Saturday, June 30, 2007

Fortuitous Encounters

Speaking at a fundraiser for the Medina Children's Home, Dallas Mavericks head basketball coach Avery Johnson said that back during his playing days he was shooting baskets in a gym in his home town of New Orleans when a guy walked up and started challenging him to play one-on-one. Mr. Johnson didn't really want to play, but the challenger was persistent and started "talking trash." Mr. Johnson said that he finally relented and "punished" the wannabe, who only introduced himself as "Mark." That person turned out to be Mark Cuban, the owner of the Dallas Mavericks.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Satisfied with Local Newspaper

Regular readers know that The Oracle has frequently criticized the quality of the reporting, writing, and editorial decisions of the local paper in the city that I lived in until last week. However, I must say that my initial impressions of my new local newspaper, the Dallas Morning News, have been quite favorable.

I have heard some local friends complain that the paper has a liberal bias, but I have not yet formed an impression on that issue. However, it does not overly concern me that a newspaper leans to the left as long as the quality of the journalism is sound and the coverage of what is locally and nationally important is good. If the quality of the newspaper is poor, then it doesn't really matter much whether it is ineptly conservative or ineptly liberal. I rarely, if ever, criticized The Tennessean for being liberal. I frequently questioned its journalistic standards and writing.

However, having a decent newspaper to read does mean that I will have to find some new issues to write about.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Does Not One Pause to Think?

Even as Tennessee continues to endure drought conditions, the state's Commissioner of Transportation advocates converting the nation's food supply into a fuel resource.

The Oracle is not an alarmist, but the dangers of following that path on a massive scale seem rather obvious. One bad weather year could produce both a food shortage and a fuel shortage.

In the meantime, I promised to bring some badly needed dry weather to my new home. My failure would seem to have been, uh, precipitous.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

On the Verge

I have had the same feeling every time I have moved. There is something melancholy about having everything you own boxed up to be put on a truck.

I will see Nashville in my rear view mirror on Thursday. I will miss the Music City, but at this point I will be glad to get to Dallas.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Visiting the Muhammed Ali Center

The Oracle visited the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky yesterday. The museum's exhibits idealized Mr. Ali's life outside the ring to an extent that defied credulity, but that is not unexpected, as no one builds a museum as a monument to someone for the purpose of being objective. The information and film related to Mr. Ali's boxing career was interesting.

I had not realized until watching several clips of Mr. Ali's career what a brilliant boxer he was back in the '60's. I saw Mr. Ali fight on television in the '70's, when he was still good enough to regain and defend the heavyweight championship in the golden age of boxing against great fighters such as Joe Frazier, Ken Norton, and George Foreman. Mr. Ali was still quick in those years, and to the extent that he had lost quickness, he made up for it by fighting smartly, as when he let Mr. Foreman wear himself out throwing ineffective punches in the famous "rope-a-dope" bout. However, in the 60's, Mr. Ali was so quick for his size that he simply ran circles around the best fighters in the world. Watching Mr. Ali feint and move fearlessly while keeping his hands near waist level (not bothering to keep them up to defend himself) is just a sight to behold. Watching much of the first fight against Sonny Liston, my son and I were astounded at the way that Mr. Ali simply leaned back or feinted to one side or the other to avoid hard jabs throughout the fight.

I enjoyed the visit, in spite of the above mentioned idealization of Mr. Ali, and even though I have not watched a boxing match in years. The sport has lost much of its lustre because of corrupt promoters, and, in any event, I for the most part gave up boxing at about the same time that Howard Cosell did in the 1980's, and for much the same reason.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Hate Mail

The Tennessean today prints a letter to the editor demanding that Joe Lieberman choose between "being a Jew and a supporter of Israel or a secular American politician...."

Genetics being permanent, it would not seem that Mr. Lieberman has a choice as to whether to continue being a Jew. Should The Tennessean be expected to print other letters suggesting that votes considered supportive of the viewpoint of an ethnic identity imply disloyalty to the United States and require that a choice be made?

It goes without saying that there is considerable room for disagreement regarding American policy toward Israel particularly and the Middle East in general, but the notion that Jewish loyalty toward Israel somehow implies disloyalty to America is an ugly smear outside the pail of legitimate political debate. The letter should not have been printed.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Well, It's More Common in Baseball, but....

Regarding golfer John Daly's latest personal drama, a headline in today's The Tennessean trumpets, "Wife claims golfer scratched himself."

That irritates most wives.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Revisionist History?

The "6 Day War" began 40 years ago today. Bret Stephens writes that much of today's conventional wisdom about the war is wrong. Read his corrections here.

State or Federal Regulation of Insurance

The Hill has an interesting report suggesting that legislation that would call for the regulation of insurance at the federal level has divided the industry, with some insurance groups favoring and others opposing the bill.

Historically, the insurance industry in the United States has been regulated at the state level. After World War II, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that insurance was interstate commerce and should be regulated by the federal government. As there was no federal law governing the insurance industry specifically, the decision created something of a crisis that was resolved by the McCarron Ferguson Act, which provided that the regulation of insurance would be delegated to the states as long as state regulation was deemed adequate.

For the most part, insurers have favored such as a resolution, as they have feared the creation of a massive federal behemoth governing their industry. However, in spite of the efforts of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners to keep insurance regulation somewhat uniform, requirements vary significantly from state to state, thus creating administrative difficulties for companies operating in multiple jurisdictions. An attorney for an insurer told me nearly a decade ago that for that reason he was beginning to think that federal regulation would be preferable, though he feared he was committing heresy by saying so.

