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2.29.2004

Succinct 

Over at Incestuous Amplification, a witty comment on the state of discussions between North Korea and the US is offered.

2.28.2004

Self-indulgence 

I played Ultimate Frisbee for the first time this year, down at the Esplanade. I'm going to be feeling this tomorrow and possibly the day after.

I don't know how the 35-40-year-olds on DoG and other teams can keep playing at their age. Fanatical fitness training regimen, I suspect.

2.26.2004

Supreme Court rules that Washington state need not finance divinity studies 

From the New York Times:



WASHINGTON, Feb. 25 — The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that states that subsidize secular study at the college level may withhold the scholarships from students preparing for the ministry.

The 7-to-2 decision, upholding the eligibility requirements of the Promise Scholarship program in Washington State, was a setback for advocates of using publicly financed vouchers to pay for religious school tuition. Joined by the Bush administration, advocates of "school choice" programs sought to use this case to establish a broad principle that an institution's religious affiliation should not make it ineligible to participate in general programs of government aid.

...

The chief justice said the distinction that Washington made in its five-year-old scholarship program reflected the state's longstanding interest in avoiding an "establishment" of religion, rather than hostility or animus toward religion. He said that while the Washington Constitution mirrored the prohibitions found in many of the early state constitutions against using tax money to support ministers, it was nonetheless quite protective of religion in many respects.



Hmm...seems kind of lame to me. I guess I agree that nothing compels the state of Washington to fund religions instruction -- for example, there'd be nothing wrong with the state establishing a scholarship fund for science instruction, as the National Science Foundation and Department of Defense do at the federal level -- but singling out religious studies does seem kind of hostile.

2.25.2004

Empty bread, empty mouths, talk about the Passion 

I've mostly been trying to avoid gradually been sucked in by all the hype surrounding "The Passion Of The Christ," though I do plan to see it eventually. I have to say, though, that the following is rather disturbing:



Already, merchandise associated with the film is on shelves and moving swiftly. A companion book to the film was at No. 20 on Amazon.com's list as of Tuesday afternoon, and movie tie-ins range from replica crucifixion nails to Sunday morning sermons.



Replica crucifixion nails?

UPDATE: You can see a picture of them here. Retail price is $17.

Sales of jewelry in the likeness of crosses (both Catholic style and Protestant style) have trivialized the death and resurrection of Christ in the public eye. I can't quite decide if these nail pendants are going to excite some consumers' taste for the macabre or if they're going to make the crucifixion an even more banal object in the public mind, but neither outcome is really appealing.

UPDATE: A woman in Kansas who was said to be in her 50s apparently collapsed and died while watching the crucifixion portion the movie. God rest her soul.

UPDATE: I've been fairly critical so far of a movie I haven't seen yet, but let me defend it against the charges of anti-Semitism. Somebody had to have killed Jesus; he didn't nail himself to that cross. The four Gospels all concur that Pilate (the Roman governor of Jerusalem), some subset of the Jewish priests and elders, and assorted members of the peanut gallery were all complicit in Jesus's death. This particular group of Jews wanted Jesus killed, but ultimately they had no right to execute anyone; Pilate approved of the crucifixion and his soldiers performed it.

Now I can understand the Jewish people's particular historical sensitivity to this point, but I don't see people in Italy protesting the film as anti-Roman. Ultimately it doesn't matter if it was Jews, Romans, Greeks, Indians, or Martians who were the proximate agents of the crucifixion -- the theological point is that all of mankind committed the sins for which Jesus suffered and died, and Mel Gibson to his credit has been steadfast in making this point whenever he's had to talk to the press. I sincerely hope that this much more important theological truth is communicated effectively in the film.

Oh, and lest we forget, Jesus conquered death and rose from the grave three days hence. Not everyone can carry the weight of the world, but Jesus did and freed us from our sin. Praise the Lord!

