Thoughts on the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, Politics, Movies, and whatever else happens to cross my mind.
Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Monday, March 30, 2009
I celebrated "Human Achievement Hour" instead
Cantata 131, Chorus 1
March 22, 2009 - The first chorus from Bach's Cantata 131, performed by the Park Street Church Sanctuary Choir and Orchestra.
"Out of darkness, call I Lord to thee.
Lord, Lord hear my supplication,
Incline thine ear and hearken to the voice of my complaining..."
Based on Psalm 130
A song of ascents.
1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
2 O Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
3 If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?
4 But with you there is forgiveness;
therefore you are feared.
5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
6 My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
7 O Israel, put your hope in the LORD,
for with the LORD is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
8 He himself will redeem Israel
from all their sins.
More reaction to the de facto nationalization of GM
More reactions to the Obama administration takeover of General Motors...
Jules Crittenden: "I guess it’s our failing auto company now."
Dan Riehl: "This is our money Obama is leveraging for power, not his. And you don't have a say in how he uses it."
Mickey Kaus: "After visibly defenstrating GM CEO RIck Wagoner, and moving to replace the board of directors, won't Obama now "own" the GM problem?"
Gateway Pundit: "And, you thought they only did this in Venezuela!"
James Lileks: "Maybe I’m old-school, but “President fires CEO” looks as wrong as “Pope fires Missile.”"
Sunday, March 29, 2009
So now Barack Obama is the chairman of GM's board, too
After all of the abuse heaped upon George Bush over the last 8 years, after the repeated accusations from the Keith Olbermann left of fascism, let me seriously ask the following question. If Barack Obama, the head of state of the United States, can replace the CEO of General Motors, doesn't that make him, by definition, a fascist?
In any event, can anyone offer any compelling reason to think that this course of action (government bails out GM, dictates policy) is likely to be better for the taxpayers of America or the shareholders of GM than GM declaring bankruptcy and re-structuring?
No, I didn't think so.
I suspect that, if I looked very closely at everything this administration has done so far, I could probably find one action or policy to which I was not unutterably opposed. But not much more than that...
Saturday, March 28, 2009
"Hey, that's the Sargent painting!"
While watching John Wayne's 1960 The Alamo, I was bemused to see a scene that I recognized. A quick google search revealed that my eyes and memory had not deceived me. There is no doubt whatsoever that whoever composed the bottom picture here was familiar with the top one.
Top: John Singer Sargent's "El Jaleo," housed in the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.
Bottom: One frame from a 10 second scene in The Alamo.
Not an accident...
Another "who could have seen THAT coming?"
The Law of Unintended Consequences rears its head again...
Some experts who study the issue blame the government for the quality problems, saying an intensive federal push to lower the price essentially backfired by encouraging manufacturers to use cheap components.
The government, which will begin enforcing tighter specifications this year, says it must seek a balance between quality and affordability to achieve its goal of getting millions of additional consumers to install the bulbs.
But don't let that diminish your faith in the inevitable success of a Washington-based command economy...
Sweet Sour 16
My bracket looked pretty good through two rounds. It was decimated in the third. If I were in any pools, I'd certainly have been eliminated by now. Over the past two days, I lost three of my final four (Memphis, Duke and Kansas [and it was perilously close to all four, as I had originally picked Syracuse out of the south, and switched to UNC at the last second]), including both of my finalists (and, obviously, my champion).
So the bracket didn't look much like my usual standard coming into the weekend, but it sure does now...
Nice piece at the Wall Street Journal about a very entertaining John Wayne western:
The phrase "cult favorite" conjures up images of wobbly hand-held camera shots and little-known actors. But "Rio Bravo" was shot in glorious Technicolor and starred perhaps the most popular star in movie history. Most cult films are too hip to be popular, and most big hits are too popular to be hip. But "Rio Bravo" is that rarest of films -- both popular and hip.
I've seen it a couple of times, and the thing that struck me about it was that Dean Martin, someone I've never thought of as an actor, was very good. Anyway, it's a good piece about a great film.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Working hard, or hardly working?
Professor Althouse doesn't find the Obama's social schedule "as charmingly cute as the NYT does", asking "should the President be working harder?" As far as I'm concerned, I don't have an issue with how much or how hard he's working - it's what that work is producing that's a problem. Frankly, if he'd go on a permanent vacation, I'd feel a lot more optimistic about the next four years...
Wouldn't this have been more relevant before the porkulus vote?
This is the kind of timely, incisive reporting and analysis that has made the AP what it is:
No promise from President Barack Obama is more important to the wounded economy than his vow to save or create some 3.5 million jobs in two years. In support of that bottom line, the government even tells states how many jobs they can expect to see from the spending and tax cuts.
But precise trajectories are impossible to plot and even approximations can be wildly off, as the authors of these forecasts acknowledge...Job creation is counted in different ways, but none that can isolate the stimulus package from the multitude of forces shaping the economy.
And there's no reliable way to measure how many jobs the stimulus will stop from disappearing. Companies don't report layoffs avoided by federal aid.
Excellent work, there.
Coming next week: the AP believes it is ready to break the story of the Lincoln assassination, complete with an identification of the killer...
Isn't that the truth...
An AIG resignation letter
A must-read from yesterday's New York Times - a letter from a manager in the AIG Financial Products division to AIG (government-installed, $1 per year) CEO Ed Liddy:
DEAR Mr. Liddy,
It is with deep regret that I submit my notice of resignation from A.I.G. Financial Products. I hope you take the time to read this entire letter. Before describing the details of my decision, I want to offer some context:
I am proud of everything I have done for the commodity and equity divisions of A.I.G.-F.P. I was in no way involved in — or responsible for — the credit default swap transactions that have hamstrung A.I.G. Nor were more than a handful of the 400 current employees of A.I.G.-F.P. Most of those responsible have left the company and have conspicuously escaped the public outrage.
