Posts tagged ‘San Diego’

Windows as a Stand-Alone Server

I have written before about how much trouble I had using windows as an unattended server for an application -- in this case for the XBMC video system on my TV's around the house.  No matter what I did, how many tweaks I made, how many websites I checked for advice, within a day or two some application or popup would take control of the screen and send my unattended application to the background.  This would not be such much of a problem if it was just me using it, but with a non-tech-savvy family members trying to interact with the device with a TV remote, it was unacceptable.  Eventually I switched to the Linux version of XBMC in a distribution call Openelec and I have had zero problems since.

I was reminded of all this at the San Diego airport.  They have these big beautiful screens with flight and weather and travel information.  But apparently they have problems making the windows popups go away as well (that's some sort of HP registration message in the window):

click to enlarge

 

The most amazing example I have ever seen was on a giant, giant advertising screen on the front of a casino in Las Vegas, which had a huge windows popup covering whatever ads were supposed to be served up.  I wish I had my camera but I was out jogging at the time.

Update:  A reader sent me this, via gizmodo, from Cowboys stadium

click to enlarge

Meet the Person Who Wants to Run Your Life -- And Obama Wants to Help Her

I am a bit late on this, but like most libertarians I was horrified by this article in the Mail Online about Obama Administration efforts to nudge us all into "good" behavior.  This is the person, Maya Shankar, who wants to substitute her decision-making priorities for your own

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If the notion -- that a 20-something person who has apparently never held a job in the productive economy is  telling you she knows better what is good for you -- is not absurd on its face, here are a few other reasons to distrust this plan.

  • Proponents first, second, and third argument for doing this kind of thing is that it is all based on "science".  But a lot of the so-called science is total crap.  Medical literature is filled with false panics that are eventually retracted.  And most social science findings are frankly garbage.  If you have some behavior you want to nudge, and you give a university a nice grant, I can guarantee you that you can get a study supporting whatever behavior you want to foster or curtail.  Just look at the number of public universities in corn-growing states that manage to find justifications for ethanol subsidies.  Recycling is a great example, mentioned several times in the article.  Research supports the sensibility of recycling aluminum and steel, but says that recycling glass and plastic and paper are either worthless or cost more in resources than they save.  But nudgers never-the-less push for recycling of all this stuff.  Nudging quickly starts looking more like religion than science.
  • The 300 million people in this country have 300 million different sets of priorities and personal circumstances.  It is the worst hubris to think that one can make one decision that is correct for everyone.  Name any supposedly short-sighted behavior -- say, not getting health insurance when one is young -- and I can name numerous circumstances where this is a perfectly valid choice and risk to take.
  • The justification for this effort is social science research about how people manage decisions that involve short-term and long-term consequences

Some behavioral scientists believe they can improve people's self-control by understanding the relationship between short term memory, intelligence and delay discounting.

This has mostly been used to counter compulsive gambling and substance abuse, but Shankar's entry into government science circles may indicate that health insurance objectors and lapsed recyclers could soon fall into a similar category

I am sure there is a grain of truth in this -- all of us likely have examples of where we made a decision to avoid short term pain that we regretted.  But it is hilarious to think that government officials will somehow do better.  As I have written before, the discount rate on pain applied by most legislators is infinite.  They will do any crazy ridiculous thing that has horrible implications five or ten years from now if they can just get through today.  Why else do government bodies run massive sustained deficits and give away unsustainable pension and retirement packages except that they take no consideration of future consequences.  And it is these people Maya wants to put in charge of teaching me about delay discounting?

  • It probably goes without saying, but nudging quickly becomes politicized.  Is nudging 20-something health men to buy health insurance really in their best interests, or does it help keep an important Obama program from failing?

Postscript:  Here is a great example of just how poorly the government manages delay discounting.  In these cases, municipalities are saddling taxpayers with almost certainly bankrupting future debt to avoid paying any short-term costs.

Texas school districts have made use of another controversial financing technique: capital appreciation bonds. Used to finance construction, these bonds defer interest payments, often for decades. The extension saves the borrower from spending on repayment right now, but it burdens a future generation with significantly higher costs. Some capital appreciation bonds wind up costing a municipality ten times what it originally borrowed. From 2007 through 2011 alone, research by the Texas legislature shows, the state’s municipalities and school districts issued 700 of these bonds, raising $2.3 billion—but with a price tag of $23 billion in future interest payments. To build new schools, one fast-growing school district, Leander, has accumulated $773 million in outstanding debt through capital appreciation bonds.

Capital appreciation bonds have also ignited controversy in California, where school districts facing stagnant tax revenues and higher costs have used them to borrow money without any immediate budget impact. One school district in San Diego County, Poway Unified, won voter approval to borrow $100 million by promising that the move wouldn’t raise local taxes. To live up to that promise, Poway used bonds that postponed interest payments for 20 years. But future Poway residents will be paying off the debt—nearly $1 billion, all told—until 2051. After revelations that a handful of other districts were also using capital appreciation bonds, the California legislature outlawed them earlier this year. Other states, including Texas, are considering similar bans.

Or here is another example, of New York (the state that is home to the mayor who tries to nudge his residents on everything from soft drinks to salt)  using trickery to consume 25 years of revenue in one year.

Other New York deals engineered without voter say-so include a $2.7 billion bond offering in 2003, backed by 25 years’ worth of revenues from the state’s gigantic settlement with tobacco companies. To circumvent borrowing limits, the state created an independent corporation to issue the bonds and then used the money from the bond sale to close a budget deficit—instantly consuming most of the tobacco settlement, which now had to be used to pay off the debt.

By the way, I recommend the whole linked article.  It is a pretty broad survey of how state and local governments are building up so much debt, both on and off the books, and how politicians bend every law just to be able to spend a few more dollars today.

Off to Comicon

As you could probably tell from the scarcity of posts, I have been on quasi-vacation for a few weeks.  Today I fly off to San Diego to go to Comicon with my son.  Sorry, don't expect any Coyote Cosplay pictures.

