Saturday, August 4, 2012

Cotton Fields

What Happens In Vegas

Bill Barnwell on his year of living in Vegas:
I got in the elevator once at the parking level and when the elevator stopped at the street level, where the Aria entrance is, I was joined in the elevator by a chummy party of four: A man in a sweatsuit, a girl in a stunning dress, and two little people. On a Saturday night, I might not think anything of that, but this was a Tuesday afternoon at 2 p.m. or so. Were they about to go shoot porn? I sorta hope that they weren't, if only because coming up with an alternate explanation for what was happening actually requires more work. When the Occam's razor for a group of people coming together is porn, something truly astounding is afoot.
The other one wasn't quite as sinister. A few weeks after I wrote about my move to Vegas, I got an unaddressed envelope in my mailbox with a note inside. In a handwriting style that I can only compare to that of the anthrax note, I was offered the opportunity to bet on games with a nearby bookie without any vig on the bets. There were, however, two conditions: The bookie was allowed to move half of my bets by half a point in the direction of his choosing, and I was not allowed to bet against Notre Dame. Suffice to say that I didn't take him up on his offer, but I was wildly perplexed as to why I couldn't make any bets against the Fighting Irish. Was he a big fan of the school who didn't want to pay out when they lost? Did he have a big client who was already vehemently against Notre Dame? I still don't know what the case was.
That is pure awesomeness.

Crooked Scumbags

From Daily Kos, today's Ohio Republican Party:
What this segment misses is what is happening with "extended voting hours" in Ohio.  In Ohio you can go to the Board of Elections to vote early if you chose and a very large number of people did in 2008.  That year the Boards of Elections in the major counties maintained evening hours, Saturday morning hours, even the occasional Sunday.  Good of course for working people of course and they made good use of that.
This year that is changing.  Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) and Summit County (Akron) have been limited to "normal business hours" while at the same time big Republican suburban ring counties are voting to be open evenings and weekends.  The implications are obvious.  If you are a working stiff in those counties there is no need for extra hours to accommodate you.  But if you are working stiff in Butler County or Warren County, reliably Republican counties then by all means your convenience must be accommodated.  Same is true in Medina and Portage Counties near Cleveland.
This is something that is emerging on a County by County basis.  In Ohio Boards of Elections are made up of 2 Democrats and 2 Republicans.  Any tie votes are broken by the Secretary of State.  So in Cleveland and Akron Republicans voted against expanded hours and the SOS broke the tie in their favor.  But in Butler, Warren, Medina and Portage Republicans were in favor of expanded hours and Democrats were happy to support that.   Thus no tie.
A pattern is emerging that is troubling.
We in Cincinnati have not yet voted on this issue (we do on August 16th) but our Republican colleagues are indicating they intend to do the same as happened in Cleveland.  It remains to be seen what will happen in Columbus (not anymore - see update).  To reiterate, I personally will be casting one of the four votes that day.  This diary is a solicitation of support.
I don't understand how these guys get away with screwing minority voters so blatantly.  There is something wrong when people don't freak out about this stuff.   We have a right to vote, and everybody should be treated the same.  But that isn't how today's Republican party works.  They know that if everybody votes, they lose big.  Their only chance of winning, even with 8.3% stated unemployment and a very restive populations is to keep as many people who vote against their anti-middle class/pro-super rich folk agenda from being able to cast a ballot.  With voter ID laws and restricted early voting hours, they are doing the best they can.  Probably on election day, they'll send out drivers who will tell people they'll take them to the polls, then they'll just drive them around until the polls close.  Yeah, that's right, I'm saying they might not put kidnapping off limits.

The Unbalanaced Deficit Debate

LA Times:
In any environment of serious debate, Simpson-Bowles would be dismissed out of hand. Praised for its sober bipartisan spirit, it's a compendium of flatulent platitudes ("We all have a patriotic duty to make America better off tomorrow than it is today"), vague prescriptions ("cut all excess spending" and "avoid excessive taxation" — as if reaching broad agreement on the meaning of "excessive" is a snap), and the occasional nostrum that earns a "not" on the gonna-happen scale (strip down the mortgage-interest deduction). According to some estimates by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, the plan's sample cuts in the tax deductions wouldn't replace the revenue lost to its proposed reductions in marginal tax rates.
"The Moment of Truth" bills itself as a roadmap to deficit reduction, but it's really a guide to cutting services and benefits for the working and middle class while raising revenues only modestly, if that. (The authors claim to raise tax revenues across the board, but the only way to do that while cutting marginal tax rates, as they propose, is to eliminate virtually all tax deductions, which manifestly is far more difficult than cutting rates.)
The authors give the game away through the report's internal contradictions. They observe that at 15% of gross domestic product, tax revenues today are at "the lowest level since 1950." Yet they thunder that the key to cutting the deficit is to "sharply reduce tax rates" while warning that "revenue cannot constantly increase as a share of the economy." How's that again?
Every serious analyst of the federal budget knows that healthcare costs, chiefly Medicare and Medicaid, will account for virtually 100% of federal spending increases going forward. The CBO projects that they will rise over the next two decades to as much as 10.4% of gross domestic product from 5.6% now.
Over that time, about half of the increase will come from the aging of the population, and the rest in growth of spending per individual. Not much can be done about aging, and Simpson and Bowles have little to offer about how to rein in the per-capita spending other than to transfer the costs off the federal budget by sticking it to others, including the premium-paying elderly.
What gets me is that all the politicians talk about "tax reform," which only means that deductions which benefit both the middle class and rich folks go away, while rich folks get lower tax rates.  Fuck that.  Limit the deductions to a certain amount which still benefits the middle class, get rid of the preferred treatment of dividends, and add tax brackets at higher incomes, like $750,000, $1.5 million and $5 million.  All rich folks do is bitch about taxes, but there have only been 3 years in the last 75 where they paid lower overall rates, and taxes got raised then because the deficit was too big.  These so-called job creators are really just selfish assholes who claim taxes prevent them from investing in business, but since taxes are historically low and they aren't creating jobs, they are just liars.  At some point, middle class folks are going to realize who is really fucking them, and it won't be a good thing for rich folks when they do.

Friday, August 3, 2012

From The Sahara, With Nutrients

Alexis Madrigal:
The Amazon basin is one of the world's wondrous ecosystems, supporting massive amounts of life, both in kind and quantity. You might have thought about poison frogs or monkeys, but you've probably never stopped to wonder, "Where are all the nutrients that power this biotic explosion coming from?"

