2013

On the end of the Bears’ season (’13-’14).

I’ve been sitting in my chair and staring at a blank white box for about an hour. Now that this season is mercifully over, I can’t think of any new or original way to explain how bad the Bears’ defense was this season.

As strange and confusing as the Packers’ fumble-recovery-for-a-touchdown was, the defense has shown so little awareness and competence this year, I can’t say I was surprised. The final touchdown to a wide-open Randall Cobb on fourth-and-long was just the icing on the cake– there was no more appropriate way the season could have ended. The Bears were shockingly bad on defense this year. I have never seen so many missed tackles; I have never seen so many blown coverages; I have never seen the front seven gouged for so many rushing yards right up the middle.

For so long, the Bears have had a decent defense that just needed a few more points per game from the offense to get a title. And this year, the Bears got those few more points: they finally fixed the offensive line, finally got a receiving corps that other teams envy, and finally got Matt Forte some help. Unfortunately, they gave up the other side of the ball. They have no defensive line. They have no defensive backfield. They gave up almost thirty points a game, by far the worst in team history.

The Bears used to have a defense that QBs hated to go against; a defense that could bail out the offense and outscore the bad guys all by themselves. The hallmark of this team is not supposed to be a precision, high-octane West Coast offense– though that’s nice to have. It’s supposed to be a defense that you can’t run against, that you can’t throw against, and that’s probably going to murder your quarterback. And now that’s gone.

I don’t remember using a monkey’s paw when I wished for a better offense.



UPDATE:
I didn’t know until this day that Chris Conte was… Barzini’s grandson all along. This explains much.

A brief grumbling about the NSA.

Anonymous asks: “Off topic: What do you think of the ruling of the court case over the NSA data-collection-whatever?”

I haven’t studied the case or ruling beyond what was in the headlines and a few articles. However, I think it’s safe to say that capturing virtually all internet traffic is unreasonable and unwarranted (and I have a pretty broad definition of “reasonable”), thus violating the Fourth Amendment.

I think I could tolerate the NSA capturing all internet traffic if it were reasonable. But is there any evidence to show that it’s reasonable? Has there been any effort made to demonstrate that it’s reasonable?

I’d like to be able to defend the NSA here. After all, the world is a scary place, national security is an increasingly complex matter, and the bad guys use the internet, so why not monitor and use the internet to catch them?

More specifically, I’d like to be able to defend the NSA by saying something along these lines: “Because the world is a scary place, national security is an increasingly complex matter, and the bad guys use the internet, the NSA needs to be able to do A, B, and C. But doing D, or anything beyond that, would clearly be going too far, so it can’t and doesn’t do D.”

But over the last few years, we’ve learned that the NSA does do D. And E. And F. Come to think of it, when’s the last time you saw a story confirming that the NSA does not have a particular ability or capacity? That there’s some limit to its data collection or intelligence gathering or spying? Hasn’t literally every NSA story been about how it has more power than we knew?

I’m sure that the Obama folks would simply say, just like the Bush folks did, “At some point, you have to trust us.” But if the left didn’t trust Bush with this sort of power, and the right doesn’t trust Obama with this power, and the middle doesn’t trust anybody with this power, then… we have a problem. Go after the bad guys, sure, but… Jeez.

I already assume the President won’t do anything to reign in the NSA; it’s not in the nature of the office or the office-holder, regardless of party. We’ve seen a federal court show that it’s willing to do something; hopefully other courts and the Congress will follow suit.

Another point, that might’ve been worth considering, say, 14 or 15 months ago: Will anyone ever again believe that a President doesn’t spy on his campaign opponents? Or can we safely assume that every President from here on out is a Lyndon Edgar Nixon?

Tempest.

A recent dream:

I am in the garage of my grandparents’ house, which for some reason looks out over my aunt’s back lawn. I am getting ready to go home after a long day of eating.

The weather has been fine, maybe a bit warm, so I am glad to see a cloud form in the sky, right in front of the sun. That should cool things off just enough to make the day perfect.

Other clouds congeal in the skies. One particular cloud looks especially dark and is closing in from the south pretty darn fast. I think I’d better get home before it starts raining, and no sooner does that thought cross my mind than it begins to drizzle. I get in my car and drive home.

The cloud I saw earlier now hovers over downtown, but the rain never gets any heavier. Traffic comes to a dead stop south of the bridge, so I put the car in park and turn to a talk channel in hopes of getting a weather and traffic report.

