Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Leaving Las Vegas

After four eventful and often positive years here in Southern Nevada, my family and I are headed for other environs. I'll soon be writing editorials for The Press-Enterprise in Riverside, California, another page with right-thinking people who, well, are in California, which is where (it turns out) we really wanted to be all along. The folks at the Review-Journal were very good to me, in many ways. I'll miss a lot of folks there, both in the newsroom and throughout the operation. My pal Steve Sebelius penned a generous farewell post on his blog, Under A Naked Bulb.

My former boss, John Kerr, was kind enough to let me to write a final column, which appeared Sunday. Don't know if I got the tone quite right. I e-mailed it to my wife, whose response was: "A little harsh, don't you think?" Oops. Maybe.

Anyway, the sentiments hold. So long as Las Vegas remains a small town, politically and culturally speaking, the corruption and scandals will keep on comng.

That said, we were fortunate enough to find (and then sell) a wonderful little house in a great neighborhood with delightful neighbors we actually know, I had a very positive working environment, and we did some fun things here. I'll miss hopping on my bike and riding to Red Rock Canyon and beyond; seeing some of the best blues bands in the world for free at Boulder Station Casino Thursday nights (it's the best entertainment deal in town, bar none); and enjoying primo bar food -- another underappreciated benefit of living in Las Vegas.

Then again, we'll be living in California, close to a lot of friends from whom we've grown too distant, and I'll be penning editorials for an agressive, up-and-coming page that describes itself as conservative on fiscal issues, moderate to liberal on social and environmental issues. Sounds like a good fit.

I will, however, have to put The Deregulator in mothballs. My new employers aren't comfortable with writers who are paid to represent the views of the paper also doing free-lance projects without prior approval -- which is understandable -- and so this page will have to shut down, perhaps forever. Even so, I hope to be back in the blogosphere in one form or another before too long. Meantime, the e-mail link on the left will remain active. Thanks for reading.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Calling all slayers

In Romania, they still believe in vampires. And the need to slay them. The process doesn't sound nearly as nifty as it was on Buffy. Or as perilous, for that matter. (Hat tip to Infinite Monkeys.)

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Radio, radio

I've had XM in the car for nearly three months now, and couldn't be more pleased. For one thing, XM went totally commercial-free in February. None of the channels I heard ever played commercials, but XM was able to drop the ads without raising fees. Over the past few weeks I've broadened my listening patterns a bit, moving away from an overdose of blues and Americana and spending more time with the handful of stations that play AAA (what us geezers used to call "folk rock" or "country rock") and the "Deep Tracks" classic rock channel. As I've said earlier, this isn't true free-form radio, but I continue to be impressed and surprised by the variety of artists and tunes, the XM-exclusive, in-studio performances, and the absence of formatting straitjackets. I've heard blues artists on the Americana channel, Jimmie Vaughan playing a solo acoustic set in the XM studio, Richard Thompson on a half-dozen stations, new songs from "classic rockers" who are still performing, recordings of live shows that may be decades old (Graham Parker and the Rumour from 1978!!), lots of neat stuff. I can't imagine driving anywhere without it.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

I took the test

The Libertarian Purity test, that is. Scored a 73, the same as National Review's Ramesh Ponnuru, and slightly higher than not only the estimable Charles Murray, but also my friends John Hood and Steve Hayward, who were contributing editors to Reason when I worked there. (John's still on the masthead ... for now.) I wouldn't abolish the public schools ... or Social Security or Medicare (though I would let anybody who wanted to opt out of the entitlements do so as long as they surrendered any future claims on the programs). Guess I'm a right-wing statist.

That's only one reason quizzes like this are worthless. They allow for no sense of nuance, and in this particular case, they're badly skewed. You get 5 points for advocating the abolition of all taxes, but only 1 for saying taxes in general are too high. Nuts.

The quiz also reminds me of an essay written for Reason about 30 years ago by the incomparable Edith Efron called "Secular Fundamentalists." I'm pretty sure it's not available online, which is unfortunate. Edith speaks of the disproportionate number of people (college students, mainly, though I can see Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons also fitting this profile) who have done little more than read a couple of articles by Rand and Rothbard, call themselves libertarians, are cocksure of how all the world's problems can be solved -- and are all-too-willing to burn the heretics who dare deviate from "the text." (SNL identified the type in the sketch that had William Shatner attend a Star Trek convention: "Get a life!") Edith suggested that people would do well to accumulate a little life experience before they attempt to save the world. Sound advice for all.

Addendum: Virginia Postrel and local reader Kody Kearns were kind enough to provide a Web link to the Efron essay. It's here.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Coach Karl?

Latest entry into UNLV basketball coaching rumor mill: George Karl, whose often under-talented NBA teams won 59 percent of their games in his 16 years as a head coach, and who cut his teeth coaching professionally in Spain, and then with the CBA. Oh yeah, and he played point guard at my alma mater, the University of North Carolina, in the early '70s. Karl has local grass-roots support, as Review-Journal columnist Joe Hawk points out, and there was some interest in bringing him here before Coach Spoonhour was hired three years ago. Hawk also notes that some boosters are uneasy with the presumed coronation of front-runner Lon Kruger, who "never stayed at a school longer than five years and won less than 60 percent of his games."

Of course, Karl hasn't exactly set down firm roots anyplace he's gone, either. His longest tenure was with Milwaukee, where he coached seven seasons; but he went through three other franchises along the way. Must be something in the water at Chapel Hill. None of the former Carolina point guards seem to stay put (Karl, Eddie Fogler, Jeff Lebo). Call it the Larry Brown Syndrome.

Anyway, Karl isn't really lobbying for the job. He says he'd just like to "talk about it." Because the only job he really did lobby for was the opening in Chapel Hill, four years ago -- throughout his NBA career, whenever Karl was being interviewed, it was a sure bet he was wearing a Carolina baseball cap or shirt or some Tar Heel paraphernalia -- but Milwaukee Bucks owner Herb Kohl refused to give him permission to pursue the job. After Roy Williams said no the first time, George was my favorite for the post, but things turned out all right in Chapel Hill. Even so, George Karl can coach. He's only 52, and if he doesn't get this job, he's going to win a lot of games at a major college someday soon.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Cautious approach

Attorney General Brian Sandoval is confident in the correctness of his ruling that state employees can't serve in the Legislature, but isn't sure how to force the issue. In a meeting with Review-Journal editors on Tuesday, Sandoval said he would move forward cautiously because he did not want to bring a legal action before the state courts, only to have it bounced on a technicality (as happened decades ago to the last AG who tried to remove an executive branch employee from the Legislature). Given the haphazard jurisprudence we've received from the current batch of justices, a deft touch may be in order.