The answer is actually astonishing and delightful in that one-planet-one-love kind of way. As laid out in a 2006 paper that science writer Colin Schultz dug up, nearly half of the nutrients that power the Amazon come from a valley in the Sahara called the Bodélé depression. At 17,100 square miles, the area is about a third of the size of Florida or 0.5 percent the size of the Amazon basin it supplies.

"This depression is a unique dust source due to its location at a bottle neck of two large magmatic formations that serves as a `wind lens', guiding and focusing the surface winds to the Bodélé," the authors, an international team of geologists, wrote... The dust storms that come swirling out of the Sahara can cover an area larger than the United States. That's the only scale that could deliver 40 million tons of dust from Africa to the Amazonian basin each year.
Wow.  I never would have guessed that.  17,100 square miles is also 40% of the size of Ohio.  And 40 million tons of dust?  Zoinks.  Continental weather mechanics are fascinating:

That Canuck is getting a little too excited. He sounds like he's aboat to wet himself. Yes, that was an unnecessary comment.

Happy Birthday, Columbus

The Dispatch:
This year’s Ohio State Fair butter sculpture is a giant birthday cake to honor the Columbus bicentennial.

Also in the mood is the traditional butter cow, this year wearing a party hat.

The cake is 5 feet by 6 feet and took 2,400 sticks of butter to make, according to fair officials.

The total display – cake, cow and calf – required 1,900 pounds of butter and 451 hours of labor.

The sculptures were created in the cooler of the fairgrounds’ Dairy Building for an expected half-a-million visitors to see, starting when the fair opens on Wednesday.

After the fair ends on Aug. 5, the sculptures will be melted down, and the butter will be used to power utility vehicles at Mount Vernon Nazarene University.
Hey, I managed to get this story in just before the state fair ends.  Butter sculptures rock.

The Real Story At The Postal Service

Yes, mail traffic is declining rapidly, but many of the cash flow issues are brought to us by mendacious Congressmen:
The US Postal Service will default on a $5.5 billion prepaid retiree health benefit payment today, and this will surely lead to calls for privatization or mass jobs cuts. But the default concerns the unusual way in which the USPS, unlike virtually any other company in the world, pre-pays its health benefits many years out. Rep. Elijah Cummings explains:
To pay for other parts of the (2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act) and still make sure it remained revenue-neutral, Congress required the Postal Service to begin prefunding nearly 100 percent of its future retiree health care costs over a 10-year period.
While this may have made budgetary sense at the time, Congress did not anticipate the 2008 economic crisis and its exacerbating effects on the Postal Service’s finances, which were already struggling with declining mail volume as Internet use increased [...]
Though the Postal Service now has more than $45 billion in prepaid retiree health benefits funding, the law requires an additional $5.6 billion payment by Sept. 30, 2012.
In fact there are $11 billion in overpayments into that retirement fund. This is a ridiculous mandate on the USPS, which looks designed to send the postal service into default. This won’t immediately end mail service or anything, but it compounds the other challenges that the USPS faces from technological innovation. However, just ending this silly system of pre-funding would stave off the reckoning for many years.
Can you imagine how loudly these guys would scream if Congress required private businesses to prefund their health benefits in such a way?  Or if they refused to let a private business increase what it charges customers (like first class stamp prices) or close stores with low customer traffic (like the rural post offices the Postal Service proposed closing)? I know that Socialist would be thrown around.  I can't believe these guys get to create crises to "solve" by privatizing services.  Does anybody think that FedEx or UPS will subsidize service to rural areas like the Postal Service has throughout history?  I'm pretty sure they won't.  Try getting something from BFE clear across the country for less than 50 cents if the post office goes away.

Folding Four of a Kind

Jay Caspian Kang describes an unbelievable moment in a big poker tournament, while looking at the online poker settlement with the government from Tuesday:
About three hours into the first day of the One Drop, Mikhail Smirnov, a Russian businessman and well-traveled high-stakes poker player, called a raise from Tom "durrrr" Dwan, a pro like Cates who earned a small fortune in online poker. A fellow businessman named John Morgan also called Dwan's bet. The flop brought the jack of spades, the eight of clubs, and the seven of spades. Smirnov bet out, Morgan called once quickly, Dwan folded. On fourth street, another eight fell, giving Smirnov four eights. He bet again and Morgan, who, according to Smirnov's comments at the end of the day, seemed "very excited," called again. The king of spades fell on the river. Smirnov bet again. Morgan pushed all his chips into the middle of the table. After not all that much deliberation, Smirnov folded his hand face-up, showing the table the four eights.
The only possible hand that beat Smirnov's four eights was the 10 and nine of spades, which would have given Morgan a straight flush. Morgan and Smirnov had roughly the same number of chips, and a call against a straight flush would have effectively knocked Smirnov out of the tournament. If the pressure of the One Drop, the scrutiny from the television cameras, and the weirdness of the event were all engineered to forge a moment where a Russian billionaire folded quad eights to a Midwestern retail-store mogul who has earned less than $100,000 in lifetime tournament poker winnings (while raising over $5 million for charity), the pageantry was well worth it. If they ran back the One Drop every year for the next two decades, there might be only one or two other instances where four of a kind was beaten by a straight flush. And the chances that the person holding quads would fold his hand are next to zero.
Wow, folding four of a kind against a possible straight flush.  That is a move I don't think I could have done, but it is also why I probably would have left the table early.

The Romney Tax Plan

From the Dish:
In what should be a devastating moment for any campaign, a new report (pdf) from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center yesterday exposed the upshot of Romney's tax plan:
"It is not mathematically possible to design a revenue-neutral plan that preserves current incentives for savings and investment and that does not result in a net tax cut for high-income taxpayers and a net tax increase for lower- and/or middle-income taxpayers," the study concludes. Even if tax breaks "are eliminated in a way designed to make the resulting tax system as progressive as possible, there would still be a shift in the tax burden of roughly $86 billion [a year] from those making over $200,000 to those making less” than that. What would that mean for the average tax bill? Millionaires would get an $87,000 tax cut, the study says. But for 95 percent of the population, taxes would go up by about 1.2 percent, an average of $500 a year.
And people bitch about their taxes going up under Obama, even though they haven't.  I don't understand.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Gravity Defying Photography

Gravity Defying Photography | Li Wei from The Creators Project on Vimeo.

