30 November 2006

Weekly Sports Review

Yeah, there's really no set date for this thing to appear. We thought we'd write it every Wednesday, but then we realized BYU basketball had a game at Boise State (they lost) which we were probably going to want to mention and the Sonics had an important game (they also lost) against Orlando. But none of that matters, because...........
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BYU Football BEAT UTAH!

Yup, despite pre- and gametime fatalism, BYU found a way to beat Utah. We say "found a way" because this is hardly a gimme for BYU. Losses the four previous years had effectively given Utah the mental edge. Whatever they may say about BYU trash talking them before each game (see Curtis Brown's confident predictions of victory), those pronouncements were never meant for them to read. Heck, they really weren't even meant for public consumption. More than anything else, they were intended to bolster the confidence of a team that had been all but owned by the yewts for four years. Anyone who suggests otherwise is deluding themselves. Utah's mental advantage in this game was huge and probably had something to do with the overall "wanting it more" we referred to in last week's Sports Review.

The thing about the game is this: BYU came out focused and did to Utah what they have done to every other MWC team this season. They put up points early. Here's the difference: Utah didn't respond the same way every other MWC team has this season. That is to say, they didn't roll over and play dead. Of course they didn't, BYU is their rival. BYU shouldn't have expected them to and you can blame this on whatever you want--hubris, lack of focus, whatever--but it was plainly obvious that BYU didn't play the 2nd and the 3rd quarters the same way they did the 1st and 4th. What they need to understand is that they can't play that way against Oregon in the Vegas Bowl. BYU has to put together a complete game against a good team.

It's funny to read the yewts message boards because they universally believe that officials are biased in favor of BYU. If asked, we think BYU fans would say exactly the opposite--that there is a decided anti-BYU bias among officials. Considering that BYU is annually (and historically) one of the most penalized teams in the nation, BYU fans would seem to be right, but then again, it's a very difficult thing to detect a bias. We once heard one of our friends on the team comment that BYU had been flagged for three penalties one year that weren't called on another team in the whole of Division I. He knew, because when they were called he didn't believe they were real penalties/rules and proceeded to look them up in the rulebook. How he was able to find that they weren't called anywhere else is beyond us and is typical of such sports heresay. Take it, therefore, with a grain of salt.

All of this is to say, don't blame the refs because BYU won. It is true that Utah could have won if the refs didn't throw the flag, but so what? They could have won anyway. The same is true of our beloved Seahawks. Anyone who watched the Superbowl knows those were egregious (please cougarboarders, spell this word correctly) penalties. As the mtn. talking heads noted, if the defender doesn't look for the ball, and makes contact, they're going to flag you every time. In response, the yewts populating every message board then went to the rulebook and use that nifty copy and paste feature and proceeded to instruct us in the finer points of pass interference and how face guarding isn't a penalty in college. Fine. Whatever. What matters is how pass interference is interpreted by the officials and how it has always been interpreted. When has a defender ever not looked for the ball, made contact with the receiver, and not been called for pass interference? It gets called all the time, not just against Utah when they are playing BYU.

We wont go into the complex beauty of the last play because a Cougarboarder code named TheDash has done so perfectly. Click here. For video highlights of the game we thank Cougarboard and you can click here for those as well. We recommend the one put together by Cougarboarder TSN.

Looking ahead, the game against Oregon should provide plenty of drama. But it shouldn't be written as a Crowton vs. Cougars because the truth is, he isn't against the Cougars. We hope fans wont say, "now is the chance to kick Crowton for causing the four worst years in BYU Football history." As Coach Mendenhall notes, Mr. Crowton is still interested in BYU Football's success. Hopefully winning a bowl game for the first time since 1996 is enough to motivate the team and its fans. It's enough to motivate us, and yes, we'll see you at the game.
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BYU Basketball

With meetings to attend early (11am) this morning, we didn't stay up last night to listen to BYU play Boise St. on the radio. And it's just as well as they ended up losing 72-68. We will limit, as a result, our observations to just a couple of things. BYU lost to a lesser team on the road because they did not come out and play hard in the first half the way they did in the second to cut Boise State's huge lead. Whose fault is it that they start the game unfocused and uninspired? The Seniors? Coach Rose? After a promising showing against UCLA (promising despite the turnovers), BYU still hasn't won a game on the road. With an upcoming game against Michigan St., it would behoove BYU to get their act together so they can put on a good show for the tournament selection committee--that is, if they want to go to the NCAA Tournament in March.
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Gregg Easterbrook is stil a moron

In other news, Gregg Easterbrook aka TMQ, a writer for espn.com Page 2 gives us more of his blatant, basic-law-of-economics-defying-populism with his not-so-veiled attack on pharmaceutical companies.
"Placebon™ will be extremely expensive, thus increasing demand. Pharmaceutical companies will treat doctors to lavish dinners, send them on all-expense-paid cruises and hand out handsome 'consulting' fees to get them to prescribe Placebon™. Controlled clinical studies will fail to show that Placebon™ is any more effective than breathing, but the manufacturer will lobby the Food and Drug Administration not to report this. Celebrities will be hired to have public breakdowns, then make spectacular recoveries by taking Placebon™. A saccharine version, Diet Placebon™, will be marketed. Initially, many insurers will refuse to pay for Placebon™. But as senior citizens stream across the Canadian border to buy low-cost government-subsidized Placebon™, politicians will demand that insurers pay, and the health care share of the GDP will rise again. Eventually a generic will be available at discount, while the patent holder makes a tiny molecular change in order to maintain proprietary pricing of advanced Placebon 24", a longer-lasting version.
Placebon will be extremely expensive thus increasing demand? That's not what we learned in Econ 110: 'All together class, as price increases, demand goes down.' He's talking about a placebo but his critique of drug companies and the FDA is clear. Of course, he must think that pharmaceutical companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars to develop wonder drugs out of the goodness of their hearts. We shouldn't have a problem with this arrangement. Without the big dollars involved, drug companies wouldn't spend the big bucks and take risks to develop breakthroughs that make life better. Sure, some doctors are looking for the cure to cancer because it makes them feel warm inside, but a far greater number of them do so because of the financial incentive. Take that money away from drug companies and they will simply cease to gamble on research and development. Though we may get today's drugs cheaper, tomorrow's drugs will never be developed because there is simply no incentive to do so.

We've written about health care before at length. Rising health care costs are a result of another economics problem called the "tragedy of the commons." It holds that when something is shared by everyone, rather than being owned by someone, everyone will use it as much as possible without any regard to its future condition, because if they don't, someone else will. In government or business sponsored health groups, with a small or no co-pay, individuals have every incentive to go to the doctor all the time. They do so because if they don't someone else will. They do so because rather than increasing wages, companies increase health benefits (incidentally, companies increase health benefits because government taxes wages, but not the health care they provide), effectively paying their employees in health care. This has something to do with the lack of increase in real wages. And because they go to the doctor every time they have the slightest cold or back ache, and when they do go, they get every test and medicine allowable, health care costs go up for everyone.

Back to the sports part of this column
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Seattle Seahawks

First off, a little bit of business we neglected to take care of last week. Does anyone know if Sports Illustrated actually does any research for their articles? As part of their NFL Preview issue, SI listed the best local coverage for each team, be it a newspaper, blog, etc. For the Seahawks they listed the Seattle Post Intelligencer. We don't have a horse in this race, but anyone who knows anything about Seahawks coverage, knows that the best in the game is the Tacoma News-Tribune--specifically Mike Sando and his incredible blog. In the last two weeks extending from before the Seahawks-49ers game until today, the Seattle PI has had three entries. In that same time Mike Sando at TNT has posted literally dozens (we quit counting once we got into the 30s) of entries to his Seahawks Insider blog. Mr. Sando produces all sorts of sortable stats from passes dropped, to red-zone defense, to a 33 category roster--33 categories! He even makes audio from interviews available via podcast which you can subscribe to on iTunes. Seriously, this guy is the best--the best! In true Bill Simmons fashion, we wont even listen to argument about this point. It is not debatable. The only thing half-way hokey about his whole deal is how he picks teams each week but does not pick them against the spread. Anyone can pick straight winners and losers. Few people can pick successfully against the spread--just ask us. Including his wife in this competition seems like just a bit of a ESPN Page 2 Bill Simmons knockoff. Still, we read Sando constantly and our life is better for it.

The Seahawks beat the crummy Packers despite 4 turnovers. Any team that can beat another team despite four turnovers is doing pretty well. We stayed up late to watch this game on channel 5 over here in London. What an experience that was. Whenever the American broadcast would go to commercial, the British feed would go to these two guys sitting in some studio in London where one guy, who apparently last played organized football for Wesleyan back in 1969, proceeds to describe what just happened using every word imaginable except for the correct football term to describe the action. If he did use a correct term--like say, tackle--it was mis-used. At one point they went into a portion of the show where they read viewer emails and responded. One viewer asked for a birthday wish and the guy, we'll call him Mike, said happy birthday in this creepy voice and gave the camera a wink and a nod. Meanwhile back in America, Vince Lombardi rolled over in his grave. Michael Irvin would be a positive influence on this production.