UPDATE: This review from Christianity Today is a bit worrying. Excerpt:



For all that is praiseworthy in this film, it is still somewhat unsatisfying. Indeed, the flashback structure itself is part of the problem. In Scripture and in much of Christian tradition, the death of Christ is placed within the context of his life and Resurrection, but Gibson's film reverses that by placing small bits of Jesus' life within the overwhelming context of his death. As full of faith as The Passion is, it never gets beyond its raw and prolonged depiction of human and demonic cruelty; after vividly depicting the suffering and grief and despair of Jesus' followers for two hours, the film forgets all about them, while reducing the Resurrection to a couple of special effects tacked on to the end.

Watching The Passion is like experiencing a woman's labor pains—but never witnessing the joy that makes the pain worth it all.



This does seem in line with Catholic tradition, though -- it seems to me that Catholics focus much more on the suffering of Christ than on his resurrection. Protestant crosses are empty, symbolizing Christ's triumph over death, while Catholic crosses (crucifixes) have a representation of Christ hanging on them.

2.24.2004

Selective reading 

One of Andrew Sullivan's readers says that the reason conservative Christians rail out against homosexuality but not against lust or divorce is because homosexuality is the one sin that they know they will never commit.

DOMA and FMA 

The offical transcript of President Bush's proposal for a Federal Marriage Amendment is here.

Same-sex marriages in Massachusetts are a foregone conclusion by now. (The same-sex marriages in California are, as far as I can tell, a formal stunt that will not hold up in the California courts.) Article IV of the Constitution does seem to indicate that a same-sex marriage in Massachusetts must be honored in the other states.

Marriage is a public concern for two reasons: first, because marriage confers various social benefits and privileges upon the married couple; second, because it amounts to a formal state sanction of the relationship. So all this chatter about "equal rights" being denied to gay couples is meaningless -- the people in the various states are free to celebrate or not to celebrate whichever relationships they want.

That being said, I don't understand why it's necessary that marriage be "defined as the union of a man and a woman" in the Constitution. Although civil unions may confer the same material benefits as legal marriages, gay activists are just going to get hacked off by this sort of separate-but-equal treatment, and it seems quite possible that there may be enough pro-gay-marriage legislators or delegates in enough states to shoot down the amendment.

It seems that the essential point is to prevent gay couples from flying to Massachusetts, getting married there, and taking their home states to court to enforce recognition of their marriages. If this is the case, why not just draft an amendment that nullifies the full faith and credit clause with respect to marriage? Some states will permit gay marriage, others won't, and there won't be any nonsense about "civil unions". What's so terrible about that?

AdBuster jumps off the deep end again 

As if they hadn't already thoroughly discredited themselves by advocating vandalism of private property, they're railing on about how Jewish figures in government and media need to be identified as such.

(Hat tip: Eugene Volokh.)

2.23.2004

Sixth-grader suspended for bringing swimsuit issue to school 

From espn.com:



12-year-old student at a Belpre, W.Va., school apparently has been suspended for bringing a copy of Sports Illustrated to school.

Of course, it wasn't just any old edition of the magazine.

Sixth-grader Justin Reyes was suspended for three days for bringing Sports Illustrated's swimsuit edition to his public school, Pittsburgh TV station WPXI reported on its Web site on Monday.

Belpre City School District officials said sexually suggestive material is not allowed on school property.

"You saw bad stuff on the Super Bowl halftime show," Justin said. "You could see more on that than in [the magazine]."

A teacher confiscated the magazine and officials recommended Justin spend time at an alternative school. His mother, Nicole, refused, adding that she's outraged the school district considers the magazine to school a delinquent act, WPXI reported.

"That is not sexual harassment. I doubt my 12-year-old is the only one looking at Sports Illustrated," she was quoted as saying.



Suspending the kid from school is merely a draconian punishment. But saying that he should "spend time at an alternative school"...what the hell is that? Is this kid some sort of budding sexual predator who needs to be thoroughly re-educated and reformed?

