6/27/2010

hey, we won a series

It's amazing what happens when you get decent pitching and score runs at the same time.

Now only 12 games under 500...

Labels: ,

congrats jon and grace

The wedding at the Butterfly House was great! And Bacana was fabulous of course.

Labels:

6/26/2010

takes a parasite to know a parasite

My hometown paper has an absolutely hilarious story about a farmer in Raytown. You see, apparently some guy painted the side of a tractor trailer with the phrase:
Are you a producer or parasite
Democrats - Party of Parasites

Here's the picture from the story taken by Donald Bradley:


The lefty sphere of the intertubes has had some fun with this, because the Kansas City Star did a little investigative journalism (!). It turns out anti-welfare small-town farmer David Jungerman is actually a posterboy for everything that's wrong with ag subsidies specifically and corporate welfare more generally.

Over the past 15 years, Jungerman has taken over $1 million worth of federal farm subsidies.

Hi-larious.

Now, generally speaking, I think there's a lot more common ground for average Democrats and Republicans to work together on issues - I argue strongly that most Americans see the world pretty similarly and that Democrats in particular would benefit from a little less mockery of Republicans and a little more cooperation.

However, I think it's also important for my more conservative friends to understand that this is the kind of stuff that gets associated with the GOP; this is what people hear about at places like Think Progress and Daily Kos. This is an act of idiocy, showing the worst of entitlement mentality combined with an incendiary lack of taste. Nevermind the policy debate about the real world benefits of social insurance programs like TANF/welfare, SNAP/food stamps, unemployment insurance, health insurance, old age insurance, disability insurance, and so forth, and nevermind the actual political leanings of Jungerman (in response to the publicity the stories have created for him, he has said that
he's not even a die-hard Republican. He voted for Claire McCaskill when she won a U.S. Senate seat in 2006.)

the image of a million-dollar welfare queen lobbing personal insults at people who
Always have their hand out for whatever the government will give them

is just farcical.

And it raises the tricky question for Republicans: does Jungerman represent the economic views of your party? There are all too many people in both parties that are more interested in the gamesmanship of hurling insults back and forth than actually crafting policy options to solve problems and make us more peaceful and prosperous. If we ended all government welfare tomorrow, it would devastate poor people with no other cushion. But in absolute terms, the amount of money lost by richer folks would be much, much, much greater, from war profiteers to financial crooks to big farmers. If we can't be intellectually honest about current federal spending, then we can't move forward on deciding how we want to change spending in the future.

Labels: , ,

6/16/2010

strategy and sports

Athletic games themselves involve lots of strategy. But a different kind of case study in decision-making has unfolded for us over the past week or so as we've moved past speculation to action. I think I'm just not a big enough Colorado or Nebraska fan to get why they would see the grass as greener to the west and east. Whatever their ultimate calculus, what's done is done.

So now the most interesting question is viewed from the perspective of the remaining Big 12. What to do?

The safe answer, the likely answer, the easy answer, is to stand pat. Execute on a strategy of making a ten team league successful. That's what I'd recommend as a consultant. I'm about 95% confidant that's what will happen.

But that other one chance in twenty nags at me. I'm a big believer that the flip side of challenge almost always is opportunity. Over the weekend, the Big 12 was in its weakest position as a conference in the history of its existence. Today, however, it's at its strongest point in years, perhaps ever. The Big 12 faced the most direct threats possible to its future from a variety of sources and for whatever mixture of reasons you care to elaborate, ten schools decided to stick together. Furthermore, as the Pac-10 and Big Ten in particular went after Big 12 schools, that gives the Big 12 a window of opportunity to strike in 'self-defense', as a reaction to having lost two universities to the aggressiveness of other conferences. Finally, as the Big 12 lost two teams, but to different conferences, there is a unique opportunity to offer entrance to a pair of schools.

The following options, again, are neither likely nor something the Big 12 can necessarily implement. Rather, they're options that recognize an important part of strategic decision-making: if you never think about the moon, you'll never get there. And you only have a few windows suitable for launch. This is one such window.

I would be quite interested to be able to have a quiet conversation with these schools just to see what they would think.

