Monday, November 30, 2009

Tragedy: appropriate term or not?

Kathryn Jean Lopez prints a reader's email:
The word "tragedy" implies that it was a random occurence, unavoidable bad luck or simple misfortune. It fails to capture the intent to harm behind the resulting deaths and minimizes the motivation, without which, no "tragedy" could have occured. I've heard it used too often in describing 9/11 and most recently the Fort Hood killings.

Hurricane Katrina was a tragedy. The tsunami of 2004 was a tragedy. The Space Shuttle Challenger was a tragedy.

9/11, Fort Hood and the assassination of the the Lakewood Police Officers were horrific acts of violence. They were not tragedies.

I'm tired of this. I don't know how it started but every time someone uses the word "tragedy" or "tragic" in relation to these "horrific acts of violence," someone else feels the need to demonstrate education or intellect by nit-picking the usage. Like this e-mailer did.

Except that he's wrong. "Tragedy" doesn't imply randomness or luck. In its greek origins, it typically implied the operation of Nemesis - the class "Tragic Hero" is brought down by his own hubris. Obviously, that doesn't apply to any of these situations, but it doesn't apply to Hurricane Katrina or the 2004 Tsunami, either. (Challenger and Columbia are a bit closer - think Icarus - but not really right either.)

But regardless of its roots, that's not the way that the word is used in modern English. If we go to the OED1, the first two definitions of tragedy refer to literary forms. The third definition, the first usage not related to a literary form or convention, is the way that Huckabee used it, the way most people use it, which is to describe "an unhappy or fatal event or series of events in real life; a dreadful calamity or disaster." There is no part of that definition which the slaughter of the Lakewood officers fails to meet. It was certainly "an unhappy or fatal real life." It was absolutely "a dreadful calamity or disaster" for the friends and relatives of those men. You have public servants in the prime of life, fathers of young children, cut down by violence - that's not a tragedy?

I don't know where this perception came from that "tragedy" is only appropriate if there are no actual human agents directly causing the "unhappy or fatal event," but it isn't accurate, and it has gotten exceedingly tiresome to have people spitting it out every time we get an event like this one. I probably share many of this e-mailers opinions of the former Arkansas Governor, but there's nothing whatsoever wrong or inappropriate in describing this event as a tragedy. People are trying to load meanings on to the word which just aren't there. An event can be a crime and a tragedy at the same time.

1 - Oxford English Dictionary

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Climategate. Details of health care bills. Cap-and-trade. Van Jones. Anita Dunn.

It's amazing what never makes the papers.

Mark Steyn:
If you rely on the lavishly remunerated "climate correspondents" of the big newspapers and networks, you'll know nothing about the Climate Research Unit scandals - just the business-as-usual drivel about Boston being underwater by 2011. Indeed, even when a prominent media warm-monger addresses the issue, the newspaper prefers to reprint a month-old column predating the scandal. If you follow online analysis from obscure websites on the fringes of the map, you'll know what's going on. If you go to the convenience store and buy today's newspaper, you won't. That's the problem.

Jonah Goldberg:
It is amazing how so much of the news today is stuff you don't find in the news...I'm beginning to wonder if the metaphor has the guards on the wrong side of the gate. These days the press seems more interested in guarding you from the news they don't want you to know, even if you would very much like to hear it.

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Obamacare backlash growing

Growing public backlash over Obamacare
As more details of the 2,074-page behemoth -- which most members of Congress concede they have not read -- continue to trickle out, the more the poll numbers drop.

It's not hard to figure out why. Obamacare was supposed to lower costs, extend coverage and improve Americans' health care options. It does none of those things.

Despite accounting gimmicks, Obamacare will cost $4.9 trillion over the next 20 years. This enormous sum will suck the wind out of an already struggling economy. The plan includes higher premiums for younger workers, fines for those who refuse to purchase coverage, lower Medicare payments to doctors and hospitals, and job-killing taxes on employers.

Obamacare will also force an estimated five million workers to lose their employer-provided coverage.

It needs to be stopped. If it can be prevented from passing for the next few months, it can be killed, and it must be.

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Saturday, November 28, 2009

NFL picks, Week 12

Picks for week 12 of the 2009 NFL season...

Thanksgiving games:

Green Bay at Detroit (+12) - Obviously, Green Bay is going to win this. But the Lions are going to give the entire nation something extra to be thankful for, as they give us a competitive game, at least through three quarters, and lose by 10 or less.

Oakland (+14) at Dallas - Again, there's no question about who wins this game - the Cowboys do. And it gives me a bad feeling to be picking the Raiders, even if it's only picking them to keep it within two touchdowns. But picking the Cowboys to cover two touchdowns made me even queasier.

N.Y. Giants at Denver (+6) - The conventional wisdom is that the Broncos are in free fall and the Giants are back on track. Maybe it's true, in which case I'm wrong here. But I'm not quite ready to buy either of those propositions, and Denver's still a tough place to play.

Post-Thanksgiving Games:

Tampa Bay (+12) at Atlanta - The Falcons, as much as they've struggled, are still too good to lose to Tampa at home. But they won't win by much.

Miami (-3) at Buffalo - The Dolphins are still harboring hopes of repeating as division champs. The Bills are playing out the string while wooing Mike Shanahan. This one goes exactly as you'd think it would.

Cleveland (+14) at Cincinnati - Yet another split pick. Bengals win by less than 14.

Indianapolis at Houston (+3.5) - The streak ends. Because...well, because I want it to.

Carolina at N.Y. Jets (-3) - It seems odd to be picking a team which has lost 6 of its last 7, doesn't it? And the Panthers are two games better than the Jets over the last seven. Yeah, I could see the Jets losing, but I just cannot pick Carolina.

Washington at Philadelphia (-9) - The Eagles won by 10 in Washington a month ago. Expect a game like any other, only more so.

Seattle (-3) at St. Louis - St. Louis is possibly the only place I'd be picking the Seahawks to cover ANY spread on the road.

Kansas City (+14) at San Diego - The Chiefs are showing signs of life. The Chargers, playing better, are still not to be trusted against an inferior opponent. I can't see Kansas City winning, but I can sure see it closer than two touchdowns.

Jacksonville at San Francisco (-3) - Here's something that's absolutely shocking - if the season ended today, the 6-4 Jacksonville Jaguars would make the playoffs. Will they still be in that spot at 6-5 on Monday? I doubt it.

Chicago at Minnesota (-11) - Are we in the home stretch of the Lovie Smith era in Chicago?

Arizona (+2) at Tennessee - Yes, the Titans have been much better of late. Yes, the Cardinals can't always be trusted to play well against a perceived inferior team. I am stunned, nonetheless, to see Tennessee favored in this game.

Pittsburgh at Baltimore (-2) - If Roethlisberger were playing, I'd still be picking the Ravens (despite the fact that they gave away the game last week against Indianapolis.)

New England (+3) at New Orleans - The Saints have played better than New England thus far, albeit against an easier schedule. But they aren't going to finish undefeated, and they aren't going to finish undefeated because they're going to lose against the Patriots on Monday.

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Clueless foreign policy

More vicious, no-doubt racist criticism of President Messiah Obama:
Mr. Obama’s own credibility is so diminished (his approval rating in Israel is 4 percent) that serious negotiations may be farther off than ever.

Peacemaking takes strategic skill. But we see no sign that President Obama and Mr. Mitchell were thinking more than one move down the board. The president went public with his demand for a full freeze on settlements before securing Israel’s commitment. And he and his aides apparently had no plan for what they would do if Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said no...

From those noted right-wing crackpots at the ... New York Times?

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Friday, November 27, 2009


I haven't written about the CRU scandal yet, for a couple of reasons. I've been busy with actual work, for one thing, so that's limited my time, and there's a lot of information to go through. Another is that there's a tendency for initial reports to be wrong, and for people to get up in arms about something that turns out to be innocent or at least explicable. But as the story has developed, it has become clear that there is, in fact, a "there" there, and I've got a couple of things to say.

First, for those that haven't followed the story, some anonymous source, a couple of weeks ago now, posted a massive bundle of data from the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia on a (I think) Russian web server, from which the data has been uploaded and examined by people around the world. First reports attributed it to a "hacker," but the content of the file seems to indicate an insider, a whistle-blower, as the content is all relevant to the "climate change" research taking place at CRU. There is source code for the various models, some data, and a lot of emails between various "alarmists," proponents of massive and radical government action to curb global warming.

The emails got the first attention, and they paint a damning picture. The impression created is not that of a group of scientists committed to the truth. Instead, we see what seems to be a small cabal of high priests, committed to their religion, devoted to its truth regardless of the facts, willing to hide and potential defects in their story, fudge data to support it, and punish heresy wherever it appears. They don't come across well.