Still, five of the six affected lawmakers say it's business as usual: They'll keep their tax-financed jobs and their legislative seats and run for re-election ... after which, they'll keep double-dipping in violation of the constitution. (State Sen. Ray Rawson, who faces an uphill primary re-election battle against Assemblyman Bob Beers, has scheduled a news conference for today in which he could announce he will not seek another senate term after all.)

Secretary of State Dean Heller, who has something to say about the qualifications of office-holders, appears willing to allow the six to keep their seats and their jobs until the next Legislature convenes. Which makes the timing of any resolution important. If the six continue to sit on legislative panels (including committees which are disbursing tax dollars) in violation of the constitution, I would think any of their constituents (or any state resident, for that matter) would have standing to file suit and have them removed from office immediately. At the very least, the issue ought to be resolved before the filing date for the 2005 Legislature closes in June. Otherwise, we face the prospect of a handful of lawmakers being re-elected, refusing to resign their state jobs, and then being thrown out of office early next year, necessitating special elections to fill the seats.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Splitting the baby

Nevada Attorney General Brian Sandoval ruled today that some public employees were eligible to sit in the Legislature, but others weren't. Sandoval was responding to a request from Secretary of State Dean Heller to clarify whether the separation of powers clause in the state constitution prevented government workers from legislative service. Employees of state agencies (including the university system) cannot hold seats in the Legislature, Sandoval decided, but the separation of powers concerns did not apply to local governments.

If the decision holds, six members of the 2003 Legislature, three Democrats and three Republicans, are no longer constitutionally eligible to hold office. The big losers are Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, who teaches political science at UNLV, Sen. Ray Rawson, who makes a gajillion bucks teaching dentistry (that's right) at the community college, and Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani, who gets paid $70,000 a year to do something or another for the community college.

It would be easy to give Sandoval a hard time for splitting the baby. After all, he had to perform some impressive intellectual contortionism to dismiss the separation concerns that apply to local workers. (The reasoning is that Nevada's constitution is based on California's, and court decisions from the early days of the Republic stated that separation of powers didn't apply to local governments. Of course, this doesn't address the issue of home rule, which I've posted about before.) On the other hand, no one in the state's political, business or labor establishments was pushing Sandoval to do anything other than leave the status quo in place. It took courage to move as far as he did. And besides, the decision (when it's up, I'll post a link) offers a ringing endorsement of why separation of powers is important. All in all, it's a pleasant surprise. (Sandoval also did a fine job eviscerating several opinions by the Legislative Counsel Bureau, the Legislature's lawyers, which had rendered separation concerns meaningless.)

That said, the ruling has no legal force behind it. It can be used as ammunition in litigation, which I hope starts quickly. Of course, if Sandoval really wanted to cause trouble, he could aggressively enforce the opinion, and basically kick the illegal double-dippers out of office immediately ... cut off their telephones ... change the locks on their offices ... deny them access to legislative e-mails. Won't happen, but it's an inviting thought.

UPDATE: The link the opinion (PDF) is here.

Decisions, decisions

Mickey Kaus (a Democrat, in case you're unaware) makes the case against John Kerry. (Hat tip to Instapundit.) Meantime, Virginia Postrel (still a registered Republican, AFAIK) links to the case against George W. Bush. (Again, Instapundit's involved.)

What's a mother to do?

Addendum: Virginia points out that she hasn't been a registered Republican since California switched to open primaries.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

When you visit Vegas, wear the pants with the deep pockets

The Review-Journal's intrepid Mike Kalil uncovers another Vegas scam: the long-haul cabbie. Last year, the local Taxicab Authority cited drivers taking riders on circuitous routes that boosted their fares on 174 occasions. While that's a miniscule proportion of the 23 million taxi rides offered last year, the number of long-hauls is much, much higher, because the citations reflect only the cases in which officers observed the practice, or riders were savvy enough to figure out they were being ripped off, and filed successful complaints. (Although as the story notes, cabbies who think their passengers are onto the plot are known to kick their customers out onto the streets.) Officials concede that cabbies are illegally taking in millions in extra fares from long-hauling.

The most typical scheme is called "tunneling," when cabbies leaving McCarran International Airport take their Strip-bound patrons to their hotels via the airport tunnel and then I-15, rather than on surface streets ... a much-closer route. This little ploy adds from $3 to $10 to the fare. Interestingly enough, a driver has to be cited five times in 12 months to lose his license ... and not one was revoked for that reason last year. Mike witnessed a driver being cited for tunneling as he reported the story:

In the six minutes it took to write (driver) Glavas' ticket, another five cabs passed by the officers on their way into the tunnel but were not pulled over.
"Those are all long-hauls, I guarantee it," said Roger Armstrong, a senior investigator with the authority who was observing the passing taxis. "We can only write tickets so fast."
After Glavas departed with a handshake and a smile for the officers, it was less than one minute before they flagged down another cab headed into the tunnel.
"Like shooting fish in a barrel," investigator Rick Jones added. "It's an epidemic."

How can you protect yourself from the scam? Other than being familiar with the routes and the terrain, not a lot. Read it here.

In a first-person sidebar to the story, Kalil also confirmed a widely circulated rumor about other "services" cabbies offer tourists -- access to hookers. Mike posed as a tourist and took six round-trip cab rides between the airport and the Strip. On two of the trips from McCarran, he was long-hauled; but:

Just as noteworthy, three of those 12 cabbies plied me with business card-size flyers featuring naked or half-naked "entertainers" on them, along with a phone number. The cabbies encouraged me to call, informing me that the companies' dancing, escort service or other unspecified service was just code for prostitution.

There's no way to know how widespread this sales pitch has become.

"I'd say we get one complaint every six months," said (Yvette) Moore, the authority administrator. "But then again, a tourist who takes them up on it isn't necessarily going to call and complain if they're dissatisfied with the result."

So long as what happens here, stays here ...

Speaking of con artists ...

