Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Football thoughts

Anyone that has ever spent any football watching time with me has probably heard one of my lengthy, angry rants about the Patriots and all their evils. Near the top of this list of irritations is the "help" they seem to get every year from the league in various forms, from legal rulings to rulings on the field (tuck rule anyone?). Yes, I know this is a bit illogical, paranoid, and wholly cliche but it makes me feel better so I run with it.

One bit of perceived help the league seemingly offers up every year is a weak schedule. Not necessarily the weakest in the league, but enough to add up to a few more wins than the other guys. This year that help bit them in the ass and left them out of the playoffs even though they had 11 wins.

That got me to thinking about how much strength-of-schedule matters to the outcome of a team's season, so a little number crunching and we have a chart.

I've plotted the outcome of all 32 teams for this season comparing their winning percentage to the average winning percentage of their opponents, and a trend line was added. Those teams that come in above this line can be thought of as "stronger" and vice-verse for below the line.

The most difficult schedule in the league was the Cleveland Browns (4-12) followed by the Detroit Lions who laid a giant egg in their win column this year (the lonely dot off to the left). On the opposite side of the spectrum the easiest schedule went to the San Francisco 49ers (7-9) who did a good bit better than they have in the past few seasons.

So what does this tell us going forward? Using this trend I've compared the AFC playoff teams to see who falls where, adding lines above and below our trend line to better compare each team.

This method puts the Steelers at the top of the pack and the Dolphins at the bottom. The Ravens look good, they may have only secured a wildcard berth this year but they had the second hardest AFC schedule of those teams in the playoffs. On the other hand, the Dolphin's recovery from their 1-15 season last year to the playoffs this year now seems less dramatic with an opponent record that was the 6th weakest in the league.

I wouldn't head to Vegas with this chart just yet, the relationship is there but it's tenuous at best. Too many other variables are at stake that aren't accounted for, for instance more wins means your opponents will have less (since you are beating them) and some games are given away at the end of the season to protect players on teams that have already secured a playoff berth.

For that matter the Titans and Steelers are at opposite ends of this spectrum with the Steelers on top, but don't forget the former beat the latter rather soundly just two weeks ago.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sarah Palin - a uniter, not a divider

The far right media group Human Events named Sarah Palin with this year's coveted Conservative of the Year award.

Not to be outdone, several far left groups are also considering Sarah Palin for their own Conservative of the Year awards.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer.

When the Senate Dems. all started patting Lieberman on the back last month the common line was - things were said in the heat of the campaign, now we need to move on.

So everybody picked sides, dug-in, and generally acted like assholes to one another. Hey, that's politics, but now we're going to let bygones be bygones and all be friends again.

So why is Lieberman still writing Op-Eds with John McCain and Lindsey Graham? I understand the debacle in Iraq is still in full-swing, but it seems like mixed messages are being sent with that. As I've mentioned before, it's my opinion that politicians should pick their friends carefully as they will be judged by the actions of the whole caucus.

If this is not a case of keeping your friends close but keeping your enemies closer, I'd recommend the Dems tread carefully with this alliance.


p.s. - for some good lulz, check out the first line of the article
it is clear that what was once unthinkable there is now taking place: A stable, safe and free Iraq is emerging.
I'm pretty sure none of those three ever admitted that the prospect of a "stable, safe and free Iraq" was unlikely, let alone unthinkable.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The tyrant is dead, long live the tyrant!

"Had you rather Caesar were living and die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead, to live all free men?"
- Brutus, Julius Caesar
In 2003 we were told that it was of vital importance that we invade that tiny insignificant backwater of a country, Iraq. Though the population was all but starved after a decade of foreign embargo, they were apparently developing biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons. We had to hurry.

Oops. There goes that argument.

Not to worry, Dubya had excuse number 2 at the ready, Saddam Hussein was a tyrant that kidnapped and brutalized his own people. Regardless of whatever WMD programs actually existed, it's a good thing that we saved the poor Iraqis from this sort of violence. Don't worry about those pesky civilian deaths (somewhere on the order of 90,000), I'm sure they are happier dead than living without democracy.

