Begging The Question
Friday, October 29, 2004
Lassie ain't got nothin' on this dog. If you're looking for a write-in candidate on Tuesday, I suggest Faith the service dog.
Thursday, October 28, 2004
Prof. Berman of the Sentencing Law & Policy blog has been Cres-guesting this week, and he had a post up asking why college football doesn't have a playoff. (And see Poon's thoughts here.) I could talk about this all day, but I don't have that much time. But, a few quick thoughts for now. I'm sure the comments box will heat up, and I'll try to defend my position there if necessary.
The Professor's suggested alternative is a four-team, three-game mini-tournament among the teams winning the four biggest bowl games. The extra games would stretch the season into late January. I am tentatively opposed to this.
A few general thoughts. I have no great love for the current BCS system, but I also don't think it's the opening foray of Kang and Kodos's plan for world dominion. (Cover story: "We are newlyweds on our way to Earth Capital.") But it's funny to recall that the impetus for the BCS was the biased and unreliable polls, even though now the impetus for scrapping the BCS is that the polls are better. My overarching philosophy isn't "If it ain't broke, don't fix it," because I'm willing to be persuaded that the BCS is broken. My stance is "Don't fix it unless you know that you'll be making an improvement." If the BCS isn't any better than the polls, we never should have had it in the first place. But we risk the wrath of the law of unintended consequences if all we do is minor or cosmetic repair to the system that amount to little more than slapping a quick-fix onto the problem.
In Prof. Berman's system, we would presumably need some way of ranking the four entrants. Let's suppose the regular season ends with seven undefeated teams (USC, Oklahoma, Miami, Auburn, Wisconsin, Utah, Boise State) and about as many good one-loss teams (Florida State, Cal, Texas, Michigan, Tennesse, Louisville, Texas A&M, and West Virginia). (Or you could speculate that Virginia will beat Miami and Georgia will beat Auburn or Oklahoma State will beat Oklahoma, reducing the number of unbeatens but raising the number of one-loss teams.) This is all just random, but let's say the four big bowl winners are USC, Florida State, Miami and Wisconsin. And then, leaving aside the difficulties and controversies of trying to rank those teams #1-#4 considering that one-loss FSU is currently ranked above undefeated Wisconsin, let's say FSU wins the little mini-tourney. You'd end the season with a bunch of one-loss teams and no undefeated teams. Why is Florida State more legitimately the champion instead of any of the other one-loss teams? If Miami loses in the first round of the after-party to, say, USC, and then USC loses to FSU, Miami will only have one loss, but so will Florida State -- to Miami! How is this -- as many playoff-pushers tout -- "settling it on the field"? On the field, Miami beat FSU, but in my hypo, FSU would be the champ. I fail to see why that outcome is objectively better than the BCS.
So, you say, let's drop the bowl altogether and have an eight- or sixteen-team playoff throughout December. But again, you'd all sort of hue and cry over where teams were seeded (and would that be according to the polls or a BCS-type seeding system -- or a committee meeting in secret like the basketball tournament, or the Division 1-AA playoff?) and who is left out as team #9 or #17. And you'd be greatly increasing the chances of ending the season with no undefeated team(s) and a whole bunch of one-loss teams that are near-impossible to differentiate.
I really have to cut this off, so I hope to be able to come back to it when I have more time to blog. But my main point is this. My favorite thing about college football is that every single regular season game counts -- just ask Ron Zook. In basketball, the season is long enough that a crazy upset to a poor team almost certainly won't ruin your whole season, because the NCAA basketball tournament can be won by a "hot" team. And just as often, the team entering the tournament as the consensus best team is knocked off by a team that gets hot for one game, even if that underdog can't sustain it for six. My contention is that the National Champion in football ought to be the team you think had the best overall season, not the team that played lesser opponents and got lucky in two games. I rather enjoy the controversy and debate over which teams are better, and I can sleep at night if I don't have a definitive answer. I think basketball is too different from football for meaningful comparisons, so don't come back at me by noting how much I love March and the NCAA tourney. Yeah, the bowl system is a vestige of a different era, and again, I wouldn't cry if the whole thing were scrapped. And I know I may have rushed this too much to get my point across. But I don't mind the BCS enough to advocate change to a system that won't be any better. It might look more pleasing to playoff advocates to have those nice little brackets leading inexorably to a champion, but I don't think it's that simple. (And it's not like it's the only legitimate way to crown a champion -- the College World Series is a double-elimination tournament, so maybe we should try that in football.) Until someone proves to me that we can devise a playoff system that meets their stated goals of settling all these end-of-season controversies -- or least settles more than the BCS has and doesn't create more -- I won't be in favor of it. And I really and truly oppose a system that would simply add a game or three to the current situation. That's an ad hoc, backwards-looking answer. While it may have been a good idea last year between LSU and USC, what about the year before, when Ohio State won it and was the undisputed champion? We're more likely to see years like that than last year's anomaly. But the anomalies make things fun. Feel free to fire up the comments and tell me what an idiot I am. I have to be out of town for a few days, but will respond when I can.