The Battle Between Inequality and Productivity

Steve Randy Waldman:
Macroeconomic interventions that would increase real output while condensing wealth dispersion undo the hard-won, “hard-earned” insurance advantage of the wealthy. As polities, we have to trade-off extra consumption for the poor against a loss of insurance by the rich. There are costs and benefits, winners and losers. We face trade-offs between unequal distribution and full employment. If we want to maximize total output, we have to compress the wealth distribution. If inequality continues to grow (and we don’t reinvent some means of fudging unpayable claims), both real output and employment will continue to fall as the poor can serve one another only inefficiently, and the rich won’t deploy their capital to efficiently produce for nothing.
Distribution is the core of the problem we face. I’m tired of arguments about tools. Both monetary and fiscal policy can be used in ways that magnify or diminish existing dispersions of wealth. On the fiscal side, income tax rate reductions tend to magnify wealth and income dispersion while transfers or broadly targeted expenditures diminish it. On the monetary side, inflationary monetary policy diminishes dispersion by transferring wealth from creditors to debtors, while disinflationary policy has the opposite effect. Interventions that diminish wealth and income dispersion are the ones that contribute most directly to employment and total output. But they impose risks on current winners in the race for insurance.
Why did World War II, one of the most destructive events in the history of world, engender an era of near-full employment and broad-based prosperity, both in the US where capital and infrastructure were mostly preserved, and in Europe where resources were obliterated? People have lots of explanations, and I’m sure there’s truth in many of them. But I think an underrated factor is the degree to which the war “reset” the inequalities that had developed over prior decades. Suddenly nearly everyone was poor in much of Europe. In the US, income inequality declined during the war. Military pay and the GI Bill and rationing and war bonds helped shore up the broad public’s balance sheet, reducing indebtedness and overall wealth dispersion. World War II was so large an event, organized and motivated by concerns so far from economic calculation, that squabbles between rich and poor, creditor and debtor, were put aside. The financial effect of the war, in terms of the distribution of claims in the US, was not very different from what would occur under Keen’s jubilee.
Although in a narrow sense, the very wealthy lost some insurance against zero-sum scarcities, the post-war boom made such scarcities less likely. It’s not clear, on net (in the US), that even the very wealthy were “losers”. A priori, it would have been difficult to persuade wealthy people that a loss of relative advantage would be made up after the war by a gain in absolute circumstance for everyone.
The reference to World War II is interesting.  I think the Depression also had an effect on making things more equitable.  People had the attitude that the rich had cheated their way to the top in the Roaring Twenties, and were responsible for the years of suffering afterwards.  Making huge salaries was frowned upon, and Roosevelt's tax rates made it foolish to take large amounts of pay.  Also, the war brought people from all classes together in the army, and a certain respect for the abilities of others was found.  After the war, the GI Bill brought college education to the masses, taking away another marker of class.  These all made for a more egalitarian society.  The New Deal programs and the post-war economic opportunities leveled the field and gave us much less inequality.  It wasn't until the collapse of the central cities and the anti-government movement which pushed for tax cuts and less social spending, that inequality began increasing.  Now, here we are.

Struggling to Compete

Stephen Roach (h/t Mark Thoma):
The other 30% is also emblematic of a deeper strategic issue that America faces – a profound competitive challenge. A shift to external demand is not there for the asking. It must be earned by hard work, sheer determination, and a long overdue competitive revival.
On that front, too, America has been falling behind. According to the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index, the US slipped to fifth place in 2011-2012, from fourth place the previous year, continuing a general downward trend evident since 2005.
The erosion is traceable to several factors, including deficiencies in primary and secondary education as well as poor macroeconomic management. But the US also has disturbingly low rankings in the quality of its infrastructure (#24), technology availability and absorption (#18), and the sophistication and breadth of its supply-chain production processes (#14).
Improvement on all counts is vital for America’s competitive revival. But meeting the challenge will require vigorous growth from America’s other 30% – especially private capital spending. With the American consumer likely to remain on ice, the same 30% must also continue to shoulder the burden of a sluggish economic recovery.
We've been blowing money by blowing up other places, not reinvesting in our own nation.  No wonder we're getting our asses kicked. To buy into the idea that because we are the United States we are better than everybody else is obviously a farce.  But that fact won't win a politician many red state votes.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Lake Gets New Life

All Things Considered:

More than 60 species now swim in Onondaga, compared to about a dozen at the lake's low point. Pollution in the lake was so bad for so long that few people alive even remember when Onodaga had beaches, boathouses and even an amusement park on its shore.
The lake's remarkable turnaround is still not fully appreciated by many local residents. It has come after a decades-long fight using federal environmental laws and the courts to force remedial action. Sam Sage of the Atlantic States Legal Foundation says there was no political will to take on a costly cleanup of both raw sewage and toxic waste dumped mostly by the company Allied Chemical.
"The municipal [officials] could always say, 'Well, we're not the problem. Allied's the problem.' And Allied could say, 'We're not the problem. The municipality is the problem.' And as far as I'm concerned, they were in cahoots with each other," says Sage, who filed a lawsuit, after which Onondaga County eventually agreed to upgrade its sewage-treatment plant.
For the Superfund half of the cleanup job, workers will soon begin suctioning up to 10 feet of toxic mud from parts of the lake, where as much as 20 pounds of mercury were once dumped every day.
Honeywell, a successor to Allied Chemical, has already cleaned factory sites and built an underground barrier wall to keep contaminated groundwater from seeping into the lake. Still, the project will leave 85 percent of the lake bottom untouched.
Sid Hill, a leader of the Onondaga Nation, calls the cleanup project an expensive Band-Aid. He says the cleanup is not enough for a site that has important historic and cultural significance to his people.
"In seven generations, that's still going to be a Superfund site," Hill says. "For that amount of damage that they've done to the lake, it doesn't seem fair to the lake or to the people who use the lake."
The improvement is amazing, just like it has been in the Great Lakes and the nation's rivers.  But if you listen to conservatives, we've done too much, and businesses need to be able to pollute things more.  I would disagree.

