well stay out for 30 days as for 3.

Or, as John H. Mollenkopf, the director of the Center for Urban Research at the City University Graduate Center, put it, "The union recognizes that there is no difference between unbearable fines and doubly unbearable ones." |NY Times|


Another strike in NYC

I'm travelling and so am a little bit out of it this week, but damn, that transit strike in New York is a big deal. I can't say that I'm familiar enough with the issues to know the details of the offers from workers and management, but what jumps out at me is the fact that the state of New York has tried to legislate away the transit workers' right to strike. Yesterday, a judge ruled the strike illegal, and imposed fines on the union amounting to $1 million per day.

Pretty steep.

Obviously, I'm a labor partisan, but it seems to me that when you take away a union's right to strike, you take away most of the bargaining power of its members. It's the air traffic controllers all over again.

We'll see how it goes. I don't hold out much hope. Not, at least, after this:
And yesterday, merely hours into the paralyzing job action, Michael T. O'Brien, the international president of the parent union, the Transport Workers Union of America, urged the city's transit workers to abandon the strike and return to work immediately. He said the parent union would provide no money or other assistance to Local 100. |link|
The same report says that Transport Workers Local 100 started the strike with $3.6 million in its coffers. That won't go very far at a million a day.


Maybe because it wasn't wiretapping?

There is a fascinating post over at Ars Technica that would explain a whole lot about this executive order. They make the case that what is happening is not traditional wiretapping where the NSA identifies a phone, and listens to every call. Instead, they say, the NSA might be wiretapping many, many phones at once (many more than they can feasibly listen to) and are using computers with voice recognition software to search for particular phrases. One can instantly see how this would be useful in actually detecting an attack in time to prevent it.

Furthermore, it would explain a lot of the strangeness about how the administration has approached this. They couldn't go to FISA court, because they weren't seeking a warrant for one phone or even one person or group. The only way such a system would be useful would be to cast a very wide net (say, every call going in to or coming out of Afghanistan). You can't argue probable cause for a whole country. The system, by definition, is going to monitor many innocent people.

It would also explain why the administration was so reluctant for information about this to get out. The terrorists have to expect that we were monitoring calls whenever we knew where to look. They might not know that we can check every call coming out of Afghanistan for certain names or phrases. Not until now, anyway.

The Ars Technica article explains why they think this is what's going on, but they don't get into the public policy implications so much. Even if they are wrong in this case, this sort of monitoring is going to become more and more possible.

So, Bellmaniacs, how should our free society apply the dictates of the Fourth Amendment to this new kind of "search?" Let's break this one down and figure it out before the Alito court gets to it.

After being dead for decades, Stalin finally seems kind of funny

Check this out:
Stalin's half-man, half-ape super-warriors

THE Soviet dictator Josef Stalin ordered the creation of Planet of the Apes-style warriors by crossing humans with apes, according to recently uncovered secret documents.

Moscow archives show that in the mid-1920s Russia's top animal breeding scientist, Ilya Ivanov, was ordered to turn his skills from horse and animal work to the quest for a super-warrior.

According to Moscow newspapers, Stalin told the scientist: "I want a new invincible human being, insensitive to pain, resistant and indifferent about the quality of food they eat."

| Scotsman |


A party without imagination

Okay, actually, they have a quite vivid imagination. The party of Bush lives in an imaginary world where you are either with them (the Republican party) or you are with the terrorists.

It's at every other level that their imagination fails:

They can't imagine why people don't want to be spied on. They have nothing to hide, after all. Actually, they have plenty to hide, but until recently they couldn't imagine getting caught.

They can't imagine that there is anything Bush could do that would be illegal. They believe that Bush has full-on "war powers" based on the authorization of force against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Pretty much "war powers" means whatever they think they need to do to keep us safe. I suspect that if it turned out that Bush has been personally overseeing summary executions of American citizens, many of his backers would say that it was authorized by Congress as well, and they would feel a lot safer from the terrorists.

They can't imagine that all this power for Bush might be a bad thing. But, as Laura Rozen writes:
It's not much of a stretch to imagine there are plenty of files opened on people of all sorts of political stripes. I imagine, it's not just the anti-war groups monitored by the Pentagon who have reason to wonder, if they're being monitored by the full technological apparatus of the US foreign intelligence system. It's a very blunt instrument, and there's a "and then they came for me" aspect to all of this, that conservatives shouldn't be so quick to dismiss.
In fact, what starts out as one thing might very quickly have become something else. There's no evidence of any court cases that have resulted from Bush's illegal unauthorized warrantless NSA spying on Americans. As I wrote earlier, presumably even the Bush administration hasn't figured out a way to use secretly, illegally obtained evidence against the accused in a court of law. Cases where it's tried to declare the accused has some extra legal judicial status have virtually all collapsed. No successful terrorism prosecutions, no al Qaeda cells wrapped up domestically. So what has it been used for?

They can't imagine that there's anything wrong with casting such a wide net. But after a university student is visited by DHS for requesting a copy of Mao Tse-Tung's "The Little Red Book," the student's professor says:
"My instinct is that there is a lot more monitoring than we think," he said.
Dr. Williams said he had been planning to offer a course on terrorism next semester, but is reconsidering, because it might put his students at risk.
"I shudder to think of all the students I've had monitoring al-Qaeda Web sites, what the government must think of that," he said. "Mao Tse-Tung is completely harmless."

They can't imagine that they will ever leave power. That's the only explanation, because otherwise they would be shit scared of what a ruthless, LBJ-esque Democrat will do with those files once she is elected.

"Yes, is this [redacted] at the New York Times? We understand that you are preparing to write a negative piece about our plan for national heath care. How do we know? Oh, you know, we have our ways. Yeah. Well, the thing is, we'd really appreciate it if you didn't write that piece.. We'd show our appreciation by not telling your editor about what you've been downloading on company equipment. And really, we don't think your wife needs to know about who you've been talking to every Thursday, now does she? I'm so glad we appreciate each other."

Abramoff plea deal?

On this morning's Springer, a caller said that he'd read a story about Abramoff making a plea bargain, and guest host Jay Marvin seemed to agree that this had happened. I can't find any news of this on the interwire. Anybody hear this as well? Anybody got a link?


John Lennon: socialist

Victor Serge has the details.

Starting pitchers

Of the 13 pitchers on the 2006 Baseball Hall of Fame Ballot, seven spent the majority of their careers as starters. The following table provides an overview of their career stats.

Starting pitchers on the 2006 ballot
Tim Belcher146-1404.1615194218
Bert Blyleven287-2503.31370124260
Alex Fernandez107-873.7412523310
Dwight Gooden194-1123.5122936824
Orel Hershiser204-1503.4820146825
Tommy John288-2313.34224516246
Jack Morris254-1863.90247817528

  • This is the first year on the ballot for Belcher, Fernandez, Gooden and Hershiser.

  • Bert Blyleven contributed to two World Series wins, going 5-1 in the postseason with a 2.47 ERA. He was an All-Star selection twice, and pitched a no-hitter on September 22, 1970.

