Wednesday, October 16, 2002

DC SNIPER: TERRORISM IT IS. Two things have me scratching my head.

We've known for at least a week that the suspect drives a "white van." Okay. Now, lets think this through. Yes, there must be many white vans -- but not THAT many. You would think that if this sniper lives in a home that his neighbors must know he drives a white van. And unless he's totally a recluse that at least one or more know that he's a hunter or is into guns. You would think any semi-alive neighbor would have tipped off police and they should have their man or at least have strong suspects.

Okay, what type of man then escapes the notice and suspicions of his neighbors? Well, a total complete recluse who despite driving a white van is so far outside the profile that he avoids suspicion. What type of person might this be? Well, how about a quiet, "olive-skinned" Islamist that is part of a terror cell in the US? Isn't this what happened with the 9/11 hijackers? Or a trained, former member of the military or law enforcement who has excellent marksmanship but doesn't hunt or seem an obvious gun owner. Again, further clues to help hone in.

Let's look at the other possibility -- he is or isn't a recluse but doesn't arouse his neighbor's fears because they don't know what he drives. How is this done? Well, it could be easily done if the person doesn't live in a home but lives in an apartment complex or is some other type of renter. In these settings, it’s very easy to be anonymous and not have anyone know your interests, work or even make of car. This could be a lone nut or again an "olive-skinned" member of terrorist cell, matching the pattern of the 9/11 hijackers, who lived almost exclusively in apartment buildings. Or, to be fair, he could be using a company van. But what kind of business allows a van to be used for large unaccounted periods of time or at night and without any telltale branding?

All in all, the white van that keeps popping up is curious -- in that it hasn't already led to an arrest. Either it's a decoy -- ie, a coordinated effort to bring an "uninvolved" vehicle into the equation to throw off police -- or it alone should be leading to some conclusions that should be making the net so tight that he has little room left.

Update: News that police were investigating a shell casing found in a Rental Company's white van exposed one explanation I hadn't thought of. But this is even more curious -- you'd think one of the first places police would have searched is car rentals in the area. Or, that these car rentals would have been suspicious about any white van that they had or had out or that was continually rented. Besides, how many white vans do car rentals like Hertz, Budget, etc really have? Can't be many if any at all. White vans of the type were talking about you'd generally find from moving companies -- U-Haul, Ryder. But these vans all have loud, unmistakeable branding. The sniper's white van is marking, lettering, logo free.

It's looking more like the sniper is coming from far outside the DC area -- how else to explain him not yet being nabbed for having a white van. Or he's fitting the pattern I outlined above -- he's part of a terrorist cell or he's so far outside the profile that he's sneaking under the radar.

Sunday, August 25, 2002

LIBERALS are on the attack in the wake of the corporate accounting scandals. This is expected.

One of the stronger, more measured attacks came from George Soros writing for The New Republic. It's a clever article and has you shaking your head in agreement in a couple spots (mostly at the beginning). But like most Socialist agruments, you reach a point, a crucial one, when the entire argument hangs on a single point...and it just doesn't make any sense. Here's the head-scratcher:

"Second, by equating private interests with the public interest, market fundamentalism endows the pursuit of self-interest with a moral quality."

Forget the first clause and focus on the second. Is Soros saying that the pursuit of self-interest is without moral quality? Ah, yes, that is what he's saying:

"What distinguishes markets is exactly that they are amoral--that is to say, moral considerations do not find expression in market prices. That is because efficient markets by definition have so many participants that no single one can affect the market price. Even if some participants are held back by moral scruples, others will take their place at only marginally different prices. For instance, moralists cannot prevent alcohol and tobacco companies from raising capital on more or less the same terms as not-so-sinful enterprises."

It's so obvious: we have to give power to a select few in order to correct amoral meanderings of the market! Where have I heard this one before?

"It is exactly because markets are amoral that we cannot leave the allocation of resources entirely to them. Society cannot hold together without some consideration of the common interest. If private interests cannot be equated with the public interest, the public interest must be given expression in some other way than through the market."