Something To Consider

At least one wealthy person is considering that buying off the rubes might be a wise investment (h/t Ritholtz):
It’s not a stretch to say many residents of Park Avenue harbor vivid fears of a populist revolt like the one seen in The Dark Knight Rises, in which they cower miserably under their sideboards while ragged hordes plunder the silver.
“This is my fear, and it’s a real, legitimate fear,” Greene says, revving up the engine. “You have this huge, huge class of people who are impoverished. If we keep doing what we’re doing, we will build a class of poor people that will take over this country, and the country will not look like what it does today. It will be a different economy, rights, all that stuff will be different.”
More often than not, fears like these manifest as loathing for the current administration, as evidenced by the recent wave of Romney fund-raisers in the Hamptons. “Obama wants to take my money and give it to do-nothing animals,” one matron blurted at a recent party at the Pierre for Dick Morris’s Screwed!, the latest entry into a growing pile of socioeconomic snuff porn geared toward this audience.
Greene, a registered Democrat, isn’t buying this school of thought. “It is kind of a problem in America that so many Americans believe if they elect a different president, everything is going to be fine. This whole idea of American exceptionalism, that we’re the greatest, when people don’t have health insurance, don’t have housing,” he says, swinging past the guesthouse, which has 360-degree views of the bay, and the staff house, which does not. “There are all these people in this country who are just not participating in the American Dream at all,” he says. This makes him uncomfortable, not least because they might try to take a piece of his. “Right now, for some bizarre reason, a lot of these people are supporting Republicans who want to cut taxes on the wealthy,” he says. “At some point, if we keep doing this, their numbers are going to keep swelling, it won’t be an Obama or a Romney. It will be a ­Hollande. A Chávez.”
He goes on to make the point that the wealthy ought to be paying more in taxes to give the impoverished a better chance in life through education and assistance.  I would think more people would get this.  Apparently, other folks just figure they can hire folks to kill the people who might plunder their estates.  I really love the line about people for some bizarre reason supporting Republicans who want to cut taxes on the wealthy.  The people I know who buy into the Republican bullshit are extremely angry, but they are angry at people poorer than them.  I'm just curious when they are going to realize that the "job creators" are actually wage cutters, who make them work longer for less.  When they realize that, they may become even angrier.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Greatest

The First Issued U.S. Patent

July 31, 1790:
The very first U.S. patent is issued: to inventor Samuel Hopkins for a potash process.
Samuel Hopkins (December 9, 1743 – 1818) was an American inventor from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Pittsford, Vermont. On July 31, 1790, he was granted the first U.S. patent, under the new U.S. patent statute just signed into law by President Washington on April 10, 1790. Hopkins had petitioned for a patent on an improvement "in the making of Pot ash and Pearl ash by a new Apparatus and Process."
The statute did not create a Patent Office. Instead a committee of the Secretary of State, Secretary of War and the Attorney General were authorized to make a decision on the merit of a properly documented petition.
The patent was signed by President George Washington, Attorney General Edmund Randolph, and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. The other U.S. patents issued that year were for a new candle-making process and Oliver Evans's flour-milling machinery.
Hopkins also received the first "Canadian" patent from the Parliament of Lower Canada in 1791, issued "by the Governor General in Council to Angus MacDonnel, a Scottish soldier garrisoned at Quebec City, and to Samuel Hopkins, a Vermonter, for processes to make potash and soap from wood ash. 
In 1781, the Hopkinses purchased a farm in Pittsford, Vermont, where work in the potash industry gave rise to his patents a decade later. The 1790 U.S. Census listed Hopkins's occupation as "Pott Ash Maker". The city directories of the period listed him as a "pot-ash maker" and a "pot-ash manufacturer".
Didn't know that.

Romney's Palestinian Problem

John Cassidy:
Speaking at a breakfast fundraiser attended by the likes of the casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, the hedge-fund tycoon Paul Singer, and New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, the G.O.P. candidate appeared to blame the failure of the occupied Palestinian territories to match Israel’s economic performance not on a lack of capital, the economic blockade of the Gaza Strip, or the presence in the West Bank of Israeli settlers and military forces but on the differing cultures of the two peoples. Citing the “dramatically stark difference in economic vitality” and G.D.P. per capita between Israel and its troublesome occupied zones, Romney said he had been studying the work of David Landes, the octogenarian Harvard historian, whose 1999 tome “The Wealth and Poverty of Nations” argued that the political and economic culture of Europe played a key role in its rapid development. “Culture makes all the difference,” Romney said at the fundraiser, which took place at Jerusalem’s King David Hotel, where he and his entourage were staying. “Culture makes all the difference. And as I come here and I look out over this city and consider the accomplishments of the people of this nation, I recognize the power of at least culture and a few other things.” Since Romney didn’t specify what these “few other things were,” his audience, and Palestinian politicians, were left to dwell on his references to cultural factors. (There was apparently a mention of divine providence.) “All I can say is that this man needs a lot of education,” Saeb Erekat, an aide to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, told the Washington Post. “He doesn’t know the region, he doesn’t know Israelis, he doesn’t know Palestinians, and to talk about the Palestinians as an inferior culture is really a racist statement…. He should know that the Palestinians will never reach their economic potential under Israeli occupation, and if he doesn’t know this fact, this man has a lot to learn.”
Seriously?  I would think trade and travel restrictions imposed by an occupying army might have some effect on a nation's economic development.  Or maybe the annexation of the nation's potentially productive agricultural land by it's neighbor might also hurt it.  I am stunned that one political party in the United States can be so crazily biased in a dispute as large as this one.  And the fact that most of it has to do with loony apocalyptic beliefs of religious fundamentalists who are looking forward to the end of the world really creeps me out.  I am stunned that anyone would support the Republican Party when it backs so many ideas which make absolutely no sense whatsoever.  And the fact that Mitt Romney believes that advancing this foreign policy is a good idea is enough to prevent me from ever considering voting for him.