A funny thing about invading a country and decimating its infrastructure though, it tends to destabilize the country, leaving an environment very favorable to tyrannical rule. Ever notice that those little revolutions in third world countries always seem to end up with a government that even less people are happy with than the previous one? Violence rarely brings democracy, most often it just brings more violence.

The question that then must be asked is: how can you control an unstable country without resorting to the same sort of violence that you had sought to end?

Answer: you can't

It's not much of a surprise that an Iraqi journalist that has been kidnapped, detained, and arrested in the preceding years is a little angry at Dubya for causing all this instability in his home country. It's not so much of a surprise that he decided to toss a couple shoes at his antagonist. And it should not be much of a surprise that after being taken into custody he is beaten severely.

A broken arm, broken ribs, and internal bleeding, for throwing a shoe. For throwing a shoe that didn't even hit its target. So much for Dubya's argument number 2. We have killed Caesar, but now Brutus and Antony are fighting over the spoils with the same tactics as their predecessor.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Proposition 8 FAIL, redux

My original post on the topic only looked at gay marriage in terms of public opinion and state laws passed in support of it. Recently there is more good news on the former in a recent poll commissioned by GLAAD. Among the findings is that three-quarters of Americans believe that some sort of legal union between gays should be available.

But as with every good civil rights struggle, it starts with laws in the most progressive states, but it usually ends in the courts. Inter-racial marriage was made legal by the Supreme Court in 1967, but at the time 16 states still had laws against it. Public opinion did not come around quickly. The last state to change their law officially, Alabama did not officially make inter-racial marriage legal until 2000! Just eight years ago people were still debating whether or not this should be illegal!

Not to fear on the gay marriage side of things, looks like progress is being made here similar to the period leading up to 1967 for inter-racial marriage. Recent state supreme court rulings in Massachusetts, Connecticut, California, and New Jersey have had positive implications on marriage between gay couples in their respective states. New Jersey, though not ruling to allow gay marriage, did rule that gay marriages from other states must be recognized.

Also in New Jersey, a civil rights suit was recently settled with promising to set up a parallel site that would cater to gay couples. Not exactly equal treatment, but at least semi-equivalent. Watch for more of this sort of civil action against insurance companies and others involved in commerce that discriminates against gay couples.

Probably the most important of all points on this topic is that a gay-friendly president will be in the oval office 34 days from now. For the next four years we can expect picks to the federal judiciary that empathize with civil rights demands rather than hold disdain for them.

Culture lulz

First one to hit Dubya in the face with a shoe wins!

This footage had me laughing all afternoon yesterday. Two items of note:
  • Islamic culture holds particular disdain for shoes and the soles of feet, so more than just hitting Dubya in the head, this guy likely meant to be insulting.
  • Wikipedia moves way too fast on silly topics.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The gift of 59

Al Franken is now claiming to be ahead by 22 votes in his Minnesota Senatorial campaign. At this point in a recount both campaigns usually spout bullshit (Norm Coleman has already twice declared victory in the race), so I'm taking this claim with a grain of salt.

As of this afternoon Intrade still had Coleman with the advantage, but expectations for this race have shot all over the board in the past month, clearly those in the know really don't know all that much.

Stock for a Norm Coleman re-election
on through November

If Franken's count is correct though, and if his lead holds, he would lock in the Democrats at 59 seats in the Senate for the coming session. Obviously winning the seat is a Democratic goal, but how useful really is this 59th seat?

Holding a 59th seat is one vote more than a 58th, but that isn't enough to invoke cloture and break a filibuster. The elusive 60th seat needed for that slipped away from them yesterday when Saxby Chambliss won the Georgia runoff beating his Democratic challenger by 15 points.

Even in a close filibuster fight Norm Coleman is not necessarily the difference. He may be a Republican, but he is far from being a conservative, with him filling the seat any vote for cloture that isn't straight down party lines would likely swing the same way as with Franken.

