Archive for November, 2006

Give Thanksgiving a Chance

1. Jesus
2. Spaghetti
17. Movies
41. Toast (see below for explanation)

Okay, so there’s a radio station out here that starts playing Christmas music the week before Hallowe’en. I refuse to name it, but if you want to email me, I’ll be happy to tell you who it is so you can flame them, too.

I have been accused of being anti-Christmas. Nothing could be further from the truth. We have our Christmas tree up the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and there are already a dozen or so gifts to go under it. We’ve been planing eggnog parties and caroling since roughly the middle of May. We love the entire Who-Christmas Thing. But we don’t open our presents on December 15 just because it will allow us to enjoy them longer. Similarly, I think it’s a good idea to wait until the actual season before starting on the whole schmaltzy deal.

Maybe that’s the problem. I don’t mind being cheerful, and certainly don’t object to others being so. I think kindness and jollity are as good in April as December. I love Christmas music, at least, I love the Christmas music that is worshipful of the Christ, especially traditional carols sung in the traditional way, and older, quieter Christmas music going back to the dawn of the holiday itself.

But I dislike Christmas lights in October. I get annoyed at Snoop Dogg’s rendition of Silent Night as a hip-hop anthem. I especially hate the six aisles of Christmas kitsch overflowing every retail establishment in America. I believe that my revulsion to these things stems from a suspicion that none of these things is meant to celebrate the birth of Christ or the spirit of giving, but to extract the maximum cash from the largest possible number of suckers. I always despise that kind of behavior. That it is mixed up with a fellow in a red suit does not disguise the motive.

[NOTE: I do NOT object to spending vast sums on presents at Christmas time. More on that in a later post.]

And in the meantime, we forget almost altogether the Giving of Thanks on a late Thursday (didn’t it used to be the LAST Thursday?) in November. That’s a cruel shame. Thanksgiving is the perfect way to start the Christmas season. It’s always appropriate to be thankful, but it’s especially good to be so before devoting an entire month to giving things to others. Puts one in the right frame of mind, see? It’s a necessary palate-cleanser after the institutionalized begging of Hallowe’en, the ickiest holiday ever created.

So give Thanksgiving a chance. At the beginning of each blog post this next week, I’ll be listing off some of the things on our family’s Gratitude List. Make one for yourself, too. You’ll thank me.

And a Political Addition

There’s a new BCS post below, and since the original post received more comments than all the other posts over the last three years put together, I thought I might mention it so you can be sure to look. All four of you.

But this post is about politics. I read an article yesterday about the relentlessly negative tone of the political debate, and thought I’d post some of it and urge you to read the rest.

Imagine, if you will, what your taste for Miller beer would be if Anheuser-Busch spent half of its annual advertising budget describing all of the various Miller brands in the most unsavory terms. Or, what your taste for a Budweiser would be if the lads at Miller unleashed a $500 million negative ad campaign against “the King of Beers.” Imagine both at the same time and you get some idea of what domestic politics is like for most Americans.

This is absolutely accurate. even those that know they should be involved are not only reluctant to do so, but actively avoid having to be. I’ve been asked to run for everything from City Council to the State Legislature, and my response is always the same: may a just and loving God forbid.

The net effect of this constant and unrelenting assault on politicians and the political process is voter resignation and ultimately a kind of doomed acceptance. It must be true. They must all be hypocrites, fools, thieves and scoundrels. They’re talking about themselves, after all. It’s $1 billion of self-portraiture.

Is it ever. My experience is that most politicians are decent people. You’d never know this unless you hung around with them, because frankly, their PR sucks.

The reaction to the onslaught is aversion; qualified, capable people avoid politics and the political process at all costs, thus diminishing the talent pool. The New York Republican Party was unable to recruit a qualified candidate for state comptroller, even though the race was there for the taking, because they literally couldn’t find a qualified candidate to run. Nor could the Republican Party find a qualified candidate for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut. No sensible person would do it. Part of corporate advertising contains a subtextual message; come work for us, we’re in an exciting business. We’re growing and it will only get better. The subtextual message of political advertising is: You’d be crazy to get involved. It’s bad and it’s only going to get worse.

Please read the whole thing.

More on the BCS – A Solution!