The Dusty Baker Enigma

Jonah Keri:
So here's the question that will really cook your noodle: Are the Reds and their emerging young players crushing their preseason projections because of Dusty Baker, or in spite of him? Baker makes personnel decisions that make your head spin. He's benched Frazier for Rolen more than you'd like when Rolen was healthy and Votto wasn't, or for veteran flotsam like Miguel Cairo when Rolen was hurt. With Ludwick absolutely killing the ball, he benched him twice in five days: once after a three-hit performance, the other after cracking two homers in a game. And of course there's the eternal dilemma with Aroldis Chapman: If he could be even close to this dominant as a starter, isn't he terribly wasted in short relief?
Could there be a method to Baker's madness? Maybe he's not opposed to fully trusting young talents like Frazier as much as he wants to keep everyone engaged with playing time, keeping the starters fresh at the same time. Maybe an erratic player like Ludwick needs time off to avoid becoming overexposed as an everyday player. Maybe Baker used his decades of baseball knowledge and decided that Chapman is best suited for relief work, the Reds' need for starting pitching help be damned. Or maybe Baker's simply a good leader of men, a trait that gets overlooked when evaluating managers, one that's impossible to properly quantify but still matters. These are plausible scenarios, as is the possibility that the Reds would've won even more games with someone else in charge.
It's more or less an impossible debate to resolve. In a season so wild that the Reds can rip off 10 wins in a row, storm to the best record in the league, and cause a 70-year-old Marty Brennaman to shave his head, it's still a fun debate to have.
The first couple years that Dusty managed, I was a full throated critic.  I thought he ragged out young pitchers' arms, and coddled his everyday players too much.  But after he guided the team to the division championship in 2010, I quit criticizing him.  How he managed to win with those guys, and how he managed to make the right personnel decision nearly every single time just blew me away.  Now, anytime I hear a sports talk host blasting Dusty for costing the Reds a game, I figure he's still ahead in the win-loss category.  Go Dusty.

Reintroducing Veblen

Michael Hudson shines the spotlight on the economic work of Thorsten Veblen (h/t nc links):
Taking the lead in developing new general laws for how industry was becoming financialized, Veblen countered the post-classical conflation of rent and interest with profits (“earnings”) on three major grounds:
  1. (1) The timeless and decontextualized generalities drawn by the pro-rentier logic used circular reasoning to justify the status quo as being natural and in equilibrium. By definition, there was no rentier exploitation, even as economies were polarizing. Assuming that every income recipient is paid for a contribution to production implies that the existing distribution of property and mode of financing are optimum. There thus seems to be no need for reform or regulation, either socialist or protectionist.
  2. (2) It is not a virtue for post-classical economics to be value-free. Denying the concept of economic rent as the excess of market price over cost value leads to a conflation of land with capital, rent with interest. Land is treated as a “factor of production,” not a monopoly right independent of production, a privilege to put an economic tollbooth in place to extract rent.
  3. (3) Excluding the political dimension of classical political economy is implicitly laissez faire. It leaves no role for government – the only power able to regulate and tax land rent and prevent the financial sector from turning itself into an oligarchy. “Free market” opposition to government regulation blocks reforms aimed at bringing prices in line with costs so as to make economies more efficient. “One-size-fits all” generalities lead to Margaret Thatcher’s intolerant and censorial assertion: “There is no alternative.”
In sum, over-simplicity in excluding discussion of the rentiers’ free lunch achieves a higher level of abstraction by ruling out concepts that would deem rentier income to be unearned and hence unnecessary. All such revenue – economic rent – is “institutional” in the sense that it is not based on the universals of technological costs of production or abstract “supply and demand.” Institutions, especially banking and tax systems, are not universal but are historically determined.
Focusing on status quo costs burdened with heavy rentier charges implies that an input is worth whatever the buyer pays for it. In practice, this means whatever a bank will lend against its collateral value or income stream. This depends on the terms on which loans are made and regulated. Taking the prices of land or monopoly “tollbooth” rent-extracting rights as “givens” means accepting whatever investors must lay out as a valid cost, including payments for rent-extracting privileges or bank credit created with little inherent production cost. Rentier privileges are capitalized without regard to necessary labor cost on which classical economists focused in isolating the “free lunch” element of price not reducible to labor.
I wasn't familiar with Veblen's work, although Jonathon Larson has mentioned on numerous occasions that I should read him.  I have to agree with the case against unearned income, but must note that in today's tax system, unearned income is much more favorably treated than earned income.  Here is a nice chart that demonstrates the case:

 Mitt Romney made nearly four times more in each of the last two years than any recent U.S. President has in any year (and Obama made double any of the others), and yet, in those two years, in which he didn't do any work, he paid the lowest effective tax rate of any of those recent Presidents.  What the hell kind of sense does that make?  It demonstrates how fully the financial masters of the Universe have stacked the deck in their favor.  The rentiers own the world, and we only pay to be here.

Monday, July 30, 2012

How Hot Were The Dirty Thirties?

Extremely hot (h/t Big Picture Agriculture):

Location Number of
days in 2012
Hottest temperature
this year
Last time it
was warmer
Top 5 years with
highs >=100 degrees
Charleston 12 days 105° on June 29 and July 6 July 19, 1954 (107°) 1936 (26 days)
1914 (25 days)
1933 (23 days)
1934 (21 days)
1930 (20 days)
Decatur 5 days 102° on July 6 Aug. 18, 1988 (104°) 1936 (26 days)
1934 (23 days)
1913 and 1931 (17 days)
1930 (16 days)
1916 (14 days)
Jacksonville 9 days 105° on July 8 July 20, 1954 (107°) 1936 (36 days)
1934 (29 days)
1954 (18 days)
1930 (16 days)
1913 and 1931 (15 days)
Lincoln 6 days 102° on July 6 and 7 Aug. 21, 1983 (104°) 1936 (26 days)
1934 (19 days)
1916 (16 days)
1913 and 1930 (12 days)
1931 and 1954 (11 days)
Normal 12 days

(tied for 5th most
in a calendar year)
107° on July 8 July 15, 1936 (114°) 1936 (22 days)
1916 (20 days)
1934 (17 days)
1931 (15 days)
1894 (12 days)
Olney 15 days

(tied for 4th most
in a calendar year)
105° on June 29 and July 6 Sep. 2, 1953 (106°) 1936 (39 days)
1914 and 1930 (24 days)
1954 (19 days)
1901 (15 days)
1931 (14 days)
Palestine 14 days 105° on July 7 Aug. 18, 1988 (107°) 1954 (30 days)
1936 (27 days)
1930 and 1988 (26 days)
1953 (23 days)
1913, 1933, 1934 (15 days)
Paris 11 days 105° on June 29 July 18, 1954 (107°) 1936 (31 days)
1913 (21 days)
1934 (14 days)
1930 (13 days)
1896 and 1988 (12 days)
Peoria 8 days 104° on July 7 and 23 June 25, 1988 (105°) 1936 (23 days)
1934 (18 days)
1887 (11 days)
1983 (10 days)
1912, 1930, 1931, 1988 (9 days)
Springfield 10 days

(tied for 3rd most in
a calendar year)
104° on July 6 and 7 July 13, 1966 (106°) 1936 (29 days)
1934 (18 days)
1931 (10 days)
1954 (9 days)
1966 (8 days)
Urbana 9 days

(3rd most in
a calendar year)
103° on July 6 and 7 July 14, 1954 (109°) 1936 (15 days)
1934 (11 days)
1954 (8 days)
1930 (7 days)
1988 (5 days)
I can't imagine how bad 1936 was.  As much time as we spend in the air conditioning today, consider that many parts of rural Illinois probably didn't have electricity.   And in Normal, it was 114 degrees one day that year?  Sheez, that's crazy.