  • Dwight Gooden won the Cy Young award in 1985 with a 24-4 record, a 1.53 ERA, 268 strikeouts, 16 complete games and 8 shutouts. He was a four time All-Star and was the NL Rookie of the Year in 1984. He pitched a no-hitter on May 14, 1996.

  • Hershiser was selected to the All-Star game in 1987, 1988, and 1989. He won the Cy Young and a Gold Glove in 1988 -- his record was 23-8 with a 2.26 ERA. He was the MVP of the 1995 ALCS.

    In 1988, Hershiser pitched 67 consecutive scoreless innings. a streak that extended into the ninth inning of his game one outing against the NY Mets in the NLCS. During the Dodgers World Series Championship run that year, Hershiser's postseason record was 3-0 with a 1.05 ERA. He pitched 3 complete games, including two shutouts, and picked up a save. In game two of the Series he batted 3-3 with two doubles, a run scored and an RBI while pitching a complete game two hit shutout. He was the MVP of both the NLCS and the World Series.

  • Tommy John was selected to the All-Star game in 1969, 1978, 1979, and 1980. In 14 postseason appearances he posted a 6-3 record and a 2.65 ERA. After suffering a career threatening elbow injury in 1974, he became the first to undergo the tendon transplant procedure now known as 'Tommy John surgery' and went on to pitch for another 15 seasons.

  • Jack Morris was a five time All-Star and two time World Series MVP. He pitched a no-hitter on April 7, 1984.

At their peaks, Gooden and Hershiser were the best pitchers in this group. Like Darryl Strawberry last year, Gooden will be punished by the voters for not living up to his potential. He'll look especially bad to Hall voters in comparison to Hershiser, another pitcher whose career numbers didn't hit the milestones that one would have expected on the basis of his early success. The difference is that Hershiser stuck around and won over 100 games on grit after blowing out his shoulder in 1990, while Gooden's career was derailed by substance abuse.

There's an argument to be made that Gooden's problems with alcohol and cocaine are no less medical than Hershiser's problems with his shoulder, but whatever the merits of that argument the truth on the ground is that our society holds substance abusers responsible for the damage they do to their lives. Expect Hershiser to get serious consideration for Cooperstown and Gooden to drop off the ballot.

Tommy John and Bert Blyleven's career wins and ERA are comparable, but their Hall fortunes seem to be headed in different directions, with John's vote totals remaining fairly stagnant while support for Blyleven continues to grow. Though he still needs another 175 or so votes to gain election, Blyleven got 211 votes last year -- a jump of 32 votes -- and has gained almost 100 votes over the past three years. Tommy John, in contrast, peaked at 146 votes in 2001 and had dropped to 123 by last year.

Blyleven's rennaissance is partly explained by the fact that his 287 wins look a lot more impressive now, with only two active 300 game winners and no others on the horizon, than they would have looked ten years ago. But why hasn't the almost-got-to-300 cachet helped Tommy John?

Part of the answer is that Blyleven was a much more domininat pitcher, as demonstrated by his 60 shutouts, 3700 odd strikeouts, and no-hitter. I've argued before that 50 shutouts ought to punch your ticket for the Hall, so of course I don't begrudge Blyleven his votes. That said, some voters may think that Blyleven's power numbers show him to be a real talent, whereas Tommy John was just a grinder. If that were so, though, you'd expect John to have a lot more career starts and a lower winning percentage, which he doesn't. Tommy John started 700 games and posted a career winning percentage of .555, while Blyleven started 685 and won at a .534 clip. Also, Tommy John had 46 shutouts himself, which is nothing to sneeze at.

Even beside all of that, Tommy John is historically significant in a way that Blyleven isn't. While it's true enough that if Tommy John hadn't had that experimental arm surgery first somebody else would have, the fact remains that he was the first. That ought to matter enough to get John into the Hall even though he fell short of 300 wins.

In any case, I think we're in the midst of a transition from a 300 win plateau to something lower. I'd bet on 275, but wouldn't be surprised if 250 eventually became the standard. Blyleven has a slightly stronger Hall case than John, and the gradual progress of his candidacy is best explained as tracking the slow process of voters adjusting to the idea of supporting a pitcher with fewer than 300 wins. Once a consensus is reached regarding the new plateau, expect John to catch up with Blyleven and both to see themselves enshrined.

Of the rest, Jack Morris is the only one with any shot at all. Like Blyleven, his campaign has been gaining ground for the last several years. Unlike Blyleven, I have no idea why. Morris was a nice pitcher, an intimidating presence on the mound who regularly made it into the top ten in Cy Young voting, but even in his best years he wasn't what you would call a stopper.


I want you to know

Just between you and me, I do think that Twisty Faster sometimes lays it on a little thick. On the other hand, listening to moviegoers casually heckle previews of Brokeback Mountain while waiting for King Kong to start makes me think that Twisty's brand of over the top patriarchy blaming cultural criticism fills a need. Plus, she's funny.[1]

Anyway, I bring it up because I Blame the Patriarchy has moved, but I'm too lazy to update the blogroll. So there's a link and here's some of the good stuff.
All Western art, both hi and lo–and particularly, it seems, expressions of pop culture–emanates from a rotten inner core of white male privilege, but Lucy’s entire premise pivots on such a flagrant and truly disturbing theme of misogyny that persons under 18 shouldn’t be allowed to watch it without adult patriarchy-blaming supervision. Last night I saw a few scenes from an episode where Ricky threatens Lucy with physical violence for having bought a new hat without his permission. “Take it back,” he yells, “that’s an order!”

Yipes! Come on, Lucy, tell him to shove it up his butt! He’s a menacing, domineering asshole! Dump his fucktarded ass and run off to L.A. with Ethel!

But she doesn’t, because it’s 1954 and she is an infantilized submissive with no personal sovereignty–essentially a paid whore–who cannot directly challenge her manly man. When Ethel warns Lucy that “Ricky’s gonna kill” her, you get the uneasy feeling that the motherfucker isn’t above bitch-slappin’ her when she gets too uppity. It’s just too painful to watch. Lucy and Ricky are the Itchy and Scratchy of their generation. |I Dislike Lucy|

1 Though not as funny as the spectacle of a man being freaked out by the very idea of gay cowboys after he's paid to see a movie in which the really serious romantic action is between a vaudeville actress and a giant ape.


[Middle English, contraction of 'wæshæil', be healthy, from Old Norse 'ves heill', 'ves', be (imperative), + 'heill', healthy]

1. A salutation or toast given in drinking someone's health or as an expression of good will at a festivity.
2. The drink used in such toasting, commonly ale or wine spiced with roasted apples and sugar.
3. A festivity characterized by much drinking.

Untitled post #3

During my end of semester grading binge I kept finding myself frozen in fear, worried that an undergraduate essay would somehow slip from my hand, maneuver its way past my glasses, and inflict a paper cut on my eyeball. Irrational? Yes, but that's terror for you.

