Archive for October, 2006

Eyes on the prize

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

The Stanford Tree: “We’re going 0-12 this season. This is our chance. We could be legends.” Heh.

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Grad students to protest ticket-lottery exclusion

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

The away-game ticket lottery for the USC-Notre Dame game is tomorrow from 12-5pm at Legends. As I’ve noted before, grad, law and MBA students are excluded from the away-game lotteries this year. Unlike in years past, they are open only to undergraduate students. And apparently the same thing is going to be true of the bowl-game ticket lottery as well.

I’ll share my thoughts on this matter in a moment, but first, an announcement: There will be a protest tomorrow afternoon from 2-3pm at Legends to register our discontent with the situation, and try and convince the powers-that-be to change their minds. Here are the details, from an e-mail I received this evening:

PLEASE help me prove that we will not be few in numbers tomorrow, and that we will not be overlooked in the future. Please come out to support the protesters and wear your Tradition shirts to show unity. We will be meeting in front of the bullpen (inside Cushing hall) at 1:45pm tomorrow so we can all walk over together. Otherwise please meet in front of Legends at 2pm-3pm for the protest.

Spread the word!

Now then… needless to say, I would be entering this ticket lottery if I could (just as I would have entered the Michigan State ticket lottery if I could), but I can’t, and that annoys me. Now, I don’t expect too many Domers to have sympathy for me personally, since after all, you know which team I’d be rooting for if I got a ticket, and it wouldn’t be the Irish. :) But this is a far bigger issue than just me. Grad, law and MBA students (hereinafter referred to simply as “grad students,” for simplicity’s sake) are being discriminated against, plain and simple. We paid the same $203 that the undergrads did, and there’s no earthly reason we shouldn’t be eligible to get away-game tickets. (What’s especially perverse is that, as I understand it, undergrads who did not buy season tickets are eligible to enter the lottery, while grad students with season tickets are not.)

That said, I can easily understand the perspective of the Student Union Board, which runs the away-game lotteries. The SUB is an exclusively undergraduate organization, elected and funded by undergrads. Asking them to voluntarily include grad students in their ticket lottery is like asking a congressman to get some pork for a neighboring district as well as his own. What motivation does he have to do that? He only cares about his own constituents! Same thing here: we’re not SUB’s constituents, so they have no reason to care about us. From their perpsective, excluding us makes perfect sense.

What doesn’t make sense is why the ticket office — from whom we bought our season tickets — gives SUB unfettered control over the entire lottery in the first place. The ticket office is the real villain here, not the SUB. They should either run the lottery themselves, give proportionally equal numbers of tickets to the SUB and corresponding graduate organizations, or let SUB run it only on the condition that grad students are allowed to enter, too.

Once the SUB-centric arguments (e.g., we don’t pay fees to them) are thus dispensed with, the remaining arguments for excluding grad students are exposed as totally unconvincing. One argument is that there aren’t enough of us who would want to enter the lottery anyway. This is utterly nonsensical; low participation is not a logical argument for exclusion (and if so few of us would enter, then we’re unlikely to win, so what’s the harm to the undergrad entrants?). It’s also patently false, as indicated by the number of people who are pissed off about this, and hopefully tomorrow’s protest will help disprove this notion.

Another argument is that we aren’t as passionate about Irish football as the undergrads are (and thus would presumably be more likely to sell our tickets to the highest bidder—nevermind that an awful lot of undergrads have been doing this lately). This stereotype of the aloof grad student might be accurate at most universities, but not at Notre Dame. I challenge anyone who doubts our passion to spend a home game in our section and see what you think then. Grad students at Notre Dame genuinely care about the Irish, and we root for them just as hard as the undergrads do. (As I said: I am a rare exception to this rule vis a vis the USC game specifically. But the tiny percentage of students with relevant dual loyalties is not sufficient justification to deny all of us, all season long.)

