Sobering Thoughts

Comments on politics, the culture, economics and religion by Paul Tuns -- in short, everything about the human endeavour from a non-hyphenated conservative perspective. I am Toronto-based writer and editor, whose articles, columns and reviews have appeared in more than 35 publications. I am editor-in-chief of The Interim, Canada's life and family newspaper, author of Jean Chretien: A Legacy of Scandal and a regular contributor to the book pages of the Halifax Herald.

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Friday, February 27, 2009
 
Government and social justice?

David Henderson points to this exchange between Arjo Klamer and Bob Lucas:

Klamer: "But doesn't government try to resolve social injustice?"

Lucas: "That wouldn't be anything like my view. I can't think of the pharaohs as being in existence to resolve social injustice in Egypt. I think they perpetrated most of the injustice in Egypt."


I'd add: Almost every large-scale atrocity of the 20th century was a government program: the Holocaust, the Great Purge, the Rape of Nanking, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Great Leap Forward, the Gulag, the Laogai, Cambodia's Killing Fields, the Bosnian genocide. The Rwandan and Sudanese genocides were carried out by militias and gangs but were encouraged and abetted by governments. If you are inclined you can add apartheid and Indian reservations. Yes, government is wonderful. It is only concerned about justice.


 
Toilet paper worse for the environment than driving a Hummer

Guardian reports:

"The tenderness of the delicate American buttock is causing more environmental devastation than the country's love of gas-guzzling cars, fast food or McMansions, according to green campaigners. At fault, they say, is the US public's insistence on extra-soft, quilted and multi-ply products when they use the bathroom.

'This is a product that we use for less than three seconds and the ecological consequences of manufacturing it from trees is enormous,' said Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defence Council."


So Sheryl Crow was right?

Not that I care.


 
Interesting photos of Toronto

Here at BlogTO, by Jonathan Castellino. My favourite -- a construction site from above:



 
Pretty gross


















As Consumerist notes after looking at its label, pork brains in milk gravy has 1170% of your daily cholesterol per serving. That said, the cholestrerol might not be the biggest deterent because the can is full of pork brain.


 
Great new feature at Examiner.com

Kathy Shaidle has a week in review in right-wing talk radio at The Examiner.


 
Stat of the day

According to the latest Fiscal Monitor of the Finance Department, corporate income tax revenues in December 2008 were down 46.1% from the previous year.


 
Canada's New Keynesian Government

This CP story has Canada's Conservative [sic] Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, quoting J.M. Keynes as an authoritative source to defend ignoring the long-term consequences of Ottawa's stimulus package.


 
Priests for Life has a new website

Fr. Tom Lynch is doing a really great job revitalizing Priests for Life (Canada), most visibly in launching a new website, here. They also have a great list of pro-life resources, here.


 
Not sure this is a good thing or bad thing

The Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights reports:

"Sales of Ayn Rand’s 'Atlas Shrugged' have almost tripled over the first seven weeks of this year compared with sales for the same period in 2008. This continues a strong trend after bookstore sales reached an all-time annual high in 2008 of about 200,000 copies sold."

Does that make the Rand novel an inferior good? Like Spam?


 
Assigned reading

I hope to blog about "Conservatism is for losers" later (in the upcoming days or weeks). For now, read:

"A bold plan sweeps away Reagan ideas," by David Leonhardt in the New York Times.

"Marrying social and fiscal conservatism," by Andrea Mrozek in the Ottawa Citizen.

"In search of the real Harper," by John Gray in Canadian Business.

"The battle being lost," by Adam Daifallah.

"Looking north for ideas," by David Gratzer at NewMajority.


 
Three and out

3) Incredible bargain: Last year's NL Cy Young award winner, Tim Lincecum, has signed a one-year $650,000 deal with the San Francisco Giants. Last year, his second season in the majors, he was phenomenal: 2.62 ERA in 227 IP, 265 Ks, 1805, 2 complete games. He hasn't reached his arbitration years yet, but the Giants might want to think about a long-term deal which will provide Lincecum financial stability and protect the team from a huge increase down the road.

2) Incredible bargain, part II: From the same story noted above, the Texas Rangers signed Josh Hamilton to a one-year, $555,000 deal. Hamilton hit 304/371/530 with 32 homeruns and 130 RBIs. He also put on one of the most spectacular homerun displays of all time at the All Star Home Run Derby last year at Yankee Stadium. I don't think that either Hamilton or Lincecum are likely to repeat their elite performances, but they are still very, very good players that their teams are getting at absurdly low prices.

1) Incredibly hard: Homerun Derby looks back at when Michael Jordan played minor league baseball. This got me to thinking: would have steroids helped Jordan make the major league roster of the Chicago White Sox? No they wouldn't, because power is not the most important thing about hitting a ball. This is often forgotten in most of the hysterical discussion about PEDs: it is difficult to make contact with the ball and you have to be a great hitter to pound the ball very far, juiced or not. The fact is a cup of coffee before the game (or a little cocaine) probably does more for enhancing performance by increasing alertness than do the banned PEDs.


Thursday, February 26, 2009
 
Good news for Republicans, bad news for conservatives

The New York Times reports:

"A group of liberal bloggers said it was teaming up with organized labor and MoveOn.org to form a political action committee that would seek to push the Democratic Party further to the left."

If the unions and bloggers are successful, that will move the political center (more) to the left, meaning the Republican Party can more easily occupy the political middle. That, of course, is bad news for conservatives. I'm not sure what that means for FrumCons.


 
The State Department and Red China,
Or, hypocrisy thy name is Hillary


Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said human rights must take a back seat to global challenges such as climate change or the current economic turmoil. But yesterday she said:

"You know, human progress depends on the human spirit, and this inescapable truth has never been more apparent than it is today. The challenges of this new century require us to summon the full range of human talents to move our nation and the world forward. Guaranteeing the right of every man, woman and child to participate fully in society and to live up to his or her God-given potential is an ideal that has animated our nation since its founding.

It is enshrined also in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and was reflected in President Obama’s Inaugural Address when he reminded us that every generation must carry forward the belief that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

Our foreign policy must also advance these timeless values which empower people to speak, think, worship and assemble freely, to lead their work and family lives with dignity, and to know that dreams of a brighter future are within their reach. Now, the promotion of human rights is essential to our foreign policy, but as a personal aside, I have worked for many years and in various capacities on the issues that are encompassed under the rubric: human rights. It is of profound importance to me and has informed my views and shaped my beliefs in ways large and small.

As Secretary of State, I will continue to focus my own energies on human rights, and I will engage as many others as I can to join me, both through traditional and untraditional challenges. I am looking for results. I am looking for changes that actually improve the lives of the greatest numbers of people. Hopefully, we will be judged over time by successful results from these efforts."


Despite acknowledging that the release of the State Department's annual country-by-country human rights reports is an important date on the department's calender, she was still late for the event.

Anyway, here's the department's "2008 Human Rights Report: China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau)."


 
When Catholic hospitals go bad

From LifeSiteNews.com:

"[Nikki Cook] explained to London Bishop Ronald Fabbro in a chance meeting on January 20, 2009 that she was pressured to terminate her pregnancy by 5 doctors at the Catholic hospital and by the hospital ethicist Fr. Michael Prieur, despite the fact that neither her life nor health were in danger."

More on St. Joseph's Catholic [sic] hospital in London from LSN's December 11 and February 24. This past weekend, the National Post had a sympathetic treatment of Fr. Prieur -- who by the way, does not have an issue with any of the facts reported in the LifeSiteNews article from December 11. The ladies at ProWomanProLife discuss the story here.

My only comment: I don't mind having these discussions about who lives and who dies in public square, but I hate having them within the Catholic Church. To echo Andrea Mrozek at PWPL, the Catholics are ones usually holding the line on abortion (and other life issues), so it all the more distressing when theologians are sliding down the slippery slope along with the broader culture.