After a few days, people have also had a chance to look at the model code. It also doesn't reflect well on anyone. The code is poorly structured, poorly commented, and what commenting exists is fairly damning, talking about "fudge factors," and data manipulation tricks to get desired results.

Anyway, this has been the major story in the blogosphere for the past week. I was hesitant to post at first for a couple of reasons. One is that we all have a tendency to jump at information that confirms our pre-conceptions ("confirmation bias"), so I'm aware that I'll tend to credit information which disputes and/or disparages AGW. So I try not to go there, especially with something this big, until I've seen enough to be convinced that there's a real story. There's definitely a real story.

Another reason is that a lot of the early coverage focused on one e-mail, in which Dr. Phil Jones claimed to have "used Mike's Nature trick" to "hide the decline." Too much of the first wave of coverage was focused on the word "trick," which is not actually damning at all. We've all got "tricks." "What's the trick to getting that lawnmower started?" "My trick for getting those cookies that color is to bake them faster and take them out before they're done." So the focus on the word "trick" bothered me. That passed quickly, however, and "hide the decline" is a lot tougher to explain away.

So that's the background for those who haven't been following the story. (I'll have more links and more comments going forward.) The absolute best-case interpretation that you can put on what's been released, as near as I can tell, is this - the scientists pushing the "carbon is killing the world" message are sloppy, short-sighted, fanatical, petty, and willing to manipulate the data in order to present the most effective case to the world on a real danger. The worst-case is that they've lied for grant money, to the detriment of pretty much everyone else on the face of the earth.

Is it "the final nail in the coffin of 'Anthropogenic Global Warming'" as James Delingpole says? Or would "a far wider conspiracy ... have to be revealed," as George Monbiot claims?

I don't know. I do know this - in order to justify ANY kind of government action to reduce carbon emissions, there needs to be some compelling and convincing science done, science that we can all trust. I'm not aware of the existence of any thus far.

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With friends like these...

Noted right-wing radical Howard Dean "recognizes that the current [health care] bills in the House and the Senate are worse than doing nothing at all."

Appropriate alternative headline: "Hard to believe, but Howard Dean gets something right!"

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Good Sox news

Good news for Red Sox fans:
[SS Alex] Gonzalez yesterday signed a one-year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays worth $2.75 million. The Blue Jays hold a $2.5 million option for 2011...The Red Sox obtained Gonzalez from the Cincinnati Reds Aug. 14...Gonzalez had a .279 on-base percentage with the Reds and Red Sox last season.

One of the keys to an effective offense is the absence of Alex Gonzalez.

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Wordle puzzle - 11/27/2009

On Friday mornings, for a while at least (depending on how it goes), I'm going to post a word cloud from a work of literature. The game is to identify the work that the word cloud represents. The cloud shows the words appearing in the excerpt, omitting common English words such as articles and prepositions (because otherwise, the clouds would all be dominated by "the," "a," "in," "on," etc.) The size of the word in the cloud is based on its count in the excerpt, with the larger words appearing more frequently than the smaller ones.

I will be, at least occasionally, deleting some terms on the grounds that if I didn't, I'd be ruining the puzzle. (How long would it take to guess Les Miserables if the biggest words on the cloud are "Valjean" and "Javert?" Would a cloud in which "Fagin" and "dodger" held prominent positions be much of a challenge?) On the other hand, if everything distinctive is removed, there's no way to identify the work. So it's a bit of an experiment, but I think it might be fun.

I'll post answers on Thursday.

Wordle puzzle for the day (Friday, 11/27/09):

This Wordle was created from about 10 pages from the first half, but not the very beginning, of a classic of English Literature. I have removed 0 words from this cloud.

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

...and the funny Thanksgiving video...

As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly...

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The Real Thanksgiving Lesson - Economics version

The Pilgrims' Real Thanksgiving Lesson
In 1620 Plymouth Plantation was founded with a system of communal property rights. Food and supplies were held in common and then distributed based on equality and need as determined by Plantation officials. People received the same rations whether or not they contributed to producing the food, and residents were forbidden from producing their own food. Governor William Bradford, in his 1647 history, Of Plymouth Plantation, wrote that this system was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. The problem was that young men, that were most able and fit for labour, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children without any recompense. Because of the poor incentives, little food was produced.

Faced with potential starvation in the spring of 1623, the colony decided to implement a new economic system. Every family was assigned a private parcel of land. They could then keep all they grew for themselves, but now they alone were responsible for feeding themselves. While not a complete private property system, the move away from communal ownership had dramatic results.

This change, Bradford wrote, had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been. Giving people economic incentives changed their behavior. Once the new system of property rights was in place, the women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability.

Once the Pilgrims in the Plymouth Plantation abandoned their communal economic system and adopted one with greater individual property rights, they never again faced the starvation and food shortages of the first three years. It was only after allowing greater property rights that they could feast without worrying that famine was just around the corner.

We are direct beneficiaries of the economics lesson the pilgrims learned in 1623. Today we have a much better developed and well-defined set of property rights. Our economic system offers incentives for us—in the form of prices and profits—to coordinate our individual behavior for the mutual benefit of all; even those we may not personally know.

How Private Property Saved the Pilgrims
By the spring of 1623, the population of Plymouth can have been no larger than 150. But the colony was still barely able to feed itself, and little cargo was returning for the investors in England. On one occasion newcomers found that there was no bread at all, only fish or a piece of lobster and water. “So they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery,” Bradford wrote in his key passage on property.

Having tried what Bradford called the “common course and condition”—the communal stewardship of the land demanded of them by their investors—Bradford reports that the community was afflicted by an unwillingness to work, by confusion and discontent, by a loss of mutual respect, and by a prevailing sense of slavery and injustice. And this among “godly and sober men.” In short, the experiment was a failure that was endangering the health of the colony.


So the land they worked was converted into private property, which brought “very good success.” The colonists immediately became responsible for their own actions (and those of their immediate families), not for the actions of the whole community. Bradford also suggests in his history that more than land was privatized.

The system became self-policing. Knowing that the fruits of his labor would benefit his own family and dependents, the head of each household was given an incentive to work harder. He could know that his additional efforts would help specific people who depended on him. In short, the division of property established a proportion or “ratio” between act and consequence. Human action is deprived of rationality without it, and work will decline sharply as a result.


Bradford felt that, in retrospect, his real-life experience of building a new society at Plymouth had confirmed Bodin’s judgment. Property in Plymouth was further privatized in the years ahead. The housing and later the cattle were assigned to separate families, and provision was made for the inheritance of wealth. The colony flourished. Plymouth Colony was absorbed into the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and in the prosperous years that lay ahead, nothing more was heard of “the common course and condition.”

The Real Story of Thanksgiving
Long before Karl Marx was even born, the Pilgrims had discovered and experimented with what could only be described as socialism. And what happened? It didn't work!"

"It never has worked! "What Bradford and his community found was that the most creative and industrious people had no incentive to work any harder than anyone else, unless they could utilize the power of personal motivation! But while most of the rest of the world has been experimenting with socialism for well over a hundred years – trying to refine it, perfect it, and re-invent it – the Pilgrims decided early on to scrap it permanently. What Bradford wrote about this social experiment should be in every schoolchild's history lesson. If it were, we might prevent much needless suffering in the future. 'The experience that we had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years...that by taking away property, and bringing community into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing – as if they were wiser than God,' Bradford wrote.

"'For this community [so far as it was] was found to breed much confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For young men that were most able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children without any recompense ... that was thought injustice.' Why should you work for other people when you can't work for yourself? What's the point? Do you hear what he was saying, ladies and gentlemen? The Pilgrims found that people could not be expected to do their best work without incentive. So what did Bradford's community try next? They unharnessed the power of good old free enterprise by invoking the undergirding capitalistic principle of private property.

"Every family was assigned its own plot of land to work and permitted to market its own crops and products. And what was the result? 'This had very good success,' wrote Bradford, 'for it made all hands industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been.'

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving has been celebrated in the United States every year since 1863.
...No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens...
- Abraham Lincoln, 1863

We have much to be thankful for. We should, of course, be giving Thanks to God every day, not just today, but it is good to set apart a day to ensure that we recognize it...

Ps 111
Praise ye the LORD. I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, in the assembly of the upright, and in the congregation.

The works of the LORD are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.

His work is honourable and glorious: and his righteousness endureth for ever.

He hath made his wonderful works to be remembered: the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.

He hath given meat unto them that fear him: he will ever be mindful of his covenant.

He hath shewed his people the power of his works, that he may give them the heritage of the heathen.