In Praise of Social Media

Over the last several days I have been desperate for information on the Chariot Fire east of San Diego.  This brush fire destroyed the campground next to ours and came right up to our gates, so it was touch in go for several days to see if we would lose it.

I am often disdainful of social media but the best up to date source of information, bar none, for me was the Brush Fire Partyline started on a Facebook page.  It was a fabulous resource in a news situation when the local media was often 12 hours behind the story and official government announcements were at least 24 hours tardy.  (If you click through and their header image has not changed, you will see the red burned area stop just short of Laguna Campground, the campground we operate.

One Reason the Press is Always So Statist

Why is the media always so deferential to the state?  The reasons may be in part ideological, but there is a public choice explanation as well -- the state (particularly local police and crime stories) generate most of its headlines, and so they have a financial incentive to retain access to the source of so much of their content.

Perhaps even more revealing, though, was this:

To start, [San Diego County Sheriff's Office] spokeswoman Jan Caldwell explained to the room full of journalists why it is so important to be nice to her: "If you are rude, if you are obnoxious, if you are demanding, if you call me a liar, I will probably not talk to you anymore. And there's only one sheriff's department in town, and you can go talk to the deputies all you want but there's one PIO."

Here we have the heart of the matter. "Professional" journalists may, indeed, be brilliant, talented, well-trained, professional, with an abiding appetite for hard-hitting but neutral reporting. Yet professional journalists also depend on relationships. Ms. Caldwell calls that fact out, sending law enforcement's core message to the press: if you want access, play the game.

The game colors mainstream media coverage of criminal justice. Here's my overt bias: I'm a criminal defense attorney, a former prosecutor, and a critic of the criminal justice system. In my view, the press is too often deferential to police and prosecutors. They report the state's claims as fact and the defense's as nitpicking or flimflam. They accept the state's spin on police conduct uncritically. They present criminal justice issues from their favored "if it bleeds it leads" perspective rather than from a critical and questioning perspective, happily covering deliberate spectacle rather than calling it out as spectacleThey accept leaks and tips and favors from law enforcement, even when those tips and leaks and favors violate defendants' rights, and even when the act of giving the tip or leak or favor is itself a story that somebody ought to be investigating. In fact, they cheerfully facilitate obstruction of justice through leaks. They dumb down criminal justice issues to serve their narrative, or because they don't understand them.

This "professional" press approach to the criminal justice system serves police and prosecutors very well. They favor reporters who hew to it. Of course they don't want to answer questions from the 800-pound bedridden guy in fuzzy slippers in his mother's basement. But it's not because an 800-pound bedridden guy can't ask pertinent questions. It's because he's frankly more likely to ask tough questions, more likely to depart from the mutually accepted narrative about the system, less likely to be "respectful" in order to protect his access. (Of course, he might also be completely nuts, in a way that "mainstream" journalism screens out to some extent.)

Which is why, despite Joe Arpaio's frequent antics that make national news, it falls to our local alt-weekly here in Phoenix rather than our monopoly daily paper to do actual investigative reporting on the Sheriff's office.

LA Traffic Bleg

OK, I have to drive on Thursday from San Diego to make a meeting around 10AM just north of LA off I-5.  I am willing to believe that there is no good way across town this time of day, and the only reasonable approach is to leave early and bring emergency rations.  However, if anyone has any advice as to the best way to thread my way south to north through LA during morning rush hour, leave a comment.

Update:  Thanks everyone.  I actually have to be in Ventura County via Santa Clarita so I will probably take the 15 and go around.  I also decided to take my (teenage) kids along to get the carpool lane.  Going to ditch them at Magic Mountain (not a bad fate) as I pass by.  I have my iPad charged with traffic, and will just get up early.

Cute Animal Pictures

I am just about to enter my ninth year on this blog and I realize that I have not participated much in the primary purpose of the Internet -- posting cute animal pictures.  So here is some catch-up, via a recent trip to the San Diego zoo.

 

Fox Pulls Avengers From Theaters After Just 4 Days

OK, not really.  But it is Joss Whedon.   Being a Firefly fan-boy and one of apparently only 12 people who "got" Dollhouse and liked it, I am happy to see Whedon's success with the Avengers.  I'll be at Comicon this summer (yes, I am that big of a geek and besides my family will be in San Diego anyway on vacation) and I am thinking Whedon is virtually a lock to make an appearance.

When the Media Loses Its Skepticism - High Speed Rail Edition

I have said for a long time that I don't really think there is a lot of outright media bias in the sense of conspiring to bury or promote certain memes.   But there are real issues with the leftish monoculture of the media losing its skepticism on certain topics.

For example, high speed rail is one of those things we are just supposed to do, from the Leftish view.  Harry Reid's justification for a high speed rail line is typical:  he wants to see  "America catch up with the rest of the world".  Everyone else has these things, so it must be some failing of ours that we don't.  For the left, the benefits of high speed rail are a given, they are part of the liturgy and not to be questioned.  Which means that it is up to outsiders to do the media's work of applying some degree of skepticism whenever a high speed rail project is proposed.

Thus we get to this article on high speed rail about a supposedly "private" rail line from LA to Las Vegas.  As is usual in the media, none of the assumptions are questioned.

Greg Pollowitz gets at some of the more obvious problems.  First, it is fairly heroic spin to call a line that currently is getting $4.9 billion in public subsidies "privately funded."  Second, he points out that, like the proposed California high speed rail line, this is a train to nowhere as well

And second of all, having grown up in Los Angeles — and having lied to my parents to drive to Vegas since the time I was 16 years old — I consider myself somewhat of an expert on the Los Angeles to Vegas drive. (CNN, Fox, MSDNC — call me!) I remember Victorville fondly as the place where we’d make our food-stop and pick up some In-N-Out burgers for the final half of the journey. And I can tell you this: There is no way anybody would ever drive through L.A.’s notorious traffic only to stop halfway and hop on a train on the other side of the El Cajon Pass and in doing so give up their personal transportation once they actually get to Vegas.

I want to reality-check their usage numbers.

DesertXpress estimates that it will carry around five million round trip passengers in the first full year of operation,with the company charging fares of around $50 for a one-way trip.