War Eagle Tiger Plainsman Douglas has a solution to the BCS fiasco that the Chris Jones Group would like to endorse:

I have an easy fix for this BCS mess. Every BCS conference should have 12 teams and a championship game. (Like the SEC, ACC and Big XII do now.) The Big Ten should include Notre Dame (the independent thing is a bit old) and that gives them twelve. The pac-10 could include two schools of your choice be it BSU or Fresno or the Y. (I was on the team and part of Auburn’s 62-0 welcome party for Fresno in 96…seriously non BCS confrence schools just need to understand what they are and live with it.) And the Big East can have the best MAC or C-USA school I guess.

In this system only the confernce champion winners get to a BCS bowl the remaining two spots go to the highest ranked at large teams. That way a one-loss BCS teams or a deserving non BCS team can get in.

The system is set up as follows:

Number 1 plays Number 8 in the Sugar

Number 2 plays Number 7 in the Rose

Number 3 Plays Number 6 in the Fiesta

Number 4 plays Number 5 in the Orange

A new poll is released and Number one plays number two in the BCS title game.

Thus we keep the bowls, need little realignment, and have a suedo playoff system. If this were in place in 04 Auburn would have had a shot at Utah and then the winner would have had a shot at the winner of the USC OU game the next week. Most likely this would mean Auburn would have played USC (for the third time in three years) and this time we would have beat them!

I am a genius but only I seem to recognize this.

No, no, Doug. You’re too modest. Many of us now all over the planet will recognize your genius. My only tweak to this would be to allow the top two ranked non-BCS conference champions to play one another for spot #7. Spot #8 goes to the top ranked non-champion regardless of conference. Is it possible that this format leaves out a potential national champion? Sure. What it does NOT do is leave anyone an excuse. You want in? Win your conference. That’s all you have to do. That would, incidentally, encourage some really tough non-conference games early in the year, just to get the measure of the likely competition later on. If you’re USC, you don’t think you’d want to play Texas in September, to find out how fast Vince Young really is? Maybe by December/January you could find a way to stop him.

Doug’s format fixes almost all of the problems I outlined in my post. We here wholeheartedly endorse it.

Warning: Politics

I very rarely blog about politics, except in the economic sense, because I have no wish to know what the political persuasions of my clients are. There are times, however, because I am a very politically active individual, that I don’t have much choice. This is one of those times. If you don’t want to hear it, just move along and I promise tomorrow I’ll be back to bashing the BCS or waxing philosophical about the meaning of life. Not that you’ll necessarily like that better, but hey, you’re here, so there must be something appealing to you about all this.

As the returns from around the nation began to come in yesterday, I was sitting in HQ here at the Group and talking with a neighbor who is not a political person. He asked me what the difference was between Democrats and Republicans, a question I get a lot these days. I gave him the usual answer, which is that Republicans stand for lower taxes, smaller government, and the traditional Judeo-Christian ethic of respect for innocent life and punishment for the guilty, respect for traditional morality, and a powerful, active military. Democrats stand for a government whose job it is to solve social problems, protection of the weak (especially domestically), and a permissive social policy, a strong emphasis on diplomacy instead of arms, and a bureaucracy whose purpose is to keep people from hurting themselves. On social policy, Democrats generally favor leaving you alone, where Republicans generally meddle. On economic policy, Republicans generally favor leaving you alone, while Democrats generally meddle. All this is, of course, drifting quite fast to the “meddling everywhere” side of things, because the actual meddling is done neither by Republicans or by Democrats, but by bureaucrats, whose jobs depend on increasing the number of problems there are to solve. Thus government increases in scope and power by itself.

But as I was giving this civics lecture, it occurred to me that this explanation did not do a good job of boxing up the current situation. In all reality, the difficulties Republicans were having last night were not difficulties of economic policy or social policy (though there was a huge backlash at the spendthrift GOP), but of ethics. So I restarted the lecture thus:

Democrats play politics like rugby, or football. There are rules, but the game is so fast that the rules are subject to an incredible array of interpretations, and the referees cannot see everything. Therefore if you have perfected a method of holding as an offensive lineman, and your opponent never makes any tackles, you’re going to be an all-star, never mind that what you’re doing is against the rules. Steroids? Fine, as long as you win, and don’t get caught. For the Democrats, the purpose of the game is to win, winning being defined as “being effective” in office, mostly by expanding the size of the bureaucracy so as to increase the ability of the government to solve problems. For the Democrats, what you do outside the office is irrelevant. What you do inside the office is also irrelevant, as long as it does not diminish your ability to bring home the bacon.

