Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Saletan, Reread Your Own Blog Post

Admist the tumult of Hurricane Sandy, William Saletan is wondering why Chris Christie would order forced evacuations from coastal regions when the New Jersey Governor has previously expressed hostility to the notion that government should order people to buy health insurance.  Saletan asks:
Hurricanes and health care are different in many ways, of course. Buying health insurance is more expensive than evacuating for a natural disaster. But in both cases, the question is whether you should be allowed to make your own choices when the cost of bailing you out will fall on others. If the state has no business forcing you buy health insurance, even when the premiums are subsidized, why should it be empowered to order you out of your home in a storm, just to save your skin? Why do Republican governors think they can have it both ways?
However, Christie has already answered Saletan's question, and the quote is at the beginning of this same piece.  These are the words of the Governor as quoted by Saletan:
For those folks on the barriers: You’re putting other people in harm’s way as well. We already have rescues ongoing on the barrier islands. This is putting first responders in significant, significant danger, and it is not fair to their families for you to be putting them in that danger because you decided that you wanted to be hardheaded.
 Not having health insurance doesn't put anyone else in harm's way.

Sooner or later...

... someone will link Sandy to AGW.  I can't wait for it to happen!

UPDATE: Here it is!

What did Bill and Gore do about climate change while they were in the White House for eight years?

NYT: If You Survive Sandy, Vote Obama!

If you're keeping track - a politician mustn't make statements or ask questions about a terrorist attack after it has happened, but the Times can print this anti-Romney screed last night during the hurricane. Disgusting.

Monday, October 29, 2012


The person(s) who made this video live in a different universe than I do:

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Survivor: Philippines, Ep. 6 - Stalemate

This episode was not the producers' finest hour.

First, they designed an unwinnable reward challenge.  What will the challenge be next week?  Tic-Tac-Toe?

Second, they earnestly tried to paint a picture where Katie might not be going home in order to create drama that simply did not exist.  That vote was a slam dunk.

Early in the program, they showed Katie arguing to Denise to vote off Penner.  Denise wasn't buying any of it.  I know they showed Kent and Carter waffling and debating on ousting Penner.  No sale for this viewer.  I think Kent debates about voting out Penner every day...  [Strike that - not strong enough] I think Kent debates voting out Penner every hour of every day.  He can't wait to blindside that guy.  But, at this point, the argument to get rid of Penner does not exist.  If there's no merge, you still need Penner in the challenges.  If there is a merge, you need him as the first target for the other tribe, and you still need his immunity idol if you want to pull something.  Voting Penner out now would have been a complete waste.  Sure, Kent debated it (with himself - Carter just watched), but Kent wasn't going to do it (this time).

As for the deal made at the challenge - all you saw was a lot of unhappy people.  How can you make a trade where most on both sides hated the swap?  My Econ 101 professor might answer that this is the inefficiencies of a barter system and why currencies developed.  But, I think the answer is this:  there are a lot of people who dislike Penner and Skupin, and this was an excuse to go off on them.

That challenge was a nightmare.  The deal made sense.  Stop your whining.  It couldn't have been bad for both tribes?  Frankly, I don't think it was bad for either one since they are so close to a merge.  Ending the challenge was the prize and the real winners were the ones on the sidelines who didn't have to exert any energy in the trench warfare.

One note of clarification: of couse it's possible to make a deal that both sides absolutely hate (see The Compromise of 1850, which destroyed the Whig Party and led to the Civil War).  But, this was a friggin' swap of food.  Get over it.  Abi used that deal as an excuse to bitch.

Other stuff:

-  Why can Malcolm almost single-handedly win challenges on his new tribe, but not for his old?  Is it because Russell's not around?

-  Having said that, Lisa really did contribute to the win with her shot placement.  She also (again) neutralized Denise in the reward challenge (it helps that she outweighs her by 40 lbs.).  Lisa is actually in a decent position right now.

-  Before tribal council, Carter said to Penner: "Katie or Penner?"  Sharp.

In the last review I said I would handicap the field soon.  It looks like a merge is coming, so before the next episode would be a good time.  I'm not sure if the Halloween Hurricane, Sandy, is going to be The Tempest or Much Ado About Nothing, but references to the Bard aside, I expect the storm to clear out some of my schedule early this week, allowing me to handicap the field before Wednesday.

