Thursday, March 31, 2005

Palmeiro

Many people have doubted the validity of Rafael Palmeiro’s recent congressional testimony when he emphatically denied ever using steroids. Many have said that if Raffy believes that Canseco was lying when he said that he helped Palmeiro obtain steroids while they were together in Texas, he should sue Canseco for libel. I have two main problems with this attitude.

First off, I do not see how steroid use makes sense with Palmeiro. Unlike the situation with McGwire and Giambi, there is no corroborating evidence to Canseco’s claims. While Palmeiro’s power numbers went up significantly after his first few years in the majors, the increase could just as easily be attributed to him finding his stroke as he gained experience. His current swing is so good now that it is considered one of the best in the game. A good swing can make a much bigger difference in driving the ball than the juiced muscles behind it. This is why, for example, Ken Griffey Jr. was so successful hitting out home runs with such a wiry frame; his swing was just THAT good.

Secondly, why should Palmeiro have to sue for slander in order to clear his name? Winning a libel case is extremely difficult in this country. It would be up to Palmeiro to prove that Cancesco is lying which is extremely difficult to do. In the end, a libel suit risks further damaging Palmeiro’s reputation whether or not he’s telling the truth as well as costing significant time and money. Besides, he testified under oath when he went before congress. If the Baltimore slugger is lying, then he can be prosecuted for perjury. Taking that risk should be enough to bolster his claims of innocence unless or until Cancesco provides any corroborating evidence.

The situation with Palmeiro is a sad example of what is going on with baseball today. Players are assumed to have taken steroids and cheated if they cannot prove otherwise. This is in addition to the problem of players taking steroids when they normally won’t because they worry about falling behind those who take them without regret. I understand that players worry about giving up too much to the owners as well as worry about giving up their privacy. In the end, though, the damage that the steroids controversy does to the player’s long-term health and to baseball in general should make these sacrifices of full-fledged testing worth it.
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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Sick of Hearing the Following...

“Stakeholders”: This has become popular in offices nowadays. It is based on this idea that we need to get all those who have a “stake” in some process to have their say. Usually it is used to do two annoying things. One, saying that we need to talk to more stakeholders is a way to delay making an actual decision. Secondly, it is also used to ignore someone’s complaint. If someone is complaining about something you support, you can just search for more “stakeholders” who support your position.

Adding “-gate” to the Name of Every Scandal: All right, I guess in the first few years after the Watergate scandal, it may have been cute to add “–gate” to the name of scandals. It has now been more twenty years since Nixon resigned. Let’s move on and just call a scandal a scandal. No more “Monicagate,” “Enrongate” and whatever else. Just STFU already, okay? Watergate was the just the name of the hotel where the scandal started!

“Playing Politics”: This phrase has been used so often it does not even mean anything anymore. Any time something on one side is not being done, the other side says “they are playing politics!” Really? What exactly are you, oh right, a politician. This phrase seems to imply that any time a party does something that you do not like, they could not possibly be doing it out of conviction, they must be doing it just for political expediency. This is even said when a party’s position is widely unpopular… Just stop it already.

So and so “is a Nazi”: All right it is funny when it is done in jest on Seinfeld, but it when it is done seriously, it is extremely obnoxious and destructive. Not everyone who is more conservative than you is a Nazi. When the actions of one politician or government is called a Nazi by a lot of folks, the comparison is so laughable, the person loses all credibility. I find it hilarious when this is used against people who actually want limited government considering the totalitarian nature of Hiter’s regime. The irresponsible use of this term insults the victims of the Nazis and is just a blatant attempt to avoid argument and shut off debate.

So, what commonly used phrases or terms bother you? Let me know...
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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Spinoff?

As part of the ongoing blog redesign, I was wondering if people thought it would be worthwhile to spin off some of the topics on to another blog. I feel that the JohnnyBlog is a little schizophrenic as it stands currently. I am going to look into whether it's possible to split up topics into different blogs while also keeping a master blog that displays all posts through Blogger, but for now I am looking at clean splits on different blogs.

What to do Next:

There are currently three different main topic categories that I can see: sports, politics and popular culture. The split could go down that line or it could also be done based on the tenor of the article. My initial gut feeling is that I would spin off the popular culture and other less-serious stuff and leave the rest of the stuff behind, but I am not sure right now.

It seems that the best blogs keep a narrower focus than mine does, so a change is likely to happen eventually. I would love to hear you comments if you would like to give them. Feel free to email me too.
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Monday, March 28, 2005

2 Quick Ethical Questions

Someone before you went to a vending machine and never got what he purchased: the candy bar is stuck dangling at the end of its row. Later on, you go to this same vending machine. Is it stealing if you purchase the same snack the other guy did so that you can get a free double shot of snacky-goodness?

If you know someone in a couple is cheating on the other, how well do you have to know them before you get involved?
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Sunday, March 27, 2005

Mexican Soccer Chants

Breaking a long string of American dominance in their soccer-rivalry, the Mexicans beat the Americans 2-1 in a World Cup Qualifier on Saturday. The game was played in Mexico City and the rabid Mexican fans repeated their past behavior towards the visiting Americans. Sports Illustrated reports the following:

The result also helped the home team earn partial revenge for a stunning 2-0 loss to the U.S. team in the second round of the 2002 World Cup, a game in South Korea that shattered Mexican fans' pride.

Mexico also ended both the Americans' 16-game unbeaten streak overall and their 31-game streak without a loss to regional rivals.

The crowd booed the U.S. national anthem and a spattering of fans chanted "Osama! Osama!" before play started, and shortly after Lewis' goal.


When I first read this, I was about to get angry but thought better of it. I then went to the kitchen and enjoyed a cool, tall glass of water that doesn't cause diarrhea.
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The JohnnyBlog's Get Rich Quick Scheme Part 1

All right, so you want to strike it rich? It's not going to be easy or simple to make it happen. Otherwise, everyone else would have beaten you to it. Nevertheless, if you got some skills, moxie and a little bit of elbow grease you can make it big time and have twenty-inch rims on your Chrysler 300.

All that I ask is that if you do make it rich with one of my schemes, you send a little bit of good will (in cash form) my way. All right? Deal? Okay, let me throw a few ideas out there and see if one fits you as snuggly as your high school blue-jeans. In Part I in this series, there is one common thread: the book deal. Yes, it may seem simple that a nice juicy book deal can pay rent at your luxury condo in Phoenix, but the key is getting someone interested in your story and willing to pay the ghost writer to write your book. You could of course, try to write the book yourself, but the hard work and education you need isn't worth it. There's enough unemployed english majors out there willing to work for a Slim Jim, so don't sweat that part. The key is getting a published company interested in working with you. Many people don't plan their book-deal strategy in advance, but you can put yourself into situations that will automatically generate multiple publishing offers. Here are some successful strategies to try.

1. Sleep with a Psycho

If you are a woman, try to get involved with as many unstable men as possible. Keep a knife or gun with you to be safe, but if you can survive one or two booty calls from a psycho, you can spin that short experience into four-hundred pages of gold once the bodies show up. (Warning: appearences on CNN, FoxNews and the Today Show may be necessary to secure a long run on the New York Times Bestseller List.)

2. Crime Does Pay

Become a drug dealer, a prostitute, a mule, a shady stock-broker, a corrupt politician or anything else criminal enough for people to be interested in it but tame enough that the authorities won't bother arresting you for the crime when your book comes out.

3. Litterally and Figuratively Screw the Celebrity

Have sex with a troubled famous person only once, then claim that this person admitted to everything that the public only slightly suspected of him. Write a book and it's "straight-cash, homey!" (Note: sex may not be necessary, but DNA evidence locks in the profits.)

4. Jumpstart the Downward Spiral

Become widely successful doing something and then fuck it all away on sex, drugs and gambling. The book deal will be there with minimal effort. The only problem is that you have to be successful first to make this possible, and that takes too much hard work and too much luck. This is just a shoutout to all those athletes, CEOs, politicians and newsreporters, who regularly read this blog, in case they want to try something new.

5. Become the Insider

It is easy to start this strategy, but tough to complete it. First thing you need to do is get a low-level job at a large and famous company, agency or something else people might not like. The best kind of job would be doing something in the mail room or within the accounting department. Then, you blow your whistle and throw out true allegations or false ones if you can't find the former. It is easiest to pull off making bullshit claims if the company/organization/agency is hated by hippies, conspiracy freaks or mental patients. Anything you say will be believed by these fine folks without any proof. Our lax libel laws in this country will keep you from losing that big million-dollar advance that's financing your new yacht.

"Shhh... P Diddy Has a Message For All You Shorties Out There."



Cavier wishes and champaign dreams can all be yours if you follow my advice. However, let me end with some words of caution from my man, P. Diddy:

"Mo money, mo problems."

Money might pay off those student loans and that ostrich ranch mortgage, but it won't buy you happiness. Thankfully you will have piles of money with which to wipe your tears of loneliness.

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Saturday, March 26, 2005

Inferno II Continues


Joslin's First Inferno Post


Ok, so I meant to give my little summary earlier, but due to a crashed hard drive was unable. Anywho, here goes...

