Keane observations about life, politics and sports.

Monday, December 29, 2008

2008 Year in Review

I'm pretty glad to see 2008 come to a close for a good number of reasons.
* The Indians were mediocre for most of the year.
* The Browns only wish they had been mediocre.
* The Buckeyes entered the season with high hopes based on the number and quality of their returning starters. Then Ohio State took a trip out west and got waxed by USC essentially ending their season.
* The stock market tanked. And tanked, and tanked, etc, etc, etc. . .
* The Republican party lost their own primary.
* America lost the general election.

One major reason to be glad to see 2008 ending is we get to read Dave Barry's annual Year in Review column. Here is a taste, click the link for the rest:
On the Democratic side, the surprise winner is Barack Obama, who is running for president on a long and impressive record of running for president. A mesmerizing speaker, Obama electrifies voters with his exciting new ideas for change, although people have trouble remembering exactly what these ideas are because they are so darned mesmerized. Some people become so excited that they actually pass out. These are members of the press corps.

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Black Monday

For most of us, Black Monday refers to an ugly on the stock exchange. For NFL coaches and assistants that term refers to today, the first day after the regular season ended. 12 teams have qualified for the playoffs so their coaching staffs are safe for now. That leaves 20 teams where the general manager and coaches are in varying degrees of danger of being canned. As I'm typing this reports are coming in about dismissals around the league. For one of the few times this year I can say the Browns are leading the league. The Browns announced last night that GM Phil Savage was fired. They are widely expected to let coach Crennell go today even though he has stated he wants to fight for his job. While I respect the coach's desire to sit down and make his case to stay on, I agree with a quick decision. It is important to quickly get started looking for replacements. Top coaching and general management prospects are not going to sit back and decline other offers waiting to see what the Browns decide to do. Speaking of the Browns, several of their players stepped up and campaigned after yesterday's disgusting loss for the coach to keep his job saying he didn't drop passes and he didn't miss tackles. Ridiculous. If you like your coach so much then you should have played better for him. Speculation is swirling around former Steelers coach Bill Cowher. I could be wrong, but I don't think Cowher is going to take this job. If he does take the job I hope it is not just because he is overwhelmed by the number of dollars involved. I want him hungry for the competition, not reluctantly taking the job because the money is too much to pass up.

Other coaches on the hot seat:
Jets: Eric Mangini - Reportedly already fired.
Bills: Dick Jauron - Fast start followed by poor finish has him in danger.
Jaguars: Jack Del Rio - One of the most disappointing teams. I think he is safe.
Bengals: Marvin Lewis - Only one winning season in 6 years at helm. However, he has a contract for next year and Mike Brown isn't likely to pay him to not coach. Plus they won last three games (admittedly against stumbling teams) so they can pretend there is hope going forward.
Browns: Romeo Crennell - Reportedly already fired. GM also canned.
Broncos: Mike Shannahan - 50/50. Super Bowl victories only provide so much protection. Awful collapse this season could lead to his departure.
Raiders: Tom Cable - Interim coach who was not expected to contend for full time job. However, team has shown improvement and won last couple games. 75% chance of staying.
Chiefs: Herm Edwards - Unless he has embarrassing picture of team owner he is about to be fired.

Eagles: Andy Reid - In playoffs, but if they are bounced in the first round his dismissal would not be surprising.
Cowboys: Wade Phillips - Absolutely destroyed yesterday, but team owner Jerry Jones says there will be no change. Is this the same owner who dumped Jimmy Johnson and Barry Switzer despite Super Bowl victories???
Redskins: Jim Zorn - First year coach should have some rope left. However, late season collapse could have him on the job market.
Packers: Mike McCarthy - Despite a worse record than last year McCarthy should be safe. Aaron Rodgers developed into a good starting in his first season as quarterback. There is optimism going forward.
Lions: Rod Marinelli - 0 - 16 on the season. Reportedly already fired.
Rams: Jim Haslett - Team showed some improvement after mid-season replacement. Not enough. 25% chance of keeping job.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas to all. If you're traveling this season be safe on the roads.

Here is an early Christmas gift: A link to Thomas Sowell's latest Random Thoughts column. I enjoyed the entire column, but here is a snippet that was particularly amusing:
A reader suggests that members of Congress should wear uniforms, like NASCAR drivers, so that we will know who their corporate sponsors are. Many of those in Congress should also wear logos representing the teachers' unions, environmentalist extremists and other special interests.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fort Dix Five Convicted

In a victory in the War on Terror the five Muslim immigrants were convicted Monday of plotting to massacre U.S. soldiers at Fort Dix. The punch line of the article?
Defense lawyers argued that the alleged plot was all talk—that the men weren't seriously planning anything and that they were goaded by two paid FBI informants.
9/11 was just talk until it became action. Is the lawyer asserting the feds should have waited until after the attack?


