Friday, December 11, 2009

Sure, he cost $130m, but he's really, really good

German study reaches not entirely shocking conclusion:

The study indicates that, in his boots, Cristiano Ronaldo is the fastest elite player in the world, reaching an average speed of 33.6 kilometres per hour (20.88 mph), a quality he uses to full effect by blowing past defenders.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Thursday, September 03, 2009

No wingnut grievance is too small or ridiculous for the Obama White House

Shoot me in the face:

The Department of Education has now changed their supplementary materials on President Obama's upcoming address to schoolchildren on the importance of education -- eliminating a phrase that some conservatives, such as the Florida GOP, happened to have been bashing as evidence of socialist indoctrination in our schools.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Breaking: Man paid by oil companies says no rush on alternative fuels

I'll take incredibly unpersuasive and irresponsible op-eds for $1,000 please, Alex.

I wish the New York Times elaborated a bit on "energy consultant" as this Michael Lynch guy's title. He's not an MIT professor whom policy-makers consult on energy matters, he's a professional consultant to energy companies.

I'm not a hardcore "peak oil" guy, and I was hoping to be reassured by this flack's arguments against it, but they're laughably thin. Basically, technological wizardry is going to come up with a way to cost-effectively access the unconventional oil plays that producers have had to resort to, so $30 a barrel oil will be back to stay soon. Not buying it.

The last graf makes abundantly clear what this guy's motives are, too. Rather than focusing on his theoretical point (i.e. Peak oil is bunk), he tells us the country can't afford any more alternative energy "schemes," what with the recession and all:

This is not to say that we shouldn’t keep looking for other cost-effective, low-pollution energy sources — why not broaden our options? But we can’t let the false threat of disappearing oil lead the government to throw money away on harebrained renewable energy schemes or impose unnecessary and expensive conservation measures on a public already struggling through tough economic times.

Oh he's an "energy consultant," all right. The API pays good money for credentialed academics to write stuff like this.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Run, Michele, Run

Michele Bachmann is not ruling out a run for governor of Minnesota. I sure hope she does it, and then runs for president. The more profile the better, I say.

As unpopular as he was/is, Dick Cheney had I thought an uncanny ability to make totally crazy ideas seem like just what all commonsense, God-fearing Americans believed. But with Bachmann the alien at the controls is way visible. There might as well be antennae coming up from the back of her head.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Jerry Manuel knows the deal

From Bart Hubbuch:

When asked if he would stress fundamentals in spring training next year, Jerry Manuel laughed and said: "If I'm still here ..." #Mets

I don't think Manuel is much of a manager, so I'm not exactly rooting for him to keep his job, but he's pretty appealing personally.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Stop hitting Wright 5th

Speaking of Manuel, I completely agree with JamesK:

Wright leads the league in on-base percentage and is batting in a lineup spot that will end up with ~50 fewer plate appearances than the 2 spot over the course of a season. I don't want to hear nonsense about how Wright has better numbers in the 5 spot, or how he changes his approach when batting in other places in the order. Bat him 3rd, 2nd, or heck even 1st. Just not 5th.

Bobby V is huuge in Chiba

Former Mets manager Bobby Valentine, whom I always liked, is downright beloved by fans of the Chiba Lotte Marines, the Japanese team he's managed for years (with a championship in 2005). They got 100,000 signatures on a petition to the team to retain his services, which requires about 15,000 more people than voted for Terry McAuliffe in the Virginia gubernatorial primary.

Fans in the right field seats at Chiba Marine Stadium wear T-shirts saying “Bobby 2010” and wave huge signs with slogans like “No Bobby, No Marines,” and “Always Behind Bobby.”

I wish I had that kind of appreciation for Jerry Manuel.


"[W]hatever dividing line there was between mainstream conservatism and the black-helicopter crowd seems to have been virtually erased."

Read the whole thing.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Ed Whitacre is the new chairman of GM?

Pretty shocked by the news that Ed Whitacre is being allowed to run GM. And it's not because he said he doesn't "know anything about cars," which is the hook of HuffPo's 108pt (I mean enough already) headline. Whitacre is right that at the highest levels executive competence doesn't require any detailed knowledge of the actual product or service a given company sells.

But Ed Whitacre is also the guy who helped the Bush administration do their illegal spying and then, when he was called before Congress to answer questions about said cooperation, basically told Congress to go fuck itself. I can't find the video, unfortunately. It's really chilling. One of the most memorable moments of the Bush era, for me. The CEO of a huge telco, before Congress, acting like nothing was going to come of this "massive illegal wiretapping" business. And of course he was proven right.

In lieu of video, here's the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

A Senate hearing Thursday intended to explore the consumer impact of a proposed AT&T-BellSouth merger instead turned into a contentious face-off over phone privacy.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) asked AT&T Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Ed Whitacre whether his company had turned over phone records to any law enforcement agency. The question stemmed from his concerns about a report last month in the newspaper USA Today involving the National Security Agency's use of phone records.

"The privacy of our customers is utmost [in importance] and we follow the law," Whitacre replied.

The senator repeatedly asked for a fuller explanation, but Whitacre only said again and again that "we follow the law."

Specter, appearing increasingly impatient, said, "I think that answer is contemptuous of this committee."

Suggesting more hearings would follow, he told Whitacre, "you and I will talk about this further."

Ooooooh, scary. And now this tan golem of unaccountable corporate power is the chairman of GM, which is largely government-owned. Perfect. And let this be a lesson to those who would cross Arlen Specter!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Get 'im

Barney Frank on the transparent hackery of Arlen Specter, converted Democrat:

But as an elected official, I have to say I don't think he did our profession any good. First of all, to announce that it was done purely so he could survive. Secondly, his performance since then has been very disappointing. In particular, what troubled me was when he was quoted as saying, "Well..." In terms of no Jewish Republicans, the answer should have been, Who cares? That's not a relevant issue. But then, when he said, Oh, but I'm confident the courts in Minnesota will do justice to Norm Coleman, and then said, Oh, I forgot which side I'm on!--forget about forgetting which side he's on. What that says is, his view of what the law should be depends on what party he's in. This notion that your view of what's an appropriate legal decision depends on your party is shocking for a guy who's supposed to be this great lawyer.


Worst headline of the day

"Surgery has Favre closer to unretiring?"

If Brett Favre really makes another comeback, the doctor who performed that surgery should go down next to Samuel Mudd as one of history's least responsible MDs. I don't know what he could have been thinking, but he surely isn't a sports fan because every sports fan on the planet is sick to death of Brett Favre comeback and Brett Favre comeback speculation stories. Everyone wants him to go away.

He's done. It's over. NFL teams need to not make inquiries about him. If baseball teams can let Barry Bonds stay retired, even though he'd probably be one of the AL's better designated hitters the moment he signed, then football teams can damn well stop poking Brett Favre's surgically enhanced corpse.

Snarlin' Arlen gets transactional

Arlen Specter to Pennsylvania unions: "I swear to God I was just kidding about being a Republican."

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Tom Glavine not happy about getting cut

So old Tom Glavine, after getting his 43 year-old bag of bones in good enough condition to pitch pretty effectively in his rehab starts, was unceremoniously released by the Atlanta Braves, the same team that employed him for the vast majority of his Hall of Fame career. With a young Tommy (Hanson) ready to join the big league rotation, there was no room for the old Tommy.