This episode was hyped from the very beginning. We all knew what was gonna go down btwn Beth and Tonya, but seeing it unfold was pretty interesting. Of course the real beef started with Tonya and Robin, understandably so. We all know from previous competitions that Robin and Mark kind of had a thing going at the end of the most recent competition. And Tonya, as we all know, is a whore. So of course Beth squeals to Robin that Tonya confessed to having "dated" and hooked up w/ Mark and some point in the recent past. Robin flips on Tonya, with by far one of the funniest lines I've heard from an MTV show in ages: "If I'm a guy and some whore puts her vagina in my face, am I gonna sleep with her? Yeah, but that doesn't mean we're dating." Ok Robin, nice diss on Tonya, but that still doesn't make you sound good. You're basically saying it's ok for Mark to go out and sleep w/ whomever whenever and you're ok with it. Not good, but an E for effort.

I must say I was amazed Robin didn't think to make a remark about her own ginormous boobs compared to Tonya's much smaller and fake boobs. Come on Robin, you probably can't even see your own feet they're so big. Certainly you can find a way to use these monstrous buzooms to take her down a notch or two.

Now of course Tonya is upset at Beth. Have ya not seen the other shows Tonya? Did you really think you could trust Beth? No one really even likes Beth, so I'm not sure why they bring her in. It was about as wise as bringing in David, who was from her season go figure, in one of the last Battle of the Sexes. But I digress, so Tonya starts grilling Beth while she's sleeping. Beth pretty much doesn't care, and Tonya, in a segment that will become as popular on clip shows as Irene's slap heard 'round the world, empties Beth's clothing into the pool. While Beth walks around aimlessly in her whatever attitude, Tonya looks on with one of the most crazed looks I have ever seen. She lamely sits back and "basks" in her genius. Yes, very clever Tonya, you should be quite proud that you punished Beth for telling Robin you slept w/ her man. Now how about you go spread 'em for some guy and exacerbate your kidney stones.

I must say I was very surprised that they even bothered to have a mission this time. Luckily for them it was a mission involving pairs at a time and thus took all of 5 minutes to execute after 20 minutes of drama. Everyone racked zero points except for one team (Rachel and some guy, can't remember who). Tina and some girl are set to go into the inferno thus far. Who can remember after all the commotion, I mean really.

And of course, classic Beth in the previews. She is now out to sabotage her team, big surprise. Again, have the teammates never seen her in action? Sheesh, talk about history repeating itself. So the team will try to send her to the inferno and get rid of her.

A crisper summary to come next week, as my laptop will hopefully be repaired. Ah, and P.S. Julie is not a lesbian. Some thorough research uncovered that she married a guy, a doctor I believe. She also has a website where she explains in excruciating detail why she would be a great speaker at any school. Yes Julie, you are a real inspiration.

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Friday, March 25, 2005

The Real Gender Gap

I like the JohnnyBlog to be fresh and exciting, so I hate to reference old material. (Didn't you just analyze a football league that has been dead for four years? Yes, shut up!) But I saw a link to an excellent article on an away message this evening. In it, David Brooks talks about a general change in campuses nowadays, but I really just want to focus on one excerpt from his piece.


Instead, their conversational style is a reflection of the amazing self-confidence of the women on these campuses. The single most striking--if hard to define--difference between college campuses today and college campuses 20 years ago is in the nature and character of the female students. They are not only self-confident socially. They are self-confident academically, athletically, organizationally, and in every other way.

There are far more women than men enrolled in America's colleges. In 1997, women earned 25 percent more bachelor's degrees and 33 percent more master's degrees than men, and that gap widens every year. In general the women carry themselves with an appearance of ease that must have been matched only by that of the old WASP bluebloods when these schools were oriented around their desires. Twenty years ago, if memory serves, it was mostly us men who performed the role of seminar baboons--speaking up and showing off our knowledge, just as today it is mostly men who fill the op-ed pages with ideas and pontifications.


Listen, don't cry for me, I'm doing fine as a young man in this day and age. I did not get any special encouragement growing-up nor did I get any real discouragement either. I have just soldiered on, doing the best that I can. I am not asking for any help or sympathy.

However, anyone who thinks that women are the only ones being shortchanged by the education system are fooling themselves. Men are dropping out more often in high school and are much less likely to go on to college than women. A small handful of his male counterparts might dominate the billionaire CEO category, but does this do the regular guy working minimum wage jobs any good? The fact is that the visibility of a few successful men gives policy makers an excuse to ignore what is going on with boys today. We shouldn't let anecdotal examples misguide us.

So why is this happening? It seems too convenient to just say that's the way it is and that women are just on the whole better at school than men. If the situation was reversed, people would be calling it a travesty. Instead, powerful women focus on their past difficulties getting to where they are because of their sex, ignoring the fact that things have already swung the exact opposite direction, and keep on favoring girls at the expense of innocent boys who did nothing to them.

Simply put: the women who are in control of the agenda now, grew up in the 60s and 70s when women were mistreated both in the classroom and in the office. I do not deny that fact. Their perspective is skewed by this experience and I cannot blame them for this. I cannot, though, accept that their myopic goals are shortchanging the education of today's boys.

Example: Women are more-likely to get in college than men. However, the SAT was just changed to increase female scores. Why do they need an advantage when applying to school when they already outperform men in obtaining bachelor's degrees?

All right, fine, you say, there's a problem, but how do you expect we fix it?

My proposals:

1. We need more male teachers. Having a good male role model is crucial for a boy's development. We cannot change the high percentage of single-female-run households that exist now, but we can try to fill in the gap by encouraging more men to teach.

2. Stop pussifying boys. Boys and girls are different. Not one sex is better; the two are just different. Boys will roughhouse, won't be quiet all the time and won't talk about their feelings non-stop. Deal with it and make sure they have constructive outlets for this behavior. Stop cutting gym class to squeeze in another hour of math. Boys need physical activity. That's just the way it is. The more they enjoy school, the more they will keep on wanting to go there. It is as simple as that.

3. Start spending some more time exposing young men/boys to careers where they need a college diploma. Taking your child to work shouldn't be limited to your daughters, nor should career-day favor one gender over the other. We should work harder to find creative ways to get both sexes interested in a wide variety of careers.

4. Consider splitting up classrooms by gender some of the time. Boys and girls learn differently, so we need to accept this while ensuring they learn how to work well in mixed-gender environments.

Let me conclude by saying that this whole male v. female beef thing is idiotic. We need each other, and we both have our pluses and minuses. If you cannot see that, you need to grow up and look around. Playing zero-sum games when it comes to education is wrong. Helping one gender over the other is childish and destructive. We are all on the same team here. I only advocate that we look to help both and not ignore the less-fortunate men and boys currently struggling in school. Let's not be blinded by our prejudices or our desire to do it with the hot girl majoring in women studies.

I'm talking to you too, Maureen Dowd.

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Thursday, March 24, 2005

Blog Battles

I have just come up with a great movie idea. You know the movie 8 Mile? How about a movie about a blogger who is struggling with his crappy 9-5 while he keeps working on his blog-skills on the side. He is just about to give up his dreams, letting all his hard-work go to waste, when he finally gains the courage to represent in a freestyle blog-battle. He destroys the competition and gains new respect in the blogosphere. Book deals and radio shows are now certainly in his future. I am willing to play the lead in this movie.

"Your blogging's generic, mine's authentic-made!"


I imagine that a freestyle blog-battle would work in the following way:

1. DJ flips a coin, challenger calls in the air. Winner of the toss chooses who goes first.
2. The DJ puts a hot beat, i.e. a controversial column, on the screen.
3. Blogger 1 has 10 minutes to write on the subject.
4. Blogger 2 takes his turn.
5. The people in the audience decide to which blog they want to link.
6. The winner is the one whose blog post has the most links sent to it.
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Simmons on 'The Contender'

Bill Simmons on ESPN's Page 2 adds some more credibility to the argument that "The Contender" is an outstanding show that sets itself apart from other reality shows. He does, though, say something that I had already said about the show and boxing in general.

Which raises another question: Could this be the show that gets casual fans into boxing again? Between sleazy promoters, shaky judging decisions, pricey pay-per-views, all the different championship belts, the lack of personable fighters and everything else, Americans don't have a connection with boxing the way they once did. Most sports fans wouldn't recognize Bernard Hopkins if he were sitting on their laps, and he was probably the defining fighter of the past decade. When was the last time the sport roped in someone like the Sports Gal, who was crying by the end of the Najai Turpin episode last week? See, that's the thing about boxing – since there's no structure to the sport, younger fighters don't get marketed properly, if they get marketed at all, so we never develop a connection to them. The sad reality of this show is that some of these boxers will end up being more famous (in the short-term) than Jermain Taylor, the best fighter in that division other than Hopkins.


Still, it's a very insightful article overall.

I have become a regular viewer myself, and last week's fight involving Najai, the boxer who later killed himself, was pretty heart-braking. It seems like the guy had a really tough life and only recently was putting the pieces back together since having a daughter. For the fight, Najai picked a much taller guy, whom he had little chance of beating, and performed heroically in a losing effort. Although on screen he seemed to put a good face on the result, you could sort of tell he felt heart-broken about it.

