Keane observations about life, politics and sports.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

The Geithner Precedent - Already?

Besides being ethically disqualified, another reason many opposed the nomination of noted tax cheat Tim Geithner to serve as Treasury Secretary was because it would set a precedent that ethical shortcomings - specifically tax issues - were no longer disqualifying for cabinet positions. What we didn't realize was the precedent would apply so soon. Another Obama nominee, Tom Daschle failed to pay over $100K in taxes.
Thomas A. Daschle, nominated to be secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, did not pay more than $128,000 in taxes over three years, a revelation that poses a potential obstacle to his Senate confirmation.

The back taxes, along with $12,000 in interest and penalties, involved unreported consulting fees, questionable charitable contributions, and a car and driver provided by a private equity firm run by entrepreneur and longtime Democratic Party donor Leo J. Hindery Jr.
Many have argued in recent years that the tax code is too bloated with loopholes, exceptions, etc. and needs to be scrapped and replaced with either a flat tax or a national sales tax. The resistance to changing the tax code has mostly come from the same clowns who caused the problem - Congress. Why does Congress like the status quo? Because there are basically two reasons to bribe a congressman (or pay for his lunch) 1) how government spends money; and 2) how government confiscates money. Maybe, not likely, but maybe, these high profile cases will open some peoples eyes to what a mess we've created with the current tax system.

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Friday, January 30, 2009

Nothing Like Missing the Beam in Your Own Eye

In the Gospel (Matthew 7.3) we are admonished about judging others with the question: "Why do you notice the splinter in your brother's eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye?"

Today we get a classic example from Matthew Futterman's column in the Wall Street Journal. He is chastising NFL television analyst John Madden for some factual errors in recent games he has called. In the article, Futterman makes the following assertion:
As a broadcaster, Mr. Madden remains the standard-bearer of the old guard -- the gruff, barstool voice that harkens back to a time when a famous group of linemen were known as "the Hogs" and clumps of mud got stuck in players' facemasks (most teams now play on artificial turf).
Actually, more than half the teams play on natural grass surface. So, while criticizing someone for errors made during live broadcasts, Futterman who has the luxury of checking his facts before submitting his column and the oversight of editors makes an error which most regular football fans would catch. Methinks Futterman owes Madden an apology.

As an aside, I'm not a big fan of John Madden's announcing style. 30 years ago it seemed original. Now his act has worn thin and seems forced or contrived.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Rangel Rule

Rep. John Carter, (R-TX) introduced a bill Wednesday to eliminate all IRS penalties and interest for paying taxes past due.
The legislation calls for the creation of what he calls the, "Rangel Rule," -- drawing attention to the recent legal issues of House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Charlie Rangel, D-N.Y., enabling citizens who fail to pay taxes on time to do so later with no additional fees.

Rangel, who writes the country's tax policies, acknowledged last fall that he failed to pay thousands in real estate taxes for rental income he earned from a property in the Dominican Republic.

As of September 2008 the Harlem Democrat reportedly paid back more than $10,000 in taxes but that did not include any IRS penalties.
The media has demonstrated that they will downplay as much as they can scandals involving Democrats. Obviously this legislation has no chance since Rangel and his fellow congresscritters enjoy being above the law. However, maybe even while failing stunts like this will force a little more coverage of Dem scandals. I doubt it will make much difference, but at least we are doing something. Just as the unified vote against the awful "stimulus" bill did not stop it from passing but does allow Republicans to make the case that the crap sandwich isn't of their making.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Barack Obama's New Tax Calculator

This is the funniest thing on the internet this week. Barack Obama's New Tax Calculator. That link leads to the campaign site for Chuck DeVore who is challenging Sen. Barbara Boxer in 2010. Boxer is the second dumbest U.S. Senator (sorry Patty Murray) and should be kicked to the curb. However, Boxer represents one of the most left leaning states so Chuck doesn't have a chance. At least he is having some fun along the way.

Along the same lines as the Obama tax calculator, we have this video where Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) argues that we have a voluntary tax system. By the way, Harry Reid is also up for reelection in 2010 as well.

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Pork Laden Faux "Stimulus" Bill Passes House Vote

The House of Representatives approved the massive, wasteful, pork filled, "stimulus" spending bill desired by the Obama administration. In a rare show of backbone the entire Republican caucus voted against this mess. As this legislation is finally read and understood it will be advantageous for Republicans to be able to point at this waste and proudly declare they opposed that spending.

Separately, this legislation is instructive about political tactics. After repeated attempts to sell socialized or nationalized medicine, the Dems realized that Americans were basically against seeing the government take over health care. So, instead they repackaged it as a stimulus bill. Check out what that bloated spending bill contains. You'll find out that instead of an economic stimulus bill they just managed to sneak a big step towards nationalized medicine through in disguise.

Another future "benefit" of all this government spending is a little thing we like to call inflation. When the government spends that doesn't really exist it eventually leads to devaluing of the currency. Massive spending in turn will lead to massive inflation. Don't know when, but the bill will come due and we, our children and our grandchildren will pay for this crap repeatedly thanks to the power of compound interest.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Brotherly Love?

A few years ago Mark McGwire appeared before some congressional hearing and embarrassed himself with a performance that convinced most observers that he had used steroids while playing baseball. Since then McGwire has been nearly invisible and has received little support in his few years on the Hall of Fame ballot. Today, I see a sad story reporting that his younger brother, Jay McGwire, is hawking a book that details McGwire's steroid usage. Indefensible. We can agree or disagree about the harmful physical affects of steroid usage or the ethical implications of using PED's to get an upper hand in sports. However, there is no argument over whether someone should betray a family member. It's just wrong. This isn't a case of telling on someone who is actively doing something which could harm others. In other words the Unabomber being turned in by his brother is kosher this isn't.

