Right Angles for the Last Wednesday of 2009

For the most part, the year is already over. Any number of businesses and organizations have closed their doors for the long weekend, and I’m looking forward to three days of fun and frivolity myself… But, before we officially close the books on 2009, here are a few items on my reading list this afternoon:



— The Country’s in the Best of Hands: (Note the use of sarcasm here…) Glenn Reynolds has a roundup of the many, many, many problems with this administration’s handling of the War on Terror. Note also that Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano doesn’t like to call it Terrorism anymore, but prefers “Man-made Disaster…” There’s definitely a man-made disaster element at work here, but it wasn’t the crotch-bomber…



Heck, even the Motel 6 guy is hip to what’s going down here…



— Are College Coaches Too Harsh?: Apparently so, at least judging by the unceremonious sacking of Head Football Coaches Mike Leach of Texas Tech and Mark Mangino of Kansas. Leach’s case is more of a puzzler to me than Mangino’s based on the information available to the public, and I’ll wager that ESPN’s Craig James relationship to the allegedly abused Tech player played no small part in Leach’s firing. While I am much happier having a Coach like Jim Tressel leading our young men than I would be with either Mangino or Leach, I have to question the wisdom of firing a *winning* head football coach because he ruffles the players’ feathers a little. These kids are receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of free education to play football; it isn’t supposed to be a cakewalk.



Setting those sentiments aside, it is positive to see the NCAA and NFL take a much harder look at the role concussions play in the long-term health and well-being of the players. I’ve read more than a few good pieces in Sports Illustrated that make me believe more must be done to protect these men’s long-term well-being.



Nonetheless, there is more than a little evidence that James’ son wasn’t the hardest-working or most dedicated player on the Tech squad. While I’m not an advocate of blaming the victim in these matters, I’m also an “innocent until proven guilty” kind of guy, and I find it hard to believe that Tech had enough time to adequately investigate the accusations against Leach. Guess that $800,000 bonus due tomorrow made a difference after all…

— Speaking of Football… ESPN columnist Ivan Maisel has a pretty good piece on the differences between our Buckeyes and the Ducks of Oregon. If you read enough of Maisel’s writing (two or three paragraphs should do it), you figure out that he’s no Ohio State fan; nonetheless, this piece is a great read, and adequately and humorously dissects the face-off.



For some actual analysis of the Rose Bowl, Big 10 blogger Adam Rittenberg tackles the implications to the league’s reputation of Ohio State’s performance in the Granddaddy of Them All. He illustrates what we all know to be true: this is a “must-win” game for the men of the scarlet & grey.



On that front, the Big 10 got a big boost as Wisconsin dismantled Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl. I enjoyed every minute of the game, because Wisconsin’s balanced attach and Big 10-style play put the hurt on the vaunted speed and quickness of the ACC/SEC-style approach. While Miami may not be the powerhouse it was when the Buckeyes pulled the 2002 National Title from their clutches in the Fiesta Bowl, they were nonetheless heavily favored. They did not play like a Top 25 Team, but Wisconsin played like a legitimate Top 15 club, and deserve every bit of consideration for such a preseason ranking next year, and John Clay certainly deserves to be considered a preseason Heisman contender.



Penn State, by the way, could likewise bolster the leagues prospects with a big win tomorrow night. Here’s hoping. Michigan State, however, is probably a lost cause even with the Mike Leach situation. Everybody but Sparty is suspended for this game, it seems…



— Local Food May NOT Be More Expensive: …according to a recent study shared by the American Farmland Trust. Dispelling some of the assumption that locally purchased food is generally more expensive (they don’t call Whole Foods “Whole Paycheck” for nothing), the report nonetheless focuses on peak-season produce in the state of Iowa alone. The data is encouraging for farm families choosing direct or niche marketing, but for the average consumer it’s important to note the limitations of the conjunction of “peak season” and “local produce.” In other words, we want a lot of foods that either aren’t grown locally in the first place, or are grown locally only for a short season. And yet we eat year-round.



I’m pro-“local food,” and I’m also realistic about what food and how much food can be sourced “locally,” and about what my definition of the term “local” actually entails.



— Algal Biofuels May Be Hip Today: …but they are at least a decade behind schedule. As is often the case with public policy “fads,” the concept of turning pond scum into fuel isn’t new; it was originally conceived during the nanny-state Carter years. And as time wore on and legislators got whiff of other fads in science, algae funding was forgotten, and no demand existed to continue funding the requisite research. Corn-based ethanol, by the way, has faced the same roller-coaster in a similar timeframe, and is now somewhat out of vogue again… The moral of the story, in my mind, is that the “all of the above” energy strategy advocated by House Republicans makes the most sense here.



In other words, fund algal biofuels research, continue supporting the current ethanol infrastructure, fire up some new nuclear power plants, and drill baby drill.

— Speaking of Taxpayers:taxes really are the root of unhappiness. One of the best Wall Street Journal op-eds I’ve read all year dissects the strong correlation between unhappiness and high taxes. It appears that states with the highest tax burden also sustain the highest unhappiness among the populace. This, it would seem to me, also creates a downward spiral as unhappiness likely leads to behaviors that require additional social services/entitlements, creating need for higher taxes, which in turn leads to more unhappiness…



The most telling line of the entire article, however, may be this: “Eight of the ten happiest states lean right while eight of the ten unhappiest tilt left.” So much for hope & change, I guess… Lots of change, not a lot of hope, perhaps.



Bonus link: Here are some of the “Worst Tax Ideas” of the year. Note the inclusion of the farm and business killing “Death Tax.”