I completely agree with the decision to keep Najai’s scenes on the show. I never believe that someone's death should cause his memory to be erased. The most respectful thing to do is to keep his memory alive and keeping him on the show did just that.

My Previous Posts on 'The Contender':
Second Look at 'The Contender'
Contender is a Flop
Boxing in 2005 Equals Poker in 2004?


And...

Joslin's Post on the Inferno II
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Wednesday, March 23, 2005

If the NFL Was Played Like Madden

(The Video Game)

1. Then teams would go for it if it was 4th down and ten or less.
2. Fake field goals and punts would be called at least once a game.
3. Games would be done in less than an hour.
4. Teams would never stop running up the score.
5. There would never be locker-room problems or QB controversies.
6. Teams would pass about 75% of the time.
7. Kickers would spend most of their time working on their timing with the accuracy meter.
8. Games would be stopped for bathroom breaks.
9. GMs would focus on a player’s “speed-burst” during the Indianapolis Scouting Combine.
10. Coaches would be hired based on their keen ability to find “money-plays.”

Madden would say the same five-phrases over and over again while calling the game. Oh wait…
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Brave New Blog

I sort of started to wonder about my priorities when I gave up two hours of my normal night’s sleep so that I could continue my efforts to find out where to get the music from the first Troy teaser. Pretty sad, isn’t it?

It worries me that they promote the Island by saying that it is from the producer who made Armageddon and Pearl Harbor. I mean seriously, I have some doubts about how many people that statement will bring in. That being said, I must say that the Island looks rather impressive. The trailer gives very little of premise away except that clones are being created on this island, some find out who they are and make an escape. The question becomes why are these clones being created, why are they so intent on escaping, and why there are determined people chasing them? It has some tinges of Gattaca and Brave New World and if the movie can match up to the feel of the trailer, it could be a very enjoyable film. Ewan McGregor and Djimon Hounsou star, movie coming out this summer.

Speaking of Brave New World, people focus on 1984 and worry that we may risk heading down the direction outlined in that famous book, but I feel that our real risk is having our society morph into the one found in Huxley’s less-famous novel. The 1984 dystopia-model will die with Kim Jong Il. Genetic engineering; commoditization of our bodies; increased focus on physical pleasure; increased consumption of mood-altering drugs; denigration of spirituality, sacrifice, masculinity and character all are becoming accepted aspects of the modern world. We should not be surprised that people have become less content as this becomes more and more a reality.

Running Items Department: Committed’s future looks even bleaker considering that one of the stars of the show, Jennifer Finnigan, has already signed on for a drama pilot being ordered by CBS. So says TVTome.
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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Running Items Department: Europe Backtracks on China Arms

In the short-life of this blog, I have often criticized China for its mercantilist economic policies, lack of human rights and bellicose attitude towards Taiwan. It should be no surprise, therefore, that I harshly attacked Europe for considering lifting the arms embargo in place since the Tiananmen Square Massacre. Now it appears that the European Union is backtracking. Apparently the profit from arms dealing to a regime that slaughters its own people is outweighed by the political costs for rewarding China after making new threats to Taiwan. The New York Times has the latest on this story.

President Chirac first proposed lifting the embargo in late 2003, arguing that it was obsolete. European diplomats say that France is not so much interested in selling arms to China as using the possibility of such sales as a way to sell commercial equipment, from Airbus planes to computers.


Why does that not surprise me.... ?

Related Posts on JohnnyBlog:

Other Opinion on China
New Addition to the China Sucks Dossier
China Still Sucks
The Myth of the China Market

Update: 2:17PM
The Fourth Rail has a good breakdown on the future of the China-Taiwan dispute. Bill Roggio argues that China would damage its economy too much by actually attacking Taiwan and that any invasion would favor American strength: air and sea power. It is crucial, however, that the United States does not appease the party-dictatorship currently running China while they increase their efforts to intimidate Taiwan into capitulation.
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The XFL Had Its Moments...

The XFL was never taken seriously during its short existence, but it had a number of underrated rule changes that the NFL might eventually want to consider adding itself. Since the NFL Owners are currently having their meetings in Hawaii where they discuss rule changes, I thought it would be worthwhile to look at some alternate ways to run the game.

Some of the Better Rule Variations (From Remember the XFL):

1. "The extra point will either be [a] pass or [a] run attempted only after a touchdown. The ball [is] spotted on the 2-yard line, [thus] eliminating the extra-point attempt by the kicker."

He may hate you, but I love you, Rod Smart


Pros: The PAT kick is one of the most boring plays in football. It is considered a given, besides the rare two-point conversion attempt, that when a player makes forward progress along the end line, it is an automatic seven. In the extremely rare instance that a kicker misses the extra point, the kicker is either quickly forgiven because the outcome isn't in doubt or he is a goat, blowing the game his teammates had fought so hard to win or tie.

The extra-point-kick dates back from when the kicking game was shaky and making a kick from the three yard line was a challenge. If you watch small high-school football you can often get a taste of how this used to be. In the NFL, this is no longer case.

Cons: The usual if it ain't broke, don't fix it argument. The extra point is a tradition of football at all levels. Tradition should matter for something in our sports, despite the fact that the NFL has a long habit of adjusting its rules in order to increase fan interest. (This will be a given drawback to any rule book change, so let's just call it the "tradition argument" from here on out.) The traditional argument is not the only drawback, however. Taking out the extra point will take even more "foot", out of football. Heck, that might not convince you that the PAT is worth keeping around, but moving to a run/pass extra point requirement would pretty much eliminate the two-point conversion. While only in the NFL since the mid-nineties, the two-point conversion has added a nice bit of excitement, making games closer than they would have been otherwise. Seriously, can you imagine a time when an 8 point lead with 1:30 to go and the other team holding the ball was rock-solid? You could possibly make a two-point conversion take place from the four-line or something but that just seems like it would just muck up the rules a little too much.

2. "Receivers needed only one foot inbounds for a pass reception."

Pros: This would simplify the professional game in threes ways. First off, college football uses this rule and one of the problems that football has with expanding its audience comes from its complex rules. Having a variety of different rules between professional and amateur football is a big part of its complexity. Therefore, going to the one-foot rule would have the advantage of slightly simplifying the game. Additionally, the one-foot rule would arguably make it easier to call a pass inbounds or not. Referees would only need to check for one body part hitting in bounds, not make sure the receiver was able to pull off the second foot drag. Finally, it would make it easier for the offense to move the ball, perhaps increasing fan-excitement.

Cons: The usual “stick with tradition argument.” Also, the current rule holds professional receivers to a higher standard, forcing them to maintain a higher-degree of concentration while attempting to catch the ball. Perhaps, too, the offense has enough advantage in the professional game as it is?

3. “No fair catches are permitted, but the returning player is granted a 5-yard protected halo where a member of the kicking team may not encroach until the ball is touched. The kicking team may not cross the line of scrimmage until the ball is punted. At the same time, any punt traveling more than 25 yards past the line of scrimmage is a live ball and can be recovered by either team.”

It would be interesting to know how this affected the play on the field. I watched a few XFL games and it did not seem like this rule variation came into play much. Since the offensive players have to wait until the punt is kicked to pass the line of scrimmage, it is very hard for them to move down fast enough to have a chance at the ball.

Pros: One of the most boring plays in football is downing a punt on special teams. The kicking team’s players will wait until they are sure the football will not move back another inch before they end the agony and touch the ball. In general, fans often leave the television to get an early start on a snack when a punt occurs. Sure, they have a chance of missing a great punt return, but more often than not it is a downed ball, a fair catch or a short, five-yard return. Therefore this rule has the potential to increase fan enjoyment. This change also makes the rules a little simpler. It basically makes the punt mirror the kickoff. During a kickoff, a kicking team cannot move pass the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked. Additionally, the ball is live for both teams once the kick goes past ten yards.

Cons: This is a radical rule change, drastically affecting the way the game is played. The keep-with-tradition argument has full force here. Furthermore, the rule-change has the potential to decrease punt-fakes as the play will obviously be seen as a fake immediately if players move past the line of scrimmage once the ball is snapped.

The were other several other rule changes in the defunct-XFL. Read them all at Remember the XFL.


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Monday, March 21, 2005

Rent a College Pep Band

So apparently Bucknell, who surprisingly upset Kansas in the NCAA tournament, were without a band during their two game run. Apparently the band decided that it was not worth coming to support the basketball team and instead decided to enjoy spring break. What did Bucknell do? Play without a band? Hell no, they enlisted the support of bands supporting teams other teams in the tournament. The Detriot News summarizes the incident thusly:

Bucknell's underdog tale was emphasized by the plight of its band, or lack of one. Because of spring break, the Bisons were without their usual crew, so they borrowed Northern Iowa's on Friday and Oklahoma State's on Sunday. They also borrowed a lot of Oklahoma State's fans who stuck around after seeing the Cowboys win the early game.