Survivor: Philippines, Ep. 5 - Malcolm in the Middle

This was the best episode of the season thus far.  It had:

- an immunity idol discovered
- a tribe disbanded
- two challenges
- a player leave due to illness, and
- a compelling decision in the final tribal.
First things first: it is rare to see a player turn his fortunes around as quickly as Malcolm has.  He has an idol, he's on a tribe that can actually win challenges, and most importantly - the tribe is split, and two factions need him as a swing vote.  Pete was upfront to Malcolm that his alliance has the idol, but he also acknowledged that he was initially aligned with Skupin and RC, and is blowing them off (that should be a red flag for Malcolm).  That leaves RC - who doesn't really have any numbers.  I don't know what Malcolm should do except keep winning challenges.  If they do have to vote someone out, I would keep my promises to a minimum (if he can get away with it).  
Denise's fortunes also improved.  I like the way the producers handled the disbandonment of that tribe.  If you merge a six-person tribe with a three-person tribe, the three have big problems.  Maybe one can survive it.  But, the strongest two will be attacked right away.  However, a six-person tribe can absorb only one person with a lot less friction.  It gives that single person a decent shot.  One person coming in is less likely to be seen as a threat and more likely to be seen as an opportunity.   In any case, it's good to see Denise and Malcolm put out of the misery of their initial tribe.  They are both good players.
I was dead wrong about the strength of loyalty Katie had for Dana.  But, it turns out Dana didn't have the same loyalty coming back.  I know, I know, Dana was in severe pain.  My advice:  drink as much water as you can stomach, lay in the shelter, and it will eventually go away.  People fight through those attacks.  Instead, Dana left her allies up Dawson's Creek.  Am I being too tough on Dana?  Maybe.  But last week she was blustering that the male alliance shouldn't "underestimate her because she's a female."  Maybe her alliance shouldn't overestimate her because she's Dana?  I realize that about 1 out of 10 or 1 out of 15 Survivors' bodies shut down.  She still could have fought a little harder (I saw Tom Westman talk Janu into staying in Palau when she was about to shut down).  Dana's quit wasn't as bad as Osten's checkout from Panama, but it wasn't admirable.    
Once Dana was gone, Katie talked about roping in Denise, but did we even see it?  I know there are time constraints, but where was the attempt?  Kent did it without much fuss.  Did Dawson even consider approaching Denise as an option?  I realize life is busy on the island for Dawson.  She has to antagonize Kent and dream about Probst's next visit to camp, but could she have at least found a moment to ask Denise if she wants to vote with her?  She didn't even find time to use her best weapon - her info about Kent's former career.  But, she did get a 30-second cringe-inducing hug from Probst, so I guess it was all worth while.
You get the feeling Dawson wasn't there to win.  She was there to have fun and meet Probst.  So, I'm guessing they made the right decision to dump her instead of Katie.  At least Katie is trying (though she's close to checking out - I know this because the near-comatose Carter observed it, so it must be true).  At least Katie's upset when she doesn't do well.  Dawson only seems to get upset when Probst comes to see Dana, not her ("I'd normally jump on him, but it wasn't good timing").
Other stuff:

- Another week of Skupin not bleeding!  He's actually almost under the radar (though next week's preview suggests that's about to blow up). 

- In the immunity challenge on the axe portion - Penner pinch hit for Kent.  If only he knew!

- So, Kent needs to be bailed out of the chopping portion of the immunity challenge, but according to him, the loss was Katie and Dawson's fault?  Just asking....

-  Was it me, or did Probst mention one time too many that Abi has sat out a lot, and Katie struggled in the early portion of the immunity challenge?  Probst, we heard you the third time!   

- The reward this week included cookies, and the winner of that challenge won immunity!  Angie was right - that's all a tribe needs!

- Abi to Dawson during the reward challenge: "fight like a man, not a b*tch!"  It's just that type of observation that can help any player after the merge (though, Abi might have had a point).

-  I thought Penner said all the right things during Dana's illness.  He was helpful, consoling and understanding.  But, did you get the feeling he was happy she left because he would now have the numbers within the tribe?  I'm sure he wouldn't have been as satisfied if he knew he would lose the next immunity, but I got the feeling, in that moment, he wasn't upset to see Dana go.