The works of his hands are verity and judgment; all his commandments are sure.

They stand fast for ever and ever, and are done in truth and uprightness.

He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.


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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

SEALs charged for capturing terrorist

One always has to be cautious about assuming that any story from any media outlet is true. On its face, this is insane.
Navy SEALs have secretly captured one of the most wanted terrorists in Iraq — the alleged mastermind of the murder and mutilation of four Blackwater USA security guards in Fallujah in 2004. And three of the SEALs who captured him are now facing criminal charges, sources told

The three, all members of the Navy's elite commando unit, have refused non-judicial punishment — called an admiral's mast — and have requested a trial by court-martial.

Ahmed Hashim Abed, whom the military code-named "Objective Amber," told investigators he was punched by his captors — and he had the bloody lip to prove it.

Now, instead of being lauded for bringing to justice a high-value target, three of the SEAL commandos, all enlisted, face assault charges and have retained lawyers.

Again, it's conceivable, if not likely, that there's missing information. It's hard to imagine what it might be, though, that would justify charges in this situation.

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Hidden in plain sight

ANGELINA JOLIE HATES OBAMA? “She’s into education and rehabilitation and thinks Obama is all about welfare and handouts. She thinks Obama is really a socialist in disguise.”

What's the disguise? He's not even pretending not to be a socialist, is he?

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Uncle Obama's buying us a boat!

Megan McArdle:
I have to say, I'm woefully underimpressed with the argument that I am now hearing to the effect that "Medicare will bankrupt America anyway if we can't cut health care costs, so we might as well do health care reform."

Anyone who has dated a manic-depressive has heard some version of this argument. "I can barely make ends meet now, so I might as well use my tax refund check to buy a boat! After all, if I can't figure out a way to fix my budget, I'm going to go bankrupt anyway."


Just as a possible bankrupt would be better off putting the cash in the bank than spending it on some new desire, we would be fiscally better off doing nothing, than we would in taking on a gargantuan new entitlement. Yet, most of the responses to those of us who worry about the fiscal effects have so far been about the same as you get from your favorite manic depressive: "But think how great it would be to have a BOAT!"

Read it all...

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On evaluating decisions

A topic which I've addressed on more than one occasion is the evaluation of decisions, and the issue of whether the outcome of events following a decision is the proper way to evaluate the decision or the decision-making process. It isn't. Which I've summarized now, in a way that I like.

An unlikely outcome can condemn a good decision, but cannot turn it into a bad one. It can redeem a bad decision, but cannot turn it into a good one.
- Lyford Beverage

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Monday, November 23, 2009


Just horrifying:
A car crash victim diagnosed as being in a coma for the past 23 years has been conscious the whole time. Rom Houben was paralysed but had no way of letting doctors know that he could hear every word they were saying. 'I screamed, but there was nothing to hear,' said Mr Houben, now 46, who doctors thought was in a persistent vegatative state.
His case has only just been revealed in a scientific paper released by the man who 'saved' him, top neurological expert Dr Steven Laureys. 'Medical advances caught up with him,' said Dr Laureys, who believes there may be many similar cases of false comas around the world.

It's hard to conceive of living through that.

Professor Reynolds notes a commenter at Althouse's blog saying "Lucky that they weren’t more ‘compassionate’ and didn’t try to starve and dehydrate him to death." Given the negative attention he paid to the Republicans over the Terry Schiavo situation, and the importance he placed on it as a negative for Republicans in the run-up to, and aftermath of, the 2006 congressional elections, one wonders if a little more commentary might be appropriate here.

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Obama = Carter? What a novel idea!

Noel Sheppard, at NewsBusters, notes an interesting comment from Chris Matthews:
In the Carter presidency, the optics were not exactly robust, and Ronald Reagan rode that to a big victory in 1980. Is the Obama White House sending some Carteresque signals these days?

Yeah, some of us have noticed that
It's really been an amazing nine months. We've got the Carter administration re-run ("second verse, same as the first - a little bit louder and a little bit worse") and condensed into about 1/5 the time...

As someone said when he was elected:
there are two kinds of people in this country - those who remember the Carter years, and those who are about to learn.

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A bit of history on fossil fuel usage

An interesting piece from George Will:
in 1901, a new well named for an East Texas hillock, Spindletop, began gushing more per day than all other U.S. wells combined.

Since then, America has exhausted its hydrocarbon supplies. Repeatedly.

In 1914, the Bureau of Mines said that U.S. oil reserves would be exhausted by 1924. In 1939, the Interior Department said that the world had 13 years' worth of petroleum reserves. Then a global war was fought, and the postwar boom was fueled. In 1951 Interior reported that the world had . . . 13 years of reserves.


Today, there is a name for the political doctrine that rejoices in scarcity of everything except government. The name is environmentalism.

Read it all...

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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Quote of the day (so far...)

Short, sweet, to the point. And exactly right.

"Climate change" and "health care" are different ends of the same stick: They're both all-purpose pretexts for regulating every aspect of your life.

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Judd Gregg

The Republicans have not given up fighting the Democrats' health care monstrosity.

Judd Gregg:
My colleagues on the other side of the aisle continue to claim this bill costs about $800 billion. That's the number they say has been reached as the expenditure on this bill. Ladies and gentlemen, that is a totally dishonest number. That is the ultimate shell game. That is Washington cynical politics...It's a lot of money, $800 billion-plus. But that is not the cost of this bill. The way that number was arrived at was that they don't start spending money on this bill until the fourth or the fifth year. They couldn't get the score they wanted from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), so they changed the starting point. They moved back another year in the ten-year cycle. They went from four years to five years as to the starting point of most of the spending in this bill. What they claim to the American people is that a ten-year bill is going to cost about $800-plus billion.

What they don't tell the American people is they're not spending anything in the first four or five years of the bill. No. They do raise your taxes throughout the ten-year period. They do cut Medicare throughout the ten-year period. But they don't spend the money. They don't start the spending programs until the year 2014, when this bill is fully phased in, when all these new programs, these massive expansion of entitlements are created, these brand-new entitlements. When all this new spending occurs, this bill will cost $2.5 trillion over that ten-year period. $2.5 trillion. That's the real cost of this bill. That's how big this government is going to grow in a ten-year window as a result of this spending.

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Orrin Hatch

The Republicans have not given up fighting the Democrats' health care monstrosity.

Orrin Hatch:
I am going to spend my time before this historic vote to highlight some very important numbers, so every member of this chamber understands what they are voting to advance. Make no mistake, our actions today will not be without consequences. History and our future generations will judge us on this. Here are some numbers:

· 0 – the number of provisions prohibiting the rationing of health care.

· 0 – the number of government-run entitlement programs that are financially sound over the long-term.

· 10.2 percent – our national unemployment rate, the highest in 26 years.

· 70 – total number of government programs authorized by the bill.

· 1,697 – times the Secretary of Health and Human Services is given authority to determine or define provisions in this bill.

· 2,074 – total pages in this bill.

· 2010 – the year Americans start paying higher taxes to pay for this bill

· 2014 – the year when this bill actually starts most of the major provisions of this bill

· $6.8 million – cost to taxpayers per word

· $8 billion – the total amount of new taxes on Americans who do not buy Washington-defined health care.

· $465 billion – Cuts in Medicare at a time when it faces a $38 trillion unfunded liability to finance more government spending.

· $494 billion – total amount of new taxes in this bill

· $2.5 trillion – the real cost of the bill

· $12 trillion – our total national debt

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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Who is John Galt?

At the American Thinker, a good piece from C. Edmund Wright - Entrepreneurs Go on Strike:
Can Barney Frank Dunk on Lebron? No, he cannot. Nor can anyone else in Washington. Nor can they catch passes from Ben Rothlisberger in the Super Bowl or strike out Derek Jeter in the World Series. They are not equipped to do so.

So what?

This ridiculous image speaks to the business malaise infecting the economy since Obama took office. The point is that politicians are equally ill-equipped to run the auto industry or the health industry or the lending industry or the insurance industry -- and their determination to do so is sucking all the dynamism from the entrepreneurial class in this country...

Read it all...

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NFL Picks, Week 11

Picks for week 11 of the 2009 NFL season...


Miami at Carolina (-3) - Anyone who's been reading me for any length of time knows that I don't think much of the Panthers, but I haven't thought much of the Dolphins, either, and the loss of Ronnie Brown is a tough one for that team to overcome.

UPDATED with Sunday's picks:

Pittsburgh (-10) at Kansas City - I know that it's on the road. I know that the Chiefs won last week. I know that I've been a Chiefs backer pretty often this year, thinking highly of both the GM and the QB. All of that and the Steelers' problems running the ball notwithstanding, it's hard to imagine this not being Pittsburgh by two scores or more.