Rob Neyer doesn't blame Glavine for being upset at the release. Neither do I, since it seems there's nothing he could have done to avoid it, yet the Braves strung him along. But I also agree with Neyer that he probably doesn't have a leg to stand on, legally.

One thing I'd add: The Braves should have absolutely seen a grievance/lawsuit coming. Tom Glavine is the wrong guy to pull any kind of shenanigans with, having been heavily involved with the player's union for as long as I can remember. So it's not implausible that the labor/management struggle is what's really driving him here rather than an extra $1 million in career earnings.

... or maybe he's not thrilled with the Braves official story (i.e. that he's throwing batting practice), and convinced himself that it was financial considerations alone that made them go with the newer models.

Saturday, June 06, 2009

That doesn't sound good

The Onion is not impressed with the new Dave Matthews Band album:

Big Whiskey is arguably the band’s heaviest record to date; regrettably, DMB’s approximation of “heavy” translates to more electric guitar where there were once acoustic doodles, and an unhinged Matthews hollering “I want to believe in Jesus!” over generic guitar-and-drums squall.

They're both right!

Carlos Beltran: "The reality of this is coming here to Pittsburgh and getting swept, me, I feel embarrassed."

Pittsburgh Pirate Adam LaRoche on Beltran's comment: "I think it shows zero class and zero professionalism."

Personally I don't have a problem with Beltran saying what he said. I like an athlete who's not afraid to provide some real talk, and the Pirates are by any fair-minded assessment a very bad team that a prospective world champion should be embarrassed to get swept by.

But it remains very insulting to say as much, and you can't expect the Pirates to appreciate it. And note how LaRoche shrewdly declines to refute Beltran's premise (i.e. that the Pirates suck), and instead makes it a character issue. "Class" is a very big term in sports media. It's the central, catch-all term for all personal, non playing-related virtues: kindness, generosity, not committing sexual assault, etc.

So that's what LaRoche had to hit back with, and hit back he did. Good for him. And it's a shot that will probably get more traction for the fact that Beltran-bashing is surprisingly en vogue these days. Idiots like Steve Phillips were already arguing that Beltran is woefully short on intangibles. They might not have thought to take the Pirates comment as "clubhouse cancer" fodder but thanks to LaRoche they probably will now.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

"Tribal justice"

Back when Pat Buchanan was using his endowed chair on MSNBC to attack the Bush administration on Iraq, it was tempting to forget that he's super-duper racist.

It's almost like he knows what he's doing

Politico on Obama's nomination of Republican Jack McHugh for Army secretary:

Yet [besides McHugh being a good pick on the merits] it’s also hard to find a choice better calibrated to meet the Obama administration’s political imperatives. All at once, Obama has selected a nominee who burnishes his bipartisan credentials, opened up a seat prime for Democratic pickup and drained the GOP reservoir of one of the few remaining Northeastern moderates.

McHugh is pictured between his fellow Vichy Republicans, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and future ambassador to China Jon Huntsman. I just hope the opposition will have actually been coopted to some great effect in terms of legislative achievements, and not just to make the '12 election a Bloomberg '09-style formality.


Monday, June 01, 2009

There's no crying in activist investing

I've been a big Bill Ackman fan over the years. Made a lot of great calls. Put on a great show on Charlie Rose. So I'm trying to figure out some way to find it okay that at the Target annual meeting, after getting pulverized in his proxy fight with the board, he actually cried a little bit. But I can't. I don't care how much value his strategy would have unlocked, it's disappointing.

Ohmigawd I hadn't even gotten to the part where he responds to Joe Nocera (who reported the tearing-up) with a letter running 5,000 words! Bill, come back to us!

Update 2:
Words 13-18 out of 5,000 are "I also have a thick skin..."

Found a problem with Bing

Microsoft has a new search app called Bing which is getting good reviews. But I found a pretty glaring flaw about two minutes into fiddling around with it:

In video search results, when you mouse-over a video thumbnail, it starts to play, with a mute/unmute toggle. If you turn the audio off and mouse-over some other thumbnail that looks more interesting, and decide it is, when you try to unmute that video you're turning on the audio from both of the videos that are playing. Who wants to hear multiple videos at the same time?

Phoenix - "Lisztomania"

Sunday, May 31, 2009

In fairness to these particular cro-magnons...

Watertiger finds a comment from the "cro-magnons at Red State" with the headline "Killing Tiller was the ethical thing to do". The argument is exactly what one would expect: abortion = murder, therefore his death will prevent more murders.

Now Watertiger probably threw up in her mouth when she (I'm pretty sure it's a she) read this great conservative thinker compare Tiller's assassin to Rosa Parks, but that really is a logical analogy within the "pro-life" worldview. I would rather the implications of that worldview be out in the open for everyone to be revolted by than hidden behind milquetoast hand-wringing Ross Douthat bullshit.


I know this sounds dreadfully shrill, and that the U.S. government has done lots of nasty things, etc., but there hasn't been nearly the "owning up" to what is going on here that there should have been:

There are, admittedly, people currently in U.S. custody who can't be prosecuted for past crimes because the Bush administration made such a mess of things — detaining them without counsel or trial, torturing them, and so forth. Under a just system of laws, they would have to be released even if they are a likely threat, but Barack Obama doesn't believe in the principle of law enough to do that. Instead, he intends to construct a "system" or "legal regime" in which preventative detention becomes a standard for people who can't be tried but who are suspected of being a threat some time in the future — in effect, a "legal regime" of "precrime" where people are imprisoned for crimes they haven't committed yet.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Jeffrey Rosen can suck it

Obama nominates Sonia Sotomayor to Supreme Court. This is of course a great moment for liberals, women, hispanics, and anyone who likes to see The New Republic get embarrassed.

The confirmation hearings should be fun. Get to watch the Republicans on the Judiciary Committee as they come up with as many ways as they can to accuse her of deciding cases based on her womanly feelings.

Scott Lemieux just posted this video of Pamela Karlan, whom he was holding out hope for. I can see why!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

No longer pro-America?

I remember when it used to bother the wingnuts when Middle Eastern countries would defy the wishes of the U.S. president:

Blowing off a U.S. President is not an easy thing for an Israeli government to do. The Netanyahu government deserves credit for doing just that, so far.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Nickname history

Some folks hate the nickname "K-Rod" for Francisco Rodriguez. It sounds pretty corny to me too. It's a relic of the "first initial, hyphen, first syllable of surname" format that started really going viral in the early '00s.

Of course, "K" is not Francisco's first initial. But the reason it was used instead of "F" is not just because he K's a lot of batters. It's because when he came up there was already an F-Rod. Felix Rodriguez was a dominating setup man and later closer for the San Francisco Giants. I'm sure if it hadn't been for him Frankie would be F-Rod.

Maybe Simon et al would find that just as annoying, but I wouldn't want this important historical context to go un-added.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Steve Phillips doesn't know what he's talking about

I can't believe the Mets ever let this clown run the team:

If the Mets don't make the playoffs, I firmly believe they need to reconfigure the core of this team. While Beltran does have talent, I just don't see him as a winning player. Even after my comments on Sunday night, Beltran let a fly ball drop in between himself and Angel Pagan in the Dodger game. I see him putting up numbers but not making plays to win games. I would take Torii Hunter, Grady Sizemore, Curtis Granderson, and Nate McLouth over Beltran, and use the financial difference to improve the team in other ways. Beltran isn't a $17 million dollar a year player. He just doesn't have the kind of impact for that kind of money.