More dark clouds slither in from all directions. They bounce off each other and roll over each other and spin around each other. The clouds occasionally glow, and the brief gaps between them betray a terrific lightning storm high above. The wind whips up, and this storm is darker and brighter and louder and far more forceful than anything I’d ever seen before.

I can see the high-rises downtown wobble and rattle. Debris falls from the tops of some of the older ones. Signage comes detached, and ten-foot letters tumble down or dangle by mere serifs. The wind shatters the windows on the highest floors of the highest towers, and it drags some poor souls right out, and they hang on for dear life. I can see people on the inside hesitate to approach the windows to save the hangers-on, but the wind then pushes some of them back in. The wind breaks more windows, and pulls more people out, and the cycle repeats.

The interstate is still a bumper-to-bumper parking lot, but I’m not sure I want it to start moving again.

There was more to this dream, but I can’t make out most of what’s on my voice recorder. Here’s what I remember:

1. Something was wrong with the Earth’s core. A blue holographic world map in some sort of situation room showed these massive, burning rifts across continents and along ocean floors. How that affected the skies in part one of the dream is beyond me– or maybe it was a separate dream and had nothing to do with the storm.

2. Some frauds had convinced Congress that the problem was that the core was rusting, so billions of federal dollars went to them instead of my lab.

3. The frauds and the guys from my lab were having a cookout.

And that’s it. I don’t remember if the frauds and my guys had teamed up to fix the Earth’s core, or if they realized that we were all doomed so we might as well enjoy some burgers and beers before the world ended, or what. I need to work on dream retention.

Rusting. Jesus.

Questionnaire 15.

The following questions come from various sources, and I’m too lazy to link them all here. Here goes:

1. PUT YOUR MUSIC PLAYER OF CHOICE ON SHUFFLE AND LIST THE FIRST 10 SONGS. “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” (Platters), “Fascination Street” (Cure), “Catcha the Monkey” (dunno the artist), “Don’t Stop Honey” (R.L. Burnside), “One Thing Leads to Another” (Fixx), “In the Cold, Cold Night” (White Stripes), “Only You” (Portishead), “Sweet Jane” (Cowboy Junkies), “Gimme Shelter” (Rolling Stones), “Miss You” (Rolling Stone and Dr. Dre).

2. IF YOU COULD SPEND A WEEK ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD, WHERE WOULD IT BE AND WHY? WOULD YOU TAKE ANYONE WITH YOU? I’d go to Italy to see where most of ancestors came from, to eat in the finest restaurants, to watch some of the most talented footballers play some of the most boring soccer on Earth, to climb the mountains and to walk the beaches. I’d bring a beautiful woman with a lot more money than I have. Fluency in Italian would be unnecessary because they all speak English over there.

3. WHAT IS YOUR PREFERRED WRITING IMPLEMENT? (EG. BLUE PEN, PENCIL, GREEN PEN) Keyboard aside, I’d say a fine-tipped black ballpoint pen.

4. FAVOURITE MONTH AND WHY? November, because it’s the high point of my birthday corridor (October 31st-January 6th).

5. WHICH LIVING PERSON DO YOU MOST DESPISE? Elvis.

6. NAME 3 ITEMS YOU COULD PICK UP FROM WHERE YOU ARE. A History of Economic Thought by William J. Barber. A small red notebook. A fine-tipped black ballpoint pen.

7. WHAT BRAND LOGO IS CLOSEST TO YOU CURRENTLY? Hanes.

8. DO YOU EVER PLAY BOARD GAMES OR OTHER NON-COMPUTER GAMES? GOT ANY FAVOURITES? Chess.

9. A MUSICAL ARTIST YOU LOVE THAT ISN’T WELL KNOWN. R.L. Burnside, rest in peace.

10. A MUSICAL ARTIST YOU LOVE THAT IS WELL KNOWN. Led Zeppelin.

11. WHAT IS YOUR DESKTOP BACKGROUND CURRENTLY? Hold on, let me check… a stock photo of a rocky, hilltopped island across a choppy bay.

12. LAST PERSON YOU TALKED TO, AND THROUGH WHAT YOU TALKED TO THEM. Some stranger in the elevator. I talked to him through the air.

13. FIRST COLOUR NAME YOU CAN THINK OF THAT ISN’T IN THE RAINBOW. Brown.

14. WHAT TIMEKEEPING DEVICES ARE IN THE ROOM YOU ARE CURRENTLY IN? Computers, cellphones, watches, microwave, stove.

15. WHAT KIND OF HEADPHONES DO YOU USE? White ones.

16. WHAT MUSICAL ARTISTS HAVE YOU SEEN PERFORM LIVE? I’m not a big fan of live performances. The last professionals I saw live were the Von Bondies. That was a while back.

