Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Best Bets are the Ones that Don't Get Made

Some of the best bets I've ever made on sports are the ones I wasn't able to place. I was hellbent early Saturday morning on buying a contract on Tradesports that the Pats would take the AFC championship, but for some reason related to the site I couldn't place it. It is a measure of my power to hex a team that all I have to do is want to bet on them - that discovery could save me a lot of money. I did bet $17.80 to win $100 on the Carolina Panthers taking the NFC; right now I'm up about $20 on that one. Trying to decide whether to let it ride or cash out, take that $20, and put it in the college fund (a mix of funds dedicated to either my kids' education or betting college basketball games, depending upon the likely comparative return to the investments). Or, alternatively, I can take an intriguing bet currently offered on Tradesports: $15 will win you $100 if there is an air strike on Iran in 2006. The Iranians should probably pour a couple billion dollars of oil money into that bet as a hedge.

I haven't really followed this whole Arbamoff scandal - if I am right, the basics are that he extorted money out of Indian casinos to channel it to the campaign coffers of elected officials whose vote in favor of Indian gaming rights was contingent upon such contributions. Scandalous, indeed, but how much less scandalous is it without an explicit quid pro quo? Not all Indian gaming rights have been awarded with Congressional bribes. You may be offended by the methodology in this case, but the result - that a specific group has been given monopoly rights to a lucrative business - whether legally obtained or not, should be troubling to you.

George Will has a great quote to this effect:

"The way to reduce rent-seeking is to reduce the government's role in the allocation of wealth and opportunity. People serious about reducing the role of money in politics should be serious about reducing the role of politics in distributing money. But those most eager to do the former -- liberals, generally -- are the least eager to do the latter."


Perusing the morning paper - Brokeback Mountain, the story of two gay cowboys, wins Golden Globe, woman playing transvestite wins best actress, man playing gay author wins best actor - ARE YOU GETTING THE MESSAGE? Aside from the obvious one, there are other messages, one of which is the big collective pat on the back people in Hollywood like to give themselves for their vaunted moral sentiments. To the extent that any one of these films actually enjoys some commercial success, they'll view those sentiments as being somewhat less vaunted, and they'll be on to the next cause (don't ever bet on it being Cuban dissidents being tortured by Castro). One review described Brokeback as an "old-fashioned love story." I haven't seen it, but I am pretty sure of one thing - if it was about a heterosexual couple, it wouldn't have even been nominated.


Blogger Professor Vic said...

First of all, Hatch is certainly right that one solution to the abuse of government is to curtail the power of government itself. Too bad that the this solution removes government as a potential force for good just because it is abused by some bad apples.

It is also sad to note that the party that came to power in 1994 pledging a smaller, less corrupt government is now the party of big government and graft. That's got to be disappointing to Democrats and high-minded Republicans alike. Certainly a conservative like Hatch can't enjoy watching what the party he most agrees with has become.

As for the Golden Globes, I'm not really sure what the obvious message is other than that several good movies this year dealt with the topic of homosexuality and gender identity. I'm not sure you would say Hollywood has a "pro-Hobbit" bias just because Lord of the Rings won in 2004, or a "pro-Game Theory" bias because A Beautiful Mind won in 2002, or a "pro-large scale disasters and sappy love stories" bias because Titanic won in 1998. (Ok, that last bias is probably true.)

Now, Hatch is right that Brokeback Mountain wouldn't even have been nominated had it featured a heterosexual relationship. Of course, that is because the taboo nature of the realtionship sets up the dramatic tension of the entire movie. Romeo and Juliet would have been lost to the ages if Juliet had only been a Capulet instead of a Montague. West Side Story would never have swept the Oscars if Maria's brother had only been a Shark instead of a Jet. Cabin Boy would never have become such a classic if... wait, sorry, got carried away there.

So Hollywood is open-minded enough to tell interesting tales about people who happen to be gay and is willing to release films exploring homosexual love stories. Good for them.

And before you say that Hollywood would never expose the warts of socialist regimes or of Democratic presidents, try watching Oscar nominated films such as Hotel Rwanda, Farewell My Concubine, or The Killing Fields.