I mentioned this at a dinner party the other day and was shocked to discover that a song I've listened to hundreds of times is all about the eyeball slicing. It's true!
Got me a movie
I want you to know
Slicing up eyeballs
I want you to know
Girlie so groovy
I want you to know
Don't know about you
But I am un chien Andalusia.

As I'm sure everyone but me knows, those lyrics are from Debaser. Sometimes it pays to ignore the words.

While I'm on the subject, here's a quote from Luis Buñuel:
Salvador Dali seduced many ladies, particularly American ladies, but these seductions usually consisted of stripping them naked in his apartment, frying a couple of eggs, putting them on the woman's shoulders and, without a word, showing them the door.


Dumbest dumb game ever

The Optus Tennis Challenge

My high score is 101. Do you care enough to beat it?

Addendum: Dissatisfied with this week's game? We'd appreciate your input. Call our Dumb Game Blogging Complaint Hotline at (206) 202 - 3557.

Justice delayed yada yada yada

A federal grand jury indicted Ralphs Grocery Co. yesterday on charges that it rehired nearly 1,000 locked-out employees using phony names during the bitter labor dispute two years ago.

The supermarket chain, which is owned by Kroger Co., locked out its employees in October 2003 after Southern California grocery workers voted to strike Safeway's Vons and Pavilions chains. Albertsons also locked out workers. |link|

The grocery strike, you may recall, was the largest such strike in American history and was a clear loss for the UFCW. Here's what I wrote on the night the settlement was announced.
The strikers, even if their health benefits aren't cut substantially, have lost five months of income. While it's true that some earned strike pay by walking the picket lines, that money didn't match their normal income. Assuming that a two-tier wage system is installed, don't be surprised if the strikers find themselves slowly pushed out the door by managers eager to reduce labor costs.

Any new employees are going to be on the bottom tier of the pay scale, so they will be consigned to the working poor. Count them among the losers. |link|

If convicted, Ralph's faces the prospect of huge fines and may have to pay restitution to some workers. That's a start, but it's not enough. By its illegal actions, Ralph's harmed more than individual workers. They also did great damage to the organization charged with looking out for the interests of those workers. The envisioned penalties do nothing to address that damage, and the upshot is that Ralph's gets to keep the gains in relative bargaining power that it won through fraud.

Which reminds me of something that Nathan Newman wrote a few days ago. I'll make the first paragraph of his post the final word here. Follow the link.
Even most liberals deny anti-union crime is widespread or deny that it's even a serious crime at all and anyways the folks doing it are such swell people, we can't expect us to like treat them like criminals, do you?  If unions have been decimated in American workplaces, it's must really be their fault-- they must have been asking for it.   You know, when you wear such pretty medical care and pension funds, employers are just being normal, red-blooded capitalists when they wipe out unions to get at them. |House of Labor|


Scene from a Logic Programming Laboratory

me: These chairs are really uncomfortable.

eripsa: Not for me. I've trained my ass.

muldoon: It's a crack sitting machine.

(I'm relying on Jason to post something substantive. Obviously)

About that woot

Last weekend I went to Ann Arbor to interview for an organizer position at a graduate employee union. On Monday I got the job. So I'll be moving to Michigan in January. I hear the weather is great.

Also on Monday, my students from this semester took their final and turned in their papers. Which means that my bright, bewooted future is buried under a pile of grading that I absolutely have to get done today. Or maybe tomorrow. At any rate, this blog entry represents my last blogging break save one until I'm done with my work.

In other me news, I'll be heading down to Texas next week, so all Texans should be on alert. Also, if you're the sort of person who knows where I live in Illinois, you may be interested to know that there's an end of semester party at my place this Saturday (10ish). There will be fireworks. And Cincinnatti fire kites.


Wikipedia turns out to be pretty good

At the risk of going all Wikipedia, all the time, I wanted to point to this:
Nature took stories from Wikipedia and Britannica on 42 science-related topics and submitted them to experts for review. The experts were not told which encyclopedia the stories were from. "The exercise revealed numerous errors in both encyclopedias, but among 42 entries tested, the difference in accuracy was not great: the average science entry in Wikipedia contained around four inaccuracies; Britannica, around three," according to Nature.

| The Age |

The main point I would add to this article is that it is possible that the number of errors in Wikipedia will go down via the collective action of its users. One would think that Britannica is always going to have about the same rate of errors in every edition.

Hmmm. I wonder if any of the experts involved in that study went back and fixed those errors after reporting the results? I bet some did!


I'm in the midst of a crappy sci-fi novel in which the author repeatedly uses the word 'quiviran' as an adjective. Now, I know that Quivira was the city of gold that Coronado was after when he got stuck with Wichita, but I can't find any attestations of a lower-case adjectival form.

Clearly there's a figurative use in the offing, but I'm not sure what it is. Thoughts?

Update: So, it turns out that in the universe of the trashy sci-fi novel, a quivira is a kind of virtual reality chamber. So, dreams, plans, desires and whatnot can be described as quiviran with the implication that bringing them about would require that the dreamer/planner/desirer have more control over the nature of reality than they actually do. A vivira appears to be, in the universe of this particular particularly awful book, a sort of holgram enabled telephone.


Wednesday starts off great

There's a lot going on today, and I'll blog as much of it as I can, but to get things started, check out this Cthulu Dildo Cthozy on ebay.
100% acrylic, the Great Old One is suitable for those with wool allergies, and is technically washable, if relatively fragile. Putting him in a pillowcase, although it's an insult to the Elder Gods, might be appropriate.

That's wrong on at least two levels. Thanks to Scott S. for the link!


Don't miss Dean Gray Tuesday!

It's kind of late in the day, but this is your one last chance to score this mashup, and trust me, you'll be amused at the very minimum.

Only 10 days after its release, the mash-up album American Edit, which pays tribute to the acclaimed Green Day album American Idiot through some of the best mash-up productions of 2005, was shut down reportedly after received a cease & desist order from Green Day's label, Warner records, despite the fact that it was released as an internet only release with no commercial gain for the team of mash-up artists involved. In fact, the only possible profit to be made from the release was a plea from the creators of the album (known only by the shared alias Dean Gray) for fans who enjoyed the creation to donate to one of three possible charities that Green Day have been known to support. Furthermore, the mash-up versions were such fantastic productions that they were truly a departure from the standard Green Day performances and would not compete for consumptive dollars.

We hope to mobilize the online Mash-Up community by organizing a simple one-day organized event. Participants would be asked to post the American Edit album online for 24 hours only starting on Tuesday, December 13, at 12:00AM. Doing so is not intended to be a mass organization of music piracy but, rather, one single display of the consumptive power of the mash-up and home remix community in the hopes of encouraging the labels, publishers and artists who are curious about the mash-up community to consider giving the high quality productions of "illegitimate" music a legitimate consideration as a promotional avenue for all music.

It's got some Queen in there, and it's way better than the Queen/50 Cent mashup. Also, I hurt my ears turning up "Dr. Who on Holiday" to Eleven. Get it! Enjoy!