Of course, but don't get Soros wrong -- he's no Communist:

"To be sure, in developing a new regulatory framework we must remember that regulations are liable to be even more imperfect than markets. They need a feedback mechanism that allows mistakes to be corrected. That is what makes regulated markets superior to central planning."

Central Planning! All the '70's retro styling must be confusing ol' George into believing he's back there.

If Soros thinks that markets are amoral "because efficient markets by definition have so many participants that no single one can affect the market price," and that self-interest has no moral quality, then I wonder what Soros thinks about Democracy and Free Elections. You know, that amoral thing where free people make individual, self-interested choices in order to choose their representatives? I mean, one vote can't possibly affect the outcome, can it?

Monday, August 19, 2002

HOW REMARKABLE is Richard Beem's winning the PGA Championship over Tiger Woods?

I've always been fascinated by what makes some wilt and others thrive under enormous pressure. Some collapse when striving for an individual accomplishments (golf, tennis) and others when working towards something that a group has a stake in (Ryder Cup in Golf, Davis Cup in Tennis). Of course, some wilt in both cases, others shine in both.

So why does a Justin Leonard and Phil Mickelson crumble when near a major championship and in Tiger Woods' presence and Richard Beem doesn't?

Beats me -- but it is a subject I'm fascinated with, so if anyone has insights, ideas or know where I can learn more about the subject, please email.

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

DID ANYONE see the Robin Williams Live comedy performance in NYC broadcast this Sunday on HBO? I admit I howled -- it was irreverent, mostly smart, and very current. But another part of me was taken aback by its crudeness. I remember back in the '80's when Eddie Murphy was the King of Crude because he dropped the f-bomb every sentence and alluded to and mentioned gay sex. Maybe I've just been out of it, but Robin William's rountine was several Farrelly Brothers-years ahead of Murphy at his raunchy prime.

Topics covered by Williams: beastiality, prison rape (with Williams simulating the event), "anal leakage", farting (an old fav), ejacuation (with props), urination (with props), and female oral sex (acted out). Amazing what we find funny, huh?

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

WHAT TO MAKE OF the newest poll that says 33% believe we are losing the War on Terror and half think it's a stalemate? Simple: pessimism and constant warnings of an inevitable attack from everyone in the media or with media access. This one ain't that complicated. Mentally, the American public is on edge, as Andrew Sullivan keenly notes.

This strange strategy of ass-covering by warning of inevitable attacks is having the same Pygmalion Effect that Bush's dire warning of a recession before he entered office had: namely a economic slump we haven't shaken. Of course, I have no evidence, but the Prez sets the tone and uncertainty is business enemy #1.

Bush can look to Clinton for some proof. Say what you will about the Rogue, he was mostly hopeful and optimistic and this optimism in some measure had to help the economy by easing investor's worries over uncertainty in all its shapes and forms.

Sunday, June 23, 2002

THE WAR WITH ISLAMO-FASCISTS continues to trouble. There is a growing chorus of politicians, buearucrats, high-ranking civilians, business leaders and pundits that say another terror attack -- perhaps, even, a dirty bomb detonation-- is inevitable. I'm with VD Hanson -- that's stinkin' thinkin'.

The government is playing prevent defense and covering their backsides. As football fans know, the prevent defense only prevents you from winning. It's passive and gives the iniative to the enemy, who then gains confidence. War is not fought this way: Patton always said, advance, always advance.

Everyone is spelling disaster in order to...what? I'm not sure: seem prescient; brace the national mood for another jolt; indulge in fear?

The cure is simple the implementation not: Common sense and a rejection of Political Correctness. We need to speak the truth of the Wahhabis brand of Islam; we need racial profiling; we need to stop granting Visas to students and nationals from enemy nations; we need to uphold the law to protect our borders; we need to kick out non-citizens who's stays have expired.

Thursday, June 13, 2002

WHICM MAN'S ACCOMPLISHMENT OF 9 NBA TITLES IS GREATER: PHIL JACKSON'S OR RED AUERBACH'S? It is always tricky to compare accomplishments from different eras. But let's break it down.