Seattle at Minnesota (-10.5) - Another game in which the talent discrepancy leaves me with nothing interesting whatsoever to say.

Washington at Dallas (-11) - The Cowboys, riding high, got spanked by the Packers last week in a result that I didn't see coming. And the Redskins beat the Broncos handily. Which leaves your humble game-picker in a state of confusion. I guess that I need to see more than one week in a row.

San Francisco (+7) at Green Bay - I suspect that this is an "I like Singletary" wishful-thinking pick. I certainly can't justify it.

Buffalo (+9) at Jacksonville - This could easily go the other way, but I'm betting on the Bills being shamed by the firing of their coach into picking it up and putting an NFL effort on the field against another of the AFC's also rans.

Cleveland at Detroit (-3.5) - Hmm... St. Louis vs. Oakland? Cleveland vs. Oakland? St. Louis vs. Detroit? Detroit vs. Kansas City? Hmm... It's tough to tell. This might actually be the worst game that NFL schedule-makers could give us this season.

Indianapolis at Baltimore (+1.5) - The Colts came from behind, yet again, to pull out another game and run their regular season winning streak to 17. If it's going to end anytime soon, it ends this week.

Atlanta at N.Y. Giants (-7) - As bad as the Giants have been, well, the Falcons have been nearly that bad. And the Giants are at home and coming off of a bye week.

New Orleans (-11) at Tampa Bay - Let me say this clearly, leaving no room for mis-interpretation - the Saints are NOT going undefeated this season. Not now way, not no how. That said, they ARE going undefeated this week.

Arizona (-9) at St. Louis - A good NFL team would have to really play down to get beaten by the dreadful Rams. And the Cardinals are just the team to do it. But it's not the way to bet.

San Diego (+0) at Denver - This game is actually off the board right now, because no one knows whether Orton's playing or not. I'm thinking that it doesn't actually matter. San Diego's righted the ship, Denver's taking on water, and this one goes to the Chargers by 4-7 regardless of who plays QB for the Broncos.

N.Y. Jets at New England (-11) - Blowout. Payback for the Jets for week 2 (and Wes Welker and Jarod Mayo are back while Kris Jenkins is gone), payback for the world for the abuse heaped this past week, the Patriots put the hammer down early and keep it down. The Jets would be lucky to score 10 or hold the Patriots under 30.

Cincinnati (-10) at Oakland - The Raiders might win this game on Sunday. And I might vote for Barack Obama in 2012. And the sun may rise in the West. I'm not putting money on any of those things happening.

Philadelphia (-3) at Chicago - Chicago is closer to the Atlantic Ocean than San Diego or Oakland. Is it close enough for the Eagles to function? All signs point to yes.

Tennessee at Houston (-4.5) - Tennessee played about as bad a game as an NFL team can play in the snows of Foxboro. Then they took a much-needed week off. Since then, they haven't lost, and the rumors of the demise of Jeff Fisher turned out to be exaggerated. Can they run the winning streak to four in a row? Doesn't seem likely.

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Quote of the day

Ramesh Ponnuru:
In the primaries, Obama distinguished himself from Clinton on health care by opposing an individual mandate. In the general election, he distinguished himself from McCain by opposing taxes on health benefits. So now he is trying to pass bills with both an individual mandate and taxes on health benefits — and his supporters are saying that Congress should go along because he won the election.

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Unemployment video map

This animated map of unemployment over the past couple of years has been making the rounds, and it's quite compelling, in a morbid sort of way.

As I was saying earlier, sometimes someone needs to state the obvious - this time it's Moe Lane's turn:
It is no doubt rude of me to point out that this outbreak video represents two years’ worth of a Democratic-controlled Congress, and one year’s worth of a Democratic-controlled government.

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liberals' racism-colored glasses

Sometimes, things are really obvious, but someone needs to say them anyway. Like this comment from Ace of Spades, on Chris Matthews' observation at a Palin book signing that "they look like a white crowd to me...I think there is a tribal aspect to this thing, in other words, white vs. other people.":
Liberals are fond of claiming their thinking is more nuanced, more multidimensional, more wide-ranging, than conservatives' thinking.

So why is it at every opportunity they indulge in retarded reductivism and reduce everything to the single variable of racism?

People don't want to give up their health care? Must be racism.

People don't want to pay more in taxes? Must be racism.

People don't want to import millions of new needy poor which they are then obligated to support through social welfare? Must be racism.

Racism, racism, racism. There seem to be no other variables in this equation or inputs in this program.

(As always, be aware that the language at Ace's site tends to be a bit rough.)

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Thursday, November 19, 2009

Race arsonist at it again

We're never going to overcome our racial issues in this country until race hustlers like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson and the like are marginalized, shamed, embarrassed and driven from the public stage:
“We even have blacks voting against the healthcare bill,” Jackson said at a reception Wednesday night. “You can’t vote against healthcare and call yourself a black man.”

Silly me. I always thought that "black man" referred to skin color...

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Reid's turkey

Yuval Levin summarizes the Senate Health Care Bill, the text of which was released to day. Members of a free society who value their freedoms will want to make sure that their representatives do not support this.
So, to sum up: the idea is to spend trillions even as our debt is mounting, inflict massive tax increases on a troubled economy, impose costly mandates on employers as unemployment hovers above 10%, squeeze money out of Medicare not to fix the program’s finances but to create a whole new enormous federal entitlement alongside it, insert the government in countless new ways between doctors and patients, and cause millions of middle-class families to lose the employer-based insurance they have today, pay even higher premiums, and find themselves herded toward a government insurance provider. Oh, and at the end of it all, if we use the methods of counting the uninsured favored by the Democrats, there are still 24 million people without health insurance.

Go read it. Read it all. And make sure you understand that the only reason that the Democrats can lie about this not blowing a huge hole in the budget is because they're scoring it on a ten year schedule, which includes 10 years of "enhanced revenues" and only five to seven years of increased costs.

This must be stopped.

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"The worst kind of ally..."

Remember how President Obama was going to change America's image overseas? Well, he's accomplishing that...
Britain's AWOL Ally
Brown claimed just days ago that Obama would make an Afghanistan announcement in the “next few days”. Now, we have no idea when the announcement will come. But this isn't Gordon Brown’s fault – it’s Obama’s. The way Washington is treating Britain is deplorable and the subject of an excellent cover piece tomorrow by Con Coghlin (cover image above). As Con says in his piece:

'The Afghan issue has made clear the astonishing disregard with which Mr Obama treats Britain . As he decides how many more troops to send to Afghanistan – a decision which will fundamentally affect the scope of the mission – Britain is reduced to taking a guess. The White House does not even pretend to portray this as a joint decision. It is a diplomatic cold-shouldering that stands in contrast not just to the Blair-Bush era, but to the togetherness of the soldiers on the ground.'

Obama is simply not there. And in this respect he is, as we say on the cover, the worst kind of ally.

I don't think that this is actually the "change" he was selling, though...

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Dean of Harvard Medical School - Obamacare gets a failing grade

The dean of the Harvard Medical School takes to the pages of the Wall Street Journal today to give Obamacare a failing grade.

Jeffrey S. Flier:
In discussions with dozens of health-care leaders and economists, I find near unanimity of opinion that, whatever its shape, the final legislation that will emerge from Congress will markedly accelerate national health-care spending rather than restrain it. Likewise, nearly all agree that the legislation would do little or nothing to improve quality or change health-care's dysfunctional delivery system....Worse, currently proposed federal legislation would undermine any potential for real innovation in insurance and the provision of care. It would do so by overregulating the health-care system in the service of special interests such as insurance companies, hospitals, professional organizations and pharmaceutical companies, rather than the patients who should be our primary concern.

In effect, while the legislation would enhance access to insurance, the trade-off would be an accelerated crisis of health-care costs and perpetuation of the current dysfunctional system—now with many more participants. This will make an eventual solution even more difficult. Ultimately, our capacity to innovate and develop new therapies would suffer most of all.
[emphasis mine]

None of that should surprise anyone, of course. Can even those philosophically in favor of nationalizing the health care system argue that the government is likely to make things better?

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Rhetoric vs. Reality

Victor David Hanson:
The growing problem for the Obama administration is that the public has finally caught on that the president's tough rhetoric and soaring oratory don't match reality.

"Considering all options" and "wanting more information" essentially mean dithering and voting present on Afghanistan, even after announcing the adoption of a new bold strategy.

"Saving jobs" means conjecturing about the effects of massive borrowing and enhancing your figures through the creation of fictitious congressional districts and bogus employment reporting.

