Justice Department Looking at BCS

I really do not like the current Bowl Championship Series in college football. If the old system sometimes failed in choosing a college national championship by a vote after the New Year’s Day bowls, the new system is no better in picking the only two teams which can contend for the national championship after the end of the regular season. As faulty as the old system was, at least it kept several possibilities open depending upon how the New Year’s Day bowls played out. The current system also makes the New Year’s Day bowls, and all other bowls other than the single national championship game, almost meaningless. Either a return to the previous system or a play off would be preferable to the BCS.

As much as I do not like the BCS, and many other things in the world for that matter, it is not the role of government to step in and fix everything. Previously there has been talk of Congress investigating. Now the Justice Department is getting involved:

The Obama administration is considering several steps that would review the legality of the controversial Bowl Championship Series, the Justice Department said in a letter Friday to a senator who had asked for an antitrust review.

In the letter to Sen. Orrin Hatch, obtained by The Associated Press, Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich wrote that the Justice Department is reviewing Hatch’s request and other materials to determine whether to open an investigation into whether the BCS violates antitrust laws.

“Importantly, and in addition, the administration also is exploring other options that might be available to address concerns with the college football postseason,” Weich wrote, including asking the Federal Trade Commission to review the legality of the BCS under consumer protection laws.

Several lawmakers and many critics want the BCS to switch to a playoff system, rather than the ratings system it uses to determine the teams that play in the championship game.

“The administration shares your belief that the current lack of a college football national championship playoff with respect to the highest division of college football … raises important questions affecting millions of fans, colleges and universities, players and other interested parties,” Weich wrote.

Weich made note of the fact that President Barack Obama, before he was sworn in, had stated his preference for a playoff system. In 2008, Obama said he was going to “to throw my weight around a little bit” to nudge college football toward a playoff system, a point that Hatch stressed when he urged Obama last fall to ask the department to investigate the BCS.

Weich said that other options include encouraging the NCAA to take control of the college football postseason; asking a governmental or non-governmental commission to review the costs, benefits and feasibility of a playoff system; and legislative efforts aimed at prompting a switch to a playoff system.

If You Aren’t Watching Football…

BBC America is replaying the David Tennant episodes of Doctor Who all day today and tomorrow, leading up to the conclusion of “The End of Time.”

The Festivus Airing of Grievances

It is an annual tradition to air one’s grievances on Festivus. I began this on a previous Festivus by airing the ways in which George Bush disappointed me and let down his country. In 2007 I aired my grievances against many of the candidates who were seeking to replace him. I had the least complaints about Barack Obama:

I am still waiting for more of the promised specifics of your plans. You do show an excellent ability to at least show consideration of all views, but I’m not yet certain if this is a matter of framing or ideology which will impact the final policy. My suspicion is that in a couple of years I will be writing a number of blog posts disagreeing with some of your actions as president, but things will be far better than if any of your major opponents were to win.

My prediction came true and I will begin this year with my grievances concerning Barack Obama. On health care he abandoned his opposition to mandates. It is hard to see how remaining in Afghanistan will be worth the cost, both in lives and dollars. He has preserved some of the secrecy policies of his predecessor. He opposes marriage equality at a time when I believe we are approaching a tipping point where such discrimination will no longer be acceptable–and leaders such as Obama could make this happen more quickly if he chose to do so.

While I have grievances against Obama, I also have grievances to air against the Obama bashers, both from the left and the right. On the right we have claims that he is a Muslim, a socialist, and not an American citizen. These attacks are ridiculous, but the right wing has deteriorated into an authoritarian cult primarily made up of people who are morally and intellectually bankrupt, lacking understanding of history, politics, economics, science, and, most importantly, of ethics or morality. We can no longer be shocked by their hatred and ignorance as this is what now defines the American right wing.

What is harder to understand is the Obama bashing from the left. I am not referring to those who disagree with Obama on issues but those who act as if they were deceived or betrayed, and claim he is no better than George Bush.

