Archive for April, 2006

Did you know…

Sunday, April 30th, 2006

…that the large, stadium-style classrooms in DeBartolo Hall are designated “Tornado Safe Areas”?

The things you learn while searching for alternative study locations, away from the law school. :)

Too much truthiness?

Sunday, April 30th, 2006

Stephen Colbert’s Bush-bashing comedy routine was a bit too much for some attendees — including, possibly, President Bush — at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner last night. “This was anti-Bush,â€? said one member of the press corps. “Usually they go back and forth between us and him.â€? Well, in fairness, Colbert did make fun of the press — but only from a liberal perspective (basically saying they don’t question Bush enough, bashing Fox News, etc.). Excerpt:

Colbert, who spoke in the guise of his talk show character, who ostensibly supports the president strongly, urged the Bush to ignore his low approval ratings, saying they were based on reality, “and reality has a well-known liberal bias.�

He attacked those in the press who claim that the shake-up at the White House was merely re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. “This administration is soaring, not sinking,â€? he said. “If anything, they are re-arranging the deck chairs on the Hindenburg.â€? …

Turning to the war, he declared, “I believe that the government that governs best is a government that governs least, and by these standards we have set up a fabulous government in Iraq.” …

Observing that Bush sticks to his principles, he said, “When the president decides something on Monday, he still believes it on Wednesday – no matter what happened Tuesday.”

Also lampooning the press, Colbert complained that he was “surrounded by the liberal media who are destroying this country, except for Fox News. Fox believes in presenting both sides of the story — the president’s side and the vice president’s side.” He also reflected on the alleged good old days, when the media was still swallowing the WMD story.

Addressing the reporters, he said, “Let’s review the rules. Here’s how it works. The president makes decisions, he’s the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Put them through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know–fiction.”

Heh. Very partisan, but funny. Not the sort of routine you’d expect to go over well with that crowd; clearly, Colbert was not expecting to be invited back.

Crooks and Liars has the video. Here’s the transcript. (Hat tip: A Nun Mouse.)

Carl Sagan’s dream come true?

Sunday, April 30th, 2006

The late Carl Sagan has a special place in Brendan’s heart, I know. A dedicated scientist and featured narrator in middle school science classes, he’s most famous to us for the lilting way he says, “There are more stars in the universe… than there are… grains of sand… on all the beaches… of all the world.” He also wrote a book called The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark. As the title suggests, it was an attack on all superstition, pseudoscience, and religion (especially cults). He honestly didn’t understand why people turned to such things, when the natural world had plenty of wonder and mystery to spare. How could you look at a nebula, for example, and still need the supernatural to feel a sense of awe? More to the point, at the end of the book, he hopes that future entertainment will stop sending the message that believing the irrational is a virtue. Perhaps instead of the X-Files, for example, there might be a show about a man who debunks UFO sightings and crop circles and conspiracy theories and the like.

I think Sagan’s dream might very well be slowly but surely coming true. Sure there are still shows on Sci-Fi that try to convince us that science fiction is real, but there’s a growing number of shows dedicated to reason. There’s the non-fiction first. Discovery Channel has MythBusters, wherein special effects experts put urban legends to the test – and usually have some form of explosion in the process. Moreover, when somebody brings up a rational counterargument, they revisit the myth! Showtime has Penn and Teller: Bullsh*t! (as spelled in the actual title). Magicians Penn and Teller follow the example of their hero Houdini and expose quacks. They spend half the time on politics and half thrashing pseudoscience.

And now it’s spread to fiction. It makes sense for a fanciful show like Lost or Battlestar Galactica to operate outside reality, though even Lost might be interpreted with some rational explanations, but it’s refreshing for more “realistic” shows to actually have some realism. Take Fox’s House or CBS’s Numb3rs. Numb3rs uses math to solve crimes. In the words of Charlie’s voiceover: “It’s logic. It’s rationality.” The psychics have nothing to offer the investigation, and in one episode Charlie proves a psychic a fraud. Better yet is House. Though I doubt that many atheists in one place follows the laws of probability, House isn’t afraid to outright tell people that their faith has no basis in reality whatsoever, he’ll stick to medicine, thanks. The faith healers accomplish nothing (unless they’re carrying a herpes virus that attacks cancer cells which they spread to a cancer patient, anyway). House does.