"Punishing KSM" means giving the liberal community a world platform for legal gymnastics designed to repudiate the past administration and demonstrate that community's "tolerance" — without much worry about justice for KSM or the adverse effects of giving such a monster a public megaphone...

Read it all...

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Health care is not a right

I wrote this about a year and a half ago.
Sometimes it is important to be very clear in the way you use the language, and this is an issue on which a lot of people are willing to misuse it. Once framed as a "right," the supporters of socialized medicine have not only moral support, but moral obligation in their quest to impose a government universal "health care" system on the citizens of the US. So let me say this clearly.

No one has the "right" to health care.

That position is echoed by Iain Murray and Roger Abbott in today's Washington Examiner - Health Care is not a right:
A right, in both a legal and practical sense, is simply an entitlement due to an individual that other people are obliged to respect, with a failure to comply typically resulting in some sort of sanction...In contrast, the expansive “rights” demanded by liberals—like the right to “affordable health care” or to a “decent standard of living”—are not rights but positive demands that require others to hand over some of the property to the claimant. Whereas genuine rights protect citizens from state coercion, the “right to health care” serves to justify state coercion against a particular part of the population: those who pay taxes. Moreover, by their very nature, such positive demands cannot be clearly defined and hence are capable of infinite expansions. As one need is satisfied, others arise.

I think that's well put.

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In Gore We Trust?

Derb notes a comment from noted super-earth-climate scientist Al Gore:
"People think about geothermal energy — when they think about it at all — in terms of the hot water bubbling up in some places, but two kilometers or so down in most places there are these incredibly hot rocks, 'cause the interior of the earth is extremely hot, several million degrees, and the crust of the earth is hot …"

[Derb] The geothermal gradient is usually quoted as 25–50 degrees Celsius per mile of depth in normal terrain (not, e.g., in the crater of Kilauea). Two kilometers down, therefore, (that's a mile and a quarter if you're not as science-y as Al) you'll have an average gain of 30–60 degrees — exploitable for things like home heating, though not hot enough to make a nice pot of tea. The temperature at the earth's core, 4,000 miles down, is usually quoted as 5,000 degrees Celsius, though these guys claim it's much less, while some contrarian geophysicists have posted claims up to 9,000 degrees. The temperature at the surface of the Sun is around 6,000 degrees Celsius, while at the center, where nuclear fusion is going on bigtime, things get up over 10 million degrees.

If the temperature anywhere inside the earth was "several million degrees," we'd be a star.

Steyn follows up:
[Al Gores's] entire, highly lucrative shtick rests on the proposition that a one-degree increase in surface temperature in the course of a century imperils not merely the poor old polar bear, not merely the planet itself, but is "altering the balance of energy between our planet and the rest of the universe". But he's so insouciant about "several million degrees" boiling away a couple of miles under his loafers that he can't even be bothered getting it right to within three figures.

It makes you wonder whether even he believes any of this stuff.

The question that I have, not having seen the video, is whether he tossed off that number as a joke that no one got, or whether he really doesn't know or care. I do know this - he's fond of quoting Upton Sinclair's line that "it's difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it." Well, what understandings and not understandings does Al Gore's enormous income depend on? If every scientist in the world decided today that CO2 was not a problem, would Al Gore understand it?

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

More Belichick decision reaction

A couple of things have become clear - I'm not in such a minority as it looked yesterday, and the arguments are a lot clearer, data driven and rational on my side of the street...

Alok Pattani:
The result: .805 is greater than .790, so Expected Win Probability When Going For It is greater than Expected Win Probability When Punting.

Using these estimates, the decision is very close. The Patriots' expected win probability when going for it is greater than the expected win probability when punting...

Bill Barnwell:
Too close to call.

It's not the satisfying answer to the Great Belichick Debate, which has seen him declared by most observers to be either an infallible genius or overzealous tinkerer, but it's the most accurate one.

Did he make the right decision?

Too close to call.

No matter how we fiddle with or adjust the probabilities to account for the game situation and the quality of the two offenses and defenses, it's difficult to find a dramatic difference between the choices of going for it or punting.


The key factor that the cacophony of responses seems to be missing is that you can't judge Belichick's decision by the fact that it didn't work. As we've mentioned more than once in these pages, you cannot judge decisions by their outcome. You have to consider the process that goes into them, and then decide whether they're right or wrong at the moment they're made.

Adam Kilgore:
Among the countless criticisms hurled at Patriots coach Bill Belichick for his decision to go for it on fourth down Sunday night, former Colts coach Tony Dungy summed up the most popular when, speaking on NBC, he said, “You have got to play the percentages and punt the ball.’’

What Dungy did not realize, though, is that “the percentages’’ dictated that Belichick do exactly what he did.


going for the first down gave the Patriots a 79 percent chance of winning. Punting gave them a 70-percent chance to win. Even after Burke made tweaks, the win probability never dipped in favor of the punt. If anything, factoring in how explosive the Colts’ offense is, the team-specific adjustments only made going for it more favorable.

“A lot of criticism is probably way over the top,’’ Burke said. “At the very least, it’s defensible. It’s not crazy. It’s not reckless.’’

Steven Levitt1:
I respect Bill Belichick more today than I ever have...He has been excoriated for the choice he made. Everyone seems to agree it was a terrible blunder.

Here is why I respect Belichick so much. The data suggest that he actually probably did the right thing if his objective was to win the game.


If his team had gotten the first down and the Patriots won, he would have gotten far less credit than he got blame for failing. This introduces what economists call a “principal-agent problem.” Even though going for it increases his team’s chance of winning, a coach who cares about his reputation will want to do the wrong thing. He will punt, just because he doesn’t want to be the goat. ...What Belichick proved by going for it last night is that 1) he understands the data, and 2) he cares more about winning than anything else.

So hats off to Bill Belichick. This decision may have hurt his chances for the Football Hall of Fame, but it guarantees his induction into the Freakonomics Hall of Fame.

Gregg Easterbrook:
On Sunday night in Indianapolis, Bill Belichick, with his team leading 34-28 just before the two-minute warning, went for it on fourth-and-2 from his own 28. As I'm guessing you heard, the try failed...Though the try failed, Belichick did exactly the right thing.


Which seems like a better gamble -- 2 yards to win the game, or two minutes to shut down Peyton Manning when the Colts are hot? In 2007, AccuScore did thousands of computer simulations of the punt-or-go-for-it question for TMQ. One finding was that between your own 21-yard line and your own 35, you should go for it on fourth-and-2 or less. In test after test, doing this improved a team's chance of victory -- though, of course, there is no guarantee. No coach can control what happens on the field. Had New England punted, Indianapolis might have run the kick back for a touchdown, for instance. All the coach can do is make a decision that improves the team's odds. Belichick made such a decision.

1 - Levitt is an economist, and the author of the best-selling Freakonomics. Note that he echoes (with correct terminology) the exact phenomenon that I mentioned this morning:
The risk of taking exactly the kind of roasting in the press that Belichick is taking now is too high to make that move for any reason like that. There's one reason, and only one reason, that a coach would make that move - the honest belief that it gives his team the best opportunity to win the game. And part of what makes Belichick great is that he's willing to put his team in the best position to win regardless of the "heat" that follows.

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Idle thought

Whatever else one thinks of modernism and technology, there are wonders to behold in a world in which one can listen to Handel's Messiah or Mendelssohn's Elijah or Mozart's Te Deum with the simple click of a mouse.

(Actually, this might be more aptly termed an iDle thought...)

"...King of Kings and Lord of Lords,
and he shall reign forever and ever,

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And the beatdown continues...

I love Peter King's Monday Morning Quarterback column. It's one of the things that I look forward to every week. Peter has great sources, lots of interesting material and he writes well. And he has, at his fingertips, all of the conventional wisdom of life in the NFL, even the conventional wisdom that contradicts the other conventional wisdom. I know that this reeks of damning with faint praise, but it is not intended that way. Even when I don't agree with him, I always learn something, and he's a very good writer, producing a long and interesting column first thing Monday morning, every week, which I know from experience is not an easy thing to do.

And Peter didn't like Belichick's decision. Well, that's fine. He's certainly not alone. The usual suspects and quoters of conventional wisdom seem to be nearly unanimous here. But Peter doesn't want to be seen as merely parroting conventional wisdom (even as he does so) so he gives us some numbers and analysis to demonstrate that it was a horrible decision.
Let's place the odds of Brady getting two yards at 60, 65 percent. The odds of Manning going 72 yards to score a touchdown in less than two minutes ... that's maybe 35 percent...Even it you think you've got a two-out-of-three chance to make two yards deep in your own territory, the cost of missing it is too great. The difference between Manning driving 29 yards for the winning touchdown and 72 is too great. Too many chances for him to err in 72 yards, as he'd been doing occasionally during the night.

