I'm (Almost) Done with Ultimate Bet

Just pulled most of the money out from Ultimate Bet.

Anyone who knows anything about the history of the site might be wondering what took me so long. The fact of the matter is I misssed the scandal completely; I'd pulled most of my money out before the 'superuser' revelations became public, and only realized I had some loose change left in my account about six months ago. Trying the 'build it up from microlimit' plan, I was at about $500 in my account at its peak.

I've had a run of awful beats lately to whittle that down some, but that's not why I'm packing it in. In fact I'm usually the guy making fun of anyone at the table whining about their bad beats and how UB is 'rigged' against them (like anyone able to cheat online is going to waste their time at a $10 sit 'n' go. Sheesh.), and the worst beat I've still ever had at poker came in a live game (runner-runner to make a straight flush wheel for the other guy in O8B, when I was set to scoop, at worst, three-quarters of the pot on the flop.) I've even had a solid money finish within the last week (5th of 434 in a $5 tourney... cashed for about $130)

No, the reason I'm pulling up stakes is something a little more insidious. I often play two tables at the same time, and what I've been noticing is that any time two hands are dealt to me at exactly (or almost exactly) the same time, or flops hit the felt at the same time on both tables, the cards are identical, or nearly so, far too often for the odds to account for it.

For instance, I might get K clubs 4 hearts at one table, and K clubs 4 hearts at the other. Or one flop might be 6-6-3 with a heart draw, while the other is 6-6-J with a heart draw. You get the idea.

Now it's certainly possible this is just selective memory at work, at that I'm not paying attention when the simultaneous deals don't synch up.

But my gut right now is telling me that their randomizer is tied to the clock, and if it is it's exploitable, not to mention generally sketchy. And given UB's security history, I'd just as soon get out now before the next 'scandal' hits the site and kills it.

(The 'almost' in the title relates to the fact that once again, I left some loose change in the account. Building up from scraps by starting at microlimit is always a fun exercise, so I might use UB for that purpose, and then chop the account down at regular intervals.)

In the meantime I'll be looking for another site to play at... probably FTP.

The Dam is Bursting

The President of the Committee of Election Monitoring has called for a new election (see the 3:18 pm update):

Hojjat-ol-Eslam Yali Akbar MohteshamiPour officially requested that the Guardian Council to cancel this election and schedule a new election balanced and moderated democratically with the widespread and national presence of the people.

Stacking Up the Statistical Irregularities

Juan Cole does a great job of pointing out the main reasons why the Iranian election results look so ridiculously fraudulent:

Top Pieces of Evidence that the Iranian Presidential Election Was Stolen

1. It is claimed that Ahmadinejad won the city of Tabriz with 57%. His main opponent, Mir Hossein Mousavi, is an Azeri from Azerbaijan province, of which Tabriz is the capital. Mousavi, according to such polls as exist in Iran and widespread anecdotal evidence, did better in cities and is popular in Azerbaijan. Certainly, his rallies there were very well attended. So for an Azeri urban center to go so heavily for Ahmadinejad just makes no sense. In past elections, Azeris voted disproportionately for even minor presidential candidateswho hailed from that province.

2. Ahmadinejad is claimed to have taken Tehran by over 50%. Again, he is not popular in the cities, even, as he claims, in the poor neighborhoods, in part because his policies have produced high inflation and high unemployment. That he should have won Tehran is so unlikely as to raise real questions about these numbers.

3. It is claimed that cleric Mehdi Karoubi, the other reformist candidate, received 320,000 votes, and that he did poorly in Iran's western provinces, even losing in Luristan. He is a Lur and is popular in the west, including in Kurdistan. Karoubi received 17 percent of the vote in the first round of presidential elections in 2005. While it is possible that his support has substantially declined since then, it is hard to believe that he would get less than one percent of the vote. Moreover, he should have at least done well in the west, which he did not.

4. Mohsen Rezaie, who polled very badly and seems not to have been at all popular, is alleged to have received 670,000 votes, twice as much as Karoubi.

5. Ahmadinejad's numbers were fairly standard across Iran's provinces. In past elections there have been substantial ethnic and provincial variations.

6. The Electoral Commission is supposed to wait three days before certifying the results of the election, at which point they are to inform Khamenei of the results, and he signs off on the process. The three-day delay is intended to allow charges of irregularities to be adjudicated. In this case, Khamenei immediately approved the alleged results.

That last one, to my mind, is the most damning.

UPDATE: Just added Cole's blog, Informed Comment, to the Legion of the Damned as well.

The Green Revolution?

Sully appears to be the best clearinghouse for post-election falllout from Iran. The fraud was pretty blatant.

