Archive for the ‘sports’ Category

Watch football on Monday to see who’ll win election on Tuesday

Everyone who thinks that the election is important should pay close attention to tomorrow’s Monday Night Football game, when the 6-2 Washington Redskins host the 5-2 Pittsburgh Steelers.  If Washington wins, John McCain is looking at an upset victory.  But if Pittsburgh prevails, Obama could be in for a big night.  Why?  Well, as my fellow Washington Redskins fans have probably heard, it is claimed that the result of our beloved franchise’s last home game before a presidential election presages the result of that election.  That is, when the Redskins win their final pre-election home game the incumbent, or his party, retains control of the White House; and when the Redskins lose so does the incumbent, or his party’s nominee.

I am a Redskins fan who has endorsed Barack Obama, which could lead to a state of dissonance tomorrow.  Fortunately (or unfortunately), the legend about the Redskins being proficient presidential predictors is not quite true—but it used to be.

If the Chicago Daily Tribune had watched the Redskins beat the New York Yanks, 59-21, they'd have never run that headline!

If the Chicago Daily Tribune had watched the Redskins beat the New York Yanks, 59-21, they wouldn't have misreported the 1948 results.

Snopes has the facts:  Since 1936, the Redskins first have correctly predicted, via the method described above, 17 out of 18 presidential elections—a success rate of 94.4%, which ain’t bad.  (Note that this counts the correct “prediction” in 1936 when the Redskins played in Boston and ignores the incorrect “prediction” in 1932 when they played in Boston as the Braves.  Apparently, it’s the Redskins part, not the Washington part, that’s important here.)  The one that they got wrong?  It was the last election; the Green Bay Packers beat the Redskins, which should have meant defeat for George W. Bush as well, but John Kerry was the one who went on to lose.

Of course, this whole thing is all coincidence—there’s no plausible causal mechanism in place and, given all the thousands of things that could be correlated with anything else, it’d be surprising not to find one that, due to happenstance, just happens to do so.  Therefore, I’ll have no trouble pulling for Washington tomorrow.  Hail to the Redskins!

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2008 World Chess Championship concludes

The World Chess Championship match between India’s Viswanathan Anand and Russia’s Vladimir Kramnik has concluded in Bonn, Germany with defending champion Anand retaining the title.

The pieces that Kramnik and Anand used were probably a lot nicer than these

Anand, who had previously played Garry Kasparov for the championship, was the incumbent by virtue of having won last years round robin tournament in Mexico City.  Kramnik was the World Champion heading into that tournament after having defeated Bulgaria’s Vaselin Topalov in 2006 in the mutch-anticipated title reunification match.  Kramnik and Anand played two games against each other in Mexico City; both ended in draws.

I think it’s dubious to win the championship in a tournament like that; to be the champion you need to beat the champion.  But the anomaly was the result of the way Kasparov and Nigel Short managed their 1993 World Championship Match, which they held apart from the auspices of FIDE, the World Chess Federation.  From then until the 2006 Kramnik-Topalov match, there were two people with claims to be World Chess Champion: the one who won the FIDE tournaments and the one who could trace his claim through victories over the previous title holder.  (It got somewhat complicated.)

Anand defeated Kramnik 6.5 points to 4.5 points in a best of twelve match.  Anand won three games, Kramnik won one, and the other seven were drawn.  One point is awarded for a win, 1/2 point for a draw, and 0 points for a loss.  There are tie-breaker procedures in the event of a 6-6 tie after twelve games.

Anyway, the title is now happily reunified and will have to be won and defended in matches between the champion and challenger.  The 2009 championship will be between Anand and the winner of a match between 2005 FIDE champion Vaselin Topalov and Chess World Cup 2007 Winner Gata Kamsky, a naturalized American citizen.  Beginning in 2011, the championship will be contested every 2 years with a challenger determined through a series of tournaments, a system that I think should be fair and robust.

Monday Miscellany: Fundraising, Palin, and the Pope

My previous miscellany entry proved to be popular, so I’ve decided to make it a regular staple of my blog. I’ll note interesting news items and articles throughout the week and then bring them to your attention with some comments of my own, usually on Monday, since I can get some alliteration going there. Though “Sunday Sundries” would also sound cool. So, check out the links for more interest on the items that interest you and please comment.

If he'd be as good a president as he is a fundraiser we should all vote for this guy!