Besides, any doubts about whether grad students “care” can be satisfactorily eliminated simply by establishing a common-sense rule (applicable to grads and undergrads alike) that you must be a season-ticket holder to enter the lottery. As I understand it, no such rule currently exists, but it obviously should, and it would effectively solve this (perceived) problem. Starving grad students aren’t generally known for their spendthrift natures, and $203 (or $406 for married students) is no drop in the bucket. If you have season tickets, that should create at least a rebuttable presumption that you’re a good enough fan to “earn” a spot in the lottery. In any event, the irrebuttable presumption that grad students are universally not good fans obviously cannot be rationally justified.

I doubt tomorrow’s protest will change anything this time around. But perhaps a large turnout will convince the SUB and/or the ticket office that something needs to change in future lotteries — including possibly the bowl-game lottery later this fall. So get out there and give ’em hell!

I would also encourage everyone who cares about this issue to e-mail the SUB (sub@nd.edu) and, especially, the ticket office (seller1@nd.edu). Save your harshest words for the ticket office — like I said, they’re the real villains here, IMHO.

UPDATE: After the jump, a copy of the e-mails I just wrote to the SUB and the ticket office.

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Defending John Kerry (!!)

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

It’s no secret that I don’t like John Kerry. One of my greatest political regrets is that I voted for him in 2004; I should have cast a protest vote for the Libertarian or a write-in candidate. John Kerry didn’t deserve my vote. He’s a dishonest, weaselly scumbag who, in contrast to men of principle like Joe Lieberman and Russ Feingold, will go wherever the political winds take him. Worst of all, his unprincipled nature applies just as much to issues of war and peace as it does to domestic issues. In his youth, Kerry may have been a principled anti-war radical, but it seems power has corrupted him and he has lost his way. As a senator with presidential ambitions, he has repeatedly demonstrated a willingness to play cynical political games with regard to gravely important foreign-policy issues. He is the epitome of what Senator Lieberman was talking about when he said we ought not undermine presidential credibility in a time of war for petty partisan reasons — dissent is perfectly fine, indeed essential and patriotic, but only principled dissent, not cynical, politically motivated faux-dissent.

So, I think I’ve established my anti-Kerry bona fides. :) All that said, I find it very hard to believe that Kerry actually meant to insult the troops when he said:

“You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don’t, you get stuck in Iraq.”

Kerry’s explanation is that the controversial comment was “a botched joke about the president and the president’s people, not about the troops.” In other words, it’s George W. Bush who didn’t “do [his] homework” and didn’t “make an effort to be smart,” and thus got himself, and the rest of of us, “stuck in Iraq.”

I believe Kerry’s explanation. I believe him not because he’s inherently trustworthy; certainly he’s not. But I believe him because it is by far the most objectively plausible explanation for his remarks.

As the senator said: “If anyone thinks a veteran would criticize the more than 140,000 heroes serving in Iraq and not the president who got us stuck there, they’re crazy.” He’s right. Whatever you think of Kerry’s politics — and I despise them — it just doesn’t add up that a combat veteran, who is by all accounts supportive of the troops, would say such a thing. It makes much more sense that his idiotic comment was indeed a “botched joke” at Bush’s expense.

Alas, while the Republican response has been predictably demagogic (Bush called Kerry’s comments “insulting and shameful“), Kerry has done himself no favors with his own response, in which he painted himself as a victim of “right wing nut-jobs” — rather than as a vicitm of his own poorly chosen words — and busted out the tired, irrelevant, logically fallacious “chickenhawk” meme. Instead of going into high dudgeon and defiantly declaring that “I apologize to no one for my criticism of the president and of his broken policy,” Kerry should have humbly apologized for choosing his words poorly in a way that caused some people to reasonably but falsely believe he was insulting the troops, and left it at that.

Now the conservative blogosphere is on fire, liberals are wringing their hands, the Republicans think they’ve been handed a gift that can turn the tide next Tuesday, and at least one Democratic congressman is understandably livid: “I guess Kerry wasn’t content blowing 2004, now he wants to blow 2006, too.”

