Archive for November, 2007

McCain?

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

There’s been some right-blogospheric chatter in recent weeks about giving John McCain a second look, and after watching his latest ad, Andrew Sullivan wonders whether McCain is “going to become the Kerry of this election cycle: dismissed as old hat for months and then newly relevant in the weeks before the primaries.” Maybe. Here’s the ad:

My two-year-old dinner bet notwithstanding, I’d like to see McCain make a comeback. Whether I want him to be president, I’m not sure, but at least he’s a grown-up, and at least he has actual beliefs and principles, unlike some candidates I could mention (cough cough, Mitt Romney).

P.S. Glenn Reynolds is less impressed, paraphrasing McCain’s ad as saying, “Don’t hate me because I’m smarter than you.”

Al & George

Monday, November 26th, 2007

Heh:

Hey, wasn’t there a SNL sketch about this?

Coaching carousel update

Monday, November 26th, 2007

Washington State’s Bill Doba: fired.

Georgia Tech’s Chan Gailey: fired.

Duke’s Ted Roof: fired.

Southern Miss’s Jeff Bower: fired.

And finally, Arkansas’s Houston Nutt: inexplicably offered a new contract, which he inexplicably turned down, possibly to go to Ole Miss.

P.S. Oh, and Syracuse’s Greg Robinson may be next.

UCLA’s Karl Dorrell will, of course, have a job for at least five days. I wonder: if the Bruins somehow beat USC and go to the Rose Bowl, will they still fire Dorrell? And if so, will he be the first coach ever to be fired immediately after leading his team to the Rose Bowl? Heh.

UPDATE: ESPN.com has created an incredibly helpful coaching carousel page with a list of all the departing coaches and (eventually) their successors. Cool.

A Lott of goodbyes

Monday, November 26th, 2007

Senator Trent Lott (R-Miss) has announced his retirement, effective sometime in December or January.  Though his temporary replacement will be nominated and placed by Republican Governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, this is a stunning turn for Republicans in the Senate.  As the #2 Republican in the Senate (and formerly the #1 Republican and Majority Leader), Lott made himself a lot of friends and made himself a lot of enemies–especially after his comments about how it would have been great if a segregationist candidate (Strom Thurmond) had won the 1948 presidential race.

What’s my take?  Anytime a powerful conservative decides to leave either house of the Congress, I’m perfectly happy.  Of course, chances are good that Arizona Senator John Kyl, who is loads more conservative than most of the Republicans in Congress, will take over as minority whip.  Then again, it’s possible that someone else might overtake him.  It’s also possible that either Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-TX) or Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), both of whom are more moderate than Kyl, might run for the #3 spot. 

In all, though, it probably won’t matter much between now and–at the very least–2009 when the new Congress takes over.  As long as Democrats maintain a majority, it seems much less likely that this change will have a major effect on legislation.  True, a conservative leadership on the Republican side of the aisle would make bipartisanship more difficult (just as a liberal leadership on the Democratic side would).  However, the immediate impact would not be as large as it would have been if the Republicans still controlled the Senate.

Hurricane forecasters say seasonal errors are hurting their credibility

Monday, November 26th, 2007

The Miami Herald has an excellent article about the third consecutive high-profile failure of seasonal hurricane forecasts to closely approximate reality. (The forecasted storm totals were way too low in 2005, way too high in 2006, and substantially too high in 2007.) The article focuses, quite rightly IMHO, on the fear that these forecasting failures are lowering the public’s confidence in the much more important — and much more accurate — operational forecasts regarding individual storms that the National Hurricane Center does such an excellent job with. I talked about this issue in my season wrap-up for Pajamas Media, and the Herald keys on it as well. Excerpt:

[G]iven the errors — which can undermine faith in the entire hurricane warning system — are these full-season forecasts doing more harm than good? [Yes. -ed.]

”The seasonal hurricane forecasters certainly have a lot of explaining to do,” said Max Mayfield, former director of the National Hurricane Center. …

Mayfield and virtually all hurricane researchers and forecasters, some of whom were skeptical years ago, now support the issuing of full-season predictions. [Why?? -ed.]