2.22.2004

Dear God, no 

Breaking news: 'Idol' loser William Hung to tour with Howard Dean.

Seriously though, Hung is poised to become the biggest Asian-American celebrity since Lance Ito. God help us all.

Diet wars 

Here's an amusing article on the vegetarianism vs. Atkinism wars in the NYT.

Of course, running 5 miles every other day tends to help, too...

2.21.2004

Another one from the log 

Some guy from Pakistan found this page by searching for "textile show in france in mach between april in 2004".

2.20.2004

Andrew Sullivan weighs in on gay marriage in San Francisco 

Here's what he has to say about mayor Gavin Newsom allowing gay couples to get married in San Francisco:



The marriages will continue. Most people seem to agree with me that the gay couples getting married in San Francisco are engaged in a classic example of civil disobedience. They do not know the legal validity of their marriages, and San Francisco has advised them as such. The marriages are almost certainly legally unenforceable. They are doing this primarily to demonstrate their desire for marriage and the justice of their cause. It's the symbolism they're after; and the symbolism is having a huge impact (look at the hysteria it is provoking on the right). I think there would be no more perfect move than to jail some of these couples for daring to get married. It would be a spectacle of civil disobedience that would, I think, help their cause even further. Bring on the fire-hoses and police dogs!

....

Now, I'm not a constitutional lawyer, let alone an expert on California's state constitution, so I don't know how valid Newsom's argument is. But if he is found in violation of his oath of office, then I see no reason why he shouldn't be prosecuted, or impeached or face any other sanction for behaving illegally. And court hearings and challenges will continue to determine this. He should not be above the law, just as Judge Moore wasn't. But Newsom is also entitled to act according to his conscience and to his own reading of the state constitution's guarantees of equal protection, just as Moore was. If he is found guilty of violating his oath of office, he should face the consequences. Somehow I think one of them might be re-election in a landslide.



Folks would be wise to remember that civil disobedience in the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr. evinces respect for the rule of law, though not for the particular law being broken. If some of these couples do end up getting arrested, they would serve their cause best by submitting to the authorities, as Sullivan indicates.

San Francisco being San Franciso, though, I have an uneasy feeling that the ultra-leftists are going to hijack this movement and turn it into an unsightly spectacle, just as they did with the anti-war movement.

Einstein's fudge factor receives further experimental confirmation 

Recent measurements from Hubble confirm that the universe is expanding in a manner that's consistent with Einstein's cosmological constant.

For those who aren't familiar with General Relativity, Einstein wrote down an equation that describes how gravity is affected by the presence of mass. Einstein soon realized that these equations would describe a universe that is expanding, and he stuck in a fudge factor that would counteract the expansion of the universe due to a belief that the universe was "unchanging". This fudge factor is called the cosmological constant. Edwin Hubble later discovered that the universe was, in fact expanding, leading Einstein to call the invention of the cosmological constant the biggest blunder he ever made. However, more precise experimental evidence seems that the cosmological factor is needed, though obviously not as large as Einstein would have predicted.

As far as I know, there's no further theoretical explanation for the cosmological constant -- it just exists.

For those of you who are worried that the Mach Five is turning into a science blog, have no fear -- opening day is just a few weeks away. This is The Year.

2.18.2004

Black hole rips star apart 

Astronomers have observational evidence of this happening. Pretty neat.

I was a little surprised to read that only 1 percent of the star's substance was swallowed by the black hole. (I think "swallowed by the black hole" here means "trapped within the Schwarzschild radius of the black hole", though I could be wrong -- my knowledge of General Relativity is a bit rusty.) The rest of it was torn apart and scattered due to the huge differential in the gravitational forces around the black hole.

Disney acquires Muppets 

The Walt Disney Co. has acquired the Muppets from Jim Henson Co. Say goodbye to the Muppets' legacy of sharp satire and wit.

Colorado football kicker says she was raped by teammate 

Katie Hnida, a former walk-on kicker for the Colorado Buffaloes, claims that she was raped by a teammate.