This is yet another example of a political kerfuffle where the response to the mistake is worse than the mistake itself. If Kerry had spared us the vitriolic bluster and just apologized for a poor choice of words — explaining that he absolutely, obviously never meant to insult the troops — this story might be dead by now. Instead, he’s given right-wing propagandists like Drudge a golden opportunity to run context-free headlines such as “I APOLOGIZE TO NO ONE,” implying that Kerry stands by an insult that he never intended to deliver. This is the very definition of an unforced error.

So, in conclusion, John Kerry is an idiot. But he doesn’t think our troops are idiots. I mean, c’mon. Like Bush, he’s stupid, not evil.

Tendentious Times backs Lamont

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

The Hartford Courant, the New Haven Register, the New York Post and Daily News, the Providence Journal and the Washington Post have all endorsed Joe Lieberman for Senate, but on Sunday the New York Times endorsed Ned Lamont.

The Lieberman campaign issued a scathing response. Excerpt:

[T]he Times’ ill-informed and tendentious endorsement of Ned Lamont reads as if the editors had outsourced the editorial writing to the same crew of blindingly angry bloggers who have teamed with the Lamont Campaign to twist Joe Lieberman’s record beyond all recognition.

What resulted -– a cant recitation of discredited arguments, along with a willful ignorance of Senator Lieberman’s many accomplishments for the state and the country –- reveals far more about the Times’ knee-jerk biases and lack of rigor than either of the candidates.

The Times most obviously shows its narrow-mindedness by reducing the entire campaign to the war in Iraq, despite the fact that two-thirds of voters in Connecticut consistently say it is not their top concern. Even worse, the Times shows its disinterest in the truth by regurgitating several of the bloggers’ biggest falsehoods and grossly mischaracterizing Senator Lieberman’s position on Iraq.

The fact is, as the Times itself reported last week, Joe Lieberman has openly and frequently challenged the Bush Administration’s conduct of the war — just not in the shrill and hateful terms that the Times and the blogger extremists confuse with strong leadership.

Ouch. And, Amen.

Quote of the day

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

Nick on Halloween: “I was going to dress up as you, but I couldn’t find any velcro shoes.”

UPDATE: Speaking of Halloween… the award for best costume goes to Sharon Loftus, dressed up as a blind Pac-10 ref:

You can’t really see it, but the $20 bill in her pocket has “USC” written on it. Heh.

(Photo by Lisa; published with both her permission and Sharon’s.)

Error-prone Diebold voting machines sometimes change your vote

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

Oh, good:

Gary Rudolf, a voter at a polling site near Ft. Lauderdale, tried to vote for gubernatorial candidate Jim Davis (D); however, when the Diebold machine gave him the final review screen, it showed his vote was about to be cast for Charlie Crist (R). The problem took three tries to get resolved with the help of a local poll worker. Mary Cooney, a Broward County Supervisor of Elections spokeswoman, informed The Miami Herald that it’s “not uncommon for screens on heavily used machines to slip out of sync, making votes register incorrectly. Poll workers are trained to recalibrate them on the spot — essentially, to realign the video screen with the electronics inside. The 15-step process is outlined in the poll-workers manual.”

Oh, yes, because it’s such a good idea to rely on: 1) the voter to spot the error and say something before it’s too late (these are Florida voters, thousands of whom in 2000 accidentally voted for Buchanan, realized their error, voted for Gore as well, and then turned in their obviously worthless double-voted ballot, never thinking to ask for a new one); and 2) the 80-year-old ladies who work at the polls to successfully follow a 15-step process to “recalibrate” the computers. Problem solved! [/sarcasm]

Seriously, where’s Eleanor Green when you need her? I knew the new voting systems had some problems, but I never imagined anything this bad… yikes. Hopefully this problem is limited to Broward County, but why would we have any reason to believe that? (Hat tip: Briandot.)

Sounds to me like HAVA-induced madness has caused us to rush touch-screen voting machines into use before they’re ready for prime time, the result of which could be a huge election-day clusterf*** followed by a massive backlash that prevents such machines from ever being trusted again, even though — if designed properly — they have the potential to really improve* our voting system.

Yet another reason to recite the Election Administrator’s Prayer: “Lord, let this election not be close.”