Obama makes a good decision

I probably won't get many opportunities to be complimentary towards president-elect Obama. Based on his political leanings and campaign promises, I doubt I will enjoy the path we will take over the next four years. With that in mind, I figure I should take a moment and make mention of his best decision since election night. What decision is that? Am I speaking of a cabinet appointment? Nope. I'm referring to his decision to take a vacation. He may or may not realize it, but this is the last real vacation he will enjoy until he is out of office. Despite the media's fascination with President Bush's time in Crawford, the reality is there are no vacations for presidents. There may be times when there is less strife in the world than others. However, no one knows in advance when those moments will occur so you can't schedule a vacation with known down time. After 20 January 2009 Barack Obama may seek refuge at Camp David or in Hawaii, but he will not truly have a vacation again until he is no longer president. Enjoy the vacation and return well rested because a tough job awaits and it is a 24/7 - 365 job.


Sunday, December 21, 2008

An (almost) Honest Liberal

Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times stumbled across a bit of truth in his column today:
This holiday season is a time to examine who’s been naughty and who’s been nice, but I’m unhappy with my findings. The problem is this: We liberals are personally stingy.

Liberals show tremendous compassion in pushing for generous government spending to help the neediest people at home and abroad. Yet when it comes to individual contributions to charitable causes, liberals are cheapskates.

Arthur Brooks, the author of a book on donors to charity, “Who Really Cares,” cites data that households headed by conservatives give 30 percent more to charity than households headed by liberals. A study by Google found an even greater disproportion: average annual contributions reported by conservatives were almost double those of liberals.
It gets worse:
Conservatives also appear to be more generous than liberals in nonfinancial ways. People in red states are considerably more likely to volunteer for good causes, and conservatives give blood more often. If liberals and moderates gave blood as often as conservatives, Mr. Brooks said, the American blood supply would increase by 45 percent.
keep this in mind the next time some liberal accuses conservatives of being mean and stingy. Most of us are concerned with our fellow man but don't believe the proper way of showing compassion is by confiscating money from tax payers to create a massive bureaucracy that caters to a permanent dependent class.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Too big to fail? No! Too big to succeed

To justify essentially socializing most of our financial institutions and now the auto industry it was frequently said this company or that company was "Too big to fail." In my opinion, that is completely backwards. The performance of these companies has demonstrated that they grew too big to succeed. A small bank is careful with their expenditures. A small bank chains their pens to the little table where you fill out the deposit slip. After mergers and buy outs a bank becomes humongous. The humongous bank pays out big bonuses based on the larger overall size of deposits, transactions, loans, etc. Instead of being careful, once a bank is dealing in billions and billions of dollars they stop understanding the value of money. They have an image to keep up so they buy million dollar pieces of art for the corporate offices, get a corporate jet, etc.

The best example of how growth leads to failure is the federal government. Our country started with an idea of strong local government and minimal federal involvement in local matters. As time has past, congress went from a part time job with very little compensation to a full time career with considerable compensation. In order to justify that increase, the federal government has gotten more and more involved in matters outside their jurisdiction. When the government was smaller any waste stood out. Now that the federal budget is measured in trillions, millions spent hardly raise an eyebrow and hundreds of thousands are laughed at as inconsequential. I've even heard Rush Limbaugh, who purports to be a conservative, laugh off earmarks as unimportant in the large scheme of things. Percentage wise he may have a point. And that sums up the problem. If we've reached the point where spending is so out of control that "conservatives" can consider wasteful spending as minor it is because they don't see the trees (thousands and millions) because of that massive forest (billions and trillions).

There may be others who get it, but no one is addressing spending as aggressively as Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK). Here is an article from a Vermont newspaper talking about Coburn going after earmarks including money intended to be wasted in Vermont. Read this snippet:
Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., listed Vermont’s barn census as one among 65 examples of “wasteful Washington spending worth more than $1.3 billion” in a report released Wednesday.

Vermont received a $150,000 grant from the federal Preserve America program to conduct a census of barns in the state and their condition. The amount was matched by $20,000 in state money while volunteers did the work, said David Mace, spokesman for the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, which includes the Department of Historic Preservation.

Coburn’s report implies without saying so explicitly that collecting information about barns is not a worthy project.

Mace takes issue with that. The Legislature has been funding barn preservation efforts since 1991, he said. “We can see value in attempting to preserve Vermont’s historic barns,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that’s it’s being compared to a lobstercam.”
No, Mr. Mace, what is unfortunate is seeing money confiscated from tax payers being wasted on counting barns. If you see value in preserving barns do it yourself on your dime!