Today's Review-Journal reports on a scary scam orchestrated by a crooked real-estate salesman (OK, insert joke here) who's using a loosey-goosey interpretation of "adverse possession" law to seize what he considers unoccupied homes and then "rent" or "sell" them to unsuspecting parties. The guy fesses up to doing what IMHO constitutes theft, saying only he's "pushed the envelope" on adverse possession. Here's what's frightening: The cops can't really do anything about this.

"Unfortunately, interpretations of court rulings and some other things have not allowed us to go forward," (fraud Detective Pete) Dustin said. "There's nothing we could have done with the statutes we have to work with."

Several folks in our neighborhood use their houses as rental properties or reside here only part of the year. Makes me wonder if this guy has set up any of his "clients" in my hood.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Stress test

The surprising resignation of UNLV basketball coach Charlie Spoonhour for stress-related health reasons has the school and its boosters scrambling for a successor. Finding a coach with the bona fides to meet the expectations of the boosters in advance who can then deliver a top-tier program on the court may be impossible. Spoon did a fine job restoring the program -- if not to prominence at least to respectability. After all, when he took over, the team was under NCAA sanctions and scholarship limits, and now the program appears to be clean for the first time ever. And each of his two teams won 20+ games. But fans who think a return to the glory years of Tark and the Shark Tank are a mere hire away are fooling themselves.

Listen, the Mountain West Conference is awful. It was lucky beyond belief to have landed and kept coaches of the caliber of Utah's Rick Majerus (who also resigned earlier this year for health reasons) and Jerry Tarkanian. The schools aren't good enough to attract the sort of talent who would normally go for a top-flight program. They don't offer anything approaching the academic and big-time college sports experience you get at schools like Stanford, Duke, Cal, Texas, North Carolina, UCLA, Notre Dame, Michigan. Nor do they offer the sort of immersion in campus life you get at the next tier of schools: Wisconsin, Miami, Florida State, Ohio State, Indiana, Oklahoma, Kansas, Kentucky, NC State. Instead, you're competing with other "mid-major" schools -- the Louisvilles, Daytons, Memphises, Charlottes. And the schedules you play will reflect that. You may be able to convince a school from a major conference to play you once or twice a year, but chances are, it'll be a second-tier program in that conference (Missouri, Cal). Most of the time, you'll play your conference foes and a bunch of other mid-level schools, or worse. That doesn't get you on national TV often; nor does it make an NCAA berth easy to obtain. So the top recruits, unless they're local (see Utah, BYU, who competed for the Mormon talent pool), or have academic or other off-the-court concerns, will typically pass you by. (Another reason Majerus's record is so astounding; at one point, Dean Smith had hopes Carolina would name Majerus his successor. Looking back, we Tar Heels are lucky that didn't happen.)

That's also most likely why, before Spoonhour was hired, big names such as Rick Pitino and Bob Knight demurred. Why not instead choose a school with Louisville's storied traditions, or try to build a legacy at an unknown program (Texas Tech) in a monster conference?

Some boosters talk of luring Steve Lavin or Lon Krueger, currently out of coaching, to UNLV. Could happen. According to my neighbor Rich, who's a UCLA fanatic, Lavin would be a mistake. He's a latter-day Bobby Cremins: Great recruiter who can't teach his way out of a wet paper bag; players never improved under his tutelage. Krueger might be an excellent hire, if he'd take the job. But if I were involved in the selection process, I'd look for a young guy from a mid-mid major who's successfully dealt with those recruiting challenges and might be willing to stay for a number of years as he builds his own program. (Carolina bias: What about Jeff Lebo at Tennessee-Chattanooga?) Another option would be to pluck a top assistant from a top program and let him build a reputation here. (Coach K has several on his bench, but it's unlikely the locals would ever welcome a Dukie; Rebel fans have memories longer than elephants). My guess is, if the university picks a big name, he'll either flounder and be forced out after a handful of seasons ... or he'll succeed and take a better job after a handful of seasons.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Moneyball goes Hollywood

If you're a Dodger fan (I'm not), the team's hiring of Paul DePodesta as general manager should be cause for celebration. DePodesta, as this Rob Neyer column suggests, was the brains behind the wildly successful Oakland front office the past few years, when the team consistently made the postseason, even though it had one of the sport's smaller payrolls. (Take that, Mr. Steinbrenner.)

DePodesta and his former boss, Billy Beane, are honor students from the Bill James school -- where numbers rather than hunches (provided by tobacco-chewing scouts) offer the best measure of on-field talent. Beane won with tightwad owners; fellow sabremetrician GM Theo Epstein won at Boston with deep pockets; DePodesta should also have a liberal budget in L.A.

In a way, DePodesta is the latest extension of the longtime Dodger tradition launched more than a half-century ago by Branch Rickey, who ran the sport's first "scientific" front office. DePodesta may not deliver the brass ring right away, but one thing is certain: While he's in charge, you'll never again see speedy Dominican middle infielders who get on base less than 30 percent of the time using up outs at the top of the Dodgers' order.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Da trade

So A-Rod's going to the Yankees. As a card-carrying Yankee-hater who really likes a lot of the players on that club, I actually think this deal is pretty cool. I mean, only baseball would allow this sort of transaction to take place -- allowing the game's highest-paid player, who may end up being the best at any position of all time, in the prime of his career, to go to the team with the biggest payroll. This could happen in no other major professional sport. The all-consuming obsession for "parity" shared by basketball and football -- and the accompanying necessity for salary caps to make that happen -- is ruining those sports, leading to the constant roster churning which causes fans, as Jerry Seinfeld put it, to "root for laundry."

Not in baseball. If The Boss wants to spend six times as much in player salaries as the owners of the Brewers or the Pirates, so be it. And the beauty part is, there's no guarantee the Yankees will actually win anything, even with A-Rod on the hot corner.

This column by the AP's Paul Hagen points out some of the Yanks' potential pitfalls. Here's my take: The Yankees have an aging, inflexible roster. Aside from second base, where the job is wide open, and third (A-Rod's 28), by the All-Star break, the Yankees will start someone who's 30 or older at every position. Three starters will be on the far side of 35. The catcher will be 33. So will the first baseman, who hasn't played defense regularly in years. The bench is suspect, at best. The minor leagues are thin on prospects. And as Hagen points out, the pitching staff has undergone a major transformation (but I do like Vasquez a lot).

Since the typical position player's physical skills start to decline about age 30 (according to Bill James), the Yanks are playing with fire. They'd better win this year.