Scenario 1:

Take the game to the Pac-10. The more I've been thinking about this one, the more it's been nibbling at me. Do you think Arizona and Arizona State might fit better in the big 12? One thing that's always bugged me is how the Big 12 doesn't have its own BCS bowl. The Big Ten and Pac-10 have their 'granddaddy of 'em all' in LA. The SEC has the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. The Orange Bowl is in Florida. But Big 12 conference champs get sent out to Arizona. It's not that the Fiesta Bowl is a terrible one. It's just that it's nowhere near the (current) Big 12. We can fix that, creating regular conference trips to Arizona in the process. Arizona adds a growing population demographic and a chance to make 'southwest' and 'central' divisions, returning OU and OSU to competing with MU/KU/ISU/KSU. Separately from football, it also allows UA to compete in a stronger basketball conference. Imagine an annual KU/UA conference basketball game. It's also worth noting, for UA/ASU, that the Big 12 has received more national attention and more revenue than the Pac-10. BCS bowl games would get to be played in Arizona.

Scenario 2:

Invite Utah and BYU. The Pac-10 can't do this because they have an odd number. I think we could make the case that coming as a pair to the Big 12 is better than being left in different conferences. And with the loss of Colorado, Utah and BYU maintain a Big 12 presence in the Rockies/interior West. These schools could be added to the Big 12 North and leave the South as is. In addition, don't overlook the Morman connection. BYU gives Baylor a fellow private religious school generally, while specifically a lot of Mormons stuck around Missouri instead of migrating farther west to Utah.

Scenario 3:

Return the favor to the Big Ten. I can't help looking at a map and wondering if it's possible to split the Big Ten in two. Of course it's not really that realistic, but you never know until you ask Illinois and Indiana. A week ago I would have said it would have been impossible for Nebraska to leave the Big 12. But this wouldn't just be to vengefully carve out the mid-section of the conference just below Chicago. Indiana is a basketball program in a football conference. Trading IU basketball would almost make up for NU football on the tradition front. Meanwhile, the most natural rival for Illinois is Missouri. Both IU and IL are essentially the same distance from St. Louis as they are from Chicago. This directly deals with one of the challenges - that some MU fans actually want to move to the Big Ten - by making St. Louis a central city in the Big 12 rather than a border city. The schools would also fit in very nicely with the rest of the Big 12 North, even down to the I-70 corridor running from Topeka to Indianapolis. I would point out ever so subtlely that the state of Indiana owes us a big favor, too, and this is a great time to collect. Do this move and we'll move past your theft of the NCAA headquarters from the city that invested so heavily in making collegiate athletics what we know today.

Scenario 4:

Now I'm getting quite unrealistic. There's an intriguing geographical quirk to the south and east of the Big 12. Northwest Arkansas is actually closely associated with the states of Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas. Fayetteville is so remote from the rest of the SEC that Arkansas plays some games in Little Rock. Arkansas has history with the Southwest conference where it was a founding member with schools like OU and UT. Meanwhile, Memphis is down the Mississippi River from St. Louis, on the border with Arkansas, and is not currently in a major conference. Memphis doesn't really have much of a football program at the moment, but by pushing the Big 12 through Arkansas and into Tennessee, I don't think it would be that big of an issue - the point would be to bring recruiting space and geographic range, not replace the tradition lost with Nebraska. It would also allow ISU and Baylor to have a comrade near the bottom of the pecking order. In basketball, Memphis would add a high-win school, which helps as RPI is important in basketball (unlike football). An annual KU/Memphis basketball game would be another great conference schedule addition.

Scenario 5:

Feeling out Kentucky and Louisville is my last 'what if' for the night. They fit nicely in the existing Big 12 North/South division, putting basketball state Kentucky with basketball state Kansas. In fact, you already see these teams together from time to time when St. Louis hosts an NCAA tourney round and fans come in from both directions. This would also get Louisville (Big East) and Kentucky (SEC) into the same conference, and what a basketball conference that would be. Unlike Memphis, Louisville and Kentucky do have competitive football programs they would bring, but not good enough they would threaten OU and UT. Plus, I like the town of Louisville, so I'm sure some arrangements can be made for my sake.

Unlikely, sure.

But somebody had to start the conversation that made Boulder look to the Pacific and Nebraska abandon KC. For a brief moment in time, the Big 12 is both strongly unified and able to make bold moves without being the aggressor. There's certainly a lot to be said for the ten team arrangement for both of the major revenue sports, football and basketball. In football, it allows a round robin format and eliminates a conference championship whose primary consequence recently seems to be giving good teams losses. In basketball, it allows annual home and home series while improving the RPI by shedding the two worst programs in the conference.