Provoked by Steve's post a couple of weeks ago on his trip to the Lake Oconee Shooting Club, and spurred into action by a conversation I've had over the last couple of days, I decided to offer my opinions on shotguns. Specifically, hunting shotguns for the first-time buyer or for the buyer on a budget. I'm not going to delve into the Cadillac lines of shotguns. If you want to pick up a Benelli or a Franchi, for several thousand dollars, be my guest. But for entry-level shotguns, I'll try to focus on guns priced under $1,000. That doesn't mean that Steve should be dissuaded from purchasing this lovely Beretta, though. Nor will it dissuade me from lusting after this Citori Superlight Feather 12. I'll also try to focus on hunting guns, not sport-shooting guns. I'm not going to get into trap and skeet guns, because that is really beyond my level of experience. I have shot trap twice and 5-stand once. On the other hand, I've hunted turkeys, ducks, quail and doves for almost 20 years. Thus, I'll try to confine my opinions to my area of experience.
First, a quick primer on shotguns for Milbarge and the Karate Kid. There are 3 basic styles of shotguns: (1) single-barrel, single-shot guns that must be reloaded after each shot (which we will ignore for the purposes of this post); (2) double-barreled guns that must be reloaded after each barrel is fired; and (3) single-barrel guns that hold multiple shells in a fixed magazine.
The double-barreled guns ("doubles") are further subdivided into guns with the barrels mounted side-by-side and guns with one barrel mounted on top of the other (known as "over-under" or "o/u"). The single-barreled guns with multi-round magazines are further divided between guns that are loaded by manually pulling the slide (the reloading mechanism) to the rear and then sliding it forward - commonly known as the "pump action." Another type are guns that use the gas expelled by the firing of one shell and the force of the recoil to power a mechanism that automatically loads another shell into the chamber - known as "autoloaders" or "semi-automatics." The advantage of autoloaders is that they cycle through to the second and third round faster than most people can manually operate a pump-action gun or reload a double. The disadvantage is that they are usually heavier than pumps and because of the complexity of the reloading mechanism they are more expensive to manufacture than pumps. Doubles, because of the extra cost of the second barrel, tend to be the most expensive. The second barrel can make them heavier, too. Doubles have 2 primary advantages: (1) the ability to have 2 different chokes, one in each barrel, in the same gun (the chokes are fittings in the muzzle end of the barrel that determine the pattern of the pellets - a topic that is beyond the scope of this post), and (2) it is obvious to other people when a double is unloaded, because the gun breaks open at the breach (the gun is hinged in front of the trigger and the barrels swing open on the hinge so that the gun can be loaded) - a good safety feature in the field or on the range.
The shells fired by shotguns are classified by "gauge." This is a measurement of the inside diameter of the barrel and very roughly translates into the power of a particular gun. The .410 is the smallest shell (it is actually a caliber measurement, not a gauge), and, in increasing size, come the 28, 20, 16, 14, 12 and finally the 10-gauge. The larger the number, the smaller the gauge. The 12-gauge is the most common size in America, but the 20-gauge is very popular among some hunters and competitive shooters. The 10-gauge is, from my understanding, primarily used for goose hunting because of the need for power and range to hit (relatively) high flying birds.
There are many other finer points to the distinctions between shotguns, but I think this should give you an idea of what I'm talking about in this post. If you have any questions, raise them in the comments and I'll try to address them. Moving on. . .