Hey Steve-o, if I were responsible for the Mo Vaughn signing I would keep my mouth shut about the ephemeral "winning" quality that Carlos Beltran supposedly lacks. And if the Mets don't win, your solution is to get rid of the best players? Think for a minute about how stupid that makes you.

h/t Amazin' Avenue

Hysterical Cheney-fluffing from Mittens

The Romney-tron 2012 is not programmed for shame:

Vice President Cheney has been the target of every media [sic], from mainstream to comic. But he spoke today as before without regard to the politics but with abiding respect for the truth. Barack Obama is still hanging on to the campaign trail. He said that the last thing he thinks about when he goes to sleep at night is keeping America safe. That's a big difference with Vice President Cheney—when it came to protecting Americans, he never went to sleep.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

When video game metaphors go wrong

The Daily News has a decidedly unflattering piece on Eliot Spitzer. Newly released records confirm that when former governor Spitzer was being investigated for the Troopergate scandal, he wasn't at all happy about it. Towards the end he's quoted calling the Inspector General "one more little Pac-Man participating in this fishing expedition."

Now, the investigator-as-fisherman metaphor is tried and true and probably goes back millenia, because it makes sense. It suggests that what the investigator is looking for (i.e. incriminating evidence) will be difficult to find, and that even if he is able to produce any at all, it will only have been thanks to his strenuous effort and dumb luck, rather than because such evidence was abundant.

But investigator-as-Pac-Man? To me that sounds like a guilty man who knows he's been caught. Does Pac-Man have speculate as to the existence or whereabouts of white dots? Does Pac-Man have to blackmail a green dot into passing itself off as a white dot so he can get points for it? No. Pac-Man is completely surrounded by the white dots he craves. He can run free in any direction and stuff himself with dots until he runs out of real estate, then hang a left and gobble up some more. It's just a question of route optimization. He's not on some fool's errand for some "alleged" dots that he's only looking for because he wants to embarrass Eliot Spitzer.


Tuesday, May 19, 2009

InstaKaus worries about U.S. Attorney politicization

Kaus P.S.s:

Will Obama rescue John Edwards by replacing the U.S. Attorney who is investigating him? ... If he does, will Josh Marshall kick up a fuss about it? ... [Thanks to alert reader R.H. ... See also Insta]

When you hold your nose and see also "Insta" you get an excerpt from the same story and the rhetorical question:

If Republicans were doing this, would it be a scandal?

Of course, what's actually being done is... very little. Nothing, in fact. Not only has the U.S. attorney in question not been fired, to protect John Edwards or for any other reason, but the only reason to think he will be soon is because U.S. attorneys are frequently replaced when a new administration takes over. In fact the story notes that by historical standards Obama has been taking his sweet time replacing the Bush-appointed USAs, including this guy Holding who continues to investigate two high profile Democrats.

The News Observer ran with the headline "Democrats fix sights on GOP prosecutor" without any actual evidence that they are doing so (i.e. singling out this particular USA for removal). They mention that junior senator Kay Hagan has been tasked with finding a replacement for Holding, and imply that she has Democratic sympathies, but there's literally nothing connecting any part of the U.S. Attorney process to the investigations of John Edwards or former governor Mike Easley.

Don't get me wrong, if an analogous situation arose in which it became clear that the Obama administration were axing U.S. attorneys for prosecuting Democrats or not prosecuting Republicans, as the Bush administration did, that would be very bad. It's just that as far as we know it hasn't, um, happened yet.

Annals of improbable claims

No way was Karen Hughes "very vocal in the internal debate [about torture]," nor did she openly worry "about how that would make us look in the eyes of the world." I just don't buy it. Sorry. Her eyes would go all spirally when she was flacking for W. Unless she can produce a memo like Philip Zelikow I will remain unable to imagine her speaking truth to power back in the salad days of the GWOT.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Obama disposes of Huntsman threat

Jon Huntsman, who as the rare more-or-less-sane Republican was seen as a potentially formidable 2012 challenger, will resign as governor of Utah and become Obama's ambassador to China.

In light of this, I'm wondering what the GOP ticket in 2012 is going to look like. My prediction: Crazy and extremely unlikely to win.


Friday, May 15, 2009

From the Daily Show to the WH Briefing Room

The absurdity of Obama's positions on the torture photos (He wants to conceal them because their publication might endanger the troops) and Don't Ask Don't Tell (He's okay with qualified Arabic translators getting fired because they're openly gay) hadn't struck me until Jon Stewart and his British sidekick did this bit on it last night:

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
Dan Choi Is Gay
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Economic CrisisPolitical Humor

Then today, Robert Gibbs gets the following line of questioning at the daily briefing:

Q: Well, the President says that releasing the detainee photos poses a danger to our troops, but doesn’t dismissing otherwise qualified soldiers also pose a danger? Is it a question of degree?

MR. GIBBS: No, no. What I talked about in terms of “don’t ask, don’t tell” was the President—the President, as you know, supports changing that because he strongly believes that it does not serve our national interest. He agrees with former members of the Joint Chiefs in that determination.

But unlike photos, the only durable solution to “don’t ask, don’t tell” is through a legislative process, and the President is working with Congress and members of the Joint Chiefs to ensure that that happens.

Q: But couldn’t he in the meantime put a moratorium on these discharges until that can be accomplished?

MR. GIBBS: But again, the President has determined that that’s not—that’s not the way to seek any sort of lasting or durable solution to the public policy problem that we have.

Q: Then how would you respond to the criticism, though, that dismissing a qualified linguist endangers the troops?

MR. GIBBS: I think I would respond by saying that the President has long believed that the policy doesn’t serve our national interest.


Monday, May 11, 2009

Get over yourself

Behold as Marc Ambinder takes the White House Correspondents dinner, and his own role as its interpreter, more seriously than you can possibly imagine:

I thought the rest of Sykes' routine was quite funny and well thought-out, a mixture of her own modern Carlin-esque form and enough insider references to show us that she did her homework and took her assignment seriously.

Recapitulating all of this is necessary because the post-mortems inevitably become part of our partisan heritage.

Outrageous liberal journalists chose an outrageous liberal who shared their views and who CLEARLY LAUGHED at her libelous joke about Rush Limbaugh... and see, see, see the President smirking? See how coarse Obama has made our political culture? Etc. Etc.

I cringed at least once during each of these short paragraphs, and it's a long post. The patting Wanda Sykes on the head for "doing her homework" was, for me, the most eye-popping.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Mets beat Phillies for their 4th straight

Having found the Mets' season more than a little frustrating to this point, I enjoyed seeing our best hitters tee off on poor old Jamie Moyer. It did get a little close at the end there after the Jayson Werth (I learned via Twitter that the chant I couldn't quite identify on TV but saw was making Reyes laugh was "Jay-son Worth-less") two-run home run, but Frankie shut the door like he's supposed to.

As nice as it is to be back above .500, the state of the rotation is still such that I'm actually looking forward to the return of Tim Redding. That's something I never wanted to write.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Mayor Bloomberg on bongos

If this doesn't scare Weiner out of the race, I don't know what will.