But the Seahawks won. Seattle's offensive line started the gel, Shaun Alexander looked like the MVP, Matt Hasselbeck shook off the early rust and looked really good throwing a beautiful fade pass to D-Jack in the endzone that was even more amazing because of the adverse conditions (read: snow and ice). That's right, the first snow game in Seattle history. The defense shut down Green Bay's run and aside from playing in a field shortened by Hasselbeck's early turnovers, really played well. All three cornerbacks had picks (thank you Brett Favre).

2006 was never going to be 2005 for the Seahawks. But this is a team that looks like it's starting to put things together. The early difficulties on defense had a lot to do with an offense that regularly put them in tough spots. With Mr. Hasselbeck back and Mr. Alexander improving, the defense should respond as they feel less pressure to win the game on their own. Jerramy Stevens needs to get his head right. That's all we're going to say about him. The line needs to continue to improve their run and pass blocking. But with master-teacher/coach Mike Holmgren running the show, the Seahawks should make another run in the playoffs.

On Sunday the Seahawks play the Broncos in primetime (the night game). Having Jay Cutler start at QB for the Broncos will help, but this game will still be a good test for the Seahawks who have only played medium to weak teams thus far.
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Sonics

We've never understood the finer points of the mental game played between coaches and players, you know, the one supposedly perfected by the Sun Tzu of NBA coaches, Phil Jackson. But apparently that's what's been going on over the past couple of days as Seattle coach Bob Hill feuded with the three main players on his bench--Earl Watson, Dominique Wilkins, and Nick Collison. Mr. Hill at one point called out Mr. Wilkins saying that he was "pouting" because he wasn't getting the playing time he thought he should. After airing his grievances to the press, Mr. Hill met separately with Mr. Watson and Mr. Wilkins where they each expressed their loyalty and eternal affection and Mr. Watson made some vague reference to a Jay-Z song from Hard Knock Life Vol. 2 saying that he would "ride with" Mr. Hill.

We hope by "ride with" he means win a few games at home because the Sonics are 2-6 at home and it looks like the public relations blitz they needed to mount via a winning season to coax a fat tax subsidy from fans, is failing. Which really, really bugs us. We enjoy watching the Sonics--especially when they're good. They have talent and potential but they don't play defense and they, as Mr. Hill notes, are immature in how they play the game. Last week's game against San Antonio provides the perfect context. We know lots of people hate the Spurs. They aren't a glamorous team that wins by scoring lots of points like Phoenix. But they win a lot of games because they rebound, play defense, and take advantage of the other teams turnovers and weaknesses. The Sonics are young and inconsistent. They played their immature inconsistent game against the Spurs and San Antonio played theirs and the predictable happened. It really is as simple as that. Which leads us to conclude that it is on Mr. Hill to figure out a way to convince his players, teach them, Phil Jackson them, do whatever he has to in order to get them to win games.

Truth is, we'll probably lose them to Oklahoma either way.
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Seattle Mariners

No news is bad news. A pool of pitchers short on talent with teams long on demand means that a team like the Mariners who still haven't signed anyone, are rapidly running out of options. Our #1 guy, Barry Zito, is still on the market and we hope the Mariners will be sensible enough to break the bank to get this guy. They can fill in the other two open spots in the pitching rotation with Jake Woods and Cha Seung Baek. The Mariners could use another bat, but after signing Mr. Zito they wont have much cash left (because they haven't kept pace with inflation since the first budget jump in the Safeco Era). They should follow the A's example from last year and sign a Frank Thomas. Someone who is old and slow but who still gets on base and hits for power.

We wish they'd cowboy up and sign Manny Ramirez thereby proving to Red Sox nation that, despite his quirks, Ramirez is the most important hitter in their lineup, but we know that wont happen.

It would make too much sense.


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28 November 2006

Matt Berry is a really good guy

We generally try to avoid out and out mention of our friends in our blog. This is a departure from past experience where our folksy attempts at a Top 10 list often included references to family and friends. In the recent case of Matt Berry, we simply can't help ourselves.

Consider first the "botched joke" of John Kerry. Everyone has heard about how Mr. Kerry essentially called the military dumb and poor. We wrote about it here. Congressman Charles Rangel has been making waves with his call for a draft and has been even more explicit in his contempt for the troops:
"If a young fellow has an option of having a decent career, or joining the Army to fight in Iraq, you can bet your life that he would not be in Iraq," Mr. Rangel, a Democrat representing Manhattan and Queens, said on "Fox News Sunday."

"If there's anyone who believes these youngsters want to fight, as the Pentagon and some generals have said, you can just forget about it. No bright young individual wants to fight just because of a bonus and just because of educational benefits. And most all of them come from communities of very, very high unemployment," the congressman said.
Even our moronic hometown newspaper has picked up on the theme. The liberal elitist worldview reads that only poor, uneducated--mostly minorities--serve in the military. As recent reports about the overall intelligence of our military as compared to the general populace show, this isn't true. But even if it were true, when did it become bad that people surveyed their list of choices, and then decided to join the military? They see opportunities to get ahead--just the same as someone who attends community college. It is typical of liberal condescension that they look down on those who, without a trust fund, do what they can to get educated and get ahead.

Back to Berry.

Mr. Berry's experience, highlighted wonderfully in an article in the Salt Lake Tribune by Patrick Kinahan (hat tip: Matt Lybbert), shows perfectly that even the "advantaged" are joining the military--and for purely virtuous reasons. Just because some liberals don't include patriotism in their list of priorities, doesn't make those who volunteer irrational.

The recently deceased Milton Friedman made a passionate case for an all-volunteer army. He surmised, based on economic research, that an all volunteer army would most effectively and efficiently allocate the nation's manpower. Sure, many would join because it gave them economic opportunities. So what? Others like Mr. Berry join because they are patriots. Whatever the motivation, these young men and women are hardly stupid or ignorant for joining. They aren't being duped.

Mr. Berry lists among his many accomplishments being a former BYU QB who graduated with a degree in history. He even wrote for this blog(!). He was also a co-founder of Consource where he worked with Justices Sandra Day O'Connor and others (Justice Scalia) to make primary source documents relating to the creation of the Constitution available online to everyone. After completing basic training and officer candidate's school, Mr. Berry intends to pursue a graduate degree.

And Mr. Berry is hardly an anomaly. There are others like him. When we spoke with him just before leaving for basic, he mentioned that there were several others in his induction group who had families, were older, and had degrees. These volunteers were established. They hardly fit the profile of young, ignorant, uneducated, minorities like Mr. Rangel would like you to believe.


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23 November 2006

Happy Thanksgiving III

The Stuff of Democratic Life
By Allen Guelzo

On Nov. 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln delivered the dedication remarks at the opening ceremonies of a cemetery for soldiers of the Civil War in Gettysburg, Pa. This "Gettysburg Address" -- a gem-like model of conciseness, passion and political eloquence -- quickly became a fixed feature of McGuffey's Eclectic Readers and triple-decker Fourth of July orations, even the soundtrack of the first "talking" motion picture in 1922. It was read once again to dedicate a block of burnt earth in Manhattan during the solemn first anniversary of 9/11 at Ground Zero.

Lincoln wrote a great many other memorable speeches, from his two inaugural addresses to the proclamation that, a week after the Gettysburg Address, made Thanksgiving a national holiday. Why was the Gettysburg speech so much more important? The answer would be easier if his words had not become so worn with familiarity. Time has done more than just heal the wounds of the Civil War. It has grown moss over prose that captured, in a shorter compass and with greater power than any others, the three fundamental challenges of the American experiment.

In 1863, the United States was the only significant democracy in the world. The French Revolution had drowned itself in blood; the democratic uprisings of the 1820s and 1840s had been easily and successfully repressed by kings and emperors; and everywhere, it was power and hierarchy rather than liberty and equality which seemed the best guarantee of peace and plenty. Americans remained the one people who defined themselves by a natural proposition, that all men are created equal, so that no one was born with a superior entitlement to command.

But this republic of equal citizens had two basic weaknesses. The first was its tolerance of slavery, which drew the line of race across the line of equality. The second weakness was the question of authority in a democracy. In a society where every citizen's opinion carried equal weight, decisions would have to be made by majority rule. But a citizen whose opinion carries such weight might find it difficult to submit to the countervailing vote of a majority which thinks differently, and the result is likely to be a simple truculent refusal to go along. Refusals make for resistance, and resistance makes for civil war. Is there, Lincoln asked in 1861, some deep flaw in popular government, some weird centripetal force, which inevitably condemns popular government to whirl itself into pieces "and thus practically put an end to free government upon the earth"?