Anyhow, I thought it was worth note. Me, I like my completely implausible scenarios with good characters (that everybody knows are fiction) right beside my realistic fiction with a penchant for ridiculing the ridiculous side by side.

Miners found alive

Sunday, April 30th, 2006

The two miners trapped underground in a Tasmanian mine since last Tuesday have been found alive and well. The men are still trapped underground but a camera has gotten through to them and they are still alive and seem to be okay. The two miners have been able to have a conversation with the rescue team. Rescuers have called in all the miners to start work getting them out. It is expected they will have them out early tomorrow.

The incident killed their workmate, 44-year-old Larry Knight, whose body was retrieved on Thursday.

Update: Both men are inside a metal cage on a cherry picker they were working in when the rockfall happened. A rock has fallen on top of the cage, shutting them inside, and the pair are forced to sit in the cramped structure which is just 1.2m by 1.2m. The rescuers priority is to get fresh water and food to the men, along with better communication equipment by pushing it through a long tube before they attempt to extract them from the mine. Having been sitting for so long, neither of the men will be able to walk. The pair have survived on drips of heavily mineralised and rancid water running through the mine.

Update 2: Rescuers have drilled a narrow hole through 12m of rock through which a 100mm PVC pipe was inserted and water, biscuits, tablets and protein drinks passed to the two miners. It may take more than two more days to free them.

…and now Jarrett?

Sunday, April 30th, 2006

Okay, say what you will about the Reggie Bush kerfuffle, but this is ridiculous. What, is Matt Leinart’s dad an agent or a booster now? He’s not allowed to help his son and his son’s roommate pay the rent on their apartment? Give me a freakin’ break. (Hat tip: Andrew, who calls this story “more stomach-churning nonsense that illustrates how whacked the NCAA is.”)

Why Democrats keep losing elections

Sunday, April 30th, 2006

[PLEASE NOTE: It has been suggested in comments that the sign is actually being held by the man under the letter “E,” not the woman under the letter “L.” Upon further review, I think that’s correct. I apologize for misidentifying the protester’s hand. I’ve gone through and changed all the feminine references in this post to masculine references.]

When this guy is on your side of the political debate, you’re going to have problems:

I highly suggest that he take a look at these videos and reconsider his position.

(Then again, I suppose those videos probably wouldn’t have much effect on him, since he probably buys into the moonbat conspiracy theories that say 9/11 was an inside job. Speaking of which, pretty much all the “evidence” underlying those theories is spectacularly debunked here.)

Disclaimers, and further commentary, after the jump.

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Out: exotic trips funded by Jack Abramoff. In: sex with hookers.

Sunday, April 30th, 2006

I’m not sure how I missed this, but apparently, there’s a possible major Congressional sex/corruption/lobbyist scandal brewing… and it may have involved (Republican) member(s) of Congress having sex with prostitutes — provided by lobbyists — in the Watergate Hotel. This has led, inevitably, to Wonkette labelling the scandal “WatergateGate.” Heh. Also: “Best. Scandal. Ever.” And, in an earlier post: “Boring Ol’ Congressional Corruption Case NOW WITH HOOKERS.” Daily Kos has more — and before you dismiss this whole thing on the basis of the fact that I just linked to Daily Kos, consider that the Kos post in question actually links to an article from that Thursday’s edition of that commie pinko left-wing rag, the Wall Street Journal. Excerpt from the WSJ:

Federal prosecutors are investigating whether two contractors implicated in the bribery of former Rep. Randall “Duke” Cunningham [(R-California)] supplied him with prostitutes and free use of a limousine and hotel suites, pursuing evidence that could broaden their long-running inquiry.

Besides scrutinizing the prostitution scheme for evidence that might implicate contractor Brent Wilkes, investigators are focusing on whether any other members of Congress, or their staffs, may also have used the same free services, though it isn’t clear whether investigators have turned up anything to implicate others.