Wearing a shade of orange similar to Bucknell's, Oklahoma State supporters shouted chants of "Go Bison" and held up "Believe Bucknell" cards that some Bison alums had printed Saturday. Some even learned to do a hands-to-head gesture mimicking a charging bison.


Bucknell's win over Kansas has to go down as one of the biggest upsets in tournament history. I have heard that Bucknell is the first Patriot League team to win a tournament game. It must have been rather disappointing that their short Cinderella run couldn’t have been helped by their own pep band.
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The TrustFunder Left

Michael Barone, a very perceptive and meticulous political demographer, has an interesting article on what he calls the "Trustfunder Left" on RealClearPolitics. Barone, by the way, was the first one to see that Ohio was going to Bush by having a very detailed understanding of the local political feelings in each precint.

Where Democrats had a good year in 2004 they owed much to trustfunders. In Colorado, they captured a Senate and a House seat and both houses of the legislature. Their political base in that state is increasingly not the oppressed proletariat of Denver, but the trustfunder-heavy counties that contain Aspen (68 percent for Kerry), Telluride (72 percent) and Boulder (66 percent).

You can see the trustfunders' imprint as well in New York. In 56 of the state's 62 counties, the Republican popular vote margin increased or the Democratic margin fell between 2000 and 2004. Five of the six counties that moved away from George W. Bush are trustfunder havens: New York (Manhattan), Ulster (Woodstock), Columbia (trendy Hudson River country), Otsego (Cooperstown) and Tompkins (Cornell University).



The overall analysis is interesting, but the aside about how Bush significantly improved his standing in New York State, a state hit hard by economic downturn, is interesting as well. One of the immediate reactions to Bush's win among angry Kerry supporters was that Bush supposedly is doing a great job in his war on terror yet he lost DC and NYC which were the places hit hardest by terror attacks. The DC point is completely inaccurate as those killed by the terrorist attacks were killed in the Pentagon, i.e. Northern Virginia. Virginia went to Bush.* New York State shifted more towards Bush as well. Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx all shifted more towards Bush in 2004. New Jersey, which had many of its residents killed in the WTC attacks, moved from 56-40 Gore to 53-46 Kerry. This is a 7 point swing towards Bush.

In the end, though, I think that focusing on the certain areas that were hit by terrorist attacks voting patterns is a silly thing to do anyway. The attacks struck NYC and NOVA, but they killed people from all over the country as many were flying on an a hijacked airplane, stationed at the Pentagon, or a recent transplant to NYC. It was an attack on America, not just one part of it or one kind of person. Arguments on the job Bush is doing fighting terrorism should focus on the bare facts of it, not on some questionable barometer about regional voting patterns.

*(Yes I understand that Nothern Virginia is more Democratic than the rest of the state but this is also where conservative workers in DC live and also the Pentagon employs different kinds of people than the EPA).

*****

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Email a Column, Help Save the World

Although the New York Times often displays bias in its reporting and its editorial page is a proxy for the Democratic Party, I still regularly read the newspaper. I read it because of its reporting is more original, in-depth, broader, deeper and overall better-written than all other newspapers out there. I also think it is important to keep up with, through their editorial page, the arguments that the people I disagree with are making. You can argue that the Washington Post rivals the Old Gray Lady in quality, but the New York Times surpasses the Post in its larger volume of high-quality work.

Anyway, what I always do find funny about the New York Times is the list of most-emailed stories that they keep on their web site.

This is how it might look like on one day:

1. Paul Krugman: Social Security Reform is Worst than Pol Pot.
2. Random Professor: Bush is Threatening Our Freedom.
3. Maureen Dowd: Why Can’t I Get Married?
4. African Tribe Loves Yogurt
5. Frank Rich: Mel Gibson is an Anti-Semite


Then on another day:

1. Maureen Dowd: Men Should Die, They are Inferior
2. Frank Rich: Enron!! WorldCom!! Halliburton!
3. Food Made Out of Paper
4. Bob Herbert: Bush is Racist
5. Paul Krugman: Lies, Lies, Lies! Bush is Evil!


What I really wonder about is why people keep on sending Paul Krugman opinion pieces to each other. I mean, is it like surprising to see Paul Krugman angrily attacking Bush week after week? I think after awhile it would just get old and not really be interesting to point out that Krugman is using the exact same argument week after week in his attacks on the Bush administration. This just in, Paul Krugman reamed Bush today! In other news, the sun also rose.

I suppose the letter that people use when they send Krugman’s hatchet jobs on Bush is probably something like this:

Dear Rainbow,

I was just reading the New York Times today and I came across another piece of genius from Paul Krugman. I really thought you would enjoy it. He really teaches Bush a lesson. I am sure that idiot is probably already packing his bags to leave the White House because what Krugman says, when it gets out, will lead to an immediate impeachment and conviction! If only Americans would wake up, turn-off fascist Fox News and read a little Krugman, maybe they would stop being so stupid.

Oh well, as long as the Little Eichmanns profit from the war-machine, the gospel of Krugman will be suppressed. Hopefully this little email will help start to stem the tide and save our civilization.

Love,

Richard

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Sunday, March 20, 2005

Substitute 2: Flawed Masterpiece or Crappy Movie? Part II

Part I: The Substitute 2: Flawed Masterpiece or Crappy Movie?

They really don't get into how Treat Williams was able to so quickly become the teacher of "the Jungle or "the WarZone" or whatever the hell they call this evil place where the hoodlums are taught. Somehow, though, SlutTeacher is able to handle the matter in less than a day, installing Treat at the school with a fake name .

I'm not talking about this kind of treat:


So Treat meanders his way into the classroom, running into teachers along the way, including B.D. Wong who goes on about how he thought that Treat's brother was an a-okay guy. I assume he isn't in this movie just for a background role considering his top-billing, so it doesn't surprise me to find out that he is important later on in the film. All right, so Treat gets to the classroom which is in disrepair and tries to begin his lesson. Uh-oh, the hoodlums don't care about school; they are just yammering on and ignoring Treat, thus depriving him of the respect the mercenary/teacher deserves.

I'm talking about this kind of Treat:


This doesn't phase Treat at all. He calmly asks the guy drinking a big thing of orange soda if he has enough to share with the rest of the class and then politely asks the guy with the boombox to turn it down. Both requests are ignored. Then some hoodlum, who has the respect of the others, says something along the lines of "I want to hear what this fool has to say, turn it off." Treat thanks the young gentleman and proceeds to give his lecture.

Treat then talks about perception and reality, tries to be witty, says that a Yo-Yo used to be a weapon and flings the yo-yo into the bottle of orange soda the guy was holding. This blows up the bottle into the guy's face. For some reason, the broken glass did not injure him, yada, yada, now everyone in the class sees him as a "different kind of teacher."

School seems to last all of a twenty minutes for these folks and the Yo-Yo demonstration is all they have time for. It is interesting that these students appear to be above 16 and have no desire to be in school, but yet they are there, on-time, every day. This is never explained.

So Treat does his feeble attempts at being a surrogate-dad to his niece. She immediately warms up to him for some reason. Treat then goes to try to put the slut back into SlutTeacher. For some reason, she is able to guess he's a mercenary immediately. They do the humpty dance and romance ensues.

At some point, before he becomes a teacher, a bunch of his future students are trying to intimidate him by saying that he's "walking on their sidewalk" and needs to go. He's like, I am happy to walk on this sidewalk, etc. Then all of a sudden they drive away. They quickly come back in the EXACT SAME CAR and point their guns at Treat. Treat ain't having any of this shit and does his green beret move on a guy holding a gun, breaking his arm.

Well it turns out those folks were in his class. Does that worry, Treat? Hell, no it doesn't. This incident did, however, anger these hoodlum members of "The Brotherhood" as they try to ambush Treat in the bathroom with older hoodlums. Treat kicks their asses in about ten seconds. After he has finished throwing out the garbage, he notices someone sneaking into the bathroom from some hidden passageway. Who is it? Why it's the lovable janitor who works at the school because it reminds him of Vietnam! He apparently is eager to relive the war by helping Treat teach these bastards a lesson.

Anyway, the movie goes down hill from here. Treat Williams continues his relationship with SlutTeacher until BD Wong kills her for being too curious for her own good. I don't know if curiosity killed the cat, but it certainly killed SlutTeacher. For some reason, Treat Williams doesn't seem to care about all this, teams up with the janitor and his old mercenary buddy to kill a whole bunch of the older hoodlums just after he discovers that BD Wong is the ring leader of the whole gang. Why is BD Wong, a nice teacher involved with the gang? Well, because he makes money off of chop-shopping cars brought to the school. Treat also finds out that his niece's boyfriend actually was the one who killed his brother at BD Wong's request. (Apparently he got a Mustang out of this.) Those students who tried to kill Treat earlier? Well, apparently despite the fact the he killed a whole bunch of their fellow gang-members and is crappy teacher, they respect him after he is able to kill BD Wong. Yeah, there's a climatic final fight scene that interrupts BD's class on car-repair.

Yep, that's the movie folks, a true classic,

The Substitute 2, An Oscar-Worthy Movie:



Whoops, I meant this one, my bad:


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The Circle of Blogs Rules My Balls

So since my Quick and Dirty Veterinary Medical School Application Guide got some love on her blog, I thought I would send Four-Legged Lexis some bloglove right back.