Obama might not be right on all the issues but, with some exceptions (and far less than most politicians) he is governing exactly as he said he would as a candidate. Obama ran as a centrist politician who sought to find common ground with others. He did not run as a Messiah, or as a far left politician. His health care plan remains very close to the plan he ran on. He stated his intention to remain in Afghanistan as a candidate. At least, in contrast to his predecessor, he did give some actual thought to the issue. It should have been obvious to anyone listening to him that he was not likely to prosecute members of the Bush administration for their crimes and he would move gradually to reform the system.

You can disagree with him, but don’t act shocked or betrayed–and certainly do not claim he is anywhere near as bad as George Bush.

And now for some briefer grievances to air:

Joe Lieberman, Ben Nelson, Bart Stupak, plus  the entire Republican Congressional delegation for getting in the way of what could have been a far better health care plan.

The insurance industry for developing a business model based upon increasing profits by denying care and dropping customers when they get sick.

Glenn Beck, who deserves the Misinformer of the Year Award.

Sarah Palin, who personifies everything which is wrong with the know-nothing attitude of the right wing, and who deserves to be honored for telling the Lie of the Year.

The tea-baggers. I respect their right to protest, but wish they at least had some basic understanding of the issues they were protesting about.

Acorn, just because everyone is supposed to hate them, regardless of the facts.

The hackers who stole the East Anglia emails. Once the stole the emails and it didn’t show anything meaningful it was time to shut up as opposed to continuing to make claims about the content of the email which were untrue.

Michigan football which has been so disappointing for the second year in a row. (I could include the Detroit Lions for a much longer time period, but why bother?)

Buy.com–the internet company which makes its money by selling defective merchandise at a discount, and then failing to respond to complaints.

Howie Mandel for being a spokesman for a crooked outfit like Buy.com.

The big box stores who offer discounts on electronics and then rip off the customers with extremely over-priced cables.

Fox for screwing up Dollhouse and not giving what could have been a great science fiction show a real chance.

J.J. Abrams for destroying Vulcan and failing to fix the time line (but at least he did save Star Trek).

Tim Pawlenty Supports Teaching Intelligent Design, Opposes Gay Rights

Newsweek interviewed Tim Pawlenty. Pawlenty believes that the war in Iraq was a good idea even if “did we start off with an incorrect premise.” He believes Sarah Palin is qualified to be president. His worst answers came on social issues, even believing it is acceptable for schools to teach intelligent design:

Let me ask you about social issues your party has been dealing with. In her book, Palin claims that McCain’s handlers wanted her to be silent about her belief in creationism. How would you describe your view?
I can tell you how we handle it in Minnesota. We leave it to the local school districts. We don’t mandate a curriculum or an approach. We allow for something called “intelligent design” to be discussed as a comparative theory. It doesn’t have to be in science class.

Where are you personally?
Well, you know I’m an evangelical Christian. I believe that God created everything and that he is who he says he was. The Bible says that he created man and woman; it doesn’t say that he created an amoeba and then they evolved into man and woman. But there are a lot of theologians who say that the ideas of evolution and creationism aren’t necessarily inconsistent; that he could have “created” human beings over time.

I know you are opposed to gay marriage, but what about medical benefits for same-sex couples?
I have not supported that.

Why not?
My general view on all of this is that marriage is to be defined as being a union of a man and a woman. Marriage should be elevated in our society at a special level. I don’t think all domestic relationships are the equivalent of traditional marriage. Early on we decided as a country and as a state that there was value in a man and a woman being married in terms of impact on children and the like, and we want to encourage that.

To borrow a phrase, have your views evolved over time?
In 1993 I voted for a bill prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation in public accommodation, housing, and employment. That was 16 years ago.

Yes, gay-rights activists regarded you as a pretty cool guy at the time.
We overbaked that statute, for a couple of reasons. If I had to do it over again I would have changed some things.