In recent weeks, Federal Bureau of Investigation agents have fanned out across Washington, interviewing women from escort services, potential witnesses and others who may have been involved in the arrangement.

As yet, it’s hard to tell if there’s really any there there, aside from the picadillos of the already-disgraced Mr. Cunningham. But if this scandal has legs (er, so to speak) and spreads (ahem) beyond Cunningham, it obviously has the potential to capture the public’s imagination in a way that mere bribery and corruption cannot. There’s nothing the public loves to pretend they hate more than good old-fashioned sex scandal… except, perhaps, a good old-fashioned sex scandal involving Republicans. (If only it were a gay sex scandal involving Republicans… alas.*) Add in the illicit nature of the sex (prostitution is illegal, after all), and better yet, the honest-to-goodness importance of the lobbyist/corruption issue, and suddenly — voila! hallelujah! — there’s a legitimate reason for the media and blogosphere to talk endlessly about all the tawdry and embarrassing details that are sure to come out if this thing progresses (kinda like how Clinton’s perjury and obstruction of justice gave us all an excuse to read Ken Starr’s glorified porno… c’mon, admit it, you scrolled past everything until “Sexual Encounter #1”). Bottom line, if this thing blows up — and if it stays confined to Republican members of Congress (not necessarily a sure bet) — it’ll damage the GOP way more than any mere lobbying scandal. And it’ll also be way more fun.

*Actually, come to think of it, if it were a gay sex scandal, the general public would probably not want to hear the gory details so much. Unless of course it involved gay women — preferably NFL cheerleaders. Conservative Republican congressmen having threesomes with the Carolina Panthers cheerleaders, provided by lobbyists, in the Watergate hotel… now that would be a sex scandal. :)

Come cheer for old people!

Sunday, April 30th, 2006

The Bookstore Basketball championship game tomorrow at 2:00 PM, featuring Brady Quinn, isn’t the only significanct intramural event happening at Notre Dame in the next couple of days. There’s also a soccer semifinal involving law students! It takes place at 11:30pm Monday. I’m just going to reprint Meg’s e-mail verbatim (indeed, I ripped off its title, too), because it includes pretty much everything you need to know:

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$100-a-barrel oil?

Sunday, April 30th, 2006

Oh, this’ll be fun:

The growing international crisis over Iran’s nuclear programme could trigger a catastrophic oil price spike, sending crude prices over $100 a barrel, senior Wall Street analysts are warning.

Paging Jimmy Carter…

P.S. For the record, $100 per barrel would be worse, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than the 1979-80 oil crisis. The peak back then was just over $90 in 2006 dollars, according to Wikipedia. (Nifty chart here.)

100 mph winds batter Texas

Saturday, April 29th, 2006

Clearly, Mother Nature is angry at the Texans for not drafting Reggie Bush:

About 4,000 customers lost power in the Houston area, where streets flooded but no serious damage was reported, authorities said.

In Liberty County, northeast of Houston, officials reported damaged homes and toppled trees.

Her aim is a bit off, though: the worst damage occurred in the Gainesville area, which is much closer to Dallas than to Houston. See what you’ve done, Texans??? You’ve subjected your whole state to nature’s wrath, even innocent Cowboys fans! :)

Quote of the day

Saturday, April 29th, 2006

“I hate people. I hate everyone on earth.” –overheard in the LaFortune basement.

Exam season breeds misanthropy, I guess. :)

NFL Draft update

Saturday, April 29th, 2006

The Saints took Reggie Bush #2. The Titans picked Vince Young #3. The Jets are on the clock.

Whither Matt Leinart? Some mock drafts believe he’ll fall to #10 and the Arizona Cardinals. As a soon-to-be Phoenix resident, I think that’d be great!

UPDATE: The Jets took D’Brickashaw Ferguson. Green Bay is on the clock. Leinart still waiting.

UPDATE 2: The Packers took A.J. Hawk, a.k.a. Brady Quinn’s sister’s boyfriend. The 49ers are on the clock.

UPDATE 3: It’s all playing out as planned, so far. The Lions are on the clock at #9. Hopefully they don’t take Leinart to set up a reunion with Mike Williams.

UPDATE 4: WOOOO!!! Arizona is on the clock, and Leinart is still on the board!