Misty-eyed moment

Driving in to work today, XM's Americana station was broadcasting a tribute to June Carter Cash, who died May 15 last year, exactly one month before my dad passed on. One of the songs played was "Church in the Wildwood," from her final (Grammy-winning) recording Wildwood Flower. The song happens to be one of Dad's favorites ... the choir at the Wilkesboro United Methodist Church sang it at his funeral last June. It's been a week to reminisce. My mom passed away 15 years ago last week, and last week Lola and I enjoyed a brief visit from two of my best friends from Chapel Hill -- poker buddies from way back -- and some of their family members, too.

Sunday, February 15, 2004

Weasel alert

A story in today's Review-Journal reports that, surprise, surprise, the record-setting, $833-million tax increase enacted by last year's Legislature is causing banks and small businesses to scramble. Non-banking businesses are chafing at the 0.7 percent payroll tax (which replaces the $100 annual per-employee "head tax"). Banks are reeling from both the new 2 percent payroll tax and the new $7,000 per-branch licensing fee. Hit particularly hard are Nevada's smaller, private banks, some of which may have to lay off employees or close branches in the more-isolated hamlets in the state.

While no one who lives in this universe should be shocked, the response of pro-tax Democrats (sorry, I repeat myself) to the news is downright disgusting. Assembly Taxation Committee Chairman David Goldwater and Senate Minority Leader Dina "Cross of Gold" Titus are feeling the pain of hard-hit businesses ... a little. Both lawmakers say the taxes they preferred would have hurt much less -- but that if companies want to gripe about the structure of the tax code, they should look in the mirror: "(W)e fought like crazy to keep (the payroll tax) out, but it's what the businesses wanted," Goldwater mewled, noting that the state's nongaming businesses screamed to high heaven about imposing an alternative, a gross-receipts tax. "They got what they wanted, and now they're complaining about it." Titus said that if businesses would have lined up in lockstep with the big casinos and backed the GRT, they'd have nothing to complain about.

Wait a minute. If a robber holds a gun to your head, demanding your money or your life, and offers alternative payment plans, you'll pick the one that's less onerous, even though you really don't "want" either option. It took one regular and two special sessions of the Legislature to jam this tax package through, and the notion that any business owner eagerly embraced the final plan is pure fantasy.

Asserting that the GRT would be the only tax that would have applied to businesses is also a lie. Kenny Guinn's initial proposal would have tripled the head tax to $300 a year, which would have more thoroughly pummeled companies that pay modest wages. (The payroll tax was suggested by business groups as a way to ease that tax bite.) The tripling would have amounted to a 2.3 percent payroll tax on businesses that pay $6.25 an hour. You have to offer a salary of $43,000 a year, or roughly double the average pay statewide, before a $300 head tax would be less burdensome than a 0.7 percent payroll tax.

The final outrage is that the entire tax hike was unnecessary, as Assemblyman Bob Beers and anti-tax activists pointed out. Before the session convened, revenues were expected to grow by more than $300 million over the budget cycle. Those projections have since been scrapped, as taxes are flowing at a higher-than-expected rate into state and local coffers. But, of course, the political establishment has no interest in taking a mulligan and repealing the entire lot.

Meet the principals

Today's R-J also includes interesting and informative profiles of Southern Nevada's three most prominent critics of expansive government: Knight Allen, the somewhat reclusive "Jeffersonian Democrat" who's constantly armed with facts and figures underscoring official profligacy and abuses of power; Dan Burdish, the openly gay, self-described GOP bomb-thrower who's a relentless critic of big-spending Republicans and a thorn in the side of the religious right; and George Harris, the publicity-hungry Republican crusader whose e-mail fusillades (which can play fast and loose with the facts) annoy friend and foe alike. The package is well-done and, from my limited contacts with all three, seems to capture them all fairly. It's a useful way to discover what makes these men tick.

Also ...

Las Vegas Councilwoman Lynette Boggs McDonald offers her views on the debate over public employees serving in the Nevada Legislature. Money quote:

The only successful arguments to declare the separation of powers position moot is to argue either that the Nevada Constitution does not apply to local governments or its employees or that city employees are somehow members of the legislative branch.

Read it here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Now blogging ...

My friend and colleague Steve Sebelius has finally entered the 'sphere. Under a Naked Bulb should be a fun site, and (I hope) offer some of Steve's edgy, lefty, outrage-fueled humor. Check it out.

Thursday, February 05, 2004

Decadent West

I'm not going to comment on Boob-a-Palooza, other than to second the sentiments of Crispin Sartwell: The halftime show will likely end up as a recruitment video for al-Qaida. Plus, the man has great taste in music. Anybody who can get George Jones and Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers mentioned on the L.A. Times' op-ed page is OK in my book.

Four and counting

So far, Brian Greenspun has used four columns to defend Harry Claiborne (OK, to be fair, in three of them he merely recycled columns written years ago by dad Hank). Meantime, the Media Watch column in this week's City Life reports on an amusing and bizarre partnership between the Sun and American Society of Newspaper Editors ... to study ethical decision-making. The Sun somehow came out with flying colors, notwithstanding, as CL pointed out, the paper's notoriety as an inbred vanity publication. How did this happen?

Well, it may have something to do with the fact (author William Woo is) a longtime acquaintance of Managing Editor Michael Kelley. Woo disclosed in the article that Kelley "trained at the Kansas City Times a few years after I did, and I should acknowledge that we have been friends since."

Read the whole thing.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Doug, Dinsdale and Harry

Us relative newbies (we're a few weeks away from being four-year Vegas residents) typically get reminders of what Las Vegas used to be whenever one of the old-timers passes on. This week, Harry Claiborne, former U.S. District Court judge and perhaps the most legendary criminal defense lawyer in Nevada history, took his own life at age 86. He had been suffering from Alzheimer's and liver cancer. One's not supposed to speak ill of the dead, but the praise and reverence that were slathered over this man after his passing was way overboard, when you consider what was Claiborne's true claim to fame: In 1986, as a federal judge, Claiborne was impeached by the U.S. House, convicted by the Senate, and removed from office because he accepted bribes ... from the owner of a whorehouse.