After 12 months of hard work dismantling the company — during which A.I.G. reassured us many times we would be rewarded in March 2009 — we in the financial products unit have been betrayed by A.I.G. and are being unfairly persecuted by elected officials.
I take this action after 11 years of dedicated, honorable service to A.I.G. I can no longer effectively perform my duties in this dysfunctional environment, nor am I being paid to do so. Like you, I was asked to work for an annual salary of $1, and I agreed out of a sense of duty to the company and to the public officials who have come to its aid. Having now been let down by both, I can no longer justify spending 10, 12, 14 hours a day away from my family for the benefit of those who have let me down.
There's a lot more, and it's all good. Again, when we speak of scape-goating, when we speak of unintended consequences, when we speak of class warfare - that's what has been going on with the AIG bonuses, and it is an understatement to say that it reflects badly on the politicians involved (mostly Democrats, but certainly not all, as one of the most offensive comments came from Republican Senator Grassley.)
The outrages from the left continue
I did not know that this was going on:
A group of Alaska liberals, with the apparent cooperation of members of the Alaska Democratic Party have been filing ethics charge after ethics charge against Sarah Palin. The aim? Not to get her impeached and booted from office, because every single one of the charges are frivolous, baseless and even fairly deranged - one was even filed in the name of a soap opera character - but something far more personal.
These people want to bankrupt the Palins and leave them destitute. They want to empty their bank accounts so that they cannot afford the basics and necessities of life after Governor Palin leaves office.
Read the whole thing, and you'll discover that you've still got room for outrage...
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
These truths should be self-evident
This is the kind of thing that should go without saying.
if you own even modest assets (a small house, a savings account) and you think that in a battle between the political class and the business class it's in your interest for the latter to lose, you're a fool who entirely deserves the vaporization of his wealth on which Barney Frank & Co have embarked.
Unfortunately, not only does it need to be said, there is a substantial percentage, if not an absolute majority, of people in this country that does not understand it to be true.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Earlier today, Ed Whelan, in the Corner, took note of Congressman Barney Frank's casual slander of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia:
Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank...was discussing gay marriage and his expectation that the high court would some day be called upon to decide whether the Constitution allows the federal government to deny recognition to same-sex marriages.
"I wouldn't want it to go to the United States Supreme Court now because that homophobe Antonin Scalia has too many votes on this current court," said Frank.
Whelan later followed up:
In response to my criticism of the term “homophobe,” Andrew Sullivan asks: “[D]oes Ed Whelan believe that anti-gay animus doesn't exist? If so, what would he call it, if not homophobia? Seriously: is there a better term?”
For Frank and Sullivan, obviously not. It's the perfect term. It allows them to accuse anyone who disagrees with them on any aspect of the political "homosexual agenda" (whatever that might be) of a mental disorder. A "phobia" is a fear, not a normal fear, but a mental disorder. Allowing them to use "homophobe" or "homophobia" is allowing them to accuse their political opponents of a mental disorder. Of course Sullivan and Frank want to use "homophobe."
The rest of us ought not let them.
News of the day
Odds and ends...
- File under "actions have consequences."
In recent days, in spite of public furor over huge bonuses paid at American International Group Inc., the administration has concluded that it needs the private sector to play a central role in fixing the economy ["who'd a thunk it?" - LB] ...But weeks of searing criticism by politicians and the public had left bankers leery of working with the government.
- Hmmm...I thought those were differing descriptions for the same group of people...
At a time when his Washington honeymoon is turning into a hazing, President Barack Obama and his team are launched on a strategy to sail above the traditional White House press corps by reaching out to liberal commentators, local reporters and ethnic media.
- I'm sure that many were looking forward to a President that could pronounce simple words as a refreshing change...
The idea that led to the founding of Orion Energy Systems received a presidential salute of sorts today. President Barack Obama just finished speaking at a White House roundtable on clean energy efficiency attended by Neal Verfuerth, Orion president and chief executive. Obama saluted Orion...All terrific press for Orion, except that Obama kept pronouncing the company’s name wrong, calling it OAR-ee-on.
- Knocking "American Idol" off the air tonight will certainly help matters...
The honeymoon is over, a national poll will signal today as President Obama’s job approval stumbles to about 50 percent over the lack of improvement with the crippled economy...The president is scheduled to hold his second solo prime-time press conference tonight at 8.
Monday, March 23, 2009
They must be stopped
Oh yeah, this'll make everything better...
The Environmental Protection Agency sent a proposal to the White House on Friday finding that global warming is endangering the public's health and welfare, according to several sources, a move that could have far-reaching implications for the nation's economy and environment.
The proposal -- which comes in response to a 2007 Supreme Court decision ordering EPA to consider whether carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases should be regulated under the Clean Air Act -- could lay the groundwork for nationwide measures to limit such emissions.
"By moving forward with the endangerment finding on greenhouse gases, EPA is putting in motion a set of decisions that may have far-reaching unintended consequences," said Bill Kovacs, vice president of environment, technology and regulatory affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "Specifically, once the finding is made, no matter how limited, some environmental groups will sue to make sure it is applied to all aspects of the Clean Air Act.
"This will mean that all infrastructure projects, including those under the president's stimulus initiative, will be subject to environmental review for greenhouse gases. Since not one of the projects has been subjected to that review, it is possible that the projects under the stimulus initiative will cease. This will be devastating to the economy."