Assuming all the allegations are true, there really isn't anybody in this scenario who doesn't look like a complete idiot, is there?

- Rick Neuheisel, for putting Hnida on the team when it was abundantly clear that she wouldn't survive on her own merits. (During her new career at New Mexico, she kicked two extra points, both in blowouts. The first was blocked.)

- Gary Barnett, for claiming to be unaware about the allegations about sexual assault, sex parties for recruits, etc. If he's telling the truth, the guy must be deaf.

- The players. Obviously.

- Hnida, for clinging on to her quixotic quest to be a kicker for a premier college football team and allowing herself to become a token when it was clear that (1) she wasn't contributing anything to the team and (2) her teammates were assholes.

UPDATE: There are a couple factual errors in this post. Hnida has actually kicked three extra points in her New Mexico career. The first, in a bowl game against UCLA, was blocked. The other two were in a blowout against UT-San Marcos.

It's great that Hnida has found a team that she likes and that likes her, but I still don't see how she could have clung on to Colorado for so long.

UPDATE: Rick Reilly has this to say:



Barnett said she was "terrible" -- plus she was "a girl!" -- as if being a girl was bad enough? The Buffs have had some bad kickers on their team recently -- were those guys harassed and tormented?



You know Rick, with the sort of stuff that's been going down at Colorado -- you might want to look into that.

2.16.2004

Shill reviews at Amazon 

Apparently amazon.com's code monkeys screwed up, leading to a one-week period where the identities of some book reviewers were revealed. Not surprisingly, authors' friends and enemies, as well as the authors themselves, sometimes write rather biased reviews for their books.

I've found that this isn't nearly as big a problem for Amazon's music reviews -- the people who post scathing reviews for CDs usually aren't shills (or whatever the proper antonym for "shills" is); they're just idiots.

2.14.2004

Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo! 

Rumor is that the Rangers are willing to trade Alex Rodriguez to the Yankees for Alfonso "can't lay off the outside slider" Soriano.

A-Rod is even willing to play third base, even though the Yankees would be better defensively with Jeter at third and Rodriguez at short.

2.12.2004

Scientists clone human embryos 

Story is here.

Before we collectively launch into hysterics about scientists "playing God", let's note that nobody is (yet) seriously thinking of reproducing human beings this way; scientists are just trying to grow certain tissues from embryonic stem cells for medical purposes.

So the question is, should an embryo be given all the legal protections of an actual person? I'm not certain of the exact point a growing zygote/embryo/fetus "acquires" a "soul" and becomes a "person", but I'm inclined to believe that since the fertilized egg seems to have all the information it needs for its future development, it should be considered a "person" for legal purposes.

This is why I can't stand Shaquille O'Neal 

Here's what O'Neal had to say about the Lakers getting waxed by Houston last night:



"He made the shots, but he got the whistle, too," O'Neal said. "He's a big guy and has a soft touch. I don't think he'll ever be able to play me one-on-one, ever, ever, ever. We let this one slip away. They played with a lot of effort. We just made mistakes."



Scoreboard, bitch.

2.11.2004

More network censorship 

CBC is putting a seven-second delay on Don Cherry's "Coach's Corner" on Hockey Night in Canada in case Cherry says anything particularly incendiary this season.

Sheesh. I thought the whole point was that Cherry was a loudmouthed jingoistic buffoon who pulled in viewers and raked in the advertising dollars with his shtick (parts of which I agree with). In decreasing order of likelihood, one of three things will happen: (1) the network won't have the guts to censor Cherry; (2) the network will censor Cherry on occasion, and fans will be upset; (3) Cherry will rein in his act, and he won't be nearly as fascinating.

And on that note, does anybody know where I can download the 2003 episode of Coach's Corner where Cherry and Ron MacLean "debate" the war in Iraq? If not, does anyone have it taped and feel like making me a copy? I don't think either of them said anything particularly insightful during that exchange; I just think it was hilarious.