Now it takes some doing to be removed from office by Congress, and indeed, Claiborne was the first judge in U.S. history to be convicted of crimes while sitting on the federal bench. Yet Claiborne had a life after prison. Because after he served 17 months for income-tax evasion (the bribery charges resulted in a hung jury), the Nevada Supreme Court reinstated him to the bar and let him continue to practice law. The 163-page decision read like a defense brief for Claiborne and an indictment of his impeachment and criminal conviction. (As an R-J editorial stated, the court's decision to let impeached judge and convicted felon Claiborne again practice law "establish[ed] a standard probably unique in the nation.") Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman practiced law with Claiborne for years and defended the judge at his tax-evasion trial.

Perhaps more remarkably, though, the Las Vegas Sun (whose founding family, the Greenspuns, was tight with Claiborne through the years) published a glowing editorial/epitaph on the felon ... and editor Brian Greenspun dedicated not one but two columns to the man, the first titled (I kid you not) "A pillar of real Las Vegas."In Greenspunland, Claiborne was railroaded by overzealous federal cops. But while on the federal bench, he accepted bribes ... from a pimp.

All the glowing accounts of Claiborne call to mind Monty Python's "Piranha Brothers" sketch. In the routine the Piranhas, Doug and Dinsdale, were gangsters who terrorized the South of England with a combination of violence and sarcasm. (The Piranhas were loosely based on the real-life British gangster brothers the Krays.) And the vicious gangsters still merit praise, even from the people they victimized. An interviewer questions Stig O'Tracy, who got on the wrong side of the Piranhas.

Interviewer: I've been told Dinsdale Piranha nailed your head to the floor.

Stig: No. Never. He was a smashing bloke. He used to buy his mother flowers and that. He was like a brother to me.

Interviewer: But the police have film of Dinsdale actually nailing your head to the floor.

Stig: (pause) Oh yeah, he did that.

For some reason, newcomers to the state are expected to hear stories about the "colorful" criminals who populated Nevada's political and business establishment in years past and just accept the fact that things were done differently here. Sorry, folks. I ain't buying.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

SOTU thoughts

At Reason's Web site, my longtime friend and fellow Tar Heel John Hood offers this compelling argument why -- despite an uninspiring field of Democratic challengers -- a second Bush term may not be a sure bet. John's point goes beyond the apparent meltdown of Howard Dean and the emergence of seemingly more electable Democratic rivals post-Iowa:

The problem for Bush and the Republicans is that if the security issue gets muted during the 2004 campaign, a good chunk of their political base will get uncomfortable. It is difficult to overstate the extent to which the limited-government, free-market faction of their coalition—including mainstream Reagan Republicans, old-style balanced-budget moderates, and small-l libertarians—have been dismayed by Bush's dismal record on federal spending and entitlements. Non-defense discretionary spending under Bush and a Republican Congress soared by nearly 19 percent in two years, a rate not seen in decades and one making Bill Clinton look like Calvin Coolidge. ...

There was a way for Bush to offer a more inspiring message, one calculated to ease the frustrations of fiscal conservatives and giving them the sense that any compromises on spending and entitlements in the short run would result in smaller government in the long run. That's why early reports about President Bush's State of the Union speech were so intriguing. They suggested that he might tie together his advocacy of expanded IRAs, savings-based health reform, and personal Social Security accounts to articulate a rhetorical vision of an ownership society to replace the current syndrome of dependency on government to finance the big-ticket items of life: buying a home, educating children, suffering a major illness or disability, losing a job, and retiring.

It was also an opportunity for Bush to toss in a real wild card, say, to call for a flat tax or national sales tax or a way to place the high-tax technocrats on the defensive. While Bush did utter the phrase "ownership society" once in the speech, it seemed like a throwaway line, of no more importance than his bizarre aside about steroids.

If indeed the Democrats nominate a perceived moderate, a Kerry, or an Edwards, and the party can somehow get beyond the odd (and hypocritical) class-warfare pitches (megamillionaires vilifying wealth is a pathetic message), independent voters and small-government types who are nominally Republican might well vote for a Democrat, pining for the days of divided government. Or they might stay home. This may not deny Bush his second term but could cost the GOP a seat or two in Congress and end any talk of the sort of "mandate" which might allow a lame-duck president to shepherd through dynamic, market-oriented reforms such as personal retirement accounts or ending the advantageous tax treatment given to health insurance. In any event, Bush truly missed an opportunity to articulate an agenda that was not a Clintonian laundry list of new programs but would instead cause a buzz, and excite his limted-government constituency, who could use a little love. The president may have guaranteed that he'll have a run for his money.

Other political stuff

Not going to talk about Howard Dean's crackup but instead the Democratic response to the SOTU. Who embalmed Nancy Pelosi? She makes Al Gore look like Frank Luntz. Talk about a cold fish. While Tom Daschle can appear avuncular (superficially, anyway), Pelosi was frighteningly stiff. And her discomfort shone through in an interview I saw on CNN this morning, when she did nothing more than regurgitate the talking points she made Tuesday. When the interviewer tried to engage her in a conversation rather than let her drone on and read from the cue cards, Pelosi got rattled, but still struck to the script which was etched on the software package that must stand in for her brain.

All this makes me think either: 1) The Democratic congressional leadership doesn't really operate under any sort of governing philosophy that they can discuss and defend ... it's nothing more than talking points. All they want to do is protect their turf; or 2) They do operate by a philosophy that's so extreme that they dare not explain it. Instead, they work from a boilerplate script that's both inoffensive and inane. In any event, you'd think the Democrats could find somebody, somewhere, who could pleasantly and articulately carry the party's message better than those folks.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

Republican government

No, I'm not talking about the State of the Union address, but instead today's filing of a petition asking the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene in the Guinn v. Legislature lawsuit. (Read the petition here.) The strongest point made by the brief is that -- by setting aside the supermajority requirement in the state constitution for the Legislature to increase taxes -- the Nevada Supreme Court has violated Article IV of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees each state a republican form of government. While defenders of Nevada's crackpot decision claim there's no way the federal justices will get involved in a decision affecting only one state, Chapman University law professor John Eastman, who wrote the brief, cites a 1992 Supreme Court decision in which the justices said they might be receptive to such a case. Eastman also notes that if this decision stands, big spenders in the dozen-plus states that also have supermajority tax-increase requirements are poised to ask their courts to similarly set aside these impediments to runaway taxes and spending. Stay tuned.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

The Sun weighs in

The Las Vegas Sun publishes a superficial front-page feature today on public employees in the Legislature. It's long on information but woefully short on analysis. The point of the story seems to be that barring public employees from legislative service will change the Legislature, but it doesn't really explain how ... or argue why anyone should care. The story mentions that there's a concern that dual service might violate the separation of powers clause in the state constitution, but then brushes aside that argument because the Legislative Counsel Bureau -- the Legislature's hired legal help -- has ruled the provision doesn't apply, so the story abandons the issue entirely. (The LCB also decided in 2002 it was OK for an employee of the state Department of Transportation to sit in the Legislature and hold both jobs. Amazing.)