OK, Peter, let's do that. We'll use your numbers. We'll use the conservative side of the numbers, too, so we assume that the Patriots had a 60% change of converting. According to your analysis, the Patriots have got a 35% chance of losing the game if they punt. If they go for it on fourth down, on the other hand, they've got a 40% chance of giving the Colts the ball on the 29. Surely, the odds of the Colts scoring from the 29 were something less than 100%. And the odds of the Colts scoring with enough time for the Patriots to get into field goal range were non-zero. If we assume that the probability of scoring a touchdown decreases linearly as yards from the end zone increase1, then Peter's 35% at 72 yards becomes 87% at 29 yards. So the Patriots have a 65% chance of winning the game if they punt, and a (conservatively, using Peter's numbers) 1 - (.4*.87) = 65.2% chance of winning the game if they go for it.

So according to Peter King's own probability assumptions, going for it on fourth down gave the Patriots a better chance to win the game!

And Peter doesn't even see it.
All in all, I hated the call. It smacked of I'm-smarter-than-they-are hubris. Let Manning, with the weight of the world on his shoulders and no timeouts under his belt, drive 72 yards in two minutes, with his mistake-prone (on this night) young receivers and the clock working against him. Sure he could do it. But let him earn it. This felt too cheap. It was too cheap. Belichick's too smart to have something so Grady-Littlish on his career resume, but there it is, and it can never be erased.

Here's the thing that people are not understanding. It isn't arrogance, or hubris, or ego, that would have a coach make that decision. The risk of taking exactly the kind of roasting in the press that Belichick is taking now is too high to make that move for any reason like that. There's one reason, and only one reason, that a coach would make that move - the honest belief that it gives his team the best opportunity to win the game. And part of what makes Belichick great is that he's willing to put his team in the best position to win regardless of the "heat" that follows.

Belichick's an economist. He understands cost-benefit analysis. He knows the benefit of going for it there, and understands the costs. He understands the benefit of punting and understands the cost. There's far, far too much of the analysis of this move that is based on nonsensical assumptions to the effect that the Colts couldn't possibly fail to score a touchdown from the 29, but there's no way on God's earth that they could have moved 40 yards to get there on their own.

If the Patriots punt, they've got one chance to win the game - they need to stop the Colts from going 75 yards for a touchdown in 2 minutes. If they go for it, they've got three chances to win the game
  1. They make the first down.

  2. They stop the Colts from going 29 yards for a touchdown.

  3. The all the Colts to score quickly enough to get the ball back for a field goal attempt.

Belichick made the right choice. The fact that he's the only coach in the NFL that would have done this is a testament to his decision-making process, not an indictment of it.

BTW, the best columnist currently working in the mainstream sports press, Joe Posnanski, gets it exactly right."
The conventional choice there is to punt. In fact, "conventional choice" does not begin to describe it. It was the obvious choice. The incontestable choice. I suspect 31 other NFL coaches would have punted there without even thinking twice about it. I suspect that had Belichick decided to punt there, nobody -- not one interviewer, not one talk show host, not even one radio caller -- would have second-guessed him there (and anyone who would second-guess him there would have been mocked and told to learn about football). I simply cannot remember any team going for it in a similar situation. You punt the ball and make Peyton Manning and the Colts go 70 yards to try to score the game-winning touchdown. It's as obvious as bringing Mariano Rivera in the game in the 9th.

But ... Belichick went for it. And here's the reason: He doesn't care about any of that stuff. He doesn't care about sentiment or history or what every other coach would do. He doesn't care about anything at all except winning the game.

Amen, Joe. Amen.

1 - This actually isn't a great assumption. Probability of scoring increases with proximity to the end zone, but not linearly. The last 20 yards tend to be the hardest to get, as the field shrinks, and it becomes impossible to extend a defense. The back of the end zone makes a lot of stops on red zone plays. So really, that 87% is probably more like 75-80%.

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Presidential Greeting

Michael Ramirez:

In the words of Homer Simpson, "it's funny 'cause it's true..."

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Monday, November 16, 2009

A minority, but not a minority of one

I know that mine is a minority position (and the majority is very loud and vociferous) but I remain convinced of its rightness. And there are some others that agree...
You can play with the numbers any way you like, but it's pretty hard to come up with a realistic combination of numbers that make punting the better option. At best, you could make it a wash.

Neil Payne:
...even if you believed that Indy would win 70% of the time if you failed on 4th-and-2 and only 30% if you punted, it still comes out a wash... There's no doubt Belichick made the right decision.

Chase Stuart:
I doubt you can come up with convincing math that says it was overwhelmingly a bad call to go for it here.

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Choir music - 11/15/2009

For the past year, we've been celebrating the 200th anniversary of Park Street Church, founded in 1809. 2009 is also the 200th anniversary of the death of Joseph Haydn, and the 200th anniversary of the birth of Felix Mendelssohn. Sunday, the sanctuary choir, joined by choir alumni from around the country, and the sanctuary orchestra, performed works from those great composers. So, for your listening pleasure (and with the understanding that the church really isn't mic'ed properly for good balance), here are the choir and orchestra performances.

From Haydn's oratorio The Creation, comes "Achieved Is The Glorious Work":

Achieved is the glorious work,
the Lord beholds and is well pleased.
In lofty strains let us rejoice,
Our song let be the praise of God.

And from Mendelssohn's brilliant Elijah, the final chorus, "And Then Shall Your Light Break Forth":

And then shall your light break forth,
as the light of morning breaketh,
and your health shall speedily spring forth then.
And the glory of the lord ever shall surround you.

Lord our creator,
how excellent Thy name is, in all the nations,
Thou fillest heaven with Thy glory.

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The dumbest call in history? I don't think so...

That was a revolting performance last night by the Patriots. Fantastic through three quarters, awful in the fourth. And there are any number of plays that contribute to a loss, but the focus this morning is all on one decision by Bill Belichick. The Patriots went for it on 4th and 2 from their own 28 on the last play before the 2-minute warning, rather than punting. The histrionics in the media thus far, at least the ones that I've heard, are nothing if not predictable, and they're well over the top. "Indefensible" is about the mildest term applied thus far.

I thought it was the right decision. I thought so before the play, I thought so afterwards. "Belichick cost his team the game" is what I'm hearing on the radio, but I disagree. Strenuously. That assumes that a) the game would definitely have been won if they'd punted and the Colts had had to go 75 yards with two minutes and one timeout and b) the game could not possibly have been won when the Colts got the ball on the 29 yard line and c) the failure to convert the 4th down play was inevitable.

None of those are true.

  1. "The Patriots would definitely have won if they'd punted."

    How anyone who watched that game could think that escapes me. Yes, they had stopped the Colts several times. But the Patriot defense was obviously tiring, and two of Indianapolis last three drives had been touchdown drives of 79 yards in 2:04 or less. I had no confidence in the defense preventing a touchdown from being scored too late for the Patriots to respond.

  2. "The game was lost when they didn't make the first down."

    Actually, the game was lost when they tackled Joseph Addai at the one with a minute and a half left. If they'd let him score, they'd have gotten the ball back with more than a minute on the clock, needing only a field goal to win. They could have won the game by forcing a turnover, or keeping the Colts out of the end zone or letting them score with enough time to drive for another field goal. When the officials ruled that Faulk didn't make the first down, the Patriots still had a couple of ways to win. They win if the Colts don't score. They win if the Colts score quickly and the Patriots score another field goal. They only lose if Indianapolis scores a touchdown inside the last 40 seconds or so.

  3. "That play had no chance of succeeding."

    I thought it did. I still think it did. They couldn't challenge because they had no timeouts, and there's probably not a conclusive angle anyway, but I believe that Faulk had control of the ball at the 30, which is a first down.

Let's make a couple of assumptions. Let's assume that the Patriots had a 90% chance of winning the game if they convert the first down. Let's assume that the Patriots had a 90% chance of losing if they fail to convert. And let's assume that they've got about a 63% chance of converting1. If those are accurate, then going for it on fourth down gives them a slightly better than 60% chance of winning the game.

Whether the decision makes sense depends entirely on your entirely subjective assessment of the odds of stopping the Colts after punting. If you think that Manning and the Colts, at that time, on that field, against that defense, had a 45% chance or better of going 75 yards in two minutes to win the game, then you go for it on fourth down, because that gives you the best chance of winning the game. Period. If you think it's 35% or less, then you punt.

I had no problem with the decision. No problem whatsoever. I think he gave his team the best chance to win. And the talk about it being an "indefensible" call, about the coach having cost his team the game, is overheated, hyperbolic and just plain silly.

