Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Giving Me Gas

I know that this is something that will be unpopular with most people, but with gas prices dropping below the $1.75/gallon mark, it's time for some drastic action.  While our oil consumption has dropped since gas prices spiked, I think that with gas looking so (relatively) cheap, we will probably go back to our old ways of filling up gas guzzlers.  With that in mind, there is one thing that the government should do, and they should do it straightway: raise gas taxes.  I'm thinking that they should raise them by around $.50/gallon between the state and federal sides.  That would put prices up in the $2 range, which still wouldn't be onerous, but it would between double and triple the amount of money that the government gets from gas.  That could (and should) be used strictly on infrastructure projects - bridge repairs, interstate upgrades, etc.  This would, in turn, lower demand.  Because gas is so cheap it might not hinder it enough to stop a rise in oil useage here in the US, but at that point they could put through another tax increase on gas.  We could exempt diesel fuel from the taxes to provide a bit more level of a playing ground between the two fuels and to prevent the gasoline hike from cascading into more basic goods and services. 
It's absolutely unpopular, but if the politicians are serious about curbing our appetite for foreign oil, this is the first place they should look.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Reason #1,309,485 Why I Love Japan

Hime gyaru fashion. Hime gyaru is Japanese for "princess girl", and it's the latest craze in Japan. I was there for the yamanba and kawaii and lolita trends, but this is new and awesome. The WSJ had an article about Japan's latest fashion today in it's A-head, and it's the kind of thing that I can only see catching on there. It's another extension of Japan's neverending fascination with all things that are crazily superficial. Beyond that, the epicenter of this new craze is a store called Jesus Diamante. I can't imagine anything being cooler than that.
They idolize Marie Antoinette and Paris Hilton, for her baby-doll looks and princess lifestyle. They speak in soft, chirpy voices and flock to specialized boutiques with names like Jesus Diamante, which looks like a bedroom in a European chateau. There, some hime girls spend more than $1,000 for an outfit including a satin dress, parasol and rhinestone-studded handbag.

Can you imagine spending $1000 on anything like that? I can't...especially as it mentions later in the article, at the expense of having to get your food from your parents to continue your hime habit. What I'd like to know is how widespread this really is. Cheeth, can you enlighten me?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Freakest Links

A couple of interesting posts over at Freakonomics that I thought I'd point out:

Is France Due for Riots? I think unrest will seep out and eventually explode again. France's real problem is that all non-French are second class citizens. That is completely untenable, especially with an increasingly militant Muslim underclass. If they wait until after June next year though, I'd appreciate it.

To All the Incentive Haters. I'm far from an incentive hater (Indeed, as this long parenthetical aside will show, I'm an economist at heart. I was talking with my wife about the kids and prime seats in our car. You know how it is...on trips there's always a fight or at least some strong feelings about where everyone sits. My mom and stepdad would have us physically rotate every hour or so [seriously, we'd pull over and play musical seats], while we almost had assigned seats with my dad and stepmom. I told my wife that I'd like to do it the way an economist would. If the kids are packed and ready to go, they can spend all the time in the world out in the car [the opportunity cost of doing something else with their time] in order to get a prime seat. I also proffered the suggestion if there was disagreement about a particular seat then giving an additional incentive [cash] for the child who would take the lousy seat without complaint. Yes, I love maximizing utilities and teaching it.), and find this very interesting.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Utah Jazz Preview Review