On a sad note, it looks like "Committed," one of my few favorite shows nowadays, just showed its final episode this past Tuesday. It's rather amazing that while that show struggles to survive, NBC just renews "Joey" and "Crossing Jordan" for next fall. I suppose there's no accounting for taste, eh?

Quick thought: If being a woman is so much harder than being a man, why do more men want to have a sex change than do women? Wouldn't it be the other way around otherwise? I don't know, I suppose that's the free-market way of looking at things, that people make right choices and the invisible hand kind of sorts the whole fucking thing out. But what do I know? Yeah, I was an economics major, but the only thing you learn while being an economics major is that there's almost always a competing theory on how the general, large economy reacts when something happens. What's the Marxist take on the whole which sex has it harder thing? Drunk minds want to know.

This just in... President Truman is still looking for that one-armed economist. Last time I heard, he was being implicated in the murder of a doctor's wife. I'd figure he's probably hard to find right now.



On a related note, I would like to see a Maury Povich episode where the woman doesn't know if the kid is her's.




By the way, Carmelo Anthony says "Don't Snitch." Sound advice and I should know being a former corner-hustler myself... Except not really. (Murder is bad).

It was nice to see Boston College fall in second round action today. Seriously, why the hell are they leaving the Big East? Where's the closest school to them in the ACC? Maryland? While it may not be a big deal for the football team to fly to their gams, it makes much less sense for their water polo team to do so. If Boston College really cared about the academics of its "student-athletes" then they would be concerned about all the extra time the further travelling for athletic contests will take away from their studies.

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Friday, March 18, 2005

Canadian Columbine Copycats

Wasn't one of Michael Moore's claims in Bowling for Columbine that Canada shows how our gun control and obsession with violence is what causes things like Columbine?

Well, it looks like Canada isn't immune to sick kids who want to kill people at their school.

Note: Canada has roughly 11-12% of the United States' population.
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Substitute 2: Flawed Masterpiece or Crappy Movie? Part I

(I am going to give away the entire movie here, if you don’t want to know what happens, then skip this post. But seriously, you’re not going to watch this movie anyway).

Late on a recent Saturday night, I was searching for something to watch for just a few minutes before I went to bed. I flipped around the various HBOs and saw a rather strange scene. They showed a woman driving franticly in a luxury car, followed by a number of hoodlums (is that the word they use now) in another car aggressively chasing her. The interesting thing about these criminals was that they were hiding their appearance by wearing hoodies backwards, cutting eye and mouth holes in the hood and covering their face with it. So anyway, back to the sequence of action. So quickly these “hoods” started brandishing their guns at the woman, threatening her unless she pulled over. Eventually, the woman complied, stopped the car and tried to flee the car. The gang members tried to stop her from escaping but were quickly distracted by a “do-gooder.” This man although middle-aged, looked like he was in outstanding shape and possibly would gain an upper hand in a fist-face. Unfortunately, these folks have guns. So despite his entreaties for these guys to do the right thing and subtle indications that he recognized them, they quickly shot him dead and shot the girl then “got the fuck out of there.”

Although I was frozen with interest, er, maybe frozen with laziness? I don’t know what it was. All I know was that it wasn’t until this scene was over that I went to see what movie this was. I clicked display on my remote control and there it was in all its glory: “The Substitute 2: Some Subtitle I Forgot.” Actually I’m not even sure if I hadn’t already clicked to see what movie this was before the scene started. Whatever, the point is that BD Wong was in it and he was the priest in Oz and is the wussy psychologist on one of the Law and Orders I think. Anyway, Wong was the clincher for me to say up until 3AM to see the conclusion of this movie.

Okay, so back to the movie. So anyway it appears that the guy who was shot back there was Treat William’s brother! Who is Treat Williams? Well he’s an actor, but in this case I am referring to his character who was some kind of mercenary. I would refer to his character name but you don’t care what that name was and I cannot remember it. Yes, I know there’s IMDB, but I would rather just write this thing in half an hour, okay? So Treat goes to the funeral of his brother. I think he might be playing a trumpet, or he just is hanging back because he wants to make a dramatic entrance. So we now get to see Mr. Dogooder’s lovely hot daughter. She obvious is upset about the loss of her father and some dude is comforting her about her loss (i.e. trying to get into her pants). There’s also some teacher there, I think the actress has like a boy’s name and was in Homicide right before it was cancelled. Michael Michelle? That sounds right… Anyway, she’ll be called Slutteacher for the rest of my plot description. I’ll give more information on why I call her this later on in the program.

So Treat comes down to the grave site and introduces himself to his niece by making some vague “when I last saw you, you were down to the knee.” She responds with some pissy little “where were you, you don’t know me, blah, blah.” Do people usually get this pissed off at an absentee uncle? Isn’t bitterness only supposed to be directed to your parents? It seems like too much of an effort to hold a grudge against an uncle who never assaulted you or anything.

Anyway, Treat tries to get some general gist about who killed his brother from Slutteacher. Slutteacher doesn’t really seem to help that much except to say that Mr. Dogooder taught like a bunch of hoodlums in some jail-like classroom. The idiot thought he could change them! Can you believe that? Anyway, Treat quickly moves on to trying to patch things up with his niece, explaining that he is a mercenary and is too busy selling out his loyalties to foreign governments to pay the rent and that he loves his brother and his niece. Blah, blah.

So right away, Treat tries to get in the pants of Slutteacher. Wait, hold on a second, was she actually like a principle or something? Probably, but the name sticks. Anyway, he uses his mercenary skills to figure out where she lives, brings over some wine or something, they get all romantic, he says he wants to be a substitute for his brother’s old class, she says it takes awhile, he says he wants to do it all undercover like and she’s like why, and he’s like I want to find out who killed him and she’s like I’ll be happy to conspire to forge documents with you.

Then Treat goes up and meets with an old mercenary buddy. They exchange pleasantries and the mercenary buddy agrees to help him in his quest for revenge! The die is cast! What will happen next? Wait for Part II….

Part II

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Thursday, March 17, 2005

Lil' Kim Convicted of Perjury

Well as we all should have expected, Lil' Kim (Kimberly Jones) was convicted of perjury earlier today. This may lead to up to 20 years in prison for the short rapper. During the trial proceedings it was revealed that Ms. Jones was discovered by Biggie Smalls while working at H&R Block. I guess that is how one gets street cred nowadays?

I liked this part of the AP story:

The prosecutor belittled the defense claim that the sunglasses-wearing Lil' Kim didn't notice her two close friends at the scene of the crime.

'You would have to believe they were magic sunglasses that only block out your friends who were shooting people,' Seibel told the jury.


Was that her whole defense? If so, she might want to consider a new lawyer for her appeal.
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More on Judicial Appointments

In my first post about the problems with filibustering judicial nominations, I neglected to included some real statistics to back up my points. Why not? Well, I'm a lazy ass, step-off. Luckily, I happened upon on some interesting statistics compiled over on DalyThoughts.com. Apparently there has been a clear downward trend in the confirmation rate of appelate judges (the ones that actually make a real difference) during the Reagan administration. This is of course when the term "Borked" came into existence and when the unfortunate aftermath of Roe's politicizing of judges came into full-effect.

According to DalyThoughts, the rate under clinton had slipped down to 61.3%. Now, though, the rate for Bush is less than 40%. Not a pretty picture. The problem with the stonewalling of appelate nominations is that you can't expect to get away with doing it when you are in the minority and then expect to avoid the boomerang when your party later takes control. The Powerlineblog has a good post on the shortsightedness of the Democrats' tactics.
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More on Cornell Alumni Magazine's Wolfowitz Article

A reader chimes in: "One comment that perhaps you don't know is that the alumni magazine used to be and may still be not run by Cornell but the independent alumni association. If that is still the case the association staff print what they want - you would assume it would be what the alumni would want but who knows."

I would argue that Cornell holds some minor responsibility for what is being hosted on their server, but for most part, if this is true, they are absolved from blame here. I apologize for assuming otherwise.

Those who run the magazine and the person who wrote this article, however, should be ashamed by it. The magazine is still supposed to be for all alumni not just those who have a certain political persuasion. I am not saying that CAM cannot deal with controversial issues, but I would suggest doing so in a more fair fashion or not doing it all. This isn't the Nation, this is an alumni magazine!

My original post on the subject.

Somewhat Related Update: Todd Zywicki at Volokh puts out a nice list of Dartmouth related blogs. I wonder, are there similar ones for Cornell? If there are, I haven't found them yet. Drop me a line if you know of any.
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Baseball Hearings

Unlike many others, I completely agree with Congress getting involved with the problems of steroids in Major League Baseball and in athletics in general. Congress controls national drug policy and if a large organization such as baseball is conspiring to hide their abuse of controlled drugs, then it is reasonable for them to investigate that. If this large organization is looked up to by millions of kids who might follow their example, then not only is it reasonable move to hold hearings, it is a necessary one.