To that question, every king and autocrat in 1861 -- and every fuehrer, duce and president-for-life since -- has answered, smirkingly, yes. And the American Civil War looked like the chief evidence that this was so. Which is why, as Lincoln looked out across the thousands who had gathered on that November day, it seemed to him that what he was viewing was more than just another noteworthy battlefield. It had fallen to him to argue that the Civil War signaled not a failure, but a test, to determine once and for all whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure.

We pass this test, Lincoln said, not by dedicating cemeteries, but by dedicating ourselves. That dedication lies first in seeing that equality is an imposition of self-restraint. It means refusing to lay upon the backs of others the burdens we do not wish laid on our own. Slavery was an outrage on the notion of equality, not just because it treated members of a different race as unequal, but because it allowed one race to exploit another without any restraint at all. "As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master," Lincoln explained in 1858. "This expresses my idea of democracy." Popular government is not about what we want, or about our demands for ourselves, but what we should not want and not demand of others.

Dedication lies, second, in the enforcement of self-restraint. Democracy is a discipline. One cannot opt out on the plea of liberty whenever the political score goes against us. The Southern secessionists imagined that they were protecting their liberty by seceding from the Union, but they were in fact negating it. Secession, Lincoln argued, was the essence of anarchy, not liberty, since the only liberty the secessionists had in mind was the liberty to do what they pleased, without restraint, and to people whom they deemed unequal. Against that, a democracy must take up the sword, or cease to be a democracy at all.

But dedication also comes, third, in understanding how to sustain a fervor for democracy's defense. It was the complaint of Francis Fukuyama that the triumph of democracy had only managed to produce a "last man" who had no other reason for being free than the satisfaction of his own interests. It was Lincoln's words at Gettysburg which invested the triumph of democracy with a transcendent meaning, as a good based on natural law rather than on personal comfort. It was because these honored dead were witnesses to that kind of democracy that we could take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.

The turn of the 9/11 ceremonies to the Gettysburg Address was instinctively correct. But Lincoln's words are more than just a tonic for crises. Self-restraint, self-enforcement and the recollection that democracy has a transcendent core arching far above our poor power to add or detract -- these are the stuff of democratic life, and the Gettysburg Address is the reminder of Lincoln's prescription for government of the people, by the people and for the people. If we forget it, it may be because we have forgotten all the other things that democracy demands.

Mr. Guelzo is the Henry R. Luce Professor of the Civil War Era at Gettysburg College and the author, inter alia, of "Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: The End of Slavery in America" (Simon and Schuster, 2004).

Happy Thanksgiving II

And the Fair Land

Any one whose labors take him into the far reaches of the country, as ours lately have done, is bound to mark how the years have made the land grow fruitful.

This is indeed a big country, a rich country, in a way no array of figures can measure and so in a way past belief of those who have not seen it. Even those who journey through its Northeastern complex, into the Southern lands, across the central plains and to its Western slopes can only glimpse a measure of the bounty of America.

And a traveler cannot but be struck on his journey by the thought that this country, one day, can be even greater. America, though many know it not, is one of the great underdeveloped countries of the world; what it reaches for exceeds by far what it has grasped.

So the visitor returns thankful for much of what he has seen, and, in spite of everything, an optimist about what his country might be. Yet the visitor, if he is to make an honest report, must also note the air of unease that hangs everywhere.

For the traveler, as travelers have been always, is as much questioned as questioning. And for all the abundance he sees, he finds the questions put to him ask where men may repair for succor from the troubles that beset them.

His countrymen cannot forget the savage face of war. Too often they have been asked to fight in strange and distant places, for no clear purpose they could see and for no accomplishment they can measure. Their spirits are not quieted by the thought that the good and pleasant bounty that surrounds them can be destroyed in an instant by a single bomb. Yet they find no escape, for their survival and comfort now depend on unpredictable strangers in far-off corners of the globe.

How can they turn from melancholy when at home they see young arrayed against old, black against white, neighbor against neighbor, so that they stand in peril of social discord. Or not despair when they see that the cities and countryside are in need of repair, yet find themselves threatened by scarcities of the resources that sustain their way of life. Or when, in the face of these challenges, they turn for leadership to men in high places -- only to find those men as frail as any others.

So sometimes the traveler is asked whence will come their succor. What is to preserve their abundance, or even their civility? How can they pass on to their children a nation as strong and free as the one they inherited from their forefathers? How is their country to endure these cruel storms that beset it from without and from within?

Of course the stranger cannot quiet their spirits. For it is true that everywhere men turn their eyes today much of the world has a truly wild and savage hue. No man, if he be truthful, can say that the specter of war is banished. Nor can he say that when men or communities are put upon their own resources they are sure of solace; nor be sure that men of diverse kinds and diverse views can live peaceably together in a time of troubles.

But we can all remind ourselves that the richness of this country was not born in the resources of the earth, though they be plentiful, but in the men that took its measure. For that reminder is everywhere -- in the cities, towns, farms, roads, factories, homes, hospitals, schools that spread everywhere over that wilderness.

We can remind ourselves that for all our social discord we yet remain the longest enduring society of free men governing themselves without benefit of kings or dictators. Being so, we are the marvel and the mystery of the world, for that enduring liberty is no less a blessing than the abundance of the earth.

And we might remind ourselves also, that if those men setting out from Delftshaven had been daunted by the troubles they saw around them, then we could not this autumn be thankful for a fair land.

Happy Thanksgiving

We've thought a lot about what we might post on Thanksgiving but after our marathon Sports Review yesterday, we just don't have the creative energy left to write anything half-way decent.

Thankfully (it is Thanksgiving, after all) our brother Matt sent us a link to a couple fantastic Thanksgiving articles from the Wall Street Journal. We will reproduce them here in their entirety and heartily recommend them to you all, dear readers.
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The Desolate Wilderness

Here beginneth the chronicle of those memorable circumstances of the year 1620, as recorded by Nathaniel Morton, keeper of the records of Plymouth Colony, based on the account of William Bradford, sometime governor thereof:

So they left that goodly and pleasant city of Leyden, which had been their resting-place for above eleven years, but they knew that they were pilgrims and strangers here below, and looked not much on these things, but lifted up their eyes to Heaven, their dearest country, where God hath prepared for them a city (Heb. XI, 16), and therein quieted their spirits. [Desolate Wilderness]

When they came to Delfs-Haven they found the ship and all things ready, and such of their friends as could not come with them followed after them, and sundry came from Amsterdam to see them shipt, and to take their leaves of them. One night was spent with little sleep with the most, but with friendly entertainment and Christian discourse, and other real expressions of true Christian love.

The next day they went on board, and their friends with them, where truly doleful was the sight of that sad and mournful parting, to hear what sighs and sobs and prayers did sound amongst them; what tears did gush from every eye, and pithy speeches pierced each other's heart, that sundry of the Dutch strangers that stood on the Key as spectators could not refrain from tears. But the tide (which stays for no man) calling them away, that were thus loath to depart, their Reverend Pastor, falling down on his knees, and they all with him, with watery cheeks commended them with the most fervent prayers unto the Lord and His blessing; and then with mutual embraces and many tears they took their leaves one of another, which proved to be the last leave to many of them.

Being now passed the vast ocean, and a sea of troubles before them in expectations, they had now no friends to welcome them, no inns to entertain or refresh them, no houses, or much less towns, to repair unto to seek for succour; and for the season it was winter, and they that know the winters of the country know them to be sharp and violent, subject to cruel and fierce storms, dangerous to travel to known places, much more to search unknown coasts.

Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wilde beasts and wilde men? and what multitudes of them there were, they then knew not: for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to Heaven) they could have but little solace or content in respect of any outward object; for summer being ended, all things stand in appearance with a weatherbeaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hew.

If they looked behind them, there was a mighty ocean which they had passed, and was now as a main bar or gulph to separate them from all the civil parts of the world.

22 November 2006

an angst filled Sports Review!

This is a new thing here at OL&L. In the past sports and pop culture frequently found their way into our posts. In the new round of posting that began a couple weeks before the midterm election, most everything has been political. And to be completely honest, we're getting a little bored by non-stop politics.

So this will be the first in what may become a "Weekly Sports Review"--a weekly survey of some of our favorite teams in sports. It will primarily deal with BYU Football and Basketball, and the Seattle Seahawks, Sonics, and Mariners. These are our five favorite teams. Occasionally the UW, WSU (Washington State, not Weber), and Gonzaga may also merit mention--usually only when the first five teams are sucking and we have to look somewhere, anywhere for a new bandwagon.
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BYU Basketball

We've stayed up till the wee hours of the morning to listen to the first two games of the season on ksl.com and have the sleep-deprived headaches to prove it. The Cougars lost the first gameon the road against UCLA and according to the Greg Wrubell and news accounts the day after, BYU had no one to blame but themselves. They stayed in the game and even went up by as many as 9 points in the first half despite attempting committing huge amounts of turnovers. The stat line at the end of the game showed BYU attempted 11 fewer field goals than BYU. This is due largely to two things: turnovers and poor offensive rebounding. The Cougars turned the ball over 23 times to 13 by UCLA. UCLA dominated offensive rebounds 14 to 3.

