Friday, August 31, 2012

Republican Convention - Night 3

So now, the Romney campaign can legally begin spending those general election funds...

First, some video.

Clint Eastwood:

Marco Rubio:

Mitt Romney:

And some thoughts on the night.
  • Instead of watching convention coverage all night, we went out to see 2016: Obama's America, the documentary from (and with) Dinesh D'Souza.  It covers material from his two Obama books, and was extremely well done.  And D'Souza has a couple of advantages in dealing with Obama that many conservatives don't have - his skin color is similar, and he also grew up in a third world country.  Suffice it to say that, despite the similarity of their backgrounds, their world-views are worlds apart.

  • The olympic athletes were a nice touch.  In some parts of the world, Mike Eruzione is a bigger attraction than Clint Eastwood.  Unfortunately, those parts of the world aren't going to vote for Mitt anyway.  I don't know, off the top of my head, how many Presidents have lost their home state in an election, but if there's a President Romney next year, he'll have lost Massachusetts.

  • I did notice former Massachusetts Lt. Gov. (under Romney) Kerry Healey at the podium as I fast-forwarded through the early evening coverage.  I lived through the Healey campaign against Deval Patrick for Governor in 2006, and forwarded faster.

  • It's easy to see why the Democrats view Marco Rubio as a threat.  He was very impressive last night.

  • I like Clint Eastwood.  I've loved a lot of his work, and it's clear that very few in Hollywood have ever had a career as strong as his.  But his Bob Newhart impersonation last night was a little nerve-wracking.  It wasn't clear, at times, that he knew what he was doing.  And then he'd show that, yes, he did.  I'm not certain how to characterize the performance, other than this - it was memorable.

  • Marco Rubio.  Chris Christie.  Susana Martinez.  Nikki Haley.  Paul Ryan.  There are times of talent drought, when we end up with a Bob Dole or a John McCain at the top of the ticket (or, on the other side, a Walter Mondale or a John Kerry).  But clearly, the Republican bench is very strong right now, and there should be no lack of quality candidates in four or eight or twelve years for Republican voters.

  • Mitt was strong last night.  I've seen a lot of comments to the effect that this was his best speech ever, and it may well have been, but I've been watching him for almost twenty years now, and that's the Mitt that I've seen.  He drives me crazy with some of his positions, but I've never had a sense, never seen anything to make me think, that he is anything other than a good man, all the way through.  A caring man, a faithful and loving husband, a man who is good to the people around him.  

  • Some highlights of the speech:
    I wish President Obama had succeeded because I want America to succeed. But his promises gave way to disappointment and division. This isn’t something we have to accept. Now is the moment when we CAN do something. With your help we will do something.
    The soles of Neil Armstrong’s boots on the moon made permanent impressions on OUR souls and in our national psyche. Ann and I watched those steps together on her parent’s sofa. Like all Americans we went to bed that night knowing we lived in the greatest country in the history of the world.
    God bless Neil Armstrong.
    Tonight that American flag is still there on the moon. And I don’t doubt for a second that Neil Armstrong’s spirit is still with us: that unique blend of optimism, humility and the utter confidence that when the world needs someone to do the really big stuff, you need an American.
    But for too many Americans, these good days are harder to come by. How many days have you woken up feeling that something really special was happening in America?
    Many of you felt that way on Election Day four years ago. Hope and Change had a powerful appeal. But tonight I’d ask a simple question: If you felt that excitement when you voted for Barack Obama, shouldn’t you feel that way now that he’s President Obama? You know there’s something wrong with the kind of job he’s done as president when the best feeling you had was the day you voted for him.
    The President hasn’t disappointed you because he wanted to. The President has disappointed America because he hasn’t led America in the right direction. He took office without the basic qualification that most Americans have and one that was essential to his task. He had almost no experience working in a business. Jobs to him are about government.
    These are American success stories. And yet the centerpiece of the President’s entire re-election campaign is attacking success. Is it any wonder that someone who attacks success has led the worst economic recovery since the Great Depression? In America, we celebrate success, we don’t apologize for it.
    We weren’t always successful at Bain. But no one ever is in the real world of business.
    That’s what this President doesn’t seem to understand. Business and growing jobs is about taking risk, sometimes failing, sometimes succeeding, but always striving. It is about dreams. Usually, it doesn’t work out exactly as you might have imagined. Steve Jobs was fired at Apple. He came back and changed the world.
    It’s the genius of the American free enterprise system – to harness the extraordinary creativity and talent and industry of the American people with a system that is dedicated to creating tomorrow’s prosperity rather than trying to redistribute today’s.
    That is why every president since the Great Depression who came before the American people asking for a second term could look back at the last four years and say with satisfaction: “you are better off today than you were four years ago.”
    Except Jimmy Carter. And except this president.
    President Obama promised to begin to slow the rise of the oceans and heal the planet. MY to help you and your family.

  • The people who have decided that he's just an evil rich guy, who doesn't care about anything other than a slight increase in the level of his "Scrooge McDuck money pool" won't have been influenced in the slightest by that speech last night.  But the ones who are open-minded, who came to it with a sincere curiosity, may have gotten what they needed to believe that it was OK to vote for a Republican. 

  • There are some offended by the "rise of the oceans" bit, claiming that Romney's mocking global warming climate change.  No, he's mocking Barack Obama's ridiculously overstated self-aggrandizement the night he clinched the Democratic nomination. And it should be mocked. It should have been mocked at the time, but better late than never.

  • Unlike Paul Ryan's speech, which was philosophical and ideological, Romney was pragmatic and personal.  He didn't talk about why some programs work and others don't; he just noted that Obama's aren't working and there are things that can be done. 

  • I noted yesterday the "more in sorrow than in anger" tone of Ryan's speech.  It continued with Romney's.  And again, that's the hand they've been dealt.  Americans are understandably touchy on the subject of race, and, the protestations of the media and the Democrats to the contrary, they do not want to be "unfair" to "the black guy."  It felt good to go into the voting booth and pull the lever for a black man, to personally repudiate the ancient history of slavery and the more recent history of Jim Crow.  Americans do not want to be racists, do not want to think of themselves as racists, and will bend over backwards to give the first black President the benefit of the doubt.  

    Less than a year after his election, I wrote that
    This President is President of the United States primarily because he's a black man. Otherwise, the tea parties would still be going on and the likes of Jimmy Carter would be talking about the animosity towards President Hillary Clinton being based on the fact that she's a woman. And Maureen Dowd would be writing about how the unspoken word after "you lie" was b--ch instead of boy. If Barack Obama weren't black, he'd be John Edwards. Without the resume. And the hair. A white man with Barack Obama's particular skills and background isn't even an interesting story in the primary. No, he's President because the press fell in love with the idea of electing a black man, and it superseded their love for the idea of electing a woman.
    That all remains true today.  What the Republicans are doing, out of necessity, is trying to give the undecided middle permission to vote against him, without feeling bad about it.  Hence the tone, which is just the right tone.

  • All in all, I thought that the Republicans had a good convention.  How much of it broke through into that undecided middle, I don't know.  I remain convinced that Mitt Romney will win the election in November, because I cannot see how a majority of Americans go into the voting booths and say, "yes, this is going well.  Let's continue!"  There are continuity elections and change elections, and this is the latter.

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Thursday, August 30, 2012

2012 Republican Convention - Night 2

I loved Paul Ryan's acceptance speech.