Finally, I might add that over the past ten years "pro-gay" Hollywood has nominated more pictures for the Best Picture Oscar that have featured a pig or a ghost as the main character than a homosexual.

Overall, I find today's comments kind of a disappointing and unwarranted slam on Hollywood.

11:07 AM  
Blogger Pulvarizer said...

As a die hard liberal, I often find myself admiring George Will's intellect and the value he places on intellecutal honesty over politics. However, Georgie boy's quote rings a bit partisan and dishonest given this Republican congress' and President's penchant for needless spending. The recent U.S. Highway Bill passed by the Republican controlled congress was stuffed full of pork barrel spending. Here's what the Boston Globe, in part, had to say about the bill.

"Huge as the bill was, it wasn't quite huge enough for Representative Don Young of Alaska, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. ''It's not as big as what he'd like," a committee spokesman said, ''but is still a very good bill and will play a major role in addressing transportation and highway needs."

One wonders what more Young could have wanted. The bill funnels upward of $941 million to 119 earmarked projects in Alaska, including $223 million for a mile-long bridge linking an island with 50 residents to the town of Ketchikan on the mainland. Another $231 million is earmarked for a new bridge in Anchorage, to be named -- this is specified in the legislation -- Don Young's Way. There is $3 million for a film ''about infrastructure that demonstrates advancements in Alaska, the last frontier." The bill even doffs its cap to Young's wife, Lu: The House formally called it ''The Transportation Equity Act -- a Legacy for Users," or TEA-LU.

Christmas didn't come early just for Alaska. Meander through the bill's endless line items and you find a remarkable variety of ''highway" projects, many of which have nothing to do with highways: Horse riding facilities in Virginia ($600,000). A snowmobile trail in Vermont ($5.9 million). Parking for New York's Harlem Hospital ($8 million). A bicycle and pedestrian trail in Tennessee ($532,000). A daycare center and park-and-ride facility in Illinois ($1.25 million). Dust control mitigation for rural Arkansas ($3 million). The National Packard Museum in Ohio ($2.75 million). A historical trolley project in Washington ($200,000). And on and on and on...

Hard to believe in this era of bloated Republican budgets and the biggest-spending presidential administration in 40 years -- but true. Once upon a time Republicans actually described themselves with pride as fiscal conservatives. That was one of the reasons they opposed the promiscuous use of pork-barrel earmarks, which are typically used to bypass legislative standards, reward political favorites, and assert political control over state and local affairs.

For example, Ronald Reagan vetoed the 1987 highway bill because it included 121 earmarks and was $10 billion over the line he had drawn in the sand. ''I haven't seen this much lard since I handed out blue ribbons at the Iowa State Fair," he said. President Bush is a great admirer of Reagan's record in foreign affairs. Too bad he shows so little interest in following the Gipper's fiscal lead as well.

When Bush ran for president in 2000, he described his Democratic opponent, Vice President Al Gore, as a reckless high-roller who would unbalance the budget. ''If the vice president gets elected," Bush said, ''the era of big government being over is over."

Spending is the means in which members of congress, both Democrat and Republican, ingratiate themselves w/ their constituents, thereby aiding their re-election. Both parties are guilty, and George (Will and Bush) know it.

1:39 PM  
Blogger Hatcher said...


All good information, and I largely agree, but I think you are being unfair to George Will. He was merely saying that, if you want to limit the influence of money on politics, you have to limit the influence of politics over money. The Democrats are certainly serious about the one goal, but not so much about the other. Perhaps the Republicans are serious about neither, as could well be argued given recent spending, but Will's quote doesn't suggest they are serious about either. He merely says being serious about only 1 counts for diddly.

1:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't watch sports, I haven't followed the Arbamoff scandal, I don't know who George Will is, and the only thing I noticed about the Golden Globes is that Pam Anderson covered hers up when she walked down the red carpet. The explaination for my seemingly lack of concern of current events is that I am nursing one hell of a Chartreuse buzz.

3:08 PM  
Anonymous Jim O said...

The worst part of this post and the comments is, I don't know who would be best to emulate.

I could dig into legislation and government policies in order to become familiar with what my government is doing, or I could drink copious amounts of Chartreuse.

Hatcher, as an economist, which would give me the better return on my investment of time and effort?

7:49 AM  

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