Friday, May 28, 2010

Have a Great Weekend!


(h/t Big Picture).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Questions without answers...

Why do pro-lifers want to outlaw abortion instead of going about it properly: grant fundamental person-hood rights to fetuses?

Why do we go through cap-and-trade bullshit instead of just taxing fossil fuels at the consumer level?

Why didn't we insist on formal declarations of war in Iraq and Afghanistan? Why don't we now?

Why don't the opponents of health care reform move to rescind EMTALA if they really believe in the "free market" for health care?

Why do deficit hawks wail about deficits but never are able to come up with substantive budget cuts when asked? (Cut the Dept of Education! >> 0.0001% of federal budget.)

Corollary: Why do Republicans forget that Medicare Part D, the Iraq War, the 2001 Tax Cuts, the Wall Street/GM bailouts of 2008, were all unpaid hits to the Treasury, passed with GOP support, that amounted to approximately $1 Trillion each? Yet they insist that health insurance reform is deficit neutral?

Are the Middle East terrorists really following Islam, or is there a more fundamental political motive? If it's the latter, then isn't it counter-productive to vilify an entire religion with the appellation "Islamic Terror"? If it's the former, then we have 1.1 billion people to "conquer."

Corollary 1: If there is a more fundamental political motive, what on earth could it be? Hmmmm.

Corollary 2: Do we really think that $2.67 per gallon of gasoline covers all the external costs of securing oil? Terror and Spills?

Doesn't Rand Paul's "principled libertarianism", while coherent philosophically, just show how irrelevant and impractical libertarianism truly is, and always has been?

Which adult foster care home would Glenn Beck be living in if not for modern psycho-pharmacology?

Aren't farm subsidies a ridiculous waste of money?

Do people really believe that inner-city kids in 100-year-old schools, with social unrest, inferior books, and no computers, have an equal educational experience compared to suburban kids?

Is it really that surprising that significant numbers of Americans believe 1) in UFO's, 2) evolution is false, 3) Obama was born in Africa, 4) Elvis lives in Kalamazoo, 5) the sun revolves around the earth, 6) are unsure from which nation the US declared independence in 1776?

What do you think the odds are that Katie Couric or Charlie Gibson will present a negative story about the pharmaceutical industry on network news when 2/3 of their ads are for drugs?

Are taxes too high? Are they any higher than 20 or 30 years ago?

Republicans' official party platform calls for outlawing abortion in all instances, including cases of rape and incest; so why did their presidential candidate John McCain support provision for abortion in cases of rape and incest? Doesn't he believe that rapists' offspring have a "right to life"?

Corollary: With medical abortifacients and accessible safe aspiration technology, do abortion foes truly think they can successfully limit women's rights over their own biology?

Isn't it odd that we honored the Israelis claim to the Holy Land after 1200 years as diaspora, and it had been only 60 years from the time we officially stole the Native Americans' homeland?

What do opponents of immigration reform pose we do with 11 million undocumented aliens who have been in the US for 10 or 20 years, who pay taxes, whose kids have grown up here, whose sons and daughters are fighting in our wars?

Isn't Ann Coulter really liberal, or at least politically ambivalent, who has created a phenomenally marketable shtick based on the innate fear/anger limbic reflex that she knows the right-wing mouth-breathers will buy, and buy, and buy and buy and buy and buy? While at the same time showing moderates how completely silly and over-the-top right-wing arguments really are (watch after 4:00 on the video)?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

God has a name, apparently it's "Craig"

... as in Craig Venter, the scientist/businessman/self-promoter who has "created" the first life form from nothing, a synthetic cell.

Of course, the fun always starts with the predicted cataclysms and hand-wringing whenever science moves one step closer to disproving the existence of an omniscient Creator.

And the beat goes on.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Rand Paul, Libertarianism and the Civil Rights problem

Rand Paul, son of famous libertarian Rep Ron Paul, is the new anti-establishment Republican nominee for Senate from Kentucky. We will see if Rand can mimic his father who is the rare breed of stalwart ideologue who inexplicably survives in the rough and tumble of machine politics. Rand's campaign is off to a rocky start, however, as the national media has seized upon his stance on civil rights and opponents have tried to create the mental image of a United States without the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which Paul says he would have opposed.