I've been busy and therefore I'm late with my regular Utah Jazz postings. The regular season has started, and with that comes a winter full of semi-regular Jazz postings. Through the first 11 games of the season, the Jazz have looked alternatively impressively impressive without their superstar and miserable. They've still got the Jekyll/Hyde home and away syndrome that they had last year. They blew it against a much improved Knicks team, inexcusably lost to Charlotte (even if Memo, AK, and D-Will were out), and Washington, and lost a winnable game to Cleveland. I'm of the Sloan school where there are no excuses for my favorite team, even though those are good ones. We've got to have the toughness where we can finish the game, and all of these games lacked a good finish. If Deron can get us that when he gets back, we'll be unstoppable.
There really have been 2 changes that have positively impacted the team to the point that I'd like to just take some sunk costs: AK as the sixth man and Hart for Knight.
When we matched the Thunder's offer for CJ Miles over the summer, I thought that Kevin O'Connor had gone mental. Here you have someone who has been used very sparsely and you're reeling him back in at 3.5 million per? This had the very fortunate side effect of figuring out how to properly use him. You don't spend that kind of money for someone to ride the pine, even if they do end up in Sloan's doghouse. As a result of that and Matt Harpring's injury, we got AK into the sixth man role, where he's shined. He always seemed a bit out of sorts since Deron and Boozer took over the team for good reason. He didn't have a defined role. Now he's the leader of the second team and an extraordinarily viable first option. Harpring used to fill that void, but to be honest, his best days left him some time ago. As much as I like his spunk and his tenacity, I'd find some way to send him down the road to clear some cap space for Boozer and Memo's upcoming contracts.
Jason Hart was always ineffective in his backup role, and Knight has been better in some respects than Ronnie Price during the time that Deron's been out. Price is still more of a 2-guard than a point, and the way he plays reflects that. He's servicable in long minutes, but I think Knight gives us a legitimate option that Hart never did.
Kosta Koufos is at the very least the backup center of the future. He works like mad, he is pretty good for a rookie, and Fess isn't ever going to fill that role. I think that Kofous' time in the starting lineup has shown that we don't need to keep Collins around after this year either.
Will John Hollinger's prediciton for Utah (i.e. winning the West) be accurate? I think it stands a good chance of happening. If D-Will is healthy, we could go all the way because I think a healthy D-Will means that the Jazz won't lose those close games. He wouldn't let it happen.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Who's The Hater?

It seems like the Prop 8 fallout is just beginning to be felt, not just by the LDS church, but by the entire state of Utah. The Deseret News had an article yesterday that is a bit alarming. I can certainly see targeting the LDS Church with protests and civil dialogue, but instead they're the very haters that they proclaim the church to be. They're taking action against Utah because of our 60%+ Mormon population, against LDS publications because they have LDS news and information, and possibly at the very least a hoax set up to look like anthrax against LDS sites.
I respect their right to protest, their right to not patronize Utah (although that's misguided - the Commonwealth of Park City is hardly Mormon), and their right to free speech. Where it crosses the line is in attacks like defacing websites and mailings designed to at least threaten, if not harm, people. What are you doing, protesters? You're hardening opposition to your position. By attacking the LDS Church and its members (and not, say the Catholic Church - they were pro Prop 8 as well), you're feeding something that has always been a part of Mormon culture - the us vs. them mentality. We have been, for better or worse, one of the most virulently opposed religions in US history. Our ancestors were run from New York to Ohio to Missouri to Illinois to Utah by angry mobs that took everything from those early Mormons, up to and including their lives. (That's not to say that atrocities didn't happen on both sides, but by and large they were committed against Mormons, not by them.) They caused some of their problems, but again that level of intolerance with a specific targeted group fueled the culture you see today. While things have been improving for quite some time, this Prop 8 battle threatens to blow it back up again. You may feel victimized by Mormons, and that's a fair feeling. I don't fault you for it at all. What I would recommend doing though is taking your grievances through a civil political process as Dale Carpenter says over at Volokh. That will change the dialogue and show you to be bigger than you're being right now. What happened to acting in a civilized, adult manner?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Something to Chew On

From today's WSJ:
The treatment President Bush has received from this country is nothing less than a disgrace. The attacks launched against him have been cruel and slanderous, proving to the world what little character and resolve we have. The president is not to blame for all these problems. He never lost faith in America or her people, and has tried his hardest to continue leading our nation during a very difficult time.

Our failure to stand by the one person who continued to stand by us has not gone unnoticed by our enemies. It has shown to the world how disloyal we can be when our president needed loyalty -- a shameful display of arrogance and weakness that will haunt this nation long after Mr. Bush has left the White House.

I couldn't agree more. To conservatives out there, I urge you to avoid bushing President Obama. To liberals, I ask that you avoid the urge to gloat. Celebrate, certainly. But let's get down to the business of making this nation a better place.

Election Wrap-Up

I will certainly have a few more things to say about the election over the next few days, but I thought I'd recap where I was wrong last night and my thoughts overall on what the results say.