If he'd be as good a president as he is a fundraiser, we should all vote for this guy!

While John McCain may have a slight, within-the-margin-of-error lead in the polls, Barack Obama raised $66 million during August, his biggest one-month haul yet. His campaign reports $77 million on hand and is not subject to limits on how much they can raise and spend since he refused federal funding, becoming the first presidential candidate to ever do so. McCain, on the other hand, is now committed to spend no more than the $84 million he has received from the federal government.

Over 2.5 million people have financially contributed to Obama’s campaign. OpenSecrets.org reports that through 31 July, Obama’s campaigned had raised $390 million, 96% of which is from individual contributions. With his haul from August, he’s raised $467,000,000. That’s more than the nominal gross domestic product of Vanuatu, Comoros, or East Timor.

The New York Giants and the New York Jets have broken off negotiations with Allianz, a German insurance company, for the naming rights to their new stadium due to the company’s significant ties to the Nazis and the Holocaust. According to Wikipedia:

Allianz insured both the facilities and personnel at the Auschwitz-Birkenau extermination camp and the Dachau concentration camp. Allianz also provided accident insurance for engineers at the I.G. Farben chemical company, manufacturer of the Zyklon B gas used to exterminate 1.2 million Jews and others at the Auschwitz and Majdanek extermination camps during the Holocaust. Allianz also provided insurance to the Nazis for valuables seized from Jews prior to their forced relocation to the camps.

Additionally, several company executives served in the German government and were responsible for policies which terminated or denied payment of life insurance policies issued to Jews. The payments instead went directly to the Nazis. The issue is more sensitive in the New York City area than it perhaps would be elsewhere due to the regions many Jewish people in general and Holocaust survivors in particular.

More is coming out about Sarah Palin’s tenure as chief executive of Wasilla and Alaska. The New York Times reports that, as governor, she hired five former high school friends for high ranking jobs in the state government and that “the Wasilla High School yearbook archive now doubles as a veritable directory of state government.” They imply that Franci Havemeister, a former real estate agent who now makes $95,000, may not be qualified to run the State Division of Agriculture, her childhood love of cows notwithstanding. Some of Palin’s firing decisions may also have been politically motivated; in 1997, she fired Wasilla’s longtime city attorney, Richard Deuser, after he issued the stop-work order on a home being built by Don Showers, one of her campaign supporters. The article also provides examples of what they call extreme secrecy, like the wide use of personal e-mail accounts, not subject to subpoena and freedom of information laws, to conduct state business. Over 60 legislators and other Alaska and local officials were interviewed for the story, quite a few of which defend and support Palin. I highly recommend the article.

Pope Benedict XVI is visiting France where he held mass with an estimated 220,000 in attendance. France is, of course, a heavily Catholic nation–on paper, at least. Recent polls indicate about 51% of French people self identify as Roman Catholic, down from about 80% in the early 1990s. According to various, somewhat contradictory polls cited by Wikipedia:

  • half of French Catholics don’t believe in God
  • 17% of French Catholics don’t believe in God; and among those who do, most (79%) described Him as a “force, energy, or spirit” and only 18% as a personal god
  • 32% of French people are agnostic; 32% are atheists; and 27% believe in God
  • 34% of French citizens ” believe there is a God”; 27% “believe there is some sort of spirit or life force”; and 33% “do not believe there is any sort of spirit, God, or life force”
In Italy, it is illegal to insult this man. Why?  He occupies Saint Peter's chair, he can take it!

In Italy, it is illegal to insult this man. Why? He occupies Saint Peter's chair--he can take it!

Benedict has made challenging Europe’s increasing secularization a major part of his pontificate and France’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy, also wants the public sphere in France to be more open to people expressing religious belief. Sarkozy, due to a pair of divorces, is ineligible to receive communion.

In other Benedict-related news, Sabina Guzzanti, a popular Italian actress and comic, is facing possible jail time for insulting the Pope. Yes, according to Article 313 of the Italian Penal Code, it is illegal to “insult the honor” of the Pope and the Italian president. The offending remark, delivered at a political rally, was that the Pope would “go to hell and be pursued by two big, gay and very active devils” as a result of his views on homosexuality. Probably not helpful for advancing the public discourse on the subject, but hardly something a person should go to jail for. Thank God for the First Amendment to the United States Constitution.