Friday, April 30, 2010

White people aren't so bad after all

I can't believe the New York Times printed this statement (from a Zimbabwean child):
“Life was a lot better when I was younger,” he said, a bit wistfully. “From what my parents used to tell me, life was a lot better under white rule."
It's from a decent Kristoff op-ed.

Birthright Citizenship

As far as I know the U.S. is unique in the practice of "birthright citizenship," or that anyone born on our soil is a citizen. When you combine that with an extreme prejudice of favoring our citizens over other people and the enormous wealth in this country, is it any wonder people often come here just to have kids?

I don't like the fact that the U.S. is willing to spend $10,000+ on citizens' health care if they are poor, but unwilling to spend $20 on an African or Mexican's health care if they are poor. But that is how it is, so people are going to climb fences and break laws to get their kids the free health care, access to top universities, large financial aid packages, etc. (I'm not saying that's the only incentive--the $10,000 a year low-skilled jobs are a big incentive too--but it exists.)

It's fair to ask if we should eliminate birth-right citizenship since it seems to help a lot of poor Mexicans. I think the answer is, ideally, yes, because Mexicans should not be allowed to cut in line to get citizenship. Poor Africans, Haitians and other Latin Americans also want to come here and would benefit from free health care and $10,000 a year jobs. They'd also, I suspect, be more willing to learn English and integrate into society better. That's a win-win. But in reality clamping down on illegal immigration probably won't lead to expanding legal immigration, so I have mixed feelings, mostly against.

George Will discusses some not-so-important-but-lawyers-care-about-it history of the issue.

Chicken Sandwich

I wanted to try the new chicken sandwich from KFC. It has 2 pieces of chicken instead of a bun and looks disgusting.

But the Boston Globe ripped into it, calling it a 540-calorie pretender vis a vis true American indulgences: the 1000 calorie Double Gulp or a 1000+ quad-stacker. And I eat those as part of my pre-breakfast routine.

Get out of my face with that shit, KFC.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Quote of the Day

Today's quote of the day, from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity blog:

Sports was, is, and always will be a losing proposition for most schools. Why sell your soul and integrity to keep Bubba the Alum happy? Why? Because most typical university presidents lack certain intimate body parts needed to resist pressure, and they are whores. Plain and simple.

I think a lot of people are under the impression college sports make money. They don't for the vast majority of colleges.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Immigration Zeal

I read the St. Pete Times' editorial on Arizona's anti-illegal immigration bill. I wouldn't vote for it, but I think its worth noting that the pro-immigration side doesn't have the moral high ground here. Both illegal immigration opponents and proponents are zealots are motivated by bigotry.

Many people who think the illegal aliens should be deported don't think they deserve or have the same right as Americans. Non-citizens' well-being just isn't as important a consideration. That is a prejudiced attitude, no doubt about it, though it's not necessarily racially motivated.

But there is a flip side. Many proponents of illegal immigration (yes, there are many) aren't so gung-ho about increasing African immigration or ending forced repatriation of Haitians. These people show, with their actions, that they think Mexicans deserve special consideration over Haitians and Africans. Is that any less bigoted--esp. when you consider many of these "Mexicans-first" people are Mexican?

Suppose someone said only people from England and Spain should be allowed to come to the U.S. while Swedes and Italians should be blocked. Would anyone doubt--despite the pro-immigration credentials--that position is discriminatory?

Best Draft Picks

The NFL polled fans to find the consensus "Best NFL Draft Picks" of all time. The final list is dominated by recent players and 1st round picks. A few people were miffed about that--isn't making a "good draft pick" about getting good value for the pick? If a 1st overall pick turn out great isn't that what you expect, so why did Peyton Manning rank 3rd?

But the truth is that there isn't much difference between making a list of "best value" and "best players." You do expect a 1st overall pick to turn out to be a good player--but not a Hall of Famer. Few 1st overall picks go on to become legends. So the discount for being a 1st overall selection isn't large enough to knock a player like Manning off his perch at #1.

You can look at it this way. Would you rather have Peyton Manning and a 6th round pick or Tom Brady and Ndamukong Suh? The smart pick is Manning, who produced twice as much Win Probability Added (40 vs. 19.8) and twice as many Expected Points Added (1477 vs. 713) as Brady this past decade. Suh would have to outperform Brady for you to want them over Manning.

This probably seems counter-intuitive, but it makes sense if you consider that talent in the NFL probably has some type of Pareto distribution. The expected value for the best player in NFL history, the expectation of the 1st order statistic in a sample of thousands, is going to be massive vis a vis the expected value of the 50th best (an overestimate of what we expect a 1st overall pick to be worth).

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Parker's Pulitzer

I will never understand why Kathleen Parker won the Pulitzer Prize for commentary this year.

I only read one of her columns last year. The column is about how the largest political "party" today is independents. Polls show more than 40% of Americans claim to have no party affiliation. But, as political scientists have taken pains to point out, most independents are closet partisans. About 75% of "independents" vote either Democrats or Republican 70% of the time, more than many registered Democrats and Republicans.

You would think Parker would have revised her column--or better yet, already known this basic fact about our electoral--but she didn't. So it beats the hell out of me how she one the prize, esp. in a year David Leonhardt (a finalist) wrote a number of stellar columns on health care, the stimulus package, and assorted topics. (He also wrote two classics in 2008 that went unnoticed.)