The debate over this, should the legislation gain traction, should be interesting.

Monday, June 04, 2007

"Fixing" Disparate Outcomes?

The Tennessean reports that a new study shows that contractors owned by women and minorities receive a disproportionately small percentage of Metro Nashville business. Rodney Strong, an attorney with the consultant that performed the study, alleges that such businesses face "extraordinary, if not discriminatory barriers," according to the report.

One can hope that the study elaborates on that serious charge. If so, the news account does not report it. The story does mention a criticism that the procurement board is permitted to consider "subjective criteria" such as "relevant experience," but one would think that relevant experience is a rather important concern when awarding contracts, though it can also be acknowledged that such a criterion could provide an outlet for someone wishing to award a contract to a favored bidder.

Nonetheless, as a result of the lack of elaboration, at this point it is unknown whether the disparate outcomes result from any real discrimination or whether they result from a fair competitive bidding process that awards contracts to the best bids. Different outcomes alone do not prove discrimination.

Thus, it is disconcerting to see various persons interviewed for the story providing knee-jerk assurances that the process must be changed. Metro councilman Brenda Gilmore is quoted as saying, ""I don't know how many studies can be done before somebody in leadership, somebody at the top, says this has to be fixed."

The term "fixed" is problematic, as it has more than one meaning. Perhaps, Ms. Gilmore has more knowledge of what the barriers are and is suggesting they be remedied. Or, perhaps she has something else in mind. One recalls that the 1919 World Series was fixed, too.

Wrong Headed and Blatantly Offensive

One supposes that The Tennessean would wish to grant significant latitude to those who would write guest columns to appear in its newspaper, but the local paper of record should at least require that its contributors at least possess some modicum of reasonableness. Such is not the case with a piece in today's paper that somehow manages to compare illegal immigration with the American slave system pre-1865. Whatever one may want to say about illegal immigration, those who are here have for the most part come voluntarily, and large numbers have demonstrated in the streets of American cities demanding certain rights. That is not a set of facts that comports with comparisons to slavery.

The guest columnist wishes to describe today's illegal immigrants as being "lured" by "today's New England slave traders." Whatever. There are some here due to human trafficking, but the vast majority of the 12 million illegal immigrants are here voluntarily, and comparisons to those who were imprisoned and brought across the Atlantic on inhumane slave ships and sold to the highest bidder are wrong headed and blatantly offensive.

Yesterday, columnist Dwight Lewis wrote that the state of Tennessee should apologize over slavery. I think Lewis is wrong, as these types of "apologies" are nothing more than empty, symbolic gestures that don't really accomplish anything. However, Lewis would be right to demand that his paper apologize for printing this nonsense today.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Will Someone Provide Some Serious Political Coverage of the State

The Tennessean, which has turned strangely indefensible editorial decisions into a way of life, today features on its front page a major article speculating on what a Presidential race between Fred Thompson and Al Gore would mean for the state. Of course, there have been articles in the New York press about a possible all New York matchup between Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Rodham Clinton, but, while that speculation is also grossly premature, at least those two individuals have both entered the race for their repective parties' nominations and are arguably frontrunners in those races. Neither Mr. Thompson nor Mr. Gore have officially entered the race, though the former has all but announced that he is in. For his part, Mr. Gore has not completely ruled out running, but he appears to believe that the American political system is too ridden with stupidity to appreciate his gifts.

Nonetheless, that today's article would even be written before either candidate has entered the race and over half a year before the Iowa caucuses is questionable. That it would be featured so prominently on the front page is indefensible. Additionally, the writers of the piece provide the worst simile to appear in any political news feature seen by this blogger this year. They write of Messrs. Thompson and Gore, "Their combined buzz is resonating through the nation like a brood of 17-year cicadas...."

That is just awful.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Creating Sadness on Happy Days

Every divorced parent who has children still in school should be required to read this. In it, Susan Estrich moves from the subject of the highly publicized attendance and departure of Rudy Giuliani from his daughter's graduation to her own experience with parents and steparents on what should have been happy days.

Many years ago, I witnessed a girl in tears on the football field following her high school graduation, as her father berated her endlessly about her plans for that evening. He was blaming his ex-wife for the disagreement, and he was determined to win that imagined battle, but the girl actually just wanted to be with friends. It was a terrible scene. The day was supposed to be happy.

Offputting Offsets

If someone wishes to donate money to plant trees or support alternative fuel research or to fund any other kind of cause that contributes to a healthier environment, that is a good thing. However, one tires of the moral grandstanding surrounding so-called "carbon offsets."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has flown to Europe on a "climate change fact finding" mission. As one who often wishes that politicians would make some effort to find some facts to support things they wish to legislate, I think that is fine and good. However, she has also paraded her spokesman out to make sure the world knows that she is "offsetting" her carbon usage by donating money to the Pacific Forest Trust.

It does not seem to occur to anyone that a person can cancel a trip and give money just because they think it is a good cause. Cancel the trip and donate the money. Do the fact finding via internet and webconference. Then the environment benefits even more.

In all seriousness, no one should begrudge Ms. Pelosi the trip to Europe. However, the claim to be doing something that is praiseworthy through this abominable offsetting concept is morally galling.

The Oracle previously expressed additional thoughts on this topic here.