OK, right now there are about 3.7 annual air passengers between Las Vegas and the southern California airports, according to rail supporters.  It is hard to get at drivers, but the Las Vegas tourism folks believe that 25% of 36 million annual visitors to Vegas come from Southern California, so that would mean about 9 million total or about 5 million driving.

What this means is that to make this work, they are counting on more than half of all visitors from Southern California (and remember this includes San Diego) taking the train.  Is this reasonable?

  • The train is supposedly $50 (I will believe that when I see it).  Currently JetBlue flies from Burbank to Las Vegas for $56 in a flight that takes 69 minutes (vs. 84 for the train and remember that is from Victorville).   The standard rate from LAX, Burbank, or Long Beach seems to be around $74-77.
  • Airplanes leave for Las Vegas from airports all around LA and in San Diego.  Let's take a couple of locations.  Say you live near downtown LA, not because that is likely but it is relatively central and does not feel like cherry picking.  Victorville is a 84 mile 90 minute drive AT BEST, with no traffic.  The Burbank airport is a 15 mile, 18 minute drive from LA.  LAX is just a bit further.  Victorville is 82 miles and 90 minutes from Irvine and 146 miles/144 minutes from San Diego.  Both of these Southern California towns are just a few minutes from an airport with $70-ish flights to Vegas

So are drivers going to stop half way to Vegas, once they have completed the hard part of the drive, to get on a train?  Are flyers going to drive 1-2 hours further to get to the rail terminal to say $20?  Some will.  But will more than half?  No way.

Postscript:  If you really want to promote the train, forget shoveling tax money at it and pass a law that the TSA may not set up screening operations at its terminus.  That might get a few customers, though the odds this would happen, or that it would stick over time, are minuscule.

Are Private Entities Solely To Blame For Making Money Off Structural Problems Created by the Government?

Paul Krugman had this sideswipe comment the other day:

This isn't the only case where news organizations consistently report as truth something that didn't happen, while failing to report what did. Another one that comes to mind is the California electricity crisis of 2001-2002. As some readers may recall, that crisis was caused by market manipulation -- and that's not a hypothesis, Enron traders were caught on tape telling plants to shut down to create artificial shortages. Yet "news analyses" published after the whole thing was revealed would often tell readers that excessive environmental regulation and Nimbyism caused the crisis, with nary a mention of the deliberate creation of shortages.

And as you'll notice, in both cases the imaginary history just happened to be one more comfortable to status quo interests.

I find it hilarious that Krugman is talking about imaginary history, since he plays the same game so often.  In fact, the disconnect between many of Krugman's current political writings and his historical economic work are often jaw-dropping.  Even the differences in Krugman's opinion on the same topic when a Republican vs. a Democrat is in the White House can be amazing.

But I wanted to address the California utility issue.  Certainly Krugman is right, as far as he goes, in that Enron made a lot of money in the California electricity crisis creating some short-term artificial shortages.  But what he leaves out of his brief comment were the structural rules the government had put in place that made Enron's actions possible.  Enron's profits in the California electricity crisis could never have been made in a free market.

I am not an expert on the whole regulatory environment in which these events occurred, but there were three key regulatory facts that need to be understood:

1.  California, due to the NIMBY and environmental concerns Krugman mentions in passing, want lots of electricity but do not want the electricity production near them.  So they have exported the production to other states, and, more importantly, California utilities did not control the production of the electricity they needed.  Thus a lot of California power, and all of its marginal demand, is satisfied by local utilities buying out of state power.  As we will see next, Krugman is really putting up a straw man here, as this is simply background, the least important of the three government factors that drove the problem.

2.  California deregulated wholesale utility prices, but not retail prices.  The point of price deregulation is that suppliers and consumers can make better decisions because the information they get via prices is not distorted by government mandates.   But price deregulation only makes sense if the ultimate consumers have prices that float with the market.  But California consumers still had fixed prices.  There were no changes to pricing signals to consumers that might cause them to conserve more when electricity was particularly short.

So, only wholesale customers saw their prices paid increase when electricity supplies ran short.  This mainly applied to large California utilities that bought power they needed from out of state.   Theoretically, when prices spiked, they could cut back their demand.  This is more awkward for them than consumers, but could be done either with pre-determined shut down priorities or rolling brown-outs.  At some point, one would assume the cost of power would be higher than the cost of service disruptions, but...

3.  California utilities were effectively required by regulation to try to serve all demand.  Right or wrong, they felt they were in a position that if power were available, they had to buy it no matter what the cost.

So step in Enron.  Seeing this mess, they found they could corner the market at a few peak demand times and sell Calfornia power for a gazillion dollars a Kw.   I would not personally have been proud to make money that way, but Enron jumped right in.

I have no problem giving Enron grief for the way they make money, but one has to ask themselves, why the hell were California utilities buying power no matter what the price, and why was it that when electricity was so dear, it was illegal to communicate this to end users via prices (as we do with any other product or commodity).  The story here is a lot more complicated than Enron.

Update: Finem Respice took a more sophisticated look at this same issue a while back in a broader post about trying to close an open system.

On the retail side, just as California was patting itself on the back for "deregulating" in 1996 (via a bill that Pete Wilson created with complexities and exceptions for e.g., San Diego that make the special interest game in Washington look tame by comparison), it froze, just after reducing, retail electricity rates for five years. Add to this the fact that California had long depended on supplies from, e.g., the Northwest, which, for years, enjoyed a hydroelectric power generation surplus. As the surplus vanished with droughts and increased demand in the Pacific Northwest, so did the supply buffer California was so used to, and that it leaned on most heavily over the years to avoid building new generating capacity (new capacity being the bane of the progressively green environmental utopian-paradise that was (is) California energy politics). All this conspired to spike rates. Who is surprised?

It is somewhat unfortunate that Enron's shrewd manipulation of California's badly flawed and outright schizophrenic market scheme was so flagrant, and that unrelated accounting scandals at the company permitted the story to become one of deregulation evils and free market greed rather than the core issue: the political spinelessness exhibited by California officials and their ongoing attempt to insulate voters from anything resembling market prices for electricity

Israel

I don't write about the Middle East much because its a big muddle that requires a lot more knowledge than I have to comment on seriously.