Greinke looking like Pedro in his prime

Orel Hershiser makes a comparison that had occured to me, looking at Zack Greinke's early season line:

6-0, 45.0 IP, 2 ER, 8 BB, 54 K, 0 HR, 0.40 ERA

Pretty exciting. I had been a big believer when he first came up at an extremely young age. Then he became mentally ill and, possibly as a result, awful. Having come back from that, his 2008 was quite good but still not good enough to suggest he'd suddenly become untouchable. Yet that is what seems to have happened.

Gonna make Atrios's head explode

The opening to the New York Times article on $33.9 billion being necessary to keep Bank of America solvent:

Executives sparred with the government over the amount, which is higher than executives believed the bank needed. But J. Steele Alphin, the bank’s chief administrative officer, said Bank of America would have plenty of options to raise the capital on its own before it would have to convert any of taxpayer money into common stock, a move that would effectively increase the government’s holdings in the troubled bank.

We’re not happy about it because it’s still a big number,” Mr. Alphin said. “We think it should be a bit less at the end of the day.”

This idea that the government is forcing capital down the throats of the bankers is totally nuts. The financial institutions these people are running are bankrupt. However, they are pretending otherwise because bankruptcy involves wiping out common shareholders and replacing management (whose stock and options would also be made worthless).

That even the New York Times, whose coverage rarely dabbles in pro-banker spin, includes the quote from the poor widdle bank who has to accept $34 billion in capital (for which the government will probably pay an above-market price) I can only attribute to CNBC's dominance of business media.

The government is funneling huge amounts of money into these institutions, but their executives, stockholders and bondholders want it/us to do it without getting ownership of the banks in return. This is obviously an unreasonable request! Of course they're going to make it. They have a fiduciary duty to do so, in fact. But we, and certainly the New York Times, are not supposed to take it so seriously, and/or feel badly for them.

Monday, May 04, 2009

WaPo op-ed page continues strong support for CO2 emissions

If there's one point of view that has gone underrepresented in the opinion pages of the Washington Post, it is not that global warming is a bunch of hooey. A few short months after George Will's brazenly dishonest column to that effect generated so much "buzz", Robert J. Samuelson demands to know: What does Obama have against fossil fuels, anyway?

Considering the brutal recession, you'd expect the Obama administration to be obsessed with creating jobs. And so it is, say the president and his supporters. The trouble is that there's one glaring exception to their claims: the oil and natural gas industries. The administration is biased against them -- a bias that makes no sense on either economic or energy grounds.

What is the evidence that Obama harbors an irrational hatred of oil and gas? Samuelson's case rests on three main points:

1. "Contrary to popular wisdom, the United States still has huge oil and natural gas resources."
2. The oil and gas industry employs many more people than the solar and wind industries.
3. Obama favors raising fuel efficiency standards, and his Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, "canceled 77 leases in Utah because they were too close to national parks."

Taking #3 first, because it's the only one that has anything to do with Obama: It probably sounds like I'm misrepresenting what must be a much longer, more ominous bill of particulars. If you don't want to go see for yourself I can only assure you this is not the case. Samuelson more or less admits himself that there's not much there:

Any one of these [i.e. the Utah lease cancellations or raised fuel efficiency standards] alone might seem a reasonable review of inherited policies, and it's true that Salazar has maintained a regular schedule of oil and gas leases. Still, the anti-oil bias seems unmistakable.

Ah, yes. Even though fuel efficiency standards have been going up for years, and the Interior Department has always existed solely to do things like keep oil & gas companies away from national parks, you should still see such efforts as part of a personal crusade of Obama's.


Encouraging more U.S. production would also aid economic recovery, because the promise of "green jobs" is wildly exaggerated. Consider: In 2008, the oil and gas industries employed 1.8 million people. Jobs in the solar and wind industries are reckoned (by their trade associations) to be 35,000 and 85,000, respectively. Now do the arithmetic: A 5 percent rise in oil jobs (90,000) approaches a doubling for wind and solar (120,000). Modest movements, up or down, in oil will swamp "green" jobs.

It's true that the oil & gas industry is vastly bigger than the solar and wind industries, but Samuelson's so-called "arithmetic" is shameless sleight of hand. He's trying to take the true fact that the oil & gas industry is bigger and make it look like the inherently more job-creating energy source, with greater sensitivity to "[m]odest movements, up or down." But all he's done is assume a completely fictitious scenario in which the United States has been offered a coupon for a 5% employment increase in the energy industry of our choice. Since no such deal is on the table, all he's proven is that the oil & gas industry currently employs many more people, which was a given.

And getting to his first point last:

"Huge oil and natural gas resources"? No. Our oil and gas reserves are not huge in any meaningful sense. We're #14 in proved reserves with about 22 billion barrels. Samuelson argues that this number is really much larger once you include optimistic projections for our "unconventional" prospects, that might be accessible at some point, if finding and development costs were no object. By sufficiently relaxing the definition of reserves for the U.S. (only), Samuelson takes us from a paltry 22 billion barrels to 800 billion barrels or "triple Saudi Arabia's proven reserves." Not bad for a paragraph's work.

Of course, even assuming we're sitting on much more oil and gas than we realize, the claim that Obama is "undermining" the oil industry's efforts to produce more oil is very hard to square with the fact that oil companies are cutting back on exploration all by themselves:

April 24 (Bloomberg) -- The number of oil and natural gas rigs operating in the U.S. fell to the lowest since March 2003 this week as natural gas prices dropped, according to data published by Baker Hughes Inc.

Rigs exploring for or producing oil or gas declined by 20, or 2.1 percent, to 955, the fewest since March 21, 2003, Baker Hughes said today on its Web site. The rig count has fallen 52 percent from 1,992 on Nov. 7.

To put a fine point on it, oil & gas companies could be drilling and producing at a faster rate than they are today. Because of commodity price declines, they (the companies) are, probably correctly, deeming fewer projects to be economical and canceling or shutting them down accordingly. Yet here is how Samuelson closes:

Improved production techniques (example: drilling in deeper waters) have increased America's recoverable oil and natural gas. The resistance to tapping these resources is mostly political. To many environmentalists, expanding fossil fuel production is a cardinal sin. The Obama administration often echoes this reflexive hostility. The resulting policies aim more to satisfy popular prejudice -- through photo ops and sound bites -- than national needs.

Maybe the most bizarre thing about this piece is that Samuelson never once confronts the issue of global warming head on. Instead, he feigns bafflement at all the "hostility" towards fossil fuel production, as if it could only be motivated by religious ("cardinal sin") rather than scientific dictates. And rather than explicitly denying that there's any reason to replace fossil fuels with "clean" (his quotation marks) fuels, he weasels out by pretending that Obama thinks we burn oil mostly for electricity:

The president is lauded as a great educator; in this case, he provided much miseducation. He implied that there's a choice between promoting renewables and relying on oil. Actually, the two are mostly disconnected. Wind and solar mainly produce electricity. Most of our oil goes for transportation (cars, trucks, planes); almost none -- about 1.5 percent -- generates electricity. Expanding wind and solar won't displace much oil; someday, electric cars may change this.

So there might be electric cars someday? Pretty visionary. But why, Robert? Why would we ever want to stop refining and burning crude oil? We've got plenty of the stuff!

Saturday, May 02, 2009

One of the better Mets posts ever

I'm stealing one of the graphics, but if you're a Mets fan you owe it to yourself to read the whole thing.