Quick NYU update

Item: The strike is still on, though GSOC and the university disagree about how many GAs are out. For what it's worth, it seems to me that there are clearly enough grads striking that it's creating problems for the university. (I found that Inside Higher Ed link through Zach's blog)

Item: Sexton needs to look up the definition of deadline.

Item: The folks at Nerds on Strike! are reporting that the NYU administration has demanded that campus mail truck drivers stop honking in solidarity with the picketers and has ordered campus security guards not to smile at, talk with, or otherwise acknowledge the strikers.

Item: The latest GSOC Strike Journal carries the news that The Nation magazine has donated a full page ad to the struggle. The ad will carry the text of the Judith Butler letter that heads up the Scholars in support of GSOC petition.

Things I don't believe

I don't believe that the iPod mini is going to continue to gain in value.

I don't believe that Coca Cola Blak, a new Coke drink that contains coffee extracts, will be drinkable at all.

I don't want to believe that there is a correlation between a person's level of creativeity and the number of sexual partners one has had. I'm married now, and I'm not the cheatin' kind, so it will really suck if my creativity goes downhill! The article cites several possible problems with the study, and I take solace in each of them.


[Latin 'nesciens', present participle of 'nescire', to be ignorant]

1. Absence of knowledge or awareness; ignorance.
2. Agnosticism.


This year's Hall of Fame ballot is unusual in that five of the 17 position players appearing on it are shortstops. I've put together a position analysis after the jump.
Defensive statistics*
Dave Concepcion2178367065943111290.9714.71
Gary DiSarcina106916313172131671.9734.49
Ozzie Guillen1896291153352221094.9744.35
Alan Trammell2139339161722271307.9774.47
Walt Weiss146220574009190854.9704.15

Gold Gloves:
  • Dave Concepcion 1974, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1979
  • Ozzie Guillen 1990
  • Alan Trammell 1980, 1981, 1983, 1984

Offensive statistics
Dave Concepcion.26723263891019509933114
Gary DiSarcina.258966186283554441276
Ozzie Guillen.2641764275286197732261
Alan Trammell.2852365412185100312313442
Walt Weiss.2581207182253866231526

  • This is the first year on the ballot for DiSarcina, Guillen, Trammell, and Weiss.

  • Dave Concepcion made nine All-Star squads and won the Silver Slugger twice. His Cincinnati Reds played in the World Series four times, winning twice.

  • Gary DiSarcina appeared in the All-Star game in 1995.

  • Ozzie Guillen was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1985 and played in three All-Star games.

  • Allen Trammell was named World Series MVP in 1984 after helping the Detroit Tigers beat the San Diego Padres in five games. He was named to six All-Star teams and won the Silver Slugger three times. He led the league in sacrifice hits twice.

  • Walt Weiss was the AL Rookie of the Year in 1988 and played in one All-Star game. He played in the World Series three times, winning once, with the Oakland A's in 1989.

  • Concepcion and Trammell outpace the other nominees both offensively and defensively. They appear to be fairly similar players, with Concepcion getting the nod defensively and Trammell offensively.

  • Concepcion has been on the ballot since 1994, but has never come close to being selected. Support for his candidacy has eroded from a high of 80 votes in 1998 to 55 last year.

  • Two pure shortstops who played during the last fifty years, Ozzie Smith and Luis Aparicio, have been inducted to the Hall of Fame, as have two other players, Ernie Banks and Robin Yount, who played more than 1000 games at short. Yount, with 3000+ hits, and Banks, with 500+ home runs, would be Hall of Famers regardless of position. Since neither Concepcion nor Trammell put up those kinds of offensive numbers, their Hall cases rest on showing that their offense was good enough given their defensive prowess. Smith and Aparicio, then, are the better comparison. The following table shows how the four stack up offensively and defensively.

Shortstop comparison**
Luis Aparicio9.9724.86.26226773941335
Dave Concepcion5.9714.71.2672326389993
Ozzie Smith13.9785.03.26224604021257
Alan Trammell4.9774.47.28523654121231

Analysis: DiSarcina, Guillen, and Weiss should feel honored just to have made the ballot and will be lucky to pull in ten votes between them. Trammell and Concepcion were nice players, but neither has a real shot at the Hall. Concepcion probably stuck around this long mostly because of his World Series resume, but his time is running out. Trammell's best hope for staying on the ballot another year is to pull in Concepcion voters who think that consistency demands that they cast a vote for Trammell as well.

* Since these defensive statistics may be unfamiliar, here's a brief glossary:
  • G - games
  • PO - Put outs
  • A - assists
  • E - errors
  • DP - double plays
  • FP - fielding percentage [ (A + PO) / (A + PO + E) ]
  • RFg - range factor per game [ (A + PO) / G ]

**GG - gold glove


You should read "Perry Bible Fellowship"

Just click on the comic to go read some more. There, I've told you twice now!


That's all for now. Developing...

A new frontier in dumb joke blogging

For the record, this may not work.

If it does, then you can hear a recording of me telling a joke by clicking here.

I did that by setting up a voicemail box that sends my messages to my gmail account. Here's where things get exciting. If you know a joke you can call the Dumb Joke Blogging Hotline and tell it, and then I'll post it here. The number is (206) 202 - 3557.

Grammar hammer ulcer

This Craigslist poster has read one too many poorly worded posts. Warning: He drops the F-bomb in all caps, over and over.

(Thanks to Tom McVegas for the link!)

Wikipedia under attack

I knew that wikipedia was going to be in for some legal trouble as it grew, and it looks like that ball has started rolling. It seems to me that the only thing that is needed here is more prominent disclosure regarding the nature of the information provided (that is, "this might be wrong!"). I'm afraid that serious legal challenges will create enough financial hardship that WP is forced to shut their servers down, though.

Horse race moderates! What are they good for?

Cokie Roberts is doing her weekly bit on NPR this morning and, as usual, I'm perplexed. Word is that the Republicans have responded to recent Democratic criticism of the war effort with a political attack aimed at painting Democrats as weak on defense. As Roberts tells the story, this has caught Democrats by surprise and created a real political problem for them. How can Democratic leaders like Hillary Clinton maintain a moderate stance on Iraq without alienating the increasingly anti-war Democratic base?

The answer, quite obviously, is that they can't. The peace wing of the Democratic Party won't compromise on Iraq again. Last time around, lots of us let the horse race analysts badger us into supporting a candidate who refused to launch an all out critique of a war that we knew to be a disaster. Kerry's candidicy was an enervating failure. Why on earth would we go through that again?

Contrary to the assumptions of analysts like Roberts, the Democratic response to a Republican attack need not be a retreat to the soft comfortable middle. Another strategy, and really the only strategy available to the Democrats given the politics of the base, would be for Democrats to intensify their critique of the war. Roberts and her horse race loving fellow travellers are right that there are politcal hurdles along that route. What they can't seem to see is that the questions for analysts to be asking are about clearing those hurdles rather than about avoiding them.

If directors met in the washroom...

...would you be "on the carpet?" Washroom conditions -- toilet seats to be frank -- tell a story louder than words. Right, they build good will -- secure tenants, hold old customers and effectively bid for new ones.