The jackboots are coming, of course. The ayatollahs won't give up without a fight. But it's been 30 years since the Shah was overthrown, and over 50 years in which the development of arguably the most 'Western' of Middle Eastern nations has been retarded by religious fundamentalism and the American meddling that precipitated it.

The dam's sprung a leak. And the flood is coming.

Idle Thought

Both Ahmadinejad and Moussavi are declaring victory in Iran as the early results come in.

If Ahmadinejad does win, and it's widely assumed that he only won because of electoral fraud... mightn't that hasten another revolution?

I don't wish death and destruction on anybody, but if any country in the Middle East deserves a true, functioning democracy it's Iran, and they might not get it by trying to slowly evolve the current system. A tainted Moussavi defeat might be the thing that drives that point home.

Happy 80th Anne

Wouldn't it be nice if Iran moved in a slightly less anti-Semetic direction today?

Hope and change and all that jazz.

Odd Karaoke Venue Tonight

Jason Rolland, who hosts karaoke twice a week at a little pseudo-Tex-Mex restaurant in the heart of Clubland, will for the next three Fridays also be hosting evening karaoke as part of a ticket giveaway at Toronto's cougar mecca, Crocodile Rock. As near as I can tell he'll be set up on the rooftop patio, which means everyone on the street will be able to hear the singing, Get Back-style. (In fact if I could do a better Paul I'd probably sing exactly that.)

Karaoke in the early evening, right after work, is probably a freakish concept to most people who see singing as an exercise in public embarrassment, best fueled by drunkenness under cover of darkness. So I expect it to be highly amusing.

Edumacatin' Meself

Rather than dive headlong into Ulysses I've decided to work my way up to it.

First bit of 'training' on the list is a collection I've meant to read for a long time but never gotten around to until now, W.E.B. DuBois' The Souls of Black Folk.

Expect some interesting blog posts over the next couple of weeks as my brain processes it.

Reciting to the Choir

So up here in Sing City, our public transit system has been running a series of ads called 'Poetry on the Way' for years and years. (I used to kill time on longer subway rides by writing rebuttal poems to some of the more egregiously lame offerings). One of the newer poems just bugs the hell out of me, though, even moreso than most. The poem is called 'The Creatures', by Glen Downie:

Caged in your sleep may the great beasts
bless and protect you always the bears of
loving kindness the wise Blakean tigers
of wrath & the horses of
instruction Dream untroubled
by paradox of proportion - the ladybug
bigger than the cat the mouse
as large as the elephant
& wearing pants In their all-forgiving silence
may they love you in ways we fail to
these friends of first refuge
the peaceable kingdom
where the lion lies down with the lamb

OK, sure, it's pretty banal. But the phrase that drives me a bit spare every time I see it is 'wise Blakean tigers'.

The point of the whole campaign is to bring poetry to the masses, right? Entertain and enlighten and all that?

So why would you pick a poem that makes such an insular, exclusionary reference as 'Blakean tigers'?

Think about it. I know who William Blake was, and what his most famous poem was. But if you don't, the line makes no sense. Even if "tiger, tiger, burning bright" is rattling around in your head somewhere as a cultural reference, if you don't know who wrote it you've got no reason to associate it with 'The Creatures'.

In short, it's a reference that serves no purpose other than to create a barrier between the poet and the general public. If you get the reference, you're "in the club"; if not, you aren't worthy. Which might be fine for a poet and a poem in some, maybe even most, common poetic situations but is a remarkably stupid strategy for a poem that should, in theory, be aimed at a wider audience.

The most frustrating thing about it to me? It's completely unnecessary.

Downie could just as easily have said "bright-burning tigers" instead. Same meter, same number of syllables, same reference to Blake... but if you aren't someone who possesses the specialized knowledge that William Blake wrote 'The Tiger', the line still communicates something.

Something other than "I'm smarter than you, nyah nyah", that is.

(Please note the new indictment. Maybe having it in the arsenal will encourage me to read a bit more than I have been recently. I'm probably overdue for my next attempt to tackle Ulysses anyway.)

Down With the Sickness

Oh look, British cops might have waterboarded suspects.

I'm sure they were inspired by the Khmer Rouge.

Number Three

Let's get back on this horse. Continuing my 'Top Five Most Influential Albums Evah'...

I'm not sure I can fully articulate the impact Funeral had on me the first time I heard it.

Arcade Fire hit me at exactly the right time. I was looking for something without even knowing it; I can't say it's a coincidence that I found the album via Pandora just a couple of months before Di and found each other. Beyond the timing though, Funeral did something transformative -- it restored my faith in the new.