Republicans, however, are playing golf. They police themselves. When they contravene the rules, they call penalties on themselves. Golf is not a contact sport, and it does not move at all quickly, and there are no referees. Things are pretty black and white. No one can possibly perfect an illegal move that makes him more effective a golfer; either he can put the ball in the cup or he can’t. Either he grounded the club in a hazard (one-stroke penalty) or he didn’t. If he signs an incorrect scorecard, he is disqualified, even if the mistake is not discovered until days later (as opposed to football, where there are several notable examples of teams getting away with clearly illegal behavior that led to points being scored, but no team has EVER given those points back). For Republicans, holding office is a trust of honor, and that honor is expected to be upheld in and out of the office. Dishonorable conduct outside the office is as great a sin as such conduct in the office, and most such conduct is grounds for dismissal.

This goes a long way toward explaining the political divide of the last fifteen years. Bill Clinton did what the Democrats wanted him to do, thus an affair that would have been grounds for a harrassment suit, perjury, and other personal misconduct was perceived by Democrats as being no big deal (“it’s just about sex”), while for Republicans it was grounds for impeachment. At the same time the impeachment was going on, Rep. Henry Hyde was about to be elected Speaker of the House when it was discovered that he had an affair. Not an affair with an employee, or an affair that happened in the workplace itself, or one that led to perjured testimony, but a simple affair where the Congressman slept with a woman that wasn’t his wife. Hyde admitted the affair (not attempting to redefine “sex” to mean, apparently, fully-naked coital relations and nothing else, as Clinton did), and not only was he not elected Speaker, he resigned from the House altogether and has disappeared from politics. Quick, for ten points, what party was Henry Hyde a member of?

There are many, many recent examples as well. Here’s one: Rep. Duke Cunningham, Republican from California, was convicted of accepting bribes, resigned his seat and went to jail this year. Rep. Alcee Hastings, Democrat from Florida, was a U.S. District Court judge until 1989, when he was impeached and convicted of corruption (taking bribes) and perjury. He was elected to Congress in 1992 and sometime in January will become the Chairman of the House Foreign Intelligence Committee.

Here’s another: Rep. Tom DeLay (R) was indicted (though not convicted) for several violations of election law regarding money used to buy advertising. Most of the charges were dismissed as being utterly without foundation. DeLay, however, resigned as Speaker of the House and later resigned his seat altogether, a seat which yesterday was won by the Democrats. Rep. Alan Mollohan, ranking Democrat on the HOUSE ETHICS COMMITTEE, funneled over $150 million of federal money through five nonprofit corporations in his home district, and saw his personal wealth through “investing” with “business associates” (the same ones running the nonprofits) rise over the same period from $500,000 to $6.5 million, though he has not been convicted of anything. Yesterday he was re-elected to Congress.

The best example I know of is the very recent scandal involving Rep. Mark Foley (R) of Florida, who was exposed as having sent explicit sexual instant messages to a House page, who may or may not have been underage at that time. He has not been charged with anything, as no crime has been proved to have been committed. Nevertheless, he resigned in disgrace from the House and his seat, too, was won yesterday by the Democrats. Rep. Gerry Studds, Democrat from Massachusetts, was censured by the House in 1983 for actually having sex with a male page, whom he transported to North Africa for the purpose, thus evading state statutory-rape law. He refused to apologize, turned his back on the House during the reading of the censure, continued to caucus with the Democrats thereafter, received a standing ovation in his first public appearance in his home district after the censure, and was re-elected to the House six more times.

[An aside - Republican Dan Crane was also censured at that time for having consensual sex with a female page. He apologized, left the House after his censure, and was defeated for re-election.]

There are more, but you get the point. Republicans cannot abide hypocrisy. If you promise “No New Taxes”, then sign some into law, you will lose your bid for re-election. This doesn’t always happen, but it does happen often. Democrats never lose over things like that.

So yesterday, a large number of Republicans lost. Some of them were good men and women that didn’t deserve to be defeated, and who would have made (and have made previously) good congresspeople. The Republicans can complain about being held to a higher standard, and they are, and it’s nothing to complain about. They’re playing golf. Golf is a gentleman’s game. It is possible that politics cannot be played this way with any success anymore, but more likely, the Republican Party forgot what game they were supposed to be playing. I still think the majority of Americans think the way Republicans are supposed to, and cannot abide Republicans who play football when they’re supposed to be playing golf. If the GOP returns to the links, I believe it will return to power.