1. This is not a redefining election. Is is historic? Absolutely. Is it a mandate for liberal America? Absolutely not. The nation is still, at its heart, center-right. This election has no business being so close. The Electoral math ended up as a blowout, but Obama should have crushed McCain. Crushed him. I'm talking 58-60% vs around 40%. McCain has been running into the wind since the economy collapsed, and for him to be in the same general neighborhood as Obama shows that the nation has not changed. Our President has, and people saw Obama as someone who was clear, on message, and the best way to fix our problems. Whether he is or not remains to be seen, but I hope that he governs like he did in his law classes rather than how he did in the Senate.
Another sign of this is the Senate races. Right now it looks like Gordon Smith will inexplicably hold on in Oregon (and I'm certainly happy about that, Smith is a good man), Norm Coleman will hold on in Minnesota, and Saxby Chambliss will hold on in Georgia. In addition, convicted felon Ted Stevens will win in Alaska, which is incredibly obnoxious. Really, you're voting in a criminal Alaska? You might as well have voted for Charles Manson. This is one result that I'm very disappointed in. I want Stevens and his porkfest out of the Senate. At the same time, the Senate balance of power hasn't shifted as much as it was supposed to. There was downticket strength for Republicans that kept them from becoming irrelevant for the next 2 years.

2. Proposition 8 opponents can suck it. I was rather agnostic about Prop 8, in part because I'm not in California, but also because as a libertarian in general, I somewhat oppose it. At the same time, because my church has come out in favor of it, I somewhat support it. That leaves me in the do-nothing middle. Or rather, it did until I saw this commercial that aired in California:

Sorry foes, but demonizing my religion like that makes me extraordinarily happy that you lost. Now I'll sit back and wait for the inevitable US Supreme Court challenge.

3. More people voted in this election than ever before. That's a tribute to the way Obama's team played the game. If this was a traditional election, with your typical 50-55% turnout, McCain would have won. Obama did it by going against James Carville's advice and relying, in part, on the younger voters. That's incredible. He slaughtered McCain in urban centers (where Pennsylvania ultimately went for Obama was in Philly, where he beat McCain 4 to 1). He truly is an inspirational person, and that leads me to my next point:

4. The massive Obama crowds could be a very good sign or a very bad sign. I know what you're thinking, "how could those possibly be bad, Sorro?" Where I see them as a possible - possible - bad sign is that you typically have crowds like that surrounding charismatic leaders. I'm not saying that Obama is like this, but I am saying that historically crowds like those that gather for him are more worrisome than good because they're a form of shock trooper that could mobilize at a moment's notice to push society as a whole in a direction that it shouldn't be pushed. I can't emphasize enough that this may very well not be the case here, and indeed I hope that it's just a twinge of paranoia at something that hasn't been seen here in the US before, but at the same time there's a small chance that these massive crowds may not be the best sign.

5. McCain's concession speech was the best concession speech ever. His supporters were a bit uncouth and overshadowed in their magnanimity by Obama's supporters. Seriously, stop with the booing. Obama is our president and whether you voted for him or not, get your butt behind him. Disagree with him on issues, work to change the nation to what you feel is best, and send a clear message to everybody in the world that the US is united. I'm so sick of that kind of tenor in our politics. I know that we all contribute to it, and it's disappointing that our candidate of choice lost. Nevertheless, Obama is going to be a good president. I am confident in that. Whether our Congress will be good is another matter, but believe a little bit in the innate goodness that both candidates had. At any rate, back to McCain's speech. I loved it. It's that kind of McCain I wish we saw some more of. The McCain who spoke at the GOP convention and in this concession speech is a world away from the McCain of most of the campaign. That's why I supported him, because I knew that he would be this guy rather than campaign McCain in office. A class act by a man who loves this country more than most. If I were Obama, I would do one thing, and I'd do it right now. I would ask John McCain to be my SecDef. I fully expect a mostly Democratic cabinet, but I'd love to see some real bipartisanship in there, with more than your typical token other party representative.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Another Sweeping Generalization

This one is based on the people that I've seen on the news, which admittedly are going to be the most this way:

Utah Democrats are at least 50% more obnoxious than other Democrats.

I can only assume that 2 generations in the minority causes this.

Throughts From A Third

This was written by my friend Melissa, a person I consider to be extremely bright:

For generations, there has been a very particular Order of social and romantic interaction. Boy meets girl. They become friends. They go through a courtship. They get engaged. They get married. They move in together. They have sex. They have a family. This is the proper Order of things. There are a number of variations on this theme; different lengths of time for each step, different customs associated with each step, different rituals. But the Order has always remained constant. This Order of things is vitally important to foster and maintain committed, steady, loving, and enduring relationships and families. Those families, in turn, create stable societies.

