Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Deficit Is Worse Than We Think

Lawrence B. Lindsey:
Underestimating the long-term budget situation is an old game in Washington. But never have the numbers been this large.

There is no way to raise taxes enough to cover these problems. The tax-the-rich proposals of the Obama administration raise about $700 billion, less than a fifth of the budgetary consequences of the excess economic growth projected in their forecast. The whole $700 billion collected over 10 years would not even cover the difference in interest costs in any one year at the end of the decade between current rates and the average cost of Treasury borrowing over the last 20 years.

Only serious long-term spending reduction in the entitlement area can begin to address the nation's deficit and debt problems. It should no longer be credible for our elected officials to hide the need for entitlement reforms behind rosy economic and budgetary assumptions. And while we should all hope for a deal that cuts spending and raises the debt ceiling to avoid a possible default, bondholders should be under no illusions.
Unpleasant, but important. Read it all.

And go ahead and blame the Congressional Republicans who did such a poor job managing the budget between 2002 and 2006. They deserve plenty of blame. Blame George W. Bush, who didn't stop them from over-spending, or push hard enough for Social Security reform. He deserves it, too.

And then realize that, as badly as the Republicans performed over that stretch, the Democrats have been much, much worse since they took back control of the House in the 2006 elections. And President Obama has pushed everything in the wrong direction. If you were to set out to intentionally destroy the United States financially, there's not much that you would have done differently over the two and a half years. (Do I think he's intentionally trying to destroy the United States financially? No, I think he doesn't have a clue about what his policies are doing. If he were doing it intentionally, he's have screwed up somewhere, and we'd be better off...)

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Thomas Sowell on the constitution and progressives

Brilliant.
More than a hundred years ago, so-called "Progressives" began a campaign to undermine the Constitution's strict limitations on government, which stood in the way of self-anointed political crusaders imposing their grand schemes on all the rest of us. [LB: Unfortunately, they've been very successful on both fronts...] That effort to discredit the Constitution continues to this day, and the arguments haven't really changed much in a hundred years.

The cover story in the July 4th issue of Time magazine is a classic example of this arrogance. It asks of the Constitution: "Does it still matter?"

A long and rambling essay by Time magazine's managing editor, Richard Stengel, manages to create a toxic blend of the irrelevant and the erroneous.
[LB: In other words, pretty standard Time magazine fare...]

The irrelevant comes first, pointing out in big letters that those who wrote the Constitution "did not know about" all sorts of things in the world today, including airplanes, television, computers and DNA.

This may seem like a clever new gambit but, like many clever new gambits, it is a rehash of arguments made long ago. Back in 1908, Woodrow Wilson said, "When the Constitution was framed there were no railways, there was no telegraph, there was no telephone..."
Read it all...

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Monday, June 27, 2011

A night at the park

Last night, the Red Sox short-season A ball team, the Lowell Spinners, hosted the Vermont Lake Monsters on New England Sports Legends night. The first pitches were thrown out by marathoner Bill Rodgers, former Red Sox first baseman Kevin Millar, and Celtics great Tom "Satch" Sanders.

It's a lovely ball park, and it was a beautiful night for baseball...








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Monday Pythagorean, 6/27/2011

There are always going to be some ups and downs in the course of a long season, but four straight to San Diego and Pittsburgh? Ugh...


  • Sometimes, on small sample sizes, the numbers don't add up. This is one of those weeks, as the runs scored and allowed aren't all that bad, but they're skewed badly by a 10 run win to start the week. Back-to-back one run performances out of this vaunted offense aren't going to happen very often, but the team looks pretty ugly when they do.
  • Obviously, it doesn't help to remove the DH from the lineup and insert the pitcher, but you can't blame that for much of the offensive performance. (It also doesn't help to have a home game called after 7 1/2 because of bad weather.)
  • What they did have, offensively, was rotten timing and big holes. They only hit three HR for the week, so they needed to string a lot of positive events together to score runs, and they failed to do so. Last week, their timing was such that they outscored their runs created. This week, they fell way short, creating almost 33 runs but scoring only 28. There were a lot of base runner through the first four batters in the lineup, but five and six were dreadful, no matter which hitters were in those spots. And it seemed as if every inning started with two outs, or at least that every rally was a two-out rally, so that a key hit was always needed and rarely forthcoming.
  • That affair in Pittsburgh was as sloppy a game as I've seen in quite a while. I was in Lowell last night watching the short season 'A' ball New York-Penn league contest between the Lowell Spinners and the Vermont Lake Monsters, and it was much crisper, better played game than the big boys had played earlier. The ball that Will Middlebrooks hit out to left-center in the 2nd probably didn't go quite as far as the ball that David Ortiz hit, but at least it was fair.
  • I dislike inter-league play. Other than my normal Red Sox interest, I'm not interested in the Phillies series, because whatever happens, there's going to be far too much hype and far too much extrapolation, all based on essentially nothing.
  • Red Sox Player of the Week - As noted earlier, the top four were all good, and the best was Adrian Gonzalez (.500/.552/.654/1.206). But even his timing was off, as he stranded several baserunners in key situations.
  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - (Soon to be renamed the "Not John Lackey" award...) In a week without any particularly stellar performances, they got two good ones in their only two wins on the week, from newcomer Andrew Miller. His command wasn't perfect, but it was better than he's shown in Detroit or Florida, and he gave reason to be optimistic, as well as a timely appearance as Buchholz hit the DL and Beckett skipped a start because of sickness. If this is what Miller's capable of being, and not just a small sample fluke, it's a great pickup by the Sox.



AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/18/2011
ProjectedActual
R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck
New York5.25(2)3.97(5)0.625(1)47294531-2
Boston5.31(1)4.21(8)0.605(2)47304532-2
Tampa Bay4.28(7)3.85(4)0.549(3)433544341
Detroit4.58(4)4.31(9)0.528(4)413742361
Texas4.68(3)4.43(10)0.525(5)42374138-1
Cleveland4.28(8)4.18(6)0.51(6)393740361
Toronto4.56(5)4.47(11)0.509(7)40383939-1
Los Angeles3.76(11)3.8(3)0.495(8)394039400
Chicago4.1(10)4.19(7)0.49(9)39403841-1
Seattle3.45(14)3.55(1)0.487(10)384039391
Oakland3.54(13)3.7(2)0.481(11)38413544-3
Kansas City4.38(6)4.94(14)0.446(12)35433345-2
Baltimore4.17(9)4.79(13)0.438(13)334235402
Minnesota3.68(12)4.61(12)0.399(14)304632442

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
New York9666
Boston9567
Tampa Bay9171
Detroit8775
Cleveland8577

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
New York9963
Boston9666
Tampa Bay9072
Detroit8676
Texas8577

Standings for the week
ProjectedActual
R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck
Tampa Bay6.83(1)4.17(7)0.712(1)42511
Los Angeles4.33(7)3(3)0.662(2)42420
Detroit4.67(4)4.17(7)0.552(3)33330
Boston4.67(4)4.33(9)0.534(4)3324-1
New York4.5(6)4.33(9)0.517(5)33421
Oakland2.5(13)2.5(1)0.5(6)3324-1
Seattle2.5(13)2.5(1)0.5(6)3324-1
Texas5.67(2)5.83(13)0.487(8)33330
Toronto3(10)3.17(4)0.475(9)33330
Baltimore5.33(3)6(14)0.446(10)33330
Chicago3.17(9)3.67(5)0.433(11)33330
Cleveland3(10)3.83(6)0.39(12)2415-1
Kansas City3.33(8)4.33(9)0.382(13)24240
Minnesota2.83(12)5(12)0.261(14)2415-1

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Fort Huachuca braces for Monument Fire to spread

Fort Huachuca braces for Monument Fire to spread
The Monument Fire nearing 50 percent containment but the flames on the south side of the Huachuca Mountains getting dangerously close to this military installation.

So how close is it? Colonel Timothy Faulkner said, "As a crow flies it's about 3 1/2 miles away from the installation."

And that's much too close for comfort for Brigadier General Gregg Potter, "Fires are common we have fires on the installation all the time but never on this scale, they've always been contained in a very short period of time," he said.

Just last week the Antelope Fire charred more than 4,400 acres in less than a day. And this time, like any other the post is prepared.

Colonel Faulkner explained, "We are making a buffer all around the huachuca mountains that separate the installation, the buildings and housing from the mountain side." He also said Fort Huachuca averages four to six fires a year. The post is actually stopping some training operations right now so soldiers can help clear out dead brush."
We know that they've missed two days of classes this week clearing brush and they're losing tomorrow's off-day for clearing brush. We are hopeful that they'll get it under control so as not lose next weekend's planned leave, but it's apparently a real possibility at the moment...

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Totally unrealistic...

...because he rarely actually speaks with that kind of candor.

;-)

From the pen of Michael Ramirez:

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Thursday, June 23, 2011

Upton: House Will Vote to Bring Back the Bulb

I'll believe it when it happens, and not before, but this is a positive development. Or positive lip service, anyway...
House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R.,Mich.) has finally agreed to support a bill this summer that means lights out on the looming 2012 ban on the incandescent light bulb. Upton himself co-sponsored 2007 legislation making light bulbs illegal, a ban that has become a symbol of bipartisan Big Government run amok.
Here's a fascinating question. Presuming that Congress does, in fact, get a bill passed through both houses that removes the 2012 energy standards for light bulbs that was going to result in a de facto ban of the 100-watt incandescent, what are the political calculations by which President Obama decides to sign or veto it? It seems that, the more people become aware of what's supposed to happen, the more people are opposed to it. And the more people learn about the compact fluorescents, the more the enthusiasm for them has waned. It's hard to believe that there won't be significant majority support in favor of letting people choose their own light bulbs. On the other hand, the people who want that "ban" in the first place are Obama supporters, and he has to decide if he can disappoint them yet again.

My guess is that there won't be a "clean" bill, and it will get to his desk, if it manages to get through the Senate at all, no sure thing, with something attached by which he can justify a veto. But we'll have to wait and see.

The other interesting question is this. How many manufacturers of 100-watt incandescents are left, anyway?

All in all, I think I'll continue to add to my stash, which is probably only enough to last me 10 years or so at this point...

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"It's a long time coming and we're glad he's finally in custody."

That's the headline of the day as the part of the FBI that wanted to capture him (not to be confused with the part of the FBI that supported and abetted him) has finally got Whitey Bulger in custody.

The next question in this saga - when does Howie Carr's excellent The Brothers Bulger get re-released with a new chapter?

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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Te Deum in C, KV 141

Just because I felt like it.
Mozart - Te Deum in C, KV 141



One of my favorite things that I've ever sung1...






1 - This is not my choir.

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Monday, June 20, 2011

Monday Pythagorean, 6/20/2011

When you have a 6-0 week, there's no place to go the following week but down. And down they went, but 4-2 is a good week at any time, if your down weeks involve winning 2/3 of your games, well, you're going to win a lot of games.