Here is a link to Sen. Coburn's list of 65 examples. While this list "only" adds up to 1.3 billion dollars bear in mind these are just examples of what is a much bigger problem. The problem is the federal government is too big to succeed. A large part of the solution is to have the federal government only spend money on their own responsibilities. If something is not clearly a federal responsibility then the local government needs to decide if it is important enough to spend their own money on the project.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

RIP Sling'n Sammy Baugh

Sammy Baugh passed away yesterday at 94 years of age. Baugh, an inaugural member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, has always made for neat trivia questions. One of my favorites was who is the only player to lead the league in passing, in interceptions and in punting in the same year. On offense he was a great quarterback. On defense he was a great defensive back leading the league in interceptions four times. He also holds records as a punter. He played in a time long before people got really rich playing games. After retiring he went back into farming and whenever a story was written about him they would seem to include a photo of Baugh on a tractor. He always struck me as an American original.

Rest in Peace


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

No Age Discrimination in Pennsylvania

The other day the Philadelphia Phillies gave a two year contract to the oldest active player in baseball, 46 year old Jamie Moyer.

Then this morning we get word that Penn State is giving octogenarian Joe Paterno a three year contract extension. Paterno took over as head coach of Penn State's football team in 1966 when LBJ was president and Moyer was 5 years old. Before assuming duties as head coach, Paterno was an assistant coach at Penn State for 16 years.

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Do Senate Seats Belong to Specific Demographic Groups?

Apparently, there is an area of acceptable racism left in this country. In fact there is acceptance of sexism in the same situation. What situation is that? Politics. This morning we have an article from the Chicago Sun-Times titled "Black leaders see Senate seat being hijacked." The author, Laura Washington, advances the idea raised amongst Illinois black "leaders" that the senate seat vacated by Barack Obama should be filled with a black person. Likewise some are asserting the senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton should be filled by a woman. What a disgusting and divisive position to espouse. People are entitled to representation in the senate (or other areas of government) based on their citizenship not based on a nationality, race, religion, etc. As an Ohioan I am entitled to two senators. As a Catholic I have no basis to demand a Catholic fill one of the 100 senate seats. As a Navy veteran I have no basis to assume a certain percentage of the senators be Navy veterans. I've hear that over 4 percent of our population are illegal aliens. Should we have a couple illegals in the senate? Here is an idea for Illinois and other states to consider. Choose someone who will represent your state or district honorably and ably.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Even Hezbollah has some standards

Got to be pretty bad to realize your stock has fallen so far that even a terrorist organization like Hezbollah won't have anything to do with you.
Lebanon's militant group Hezbollah has refused to meet visiting former US president Jimmy Carter to discuss legislative elections set for the spring.
Can't say I blame them.


Baseball Winter Meetings

The normal routine for the baseball off season is that trade activity and free agent signings are fairly limited until the biggest name signs a deal. Well, the largest target (figuratively and literally) this off season was C.C. Sabathia. Sabathia has long maintained that he wanted to sign with a west coast team to be near family and he desired to play in the National League so he could bat. So, this morning we wake to find that the closest thing to an NL team in California Sabathia could find was the New York Yankees. Huh? Wonder how that happened? Oh yeah, they offered a butt load of money.

Now that C.C. has signed the other dominoes start to fall and we will likely see most of the remaining top tier free agents put ink to paper within the next week. Here is a quick run down of top guys and potential destinations.
Frankie Rodriguez - Signed with Mets to be their new closer.
Kerry Wood - Close to signing with the Indians to close. Considerable injury history.
Mark Teixeira - Biggest bat on the market (sorry Manny). Orioles, Nationals, Red Sox, Angels, Yankees are all interested. Rumors so far have Nationals offering highest contract. I expect the Angels will make a strong push to re-sign him. If the Red Sox win out on Tex then they would need to move Mike Lowell.
Manny Ramirez - His agent is saying four teams have shown interest. I doubt they are showing the kind of interest the agent would like in length of contract. Yankees or Mets could step up late in the game, but I expect he'll stay in LA.
Raul Ibanez - With his past few season spent in the northwest city of Seattle, people don't realize how good a player Ibanez has been. For the last three years combined he has more RBI than Teixeira or Manny. I see him ending up with the Cubs.
Pat Burrell - No idea. A bat like his should be able to find a home, but teams with the need may not have the budget space for the contract he may want.
Adam Dunn - I assume an American League team will sign Dunn with the thought of DH'ng him.

I'm sure there are names I missed. By the end of this weekend we should see most of the players signed. I wouldn't be surprised to see several players take a one year deal and hit the market again next year hoping to see better economics lead to better deals.


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

BREAKING NEWS: FBI Arrests Illinois Governor

I'm sure this has been brewing for a while. Shame it didn't come to the surface prior to November 4th.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich and his chief of staff, John Harris, were arrested by FBI agents on federal corruption charges Tuesday morning.