It also completely ignores the question of home rule, which is (or should be) the basis on which the forthcoming opinion by Attorney General Brian Sandoval rests. If Sandoval agrees with former AG Bob List, and determines that Nevada is a home rule state, then local employees can serve in the Legislature (though the Sun story does point out that Nevada is apparently the only state that allows public employees to continue drawing pay and benefits at their full-time jobs while the Legislature is in session). If it isn't a home rule state, public employees will have to quit their tax-paid jobs if they want to become lawmakers.

Failing to address the home-rule issue head-on also leaves some important questions unanswered. Consider this, from the story:

A survey of 1998 financial disclosure statements prepared by the nonprofit organization Center for Public Integrity, a Washington government watchdog group, found that 20 percent of Nevada lawmakers or family members derived income from a government agency. Topped by New Jersey at 43 percent, 30 states ranked ahead of Nevada, including many whose constitutions seemingly place severe restrictions on legislators holding government jobs.

But the comparison is irrelevant, because New Jersey is a home rule state (as at least some of the others no doubt are); it's perfectly permissible for local government workers to serve in the Garden State's legislature. Of course, the reader who's unaware of the home rule question -- because the story neglected to address that crucial point -- might think Nevada's just like other states, and that the intrusion of double-dipping government workers on the legislative process is lower here than elsewhere. It's a conclusion you wouldn't be as likely to draw had the article told the entire story.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Separation talk

I'll be on radio and in cyberspace next week, appearing on KNPR-FM's "State of Nevada" public affairs program Monday the 19th. The topic: public employees in the Legislature. My buddy and R-J colleague Steve Sebelius is the guest host, and the other guests are City Councilwoman Lynette Boggs McDonald, Assembly Speaker (and Henderson cop) Richard Perkins, and Senate Minority Leader (and UNLV political science professor) Dina Titus. The show was taped Tuesday, will air at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., and will be available as an audio stream on the Web site sometime that morning. My radio voice was a bit rusty, so I hope my presentation was OK.

For those who can't or won't listen to the program, you're probably familiar with the arguments Boggs McDonald and I make, primarily this: The separation-of-powers clause in the Nevada Constitution prohibits employees from any state and local agency from simultaneously serving in the Legislature. Perkins and Titus counter with a few of their own:

1) Nevada is a home-rule state, so local employees are exempt from the ban. That's not true, though it was the basis of the 1971 opinion by Attorney General Bob List that opened the floodgates for the subsequent torrent of double-dippers. List told me that was his justification. But he just plain got it wrong. There are no home-rule provisions in the Nevada Constitution, as there are in every home-rule state's founding document. Every governmental subdivision in the state that's not listed in the constitution is a creation of the Legislature (with one notable exception I'll mention later). Every city, county, school district, water district, school board, etc., can be dissolved on a whim, by a majority of the lawmakers in both legislative houses. These bodies have no authority to increase or decrease taxes or to impose fees or raise money for capital projects without first gaining legislative approval. Often, they have to ask permission before they can annex land. They're subservient to the will of the Legislature, and their employees are -- according to the constitution -- members of either the executive branch or (in the case of the local courts) the judicial branch. And those workers can't serve in the Legislature and keep their government jobs.

2) Employees of the state university and community college system are also exempt from the ban because the constitution sets up the system as a "fourth branch" of government, controlled by an elected board of regents. That's inaccurate, for several reasons. First, the university system remains a creation of the Legislature, to the extent that the Legislature, among other things: sets the budget for the system; raises the money to pay for the system; sets the capital budget; sets tuition and fees for students; sets the pay scale for faculty and staff; establishes or disbands entire campuses and individual departments within campuses. The regents make recommendations and requests to the Legislature, but lawmakers have the final say. Next, it doesn't matter how many shadowy "branches of government" people concoct. Whether it's four or 400, the constitution says a person can't serve in more than one at a time.

3) Here's my favorite, to the degree it reveals the philosophical underpinnings of Perkins, Titus, and others who think dual service is OK: The constitution isn't some black-and-white document which articulates rigid rules. It's flexible, open to interpretation. And besides, we (Perkins and Titus) would never engage in the sort of "petty tyranny" I've alleged in print, because we're public-spirited people ... and if we ever got out of line, the voters would kick us out. Both of them made those points during the course of the show, and they're illuminating. At one level, "the voters can fire us" argument is awfully easy for somebody in a supersafe legislative district (not to mention a de facto lifetime goverment job) to say. But the larger point: We're good people, so how dare you insinuate any nefarious intentions from us encapsulates what Thomas Sowell called the "unconstrained vision" in his seminal book "A Conflict of Visions." (A fine summary of his argument is here.) In a nutshell, the unconstrained vision holds that human nature is perfectible, and that intentions and results trump rules and processes -- that people with pure hearts should be trusted implicitly ... that absolute power never corrupts. Of course, in its extremes, that view has led to such atrocities as the pogroms, the Stalinist purges, the Cultural Revolution of Mao and the killing fields of Cambodia. But here and now, that view also gave us the system that enabled Wendell Williams to commit his manifold crimes, misdemeanors and abuses ... not to mention created the makework jobs by the community college system for Assembly members Chris Giunchigliani and Mark Manendo. That's why the founders believed so strongly in separation of powers -- a real-world application of the constrained vision -- and why the principle continues to have relevance today. And it's why -- no matter what Attorney General Brian Sandoval decides later this month, when he revisits the List opinion -- it'll probably be necessary to amend the constitution and explicitly ban public employees from the Legislature entirely. Because the double-dippers don't really believe in self-government and see no reason to govern themselves.

Or is there a fourth branch?

Turns out that thousands of students have been paying out-of-state tuition (which can exceed $2,000 a semester) at Nevada colleges and universities since 1995. According to this story by the R-J's crack political reporter Erin Neff (lured away from the Sun a few months back), the Board of Regents, on advice from their crack-addled legal counsel, decided that the 6-month residency requirement established by the Legislature was "unconstitutional," and that students had to live here for 12 months before they qualified for residency status and were exempt from tuition. (All students have to pay per-class fees.) Lawyers said the regents can set their own residency policies independent of Nevada law.