Rand has accommodated [critics] by repeatedly saying that he would not have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 on libertarian grounds: private businesses should not be forced to serve African Americans if they so choose. Presumably, market pressure will eventually force them to be more accommodating. If it doesn't, then so be it, Rand believes.


As we know from history, the free market did not lead to a breakdown of segregation. Indeed, it got much worse, not just because it was enforced by law but because it was mandated by self-reinforcing societal pressure. Any store owner in the South who chose to serve blacks would certainly have lost far more business among whites than he gained. There is no reason to believe that this system wouldn't have perpetuated itself absent outside pressure for change.


If Rand Paul were saying that he agrees with the Goldwater-Rehnquist-Bork view that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was unconstitutional and that the Supreme Court was wrong to subsequently find it constitutional, that would be an eccentric but defensible position. If he were saying that the Civil Rights Act were no longer necessary because of the great strides we have made as a country in eradicating racism, that would also be defensible. But Rand's position is that it was wrong in principle in 1964. There is no other way of interpreting this except as an endorsement of all the things the Civil Rights Act was designed to prohibit, as favoring the status quo throughout the South that would have led to a continuation of segregation and discrimination against African Americans at least for many more years.

Those words were not uttered by Rachel Maddow or some other leftist bleeding heart. No, this critique is from Bruce Bartlett, a supply-side economist who served in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. Intra-party debates are perhaps the most dynamic part of our political discourse since they often refine arguments from the broad to the specific. The problem I see is that instead of searching for new solutions to our complex problems, the Republican party is still re-hashing the cynical arguments that we put to rest 40 years ago. Kudos to Bartlett for being the first-- let's hope not the last-- of Paul's party compatriots to call him out on his cognitive dissonance.

But the larger question is why are we wasting precious time with this defeated libertarian ideology that failed us two generations ago? What's next, debating whether the French Ancien Regime would have better avoided the current European credit crisis? Ah, yes, Rand Paul, a modern Duke of Burgundy, arguing for the "way it used to be."

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Why the White Sox let Podsednik go

Answer: Andruw Jones.

The Royals came to town with their hot-hitting left fielder Scott Podsednik, an ex-White Sox utility man who is now vying for the batting crown, and this drew queries as to why Kenny Williams ever let him go.

No question, Poz is having a great year on his new team, the KC Royals, as they battle us to stay out of the cellar. And the Chicago faithful have nothing but warm feelings for Scotty since he was an integral part of our World Series win in 2005, as evidenced by the ovation he received this week at the Cell.

But, Kenny did the right thing in not signing Podsednik and opting for Andruw Jones instead. Let's go to the stats.

Scott Podsednik will make $1.65 million this year for a lifetime OPS of .722. He is a solid fielder with impressive speed for his 34 years and gets on base often, although he cannot hit for power and his arm is average at best.

Andruw Jones is a year younger and has put together stats that have him knocking on the door of the the Hall of Fame. Career .829 OPS with almost 400 home runs, 1200 RBI's, 10 Gold Gloves and 4 All-Star Games. Was he really as good as Willie Mays? Certainly he is not as fast as he once was, but his fielding and arm remain stellar. All for the silly salary of only $500,000.

Quietly, Jones has been putting together a Renaissance of sorts this year and his stats are at least as impressive as Podsednik. Scotty has a higher batting average (.333 vs .270), but their on-base percentages are nearly equal and Jones' OPS of 1.045 blows away Poz' .783... that's this year, right now.

Back in the day, Jones was the quintessential 5-tool player, and he still has 4 of those intact. While I have not been a fan of Kenny Williams' penchant for picking up rehabbed superstars (eg, Thome, Griffey Jr, Vizquel)----Jones is different: he's still good.

Furthermore, Jones has the intangible advantage of extensive post-season play with 75 games over ten years when the Braves were always atop their division. Sure, I can't see Poz without remembering his wonderful World Series Game 2 home run off Brad Lidge to win in a walk off, but we are in a new pennant race, and Andruw Jones is the better player for us now.

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

It's Ozzie.