Overbaked?
That statute is not worded the way it should be. I said I regretted the vote later because it included things like cross-dressing, and a variety of other people involved in behaviors that weren’t based on sexual orientation, just a preference for the way they dressed and behaved. So it was overly broad. So if you are a third-grade teacher and you are a man and you show up on Monday as Mr. Johnson and you show up on Tuesday as Mrs. Johnson, that is a little confusing to the kids. So I don’t like that.

Has the law been changed?
No. It should be, though.

So you want to protect kids against cross-dressing elementary-school teachers. Do you have any in Minnesota?
Probably. We’ve had a few instances, not exactly like that, but similar.

Little Green Footballs asks:

So what happens if a cross-dressing elementary school teacher wants to teach “intelligent design” creationism? Imagine, if you will, the massive cognitive dissonance that would ensue.

Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment Opposing The Current Senate Health Care Bill

Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment on why he believes the Senate health care bill is no longer supportable. I posted more on the various views held on the left here. The transcript of this Special Comment is below the fold.

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Growing Disagreement On The Left Over The Senate Health Care Bill

Seeing good ideas being removed from the health care reform bill, such as the options for people to either buy into Medicare or purchase a publicly run health insurance plan if they choose, has been very discouraging for many on the left. Until we see the final health care reform bill it remains premature to say whether the final bill will still be worth supporting, but many are already taking sides.

Howard Dean is now opposing the bill. He has some valid criticism and hopefully this will lead to some needed changes, such as with the charges which those with pre-existing conditions might face. He also finds some good aspects of the bill, including praising 2004 rival John Kerry for one amendment. His opposition seems motivated by the removal of the public option and Medicare buy-in, leading to some such as Jay Rockefeller to question his judgment:

“It’s nonsense and it’s irresponsible and coming from him as a physician, it’s stunning,” Rockefeller said during an appearance on MSNBC…

Rockefeller said that compromises would be necessary, and that Democrats would come back with more attempts at health reform, perhaps as often as every year.

“Am I angry that the public option appears to have been dropped? Of course I’m angry. Was I for Medicare buy-in? Of course I was,” Rockefeller argued. “So what do I do? Do I take my football and go home and sob and complain?”

“No, I look at the bill and say what is in the interest of the people in my state,” he added.

While there are many benefits to both the public option and Medicare buy-in, neither should be the sole litmus test for support. Countries such as the Netherlands and Switzerland mandate the purchase of private health insurance without a public option.What is necessary is that there be adequate regulation of insurance companies so that they can no longer operate based upon a business model of profiting by denying coverage.

Howard Dean’s 2004 plan did not include a public option, but there is also another key difference between his 2004 plan and today’s plan–the mandate. It is far harder to require that individuals purchase insurance without offering choices such as the public option. I have opposed the individual mandate throughout the health care debate. Now many on the left are arguing against this, including Democracy for America and Markos Moulitsas.

Whether the presence of a mandate is a deal killer also depends upon the nature of the mandate. While philosophically I oppose mandates, I can also accept the case that there be a tax on those who do not pay into the system since this does lead to increased government expense when the uninsured do wind up needing health care. Recognizing that compromise is necessary, I can accept a very weak mandate such as being discussed in the Senate with rather nominal fines going up to around $700. There would also be the possibility to opt out if it does turn out that one truly cannot afford to purchase insurance despite the subsidies which will be offered.

Whether the final bill is worthy of support will depend upon whether it does provide benefits even if it does not provide everything we might wish. Ezra Klein points out some of the benefits:

To put this a bit more sharply, if I could construct a system in which insurers spent 90 percent of every premium dollar on medical care, never discriminated against another sick applicant, began exerting real pressure for providers to bring down costs, vastly simplified their billing systems, made it easier to compare plans and access consumer ratings, and generally worked more like companies in a competitive market rather than companies in a non-functional market, I would take that deal. And if you told me that the price of that deal was that insurers would move from being the 86th most profitable industry to being the 53rd most profitable industry, I would still take that deal.