The Remington Model 870 Express - the best selling shotgun of all time - is a great pump-action gun. I own one that's over 20 years old and I love it. It is a simple and reliable gun. It's an inexpensive gun, too. You can find them for around $350. I also have a Remington Model 11-87 autoloader with interchangeable chokes that I really, really like. It comes in a wood stock or in a matte black synthetic stock for around $600 - $900 depending on the stock and grip you select. Both of the Remington shotguns I own are 12-gauge guns. I'd like to get a Model 1100 in 16-gauge for wing shooting, but I haven't been in the field enough in recent years to justify buying another shotgun.
I really like the Ruger Red Label 12-gauge. It is arguably the best double on the market for the price. They run between $1300 - $1600 depending on where you look. I've shot them before and I really enjoyed the experience. They get high marks from just about everyone. If you are going to buy a double, and you don't have $2000 to spend, then this is the gun to get.
Weatherby makes some nice shotguns. Their over/under is the Orion Upland which starts at around $1300. These guns get consistently superior marks. Weatherby's autoloader, the SAS Field runs $850 - $950, depending on the finish. I cannot say I know much about the gun in particular, but the Orion guns are nice, Weatherby's rifles are family favorites, and so I'd trust that the SAS line are good guns, too.
The Browning BPS line of pump-action guns looks good, too. The Gold label are preferred by many of my father-in-law's rich quail-hunting friends. I've handled some of theses guns, but I've never used them. However, they are Brownings and I would trust them to be good guns. They range in price from $500 for pumps to around $1200 for the autoloaders.
Finally, in the entry-level category, Mossberg shotguns are hard (impossible) to beat for the price. The Model 500 goes for around $300 and the Model 835 goes for around $500 (both are pump-action guns). The Model 935 autoloader goes for between $500 and $600 depending on the exact features. You cannot go wrong with a Mossberg.
When you start looking at guns in the $1,500 to $2,000 price range, let me say that Browning shotguns are top notch. The Browning Citori over / under doubles ("o/u") are superb guns, but they run in the $1600 - $2000 range, which may be beyond what a first time buyer will want to spend. They perform well, they look so good, they're light, they're classic in every way.
Winchester makes the well-reviewed Super X2 autoloaders. They run in the $1,000 to $1,500 range. They look nice, as do the Winchester Select doubles. Winchester makes some great rifles, but I don't know enough about their shotguns to offer any specific opinions.
Beretta makes some fine guns, as Steve can attest. Though, like Plainsman, I wish Beretta would stay away from attempts at futuristic styling. Make beautiful guns, please, not props for the new Governator movie. Anyway, the Beretta guns start in the price range $1200 - $1500 and can quickly escalate to the $3000 to $5000 range. These are guns for lawyers, not law students.
In my opinion, if you're only going to own one shotgun for hunting, go with a 12-gauge in a 28" barrel for singles (30" if you're only going to be shooting clays), or 26" barrels for doubles (the defaults on most models). The 12-gauge is a versatile gun, powerful enough for deer and waterfowl, yet you could use it for dove, quail, pheasants and turkeys without any problems. If you are going to think about a second gun, I'd suggest a 16-gauge if you can find one - or if you are very lucky, a 14-gauge. The 16-gauge guns are not as easy to come by as they once were, but they are classy and evoke a certain nostalgia. The 16-gauge has the power of a 12, but the weight of a 20, so the saying goes. They are probably a little underpowered for deer, ducks, or geese, but great for upland shooting. Twenty gauge guns are lighter still, but I just don't see the point. They are less powerful, with correspondingly shorter range, and, thus, less probability of a clean kill. Some people would argue that's not the case, but ballistics tests and the overwhelming popularity of the 12-gauge would seem to indicate otherwise. Still, there are people who love 20-gauge, and they'll be happy to point out how stupid I am to prefer the 12 and the 16. It's one man's opinion and all, but I can only counter with the fact that I have never been in a hunting situation and wished I was carrying a 20-gauge rather than a 12-gauge.