In the meantime, though, if anyone thinks that the Democratic Party will clean up the corruption in D.C., they are too stupid to be allowed out alone. The Democrats invented corruption. They aren’t shocked by it and don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with it, unless Republicans do it, and then they only pretend to be angry about it long enough to get rid of the fellow that got caught. Heck, the one Democrat that was willing to say that he didn’t think it was appropriate for Clinton to be having sex in the Oval Office was defeated in the Democratic primary, and only won yesterday, running as an independent, because the Bush White House told Republicans to vote for him instead of the Republican candidate. Can you imagine such behavior from the Clinton White House in favor of a former Republican Vice-Presidential candidate?

We will assuredly get higher taxes, and indictments (or at least investigations) of a parade of public figures, most of them Republicans, a few of whom will deserve it. We will get almost nothing else. And that’s about what we deserve.

The Dark Secret of the BCS

The world has come to an end. Louisville is ranked #3. The BCS and the college football polls have once again been exposed as a complete sham.

Now, please don’t misunderstand, I love Louisville. My beef is that this is the same team that was 4 points better than Boise State (which had an identical record) just two years ago, with roughly the same schedule and the same results. Now Boise is #14 (undefeated) and Louisville is #3. What has changed? UL moved from Conference USA to the Big East. That’s it. They now play in a BCS conference. There is no ther difference worth mentioning.

Don’t they play a tougher schedule? No, folks, they don’t. Here are the opponents from two years ago: Kentucky, Army, North Carolina, East Carolina, Miami (FL), South Florida, Memphis, TCU (5-6), Houston, Cincinnati and Tulane. Miami, Memphis, and Cincinnati had winning records. They then beat Boise State 44-40 in a classic bowl game that could have gone either way. This year, here is the schedule for Louisville: Kentucky, Temple, Miami, Kansas State, Middle Tennessee, Cincinnati, Syracuse, West Virginia, Rutgers, South Florida, Pittsburgh and UConn. Miami and West Virginia have winning records, as will Rutgers and nobody else. Miami is not a good team, having beaten only one team with a winning record this year – Houston. By 1. If #25 BYU has this schedule, BYU is 7-1 right now, and possibly 8-0, an opinion I hold for the rest of the Top 25 as well. Except for WVU, none of these teams is quality.

But it gets worse. Here’s something else – Rutgers is in the Big East. Rutgers is undefeated. Rutgers is #15. Why? It could be argued that Rutgers has played a TOUGHER schedule than Louisville, as Pitt and Miami are about the same, and Navy is better than anyone on Louisville’s schedule other than WVU (whom Rutgers will play Dec 2).

We keep hearing “we’ll find out how good [insert team here] is this week”, heck, I say it myself, but that’s hogwash. If Rutgers beats Louisville (and I’m praying for it), what will we know? We will know that Rutgers is better than Louisville. That’s it. We will not know one thing about where they ought to be ranked, but that will be the hilarious part. Louisville is ranked #3 because they are undefeated and beat West Virginia (another team with a schedule to drool over). Next Sunday, we will know (hypothetically) that Rutgers is undefeated and has beaten Louisville. Will Rutgers be ranked #3? OF COURSE NOT! Not a chance of it. Why not? Because 1) they are Rutgers and 2) they weren’t ranked to start the season and 3) they weren’t ranked to start the season because they are Rutgers. Blatant, blanket hypocrisy.

I pray for a Rutgers win. It will be incredibly obvious that those cheerleaders for Louisville this week are just making it all up, for what reason could they have to back Louisville if not then to back Rutgers? And it will be impossible to avoid asking the question about the middle of the fourth quarter: “so, Kirk, you said all week that Louisville should be ranked #3 and play for the national title, now we have Rutgers ahead by 14 with the ball, they’re undefeated too, are you going to back the Scarlet Knights to play Ohio State?” “Um, no.” “Why not?” Deep, embarrassed silence, then: “Because it’s RUTGERS, man, don’t you get it? Nobody would watch that game!” I don’t know what else Herbstreet could say. What could anybody say? That the BCS is not only biased in favor of teams from the East (which it is) but that it is also biased in favor of past performance (which it also is) and that, let’s be frank here for the first time since the entire BCS fiasco began, there are teams that need not apply, because they CANNOT win the national championship no matter how good they are? Would anyone dare say that? Of course no one would dare to reveal the deepest, darkest secret of all – that some of those teams that need not apply are in BCS conferences.

Oh my. The scandal. It’s bad enough that more than half the teams in college know right from day 1 that they can’t win the national title (that’s every team outside the six BCS conferences), but to have to admit that half or more of the teams inside the BCS can’t win the national title either? Could the BCS survive that? Let us fervently pray that it could not.

Go Rutgers!


P.S. Credit to Ray for pointing out the Louisville anomaly, which catalyzed this article.