1 - 63% is apparently their conversion percentage on 4th and 2 or less in the Brady-Belichick era.

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Show trials in the Big Apple

I agree with every word of this:
The strange thing about the Obama administration's decision to hold these civilian al-Qaeda trials is that the project is flawed even based on the premises of its staunchest defenders: They talk about due process and the rule of law, but the trials can't possibly provide anything close to the level of objectivity that applies in an ordinary criminal-law setting. There is no way the defendants will get an impartial jury in New York, and there is no way the government will actually release the terrorists if they are acquitted. Thus the courtroom proceedings in Manhattan will be, in a very real sense, show trials. They are designed purely for PR purposes, so that the Obama administration can pay lip service to the ideal of due process while implicitly rebuking the Bush administration for failing to respect the rule of law.


there is no way we can prosecute the War on Terror while providing the full panoply of ordinary due-process protections to enemy combatants. And no amount of hope can change this reality.

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Sunday, November 15, 2009

President Clueless

One of these things is not like the others...

(One doesn't have to strain the imagination to suspect that a George W. Bush visit that looked like that might have generated some buzz in the mainstream press.)

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Cui bono? Obama thinks he does, but I think we all lose...

I'm going to let others address the decision to bring KSM and four others to New York for trial in the US criminal justice system, but I cannot conceive of a possible result of this action which justifies the risks of taking it.

To start with, consider this: you never know what a jury is going to do. After all, OJ Simpson was acquitted. What if, just theoretically, you get a whacked out jury, and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is actually found not guilty. Are we then going to release him? Answering "yes" to that question is unthinkable, but what about "no?" It's one thing to hold him indefinitely as an enemy combatant, but after all the wailing that those on the left have done about our prestige overseas being damaged by detention, what's going to happen if we continuing holding someone that a jury has found "not guilty?"

The fact is, there is not possible benefit that accrues to the United States of America by the President and Attorney General taking this course of action. It's all downside for national security, for national prestige, for international relations. But they get to pander to their base while continuing to use the Bush administration as a bogeyman to frighten the children with. Short-term political gain for the Obama administration is the only benefit, and they're harming the country to do it.

Just a terrible idea...

I do love this comment from the Baseball Crank:
So, Barack Obama will be staging his own New York production of Chicago, with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed as Roxy Hart ("You had it coming, you had it coming, you only have yourselves to blame....' ).

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Awesome animation



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Friday, November 13, 2009

NFL Picks, Week 10

Because the NFL Thursday schedule starts this week...

Picks for week 10 of the 2009 NFL season...

Chicago at San Francisco (-3) - I know that the 49ers have come upon hard times. And it's hard to believe that there are any good NFL QB questions to which the answer is "Alex Smith." And I hate the '85 Bears. But I don't hate Mike Singletary, still have enormous respect for him, and have a lot more confidence in him to get a team playing over its than I do in Lovie Smith getting anything out of his team.


Atlanta (-1.5) at Carolina - Well, obviously the Falcons are a far superior team. I'm not sure that more commentary than that is really necessary.

Tampa Bay at Miami (-10.5) - With last week's shocker, we now know that the 2009 team isn't going to be the 2nd Tampa Bay Buccaneers team to finish a season winless. They also aren't going to be the second Tampa Bay Buccaneers team to win a Super Bowl. And they should savor that last win, as it's going to have to last them for a while.

Detroit (+17) at Minnesota - OK, you all know that I think the Vikings are overrated and the Lions are improving. And 17 is a huge number. But is there really any reason to think that it won't be all of that and more? Not a good one, not that I can see. And yet here I am, doing it anyway.

Denver (-4) at Washington - Now that the Broncos have learned how to lose, they're going to go into Washington and fall aga...never mind. It takes two to tango, and the Redskins can't seem to muster more than a waltz.

Buffalo (+6.5) at Tennessee - Do even the people in Buffalo and Tennessee care about this one? Is there anything interesting here?

New Orleans (-14) at St. Louis - This one vies with the Baltimore-Cleveland Monday-Nighter for the title, "Mismatch of the Week." The only question here is differential. Can the Rams, at home, keep it under two touchdowns? I think not.

Cincinnati at Pittsburgh (-7) - The Bengals' win over the Steelers in September was an early sign that this year might be different for Cincinnati. If they go in to Pittsburgh and do it again, that gives them a huge advantage in the race for the AFC North title. But I think it unlikely. The Steelers started slowly, but they're playing well now, and I don't see them losing this one.

Jacksonville at N.Y. Jets (-7) - I think that this is a tough call. The Jaguars aren't a good team, but are the Jets? They've got a rookie QB hitting the rookie wall, they're missing their best defensive player, and they're 1-4 in their last five games, including two home losses to division opponents. And there's a risk of them looking ahead to their trip to New England next weekend. I'm picking New York, but it's a very lukewarm, not really trustworthy kind of pick.

Kansas City (+1.5) at Oakland - When some resource is limited by a rationing mechanism, care must be taken to use it at the right time. I've committed to using the Pete Axthelm line only once per year. Do I use it here, in week 10? Might there be a better choice in week 12 or 13? Will there be a time that I regret not having it available to me? I don't know. It's tough to picture that there's going to be a better spot, but I think I'm going to hold on to it a little bit longer.

Seattle at Arizona (-8.5) - If Arizona were consistent about being what they are, this would be a no-brainer. But they tend to be consistent only in their inconsistency.

Dallas (-3) at Green Bay - I hate the Cowboys, but the Packers seem to have justified every bit of my lack of faith in them. That might have been even a worse loss than Phildelphia's debacle in Oakland.

Philadelphia at San Diego (-1.5) - The Eagles' last trip to the Golden State didn't turn out very well, and the Chargers have started to look like a talented NFL team again.

New England (+2.5) at Indianapolis - Even if I didn't pick the Patriots every week, I'd pick them this week. The Colts have done a great job surviving injuries to their secondary, but it's hard to see how they get Brady and the Patriot offense off the field. I'm a little bit concerned about the Patriots defense still, but they've played well, and while I'm sure we're not looking at a shut-out, they should be able to make enough stops to allow the Patriots offense to win it. It should be a great game.

Baltimore (-10.5) at Cleveland - This one serves a dual theological purpose. It's shown as a blessing to Ravens' fans in Heaven, and as a punishment to Browns' fans in Hell.

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Gallup: Majority does NOT want health care reform

Will the President take a hint?
More Americans now say it is not the federal government's responsibility to make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage (50%) than say it is (47%). This is a first since Gallup began tracking this question, and a significant shift from as recently as three years ago, when two-thirds said ensuring healthcare coverage was the government's responsibility...The reason behind this shift is unknown.

I'm not optimistic.

But here's the real question - are there enough Democrats reading these polls, understanding them, and desirous of keeping their seats, to kill it? Either in the Senate or in the House following a conference report? That - that I'm a little more optimistic about, but we're not out of the woods yet...

BTW, if the last line of that excerpt seems like a strange thing to shoehorn in there, I did it because there's another point that I wanted to make. Further down in the article, Gallup speculates that
It is possible that the current debate has increased the average American's awareness as to the nuances of the various roles the government could play in the healthcare system, helping make the generic "make sure all Americans have healthcare coverage" sound less appealing. Plus, the current debate may have produced more skepticism among Americans that the government's role in healthcare could or should be this broad.

I think that's probably exactly right. There are a few things at play here.

One is that the American people are, or at least traditionally have been, a free people. As such, their exposure to, or relationship with, their government tends to be limited. Most Americans don't work for the government, and, other than paying taxes or dealing with the law, live their lives without too much concern as to the specifics of what government is doing.

A related matter is that we have lives to live, and we tend to go on and live them. There's not a lot of energy expended, by the average American, on philosophies of government programs. We assume that our government is a necessary evil, operating under constitutional constraints, and there's not a lot of debate among the majority of Americans as to whether any given program is philosophically a good idea or theoretically constitutional. We tend to believe that, while government is a necessary, and too expensive, evil, that it's limited, and none of our representatives want to change the fundamental nature of America, the fundamental freedoms that we enjoy.1

Finally, Americans are, as a group, kind-hearted, sympathic, generous, and desirous of good things for all people. We here of someone suffering and our reaction is, "that's a shame - someone should do something about that." Americans donate billions of dollars every year for the less fortunate. And they sympathize with those who need health care and cannot afford it. Someone can post a facebook status to the effect of "No one should die because they cannot afford health care" and before you know it, half the people you know are posting that as a status.

And people recognize that there are problems in the existing system. So you couch it as "health care reform," you ask people whether the government should make sure that everyone has health care, and the easy answer is "absolutely." The vast majority of Americans have never sat down and thought through all the potential implications of changes to our health care system (or our justice system or the tax code or anything else.) They've got more important things to do, and trust in their elected representatives to not screw things up too badly.