  • Have they overcome that 2-10 start yet? On a pace to win 98 games, I'm thinking that the answer is a resounding "Yes."
  • It's interesting to note that run-scoring was so far down in the AL this week that Boston's 2.83 runs allowed/game was only 7th-best among the 14 AL pitching staffs. Two AL teams (Seattle and Tampa) scored fewer than two runs per game, while four more (Toronto, Cleveland, Chicago and Texas) were under three.
  • Adrien Gonzalez' 100th hit of the season was the 1000th hit of his career. And it was his 11th career triple.
  • The injuries that the Red Sox have faced thus far have been nothing like the injury storm they dealt with in 2010, but there have been issues, and a couple more cropped up this week. In fact, they put one of their top three starting pitchers, their starting left fielder and their starting shortstop onto the DL.
  • First, Carl Crawford headed to the DL with a pulled hamstring. Now Crawford has started slowly, in his Boston career, as he's hit just .243/.275/.384/.659 thus far in a Boston uniform. And even though that's largely a result of a dreadful April, he's still only .295/.318/.476/.794 since the first of May. He's had a few timely hits, but on the whole, he certainly hasn't been carrying them. Obviously, they'd rather have Crawford out there than Darnell McDonald or Josh Reddick or Mike Cameron, but for two weeks, which is all that this is expected to be, they've got adequate coverage. It shouldn't have much impact.
  • Another notable injury of the week involves the third member of the starting rotation to hit the DL, as Clay Buchholz is going to miss a couple of starts with a strained lower back. Unlike Crawford, Buchholz has been a key part to their success thus far, albeit with ERA and Win numbers which are nowhere near as good as last year's. (Which no one [OK, some people, but certainly not me, as I said on several occasions] reasonably expected him to duplicate anyway.) Like Crawford, though, the Sox have coverage. In fact, Buchholz' injury corresponds nicely to their contractual need to do something with Andrew Miller, the lefty will make his Boston debut tonight afer dominating the International League for the past couple of months.
  • And finally Jed Lowrie, who had won the starting shortstop job, and who's torrid streak in early April was one of the key catalysts that restored them to the land of the living, went down with a shoulder injury and he'll also be gone for at least a couple of weeks. And again, the Red Sox have coverage, as Marco Scutaro is a good Major League starting shortstop. It's an injury that affects depth, but should have little to no impact on team performance over the short term.
  • The offense was timely more than productive this week. For example, Kevin Youkilis (.227/.292/.545/.837) struggled, but did hit two three run homers, both of which significantly altered game situations in Boston's favor and were keys to victories. David Ortiz (.263/.440/.316/.756) got on base (6 walks) but hit for no power; Youkilis hit for power but didn't get on base. J.D. Drew (.267/.313/.267/.579) was awful, but better than every other outfielder other than Jacoby Ellsbury (.238/.304/.429/.733) (and three at-bats of Josh Reddick). On the whole, they "created" fewer than 28 runs, but managed to score 31. (For the season, they've "created" 385 and scored 381).
  • Red Sox Player of the Week - While there were a lot of mediocre, or worse, performances on the team this week, Adrian Gonzalez (.435/.519/.870/1.388) continues to demonstrate that he's worth whatever it cost to get him.
  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - One night after James Shields held the Red Sox scoreless in ending their nine-game winning streak, Josh Beckett returned the favor with possibly his most dominant outing in a Red Sox uniform. He was nearly perfect, as only one of the 28 Tampa batters that he faced reached first base, and that was on a weak ground ball down the third base line.


AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/18/2011
ProjectedActual
R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck
New York5.31(2)3.94(5)0.633(1)44264129-3
Boston5.37(1)4.2(6)0.611(2)432843280
Texas4.6(4)4.32(9)0.529(3)39343835-1
Tampa Bay4.07(10)3.82(3)0.529(4)383439331
Detroit4.57(5)4.32(10)0.526(5)383439331
Cleveland4.39(7)4.21(7)0.518(6)363439313
Toronto4.69(3)4.58(12)0.511(7)37353636-1
Chicago4.18(8)4.23(8)0.494(8)36373538-1
Seattle3.53(14)3.64(1)0.486(9)353737352
Los Angeles3.71(12)3.86(4)0.482(10)353835380
Oakland3.63(13)3.79(2)0.48(11)35383340-2
Kansas City4.47(6)4.99(14)0.45(12)32403141-1
Baltimore4.07(9)4.68(13)0.437(13)303932372
Minnesota3.76(11)4.57(11)0.411(14)294131392

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Boston9864
New York9567
Cleveland9072
Tampa Bay8874
Detroit8874

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
New York9963
Boston9963
Tampa Bay8775
Cleveland8775
Detroit8676

Standings for the week
ProjectedActual
R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck
New York6(1)3(9)0.78(1)52520
Boston5.17(2)2.83(7)0.75(2)5142-1
Minnesota3.4(7)2(5)0.725(3)41501
Toronto2.63(9)1.75(2)0.677(4)5342-1
Oakland4.17(4)2.83(7)0.669(5)42511
Tampa Bay1.62(14)1.15(1)0.649(6)8543-4
Cleveland2.4(11)1.8(3)0.629(7)6452-1
Los Angeles3.83(6)3(9)0.61(8)42420
Detroit5(3)4(11)0.601(9)43430
Chicago2.29(12)1.86(4)0.594(10)4323-2
Kansas City4.17(4)4.67(14)0.448(11)3324-1
Baltimore3.29(8)4.14(13)0.396(12)3424-1
Seattle1.86(13)2.57(6)0.355(13)25331
Texas2.56(10)4.11(12)0.295(14)3624-1

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Friday, June 17, 2011

20,000,000 Bumps in the Road

I'm on record as not thinking that Mitt Romney can win the Republican primary. But this is the kind of thing that will help. And it'll help whoever ends up winning...

YouTube - 20,000,000 Bumps in the Road

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Quote of the day

The great tragedy of Science: the slaying of a beautiful hypothesis by an ugly fact.
- Thomas Huxley
It's true of engineering, too. I pull out this one as I try to adjust my mental outlook to deal with the fact that the situation I finally understood turns out not to be understood quite yet...

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The new workspace...

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Sometimes, they move from left to right

Usually, they go the other way, but sometimes (Ron Silver, David Zucker) even Hollywood celebrities move in a conservative direction.

The latest to commit this act of apostasy is playwright and screenwriter David Mamet. I've not yet read his new book ("The Secret Knowledge: On the Dismantling of American Culture"), but it's on my list. And he's got the quote of the day, as he speaks common sense that's so ... uncommon in his fellow members of the entertainment industry.
"The question is, can he run on his record in 2012, and the answer is no, because it’s abysmal," Mamet said. "He took a trillion dollars and where it went, nobody knows. He dismantled healthcare, he weakened America around the world, he sold out the State of Israel. All he’s got to run on is being a Democrat and indicting the other fellow."
Yup. Of course, it worked for him in 2008. Equally of course, he didn't have his record then.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

More picture from the Bunker Hill Parade

























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Monday, June 13, 2011

Army life

"Call of Duty" tournament, Fort Huachuca, AZ...