But many openly share concerns about the current system, focusing in particular on NOAA’s tendency to subtly link the National Hurricane Center in West Miami-Dade County to the seasonal forecasts produced by [Gerry Bell, NOAA’s lead seasonal forecaster]’s team, which is based in Maryland.

In fact, it is important to emphasize the distinction between the six-month seasonal forecasts and the real-time forecasts of an actual hurricane or other tropical system, which are called "operational forecasts.” …

Many [operational forecasters] worry … that substantial errors in those full-season predictions can undermine faith in their generally accurate forecasts of actual storms.

They note that NOAA, parent agency of the hurricane center and Bell’s team, often releases Bell’s predictions during pre-season news conferences conducted at the hurricane center.

During other years, the hurricane center’s director is ordered to participate in the pre-season news conference, wherever it might be held.

”NOAA has been using the good name of the National Hurricane Center, at least to some extent, to help promote the seasonal product and that’s not the mission of operational hurricane forecasters,” Mayfield said.

”In some areas, hurricane forecasters are losing credibility even though they are not the lead on this — and that’s always a concern,” he said. "We don’t want the credit for the seasonal forecasts.”

Bell said the differences between the two groups should be clear to the public by now. He said South Floridians and other residents of the hurricane zone should never disregard real-time forecasts, especially based on a misconception about the full-season predictions.

”There’s no basis for those kinds of comments,” Bell said, "especially if they’re made by people who don’t know what they’re talking about.”

There might be "no basis" for comments linking operational forecasts and seasonal forecasts — no valid basis, anyway — but NOAA is setting itself for the inevitability that such comments will be made, with or without a "basis," when it releases its seasonal forecast with such a media splash and involves the NHC in that splash. So forgive me if I have little sympathy for the hue and cry that people "who don’t know what they’re talking about" are to blame for this. Ignorant people will always mouth off about things they don’t understand, all the moreso when it suits a political agenda. NOAA is squarely to blame for giving them an easy opportunity to do so.

Philip Klotzbach, who issues the Colorado State forecast along with William Gray, "said long-range predictions satisfy the public’s ‘inherent curiosity’," according to the Herald. Well, he’s a scientist, so he can do stuff simply for curiosity’s sake if he wants to. But NOAA officials aren’t just scientists, they’re also policymakers, and they need to base their actions on sound policy judgments — not just a desire to satisfy idle curiosity. It seems to me that these seasonal forecasts are indeed doing more harm than good, and NOAA should either stop issuing its own forecast or at least vastly scale back the media profile that it chooses to give that forecast. Don’t call a press conference, don’t do interviews, just quietly release the thing on the Internet (loaded with caveats) and satisfy the weather nerds’ "curiosity" that way, without unintentionally (but foreseeably!) misinforming the public at large. And certainly, if you must make a media splash, don’t involve the NHC operational forecasters in it, for heaven’s sake.

It would also be a good idea to issue a press release, whenever anybody releases a seasonal forecast, reminding the media how generally pointless and useless these things are, that they’re really just a curiosity, and that we ought to focus on what matters: preparing for big landfalling storms (which can happen in active and "inactive" seasons alike) and forecasting them accurately when they actually form.

Anyway, read the whole thing. And if anyone is tempted to turn this thread into a global-warming debate, please at least read my PJM piece first, if you haven’t already. I address a lot of the obvious arguments there (like the old stand-by, "OMG If They Can’t Even Forecast A Hurricane Season, Then How Can They Forecast The Climate In 100 Years?? Al Gore Suxxx!!") and I’d rather not repeat myself.

P.S. I will, however, repeat what meteorology Ph.D. student Charles Fenwick wrote back in August, because he made the point very well:

I don’t take too much interest in [seasonal forecasts] personally and don’t like how they are being pushed to the general public. They are a experimental works in progress and should be treated as such. I am most displeased with NOAA’s trumpeting of their forecasts. It gives the public the sense that these are operational forecasts that are on par with the other forecasts of the National Weather Service and that is definitely not the case. [One blog commenter, responding to a dire track forecast for an individual storm, asked], “Where are all the hurricanes the NHC had forecast for the last 2 years? just curious as to why we should panic over predictions that have little or no accuracy?” This shows the confusion that the hurricane season forecasts cause because the National Hurricane Center is not the agency that puts out the seasonal forecast and, as I just said, the seasonal forecasts do not have the same accuracy as the operational forecasts put out by the NHC. … [The seasonal] forecasts are most useful for people who have a stake in the macro-scale, namely insurance companies. They are of little value to individuals.