Congress has in the past held circus-like hearings on subjects like payola in radio, fixes in game shows and other “unimportant” things. They waste their time hearing from puppets and celebrities opine on issues of the day. This is hardly an unusual use of their time. Besides, the national government is already regulating baseball by giving it an anti-trust exemption.

The steroid controversy comes down to the following. When one player decides to take steroids, it gives an incentive for all the others to take it in order to keep up. You end up having to cheat and ruin your body or risk being out in the cold, out of the game. This ruinous competition is a downward spiral ruining the lives of players and the game they play and love. This is addition to the problem of many young men dying trying to replicate their icons’ success. Steroids and other performance-enhancers are risking athletes’ health and are corrupting athletic competition. This seems a worthy enough topic to discuss in Congress.

Since they did not offer the players immunity (a mistake IMO) and the general reluctance among ballplayers to be seen as a snitch, we likely will hear nothing new, but at least it will refocus attention on the issue and perhaps push MLB just a little bit closer to joining the World Anti-Doping Agency and give some real teeth to regulations ensuring fair competition.

In order to sound contrarian or maintain their intellectual elitism, those in the sports media have criticized the hearings as pointless grandstanding. Maybe they are, but the side effects could be well worth suffering politicians’ egos. And besides, this is the same media establishment that kept on claiming that Joe Blow fan just liked “dingers” and didn’t care about the integrity of the game that he watched. This condescending attitude towards baseball fans turned out to be wrong then, I wonder if this incarnation of it will be as well.

ESPN.com is keeping a running summary of the day’s hearings.
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More on Wolfowitz, Churchill

I just want to clarify that I do not want to seem as hating on my alma mater. I have much love for much of the university, the quality professors,the outstanding social life, and the beautiful campus. My complaint in the last post was more like a parent scolding a child for doing something dangerous. Not to compare Cornell to a child, although there are many childish people there, but I am trying to say that I have love for the place and care enough to criticize it when it does something wrong.

Also, if you caught South Park last night, you might have noticed a funny phrase inserted into the hippies mouths in the episode "Die, Hippy, Die!" The "college-know-it-all" hippies, which Cartman had warned are the worst kind, kept on using Ward Churchill's infamous phrase "little Eichmanns" when finding opposition to their views. ("Professor" Churchill called those working in the WTC "little Eichmanns" for helping to finance the American-led "genocide", etc.) The episode was a nice little satire worth checking out next time it's on Comedy Central.
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Cornell Alumni Magazine Smears Alumnus Wolfowitz

Being a recent graduate from Cornell University, I found it interesting that a fellow alumnus, Paul Wolfowitz was recently nominated by President Bush to lead the World Bank. The current defense undersecretary and '65 graduate is controversial to say the least. When I graduated in May 2004, my graduation or convocation program had a list of notable Cornell Alumni. I believe it included Bush's current secretary of treasury John Snow, but I could not find any information on a known Cornell alumnus, Paul Wolfowitz. I figured that maybe he was not included because he wasn't a high enough ranking member of the administration to be worth mentioning there, but I had serious doubts about that idea.

So this morning, I decided to search around Cornell's web site and see if I could find the notable alumni list and see if Dr. Wolfowitz had been added to it. I could not find that list, perhaps it isn't online, but I did find a rather troubling alumni magazine article about Wolfowitz and his Cornell-professor-father that read more like a serial killer's backstory than the standard alumni fluff piece. Right off the bat, the article begins its hatchet-work:

"...The childhood Paul and his words of wisdom have vanished from his dreams. Maybe Browne doesn't need the advice. Or maybe something is telling his unconscious that Paul Wolfowitz is no longer the guy to be giving it.

Wolfowitz is probably the most influential deputy defense secretary in U.S. history, and almost certainly the most vilified. Ever since he emerged as a leading proponent of the invasion of Iraq, this soft-spoken son of a Cornell mathematician has found himself at the epicenter of an ongoing war of ideas surrounding the use and abuse of American power. In the narrative of the antiwar movement, 'Wolfie' is cast as a lead villain, the utopian whose fantasy of an imperial foothold in the Middle East coaxed a credulous president into a bloodbath; among neoconservative policymakers and pundits, he's the big picture visionary whose faith in the transformative goodness of democracy brought down a tyrant.

But as the optimistic pre-invasion scenario he so passionately advocated seems ever more implausible (and as Wolfowitz--now said to be an embattled figure within the Bush Administration-- recedes in prominence), a third, more conflicted character has emerged: the misguided idealist who managed to deceive himself about the price of regime change. Probing his biography for clues, many journalists seized on his graduate studies at the University of Chicago with the late Leo Strauss, the German émigré political philosopher whose ideas inspired several prominent neoconservative thinkers. Strauss's interpretation of Plato's ideal Republic, where an enlightened philosopher caste tells 'noble lies' to the masses while whispering esoteric truths to a select few, made the Straussian connections running through neocon policy circles an irresistible topic of media speculation."

It is interesting that they decided to include this in a magazine designed to maintain alumni ties to the university and thus increase alumni donations. I am pretty certain that the author of the article is an Ithacan, a species not known for balanced political writing, but why on earth is Cornell putting its name behind this stuff? Do they only want liberal alumni to donate to their school? Are they trying to ensure that people are clear that the elites at the school maintain a liberal bias? I mean, just in case we had any doubts...

UPDATE: Daniel Drezner has a good take on Wolfowitz's nomination.
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Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Hate for Larry Summers Proxy for Hate Against Bush?

It is funny how a Democrat, who previously served as Secretary of Treasury under Bill Clinton, can be seen as a proxy for President Bush and his “rightwing conspiracy.” Still, I completely agree with David Bernstein at the Volokh Conspiracy who says that part of the anger against Larry Summers at Harvard comes from the frustration towards Bush’s reelection and the GOP's general success. The fact that this frustration is redirected towards a centrist Democrat shows you how out of touch most professors now are from the American mainstream.
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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Spending on Medical Research

In its most recent issue, Forbes has a very informative chart on government spending on medical research.

They compare each drug based on dollars spent on deaths due to the disease each year. For example, AIDS/HIV comes out on top with $216.3 per death per year, while Pancreatic Cancer comes in towards the bottom at about $1.7 per death per year.

Forbes admits that the AIDS number might be skewed due to how most AIDS victims live overseas. So this statistic either shows America's generosity to foreigners, to those sometimes shunned in our society, or a combination of both.

The United States spends more dollars on foreign aid than any other country. While the percentage of GDP might be less than many other countries, that statistic ignores our high spending on medical research, our contributions to the World Bank/IMF and our military aid. Military aid does not just mean intervening in hot spots around the world. It is also about giving food, supplies and logistical support after natural disasters like last December's Tsunami.
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Let's Talk Judiciary

First, I disagree that people cannot control their own desires. Whether they should have to or not is a different story... Whether another is hurt in the process is important: many committed people avoid temptation to stray from their vows every day, we say they should abstain in that way. But anyway...

I enjoy the brief back and forth with Joslin on this issue, and I think this is what should be going on right now in this country. People should be discussing the merits of gay marriage and whether or not it should be endorsed by government. What is happening, unfortunately, is that the side that is currently losing is using the judiciary to skip the process of building a popular consensus behind their position. Whether on a statutory or on a national basis, this issue should be decided by the legislatures and they people who elect them, not by judges who create new laws and new rights outside of our democratic process.

One of my largest complaints about the Democratic Party right now is how they have been treating Bush's judicial nominations. They can talk all that they want about the fact that they have allowed confirmations on the vast majority of his appointments, but they ignore the fact they have continually blocked the highest level of appointments. They smear them with claims that they have made racist decisions, yet Judges Pickering and Pryor are both widely respected by black leaders and lawyers from their home states for their fairness. Judge Pickering helped destroy the Ku Klux Klan's power in Mississippi, but he is attacked by Senator Schumer for hurting civil rights by affording a cross-burner his full rights under the law. They complain about Republican efforts to end their filibustering of nominations, often making claims that the Republicans are abusing their power and are ending Senate tradition, but changing the rules of filibuster has been done numerous times in the past.

This all ignores some shortsightedness on the Democrats' part. It is true that judicial activism is a dangerous thing from a conservative stand point, but its danger is not limited to one ideology. Most of us will agree that the Jim Crow era is a terrible part of our history Well, judicial activism likely strengthened it. The Republicans in control at the end of the Civil War enacted the 14th Amendment specifically to protect the rights of freed slaves. Judicial activists, however, interpreted the amendment extremely loosely in regards to civil rights and also started to, in an activist fashion, construe it to protect the rights of big business. During the New Deal, activist judges kept on throwing out minimum wage laws. Additionally, recent Leftist activism in the courts with Roe and other decisions has made the selection of judges a politically-based, rather than merit-based process. This has altered the confirmation process in obviously negative ways.

The Democrats are fooling themselves if they think they can have all the "positives" of activist jurisprudence without all of the drawbacks when used in other ways. Also, they probably will be back in power some day. When they are, do they think that the Republicans will not do their own filibusters in revenge? I think that's an easy one to call.