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Scenes from Bunker Hill Day parade, 2011

The William Diamond Junior Fife and Drum Corps.






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Monday Pythagorean, 6/13/2011

Well, it doesn't get much better than that.

  • Six wins, no losses, all against division opponents, three of them in New York that took the Sox from 1 back of the Yankees to two up - that's a pretty good week. I'm sure that we could find things to complain about if we looked really hard, but it would be not only not worth the effort, it would be pretty darned ungrateful.
  • I'll confess - I'm feeling some of the ungratefulness. It remains astounding to me how quickly and easily we adapt to prosperity and accept it as our due. When you can watch a week of baseball like this one, and feel as if there's nothing all that spectacular going on, "it's all fairly ordinary, thank you very much," well, you're jaded.
  • As we reach the end of the week, the "big" games feel like the last two. Back-to-back 14+ run outbursts (the second time this year that they've done that) make a big impression. They're like Transformer movies, or Pirates of the Caribbean - big and loud. But the important and meaningful games this week were Oscar contenders - Chariots of Fire on Thursday and The King's Speech on Friday. Thursday night, they had caught and passed the Yankees, but New York had its best pitcher on the mound, and was desperate to break a five-game home losing streak to the Red Sox. And the game started after a 3 hour 27 minute rain delay, and the Yankees took a 2-0 lead when their second batter went deep. This would have been a really easy one to lose. But Beckett didn't allow the Yankees anything else, and when Sabathia started to tire just a little in the seventh, they hammered him, and his relief, putting up seven to go from potential loss to almost certain win. Then, on the heels of that, after arriving in Toronto at 6:30 in the morning, it would have been profoundly easy to take a mental health day and lose. They did not, with Buchholz excellent and the offense putting up five, a decent performance at any time, albeit their worst of the week. It's important that those not get over-shadowed by what came later. The offensive bludgeoning of those last two games in Toronto may turn out to be more the signature of the team, but the "heart-and-soul" people should love what preceded them.
  • Despite the 0-6 and 2-10 starts, the Red Sox currently have a .600 winning percentage, on a pace to win 97 games. Before the season, I thought that this was a 100-win team, assuming reasonable health. Then I thought that the start rendered it unlikely. However, since that 2-10 start, they've played 37-16 ball over the last 53 games, which is a 113 win pace. I now think that 100 is very possible, or maybe even likely.
  • How dominant a week was it? They trailed in only one of the six games, against the Yankees' best starter, who took that lead into the seventh. The Sox ended up scoring seven in that inning and won by five. In three of the games, their first batter scored and they led the entire way.
  • The 60 runs scored this week moves Boston into first in the Majors in that category. In fact, not only did they move from fifth to first, they built a 20-run lead over the 2nd-place Yankees.
  • How good was the offense? Kevin Youkilis hit .316/.440/.526/.966, and had the 9th-best OPS on the team.
  • Red Sox Player of the Week - Some weeks there are a dearth of good candidates. And then there's a week like this, when Adrian Gonzalez hits .364/.481/.773/1.254 and doesn't warrant consideration. Despite missing one game to have his knee checked out, Dustin Pedroia (.474/.615/.789/1.405) led the team in Runs Created (and OBP and OPS), going 9-19 with a home run and three doubles, and takes home the much-coveted Player-Of-The-Week award. It was "the laser show" indeed...
  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - The offense overshadowed the pitching this week, but that doesn't mean that there wasn't any good pitching. There were three notable starts. The best was Lester's 8-inning, 2-hit, 1-run performance in Toronto on Sunday, but after the third, it was a low-stress outing. Buchholz was excellent on Friday night, a night on which the team could easily have coasted to an easy loss, coming off of the sweep in New York and the late travel. And Beckett observed the first rule of holes - when you're in one, stop digging. After allowing a two-run homer to the second batter he faced against a Yankee team desperate for a win, with their ace on the mound, he held them scoreless through seven, long enough for the Sox offense to come back and win it. All three are worthy. But only Lester pitched twice, allowing 4 runs in 14 innings, so the Pitcher of the Week this week is Jon Lester.



AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/18/2011
ProjectedActual
R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck
New York5.24(2)4.05(4)0.616(1)39243627-3
Boston5.38(1)4.32(5)0.599(2)392639260
Texas4.89(4)4.34(6)0.554(3)37303631-1
Tampa Bay4.61(6)4.41(8)0.521(4)343135301
Detroit4.52(7)4.35(7)0.517(5)343135301
Cleveland4.72(5)4.62(10)0.51(6)323134292
Toronto4.95(3)4.94(13)0.501(7)33333234-1
Seattle3.71(12)3.75(1)0.494(8)333334321
Chicago4.38(9)4.48(9)0.489(9)333533350
Los Angeles3.7(13)3.94(3)0.471(10)32353136-1
Oakland3.58(14)3.88(2)0.463(11)31362839-3
Kansas City4.5(8)5.02(14)0.451(12)30362937-1
Baltimore4.16(10)4.74(11)0.441(13)283530332
Minnesota3.78(11)4.77(12)0.396(14)263926390

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
Boston9765
New York9369
Texas8775
Tampa Bay8775
Detroit8775

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
New York9765
Boston9765
Texas8973
Tampa Bay8676
Detroit8577

Standings for the week
ProjectedActual
R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck
Boston10(1)3.17(2)0.891(1)51601
Detroit5.86(3)3.86(6)0.682(2)5243-1
Baltimore4.83(6)3.33(3)0.664(3)42420
Minnesota4.43(8)3.14(1)0.652(4)52520
Chicago4.86(5)3.71(4)0.62(5)43521
Tampa Bay4.83(6)3.83(5)0.604(6)42511
Kansas City5.29(4)4.29(8)0.595(7)43430
New York6.17(2)5.5(11)0.552(8)33330
Seattle3(11)4.14(7)0.356(9)25341
Texas4.29(9)6.57(13)0.314(10)25250
Oakland3(11)4.71(9)0.304(11)2516-1
Toronto3.86(10)7.71(14)0.22(12)25250
Cleveland2.5(13)5.5(11)0.191(13)15150
Los Angeles2.33(14)5.17(10)0.189(14)15150

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There's nothing new under the sun...