Friday, May 01, 2009

It's true. That is offensive!

So John Boehner, bless his heart, decides to have whipped up a Bush/Cheney '04 style "Isn't Obama clearly an Islamic terrorist?" video, and I suppose what else is there really for him to do at this point.

But towards the end, after it has delivered the shocking news that Obama doesn't want you to hear and cued the ominous orchestral music, reminiscent of the final scene in "The Usual Suspects," it runs a montage where, in between images of the Hugo Chavez handshake and a burning American flag, is a picture of Obama with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Just sitting with them around a conference table, as if at a meeting of some sort.

Nydia Velazquez, the chairwoman of the CHC and my representative, called the video "a completely inappropriate message for the leader of the minority party to send to the American people." Rep. Raul Grijalva went ahead and called it "racist," which I think is a super-uncontroversial claim.

Boehner's office responded that the criticism was "beyond silly." When I read that, and I hadn't seen the video, I wondered if maybe there was some context that made it less offensive than it sounded. But no. It's really pretty bad:

Thursday, April 30, 2009

You talking about my ratings, punk?

Pretty hilarious White House press conference tick-tock from Marc Ambinder:

There's a moment -- usually with about two minutes to go -- where four or five network correspondents, standing feet apart, talk over each other, saying much the same thing. Then you hear the voice of CBS's Mark Knoller, who gives a last minute radio update. Then the same from ABC's Ann Compton.

Ed Henry finished his stand-up early. Only NBC's Chuck Todd and CBS's Chip Reid were left standing.

Chuck groaned. He knew that he and Chip were about to stumble over one another.

Chuck then realized that everyone was looking at him. He informed his producer of this.

Then he joked that someone was going to Twitter the conversation. (I did.)

Chip, who has sworn off Twitter and has never been on Facebook, dryly wondered how many people would read it.

Chuck misheard Chip, thinking that Chip was talking about ratings.

So Chuck struck back, saying something like: "Do we really want to get into a ratings comparison?"

Everyone from the photogs to members of Obama's staff said "Oooooh."

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Arlen Specter to switch parties

Everybody seems genuinely astounded by the news that Arlen Specter is going to run for re-election as a Democrat. I'm not sure why. Running as a Republican was not going to be an option for him. Just last Friday, a Rasmussen poll found he was headed for certain doom at the hands of his primary challenger, bona fide wingnut Pat Toomey. Twice in his statement today he acknowledged that this was a contributing factor to his decision:

I have traveled the State, talked to Republican leaders and office-holders and my supporters and I have carefully examined public opinion. [Emphasis added. Not that you have to examine a 51%-30% poll too carefully.]

and later...

I am also disappointed that so many in the Party I have worked for for more than four decades do not want me to be their candidate. It is very painful on both sides. ["You didn't appreciate me anyway, you jackals."]

I thank especially Senators McConnell and Cornyn for their forbearance. ["Sorry you backed the wrong horse, fellas."]

Being a professional politician who doesn't want to retire, Specter was presented a choice of I or D, and the D is very much in style these days. Joe Lieberman wishes he were still a D. And Obama carried Pennsylvania by 10 points.

Meanwhile, his statement makes perfectly clear that he hasn't had a change of heart about any actual issue. He specifies the Employee Free Choice Act as something he's still planning on opposing. This is purely a venue-shopping deal, to ensure that he's still a U.S. Senator, in a position to cast votes one way or the other. So he goes from being a great Republican to a horrendous Democrat... and that's about it.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Well said

SamT, in response to Jon Heyman's article about "Mets officials" despairing after the first two weeks of the season:

You know those Mets fans who post irrationally [on] forums, calling for Beltran's trade everytime he makes an error? Yea, turns out those people run the Mets.

The bit at the end about how they're all torn up about not signing David Eckstein is especially eye-popping.



Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What do we do when we fall off the horse?

It was almost exactly nine months between Eliot Spitzer's prostitute-related resignation and his debut column in Slate, and now just a few months later, unnamed sources are telling the Post he thinks he can be a contender for Attorney General (again).

First of all, when Post readers start in on a piece about Eliot Spitzer, they don't want to be kept waiting for the single entendres, and Murdoch's wordsmiths don't disappoint. The fourth and seventh words of the piece are "flaccid" and "re-erecting," respectively.

But what of Spitzer, the man? I still say he's a huge scumbag. As an anonymous "longtime observer" said: "The whole idea of returning to Albany is preposterous. You can't go home again. He's a pariah. It wasn't just the prostitutes -- there was also Troopergate."

Or at least, I think the idea of him returning to Albany should be preposterous. In practice, I like his odds. He may have done all he could to squander it, but as personal political brands go "Scourge of Wall Street" is just too hot right now.

Spitzer is beloved by what I think of as the Greenwald/Digby segment of the Democratic electorate. They think the whole prostitute thing was a bad rap, noting that a) nobody really cares and b) when a Republican senator was caught doing the exact same thing he didn't even have to resign. And I agree with them on both those points. I just think Troopergate was that bad, and while his first stint as AG was useful in getting him elected governor, he didn't actually achieve much in the way of convictions or reforms.

I like the idea that sex scandals are becoming like Tommy John surgery (season-ending but not career ending, with the recovery period getting ever shorter as the technique is perfected). I just wish that this particular politician weren't so likely to make it back.


Hard to satirize, those Powerline guys

Roy Edroso's roundup of wingnut responses to the Somali pirate story, yesterday:

...And [Red State blogger] Huston yelled that "the French... THE FRENCH... use proper military force against these criminal pirates" -- referring to a rescue mission that ended with the death of a hostage.

But getting the hostage killed has got to be the right way to run a rescue, because Obama didn't do it.

Ha ha, right? No, this actually does seem to be the wingnut house view. Powerline last night:

This weekend, while the focus was on the hostage situation involving Captain Phillips, the French military rescued four French hostages, including a three-year-old boy, after President Sarkozy authorized a military attack on a French yacht that pirates had seized in the Gulf of Aden a week earlier. The rescued hostages were all unharmed [Yay!], but another hostage, the skipper of the yacht, was killed... [But you just said... Oh, I see. He doesn't count as a "rescued" hostage.]

Although the French government did negotiate for a while with the priates on the captured yacht last week, President Sarkozy's overall approach to these incidents seems more aggressive and proactive than President Obama's.

After downplaying "hostage survival rate" as an overrated metric in evaluating hostage situation responses (certainly when compared to "perceived machismo quotient"), Mirengoff imagines that the Navy commanders must have been construing Obama's instructions to take out the pirates more broadly than he intended.

Just when you think it can't get any more embarrassing, Hindrocket shows up in an addendum and together they riff on how the French aren't wimps at all but are in fact "cynical cowboys." The French aren't wimps now? I'm almost sorry to see them like this.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Mets drop Citi Field opener

First of all, though I would have liked a ninth-inning comeback even more, I have to confess that I was a little happy that Heath Bell got to fulfill his revenge fantasy of recording the first save in Citi Field history.

I just learned tonight from Gary Cohen that Bell harbored a grudge against the Mets for how they handled him, but it makes sense, since I was furious about it (not so much for his sake as the team's) and it stands to reason he would be even more so. Here's just one of several posts I wrote at the time to the effect that the Mets needed to give him the damn ball and stop demoting him after his first bad inning:

Since his much decried demotion, Heath Bell has saved three games for Norfolk in dominating fashion, striking out 11 and not allowing a single baserunner in 6.2 innings. As has been pointed out before, the Mets need to promote him and have him pitch the crucial innings that are now being entrusted to Manny Aybar and Mike Dejean. I would even submit, for your consideration, that the Tides may currently boast a better closer than the Mets.