My point in all this is that there are downsides for the Democrats in a win by Franken. He is a comedian with a long history of loud jokes that are generally not appropriate for a statesman. This was used against him in the campaign, and any further ammunition he gives to the Republicans will surely be used in the future against both him and, more importantly, the Democratic majority.

He's also quite liberal and an entertainer. The only thing Republicans love more than actors (Arnold Schwarzenegger, Fred Thompson, Chuck Norris, Ronald Reagan, etc.) is making fun of how "hollywood is full of liberals". Stupid as the argument is with most of the elected actors bearing an 'R' next to their name, it does fire up their base. Have no doubt that Al Franken clips will be used en masse to fill Republican coffers in 2010.

If Franken wins this election and finds his place as a witty but respectful Senator he could be a great asset to the Democratic party, but if he has a hard time shaking the role of provocateur they may wish he'd lost. A Democrat in this seat may be an early Christmas gift for the Republicans.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Calling an economic downturn "the Obama recession", does not in turn actually make it Obama's fault.

Repeatedly describing your propensity for "supporting the troops" to every microphone within shouting distance does not mean that you actually do.

Naming yourself "Fox News" does not make you a news station.

I get all giddy when people stop ignoring the elephant in the room and point this out, be it expressed or implicit. Per Fishbowl DC, with five press conferences as president-elect, Obama has yet to call on Faux News for questions.

Right now I have a warm and fuzzy all through my belly.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Proposition 8 FAIL

Proposition 8 may have passed in California earlier this month, but right now it looks like it may very well be struck down in short order. The debate revolves on whether the proposition amended the California constitution or revised it. If the California Supreme Court finds that it did the latter then it will go the way of 2000's Proposition 22 and gay marriage will once again be legal in the state.

Legal briefs are due by early January and the court is expected to rule sometime next year. Regardless of what they find, gay marriage appears to be becoming more likely for Californians. The results from the election on November 4th when compared to those on Proposition 22 back in 2000 show that Californians are getting quite a bit more comfortable with gay marriage in just a short time.

Much of this trend can be explained by the exit polls reflecting age from earlier this month. Voters under 30 were much more likely to have voted against the proposition (that they only comprised 20% of the electorate explains the passage of the law).

The nation as a whole seems to be more tolerant as well. This year domestic partnerships became legal in Oregon and the Connecticut supreme court ruled that discriminating against gays in marriage is unconstitutional. Looking at all of the states that offer some sort of civil union the trend over the last decade is clear.

There is no reason to expect that this trend should change, and if age continues to be the dominant factor there could even be an acceleration.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Stats don't lie

Data can be misinterpreted, but it never lies. Quality interpretation usually leads to plenty of "I told you so's" while poor interpretation be it intentionally, ignorantly, or just through bias, either gets ignored, qualified (there was no way to foresee that happening), or posthumously changed.

Faux News usually provides great examples of poor performance. Remember all the calls from them that McCain was "closing the gap" from 7 points behind Obama in the days preceding the election? The final results left Obama 53%-46%, dead on the 7 points predicted by most reputable sources.

On the other side, two of my favorite sources through the election were and, both of which only missed Indiana and the Omaha district of Nebraska (FiveThirtyEight did not make a prediction for Missouri) in their pre-election predictions.

Maps from and (respectively):

And the final map (from

Regardless of what the naysayers conclude about the illegitimacy of polls, a quality interpretation of the data will yield a correct result, as demonstrated by and

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Annual ritual

At least it seems that way, happens about once a year, sometimes more.

No, I'm not once again disparaging an American holiday.

Absolutely not, this isn't a week that I go clean and sober in some lame attempt to "make more of myself."

Rather, I have once again decided to spill my inner thoughts, prejudices, and rants out in blog form for all to ignore, impugn, and/or just belittle. Thanks and blame should be directed toward Meshealle, as she motivated me towards this end.

I promise that I'll try to keep the politics to a minimum (but we all know better).