In summary, I would say that the first time buyer or the budget-conscious hunter should seriously consider either the Remington 870 or the Mossberg 500 in 12-gauge. They are both great guns and extraordinary values. For the buyer who insists on a double as his first or only shotgun, I would recommend the Ruger Red Label series. If you want to send me a thoughtful Christmas gift, I'll take the Citori. Don't bother with the gift wrap.
Wednesday, October 27, 2004
Sully endorsed Kerry, again. He was wholely unconvincing, again. Lileks is much better at deconstructing Sully's lame endorsement than I am, again. Hit me Andy one more time.
Over at The Corner, the inimitable K-Lo has a post up with a nifty little picture of the United States. Every county in the country is colored either red or blue, depending (I assume, although it's not labeled) on whether the county's voters went for Bush or Gore back in 2000. It's apparently associated with NRO's defense of the electoral college. I gather that Lopez's point is something along these lines: "Gosh, there sure are a lot of red counties, and since we don't want to be governed by the liberal elites in those few blue counties, it's a good thing we have the electoral college."
I'm not going to debate the merits of the electoral college. It's never really bothered me too much, but it wouldn't devastate me to lose it. Of course, I've never really minded ancient undemocratic anti-majoritarian institutions deciding things -- for example, the federal courts. (Or the polls in college football, but more on that later, in another post.)
But I hate when people make these useless assertions based on irrelevant data. No one disputes the notion that the presidential election should have some tie to how many people vote for each candidate. Counties don't have votes; it doesn't matter how many of them support a candidate. Yes, I'm sure it's pleasing to the conservative eye to see all that red -- if you kinda squint you can almost not see those tiny flecks of blue in your perfect canvas. But they conveniently leave out the meddlesome fact that more people live in the blue counties!
The idea that each jurisdictional unit should get one vote regardless of population went out with the one-person-one-vote overhaul decades ago. (Exception: if the electoral college can't pick a winner, the House of Representatives chooses, with each state getting one vote, regardless of population.) Are K-Lo and her merry band actually proposing that each county, regardless of how many people live in it, gets an equal vote for president? That New York County, New York (1,500,000 people) should get the same vote as Newton County, Texas (population 15,000)? (Or for that matter, that Montgomery County, Texas, with 300,000 people, shouldn't get more votes than Montgomery County, New York, with its 50,000?)
Of course they're not -- that would be imbecilic. So why do Red Staters love to paint pictures with all the red jurisdictions indicated? My only guess is that they want to make it appear that President Bush has far greater public support than he actually does. They can point to these maps and say, "Look! Everybody loves George, expecpt for a few fringe weirdoes in those little blue specs. But don't mind them -- check out all that red!" But that's simply a distortion of the truth. The truth is that the populace is pretty closely divided, and at least in the popular vote if not the electoral college, the result will likely be very close again.
It's one thing to show a map like this just for the purpose of trivia, without trying to make any great points aside from something about population density and political persuasion, perhaps. But that's not the agenda the NRO crowd is spinning. I think they're trying to assert that Bush has widespread public support and a stronger mandate because the President is supported by all this vast empty space. If there is any logic to support that notion, it surely isn't that more counties are red than blue.
So how about a more truthful representation of things? Thanks to Google and MemeFirst, I've found the site Electoral-Vote.com. They have a really really cool cartogram depicting the current electoral picture based on the number of electors each state has. So Maryland (ten votes) is bigger than Kentucky (eight). (And be sure to check out the animated electoral map to watch the swing states really swing!) If you look at the cartogram, you will notice immediately that the blue areas are pretty much as big as the red areas. That's a far more accurate picture of the electorate than a map divided along county lines.
Still more accurate would be a map of the U.S. counties based on population, but I don't have time to Google around looking for one. If someone knows where I can find one, I'd appreciate a link.
Tuesday, October 26, 2004
I just wanted everyone to know we're still here, and the blog is still operational. I can't speak for Fitz, but I really haven't had a whole lot strike my blogging fancy lately, and have been too busy to blog it even if it had. I've been out of town a lot (and and leaving again this weekend), and have been doing more reading of paper than blogs. But, as soon as I can get to it, I do have a few things to talk about, and a few emails to answer. Thanks for dropping by even when we weren't here.
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Pathetic Geek Stories
Chuck Klosterman IV: A Decade of Curious People and Dangerous Ideas
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