Still, the Big 12 as ten teams now has no margin of error. There's a part of me that wants to throw a long pass and see what happens. Otherwise, unless there's some breakdown in another major conference, this is the peak of the Big 12. We get more vulnerable over time to a raid from any direction, and the next one will be fatal.

Labels: , ,

6/14/2010

nebraska mortgages its future

Before going further, I of course admit that this isn't that big a deal In the Scheme of Things. We're not talking about nuclear proliferation or financial fraud or oil spills. Or Brittany, Brangelina, or Beyonce.

But still...

Two major universities decided to leave what is (was) arguably the best collegiate conference in the country for the uncertain future of two separate conferences on opposite sides of the country. Nebraska and Colorado first played a football game against each other in 1898. Kansans, Missourians, Nebraskans, and other vacationers enjoy making the trek to the Rockies, while all good pro football fans of course root against the Broncos while supporting the Chiefs. Colorado I'm really not sure what they're expecting to get out of this move.

What I want to focus on is Nebraska. I use the language of mortgage because I think it captures the uncertainty: there are a range of potential outcomes, and it could be a good move or a bad move. It depends. And like the financial industry of our day, we've destroyed the history and tradition of what came before. Whatever else happens in the future, we have officially severed ties to the past. That's sad. And frustrating. And disappointing. Nebraska football has a history unparalleled in the heartland. You have to travel over 500 miles from Lincoln to get to South Bend or Norman. It's over 600 miles to Ann Arbor. Over 700 to Tuscaloosa, Columbus, or Austin. Even farther to State College. The plains states can't support a high concentration of professional sports teams, but it is large enough for a vibrant collection of universities.

Nebraska, just up I-29 from Kansas City, was the key voice pushing for Arrowhead stadium to remain one of the premier venues boasting both college and professional sports. As I type this, Oklahoma is playing in the College World Series in Omaha. And the Royals' AAA club is in Omaha. That's what makes a lot of this so bitter particularly from a KC-perspective. Instead of sticking around and fighting for a major conference centered around the center of the country, Nebraska jumped ship.

To the Big Ten.

Save it Tom, Nebraska ain't like Minnesota or Illinois or Ohio or Michigan. Lincoln ain't Columbus or Madison. Omaha ain't Chicago or Detroit. And Nebraska didn't leave a broken conference. It broke the conference.

Sort of.

And see, that's the thing. The Big 12 wasn't broken. Yes, Texas is a pain. As a good American, I hate Texas as much as anybody. Yes, there were some political gaffes, like Missouri Governor Nixon acting like he knows something about running an athletic conference or a university system. But Nebraska belongs with Missouri and Kansas and Kansas State and Iowa State and Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Dallas is a valuable counterweight to the regional pull of other places, like Chicago, Atlanta, and LA.

Nebraska has now mortgaged its top-tier tradition to get into a new place. There's a part of me that hopes Nebraska cleans the floor of the Big Ten. But there's also a part of me that's sad enough and upset enough to hope Nebraska gets exactly what it deserves: access to the 'stability' of the Big Ten in exchange for permanent loss of its unique prestige.

Dear Nebraska fans/players/Big Red nation:

When you're done playing not just second fiddle but third or fourth in a league whose population center isn't even in a state bordering Nebraska, come back to the Big 12. Stick around and fight to make this part of the MidWest top rate, rather than abandoning us.

In the meantime, expect us to express our, uh, feelings about this in your direction. Let's be clear. You dumped us. Not the other way around. And in the process, you have contributed greatly to the transfer of college from meaning to money.

Labels: , ,

6/10/2010

go lady jays

I keep forgetting to post this. Liberty creamed Pattonville in the MSHSAA girls Class 3 soccer championships on Saturday.

Apparently this was our first Final Four for either the boys or girls soccer teams.

Woohoo!

Labels: ,

6/07/2010

will manning serve more jail time than libby?

There are some fascinating angles to this story at Wired. What is classified information? What should be classified? Who gets to determine what is classified? Is it ever okay to leak something? What should happen to whistleblowers? How does the public conduct oversight of classification?