UPDATE 5: YAAAAAAAYYYYYY!!!!!!!! Leinart is an Arizona Cardinal!!!!!!!

UPDATE 6: And a fellow Trojan joins Leinart, as Arizona takes OG Taitusi Lutui with its second pick (41st overall). Meanwhile Winston Justice goes to the Eagles (39th pick) and LenDale White goes to the Titans (45th). Rose Bowl foes White and Young are now teammates!

P.S. SI‘s Don Banks writes: “The Cardinals franchise is changing its name once again, this time to USC East.” Heh.

Fox in the White House

Saturday, April 29th, 2006

According to a CNN article (and elsewhere), all the TVs in the White House, Air Force One, etc. are tuned to one station: Fox News. This is hardly surprising, but it seems it’s been getting a little old for the White House press corps:

During a briefing led by White House spokesman Scott McClellan as President Bush was traveling to New Orleans, Louisiana, the Washington Post’s Jim VandeHei asked why the White House televisions always seemed to be tuned to Fox News and if it was possible to have them tuned instead to CNN.

“It’s come to my attention that there’s been requests — this is a serious question — to turn these TVs onto a station other than Fox, and that those have been denied,” VandeHei told McClellan, who is soon to be replaced by former Fox anchor and self-described conservative Tony Snow.

“My question would be, is there a White House policy that all government TVs have to be tuned to Fox?” VandeHei asked.

To McClellan’s credit, he honored the request, and at least some of the TVs will now show CNN. :)

USC could lose ’04 BCS title

Saturday, April 29th, 2006

New allegations against Reggie Bush, which push his possible alleged ineligibility back to 2004, mean USC’s 2004 national championship could be in jeopardy, after all:

BCS officials told Yahoo! Sports on Friday that if Bush is ruled ineligible by either the Pacific 10 Conference or the NCAA for even one game during the 2004 season, the BCS will discuss amending its rules to allow it to force the Trojans to vacate the national championship.

“This is the type of thing the BCS might have to look into if other governing bodies, the conference and the NCAA, take action,” BCS administrator Bill Hancock said. …

Officials at New York’s Downtown Athletic Club, which award the Heisman Trophy, have said that they could take back Bush’s [2005] honor if he is deemed ineligible by the NCAA. Now the 2004 season, which USC went 13-0, is under question.

The NCAA itself does not crown a champion in Division I-A football. Officially, USC captured the 2004 BCS national championship, which is administered by a consortium of major football conferences. As a result, while the NCAA could strip the Trojans of all their victories in 2004, it could not force USC to vacate its title because the BCS championship is administered outside of NCAA jurisdiction.

The BCS currently has no policy on possibly forcing a school to give up its championship, according to Hancock.

“The BCS is not a governing body,” said BCS coordinator Mike Slive, who is also commissioner of the Southeastern Conference.

However, in the wake of the latest details involving Bush, discussion has occurred within the BCS that if the NCAA or the Pac-10 were to rule that USC must forfeit any or all games from the 2004 season – including its Orange Bowl victory over Oklahoma – the BCS could rewrite its bylaws and retroactively take away the Trojans’ championship.

Only seven times has the NCAA forced a school to vacate a national championship but never in any of its marquee sports. The most recent examples are 2002 with the Hawaii men’s volleyball team and 1995 with the UCLA softball team, both for using ineligible players.

Here are news stories about those Hawaii and UCLA teams.

I’ve already expressed my opinion about the Orwellian absurdism of these retroactive forfeits. I suppose I can see the logic behind it if the team knew at the time that it was using an ineligible player… but to declare a player ineligible long after the fact, because of conduct that the team knew nothing about, and then to change the results of the team’s games on that basis? That strikes me as totally ridiculous and lame. It would be a different situation if the allegations involved something that changed the competitive balance of the game(s) in question (e.g., performance-enhancing drugs, gambling on the outcome, etc.)… but if not, and if the team was itself innocent of any deliberate wrongdoing (or willful blindness), then I’d say the punishment doesn’t fit the crime… especially given that the punishment does violence to common sense by literally rewriting history. (And for the record: “Well, what else can we do?” is not a valid reason to impose an otherwise unsupportable punishment.)