Loved, loved, loved it...

  • I presume that the MSNBC viewers - both of them - saw a black woman speak at the Republican convention yesterday, when Condoleezza Rice addressed the convention in the 10:00 hour.  I hope that the cognitive dissonance wasn't too painful.
  • Of course, she was probably presented to them as a token, whose presence proved the Republicans' racism.
  • Condi was pretty good, too.  I particularly loved this part:
    And on a personal note: A little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham – the most segregated big city in America. Her parents can’t take her to a movie theater or a restaurant, but they make her believe that even though she can’t have a hamburger at the Woolworth’s lunch counter, she can be President of the United States. And she becomes the Secretary of State.
  • And she was followed to the stage by Susana Martinez.  Who gave every evidence, unfortunately, of being a token, as the entire premise behind her presence seemed to be, "hey, here's a Latino, Republican Woman."  She gave a good speech, she has a compelling story, but she overshadowed (well, not just she - they introduced her that way, too) her own story by limiting it to a "overcoming racism in America" paint-by-number presentation of her accomplishments.
  • I don't want to understate either the speech, which was very good, or the personal story, which is quite compelling.  The tokenism grates on me.
  • I saw almost nothing before the last hour.  I did catch the last few minutes of Mike Huckabee, and, as with Santorum the night before, wanted him off the screen.
  • I've already said that I loved Paul Ryan's speech.  If you didn't watch it, you should.  Or at least read it.  He was outstanding.  Some of the great lines that jumped out at me last night:
    I have never seen opponents so silent about their record, and so desperate to keep their power. They’ve run out of ideas. Their moment came and went. Fear and division are all they’ve got left. With all their attack ads, the president is just throwing away money – and he’s pretty experienced at that.
    The stimulus was a case of political patronage, corporate welfare, and cronyism at their worst. You, the working men and women of this country, were cut out of the deal. What did the taxpayers get out of the Obama stimulus? More debt. That money wasn’t just spent and wasted – it was borrowed, spent, and wasted.
    President Obama was asked not long ago to reflect on any mistakes he might have made. He said, well, “I haven’t communicated enough.” He said his job is to “tell a story to the American people” – as if that’s the whole problem here? He needs to talk more, and we need to be better listeners? Ladies and gentlemen, these past four years we have suffered no shortage of words in the White House. What’s missing is leadership in the White House. And the story that Barack Obama does tell, forever shifting blame to the last administration, is getting old. The man assumed office almost four years ago – isn’t it about time he assumed responsibility?
    He created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.
    Republicans stepped up with good-faith reforms and solutions equal to the problems. How did the president respond? By doing nothing – nothing except to dodge and demagogue the issue.
    So here we are, $16 trillion in debt and still he does nothing. In Europe, massive debts have put entire governments at risk of collapse, and still he does nothing. And all we have heard from this president and his team are attacks on anyone who dares to point out the obvious.
    They have no answer to this simple reality: We need to stop spending money we don’t have.
    Behind every small business, there’s a story worth knowing. All the corner shops in our towns and cities, the restaurants, cleaners, gyms, hair salons, hardware stores – these didn’t come out of nowhere. A lot of heart goes into each one. And if small businesspeople say they made it on their own, all they are saying is that nobody else worked seven days a week in their place. Nobody showed up in their place to open the door at five in the morning. Nobody did their thinking, and worrying, and sweating for them. After all that work, and in a bad economy, it sure doesn’t help to hear from their president that government gets the credit. What they deserve to hear is the truth: Yes, you did build that.
    College graduates should not have to live out their 20s in their childhood bedrooms, staring up at fading Obama posters and wondering when they can move out and get going with life. Everyone who feels stuck in the Obama economy is right to focus on the here and now. And I hope you understand this too, if you’re feeling left out or passed by: You have not failed, your leaders have failed you.
    None of us have to settle for the best this administration offers – a dull, adventureless journey from one entitlement to the next, a government-planned life, a country where everything is free but us.
    Just a great speech.  
  • There's always a risk, when going negative, that you'll go too far and have it backfire, as the voters react to the perceived "nastiness" of the attack.  When you can go negative in a positive way, as Ryan did, it's very effective.  While the Democrats are attempting to demonize Romney and Ryan, the Republicans are playing the "sorry it hasn't worked out, more in sorrow than in anger" kind of negative that doesn't fall into nasty territory.
  • Of course, the playing field largely dictates the game.  If everything that Obama has done had worked - hell, if anything Obama has done had worked - the campaigns would look very different.  Both of them.  The facts are compelling the Democrats to remain "so silent about their record." 
  • This is the second consecutive Republican National Convention where the VP candidate has provide a home-run speech, and seriously increased the energy level in the room and among the base.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

2012 Republican convention - Night 1

Thoughts on the Republican convention.  I haven't seen all of the speeches, and won't.  I obviously won't see all of the coverage, as there are at least seven, and probably significantly more, carrying all of it simultaneously.  Every hour of convention activity will produce seven+ hours of media coverage - no one will see it all.

But I've seen, and will see, some, and have some thoughts.

First, some general thoughts.
  • Let's face it - the appeal of most of the nights at this event, and the Democrats' next week, is limited.  The networks are covering only small portions of it, and frankly, even in the hall the attendees are mostly doing other things.  The room is full for about that period that gets major network coverage.  Which is appropriate.  If you're not living in Utah, you're not voting for or against Mia Love.  If you're not living in Texas, you're not voting for or against Ted Cruz.  And they aren't going to influence your vote for Barack Obama or Mitt Romney.
  • In fact, you can make a strong argument that, for an individual, paying any attention to politics, educating oneself and voting, is a waste of time.  Certainly at the national level, a single ballot is never going to be the difference.  And when a race is close enough that hundreds of ballots matter, the numbers aren't precise enough for a single vote to have mattered anyway.
  • I follow politics and vote in elections anyway.  I suspect that I view it as an inherent civic duty.  Certainly, it makes me feel good to participate in an election and cast an informed ballot.
And on to the event...
  • Ok, this should have been night 2, but it wasn't.  Hurricane Isaac, and the ceaseless vigilance of the media in monitoring Republican behavior lest they do something unseemly, washed out the first day.
  • Noteworthy from night one was the number of women on the podium, from Mia Love to Nikki Haley to Ann Romney, with others sprinkled in.
  • As I've already noted, Mia Love's speech was good.  A good introduction to her for the American people, at least the 17 outside Tampa who saw it.  
  • For the last couple of hours last night, I did see quite a lot of the convention, and simultaneously watched my twitter feed.  So I have a sense of what some people thought about what was going on, and I have my own reactions.
  • I believe, strongly, that the Democratic party, and Democratic policies, are far worse for black Americans than Republican policies.  I believe that eventually, many black Americans will realize that.  So I enjoyed Artur Davis' speech (which I posted earlier.)  He's had the "come to Jesus" moment, and is a man who is capable of bringing others to it.  That was a "good get" for the Republicans.  
  • The prominent crossover speaking in Charlotte next week is former Florida Governor Charlie Crist.  Advantage: Republicans.
  • I don't dislike Rick Santorum.  I agree with him on many issues.  And there's nothing wrong with a pro-life speech.  But I just wanted him off the stage.  He's been demonized, successfully, and little good accrues to the Republicans when he's visible.
  • I heard some good things about Ted Cruz' speech, but didn't see it myself.  
  • I heard some good things about Nikki Haley's speech, and did see it.  Thought it was fine, nothing special, generic convention fodder.
  • I did not love Ann Romney's speech the way that a lot of people did.  I thought the first half of it was extremely defensive, pandering to women in a "lady doth protest too much" kind of way.  As if trying to refute, with words, the accusations of a "war on women" and doing it in a heavy-handed way that was not attractive or effective.  The speech got better as she went on, talking about their life.  But on the whole, I'm unconvinced that, as one commentator tweeted, that "Americans will love her."  
  • On the other hand, I thought much better of Chris Christie's speech than some did.  I've seen some lamentation over the lack of "red meat," but I thought Christie hit all of the right notes.  This is a serious time, that requires serious, hard work, and he talked about it in those terms.  It's not the time for frivolity.  We have deep and worsening financial problems, and they require fixes, they require buy-in, and, frankly, they require some pain.  What they don't require is "the politics of personal destruction."  Barack Obama's record in office speaks for itself.  The Christie message is that there are problems, they need to be fixed, and the current President is an obstacle to getting them fixed.  Period.  I think it's the right message.