On Thursday Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who chairs the Environment and Public Works Committee, said, "There is no question that the law and the facts require an endangerment finding, and it should happen without further delay, and I believe it will."
If the power to tax is the power to destroy, how would you describe the power to regulate carbon dioxide emissions? Or methane? I'm pretty sure that I emit both every day, and will continue to regardless of how I behave until some considerable time after I'm dead.
There is no part of this that is not a farce. If there is actual scientific evidence to support the theory that mankind is warming the globe, it's buried behind pseudo-scientific hogwash and hysteria. If there is any evidence to support the theory that significant economic suffering now will ameliorate potential suffering in 100 years, I've not seen it. What I have seen is eco-hysterics, anti-American leftists and big government politicians advocating the same policies they always advocate - more power for government, more control over the means and methods of production, less freedom for the citizens of this country.
This is obviously not a surprise, but the fact that we expect these people to behave this way doesn't make it any more palatable. They have to be stopped. Virtually every action that has been taken by this President and this Congress since the election in November looks as if has been specifically designed and intended to damage the American economy. Virtually every action that has been taken by this President and this Congress since the election in November, in the words of a better writer than I, "evinces a design to reduce [the people] under absolute despotism."
And what's coming next? Nothing good. The destruction of the health care system and government rationing of medicine? (Otherwise known as "Universal Health Care.") Giving left-wing activist groups determine the reallocation of representatives? (The 2010 Census and ACORN.) Significant increases in energy prices? ("Green" energy and cap-and-trade.)
I am praying that the Democrats can be defeated in the off-year election next year. The prospect of a full Obama term with Reid and Pelosi at the helm is just horrifying.
Curt Schilling retires
To the surprise of pretty much no one, Curt Schilling has decided to call it a career. As a Red Sox fan who appreciates his contribution to two World Championship teams, I'll always have affection for him. There are those who think that he talked too much (and none, that I've ever heard, that think he talked too little) but that rarely bothered me. He was a great pitcher for while, and in the 2004 post-season, provided a seminal baseball moment when he took the field in game 6 of the ALCS with stitches in his ankle and blood on his sock.
So consider this a sincere "thanks, and good job" to number 38 as he gets on with his life.
Later this week, I hope to look at Schilling's career and Hall of Fame case, at least to make a decision for myself as to whether he belongs or not. Prior to performing that analysis, I think he's a borderline case, with a high enough peak but not necessarily a long enough career for that peak, but a case that's bolstered by post-season accomplishments. More on that later.
Utilitarian criticism of AIG bonus mob
When I wrote about the obscene vilification and congressional overreach on the AIG bonuses last week, I criticized it on mainly constitutional and philosophic grounds. Other critiques are popping up now, many of them on utilitarian grounds.
Wall Street Journal:
Few in Congress thought the Smoot-Hawley tariff was a disaster in 1930, but it led to retaliation and a collapse of world trade. The question amid Washington's AIG bonus panic is whether Congress's war on private contracts and the financial system is a similarly destructive moment. It is certainly one of the more amazing and senseless acts of political retribution in American history.
With such a sweeping assault on contracts and punitive taxation, Congress is introducing an element of political risk to economic decisions that is typical of Argentina or Russia. The sanctity of U.S. contracts has long been one of America's competitive advantages in luring capital, a counterpoint to our lottery tort system and costly regulation. Meanwhile, the 90% tax rate marks a return to the pre-Reagan era when Congress and the political class behaved as if taxes didn't matter to growth or incentives. It is a revival of the philosophy of redistributionist "justice" of the 1930s, when capital went on strike for an entire decade.
The financial system will suffer in particular, just when the Obama Administration is desperately seeking more private capital to ride out future losses.
Tom Friedman, NY Times:
I ran into an Indian businessman friend last week and he said something to me that really struck a chord: “This is the first time I’ve ever visited the United States when I feel like you’re acting like an immature democracy.”
If you want to guarantee that America becomes a mediocre nation, then just keep vilifying every public figure struggling to find a way out of this crisis who stumbles once — like Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner or A.I.G.’s $1-a-year fill-in C.E.O., Ed Liddy — and you’ll ensure that no capable person enlists in government. You will ensure that every bank that has taken public money will try to get rid of it as fast it can, so as not to come under scrutiny, even though that would weaken their balance sheets and make them less able to lend money. And you will ensure that we’ll never get out of this banking crisis, because the solution depends on getting private money funds to team up with the government to buy up toxic assets — and fund managers are growing terrified of any collaboration with government.
Senior executives on both sides of the Atlantic on Friday warned of an exodus of talent from some of the biggest names in US finance, saying the “anti-American” measures smacked of “a McCarthy witch-hunt” that would send the country “back to the stone age”.
There were fears that the backlash triggered by AIG’s payment of $165m in bonuses to executives responsible for losses that forced a $170bn taxpayer-funded rescue would have devastating consequences for the largest banks.
“Finance is one of America’s great industries, and they’re destroying it,” said one banker at a firm that has accepted public money. “This happened out of haste and anger over AIG, but we’re not like AIG.”
The banker added: “It’s like a McCarthy witch-hunt...This is the most profoundly anti- American thing I’ve ever seen.”
The question that needs to be asked right now is this - is this happening because the Obama administration is utterly incompetent or is it happening because the Obama administration wants it (the destruction of wealth and the financial system) to happen?