17. WHAT GAMING CONSOLES DO YOU OR YOUR FAMILY OWN? I have a PS3 that serves as little more than a Netflix device.

18. WHAT’S THE BEST JOB YOU’VE EVER HAD? My current job: vice cop posing as high school teacher.

19. WHAT’S THE WORST JOB YOU’VE EVER HAD? For a little less than two weeks, I worked at a call center doing telephone surveys. It was soul-crushing.

20. WHAT MAGAZINES DO YOU READ, IF ANY? None. It’s all online.

21. INSPIRATION BEHIND YOUR URL? It’s… it’s my name.

22. INSPIRATION BEHIND YOUR BLOG TITLE? It started off as “VDV’s Journal”. Then, while trying to update the software, I deleted it. Then it was called “VDV’s Journal, Part II”. It happened twice more, and here we are.

23. FAVOURITE ITEM OF CLOTHING? Back in 1998, I bought a pair of brown Skechers Alley Cats. When they wore out, I bought another pair of brown Skechers Alley Cats. I’m on my fifth pair, I think.

24. ARE YOU FRIENDS WITH ANY EXES? No.

25. WHAT’S YOUR NATIVE LANGUAGE? IF THAT LANGUAGE HAS DISTINCT REGIONAL VARIATIONS, WHICH VARIATION? (EG. AU ENGLISH, US ENGLISH) I speak American English.

26. IS THERE ANYTHING HANGING ON THE WALLS OF THE ROOM YOU ARE CURRENTLY IN? Pictures, drawn and painted.

27. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE NUMBER, AND WHY? Eleven. Here’s why.

28. WHAT DID YOU HAVE FOR DINNER YESTERDAY? Chicken pad thai.

29. HOW OFTEN DO YOU BRUSH YOUR TEETH? At least twice a day.

30. WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE CANDY/CHOCOLATE? Tough call. I’m going to go with refrigerated Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, the miniature version. Actually, there’s an even smaller version now, so I mean the smallest version that comes in a foil rapper.

31. IF YOU WERE SUDDENLY REALLY HUNGRY, WHAT WOULD YOU CHOOSE TO EAT? A peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

32. IF YOU COULD STUDY ANYTHING, WHAT WOULD IT BE? Another tough call. Perhaps a foreign language other than Italian. Maybe some more advanced math.

33. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR SENSE OF HUMOUR? Sharp.

34. WHAT THINGS ANNOY YOU MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE? People annoy me more than other types of things do.

35. WHAT KIND OF POSITION ARE YOU IN AT THE MOMENT? I am reclining in my recliner.

36. DO YOU WEAR MUCH JEWELLERY? Nope. Just a watch.

37. WHAT DO YOU CARRY YOUR MONEY IN? My wallet.

38. DO YOU ENJOY DRIVING? WHY OR WHY NOT? I enjoy it sometimes and can’t get out of the car fast enough other times.

39. LONGEST DRIVE YOU HAVE EVER BEEN ON? Jacksonville to Las Cruces, New Mexico and back. One of my northern sojourns might’ve been longer, but those are usually broken up by day-or-two-long visits with friends and family.

40. FURTHEST AWAY FROM HOME YOU HAVE EVER BEEN? San Diego.

41. HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU MOVED HOUSE? I have never moved house. If you mean moved my living quarters from one place to another, that would be a whole bunch of times once you factor in dorm- and apartment-living in Clemson.

42. WHAT IS ON THE FLOOR OF THE ROOM YOU’RE CURRENTLY IN, NOT INCLUDING FURNITURE? Rugs. Doormats. Some cords for the electronics. The ceramic wine chiller that Mole gave me.

43. HOW MANY DEVICES DO YOU OWN WHICH CAN ACCESS THE INTERNET? Five that I can think of.

44. IS THERE IS ANYTHING THAT IS GUARANTEED TO ALWAYS MAKE YOU HAPPY? No.

45. IS THERE ANYTHING THAT ALWAYS MAKES YOU SAD? No.

46. WHAT PROGRAMS DO YOU CURRENTLY HAVE OPEN? Chrome, Google Docs.

47. WHAT DO YOU ASSOCIATE THE COLOUR RED WITH? Blood. Heat. Sauce.

48. LAST STRONG SMELL YOU CAN REMEMBER SMELLING? Bleach.

49. LAST HEALTHY THING YOU ATE? I had some chicken earlier today. Pretty certain it was healthy.

50. DO YOU DRINK TEA OR COFFEE, AND HOW MUCH PER DAY? I drink at least one cup of hot tea a day (with whole milk if possible, with a bit of sugar or none), and a few glasses of unsweetened iced tea a day. I don’t drink coffee.