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I can't believe how much racism I'm seeing...

...during the GOP convention. I'm seeing people on Facebook planning to leave the country rather than live under a government headed by "white people," and a cable news network that won't show speeches given by minorities...

MSNBC abandons GOP convention during every minority speech
In lieu of airing speeches from former Democratic Rep. Artur Davis, a black American; Mia Love, a black candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives from Utah; and Texas senatorial hopeful Ted Cruz, a Latino American, MSNBC opted to show commentary anchored by Rachel Maddow from Rev. Al Sharpton, Ed Schultz, Chris Matthews, Chris Hayes and Steve Schmidt.

Throughout this convention, Matthews has accused the Republicans of playing dog-whistle racist politics while on scene in Tampa. It isn’t clear, however, if Matthews will hurl accusations of racism at Davis, Love or Cruz for speeches his network failed to broadcast.

Mia Love is a darling of the right-side of the blogosphere right now, and it's easy to see why.

Artur Davis' testimony was powerful.

One understands, of course, why MSNBC would censor the minorities out of their presentation. Showing them would confuse their viewers, who are repeatedly told how much the evil Republicans hate black people and hispanics...

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Monday, August 27, 2012

Monday Pythagorean, 8/27/2012

Just another humdrum week in the middle of another humdrum season. Nothing notable happening. Move along, folks, nothing to see here. Nothing at all...
  • Looking for commentary on this past week's (utterly irrelevant) 2-4 record? You're going to have to look elsewhere.
  • As has become increasingly obvious over the past month, the 2012 Red Sox are not going anywhere. For whatever reason. And this follows the historic collapse of September 2011. So rather than letting the season end with a whimper, they looked around, and decided that they needed to rebuild. And took steps to begin that process. With a trade that almost defies classification. I simply cannot remember a team ever unloading that many All Stars and that much salary in one transaction as the Red Sox did on Saturday, moving Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett (along with Nick Punto) to the Dodgers for a James Loney, a collection of minor league talent, and a spectacular increase in payload flexibility.
  • Let me leave no ambiguity about this - I love the trade.
  • I don't know what Allen Webster and Rubby de la Rosa are going to be when they grow up. But, having decided that the team as constituted wasn't going to work (which may or may not be true, but it clearly hadn't worked so far), management took steps to rebuild. The Crawford contract was an albatross, Beckett's less so but still bad, and Gonzalez', while not as bad as the others, still a huge flexibity-limiting obstacle to re-tooling. I would have thought it a good deal if they'd gotten nothing back. Instead, they got two reportedly top pitching prospects.
  • The collapse that began in September of 2011 has continued. And it's shocking to contemplate. At the end of play on August 31, 2011, the Boston Red Sox had an 83-52 record, the best record in the American league by 1 1/2 games over the New York Yankees and 7 games over the Texas Rangers. Since then, under two different managers, they've gone 68-87. Despite outscoring their opposition, they've been 19 games under .500 over a period encompassing nearly a full season. They've underperformed their Pythagorean winning percentage by almost 10 full games, playing .439 ball against a .501 projected record. They've scored 5.02 runs/game while allowing 5.00 runs/game. If it sounds, from that, as if the offense has been better than the pitching, well, that's true. But it's also misleading. In over 25% of their games (40), they've failed to score 3 runs. The result of all of this is that they were 15-23 in games decided by one run, 13-21 in games decided by 2 runs, and 15-10 in games decided by 7 runs or more.
  • Beckett's taken a lot of abuse, much of it well-earned. But not all. Whatever happened in the clubhouse, whatever part Beckett may or may not have had in it, it's not Josh Beckett's fault that Jon Lester and John Lackey were awful in September, that the offense couldn't score more than a couple of runs unless they were scoring double-digits. He's responsible for his own bad performance; he's not responsible for anyone else's. He was a legitimate Cy Young candidate a year ago today; he's been cannon fodder ever since. Is he done? I don't know. It's possible that he'll pitch well in LA. But that seems likelier than him pitching well in Boston. He's got two years and a lot of money left on his deal. It was obviously time for him to go.
  • It's possible that, if they'd not traded for Beckett, they'd have won a World Series or two by allocating their resources differently. On the other hand, they've got that 2007 World Series trophy, and Beckett, who could (and possibly should) have won the Cy Young that year, was a key component of that team and that win. That buys him a great deal of affection from this Red Sox fan, and that doesn't all fade away with the subsequent bad performance.
  • I touched on the Crawford contract last week. It was a bad deal, and despite the cognitive dissonance that led me to love the signing, I recognized it as a bad deal at the time. But part of approving of the deal was the expectation that he'd be worth it at least for the first couple of years. Instead he's been bad. Not "not living up to the deal" bad, not "not what you expected from him" bad, but bad. "Not legitimate Major League -performance" bad. In a Red Sox uniform, the frequently injured Crawford hit .260/.292/.419/.711. Unacceptable at $2 million per year, they paid him an order of magnitude more than that.
  • Unlike the other two members of the "Horace Greeley triumvirate" ("Go West, young man!"), Gonzalez' contract isn't horrifying to contemplate. And, all things considered, if they could have done the deal while keeping Gonzalez, they would have. Obviously, there's no reason whatsoever that the Dodgers, or anyone else, would have taken on the Beckett and Crawford contracts without good reason for doing so. So they had to trade Gonzalez. But Gonzalez (good) is a reasonable price to pay to offload the bad (Beckett) and ugly (Crawford) contracts that would have prevented them from doing anything significant to improve.
  • The Adrian Gonzalez era ends in a blaze of something less than glory (.067/.067/.067/.133). Of course, that was only three games. For the whole season, it was still somewhat less than glorious (.300/.343/.469/.812). Those aren't awful numbers, of course, until you place them in the context of a slow-footed first baseman making superstar money in what should be his peak years. In fact, his entire Red Sox performance (.321/.382/.513/.895), while quite good, doesn't quite live up to the cost, in both money and prospects, that they gave up to get him.
  • Ok. One piece of baseball commentary. As a long-time believer that "clubhouse chemistry" is both overrated and more a result than a cause of performance, and given that the playoffs are now a dream for another year, and given that I wasn't sitting in the stands, Saturday's collapse against KC amused me. On Thursday, they had an epic meltdown against the Angels, giving up a big lead, and eventually losing in extra innings. The kind of thing that underperforming teams do. The kind of game frequently attributed to teams with no "guts," no "heart," bad clubhouse chemistry. The kind of performance that is frequently attributed to bad clubhouse chemistry. On Saturday, the cleaned house, with the single player most associated with toxic clubhouse atmosphere shipped out of town. And then, to celebrate, they had an epic meltdown on Saturday night, giving up a big lead, and eventually losing in extra innings.
  • Red Sox Player of the Week - A good week for Dustin Pedroia (.357/.419/.714/1.134) is slightly overshadowed by another excellent performance from Pedro Ciriaco (.464/.483/.643/1.126).
  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - I can either jointly give it to Vincente Padilla and Craig Breslow, the only pitchers on the staff not to give up a run, or I can just not give it out this week. I choose the latter.
  • More important than either of those, though, is the Red Sox Excutive of the Week - GM Ben Cherington, who managed to divest himself of $250+ million of future contract commitments whose value would almost certainly have topped out at half of that, and picked up highly rated pitching prospects in the process.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 8/27/2012
New York4.84(3)4.06(4)0.58(2)745374530
Tampa Bay4.21(10)3.65(1)0.566(3)72557057-2
Los Angeles4.7(5)4.51(8)0.519(8)666266620
Kansas City4.17(11)4.56(9)0.458(12)58685670-2