Neither answer is a good one, of course.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
Round 2 completed
So the second round of the NCAA tournament is in the books, and I've got about the most successful bracket I've ever put together so far. (I'm not in any pools or contests anywhere - I just filled it out for the heck of it.)
After a 21-11 first round, I was 12-4 in the second. (One of the four losses was the Arizona-Cleveland St game, as I had both of those teams losing in the first round.) Not only did I correctly get 12 teams into the Sweet 16, each of my Elite 8 teams is still alive.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Wealth destruction continues apace
Maybe they can't see it from the shamrock-hued vistas of their "cottages" on the west coast of Ireland, but the political class has done nothing this last week but destroy the wealth of this country...I pay for Congressman Frank and Senator Dodd, not the other way round. I would appreciate it if they'd take up a less destructive pastime, perhaps joining Senator Kerry in windsurfing off the Irish coast in buttock-hugging yellow Lycra. If you have even a modest asset - a small house, a sluggish savings account or pension provision - these people are making you poorer.
Round 1 completed
My results for the first round of the NCAA BB tournament:
- East: 6-2
- West: 6-2
- South: 6-2
- Midwest: 3-5
- Overall: 21-11
- Sweet 16 teams gone: 2 (Illinois, Utah)
- Elite 8 teams gone: 0
- Biggest upset win: #12 Wisconsin beat #5 Florida State in the East.
- Biggest upset loss: #4 Wake Forest lost to #13 Cleveland State in the midwest.
The one game that I picked on "sentiment" rather than stats was BC-USC, and I was not surprised in the least by the result.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Banana Republicans (but mostly Democrats...)
I'm obviously not a lawyer. John Hinderaker, who is, expresses concern and dismay about the same issues that I was concerned and dismayed about yesterday.
I'm stupefied to find that some people are defending the constitutionality of Nancy Pelosi's discriminatory, confiscatory and retroactive tax on people who receive bonus income from companies that got TARP money. I would have considered it a bright line rule that the government can't identify a class of unpopular people and impose a special tax on them. ...If the Pelosi bill is actually enacted into law (which I still think is doubtful) and upheld by the courts, there is no limit to the arbitrary power of Congress. In that event, we have no property rights and there is no Constitution--no equal protection clause, no due process clause, no impairment of contracts clause, no bill of attainder/ex post facto law clause. Instead, we are living in a majoritarian tyranny...even if you think it was wrong for AIG to pay them, Pelosi's proposed confiscatory tax--total taxes would exceed 100 percent in some jurisdictions--is an outrage. If Congress can appease a howling mob of demagogues by enacting discriminatory tax legislation against a group of people who are, for the moment, politically unpopular...then the idea that the Constitution affords us any sort of protection against arbitrary government power is an illusion.
He's right, obviously, and it's well worth reading, though, like many things well worth reading right now, both depressing and scary.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
If they can't even get this right...
When I wrote about the gift of DVDs which passed from President Obama to Prime Minister Brown last month, I mentioned that there was "no word on whether the DVDs are region 2 and PAL so that the Prime Minister can at least watch them in Great Britain, or if they're region 1 and NTSC, so that they'll make nifty coasters..."
Well, now we know - coasters they are...
While not exactly a film buff, Gordon Brown was touched when Barack Obama gave him a set of 25 classic American movies – including Psycho, starring Anthony Perkins on his recent visit to Washington.
Alas, when the PM settled down to begin watching them the other night, he found there was a problem.
The films only worked in DVD players made in North America and the words "wrong region" came up on his screen.
With apologies to Rush Limbaugh, President Obama's teleprompter has had no comment on this story.
Out of control
This is horrifying.
Acting with lightning speed, the Democratic-led House has approved a bill to slap punishing taxes on big employee bonuses from firms bailed out by taxpayers. The vote was 328-93...Republicans called it a legally questionable ploy to paper over Obama administration missteps.
Honestly, doesn't this kind of heavy-handed punitive taxation frighten anyone? If Congress can do this (which I don't think it actually can constitutionally, though that's obviously not going to stop it), what's next? What's to prevent them from deciding that tobacco company profits can be taxed at 90%? Or oil company profits. What is to prevent them from deciding that MLB or NBA player bonuses are excessive and unnecessary and confiscating them? And what is to prevent them from deciding that a salesman making $100K doesn't need that $20K bonus that he earned?
In Germany they first came for the Communists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me —
and by that time no one was left to speak up.
Look, I know that this isn't Kristallnacht . I know that no one is rounding up Jews or dragging anyone off to concentration camps. But this is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad precedent, and as a free people, we ought not allow our representatives to get away with this abuse of their powers. And I know that the class envy card works really well in this country - still - but it has to stop.
And I know this - once Congress decides/realizes that it can just confiscate some individuals contractual bonus, it is extremely unlikely to stop there. Any one in the middle class who is exulting that some rich Wall Street banker is getting publically flogged and robbed needs to stop and consider how many people are making less than he is. And he needs to consider that the same constitutional protections for his income are the ones being abrogated to attack the AIG bonuses. And he should be terrified.
March Madness - My Bracket
After poring over the books, tapes, stat sheets and analyses for, literally, minutes, I proudly present the official Lyford NCAA Bracket. For entertainment purposes only (though this should be entertaining primarily in retrospect as a series of "how could he pick that" jokes). Anyone that would use these picks for anything other than a chuckle deserves what he gets.
|First Round winners|
|West Virginia||Marquette||VCU||Arizona State|
(UPDATED: Reformatted and completed...)
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
AIG bonuses? I. Do. Not. Care.
I know that the following statement will put me squarely in the (apparently very small) minority, but there it is. I'm willing to stand there if I must.
