Thursday, 20 December 2012

"Up in the Air," Professional Baseball Edition

Embedded image permalink
Don't Know if George Clooney is
"Attached to the Project" as Yet

ESPN is reporting that journeyman pitcher Edwin Jackson has signed to pitch for the Chicago Cubs in 2012, after agreeing to a four year, $52 million deal. The move means that Jackson will be pitching for his eighth team in 10 years (and ninth, if you count his fifteen minutes on the Toronto roster).

That's a lot of airline miles.  Rick Nelson was less of a travelling man.

A couple of thoughts.

  • This generation may have found its own Mike Morgan, who played for a baker's dozen in his 20 year career, one of them being the Cubs
  • Will Jackson, with his four year deal, know what to do if he's not packing up and moving in November?
  • Edwin will be wearing a new uniform this spring for the fifth straight year.  THAT is impressive.  It's not as impressive as Dave Kingman playing for four teams in one season, or Joel Youngblood, playing  for two teams on the same day, but not bad.
  • I'm in the wrong racket.  In a single season, Jackson will make $13 million.  "Mediocre" is one of many words to describe his performance to get that payday. Lifetime, the guy is 70-71, with a 4.40 ERA.  Last year, pitching for a playoff team (Washington), he went 10-11.  C'est la vie.
  • I feel better that the Blue Jays shelled out $25 million for R.A. Dickey, a mere $12.5 per season.  Dickey won the Cy Young last year...

Say Wha? Nero Continues to Fiddle in Sacramento

California Treasurer Bill Lockyer Calls the Tunes

Just checking in to see the latest foolishness on the soi-disant "fiscal cliff" (TM) at Yahoo Finance, and I came across this little tid-bit.

Bill Lockyer, the current treasurer for the economically sinking state of California has "warned" various i-banks (Credit Suisse, Black Rock) that he would use his power to push the state's two largest public pension funds to "get out of guns," whatever that means.

Now, aside from the irony of a thoroughly bankrupt state employing a political goon like Lockyer to be the "treasurer" of a vault full of IOUs, I marvel at the apparent lack of awareness of a man whose job ostensibly overseeing CALPERS is to provide for the old age pensions of public employees, not to moralize about investment in legal corporations selling legal products.

If I were a school teacher, housing inspector, or clock puncher at Cal Trans, I would be less than thrilled that this guy is not thinking of my best interest when making investment choices.  I might even think of filing an action of fiduciary conflict.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The New Math (Reloaded)

"It's the new math.  New-ew-ew math.
 It won't do you a bit of good to re-view math.

 It's so simple; so very simple.
 That only a child can do it."

                      -- Tom Lehrer

Ah; the Christmas season.  The tree is trimmed.  The presents are mostly wrapped.  Wassailing is mostly done.  The new year is around the corner.  And the fiscal cliff approaches.

Well; that's not -all- true.  Who goes wassailing anymore?  And what is it, anyways?
But oh, the fiscal cliff; truly, the most wonderful time of the year.

I read today on the financial blogs that the House speaker John Boehner has not presented a "Plan B" to the president, including tax rises on families making $1 million and more.  Taxes on "the rich" will go up, apparently.  Hell, the plan was one floated by Nancy Pelosi last year.

So of course, we've got a deal, right?  The president immediately accepted, and the two then really did dash out to go wassailing.

Well, not quite.

The recalcitrant president has indicated that he would veto such a plan, despite talking ad nauseum for the past 18 months about the need to raise taxes on "millionaires and billionaires."  

Now that such a tax is in front of him, he flatly turns it down?

Because, apparently, there are not enough (or any?) 'cuts' in Boehner's plan.

You read that right.  A DEMOCRATIC president refuses a REPUBLICAN proposal to raise taxes on millionaires because it doesn't have enough CUTS to spending.

We're really through the looking glass, aren't we?

But as nutty as all of that is, the best part is that White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer opined that the two sides were "only a few hundred billion apart," with hope a deal could be reached.

So, in Washington DC, where a millionaire is not a millionaire, now a few hundred billion dollars is now a trivial difference.

We're doomed.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Madness, by Any Other Name

Gun Control: When Is Enough Enough?

A weekend has now passed between us and the horrific shooting in Newtown, CT.  The images of crying, shaken young children will not soon be forgotten.  And the thought of little five and six year old, lifeless children with unopened Christmas presents and named stockings forever awaiting a return that will not come, spending the weekend pending crime scene investigations to be completed is too terrible a thought to consider.

Predictably, the discussion has turned to what to do about this.

I would self-identify as a pretty far-to-the-right conservative.  Not a libertarian, per se, but in that general ZIP code.  And I have to say, listening to my political fellow-travellers talking about this, and in particular, the possibility that we may finally, FINALLY get some sort of sane gun control policy is a journey into madness.