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
New York9468
Tampa Bay8973

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
New York9468
Tampa Bay9072

Standings for the week
Tampa Bay3.5(9)2.33(1)0.677(3)4233-1
Los Angeles5.5(4)5(9)0.543(6)33421
Kansas City4(7)5.17(11)0.385(10)24240
New York3(12)4(7)0.371(11)24240

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Times Ombusdman: "Yeah, we're pretty much shills for the left..."

Like we didn't already know it.

Arthur Brisbane, in his last column as "public editor" (ombudsman) of the New York Times:
I also noted two years ago that I had taken up the public editor duties believing “there is no conspiracy” and that The Times’s output was too vast and complex to be dictated by any Wizard of Oz-like individual or cabal. I still believe that, but also see that the hive on Eighth Avenue is powerfully shaped by a culture of like minds — a phenomenon, I believe, that is more easily recognized from without than from within.

When The Times covers a national presidential campaign, I have found that the lead editors and reporters are disciplined about enforcing fairness and balance, and usually succeed in doing so. Across the paper’s many departments, though, so many share a kind of political and cultural progressivism — for lack of a better term — that this worldview virtually bleeds through the fabric of The Times.

As a result, developments like the Occupy movement and gay marriage seem almost to erupt in The Times, overloved and undermanaged, more like causes than news subjects.
No conspiracy, though. Whew, that's a relief!

OK, this is not a revelation. I've said it before.
But there's another way that bias manifests itself, and we don't always notice it as clearly. That is selection bias, covering as news issues or events that really aren't, just because it can make one party (say, the Democrats) look good or one party (for example, the Republicans) look bad.
That's just the way it is. But it's nice of Mr. Brisbane to acknowledge it...

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Friday, August 24, 2012

Romney and Obama: Both Wrong on Medicare

Michael D. Tanner:
Let's try to put the ongoing debate over the future of Medicare into a little bit of context. Last year, Americans paid $274 billion in Medicare taxes and premiums. At the same time, the program paid out $564 billion in benefits. That amounts to a shortfall of roughly $290 billion. Looking into the future, even the most optimistic estimate by the program's trustees puts Medicare's future unfunded liabilities at more than $38.6 trillion. More realistic projections suggest the shortfall could easily top $90 trillion.

Faced with this ocean of red ink, the Obama and Romney campaigns are busy claiming that the other guy wants to cut Medicare. They, on the other hand, would never think for a moment about cutting anyone's Medicare benefits. Hello. Can anyone out there do math?
Yup. As I noted last week, the medicare attack from the Romney campaign is, at best, a mixed blessing.

On the other hand, again, Ryan has demonstrated that he can do the math. And realistically, you cannot take it away from people who have planned, and depend, on it. But you cannot maintain it in perpetuity, either...

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I decided, about a week ago, to read Ulysses (which I did not finish when I tried it 30 years ago.)  Finished it.  Glad to have finished it.  Can cross that off the list.

May be a work of genius.  I'm reminded of Asher Lev, who had to master the basics before going beyond.  There's enough great writing in there to say that Joyce clearly mastered the basics.

Not a great novel, not in the usual meaning of that term.  When you finish a great novel, do you need to go find a commentary to explain to you what just happened?  No.  An exercise in writing technique, some of which works, some of which doesn't, and all just piled together.  Apparently there is a structure, which may or may not have been more evident in the original serialized version.  I will go back to it, I suspect, in places and pieces, but not often and not all.  Could Maxwell Perkins have turned it into a great novel by cutting half of it?  I doubt it.  The parts that are fascinating are balanced, or more than, by the parts that are frustrating. 

Are there parts that would have been less frustrating, more accessible, to a reader in early 20th century Ireland and/or England, due to cultural context?  Certainly.  Enough to tip the scales?  Not certainly, but possibly.

Is it obscene?  No.  It's almost relentlessly vulgar, but I'm not sure I've ever read anything less titillating.  As obscenity, it's an epic failure.

Would I recommend it?  Very seldom, and to very few.  I suspect its appeal, like Spinal Tap's, grows "more selective..."

Oh, and let me say one more thing - the famous "eight sentences" aren't. Not in any meaningful sense of the word. They're just long stretches of non-punctuated text.

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

University of Colorado analysis predicts...

University of Colorado analysis predicts Romney win in presidential race
A state-by-state analysis of the presidential race conducted by two University of Colorado professors predicts that Mitt Romney will be our next president. The analysis, released today, by political science professors Kenneth Bickers of CU-Boulder and Michael Berry of CU Denver, is based on economic and other factors within each of the 50 states. This same study has correctly predicted the winners of the last eight presidential elections, starting with the 1980 election won by Ronald Reagan.

I said that, too. Over a year ago.
Because of [various factors], 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.
Hopefully I was half right, not 0 for 2...

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Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday Pythagorean - 8/20/2012

So we've reached that part of the show where, standing over the body they've been working on trying to resuscitate, the one EMT looks at the other and says, "That's it. I'm calling it."