I will say this about Israel, though:  I too would love to see better civil rights performance at times (just as I would like to see better performance from our own damn country) but it's interesting to hypothesize what the US would do in similar circumstances.  After watching our post-9/11 Constitutional rollback, I wonder what other extreme steps we would be taking if, say, Mexican rockets routinely landed in San Diego or Nogales or El Paso.  One does not have to go too far out on a limb to call the Israeli response "restrained," at least in comparison to what the US would do in parallel circumstances.  Not to mention our reaction if a major foreign leader came to our country and urged us to give back the Gadsden Purchase as a solution.

Who Picked Whom

We have 122 backets entered in our competition this year.  Here is the pick report by game

Round 1 Round 2 Round 3 Round 4 Round 5 Round 6
East
1 Ohio St. 122
16 TexasSA/AlaSt 0
1 Ohio St. 117
8 George Mason 3
9 Villanova 2
16 TexasSA/AlaSt 0
1 Ohio St. 102
4 Kentucky 14
5 West Virginia 3
12 UAB/Clemson 1
8 George Mason 1
13 Princeton 1
9 Villanova 0
16 TexasSA/AlaSt 0
1 Ohio St. 80
2 North Carolina 18
4 Kentucky 8
3 Syracuse 7
6 Xavier 5
5 West Virginia 2
7 Washington 1
14 Indiana St. 1
10 Georgia 0
15 Long Island 0
13 Princeton 0
16 TexasSA/AlaSt 0
8 George Mason 0
9 Villanova 0
12 UAB/Clemson 0
11 Marquette 0
1 Ohio St. 51
1 Duke 29
2 San Diego St. 7
3 Connecticut 7
4 Texas 5
2 North Carolina 5
3 Syracuse 5
8 Michigan 4
5 West Virginia 2
4 Kentucky 2
7 Washington 1
10 Penn St. 1
14 Indiana St. 1
6 Xavier 1
5 Arizona 1
6 Cincinnati 0
13 Oakland 0
11 Missouri 0
7 Temple 0
14 Bucknell 0
15 Northern-Colo 0
15 Long Island 0
12 UAB/Clemson 0
9 Villanova 0
8 George Mason 0
16 TexasSA/AlaSt 0
13 Princeton 0
11 Marquette 0
9 Tennessee 0
16 Hampton 0
10 Georgia 0
12 Memphis 0
1 Ohio St. 36
1 Kansas 24
1 Duke 17
1 Pittsburgh 7
3 Connecticut 5
2 Notre Dame 4
2 San Diego St. 3
3 Purdue 3
2 Florida 3
8 Michigan 2
4 Texas 2
2 North Carolina 2
4 Wisconsin 2
4 Kentucky 2
3 Syracuse 2
7 UCLA 2
5 Kansas St. 1
5 West Virginia 1
7 Washington 1
6 Xavier 1
14 Indiana St. 1
15 Akron 1
10 Michigan St. 0
14 St.Peters NJ 0
6 Georgetown 0
11 USC/VCU 0
15 Santa Barbara 0
7 Texas A&M 0
10 Florida State 0
16 UNCAsh/ArkLR 0
13 Morehead St 0
13 Belmont 0
6 St. Johns 0
12 Utah St. 0
3 BYU 0
11 Gonzaga 0
8 Butler 0
9 Old Dominion 0
14 Wofford 0
15 Northern-Colo 0
15 Long Island 0
10 Georgia 0
16 Hampton 0
9 Tennessee 0
5 Arizona 0
11 Marquette 0
13 Princeton 0
16 TexasSA/AlaSt 0
8 George Mason 0
9 Villanova 0
12 UAB/Clemson 0
12 Memphis 0
13 Oakland 0
8 UNLV 0
9 Illinois 0
5 Vanderbilt 0
12 Richmond 0
16 Boston U. 0
10 Penn St. 0
6 Cincinnati 0
11 Missouri 0
14 Bucknell 0
7 Temple 0
4 Louisville 0
9 Villanova 63
8 George Mason 59
5 West Virginia 91
12 UAB/Clemson 31
4 Kentucky 73
5 West Virginia 36
12 UAB/Clemson 8
13 Princeton 5
4 Kentucky 103
13 Princeton 19
6 Xavier 74
11 Marquette 48
3 Syracuse 78
6 Xavier 29
11 Marquette 10
14 Indiana St. 5
2 North Carolina 56
3 Syracuse 41
7 Washington 10
6 Xavier 10
11 Marquette 3
14 Indiana St. 1
10 Georgia 1
15 Long Island 0
3 Syracuse 114
14 Indiana St. 8
7 Washington 78
10 Georgia 44
2 North Carolina 95
7 Washington 20
10 Georgia 7
15 Long Island 0
2 North Carolina 121
15 Long Island 1
West
1 Duke 122
16 Hampton 0
1 Duke 110
8 Michigan 8
9 Tennessee 4
16 Hampton 0
1 Duke 83
4 Texas 22
5 Arizona 8
8 Michigan 7
9 Tennessee 2
13 Oakland 0
16 Hampton 0
12 Memphis 0
1 Duke 60
2 San Diego St. 20
3 Connecticut 18
4 Texas 10
5 Arizona 5
8 Michigan 4
6 Cincinnati 2
9 Tennessee 2
10 Penn St. 1
15 Northern-Colo 0
7 Temple 0
13 Oakland 0
16 Hampton 0
12 Memphis 0
11 Missouri 0
14 Bucknell 0
8 Michigan 65
9 Tennessee 57
5 Arizona 95
12 Memphis 27
4 Texas 74
5 Arizona 32
12 Memphis 9
13 Oakland 7
4 Texas 106
13 Oakland 16
6 Cincinnati 73
11 Missouri 49
3 Connecticut 89
11 Missouri 17
6 Cincinnati 14
14 Bucknell 2
2 San Diego St. 51
3 Connecticut 51
10 Penn St. 7
6 Cincinnati 7
11 Missouri 3
7 Temple 2
14 Bucknell 1
15 Northern-Colo 0
3 Connecticut 114
14 Bucknell 8
7 Temple 68
10 Penn St. 54
2 San Diego St. 92
10 Penn St. 17
7 Temple 13
15 Northern-Colo 0
2 San Diego St. 121
15 Northern-Colo 1
Southwest
1 Kansas 121
16 Boston U. 1
1 Kansas 116
9 Illinois 4
8 UNLV 2
16 Boston U. 0
1 Kansas 105
4 Louisville 10
5 Vanderbilt 3
9 Illinois 2
8 UNLV 1
12 Richmond 1
13 Morehead St 0
16 Boston U. 0
1 Kansas 74
3 Purdue 25
2 Notre Dame 14
4 Louisville 4
6 Georgetown 1
12 Richmond 1
15 Akron 1
9 Illinois 1
5 Vanderbilt 1
10 Florida State 0
7 Texas A&M 0
13 Morehead St 0
16 Boston U. 0
8 UNLV 0
11 USC/VCU 0
14 St.Peters NJ 0
1 Kansas 59
1 Pittsburgh 22
2 Notre Dame 10
3 Purdue 9
2 Florida 5
4 Wisconsin 4
7 UCLA 3
5 Kansas St. 3
4 Louisville 3
3 BYU 2
15 Akron 1
9 Illinois 1
11 Gonzaga 0
6 St. Johns 0
13 Belmont 0
14 Wofford 0
8 UNLV 0
15 Santa Barbara 0
16 Boston U. 0
10 Michigan St. 0
5 Vanderbilt 0
12 Utah St. 0
6 Georgetown 0
11 USC/VCU 0
10 Florida State 0
7 Texas A&M 0
13 Morehead St 0
16 UNCAsh/ArkLR 0
12 Richmond 0
9 Old Dominion 0
8 Butler 0
14 St.Peters NJ 0
9 Illinois 61
8 UNLV 61
5 Vanderbilt 71
12 Richmond 51
4 Louisville 78
5 Vanderbilt 27
12 Richmond 14
13 Morehead St 3
4 Louisville 112
13 Morehead St 10
6 Georgetown 99
11 USC/VCU 23
3 Purdue 98
6 Georgetown 19
11 USC/VCU 3
14 St.Peters NJ 2
3 Purdue 61
2 Notre Dame 45
6 Georgetown 6
7 Texas A&M 5
10 Florida State 3
11 USC/VCU 1
15 Akron 1
14 St.Peters NJ 0
3 Purdue 116
14 St.Peters NJ 6
10 Florida State 61
7 Texas A&M 61
2 Notre Dame 97
7 Texas A&M 16
10 Florida State 8
15 Akron 1
2 Notre Dame 117
15 Akron 5
Southeast
1 Pittsburgh 121
16 UNCAsh/ArkLR 1
1 Pittsburgh 109
8 Butler 11
9 Old Dominion 2
16 UNCAsh/ArkLR 0
1 Pittsburgh 83
4 Wisconsin 19
5 Kansas St. 13
8 Butler 3
12 Utah St. 2
13 Belmont 1
9 Old Dominion 1
16 UNCAsh/ArkLR 0
1 Pittsburgh 60
2 Florida 14
4 Wisconsin 13
3 BYU 12
5 Kansas St. 10
7 UCLA 4
6 St. Johns 2
10 Michigan St. 2
8 Butler 2
13 Belmont 1
11 Gonzaga 1
12 Utah St. 1
15 Santa Barbara 0
16 UNCAsh/ArkLR 0
9 Old Dominion 0
14 Wofford 0
8 Butler 75
9 Old Dominion 47
5 Kansas St. 77
12 Utah St. 45
4 Wisconsin 62
5 Kansas St. 37
12 Utah St. 16
13 Belmont 7
4 Wisconsin 96
13 Belmont 26
6 St. Johns 75
11 Gonzaga 47
3 BYU 66
6 St. Johns 34
11 Gonzaga 17
14 Wofford 5
2 Florida 48
3 BYU 29
6 St. Johns 18
10 Michigan St. 11
7 UCLA 10
11 Gonzaga 6
15 Santa Barbara 0
14 Wofford 0
3 BYU 110
14 Wofford 12
10 Michigan St. 66
7 UCLA 56
2 Florida 83
10 Michigan St. 24
7 UCLA 15
15 Santa Barbara 0
2 Florida 118
15 Santa Barbara 4