What if tomorrow brings a close inspection of that building you're trying to lease, an unexpected big customer or a delegation on whom you must create the right impression? Will you have to dodge the washrooms?

The larger your business and the more intimate its public contacts, the greater is your responsibility. Many in high places little dream of the conditions that prevail in washrooms for which they are ultimately responsible -- toilets that advertise policies and management.

From a 1934 magazine advertisement for Church sani-black Seats, anthologized in Edsels, Luckies, and Frigidaires, plate 58.


All tied up in a f*cking bow!

Item: We went to war on the basis of bad intelligence.

Item: We torture people, which produces bad intelligence.

Punchline: The bad intelligence that sent us to war with Iraq was the result of torture.

Simplistic dumb game friday

Check out Train robber. On my first try, I scored 1690. I think I can do better. Post your high score in the comments.


Open thread: Thursday night Superman edition

What's on your mind? Tell us in the comments.

What's on my mind is this: How bad is WB's "Smallville?" The show has an ungodly hold on me--despite of it's overarching and relentless awfulness--by virtue of it being about Superman. But even when I think I've seen it at its worst, it manages to surprise me. For example, the writers on that show expect me to believe that it is a matter of life or death whether or not Jonathan Kent beats Lex Luthor in an election for... wait for it... the Kansas State Legislature. Next, I suppose Luthor will have his henchmen infiltrating the Older Smallville Neighborhood Association.

Item 2: Jonathan Kent is played by John "Bo Duke" Schneider. That cosmically significant state legislature seat was vacated by Kent's friend, played by Tom "Luke Duke" Wopat, who is introduced driving recklessly in the General Lee. It was definitely the GL (the doors don't work), but it's painted Union blue. I guess it's actually Superman blue, but still. I am not making this up.

Item 3: In tonight's episode, Santa Clause tries to commit suicide but is rescued by young Superman. I mean the actual Santa Clause himself, not a lunatic or a superpowered scammer dressed up like Santa Clause. Clark Kent shows Old Nick that the spirit of Christmas is not dead, and Santa responds by using his elf magic to finish delivering some presents for Clark.

Great Scott!

So, what awful shows are you watching?

Sex Toys and Outgassing

Emily Gertz reveals that sex toys may be hazardous to your reproductive health:

A study in 2000 by German chemist Hans Ulrich Krieg found that 10 dangerous chemicals gassed out of some sex toys available in Europe, including diethylhexyl phthalates. Some had phthalate concentrations as high as 243,000 parts per million -- a number characterized as "off the charts" by Davis Baltz of the health advocacy group Commonweal. "We were really shocked," Krieg told the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's Marketplace in a 2001 report on the sex-toy industry. "I have been doing this analysis of consumer goods for more than 10 years, and I've never seen such high results."

The danger, says Baltz, is that heat, agitation, and extended shelf life can accelerate the leaching of phthalates. "In addition, [phthalates are] lipophilic, meaning they are drawn to fat," he says. "If they come into contact with solutions or substances that have lipid content, the fat could actually help draw the phthalates out of the plastic." Janice Cripe, a former buyer for Blowfish -- a Bay Area-based online company whose motto is "Good Products for Great Sex" -- confirms the instability of jelly toys: "They would leak," she says. "They'd leach this sort of oily stuff. They would turn milky" and had a "kind of plasticky, rubbery odor." She stopped ordering many jelly toys during her time at Blowfish, even though their lower prices made them popular. |Grist.org|

Check out the entire article to learn what sex toys you should avoid and which ones you should embrace...

The Inquisition refines its rules

Regarding the President's "Happy Holidays" card, my go-to conservative middlebrows at Human Events write:
And isn't the phrase "Happy Holidays" just a way of being inclusive of New Year's? I might be off, but I think if you put a Bible verse on your card you should be exempt of criticism not including the word "Christmas" per se.

Well, I'm glad we cleared that up.

The title of her post is "I don't get it." That's okay, Amanda, the rest of us are having trouble with this particular bit of lunacy, ourselves. Don't feel bad... it's not you, it's O'Reilly who is crazy.

The age of aquarius?

That's the Red Crystal, the soon-to-be-approved third symbol to be added to the pantheon of the Red Cross and Red Crescent. One thing I haven't been able to uncover so far: Why wouldn't they let Israel use the Star of David? Why do they have to use a goofy "crystal?"

(I read about this at An Unsealed Room.)

The cost of crazy

A little something from Maroon Blog:
I am baffled by the fact that, even after incidents like today or the shoe bomber some time ago, many people are still apprehensive about armed Marshalls on planes. Or, even scarier to some, armed pilots! Today, we saw a scene that could have ended much worse but was averted not in spite of the use of force, but because of it. If you are uncomfortable about a pilot or an Air Marshall flying with a gun, maybe you should think less about the government trained agents and more about the bi-polar guy next to you. |Andrew Dzwonchyk|

He's writing, of course, about this incident. The five important facts seem to be that (a) the guy said he had a bomb in his carry-on luggage; (b) he made a provacative move toward his bag when ordered to stop; (c) the air marshall shot him; (d) he didn't actually have a bomb; and, (e) he was mentally ill.

So, here's what I'm willing to grant: Since the guy said he had a bomb and made a provocative move, the shooting was justified.

Here's something I'm not willing to grant: In killing a mentally ill man who claimed to have a bomb, the air marshall made the skies safer.

Here's something that strikes me as batshit crazy: The killing of a mentally ill man claiming to have a bomb shows the need for armed marshalls.

It's tragic that a mentally disturbed man was gunned down for acting out at the wrong time. It would have been better if his episode had been met with kindness and understanding rather than deadly force. It's an unfortunate fact of our times that the desire to protect ourselves trumps the impulse to care for others. Maybe heightened air security makes us safer, and maybe it's necessary, but let's not pretend that its costs are benefits.


Wednesday night open thread

Blogger isn't working so well tonight, but Haloscan is still responsive, so post anything you'd like to talk about. Here are some possible topics to start with:

1. What is Matt Lewis talking about? I know he's following the O'Reillian line, but what does he mean by "allowed?" He puts quotes around it, as if to say he doesn't actually mean that Charlie Brown will be censored. But in parallel with his use of quotes around "intolerant," it seems to imply that "allowed" is a dumb thing to say and he's just pointing that out. But then, what does he think is going to happen to Charlie Brown?

2. On a far more intelligent note, here's a great post about how light guns work. I always figured it had a very low resolution camera in there, but it turns out that it has the lowest resolution. Pretty clever.

Burgeoning controversy

Harney silt loam was adopted as the Kansas State Soil on April 12, 1990, when Governor Mike Hayden signed Senate Bill 96. Kansas is one of only seven states to have named a state soil. It took five years through a strong grassroots effort to get Harney named as the state soil. |link|

But wait:
Kansas state soil evolved under prairie grasslands and over eons developed the rich, deep topsoil used by farmers and ranchers today.


A comic for you

You should read the Perry Bible Fellowship. There, I've told you once.