That was April 2005, and the incumbent closer in question was Braden Looper, who indeed had about as bad a 28 Save season as one could have (8 blown saves, 3.94 ERA). Bell was no prize that year either, to be sure, but the peripherals were still excellent. After '06, he was sent to San Diego in a trade for... Ben Johnson, a fifth outfielder whose Mets career consisted of a grand total of 27 (wasted) at-bats.

Well now that, sure enough, he was a keeper and everyone knows of Heath Bell as San Diego's dominant setup man-turned-Closer, I can hardly begrudge him his desire to rub the Mets organization's face in it.

It's just one game anyway. The biggest negative from tonight was Mike Pelfrey, but I've already done enough "I told you so" for one post.

The Cardinals' closer situation

There have been years where a team announces that it's going to a "closer by committee" and the media makes a huge deal about it and there's a lot of hand-wringing about how you can't win without a designated closer.

But even with those teams there were really only 2 or 3 guys that really ended up getting saves. LaRussa has taken the Cards one step beyond that, I think. There was supposedly a job battle between Perez, who's now in Triple-A, and Motte, who pitched in the 6th inning of a blowout yesterday. So now there's a completely separate competition going on involving two right-handers (Franklin and McClellan) and a lefty (Reyes). The "favorite" among them is supposedly Franklin, yet he is the only one of the three that hasn't actually recorded a Save yet.

As a baseball fan, it's nice to see LaRussa (implicitly) insist that he's not going to let a stupid accounting system dictate how he uses his pitchers. As a fantasy baseball player, it's a total nightmare. I've gotten sucked into it in both my leagues, having drafted Motte in one and Perez in another. I thought I was being smart when I did that, too.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Sign of the times

Back in the early oughts, when it would have been much more helpful, Joe Klein wasn't especially interested in mocking neoconservative fruitcakes like Charles Krauthammer. But now that he feels comfortable doing so, he's pretty good at it.

And there was--oh. my. God.--the failed North Korean rocket launch. The Gates Defense budget is cutting anti-missile defense systems in Alaska. More Obama wimposity! Except that Gates has decided not to spend tens of billions on an anti-missile system (that doesn't work) to counter a North Korean rockets (that don't work) carrying North Korean atomic bombs (that have, so far, fizzled when tested).

People really don't have an adequate appreciation for just how stupid the National Missile Defense program is. There are a lot of low-frequency, high-severity risks that we could be preparing for but don't. We could put all our country's resources into a system that would deflect an incoming asteroid, because if an asteroid were to hit us, it would be that bad. But one reason why we don't is because the success rate of the system would have to be incredibly high. And there wouldn't be money left over for roads, hospitals, soldiers, tanks, etc.

Then there's the fact that a long-range ballistic missile requires government sponsorship to develop (i.e. can't be launched from a cave in Pakistan), and governments, even evil dictatorships, tend not to pursue the vaporization of their own country by U.S. nuclear subs. Then there's the fact that you could shoot down 100% of incoming missiles and still be extremely vulnerable to a nuclear attack on a major U.S. city (suitcase or container bombs).

Anyway, I'm very happy about this "Gates budget" generally. Less money on F-22s, "Future Combat Systems" (more like Ridiculous Gadget Systems), and the like. More money for the stuff that our actual armed forces actually use.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Rosa Brooks will be working at the Pentagon

Excellent news:

This will be my last column for the L.A. Times. After four years, I'll soon be starting a stint at the Pentagon as an advisor to the undersecretary of Defense for policy.

Rosa Brooks is awesome.


Seems appropriate given the circumstances

When I saw the headline "Britain's Top Antiterror Officer Resigns Over Slip-Up" I thought it was going to be a story about an exceedingly principled and honor-oriented (ya know, British) functionary who chose to resign over a relatively minor infraction. That seemed like the kind of story the NYT would be drawn to.

But it turns out he was photographed getting out of a vehicle while holding a top secret document out in the open, sans manila envelope or file folder or anything. The document detailed a raid being planned on suspected terrorists. It was apparently legible enough so that the police had to consider the information compromised, and conduct the raid earlier than they wanted to.

So of course he resigned!

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Roger Ebert: Stealing from Jimmy Cayne?

Roger Ebert writes a satisfyingly uncivil open letter to Bill O'Reilly in the Chicago Sun Times, which he concludes thusly:

Bill, I am concerned that you have been losing touch with reality recently. Did you really say you are more powerful than any politician?

That reminds me of the famous story about Squeaky the Chicago Mouse. It seems that Squeaky was floating on his back along the Chicago River one day. Approaching the Michigan Avenue lift bridge, he called out: Raise the bridge! I have an erection!

Now, as much as I appreciate the sentiment, I'd wager that this is a self-consciously regionalized version of what former Bear Stearns CEO Jimmy Cayne said of Tim Geithner:

"The audacity of that prick in front of the American people announcing he was deciding whether or not a firm of this stature and this whatever was good enough to get a loan,” [Cayne] said. “Like he was the determining factor, and it’s like a flea on his back, floating down underneath the Golden Gate Bridge, getting a hard-on, saying, ‘Raise the bridge.’ This guy thinks he's got a big dick..."

Ebert probably read that and thought. "Oh that's good. I've gotta stash that one away."


Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Andrew Rosenthal is a sleazy hack

The name J. Ezra Merkin didn't mean anything to me until I read he's being sued by Andrew Cuomo for having been a big feeder/marketer for Bernie Madoff.

Presumably, it didn't mean anything to Andrew Rosenthal when he published Daphne Merkin's op-ed just weeks beforehand arguing that Madoff's victims weren't really victims because "no one was holding a gun to their head, saying sign up with Madoff or else."

How did she disclose in said op-ed that her brother had placed roughly $2.4 billion with Madoff?

"I did not know Mr. Madoff nor did I invest with his firm, but have a sibling who did business with him."

Now that Andrew Rosenthal knows the extent of Ms. Merkin's brother's legal liability in the Madoff case, surely he regrets letting her pose as any sort of disinterested observer... or not:

In a brief phone interview, editorial page editor Andrew Rosenthal told TPMmuckraker that he had no plans to revisit the issue, even to edit the online version of the now-17-day-old article to offer readers fuller disclosure.

Indeed, Rosenthal appeared dismissive. "I answered this call against my better judgment," he said. "I thought you had something more substantive you wanted to talk about."

Pressed as to whether or not he viewed the issue of disclosure in the Merkin op-ed as substantive, Rosenthal replied: "I'm just not interested in discussing it."

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The Pittsburgh shooting

Yesterday I approvingly quoted Charles Blow's op-ed about how the wingnuts are really starting to come loose, but I'm still a little uncomfortable with the use of the 23 year-old skinhead cop killer in Pittsburgh as evidence of that trend.

My objection is not that it's necessarily unseemly to "play politics" with tragedy, and pretty much all shootings seem like good arguments for gun control to me. But the pool of people who actually go on shooting rampages is thankfully too small and too fucked up to extrapolate much from their politics. It may be a cliche ("crazies on both sides"), but it seems that taking it seriously means really not caring which websites a person was posting on before they started shooting at the cops.