Indeed.

UPDATE: Welcome, InstaPundit readers!

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Gig ’em, I guess.

Monday, November 26th, 2007

After the monumental failure with the hire of Dennis Franchione, Texas A&M backs up excellent decision making with the hiring of a failed NFL head coach that couldn’t get a Brett Favre led team to the Super Bowl in the then-pathetic NFC.

Mike Sherman?  Really?

Way to go Aggies! (False exuberance here.  I see nothing in this hire for anyone at TAMU to be excited about.  This is as lackluster of a hire as could be imagined.)

BYU to the BCS?

Monday, November 26th, 2007

BCS analyst extraordinare Jerry Palm confirms what I said yesterday: don’t sleep on BYU. (Don’t sleep with them, either, unless you’re married to them. They’re very moral!) The Mormons Cougars could end up in the BCS, if they beat San Diego State on Saturday and everything falls their way:

"It looks like BYU has a chance if the following teams lose: USC, Hawaii, Arizona State and two of [the following] – Tennessee, Oregon and Boston College," said Palm, who operates collegebcs.com. "Even then, it’s not guaranteed. Better still if all six lose, and BC losing is the least helpful."

If a two-loss team from a mid-major conference qualifies for the BCS, that would be, well, a perfect ending to this craziest of college-football seasons.

Er, well, "perfect" except in the sense that it would involve USC losing to UCLA. Which is to say, not perfect at all. So nevermind.

In women’s soccer, a very Brendan Loy bracket

Monday, November 26th, 2007

The women’s soccer NCAA Tournament has reached the Elite Eight, and an astounding number of schools that I care about are still competing for the championship. Both of my alma maters, USC and Notre Dame, are still alive, as is my original home-state team, UConn. And my two least-favorite universities, UCLA and Duke, are still alive as well. The only thing that could have made the bracket any more Loy-o-riffic would be if my current hometown team, Tennessee, had beaten Portland in the Sweet Sixteen to set up a date with the hated Bruins.

As things stand, it’s Portland that must visit UCLA, while USC travels to West Virginia, Notre Dame hosts Duke, and UConn visits Florida State, all on Friday evening. Potentially, we could have a USC-UCLA semifinal on one side of the bracket and a UConn-Notre Dame semifinal on the other. Will the Women of Troy need to beat both of their school’s archrivals to win the championship? Heh!

For what it’s worth, in the final regular-season coaches’ poll, UCLA was #1, Portland #3, USC #9, Notre Dame #11, West Virginia #12, Florida State #14, UConn #24, and Duke unranked. So I guess that means both the Irish and the Trojans will be favored on Friday. Go ND and ‘SC, beat Duke and WVU!

USC upsets SIU; three big tests loom

Monday, November 26th, 2007

Southern Illinois went to the Sweet 16 last year, and having seen them in person, I can confirm that their success in March was no fluke; they were a very good basketball team. So I’m disinclined to take issue with their preseason ranking of #24, nor with their climb to #19 heading into last night’s game against USC. However, perhaps the loss of Jamaal Tatum and Tony Young had more of an impact than the pollsters thought, and as a result, this year’s SIU squad is a bit overrated. Either that, or I was wrong to doubt whether USC could live up to the hype, because the Trojans absolutely wiped the floor with the Salukis last night, 70-45, to win the inaugural Anaheim Classic:

USC has won five straight since inexplicably dropping its opener, 96-81 to Mercer. But the real test of the Trojans’ resurgence will come with a brutal six-day, three-game stretch at the end of this week and the beginning of next. They host Oklahoma (5-1) on Thursday and #4 Kansas (5-0) on Sunday, then travel to #3 Memphis (5-0) next Tuesday. (Damn, I wish I was going to be in L.A. this weekend. USC-UCLA at the Coliseum on Saturday, then USC-Kansas at the Galen Center on Sunday? That’d be sweet!)