That's the game right there.

That said, it does not help that UCLA gets additional help from the officials. The Cougars made 7 of 10 free throws while the Bruins hit 21 of 30. In other words, officials called BYU for 3x as many fouls as the Bruins. This sort of homecooking makes winning the game nearly impossible. Probably the best example of this differential is found in the Bruins gameplan against Trent Plaisted. They went after him early and often and the officials obliged their efforts. By getting him to commit early fouls (ticky-tack or otherwise) they effectively neutralized him and in so doing, put BYU's best rebounder, post player, scorer, etc. on the bench.

Now, this game is old news but it is important because this is exactly the sort of gameplan you will see executed against BYU again and again this season. It should be familiar because it was the same one that played out all year last year. Get Mr. Plaisted out and the rest of the team falls apart. The Cougars can't control the officiating but they can rebound better and take care of the ball. And Mr. Plaisted has got to find a way to stay in the game.
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BYU Football

Is the Cougar resurgence and our absence from Provo a coincidence? We hope so. We've personally attended 5 games between BYU and Utah: '99 in Provo, 2002 @Utah, '03 in Provo, '04 @ Utah, and '05 in Provo. All of those games were losses for BYU. Well, to appease the football gods, we're staying in London for this game and limiting our participation to ksl.com internet radio. On a side note, many thanks to KSL for providing this service. To listen to Seattle area teams we had to shell out hard earned cash and listened to the Seahawks get it handed to them by the 49ers.

The 2002-'04 losses to Utah seemed to have a common thread--Utah seemed to want to win more than BYU did. Of course there were those on the BYU side who played hard--Curtis Brown is one example--but as a whole, BYU seemed to care about the game less than the Utes. This may have something to do with the fact that Utah just cares more about this rivalry than BYU does. And there may be something to this argument. As a native of the state of Washington, we don't really understand all the ins and outs of the rivalry and how it extends into local high schools and involves (or doesn't) religion and politics and on and on. There are are more Utah natives on the Ute roster. They were born and raised in this rivalry while many BYU players hailing from California, Arizona, Washington, etc., are more familiar with the rivalries in their own home states. Maybe this is the reason they don't care as much. It doesn't hold the longtime meaning for them that it does for the players from the school to the north. Players and coaches have mentioned to the media that they think that last year they were too fired up and somehow this caused them to come out flat and fall behind the Utes forcing a furious comeback in the second half. Whatever.

BYU is solid on both sides of the ball this year. Yes, the defense is improved but some of this improvement is due to the fact that they didn't face Notre Dame and the Mountain West as a whole is experiencing something of a down year. We're still bothered that BYU got beat by BCS lightweights Arizona and Boston College. We think the team is good. But what, exactly, do you point to in order to prove your point? A good record against mediocre teams in the Mountain West? Numbers inflated by playing bad defenses? Ditto for defense? The only way BYU is ever going to get any national credibility whatsoever is by pounding crummy non-conference BCS teams and then beating a decent team in a bowl game. Unfortunately this year, it doesn't look as though the Pac-10 will oblige. They have SC and Cal and then a whole bunch of teams that beat up on each other and even the Trojans and Golden Bears aren't as tough as in past years. Consider this: the Pac-10 has been so medium, it's conceivable BYU could have a rematch against Arizona. Give us a break. With any luck Oregon will fall into the #4 slot and we'll get all the inevitable drama from the Crowton vs. BYU matchup. That's about the best BYU fans can hope for this year.

Finally, congrats to Curtis Brown on the rushing record. The last two years we've called again and again for BYU to get the ball to CB and this year they did it and they've won consistently. Less noted is the fact that Mr. Brown leads the team in receptions. He is the consummate team player. He has never complained about losing carris to Fui Vakapuna and has been consistent in placing team goals (just win, baby) over personal goals like the BYU rushing record.

Last year we predicted that BYU would win the conference championship
. Vindication is always nice. But that vindication will be hollow if BYU doesn't take care of business against Utah. Regardless of record, this game always seems to be hard fought. We may be in a minority of one, but we'd take pounding Utah over the conference championship.

Moving along.
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If we were the Tuesday Morning Quarterback aka, Gregg Easterbrook, and conservative (rather than liberal/populist like him), we'd insert an aside here about how the protectionism suggested by some Democrats is stupid because it hurts Americans in terms of cost of living and also job creation. We'd argue that people worried about outsourcing of thousands of jobs ignore the tens of thousands of jobs that are created as a result. But of course, Mr. Easterbrook doesn't have to fit his cute little sociopoliticaleconomic observations inside of economic reality. It's easy to criticize Wal-mart ad nauseum as he does if one simply ignores all relevant economic data regarding the positive impact Wal-Mart's business practices have on America.
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Seahawks

Thanks to the cold blooded kicking of Josh Brown, The Seahawks have a winning record. If Mr. Brown misses those three field goals, the 'Hawks could be staring 3-7 in the face and people would be talking about the curse of the Super Bowl losers. We like Bill Simmons theory better. Basically it holds that official intervention led to a Steelers win but that the football gods ignore these outcomes and curse the team that should have lost the Super Bowl--the Steelers. A quick check of their record would confirm the basic assumptions of this theory.

Mike Holmgren has a different take on the Madden Curse that seems to have afflicted Shaun Alexander, keeping him out of games until last week's loss to San Francisco. Mr. Holmgren believes that being on the cover of the game does not make one more susceptible to injuries but that being on the cover makes players higher profile and encourages every team to take extra shots at the high profile Madden coverboy--in this case, Mr. Alexander. It doesn't help that Mr. Alexander plays for a team that won the NFC and made it to the Super Bowl. That type of streak puts a big bullseye on the collective team's back and encourages everybody to take their best shot.

And the Seahawks have had the injuries to prove it. Walt Jones, all-world left tackle has been hobbled by injuries all year. Floyd Womack, starting left guard and Steve Hutchinson replacement has been out. Robbie Tobeck dealt first with shoulder surgery and then a flu that has cost him two games and lots of weight and strength. Chris Gray is old, but reliable, thank goodness. Sean Locklear was suspended one game for substance abuse and has missed the last two with a high ankle sprain. And that's just the offensive line. Matt Hasselbeck has missed four games (we already talked about Mr. Alexander), backup TE Itula Mili has been injured, Jerramy Stevens missed the first few games, came back, and promptly sucked it up. the WRs have been solid and are definitely the strength of the team. Darrel Jackson leads the league in receiving touchdowns with 8. Deion Branch, Superbowl MVP, lines up on the other side and is better than solid. They have missed Bobby Engram who is on this team because all he does is convert 3rd downs. He's not fast and he's not big but he gets open and he always, always (except for that 2004 playoff game against the Rams) catches the ball. He has been missed.

The defense has no such excuses. They were good last year and with the addition of Julian Peterson, they should have been Top 5--at least Top 10. Instead they're hovering somewhere between Cleveland and Atlanta. Seriously, there is no excuse for this defense. Rather than improving or even holding constant, they have regressed. The only good statistic for this squad is that they are second in the league in sacks with 35. All that does is tell you that every once in a while they decide they are going to play so they can get the sexy sack and the rest of the time they are just kind of there. Frank Gore is good, but the Seahawks made him look like LaDainian Tomlinson. And speaking of LT, the Seahawks better hope that one of two things happens before they play the Chargers in Week 16--either they get their act together or the Chargers have homefield advantage locked up and sit all of their starters. Even then, Michael Turner might run all over the 'Hawks defense.

Enough with the doom and gloom. Mike Holmgren remains one of the best coaches in the NFL. He has a proven track record as head coach in Green Bay and Seattle. He was an effective assistant in San Francisco. Once the Seahawks get players back from injury the offense will start the click and take some of the pressure off of the defense. Plus, on the postive side, it's not as though the defense is getting beat because they lack the talent. They are in position, they are simply not make tackles. This is an easily correctable problem.

Watch for the Seahawks to win this week against a crummy Packers team and go on a run. They will win the NFC West (not saying much, we know) and make a run in the playoffs. The elements are there to get it done.
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Sonics

Writing about our favorite Seattle sports teams gets progressively more depressing as we go down the list.

The Sonics are 5-7 in their 40th year in Seattle but face the prospect of moving to Oklahoma City at the end of the year barring some plan to build them a new arena. We've read everything we can about this problem and are convinced that the current situation at Key Arena wont work. The Sonics can't make money the way things are now. But this doesn't necessarily mean that they deserve a corporate handout. So the Seahawks and Mariners got sweet stadiums built for them thanks to the taxpayers, so what? Does this mean that Seattle (Washington really, as the taxes affect more than just King County) should build a stadium for every professional sports team that wants one in Seattle. And how long, exactly, before either of the first two teams--Mariners, Seahawks--come looking for more, for another stadium. Are the current ones good for ten years, 20?