And that may be the exact deal we’re getting. The profit motive is not, in and of itself, a bad thing. The Apple computer I’m typing on, the Netflix movie I wish I were watching, the pork buns I wish i were eating — it all comes from profit. But Apple isn’t allowed to have slaves build its computers, Netflix can’t destroy the incentive to make films by pirating all of its DVDs, and Momofuku can’t let rats infest its kitchen because exterminators are expensive.

Health insurance suffers from market failure in part because it suffers from regulation failure. We’re adding the regulations now and we’ll see, in 10 years, whether people hate insurers somewhat less, or whether they’ve embraced the nonprofit model, or whether they’re clamoring for public insurance. Either way, putting insurers into a structured market where they’ll have to compete against one another and users will rate them should make things a lot better. Public insurance might be the best way forward, but an insurance market that works for consumers is progress nevertheless.

Jonathan Cohn points out that the battle over the public option has actually left liberals in a favorable position even if this battle is lost:

Disappointed progressives may be wondering whether their efforts were a waste. They most decidedly were not. The campaign for the public option pushed the entire debate to the left–and, to use a military metaphor, it diverted enemy fire away from the rest of the bill. If Lieberman and his allies didn’t have the public option to attack, they would have tried to gut the subsidies, the exchanges, or some other key element. They would have hacked away at the bill, until it left more people uninsured and more people under-insured. The public option is the reason that didn’t happen.

And if public option supporters lost in the Congress, they won in the country as a whole. The underlying political problem for liberals remains what it has been for a generation: profound and widespread distrust of government. But polls consistently showed voters thought the public option advocates were right–that, at least when it comes to health insurance, government can be trusted. It was a small victory, but it’s on top of such small victories that political movements are built. Someday in the future, that movement may be powerful enough to win more sweeping changes. Who knows, maybe those changes will include a government-run insurance plan.

Nate Silver has a number of additional questions which those who oppose the plan should consider while Glenn Greenwald believes that a weak bill is what Obama really wanted all along. The real question might turn out to be not what is contained in the Senate bill but what ultimately comes out of reconciliation with the more liberal House bill.

Update: Bernie Sanders warns he will not support the Senate bill in its current form and Keith Olbermann’s Special Comment opposing the current Senate bill.

Update II: Some conservative blogs are linking here spinning recent events by erroneously describing it as liberals coming around to their view in opposing mandate. Actually views on mandates did not line up based upon party or ideological lines. There were Democrats on both sides of the issue while the individual mandate was supported by Congressional Republicans. I suspect that conservatives outside of Congress, who don’t personally benefit from contributions from the insurance industry, might have been more likely than Congressional Republicans to oppose the mandate. Unfortunately Democrats thought they had a deal with the insurance industry to support reforms such as eliminating exclusions for pre-existing conditions in return for backing the individual mandate. The folly of dealing with the insurance industry should now be quite clear.

Charles Johnson’s Reasons For Leaving the Right

Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs has been rejecting the excesses of the right wing movement for several months. Today he issued a list with the following reasons why he has parted ways with the right:

1. Support for fascists, both in America (see: Pat Buchanan, Robert Stacy McCain, etc.) and in Europe (see: Vlaams Belang, BNP, SIOE, Pat Buchanan, etc.)

2. Support for bigotry, hatred, and white supremacism (see: Pat Buchanan, Ann Coulter, Robert Stacy McCain, Lew Rockwell, etc.)

3. Support for throwing women back into the Dark Ages, and general religious fanaticism (see: Operation Rescue, anti-abortion groups, James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Tony Perkins, the entire religious right, etc.)

4. Support for anti-science bad craziness (see: creationism, climate change denialism, Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, James Inhofe, etc.)