 
Writing a book in public

David Roodman of the Center for Global Development is writing a book about microfinance, but is doing so in a novel way:

"I am using this blog to share the process of writing my book about microfinance (the mass production of small-scale financial services for the poor). The book asks and attempts to answer bottom-line questions about what we know about the impacts of microfinance and what that implies for how governments, foundations, and investors should support it...

Through this blog, I will share and seek feedback on chapters I have drafted, documents I have found, and burning questions on my mind.

This blog will not keep you up-to-the-minute on microfinance with a fire hose of news—see the blogroll downon the right side of the blog home page for channels more like that. But by the same token, it will give you an opportunity to talk back to the content and influence the final product: a book that should help us all see deeper. I hope you will take that opportunity. Some books are written by experts wanting to share their expertise. In contrast, I am writing this book in order to become an expert. Writing it is a voyage of discovery.

We at CGD are inventing our 'open book' blog process as we go. I will upload chapter drafts in Microsoft Word (.doc) and Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) formats. I will create a main blog post for each chapter, with the idea that commenting on these posts will be the best way for you comment on the drafts they announce. You can also send me marked up files by e-mail, which we might post publicly. (I don't want to commit since this is all so new.) The "Contents" list on the right margin of the blog home page will help you navigate the book's content.

This 'open book' blog marries an old writing form with a new one. Although books predate the printing press, that technology of mass production endowed books with a new and transformative power. An author could ponder the world—filter information, weigh competing views, test ideas against data—then broadcast his or her conclusions more quickly, to more people, and across greater distances than ever before. Much the same can be said of the Internet and bloggers today, even if this time around the technology predated the medium. Blogs will never drive books into extinction, but the two might interbreed."


 
The tyranny of the offended

David Harsanyi writes at Reason.com about the furor over the innocuous New York Post cartoon that merged the stimulus package and a recent news story about an escaped chimp. Noting that the Federal Communications Commission has agreed to meet race huckster Al Sharpton about the paper's ownership, Harsanyi says:

"Feel free to be indignant and hurt. Feel free to boycott and to cast nasty aspersions on the decency of those who offend you. But let's keep government out of it. If we're not careful, the war against offensive speech could morph into a war against free speech."

I wouldn't be so cavalier about others being so indignant and hurt at things that no reasonable person should find offensive. But Harsanyi is right to worry about getting government involved in the indignation game.

To read about the totalitarian impulse that takes over when a society decides that one has the right not to be offended, get The Tyranny of Nice (dead tree, dead tree through the Conservative Book Club or ebook), about Canada's human rights commission industry.


 
Best commentary on Washington ever

Dilbert.com


 
Life is beautiful

Spring training has sprung. And as a bonus, the Yankees beat the Jays 6-1 with A-Rod and light-hitting Brett Gardner homering and minor league sensation Austin Jackson getting a hit.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009
 
The more things change ...

Jacob Sullum on the Obama administration maintaining key components of Bush's anti-terrorism policies: Gitmo or no Gitmo, indefinite detention is likely to continue.


 
Stat of the day

From Statscan: "[T]he public sector share of total capital spending will climb from 28.6% in 2008 to 33.5% in 2009."


 
Obama's speech

I had no idea that His Hopelency was talking last night. I have no idea what he talked about or what he said. But I find this both interesting and significant (from speechwars.com's Ben Reis via Freakonomics):

"– Obama is the first president in history to use the words 'bailouts,' 'laundry,' 'drapes,' 'cyber,' 'messes,' and 'pandemic' in a State of the Union address.

– Obama used the word 'crisis' 11 times — more than twice as much as any other president. Hoover used it only four times in 1932 during the Great Depression.

– Obama said 'layoffs,' 'invest,' and 'entrepreneurs' more than any other president.

– Obama is only the second president to use the words 'ferret,' 'biofuels,' and 'hybrids'."


I am not surprised that in a world in which there is tremendous word inflation (or is it meaning deflation), that Obama used the word 'crisis' more than any other president, including Hoover.

The President's address to the joint session of Congress is here.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009
 
The state of journalism

Rick McGinnis:

"With quality of writing either difficult to judge - it's been so long, after all, that people have forgotten what it looks like - or immaterial, the only way to evaluate a new hire is by their qualifications, which means the resumé (that they've probably padded) or their degrees (which are easier to verify.) J-school has gone from being a probable liability that a decent editor will do their level best to train out of a promising hire, to the only certainty you have that the poor schmuck you're plugging into a copy editing desk or the night local chair that was recently vacated by a 25 year veteran will at least know how to get multiple sources, do a line edit or work the layout software...

Turnover and churn-through in newsrooms has been gruesome over the last decade, though, and the industry's finally caught up with its own dire predictions about itself, and the urge to either speed along the radical reinvention or go turtle and hope that there's still some beach left when you poke your head out again means that mere verifiable competency is more valuable than idiosyncratic talent, or a veteran's jaundiced and possibly disappointed perspective.

Which basically means that, once again, I'm wishing I'd had the discipline, resources and inclination to have opted for law school, all those many years ago."


I'm often asked for advice from would-be and wanna-be journalists. Law school works. So do the trades. Paradoxically, law school might get you a journalism job (see the National Post editorial board).

The future of journalism is unpaid interns replacing unpaid interns at the papers and mostly unpaid opinion bloggers blogging about what the unpaid interns write. Sound like viable business model?

I used to believe that good writing would eventually find a home and get paid. I don't think that anymore for a number of reasons, but in the legacy media the reason is, as McGinnis states, the powers that be cannot recognize quality writing. That, in a nutshell, explains the demise of newspapers.


 
The new conservatism

Apparently it means friendly features of convicted felons.


 
Quote of the day

"Bishops don't know very much about economics and they should keep quiet about it."
-- Cardinal Charles Chaput at this morning's breakfast meeting with Toronto Catholic business leaders


Monday, February 23, 2009
 
Three and out

3) In Mesa, Arizona, the February and March home of the Chicago Cubs, there is a contest for the team's closer job between Carlos Marmol, last year's setup pitcher, and Kevin Gregg, a former closer for the Florida Marlins acquired via a trade over the Winter. To me this is not even a contest: Marmol has electric stuff: a hard fastball that reaches 96 mph and a killer slider. Marmol should get the job and if he can't keep it, Gregg is a very good insurance policy. All this presupposes current reliever usage patterns that don't make a lot of sense. Using the better pitcher in the eighth inning when games are close makes more sense because it closes a larger comeback window. Ideally, managers would use their "closers" -- their best relievers -- anytime in the final three innings against the best hitters, presumably the top five spots in the lineup, rather than formulaically employing pitchers by which inning it is and the gap in score.

2) If this were 1999 I'd think the Atlanta Braves made a great move signing OF Garret Anderson. Even though Anderson had a decent year in 2008, he is old and declining. Although Anderson has never batted below 283, his OBP and slugging percentage are not what they were four or five years ago. A month or so ago, there were much better options out there -- and still is in Manny Ramirez -- but the team is looking for a homerun hitting leftfielder on the cheap when their most urgent need is run production. Anderson isn't going to fill that need. Craig Calcaterra at Shysterball (Hardball Times blog) likes the move.

1) A trip down memory lane: Chris Jaffe at Hardball Times looks back at the career of former pitcher Rick Sutcliffe. Jaffe shows the limitations in certain sabermatic approaches to evaluating players' careers, in this case ERA+. Jaffe says: "An inconsistent pitcher can have a winning record out of line with his ERA. If he throws a shutout one day and allows ten runs the next, he'll be .500 with a terrible ERA. When Sutcliffe was on, he was terrific—but his arm kept failing him. That might be the real reason his ERA+ underrates him." If you like the debate over sabermatics or was a fan of the big, inconsistent, red-haried pitcher, this is worth a read.