In one charge related to the appointment of a senator to replace Barack Obama, prosecutors allege that Blagojevich sought appointment for himseld as Secretary of Health and Human Services in the new Obama administration, or a lucrative job with a union, in exchange for appointing a union-preferred candidate.

Another charge alleges Blagojevich and Harris conspired to demand the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members responsible for editorials critical of him in exchange for state help with the sale of Wrigley Field, the Chicago Cubs baseball stadium owned by Tribune Co.
Gov. (for now) Blagojevich probably doesn't even see what the problem is with his actions - just business as usual in Chicago politics. And to think some people voted a political hack from that cesspool to be president. To quote Don King: "Only in America!"


In my initial post I failed to note this is a classic example of the "Name the Party Game." Name the Party Game is where bloggers note the odd habit of the mainstream media including party affiliation only in certain stories (ie: negative for Republican or positive for Democrat). In other words being a Democrat is germane to a story if the Democrat saves a drowning child but not if a Democrat is caught acting like a standard Chicago politician. A couple other bloggers quickly noticed that Blagojevich suddenly no longer seems to have a political party.
Mere Rhetoric
A Blog for All

Some dismiss these concerns as minor issues, but history shows that public perception is created and fortified by how the media presents the news. A couple years ago Democrats successfully used the line "Culture of Corruption" to describe the Republican majority in the House in order to win the 2006 election cycle despite having many more corrupt politicians in their own party. It. Does. Matter.


Monday, December 8, 2008

A Suggestion to Ignore: Get Rid of Aircraft Carriers

This Forbes column was pointed out to me a few days ago by Tom Blumer of BizzyBlog. Here is the crux of the author's position:
Over the next few decades the Pentagon is planning to spend more than $50 billion on its Gerald R. Ford class of aircraft carriers. The first of these 100,000-ton ships is due for completion in 2015, with others following as vessels in the existing 12-carrier fleet are retired. Since aircraft carriers are near helpless without a protective ring of about ten destroyers, frigates and cruisers, the military wants to invest in newer versions of these, too, at a cost of an additional $50 billion.

This plan constitutes a huge waste of taxpayer money and exemplifies the Defense Department's fixation on preserving legacy systems designed for a kind of war that the U.S. is likely never to fight again.
His math is rather convoluted. He takes the cost of the carriers and then adds the potential cost of all the new ships that would comprise the carrier battle group to achieve his 100 billion price tag. Problem with that is if we pretended for a moment that he is right that we don't need aircraft carriers that wouldn't automatically mean the other ships that make up a battle group would have no other functions. Reality is the escort ships, mostly cruisers and destroyers fulfill several other war fighting competencies. Some mistakenly assume that ASW (Anti-Submarine Warfare) became obsolete with the break up of the Soviet Union. Wrong. While the Soviets were the primary threat we were concerned with, they were not the only nation with submarines. Additionally, events of the past year should serve as a reminder that Russia is not convinced that the Soviet Union is a thing of the past. More important that ASW is the fact that our modern AEGIS cruisers and destroyers are a key component of our nations missile defense system. Recent successful testing of these systems should put to rest the oft-told lie that SDS or Star Wars is a pipe dream with no chance of success.

More important than the price being arbitrary is the false premise of his overall argument. He may be a bright guy, but he is fooling himself if he thinks he knows what military challenges we may face over the next 50 some years which is the estimated life of a nuclear aircraft carrier.

He also mistakenly assumes there is no deterrent affect of carrier based on the fact that some countries have taken aggressive action despite the presence of carriers. There is no way of determining how many times belligerent nations decided not to take action because of the potential of U.S. military might. It is frequently said that the first question a president is likely to ask when apprised of an international incident is where is the nearest carrier. Well, I can assure you that that is also the first thought of nations considering rattling their sabers.

The carrier gives our operational commanders greater flexibility than we have with our landlocked Air Force assets. We need permission of the host country to take action with planes taking-off from or flying over other countries. Because of various diplomatic considerations that permission is often not quickly given. Jets that launch from our carriers (which is considered U.S. soil) don't need permission of anyone but the CinC giving orders.

Our modern nuclear powered carriers have the added advantage of only needing to refuel every 20 to 25 years. The last few years have clearly demonstrated that we can not take an endless supply of oil for granted.

Lastly, and most importantly, what makes his suggestion past foolish and moves it into the category of dangerous is he frames it as a suggestion for the incoming president-elect. The last thing President-elect Obama, who is perceived as weak on defense, needs to do is affirm that opinion by immediately scuttling a key part of our nations future defense. History has taught us that a sign of weakness invites testing of our strength and resolve. It can be reasonably argued that tepid responses to prior terror attacks emboldened AQ to plan 9/11. Not a very good idea to go back to the September 10th mindset.

I'll grant Mr. Arquilla that our military budget has a great deal of excess and needs much better stewardship, but his approach is the wrong way to go and sends a message we shouldn't send.

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