This issues raises a whole other set of questions. Should profession sports be run like a business? If it is to be run as a business, should it be run as one that is profitable from year to year or only profitable upon sale of the team. Coffee Tycoon Howard Schultz and the rest of his ownership group insisted that they lost millions of dollars, but then they sold the Sonics for $350 million. That's $150 million more than the $200 million they spent five years earlier. Granted, some of the purchase price was an assumption of debt, but still, did they or didn't they make money on the transaction?

We believe that owning a professional sports team should fall somewhere between business and hobby. We buy ski equipment from year to year and enjoy it immensely but we don't expect to make a profit off of it. Of course professional sports aren't the same as a hobby like skiing, but we don't believe they should be treated like an out and out business either.

We love the Sonics and follow them daily. Growing up, we followed the Sonics teams of Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp and unwisely bet our uncle when they played the Bulls in the NBA Championship. We attended a game versus the Kings during the 2005 playoffs and the Key Arena (the Sonics current venue) was rockin'. It is a great place to watch games. We don't want the Sonics to leave but we don't want to build the Sonics a several hundred million dollar arena at little to no cost to the team either.

This Sonics team has a lot of potential. They have Ray Allen. Rashard Lewis looks ready to be a perennial All-Star. Luke Ridnour is finally coming into his own. Chris Wilcox is ready to break out. Bob Hill seems to be a good coach. and 12 games plus his run to end the year is not enough to judge. Give the Sonics the month of December and then we'll talk about the direction of the team. They need to go on a run like the Mariners circa 1995 to have a chance at persuading the public to build them something new. We hope it happens. In the meantime, we'll be watching their games on the foxsports.com gamecast.
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Mariners

Talk about a dissappointment. We love the Mariners. But for the last three years, this love has been unrequited.

We are an admitted believer in the Moneyball approach. This wasn't a book just about the importance of OPS (on base percentage + slugging percentage) but a book about finding value where others didn't. That's the lesson of Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics. Ever year people say, "well, this is the year they are finally going to eat it," and every year, they win. They win because Beane is able to identify value and acquire it and because he is good at making a deal.

A few years ago the Mariners had an outside shot at getting Billy Beane. Whether it was money or partial ownership or whatever, missing out on getting him as GM was the biggest single Mariners personnel mistake in the last decade. Forget about losing Griffey (that one still hurts) or A-Rod or Randy Johnson. If the Mariners had gotten Mr. Beane they wouldn't have wasted time and money on Jeff Cirillo or Scott Spiezio. Instead of signing Carl Everett the Mariners might have gotten Frank Thomas. Seriously Bill Bavasi (current M's GM), how do you sign Carl Everett over Frank Thomas in any year? The A's paid less and got way, way more from Mr. Thomas. Mr. Bavasi is loved by the old school baseball establishment. Which is to say, he resists against the grain evaluation that might give him an advantage.

If the Mariners were smart, they would pay free agent pitcher Barry Zito whatever he wants and then get some cheap back of the rotation pitcher or promote from within. If they are serious about pursuing Jason Schmidt then Mr. Bavasi will prove himself to be the fool we think he is. Schmidt is the classic National League player who has a decent (not good) ERA and barely wins more than he loses--IN THE NATIONAL LEAGUE WEST. The NL west is baseball's worst division. One more time, Mr. Schmidt went 11-9 in baseball's worst division. Mr. Zito, on the other hand, went 16-10 with a 3.83 ERA in the American League in a division with (minus the M's) good offenses. He will be younger--28 vs. 34--and is left handed. It's important to note that of the Big 3, Zito is the one Mr. Beane kept. And he would keep him again this year except that Mr. Zito will price himself out of the A's range. But not the Mariners. The Mariners can afford him.

The issue of the Mariner's payroll is another issue that irks about this team. When they announce what they will pay their players in a given year, they say, 'well, it's going to stay about the same.' And stupid sportswriters let them get away with it. In 2001 the Mariners supposedly bumped their payroll to about $90 million. And then it stayed the same for the next four years. Is there a sportswriter in the city of Seattle who has heard of inflation?

Assuming they adjusted 2.5% per year for inflation, to keep things the same, their budget should have gone to $92,250,000 in '02, $94,556,250 in '03, $96,920,156.25 in '04, $99, 343,160.16 last year, and $101,826,739.16.

We understand that the numbers clubs release are just projected budgets, but should sportswriters at least make them be honest about those numbers. Rather than saying, "we're going to keep the same number as last year--$90 million," can't someone say, "well, that $90 million isn't the same $90 million it was back in 2001, now it's worth far less. You are, in fact, deceiving fans by telling them that your budget is the same."

Please Mr. Bavasi, spend the money to get Barry Zito.


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20 November 2006

Best. Bond. Ever.

By Morgan Habedank, Guest Film Critic

I have never been a huge Bond fan. I think I am too young to have understood and appreciated the mystique associated with Sean Connery in Dr. No or Roger Moore in The Spy Who Loved Me. The Bond movies of my era – the Pierce Brosnan era - have been very forgettable. Of the four titles from this era, Goldeneye is the only one that sparks any emotion. And sadly enough, this emotion has absolutely no connection to the film itself. In fact, I have never seen Goldeneye and I have absolutely zero desire to ever see it. Instead, the emotion is derived from the many, many, many hours spent huddled around a small television in a stinky dorm room with 15 other dudes playing pistols, licensed to kill, in the basement. The fondest memory being the controversial finish to a round late one evening which led to a rollicking fist-fight culminated by the arrival of BYU’s Finest.

When I first heard that MGM was releasing another Bond title my first reaction was one of ambivalence. Then I heard that Daniel Craig was attached and my interest was instantly piqued. I have had a semi-man-crush on Daniel Craig ever since seeing him in the excellent British gangster thriller Layer Cake. But even then, my interest was still just piqued. I wasn’t insisting on seeing it opening night. As the release date approached I began to hear rumblings that Casino Royale was going to be the re-birth of the franchise. Gone were the exploding watches and invisible cars. Cheesy innuendo and over-the-top special effects were being replaced by gritty action and inner turmoil. After hearing these rumors I actually began to get a little excited. I am a sucker for gritty action which involves characters with depth, i.e. Jason Bourne.

And then I saw the trailer. I was left breathless and on the edge of my seat. I couldn’t even concentrate on the actual feature at hand. All I could think about was the gritty opening sequence to the trailer. The piercing blue eyes of Daniel Craig. The haunting voice over of M. I was hooked. And I was shocked. I was actually excited to see a Bond movie.

And let me tell you, I was not disappointed. For those of you who have read my reviews in the past, you know that the key to an enjoyable viewing experience for me is to feel some sort of emotion while watching the film. I need to be “sucked in.” Well, the opening sequence was phenomenal. A gritty, emotional, glimpse into Bond’s inner psyche and how he became a double 0. The opening sequence was then followed by an excellent parkour based foot chase which was culminated by a fantastic shoot-out/stand-off. Much of this scene was stolen from District B13 and was not quite as exciting. I would have done the editing differently to ratchet up the intensity but I am not complaining. I was on the edge of my seat and locked in from that point on.

I don’t want to spoil the movie for anybody so I will simply say that this movie has a little something for both the men and the ladies. There is action and intrigue as well as gambling for the men. Also, one of the best movie villains I have seen in a long time. And for the ladies, well Daniel Craig takes his shirt off multiple times (and now my semi- man-crush is now a full-on man-crush). Plus, the story surrounding Bond and his love interest is developed very nicely. If you and that special someone are looking for an enjoyable evening at the local Cineplex then Casino Royale is the perfect choice. Neither party will be disappointed.

With that being said, the movie was not without its flaws in my opinion. With a few minor changes, one of which was mentioned above, this movie could go from a solid A to an A+ in my opinion. Without giving anything away, I would have modified the poker scenes and changed a few things about the last 15 minutes. If you would like to know what these minor modifications would have been, just shoot me an email and I would be happy to discuss them with you.

Finally, a word of caution for the faint of heart, there is a very awkward yet intense torture scene towards the end. Consider yourself warned.

19 November 2006

Web Picks

Every week we receive numerous emails including links to interesting articles and websites. Rather than make you all spend hours surfing the web, we figured we'd make it easy on you and list a few of them here for your weekly consumption. Enjoy.

The Haka
(hat tip: SJL)

Count us among those who love to watch the BYU Football team perform the Haka before each game. The Wall Street Journal reported this week about the Trinity Trojans High School football team which performs this native Maori war dance before each football game. The article is good, but we agree with our old man who notes that the WSJ missed the extent of this story. A simple Youtube search shows that high schools and colleges across the country are performing the Haka.