*Improve, but not perfect. Nothing can perfect our voting system, because our voting system is a system of measurement, measuring the preferences of humans as expressed by humans and administered by humans; as such, it will always have a margin of (human) error, even if we could somehow eliminate all machine error. Thus, the Election Administrator’s Prayer will always be relevant.

UPDATE: George Will weighs in, brilliantly:

The lesson that should have been learned from Florida was: In Florida, as in life generally, one should pursue as much precision as is reasonable — but not more. When, as very rarely happens, a large electorate, such as that state’s 6.1 million voters in 2000, is evenly divided, the many errors and ambiguities that inevitably will occur during the marking of millions of ballots will be much more numerous than the margin of victory. That is unfortunate, but no great injustice will be done, no matter who is declared the winner in a contest that is essentially tied.

Unfortunately, the lesson the nation chose to learn from Florida was that American technological wizardry could prevent such highly unusual events, and no expense should be spared to do so. Hence HAVA, which made $3.8 billion available for states to purchase the most modern voting equipment.

On Election Day, 38 percent of the nation’s voters will use touch screens to record their choices, according to Election Data Services. Unlike optical scanners that read markings put on paper ballots, most touch-screen machines — including those that the New York Times reports will be used in about half of the 45 districts with the most closely contested House races — produce no paper that can be consulted for verification of the results if a recount is required.

Maryland’s new $106 million touch-screen system melted into a chaos of mechanical and human errors in last month’s primary election. Lawsuits have been filed in five states seeking to block the use of touch-screen machines.

Today’s political climate — hyperpartisanship leavened by paranoia and exploited by a national surplus of lawyers — makes this an unpropitious moment for introducing new voting technologies that will be administered by poll workers who often are retirees for whom the task of working a DVD player is a severe challenge. Furthermore, an election is, after all, a government program, and readers of Genesis know that new knowledge often brings trouble. So we should not be surprised if, on Nov. 7, new voting machinery does what new technologies — dams, bridges, steamships, airplanes — have done through history: malfunction.

(Hat tip: my dad.)

CNN Breaking News

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

China's Foreign Ministry says North Korea has agreed to rejoin six-nation nuclear disarmament talks, wire services report. Visit CNN for the latest.

Trojans, Bruins to invade Bay Area

Tuesday, October 31st, 2006

This weekend is the Bay Area Weekender — for both USC and UCLA. The Trojans are at Stanford; the Bruins are at Cal. That’s the first time the schedules have ever worked out that way, placing throngs of both ‘SC and fUCLA fans in the San Francisco area at the same time.

“Will ugliness unfold in Union Square, nastiness nestle in North Beach?” asks the L.A. Times. “Will catcalls carry from cable cars, fists fly at Fisherman’s Wharf? Or will far-off familiarity fuel revelry rather than rivalry?” Um, my money’s on the catcalls.

At least 5,000 Trojan fans and 4,000 Bruin fans will be at the games, and thousands more “won’t make it to the games [but] will still party on Friday night and take part in other events,” said Joe Enloe, chairman of USC’s Weekender committee. “With four universities partying in San Francisco, it’s going to be a pretty rowdy night.” Indeed.

I went on the Weekender once while at USC, and it was for a Stanford game — six years ago, during the last season of the Hackett era, my sophomore year. Hopefully this year’s game will go better than that one did.

Let’s have an election contest (or two)!

Monday, October 30th, 2006

With just over a week until Election Day (a term which is becoming anachronistic anyway, as more and more Americans vote early), it’s time to start accepting entries in the BrendanLoy.com Midterm Election Contests!

There are two separate contests: one for the House and one for the Senate. In each, the object of the game is to correctly predict the Democratic net gain or loss. There are various tiebreakers, which will become clear once you look at the entry form. Click here to enter. Please read the instructions closely, especially in the Senate contest, as you’ll want to make sure your net gain/loss prediction and your “first tiebreaker” prediction (which involves predicting individual states) are internally consistent.