The argument about which political ideology is intrinsically brutal and crazy is easily winnable without deploying actual murdering psychopaths as data points.

2009 Preseason Predictions

After the longest spring training I can remember, the regular season starts tonight with ATL @ PHI. Which means it's time to etch my preseason predictions indelibly in the internets, so that after they prove prescient I'll have proof.

NL East

NL Central
Brewers (Wild Card)

NL West

AL East
Red Sox
Yankees (Wild Card)
Blue Jays

AL Central
White Sox

AL West

World Series
Diamondbacks def. Red Sox

NL - David Wright
AL - Josh Hamilton

Cy Young
NL - Dan Haren
AL - C.C. Sabathia

Rookie of the Year
NL - Jordan Zimmermann
AL - Matt Wieters

All-Underrated Team
C - Chris Iannetta
1B - Joey Votto
2B - Kelly Johnson
SS - J.J. Hardy
3B - Adrian Beltre
OF - Cody Ross
OF - Carlos Beltran (that's right)
OF - Adam Jones

SP - Ricky Nolasco
SP - Javier Vazquez
SP - Clayton Kershaw
RP - Frank Francisco
RP - Carlos Marmol

All-Overrated Team
C - Joe Mauer
1B - Justin Morneau
2B - Mike Aviles
SS - Alexei Ramirez
3B - Evan Longoria
OF - Ichiro
OF - Magglio Ordonez
OF - Nick Markakis

SP - John Lackey
SP - Carlos Zambrano
SP - Chad Billingsley
RP - Kevin Gregg
RP - Francisco Cordero

Saturday, April 04, 2009

My kind of opening graf

Charles Blow:

Lately I’ve been consuming as much conservative media as possible (interspersed with shots of Pepto-Bismol) to get a better sense of the mind and mood of the right. My read: They’re apocalyptic. They feel isolated, angry, betrayed and besieged. And some of their “leaders” seem to be trying to mold them into militias.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Nice outing, Mike

Getting a full season from Johan Santana is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the Mets to win the NL East. We need at least one guy behind him who's "good" and no more than one guy behind him who's "awful" (Livan Hernandez being the leading candidate for that role).

Mike Pelfrey is supposed to be good. He's our #2, followed by Maine, Perez, and Livan. So when I see that he's given up 8 earned in 4 innings against the Orioles, raising his spring ERA to a nifty 7.71, I'm not inclined to shrug it off. And Baltimore's best hitters weren't even in the lineup. This is the lineup that put a snowman on our No. 2 (respectable major league hitters in bold):

Salazar, O.
Cabrera, J.

Let's just hope Ollie and Maine keep up their end of the bargain.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Omir Santos: Who is this guy?

It looks like we may have yet another catcher in the organization who's more deserving of the starting role than Brian Schneider, who looks better in those Manhattan Toyota commercials than he does at the plate. All last year, we had Ramon Castro wasting away on the bench, and now we've got a 29 year-old Puerto Rican non-roster invitee who will probably end up getting discarded outright.

There's not much of a pro record on this guy (although he does, rather incredibly, have a wikipedia entry). But I can tell you what he did this afternoon: hit more home runs (2) than Brian Schneider will hit before the All-Star break. Plus I think he can throw.

Qualcomm brings teh funny

Almost unsettlingly high production values in this April Fool's video from Qualcomm:


Gary Sheffield doesn't know how to react?

When I read that the Tigers released Gary Sheffield, my first thought was to fear for the safety of whichever team representative imparted the news to him. But Sheffield has apparently mellowed because this was his quote:

“I wouldn’t say I’m shocked, but I am surprised,” Sheffield told The Oakland Press of Pontiac. “To do this when somebody is one home run away … I don’t know how to react to it.”

WTF? I mean really, I didn't necessarily expect a tirade about how maybe if he were Latin the management would keep him around longer, but this is weak sauce, Sheff.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

And we're listening to him because...

After quoting a Robert L. Rodriguez at length as the bearish counterpoint to the now-bullish Doug Kass, this column rather undermines his credibility here:

The Capital fund that Mr. Rodriguez manages for First Pacific, which is slightly lower for the year and down 42 percent since last March, is now making heavy bets on energy companies.

So on one hand you can listen to Doug Kass, who was considered the most prominent bear going into the collapse, or on the other you can listen to a guy who took it on the chin at least as badly as the S&P over the past year. And if he's down 42% since last March, he's probably down a lot more than that since YE07, given how horrendous the first three months of 2008 were.

This isn't to say that Mr. Rodriguez is especially bad at his job or is wrong that there's a lot more downside left, only that it's not clear why they couldn't find a bear they could quote who had been a little less wrong recently.

h/t Ritholtz

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Biting like there ain't no shame in it

Compare and contrast the cover art for Dan Deacon's "Bromst" (2009) and Department of Eagles' "In Ear Park" (2008):

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Can you get anything right?

This is pretty funny. BP's John Perrotto apparently reported that Pedro Martinez was about to sign with Houston, and that turned out not to be the case. In his post today entitled "Mea Culpa," he concludes:

I would love to be able to write this off as easily as saying you win some and lose some. That’s not the case, though. As a reporter, you’re [sic] No. 1 responsibility is to get the story right.

I didn’t do that and, to you the readers, I apolozige [sic].

Monday, March 16, 2009

That's the private banking system for you

As Dr. Black explained to Larry Summers in his seminal post "Stop Feeding Me A Shit Sandwich," it's called bankruptcy you idiot.

It's true that the government can't do much to stop AIG from paying out bonuses but this is because Obama listened to Summers and Geithner and decided to pretend that these institutions aren't bankrupt.

Well guess what, if they're not bankrupt then who is he to say that their executives didn't generate tens of millions of dollars worth of "shareholder value"?

You think Apple's playing about its money?

High dudgeon in the tech blogosphere over Apple's putting an "authentication chip" in the headphones/controller of the new ultra-tiny iPod Shuffle. The chip ensures that if you want to buy non-Apple headphones you'll only be able to get them from companies that are paying Apple for the privilege (and passing the cost on to you).

Now I get the argument that making your product a "closed" system like this is counterproductive. If you discourage third parties from making hardware/software that's interoperable with yours, you will eventually get out-innovated by a competing platform that welcomes them.

But in the mobile music player space, Apple doesn't have any competitors on the horizon. That's why they can take their customers' lunch money and leave them clawing their eyes out for more. And even to the extent that someday there's a Zune Shuffle to worry about, the battle is not going to be won or lost over whose players are compatible with the greatest variety of headphones.

So why should they leave money on the table, is my take.


Saturday, March 14, 2009

"It's just an achiness."

Well that was a sweet two months.

Now, I approved of the Tim Redding signing, so I'm not really in a position to criticize here. But Omar's saying that his achy shoulder (also, presumably, his inability to avoid getting shelled by the University of Michigan in a spring training exhibition) is the result of an offseason foot surgery that he had in November and hasn't had adequate time to recover from.

Of course, the Mets signed him in January, so maybe they should have asked for a little more than an MRI to prove he was in pitching shape.