Auerbach won 9 NBA titles in 16 years, but 8 straight from 1959-1966. Jackson has just won his 9th NBA title in 12 years. Red had to build a squad in Boston, whereas Jackson stepped into situations where the stars were already there and mostly developed. Red's 8 straight is also unequaled in professional sports. Still Jackson's 9 in 12 years is a higher precentage than Red's. I'd call this one a draw.

Auerbach, as Jackson recently noted, only had to win 2 or 3 series to win a title. Jackson has had to win 4 series for each of his 9 titles. Advantage Jackson.

Auerbach, as Jackson also noted, only had 10 to 12 teams in the NBA to compete against during his run. Jackson seems to be saying that this made it easier for Red. This is where Jackson's logic breaks down and Red gains the advantage.

Clearly having fewer teams (10-12 compared to 27-29 during Jackson's title span) means that talent was more concentrated making for better teams. So for Red it was more difficult to have an advantage over other teams if you happened to have the top player or players in the league, like Jackson has had with both the Bulls and Lakers. (You can easily argue that Jackson has the top 2 players in the league in Shaq and Kobe Bryant. With the Bulls that argument is harder, but not out of the question with Pippen alongside Jordan).

So in a league with diluted talent and with a game where only 5 play at once per side and can play the entire game, having a player or players that are clearly superior to all others is an enormous advantage. Auerbach never had this with the Celtics. There is no debate with Jackson's Jordan or Shaq like there is with Auerbach's best player, Bill Russell. To this day the debate is: who's better, Russell or Chamberlain? Russelll had more championships but Chamberlian had the better stats and the more dominating presence. And you can't even say that Bob Cousy was the best guard in Red's title years -- not with Oscar Roberston entering the league in 1961. With Jordan and Shaq there is no debate: they were clearly the best over Jackson's 9 titles. So Red wins on having tougher teams to play and not having the dominant player or player(s) on his team.

Ultimately it is for this reason that I give the nod to Auerbach. He never had the luxury of leaning on a transcendent player to lift his team by sheer superiority of skill. Bill Russell is a great player, one of the best in history. But he also competed against one equally as good, or better, in Wilt Chamberlain. Shaq and Jordan have no equals. Jackson has learned how to get the absolute best from these two and for this he's due tremendous credit and admiration. It's just that it's not quite as impressive as what Red Auerbach did.

REPEATEDLY WE HEAR THAT AMERICANS aren't interested in the World Cup of Soccer. I think I know why -- not enough scoring and not enough scoring chances.

If you boil down football and hockey the number of touchdowns and goals scored aren't that much greater than the number of goals scored in soccer. More for sure, but not much more. The difference is in the number of chances for goals -- that's what creates excitement. Soccer under FIFA World Cup rules doesn't create enough scoring chances. What can be done?

I actually think that one simple rule change would create alot more scoring and open the game up: only allow the goalie to use his hands within the Goal Area, the smaller box within the Penalty Area. (http://www.nfhs.org/PDF/Soccer/soccerfield.pdf)

Currently the goalie can use his hands on the ball anywhere within the Penalty Area if touched by the opponent. This Penalty Area is 18x44 yards -- quite a large area -- whereas the goal area is only 6x20 yards.

As it stands now, the goalie can range within this large Penalty Area to grab crosses from the wings and can come out on breakaways and cut down angles. This eliminates scoring chances and discourages a wide-open game of speculative runs for a more methodical and plodding advancement of the ball. Reduce the hands-allowed area to the 6x20 Goal Area and scoring will increase and the game will be more exciting.

I've heard suggestions for widening the goal to putting in a "shot clock", to putting in time limits for getting it over your half of the field, eliminating the offsides rule.

To me these all miss the mark. The appeal of soccer is the simplicity in its rules. Any rule change should be made my eliminating existing ones or working within the current structure of the game.

The one complicated rule in soccer is the offsides, yet you need this rule because without it you lose the appeal of soccer, which is skill in tight, fast and fluid situations. It's the same reason hockey has the blue-line offsides rule and the two line pass rule.

Another idea is to reduce the number of players to 10 on each side. Back in the 90's, I saw an international game between Holland and some other team, I think Brazil. They each were down to 10 men and the impact to the game was immediate: more open space led to more scoring chances and more excitement.