Or, if you'd prefer, the part when John Cleese comes in and explains that the parrot is "a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisible!!"
  • Given that neither Vincent Price nor Boris Karloff is available, who gets to narrate the 2012 Red Sox highlight reel?
  • Not that you actually need much narration for the 22.7 seconds it will take to show all of the highlights...
  • But hey, the week wasn't all bad, as the Sox made American League history by putting an all-Yale battery on the field, for two pitches (and two outs) on Saturday afternoon. It was the first all-Yale battery in Major League baseball since the 1880s. Congratulations are in order for Craig Breslow and Ryan Lavarnway, for Ben Cherington who brought them together, and for Bobby Valentine, who put them on the field together.
  • And yes, that's about the lamest possible source of excitement you could ever possibly look for. And the fact that it's the biggest piece of Red Sox good news in about three weeks tells you everything you might need to know about the 2012 season.
  • OK, Andrew Bailey finally made his Red Sox debut, and looked good doing it. Woo-hoo.
  • OT: I finally saw Moneyball. It was excellent. It's not entirely true, of course, but it's largely true, and very well done. A lot fewer histrionics and Hollywood dramatic additions than I expected. Brad Pitt was excellent, Jonah Hill was excellent - it was an excellent film. In contention for the title of Best Baseball Movie Ever.
  • I commented, when Crawford returned, that the Red Sox had reached August without their starting second baseman, DH and left fielder all playing in the same game. Apparently, the season will end with that condition remaining true, as Crawford's reportedly scheduled to end another lost season with Tommy John surgery tomorrow. So he's followed his underperforming first year in a Red Sox uniform with an injury-marred (and underperforming) second year in a Red Sox uniform.
  • Speaking of Crawford, I need to confess. I was happy when they signed him. I thought he was overpaid, but I still thought that he'd be a good player, that they could afford to overpay him, that they were better off getting him rather than having the Angels or Yankees get him. I always thought he was overrated, but got caught up in the competitiveness of the offseason moves, and overrated the performance that he'd historically put up against the Red Sox. My inner "excitable baseball fan" told my inner "sabrmetrician" to "just shut up about the OBP, would you?" Well, two years, and $40 million (more or less) into his Red Sox career, they've gotten 161 games of .260/.292/.419/.711 from Carl Crawford. Meanwhile, Daniel Nava has hit .251/.373/.397/.770 while making $1.37. Darnell McDonald has hit .228/.305/.390/.695 in a Red Sox uniform, slightly worse than Crawford, but he hasn't cost $40 million, either. Crawford hasn't just been bad for the money - he's been bad, period. He's been not-only-worse-than-JD-Drew-but-worse-than-the-Drew-detractors-even-thought bad. His presence has hurt the team. The $40 million is just insult to injury.
  • And, as I acknowledge, to my everlasting shame and embarrassment, I liked the signing, despite recognizing it as a bad deal.
    1) Crawford is not worth that much money per year
    2) The contract is too long
    3) Too expensive for too long = bad contract
    4) I like (possibly even love) the signing anyway
    Well, I was right about the first three parts. And said that number four was "Illogical? Irrational? Possibly." (I also said that I was going to expound on it, but I don't seem to have gotten to it. Well, I've done so, a little bit, above...)
  • I don't know what the issue is with Josh Beckett, but if they can't get it fixed, he's not an asset in any way. He hurts them when he pitches for them, and he's untradeable. And it happened overnight. From the beginning of the 2011 season through September 16, he was 13-5 over 28 starts, with a 2.50 ERA, 8.1 strikeouts and 2.4 walks per nine innings, and a 3.45 strikeout/walk ratio. He was a legitimate Cy Young candidate. Since then, he's started 23 games and gone 5-13, with an era of 5.50, 6.8 strikeouts and 2.8 walks per nine innings, and a 2.49 strikeout/walk ratio. Did he get hurt? "Fat and Lazy?" I don't know, but whatever happened, happened pretty suddenly. And if they can't reverse it, they can't have him pitching for them in 2013.
  • Red Sox Player of the Week - When the best options are Pedro Ciriaco (.316/.350/.421/.771) or Adrian Gonzalez (.261/.308/.565/.873), you know that they earned that 2-4 record. As a team. What no one on the team earned was a Player of the Week award.
  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - It's nice to see Jon Lester starting to pitch well again, with a splendid effort in their win in New York on Saturday. Too bad it's too late...

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 8/20/2012
New York4.93(2)4.07(4)0.588(1)715072491
Tampa Bay4.25(9)3.71(1)0.562(3)68536754-1
Los Angeles4.66(5)4.48(8)0.517(8)63596260-1
Kansas City4.18(12)4.53(9)0.462(12)55655466-1
Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
New York9666
Tampa Bay9072
Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
New York9666
Tampa Bay9072
Standings for the week
Tampa Bay6.14(1)2.71(3)0.817(1)6152-1
Kansas City4.33(6)2.17(2)0.78(2)51510
New York4.43(5)3.29(5)0.633(5)43521
Los Angeles4.71(2)7.57(14)0.296(13)25250

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Friday, August 17, 2012

Mixed blessings...

It's been fascinating to watch, over the course of the past week, as the Democrats have leaped on the Ryan selection as dooming Medicare, only to have the attack boomerang. The Republican ticket is talking Medicare, but not responsively, not defensively; they're using Medicare as an attack against the President.

 Paul Ryan's campaigning on Medicare in Florida today, with his mom.

“What he probably did not mention yesterday is that when he passed his signature health care achievement Obamacare he raided 716 billion dollars from Medicare to pay for Obamacare,” Ryan said at Walsh University. “This will lead to fewer services for seniors. President Obama’s campaign calls this an achievement. You think raiding Medicare to pay for Obamacare? Neither do I.”
He added that the Romney ticket will “protect and strengthen Medicare, leave it intact for our current seniors and save it for the next generation.”

And there's a lot of material there for them to use in attacking the Obama administration on the Medicare front.
Countdown To Bankruptcy
So, if this is an issue that helps Romney beat Obama, well, obviously, I'm all in favor of that.

But. I dislike - strongly - the raising of Medicare to sacred cow. It has been for the Democrats since it was first passed, but to have the Republicans join them in according it that status is disconcerting.  I'm not saying that it should be eliminated today - it can't be - but it's bad public policy and we should be working for a way to move away from it.  As I've written before (about Social Security - it all goes for Medicare, too):
Social Security is a Ponzi scheme. It is utterly and completely unsustainable without major modifications. (Medicare is the same, but I'm just going to address Social Security right now.) It is a Ponzi scheme because, contrary to the way that government officials like to talk about it, it's not a savings plan, it's not an investment plan, it's not a retirement account. It's a tax, a direct transfer from working Americans to retired Americans. And the ratio of workers to retirees has fallen significantly since the law went into effect, and continues to fall. Where each retiree was supported by about 16 workers in 1950, it's now down to about three and headed to about two as the baby boomers retire1. And there is no "trust fund." The money comes in to the treasury, the money goes out of the treasury.

So it can't be sustained. The problem is, it can't be eliminated, either. I think it's a bad plan, I think it's bad public policy, bad economics, and would have fought against it if I were around when it was proposed, but since it's now been in effect for 70 years, it cannot just be eliminated. The fact is, the government has made a commitment to those who are retired, and those nearing retirement age, to provide this program, and the government is morally obligated to follow through. Those people have lived their lives under the assumption that that commitment was real. They've paid their Social Security taxes, on the belief that, when it was their turn, funds would be provided for them, too. So you can't just cut it. Unfortunately.
And, to be fair to Ryan, he clearly recognizes that.  His plan takes the right approach - sustain the program for those who are currently, or soon to be dependent on it, while providing superior alternatives to wean society as a whole off of it.  Current and near-term future taxpayers are screwed by this approach, of course, but they're screwed anyway.  We need to fix the problems.

Chesterton was right...
The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of the Conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.
- G. K. Chesterton

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

"Anger & Division"

This one is very well done.

Of course, there's no shortage of material with which to work...

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Economists For Romney

Well, if the climate debate has taught me anything, it's that a list of supporters like this one means that the science is settled...

