Thursday, November 18, 2010

Voters are Morons, Part 566

I'd like to use this as a an opportunity to mock California voters in particular, but Kevin Drum is undoubtedly right that it probably applies nationwide:
Californians object to increasing taxes in order to pare the state's massive budget deficit, and instead favor closing the breach through spending cuts. But they oppose cuts—and even prefer more spending—on programs that make up 85% of the state's general fund obligations, a new Los Angeles Times/USC Poll has found.

That paradox rests on Californians' firm belief that the state's deficit—estimated last week at nearly $25 billion over the next 18 months—can be squared through trimming waste and inefficiencies rather than cutting the programs they hold dear. Despite tens of billions that have been cut from the state budget in recent years, just a quarter of California voters believed that state services would have to be curtailed to close the deficit.

I remember reading a study which first asked voters if they believed foreign aid should be cut -- the answer being a resounding "yes". The next question was how much the respondents believed we spent on foreign aid -- an amount they overstated dramatically. Finally, when asked how much we should spend on foreign aid, they gave a figure that was something like triple what we spend currently.

The Price of Publication

I am pleased to announce the official publication of my Comment: David Schraub, The Price of Victory: Political Triumphs and Judicial Protection in the Gay Rights Movement, 77 U. Chi. L. Rev. 1437 (2010). As Professor Solum would say, download it while it's hot!

My Favorite Knockouts: Corrales TKO10 Castillo & Williams TKO6 Potter

One of the reasons I love boxing is that it's a sport where the competitors show incredible grit and determination. Obviously, many sports have their share of astonishing comebacks and contestants with incontestable heart. But there is very little that compares to the sheer willpower and desire it takes to comeback from being so hurt that you literally can't stand-up, throwing back, and winning a fight.

The first matchup between Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo is considered an all-time classic, and the 10th round, shown here, is arguably one of the greatest rounds of all time. Corrales had always been a never-say-die sort of fighter -- in fact, he lost his undefeated record to Floyd Mayweather, who knocked him down 5 times across the course of the fight. When his corner finally stopped it after knockdown #5, Corrales, who was hopelessly behind and being battered pillar to post, was visibly furious.

This second one is a little macabre -- just warning. But though it shows a different sort of "comeback", I think it falls into the same category -- a demonstration of an indomitable will to win which I don't think has parallel in any other sport.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Switch 'em Off

A poll surveying American attitudes towards the coming GOP takeover of the House makes it very clear that the Republicans do not carry with them a "mandate". In fact, they asked that very question, and only 17% of Americans thought the elections constituted a mandate from the American people.

Rather, Americans voted in Republicans because they were frustrated with Democrats, and wanted a change. Not that they expect much -- 64% think Republicans will do as well or worse.

So it's basically a classic mid-term in a poor economy. Change for change's sake. It's not an illegitimate opinion by any means. But it's not a mandate.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

My Favorite Knockouts: Hernandez KO8 Litzau

It is surprisingly rare for two truly evenly-matched competitors to step into the ring with each other. Generally, it happens in only two situations: Either two prospects, to try and establish which one is "for real", or at the very pinnacle of the sport, where the best (sometimes) fights the best.

A significant amount of modern boxing coverage, though, falls under the category of the "showcase fight". The guy being groomed to be a star is trotted out against an opponent who looks credible on paper, but is pretty much expected to lose and make the prospect look good, feeding anticipation for the prospect/contender's next fight.

But the nice thing about boxing is that the opponent can always be a spoiler. Here, Jason Litzau was the prospect, and Jose Hernandez was meant to be the main course in his coming out party. And for most of the fight, it looked like it. Hernandez did show he could hurt the chinny Litzau with a first round knockdown, but Litzau controlled the rest of the fight, with Hernandez stalking but unable to land. Until Round 8 (go to 1:40 if you want to skip the first round knockdown).

I saw this fight, and the energy was electric. A genuine, underdog, come-from-behind, one shot knockout that was itself a beauty to behold. Hernandez parlayed this into a decently high-profile fight against Rocky Juarez (which he lost), and has since faded into obscurity, fighting and losing one more fight to a journeyman in 2009. Litzau has labored on the fringes for awhile now, getting annihilated by Robert Guerrero in his one title shot. Litzau himself is playing "opponent" for Celestino Caballero's jump up to Junior Lightweight at the end of the month.