51. WHAT DO YOU ASSOCIATE THE COLOUR BLUE WITH? Calm. Reason. Fruit.

52. HOW LONG IS THE CLOSEST RULER YOU CAN FIND? lt’s a normal ruler, so twelve inches.

53. WHAT COLOUR PANTS/SKIRT/ETC ARE YOU CURRENTLY WEARING? Navy blue.

54. WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU DRANK WATER? Maybe thirty minutes ago.

55. HOW OFTEN DO YOU CLEAR YOUR BROWSER HISTORY? Rarely.

56. DO YOU BELIEVE NUDE PHOTOS CAN BE ARTISTIC, RATHER THAN EROTIC? Yes.

57. EVER WRITTEN FANFICTION FOR ANYTHING? Yes. Many moons ago I wrote fan fiction about myself. I went back in time to stop a man named Winter, who had killed Hitler so he could take over Europe for himself.

58. IF YOU HAD TO MOVE YOUR BIRTHDAY TO ANOTHER DATE, WHICH ONE WOULD YOU CHOOSE AND WHY? January 1st. It’d be easier to keep track of everything, and Christmas would kick off the last week leading up to my birthday.

59. WOULD YOU PREFER TO BE AT A BEACH OR IN THE COUNTRYSIDE? At this moment, the countryside– in a house atop rolling hills, on a cloudless and moonless night, stars dotting the sky– would be a welcome change from waking up to hearing some poor homeless woman screaming “One more time, @#$%^&, one more time! I’LL KILL YOU!”

60. ROUGHLY HOW MANY PEOPLE LIVE IN YOUR TOWN? One million.

61. DO YOU KNOW ANYONE WITH THE SAME BIRTHDAY AS YOU? Yes.

62. FAVOURITE PLACE TO SHOP? CAN BE A CERTAIN STORE OR A PLACE WHERE THERE ARE MULTIPLE STORES? Locally, I’d say a place called “Publix”. They have food there.

63. DO YOU HAVE A SMARTPHONE? WHAT KIND? IF YOU DON’T, DO YOU WANT ONE? I have an iPhone 5.

64. WHAT IS YOUR LEAST FAVOURITE COLOUR, AND WHY? I don’t have a least favorite color.

65. HOW DO YOU SPELL GREY/GRAY? Depends on my mood. “Grey” suggests a bit more gravitas, but I think “gray” connotes advanced age better.

66. WHEN YOU WASH YOUR HANDS, DO YOU USE THE COLD OR HOT TAP (FAUCET)? Hot.

67. IF YOU HAD TO BE STRAIGHT/GAY FOR A DAY (WHICHEVER YOU’RE CURRENTLY NOT!), WHAT CELEBRITY WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO TAKE ON A DATE? Sean Connery, because (A) it’s Sean frickin’ Connery, and (B) at his age, nothing untoward would happen.

68. WHAT IS THE BIGGEST INJURY YOU’VE EVER SUSTAINED AND HOW DID YOU DO IT? Tough call. I’ll go with nearly getting crushed between two machines at work as described here.

69. WHAT IS THE MOST UNUSUAL FOOD YOU’VE EVER EATEN? Probably some awful Mexican candy that ended up in the garbage as soon as “Ingrid” wasn’t looking.

70. WHAT IS THE MOST UNIQUE ANIMAL YOU’VE EVER TOUCHED? Either an elephant or a shark. The elephant was alive, the shark was not.

71. WHICH 3 COUNTRIES WOULD YOU LEAST LIKE TO LIVE IN AND WHY? Off the top of my head: North Korea. Singapore. Iran. They’re the first three that came to mind when I thought of repression, though North Korea’s really in a class by itself.

72. IF YOU COULD MAKE JUST ONE CHANGE TO THIS WORLD, WHAT WOULD IT BE AND WHY? People would abide the Golden Rule/Silver Rule/Zero Aggression Principle.

73. IF YOU COULD WAKE UP TOMORROW AND BE FLUENT IN 3 ADDITIONAL LANGUAGES, WHICH WOULD YOU CHOOSE? Spanish, Arabic, Russian.

74. WHICH WOULD YOU RATHER OUT OF THESE 3 OPTIONS? A: BE GOOD LOOKING AND EXTREMELY INTELLIGENT BUT SO POOR YOU LIVE ON THE STREETS. B: BE EXTREMELY INTELLIGENT AND A MILLIONAIRE BUT WHAT SOCIETY CLASSES AS UGLY. OR C: BE GOOD LOOKING AND A MILLIONAIRE BUT EXTREMELY ACADEMICALLY CHALLENGED? WHY? I would want go with Option A because it doesn’t sound like I’d be poor and homeless for long.