 
Peter Worthington's little world

It's been a long time since Toronto Sun columnist Peter Worthington has been part of my regular reading regiment. Don't get me wrong, he was an indispensable right-leaning voice in the media wilderness for years -- one of the few, along with Ted Byfield and Lubor Zink -- and his autobiography, Looking for Trouble a Journalist's Life ... and Then Some, is full of interesting tidbits of a journalistic life. But he hasn't been readable for years; he has little new to say and he is predictable knee jerk conservative. For some reason, I started reading his column this morning:

"Five years ago, in 2004, McClelland and Stewart published journalist Chris Cobb's book on the start up and early years of the National Post. I don't know anyone who's ever heard of it, much less read it -- Ego and Ink: The Inside Story of Canada's National Newspaper War."

I read the next paragraph or so and then stopped. Actually, I yawned and then I stopped. It is amazing that a journalist who started the Toronto Sun was ignorant of a highly promoted, five-year-old book about the newspaper industry in Toronto. Worthington was given a copy picked out of a bargain bin and that's how he found this gem five years after it was first published. It says a lot about him that he hadn't even heard of it -- or that none of his acquaintances even heard of it. As Kathy Shaidle often mocks journalists: our moral and intellectual superiors.


 
I'd love to develop this a bit more, but it's 3:14 am

Publius at Gods of the Copybook Heading says, apropos of John Tory's by-election, that "Politics - the cynics aside - is about ideas." I'm a cynic, but I still understand that politics is about ideas. Just not serious ones.


 
You don't say

From Business Week:

"In fact, Moody's Economy.com estimates that metro Washington's economy will actually grow 2.5% from mid-2008 through mid-2010. New York's economy is expected to shrink 4.2%."

According to the magazine, that's because Washington has more people with advanced degrees and more high tech jobs, whereas the Big Apple is shedding jobs in the finance industry. I'm sure it has nothing to do with permanent class of special interests looking for a teat to suck.

Relatedly, according to Robert Samuelson, "the Congressional Budget Office estimates that about $200 billion will be spent in 2011 or later -- after it would do the most good." Samuelson points to several examples, including this one:

"Then there's $20.8 billion for improved health information technology -- more electronic records and the like. Probably most people regard this as desirable, but here, too, changes occur slowly. The CBO expects only 3 percent of the money ($595 million) to be spent in fiscal 2009 and 2010. The peak year of projected spending is 2014 at $14.2 billion."

As Samuelson says, "Big projects take time." Which means the parasite class in Washington isn't going anywhere anytime soon.


Sunday, February 22, 2009
 
Racist or just having a different opinion

Western Grit complains that Immigration Minister Jason Kenney made a racist joke when the minister reported that colleagues call him "curry in a hurry" because of his whirlwind visits to ethnic groups. (One time he had more than 20 in a three-day weekend in the Greater Toronto Area.) For some reason, this is racist. But in the same speech, Kenney commented upon the "remarkable diversity" of the country. Does that sound like racism.

This week, the US Attorney General complained that Americans are afraid to have an honest discussion about race. That's because in the United States, like in Canada, any remark about a racial or ethnic group, opens one to spurious charges of racism.


 
Three and out

3) Great move: The Tampa Bay Rays are giving former St. Louis Cardinals closer Jason Isringhausen a looksee with a $500,000 minor league deal and camp tryout. Isringhausen wasn't great last year (1-5, 12 saves, seven blown saves, 5.70 ERA and out with an injury in September), but there is tremendous upside to this signing at very little risk. One the one hand he's 36, on the other hand 2008 was the only season in which he's had an ERA over 3.80 since becoming a full-time reliever.

2) Even better move: Oakland A's are reportedly willing to give Nomar Garciaparra, now a utility infielder and great bench player, a try. It appears the A's are serious about contending this year.

2) Fantastic move: Minnesota Twins address their most pressing concern, third base by signing former Chicago White Sox all-star, Joe Crede. If healthy -- he has played only 144 games over the past two seasons -- he's a power-hitting right-hander with Gold Glove potential at the hot corner. His only down side (other than questions about his durability) is that he has an atrociously low lifetime 306 OBP. Baseball Prospectus doesn't like his career arc and predict a sharp decline in power and slight decline in OBP, but he is a big improvement over what the Twins were going to go with -- a platoon of Brendan Harris and Brian Buscher.


 
You can't turn back the clock

I forget whether it was Chesterton or Muggeridge who said you can't turn back the clock but you can't turn it forward either. We cannot relive the past although we can learn from history, and all we can do about the future is prepare for it. For some reason that is what comes to mind when I read Mark Steyn's column at NRO this weekend. This excerpt is worth special consideration -- and is especially worthy of being passed on to friends and colleagues:

"In his first TV interview as president, Barack Obama told viewers of al-Arabiya TV that he wanted to restore the 'same respect and partnership that America had with the Muslim world as recently as 20 or 30 years ago.' I’m not sure quite what golden age he’s looking back to there — the Beirut barracks slaughter? the embassy hostages? — but the point is, it’s very hard to turn back the clock. Because the facts on the ground change, and change remorselessly. Even in 30 years. Between 1970 and 2000, the developed world declined from just under 30 percent of the global population to just over 20 percent, while the Muslim world increased from 15 percent to 20 percent. And in 2030, it won’t even be possible to re-take that survey, because by that point half the “developed world“ will itself be Muslim: In Bradford — as in London, Amsterdam, Brussels, and almost every other western European city from Malmo to Marseilles — the principal population growth comes from Islam. Thirty years ago, in the Obama golden age, a British documentary-maker was so horrified by the 'honor killing' of a teenage member of the House of Saud at the behest of her father, the king’s brother, that he made a famous TV film about it, Death Of A Princess. The furious Saudis threatened a trade boycott with Britain over this unwanted exposure. Today, we have honor killings not just in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, but in Germany, Scandinavia, Britain, Toronto, Dallas, and Buffalo. And they barely raise an eyebrow."


 
Straight talk about Africa

The New York Times interviews Dambisa Moyo, author of Dead Aid: Why aid is not working and how there is another way for Africa:

"What do you think has held back Africans?

I believe it’s largely aid. You get the corruption — historically, leaders have stolen the money without penalty — and you get the dependency, which kills entrepreneurship. You also disenfranchise African citizens, because the government is beholden to foreign donors and not accountable to its people.

If people want to help out, what do you think they should do with their money if not make donations?

Microfinance. Give people jobs.

But what if you just want to donate, say, $25?

Go to the Internet and type in Kiva.org, where you can make a loan to an African entrepreneur.

Do you have a financial interest in Kiva?

No, except that I’ve made loans through the system. I don’t own a share of Kiva.

You just left your longtime job as a banker for Goldman Sachs in London, where you live. What did you do there, exactly?

I worked in the capital markets, helping mostly emerging countries to issue bonds. That’s why I know that that works.

Which countries sought your help?

Israel, Turkey and South Africa, primarily.

Why didn’t you get a bond issue going in your native Zambia or other African countries?

Many politicians seem to have a lazy muscle. Issuing a bond would require that the president and the cabinet ministers go out and market their country. Why would they do that when they can just call up the World Bank and say, 'Can I please have some money'?"


Moyo concludes with this: "I wish we questioned the aid model as much as we are questioning the capitalism model."


Saturday, February 21, 2009
 
Potentially good news from DC

Instapundit:

"HOPE AND CHANGE: WH may abandon health czar post. Well, I’m hoping that this change means that national healthcare is less likely."


 
Obscene bonuses

Ross Clark in The Speccie:

"Ministers may bark at the size of your salary and bonuses, but it is has taken a week of national outrage for them to force action on bonuses out of the Royal Bank of Scotland, and even then many will receive them, or will receive salary increases to compensate for the loss of a bonus. The most telling comment to come from the government was not from a minister, however, but from an unnamed Treasury official who told the Daily Mail that some bonuses couldn’t be cut because ‘it wouldn’t stand up in the European Court if Human Rights. We can’t come along and say we’re legislating to override someone’s employment rights.’ Oh, and then there was Harriet Harman’s complaint that female bankers are receiving bonuses that are too small.