5. Support for homophobic bigotry (see: Sarah Palin, Dobson, the entire religious right, etc.)

6. Support for anti-government lunacy (see: tea parties, militias, Fox News, Glenn Beck, etc.)

7. Support for conspiracy theories and hate speech (see: Alex Jones, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Birthers, creationists, climate deniers, etc.)

8. A right-wing blogosphere that is almost universally dominated by raging hate speech (see: Hot Air, Free Republic, Ace of Spades, etc.)

9. Anti-Islamic bigotry that goes far beyond simply criticizing radical Islam, into support for fascism, violence, and genocide (see: Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer, etc.)

10. Hatred for President Obama that goes far beyond simply criticizing his policies, into racism, hate speech, and bizarre conspiracy theories (see: witch doctor pictures, tea parties, Birthers, Michelle Malkin, Fox News, World Net Daily, Newsmax, and every other right wing source)

The reasons are similar to those I have frequently written about here. There is some hyperbole here. For example, while I have had a few posts disagreeing with Robert Stacy McCain I have never thought of him as a fascist.  McCain responds to Johnson here). Even in the case of Pat Buchanan, while he has certainly shown sympathy for the Nazis, I’m not certain that he outright supports fascism.

One irony here is that much of what he writes here could have applied to his own blog in the past, but he still deserves credit for rejecting that mind set.

To be fair, some of what he says could apply to some on the extreme left. I’ve noted some of the anti-scientific views of people such as Bill Maher on medicine and vaccines, but this is far less prevalent than the belief in creationism and denialism of climate change on the right. I’ve also criticized some on the left for conspiracy theories of their own,  but again this is far less prevalent than on the right.

The significant difference between the right and the left with regards to extremism is the degree to which the extremists dominate on the right. The extremists on the right have driven out virtually everyone else. They dominate the major organs of the right from the right wing media to the Republican Party. The left has a handful who, in their own ways, are as nutty as the extremists of the right but they are marginalized rather than the dominant players.

A Football Wish

Bring back John Cooper.

Charles Johnson On “Obama Derangement Syndrome” In The Conservative Movement

Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs has become a controversial figure in the conservative blogosphere for failing to to along with their mass hysteria. The League of Ordinary Gentlemen interviewed Johnson. Here is a portion:

At that point in time you were fairly well aligned with much of the conservative blogosphere which unified behind the war on terror.  Lately that seems to have changed.  More and more LGF seems to be distancing itself from the right.  What’s changed? Has national security become secondary to economic issues, or does it run deeper than that?

National security is still an important issue. But the main reason I can’t march along with the right wing blogosphere any more, not to put too fine a point on it, is that most of them have succumbed to Obama Derangement Syndrome. One “nontroversy” after another, followed by the outrage of the day, followed by conspiracy theory after conspiracy theory, all delivered in breathless, angry prose that’s just wearying and depressing to read.

It’s not just the economic issues either. I’ve never been on board with the anti-science, anti-Enlightenment radical religious right. Once I began making my opinions known on issues like creationism and abortion, I realized that there just wasn’t very much in common with many of the bloggers on the right. And then, when most of them decided to fall in and support a blogger like Robert Stacy McCain, who has neo-Nazi friends, has written articles for the openly white supremacist website American Renaissance, and has made numerous openly racist statements on the record … well, I was extremely disappointed to see it, but unfortunately not surprised.

I’ve always written the truth about my opinions, and I have no intention of changing that policy now, just to fit in with a “movement” that has gone completely off the rails.

Do you think there is any chance the right can reorient itself, or is the right-wing blogosphere’s daily outrage symptomatic of deeper failures from within conservatism?

Also, where do you see yourself politically these days now that the War on Terror is under the purview of the Democrats?

Without making any prediction — that’s above my pay grade — I think the Republican Party has a serious deficiency of real ideas, and the few popular ideas they do have are about pandering to the religious right and regulating private morality: abortion, gay marriage, etc.