... as this quote shows:
During the course of administration, and in order to disturb it, the artillery of the press has been levelled against us, charged with whatsoever its licentiousness could devise or dare. These abuses of an institution so important to freedom and science are deeply to be regretted, inasmuch as they tend to lessen its usefulness and to sap its safety.
- George W. Bush Thomas Jefferson, 2nd Inaugural Address

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Friday, June 10, 2011

Friday poetry corner

Parnassus, the Literary Magazine of Northern Essex Community College.

Spring 2011


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House Dems to call for tax hikes

Remember how the New York Times criticized the Republicans last week for offering "more of the same" on the economy? Somehow, I don't think that the Democrats are going to get the same commentary on this:
A group of House Democrats is calling for any deal to raise the debt ceiling to bring about the end of the Bush tax rates for the wealthy.

The lawmakers, led by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), also say that, following last week’s weak job report, they are concerned that certain decreases in federal spending could hurt the economy’s recovery...Republicans have said new tax revenue is the one deficit-reduction approach they will not consider in any deal to increase the debt limit, arguing that Americans want to see Washington get more serious about rolling back spending.

But Democrats have said taxes need to be part of the discussion.
For the Democrats, a good day to raise taxes is any day that ends with a "y"...

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Anecdotes from the campaign trail

Romney flies coach
As word spread that the leading challenger to President Obama was on the flight, ground crew members and baggage handlers streamed up the stairs from the tarmac into the plane to get Romney’s autograph. They treated him like a rock star, one after another. Anyone who has followed the airline’s labor history at the Philadelphia hub knows that the local Philadelphia union is among the most belligerent in the entire commercial aviation industry, nearly wrecking the airline with “sick outs” one holiday season. If Romney gets the nomination, and the same reception in Philadelphia next November among these Reagan democrats, Obama is in trouble.
I don't know that this means much, but it's a good opportunity to make my position on Romney clear.

  1. I like Mitt.
  2. Obviously, he'd be a vast improvement over the current occupant of the White House.
  3. He's got some issues, of which the most significant is the Romneycare that he continues to refuse to disavow, despite the fact that a) Obamacare is a huge issue and b) Romneycare has been a disaster.
Everything that he's done in this campaign thus far has been aimed at beating Barack Obama. (Well, maybe not everything. He continues to defend Romneycare which doesn't help in either the primary or the general. I don't understand, at all, why he does it.) He's running to the center, though, essentially running a general election campaign during primary season. Because of this, he will not be the Republican nominee. I don't know who will be. Rick Perry, maybe, or Tim Pawlenty or Herman Cain. But not Romney.

If I'm wrong about that, though, I'm right about this, anyway - if Mitt Romney wins the Republican presidential nomination, he is the next President of the United States.


[UPDATED - It previously said that he "continues to disavow" which is, of course, exactly not right, and not what I meant.]

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Old Picture of the Day: Hard Drive

When I started work at Data General in 1985, they had just started shipping the Argus II disk drive. Argus II was 14 inch disk drive with a capacity of 333 MB. The genius of it, the reason that DG made a ton of with that product, is that you could stack three of them in a meter-high cabinet and have a full GigaByte of storage in a package about the size of a washing machine.

That capacity can hold five or six pictures from your digital camera. If you've got a cell phone, it's got more storage capacity than that. Your wristwatch might, too.

I mention that because the Old Picture of the Day is an even older drive. Click and take a look.

In some ways, we're immeasurably richer than we were 30 years ago...

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Thursday, June 09, 2011

Who'd'a thunk it?

Grace-Marie Turner (WSJ.com):
ObamaCare will lead to a dramatic decline in employer-provided health insurance—with as many as 78 million Americans forced to find other sources of coverage.
But hey, at least the Obamacare supporters can console themselves with their feelings of moral superiority, because they meant to do good things...

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More SWAT-type raids

I'm a generally pro-law enforcement law-and-order kind of guy, but this kind of thing is very dangerous, counter-productive, and needs to stop.
In California, a Federal SWAT team (apparently associated with the Dept of Education) breaks down a door to search a house for a woman who wasn't there. Apparently they wanted his estranged wife on some manner of fraud relating to education. The search warrant shows it was to be executed by the Dept of Education's Office of Inspector General, and from the list of matters to be seized it sounds as if they suspected her of getting student loans without being enrolled at a college.
Too many SWAT teams, too many raids, and too many raids gone wrong - wrong address, insufficient evidence, and people getting killed to no purpose. There is rarely a compelling public need to actually send a SWAT team in to raid a house or apartment, but we have the teams, they're trained (how well is open to debate) to do the raids, and they get used. And far, far too often, innocent people die as a result. Read that paragraph again. Why in God's name would you send a paramilitary unit after a woman on fraud charges?

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Helpful discussion

One of the think-tanks that I pay some attention to is the Cato Institute, a libertarian group. While I'm culturally and by temperament conservative, I tend towards the libertarian position politically. And Cato is not only taking the position that "marriage" should be extended to include same-sex couples (which I understand), they're actively pushing it (which I don't). So they keep posting pro-same-sex marriage videos on their facebook page and long "discussions" ensue, with 50 people that don't know each other repeating the same arguments that don't change anyone's minds.

I'm not going to talk about same-sex marriage today. But there are a couple of repeated arguments that are particularly tiresome, particularly pointless, so I've got a couple of pieces of advice, one for each side, for people who want to discuss these issues in facebook length pieces.