75. WHAT ARE THE TOP 10 MOVIES TO MAKE YOU CRY? (OR AT LEAST MAKE YOU SAD!)? I need to name ten? I think I remember being very depressed by The Ordeal of Dr. Mudd when I was a little boy, especially when the prison guard broke some meaningful trinket of Mudd’s. I won’t list any others, lest my enemies use them against me.

76. WOULD YOU RATHER RAISE 25 CHILDREN OR HAVE THE CHANCE OF EVER HAVING CHILDREN TAKEN AWAY? WHY? I’d rather raise 25 children because I know how to delegate authority.

77. WOULD YOU RATHER GO ON A RELAXING BEACH TYPE HOLIDAY TO THE CARIBBEAN, A CULTURAL HOLIDAY TO JAPAN OR AN ADVENTURE PACKED HOLIDAY TO SOUTH AFRICA? Cultural holiday to Japan.

78. IF YOU WENT TO A DESERT ISLAND FOR JUST 6 MONTHS BUT COULD ONLY TAKE ONE ALBUM WITH YOU, WHAT WOULD YOU TAKE? Dark Side of the Moon. A facile but solid choice.

79. PUT THESE IN ORDER OF YOUR FAVOURITE MOVIE GENRE TO LEAST: HORROR, ACTION, THRILLER, ADVENTURE, SUPERHERO, ROMANCE, DRAMA, COMEDY, MUSICAL AND DANCE? No.

80. WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE WE AS HUMAN BEINGS TAKE MOST FOR GRANTED IN THIS WORLD? Oxygen.

81. WHAT IS YOUR IDEA OF PERFECT HAPPINESS? Classified.

82. WHAT IS YOUR MOST MARKED CHARACTERISTIC? Steven Wright thinks I’m low-key.

83. WHAT IS THE TRAIT YOU MOST DEPLORE IN YOURSELF? I don’t actually deplore anything about myself. I could probably be a little more patient with people.

84. ON WHAT OCCASION DO YOU LIE? Whenever I need to defeat an army of androids by gumming up their logic routines.

85. WHAT DO YOU DISLIKE ABOUT YOUR APPEARANCE? One of my fingers doesn’t bend properly. I think it looks strange.

86. WHICH WORDS OR PHRASES DO YOU MOST OVERUSE? “Essentially” and “generally”. It might be neat to make a world cloud for my entire blog and figure it out.

87. WHO IS THE GREATEST LOVE OF YOUR LIFE? If I answer this honestly, half the world’s women would cry out in despair and dash themselves on the rocks beneath the nearest cliffs, but not before leaving some really bad poetry behind. The other half would erupt in rapturous, riotous celebration that would spill into the world’s streets, overwhelm local law enforcement and kill hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of innocent bystanders. They’d all have their reasons.

88. WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER YOUR GREATEST ACHIEVEMENT? I won 25 consecutive games of paper football in seventh grade. It’s been downhill from there.

89. IF YOU WERE TO DIE AND COME BACK AS A PERSON OR THING, WHAT DO YOU THINK IT WOULD BE? It would be awesome. Reincarnation, proven? Awesome, I say.

90. HOW MANY POSTS DO YOU HAVE? If the counter on my blog’s dash is correct, then this is #596.

On a new Chromebook.

I dropped by one of the big box stores today looking for a new PowerPoint clicker, so naturally I walked out with a new-ish Chromebook. It was an open box, so it was 25% off. I figured I’d give it a test drive; worst case scenario I could return it and lose the restocking fee.

It’s an HP Pavilion 14. It feels a bit lighter than the MacBook, the screen’s a little bit wider, and the color has taken a little getting-used-to. The blues are a little different on this screen, a little bit lighter than on my MacBook or on my work computer, which is a Cray running LCARS. This Chromebook feels like cheap plastic, likely because it is cheap plastic. The savings have to come from somewhere.

The keyboard is wider due to an extra column including PageUp, PageDown, Home, and End, so on-the-fly editing has been an adventure. Apparently there’s a real live BACKSPACE key that I can use instead of holding down FN and DELETE. I found that out the hard way, which was by accidentally deleting the last five words instead of the last five letters. Thank the gods that CTRL-Z is still the “undo” function. The alphabetical keys are positioned a little further left than I’m used to. The function/control/alternate keys serve different purposes. But I suppose that’s what you’ll deal with on any new computer. It’ll take some getting used to.