Thank heavens for the public sector, where the pay is still great but where you can enjoy security too. You think you couldn’t find a more extravagant bonus culture and an even more absurd system for rewarding failure than exists at the banks? Just look at the public sector. In fact, let’s start by looking at the public sector employee who was charged with the task of monitoring the banks to ensure they didn’t get into trouble. That man was Clive Briault, managing director of retail at the Financial Services Authority.

Having failed completely to detect anything wrong at Northern Rock, he resigned last April. That is as it should be, except that far from falling on his sword, Mr Briault appears to have been allowed to run off with it and melt it down and use the silver to augment his pension. The FSA’s annual report reveals that he left with £356,452 of compensation for lost salary and bonuses, £36,000 of pension contributions and £202,500 for ‘compensation for loss of office’.

Hang on, let’s just get this right. An employee resigns because he failed to do the job demanded of him — and he still gets paid a bonus, plus compensation for suffering the ignominy of having to resign. His case is not a one-off..."


 
On Teddy Kennedy

The New York Times headline: "Hold the Eulogies, Kennedy Says." Preferably not for long, though.

And then there is this line from the Times story: "Mr. Kennedy said in a phone interview Friday from the rented home in Miami where he has spent most of the winter." Reminds me of Patrick Buchanan's line from the 1992 Houston GOP convention when he asked: "How many 60-year-olds do you know who still go to Florida for spring break?"


 
The state will protect us from dangerous condiments

The Daily Telegraph reports:

"Police wearing protective suits and breathing apparatus were sent to investigate the spillage of a potentially dangerous liquid which was later revealed to be HP Sauce."

My favourite part: "A female officer was even taken to a local hospital as a precaution after getting some of it on her suit, according to reports."


 
Great Yahoo! Sports headline

"Defense objects to Bonds' testicles evidence."


 
Four and down

4) One in five NFL players in the 1980s used steroids. And it caused health problems. But it isn't baseball so this story won't get much coverage.

3) Pro Football Weekly blogger Eric Endholm is correct to say that when the likes of Michael Koenen, Shayne Graham, Max Starks, Darren Sproles, O.J. Atogwe and Leroy Hill are given the franchise tag, it demeans the designation and turns it into something it wasn't (likely) meant to be: a"free-agency shackle" that hinders the free movement of labour.

2) Great news that Kurt Warner will return next year, and according to his agent the star QB hopes it will be with the Arizona Cardinals, but he isn't ruling out playing elsewhere next season. The New York Jets will surely make a good offer as should the Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

1) There will be nothing about the combine in Indy. Not interesting and I don't care.


 
Three and out

3. I'm with Keith Law on the Mariner's mistake of signing Ken Griffey Jr. Griffey is not likely to easily accept the reduced role, including riding the bench by mid-season, that should be expected in his return year to Seattle.

2. With Griffey spurning the Atlanta Braves after apparently signing with them makes that the second time that has happened this off-season. In December, the Braves thought they had a deal with SS Rafael Furcal, who changed his mind about returning to the team he broke into the Majors with and signed with the Dodgers instead.

1. The New York Yankees have five (six if you count DH Hideki Matsui) outfielders going into Spring training and the word is that they want to move either Nick Swisher (who can play any outfield position and first base) or Xavier Nady (a corner outfielder) to save about $7 million. That's a mistake because Johnny Damon is not a durable or particularly effective leftfielder and the depth could be tremendously useful with this aging and increasingly fragile Yankees lineup. There could be productive platoons with the combination of players they have: Nagy and Swisher in RF, Melkey Cabrera and Swisher in CF. In the grand scheme of things, $7 million is not much to the Yankees and unless they can make a big upgrade at catcher (over Kevin Cash and Jose Molina the backups Jorge Posada), the flexibility and July deadline trade chit is more valuable than the savings from moving either Nagy or Swisher. All that said, the Braves are probably interested in Nagy now that they've been spurned by Griffey.


Friday, February 20, 2009
 
Stat of the day

From Statistics Canada: "Public sector employment reached 3.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2008, up by 96,000 or 2.9% over the same period in 2007."


 
New evidence of Pius XII's help for Jews

Zenit has the story. The important details:

"[German historian Michael Hesemann] noted that Archbishop Pacelli intervened in 1917 while papal nuncio in Bavaria, going through the German government to demand that Palestine Jews be protected from the Turkish Ottoman Empire.

Hesemann also shows that in 1917, the future Pius XII used his personal influence to enable the World Zionist Organization representative, Nachum Sokolov, to meet personally with Benedict XV to talk about a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

In 1926, Archbishop Pacelli urged German Catholics to support the Committee for Palestine, which supported Jewish settlements in the Holy Land.

[Pave the Way Foundation] president, Gary Krupp, added these findings to the evidence he already had complied for a Pius XII symposium last September in Rome. Since this event, 300 new pages of original documents have been uncovered.

These documents, available for downloading from the foundation's Web site, include a nun's manuscript from 1943, detailing the Pope's order to hide Jews in Rome and a list of protected Jews.

Another document is a 1939 report on the 'new Pope' by the U.S. Foreign Service, from the American consul in Cologne. The diplomat reported surprise at the "extreme dislike" of Pacelli toward Hitler and the Nazi regime, and his support to the German bishops in their opposition to Nazism, even at the cost of losing German Catholic youth."


 
The glass is half full

Reuters reports that shark attacks are down as fewer people are taking seaside vacations due to the recession.


 
Home ownership in Bailout Nation

Matt Welch at Hit & Run:

"As a lifelong renter, I have watched the slow-motion train wreck that is the housing-bubble reflation/bailout with the occasional pang of naked envy: I know for a fact that crooks, deadbeats, and irresponsible goofballs are going to be rewarded for their idiocy with my money, but it stings even harder knowing that I'm ineligible for the scam myself unless and until I buy a house with a federally guaranteed mortgage. Makes it almost tempting to strap on those shackles of a fixed 30-year contract.

That is, until you remember the flipside: If government thinks something as intimate as your own live-in private property is subject to massive wealth transfers in the name of assisting lower-income and minority families, sowing 'stability,' or preventing the 'market failure' of prices coming back down to earth, then you better be damn well prepared for government to look at that same property as the solution to its own problems."


 
Cowen gives Spin no stars for latest rating move

Spin magazine is moving from a five-star to ten-star system. Tyler Cowen doesn't like it:

"The old rating system granted up to five stars but now the maximum number of stars is ten. This signals that they wish to start exaggerating the quality of the product. When there are only five stars you know that they are laying their reputation on the line when they grant five stars to a new CD. (Michelin of course won't give a restaurant more than three stars. They don't calculate out to the fourth decimal place along a scale of one thousand.) If the music isn't good you can decide to stop trusting them. But say they give a new release eight, nine, or who knows maybe eight and a half stars? What exactly are they trying to say? Yes they are putting their reputation on the line when they give ten stars, but this will happen so infrequently that it will be harder to judge their overall trustworthiness.

Evaluation systems with fewer and grosser distinctions are often more credible because they are easier to monitor."


 
Look what moderation gets you

Big government and losing. Arnold Schwarzenegger as morality tail. Rich Lowry points to the doubling of California spending over 10 years leading to a $45 billion deficit this fiscal year. The RINO Governator wasn't solely responsible -- he has a far left-wing Democratic state legislature to deal with -- but he quickly became their patsy, which is easy for a liberal Republican to do because he (or she) is already part way there. As Lowry explains:

"His new role is as a supporting actor in the Golden State’s fiscal destruction. If the future happens in California, we all should tremble at its ever-expanding debt, falling credit ratings, crushing pension obligations, suffocating regulation, and rising taxes — with environmentally preening, ill-considered restrictions on carbon emissions thrown on top."