After that, the Trojans will get a bit of a breather, finishing December with a trio of cupcakes (Delaware State, Cal Poly and UC Riverside) before diving headlong into the crucible of the Pac-10 schedule.

But hey, one game at a time, right, Coach Floyd? Fight on! Beat the Sooners!

Hillary & Huma?

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

The Hillary-Clinton-lesbian-affair-with-Huma-Abedin story, which has been spreading via blogospheric whispers for months, has finally broken on Drudge after making it into print, sort of, in the Times of London.

This comes after the L.A. Times supposedly decided to sit on the story, though some deny that. Regardless, somebody alert Mickey Kaus and Luke Ford: the "Dark Unseen Scandal Star" is coming into view at last!

One thing’s for sure: if it’s true, then judging purely on physical appearance, Hillary has way better taste in women than Bill. More on the lovely Ms. Abedin here.

P.S. One other thing that’s for sure: even if these rumors are true, Bill can’t say that Hillary is cheating on him, because according to his definition of sex, it’s physically impossible for her to have sex with a woman!

UPDATE: Is the person stoking these rumors about Hillary Clinton… Hillary Clinton?

More on the Hil-&-Huma allegations here.

Nebraska to interview UB’s Turner Gill

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

Is this the beginning of the end for Turner Gill at Buffalo? UB’s athletic director has given Nebraska permission to talk to Gill about its head-coaching vacancy. “I’m happy for Turner and his family about getting the opportunity to talk to Nebraska,” AD Warde Manuel said. “He’s worked extremely hard and deserves this opportunity.”

According to the Lincoln Journal-Star, Manuel said the interview will take place “in the next day or so.” He added, “I think it’s tremendous. Turner is absolutely ready to coach at Nebraska. He’s done a great job, an awesome turnaround. Although I would hate to lose him, he would be a great coach there.” Earlier, Manuel was quoted as saying, “I don’t want him to leave our program. Obviously, I don’t. But without a doubt, Turner Gill, if he can do what he’s done here in two years, there’s nobody there in Nebraska that could tell me that he’s not deserving of a serious, serious look at being the head coach of Nebraska.”

It certainly doesn’t sound like UB is jumping through hoops to try to keep him around. (Not like they could anyway, really. It’s not like they can even pretend to try and match Nebraska dollar for dollar.) And in light of Gill mentor Tom Osborne’s comments about the new Huskers coach needing to understand Nebraska’s tradition, this is starting to sound like a slam dunk.

If Gill’s tenure at Buffalo is over, he certainly went out in style. Buffalo won in overtime at Kent State on Saturday to finish 5-7 — easily the best season in Buffalo’s nine-year Division I-A history. More here and here.

Must. Beat. UCLA.

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

With one game to go, the UCLA Bruins could still go to the Rose Bowl — or no bowl at all. It’s up to the USC Trojans to make sure it’s the latter. Stewart Mandel explains:

Of all the strange postseason scenarios still floating around, I don’t think you possibly find one any more bizarre than the fact that the Bruins, who just reached bowl eligibility this weekend, are still technically alive for the Rose Bowl.

Here’s the deal: USC (9-2, 6-2 Pac-10) and Arizona State (9-2, 6-2) are currently tied for first in the Pac-10 standings, with the Trojans holding the tiebreaker following last Thursday’s win. Oregon (8-3, 5-3) and UCLA (6-5, 5-3) sit a game behind following the Bruins’ 16-0 win over the quarterback-depleted Ducks. If surging Arizona (5-6) upends the Sun Devils (not implausible) and Karl Dorrell’s Bruins pull another crosstown upset of the Trojans (highly unlikely), it would create either a three-way tie for first between USC, ASU and UCLA, all of which went 1-1 against each other, or a four-way tie with Oregon. In either case, the Bruins win the tiebreaker due to their victory over the Ducks. (If you dare to figure out how that is, read this).