On Wanting to Debate

This has to be one of the lamest things I have seen in a while.

Fred Singer offered to debate Richard Somerville and Naomi Oreskes in January in San Diego. Both declined. Oreskes said she didn't want to debate someone "with a known record of promoting public misrepresentation of science."

This is used as an excuse to avoid debate by climate alarmists all the time.  But it makes no sense.  If someone is either a) using really bad arguments or b) spreading misrepresentations, I would definitely want to debate them.

Last week my speech at Arizona State on privatizing the operation of state parks was turned into a debate between myself and the most vocal opposition to the approach, the head of the Arizona Sierra Club.  When asked if I would be willing to debate rather than speak, my answer was "hell yes."

You see, I am actually confident in my arguments.  I was longing to have a face to face debate on this topic.  In fact, I was incredibly frustrated that opponents of using private companies to help manage public recreation were constantly arguing against a straw man that doesn't actually exist in reality.  You can see that in spades in the debate below (I am the second speaker, the Sierra Club person is the third).   Note how, despite nearly a year in Arizona of public discourse on this topic (pushed mainly by yours truly), opponents are still criticising the model based on hypothesized implementations, rather than observation of actual examples within an hour's drive of where we were speaking. 

I start at 19:45, which I am sure everyone wants to watch ;=)  And yes I talk too fast, to make it a debate they cut my 45 minutes down to 10.

Back from the Big Floating Leisure Suit

I am back from the family reunion (my wife's family) which was held on a cruise last week.  The cruise was a really good venue for a family reunion -- small enough that you run into people, but large enough to escape them too.  Every night we had 4 large tables to ourselves in the restaurant.