The lesson is clear:

"Once, Schwarzenegger was supposed to be a model for a more appealing, more moderate Republican Party — socially liberal, yet fiscally conservative. All he has demonstrated is, to paraphrase Barry Goldwater, that moderation on the road to fiscal ruin is no virtue. The GOP’s social liberals are overwhelmingly fiscal liberals, too — witness the party’s social liberals in the Senate signing off on the stimulus bill, liberalism’s proudest fiscal accomplishment since the 1970s. As for the Governator, he said hasta la vista long ago."


Thursday, February 19, 2009
 
Are politicians failing lobbyists?

Great Onion TV satire:




Although it isn't as good as debating throwing money into the government money hole:



 
Four and down

4) Football Outsiders' Mike Tanier (scroll down) has a great "Quarterback Flowchart" that perfectly categorizes the 12 different kinds of QB there are. Digest the chart, read the explanation, and marvel at its accuracy.

3) I doubt that defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth will be back with the Tennessee Titans. He wants a six-year deal in the vicinity of $12 million per season. The Titans are reportedly offering a four-year, $36 million deal. That's too much difference to bridge. Haynesworth wants to be the highest paid defensive player, play for a winner and preferably for a team in the southeast. My guess he ends up in a Tampa Bay Buccaneers uniform.

2) Tom Kowalski of MLive.com is pushing the idea of the Detroit Lions acquiring Derek Anderson, the dumb arse who lost the starting QB job with the Cleveland Browns last season. While Anderson will no doubt be available, even the 0-16 Lions shouldn't take a chance on him.

1) Smart move but a bit surprising that the Baltimore Ravens franchise tagged Terrell Suggs rather than fellow LB Ray Lewis. Lewis is a legendary defensive player, an original Baltimore Raven and probably ready to bolt the Ravens for much more money than he would have made if franchised. SI.com's Ross Tucker says that the Ravens should let Lewis walk. I'm not too worried about his age (he is 34) but it has to be a concern at this stage for the team that actually shells out a huge, long-term deal. Baltimore should make a short-term, top-shelf offer but let Lewis go to a team like the Dallas Cowboys or New York Jets who will give him four or five years at more than $10 mil per season. The best the Ravens can do is hope for something of a hometown discount and signal to the fans that they did their best.


 
Three and out

3) Ken Griffey Jr. has apparently changed his mind or the original reports were false or whatever, and he's returning to the Seattle Mariners, where he spent the first half of his career. He says he owes it to the people of Seattle to retire a Mariner. I don't buy it. RB Emmett Smith returned to the Dallas Cowboys in his waning years after a brief sojourn with the Arizona Cardinals. I'm don't like these kind of sentimental moves and, as a I noted a day or so ago, would have preferred him to play for a potential contender. Better for fans to remember players from their prime and see them now contributing to a winner (even in a diminished capacity), than watch them attempt to recapture a moment that has clearly passed.

2) Another reason to hate the Boston Red Sox: their ownership is in favour of an "enlightened" salary cap. Weaselly qualifier for a bad idea.

1) I am disgusted by the media reaction to Alex Rodriguez's press conference earlier this week. Joe Sheehan of Baseball Prospectus says it so much better than I could: "The reaction to Rodriguez’s press conference has been at best apathetic, and at worst, critical. His demeanor, his word choice, his expressions, his inflections have all been picked apart, and he’s been given no credit for the details he provided. There’s an assumption that he’s being deceptive, duplicitous, and insincere. Whether this stems from the dislike so many people have for this very insecure man, the dislike of his agent, or the general disdain for the successful and wealthy—let’s face it, sports coverage has devolved into thinly disguised class warfare—this most open moment has been dismissed, and Rodriguez has been given no credit for providing it." Yesterday at Hardball Times, Dave Studeman asked, "Is baseball special?" Why, he wondered why baseball is held to a higher standard. The reasons are complicated, but Organized Baseball doesn't help itself in the 'steroid scandal' either. As Sheehan said, contrast the A-Rod press conference "with the reaction to the press conference at which the Chargers’ Shawne Merriman openly discussed his… oh, wait, that didn’t happen. It didn’t happen because the NFL doesn’t have a vested interest in making its players look bad to gain the upper hand in an unending war against its own product. The NFL would never sustain a story like that through multiple news cycles, never allow PED use to overwhelm the story of training camps opening, never contribute to speculation that its game and its stars were somehow less than because of their behavior."


 
Hans Beck, RIP

Chesterton famously said, "Journalism consists largely in saying Lord James is dead to people who never knew Lord James was alive." But people might have known what Lord James did. On February 3, Hans Beck passed away. Who's Hans Beck? Beck was the inventor of Playmobil, a toy he created in a size perfect for a child's grasp. The Guardian reported:

"He worked according to his motto 'no horror, no superficial violence, no short-lived trends', the Brandstätter Group, owners of Playmobil, said in a short statement."

More than 2 billion Playmobil figures have been sold. He has brought immeasurable joy to many children's (and parents') lives.


 
Rick McGinnis on home

The whole post is worth a read (it always is, with detours through home ownership reality shows, and urban decay), but these paragraphs made my day:

"In what's one of the richest ironies of my life, I'm in a better position to be a homeowner now, after being laid off from a job I had for 7 years, than I ever was before. We applied for a pre-approved mortgage a few weeks previous to me getting canned, and found out that we'd got it the day it happened. My wife told the nice lady from the bank the truth, and she said it was no problem, but that the amount would be adjusted down a bit to reflect my (un)employment status.

And so we're in the market for a house, a task that's taken on a measure of urgency since we've just found out that Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis have been spotted hanging out in the coffee shop downstairs. We figure if we can find a neighbourhood where fair trade coffee is harder to find, we can keep them at bay for at least a few more years."


But the best line in the article is this one: "It's a small thing, perhaps, but I'd always assumed that accurate language was an obligation in the business of journalism."


 
Obama coffee

I stopped by my local Timothy's for a coffee this morning and saw that among the choices they provide for customers to satisfy their caffeine fix is 'Presidential Blend No. 44.' I read the description and the coffee beans in this blend come from Kenya, Indonesia and Hawaii. Timothy's has a press release about it here. I didn't pour that particular blend into my cup; it wasn't the change I was looking for. I typically pick up coffee at Tim Horton's; I hope to return there tomorrow.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009
 
Review of the Changeling

Review by Rick McGinnis, the best entertainment writer around -- you know, the one The Metro laid off last week. When Mark Steyn was writing theatre reviews for The New Criterion, those reviews alone were worth the price of a subscription even though I had no interest in theatre. I have no interest in the movie (or most movies) but McGinnis is always worth reading.


 
True

Felix Salmon at Portfolio:

"90 percent of high-school students are told by their high-school counselors that they ought to go to college." For a huge number of them, this is a lie."

Story here.


 
NDP addressing the vital issues of the day

From an NDP press release last week:

"With only 365 days before the Vancouver Olympics, New Democrat MP Dawn Black (New Westminster-Coquitlam) is demanding the Conservative government intervene in the International Olympic Committee’s decision to exclude women’s ski jumping from the 2010 Games."


 
Exciting vistas of medicine

Many social conservatives (too many) distrust any biotechnology, but they shouldn't.
Popular Mechanics has a list of 20 (mostly moral) biotechnological medical advances, from decay-fighting microbes and absorbable heart stents to smart contact lenses and gastrointestinal liners -- although I'm not sure about the rocket-powered arm.


 
In defense of corporate jets

Felix Salmon at Portfolio:

"Two high-profile financial columnists filed two strikingly similar opinions on corporate jets today:

1. A private plane is really a flying office. It is a way for a busy executive to get from one place to another as efficiently as possible, to get as much work done as possible on the way, and to avoid down time.

The executive of an important company has immense responsibilities. His or her time is precious. To waste that time in an airport security line or dealing with flight delays is, quite frankly, a sin against the stockholders. Flying on a private plane is not a decadent act -- it is just a way to move a very valuable asset around to maximize its productivity. To keep executives from using these planes is as foolish as not allowing them to use cell phones or computers.