This is the first entry I’ve composed using Google Docs, which means that Google probably has a permanent record of it, which means the NSA probably has a permanent record of it also… but they already had access to everything on every other computer, too, so why not start keeping stuff on Google Drive or whatever they’re calling it this week? Let them pick up the cost of the extra hard drive space. Anyhow, I normally use TextEdit on the MacBook, which is more than versatile enough to meet my blogging needs, or Microsoft Word, which uses magnitudes more processing power than is necessary to blog. But Google Docs looks to approach Word’s capacities while remaining deft and lightweight like TextEdit.

It’s an impressive little toy so far. I wonder if Google is going to push their product line by making laptops and tablets available at bulk discount to any school districts– say, mine– so we can get rid of some of the plodding dinosaurs the district issued us back in ‘06.

Still no new clicker.

I want to have hope for the Bears, I really do. The playoffs are still a legitimate possibility, but the run defense is gone. Trestman & Co. seemed to have solved the offensive line problem, but now they have exactly the opposite problem: no defensive live. It’s humiliating to think that these Bears– who wear the same blue jerseys as Urlacher, Briggs, and Colvin; as Dent, McMichael, Hampton and Singletary; as Butkus and Atkins and O’Bradovich; as George and Turner and Musso; even as Nagurski and Grange and Trafton– have the worst run defense in the league and one of the worst defenses overall. They’re going to have to revamp the d-line, fix the secondary (the linebackers usually seem to work out well), and use up more of the clock on offense.

First mover.

Last week, Senate Democrats exercised the “nuclear option”, i.e., they eased the rules of cloture by requiring 51 (instead of 60) votes to stop filibusters in certain confirmation hearings, i.e., they made it easier to rubber-stamp the President’s nominations. The Democrats say they did it because the Republicans were being obstructionist by filibustering the nominations of so many of President Obama’s nominations– which they were. The Republicans say the Democrats have violated decades if not centuries of precedent and tradition– which they did. But it wasn’t cheating. Article I, Section 5, Clause 2 of the Constitution permits the Senate to make its own rules, so changing the filibuster rules (especially mid-term) may be sneaky and may be cheap, but it’s legal, so that’s that.

I have long thought that the two big parties have been foolish not to unilaterally abolish the filibuster. Here’s my reasoning, in short:

1. No part of the Constitution requires a filibuster, so there’s nothing legally stopping its abandonment.

2. If the majority Party A gets rid of the filibuster, Party B is surely not going to reinstate it when (if?) they re-take control of the Senate, so in the long run Party A won’t look that bad.

3. If Party A gets rid of the filibuster for confirmation hearings, Party A can confirm any nominations they want. So why not get a head start on Party B? Get your nominees through now, and your judges will be on the federal courts for the next 20 to 30 years. Let Party B play catch-up.

4. If Party A gets rid of the filibuster for legislation, Party A can pass any laws they want. Get your laws in place now, and start adding to the legal infrastructure that Party B will have to dismantle if they ever take the Senate back. If Party A’s laws prove popular or effective, then Party B will be in the position of having to get rid of good laws.

5. Party B will be back in power one day– maybe after the next election, maybe later– but Party A has an entrenched policy and/or personnel advantage because they moved first.

My thinking was based on the assumption that Party A had just taken over the Senate, had relatively high approval ratings and political capital, and that they could afford to take a hit in the polls. The reality is a little bit different: I think the Democrats (Party A) are making this move out of desperation, as a reaction to the ObamaCare albatross. They’re doing it in order to entrench as many federal judges as possible before the 2014 elections because they’re increasingly afraid they’ll lose control of the Senate. Plus, they want as many pro-ObamaCare judges as possible on as many federal courts as possible for as long as possible, because Lord knows those lawsuits are a-coming.

But here’s the trouble: the Democrats skipped #4. They got rid of the 60-vote rule for confirmation hearing, not for legislation. And by doing so, they made it a lot easier to get rid of the 60-vote rule in case of legislation. Now, whoever controls the Senate can say, “Hey, now that we only need 51 votes to stop the other party from obstructing crucial nominations, why not have a 51-vote rule to stop the other party from obstructing crucial legislation?”

Today, the Democrats would gain no additional advantage by making the additional change, because the Republicans control the House and aren’t going to pass anything the Democrats like anyways. The Dems should have done it four years ago, when they controlled both houses of Congress and Obama was still extremely popular. Instead, they’ve blown the first-mover advantage and they’ve opened the door for the Republicans, next time they control both Houses (which could be in January of 2015), to say, “Fair’s fair; 51 votes stops a filibuster in all circumstances.” And then 51 Republican Senators will be able to pass whatever bills they’d like.