For a start, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee opened the bidding with the comment that this is all due to the fact that Americans have "systematically removed God from our schools."


And National Review have multiple articles arguing that gun control is not a part of the solution.  Indeed, that having gun-free zones actually contributes to the problem.  You see, their logic goes, it would all have been OK if the principal, or the teachers, or maybe a parent dropping of her kids at the kindergarten had been carrying a gun.

It's madness.

For a start, the idea that putting in place limits to the type and/or number of firearms is equivalent to wanting to "ban guns" is not just madness; it's stupidity.  Someone suggested to me that there is "no difference" between ownership of a single-shot hunting rifle, a revolver, a Bushmaster, or a trebuchet (??!!??).


I can see a BIG difference.  A numerical difference.  As in, the number of bodies that will result.

Also, what sort of "hunting" does one propose to do with a military-grade weapon?

At a more reasonable argument from NRO, the suggestion is made that we as Americans have an inalienable right to armaments, and that the Constitution (and amendments) are there not to spell out what our rights are, but what the limitations on our government are.  And the Second Amendment clearly states that our right to keep and bear arms shall not be abridged.  Thus, their argument goes, God himself has granted people the right to arm themselves with whatever weapon they choose.


The Second Amendment states that we have a God given right (or, natural right, if you prefer) to keep and bear arms to defend ourselves and our liberties.  That is a FAR cry from arguing that God in His wisdom has decided that we all may arm ourselves to whatever level we want, with absolutely no restriction.

How many of such "conservatives" would argue we have the right to bazookas, or artillery pieces, or perhaps a nuclear-tipped warhead?

And while we are at it, if God has given us the right to pack whatever weaponry we wish, then how does the government have the power to remove such a "right" from mentally ill people?  Or criminals?

I've actually heard some people claim that we "need" these weapons in case our government gets too tyrannical, so that we may rise up against it.


Who in his right mind thinks that a disorganised band of delusional buffoons are going to be able to over-throw the government, with its tanks, planes, helicopters, artillery pieces?  "Red Dawn" was a movie, folks.  And a not-well-made one.

The point is, sensible people understand that we need to balance the "rights" (and more accurately, the desires) of one individual against the rights of others.

The Republicans are just dead wrong on this.  Yes, we need to take steps to reduce the toxicity of the sewage culture - with its phony machismo, out-sized sense of "respect" that is frankly narcissistic, and plain glorification of violence.  Yes, we need parents to be parents.  We need to make sure that mentally ill people have the resources and equally, avail themselves of those resources.

But I'm sorry.  Pretending that bromides about how "guns don't kill people, people kill people," or clinging to fantasies that these yahoos are somehow keeping an otherwise tyrannical government in check is killing people.

The Democrats are right on this one.

We NEED to look at serious gun control.


Friday, 14 December 2012

And the Band Plays On

Last night, I got cross at my seven year old son.  It's not an infrequent occurrence, usually a pretty minor crime like ignoring (repeated) requests to put away a toy, or focus on his math homework.  Last night, it was an all-too-typical infraction: during dinner, he just would not sit in his chair properly, and thus spilled some of his cake on the table.  I angrily asked him, "what is wrong with you?  Why can't you sit in a chair properly, like the rest of the human race."


Today, I am confronted with a terrible story; truly, an awful, horrible and tragic event.  Not all of the details are yet known, but as of right now, it appears that a 20 year old man has gone into an elementary school in Newtown, CT, and killed 27 people.  18 of them are children, ages between 5 and 10.  No "reason" is given, though comments are that the 'gunman' had some connection to the school, and it is presumed was upset about something there.

Daily, our news contains typically awful stories of mayhem and violence.  A few days ago, another 'gunman' went into a shopping mall in suburban Oregon and opened fire.  Gun (and other) violence are all too familiar.

I seldom feel affected by the news - usually, I read the story, chalk it up to the crude, brutish nature of the human race, and move on.

But there is something about this story that I find affects me unlike other stories have.

I don't say (or write) this very often, but the emerging narrative from Newtown, CT has actually, literally, left me feeling stunned and shaken.  There is an overwhelming, and awful, feeling of anger and sadness that I'm struggling to control.

I really don't know exactly what to say, or think.  Is it because I have a small child of about the same age?  The time of year (Christmas holidays)?  Maybe the oncoming cold that has left me a bit off to begin with, or the Tylenol Multi-Symptom cold remedy?

It's all too easy to try to just get mad and talk about how the killer is crazy, or that guns are too easy to get, or that our national culture is a sewer of nihilism and violence.

All of these are true, no doubt.

But still.  27 people have been murdered.  18 of them are less than 10 years of age.  Why?

My son probably will tonight, again, fail to sit properly in his chair at the table.  But he also will be able to sleep in his own warm, safe bed.