2. I have some sympathy for the industry. There is actually some point to executives of big companies with plants or facilities spread across the US, and indeed around the world, flying point-to-point by corporate jet to visit them.

As a shareholder, I would prefer senior executives to save time in this way rather than having to queue at airports to get through security check points."


Of course, this is part of a PR campaign.


 
Three and out

3. Time will tell whether the Atlanta Braves made a mistake taking a chance on Ken Griffey Jr. He's 39 years old but he signed a deal worth a rumoured $2 million for a year. Last year, with the Cincinnati Red and Chicago White Sox, Griffey had a line of 249/353/424 -- the second lowest batting average and slugging percentage of his career. I am glad that Griffey didn't go with the sentimental choice of returning to the Seattle Mariners, a team with no reasonable expectation to make it to the post-season. There, he would be an ornament -- or worse, a sideshow. Great players -- or formerly great players -- should want to play with winners and Atlanta, while no favourite to win the NL East, has some chance to make the post-season. All that said, it appears that the decisive reason Griffey chose Atlanta is that it closer to his family and Orlando home, and that's a good enough reason, too. (There are reports that this story is premature.)

2. MLB commissioner Bud Selig says he didn't know about steroids and that three baseball people he talked to and trusted said they never saw PEDs in the clubhouse. Oh, that's convincing. And I love the comment by Kissing Suzy Kolber (not a family friendly sports blog, but darn funny) on Alex Rodriguez: "I’m quite sure the general public’s current 'A-Rod is a douche' stance is quite similar to the general public’s 'A-Rod is a douche' stance from a few months ago."

1. Good-bye Shea Stadium. Last part of the stadium standing: a ramp. More pics here.


 
Four and down

4. The Chicago Bears has already signed QB Brett Basanez to (presumably) back-up Kyle Orton and probably won't re-sign free agent Rex Grossman. But according to NFL.com, Bears GM Jerry Angelo is interested in another veteran QB, perhaps Tampa Bucs veteran Jeff Garcia who will turn 39 next year. Bad move. Spending money on QBs is a bad move for the Bears who can seldom put together a consistent aerial game in the Windy City. It's an especially bad move when the upgrade (Garcia over Orton? Orton over Garcia?) is hardly discernible to the human eye.

3. Country music star George Strait will headline a June 6 opening ceremony on the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium. Wouldn't it have made more sense to have Hank Williams Jr.? I know Hank is a big Pittsburgh Steeler's fan and sure Strait has sold the third most albums, but Hank Williams is more associated with football than George Strait is.

2. The Arizona Cardinals are putting their franchise tag on linebacker Karlos Dansby. That means he will be paid at least $9.6 million. Great deal. Arizona's defense was average throughout the year (and great for most of the playoffs) but Dansby was consistently great. They can probably keep Kurt Warner without the franchise tag and WR Anquan Boldin is nice to keep but hardly vital considering the team's depth at the position.

1. Fan House suggest that the Miami Dolphins will have a difficult time repeating in 2009 because they have a lot of questions: Can the offensive line hold up? Will there be WR-assistance for Ged Ginn? Can QB Chad Pennington repeat his resurgence performance? And, perhaps most damaging, the Fins face the toughest schedule based on 2008 opponents' winning percentage (the AFC South and NFC South, plus the Pittsburgh Steelers and San Diego Chargers). I would add that teams can prepare for a better Dolphins team (no under-estimating them next year) and some regression to the mean as they probably over-performed last season.


 
What I'm reading

1. Baseball previews, including Lindy's, Athlon Sports, and The Sporting News. Also, the USA Today Sports two-part preview and the Spring training preview issue of The Sporting News. Spring has sprung and life is good again.

2. "On the Political Economy of the Financial Crisis and Bailout of 2008," by Roger D. Congleton of the Center for Study of Public Choice at George Mason University.

3. "The Legion and the National Catholic Register," by Fr. Raymond J. de Souza at the Public Square, First Thing's blog.

4. "The Culture of Death & the Death of a Culture," by Michael Thomas Cibenko in the February issue of New Oxford Review.

5. "The No-Stats All-Star," an excellent but long article on Houston Rockets' forward Shane Battier by the excellent Michael Lewis in the weekend's New York Times Magazine.


Tuesday, February 17, 2009
 
Kinda gross

From the Daily Telegraph: "Indian grocer has world's longest ear hair."


 
I can't but help think that this is going to end badly

Family with six-year-old son befriends five-meter long python.



 
Better than an Aesop fable

AFP reports:

"A married Chinese tycoon who could no longer afford to support his five mistresses during the economic slowdown held a contest to decide which one to keep, local media reported Tuesday.

The contest took a tragic turn when one of the mistresses, who was eliminated based on her looks, drove her former lover and the four other women off a mountain road in an apparent fit of anger, the Shanghai Daily reported.

The driver died in the December 6 crash while the man and four other women were hospitalised, the report said."


 
Direct and to the point

Canadian Business editorial headlined: "Toronto sucks."


 
Tongue in cheek economics

Alex Tabarrok at Marginal Revolution:

"Mark Thoma makes fun of Judd Gregg for thinking that tax cuts pay for themselves. Mark is right to make fun. What a ridiculous thing to believe. All the good economists know that it is spending increases that more than pay for themselves."


Monday, February 16, 2009
 
Sign o' the times

Toronto Star headline: "NHL play-by-play in Punjabi scores big time."


 
China and free trade

The AP reports:

"China has promised to avoid 'Buy China' protectionist measures in its own multibillion-dollar stimulus effort, and appealed to other governments to support free trade."

Good, but ...

"Deputy Commerce Minister Jiang Zengwei said in early February that China would 'treat domestic and foreign goods equally so long as we need them'."

Still, Red China is slightly more rhetorically committed to free trade than America is right now.


Sunday, February 15, 2009
 
Pathetic

The Daily Mail reports:

"The father of the 13-year-old boy dubbed the ‘Babyfather’ yesterday paraded in a devil mask – as he became embroiled in a tawdry battle with his ex-wife to exploit the pitiful case.

The pair are understood to have both struck lucrative media deals, with the boy’s father boasting that he intends to make as much money as possible.

Alfie Patten’s relationship with 15-year-old Chantelle Steadman has prompted a political row about Britain’s moral collapse."


Just as the cover-up is often worse than the crime being covered up, so is the cashing in on scandal more scandalous than the tawdry behaviour.


 
Great satire

Iowahawk's fake news report on 'Mathematicians discover largest number':

"PALO ALTO, CA - An international mathematics research team announced today that they had discovered a new integer that surpasses any previously known value 'by a totally mindblowing shitload.' Project director Yujin Xiao of Stanford University said the theoretical number, dubbed a "stimulus," could lead to breakthroughs in fields as diverse as astrophysics, quantum mechanics, and Chicago asphalt contracting.

"Unlike previous large numbers like the Googleplex or the Bazillionty, the Stimulus has no static numerical definition," said Xiao. 'It keeps growing and growing, compounding factorially, eating up all zeros in its path. It moves freely across Cartesian dimensions and has the power to make any other number irrational.'

Jean-Luc Brossard, a researcher with the European consortium CERN, said the number is so staggeringly large that it is difficult for even mathematicians to grasp, let alone lay people."


Friday, February 13, 2009
 
'Arctic unicorns'

Incredible rare video of narwhals from the BBC.


 
Top 25 conservative movies of the past quarter century

NR's list, with explanations, is here. Andrew Stuttaford has an excellent critique here. I don't understand how Thank You for Smoking didn't make the list (other some strange animus against Christopher Buckley).


 
Cool things on YouTube (Ayn Rand edition)

Ayn Rand interview with Phil Donahue. (Do not read this as an endorsement of objectivism or an appreciation of Rand. It is, however, interesting.)