Let 'em Eat Cake
(hat tip: again, SJL)

If you're in NYC or plan to visit soon, be sure to try a piece of Junior's Most Fabulous Cheesecakes.

Blend This
(hat tip: again, SJL)

This Deseret News article reports on an Orem blender-making company that developed a brilliant ad campaign that features one of its inventors blending all sorts of crazy things. Click here to see them blend coke cans, golf balls, and marbles.

We've already put in a request for one of these blenders to Santa and extracted a promise from our brother Matt to make more of his world famous malts.

Visit the UK, cheap
(hat tip: TTL)

Travel to Europe during the Fall-Winter-Spring is far cheaper than during the Summer and this website will help you find the cheapest air fares possible.

i am a WOLF!
(hat tip: Morgan Habedank)

"Do you know what a crazy deal is little boy? Yes, it's a wolf." And it's also beyond hilarious. This humorous advertisement gets funnier each time we watch it. Thanks Morgan.

Most of these web picks come courtesy of our old man, who like us, enjoys spending countless hours surfing the web. We encourage anyone and everyone to submit suggestions for this weekly feature.


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16 November 2006

Milton Friedman, R.I.P.

Milton Friedman, world renowned economist and champion of political and economic freedom passed away this afternoon. He will be missed.

We never met Mr. Friedman, but we took an economics course from one of his former students while at Brigham Young University. His course was heavily influenced by the Chicago School of economic thought and many of his ideas about markets influence the editorial opinion of this blog. We are incredibly grateful to our econ professor and Mr. Friedman.

In light of the debates about redistribution of wealth we thought it would be worthwhile to reproduce selections from some of Mr. Friedman's influential contributions to economics. (hat tip: WSJ)

**Update: Scroll to the end for video footage of Milton Friedman teaching economics, and more.

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Capitalism and Freedom

[A free economy] gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.

The existence of a free market does not of course eliminate the need for government. On the contrary, government is essential both as a forum for determining the "rules of the game" and as an umpire to interpret and enforce the rules decided on. What the market does is to reduce greatly the range of issues that must be decided through political means, and thereby to minimize the extent to which government need participate directly in the game. The characteristic feature of action through political channels is that it tends to require or enforce substantial conformity. The great advantage of the market, on the other hand, is that it permits wide diversity. It is, in political terms, a system of proportional representation. Each man can vote, as it were, for the color of tie he wants and get it; he does not have to see what color-the majority wants and then, if he is in the minority, submit.

It is this feature of the market that we refer to when we say that the market provides economic freedom. But this characteristic also has implications that go far beyond the narrowly economic. Political freedom means the absence of coercion of a man by his fellow men. The fundamental threat to freedom is power to coerce, be it in the hands of a monarch, a dictator, an oligarchy, or a momentary majority. The preservation of freedom requires the elimination of such concentration of power to the fullest possible extent and the dispersal and distribution of whatever power cannot be eliminated -- a system of checks and balances. By removing the organization of economic activity from the control of political authority, the market eliminates this source of coercive power. It enables economic strength to be a check to political power rather than a reinforcement.

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Free to Choose
(and from the PBS series)

The two ideas of human freedom and economic freedom working together came to their greatest fruition in the United States. Those ideas are still very much with us. We are all of us imbued with them. They are part of the very fabric of our being. But we have been straying from them. We have been forgetting the basic truth that the greatest threat to human freedom is the concentration of power, whether in the hands of government or anyone else. We have persuaded ourselves that it is safe to grant power, provided it is for good reasons…

We have persuaded ourselves that it is safe to grant power, provided it is for good reasons. Fortunately, we are waking up. We are again recognizing the dangers of an overgoverned society, coming to understand that good objectives can be perverted by bad means, that reliance on the freedom of people to control their own lives in accordance with their own values is the surest way to achieve the full potential of a great society…

When the law contradicts what most people regard as moral and proper, they will break the law -- whether the law is enacted in the name of a noble ideal ... or in the naked interest of one group at the expense of another. Only fear of punishment, not a sense of justice and morality, will lead people to obey the law. When people start to break one set of laws, the lack of respect for the law inevitably spreads to all laws, even those that everyone regards as moral and proper - laws against violence, theft, and vandalism…

Self-interest is not myopic selfishness. It is whatever it is that interests the participants, whatever they value, whatever goals they pursue. The scientist seeking to advance the frontiers of his discipline, the missionary seeking to convert infidels to the true faith, the philanthropist seeking to bring comfort to the needy -- all are pursuing their interests, as they see them, as they judge them by their own values.

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On the Bush Tax Cuts
(subscription required)

The tax cuts did favor the rich because the top 1% of taxpayers pay a disproportionate amount of taxes. You can't give tax relief to those who don't pay a lot of tax. This is not a bad thing. What in fact do the rich do with their money? They can only consume a limited amount. In practice they end up either investing it or giving it away.

Some people say that those in the middle and low tax brackets are more likely to spend any tax relief they get, giving the economy a stimulus.

Well, that's a different argument and I do not accept it. It's very dubious. The tax cut may lead people to spend more, but that is offset by those who have less to spend because they buy the bonds to finance the deficit. In my opinion, we had a mild recession not because of the tax cuts but because of the Fed. Its expansionary monetary policy is the primary reason for the shallow recession. I do not believe that fiscal policy played a big role.

My support for tax cuts is not only on the supply side. I think the real problem is government spending… Where did you get the Clinton surpluses? They were the result of less legislation and less spending. When that gridlock was broken, many items had accumulated on the agenda and were put through.

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Free Lunch

I have sometimes been associated with the aphorism "There's no such thing as a free lunch," which I did not invent. I wish more attention were paid to one that I did invent, and that I think is particularly appropriate in this city [Washington], "Nobody spends somebody else's money as carefully as he spends his own." But all aphorisms are half-truths. One of our favorite family pursuits on long drives is to try to find the opposite of aphorisms. For example, "History never repeats itself," but "There's nothing new under the sun." Or "look before you leap," but "He who hesitates is lost." The opposite of "There's no such thing as a free lunch" is clearly "The best things in life are free."

And in the real economic world, there is a free lunch, an extraordinary free lunch, and that free lunch is free markets and private property. Why is it that on one side of an arbitrary line there was East Germany and on the other side there was West Germany with such a different level of prosperity? It was because West Germany had a system of largely free, private markets - a free lunch. The same free lunch explains the difference between Hong Kong and mainland China, and the prosperity of the United States and Great Britain.

**Update: A few video links of Mr. Friedman explaining economic principles. (hat tip: Mary Katharine Ham)

Power of the Market: Parable of the Pencil
Four Ways to Spend Money

"the best case for limited government ever made" (hat tip: Allahpundit)

And finally, a link to the Milton Friedman Choir (hat tip: The American Mind)


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Romney Watch

In January of last year we wrote a column about the unlikelihood of Mitt Romney winning the Presidency. Much of our doubt was based on the MSM spin that the Religious Right would never vote for a member of a "cult." Most recent reports seem to contradict our conclusions that Mr. Romney would be unable to make it past the primary.

National Review, perhaps the most widely read and influential magazine on conservative thought recently hosted a cruise for like-minded conservatives. Though not a Religious Right publication, many of their readers and contributors are influential in conservative circles. As part of the cruise they conducted an informal poll.
At a 2008 panel, Kate O'Beirne asked for a show of hands from our 450 cruisers on the major GOP presidential candidates. Romney clearly did best with about 2/3 of the crowd supporting him. My impression was that Giuliani was second, and McCain and Gingrich tied in distant third.
It goes without saying that a 2/3 super majority of staunch conservatives bodes well for presidential primaries where typically only the most fervent partisans turn out to vote.

In answer to the question of whether Evangelical conservatives would support a Mormon for President, Mr. Romney recently appeared on the Christian Broadcasting Network's 700 Club. His reception and review there were very positive. Click here to see video of his interview on youtube.com.

We haven't made up our mind about 2008, but we will certainly follow Mr. Romney's campaign with great interest.


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15 November 2006

Coming to a Campus Near You: On Life and Lybberty

Our brother pointed out to us earlier this week that for some reason, students accessing the internet using BYU computers were not allowed to visit lybberty.com. Initially we thought it may have been due to the somewhat critical posts about the firing of former BYUSA employee, Todd Hendricks (see also here). We reiterate that these were complaints about BYUSA--a blight on the campus of BYU--and not campus administration or the university itself. As it turned out, it was just an oversight. Thanks to the help of our friend and frequent commenter, Fernando Mladineo, that problem has now been resolved.

We will preempt Raisin by pointing out the obvious irony of BYU students being unable to access what is at least politically, a conservative blog. However, it's also worth nothing that where he thought he was debating a bunch of ignorant BYU students, he in fact was not.