Nicholas Kristof weighs in on outsourcing and the inadequacy of science education in the US 

There's a fine article by Nicholas Kristof in today's New York Times on outsourcing and on how other countries are kicking our butts in high school mathematics and science education.

I do have a couple minor quibbles with the article, though:

1. I think he's right that our society values the sciences less than it values the humanities, but I think the bigger problem is that teachers and schools are fighting the problem of students not graduating by moving the goalposts, i.e. dumbing down class and graduation requirements. This is an even bigger problem for talented students in low-income families; they may not be able to afford the supplementary education (summer school, programs for the gifted, etc.) that richer families can afford.

2. Kristof notes that Chinese high school students score in the highest percentile of the math portion of the GRE because the SAT isn't offered. I'm not sure if he's talking about the mathematics subject GRE, taken by prospective mathematics grad students, or the quantitative section of the general GRE, taken by all prospective graduate students. I'd bet it's the latter though, since he's comparing it to the SAT.

It should be noted that the quantitative portion of the general GRE is essentially identical to the math portion of the SAT. This makes the Chinese high school kids' accomplishments seem less impressive, but it also highlights the fact that the Education Testing Service and colleges alike do not place a premium on the learning of mathematics in college. No graduate student should be content with a US high school-level mathematics education.

2.10.2004

George Foreman he ain't 

Red Wings goalie Dominik Hasek's comeback is officially a failure, now that his groin injury has sidelined him for the season.

Curtis Joseph has been an awfully good sport about the whole thing -- you know, being blamed for last year's flameout against the Mighty Ducks (he was decent, but certainly could have been a lot better) and getting sent down to the minors early this season. Now that the Detroit is forced to come crawling back at his feet, here's hoping that he gets on a roll the way he used to do when he was on the Blues and playing *against* the Wings.

Independent review panel says high school diplomas are losing their value 

The American Diploma Project delivers a stinging critique of graduation requirements and high school education in general.

I fully expect the teachers' unions to go ballistic over this report. David Bloome, a former president of the National Council of Teachers of English, offers this reply:



"For a group to come out and say that a high school diploma has lost its meaning strikes me as a difficult position to maintain given how hard so many students work to obtain one," said Bloome, a professor in the College of Education at Ohio State University and a former public school teacher. As examples, he cited students who earn diplomas despite being new to the country, or those who graduate with vocational skills that fully prepare them for work.



I'd have to say that that's some rather selective sampling by Professor Bloome. For every student who moves to the US in his/her teens and has to learn English on the fly, there must be dozens of others who blow off their high school education. And students who end up on the vocational track still need basic communication skills and quantitative reasoning skills if they want to be productive members of society, not just hired hands.

Nowadays when manufacturing jobs and even low-level white-collar jobs (web design, programming, tech support) are being outsourced to other countries and other jobs are being automated, it's even more important for the health of America's economy that we continue to be the ones who push the frontiers of knowledge. Technological development and innovation is quickly becoming the capital upon which our New Economy is based; we simply can't compete with the cheap labor in these other economic sectors overseas.

Either that, or we should train our kids to be plumbers, electricians and construction workers. Not much danger of those jobs being outsourced.

France is more cultured and civilized than the United States how? 

The head-scarf ban in France has been passed by the French National Assembly.

2.09.2004

It was 40 years ago today 

that the Beatles invaded America.

2.08.2004

Another reason why public speakers should have a thorough mastery of The Simpsons 

At church today, a guest speaker came to talk about her experiences as a university teacher/clandestine missionary in China. By way of trying to convince people to put aside material concerns for kingdom work, she mentioned a little trick (possibly an urban legend) that monkey poachers in Africa supposedly use to catch their prey: they set out narrow-necked jars full of food. The monkeys stick their arms in the jars, grab the food, and struggle to get their arms out while their hands are clenching the food, making them easy pickings for the poachers.