*What is also not usually mentioned is that filibustering does not even exist in its traditional form anymore. In fact, instead of having to actually keep debating to prevent a vote on an issue, you can do a "procedural filibuster" basically claiming you will do it and not have to meet your boast. Going back to forcing true filibusters might be an alternative to going to straight majority votes ending debate on nominations. The consequences of that move, however, are unclear.*
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Joslin's Quick Points About the Gay Marriage Controversy

Ok, so I do think John made some valid points, and we've talked about this in the past. I do have some areas of disagreement however:

3. I believe John was kidding about this one, but telling a gay person to marry someone of the opposite sex if they want to get married is not really a solution just because it is the current law. It is in fact what many homosexuals had to do decades ago because their sexuality was unacceptable. This is likely to cause depression and is not an answer.

4. Ok, the slippery slope thing is my real issue. Decades ago, Many considered it taboo to even consider legally allowing interracial marriage. You should "stick with your own kind." Now, while still not universally accepted, it is legal, and most people don't give it a second thought. It is a consentual, monogamous union between two individuals. Gay marriage would still fit this mold. Adultery, polygamy, underage laws, none of those issues would be excused with gay marriage. They are still valid.

In addition, I do not believe people are born polygamists. Perhaps years from now they will discover otherwise, but for now I will say it is a choice. Homosexuality is not a choice, as research evidence is slowly beginning to verify. It is how you are born. I could go into all the new evidence about testosterone surges during the second trimester, but I'll spare you. Anywho, just like you are born a certain race or a certain sex, so too are you born a certain sexual persuasion. To me, denying gays the right to marry is like saying it is a choice, and an unaccepted choice, and I find that very much unfair.

I also don't think that reproduction should be used as a reason. That would be like saying that barren (or as Charlotte termed it on Sex and the City, "reproductively challenged") couples should not be allowed to marry because their union will not produce a child. Furthermore, plenty of couples marry and never have children. Should people not be allowed to marry until they have a child? And yes, as John noted, gay couples SHOULD be allowed to adopt, provided it's an appropriate living environment. Heterosexual couples go through an extensive screening process before they are allowd to adopt, and homosexual couples would as well, probably with a little more scrutiny. Since sexuality is how you're born, there's no worry about "poisoning" the child into one persuasion or another. It's already been decided.

Not sure how to end this, so uh...peace out...
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Article on Cubicle History

Apparently the roots of cubicles go back to monastic scholars. I'll forgive my celibate friends for unknowingly making live miserable, but I still hate the darn things. Why? Look here.
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Quick Points about the Gay Marriage Controversy

1. Having a judge in San Francisco saying that California cannot ban gay marriage is like a judge in Milwaukee saying that Wisconsin can’t ban Miller Lite.

2. Gays are allowed to marry already in every state in the country. They can have their ceremonies and say to everyone that they meet that they are married. Having their marriages recognized by the state is what they are after. Any ban would not and could not stop private ceremonies and personal vows to take place.

3. Gays are not prevented from getting a marriage that is recognized by the state. They just can only marry an opposite sex partner. Now, they might not enjoy the marriage that much, but many don’t enjoy their marriages if they are heterosexual. Half of all marriages end in divorce anyway... :-p

4. A slippery slope is a reasonable reason to oppose gay marriage. There is little difference between polygamy and gay marriage. Both are deviations from the norm. (I don’t necessarily mean this in a pejorative way). The main difference between the two is that polygamy can actually lead to reproduction. That it is fashionable to accept one and not the other is a bit hypocritical.

5. Having a gay couple adopt a child is less-preferable than an adoption by heterosexual parents, but it is significantly better than having no adoption at all for a child.

6. Pushing for marriages instead of civil unions was a smart political move by the gay rights movement. In the late 90s, civil unions were controversial in the most liberal of states, Vermont. Now, conservatives view it as a compromise. One of the oldest psychological strategies in the book…

7. The most recent constitutional amendment proposed would just keep the status quo frozen in every state besides Massachusetts. It will not affect civil unions.

8. A compromise constitutional amendment would probably pass if it simply said that courts could not decide the gay marriage issue in each state and in the nation. Having a popular consensus decide whether or not to change the status quo is the right thing to do, IMO.

9. And finally, if they called it anything besides marriage, most people would be fine with it. Call it “fabulous love commitment” or “superlove” and they could get most Americans behind their cause.

Volokh refers back to the ERA and how people dismissed concerns that it would lead to gay marriage. Amazing what a difference Massachusetts Supreme Court decision can make.
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The Making of a "Martyr" in Iraq

The New York Times has a very excellent article talking about the controversy in Iraq over the revelation that the suicide bomber that killed 125+ in Hilla, Iraq was from a wealthy Jordanian family. Apparently this news has sparked large protests towards Jordan within the war-torn country.

"In a two-hour interview in his home, Mr. Banna described a son unlikely to harbor extreme religious or political views, or to even pick up a gun. In a way, Mr. Banna's tale contained echoes of those told by many Middle Eastern parents, of sons who had once looked on the West with great hope and enthusiasm, endured some alienating experience, then turned to violence against the very place they had coveted for so long.

Mr. Banna, the owner of a cement distribution company in Jordan, described his son as a great fan of the United States who fell in love with the country during an 18-month stay in Southern California, from 2000 to 2002. Mr. Banna showed a visitor a stack of photos taken in the United States, one of them showing his son straddling a Harley-Davidson, another showing him smiling in front of the World Trade Center before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Mr. Banna said, 'My son said that the Sept. 11 attacks had done great harm to Muslims and Arabs in the United States.'

He said his son's hopes of marrying an American woman and eventually setting in the United States were dashed in 2002 when he tried to renew his visa, after an American visa officer concluded that he had failed to answer a question on his application truthfully. Raad was sent home. 'He was crestfallen,' his father said."

While this story is anecdotal, this appears to be yet another example of the fact that most of these terrorists are not in fact simply the poor who are being exploited by Islamic terrorism, but actually are often rich or middle class young men. That part of it does not surprise me. What makes me concerned, is how his view of the United States changed so quickly. Perhaps there is a thinner line between a love for a society and a complete alienation from it than I thought.
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Monday, March 14, 2005

Inferno 2: Good Guys vs. Bad Asses

The new Real World/Road Rules challenge seemed pretty promising. While it started off already missing the best part of the challenges, Coral (shush Johnny B, Coral rules), it was to pit the two shows against each other once again in the Inferno, where the best beefs were born. On the first episode, however, the teams were mish-mashed in what Mr. Trump likes to call a "corporate restructuring." There's no Real World vs. Roal Rules anymore, but rather Good Guys vs. Bad Asses. It can be tough to remember who's on which team, and furthermore it's much harder to decide who to root for. I've always been a Real World fan, mainly because Real World usually cares more about team unity whereas Road Rules is hardcore competitive. Real World is also the underdog, considering most of them are whiny and spoiled and Road Rules is a bunch of ripped athletes. I think they made a big mistake with the mixed teams.

In tonight's episode, Mike won the Life Saver and thus could not go to the Inferno. One of the other guys on the team needed to volunteer to go in Mike's place, or a guy would have to be chosen. A "cowboy" named John, sporting a "Jesus is Real" shirt, began a long confessional narration about how "well, Jesus sacrificed himself for all mankind, so I will sacrifice myself for the good of my team." ...yeah...'cause that's the same thing...He makes a pretty significant point of it, saying it like three times. Dude, what you're doing is NICE, but let's not make it out to be more than it is. So Cowboy John does his Inferno thing...and loses. I guess you could say that's similar to what happened in Biblical times, the main difference (among MANY) being that Cowboy John will not grace us with another appearance.

As if this weren't enough, Julie, the infamous Mormon-turned-psycho who recently found a "life-partner" and got married (Mormon-turned-Psycho-turned-lesbian?), begins crying her eyes out. She squeezes out between sniffles how John sacrificed himself and no one on the team appreciated it and no one else stepped up. She said other guys could have won a lot easier and done better in that competition and none of them stepped up. Dude, COWBOY JOHN VOLUNTEERED. Remember, all the sacrificing stuff? He WANTED to do it, so quit your whining. And yes, that does mean she was a Real Worlder.

At least next week is the episode where Tonya the Whore is called such, and then throws someones clothes in the pool. Sweet.
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British Apprentice Bests the Original

Unlike many others, I do not look down on reality shows on television. While I think many of the premises that end up making it on to the major networks stable are worthy of disdain, I think a lot of popular reality shows are popular for a reason. Simply put, they can be quality, smartly-produce unscripted dramas. One show that I used to enjoy was the Apprentice. I liked the creative business tasks that they faced and the interesting personal interplay between the contestants competing on the show. I thought Trump was an entertaining aspect, mainly for comic relief.

Now, though, I have begun to like the show less and less. They seem to focus less on the actual task that each team is assigned and more on the petty fights that occur along the way. That can be entertaining and adds to the comedic element of the show, but in excess it becomes grating to me.