  • First, for the people who are opposed to same-sex marriage - stop quoting Leviticus. Unless you're actively working to get the government to stop Burger King from selling the bacon double-cheeseburger because it contains pork and combines meat and dairy, you're not really all that interested in enshrining the Levitical laws as public policy. So don't make that your argument of first resort. Or even your argument of last resort. Everyone already knows that the Old Testament explicitly condemns homosexuality. You know it, I know it, the people that you're arguing with know it. They know it and they don't care. You're not changing their position, you're hardening it. The people for whom Leviticus is relevant to this discussion are already on your side.

    And the Bible is not the source of civil authority in the United States. So it's an appeal to authority, but an authority without appeal to many of those against whom you're making the appeal. It's a waste of time and an irritant. And when you use that argument, it implies that you don't have another one. If that's all you've got, if that's the argument, then it actively encourages the pro- side to assume that there's no real argument to be made. So just stop it.
  • And secondly, for those on the pro-same-sex marriage side - stop throwing out the word "equality" as if it's a magical talisman that justifies everything. As is the case with the Leviticus argument, the people on the other side have all heard it and don't agree.

    The reason that they don't agree is that the discussion is about two fundamentally different things. You may see them as equal, but clearly, others do not. The appeal to "equality" is a moral appeal, an appeal that works only for a shared moral framework and outlook, and that doesn't exist here. I know it make you feel as if you've got the moral high ground, but you're actually just on totally different ground. Logically, the "equality" argument requires that the following be true:
    Relationships between man and man, and relationships between woman and woman, differ in no fundamental ways relevant to the institution of marriage from relationships between man and woman.
    That is clearly, obviously, patently not true. It's not even "debateably true." It is clearly false. The only conceivable way to get to anything like that is to define marriage as something like "an institution which exists solely to create government-sanctioned sexual partnerships." That's not how it's developed, and it's not what people believe it to be. Therefore, the "equality" argument is no more relevant than the Leviticus argument. What you are seeking isn't "marriage equality," it is a redefinition of the institution of marriage. Failure to acknowledge that is failure to argue in good faith.

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"They are who we thought they are..."

Remember how the offseason hype deflated so quickly for the Red Sox? Remember getting swept in Texas and starting 0-3? Remember getting swept in Cleveland and falling to 0-6? Remember another week of struggles that left them at 2-10? Remember the concerns that they were overrated, poorly put together, a "whole" that was less than the sum of its parts? Remember the stories of how they might not be "hungry" enough?

Yeah, that's all ancient history. The team with the best record in the American League is, at the moment, your Boston Red Sox. Even including that opening 2-10, they're on a pace to win 93 games and finish with the best record in the AL. And what they've done over the past 49 games, nearly two months, is awesome. Since falling to 2-10, they've gone 33-16 (.673), which is a 109 win pace over a full season. Their 33 wins, 267 runs scored and 68 run differential are all the best in Major League Baseball over that stretch.

There's still a long way to go, but if you thought, as I did, that they were the best team in baseball before the season started, you've got a lot of evidence suggesting that you were right...

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Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Morning PT in Arizona

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Before and After D-Day: In Color

A great set of pictures from LIFE magazine - color photos, not of the invasion itself, but some of the scenes preceding and following it.

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"It is the mistakes, multiple, of both periods..."

Amity Shlaes, author of The Forgotten Man and an expert on the great depression, has an excellent piece on some of the parallels between 1937 and today. That Time magazine photoshop of Obama as FDR may be even more accurate than we previously suspected...
To make employment less expensive, the government can undo the health-care law, our modern version of the Wagner Act, so that employers needn't worry that hiring implies accepting costs they can't control or even predict. Another boost to hiring would be a more reasonable National Labor Relations Board, not the current one, which chases companies such as Boeing Co. around the equivalent of Keynes's lot trying to drive up wages. Another would be to cut taxes for employers, big and small. Uncertainty would diminish if both parties publicly committed to a smaller and less intrusive government.

The problem isn't a single "Mistake of 1937" or "Mistake of 2011." It is the mistakes, multiple, of both periods.
Read it all...

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Good news from Arizona...

...as our soldier passed his test and is moving on...

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Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Sometimes, even a GM gets it right...

Discussing the baseball draft, yesterday, I responded to someone's question over whether the Red Sox would "draft for need" or "take the best player available" with the following:
It's hard to see any reason to think that "drafting for need" would not be utter idiocy on the part of a Major League baseball team. Whoever you draft is at least three years away from making an impact at the Major League level and most of your roster will turn over in three-four years, meaning that whatever your current needs are, they're likely to be very different when whoever you draft reaches the Majors. And, of course, whoever you draft is unlikely to ever make an impact in the Majors anyway.

The only sensible draft strategy is to take the best player available. Period. If you end up with a glut at some position, you make trades to shore up weaknesses. But you don't draft a catcher over a superior prospect in the outfield because you need a catcher today. Taking the player you project to have the best career, regardless of position, is the only strategy that makes sense.
In this morning's Boston Globe, Theo Epstein agrees with me:
You certainly never draft for need.

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After game 3...

...we can say that it's likely that Boston is going to outscore Vancouver in this series. They're up by five goals now, despite being down 2-1.

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Quote of the day

... comes from Andy over at Ace of Spades HQ:
"Less than a year after he was named chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, Goolsbee plans to return to his teaching job at the University of Chicago, the Obama administration said in a statement. He will be back in Chicago in time for the start of the next school year.

Goolsbee said he looks forward to returning to the classroom environment, where Keynesian economics always works like the models predict."

I may have made that last part up.
Fake but accurate...it made me laugh.

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Monday, June 06, 2011

"like watching your parents do the Macarena..."

Yup...
Now he’s come out in favor of global warming not when it was actually happening (over a decade ago) but two years after the peer-review hit the fan in East Anglia, Copenhagen, and at the IPCC.

This is like watching your parents do the Macarena: It’s embarrassing and it’s dated.

Mitt had a lot going for him last time round, but he seems determined not to learn from experience. And the least that voters are entitled to in a time of crisis is a presidential candidate who’s one step ahead of the conventional pieties, not someone so out of it that he orders his political positions from the remainder bin.
Mark Steyn, who is absolutely right.