My musical tastes (hell, my world view) had become, well, jaded and staid. Maybe if I'd woken up to the rut I was in a bit sooner Arular would have filled this slot instead, but Funeral ended up being the bit of genius that picked me up by the scruff of the neck and gave me the good metaphysical shake I needed.

Funeral woke me up (*cough*) to the fact that there were people out there still finding new ways to be brilliant and crazy and dangerously transcendant. And Funeral led me to the Secret Machines, and MIA, and even obscure little stuff like Tilly & the Wall because suddenly I realized that there was new music out there worth finding.

Funeral also, finally, killed radio for me. It's not that Arcade Fore wasn't getting radio play, it was that radio had nothing to do with me finding them, and that hearing, say, Rebellion (Lies) sandwiched between Sum-41 and whatever else the hell The Edge was playing back then made the contrast between what commercial radio wanted me to listen to, and what I wanted to listen to, excruciating.

Above it all though, Funeral is just a joyous explosion of love and tears and pure undiluted humanity that makes my heart a little bit bigger every time I listen to it.

Another Damned Soul

Welcome to Southern Appeal, the latest edition to my Legion of the Damned. Steve's not only a good writer, he's a fellow Volunteer, so how could I not add him?

Hopey Changey, or Cynicy Cowardy?

Whelan apologizes.

Whether he's just trying to dodge the flak or is sincere (and, to be fair, the apology does sound sincere) I do think Whelan admitting he was in the wrong does set an important precedent, inasmuch as precedents mean a damn thing on teh innernets.

Hopefully, publius' pseudonymartyrdom can serve the greater good.

UPDATE: Indeed.

I think this episode goes a long way toward officially ratifying one of the most important unwritten rules of online ethics, i.e., that a person's decision to write under a pseudonym should be respected barring compelling reasons not to do so.  And retaliating against criticism is not such a reason.  To the extent that rule is widely understood and acknowledged, it will encourage greater participation in online politics and result in a greater variety of voices being heard.

More publius

I don't generally read the National Review, because what passes for logic over there is migraine-inducing. For example, here's Matthew Franck, contradicting himself in the space of four sentences in an effort to defend Ed Whelan:

As the original Publius argued in Federalist No. 1, keeping one's identity concealed can force readers to focus on the quality of your arguments, rather than on personalities.  It's harder to get ad hominem about a writer you can't identify.  So a pseudonym can serve a good purpose in public discourse.

Of course, if the pseudonymous writer stoops to low or unethical arguments himself, it's harder to call him on it.

So, Franck's saying that pseudonymity forces the reader to address an argument on its merits rather than go after the author. But if the argument is a bad one, then it's harder to address the argument's merits so it's therefore OK to go after the author.

Huh. Franck thinks bad arguments are harder to deal with than good ones. I sense a little self-centeredness creeping in there. After all, Franck obviously knows a thing or two about bad arguments.

Yup. Here comes the migraine...

Reality Trumps Fiction, Again

So, all along in the torture "debate" (and yes, I threw up in my mouth a little just typing that) my position has been that the 'ticking time bomb' scenario was a lie and a fiction, just a bullshit hypothetical to try and justify the unjustifiable.

Apparently, I was wrong. Scott Roeder, George Tiller's accused assassin, is now claiming "that similar violence was planned around the nation for as long as [abortion] remained legal".

Classic 'ticking time bomb' scenario. A terrorist in custody is dropping dark hints about further terrorist acts to be committed by other members of his group. You can easily picture Roeder chuckling evilly with an oily smirk on his face as he said it, right?

Oh sure, I know, rights and laws and blah blah blah, all that stuff us bleeding hearts value above our mothers. But lives are at stake! The clock is tickingIn the words of our beloved former Vice President,

no moral value held dear by the American people obliges public servants to sacrifice innocent lives to spare a captured terrorist from unpleasant things

So let's get to it, people. Chop chop, so to speak. Let's strap Roeder to that water board and 'fake' drown him dozens of times. Tie his arms behind his back and dangle him from the ceiling for a few hours. Beat him until he shits himself, then let him lie in his own filth. Keep him awake for six days or so until he cracks.

I'm sure, if we apply enough enhanced interrogation, there are plenty of other assassinations he'll fess up to.

UPDATE: Poking around teh innernets, I see the usual suspects have already jumped on this very logical train of thought.

Going for Gold

In the Rotowire Staff League (baseball, keeper, 5x5, mixed) I'm as of right now sitting in sixth place, among a group of 11 teams (out of 18 in the league) that could reasonably be considered 'in the hunt'. Hoping to break free from the pack I completed a rather large trade Sunday:

I get Brian Roberts, Carlos Lee and Joe Blanton;
in exchange for Max Scherzer, Chris Tillman, Tony Gwynn, Brad Ziegler and a 3rd round pick next year

Yes, that's a lot of pitching future for a lot of present-day hitting.