Updated Schoolhouse Rock

The Disappearance Of Jimmy Hoffa

July 30, 1975:
Jimmy Hoffa disappears from the parking lot of the Machus Red Fox restaurant in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, a suburb of Detroit, at about 2:30 p.m. He is never seen or heard from again, and will be declared legally dead on this date in 1982.
Hoffa disappeared at, or sometime after, 2:45 pm on July 30, 1975, from the parking lot of the Machus Red Fox Restaurant in Bloomfield Township, an affluent suburb of Detroit. According to what he had told others, he believed he was to meet there with two Mafia leaders—Anthony Giacalone and Anthony Provenzano. Provenzano was also a union leader with the Teamsters in New Jersey, and had earlier been quite close to Hoffa. Provenzano was a national vice-president with IBT from 1961, Hoffa's second term as Teamsters' president.
When Hoffa did not return home that evening, his wife reported him missing. Police found Hoffa's car at the restaurant but no sign of Hoffa himself or any indication of what happened to him. Extensive investigations into the disappearance began immediately, and continued over the next several years by several law enforcement groups, including the FBI. However, the investigations did not conclusively determine Hoffa's fate. For their part, Giacalone and Provenzano were found not to have been near the restaurant that afternoon, and each denied they had scheduled a meeting with Hoffa.
Hoffa was declared legally dead in 1982, on the seventh anniversary of his disappearance, when he would have been aged 69.Hoffa's son, James P. Hoffa, is the Teamsters' current leader, serving since 1999 in that position. His daughter, Barbara Ann Crancer, retired as an Associate Circuit Judge in St. Louis County, Missouri in March 2008, but in March 2009, Judge Crancer agreed to serve as an Assistant Attorney General to the Attorney General for the State of Missouri, Chris Koster, as Chief Counsel of the Division of Civil Disability and Workers Rights, and retired again in March 2011. The television show MythBusters featured an episode involving the possible burial of Hoffa at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Ground-penetrating radar revealed no disturbances beneath the playing field. Giants Stadium has since been demolished.
In 2001, the FBI matched DNA from Hoffa's hair—taken from a brush—with a strand of hair found in a 1975 Mercury Marquis Brougham driven by longtime friend Charles "Chuckie" O'Brien on July 30, 1975. Police and Hoffa's family had long believed O'Brien played a role in Hoffa's disappearance.[22] O'Brien, however, had previously denied ever being involved in Hoffa's disappearance or that Hoffa had ever taken a ride in his 1975 Mercury Marquis Brougham.
On June 16, 2006, the Detroit Free Press published in its entirety the so-called "Hoffex Memo", a 56-page report the FBI prepared for a January 1976 briefing on the case at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C. Although not claiming to conclusively establish the specifics of his disappearance, the memo indicates that law enforcement's belief is that Hoffa was murdered at the behest of organized crime figures who deemed his efforts to regain power within the Teamsters to be a threat to their control of the union's pension fund. The FBI has called the report the definitive account of what agents believe happened to Hoffa.
In November, 2011, in a book by Adrian Humphreys titled The Weasel: a Double Life in the Mob, the former driver of Jimmy Hoffa and a mob associate Marvin "The Weasel" Elkind (also referred to by government handlers as "the Cigar") stated that Hoffa is buried in the foundations of the Renaissance Center in Detroit, Michigan (photo on right banner of blog).
Everybody loves a mystery, and this is one of the more famous ones.  I've got to say that while the Giants Stadium story is a good one, logistically, the Renaissance Center story makes more sense.  It seems pretty risky to ship a live or dead man a third of the way across the country just to stick him in a hole full of concrete when there's one you can use 25 miles away.

The Collapsing Influence of Unions

The Guardian (h/t nc links):
Few places better illustrate the uneven recovery than Joliet, Illinois, where nearly 800 factory workers are locked in a bitter, three-months-and-counting strike against their employer. Caterpillar, famous maker of yellow bulldozers, has demanded its employees accept a six-year freeze on wages and pensions; the machinists' union says its members had no choice but to walk out.
Labour-management fights are nothing new, especially not for Caterpillar, which wears its union-busting credentials as a badge of honour. When car-workers resisted company plans to impose a two-tier wage system in 1992, Caterpillar crushed two strikes before they surrendered unconditionally. When workers at a London, Ontario locomotive factory refused a 50% wage cut last year, the company locked them out and then shut down the plant. "Few companies are as willing to take on unions, and uproot entire communities, as Caterpillar," says author Stephen Franklin, who covered the strikes for the Chicago Tribune.
What's surprising is how, in a still sluggish post-recession economy, Caterpillar is actually doing well. Incredibly well, in fact: last year's total sales, $60.1bn, broke all company records. Little of this comes from the US market, which counts for less than a third of Caterpillar's global sales. The company has been aggressively building its presence in Asia, and riding China's construction boom. Caterpillar's per-share profits soared 78% in 2011, from $4.2 to $7.4bn. Analysts predict profits will top $9bn by year end.
Labour costs, on the other hand, have declined. Caterpillar's most recent annual filing with the SEC shows the share of total operating costs represented by employee salaries and benefits shrank, from 24% to 21%, in the same period.
Record profits and six year wage and pension freezes?  Companies are pushing closer and closer to making unions more relevant.  The pendulum has swung about as far as it can to the right.  It may start swinging back soon.  If unions could clean out the crooks in the upper echelons of the ranks, and actually become a little more relevant for today's workers, businesses will find their hands full.  But I wouldn't hold my breath on the existing unions changing much.