Of course, astute Simpsons fans realize that something like this happened in an episode: Homer tries to steal a free soft drink and a free snack from a pair of vending machines at work and gets his arms stuck. The rescue workers arrive, and just as they're about to saw off his arms ("they'll grow back, right?"), one of them asks Homer if he's holding on to the can. "Your point being?" Homer angrily retorts. In the next scene, Homer walks away from the vending machines while being jeered by the rescue workers and other assorted personnel.

2.07.2004

US under-23 soccer team hears "Osama" chants in Mexico 

By now it's painfully clear that the rest of the world hates the United States.

As a nation we have our faults, but at least the United States doesn't view international athletics as a component of or a proxy for international politics the way the rest of the world does.

(Via Matt Drudge.)

UPDATE: Then again, we do have parents realizing their athletic dreams vicariously through their children and going ballistic when refs threaten their children's success.

2.06.2004

Did CBS censor posters during the Super Bowl? 

Via Bird Dog:

It seems that CBS may have digitally censored some fans' posters at the Super Bowl:



But enough about that. CBS did in fact practice some very aggressive censorship last night, if I am not mistaken. After a while I noticed when looking at the end zones shots you always get when a team is attempting a field goal or an extra point, that some fans were holding up bright yellow poster boards that were, apparently, blank. Why in the world would someone hold up bright yellow blank poster boards? When I looked more closely at the “posters,” it was apparent that they were digitally enhanced, blocking out some lettering behind the yellow. Now these posters were situated where I normally see “John 3:16” posters at football games, including the Super Bowl.

Perhaps someone has additional information about this, such as a shot of the end zone without bright yellow digital censorship to show what the suspect posters said. I would not be surprised if they did, in fact, proclaim, John 3:16.



Well, I'd hold off on concluding that the posters had scriptural references on them; for all I know they might have said "FOX Rules" or "Eat at Joe's", but if they did not in fact contain indecent or obscene material, then that's pretty poor behavior on CBS's part.

Between that, the moveon.org ad and Janet's funbags, CBS has set a new standard in broadcasting something-or-other.

2.05.2004

Sigh 

I just found out that I got gypped out of CUE Guide teaching awards in both of the classes I TF'ed last semester.

One needs an average rating of 4.5/5 from at least seven students in a class to qualify, and I didn't have enough students reporting in either class.

Funny, I don't think I suddenly became an excellent teacher overnight. Probably the fact that I showed up wearing nice clothes because of job interviews had something to do with it.

With friends like these... 

Gen. Pervez Musharraf has granted a full pardon to a scientist who shared nuclear technology with Iran, Libya and North Korea.

2.04.2004

Bush asks UN for help re: Iraq 

What exactly is the point, though? The New York Times notes the following:



Aides to Mr. Annan and top American officials say the situation pulls the secretary general in several directions. Mr. Annan, they say, does not want to be seen as an American proxy, but he is determined to do what is necessary to help Iraq create a viable government. Still, they say, he is extremely reluctant to return the United Nations to a highly visible role in the country that could make it the target of attacks. A suicide bombing at the United Nations' Baghdad base in August killed the mission chief, Sergio Vieira de Mello, and 21 other people.



So the UN doesn't necessarily have any more legitimacy than the US in the eyes of the insurgents, and probably in the eyes of the general public as well.

The main problem isn't a top-level problem; it's a bottom-level problem. Before they can govern themselves, the people of Iraq need to be comfortable with the basic notions of liberal democracy: You Cannot Get Everything You Want; Compromise Is Sometimes Necessary; and the like.

UPDATE: Kevin Drum says:



The sense of panic is palpable. If you read the whole thing, it's clear that while Cheney and Rumsfeld may not be very happy about this, Bremer and Bush seem to have simply given up hope of accomplishing anything. At this point, they're willing to just shovel the whole thing into the lap of the hated United Nations if that's the only way to forge a pre-election exit strategy.