Helpful resources:
Pollster.com
RealClearPolitics Senate Races
RealClearPolitics Battle for the House
Majority Watch (House map)
Electoral-vote.com (Senate map)
Electoral-vote.com Hot House Races
Cook Political Report
Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball
Rothenberg Political Report

The deadline to enter the contest is 11:59 PM on Monday, November 6.

Sullivan ties Rubin atop USC contest

Monday, October 30th, 2006

Here are the latest Notre Dame prediction contest standings and the latest USC prediction contest standings.

Gahrie still leads the ND pool. In the USC pool, nobody except Brian Kiolbasa — who picked USC to go 1-11 on the season — predicted that the Trojans would lose to Oregon State, but Sean Sullivan, who predicted they would win by just 9 points, has now moved into a first-place tie with previous leader Josh Rubin, who predicted they would win by 24 points.

Scenarios for Saturday’s games after the jump.

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Suggestions?

Monday, October 30th, 2006

So, with Temple’s win Saturday, the “Feeble Four” is down to three: Stanford, Duke and Florida International, the lone remaining winless teams in Division I-A. But what to call them? I don’t want to use “terrible” because I’m reserving that for the “Terrible Two”… and besides, it would be better if the adjective accompanying “three” started with a “th” sound.

So… any ideas? I’m looking for a word that means “bad” (or is otherwise appropriate to describe winless football teams) that start with “t” or, ideally, with “th.” Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi faithful blog readers, you’re my only hope!

UPDATE: I’ve settled on an answer (“the Three Stooges”), and now, since I’m no longer actively in need of suggestions, I’m bumping this post “back in time” to keep others closer to the top of the homepage. Let the record show, however, that it was actually published at 12:52 AM on October 31, not 6:52 PM on October 30.

Apple Store 1, FedTax 0

Monday, October 30th, 2006

I’m done with my Immigration Court assignment in Chicago, and so naturally, before catching the 12:35 CST (1:35 EST) bus back to South Bend, I decided to stop by the Apple Store on North Michigan Avenue — my personal mecca — just for fun. Hey, it is my birthday! :) And oh, the temptation to buy myself a present! Surely there’s something modest I could get myself… like, y’know, a 15-inch MacBook Pro, with its awesome built-in webcam… only $2,500!

Heh. Just kidding, Becky. :)

P.S. I tried to post two cell-phone photo posts earlier, but they didn’t upload for some reason. It’s possible they may randomly appear hours or days later. If so, one of them will have the same title as this post, and some of the same content. Oh, well.

Happy Birthday to me!

Monday, October 30th, 2006

I’m 25!! I feel like I should go out and rent a car!!

Actually, I don’t consider myself to really be 25 years old until 9:22 AM, my birth hour. And because I’ll be away most of the day today (in Chicago for my Immigration Law class, and then at dinner with a professor and some classmates), Becky and I are delaying our celebration of my birthday until next Sunday, when my parents are in town. (On my iCal calendar, it actually says “My birthday” today and “My birthday (observed)” on Sunday. Like it’s President’s Day or something. Heh.)

That said, I will accept birthday greetings at any time throughout the day, or week. I always enjoy stretching my birthday out over as long a period of time as possible. :)

P.S. Happy Birthday to DrawingDead, too! His birthday is also today. And also, Happy Belated Birthday to Shannon (Oct. 27th) and Sóren (Oct. 28th).

Anyone want UNC tickets?

Sunday, October 29th, 2006

I have two extra, non-student-section tickets to Saturday’s North Carolina game (Section 17 — that’s the south end zone, east side — bottom third of the section) that I’m trying to get rid of. If you’re interested, shoot me an e-mail at sprint [at] brendanloy.com. (And if anyone from the ticket office is reading this, I emphasize that these are not student tickets, and I am not looking to make a profit from selling them. I just want to get back the money I spent on them, and get them to an Irish fan who can actually use them.)

UPDATE: The tickets have been sold.

A half-hour with the Robot Genius

Sunday, October 29th, 2006

For those who missed tonight’s 60 Minutes interview with Charlie Weis — and even for those who saw it, but want to see more — you can watch a bunch of video clips here. (Hat tip: Wobbly H, who says, “Clear about a half hour from your schedule to watch these.”)