With a heavy heart I bang out this call to move Ozzie Guillen out of the White Sox dugout. Ya, I have nothing but warm feelings for the skipper who brought the first pennant and World Series to Chicago's SouthSide in my lifetime, but the problems that the ball club has can only be attributed to the management.

Let's start with the pitchers. The Sox have about the best bullpen in the Major Leagues, yet Ozzie continues to keep the starter in for two or three extra batters. Tonight, Gavin Floyd has struggled all night, allowing baserunners in nearly every inning. Despite a single and a triple in the 7th and almost 90 pitches thrown already, Ozzie leaves Floyd in to face two more hitters with nobody even warming up in the pen. Not even warming up. Predictably, Butler singles in Podsednik from third, and the next guy homers. The score is now 6-1, and Santos finally comes in to relieve Floyd with the game out of reach.

And another thing. Freddie Garcia is not a starter. Either go with a 4-man rotation, or switch Matt Thornton for Freddie in the No. 5 spot.

And why is Pierzynski still catching? He's hitting .200 and never throws out anyone on the bases. The Sox sent Don Lucy, hitting .380, to the minors. Maybe he's no better than AJ, but he's certainly no worse defensively. And remember, it was Ramon Castro, now fresh off the DL, who caught the only perfect game in the majors last year. Okay, AJ just hit a home run, but this game has been lost already-- down 6-2 now-- and KC has a scrub reliever in there.

The infield. At some point the mis-reads on bunting plays and missed cut-off men, and booted double plays and general sloppiness has to have consequences for the manager. If Teahen cannot figure out that a bunt is coming when there are men on 1st and 2nd with nobody out, then doesn't the manager need to tell him? Or tell Joey Cora to tell him? Another example: Omar Vizquel, at age 50 or so, is batting lead-off with his impressive .088 average, when he has never led-off even in his prime.

Ozzie is fond of changing the line-up on a near daily basis, a practice that is rarely associated with a division leading team. Pick a line-up and stay with it, or maybe two, one for righty pitchers and another for lefties--- but constantly juggling guys around is pointless and cannot foster comfort for the team. In 2005, our success was accomplished with a fairly fixed line-up. Another stat is that the Sox won only one game last year after trailing in the 8th inning. One. At some point, this is the manager's inability to pinch hit, or pinch run, call for steals, or something.

Moving Ozzie now would send a message to the team that nobody is expendable. Send him to Wilmington to hone his skills as a manager. There must be some successful skipper in the system who can replace Ozzie. Bring in a whole new coaching staff for that matter. If the players feel responsible, then so be it. Let's face it, if the ship doesn't turn around in the next 8 weeks, Kenny Williams is going to dismantle the squad anyway. A new manager gives us a chance to change now.

Honestly, what else can be done at this point? Kenny Williams has traded to build the best team he can. We have the worst batting average, most errors and are mired near last place despite one of the highest payrolls and best bullpen in the league. It's not gonna get better on its own, and you can't fire the whole team.

Sorry, Oz. To paraphrase Tessio from the Godfather: Tell Ozzie I always liked him, but it's only business.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Republicans and the small government lie

Martin Feldstein, former Reagan economic adviser, is calling for Obama to raise taxes on the middle and lower classes in order to bring the budget closer to balance. He also continues the the revisionist history that government shrunk under Reagan.

The meme that the GOP are the only responsible stewards of all things fiscal is tiring. The numbers don’t lie. Total outlays of the federal govt rose 69% under Reagan’s 8 years from $678 billion to $1.143 trillion. (pages 22-24).

George HW Bush’s budgets went from $1.143 trillion to $1.41 trillion, a 23% rise over 4 years.

Under Clinton’s budgets, the govt outlays grew 32% over 8 years from $1.41 trillion to $1.86 trillion.

Of course George W Bush’s budgets are staggering, growing 114%over 8 years from $1.863 trillion to $3.99 trillion in fiscal 2009 (remember the previous Prez writes the budget for the incoming President’s first year.)

Here are the number the conservatives never want you to know>> under Obama, govt growth is projected to actually be FLAT: from $3.99 trillion to $4.02 trillion. This takes into account the increasing outlays for Boomer entitlements.

Feldstein was creating his own reality long before the Cheney family.