Economists For Romney
We enthusiastically endorse Governor Mitt Romney’s economic plan to create jobs and restore economic growth while returning America to its tradition of economic freedom. The plan is based on proven principles: a more contained and less intrusive federal government, a greater reliance on the private sector, a broad expansion of opportunity without government favors for special interests, and respect for the rule of law including the decision-making authority of states and localities.
In sum, Governor Romney’s economic plan is far superior for creating economic growth and jobs than the actions and interventions President Obama has taken or plans to take in the future. This November, voters will make a fundamental choice between differing visions of America’s economic future.
Obviously, the only people who would vote for Obama in the state of this settled science are economics deniers. Don't be a denier - vote Romney/Ryan in Novemeber!

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Paid In

Hmm... I wonder what the Obama supporters will claim is the lie in this one?

Paid In

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RIP - Johnny Pesky

I obviously never knew Johnny Pesky, but, like most members of Red Sox Nation, I had great affection for him.  He was always around, always with the team in some capacity or other, for my entire life.  And as near as I can tell, no one ever had a bad word to say about him.  (OK, the "window boys" ads were fairly lame...)

He will be missed.

The Boston Globe

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Monday, August 13, 2012

Why Paul Ryan?

Bill Bennett:
More than budget and economic expertise, and he has a lot of it, Ryan brings to the Romney ticket a clear, detailed vision forward for America, a vision that stretches across party lines. Ryan adds youthful optimism and a dash of Jack Kemp's infectious charisma to Gov. Romney's business prowess and management skills. For Romney this is the bold action many in his party have been waiting for.

All the cards are now on the table. Two competing visions of America's future -- one a nation governed by a large, intrusive caretaker and the other a nation of small government and individual autonomy -- are at stake this November.
Read it all...

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The Romney Welfare attack, as syllogism

Having been accused of employing pretzel logic for defending the truth of the Romney attack ad on the Obama administration welfare policy, I see that it needs to be addressed again.  So let's try it in the form of a syllogism.
"Guts" - central elements, main purposes, integral contents
"Gutted" - Removed the guts of
Major Premise:  One of the "guts" of the 1996 Welfare Reform Act was that it contained non-waivable work requirements.

Minor Premise:  The Obama administration, in its July 12, 2012 letter, claimed for the Secretary of Health and Human Services the right to waive work requirements.

Conclusion:  The Obama administration has gutted the 1996 Welfare Reform Act.
Clearly, that's a valid syllogism.  Equally clearly, the minor premise is true.  The only possible argument that one could make for the syllogism being false is that the major premise is not true. 

Now, one can argue about whether or not waivers might make the system better, more effective, more humane, more cost-effective or anything else.  But if the non-waivable nature of the work requirements were one of the "guts" of the reform (and all of the evidence suggests that that is the case), and those "guts" have been removed or overridden or ignored, then the act has been gutted.  Period.  And there's no pretzel logic whatsoever required to get to that position.  It's all very simple and straightforward.

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Monday Pythagorean - 8/13/2012

There's a great week, huh, outscoring the opposition by nearly two runs per game.  There's the powerhouse we're looking for, with decent pitching combined with dominant offense.  What more could a Red Sox fan want?

Other than winning a couple more games, that is...

  • So, they outscored the opposition this week.  What's more relevant, and matches up better with actual results, is that they were outscored through Saturday.  It was only Sunday's blowout that enabled them to finish in positive pythagorean territory.

  • Of course, they were only outscored by one in those first six games, going 2-4 in the process, so even that represents underperformance.

  • One decent, one very good performance from Jon Lester.  That's nice to see.  It would be even nicer if it continues.

  • So Will Middlebrooks rookie season comes to an end (almost certainly) in a sadly fitting way, given that we're talking about the 2012 Red Sox - with an injury.

  • There is some good news this week.  Apparently Middlebrooks' injury will not require surgery.

  • Yes, as good news goes, that's pretty pathetic.

  • Since the trade:  Kevin Youkilis (.259/.374/.517/.892), Will Middlebrooks (.240/.276/.416/.692).  Not only has Youkilis been much better than Middlebrooks, he would have played nearly every day in Boston anyway, as Middlebrooks went right to the DL, and was followed there by Ortiz shortly after his return, and is now gone again.  Obviously, none of that was knowable at the time, and you can't retroactively slam Cherington for it.  What was knowable, however, was that a) Youkilis provide injury insurance at three positions and b) they were getting NOTHING in return (which is still the part that really offends me about the trade). And offended me at the time.  Which I said.  At the time. 

  • The Boston Red Sox have outscored their opposition by 41 runs.  The Baltimore Orioles have been outscored by 49.  The Red Sox should be nine games ahead of the Orioles - instead, they're 5 1/2 games behind.  This offends people, but most of that difference is due to ... luck.  I know - the records show that the Orioles have been a much better team than the Sox.  I'm saying that's not true.  They've been a luckier team.  They've lost blowouts and won close games, while the Red Sox have done the reverse.  I know the cliche has always been that good teams win close games.  History suggests that the cliche is wrong.  Good teams outscore their opponents by lots of runs.  There's too much luck in any baseball game, balls an inch inside the line or out, a borderline strike called a ball or vice versa, for a one-run game to mean much of anything beyond "who scored more runs today."  Sometimes, team's have things go their way a lot (though rarely, in the history of baseball, as much as this year's Orioles) and sometimes they go the other way.  It's August 12, and I'm still saying the same thing I've been saying all year - the Boston Red Sox are a better team than the Orioles, and the Red Sox will finish ahead of the Orioles.

  • I'm no longer saying that they're going to make the playoffs, however.  They still could, but there are enough teams far enough ahead of them that it's no longer likely.  They have not yet played themselves out of contention, but a lot has to go a lot righter than anything has gone thus far for it to happen.

  • Red Sox Player of the Week - Will Middlebrooks (.214/.389/.643/1.032) had his first productive week in quite a while, which apparently insulted some deity or other, and resulted in pain and banishment.  Adrian Gonzalez (.393/.433/.857/1.290) and Cody Ross (.346/.400/.692/1.092) were both very good.  But the award goes to Dustin Pedroia (.500/.567/.654/1.221), who was on base seventeen times (thirteen hits, including four doubles, and four walks) in thirty plate appearances.

  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - This is getting repetitive, but it's nice to have one consistently effective starter.  Clay Buchholz threw a complete game, allowing only two runs, one earned, in stopping another losing streak from starting.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 8/13/2012
New York4.96(2)4.11(4)0.585(1)674767470
Tampa Bay4.13(12)3.77(1)0.542(4)625262520
Los Angeles4.65(6)4.3(6)0.536(5)62536055-2
Kansas City4.17(11)4.66(11)0.449(12)51634965-2

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

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
New York9567
Tampa Bay8874

Standings for the week
Tampa Bay6.17(2)2.5(1)0.839(1)51601
Kansas City4(12)3.43(2)0.57(4)43430
New York6.43(1)5.71(10)0.554(5)43430
Los Angeles4.5(9)5.83(11)0.383(12)24240

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Big Solutions

I love the Ryan pick. He's the most articulate conservative voice on the biggest issue facing this country right now - the out-of-control entitlements and the fiscal ruin that we're headed towards if we don't deal with them. Mitt has ensured that this is an election about big issues, and, whether they win or not, the Republican ticket is on the right (and correct) side.  I was always going to be happy to walk into the ballot booth and vote against Obama; I'm going to be very happy to walk into the ballot booth and vote for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan...