And perhaps most interestingly, what is the military smoking to give a 22 year old the keys to the kingdom? Is this what our military has become? We're so far removed from dealing with actual national security matters that an army specialist deemed by our own government as barely competent to drink a beer has access to sensitive diplomatic cables that have nothing to do with his assignment in Iraq?

Or maybe, they do have something to do with Iraq, and they would be quite embarrassing for our political leadership. But of course, how can we know what they are when the government classifies them and prevents We the People from seeing them? This is particularly intriguing as it involves the Wikileaks video Collateral Murder to which my reaction is basically ho hum.

You see, unlike when, say, the Bush Administration destroyed an actual national security asset, and most ironically, one working on WMDs, stuff like this carries no military value. None. Zero. It's political, and there are no reasons to classify politics. In fact, secrecy is pretty much exactly how We the People get screwed.

But remember, no senior Bush official served jail time for revealing undercover agent Valerie Plame (Wilson). None. Zero. Wanna bet 22 year old Manning gets more than that?

Labels: , , , , ,

6/05/2010

why is it acceptable when Israel does it?

(P)(R)Tuesday, I explored the question of what if the Israeli military attack on a civilian group in international waters had been conducted by another country instead, like Iran or China.

What I'm interested in this afternoon is why Israel gets a free pass. What is so valuable about a militaristic right-wing government that we allow them to assault US citizens with impunity, even kids? Furkan Dogan wasn't just some no-name foreigner. He was a US citizen. And he was a teenager. Those quintessentially evil villains in the Dateline TV show 'to catch a predator' don't even kill their victims.

And you can't say the most recent aid flotilla was some anomaly, either. Another ship taking part in the movement to end the blockade is named the Rachel Corrie. You know why it's called that? Because Rachel Corrie was an American student who was killed by the Israeli government.

And the Israeli government just keeps on attacking Americans. Just this week, the IDF fired a tear gas canister directly in the face of student Emily Henochowicz. The artist whose profile picture is of somebody in an eyeball costume will never have the use of her left eye again. It's gone:



Note: image used under Creative Commons license courtesy of ISM.

It's a sad commentary on America when we can make fake noises about the evils of poor foreigners and protecting our borders and so forth, but when foreign governments are attacking actual Americans, we suddenly lack the capacity to do anything about it.

Why?

Labels: , , ,

6/01/2010

what if Iran or China attacked a NATO member?

(P)(R) One of the stories I took a break from during my lovely trip to Minnesota involved the sanctions Israel has imposed upon the Gaza strip. Economic sanctions are one of the most horrific weapons in the modern day arsenal, brutalizing the citizenry while having negligible impact on the regime. The sanctions Israel has imposed upon Gaza are particularly brutal in some of the details.

But what happened over the weekend isn't really directly about the human consequences for Palestinians. While I was out of town, the state of Israel launched a military attack against civilian vessels which had been searched before departure and which were flying under the Turkish flag. Turkey isn't just some random country. They are a member of NATO.

NATO is a military alliance. In our modern day Americana world of fake threats, like color-coded alerts and the evils of marijuana and impoverished warlords from Fallujah to Kandahar, we are tempted to forget sometimes that earlier in the post-war era, we still felt like there were actual national security interests the US held around the globe. We built the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as an explicit alliance for the defense of all.

We are treaty-bound to defend, militarily, our fellow signatories. Article V in particular spells this out:

The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.


Now, Israel of course enjoys a special relationship with the US. Greece and Turkey specifically, and all the Europeans more generally, know this well. This kind of event wouldn't lead to World War III. Rather, what this does is it weakens the American century, the American post-war experiment of collective security. What we are telling groups around the world is that they can not rely upon the US to be objective standard-bearers of international law and order. Rather, we've picked sides. You are for us or against us.

If you're a Somali pirate, we'll send the US Navy after you. We'll shoot you on sight. If you're a member of the Israeli Defense Force, you have free reign to assault vessels in international waters - even if they're flying flags of countries we are theoretically sworn to defend.

I don't know what the future of NATO holds in a world where the US screams at countries like Iran while giving free passes to countries like Israel. But I do know this double standard is going to get us into trouble.

Actually, strike that. It's already gotten us into trouble. The only question is what happens next.

Labels: , , , ,