When PTSD is a two way street

I tend to think that the rhetoric of the pro-Palestinian left risks falling into the trap embraced by the "Islamo-fascist" hating, GWOT loving fringe on the right. That is, just as the wingnuts refuse to understand that violence aimed at the U.S. is perpetrated by pyschologically robust human beings motivated by felt grievances rather than a dark and simple evil, it seems to me that pro-Palestinian lefties often check their empathy at the door.

Israeli politics, I think, are fundamentally and inescapably neurotic. A people cannot endure the Holocaust without developing a tendency to overreact to perceived existential threats, so it really is no surprise that Israeli policies toward their Arab neigbors are marred by a debilitating paranoia. In the face of that, the Palestinian strategy of suicide bombing strikes me as absurdly unhelpful. It's like poking a cornered rat, and it's not an accident that the closest the Palestinians came to reaching an acceptable accomodation with Israel came during the relatively less violent rock throwing intifada.

More and more, though, I think that all of that is just piss in the wind. The brutality of Israeli oppression is such that it has succeeded in creating its own complement. Via Bionic Octopus comes this passage from a 2002 article in Time Magazine.

Early in the fighting, Palestinian children watched countless reruns of news footage that captured the death of Mohammed al-Durra, 12, even as his father used his own body to try to shield the boy from a barrage of bullets. "In their games, children identify with the martyr," says Dr. Eyyad Sarraj, a psychiatrist who heads the Gaza Community Mental Health Program. Psychologically, he says, "they have left their fathers for the martyrs." A cult of death has appropriated a Palestinian generation, but a deep fear underlies it. Today, according to Sarraj, 35% of Palestinian children under the age of 15 wet their beds, up from 7% before the intifadeh. Sarraj estimates that 30% of children suffer from post-traumatic stress. |link|

Just to be clear, my worry is that Israeli oppression has so traumatized its Palestinian victims that any hope for peaceful coexistence is now lost. The future politics of the region threatens to be tragedy in the literary sense, an ongoing drama of horror with each act the inescapable consequece of a mismatch between character and the world. Any violent Palestinian strategy will generate brutal reprisals, but the brutality of previous reprisals guarantees that any future Palestinian strategy will be violent. There is, as far as I can see, no hope.

A few years ago I attended a session of a post-colonialism conference at which a scholar gave a paper in which she tried to interpret suicide bombing as a pathology. I don't remember much about the details of the paper, but I do remember the Q and A that followed. It was beyond contentious and included an old Jewish man, speaking in favor of suicide bombing, rising to his feet and shouting, "Some people, they need to be traumitized!"

Insofar as a substantive critique arose out of that discussion, it was that the author had dehumanized the Palestinians by medicalizing their legitimate political grievances. I don't know that I accept that critique, but it obviously applies to what I wrote in this post. All I have to say in response is that treating people as fully human includes taking seriously the fact that their motivations aren't entirely rational.


Tuesday night open thread

Can't sleep? Post what's on your mind in the comments.

Big Brother is watching you drive

The state of Oregon is researching tracking drivers mileage using GPS to level more equitable road-use taxes and thereby eliminate the need for a fuel tax as a proxy for road usage.

The British are developing a similar system to combat traffic congestion.

The Canadians are studying a similar system that would not allow drivers to exceed the speed limits.

Of course, these proposals have critics.

Criticism of the road tax the basis of privacy and mission creep.

Criticism of the Canadian speeding ban on the basis of personal necessity (although a really weak argument to my mind).

NYU strike continues

Today is the 28th day of the NYU grad employee strike, and the first day after NYU President John Sexton's deadline for strikers to return to duty. It's Sexton's move now. I suspect that the NYU administration will spend this week gathering information and will soon decide, based on how strong they think GSOC remains, whether to settle with the union or to wash their hands of the strikers.

There has been, this last week, a fair amount of blogospheric discussion of the issue of grad unioization sparked, I'm ashamed to say, by philosophers who ought to know better. For myself, I don't have the patience to wade into an argument with anyone whose blinders allow them to believe that graduate teaching assistants aren't employees. Luckily, there's little need for my efforts, since Jessica Wilson has put together an exhaustive refutation.

Also worth mentioning, I suppose, is that NYU has been busily erecting the scaffolding of a company union. In a frankly ridiculous series of events on Sunday, the Graduate Affairs Committee of the NYU Student Senate sent out an email to all grads (using the sort of mass mail access one would think is reserved for administrators and their minions) breathlessly offering a compromise solution. If GSOC would end the strike, then the, ahem, neutral GAC would mediate the dispute and construct some new, unspecified beyond being non-union, mechanism giving grads a voice in university governence. Shockingly, the university President and Provost sent an email (using the same sort of mass mail access, of course) accepting the proposal. GSOC, not being composed of idiots, saw the proposal for what it was and declined.

Lastly, a good resource for documentary materials surrounding the NYU grad strike has been brought to my attention, the NYU Strike Archive. It's worth a look.

Addendum: One more thing. There's an online Scholars in support of GSOC petition making the rounds. If you happen to be associated with a university, take a moment to add your signature.

Update: I gather that Sexton extended his deadline, though I haven't found out the details. That's got to be good news.

Credit where credit is due

Has anyone yet publicly pointed out the similarities between the character Rosco P. Coltrane and Our Dear Leader, Geo. Bush? If not, let me be the first to do so, and hopefully reap whatever financial gains are due me, having done so.
| Yalestar.com |

I can't believe I didn't see it before! The resemblance is uncanny.

Crusades, Kansas-style

A University of Kansas professor fell victim to our burgeoning American Inquisition when he was assaulted by Creationist thugs for publicly ridiculing their ridiculous beliefs. This one hits kind of close to home, because my father is a professor in Kansas who also is prone to publicly ridiculing those sorts of ridiculous people. Stay safe, dad!

Magic numbers

There are three widely acknowledged magic numbers for admission to the baseball Hall of Fame. You get in if you get 3000 hits, 500 home runs, or, for pitchers, 300 victories. Nowadays, most folks think that 500 home runs is too low and that 300 wins is too high, but the general idea of a numerical threshold is pretty widely accepted.

But why those three numbers? Nobody seriously maintains that the Hall should exclude every player who falls short of those marks. And yet, there are players excluded from the Hall even though they had dominant careers, players whose exclusion is best explained by the voters' refusal to look past those three magic numbers to other quantifiable measures of greatness. The problem, I think, is that no clear criteria of Hall worthiness have been established for other statistical categories.

In hopes of advancing that project, here's my list of twelve more magic numbers. A player should be admitted to the baseball Hall of Fame if he meets any one of the following criteria:

Arguments for rendition disingenuous

The Bush Administration's Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, has been touring Europe and trying to convince Europeans that the US hasn't done anything illegal with its extraordinary rendition and that it doesn't condone torture. However, her arguments seem specious to many observers.
However, [Secretary Rice's] assurances that spiriting terror suspects away to clandestine prisons is a legitimate tactic did not carry much weight with human rights organisations or legal scholars yesterday.

They argued that the sole use of extraordinary rendition was to transport a suspect to a locale that was beyond the reach of the law - and so at risk of torture.