I find it interesting to note that they doctored the video (well, at least the audio) because when Mitt introduced Ryan, he introduced him as "the next President of the United States." He later acknowledged and corrected the misstatement, but for the ad, they've just inserted "vice" into the statement.

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Friday, August 10, 2012

The Ad Wars continue...

There's been a lot of hyperventilating on the part of the anti-Romney forces about the vicious "lies" that Romney's campaign is telling. Here's Steve Benen, at Rachel Maddow's blog, with a typical example.
For those who can't watch clips online, the ad shows President Clinton signing welfare reform into law in 1996, "requiring work for welfare." The spot then argues, however, that President Obama "quietly announced a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements." The voiceover tells viewers, "Under Obama's plan, you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job. They just send you your welfare check.... and welfare to work goes back to being plain old welfare."

We then learn, "Mitt Romney will restore the work requirement because it works."

Romney's lying. He's not spinning the truth to his advantage; he's not hiding in a gray area between fact and fiction; he's just lying. The law hasn't been "gutted"; the work requirement hasn't been "dropped." Stations that air this ad are disseminating an obvious, demonstrable lie.
The ad in question is here.

The text:
In 1996 President Clinton and a bipartisan Congress helped end welfare as we know it by requiring work for welfare.
But on July 12, President Obama quietly announced a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements. Under Obama's plan, you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job, they just send you your welfare check. And welfare to work goes back to being plain old welfare.
Mitt Romney will restore the work requirement, because it works.
So, is the Romney ad lying? Is it "an obvious, demonstrable lie"?

Uh, no. It is not.

Obviously, the first and last sentences should be fairly non-controversial; it's that middle passage that has people up in arms.  So let's look at it.
But on July 12, President Obama quietly announced a plan to gut welfare reform by dropping work requirements.
What is the "fact" in that sentence that would qualify as a lie? Not the beginning, because on July 12, President Obama did, in fact, make an announcement about federal welfare benefits. And it was quiet - no Rose Garden ceremony, no press conference. His administration issued a letter, declaring, in part, "the Secretary’s willingness to exercise her waiver authority under section 1115 of the Social Security Act to allow states to test alternative and innovative strategies, policies, and procedures that are designed to improve employment outcomes for needy families."

The question then becomes, did the Obama administration, in the process of doing so, "gut welfare reform." If it did not, then it's a lie. If it did, then it's not.

The biggest problem with calling that a lie is that it's not a technically precise term. If I say that someone "guts" a deer, that means something. If I say that someone "guts" a law, that means something different. The former is a statement of fact, the latter is a metaphor, a term of commentary. Obviously, those on the left, many of whom were upset with Bill Clinton for signing the 1996 Welfare Reform Act in the first place, disagree with the characterization.

That does not make it a lie (unless Romney does not believe it and says it anyway).

The ad continues, saying that
Under Obama's plan, you wouldn't have to work and wouldn't have to train for a job, they just send you your welfare check. And welfare to work goes back to being plain old welfare.
This part is a little more problematic. It is not, on its face, true - the change does not explicitly create that situation. Nothing in the letter explicitly calls for a removal of work requirements. But it's not necessarily false, either. Whether that ends up being true for some welfare recipients depends entirely upon the contents of waivers requested and waivers granted. What is clearly true, is that Congress and the President had the ability to give the Secretary of Health and Human Services the power to act on waiver requests when they enacted the law, and specifically declined to do so. Despite the fact that many Governors request that feature. They intended to tie the hands of future Secretaries of HHS, and did so. According to Dick Morris,
In the negotiations that preceded the passage of this landmark legislation — in which I participated heavily — then-Senate Republican Majority Leader Trent Lott (Miss.) was particularly suspicious that future HHS secretaries might dilute the work requirement, just as the administration has done. He worked overtime with counsel to make sure that education and training would not be used to substitute for the work provision.
Robert Rector:
Section 1115 states that “the Secretary may waive compliance with any of the requirements” of specified parts of various laws. But this is not an open-ended authority: Any provision of law that can be waived under section 1115 must be listed in section 1115 itself. The work provisions of the TANF program are contained in section 407 (entitled, appropriately, “mandatory work requirements”). Critically, this section, as well as most other TANF requirements, are deliberately not listed in section 1115; they are not waiveable. In establishing TANF, Congress deliberately exempted or shielded nearly all of the TANF program from the section 1115 waiver authority. They did not want the law to be rewritten at the whim of Health and Human Services (HHS) bureaucrats. Of the roughly 35 sections of the TANF law, only one is listed as waiveable under section 1115. This is section 402.
So, was the 1996 Welfare Reform Act "gutted" by the Obama administration? (Whether or not it even has the legal authority to do what it's claiming it has the authority to do is open to debate.) That looks like legitimate commentary to me. I tend to agree with it. But even if I didn't, it's obviously characterization and commentary, rather than "lying." The strongest negative that you can legitimately claim for this ad is "mis-characterization."

And I wouldn't even agree with that one...

 Here's some more excellent analysis, this time from Mickey Kaus, a rational man of the left:
As of several years ago, the details of these work requirements turned out to matter less than the general signal they sent, that no-strings welfare was over and even low-income single moms were supposed to work. As a result, the welfare rolls shrank so rapidly (roughly by half) that many states never faced the detailed work requirements (since they got credit for everyone who left welfare).
But of course the work requirements were part of what sent that general “signal.”
To the extent the administration’s action erodes the actual and perceived toughness of the work requirements, which it does, it sends the opposite and wrong signal.
More from Kaus:
But in legal terms, “guts” isn’t inapt. Congress went put a lot of effort into resisting efforts by governors (including GOP governors), bureaucrats, paleoliberals, and non-profit softies to water down the work requirements (by allowing, for example, extended “job search” or BS-type activities like self-esteem classes, and more generally by emphasizing what will help “place” existing recipients in “good” private jobs instead of deterring possible future recipients from making the choices that land them on welfare).

The authors of the law thought they’d restricted HHS’ authority to undermine the work requirements. Comes now HHS secretary Sebelius to claim she has broad authority to dispense with all those requirements through waivers, subject only to her opinion as to what is “likely to assist in promoting the objectives” of the welfare law. TNR‘s Ed Kilgore loyally declares ,”The Obama administration has not changed the architecture of the 1996 welfare reform law at all.” But that’s wrong. The legal architecture of the work requirements has been altered dramatically. Old system: Congress writes the requirements, which are … requirements. New system: Sebelius does what she wants–but, hey, you can trust her!
So, in the end, whether you agree with the commentary or think that it mischaracterizes the situation depends on your beliefs about Barack Obama. As Stanley Kurtz says,
Much of the debate over the claims in Romney’s new ad hinge on what you think Obama’s long-term intentions for welfare reform actually are. Either you believe the president when he and his representatives say that this change to the work requirements is just a tiny tweak that doesn’t mean much, or you believe conservative policy experts like Robert Rector, who say that all that talk is a smokescreen for an attempt to gut the core of the 1996 bill.
To resolve this conflict, voters need to form a judgement about Obama’s long-term intentions. And to make that decision, Obama’s leftist history on this issue is pertinent information. In short, the president’s past matters, as the Romney campaign itself pointed out when it raised his 1996 statements in opposition to welfare reform. Have a look at what else Obama was doing that year, and the point becomes stronger still.
The media’s refusal to report the new information confirming that Obama did in fact join a leftist third party in 1996 clearly matters.