Lawmakers are livid, including one Richard Perkins, who can't believe the university system would get all uppity and act like, say, an independent branch of government! Meantime, Polo Towers owner and big-time Democratic Party donor Steve Cloobeck is ready to bankroll a class-action lawsuit on behalf of overcharged students. I hope the suit prevails; in a just world, the proceeds would be the result of garnisheeing the salaries of the regents and their attorneys.

BTW, Sebelius wrote a fun column about the controversy. A taste:

If the board of regents can decide to ignore the Nevada Revised Statutes, how long can it be before they start thinking really big, and disregard whole portions of state and federal law as well?

It's not inconceivable that the system could decide to raise a standing army, quarter troops in the homes of unwilling Las Vegans and declare war on the defenseless and inoffensive community colleges of Utah, Arizona and parts of California. They'll begin searching through personal papers and effects (oh, wait, Regent Linda Howard has already done that, hasn't she?) and begin to seize private property for public use without just compensation.

Read the whole thing.

More XM

The experiment continues to be a success, despite XM's unfortunate habit of having a playlist -- OK, it's a big one -- and repeating songs. (To be sure, repeats are most annoying when you don't like the cuts.) Still, I have my first convert: my friend Ben Boychuk, who (along with his lovely wife Millie) has joined us for a few blues outings over the years. When I e-mailed friends in December about my initial impressions of the service, Ben jumped on board immediately, offering his views on his entertaining joint blog Infinite Monkeys here. BTW, IM just made the faves list, to your left.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Delay of game

The City Council decides to punt the public employees issue, delaying its vote until Attorney General Brian Sandoval rules on the constitutionality of dual service. (The decision is expected by the end of the month.) During the council debate, Lynette Boggs McDonald reiterated the principal reason city employees can't also be lawmakers: The state constitution forbids it. City attorney Brad Jerbic all-but-ratified her view, which may have persuaded Mayor Oscar Goodman to vote the right way. (Goodman also noted that whatever Sandoval decides [IMHO, Sandoval -- establishment to the core -- won't find anything wrong with double-dipping] would merely interpret state law and could easily be overruled in court.)

Meantime, council members Janet Moncrief, Michael Mack, and Lawrence Weekly -- with collective IQs perhaps reaching the triple digits -- remained oblivious to any potential conflict with the state's governing document ... notwithstanding the fact that Boggs McDonald reminded her colleagues they had taken an oath to defend it. Members Gary Reese and Larry Brown seemed uneasy with the prospect that their personal views (which would continue to allow city workers to sit in the Legislature) might not be legally permissible as a matter of policy. So odds are, they'll defer to Sandoval's opinion.

Perhaps acknowledging the, shall we say, intellectual shortcomings of a few of her colleagues, Boggs McDonald issued several other objections to continuing dual service: It's a management nightmare and it may jeopardize federal funds to the city. On the first point, she noted that city workers who are also lawmakers don't stop being influential people when the Legislature is out of session. The Legislature meets on an interim basis nearly full-time, anyway, dealing with budget and policy matters outside the regular, 120-day, every-other-year cycle. And every lawmaker/bureaucrat wields full-time power over his full-time city bosses. Dual service blurs the distinction between manager and subordinate, unless, of course, you have a no-show job like that held by Wendell Williams. On the funding front, Boggs McDonald pointed out that any city worker who's a lawmaker could well run afoul of the federal Hatch Act (a problem now confronting Assembly Speaker/Henderson cop Richard Perkins). More than 10% of Las Vegas' general fund budget is comprised of federal money. Is the city willing to risk losing that funding just to let some of its employees serve as informal lobbyists in Carson City?

Good points, all, but they may have fallen on deaf ears (or been too sophisticated for the intended audience). Had the council voted Wednesday, my guess is the motion to bar dual service would have failed, 5-2. If Sandoval gives public employees a pass, it'll fail 6-1. If hell freezes over and he actually enforces the constitution, the motion might squeak by, 4-3. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

The Williams Saga, next chapter

Haven't we been here before? Wednesday, the Las Vegas City Council will decide whether to establish policies governing city employees who wish to serve in the Legislature. City Manager Doug Selby says the council will have two options: Ban city workers from the Legislature altogether, which would conveniently comport with the state constitution; or let city workers serve a second master but force double-dippers to take unpaid leave while they're in Carson City and take other steps to minimize potential conflicts. The former is, of course, the only legitimate choice. But given statements made by council members over the past couple of months, it's impossible to say how many (other than Lynette Boggs McDonald, who gets it) are smart enough to figure this out.

Meantime, the Las Vegas Sun, oblivious as usual, opines in favor of the latter option, completely ignoring the state constitution ... in fact, failing to even mention that rather germane document. The folks there wouldn't recognize Occam's Razor if it cut them. Stay tuned.

Mickey Kaus shows his coastalism

I got XM satellite radio for the car this year (Thanks, Santa!), and it's been a wonderful thing. I did this for a couple of reasons: 1) I have eclectic music tastes; 2) I enjoy listening to radio in the car, because I appreciate the possibility of hearing something surprising (rather than music recorded by me): but 3) Vegas radio blows.

You'd think a city of more than 1 million people would offer something interesting on the dial. But no. UNLV doesn't really have a college radio station. The campus possesses a frequency, and it broadcasts jazz during the week. I love mainstream, "straight-ahead" jazz, the kind they play on my favorite station, K-Jazz (Long Beach State). But the jocks at KUNV determine the playlists, and (when I'm listening, anyway) more than one actually think "smooth jazz" is something you can listen to without projectile vomiting. The other stations in town are your basic Infinity/Clear Channel losers with tiny playlists or inane, chatty jocks.

I suppose, ideally, I'd own an MP3 player and have about 10,000 files downloaded, so I could set the player on "random." But I don't. So I have XM.

I chose XM over Sirius after soliciting comment from friends. It's possible that Sirius offers better programming ... by that, I mean, deeper playlists and fewer repeats. But I'm a bit concerned that Sirius won't make it, meaning any hardware I bought would be worthless. And I was not that impressed with the hardware Sirius now offers, which is clunkier than that now available from XM.