"The argument makes no sense unless there is an assumption that the purpose of rendition is to send people to a place where things could be done to them that could not be done in the United States," said David Luban, a law professor at Georgetown University who is presently a visiting professor at Stanford University.

"Rendition doesn't become a tool in the war against terror unless people are being sent to a place where they can be interrogated harshly."

In her statement yesterday, Ms Rice said rendition was necessary in instances where local governments did not have the capacity to prosecute a terror suspect, or in cases where al-Qaida members were operating in remote areas far from an operational justice system.

However, the majority of the two dozen or so terror suspects known to have been subjected to rendition were captured in urban areas. Some were taken in Europe.

"Most of the ghost detainees on the list were captured in major cities like Bangkok and Karachi," said John Sifton of Human Rights Watch.|Guardian|

The Grand Alliance

Frederick Kempe has an article in the Wall Street Journal Online titled Six Steps for Healing a Codependent U.S., China (subs'n req'd) that addresses the serious threats to the global economy created by the trade imbalance between the US and China. His fifth step is the most important to my mind, however.
Fix the relationship. Too little thought at the highest levels has gone into dealing with the serious mistrust that makes our codependence all the more fragile in what could be the 21st century's most important relationship – that between the world's greatest power and its greatest emerging power.

Many in the U.S. suspect China's ultimate purpose is to reduce American global influence and, through its artificially low exchange rate and military spending, destroy America's competitive position. China suspects that the U.S. wishes to counter its economic rise and is tightening its ties to Japan and India because it doesn't want a competing power.

It's time to quit tinkering here and there with this codependent relationship and instead pursue a comprehensive new strategy. The strategy should recognize each of the codependents' success relies on the health of the other -- as to no small extent does the world economy. Yet America also must escape the [co-dependent] relationship if it wants to regain some high ground in a relationship where China lacks moral compass for global leadership. |WSJ|

It is important for the US and China to work together to develop a nice hegemonic system so that all the people of the world can live lives of mediocre splendor in service to the ruling class.


The latest scuttlebutt on Alito isn't pretty:
"Liberal groups like People for the American Way and the A.C.L.U. have opposed public Christmas and Hanukkah displays and even fought to keep Christmas carols out of school," declares a radio commercial paid for by the conservative Committee for Justice beginning Monday in Colorado, Wisconsin and West Virginia, states whose senators are considered pivotal votes on Judge Alito. |New York Times|

I don't want to jump to conclusions here, but if it turns out that Alito really is a supporter of Christmas then he cannot be allowed on the Court. As my fellow Secular Humanists in the Democratic coalition well know, Christmas is a green scab that must be picked from the skin of our culture. Ending its nutmeg scented hegemony is the next logical step in our ongoing war against religion. Sam "Yuletide" Alito cannot be allowed to stand in our way.


Limbo for sale

Constructed in the 13th century as a solution to the theological conundrum of what happened to babies who died before they were christened, Limbo has been home from home to millions of top quality souls. Liberation of Limbo by one P. Benedict (IVI) has brought this top quality theological space to the open market. |eBay.co.uk|

Only 9 days left.

(this is from an email from JC, who probably could have posted it here himself)


[From Procrustus, a giant in Greek mythology who would seize travellers and tie them to his bed, making them fit through either painful stretching or amputation of limbs, as appropriate]

Producing or designed to produce strict conformity by ruthless or arbitrary means.

Dumb joke blogging, damn cold Monday edition

Two snowmen are standing in a field. One says to the other : "Funny, I smell carrots too"

But the Earth is where I keep all my stuff!

Destroying the Earth is harder than you may have been led to believe.

You've seen the action movies where the bad guy threatens to destroy the Earth. You've heard people on the news claiming that the next nuclear war or cutting down rainforests or persisting in releasing hideous quantities of pollution into the atmosphere threatens to end the world.


The Earth was built to last. It is a 4,550,000,000-year-old, 5,973,600,000,000,000,000,000-tonne ball of iron. It has taken more devastating asteroid hits in its lifetime than you've had hot dinners, and lo, it still orbits merrily. So my first piece of advice to you, dear would-be Earth-destroyer, is: do NOT think this will be easy.

How to Destroy the Earth, a useful guide.

Good point!

We’ve said it many times before. At this point, if you have to stretch the facts to make a case against Bush, you ought to get out of the case-making business. Misstatements like this betray lack of discipline—a problem that plagues the work of major Dem leaders. Indeed: Earlier this year, Pelosi was actually making public jokes about the way Al Gore said he invented the Internet, and she floundered horribly on Sunday shows when questioned about Bush’s SS plan. Dems and libs should stop accepting this level of incompetence from party leaders. The Democratic message machine is a mess. Pelosi may have misspoken about Shinseki. But the pattern should not be excused.




Banana Worm Bread


* 1/2 cup shortening
* 3/4 cup sugar
* 2 bananas, mashed
* 2 cups flour
* 1 teaspoon soda
* 1 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 cup chopped nuts
* 2 eggs
* 1/4 cup dry-roasted army worms

Mix together all ingredients. Bake in greased loaf pan at 350 degrees for about 1 hour. |link|

Who the heck is Sheldon T. Bradshaw?

Well, for one thing, he's the political appointee who overruled the Justice Department's Civil Rights staff and allowed redistricting to go forward in Texas in 2004. For another thing, he's currently the political appointee charged with insuring that the FDA doesn't get in the way of the corporations the agency supposedly regulates.

But why did he have a say in the matter of Texas' redistricting? At Justice his title was Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. Which is to say that he was the deputy of Alexander Acosta, the Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. Normally, it would fall to Acosta to decide to ignore the considered legal advice of his staff, but he had recused himself in this case. I'm not sure why. For what it's worth, Acosta now has pretty much the same job as Patrick Fitzgerald, but in Florida.

But back to Sheldon T. Bradshaw. He's a nobody, an apparatchik, a hack. Here's my question: What sense does it make to have someone like Acosta recuse himself? Did we really get a better shot at impartiality by having the buck stop at Bradshaw?

The stereotypical recusal explanation soundbite goes, "I ____________ have recused myself from this case in order to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest." What we're supposed to take from that, I suppose, is that the recusee would (of course!) rule impartially in the case, but that he has recused himself just so all of the parties can feel assured that everything is above board.

Except that sometimes what recusal accomplishes is a little different. In the Texas redistricting case there is, of course, conflict of interest. A political appointee at Justice overruled his staff in order to give a political windfall to his party. Acosta's recusal avoided the appearance of impropriety. But, you know, where there's not smoke, there's sometimes fire.