The cruise itself was a little disappointing, but it was chosen more for being low cost and accesible to the entire group, so I can live with that.   There were way too many people in my space for my personal taste.  Someday I want to take a much smaller boat, maybe in the Greek Isles.

A couple of things amazed me.  One, the port of call in Mexico was really a dump.  And this is from someone who has spent time in Mexico, good places and bad, and has some fondness for the country.  I figured out the reason when I was laying on the deck and saw the Panamanian flag flying form the back of the boat.  By US law, for a non-US flagged ship to leave and return to a port (in this case Long Beach), it must stop in between in another country.  I am sure the cruise line would love to run four day cruises say between San Diego and Santa Barbara or San Francisco, but that would be illegal unless they took on the prohibitive cost of operating a US-flagged ship.  So we stopped in a little industrial town just over the border to make it all legal.

The other thing that amazed me was the decor of the ship.  I would have bet money that the ship was designed in the 1970's.  Our room, which had a balcony, was nice, but the common areas were right out of bad 1970's casino ambiance.  Amazingly, though, the nameplate said it was built in 1998.  Not sure what these guys were thinking.  I called it the great floating leisure suit.

Internet service was $24 per hour, so I did not do any blogging, but the good news is I got a ton of writing done on my new novel.

Heroic Assumptions

Previously, I have criticized the proposed California high speed rail line (from San Diego to San Francisco) as grossly underestimating potential costs.  Brian Doherty has an article this week reality-checking its projected ridership, after the California legislative analysts' office questioned the contingency analysis in the high-speed rail plan.

Eric Thronson, a fiscal and policy analyst for the office, called a risk assessment in the business plan "incomplete and inappropriate for a project of this magnitude.''

Thronson warned that there is no backup plan to keep the rail system solvent if it fails to draw 41 million people yearly. A bond measure approved by voters to help pay for the train network prohibits public funds from being spent on operating costs.

Doherty provides this reality check:

The future: where all of California's fiscal messes wait to be addressed! By the way, that ridership figure of 41 million averages to over 112,000 train riders every single day of the year. The average daily usage of I-5--the entire road--is around 71,000, according to the Federal Highway Administration.

Here are a couple of other reality checks

  • The entire passenger traffic from LAX to and from every other city in the country is 44 million a year (excludes international passengers)
  • The current air passenger traffic between LAX and SFO is 2.7 million a year
  • The passenger traffic of Amtrak in its entire national network is 28.7 million (including local commuter operations)

Only A Company Living Off of Government Pork Would Make This Decision

Aptera apparently wants to build electric cars using our tax dollars.  They are looking for a manufacturing plant location.   They seem to be homing on an one of the last locations on the planet I would build a new manufacturing facility:

At least we learn that the company is might soon be closing in on a new production facility as a result of a new application to the DOE's AVTMP [advance vehicle technology manufacturing program]. The loan application asks for a 10-year facility plan, which meant Aptera needed to actually come up with such a plan. Aptera's production schedule "calls for more than 10,000 units in the first 3 years and more than 300 employees," so it is looking for a new place to build the cars somewhere in Southern California, specifically somewhere in San Diego County.

High land prices?  Hugely expensive land use and environmental regulations?  High taxes?  Really high local wages?  Perfect, lets build an auto assembly plant!

I'll Take This Government Contract

Local swimmers have gotten a court order forcing the City of San Diego to chase away the seals from the Scripps children's pool in La Jolla.  But it is not my intention to blog on that specifically, but on this bit:

The city said it would blast recordings of barking dogs to scare away the pesky pinnipeds at the cost of $688,000 a year. San Diego cannot use force because the seals are a federally protected marine species.

Please, oh please can I get paid $688,000 a year to play loud recordings on the beach?  I have not even cracked a spreadsheet on this, but I am betting I can turn a profit on that.

Cortlandt Homes

In India, Tata corp.  has a plan to build condos that would sell for as little as $8000 a unit.  Which got me thinking about the cost of regulation in the US.  Take California, a state that has an explicit government goal to promote affordable housing.  My bet is that the permitting alone would cost more than $8000 a unit, and building code mandates would certainly make such a figure impossible.

I have always thought it funny that residents of the San Diego coast, with perhaps the mildest climate in the country, have the most onerous requirements in the country for insulation and air conditioning efficiency.  Its like requiring residents of Seattle to put on sun screen every day.

More Great Moments in Government Spending

Apparently, 3-1/2 miles of new border wall near San Diego will cost at least $57 million, or $16.3 million a mile (or a bit over $3000 per foot).  For comparison, the 350 mile long Maginot line cost France about $150 million in the 1930s, or about $2.3 Billion in today's dollars.  This puts the cost of the Maginot line, underground tunnels, bunkers, gun emplacements, and all, at $6.5 million current dollars per mile.  Of course, the Maginot line was not built as a continuous wall to catch individual infiltrators, but on the other hand the San Diego wall is (presumably) not being built  30 kilometers deep with layered emplacements to handle massed tank and artillery attacks.

It could be worse for taxpayers - they could be laying railroad track instead of building a wall, since that costs about $96 million per mile here in Phoenix.

I can't wait for those huge administration cost savings that are promised from nationalizing health care.

Update: I just thought of one other comparison- like the Maginot line, at least one end of this San Diego wall hangs in the air, meaning it just ends hundreds of miles before the border does, allowing it to be easily flanked.

I Really, Really Needed My Camera Today

I was driving back to Phoenix today from San Diego on Interstate 8 and I really needed my camera. 

As many of you in this area will have observed, the INS is out in force, setting up roadblocks and checkpoints on highways to look for illegal immigrants.  On top of our current rules requiring employers to act as immigration agents, our labor force is drying up in Arizona, making the search for workers harder.  That is why I thought it was hilarious that at the INS checkpoint near Yuma, the INS had a big sandwich-board type sign out front on the road saying "We're hiring!"