At first I thought that the novelty had just worn off with me and that is why I had stopped tuning in, but watching the British version of the show clarified the original’s shortcomings. It would be hard for me to fully explain the British version, but it’s a more detailed look at the actual business task and the initial planning, along with a helpful narrator make the show more interesting. The true improvement comes from the different tycoon at the focus of the show. The British Apprentice lacks Trump’s oversized ego, obsession with looking like he’s busy and important, as well as the hooky voiceovers done to improve his boardroom performance. On the other hand, the British Tycoon, Sir Alan Sugar, lets the format do its thing and adds a nice little paprika to the show on choice occasions. The end result is a better show that proves that it is the premise of the Apprentice that makes the show good, not Trump. If you have a chance, I recommend you check out BBC’s Apprentice.
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Meet for Study Group at 8? Clean My Dorm at 9:30?

Reuters has a story on a controversy at Harvard where a student has started a company where students can pay their fellow students to clean their dorm room for them.

"The Harvard Crimson newspaper urged students to shun Dormaid, a business launched by Harvard sophomore Michael Kopko that cleans up for messy students.

'By creating yet another differential between the haves and have-nots on campus, Dormaid threatens our student unity,' the Crimson said in an editorial.

'We urge the student body to boycott Dormaid.'"

Not sure how I feel about this service, but I don't think anyone should try to start a boycott of it. If people find it demeaning to clean the dorm rooms of their fellow students, then they should not take the job with Dormaid. I feel that any potential workers will quickly figure out if the pay isn't worth any humiliation that they might encounter. Personally, though, no matter how hard up I would be at school, I would find another way to earn additional funds.
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Free Speech? Don't Think So

People often seem confused about what exactly the right of “free speech” actually means. Many think that free speech means that you can say what you want without any consequence. In reality, it restrains government actions on speech at all levels of government (due to the Fourteenth Amendment). What you say can get you fired from your job among other unpleasant consequences. It sucks, but our society would not function very well if this was not the case.

So what about government employees? Are they allowed to say whatever they want? This is an mportant thing to think about when we look at the level of academic freedom at state colleges and whether or not a professor can be fired for what he says if it is terribly offensive. I do not know what the line is as far as that goes, but I do wonder where the free speech activists are when someone is losing his academic position because he said something deemed sexist or racist by the liberal elites.

Obviously, I am alluding to Ward Churchill’s remarks. However, it is now becoming more than a free speech issue as questions about lying and plagiarism are hurting the non-credentialed-tenured-professor's ability to remain at his job. I recommend reading the Volokh’s Conspiracy’s take on this issue.
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Second Look at Contender

Earlier, I was dimissing Burnnett's new reality show the Contender saying that I got bored with it after only watching it for a minute and that the ratings might be low for a reason. Well, I am completely reversing what I said earlier. I was able to give the show a try on Monday night in its rebroadcast on CNBC and then also watch a second episode last Thursday. I must say that the final fights at the end kind of save any shortcomings of the show that you see in the beginning, i.e. the somewhat lame competitions for the East and West teams. They do a very nice backstory on each of the fighters, the family life, what have you. Then they do the fight and the first two fights that I have seen have both have had the underdogs win in very competitive fights. I don't usually enjoy watching boxing, but they do a very quick five round fight mixed in with personal interest. Both make the fights much more interesting for a marginal, casual fan like myself.

Unfortunately, it appears that the ratings have thus far remained unimpressive
. I think boxing still has a relatively small following due to its suicidal obsession with putting all of the fights on premium cable or pay per view. Still, I think that the show, if given a fair chance by NBC has a good shot of growing an audience both for itself and for boxing in general.

My original thoughts on boxing having a rebound in popularity much like poker did in 2003-2004.
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Good Read in NYTM on Health Care Reform

There was a very good article on reforming our health care system in this Sunday’s New York Times Magazine. It mainly talks about how one economist, David Cutler, is arguing that most major health care reform ideas focus too much on cost and that is why the fail. Instead, better health care reform looks to create incentives to improve the quality of the care and promote innovation and that if both aspects are successfully encouraged, health care will better serve us and be more efficient.

“Looking at the data, they discovered that, on average, heart attack victims were surviving eight months longer than in the 1980's. In economic terms, they argued, the increased spending was ''worth it.'' Subsequently, Cutler concluded that a 45-year-old American could expect to spend $30,000 over the course of his life on all forms of cardiac care and that, thanks to improvements in cardiac technology alone, he could expect to live three years longer. That worked out to $10,000 a year of added life. Cutler can rattle off figures to prove that Americans value life even more. (Air bags cost something like $100,000 per year of life saved, for instance.) But you don't need to be an economist to believe that $30,000 for three extra years is a pretty good deal.”

We obsess about cost of care, but yet we are willing to spend whatever it takes to improve and extend our lives and the lives of those we love. Health care costs are not simply going up because we waste money and are inefficient choosing more expensive health care, which is happening to some degree, but instead because we value health and long life so much more than other things our money can buy. My feeling on health care is that I would love to have universal health care but I do not want universal health care like it is just about any other country. In other countries that have universal health care, invariably there is rationing of services to keep the costs down. In England for example, they do not even bother many expensive treatments for those over 65. But it is not just rationing of services within the health insurance program that bothers me, it is rationing the services to even the people who want to pay more to have better and more rapid care.

The existence of our country to allow Europeans and Canadians to pay for better treatment is what is keeping people from rebelling against the single-payer, government supported health care. The competition and lack of caps on health provider salaries in our country helps foster innovation. When you have a single-payer, the government, providing all of the health care, there is much less incentive to innovate. When was the last time a bureaucracy came up with something fresh and innovative?

People complain about the costs of prescription drugs in this country and say that we should go to the price control model that the rest of the developed world uses. Many opponents of that idea point to the need to have high returns of investment in order to encourage future drug innovations. That’s the truth, but it is not the full story. According to Forbes, Americans finance 50% of the research money on all prescription drugs precisely because we lack price controls. So basically we are paying for all other countries to have nice new helpful drugs at low prices. Part of true health care reform would not just be us putting in price controls it would also be us negotiating a better deal with all of these other rich countries in who pays for drug research. We end up financing their military defense with blood and money, it’s the least they can do.
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Friday, March 11, 2005

Who You Really Suing Anyway?

I am a fairly novice stock investor. During my last year in college I took my first plunge with stock-trading by taking a little bit of money I had saved up and putting it into an account I opened up with an online broker. After I made my first fifty bucks on Ford stock, I was hooked. So I don't make much money on this hobby, but I enjoy doing it and I think I have become better at it since I started in the Fall of 2003. Yeah, I could have just put all of this money in a broad-based index fund and made more money, but that would be too easy and lack the risk and strategy that I enjoy with stock-picking.

So anyway, I don't pay for any elaborate research for my stocks. I just kind of go with my gut: looking for companies I believe are undervalued, buying them and then selling them after modest upticks. Well, at least I try to act that conservatively. When I start taking dumb and large risks on companies I know very little about I have lost a lot of money. Being overly risky has bit me in the ass thus far. But anyway, back to the whole research thing....

Back to my point, (yes, I do have a point, I think).... So you go to Yahoo's finance section or pretty much any free site and look up a stock. You'll find any and all news-releases on a specific stock. More often than not, nowadays, you will see a press-release for a law firm that says that they are suing the company. Off and on I have owned Krispy Kreme since the bottom fell out of the stock. This is one of those stocks that is constantly being sued now. There keep on being class-action lawsuits brought by large law firms either on behalf of investors or employees. At first glance, this might seem a reasonable enough development. A lot of these corporations have used questionable accounting practices in order to prop up the price of the stock. It certainly sucks if you invested in Krispy Kreme at its price peak and now that initial investment has a value of less than a fifth of that. I have already had my share of large stock losses along the way, and I can understand the frustration. Additionally, I can understand that employees, who may not have been making much to begin with, get very upset if much of their pension/401K was tied up in their company's stock. The drop in stock price has jeopardized their future retirement and they want someone to pay. I will assume, despite large doubts on the subject, that actual aggrieved parties are seeking out lawyers to take their case and not vice versa.

After further thought, though, I wonder what good suing companies like Krispy Kreme actually does for anyone besides the lawyers. Contrary to popular belief, corporations aren't some sort of monster that exists outside the people who own and work for the company. A corporation is an organized business made of people: stockholders, employees, etc. So when you sue the company the only people you are hurting are those that own the company (the stockholders) and the people who work for the company (the employees). With any successful suit, money is simply changing hands, from some stockholders to old stockholders. From current employees to former employees, etc. Lawyers also receive their massive fees. The company has less money, is worth less, cannot hire as many employees and a lot of innocent people are hurt. Civil damages against the is not the way to punish companies for their actions that hurt stockholders and employee pension funds. All they do is enrich lawyers bringing the questionable suits and hurt those still involved in the company and nothing to do with the accounting violations. We have criminal statutes to govern accounting abuse for a reason. The executives and accountants who committed these acts should be the ones punished with criminal sanctions, and, if it makes sense, civil damages as well. All of this is much preferable to suing the company, but the practice still continues. Considering the fatter coffers of the company compared to the corrupt executives I suppose these trial lawyers won't be looking forward to any change.

...When a big class-action suit is announced, the stock price often takes a large plunge. Seems like a situation ripe for insider-trading.
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