A quick check of statcounter shows regular visitors from about 30 different states and 7 different countries--including the U.S. and Britain. After our couple month-long hiatus, it's nice to see the traffic pick back up. We appreciate your efforts in spreading the good word about On Life and Lybberty.


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14 November 2006

We Made Best of the Web!

Since the Spring of 2004 we've been subscribed to James Taranto's Best of the Web. His is a unique blog that is part survey of the web, part political commentary, with lots of humor added.

Mr. Taranto and BOTW first showed up here at OL&L in one of our now-defunct Top 10 lists. Since then we've drawn on his work numerous times.

Best of the Web draws on numerous sources for its web commentary and since our subscription (it's free!) we've submitted several suggestions, with no results. Today, while perusing One Cosmos, we came across a link to a particularly insane post by the moonbats over at dailykos. The kossacks make a living as the leading Angry Leftists so crazy stuff like this is normal fare--only this one comes from way, way out in left field.
Saddam [Hussein] had achieved almost universal adult literacy and Baghdadi meant "wealthy"in Arabic slang when his administration became a target for devastating sanctions and war. Lebanon had rebuilt a vibrant economy, drawing large numbers of sophisticated young professionals, when it was bombed back to the stone age this summer. Iran's educational progress and economic scale now invite our wrath and destruction.

Iran must be attacked soon to prevent it becoming an examplar [sic] of economic progress and a regional power, and the plan is to permanently impoverish Iranians by stealing their oil wealth. . . .

Iran has invested its oil wealth in universal education, healthcare, infrastructure bringing clean water and electricity to more than 98 percent of its people, and economic progress. . . . The social and economic achievements of the revolutionary regime in Iran in the past 25 years look quite progressive in reducing poverty and social inequalities. . . . Compared to rising inequality in the United States and Israel, ranked numbers one and two for social inequality among developed nations, the Iranians look pretty damn good.
So we copied and pasted the link into an email and shot it off to James Taranto and the rest of the Best of the Web crew.

If you look scroll down today's Best of the Web to subheading "Real or Satire," apparently Dean Barnett beat us to the punch and got the "hat tip." But if you scroll down some more and examine the credits at the end, you'll notice a name we hope becomes household--you guessed it, Jacob Lybbert.

We feel about how we imagine the assistant to the assistant to the food table preparer must feel on the set of the movie who goes to the theater only to see his name mentioned in size 6 font on the big screen after the guy who held the stunt double's cup of water.

But still, there it is. We made Best of the Web.


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Can't Get Enough Lieberman

While researching for yesterday's post, we came across an Op-Ed piece on Iraq written by Senator Joe Lieberman almost a year ago. Reviewing its contents, its amazing how prescient Senator Lieberman was in identifying some of the key issues. It should be clear from some of these quotes why we feel such a strong kinship with Senator Lieberman, despite our political differences.

On the importance of winning in Iraq:
It is a war between 27 million and 10,000; 27 million Iraqis who want to live lives of freedom, opportunity and prosperity and roughly 10,000 terrorists who are either Saddam revanchists, Iraqi Islamic extremists or al Qaeda foreign fighters who know their wretched causes will be set back if Iraq becomes free and modern. The terrorists are intent on stopping this by instigating a civil war to produce the chaos that will allow Iraq to replace Afghanistan as the base for their fanatical war-making. We are fighting on the side of the 27 million because the outcome of this war is critically important to the security and freedom of America. If the terrorists win, they will be emboldened to strike us directly again and to further undermine the growing stability and progress in the Middle East, which has long been a major American national and economic security priority.
A year later, and these primary issues have not changed. We continue to be on the side of 27 million Iraqis. Loss in Iraq will embolden terrorists and turn Iraq into the equivalent of Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

Whatever opinion polls you may read about the mindset of the Iraqi people, when the vote matters, they vote overwhelmingly for democracy.
Every time the 27 million Iraqis have been given the chance since Saddam was overthrown, they have voted for self-government and hope over the violence and hatred the 10,000 terrorists offer them.
Iraqi leaders are fearful that the latest election signaled a change in American commitment to success in the Middle East. Their worst fears are founded in the aftermath of Desert Storm when President Bush Sr. encouraged the Shiite majority attempted to overthrow Saddam and then ordered Schwarzkopf to stand down. The result: Saddam slaughtered the leaders of the uprising and then tortured and killed their families. We must not once again abandon Iraq to a similar fate.

American polls are notoriously difficult to interpret. Does the decline in President Bush's approval rating mean Americans want to get out of Iraq or that they simply believe that the current strategy needs to be changed? We've argued ad nauseum that most Americans support the war, but are frustrated with the current state of affairs. This last election--notably Senator Lieberman's re-election--seem to support this conclusion. There's not much question where Iraqi's stand, again, from Senator Lieberman:
Here is an ironic finding I brought back from Iraq. While U.S. public opinion polls show serious declines in support for the war and increasing pessimism about how it will end, polls conducted by Iraqis for Iraqi universities show increasing optimism. Two-thirds say they are better off than they were under Saddam, and a resounding 82% are confident their lives in Iraq will be better a year from now than they are today. What a colossal mistake it would be for America's bipartisan political leadership to choose this moment in history to lose its will and, in the famous phrase, to seize defeat from the jaws of the coming victory.
We know these poll numbers are almost a year old, but the recent numbers, while showing some decline, still indicate Iraqis feel better off now and are optimistic about the future.

As when Senator Lieberman visited Iraq, the Kurdish North remains free from violence as does the Shiite South. The attacks we read about are in the Sunni triangle--a relatively limited, but important, piece of land stretching from Baghdad to Tikrit to Ramadi. It may well be that the current strategies have failed there and new ideas are needed.

Or, it may be as we suspect, that terrorists and insurgents hope to exploit a weakening in American will and are stepping up violence as they did in the month leading up to the election. Either way, withdrawal before the Iraqi military and police are able to maintain security will not improve the situation. Even if you believe that Iraq was not the right fight, pulling out now will not make right your perceived wrong.

Senator Lieberman predicted that the situation in Iraq could be negatively affected by pressures of the now-passed election.
I am disappointed by Democrats who are more focused on how President Bush took America into the war in Iraq almost three years ago, and by Republicans who are more worried about whether the war will bring them down in next November's elections, than they are concerned about how we continue the progress in Iraq in the months and years ahead.
Most Republicans were "brought down" by corruption while Democrats ran on a platform that was light on constructive recommendation and heavy on "we're not Republicans." These attitudes wont be enough.

Democrats must now heed Senator Lieberman's recommendation and avoid making the next two years one large bully pulpit of criticism. We know they hate Bush and blame him and his cadre for all the worlds problems. Of course, we also remember that they too voted for the war. It's time now for them to face up to the responsibility that vote should have entailed and partner with Republicans to find a solution--one that leaves Iraq secure and America safe.


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13 November 2006

Lieberman: Making Us Proud

An article today from the Associated Press (hat tip: James Taranto) addressed the idea of Senator Lieberman switching parties.
Lieberman on Sunday repeated his pledge to caucus with Senate Democrats when the 110th Congress convenes in January, but refused to slam the door on possibly moving to the Republican side of the aisle.

Asked on NBC's "Meet the Press" if he might follow the example of Sen. Jim Jeffords of Vermont, who left the Republicans in 2001 and became an independent, ending Republican control of the U.S. Senate, Lieberman refused to discount the possibility.

"I'm not ruling it out but I hope I don't get to that point," he said. "And I must say--and with all respect to the Republicans who supported me in Connecticut--nobody ever said, 'We're doing this because we want you to switch over. We want you to do what you think is right and good for our state and country,' and I appreciate that." (emphasis added)
Senator Lieberman recognizes, as this blog has pointed out numerous times (here, here, here, and here), that he was elected over Lamont because of his ongoing support for the war in Iraq. People in Connecticut were given a choice between two candidates who are about equally liberal with the only discerning disagreement between the two being the war. Connecticut is a liberal state that was won by John Kerry. And they voted for a Senator who supports the war. We repeat again because some of you aren't listening: last week's election was not a call to bring the troops home. It was a justified reaction to corruption and perhaps mismanagement in Iraq. But it was not a call for immediate withdrawal.

If, as voters left their local polling places in Connecticut, they told interviewers that the most important issue driving their vote was Iraq and they voted for Lamont, we would be discouraged. This would have signaled that voters were electing people they thought would bring our troops home immediately.

But that wasn't what happened. They left their polling places, and told exit poll workers that the most important issue was corruption. Iraq was a close second. So, Republicans lose because of corruption and mismanagement. Liberal, pro-war Democrats like Lieberman beat liberal anti-war Democrats like Lamont and signal to us and everyone else that Americans want a change in Congress, but they recognize the importance of winning in Iraq.

And we hope that now Democrats will engage the war in a constructive way rather than the critical posture they adopted once things started looking bad. With any luck, dems follow the example of Joe Lieberman, rather than opportunists like John Murtha.