Environmental Preservation of a Man-Made Lake

Environmentalists are working to preserve another priceless natural treasure, one that has been on this earth supporting its habitat for, uh, decades.  From the Save the Salton Sea web site:

The
proposed transfer of water from the Imperial Valley to San Diego as
part of the reduction of California's Colorado River use, the possible
reclamation of New River water by Mexico, and the increased evaporation
from the Sea's restoration all threaten to reduce lake levels.  The
proposed transfer of the 300,000 acre feet alone, if inflows are not
replaced, is estimated to drop lake levels by over 16 feet, exposing
almost 70 square miles of sediments.  The result could be potential air
quality problems caused by blowing dust, seaside homes stranded far
from the Sea, and greatly accelerated concentrations of salts and
nutrients.

Of course its freaking drying up.  In a sense, this lake represents the United States' largest industrial spill, as early in the 20th century a couple of Colorado River aqueducts broke and poured water into the Salton basin, creating a brand new sea.  By usual environmentalist arguments, this lake is supposed to dry up, having been an artificial creation of man.  (By the way, as an extra credit task, I challenge you to find anywhere in the web site linked above where they mention that the lake is a man-made accident that is barely 100 years old).

HT:  Maggies Farm

Finished Harry Potter (no Spoilers)

My whole family was nice enough to choose this weekend to be away, so I could read Harry Potter 7 in peace (yes, I know, I am getting old when I use a bachelor weekend to read a book).  I thought is was a well-done conclusion to the series.

On Friday at midnight, I went out to get a copy for my son, who was driving with friends to San Diego early Saturday morning.  The Borders near us was a zoo -- what looked like a 2-hour line, and I didn't even have the right armband to get into it.  Fortunately, the 24-hour grocery store 2 blocks away had plenty and no line, so I did not have to wait.  (My bet is that if I had gone back to the Borders and shouted that there were books with no waiting a few blocks away, only a few would leave -- it was an event, not just a line.  Somehow, I think the perceived value of the book went up having waited in line for it.)

Anyway, I just wanted to make a couple of observations about the Harry Potter books:

  • You can complain all you want about JK Rowling's writing style or selective character development or whatever, but anyone who can have teenagers waiting in line at midnight to buy the last 800 pages of a nearly 5000 page narrative -- waiting in line to read! -- should have a spot reserved for her in the Poet's corner at Westminster Abbey.
  • Name any other book that had such an even mix of adults and kids reading it over the weekend
  • I am not big on the need for shared national experiences like certain conservatives or liberals are, but the Harry Potter books certainly constituted such a shared experience. 

More Anti-Immigration Scare Stats

A while back, I pointed out that immigration opponents seemed to be depending on American's having poor match skills and a pathetic knowledge of history.  Today in this post from Captain's Quarters we find more statistical funny business.  Captain Ed, like many conservatives, have been stumping for the US to build a big honking fence at the border, nominally as part of the war on terrorism.

Of course according to supporters it is only about security, not xenophobia, which explains why the fence proposal in Congress covers both our northern and southern borders since both are equally porous to terrorists.  Oh, wait, the law only covers the southern border?  Oh.  Well, I hope terrorists can't read a map and don't notice that the northern border is three times as long and in many cases more unpopulated and unguarded than the southern border.

Anyway, another "security" argument by immigration foes is that hordes of criminals are apparently pouring across the border, and walls are proposed as a way to stop them.  The Captain quotes Bill Frist:

One of the most important and most effective ways that we can stop
illegal immigration is through the construction and proper maintenance
of physical fences along the highest trafficked, most commonly violated
sections of our border with Mexico.

Take the case of San Diego. According to the FBI Crime Index, crime
in San Diego County dropped 56.3% between 1989 and 2000, after a fence
stretching from the Ocean to the mountains near San Diego was
substantially completed. And, according to numbers provided by the San
Diego Sector Border Patrol in February 2004, apprehensions decreased
from 531,689 in 1993 to 111,515 in 2003.

Whoa. That sounds impressive.  But, remember what I often say on this site -- correlation is not causation.  Indeed, it is not just random chance that he picked the years 1989 - 2000.  Those were the years that nearly every part of the US saw a huge drop in its crime rate.  Using this data for these years, and presuming Frist is using the crime rate index per 100,000 people, which is the stat that makes the most sense, here are some figures for 1989 - 2000:

Crime Rate Change, 1989-2000:
US :  - 28%
Arizona:  -28%
California: - 45%
New York: -51%

Wow!  The border fence in San Diego even had a similarly large effect on crime in New York State!  That thing is amazing.  Oh, and note these are state figures.  My understanding is that the figures for large metropolitan areas is even more dramatic.  So what happened in 1989 to 2000 is every state and in particular every large metropolitan area in the country saw huge double digit drops in crime, and San Diego was no exception.   But Frist tries to give credit to the border fence.

In case you want to believe that Frist does not know what he is doing with these stats (ie that he wasn't intentionally trying to give credit for a national demographic trend to a border fence in San Diego) notice that 1989 was the US crime rate peak and 2000 was the US crime rate low point.  So with data for the years up to 2005 available, he just happens to end his period at 2000.  Oh, and the new style fences he wants to emulate were actually only started in 1996 (and here, search for "triple fence"), AFTER most of these crime gains had been made.  Correlation definitely does not equal causation when the proposed cause occurred after the effect.

For all of you who always wanted to live in Soviet East Berlin, you may soon get a good taste of that experience:

The first fence, 10 feet high, is made of welded metal panels. The
second fence, 15 feet high, consists of steel mesh, and the top is
angled inward to make it harder to climb over. Finally, in high-traffic
areas, there's also a smaller chain-link fence. In between the two main
fences is 150 feet of "no man's land," an area that the Border Patrol
sweeps with flood lights and trucks, and soon, surveillance cameras.

Below are views of Nogales, AZ and Berlin.  Nothing alike.  Nope.  Totally different.

Nogaleswall_1 Berlinwall

Finally, I will give the last word to Frist, bold added.

That's why I strongly support the Secure Fence Act of 2006 "¦ and that's
why I'm bringing this crucial legislation to the floor of the Senate
this week for an up-or-down vote. By authorizing the construction of
over 700 miles of two-layered reinforced fencing along our southwest
border and by mandating the use of cameras, ground sensors, UAVs and
other forms of hi-tech surveillance, this legislation would help us
gain control over every inch of our borders "“ once and for all.