Over the past century, individual agency and social movements have come together to sanction a rearrangement of this proper Order of things. Some couples choose to go straight from boy meets girl to having sex, which can result in an unwanted pregnancy and then pressure to wed. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t think a one-night stand is something to build a marriage on. Some couples go from courtship to moving in together and having children and bypass the engagement and marriage steps all together. Some couples court and court and court without ever making any kind of commitment whatsoever. These rearrangements have done nothing but leave adversity and tragedy in their wake. At every step, people are doing things they aren’t ready for, leading to broken hearts and ultimately a detached and emotionless view of romance, relationships, and family. Such casualness is devastating to our nation’s social fabric, which is manifest is the rise of teen pregnancy and children born out of wedlock (“Teenage birth rate rises for first time since ’91,” New York Times, 12/6/2007), and the catastrophically high divorce rate (, all leading to the tragic breakdown of the family, and subsequently, of society.

Despite these horrible outcomes of our moral depravity, we seem insistent on continuing down this dangerous path. We have rearranged the steps in the Order in every conceivable way, but now, the very foundation of the Order is under siege. The initial step, where boy meets girl, has been warped to include alternatives: “girl meets girl” and “boy meets boy.”

There is currently an item up for vote before the citizens of California. If Proposition 8 were to pass, it would overturn the California Supreme Court ruling that a marriage between homosexual couples is legal and recognized by the State. The proposition would further define marriage in the California Constitution as being between only one man and one woman. As we consider the implications of this monumental proposal, we must first contemplate the institution of marriage.

There are many reasons a couple may decide to get married: legal, social, and economic stability, formation of a family unit, legitimizing of sexual relations, and a public declaration of love are chief among them. As we consider the legalization of gay marriage, I believe it necessary to check against this list.
1. Stability: Gay and lesbian couples already have the same healthcare and death benefits of married heterosexual couples.
2. Family Unit: Traditional procreation is impossible within a homosexual union. The reality of bearing children is unreachable. If God or science wanted same sexes to breed, it would have worked out that way. I am aware that adoption, surrogacy, and en vitro fertilization have offered homosexual couples an alternative route to a family. With that in mind, I assert that gender is an essential characteristic of individual identity and purpose. Men and women have different attributes and strengths that when combined in a family unit, contribute to the well-rounded rearing of children. The absence of a male father figure or female mother figure in the home leads to an unbalanced upbringing and distorts the children’s views of men and women and their proper roles in society.
3. Legitimizing Sexual Relations: This concept has religious underpinnings. The religions that have abstinence before marriage standards are the same religions that consider homosexual relationships to be a sin, thus making the legitimization of sexual relations a non-issue here.
4. Public Declaration of Love: There are as many ways to publicly declare love as there are sands in the sea. These declarations in no way have to involve a marriage license.

After carefully weighing this insight against my own experiences, something has become exceptionally clear. This issue and in particular this Proposition boils down to an issue of rights. According to the detractors, Proposition 8 in California would strip people of their fundamental right to marry. I searched high and low all over the Internet, and failed to find anything anywhere stating that homosexual couples had a right to marry. In reality, supporters of Proposition 8 aren’t taking any rights away from homosexual couples because they never had the right to marry in the first place. They want to be treated just like everyone else and have the same rights as everyone else, but they aren’t like everyone else. They have made a conscious decision to adopt an alternative lifestyle, and just like all choices, it has consequences, some that may be unpleasant. Perhaps I would rather live in a state that doesn’t have sales tax, like Oregon. I claim that I am just like those living in Oregon, except that I’m not. I don’t live within the boundaries of the state of Oregon. I have made a conscious decision to live in Utah, and thus, I don’t get to take advantage of the things in Oregon that I may like better. Likewise, homosexual couples have made the decision to live a homosexual existence and should not be able to cherry pick the rituals they like from the heterosexual one.

After further consideration, I concede that there may be something else at stake for the gay community. Legitimacy. Everyone – gay, straight, tall, short, fat, thin, black, white, and everything in between – seeks acceptance and understanding from their peers. The gay community wants to be able to stand up and say to the world they are just as mainstream as anyone else, and they want us to agree with them. They want us to validate and approve of their choice. Maybe that would make their lives somehow easier, if they could be different and still feel normal. Experts say that gay, lesbian, and bisexual high school students have greater risk of dropping out of school, abusing alcohol and drugs, and attempting suicide (“Proposed high school for gays isn’t likely to open before 2012,” Azam Ahmed, Chicago Tribune, 9/11/2008). Those same experts claim these risks stem from harassment, volatility, and intolerance toward gay and lesbian students within the high school setting. I feel impressed to offer an opposing explanation. Living a life contrary to the proper Order of things will bring nothing but hardship and heartache, as previously stated. We get to choose the choices we make; we don’t get to choose their consequences. Mainstream society can coddle and placate the gay community until we’re rainbow in the face, but all that appeasement isn’t going to bring solace. No amount of litigation, legislation, or semantics can help someone come to terms with individual lifestyle choices and their consequences. Each must find that peace within themselves.