I always thought “conservatism” meant the opposite — staying OUT of people’s private lives. In fact, in my opinion this is one of the main problems with the conservative movement today – the dominance of the religious right, which seeks to impose its own narrow belief system on the entire country.

Where I see myself politically — same as I ever was, Independent. George W. Bush in 2004 was the first time I ever cast a vote for a Republican President.

These are surprisingly insightful comments coming from someone who voted for George Bush and isn’t embarrassed to admit it.

SciFi Weekend: D. Gibbons Is A Bad Man; Feelings from Dollhouse; Shiksa Goddesses; and The Prisoner

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FlashForward remains the best new show of the season. Accidentally on Purpose didn’t deserve the second chance I said I would give it, but actually looks half way in comparison decent after watching an episode of Cougar Town. Modern Family is the only new comedy I plan to watch at this point. I’m still undecided about Glee, having caught up on four episodes but not having decided yet as to whether to watch last week’s episode. I was disappointed that the portrayal of high school life wasn’t more comparable to Friday Night Lights (with glee club instead of football team) or Fame (1980 move version–I never did watch the television sh0w or remake). Glee is disappointing when compared with these, but I might give the show another chance, partially due to a storyline in which the president of the Chastity Club (motto: tease, don’t please) becomes pregnant. I do wonder if her idiot football player boyfriend ever figures out that he could not really be the father just because he once ejaculated when she got him excited in a hot tub while they were both wearing bathing suits.

While I have my doubts about the other new shows which have premiered to date, I remain impressed with FlashForward after seeing the second episode. (First episode discussed here). We saw some progression with regards to figuring out what happened, along with new questions. Presumably one, if not both, of the D. Gibbons will be important, but why does Charlie know that he is a bad man? The flashes were quite brief to explain both why she knows this and along with her strong connection to Dylan.

One of my nitpicks about the pilot was partially answered. I found it strange to see that, after everyone on earth had blacked out, so many helicopters were in the air. I still find this strange as they had no way to know whether this would happen again, but at least we found that commercial air flights were grounded.

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With its poor ratings, I fear Dollhouse will have a tough time surviving beyond the thirteen episodes which Fox has purchased. This would be a shame as the show is looking far better now that they are getting more into the mythology as opposed to a simple Echo adventure of the week. This week Echo revealed that she continues to have the feelings, if not actual memories,  from the identities she was programed with. There was also a return appearance by Madeline/November following the major development with Whiskey/Dr. Saunders last week. The previews suggest something which might lead into the future seen in Epitaph One. The preview has Topher saying he can not wipe someone remotely. Does this begin the development of the technology which leads to the conditions in Epitaph One?

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Fringe is also developing is mythology slowly. It is clear that they guy in the bowling alley knows far more than he has told Olivia. The previews indicate that Olivia should be regaining some of her memories of the parallel world she traveled to in the next episode.

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On Monday night it remains uncertain as to whether Heroes will recover. In some ways each volume can be seen as a movie. Volume one, taking place in the first season, was like the first movie in a series. The first volume was great as all the characters were new and there was a good story to use them in. The subsequent volumes are the sequels which are far inferior to the first movie as the writers are unable to come up with a story to compete with the original.

At least there is one genre show on Mondays which remains excellent–The Big Bang Theory. This week Penny and Leonard managed to get over their awkwardness in a moment at the end of the episode. Sheldon got in another great line at the expense of Texas:

Raj: “What happened?”
Sheldon: “Obviously another carnal fiasco with the ‘Shiksee’ goddess.”
Howard: “Shiksa. Shik-Sa.”
Sheldon: “Forgive me. Yiddish was not spoken in East Texas. And if it was, it wasn’t spoken for long.”

AMC has set the dates for their reboot of The Prisoner (trailer above). It will air for two hours a night for three consecutive nights starting on November 15. If anyone has not seen the original, I would highly recommend doing so.  The episodes are available on line here.