Great episode.  Next week, I'll start breaking down people's chances of winning.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Survivor: Philippines Ep.4 - Paradise Lost

Genesis, 2:7 - 3:23:  "Then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and Russell became a living being. ... Then the LORD God took the Russell and put him into the garden of Survivor to cultivate it and keep the tribe strong for the challenges.  But the Russell believed he to be perfect, not merely created by the LORD God, but like the LORD God, and thus would win all the challenges like the LORD God.  But, when Russell failed he cried to the LORD God why had he failed, and the Probst said to the Russell, "because you are just a man."  But, Russell wouldn't believe what he thought was the deceiver and could no longer see the Truth in all things.  And, the woman the LORD God had given to be with Russell to help cultivate the garden seeing Russell was just a man who could no longer see Truth was able to deceive him.  So the LORD God banished him from the garden of Survivor to return to the grounds from which he had been taken."   
I'm not sure why this episode reminded me of the Old Testament and the story of Adam's banishment from Eden.  I think it's because in Genesis, God created man, and man immediately messes up.  There's a lesson there - man is flawed, imperfect.  But, Russell never got that memo.  After the challenge, he suggested he should be flawless because God is perfect.  I'd love to know where he got that idea from.
At tribal council Russell walked back a lot of what he had said, but I think what came out at the challenge is what's really in his heart - unscripted.  The Ancient Greeks called this Hubris and their literature and myths made numerous warnings against it.
The worst rout in Survivor history occurred in Palau when Ulong lost all seven immunity challenges, whittling their original eight down to one.  Pathetic.  But, in many ways, this season's performance is even worse.  At least Ulong won a couple of rewards - Russell's tribe hasn't won anything.  Moreover, this tribe is competing against two others - giving them two chances to win.  The tribe is, in actuality, 0 for 8.  Atrocious.
The Greeks warned that Hubris's enemy was Nemesis, who would destroys all those whose ego exceeds that of a man's (Greek sculptors used to leave minor flaws in their works so as not to unleash Nemesis' wrath).  It's interesting to see such a self-centered egotist perform so poorly, leading his tribe to an historic (by Survivor standards) defeat.  That doesn't mean Russell wasn't likeable.  He was.  It's just that his ego wound up being completely out of control.  
Bottom Line:  I'm not arguing against self-improvement or trying to better oneself.  But, both the Ancient Hebrews and Greeks warned us: Don't go thinking your perfect.  No one is.  Thinking you are will ruin you.
Other Stuff:
-  Malcolm gave a good effort, but Kent's performance outclassed him in the challenge.  Being a professional baseball player helped tremendously.  He could obviously handle pressure (Malcolm panicked a little at the end); and, being a hitter, he showed tremendous hand eye coordination.  Well done (and a very exciting finish - I loved the slo-mo when Kent's last toss missed the jar only to crack it on the return).
-  I have both Pete and Roberta in the pool (it's never fun to see your kids fighting), and I think this squabble has the potential to be bad for both of them.  Roberta is losing control of her place in the tribe.  She seems anxious, even panicky.  As for Pete, if he pulls too many stunts like this, it could really blow up in his face.  It wouldn't take much for Abi and Roberta to have a conversation and figure out Pete planted the clue that caused the chaos.  However, to Pete's credit, Abi has shown absolutely no willingness to have such a conversation, so maybe Pete understands Abi better than I thought possible (and, thus, is really in control).  If that's the case, Pete has a much better read of things than Roberta ever did (who initially formed a primary alliance with the bombastic Brazilian, which is coming back to haunt her).  Pete's correct not to trust Roberta, and he seems to have isolated her, so maybe I shouldn't worry too much about what he's doing.  I just don't like him setting off an unpredictable personality like Abi's.  As for Roberta, it looks like her best chance is to get on a re-mixed tribe.
-  Penner's tribe has split based on gender, but did anyone else get the feeling Miss Delaware would rather be with the guys?  Dana sat there and talked about the girls sticking together, but I didn't hear much enthusiasm from the other two.  Dana could be the first to go if Malcolm/Denise actually manage to win something.
-  I don't recall seeing Skupin bleed once this episode!  Congrats to Mike!
-  Right now, Abi has an idol.  If she gets blindsided with it in her pocket, it could be the biggest fireworks explosion since the turn of the Millennium.  Abi doesn't do anything quiet.

Five Trillion Later

During the next economic crisis or deep recession, the President will call a meeting of his economic advisors and no one is going to say “let’s do what Obama did.”   