Drought Damage Estimates Increase

Des Moines Register:
Estimates of Iowa’s corn yield this year continue to drop in reaction to the drought. Informa Economics, an agricultural analysis firm, lowered its estimate for the national corn yield from 153.5 bushels per acre last month to 134 bushels per acre. Informa says the national corn crop would total 11.5 billion bushels.
The national corn production last year was 148 bushels per acre and total production of 12.25 billion bushels.
Doane Agricultural Services of St. Louis reported from its annual crop tour through Iowa this week that the likely corn yield will be 117 bushels per acre in Iowa, with total production of 1.58 billion bushels.
That total production figure would be the lowest total production in Iowa since the 1.426 billion bushels in 1995, and the lowest bushel per acre figure since the 84 bushels in the flood year of 1993.
In 2011 Iowa produced 2.36 billion bushels of corn.
The damage here may not be as bad as I feared, but we won't have a very good corn yield.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The View From Above

NASA Photo of the Day

Actually, a video. From July 23:

Lightning Captured at 7,207 Images per Second Video Credit & Copyright: Tom A. Warner, ZTResearch, www.weathervideoHD.TV Explanation: How fast is lightning? Lightning, in fact, moves not only too fast for humans to see, but so fast that humans can't even tell which direction it is moving. The above lightning stroke did not move too fast, however, for this extremely high time resolution video to resolve. Tracking at an incredible 7,207 frames per second, actual time can be seen progressing at the video bottom. The above lightning bolt starts with many simultaneously creating ionized channels branching out from an negatively charged pool of electrons and ions that has somehow been created by drafts and collisions in a rain cloud. About 0.015 seconds after appearing -- which takes about 3 seconds in the above time-lapse video -- one of the meandering charge leaders makes contact with a suddenly appearing positive spike moving up from the ground and an ionized channel of air is created that instantly acts like a wire. Immediately afterwards, this hot channel pulses with a tremendous amount of charges shooting back and forth between the cloud and the ground, creating a dangerous explosion that is later heard as thunder. Much remains unknown about lightning, however, including details of the mechanism that separates charges.

A Former Skeptic Recants

Richard Muller explains why he went from prominent climate change skeptic to a scientist who thinks the Earth is warming, and humans are the greatest cause:
Our Berkeley Earth approach used sophisticated statistical methods developed largely by our lead scientist, Robert Rohde, which allowed us to determine earth land temperature much further back in time. We carefully studied issues raised by skeptics: biases from urban heating (we duplicated our results using rural data alone), from data selection (prior groups selected fewer than 20 percent of the available temperature stations; we used virtually 100 percent), from poor station quality (we separately analyzed good stations and poor ones) and from human intervention and data adjustment (our work is completely automated and hands-off). In our papers we demonstrate that none of these potentially troublesome effects unduly biased our conclusions.
The historic temperature pattern we observed has abrupt dips that match the emissions of known explosive volcanic eruptions; the particulates from such events reflect sunlight, make for beautiful sunsets and cool the earth’s surface for a few years. There are small, rapid variations attributable to El Niño and other ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream; because of such oscillations, the “flattening” of the recent temperature rise that some people claim is not, in our view, statistically significant. What has caused the gradual but systematic rise of two and a half degrees? We tried fitting the shape to simple math functions (exponentials, polynomials), to solar activity and even to rising functions like world population. By far the best match was to the record of atmospheric carbon dioxide, measured from atmospheric samples and air trapped in polar ice.
Just as important, our record is long enough that we could search for the fingerprint of solar variability, based on the historical record of sunspots. That fingerprint is absent. Although the I.P.C.C. allowed for the possibility that variations in sunlight could have ended the “Little Ice Age,” a period of cooling from the 14th century to about 1850, our data argues strongly that the temperature rise of the past 250 years cannot be attributed to solar changes. This conclusion is, in retrospect, not too surprising; we’ve learned from satellite measurements that solar activity changes the brightness of the sun very little.
How definite is the attribution to humans? The carbon dioxide curve gives a better match than anything else we’ve tried. Its magnitude is consistent with the calculated greenhouse effect — extra warming from trapped heat radiation. These facts don’t prove causality and they shouldn’t end skepticism, but they raise the bar: to be considered seriously, an alternative explanation must match the data at least as well as carbon dioxide does. Adding methane, a second greenhouse gas, to our analysis doesn’t change the results. Moreover, our analysis does not depend on large, complex global climate models, the huge computer programs that are notorious for their hidden assumptions and adjustable parameters. Our result is based simply on the close agreement between the shape of the observed temperature rise and the known greenhouse gas increase.
He punches holes in a lot of skeptics' cases.  The case that fossil fuel combustion adds so much CO2 to the atmosphere that it could change the climate has long made sense to me.  It is disconcerting to see so many people take the potential effects so lightly.  We really appear to be working toward our own near extinction.

Are Americans Nuts?

John Cassidy wonders:
Having lived here for almost thirty years, and having been a U.S. citizen for the past five, I am greatly attached to this country and admire many aspects of it enormously. But the dogged persistence of certain American shibboleths has always struck me as somewhat curious. What are these shared convictions? I could go on all day, but here, for argument’s sake, are ten. Not all Americans subscribe to them, of course. In some instances, the true believers may amount to a small but vocal minority. Still, the popular sentiment underlying these statements is so strong that politicians defy it at their peril.
1. Gun laws and gun deaths are unconnected.
2. Private enterprise is good; public enterprise is bad.
3. God created America and gave it a special purpose.
4. Our health-care system is the best there is.
5. The Founding Fathers were saintly figures who established liberty and democracy for everyone.
6. America is the greatest country in the world.
7. Tax rates are too high.
8. America is a peace-loving nation: the reason it gets involved in so many wars is that foreigners keep attacking us.
9. Cheap energy, gasoline especially, is our birthright.
10. Everybody else wishes they were American.
Some of these statements may be true. But truth or falsehood isn’t the point here: it is whether or not certain beliefs are amenable to reason. I don’t think these are, which is what puts them in the category of irrationality, flakiness, nonsense, nuttiness, absurdity, craziness….
I have to say, he brings up some really good points.  Numbers 2, 3, 4, 7 and 9 are especially strange to me.  As for guns, I don't understand why American culture just seems so much more violent than other cultures.  Having tons of guns around probably doesn't help, but gun laws will never be strong enough in this country to get guns out of the hands of criminals.  The Founding Fathers were pretty wise in creating an up to that time radical style of government, but saints they were not.  Number 8 is just flat out wrong, and 6 and 10 are matters of opinion and projection.  I'm pretty damn sure most Germans or Canadians or Swedes think their country is the best, and most probably don't want to be Americans.  But 2, 3, 4, 7 and 9 are at the heart of what passes for political debate in this country, and they are all most often voiced by conservatives.  I think all have become some sort of crazy religious belief, and it can't be good for the country.