Land of ahhhs, indeed

Barring the acquisition of either a Kansas-sized pancake or a pancake-sized Kansas, mathematical techniques are needed to do a proper comparison...Mathematically, a value of 1.000 would indicate perfect, platonic flatness. The calculated flatness of the pancake transect from the digital image is approximately 0.957, which is pretty flat, but far from perfectly flat...Measuring the flatness of Kansas presented us with a greater challenge than measuring the flatness of the pancake. The state is so flat that the off-the-shelf software produced a flatness value for it of 1. This value was, as they say, too good to be true, so we did a more complex analysis, and after many hours of programming work, we were able to estimate that Kansas’s flatness is approximately 0.9997. That degree of flatness might be described, mathematically, as “damn flat.” |Annals of Improbable Research|

(Via The Volokh Conspiracy)


The new The Bellman, now with blogroll

I've spent today mucking with the template. The way things are now is pretty much the way things will be unless my modifications have led to terrible errors for readers trying to access the site. Let me know if anything blew up in your browser..

There are a couple of pieces of blog news to be related. First, as readers may have surmised, blogspot is our new home for the forseeable future. The old url, thebellman.org, still works, but you may want to update your blogroll. Second, the contributor formerly known as 'The Bellman' is now posting as 'Jason'. The explanation, simply enough, is that he kept confusing himself with the blog. This was especially disorienting during spam storms, meals, and love making.

Oh, and I turned on syndication. Our feed is located at: thebellman.blogspot.com/atom.xml

Must blog, shower before bed

Just back from a trip to Louisville to see Old Crow Medicine Show. They're great. David Rawlings showed up for the second set. He's great. Heard some Dresden Dolls on the drive home. You guessed it: great.

Hit a snowstorm just west of Indianapolis. Not so great. On an impulse bought a spritz of simulated brand name cologne from a men's room vending machine at the BP off exit 34. Really, really, really not great.


Friday dumb game blogging, logic programming laboratory edition

If today is tuesday, then there will be no dumb game blogging. Today is Friday if and only if today is not Tuesday. Either there is no dumb game blogging today, or today's game is RayRay Parade. Today is not Tuesday.

Update: Fixed link.


Judicial aesthetics

This photo accompanied the NY Times story reporting that South Africa's highest court had ruled that the nation's constitution guarantees a right to gay marriage. Good news on the human rights front, of course, but what fascinates me is the way the chamber is decorated. Those paintings, or hangings, or whatever they are, are awesome. I can't decide how to feel about the brickwork. I mean, I like dissonance as much as the next guy, but there's something to be said for a well appointed wall.

A dialogue from the Logic Programming Laboratory

eripsa: Hey Dave, do you know what the definition of 'maven' is?

me: Sort of. I haven't ever looked it up. It's like a really serious hobbiest -- an expert.

eripsa consults dictionary.com

eripsa: A person who has knowledge or experience. An expert. Someone who is dazzlingly skilled in any field. Ace. Adept.

me: Hmmm. Pretty close.

eripsa: Are mavens female?

fizhburn: 'Maven' seems to imply femininity.

eripsa: Nothing in the definition makes that clear.

me: I think it's one of those words that connotes femininity because of the way it sounds. I don't know if that's included in the actual denotation. Why?

eripsa: I was quoted in Slate. "New Media maven Eripsa." I think they're playing on the gender ambiguity of the name.

fizhburn: From the OED, 1991, "I have in mind such English language mavens as William Safire and Robert MacNeil."

eripsa: Ok.

NYU strike update

Today marks the 23rd day of the graduate employee strike at NYU, and the struggle has reached a crucial moment. On Monday, NYU President John Sexton sent out an email to all graduate assistants which both offered a number of concessions and laid down a chilling ultimatum. Graduate Employees who return to work by December 5 will face no penalties, will be guaranteed a teaching load of no more than one class per semester, will be given the financial benefits package the University offered prior to the strike, and will have all of these terms laid out in a legally binding written agreement. Graduate employees who remain on strike, however, will receive no assistanship next semester. Sexton's letter also articulates more severe penalties for any grad who returns to work for the remainder of this term but then strikes again in the spring.

The thing to say about Sexton's letter is that by making these concessions and adopting a more conciliatory tone, Sexton implicitly admits that the GSOC strike is having a significant effect. Furthermore, by making threats he admits that those effects are, from the administration's point of view, intolerable. In the face of this, he has adopted a strategy that mixes escalation with accomodation in an attempt to persuade the strikers that the benefits of winning recognition are swamped by the costs of continuing to fight.

Let me make two points about this.

First, the concessions Sexton has offered, while significant, are a weak substitute for collective bargaining. In his letter, Sexton characterizes the rejection of collective bargaining as a, "decision to work directly with our graduate students rather than through the intermediary of a union." This is a transparent attempt to introduce a false dichotomy between GSOC and its membership, to pretend that it is some amorphous entity, the union, with which NYU refuses to negotiate rather than with the graduate employees themselves. Under cover of this illusion Sexton introduces another fiction, that the concessions being offered represent a collaboration between grads and the administration rather than an imposition of terms at the university's discretion.

All of this is meant to manufacture the feeling among grads that the administration's offer will provide them with the level of security and participation that they would have gotten through a collectively bargained contract, but it just isn't so. There are many things that might be said to illustrate this, but the key, I think, is to consider how things will stand a few years down the road. If GSOC wins recognition and bargains a new contract then at the end of that contract's term they will still have a viable organization capable of advocating on behalf of grad employee concerns. If, on the other hand, grad employees accept Sexton's offer of individualized agreements then they will have sharply reduced bargaining power when those agreements expire.

Second, Sexton's ability to impose the sanctions he has threatened depends entirely on how strong GSOC's solidarity is when his deadline passes. If hundreds of GAs are out on strike come Tuesday and Sexton follows through and locks those GAs out, then the effect of his policy will be to guarantee that a situation the university finds intolerable continues through the entire spring semester. The fact of the matter is that NYU can neither replace hundreds of assistants in short order nor function effectively without their labor. In short, Sexton's threat is a bluff.

The question is, will GSOC stay strong enough to call that bluff? That's something I can't answer. They had a vibrant rally yesterday, and I understand that another is planned for Friday. Stay tuned.

Addendum: What with our recent outage around here, I've fallen down a bit on the NYU linking, so let me just say that the go to blogs for strike coverage are Nerds on Strike!, NYU Inc., and Weapon of Class Instruction. Check them out.

Now I have that limbo song stuck in my head

Lisa of the constantly exploding aardvark wonders how the Church can change it's teaching if it is infallible. But she neglects the frighteningly obvious ramifications of the text she quotes: They are not proposing that Limbo itself is not real, but instead that the Church simply cease speaking about Limbo.

Weird science!

Okay, not so weird, but definitely cool, one of the first electronic paper applications to hit the streets is this funky watch. I don't usually wear watches, but if someone were to get me this for a gift, I would change my policy.

On a much much weirder note, this guy wanted to build a nuclear particle accelerator in his house!
Local lawmakers rushed to introduce emergency legislation banning the use of cyclotrons in home businesses. State health officials took similar steps, and have suspended Swank's permit to operate cyclotrons on his property.

Spoil sports!

Internets are funny

This is funny. Matt Yglesias takes time out of his busy day of thinking to let us know that Icelandic butter is really tasty. In response, a commenter says:

Maybe it's just that American butter isn't very good? We have been overinvesting in guns lately.
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