The craziest part of all is, just as easily as the 6-5 Bruins could go to the Rose Bowl, they could also go to no bowl at all if they lose. If Arizona does beat ASU, it would give the Pac-10 seven bowl-eligible teams for six spots and almost assuredly restrict them to one BCS berth. Guess which would be the odd team out in that scenario? Yep — the same team that’s playing for a Rose Bowl berth next week.

USC needs to beat UCLA not just on general principle, not just for pride, not just for revenge, not just for the Roses, not just so I can win another bet against Mike Tran, but for the good of the whole conference. If the Bruins, who lost to Notre Dame and Utah, and who have done nothing in conference play to merit any sort of respect (no, shutting out an Oregon team playing its 26th-string quarterback doesn’t count), go to the Rose Bowl, the Pac-10 will be the laughingstock of the country.

So Trojans, for the love of God, beat the Bruins.

P.S. A minor correction to Mandel’s analysis after the jump.

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Hawaii ranked #12 in BCS

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

With one week to go in the college-football regular season, Hawaii is finally right where they want to be: #12 in the BCS standings. So, beat Washington and they’re BCS-bound, right?

Well, probably. The fly in the ointment is #14 Tennessee. If the Vols beat LSU, they would almost certainly leapfrog Hawaii. It’s also possible that #13 Arizona State could jump Hawaii with a win over Arizona, especially if the Warriors win less-than-impressively over the 4-8 Huskies. The Warriors and Sun Devils are really close in the standings at this point.

If Tennessee and/or ASU leapfrogs Hawaii, the Warriors will need somebody (or somebodies) currently ahead of them to fall behind them. #7 LSU might fit the bill, though I’m not sure how far they’d tumble with a loss to UT. Probably just far enough, is my guess. Also, somebody’s gotta lose the ACC title game between #6 Virginia Tech and #11 Boston College; BC would certainly fall behind Hawaii with a loss, while VT might or might not. Other possibilities would be Missouri beating #9 Oklahoma and (heaven forbid) UCLA beating #8 USC. The latter scenario could help Hawaii in two ways: by allowing them to jump USC, and by potentially putting them ahead of the Pac-10 champion. If UCLA beats USC and ASU beats Arizona, the Sun Devils would be the conference champions, and it’d be a close call between them and Hawaii. If UCLA and Arizona both win, the Bruins would be the champ (at 7-5 overall…ugh), and would certainly be ranked below Hawaii in the BCS.

Bottom line, if Hawaii beats Washington, the Warriors are probably 90% likely to reach the Sugar Bowl, where they’ll play either LSU (if the Tigers beat Tennessee but don’t sneak into the title game), Tennessee (if the Vols beat LSU), or Georgia (if LSU beats UT and makes it into the title game). With UConn out of the picture, the Warriors have essentially 0% of going to any other BCS bowl, as all of the other at-large teams will be more attractive to the bowls, and the Sugar Bowl picks last.

P.S. Don’t sleep on #19 BYU. If Washington beats Hawaii, UCLA beats USC, Arizona beats ASU, Oregon State beats Oregon, and LSU beats Tennessee, the Cougars would probably be ranked #15 or #16, and ahead of Pac-10 champion UCLA. So the Sugar Bowl would be LSU (or Georgia) against BYU!

Eight teams still alive for BCS title

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

Missouri is #1 in the new AP poll by a margin of 45 first-place votes to 20, but West Virginia is #1 in the new coaches poll by a margin of 37 to 17 (with 6 first-place votes for Ohio State).

Of course, it doesn’t matter who’s #1 and who’s #2. If the Tigers and Mountaineers both win on Saturday, they’ll go to the BCS title game, and they’ll decide on the field who deserves to be #1. More significant is who comes after #3 Ohio State in the coaches’ poll, since those teams would fighting over the #2 spot in the BCS if Missouri and WVU were to both lose on Saturday.

It goes like this: #4 Georgia (1,232 points), #5 (tied) Kansas (1,161 points), #5 (tied) Virginia Tech (1,161 points), #7 LSU (1,134 points), #8 Oklahoma (1,126 points), #9 USC (1,073 points) and #10 Hawaii (958 points). I have to say, I’m surprised Kansas is still ranked that high; I didn’t think the Jayhawks would be in the mix anymore, but they are. Texasyank was right: they could pull a Nebraska, a la 2001. (Though I still doubt it would actually happen.)