Is It Still Moot Roundup?

The first round of the Moot Court is over, and I think it went well. Same moderate concerns about speaking too fast (though none about gesticulation), but this time, they were pretty explicitly couched in terms like "it distracted me from your brilliant substance" -- so, good sign. "The only reason I kept listening [after being exhausted by the speed] was because of how compelling you are" is kind of an odd comment to get, but I'll take it.

* * *

Interesting interview between Adi Schwartz and John Ging of the UNRWA. One legitimate point Ging makes is that the UNRWA doesn't set its mandate -- the UNGA does. And hence, it is the UNGA that is preventing the UNRWA from treating its refugees like all others, and thus perpetuating the conflict by refusing to countenance resettling the refugees. The UNRWA is simply the hand that implements a malignant policy set elsewhere.

Spanish liberals and Western Sahara.

The Ottawa Protocol on Combating Anti-Semitism.

Glenn Beck and Iran are two peas in a pod when it comes to George Soros.

The lame-duck session of Congress included the House Ethics Committee finding that veteran-Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) committed ethical violations. I applaud the Committee for taking these matters seriously, and hope that the incoming Republican majority shows as much diligence in policing the ethical foibles of its own members.

Sen. John McCain has been an embarrassment on DADT, so it's quite just that he be embarrassed over it.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), who likely won her write-in bid for re-election to the Senate, has opened fire on Sarah Palin, and is indicating that she will not play any role in tea party-backed efforts to sink the Obama administration.

Three more Oxford academics have resigned from the UCU, alleging it to be infected by institutional anti-Semitism. The final nail in the coffin, it seems, was the UCU's rejection of an Oxford branch-backed motion to disassociate the UCU from the views of noted hate speaker Bongani Masuku, whom the union had invited as part of its boycott Israel agenda.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Reduce the Deficit!

The New York Times has a neat little application that lets you decide how to balance the budget. Basically, it offers an array of programs to cut or taxes to raise, and lets you mix and match them until you balance the budget in 2015 (current projected shortfall: $418 billion) and 2030 (current projected shortfall: $1,345 billion).

One thing becomes very obvious, very quick, and that's that to make any dent in the deficit, you'll have to either raise taxes, or cut defense or entitlement spending. Eliminating earmarks, for example, only nets a savings of $14 billion dollars -- barely 1% of the 2030 shortfall. Reducing troops in Iraq to 30,000 by 2013, by contrast, nets a whopping $169 billion.

I was able to balance the 2015 budget with roughly a 50/50 balance of spending cuts and tax increases. To handle the much larger 2030 deficit, though, I had to resort to more tax hikes, changing the proportion to more like 70/30. Most of the spending reductions came from the defense department, mostly by shrinking the size of the armed forces (particularly the air force, navy, and nuclear arsenals) -- that got me almost $300 billion on its own. Other cuts included slashing farm subsidies and reducing social security benefits for high earners.

On the tax side of things, I returned investment and estate taxes to their Clinton-administration levels, raised the payroll tax cap, instituted a "millionaire's tax" (basically, adding another tax bracket that starts at $1,000,000), eliminated tax loopholes, and established a carbon tax and a tax on risky banks. Altogether, this would reduce our 2030 deficit to a mere $16 billion, while causing us to actually run a 2015 surplus of $269 billion dollars.

But that's just my plan. Go ahead, fiddle with it and try your own!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

My Favorite Knockouts: Wilson KO11 Nwodo

I feel like I've been remiss in providing boxing blogging. I did watch Pacquiao/Margarito last night, but I don't feel like I have anything to add -- Pacquiao simply shredded the bigger man in a masterpiece performance.

So instead of searching for a new angle, I figured I might debut a periodic feature -- YouTube clips of some of my favorite knockouts.

The first on the list was the bout that ended up winning ESPN's "knockout of the decade" contest, Darnell "Ding-a-Ling Man" Wilson KO11 Emmanuel Nwodo. Rarely will see as much pure power generated in a single shot as found right here:

Overshadowed by the knockout is the fact that this fight was a scintillating, back-and-forth brawl for the entire bout. Both men alternatively had seized momentum, and I believe at the time of the stoppage Nwodo was still ahead on the cards. But in any fight, it takes one punch to turn it around, and when that punch is delivered by someone with the concussive power of Darnell Wilson -- watch out.