Is The Future Of Manufacturing In The U.S.?

From Foreign Policy (h/t Ritholtz):
Many CEOs, including Dow Chemicals' Andrew Liveris, have declared their intentions to bring manufacturing back to the United States. What is going to accelerate the trend isn't, as people believe, the rising cost of Chinese labor or a rising yuan. The real threat to China comes from technology. Technical advances will soon lead to the same hollowing out of China's manufacturing industry that they have to U.S industry over the past two decades.
Several technologies advancing and converging will cause this.
First, robotics. The robots of today aren't the androids or Cylons that we are used to seeing in science fiction movies, but specialized electromechanical devices run by software and remote control. As computers become more powerful, so do the abilities of these devices. Robots are now capable of performing surgery, milking cows, doing military reconnaissance and combat, and flying fighter jets. Several companies, such Willow Garage, iRobot, and 9th Sense, sell robot-development kits for which university students and open-source communities are developing ever more sophisticated applications.
The factory assembly that China is currently performing is child's play compared to the next generation of robots -- which will soon become cheaper than human labor. One of China's largest manufacturers, Taiwan-based Foxconn Technology Group, announced last August that it plans to install one million robots within three years to do the work that its workers in China presently do. It has found even low-cost Chinese labor to be too expensive and demanding.
Then there is artificial intelligence (AI) -- software that makes computers, if not intelligent in the human sense, at least good enough to fake it. This is the basic technology that IBM's Deep Blue computer used to beat chess grandmaster Garry Kasparov in 1997 and that enabled IBM's Watson to beat TV-show Jeopardy champions in 2011. AI is making it possible to develop self-driving cars, voice-recognition systems such as the iPhone's Siri, and, the face-recognition software Facebook recently acquired.
The article also lists 3D printing technology as a productivity-driving feature.  The article doesn't answer what all the out-of-work Americans or Chinese will do to make a living.  With corporate profits at a record high, and productivity gains going more and more to capital and not labor, that will be the question which needs answered.  The manufacturing sector absorbed many of the workers displaced from the mechanization of agriculture in the 20th century.  The services sector absorbed some of the workers displaced in the recent decline of manufacturing employment.  In China, ag still hasn't really mechanized, and the industrial jobs may start disappearing.  With more robots doing the work of people, what will the people do?

What About Spring Fever?

Megan Garber:

According to a paper just published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior, Internet pornography -- like so many storms, like so much kale -- is seasonal. Porn's peak seasons? Winter and late summer.
Researchers at Villanova examined the Google trends for such commonly-searched-for terms as "porn," "xxx," "xxvideos" ... and other, more descriptive phrases that, because I am looking at a portrait of James Russell Lowell as I write this, I will let you look up in the paper itself. Once they'd gathered those terms, the authors examined them in Google Trends. And what they found was a defined cycle featuring clear peaks and valleys -- recurring at discernible six-month intervals. The cycle, as you can see in the chart above, maps surprisingly well to the world's calendar seasons.
Other searches don't. The researchers also ran a control group consisting of Google searches for non-sexual terms. And those terms demonstrated no such cyclical pattern.
So there's something about sex itself, it seems. Porn is periodical. Which is born out by another (semi-)control in the Villanova experiment. Researchers determined search terms associated with a relatively purpose-driven category of sexytime -- prostitution and dating websites -- and found that, for those terms ... the six-month cycle showed up again.
Which: fascinating. The seasonal Internet! The sex-seasonal Internet!
Late summer and winter?  I would guess those are the times when people might be inside more, when it is hotter than hell or cold.  I don't know, though.  I'd have thought there would have been some sort of spring fever effect.

The Fantasy Hall of Fame

Bill Simmons reviews the fantasy stats of LaDainian Tomlinson:
So it was unusual that Tomlinson became one of the rare football stars defined by his numbers … or in this case, his fantasy numbers. He played the most crucial fantasy position during our most important fantasy decade, coincidentally submitting the best six-year statistical stretch in modern running back history.
2002: 2,172 yards from scrimmage, 15 TDs, 307 fantasy points (19.2 per game)
2003: 2,370 yards from scrimmage, 17 TDs, 339 fantasy points (21.2 per game)
2004: 1,776 yards from scrimmage, 18 TDs, 284 fantasy points (17.2 per game)
2005: 1,832 yards from scrimmage, 20 TDs, 305 fantasy points (19.1 per game)
2006: 2,323 yards from scrimmage, 31 TDs, 418 fantasy points (25.5 per game)
2007: 1,949 yards from scrimmage, 18 TDs, 303 fantasy points (18.9 per game)
Only Marshall Faulk's four-year run from 1998 to 2001 comes close: Faulk finished with 69 touchdowns and at least 2,147 yards from scrimmage in each season. Tomlinson maintained a similar peak for two extra years. Narrowing it down to the best two-year bursts ever, Tomlinson's combined 2006/2007 numbers (4,272 YFS yards, 49 TDs) match Faulk's best two-year run (4,336 YFS, 47 TDs) and surpass Smith (3,973 YFS, 47 TDs), Shaun Alexander (3,834 YFS, 48 TDs), Larry Johnson (4,292 YFS, 40 TDs) and Terrell Davis (4,262 YFS, 38 TDs), as well as anything O.J. Simpson, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders or Eric Dickerson ever accomplished. Only Priest Holmes beat him during those two goofy seasons when Holmes turned into Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson: 4,397 yards from scrimmage, 51 touchdowns, 125,936,324 times someone said, "Wait, isn't that the guy who backed up Jamal Lewis in Baltimore? What's going on here?"
I love the line about Tecmo Bowl Bo Jackson.  That guy was a legend.  It is funny how fantasy football has become such an overwhelming part of the sport.  I mean, it even has it's own TV show in The League.  Well, sort of.