Anyway, it would be a hell of an argument among the teams currently ranked #4 through #8 if Mizzou and WVU lose:

• Georgia could claim it’s playing the best football right now, but others would point out that they didn’t even win their division, a la Nebraska in 2001. And if LSU beats Tennessee, how do you keep out the two-loss conference champion in favor of a two-loss divisional runner-up (that, oh by the way, lost 35-14 to the Vols)? The only reason to favor the Bulldogs over the Tigers is because they lost earlier than LSU did. But is that really a good reason? Also, Georgia has one of the worst losses of the group (at home to a .500 team, South Carolina… if anyone remembers September 8 at this point).

• Kansas could point out that everyone else has two losses, while they only have one. But they, too, have the “didn’t win their division” problem, plus they started 11-0 against a very weak schedule and then lost against the first real quality opponent they played. The Jayhawks are in prime position to be leapfrogged.

• Outside of the Top 3, Virginia Tech is the highest-ranked team right now that could potentially win its conference. But can the voters possibly keep the Hokies ahead of LSU, if the Tigers win the SEC, when VT lost 48-7 to LSU back in September? I think VT must hope for Tennessee to beat LSU to have any shot.

• LSU has the 48-7 trump card over Virginia Tech, and the SEC trump card (“champion of the toughest conference in America”) over everyone else if they beat Tennessee. But they also suffered a late, high-profile loss, which pollsters hate. If LSU wins, will the voters follow the Kreutz Theorem and leapfrog them ahead of all the non-SEC two-loss teams (and Kansas), or will they continue to punish the Tigers for losing late? LSU needs to root for Virginia Tech to win the ACC, because having that 48-7 win at the forefront of everyone’s minds is obviously good for their cause. Other LSU talking points: they played the toughest schedule of the group, and both of their losses were in triple-overtime. Rebuttal: yeah, but a lot of their wins were really close, too. Surrebuttal: well of course they were, because they played the toughest schedule of the group! And the SEC is a war!

• Oklahoma is currently ranked last among the teams seriously competing to take advantage if the Top 2 falter, but they have two advantages: they can make one of those top two falter, by beating Missouri; and in so doing, they can score the highest-profile “quality win” of everyone in the group. On the flip side, like Georgia, they lost to a 6-6 team (Colorado).

I don’t think anyone else would really be considered. USC just doesn’t have enough of a case to pass Oklahoma or Georgia, even if everybody else loses. Hawaii, right or wrong, is not going to be seriously considered for the #2 spot by the pollsters or the computers, under any circumstances. West Virginia and Missouri won’t be able to sneak in the back door after a loss; there are too many other available two-loss contenders. And Boston College, at #12, has too high of a hill to climb, even if the Eagles beat VT.

Personally, I think LSU would be the most deserving if WVU and Mizzou lose and all the two-loss teams win, but that opinion is subject to change depending on how the teams in question look on Saturday.

P.S. Man, wouldn’t an eight-team playoff be a great way to settle all this? Just saying!

UPDATE: Rich Tellshow thinks USC will finish ahead of Kansas and Oklahoma if they beat UCLA, and that it could come down to the Trojans vs. the Bulldogs for the #2 spot if Missouri, West Virginia, LSU and Virginia Tech all lose:

If [Mizzou and WVU lose] then LSU could be back with win over UT, with an LSU loss VT would have a claim if they win the ACC, and UGA or USC possibly if LSU and VT lose. I think Kansas is done and OU’s computer component will keep them out.

UPDATE 2: Jerry Palm thinks USC has no chance. I tend to agree.

Former CT governor O’Neill dies

Sunday, November 25th, 2007

Former Connecticut governor William O’Neill, who ran the state for 10 years and 10 days — including the first nine-plus years of my life — has died at 77.

“Bill O’Neill was one of the titans of Connecticut politics,” said current governor Jodi Rell. “No description of him would be complete without the words ‘decency’ and ‘fairness,’ and he understood that government must take its lead from the people it serves.” Former state Dem chairman John Droney called O’Neill “the Harry Truman of Connecticut.”