We borrowed and spent $5 trillion dollars and have nothing to show for it except the vague claim that we somehow prevented a second Great Depression.  The “stimulus” didn’t stimulate the economy, so we’re told things would have been worse without it.  We didn’t build any new infrastructure (where are the new roads, bridges and dams?).  What Obama did isn’t going to be a blueprint for anyone going forward.  Five trillion dollars down the toilet.       

Monday, October 15, 2012

Survivor: Philippines, Ep. 3: Lying to Oneself

I heard from a couple of you who strongly believed that the tribe should have kept Angie.  These arguments tended to focus on the shortcomings of Russell.  Russell's weaknesses are many.  He might be the weakest player to be on Survivor twice.  However, it's not enough to demonstrate Russell's failings.  You have to show that the tribe would be better off keeping the Provo Princess.  So, stop telling me how poor Russell is.  Explain to me why Angie is better.

Despite their tribe's shortcomings, I believe Denise and Malcolm are rationale players who are trying to win.  They are out there 24/7 with these people.  If they think Russell is more valuable to have around than Angie, I'm not going to quibble.  I didn't see anything glaring to the contrary, so I'm going to trust them on this.
As for the tribe in general - during Malcolm's pre-game interview, he said he was going to lay low and not be assertive.  He didn't want to be a target. 
We can all see the downside of that strategy.  There are scenarios where your tribe self-destructs if the leader-by-default is someone like Russell.  At least Malcolm's beginning to admit that he should have been more assertive (he said so after the last challenge).  But, it might be too little, too late.  Maybe Malcolm will be able to hide in a re-mixed tribe.  But, he'll probably need a hidden idol.  He better start looking for it.
Other Stuff:
1.  It ain't Survivor unless Skupin's bleeding. 
I am now convinced Skupin got an absolutely fantastic edit while on Australia.  I'm guessing he injured himself just as often in Australia as he is now.  He has simply injured himself way too often for it to be a fluke.  No one has a string of luck this bad.  This guy must always be hurting himself, and it must have been happening in Australia, too - they just didn't show it because it is hard to see it as anything but comical (what's happening this season is borderline hysterical, until you realize he could have destroyed one of his retinas when the facemask exploded).  However, tonally, how do you show a comical bumbling bruiser for five episodes and then on the sixth, show him severely burn himself?  It doesn't work.  So, I think they suppressed his initial injuries on Survivor: Australia [it also means he probably won't be having a serious injury this season - just lots and lots of minor ones].   
2.  A note to Angie: we got a ruling from Salt Lake City, and the LDS hierarchy has said your stint on Survivor: Philippines does not qualify as missionary service.  Sorry. 
3.  Penner was wise to show the idol to Jeff.  The idol is a lot more powerful if other people know about it.  Right now, Jeff could be in the center of the early decision-making - so letting him know you have the idol will give Jeff the opportunity to steer people away from you if he doesn't have the votes to flush it out.
4.  It's impossible to get through this game without misleading and misdirecting a little bit.  The question is when does it become too much?  Where's the line?
The beauty of Survivor is that the jury decides.  If you go too far with your lying - the jury can punish you for it.
Lately, the jury seems to be more and more forgiving of serial deception.  I though last year's winner, Kim, went too far in this regard and that the jury should have denied her the check.  But, they didn't.  They determined she had played a great game and forgave all.  I think it was the package.  Kim could get away with horrible deceptions in a way the troll-like Russell ultimately couldn't.  It's not fair, but it's the jury's decision.
But, there is one type of lying I find particularly weaselly.  It's when someone gives their word, and then they claim later they never really did.  Sandra did this in Panama to Burton and Johnny Fairplay to the point where I wanted to puke.  She made a promise to them, swore on her kids, and then gave herself an exemption.  In her mind, what she did was wrong, so she pretended she didn't really do it - it wasn't a "real" promise.  The jury didn't punish her because Burton and Fairplay were such disagreeable characters - but I haven't forgotten it.  She didn't want to believe she broke her word, so she lied to herself (a classic example of cognitive dissonance).
Anyway, we got a taste of that sort of nonsense from Jeff last episode.  Jeff is claiming it wasn't a real handshake with Penner, yada, yada, yada.  I already acknowledged you must use some deception in order to win.  I'll grant you a few broken promises.  But, please spare me the "I didn't really make the promise" weasel.  Jeff strikes me as the kind of guy who would go ballistic if someone broke a handshake agreement with him and wouldn't have much patience for a "I had my fingers crossed" defense.  We'll see where this plotline is headed.
Good episode.  I'm liking this season so far.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Survivor, Philippines, Ep. 2: God's Other Plan