Whether the injury was forseeable or not, I'm going to make like a credit rating agency and downgrade the Redding signing from "prudent addition of rotation filler" to "huge waste of $2 million" after the implosion has already happened.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Fortunately, he's a relief pitcher

Gordon Edes pens a column "Rodriguez Falls Short in Ambassador Role". Apparently after Venezuela beat the U.S. in their WBC game our new closer initially declined to take questions from the media. He was convinced, however, to come back out and by Edes' own estimation "was engaging, answering all inquiries at length." He was angry at some unflattering press the Venezuelan team had gotten after getting trounced by the U.S. in their first matchup.

Now while I tend not to care how much players talk to the press or whether they're good "clubhouse guys," if that's the kind of thing you concern yourself with, fine. But Edes completely loses the plot here:

"K-Rod’s inning of work was not a clean one, a foreshadowing of what Mets fans are advised to expect."

How unclean was it? He walked (former MVP) Jimmy Rollins, and another guy reached on an error before he struck out Kevin Youkilis to end it. Doesn't sound that bad, but Edes notes that Rodriguez walked 10 leadoff batters last year, compared to just one for Jon Papelbon.

Of course, Jon Papelbon is not a point of reference. He's a freak of nature who gave up fewer walks last year (8) than a lot of closers gave up home runs. "He walks more leadoff hitters than Papelbon" is the kind of criticism a moron would make.

So do your hand-wringing about K-Rod's people skills if you must, Edes, but let's not pretend he's likely to have much to apologize for pitching-wise.



Jon Stewart needs to move on

As much as I've enjoyed Jon Stewart's prosecution of Jim Cramer, I'm not sure what he managed to prove except that a lot of his advice turned out to be bad. He did that pretty effectively. I hadn't realized that in addition to the bogus clip that Stewart played first (showing Cramer assuring a caller that his money was safe as a client of Bear Stearns, which it was), there were also clips from about the same time of Cramer recommending Bear stock.

Still, I have no idea what Stewart means when he chides "I understand you want to make finance entertaining. But it's not a fucking game." Besides being maybe the most cringingly unfunny thing he's ever said, what's his fucking point? That if Cramer didn't scream and have sound effects that his mother's 401k would be in better shape? Give me a fucking break.

I think CNBC appeared on Stewart's radar because of the Rick Santelli thing, when he realized, apparently all of a sudden, that the dominant financial news channel was largely staffed by super right-wing cheerleaders of corporate America. And I'm glad that he's gone after CNBC.

But the political bias of the "news" side of CNBC has nothing to do with Cramer. Yes, he has called Obama a "wealth destroyer" and talked about certain stocks being "Obama-proof," but it's somewhat tongue-in-cheek and always in the context of pitching an investment theme. He "liked" the Bush administration because it was "of, by and for the corporation," friendly to mergers, etc. But if he really shared Larry Kudlow's politics I wouldn't be able to watch the show.

Unless you're going to outlaw giving financial advice on television, I'm not sure what Cramer is supposed to do differently except stop making bad calls, which obviously no one can do. If you don't like Cramer, don't watch him! Or take the other side of the trade! I have zero sympathy for people who lost money following his advice. Or at least, no more than I have for anyone who lost money.

Stewart seems to honestly believe that Cramer bears some personal responsibility not just for the advice he's given/his failure to predict the financial collapse but for the financial collapse itself, which is intensely stupid even though it sounds plausible that such a figure would have "contributed to a frenzied environment" or whatever.

Anyway, whether or not Cramer is actually good at giving financial advice I don't think he deserves the accusation that he was recklessly endangering people's money. Stocks really had outperformed every other asset class by a wide margin for a long time, and if you've watched his show for any length of time his advice actually tends to be fairly conservative.

Cramer didn't look good when he got all indignant that a "comedian" would deign to criticize him when he didn't even know what Tier 1 capital was, but Stewart was much more the self-important, uninformed asshole in this little skirmish.

Does Mickey Kaus know about this?

CNN just did a segment on a website called that lets you monitor the U.S.-Mexico border via webcam. It's sponsored by the Texas Border Sheriff's Coalition (TBSC), and enlists, I'm not making this up, "Virtual Texas Deputies" to report any suspicious activity to the brick-and-mortar border patrol.

This is going to be like the Shiba Inu puppy cam for wingnuts.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Ross Douthat is a joke

Everyone is very excited that Ross Douthat is going to be replacing Bill Kristol as the house conservative of the New York Times op-ed page.

On the one hand, I do think this is a brilliant move by the Times. As conservative pundits go, Douthat is smooth jazz to Kristol's death metal. He's just the kind of conservative that allows liberals to pat themselves on the head for finding common ground with an ideological foe.

But the idea that Ross Douthat represents a new breed of "conservative intellectual" only goes to show what an oxymoron that term really is. His thesis: "Liberals are probably right about supply-side economics being bunk, but do they have to be so mean to pro-lifers like myself?" He's not so much a right winger as he is a young person who manages to whine about the kids these days as you'd think only an old person could.

That's his whole schtick. He's a conservative who often seems like he knows better, but (as you can tell by his grandfatherly Brooks Brothers style) he identifies with things that are Old and Traditional, like the Catholic church. His politics seem fundamentally driven by aesthetic considerations. He opposes reproductive rights not so much because he's a misogynist, but because he fancies himself "old school."

So fine, he's an improvement over Kristol, but spare me the fawning. I'd rather the Times look for a conservative who's actually persuasive instead of one who just knows how to flatter liberals before whining about how intolerant we are of God-fearing traditionalists like himself.

And just for fun, this was his reaction to John McCain's VP pick:

At the moment, I'm probably rooting harder for Sarah Palin to succeed than I have for any politician in recent memory. Just something to keep in mind while you're reading my commentary.

But he's a very serious thinker.

Monday, March 09, 2009

When white people do it it's "political violence"

I don't think anyone had a problem calling the USS Cole bombing an act of "terrorism," even though it was a military target, so I'm not sure why the New York Times would decline to use the term anywhere in this story.

Sounds plausible

DougJ: "To put it simply, I fear that we are now ruled by incompetent egomaniacs who will never blow the whistle on each other, no matter how bad things get, because to do so would be to admit that none of them is indispensable or brilliant after all."


Saturday, March 07, 2009

Obama Embraces Unitary Executive

I've finally taken the time to read Glenn Greenwald's various indictments of the Obama administration's views on executive power, and he does seem to have the goods. So I'm answering the call and acknowledging that Obama is indeed making some of the absurd, wholly unconstitutional legal claims that the Bush administration made.

As disastrous and unjustified as the Iraq War may have been, there wasn't anything unconstitutional about it. There was no formal declaration of war, but we haven't gone that route in a while, and both houses of Congress passed an Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq. Whatever else it was, it didn't represent an attempt by Bush to undermine our whole system of government.

The real Constitution-shredding lay in Bush/Cheney/Addington/Yoo's claims that when acting in the interest of national defense (as determined by him, of course) the president doesn't have to obey the law. That was the essence of the FISA controversy, which was staggeringly soft-pedaled by the media. It was the most dangerous, though hardly the bloodiest, legacy of the Bush administration.

So Obama's decision to basically spit on a court order and claim executive powers he doesn't have is really bad news. The "Unitary Executive" theory is completely un-American and we shouldn't be letting Obama trot it out when he finds it convenient. In the best case scenario, he's only doing it to protect Bush administration officials from prosecution (enforcing the law being too "divisive" for his liking). But even that would be a piss-poor justification, and the alternatives are all worse.