As a liberal-hawk-turned-dove-turned-confusednik, I hardly know what to think anymore. In the end, I opposed the war partly because I finally concluded that this is exactly what would happen with Bush & Co. in charge, but at the same time I'm just idealistic enough to feel like we have to see things through anyway now that we've invaded Iraq and ripped it apart. On the other hand, it's still Bush & Co. in charge. What are the odds that they'll be able to put aside their internal squabbling and election year cynicism long enough to risk doing the right thing?

Slim and none, as near as I can tell. And if they aren't willing to do that, then we might just as well pull out now and stop pretending. And thus comes to an end another glorious chapter in American democracy promotion.



I like the word "confusednik".

2.03.2004

Super Tuesday 

Joe Lieberman is the latest casualty. Inevitable, but disappointing nonetheless. He's the one Democratic candidate that I was reasonably certain would take our responsibilities in Iraq and the Middle East seriously.

Stuck between a Bush and a hard place, indeed.

2.02.2004

Zero tolerance 

Salon.com collects a bunch of stories about kids and families whose lives have been ruined because of post-Columbine "zero tolerance" measures.

I'm not sure I'd call it an epidemic yet, though. Still, it does seem rather dumb to deprive school officials of the ability to use their judgment in dealing with these cases. I remember when I was a junior in high school, there was a kid in one class who sat next to me. He was kind of a goofball and the teacher, Mr. Smith, was a Vietnam vet who didn't tolerate nonsense but still had a sense of humor. Anyway, this kid would sing to himself over and over the words "Smith-dogg will be dead / I will put a bullet through his head", to the tune of Black Sabbath's "Iron Man", and Mr. Smith would just laugh at him. I imagine this kind of stuff doesn't happen at school these days.

Drew Henson (finally) realizes he stinks at baseball 

Henson and the Yankees have mutually broken his contract, allowing him to pursue a NFL career.

He was a better quarterback at Michigan than Tom Brady was. With Henson at the helm, the Wolverines were able to throw the ball all over the field. Henson will be a star in the NFL.

Cut and run? 

An interesting juxtaposition of two articles on the current state of Iraq in the NYT today:

On the one hand, ethnic and religious tensions between various groups in Iraq are tightening.

On the other hand, we're pulling a lot of troops out of Baghdad.

Apparently we're determined to restore not just political sovereignty, but military sovereignty back to Iraq by June 30, no matter what the outcome is. This is not good. If we're not there to establish order and tranquility, why are we there?

2.01.2004

Postgame blogging 

Well, aside from the first 28 minutes, that was an exciting game. This year I had to contend with a number of Patriots anti-fans -- people who were cheering for Carolina not because they had any particular allegiances to the team but because they thought Patriots fans in Boston were obnoxious and they got sick of hearing about the Pats at the office all the time, or some nonsense like them. That just made the ending sweeter.

Here are some random observations:

1. After the first Super Bowl win, it was decreed that Adam Vinatieri will never again have to pay for a drink in New England. I'm not sure what'll happen after this one -- I think all there is left is to declare that Adam Vinatieri will be our god.

2. What's up with the New England secondary giving up that 85-yard TD pass and the other TD pass that tied the score late in the game? Both times Ty Law acted as if he had safety help when there was none. I don't have the game recorded, but I think that on at least one of these plays, the Patriots sent a safety to blitz, so Law should have known that he would be alone.

Other than that, Law played an excellent game. Or so I would think; Carolina didn't give him a whiff of the ball the rest of the game. I don't know whether that was their plan or whether he just did such a good job of shutting down his man that they couldn't hit him.

3. Does anybody have stats indicating one way or another whether the hoary tactic of icing a kicker works? It clearly doesn't work on Adam Vinatieri, who is 2-for-2 on Super Bowl-winning kicks after being iced. (They weren't easy kicks either -- 48 yards in 2002 and 41 yards this year.) I'd bet that as a whole, kickers' percentages don't change after they've been iced at the end of a game. Vinatieri in particular seems to get better, if my selective memory serves me correctly.