It's unfortunate that good men like Senators Santorum (a particularly outspoken leader in the War on Terror) and Talent and Senate hopeful Michael Steele lost, but we are relieved that it wasn't because Americans want to leave Iraq ASAP.

Even then, the numbers weren't that much of a landslide, as Time magazine blogger Mike Allen pointed out on the 10th of November (hat tip: Taranto, again):
The Republican National Committee has been pointing out that a small shift in votes would have made a big difference. A shift of 77,611 votes would have given Republicans control of the House, according to Bush's political team. And a shift of 2,847 votes in Montana, or 7,217 votes in Virginia, or 41,537 votes in Missouri would have given a Republicans control of the Senate.
But you wont find us shrieking for a recount a la Angry Left circa 2000, 2004, et al.

It's enough to know that the election wasn't the tsunamitidalwavemassiveshift of a vote as sold by the spinmeisters in the MSM.


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10 November 2006

After Action Report--don't pronounce the t

It's a busy day today but we didn't want to miss the chance to post a few links.

Leading off is a new website devoted to exploring the special relationship between Britain and America. BritainandAmerica.com seeks to explain each country's politics to the other. Because of the recent elections, the focus of the website has been on American politics. We occasionally attend a seminar on the history of Anglo-American relations. Watch for us to revisit this topic.

Yesterday while pouring over our website information at statcounter.com we came across the blog of an American clinical psychologist who opines and theorizes on American politics. From the conclusion of one of his recent posts:
One of the geniuses of the American system is that it accounts for both our civilized and our primitive natures. In holding national elections every two years, it provides an outlet for primitive anxieties that historically toppled regimes. In other words, it institutionalizes the logic of human sacrifice, which is stage four of the group fantasy cycle. Thus it is no coincidence that President Bush performed a human sacrifice and held up the head of Donald Rumsfeld to the baying MSM fantasists on the morning after the election. If you keep up with the ranting of the infantile left at dailykos or huffingtonpost, nothing less than some form of human sacrifice would have answered their homicidal rage. But one thing we can know with certainty: it won’t work, for magic is a symtom of that which it purports to cure.
We found several of his posts rather insightful but we understand that his writing wont appeal to everyone--for those of you who fancy yourselves intellectuals, enjoy!

Over at townhall.com Michael Medved (one of Raisin's favs) believes that popular assumptions about Red and Blue states are just flat wrong. He writes:
The media emphasis on regional differences always distorted reality but this election should force the permanent abandonment of the meaningless red/blue distinction. Montana, supposedly the reddest-of-red states, may well end up with a Democratic governor and two Democratic Senators. California, theoretically the bluest-of-blue states, not only re-elected its Republican governor in a landslide, but also appears poised to elevate GOP candidates (including some outspoken and cantankerous conservatives) to three or four other statewide offices. In Kansas, which gave Bush 64% in 2004, Democrats enjoyed sweeping victories, and so on. The definitive designation of an entire state as either “red” or “blue,” Republican or Democrat, ignores the impact of circumstances, personalities, and issues.
We're not ready to completely write off Red and Blue state designations, but as Mr. Medved points out, this last election does provide strong evidence supporting the erosion of these traditional political markers.

Lastly, a little humor from a man calling himself Jim Treacher. Those of you who read James Taranto's Best of the Web on a regular basis will have read this in yesterday's edition. Apologies to fans of Nancy Pelosi who take themselves too seriously; you probably wont find this funny.
Questions from a political dilettante

* Does this mean Bush is still Hitler? I'm pretty sure Hitler never let his opponents win an election, did he? Unless... this is all part of Rove's plan.

* A major concern of the last few elections has been that Republicans need to cheat to win, and the problem was going to be even worse with the new Diebold machines. What happened? Did Cheney forget his password again? That darn Cheney, always forgetting his password.

* What happened to Ned? I thought Lieberman was Public Enemy #1. Now Kos must feel like the kid on Christmas morning who's surrounded by toys... except for the one he really wanted.

* Does Nancy Pelosi ever wear a fake flower on her lapel that shoots acid? Because that would really be a surprise for Batman when he's hauling her to Commissioner Gordon's office.

* So the world likes us again, right? No more terrorism? YAY!!!
Hey wait a minute, this last question looks familiar. Didn't we end a recent post in much the same way...?

09 November 2006

Let the Freak Show Begin!

As we begin to take stock of the recent election, our native optimism and cheery disposition is beginning to return.

And we can't help but point out the difference in response between the losing conservatives of this election and the losing Angy Left of the 2000 and 2004 elections. Where the leftists filled blogs with expletives and run on screams about election stealing, conservatives and conservative candidates recognize close elections notwithstanding, the election was lost fair and square. After all, that's democracy, right?

Conservatives must just be more optimistic than liberals.

We're especially pleased to note that, well, Bush is still President. Some headlines seem to think that Democratic control of the House and Senate meant the President would roll over and play dead, allowing liberals to completely reverse course on everything from Iraq, to lower taxes and conservative Supreme Court nominees.

As we pointed out yesterday, this election was not a rejection of the war in Iraq. More voters listed corruption and scandal as affecting their vote than Iraq. And that's fair. In many cases we supported Republican candidates despite the corruption and scandal but because of their support for the war in Iraq. That preference doesn't mean we weren't frustrated and disgusted with the Abramoff and Foley scandals.

The Lieberman win over Lamont is proof positive that the Angry Left's opposition to the war in Iraq is not a majority position. If they couldn't win with a liberal anti-war candidate in one of the most liberal states in the Union, it wont win anywhere. The win of moderate Democrats like Heath Shuler (hat tip: Morgan) further evinces this position. Hopefully Democratic control of the House and the Senate will invest Democrats in the war in a way that has not yet happened; hopefully they will take some ownership of it.

In fact, this election gives us hope that perhaps the Democratic party isn't trending as far left as Lamont's primary win over Lieberman seemed to indicate. We hope that the influx of good, moderate Democrats like Mr. Shuler helps to keep Democrats more centrist.

Again, the key will be how the large number of moderate Democratic freshmen interact with their stridently liberal committee chairmen. Speaker Pelosi may have been elected by the angryleftwingnuts in her San Francisco district, but she's Speaker because of independent voters in places like Iowa and North Carolina.

And finally, a high priority for liberals--maybe now the world will like us better!--that's what we're all shooting for, right?


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I'll trade you my Rumsfeld for your Gates--straight up

Yesterday's resignation by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was a necessary evil. Mr. Rumsfeld faced the difficult task of reforming a military built to fight set piece battles on the fields of Europe against the now-defunct Warsaw Pact. He was opposed by a military leadership that was resistent to change--a leadership that had just spent 8 years in a standoff with a President who drastically reduced their budgets, drawing down enlistment and forcing base closures. They were trained by this experience to dig in their heels and fight.

Mr. Rumsfeld was a figure powerful enough to take on an establishment that loved big armies and big ships--all things necessary for traditional warfare. He recognized that the military must evolve to combat the new threat of terrorism.

In the course of his six years of service he made a lot of enemies and became the focal point for complaints about the war. We respect President Bush's loyalty to Mr. Rumsfeld, but this was a change that needed to happen. Like President Bush, we think history will vindicate Mr. Rumsfeld.

From the Wall Street Journal's survey (subscription required. This excerpt was, in turn, taken from an excellent interview with PBS)of Secretary of Defense nominee Robert Gates comes this interesting insight into his view of the military:
One of my experiences over the years, in Washington, as I have watched different Presidents deal with the military and I worked in the White House for four Presidents and attended decision meetings under five, is that contrary to mythology, the biggest doves in Washington wear uniforms. And I think that particularly after Vietnam they are very leery of feather-merchants of civilians, greying notions of using military force to accomplish a range of objectives however sensible or justified they may be. And I think that they try, perhaps even un-consciously, not only to exaggerate the level of forces that will be required to accomplish a specific objective but the casualties as well, in the hope of forcing a sanity check on the politicians or on the civilian experts who have no concept of what it is like to sit there and watch a young soldier bleed and die. And I think that these guys also think that war in the situation room is too clinical. And that we don't have an appreciation for what it is really like, and that they would prefer to avoid the use of military force at all cost.

Some of the biggest debates that I have ever witnessed in the situation room on this problem and on dozens of others was the debate between the Military representatives and the State Department representatives. With the State Department representatives arguing for the use of military force and the military officers arguing for the use of diplomacy. So I think it is a cultural thing and I don't second guess the military on that, I think that their concerns are justified, because I have seen a lot of civilians make a lot of proposals for a lot of silly military actions that eventually did not take place. So I understand their caution.
The CIA and State Department have complained for years about Mr. Rumsfeld overstepping his bounds. In Mr. Gates they should have someone who, if not an ally, at least understands the challenges they face.


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