In a quick 'n' dirty way of determining the impact the deal might have on my fortunes I plugged Roberts, Lee and Blanton into my lineup in place of Scherzer, Maicir Izturis (my nominal starting 2B) and Carlos Gomez (the OF Lee will eventually bump aside, although he's filling the hole left by Gwynn in the short term). Had those switches been made from Opening Day, I would have gained 23.5 standings points on offense while giving back just 5.0 in pitching categories.

That boost would have been enough to put me at 130.0 standings points... and in a three-way tie for first place. Even better, swapping Izturis back in for Travis Ishikawa, the guy currently cluttering up my Ut slot, would buy me half a point to break  the tie. Of course I'm not looking at who I'm passing, so it's likely I'd be in first anyway because I would have stolen a couple of points from the other teams, but whatever. This ain't intended to be rocket surgery.

That's the good news. Now the bad. The league instituted a salary cap this year, and I'm now hard against it ($5 worth of room to spare). This means it'll be that much harder to add any more new talent unless I cut or trade players with higher salaries. Also, I have little left with which to make any other trades, and the one player I have who could fetch a good return, Marlins minor league outfielder Mike Stanton, I'm reluctant to deal because I am convinced he's going to be huge. The kid just got promoted to Double-A as a 19-year-old after leading the Florida State League in home runs, for pity's sake. He's a future monster in teal. Man-crush does not begin to describe my unbridled joy at having him stashed away.

So, I've made a huge move, but I've also pretty much shot my load and there are 10 other clubs who could try and match it. However I may, with some luck and some heel-dragging from other owners unwilling to commit too early in the season to one course or another, be able to bank some offensive gains from my new stars before those responses come rolling in.

Redefining Ethics

There's much bloggy buzz over Ed Whelan's petulant outing of publius. (Hell, even Volokher Jonathan Adler thinks Whelan "crossed the line.")

The irony of the situation, of course, is that Whelan is president of a Washington think tank, the EPPC. That's the Ethics and Public Policy Center, or, as it shall henceforth be known (at least to me), the "Ethics" and Public Policy Center.

Here's what the "E"PPC says they're all about:

EPPC and its scholars have consistently sought to defend the great Western ethical imperatives -- respect for the inherent dignity of the human person, individual freedom and responsibility, justice, the rule of law, and limited government.
To quote the Prophet Bill Hicks, it's irony on a base level, but I like it.


Our reputation for excellence has been built up over three decades.

Built up over decades, and flushed down the toilet in the time it took to hit the "Publish" button.

Some in the comments thread at Obsidian Wings have suggested a civil suit against Whelan. I'd think the more effective strategy with which to demonstrate the real meaning of the word "responsibility" to this feckless, dickless, thoughtless toad would be to target the "E"PPC.

Find out who hires them, and ask them if they want to be associated with a group whose president is such a public embarrasment, and who apparently wouldn't know what ethics were if they bit him in the ass.

Which, hopefully, they're about to.

Ed Whelan has made himself a poster boy for old school greek-style ostracism.

Hezbollah Defeated?

Early word from Lebanon is that the March 14 Alliance has at least held serve against the Hezbollah-led March 8 Alliance.


Best Comedy on Television

For a lark I'm watching Glenn Beck's show. He's doing a piece on ACORN, and flashbacked to a show from a couple of weeks ago when Bill O'Reilly was on as a guest.

It's mind-boggling how incoherent everything is. Statements are made with not even a feeble attempt to back them up; they're just presented as obvious facts. "Obama... and his friends, his Cabinet... are Marxists!" Everything is drenched in fear-mongering, from Beck's language to the graphics. Statements are made about "those people", leaving it up to the viewer to decide which particular "those" are being talked about. Hell, even the ads are scary -- apparently the National Geographic channel has a reality TV show called "Locked Up Abroad", which oddly I've never seen advertised anywhere else. And Bill-O puts the cherry on top by describing socialism thusly:

They want to take from Beck and O'Reilly, and give to Lenny and Squiggy. And if Lenny and Squiggy are heroin addicts? (shrug)
Nothing says relevance like a 30-year-old television reference.

But the thing that brings it home is a throwaway line from Beck, in which he makes some vague statement about "folks from the '60s" being behind ACORN (and, maybe, the SEIU. or something.)

Folks from the '60s. AKA those Dirty Fucking Hippies.

Whatever else is being talked about on the surface, with the right wing it always comes back to the culture wars. Deep in their subconscious (or not that deep in some cases... and I mean that both ways) they know that America died at Woodstock.