Here it comes:
I am not outraged, offended, or even upset by the AIG bonuses.
There. I said it.
AIG is a company that is in business right now because the US Government made the decision to bail it out. When the government assumed responsibility for AIG's business operations, they assumed responsibility for pre-existing contracts, such as those that required that these bonuses be paid. As a (now forced, with the rest of my fellow-citizens) part-investor in AIG, I really would prefer that the company be operated in such a way as to eventually make that investment back. This uproar drummed up by the President and the Democratic congressional leadership makes that less likely and, as such, is counterproductive in the extreme.
"If they don't give the money back, we'll put in place new law that will allow us to tack [sic: presumably he means either "attack" or "tax"] these bonuses at a very high rate. So for those of you who will be getting these bonuses, be forewarned - you will not be getting to keep them."
(For those wondering why such a law would not be grossly unconstitutional [Article 1, section 9: No Bill of Attainder or ex post facto Law shall be passed], I'm wondering that same thing. Of course, gross unconstitutionality has never presented the Democratic majority from passing a law before, and there's really no reason to expect that concern for the niceties of our constitutional process would suddenly appear.)
Ol' Chuck's being pretty solicitous of the welfare of the American taxpayer, huh? Good old Senator Schumer, always concerned about the American taxpayer getting bang for the buck. The American taxpayer is out $170 Billion for AIG so far, but he really wants to make sure we get .0097% of that back, even if it means putting the other 99.001% at greater risk.
(By the way, this is the response of Senator Schumer to complaints about pork in the stimulus bill, items like $200 million [21% more than the AIG bonuses] "to 'design and furnish' the Department of Homeland Security headquarters" or $300 million [82% more than the AIG bonuses] "to buy 'green' cars for federal employees":
"And let me say this to all the chattering class that focuses on those little, tiny, yes, porky amendments - the American people really don't care."
If the American people "really don't care," Senator Schumer, what makes you think that they care about contractual bonuses to AIG employees which represent 1/10 of 1 percent of the bailout funds going to AIG, bonuses which the company is contractually obligated to pay because it wasn't allowed to go bankrupt?)
I am far more outraged by the behavior of Obama
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Cultural Post at White House
NY Times gets (while simultaneously missing) the story...
President Barack Obama has established a staff position in the White House to oversee arts and culture in the Office of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs...Mr. Ivey, a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, said he expected that the job would mainly involve coordinating the activities of the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Institute of Museum and Library Services “in relation to White House objectives.” Although there have been staff members assigned to culture under past presidents, they usually served in the first lady’s office, Mr. Ivey said.
Can you say "propaganda"? I thought you could. And, of course, other than paying the mortgages for people that bought more house they could afford, and paying for illegitimate children of unemployed single mothers, nothing makes me happier than paying for propaganda from a White House with whom I agree on nothing.
Ah, hope and change...
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Another Varitek data point
A month and a half ago I wrote a piece challenging the long-held conventional wisdom that Jason Varitek was helping the Sox pitchers' ERA. It got linked and generated a fair amount of traffic, as well as a lot of disagreement. Well, this week, David Laurilia interviewed John Dewan at Baseball Prospectus and the topic of Varitek's defense came up:
DL: Looking at the book, I was surprised to see how poorly Jason Varitek rated in Earned Runs Saved over the past six seasons.
JD: Yeah, that actually surprised us. Jason Kendall is near the top, Pudge Rodriguez is near the top, and we were a bit surprised by Jason Varitek. But the bottom line is that his Catcher ERAs — and we do an adjustment based on park factors, and in his case it doesn't matter as much, though historically park factor adjustments are important for a guy like Mike Piazza especially. But Jason Varitek just consistently, when you looked at how he compared with other Boston catchers, he didn't do as well. And our system not only compares against Boston catchers, but it will take into account pitchers who pitched for the Red Sox, and how they did when they were traded in midseason and caught by catchers on other teams. There are a variety of factors that come into play, and Varitek did surprise us by not coming out as well as we had expected...there are still so many components of what a catcher does, like working with a pitcher and working with the team, and those are areas where both Ausmus and Varitek are team leaders. Both have aspects to what they do that we don't know how to measure yet. So if I were a push-button manager, neither of those guys would play for me. But the managers who are managing those guys know a little bit more about them, and what other aspects are important. What I would tell [Terry Francona] is that it doesn't look like [Varitek] is helping his pitchers' ERAs. If that's what you think is happening here, it's not.
Just because John Dewan says it doesn't make it so, but it provides another data point. Someone else looked at the data and came to the same conclusion. I'd love to see someone try to make the case that Varitek is helping his pitcher's ERAs, but I don't know how you'd do that - the data seems to strongly suggest the opposite.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
Quote of the day
Friday, March 13, 2009
Joe Trippi, you don't speak for me
Democratic political consultant Joe Trippi has penned an op-ed praising Barack Obama.
23.6 million Americans suffer from diabetes. And, for all of us, Monday was an important--and emotional--day. President Barack Obama signed an executive order lifting the nation's ban on funding research on new embryonic stem cell lines. With it, there is new hope for millions of diabetes sufferers, including me, as well as millions more suffering from other debilitating diseases.
Well Joe, I am one of those 23.6 million Americans, and let me say this as clearly as I can - you do not speak for me. I agree President Obama's actions on Monday stirred emotions, but my emotional reaction was not hope - it was dismay.
Let's start by clearing away the lie that surrounded the ceremony. There was no "ban" on embryonic stem cell research. There has never been a "ban" on embryonic stem cell research. There was, however, a ban on federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. This was changed in 2001 by President George W. Bush, who announced that federal funding would be available for research involving the currently available embryonic stem cell lines.