But once the Democrats put specifics to it, the entire equation changes. Now we're no longer talking about a theoretical change that benefits the unfortunate, we're talking about an attack on insurance companies, health care providers, and our own current plans. Insurance companies tend to be, I suspect, much like politicians - we dislike them as a group, but we aren't too unhappy with our own2. All of a sudden, we're out of the realm of "cheap grace" and talking about actual costs. And, while a majority of Americans would love for everyone to have health care coverage, they don't actually want to pay for someone else's. And they certainly don't want to downgrade their own coverage...

1 - Clearly, this is not true for everyone. Activists on both sides spend their lives doing those very things. I'd argue that it is true for a significant majority of Americans.

2 - Obviously a gross generality. I, for example, loathe my politicians.

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Quick! More leeches!

If there's one thing that this administration has demonstrated, from day one, it's a complete and total lack of understanding of economics, cause and effect, and the things that you can do to spur economic growth and increased employment. Everything - every single thing - that they've done has been counter-productive, from the porkulus stimulus bill to cash-for-clunkers to cap-and-trade (which has not yet, Thank God, passed the Senate and been signed) to Obamacare. All of those things, and their approach to taxes and economic issues in general, have conspired to make a bad situation worse.

Noticing that it's gotten worse, they're starting to think about trying to make it better.

By doing more of the same.
President Obama still felt the need to announce a ‘jobs summit’ at the White House next month. That’s compelling evidence that the White House doesn’t believe the job market is mending nearly fast enough to keep unemployment from trending higher — or Democratic electoral prospects in 2010 from trending lower. The summit is likely a table setter for Obama to announce Stimulus 2.0 (though he surely won’t use the word ’stimulus’) at his State of the Union address in January. Indeed, Harry Reid is already cooking up a plan in the Senate.

They're treating an anemic patient by bleeding him with leeches, and, as the patient inevitably gets worse, their only solution is to...add more leeches.

It would be funny if it weren't the source of such suffering, on a world-wide level.

Early in one of my first electrical engineering classes, we learned about feedback, positive and negative. Control systems need to have negative feedback to prevent them from oscillating wildly out of control. The example of the destructiveness of positive feedback which made a lot of sense to me was the husband and wife sleeping under an electric blanked with dual controls. As the husband gets too warm, he turns down the blanket. If the controls are reversed, his side doesn't get cooler, hers does. So she gets too cool, and turns her control up. This warms his side, so he turns it down further. Which makes her cooler, so she turns her side up again. Etc.

Obviously, that's a bad thing. That's what's happening here. They people at the controls don't understand how they work, so they're getting positive feedback instead of negative. They do something, get praised for it by people who believe it's the right thing to do, and then, when things get worse, they do it again or more.

It's hard to believe that they're ignorant enough about the workings of the world to do this again, but all indications are that they are.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

The the impotence of proofreading

A fabulous follow-up to the earlier poem...

(Thanks, Nancy!)

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Owed Two A Spell Chequer

(not mine - stumbled across and enjoyed and then shared...)

Owed Two A Spell Chequer

Eye halve a spelling chequer,
it came with my pea sea.
It plainly marques, four my revue,
miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a key and type a word
and weight four it two say,
Weather eye am wrong oar write
it shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid,
it nose bee fore two long.
And eye can put the error rite
it's rare lea ever wrong.

Eye have run this poem threw it,
I am shore your pleased two no.
Its letter perfect awl the weigh,
my chequer tolled me sew

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"they know they can't do that..."

Rich Lowry, hoping that the Senate can kill Obamacare, makes a point that is key to understanding what's going on.
If Obamacare is so necessary and wise, there’s no true need to hurry. If it fails to pass the Senate, Democrats should campaign on it around the country. They should keep talking of its wonders, and build up public support for it, turning around the polls. They should enhance their majority in the House and the Senate, bringing new Obamacare Democrats to Washington. That’s how you build toward passing historic legislation in a system such as ours naturally resistant to large-scale change. Democrats don’t want to do that because, in their heart of hearts, they know they can’t do that. They want to jam it through instead.

What's the panic rush to get "health care reform" done? It can't be done otherwise. The American people do not want it. Some do, but nowhere near a majority - a fairly significant, and growing, majority wants no part of it. They cannot go out and build consensus for a plan, because the more they talk about their plan, the more the support evaporates. And they've already done enough to, very likely, lose their majority in the house. I've said this before - if they don't get it now, they do not get it.

I continue to hope and pray that they don't get it.

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Kelo revisited

Like many others, I ranted and raved about the Supreme Court's judicial obscenity decision in Kelo vs. New London. It was an offense to the Constitution and everything for which it should stand.

Well, the whole process has become, if possible, even more obscene.
...four years after that decision gave Susette Kelo's land to private developers for a project including a hotel and offices intended to enhance Pfizer Inc.'s nearby corporate facility, the pharmaceutical giant has announced it will close its research and development headquarters in New London, Connecticut...While Ms. Kelo and her neighbors lost their homes, the city and the state spent some $78 million to bulldoze private property for high-end condos and other "desirable" elements. Instead, the wrecked and condemned neighborhood still stands vacant, without any of the touted tax benefits or job creation.

So the Supreme Court gave the city of New London authority and permission to take non-blighted houses from law-abiding citizens in order to give the land to a wealthy corporation. They went ahead and took the houses. They destroyed them. And now the whole area is sitting vacant, because business conditions change, and that wealthy corporation, for whom the city raped and plundered the property of law-abiding taxpayers, has decided that they're not only not going to expand, they're actually leaving the area.

When he got to where he was going, Ted Kennedy1 had a lot to answer for...

1 - Ted Kennedy was essentially single-handedly responsible for defeating the nomination to the Supreme Court of Robert Bork. That spot ended up going to Anthony (no relation) Kennedy, who provided the fifth and deciding vote to legalize theft and destruction against the good people of New London.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

This is what a President should look like

Because, while there's never a bad time for Ronald Reagan, some times are better than others, here's his speech at the Brandenburg Gate.

The compare and contrast exercise with the current incumbent is stark and sobering...

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NFL Week 9 wrapup

Week 9 in the NFL...

  • The Patriots roll continues. I continue to think that there's nothing particularly spectacular about beating the Dolphins, but they're putting consistent solid performances out there now, week after week.

  • Sunday night's game is obviously of vital importance. The Colts, given their 8-0 start and remaining schedule, have the inside track on one of the AFC byes regardless of the outcome. The Patriots are behind the Colts on record, behind the Broncos on a tie-breaker, behind the Steelers on conference record and tied with the Bengals. They've got no room for error, and probably cannot go into the playoffs with a first-round bye with another conference loss.

  • Hey, Joey Porter made a lot more noise before the game than during it, didn't he?

  • Note to NBC executives: The presence of Keith Olbermann drives many who would be interested in Football Night in America away from that program. Some of us don't make it back for the game. Whatever your ratings are, it is difficult for me to imagine that they wouldn't be higher without him.

  • What's going on with the Giants? It pains me to see them struggling so. Not.

  • Rising: Dallas, Tennessee, Cincinnati

  • Falling: NY Giants, NY Jets, San Francisco

  • Yeah, the Jets didn't play this week. I like writing that they're falling...(and they have lost four out of five [which I also like writing.])

  • Obvious pick: Carolina at New Orleans

  • Obvious Pick which was dead wrong: Green Bay at Tampa Bay, Tennessee at San Francisco

  • Somewhere in this world, there's a man that picked Denver to start the season 6-2. I'd like to have him managing my stock portfolio.

  • Evidence that you should be listening carefully to what I say:

    Washington at Atlanta - "Hard to see a scenario in which the Redskins manage to lug all of their baggage into Atlanta and come out with a win, or even a close loss."

    Arizona at Chicago - "The Bears are a fraud team. The Cardinals are a satyr team - half man, half goat. The goat half got embarrassed by the Panthers last week, the man half shows up in Chicago."

  • Evidence that you should be listening carefully to what I say (and betting the opposite):

    Green Bay at Tampa Bay - "The Packers are now 0-2 against the Vikings coming off the ignominy of their former start beating them on their own field. This week, they lick their wounds and the Buccaneers at the same time."

    Baltimore at Cincinnati - "The Ravens have already lost, at home, to the Bengals. So they're going to go on the road and beat them in Cincinnati? Yup, that's what's going to happen."

  • For the week:
    Winners: 7-6
    ATS: 4-9-0

  • For the season:
    Winners: 81-48
    ATS: 64-65-0

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