My take on it? Mitt's trying to position himself for the general election, but in ways that pretty much guarantee that he won't be a part of it. And I've been a Romney supporter all along. If I'm telling you this, you know that there's no chance...

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David Skeel: The Real Cost of the Auto Bailouts - WSJ.com

In the Wall Street Journal, David Skeel goes through some of the details of why the auto bailouts were a bad, and costly, idea, despite the fact that the President is praising them and claiming credit. But I think that the most important point is this one:
The claim that the bailouts were done at little cost is even more dubious...The indirect costs may be the worst problem here. The car bailouts have sent the message that, if a politically important industry is in trouble, the government may step in, rearrange the existing creditors' normal priorities, and dictate the result it wants. Lenders will be very hesitant to extend credit under these conditions.
Read it all.

The Law of Unintended Consequences doesn't ever go away. Some of the results of any action are going to be results that weren't intended, and some of those are going to be undesired. And sometimes they're easy to see. This is one of those times...

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Monday Pythagorean, 6/6/2011

A tale of two weeks, sort of - it was the best of times1 during a sweep of the A's and the worst of times during a hideous sweep at the hands of the White Sox.

  • Giving up 8 runs per game, as they did against Chicago, is a good way to get swept. The interesting thing is that they gave up nearly 6 runs per game against Oakland, yet won all three.
  • On the plus side, the offense came out of a brief slump and produced enough that they won half of their games despite the abysmal pitching.
  • The two prodigal starters had their short DL stints resoved this week. Lackey's ended with a pretty-good start against the A's on Sunday afternoon, and seems to have mostly resolved the issues he was dealing with. He's back in the rotation and, hopefully, ready to produce. Matsuzaka, on the other hand, moved from the 15-day DL to the 60-day as he prepares to have Tommy John surgery, and dealt with questions about whether or not he's made his last appearance for the Red Sox.
  • Another Red Sox pitcher is also headed to the Tommy John list, as Rich Hill is done for the year.
  • I don't remember noticing him in the film, but David Ortiz must have been in Captain Jack Sparrow's party when they reached the Fountain of Youth. After hitting .545/.583/1.000/1.583 for the week, he's up to .325/.392/.594/.987 for the season. And after three hits againt Brett Anderson yesterday, he's hitting over .333 against left-handers on the season. If he isn't 2003-2005 Big Papi, well, he's not far off of it, either. There was reason to be concerned about how much he had left, and I certainly hadn't counted on this level of productivity, but he is, at this point, still an excellent and very dangerous hitter.
  • Terming it a "panic" may be too strong, but there was great concern over the catching situation during the month of April. But since May 1, Varitek and Saltalamacchia are fielding well, throwing well, and hitting a combined .279/.333/.525/.858, making it actually a position of strength. Short-term blip or long-term trend? Yes, one of those.
  • As of Saturday morning, this was true.
    Q: What are two things JD Drew has never done in a Red Sox uniform?
    A: Strike out four times a game and have a walk-off hit.

    He did both of those in Saturday's fourteen-inning win.
  • Red Sox Player of the Week - Adrian Gonzalez continues to demonstrate that not everyone moving from one league to the other struggles against the new pitching, with another great week, hitting .423/.444/.846/1.291. But as good as he was this week, and as good as he's been on the year, he's actually been their second-best hitter, both on the season and the week. The best hitter of the week was their best hitter of the season, David Ortiz. I'm not going to repeat the numbers because they're right there, but suffice it to say, he's been outstanding, and he's the Player of the Week this week.
  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - As always, I reserve the right to withhold the award if no one earns it. No one earned it. That's not to say that there were no good pitching performances - there were. Aceves was very good in a long relief stint on Saturday, but awful in a start earlier in the week. Daniel Bard had four excellent outings, but ... Ok, looking at it again, Bard did pitch in all three games against the A's and finished the win yesterday. Five strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings, no runs allowed, no walks and only two hits. The award this week will go, therefore, to Daniel Bard.


1 - OK, not really the best...


AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 4/18/2011
ProjectedActual
R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck
New York5.14(1)3.89(4)0.624(1)36213324-3
Texas4.96(3)4.07(5)0.59(2)35253426-1
Toronto5.09(2)4.6(11)0.546(3)32273029-2
Boston4.92(5)4.44(7)0.546(3)322733261
Cleveland4.96(4)4.52(9)0.543(5)312633242
Tampa Bay4.58(6)4.47(8)0.511(6)302930290
Seattle3.79(12)3.71(1)0.511(7)302931281
Los Angeles3.84(11)3.82(3)0.502(8)31303031-1
Detroit4.36(8)4.41(6)0.495(9)292931272
Oakland3.65(14)3.78(2)0.484(10)29312733-2
Chicago4.32(9)4.58(10)0.474(11)29322833-1
Kansas City4.41(7)5.1(14)0.433(12)26332534-1
Baltimore4.09(10)4.89(12)0.419(13)243326312
Minnesota3.71(13)4.97(13)0.369(14)213721370

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
New York9468
Cleveland9468
Texas9270
Boston9171
Detroit8775

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
New York9963
Texas9468
Cleveland9072
Boston8973
Toronto8676

Standings for the week
ProjectedActual
R/G(rank)RA/G(rank)Pythagorean(rank)WLWLLuck
Texas10.5(1)4(4)0.854(1)31613
New York4.83(9)2.17(1)0.813(2)51510
Seattle5.67(6)3(2)0.762(3)51520
Minnesota5.71(5)3.43(3)0.718(4)5243-1
Detroit5.5(7)4.17(5)0.624(5)42511
Toronto6.83(2)5.5(9)0.598(6)4233-1
Chicago5.83(4)4.83(7)0.585(7)42420
Boston6.17(3)6.83(12)0.453(8)33330
Los Angeles3.5(13)4.5(6)0.387(9)24240
Baltimore4(10)5.2(8)0.382(10)23240
Kansas City3.29(14)5.57(10)0.276(11)25250
Cleveland3.71(11)6.71(11)0.253(12)25250
Oakland3.67(12)7(13)0.234(13)1506-1
Tampa Bay5.25(8)11(14)0.205(14)13251

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One more pic...