You see, in order to get embryonic stem cells, you have to destroy an embryo. Former President Clinton apparently doesn't know what that means, but a human embryo is, in fact, a human being at its earliest developmental stage. In order to get the stem cells for research, you have to extract them from the embryo, thus destroying it and ending a potential life. Even the former President, a supporter of the policy, recognizes that people would not approve if they understood it:
If it’s obvious that we’re not taking embryos that can - that under any conceivable scenario would be used for a process that would allow them to be fertilized and become little babies, and I think if it’s obvious that we’re not talking about some science fiction cloning of human beings, then I think the American people will support this.
Obviously, that's the problem. These embryos could have "become little babies" - instead, they're being destroyed in science labs.
That, of course, is where George W. Bush's "ban" came into play. Bush was actually the first President to make federal funding available for embryonic stem cell research. What he did, however, was limit the funding to the currently available stem cell "lines." That is to say, there were pre-existing stem cells from previously destroyed embryos, and federal money could fund research on those, but federal funds could not be used on any more lines, thus preventing taxpayers for paying for embryo destruction. Bush's policy was opposed by those on the left who wanted no restrictions on federal funding, and by those on the right who wanted no federal funding for any embryonic stem cell research. But it was a serious and defensible policy.
Reasonable people can differ on the level of protection that those embryos warrant, but it is not debatable that it is an early stage human being which is destroyed to extract those cells. The President is, as usual, condescending and dismissive to those that disagree with him. At the signing ceremony, President Obama** said, "In recent years, when it comes to stem cell research, rather than furthering discovery, our government has forced what I believe is a false choice between sound science and moral values. In this case, I believe the two are not inconsistent."
Well, they are if one of your moral values is not destroying human embryos in medical experiments.
Many, if not most, Americans are profoundly disturbed with the idea of experimentation on human life at that level. I'm struck (as so frequently happens) by a line from C. S. Lewis' brilliant essay, The Abolition of Man: "what we call Man's power over Nature turns out to be a power exercised by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument." I am not willing that my condition be treated at the expense of using human embryos, human life, as raw material for science experiments.
Barack Obama not only wants to do that, he wants me to pay for it. Joe Trippi thinks that that's a great idea. I disagree. Joe Trippi wants to thank the President. I want to tell the President, "No, Mr. President. Not in my name, not with my money. No."
* - There is no good polling available, largely because of the profound obfuscation inherent in the media coverage of this topic.
** - Keep in mind that this is a man who refused to support a law that would require that babies born alive in the case of improperly performed abortions actually be cared for as live human babies, because of the "burden" that would impose on the abortion provider.
H/T - Jonah Goldberg
Monday, March 09, 2009
Jay on Rush
Sunday, March 08, 2009
A preview of Easter music
For Easter Sunday, we will be singing the "Et resurrexit" from Bach's Mass in B Minor as an introit*. It is a masterwork. I thought I'd share that with you today...
(Peter Kooij, bass Bach Collegium Japan, choir & orchestra Masaaki Suzuki, conductor)
* - We'll also sing one of the definitive Easter anthems, "Worthy is the Lamb/Amen" which concludes The Messiah.
Saturday, March 07, 2009
If we had a legitimate news media in this country, people would know these things. But we don't - we have a propaganda arm of the Democratic party, so Chris Dodd and Barney Frank and John Kerry and Barack Obama can shamelessly blame George W. Bush for their destruction of the banking system and never get called on it by the fourth estate. Thank God for the internet...
Friday, March 06, 2009
Correlation is not causation...
We all know that being a liberal means never having to say "I'm sorry," but it also means never, ever, under any circumstances, learning from experience. No matter how badly an idea fails, no matter what the unintended consequences, no matter how obvious that the unintended consequences will again be the consequences, no idea needs be shelved if liberals can feel that they're hurting someone successful by implementing it.
We all remember how the 1990 tax bill that George H. W. Bush foolishly signed killed the luxury boat industry in this country. Aimed at "socking it to the rich," the end result was the elimination of jobs for many lower-educated but skilled workers. (Which is actually the result of most liberal economic plans.) Well, in their state of high dudgeon, the President and members of Congress are once again villifying the rich for spending money, resulting in pain and suffering for
I am a stand-up comedian and have been slinging jokes for over thirty years...During the last ten years, I have moved from the club market into mostly corporate events....Recently, my job has come under attack by some high ranking Democrats. While bragging about how many jobs he was going to create and save, about how many shovels he was going to get turning, Mr. Obama has sent my industry into a tail spin. He has taken several broad swipes at corporate entertainment in the past few weeks. Because they also hate corporate fat cats, Senator John Kerry and Representative Barney Frank joined in and started slamming my little corner of show business as well...He embarrassed business leaders and they have been cutting back on entertaining. Unfortunately, due to the law of unintended consequences, it wasn’t the corporate fat cats that got hurt. They have mothballed their corporate jets and are suffering by flying first class to their vacation homes in the Bahamas, poor guys!
Who the president hurt were thousands of waiters, caterers, bartenders, stage hands, sound technicians, floor sweepers, decorators, jet pilots, mechanics, parts suppliers, hotel workers and even a few stand up comics who depend on those fat cats for their livelihoods.
Oh, and the hypocrisy is rich, too:
Not all fat cats come under this Democrat microscope. This week in Miami, at the Fontainebleau Hotel, a fairly swanky joint, the AFL-CIO is hosting a little shindig. Not only are they not under fire for reckless spending while their union members are losing their jobs left and right, but a couple of high ranking Democrats including the Joe Biden will be down there cheering them on.