The proper Order of things is there for a reason. Following its steps gives us our best chance of achieving a successful relationship and loving family. Rearranging the steps has proved to be counterproductive to the progression of society and redefining those steps will be catastrophic. Any culturally observant individual can deduce where we’re headed; a direction that inspires worry, apprehension, and fear. I hope that society is bright enough to protect the Order, to protect marriage, and to protect the family. Vote YES on Proposition 8 in California.

Wall-to-Wall Election Coverage

This is Very Interesting

Read here...although who knows if he's wrong or right. We'll see starting...NOW!

EDIT: Thought I'd put in the most salient part of his analysis, about Pennsylvania becoming a McCain state. If this happens, I have to agree with him. I believe the polls more than he does, so I don't know that I can just discount everything and call it a day. Nevertheless, if McCain pulls this out it will be, without a doubt, the greatest political comeback in the history of this nation. He's left as roadkill twice and suddenly he's the president? That makes "Dewey Defeats Truman" look like an everyday occurrence.
Take to the bank, folks, Pennslyvania is turning red this election. I’ve been talking Pennslyvania for the last couple of election posts so might as well continue. Pennslyvania is the *special state* of this election, the state that everyone will be talking about after the election. In that regards, Pennslyvania is to 2008 as Florida is to 2000 and Ohio is to 2004.

The Electoral College is not a game of geographical Risk. States move in groups almost as if there is an elevation to them (with the national vote being the water level). For example, Obama winning Utah means a blowout in Nevada as Nevada is far more to the left than Utah is. In the same way, in order for New Jersey to go red, Pennslyvania has to be won by large margins as Pennslyvania is less blue than New Jersey.

A state cannot be plucked out of its group unless the vote is extremely close or the state is the home state of one of the candidates. What does this mean? Well, as the more common sense commentators say on that page is…

If Pennslyvania goes red, you can bet there is no Obama ‘landslide’. This means Montana stays red, Indiana stays red, Ohio stays red (if Ohio turns blue and Pennslyvania turns red, that would be obvious voter fraud as Ohio is five points to the right of Pennslyvania), North Carolina stays red, and likely Virginia, Colorado and Nevada do as well. But losing Pennslyvania points to a bigger problem in the Rust Belt and puts McCain in the possibility of picking up Iowa as well as Wisconsin and Minessota. In other words, if Pennslyvania goes red, it shows that the national vote is at a ’sea level’ where the more reddish states are safely red.

Election 2008

The big day is here after the longest political campaign ever. Can I plea with everybody involved to please, please hold off on the 2012 election until at least 2010? I'd prefer waiting until mid 2011, but this 4 year election we had this year is way too much, even for a political junkie like me. It doesn't give you any opportunity to let life happen if you run from one election to the next. As far as how I voted:
McCain (no surprise there)
Huntsman (ditto)
My wife (instead of Jason Chaffetz. I didn't feel that I could pull the lever for a Democrat in my current position in the Republican party, so I voted for a Republican candidate, just not the one that we as a group decided on. I couldn't bring myself to support the kind of smug campaign he ran on. Add his hatred of all illegal immigrants and that's just the cherry on top of the turd sundae.)

Take a look at the ongoing results thanks to the good folks at Google right here:

Monday, November 03, 2008

Crazies in the Office II

I have had the same conversation with the same person at least 7 times in the past month. Allow me to quote it to you verbatim, as I've heard it enough I can remember it word for word.

Employee comes in my office (hereinafter E): I was wondering if you had any laptops for sale?
Sorro: I don't yet, but I have some that we will be refurbishing for sale here shortly.
E: Okay. Could you put me down on the list for one when they're ready?
S: Sure.
E: Are they going to be done in time for Christmas?
S: They should be, yes.
E: Okay, that's good. Because I'm going to get one for my grandson. Just something small.
S: I'll let you know when they're in.

Seriously, is there a glitch in the Matrix or something? I don't see how this whole conversation is somehow nondescript enough to forget this many times - and this is coming from someone who has a history of forgetting conversations (not 6 times, but certainly at least once).