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Thursday, August 09, 2012

Incentive to Slow Climate Change Drives Output of Harmful Gases

I'm sorry, but this made me laugh out loud...
When the United Nations wanted to help slow climate change, it established what seemed a sensible system.

Greenhouse gases were rated based on their power to warm the atmosphere. The more dangerous the gas, the more that manufacturers in developing nations would be compensated as they reduced their emissions.

But where the United Nations envisioned environmental reform, some manufacturers of gases used in air-conditioning and refrigeration saw a lucrative business opportunity.

They quickly figured out that they could earn one carbon credit by eliminating one ton of carbon dioxide, but could earn more than 11,000 credits by simply destroying a ton of an obscure waste gas normally released in the manufacturing of a widely used coolant gas. That is because that byproduct has a huge global warming effect. The credits could be sold on international markets, earning tens of millions of dollars a year.

That incentive has driven plants in the developing world not only to increase production of the coolant gas but also to keep it high — a huge problem because the coolant itself contributes to global warming and depletes the ozone layer. That coolant gas is being phased out under a global treaty, but the effort has been a struggle.
Shocking - not - to discover that people respond to incentives. And once again, "productive" and "profitable" are not synonymous.

Unintended consequences, anyone?

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Wednesday, August 08, 2012

"Mitt Romney murdered my wife!"

At least, that's the implication of this new ad from Priorities USA Action.

Very effective, I think. If what you're striving for is to push the "Mitt Romney is a cold, unfeeling, immoral, rich bastard," if what you're trying to do is suppress the turnout of white working class voters that wouldn't consider voting for Obama in November. It doesn't do a thing to get people to the polls to vote for Obama, but that's obviously not the intent.

Of course, there are several factual issues with this ad.
  1. Bain purchased GST in 1993, preventing bankruptcy and saving 750 jobs (in a company that had had over 4000 ten years earlier) and it closed in 2001. So if they were in it to strip it and flip it, they didn't do a very good job.
  2. Mitt Romney left the active management of Bain in 1999, to run the Salt Lake City Olympic games, two years before GST closed.
  3. Even after GST closed in 2001, the Soptics still had health insurance through Mrs. Soptic's job.
  4. Mrs. Soptic died in 2006.
(See this and this. Even CNN found that the ad is "not accurate.")

But that's not really what interests me. There are two issues raised that interest me.

The first is fairly obvious, and it is, again, how negative the Obama campaign1 is, and has to be. In 2008, he had no record and didn't have to run on one. Now he does, and can't. He's doing nothing to expand the voter-base. His whole campaign is an effort to suppress the anti-Obama vote by trying to make Mitt Romney toxic, to paint him as a villain.

The other thing is more insidious, and concerns me greatly about the country in which we live. And that is the implied assumption that once you've hired someone, you're responsible for that person, and his family, for the rest of his life. As if hiring someone is morally identical to adopting him. It is not. You hire someone to do a job, at an agreed upon rate of compensation, that may or may not include non-monetary benefits such as health insurance. You have every obligation to be honest and forthright with your employees, to treat them appropriately, but you do not take on a lifetime obligation unless that's part of the upfront agreement. There is no implicit agreement, and certainly no moral obligation, to maintain the upkeep of anyone involved in a venture that is no longer profitable.

I don't want to beat up on Mr. Soptic, because what happened to him is painful, and seems unfair, but the extrapolation of his personal woes into Mitt Romney's responsibility is outrageous. It is based on several different unsupported assumptions of possible counterfactuals, and a worldview that looks on people as sheep to be tended by the first shepherd they can find.

And it's par for the course for the Obama campaign.

1 - Don't bother telling me that this isn't an official Obama campaign ad. No, it's not, but it comes from an outside group that's clearly following the official Obama campaign playbook. They've been all over the Bain record with exactly this kind of thing.

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Monday, August 06, 2012

Monday Pythagorean - 8/6/2012

"It isn't fun any more. Not any of it."
- Ernest Hemingway, The End Of Something (In Our Time)

  • Another week, another (losing) streak. Four straight, this time, the sixth time in their first 109 games that they've had losing streaks of at least four consecutive games. Every single time it looks as if they might be starting to look like a good team, they crater.
  • And yet. They are still close enough that a 15-out-of-20 stretch would get them very close to, if not actually into, one of the playoff spots. And they've still got one of the top five run differential's in the AL. So you can't just fold.
  • Of course, they haven't won 15-out-of-20 at any point so far, and have shown nothing to suggest that they're about to.
  • This is as big a tease as I remember a Red Sox team ever being.
  • They finally have a week in which the starting pitching is pretty good. Good-to-very-good performances starts in four of the seven games, and one of the others was a good start cut short by injury. Doubront wasn't good, but only Cook produced a disaster start. And the bullpen proceeded celebrate by losing games late.
  • The offense was bad. Again. Which is what happens when over half of your at-bats goes to players (Kalish, Shoppach, Ciriaco, Saltalamacchia, Pedroia, Middlebrooks, Lavarnway, Sweeney and Punto) who hit a cumulative .197/.240/.303/.544 for the week.
  • Jon Lester has not had a good year. But it's not been as bad as it looks. His ERA is over a full run higher because of a four-game stretch to start the month of July than it would be otherwise. But even when he pitches well, they don't win. Thursday night marked the seventh time this year that he's pitched at least seven innings and allowed three or fewer runs. Given offensive levels in today's game, a starting pitcher should end up with a win in four or five of those games. He's got two, to go with three losses. For a little perspective, Felix Doubront is 1-0 in his one (1) start of 7+ with fewer than 4 runs allowed. Clay Buchholz is 4-0 in his eight. Josh Beckett is 3-2 in his six.
  • Red Sox Player of the Week - Mike Aviles (.455/.538/.727/1.266) was very productive in limited playing time. But his playing time was limited. Carl Crawford (.345/.367/.690/1.056) had a very good week, the most runs created on the team, but not the best production, because he used a lot of outs in the process. So the player of the week was Adrian Gonzalez (.435/.536/.609/1.144), who read last week's lament on his lack of walks and atoned with five of them on the week.
  • Red Sox Pitcher of the Week - Excellent spot start from Franklin Morales. Good relief outings from Craig Breslow and Mark Melancon (and Mortensen and Tazawa). An encouraging start from Jon Lester. But clearly, the pitcher of the week was Clay Buchholz, who allowed four runs (only two earned) over 15 innings in two starts.

AL Pythagorean Projection Report - 8/6/2012
New York4.87(2)4.01(4)0.588(1)634463440
Los Angeles4.66(6)4.21(6)0.546(4)60495851-2
Tampa Bay4.02(12)3.84(2)0.52(8)565256520
Kansas City4.18(10)4.74(11)0.443(12)47604562-2

Top 5 projections (using current winning %)
New York9567

Top 5 projections (starting with today's record, using Pythagorean winning %)
New York9567
Los Angeles8775

Standings for the week
Tampa Bay2.83(14)1.67(1)0.725(1)4233-1
New York5.5(4)4.17(6)0.624(3)4233-1
Kansas City5.33(5)4.33(7)0.594(4)42420
Los Angeles7.71(1)7.57(13)0.509(9)4334-1

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