Ah, hope and change, hope and change...
Haven't I seen this act before?
Our representative, representing our interests...
The blame America first Democrats are at it again.
The United States is seen as the key player in global climate talks in Copenhagen in December, after President Barack Obama signaled a new urgency in tackling climate change in stark contrast to his predecessor George W. Bush.
"Certainly the United States has been negligent in living up to its responsibilities," Clinton said. "This is a propitious time ... we can actually begin to demonstrate our willingness to confront this.
Doesn't it seem at least theoretically possible that we Americans could have a Secretary of State that would NOT bad-mouth our country overseas?
Thursday, March 05, 2009
Further endearing ourselves overseas...
It is, of course, usual for heads of state to exchange gifts, particularly when meeting for the first time. So when British Prime Minister met with President Obama last week, it was standard protocol that there would be an exchange of gifts.
Mr Brown's gifts included an ornamental desk pen holder made from the oak timbers of Victorian anti-slaver HMS Gannet, once named HMS President.
Mr Obama was so delighted he has already put it in pride of place in the Oval Office on the Resolute desk which was carved from timbers of Gannet's sister ship, HMS Resolute.
Another treasure given to the U.S. President was the framed commission for HMS Resolute, a vessel that came to symbolise Anglo-US peace when it was saved from ice packs by Americans and given to Queen Victoria.
Finally, Mr Brown gave a first edition set of the seven-volume classic biography of Churchill by Sir Martin Gilbert.
The White House issued a press briefing today that put on record how much Mr Obama had appreciated the gifts.
Well, that all sounds lovely and appropriate. The kind of gifts that one head of state gives to another, particularly as they reaffirm a "special relationship." And, of course, Mr. Obama reciprocated.
Gordon Brown has been given a collection of 25 classic American films on DVD as his official gift from Barack Obama. The Prime Minister flew home from his successful trip to Washington this morning with the 'special collector's box' of films hidden in his luggage.
No. 10 had tried to keep the present a secret...One reason for the secrecy might be that the gift seems markedly less generous and thoughtful than the presents taken to Washington by the Prime Minister.
Hmm... I wonder if that set of movies* also sells for $15 at the White House Gift shop, like the little models of Marine One given by Mrs. Obama to Mrs. Brown for the Brown sons.
The funniest line comes from a commenter at Ace of Spades' site, who said that "Gordon should take the pen back and give Mr. and Mrs. Racially Sensitive a Betamax copy of Song of the South..." (As always, there's a language warning if you go to Ace's...)
* - No word on whether the DVDs are region 2 and PAL so that the Prime Minister can at least watch them in Great Britain, or if they're region 1 and NTSC, so that they'll make nifty coasters...
Wednesday, March 04, 2009
Odds and ends...
A couple of things that I've seen this week that I wanted to comment on...
- From Peter King's mailbag at CNNSI.com, Justin from Peoria, Illinois, demonstrates the kind of economic ignorance that is currently running our government.
Regardless of the actual terms of Albert Haynesworth's contract, I believe we are seeing some disturbing developments. When America is suffering through a recession, it does the fan no good to see some of these contracts. Won't ticket prices and merchandise have to increase?
The Washington Redskins are in the business of selling entertainment. Their strategic goal, as a business, is to maximize their profits and the return on their investments. Accordingly, they will price their tickets to maximize their revenues. If they increase ticket prices, one of two things will happen. Either the number of tickets sold will drop, or the number of tickets sold will not drop. (As they have sold out all of their games for the last 40 years, the number of tickets sold will not increase.) If they increase the ticket price and the number of tickets sold does not drop, then the tickets were underpriced. If they raise the ticket price and the number of tickets sold drops, then they were at an equilibrium condition of supply and demand, and revenues may drop (or may not, depending on the relative size of the price increase and the ticket sale drop.)
If you look carefully, you'll note that player salaries are not mentioned in that previous paragraph. There's a reason for that. Player salaries are irrelevant to pricing policy.
Shall I repeat that?
Player salaries are irrelevant to pricing policy.
(If you don't believe this, do a little experimental research. What is the price of a ticket to a Washington Nationals game? What is the price of a ticket to an NCAA final four game? In which game are the player salaries higher? For which game is the ticket price higher?)
Pricing is set to maximize revenues, profits and ROI. Period. Pricing is based on two factors - supply (which is fixed in the case of football tickets) and demand. To the extent that the Haynesworth signing has any effect on pricing, the relationship is actually the inverse of what you are proposing. The Redskins cannot increase prices because they've paid a lot of money to Albert Haynesworth. They may be able to increase prices because Haynesworth's presence increases demand for that fixed supply of tickets.
(And all of this ignores the fact that the Redskins are playing in a league with a salary cap. The money going to Albert Haynesworth cannot be spent on someone else. In the end, the Redskins total salary cost is going to be pretty much the same with or without him.)
In other words Justin, no, ticket prices don't have to increase because of the Haynesworth signing.
- I don't dislike Tony Massarotti, but his piece the other day about the Cassel trade includes possibly the stupidest premise I'll read in a non-budget related story this year.
Nonetheless, one cannot help but wonder if the Patriots did themselves more harm than good when they used the franchise tag on Matt Cassel.
The short response is, "one certainly can help but wonder," particularly if one is not a moron. Let us, briefly, concede that there is some possibility that the Patriots did not actually extract the maximum possible value from the Cassel transaction. But that isn't the question that Tony's positing. His theory is that they may have been better off not franchising Cassel in the first place. Which is, to put it politely, insane.