Part I (Rand mocks Jimmy Carter and admits liking Charlies' Angels)




Part II (Rand explains what she means by her opposition to altruism, which is horrifying when she describes why it is wrong to give assistance to people with physical or mental disabilities)




Part III (Rand and Donahue debate religion)




Part IV (Rand answering questions from the audience, including clarifying how she thinks individuals should live and later getting perturbed when someone disagrees with her)




Part V (More questions with answers on force, art, gratitude and the loss of her husband)




And lastly, a reading of Ayn Rand on racism.



Thursday, February 12, 2009
 
Everything I really need to know I learned in Grade 5

Andrea Mrozek at ProWomanProLife:

"Reminds me of grade five, when as part of learning about the political system, we had to organize an election. I ran for Prime Minister. I won by a substantial margin, after getting help from a lawyer-family friend who suggested I campaign on a ticket of extended recess/lunch hour and no uniforms. I might add, I was the Conservative candidate, making me not unlike our Conservative Prime Minister today–completely without principle or small-c conservative ideology, but really keen on winning."


 
Good politics & good economics

Russell Roberts at CafeHayek:

"Good politics requires action, constant proof that the politician is working tirelessly.

Good economics requires quiet consistency so people can plan for the future.

The times we live in are the greatest example in my lifetime of the tension between these two goals."


 
Three and out

3. Over at SI.com, Joe Posnanski argues in favour of getting rid of the character clause for Hall of Fame consideration. I'm not sure why Rogers Clemens or Barry Bonds or Mark McGwire using steroids is a disqualification but Gaylord Perry and Don Sutton scuffing balls is not. Cheating is cheating. And there is more to character than cheating. There are plenty of racists, womanizers and alcoholics in the Hall. Are those not a failure of character? Baseball players are paid to be baseball players, not role models. And it seems unjust to keep out Bond, Clemens, McGwire, Alex Rodriguez and others for using performance enhancing drugs when MLB turned a blind eye to steroid use for so long, if not actually encouraged it. And, as Posnanski says, it would be strange to go to Cooperstown with no Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds in 20 years and for them not to be in it?

2. OF Adam Dunn signs a 2-year, $20 million deal with the Washington Nationals. I don't think this deal makes sense, even though I really like Dunn as a player. Dunn is a model of consistency, hitting exactly 40 HRs in each of the past four years. He has an on-base percentage of 386-388 in four of the past five seasons. He has had between 265 and 293 total bases over the past four years. He has driven in between 100 and 106 batters in four of the past five seasons. He'll strike out a lot (averaging well over 160 strikeouts per full season) but he'll also walk a lot (reaching base on balls at least 101 times in every full season he has played). He isn't much in the outfield and his batting average is just below average, but the combination of power and on-base percentage would make Dunn a useful contributor to most contenders and near contender (especially, in order: Cleveland Indians, Tampa Bay Rays, Los Angeles Angels, Toronto Blue Jays, San Fransisco Giants, Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees); all them need a power-hitting corner outfielder more than the Nats. At the price ($10 million per season), he will be a good trade chit come the July 31 deadline. No doubt he is an improvement for the Nats, but they do have six players -- Dunn, 1B Nick Johnson, LF Josh Willingham, RF Austin Kearns, OF Elijah Dukes and OF Lastings Milledge -- for four positions (the outfield and first base). If Johnson is healthy, the Nats want to play Dunn in LF, displacing Willingham who they obtained from the Florida Marlins earlier this off-season. I always like when a team upgrades a position when they are a contender or close to contending, but Washington isn't such a team. The move doesn't make much sense unless they plan to trade one of their other outfielders.

1. The Los Angeles Angels signed RF Bobby Abreu to a 1-year, $5 million deal -- an absolute steal. Abreu is one of my favourite players -- and one of the most fun to watch; he enjoys playing the game and it shows. Pay close attention and you'll notice he almost never swings at the first pitch. (I've seen it once in the past three years.) Abreu has been as consistent as Dunn, but he appears to be declining. Since 1998, he has hit between 283-316 except 1999 (when he hit 335). From 1998-2006, he had only one season under 400 OBP (2001 when he had 393). John Heyman at SI.com notes: "Abreu is the only player in major-league history with 200 home runs, 300 stolen bases, a .400 on-base percentage and a .300 batting average (Barry Bonds and Rickey Henderson hit the first three marks but don't have the .300 career batting average)." But he is slipping; he had just 20 HRs in 2008 after 15 and 16 in 2007 and 2006 respectively, but he averaged 25 HRs per season over the previous six years. For the past four years he has slugged 25-50 points under his career average. Over the past two seasons, his on-base percentage was 35 points below his career average, mostly because he is taking fewer walks. The Angels got a guy who doesn't have much range in the outfield but an arm that is respected, good speed on the base paths, moderate but fading power, and a decent but waning bat. The one year commitment ensures that if his decline becomes steep, the Angels aren't stuck with a lousy player. Great move at a great price.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009
 
Posting will be light for a few days

I have a deadline for a book review (Shaun A. Casey's The Making of a Catholic President: Kennedy vs. Nixon 1960) coming up and another piece of writing I hope to finish before the weekend, so posting will be light for a few days.


 
What I'm reading

1. The Making of a Catholic President: Kennedy vs. Nixon 1960 by Shaun A. Casey.

2. "The Future of Pensions and Healthcare in a Rapidly Ageing World: Scenarios to 2030," by Bernd Jan Sikken, Nicholas Davis, Chiemi Hayashi and Heli olkkonen (World Economic Forum)

3. "War About Terror: Civil Liberties and National Security After 9/11," a Council for Foreign Relations Working Paper by Daniel B. Prieto

4. "The U.S. Government as Control Shareholder of the Financial and Automotive Sector: Implications and Analysis," by J.W. Verret (Mercator Center)

5. "Feed People First: How biofuels are contributing to global food shortages and price increases," by Edward R. Boyle (Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives)


 
Strange story

Bjorn Again, an Abba tribute band, is claiming that Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin paid 20,000 pounds for a private concert, but representatives of Putin deny the story and say he is more of a Beatles fan than Abba fan. Why make the story up, if you are Bjorn Again? Why deny it if is true? I don't buy that the expense is unacceptable at a time when Russians are dealing with economically difficult times.


 
Shaidle & Vere inspire Toronto Star reporter

Kathy Shaidle explains, the gist of which is after buying a copy of The Tyranny of Nice, John Goddard writes about the ridiculous HRC case of Ted Kindos. The fact is, if a reporter is willing to do a little work, there is a lot to cover in the Kindos story -- and with the human rights commission industry in general.


 
Rick McGinnis on TV

Showing why he is the best TV writer around and one of my favourite writers. Period.

Scroll down for his observations about television, distilled to this:

1) There never was a Golden Age of television
2) There's nothing wrong with reality TV
3) There is no such thing as reality TV

He explains why and it is worth grabbing a cup coffee (or glass of wine) and reading it through. (And then go back and read his last few posts on becoming unemployed courtesy The Big Brains that run The Metro.)

I have to disagree with McGinnis, though, that All in the Family doesn't hold up (although I agree about it being terribly preachy at times) and I second his opinion that the HBO series of today are superior television to anything the so-called Golden Age offered, especially (in my estimation) The Wire, the best use of television. Period.


Tuesday, February 10, 2009
 
What to do with 57,000 released prison inmates

The Los Angeles Times reports:

"A panel of three federal judges, saying overcrowding in state prisons has deprived inmates of their right to adequate healthcare, tentatively ruled Monday that the state must reduce the population in those lockups by as many as 57,000 people."

The state prison system was built for 84,000 inmates, but presently holds 158,000. The Times continues:

"If the state is ordered to reduce the prison population, it would likely be able to do so over two or three years, so it would not have to release large numbers of inmates at once. Some methods of cutting the population include limiting new admissions, changing policies so parole violators return to prison less frequently, and giving prisoners more time off of their sentences for good behavior and rehabilitation efforts.

The judges said these types of measures could save the state more than $900 million a year in prison costs, money that could be used by cities and counties to put those who otherwise would have gone to prison into local jails or treatment programs."