The 60-vote cloture (Senate-ese for “stop a filibuster, thereby forcing a vote in one hour”) rule was one of those elements of the Senate that was supposed to make it the calmer, more reasonable of the two Houses. It would make the Senate into the saucer that cooled the tea, if you’re familiar with that old analogy, because in theory, you’d need to build a broad 60-vote consensus to pass legislation. And maybe it has served that purpose, or maybe it did serve that purpose, but in this case– the case of the Affordable Care Act– it seems to have institutionalized a program that came up in a radical, fleeting moment. A party briefly had 60 votes, it quickly passed a badly designed law of dubious constitutionality, and given the current filibuster rules, we’re conceivably stuck with that law until there’s a 20-vote swing in the other direction. Actually, it passed the Senate 60 to 39, so it’d have to be a 21-vote swing.

The filibuster was supposed to make it difficult to pass bad laws. It made it just as difficult, if not more so, to get rid of bad laws.

I will say that the sturm und drang over the rule change is overwrought. The Senate did something perfectly constitutional for once; hopefully it becomes a habit. And if the 60-vote rule is really that sacrosanct, then it should be no problem to have two-thirds of both houses of Congress introduce and three-quarters of the state legislatures pass an amendment requiring the Senate to keep the 60-vote rule. I won’t hold my breath.

Anti-tank.

The 2014 NBA draft is expected to be unusually strong, so naturally there’s been much discussion in the blogosphere about whether various teams (let’s say the Celtics) will (or should) tank this season. In turn, there’s been a handful of posts about how to reduce tanking. I really don’t care that much about tanking, as long as my teams aren’t the ones tanking. But if you want to reduce tanking– regardless of league– I hereby offer the following suggestions.

It is important to remember the key purpose of professional sports drafts: to help the weakest teams the most by giving the weakest teams the highest draft picks. So, the team with the worst record gets the first pick, second-worst gets the second pick, and so on. The NBA’s draft has a slight variation in that they give the weakest teams the best chances at getting the highest draft picks. Got it? Good.

I’m going to reduce tanking by (A) ignoring the aforementioned key purpose, and (B) making the whole process needlessly complicated– which is why my proposal will never be adopted. I’m going to substitute a new, different key purpose, which is to encourage teams to win every single game they possibly can.

You want teams to fight to win every single game? You want teams not to tank? Then give the highest draft picks to the best teams, not the worst teams.

That’s right, I’m going to give the top draft pick to the best team in the league. A playoff team. And the worst team in the league won’t draft until the end of the first round. Think about it: each additional win improves your chances of getting the higher pick, so you’re going to fight for that win instead of quitting, right? Tanking problem solved.

But the parity problem– the problem of trying to give the weaker teams a better chance of becoming competitive– isn’t solved. So now I’m going to make the draft even more complicated.

If any playoff team uses a draft pick before any non-playoff team does, then every other member of that playoff team’s roster is now available to be drafted by the rest of the league, and will be until one its players is taken. The playoff teams can pass and go to the back of the line for that round. Once all the non-playoff teams have made a pick, then the playoff teams can start drafting without restriction.

For instance, if the Miami Heat win the NBA Finals again, they’d get the #1 overall pick. But if they use it, then every other player on their roster is now eligible for the draft… until LeBron gets drafted by the very next team. You think the Heat would draft #1 if it meant making LeBron James available to the rest of the league, no strings attached? They’d pass the top pick to whoever finished second, and drop back to the last pick in the first round– just where they would’ve been under the old system. And second would probably pass to third. And so on, and so on…

…until you started getting to the weakest playoff teams. Then you’d start seeing some real intrigue. Should that sixth- or seventh-seeded team with lots of heart, a hardscrabble offense, and a rough-and-tumble defense risk losing a solid player or an occasional All-Star journeyman in order to use the first pick and take a possible superstar?

If nothing else, it’d make draft day much more interesting. The weakest teams may take a while longer to get stronger, but… too bad. Start winning more games.

Or we could just throw out the draft altogether, stick with the salary cap, and let teams freely contract with willing new players. Who would want to tank then? “We lose on purpose; sign with us, please?”