Ending weeks of speculation that began during the final stages of the 2008 regular season, the Patriots on Saturday traded Cassel and linebacker Mike Vrabel to the Kansas City Chiefs for a second-round pick (34th overall) in next month's draft. Just like that, Cassel's meteoric rise in New England crashed to a halt. After all that debate and all that posturing, the Patriots seemed to give up more than they received, unloading the same Cassel contract they saddled themselves with in the first place.
Pssst...Tony - just to let you in on a little secret, the contract they "saddled themselves with in the first place" enabled them to TRADE Cassel, thus acquiring an excellent pick in the upcoming draft, rather than watching him WALK AWAY FOR NOTHING!
Assuming, as I do, that Vrabel was gone one way or the other, and that had he not been included in the trade, it still would have happened the same way and he'd have then been cut, the two possible options were:
A) Decline to franchise Cassel. In this scenario, Cassel negotiates and signs a big free agent contract with someone else, Vrabel gets cut, the Patriots end up with nothing.
B) Franchise Cassel. Trade him as soon as free agency starts, include Vrabel so that you have some control over where he ends up, get back the 34th pick in the draft (an excellent value pick, as you expect to get a good player at a reasonable price.)
Right? To summarize, option A leaves the Patriots with:
Option B leaves the Patriots with:
The 34th pick in the draft
And Tony somehow thinks it's legitimate to question whether they should have tagged Cassel in the first place? And an editor let it go through? I don't know whether to laugh or cry...
Tuesday, March 03, 2009
Those who forget the past...
Some wag observed, shortly after last fall's election, that "there are two kinds of people in this country - those who remember the Carter years, and those who are about to learn."
Dow Jones Industrial Average
I will confess to be surprised by how severe the lesson is and how fast it's coming...
Sunday, March 01, 2009
So, the inevitable trade came, as we all knew that it would, and Matt Cassell has finished the New England Patriots portion of his career.
Cassel was acquired in the 7th round of the 2005 draft, the 230th overall selection. After three years backing up Tom Brady, he was thrust into action early in the first quarter of the first game of the 2008 season and led the team to an 11-5 record. (They missed the playoffs for the first time in 6 years, but the offensive shortcomings were early in the year, and the defensive shortcomings were greater and longer lasting. Matt Cassel did not prevent them from reaching the playoffs. The 2001 team that won the Super Bowl was the 2nd seed in the AFC with an 11-5 record, and a young QB with worse statistics.)
The Patriots acquired Mike Vrabel as a free agent during their spectacular 2000-2001 off-season, and he was a key component of the four Super Bowl teams. He's a fan favorite, and the news that he was traded preceded the news of Cassel's involvement by nearly a day, and the news was fairly shocking. But here's the thing - as great a player as he's been, he's a 34 year-old linebacker who looks to have lost a step that he couldn't afford to lose, and who would have cost the team fairly significant cap space. There are now reports trickling out that, had he not been included in the trade, he would have been released. Those reports would seem to be credible, including the fact that by trading him, he gets paid, rather than taking his chances on the open market.
On the other hand, it is easy to see why Scott Pioli would want to take Vrabel. He's taking over an organization that needs a complete overhaul, and a roster with more youth than experience. Vrabel should provide exactly the kind of veteran influence that can help a team, providing value exceeding his on-the-field performance value.
So the Patriots took a player that they were ready to release, and a player that, if Tom Brady is healthy, won't play, and turned them into the 34th pick in the 2009 draft. Patriot fans should be happy with that, and some are. But there's a touch of disappointment, too. Certainly, many are disappointed that Vrabel is gone. And there are many others that had visions of greater compensation for Cassel. I expect that one or more teams are going to spend higher draft picks than the 34th on quarterbacks that won't play as well as Matt Cassel will. But if that's the market, than that's the market. Obviously, the Patriots couldn't be spending that much money on a backup quarterback, so they needed to move him. They got a valuable draft pick, while opening significant salary cap room to improve the team at other positions where the need is greater. While it would have been nice to get more, you cannot complain that it wasn't a good trade - it was.
Oh, and for all of the fans and pundits throwing out the "Scott Mitchell" comparison, give it a rest. Right now. Seriously.
Mitchell started 7 games for the Dolphins in 1993, and went 3-4, including losses in the last three to knock them out of the division championship that appeared to be almost locked up three weeks earlier. Cassel started slow and saw his performance increase with his playing time, while leading his team to an 11-5 record.
- Cassel has twice as many starts* as Mitchell.
- Cassel has been significantly more accurate (63.2% completion rate) than Mitchell was (57.1%)
- Cassel has thrown over twice as many passes for over twice as much yardage as Mitchell had.
- Cassel has a much better TD/INT ratio (21/11) than Mitchell had (12/8).
- Mitchell saw his QB rating tank, from 100.63 in his first four games to 69.025 in his last four. Cassel's went up from 83.4 in his first eight to 94.35 in his last eight.
Other than the fact that both were previously unheralded backups replacing superstars and then moving on, Mitchell really isn't a good comp for Cassel. Cassel spent three years learning the system, and improved weekly when given the opportunity to play. Yes, the Patriots have substantial offensive talent, but I saw Matt Cassel do everything that I want a Quarterback to do. He can make all of the throws, he can protect the ball, read the defense, move around in the pocket, take yardage on foot when it's there - I expect him to have a successful NFL career, and be a top-half of the NFL QB.
* - Each entered a game early that they did not start, but played most of the game. I've just counted those as starts.