Not only is icing a kicker a dubious and annoying tactic, it is sometimes counterproductive, since those wasted times-out often prove useful on a last-ditch drive. The clock read 0:09 when the ball was snapped on Vinatieri's kick and it read 0:04 after the score. That timeout could have been useful if Carolina had wanted to review a trick kickoff return or offensive play (if the field goal had missed, if they had been fouled on the kickoff return, or if the kickoff went out of bounds).

4. This time I think Tom Brady was the right choice for Super Bowl MVP -- I thought last time the distinction should have gone to Law or Otis Smith or Tebucky Jones or maybe the Patriots defense as an aggregate, if such a thing were allowed.

5. Warren Sapp thought that the Panthers' defensive front would demolish the Patriots' offensive front, especially with Russ Hochstein subbing for Damien Woody. Obviously that wasn't the case, but what surprised me the most was how ordinary the Panthers' defensive line was against the run. Sure, they stuffed the Patriots on third-and-short a couple times early in the game, but the Patriots had success running the ball for most of the game.

6. Speaking of the Patriots running the ball, I'm really glad they stuck to the plan of balancing the running and passing games. I really don't understand why so many teams abandon the run so early in the game. Any game theorist will tell you that you need multiple options to succeed.

7. Jake Delhomme throws a really sweet deep ball. Both times he threw it deep he threw the ball in a perfect arc and landed it on the correct shoulder of the receiver. The first one in particular was very nice -- the Panthers caught the Patriots in a blitz, and Delhomme put the ball up promptly and accurately.

8. The officials called a lot more penalties on DBs and receivers in the Super Bowl than they had been doing the rest of the playoffs.

9. The two-pointer where the Patriots scored on a direct snap to Kevin Faulk was about as perfect as such a play can be run.

10. Ken Walter had a rough game; he hit two punts high and short and had them bounce backwards for net gains of 22 and 23 yards. I guess he's worth his salt as a kick holder though.

11. The Pats are now 2-for-2 when U2's "Where The Streets Have No Name" is played at some point during the Super Bowl broadcast and 0-for-1 otherwise. Draw your own conclusions.

12. The grass inside Reliant Stadium might be the worst playing surface in the NFL. Vinatieri missed two short field goals early, John Kasay shanked a crucial kickoff at the end of the game, and players were tripping on the surface left or right.

13. Here's an excerpt from a wire article about Janet Jackson's boob shot:



NEW YORK (AP) -- CBS apologized on Sunday for an unexpectedly R-rated end to its Super Bowl halftime show, when singer Justin Timberlake tore off part of Janet Jackson's top, exposing her breast.

"CBS deeply regrets the incident," spokeswoman LeslieAnne Wade said after the network received several calls about the show.

The two singers were performing a flirtatious duet to end the halftime show, and at the song's finish, Timberlake reached across Jackson's leather gladiator outfit and pulled off the covering to her right breast.

The network quickly cut away from the shot, and did not mention the incident on the air.

Timberlake said he did not intend to expose Jackson's breast.

"I am sorry that anyone was offended by the wardrobe malfunction during the halftime performance of the Super Bowl," Timberlake said in a statement. "It was not intentional and is regrettable."

...

"We were extremely disappointed by elements of the MTV-produced halftime show," Joe Browne, NFL executive vice president, said. "They were totally inconsistent with assurances our office was given about the content of the show.

"It's unlikely that MTV will produce another Super Bowl halftime."

MTV issued a contrite statement, saying the incident was "unrehearsed, unplanned, completely unintentional."



Riiiiiiiiight. Shouldn't CBS have had their five-second delay on?

That's all for now. Only 29 days until spring training.

UPDATE: The Drudge Report claims that CBS executives approved of that little bit at the end of the halftime show. Naturally, all of the sources are anonymous, so take this report for whatever it's worth. (Warning: link is unsafe for work.)

UPDATE: The boob shot probably is the most TiVoed moment of all time.

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