I thought Roxy had a chance to go deep in this game.  She seemed so bright and cheerful in her pre-game interview.  Alas, all that positive energy was washed away in a Filipino downpour.  The Army reservist who has been through basic training and whose vocation is to counsel soldiers who have seen combat, got beaten down after a few days of rain.  Roxy, good luck with your career choice. 

I was sympathetic to Roxy when she complained about Russell's lack of listening in last week's challenge.  She told him she wasn't good at puzzles, yet he put her on puzzle-duty anyway.  This week, she told Russell she didn't want to run twice because she didn't drink enough water.  She also told Jeff at tribal council that she doesn't want to work hard around camp in order to save herself for the challenges.  
Are you keeping track of all this?  Roxy doesn't want to do puzzles, run, work at camp, or drink enough water for the challenges.  The question is what does she want to do?

A: gossip.

Now, there is no denying that gossip is an important part of Survivor.  But, if that's the only thing you're going to do, you better be good at it, and charming while doing it.  And, I think Roxy failed on both counts.  She was very aggressive and mean-spirited while reporting on the nocturnal activities of the Provo Princess.  If I was on the beach listening to her, I would be wondering what she's going to be saying about me, once Angie's gone - because, I would have the feeling that once Angie had been torpedoed, Roxy wouldn't take long to turn her guns on a new target.  If all you're going to bring to a tribe is hostile gossip, tears during the rainstorms and the occasional speaking in tongues, you are not going to last long.

So, Roxy rightly got the boot, and that tribe is in serious trouble until they get some cookies.

Other Stuff:

-    Abi-Maria, take it easy.  You are sending off major red flags.  Tone it down.  Roberta is allowed to talk to Skupin, geeez.  Another outburst like that and Lisa will start looking a lot more stable than you do.  Your own alliance will dump you in a New York minute.  I know Coach kept a loose cannon like Brandon for all those episodes, but, Coach is a dragon-slaying 21st Century Don Quixote, and I don't think you'll get that type of loyalty from Roberta, et al.  Roberta thinks she told you about the clue.  You think you caught Roberta so she had to tell you.  That's your main alliance?  You're not exactly the buds Kim & Chelsea were in One World, are you?  Suspicion is OK, but this smells like paranoia: Portuguese-style.  Chill. 

-    I thought Lisa did a nice job in the challenge as caller during the puzzle.  Her emotional episode earlier in the show might be temporary.  She said she's an introvert and felt comfortable playing a character on a stage.  Lisa, why not play a character while on the island?  Remember Brian from Thailand?  He did it and won!  I know, I know, he was a sociopath.  But, it's worth a shot?  It's better than having daily breakdowns?

-    Jonathan's chances improved dramatically with the discovery of the idol.  If they re-mix the tribes soon (and Jeff made it sound like they might), he will be in a dominant position in the new tribe, and should make it to the merge.  We still don't know much about the rest of that group beyond Kent's knee.  Carter and Miss Delaware are phantoms.  That doesn't mean they can't win, it's just hard to evaluate that tribe when all you've really seem is Penner's Idol Hunt.  

-    Did Skupin cut himself again?  He tried to deny it, but I believe I heard Roberta say "that's a new one."  I don't recall seeing his foot this episode, I wonder if last week's deep gash needed stitches or not.  Question:  Does the medical team have enough thread if Skupin makes it the whole 39 days?

-    I love it when Jeff gets annoyed at a stupid tribal council answer.  Miss Utah's "cookies" really set him off (and I don't blame him).  I've heard from former players that tribal council takes hours and it's a constant tug of war between Jeff and the cast.  No one wants to say anything meaningful, and Jeff badgers and threatens them with a bad "cut", as he tries to drag answers out of people.  You get the feeling he's been fighting with Angie for answers the last two councils and he's starting to get ticked with her.  They didn't cut her well in this episode, did they? 

Good episode.  Nothing ground-breaking, but a close, fun challenge, and I like how Penner deduced the clue.
Until next week...