Case in point:. I bought the XM Roady receiver. It's $120 and includes everything -- a tuner (about the size of a wallet that you can attach to the dash or center console); connection cables to a power supply (the cigarette lighter) and your existing car stereo (via the cassette deck); and a magnetic antenna (maybe 1 inch by 1 inch by 1/8 inch deep) that attaches to the exterior of the car. I'm a klutz and I installed the thing myself in maybe 20 minutes. Other XM options run upwards of $200, requiing professional installation, too.

As for the programming ... My tuner has 30 presents, but I primarily listen to the alternative country and blues channels, occasionally checking out the "XM Lab" prog-rock station or one of the classic rock or "adult album alternative" alternatives. There's repetition on each; I'm guessing 25-40 songs get pretty heavy rotation, each getting played several times a day, with literally hundreds of others mixed in. It's not freeform radio by any means, but my tastes mesh pretty well with those of the programmers', so the repetition isn't a turnoff. The XM folks like Duke Robillard, and Dave Alvin, and Hank III, and my man "Icepick" James Harman (who played our wedding reception ... I kid you not), and Ruth Brown, and Lightnin' Hopkins, and Bill Kirchen. Me too.

The "Deep Tracks" classic rock channel is now playing the "Essential 4004" album cuts of all time, in alphabetical order. On the ride home today, I heard, among others, Inside (Jethro Tull), Instant Amnesia (Ringo Starr), Instrumental Illness (Allman Bros. Band), and Interstellar Overdrive (Pink Floyd). I suppose the proof of how deep these tracks really go will come after the countdown is over. I am pleased that the classic rock channels play new releases from older artists. Just try to find that on your local Clear Channel station. And XM broadcasts plenty of live performances, some of them recorded at the XM studios.

Unfortunately, Mickey Kaus is not convinced. (Check out the entry dated Dec. 25. After asking why anyone would pay $200 for a radio and $10 a month for programming when you can hear similar stuff for free, Mickey reveals he's a coastalist:

I'll stick with college radio, where they seem too amateurish to be corrupted. ... (In Los Angeles, that means KXLU , 88.9 FM; in New York there's that weird station from New Jersey. [Update: WFMU 91.1 FM]) ...

How nice for you. But not everybody lives in New York ... or West L.A. When we resided in Culver City, I listened to KXLU's "Bomb Shelter" every Friday night. Where else could you hear in-studio performances from Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys bookended by '60s ska or '50s "race records"? But if you're stuck in Lodi, or Vegas for that matter, KXLU is not an option ... unless you're near a high-speed Internet connection. And you still can't hear it in your car.

OK, it's not genuine freeform, community radio, the type fellow Tar Heel and Reasoner Jesse Walker waxes poetic about in this article and his fine book Rebels on the Air. But I'm happy with it so far. And who knows: By the time we buy a new car, I may go for that MP3 player after all ... or switch to Sirius. Even so, I'm fairly certain that other than getting traffic reports, I'll never listen to "regular" radio again.

Henderson fixes the BCS

Thanks to the CBS/SEC hookup, I saw LSU play a bunch this year, and for my money, they were the nation's best college football team. The Tigers improved as the season went along and played their best in the big games. OTOH, AP columnist Jim Litke claims that "Southern Cal could beat [LSU and Oklahoma] -- back-to-back -- and still make it to the beach in time to catch the sunset."

Who's right? We'll never know, thanks to those wacky folks who devised the BCS. Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese, who was in charge of this year's circus, admits the current system is flawed, but until the college presidents agree to some sort of playoff, any system could fail to determine a "true" national champion. But changes will be proposed. Among them: An additional game pitting the two top-ranked winning teams of BCS games; elimination of computer rankings; and keeping the current system in place but with the guarantee that only teams that win their conference championships could participate in the BCS title game.

It's possible nothing will happen, though of these alternatives, I like the final one best. With that in place this year, LSU would have met USC and we would have crowned a "true" champion. Besides, requiring teams to win their conferences to qualify for a national championship is nothing new. That's how college basketball operated until the mid-1970s (you couldn't get invited to the Big Dance unless you won your conference), which made the postseason tourneys so interesting. And I support the notion of using measures like strength of schedule to determine bowl rankings. It serves as a disincentive for second-tier teams in BCS conferences (yes, I'm specifically thinking of K-State, N.C. State and Clemson) to load up their nonconference schedules with cupcakes, thus inflating their total wins.

Still, few were fully satisfied with what happened this past weekend, so here's MY SOLUTION. It's a modified playoff that adds no games to the bowl schedule but requires one additional week. And it lets the current BCS games continue to hog the glory.

Here's how it would work: At the end of the season, the top four teams (as determined by some variation of the current BCS formula) would participate in a two-week tournament. In the first week, #1 would play #4, and #2 would meet #3. The winners would play for the championship the following week. The four BCS games would host the tourney. But since only three games will be needed each season, the games will rotate year-by-year. So, for example, the Rose Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl would host the semifinals (to be played the Saturday closest to Christmas) and the Sugar Bowl (played the Monday closest to New Year's) would host the championship game. The Orange Bowl would host a match between #5 and #6. The tournament sites would rotate each year, so that each bowl would host the championship every four years (and would also not be involved in the tourney at all every fourth year).

The potential downside? None that I can envision, but I'll address possible objections anyway.

Minor bowls: The conferences would still be free to affiliate with bowls for their non-BCS teams.

Longer season: The tournament would extend two teams' seasons for an additional game, but that appears to not be a problem for schools in Division I-AA, Division II and Division III, where "student-athlete" is not an oxymoron. Those schools participate in true, three-round playoffs, and you don't hear those presidents complaining about a negative impact on academics.

Disrupting the "bowl season's flow" (whatever that is). This season, we had minor bowl games after the BCS began, and I have no doubt the teams involved and their fans were just as focused on winning as partcipants in those games had been in years past.

Eliminating marginal, bowl-eligible schools. The tournament would reduce by two the number of slots for bowl-eligible teams ... but that most likely means that two more BCS schools with 6-6 records would be expected to stay home (unless, of course, some other city decides to create a new bowl game on its own).

To be sure, my concept could be expanded to an 8-team tourney with three rounds, or more. But this is a modest approach ... and it could work without getting too many people's shorts in a bunch.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Snow addendum

The Review-Journal's Web site is offering a bunch of photos taken by staff photographers and readers of the recent snowstorm. The link is here.