"gain control over every inch of our borders," except, or course, for those 3000 5525 miles (350 million inches) to the north where the people on the other side have the courtesy not to speak a foreign language.  But its hard to demagogue well about a threat from Canadians, since they are mostly WASPs like we mostly are, or at least it has been for the last 100 years or so.  54-40 or fight!

Update: Here is that terrifying Canadian border barrier (from this site).  This demonstrates why our terrorist security dollars need to all be invested on the southern border, since this one is already locked down tight.  Heck, there is one of these babies (below) every mile!  Beware terrorists!

Canada

And don't forget these terrorist-proof border checkpoints along our northern frontier:

  Canada2

But it's not about race.

Update 2:  Yes, my emailers are correct.  I did not actually give Frist the last word like I said I would.  Gosh, I feel so bad about that.

Update 3:  Welcome to readers of my favorite site, Reason's Hit and Run.  It looks like Texas may soon consider a border fence, though with Louisiana instead of Mexico.

Don't Know Much Good About America

One of the ways I like to pass the time on long drives (we went to San Diego this week with the kids) is to listen to audio books in the car.  For this trip, my wife picked out Kenneth Davis's Don't know much About History.  This particular version had been edited down to a quick 3-1/2 hours.

Its of course impossible to edit American history down to this short of a time, but we thought it might be enjoyable for the kids.  Also, I am used to the general "America sucks and its heros suck too" tone of most modern revisionist history, so I was kind of prepared for what I was going to get from a modern academician.   But my God, the whole history of this country had been edited down to only the bad stuff.  Columbus as a source of genocide -- the pettiness of American grievances in the revolution -- the notion that all the ideals of the Revolution were so much intellectual cover for rich men getting over on the masses -- the alien and sedition acts -- slavery -- massacre of Indians and trail of tears -- more slavery -- civil war -- mistreatment of the South after the war by the North -- more massacre of Indians -- Brown vs. board of education -- the great depression as the great failure of laissez faire economics -- did Roosevelt know about Pearl Harbor in advance -- McCarthyism -- racism and civil rights movement.   All of this with numerous snide remarks about evil corporations and rich people and the never-ending hosing of the poor and women/blacks/Indians (often in contexts entirely unrelated to what he is talking about, such that the remark is entirely gratuitous).

That's as far as we have gotten so far, but I am really giving you a pretty honest outline of the segments.   I have zero problem admitting that America's treatment of its native populations was shameful and worth some modern soul-searching.  Ditto slavery.  But to focus solely on this litany, with nothing about the rising tide of standard of living for even the poorest, of increasing health and longevity, of the intelligent ways we managed expansion (like the homestead act), of having the wealth and power to defeat fascism and later communism in the 20th century when no one else could do it.  Of creating, in fits and starts and with many long-delayed milestones, the freest country in the world.  Of a history where every other democratic revolution of the 18th and 19th century failed and fell into chaos and dictatorship but this one succeeded.  He begins the book by saying that he is bravely going to bust all the myths we have grown up with, but in essence helps to reinforce the #1 myth of our era:  That America is a bad actor on the world stage and less moral than the countries around us.

Which of course, is insane.  And remember, I am the first one to criticize our government over any number of issues, but the moral relativism that academics apply to America represents a shameless lack of correct context.  To borrow from a famous saying, I am willing to admit that America has the most shameful history, except for that of every other country in the world.

Postscript:
I don't even deny that a book with the premise that "schools and media often gloss over the bad stuff, so I want to let you know that America has a dark side too" would be a perfectly viable project.  However, this book represents itself as a general history text, and does not claim this particular mission as its context.  By the way, I am not sure what country he is living in if he thinks this stuff is not taught in schools.  My kids' schools totally wallow on all the bad stuff - the racism, the environmental problems, etc.  I would be willing to bet more graduates of public schools today could answer "Maintenance of slavery" to the question "what was the biggest failure of the Constitution" than they could answer the question "Why did the US Constitution succeed when so many other democratic revolutions failed?"  The latter is a much more interesting question.  Of course, in this audio book, predictably, Mr. Davis addresses the former in great depth and never even hints at the latter.

Week 5 Football Outsider Rankings

I discussed why I like the Football Outsider rankings of NFL teams and players here.  Typically defenses and offenses are ranked by total yards (given up and gained, respectively).  This is a really poor metric, as evidenced in part by the fact that Arizona is something like 3rd in the NFC in offense and 5th in defense by these traditional rankings.  The better football outsiders team rankings are here

A couple of observations

  • Cincinnati #1 after five weeks.  Wow!  Both offense and defense in the top 6.  I know it is early, but the Outsider's way of ranking teams tends to be more reliable than traditional statistical approaches.  For example, last season after week 5 they had Philadelphia and New England ranked #1 and #2, and these two teams eventually met in the Super Bowl.  Cincinnati has had a pretty easy schedule to date, which will get harder as the season continues
  • San Diego is by far the best 2-3 team out there.  They have had a brutal schedule, which gets better going forward.  They still should be considered a good playoff bet.
  • Washington is easily the worst 3-1 team out there.  Expect them to start losing soon, particularly as their schedule remains tough.
  • Philadelphia may continue to struggle.  The rankings show that their 3-2 record is no fluke, and they have perhaps the toughest schedule left to play of any team in the NFL
  • San Francisco and Houston are really, really bad.  Historically bad.  I had been hoping that Arizona had a chance in the Matt Leinart / Reggie Bush sweepstakes, but SF and Houston will be tough to beat.
  • Chicago is working on the Baltimore Ravens award, with the #1 defense to date in the NFL and the third to last offense.  Chicago has also been one of the least consistent teams (highest variance), but has one of the easiest schedules for the rest of the year, so still may have a chance if it can just to anything on offense.
  • NY Giants and Indianapolis are solid #2 and #3, though you have to worry about the Giant's high special teams score pulling them up - these scores tend to regress to the mean over the season.  Is there anyone who wouldn't love to see a Manning-Manning Superbowl?