There’s another tanking-like problem I’d like to address, that doesn’t occur as often. As playoff time approaches, you’ll occasionally hear talk about which playoff match-ups would be most favorable to any given team— and sometimes, the highest-seeded teams end up locked into match-ups that just aren’t favorable. If you’re the top seed in the NBA or NHL, you’re slated to go up against #8 first. But what if, for whatever reason, #7 is a more favorable matchup for you? Too bad, you’re stuck. Or what if the #2 team is missing its best player due to injury, and you’d rather play them now and bump them off while they’re weak instead of facing them in a few weeks after he’s recovered?

Instead of rewarding the best team by having them play the team with the worst record, why not reward the best team by letting them choose their playoff opponent? Wouldn’t that make the higher seeds even more valuable? Home-field advantage is nice, but I think I’d rather (or also) have the ability to pick my first opponent. The top seed picks first, the highest remaining seed picks next, and so on. You can even do it after each round (as long as that’s applicable; once you’re down to the final two teams in a conference, you’re stuck).

And think of the drama it might add. Teams aren’t simply assigned to a playoff slot anymore; now the top seeds have to call out their opponents. “Oh, [insert top seeded playoff team] wants to play us first? They think we’re weak? We’ll show them!” You can have the “playoff selection show” on the last night of the regular season, sell some ad time, and send me 17% of the revenues.

Seriously, if any league does this, I’d better get a cut.

5054.

A hypothetical:

You are in an urban setting– tall buildings, busy streets, loud noises. A person pulls out a gun and starts shooting at you. In order to dodge the bullets, you run out into the street and are promptly hit by a bus. Hopefully you’re going to be okay, but that’s not relevant to the coming line of questioning.

Is it your fault that you were hit by the bus?

Is it the shooter’s fault that you were hit by the bus?

Is it the bus driver’s fault that you were hit by the bus?

Is it anybody’s fault that you were hit by the bus?

Do these answers change if the shooter was shooting wildly and was not targeting you in particular?

Does the fact that occasionally pedestrians are hit by buses (even if nobody’s shooting at anyone) absolve anybody of blame in the above scenario?

Vivid, critical insomnolence.

My most frustrating experience in college recurred frequently: nearly falling asleep in class. I’d be sitting there, notebook open, pencil in hand, trying desperately to concentrate on the lecture, to focus on the notes, to keep my head upright, to not drift off…

The fatigue would occasionally be interrupted by that little mid-air head bounce back into a fleeting wakefulness, a quick check of the clock, a horrifying realization that there were still, say, forty-seven minutes left in the class, forty-seven minutes until I could get up and move around, forty-seven minutes until I could head back to the dorm, take a decent hour-long nap before my next class, and shake off the exhaustion. After a good dozen or so of those head bounces, the prof would finally dismiss the class, I’d hightail it back to the dorm, kick off the shoes, close the blinds, turn out the lights, plop my head down on my pillow…

…and stare at the popcorn ceiling, completely wide awake, unable to sleep. The minutes didn’t tick away because I had a digital clock, but they would have if they could have, and as they would have done so, I’d grow angrier and angrier at myself for not getting any sleep after dying for it throughout the last class, and after an hour or so I’d climb out of bed having gotten precisely zero winks of sleep, put the shoes back on, load the next set of books into my bag, and trudge off to the next class knowing perfectly well that I was in for fifty to seventy-five minutes of the same damn thing.

I was reminded of this incredible frustration while driving home this weekend. Middle of the day? Check. Decent sleep the night before? Eight solid hours. A balanced and not-too-sugary breakfast? Yep. Didn’t matter– I felt like I desperately needed to get more sleep. I kept counting off the miles ’til I could get to the next rest area, pull into a spot, tilt the seat back, put a coat over my face to block out the sun, and get a quick nap. I’d get to the next rest area, pull into a spot, tilt the seat back, put a coat over my face to block out the sun, and… sit there wide-awake and eyes open for fifteen minutes wondering how stupid I looked. I’d then straighten up, get back on the road, and get about five minutes down the road before the drowsiness would set back in. Dangerous stuff. If I pull off the road to get some rest in hopes of ensuring safe driving, but I don’t actually get any rest, then clearly the rest area is malfunctioning or mislabeled. I should sue the state.

Mayhaps I need to trek into the mountains to find some guru or shaman to teach me how to sleep and how to stay awake. Either that or see a sleep therapist.

Those little head bounces could be quite painful when I was in seventh grade. I always had a window seat on the bus, but the windows were offset a bit from the seat. So when I would drift off to sleep, I’d end up with my head against a bolt between the windows. The bus would hit a bump, my head would bounce against the bolt, and the pain would wake me up… for about three minutes until it happened all over again.

And now I read that insomnia may trigger Alzheimer’s. Just great.