I think that the three judges should open their homes as a halfway house for up to 10 released prisoners at a time. And perhaps they could each pay room and board for another 20 to be hosted by their immediate neighbours. Just a suggestion.


 
Stick to basketball

Barack Obama was asked about Alex Rodriguez's use of performance enhancing drugs from 2001-2003. The president said, "If you’re a fan of Major League Baseball, I think it tarnishes an entire era to some degree." That would be the era of Mark McGwire, Barry Bonds and Raphael Palmeiro. Isn't it already tarnished to some degree? Hasn't MLB's Mitchell Report and Jose Canseco's books already done that? Is the president unaware of this recent history of baseball -- a history that all too often ends up on the front pages of the daily papers.


 
Paul Krugman on the Geithner rescue plan

From Paul Krugman's New York Times blog:

"An old joke from my younger days: What do you get when you cross a Godfather with a deconstructionist? Someone who makes you an offer you can’t understand.

I found myself remembering that joke when trying to make sense of the Geithner financial rescue plan. It’s really not clear what the plan means; there’s an interpretation that makes it not too bad, but it’s not clear if that’s the right interpretation."


 
Opinionweek

According to the New York Times, Newsweek isn't going to report on the news anymore. More opinion, less news -- which is perhaps less a significant shift than an admission. Says Newsweek editor, Jon Meacham:

"There’s a phrase in the culture, 'we need to take note of,' 'we need to weigh in on.' That’s going away. If we don’t have something original to say, we won’t. The drill of chasing the week’s news to add a couple of hard-fought new details is not sustainable."

So what are people going to have opinions on, if not the news? How will consumers of opinion news know if the views expressed are reliable if they do not have the raw information on which it is based?


 
The narcissism is astounding

Jonah Goldberg in The Corner:

"Perhaps Obama's most grating tic is his obsession with referencing things he's said before (sometimes even when he nevert said it in the first place). He almost talks like a blogger, referencing previous statements as if that in and of itself is an appeal to authority. I counted eight examples from last night:

* Now, what I said in Elkhart today is what I repeat this evening, which is, I'm absolutely confident that we can solve this problem, but it's going to require us to take some significant, important steps.

* I said during the campaign that Iran is a country that has extraordinary people, extraordinary history and traditions, but that its actions over many years now have been unhelpful when it comes to promoting peace and prosperity both in the region and around the world, that their attacks — or their — their financing of terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas, the bellicose language that they've used towards Israel, their development of a nuclear weapon or their pursuit of a nuclear weapon, that all those things create the possibility of destabilizing the region and are not only contrary to our interests, but I think are contrary to the interests of international peace.

* As I said, the one concern I've got on the stimulus package, in terms of the debate and listening to some of what's been said in Congress, is that there seems to be a set of folks who — I don't doubt their sincerity — who just believe that we should do nothing.

* But, as I said before, because of a lack of clarity and consistency in how it was applied, a lack of oversight in — in how the money went out, we didn't get as big of a bang for the buck as we should have.

* Now, you know, I don't have a crystal ball. And as I said, this is an unprecedented crisis.

* And as I said in my introductory remarks, not everything we do is going to work out exactly as we intended it to work out. You know, this is an unprecedented problem.

* Well, as I said before, Mara, I think that old habits are hard to break. And we're coming off an election, and I think people want to sort of test the limits of — of what they can get.

* And I think that there was an opportunity to do this with this recovery package, because, as I said, although there are some politicians who are arguing that we don't need a stimulus, there are very few economists who are making that argument."


 
Classy guy the Tories named a senator

The Toronto Star reports:

"Three times in the past five years, Prime Minister Stephen Harper's most controversial new Senate appointee fell behind in support payments for a son he has not spoken to in eight years – payments that totalled less than $100 per month.

Patrick Brazeau, the 34-year-old former aboriginal leader who was appointed to the Senate in December, missed one payment as recently as 11 months ago at a time when he was earning a six-figure income.

In an interview yesterday, he said he did not want to air any personal 'dirty laundry,' but he acknowledged he had been late on some payments and said he would consider larger monthly payments for the well-being of his 14-year-old son now that he was earning more than $130,000 as a senator."


The cutline in the story informs us, "Former aboriginal leader Patrick Brazeau briefly dated Dena Buckshot in 1993. They broke up soon after she discovered she was pregnant." And as the story reports, Brazeau, who was delinquent in paying a pittance in child support ($1200 a year?), could afford a Porsche SUV just three years ago.


 
9.7 trillion

Bloomberg reports:

"The stimulus package the U.S. Congress is completing would raise the government’s commitment to solving the financial crisis to $9.7 trillion, enough to pay off more than 90 percent of the nation’s home mortgages.

The Federal Reserve, Treasury Department and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation have lent or spent almost $3 trillion over the past two years and pledged up to $5.7 trillion more. The Senate is to vote this week on an economic-stimulus measure of at least $780 billion. It would need to be reconciled with an $819 billion plan the House approved last month.

Only the stimulus bill to be approved this week, the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program passed four months ago and $168 billion in tax cuts and rebates enacted in 2008 have been voted on by lawmakers. The remaining $8 trillion is in lending programs and guarantees, almost all under the Fed and FDIC. Recipients’ names have not been disclosed."


All of a sudden $819 billion doesn't seem like that much.


 
Cool things on YouTube

Neat trick putting (I'm hoping there aren't any camera tricks to these)




Commercial for the LA County fair




Social Distortion's cover of Under my Thumb (warning: swearing)



Monday, February 09, 2009
 
I take the pro-abortion harassment of pro-lifers as a good sign

If those who support the 'right to choose' had any confidence in their position, would they resort to having pro-life student demonstrators arrested or yelling down pro-life speakers? I don't think so. Rather, their puerile displays are the dying gasp of an intellectually and morally bankrupt position.

When Jose Ruba, co-founder of the pro-life Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform visited Saint Mary's University in Nova Scotia last week to talk about abortion, pro-aborts interrupted his speech less than a minute into his presentation. The pro-abortion side chanted, "Not the church, not the state, women must decide their fate!";"Pro-life men have got to go, when you get pregnant let us know!"; "No hate speech in our school!" How original. How persuasive. I am tempted to retort "Pro-abortion people have got to, when you are about to aborted let us know." But that would be equally childish; real argumentation cannot be reduced to slogans, whether chanted or written on a placard. (This goes to for the pro-lifers, too, who reduce serious discourse about the biological facts of the humanity of the unborn and the philosophical arguments about what is a person and who should be accorded legal protection to the slogan "it's a baby not a choice." But I digress.)

Just as the pro-life movement was seen in a negative light in the age of Operation Rescue when some pro-lifers were viewed as bullying for shouting at abortion clinic staffers and the women that entered the facilities, so too should abortion supporters who yell down a pro-life talk be seen as bullies -- as are the student unions and school administrations that seek to severely restrict the activities of pro-life students. Indeed, if abortion-supporting school administrations and student unions were smart, they'd stop bringing attention to pro-life activism by banning it and they'd stop making pro-life students sympathetic victims and free speech advocates. But when you're losing the argument, you become desperate and stupid.


 
Interesting

The Canadian Press reports that the Action democratique du Quebec is interested in having former federal cabinet minister and current MP Maxime Bernier run for the leadership of the provincial party. Bernier says he is flattered but no thanks.

I'm not sure why someone of allegedly libertarian credentials would want to stay in Ottawa and be part of the governing party that is scheduled to deliver $90 billion in new debt over the next five years. But Bernier also strikes me as sort of lazy and uninterested in building up a provincial party, even if he could infuse it with small government principles.

Like I said interesting. Too bad that nothing will come of it.


 
Senators against protectionism

Greg Mankiw has the list of the senators who opposed the 'Buy American' provision of the stimulus package and it is notable that only one is not a Republican (independent Joe Lieberman). This doesn't bode well for the near future for America's economy -- and the rest of the world's.