... of the "F"-troop ("massed music") section of the muster, which I joined...

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Sunday, June 05, 2011

Kinderhook weekend

This past weekend was the annual Fyfes and Drums of Old Saratoga muster in Kinderhook, NY. We enjoyed ourselves tremendously, from the jam session on Friday night through our stop in Stockbridge at the Norman Rockwell Museum on our Sunday ride home.

Here's the performance of the William Diamond Junior Fife and Drum Corps on stand at the muster.









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Friday, June 03, 2011

Echo Company 309th MI BN

From the Fort Huachuca facebook page -

"2nd PLT, getting ready to get some awesome Army breakfast!"

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Thursday, June 02, 2011

Why real programmers use vi

When you want to replace all of the C++ style comment delimiters ("//") on lines 3 and 4 of a file, you just type
:3,4s/\/\///g
and hit enter.

Simple, straightforward, effective...

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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

More of the same

At the Hill blog, Rick Manning, the communications director of Americans for Limited Government, has called my attention to this NY Times editorial from Sunday on the current economic situation. The Times editors think that
Republican lawmakers have responded to renewed signs of weakness with a jobs plan that prescribes more of the same “fixes” that Republicans always recommend no matter the problem: mainly high-end tax cuts, deregulation, more domestic oil drilling and federal spending cuts.

The White House has offered sounder ideas, including job retraining, plans to boost educational achievement and tax increases to help cover needed spending. But its economic team is mainly focused on negotiations to raise the debt limit, presumably parrying Republican demands for deep spending cuts that could weaken the economy further while still reaching an agreement on the necessary increase.

Manning notes that
In just a few lines, the Times managed to encapsulate the left’s complete lack of understanding of why jobs are created.

To be clear, jobs get created in private enterprise when additional labor is required to produce goods or services that will increase the profit of the enterprise.

Jobs don’t get created:

A: because people are trained to do them.

B: because people have higher educational attainment.

C: by raising taxes on those who we hope will create the jobs.
Which is, of course, absolutely correct.

But I'm a little more interested, today, in the rhetorical sleight-of-hand that the Times is using here, and the unstated assumptions that go into it.
Republican lawmakers have responded ... with a jobs plan that prescribes more of the same “fixes” that Republicans always recommend no matter the problem: ... The White House has offered sounder ideas
So, while both parties are, in this instance, absolutely true to their undergirding philosophies and the wishes of their supporters, the Republicans are offering "more of the same" while the White House has "sounder ideas." The evidence that these ideas are "sounder" is assumed to be true, or left as an exercise for the reader. No doubt the typical Times reader shares those assumptions, so it would be a waste of time to actually make the case. But both parties are offering "more of the same." The Republicans are, in fact, offering "tax cuts, deregulation, more domestic oil drilling and federal spending cuts." Those are the policies that Republicans always tend to favor. The Democrats, on the other hand, when they can be bothered to offer anything, offer things like "job retraining, plans to boost educational achievement and tax increases to help cover needed spending." It's quite a trick to condemn one party for offering "more of the same" while at the same time praising the other party for offering "more of the same," but that's what they've done here.

Note that there's nothing inherently wrong with criticizing one set of ideas while supporting the other. There's nothing dishonest about it. But "more of the same" is a fundamentally dishonest criticism.

And what, exactly, are those "sounder ideas" of the Democrats?
job retraining
That sounds good, doesn't it? "Job retraining." Helping people help themselves. Out-of-work pastry chefs learn how to fill the critical gaps in our power-supply infrastructure capabilites or traffic control. Who wouldn't want to increase his or her job skills?

But here's the problem with that lovely sounding idea - currently, there are millions of Americans out of work who want jobs. Where, exactly, are the millions of jobs that they would fill if they were "retrained"? If we train all of our out-of-work coal miners to run Microsoft Word and Excel, does that fix the unemployment problem? Shall we re-train all of our out-of-work auto workers as nuclear physicists? How, by what mechanism, does "job retraining" create a single new job, never mind the millions that are missing from the economy as a result of the disruptions of the past few years? (OK, so you get a hundred thousand government-paid "retrainers" hired by the Federal government, and a couple of thousand bureaucrats to administer the program. How do you create any jobs beyond those?)

The Times has, of course, no answer for those questions, if they ever considered them, which is profoundly unlikely.
plans to boost educational achievement
"Plans to boost educational achievement." Oh, they've got "plans to boost educational achievement" - that'll generate millions of jobs!

How, exactly? I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for an answer.
tax increases to help cover needed spending
Because apparently, the government isn't spending enough already.

To do them justice, one could see unemployment dropping if the government spent more. Yes, the first stimulus was a disaster, but there's always room for the old Keynsian classic, "hire two million people to dig holes and two million more to fill them in." That'll address the unemployment rate, at least in the short term, and it's not like it would significantly change the debt situation - we've already got no chance of staying solvent without massive tax increases, so what's a little more?

So maybe the Times is one-for-three on this section. Or maybe they just think that "sounder" means "sounds nicer to us."
But its economic team is mainly focused on negotiations to raise the debt limit, presumably parrying Republican demands for deep spending cuts that could weaken the economy further while still reaching an agreement on the necessary increase.
"Parrying Rebublican demands for deep spending cuts that could weaken the economy..." As with everything else that they've written, the question comes again - "HOW?" What is the mechanism by which "spending cuts...weaken the economy"? What is the mechanism by which the Federal Government is increasing the economic productivity of the country? Even assuming that there is some mechanism or mechanisms by which government spending increases economic output, where's a single shred of evidence to suggest that there's still room for more economic productivity to be had by raising taxes and spending? The government has been on a wild spending spree for the past four years now (thanks, Nancy and Harry and Barack!) and the economy doesn't seem, at least to my untrained eyes, to have gotten better. What can they offer to support the Democrats "more of the same"?

Nothing. And they don't bother trying. It's just "more of the same" from the New York Times...

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