28 October 2011

Too Serious for Facebook

An article about a movie articulates my position on the general state of public discourse:

The wider public, which has no reason to be familiar with questions of either Renaissance chronology or climate science, assumes that if there are arguments, there must be reasons for those arguments. Along with a right-wing antielitism, an unthinking left-wing open-mindedness and relativism have also given lunatic ideas soil to grow in. Our politeness has actually led us to believe that everybody deserves a say.

The problem is that not everybody does deserve a say. Just because an opinion exists does not mean that the opinion is worthy of respect. Some people deserve to be marginalized and excluded.
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26 August 2011

"Terrorism"

We've spent an absurd amount of money "fighting" "terrorism" in the last ten years. This link below details the complete list of alleged and attempted Islamic extremist terrorist attacks on the US since 9/11 (thirty three in all). Some of them are pretty sorry. Terrorists are our grown-up version of the childhood boogeyman. It's time we stop letting ourselves be frightened by our own shadow (and giving up liberty and privacy in the process).

Intelligence agencies work. Airport scanners and citizen vigilance not so much.

PS - F*** you, Michael Chertoff.

27 March 2011

On the NFL

Owners
A lot of voices have observed that this is an argument between billionaires and millionaires. While that's true, it's oversimplifying. Capitalism presumes that investment carries risk and therefore deserves a return. But no NFL franchise has lost money in at least a generation, and no franchise has failed since 1952. You'd be hard pressed to name another industry that has never had a business fail. Either NFL owners are brilliant businessmen (and before you try to make that claim, remember that Mike Brown is among them), or something else is at work. It's hard to make an argument that there's any risk at all, much less enough risk to justify the huge returns. What's worse, when large capital investments are required, the owners usually expect local taxpayers pick up the tab. NFL owners aren't small business men; they are robber barons.

You can have the NFL without owners, but you couldn't have the NFL without players. Put another way, it would be pretty easy to find 32 executives who could replace the existing owners without reducing the quality of the game. But if you had to replace the current rosters of players with others, the difference would be dramatic. The rarer commodity is on the field, not in the luxury box.

I've seen calls for fans to boycott the NFL when they return. I think this misses the point. The current situation is a direct result of American fans' apparently endless devotion to the sport. Skipping a game won't matter unless you don't pay for the ticket. But in saturated markets where season tickets have waiting lists, someone else will take your spot. And in weaker markets (e.g., Jacksonville), you just give the owners the excuse to move to another city. It's not as ridiculous as calls to boycott gasoline for a day, but it's not far from it.

I can't think of a single good reason why the NFL should have its current antitrust status. Monopolies kill markets. There is no market for franchises, just ask Los Angeles. Or maybe Minnesota when the Vikings move there. Monopolies allow teams to coerce cities to build stadiums. The same cities which are laying off teachers.

Players

Every player in the NFL last year earned more than my annual salary. But that doesn't in itself mean they're overpaid. For one thing, my career is already longer than Brett Farve's was, and I've still got a few productive years ahead of me. Preparing for a career as a professional athlete requires near total commitment. That there are a handful who manage a meaningful degree doesn't change the fact that most NFL players have a short career, and are not particularly well prepared for life after football. With an average career length of around three years, a likelihood of debilitating pain in their later years (not to mention the brain damage sustained from concussions), and limited post-NFL job skills,I take no issue that they are paid more than me.

Nobody is forced at gunpoint to buy season tickets, buy jerseys, pay for DirecTV's, watch the games, play fantasy football, or even pay attention at all. But a lot of people do all of those things, and there's a big pile of money as a result. The players are the product we're paying for. Obviously, the teams need money to pay the expenses. And the owners are executives who have a right to significant compensation. But if the choice is between having each NFL franchise throw off another 10 million in cash to the owner every year (and the amount in dispute is more than that) or to distribute it to the players, I'm afraid I think the guys out on the field are earning it.

I must acknowledge that some NFL players are pretty unsavory. I'm not defending them (in some cases, I do think they shouldn't be allowed in the league), but it would be nearly impossible to field a competitive team of choirboys. That some miscreants get paid is a consequence of the very high value we put on success.

19 February 2011

Marathon

It's been almost a week. I remain unconvinced that I will run another, though neither can I rule it out. Friends and family have been having good sport accusing me of "protesting too much". Running a marathon is a huge ego boost. There's a real sense of accomplishment from getting through the training, and a bigger one on the course as you realize you really will finish. What's more you get a lot of external encouragement before and after the race. Or I did; it might be less after you've already done one.

I'm running the GA half in four weeks; there's not much time to train, but at least I should be fully recovered by then. When I'm in my starting corral with a "half" bib on, I think I'll feel a twinge of envy at those with "full" numbers. I think it sucks that ING, having abandoned the race, still gets a mention because everyone called it the "ING" instead the "GA Marathon". Now when you refer to it as the "Publix" or the "GA Marathon", you have to explain "it used to be the ING". At least everything won't be orange any more.

Finishing the marathon was much harder than I was prepared for. I wouldn't describe it as a wall, but running became noticeably more difficult around 19. I never considered quitting, but I wasn't moving very fast near the end, either. As I've said, the only thing that can prepare you for running a marathon is running a marathon. About five minutes after the race I collapsed to the ground, unable to walk or even stand, my muscles in full revolt. I had hoped for a faster time, but it wasn't to be. I'm not disappointed; I count simply finishing among my lifetime achievements. It's been a while since I did something worth adding to that list.

22 January 2011

WWFC 0-3 LFC

A refreshing change. Torres will never score two easier goals, but Meireles's was fantastic; it was so far from the keeper I thought it must have gone wide. Better industry, creativity, and defending than Liverpool have shown lately. Wolverhampton are struggling but they were good value in their win at Anfield (and away wins at Molineux are far from automatic).

Meireles was outstanding, but I was pleased with the whole squad. Poulsen was booked for a silly foul in the fourth minute and was quiet for much of the game. He gave away possession cheaply twice in the second half, and Dalglish wasted little time in taking him off and bringing on Shelvey.

I suspect that Konchesky is done at Liverpool, and with Gerrard's return, future appearances by Poulsen may be quite rare.

They still need pace and width, but at least there's a little room for cautious optimism. An encouraging result but a more encouraging performance. Now let's see if they can string together two.