On a lighter note, over at ND Nation, they’re recalling that the Irish’s 31-point loss to USC in 2004 was the “last straw” that got Ty Willingham fired, and hoping that if the Trojans are forced to forfeit that game, “the NCAA doesn’t make us rehire him retroactively.” Heh.

As for the other breaking-news story about Reggie Bush — the fact that he unexpectedly won’t be the #1 pick in the morning’s NFL Draft — ESPN Page 2’s Chuck Klosterman writes:

I have only been alive for 33 years, but I’ve spent 25 of them watching football, and I have never seen a better college player than Reggie Bush. When Marcus Allen was a senior, he was awesome — but Bush was more versatile. It’s possible that Barry Sanders was better as a junior, but Oklahoma State was on probation that year, so they were never on TV; as such, I can’t legitimately compare them. But I can’t imagine how Sanders (or anyone else) could have been any more electrifying and unhittable than Bush. In fact, ESPN Classic just rebroadcast the USC-Fresno State game this very afternoon, and it seems wholly impossible that anyone could be better at running away from people than this particular human. Moreover, everyone alive seems to know this: not only have I never met a Reggie Bush skeptic, I’ve never met anyone who didn’t consider Bush to be a transcendent superhuman. He possesses the kind of greatness that a child can see.

Yet the Texans have nonetheless convinced themselves that they will be better off selecting Mario Williams, the tall, speed-rushing defensive end from North Carolina State. I suspect Williams is potentially stellar. In time, he could be Pro Bowl caliber player. And the Texans’ reasoning (I assume) is that (a) you build a team around defense and pass rushing; (b) they already have a decent running back; (c) Bush might be hyper-expensive; and (d) Reggie’s parents appear to be living in a free house, which seems a tad sketchy. This is all fine and reasonable. The only problem is that Gary Kubiak has failed to weigh these points against the opposing argument, which is that REGGIE BUSH IS IMPOSSIBLE TO TACKLE. HE IS WAY, WAY BETTER THAN ALL OF THE OTHER DUDES WHO ARE ELIGIBLE TO BE DRAFTED. WHEN REGGIE BUSH IS RUNNING WITH THE FOOTBALL, THOSE ATTEMPTING TO KNOCK HIM TO THE GROUND CANNOT SEEM TO DO SO. THIS QUALITY IS ADVANTAGEOUS WITHIN THE GAME OF FOOTBALL, AS THAT IS PRETTY MUCH THE TOTALITY OF THE SPORT.

Obviously, this decision is wolf-face crazy. It’s the kind of decision you make when you are drunk, and on cocaine, and on deadline, and on fire. It’s going to define the future of the Houston franchise, and it will potentially wreck it (at least for a decade). … The Texans talked themselves into picking an inferior player; they created reasonable, intellectual reasons to make a terrible move. And I realize Houston needs help on defense, but remember — they had the first overall pick because they were the worst team in the league. They need everything. And while you can’t get everything at once, the closest singular equivalent is usually the single-best force. But they took the wrong guy.

Gee, tell us how you really feel, Chuck. :)

Flyers win, tie series

Saturday, April 29th, 2006

The Sabres lost Game 4 last night, so the series is tied 2-2 heading back to Buffalo. So far, the home team has won all four games (contrast that to the WhalersHurricanes-Canadiens series, in which the home team has lost all four games). If the home-ice advantage persists, that whould be good news for the Sabres (knock on wood), since they have Game 5 and potentially Game 7 at home. The bad news? They looked like crap in Game 4. Hopefully they can pull it together before Sunday’s game, which will be on NBC at 2:00 PM.

P.S. In the spirit of the “L.A. Angels of Anaheim,” is it OK if I refer to the Carolina Hurricanes as the “Hartford Whalers of Raleigh”? :) Speaking of which… I’ve done some memory-lane stuff for our resident Sabres fans… well, here’s something for my fellow Connecticutians who remember the good old days:


source file

Not that I ever went to a Whalers game or anything, but whatever. I was sufficiently aware of their existence that I remember the song… :)