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Senate Finance Committee Endorses Nomination of Tax Cheat for Treasury Secretary

Disgustingly, the Senate Finance Committee voted 18 to 5 to approve the nomination of noted tax cheat Tim Geithner to serve as the Treasury Secretary. The nomination now goes to the full senate for a final vote.

Here is a list of the 18 senators who determined that cheating on his taxes should not disqualify someone to head the Treasury Department which includes the IRS:
Baucus (D-MT), Rockefeller (D-WV), Conrad (D-ND), Bingaman (D-NM), Kerry (D-MA), Lincoln (D-AR), Wyden (D-OR), Schumer (D-NY), Stabenow (D-MI), Cantwell D-WA), Nelson (D-FL), Menendez (D-NJ), Carper (D-DE), Hatch (R-UT), Snowe (Rino-ME), Ensign (R-NV), Cornyn (R-TX), Crapo (R-ID). If one of them represents your state let them know your opinion of their low ethical standards.


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Dante Lavelli - Rest in Peace

Sadly, another member of the great Cleveland Browns teams of the 1940's and 50's passed away. Arguably the greatest receiver to wear a Browns uniform, Dante Lavelli died today at 85 years of age. One of the original Browns, Lavelli played in the championship game each of his first 10 years in pro football winning 7 championships. After the team missed the playoffs in 1956 Lavelli retired.

He only played a few games as a freshman at The Ohio State University since, like most of his generation, his life was interrupted by service in World War II. He joined the Army in 1942 and fought at the Battle of the Bulge.

His passing leaves just three remaining players living from the first Browns team: fullback Gene Fekete, center Mike (Mo) Scarry and linebacker Lou Saban (uncle of Alabama head coach Nick Saban).

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Breaking News - Obama Inaugurated & Stock Market Tanks

Obama is in charge for a couple hours and the DOW is down over 300 points. Direct correlation? Probably not. However, after seeing former President Bush be blamed over the last eight years for everything regardless of any possible control of the situation I just thought I'd try it once to see how it feels. Turns out it feels pretty foolish. Think I'll just stick to criticizing him only when it is warranted.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

President George W. Bush - In Retrospective

Tonight President Bush will give his farewell address to the nation. As his term in office is winding down many are starting to write retrospective columns and are considering his legacy. Time will tell what his true legacy will be. His successor will actually have a lot to do with how Bush's actions and accomplishment are eventually perceived by history. The most obvious area where this will happen is in the War on Terror. Whether the new administration continues to prosecute the War on Terror aggressively or withdraws from the fight preemptively will go a long way in determining whether Iraq is eventually a stable democracy. In this post I'll run through my thoughts about the Bush presidency. At the bottom, I'll provide links to various articles and columns.

* In my estimation, character is the first and most important attribute when considering a president. Without decent and honest character it is impossible to properly deal with the myriad of issues and situation a president will encounter. In this regard, President Bush is rates very highly. People who know him speak glowingly about his decency. His main character flaws are things that other politicians need more of, namely he is too loyal and he is awfully stubborn.

* The primary responsibility of a president is national defense. Prior to September 2001 our nation was under the false pretense of living in a peaceful world. On 11 September of that year we were wakened from our slumber and realized Islamic Extremists (which is code word for 90% of the world's Muslim population) were at war with us whether we played along or not. Since then, President Bush did not take the easy route taken by his predecessors of talking about taking action and then doing little or nothing in response. Despite warnings that Afghanistan was a death trap and could not be handled without tens of thousands of casualties, Bush directed a campaign which effectively wiped out the Taliban and al Qaeda was thrown to the wind. Then with an understanding that it would be irresponsible to allow a growing threat to go unchecked, Bush finally dealt with Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq which had never complied with the terms of surrender from the first Gulf War. Every war plan is perfect until it meets the enemy and that is true of the plans for post war Iraq. The war was won but the peace was initially lost due to a failure to secure the borders. Insurgents poured across the borders from Syria, Turkey and Iran. It would have been easy to surrender the peace when things got difficult. Instead Bush was resolute and stayed to finish the job, great sacrificing his popularity in the process. Time will tell if the cost in life and monetary expenditure will pay off in a lasting peace. The unknown factor is how much a role the war in Iraq played in occupying AQ over there rather than planning another attack on our shores. We'd have laughed if anyone had claimed on 15 September 2001 that we would make it to 2009 without another foreign terrorist attack on U.S. soil. By that measure alone he is an unqualified success.

* On the economy the picture is obviously muddled. One can not take a snap shot of today's economic situation and say that tells the whole story. Bush came into office with the nation in recession following the bursting of the "dot com bubble." We were still in that recession when our nation was attacked in September 2001. The greatest damage of that attack was to our financial headquarters in New York City. Between aggressive interest rate cuts from the Fed and tax cuts aimed at stimulating growth, we emerged from the recession to enjoy several years of strong GNP growth. However, Bush is leaving office following a year of economic turmoil with the nation in the throws of another recession. We can argue forever what caused this mess. There is no doubt that changes to long standing lending practices are a major contributing factor. One element that seemingly is being ignored is the basic economic cycle. As the economy speeds up inventories grow and eventually inventory supplies exceed demand and orders slow or cease. So we had a slowing economy running right head first into a credit crunch caused by loose lending standards. The Bush administration decided aggressive action was necessary and took action which would normally be anathema to any conservative. They could be right, but I have a bad feeling about most of the actions taken. When government attempts to artificially control the basic economic cycle they usually just extend the downturn rather than letting the cycle play out in time. I have to give a grade of incomplete in this area.

* Pro-life. President Bush has been unabashedly a strong pro-life president. This is an area where his character was shown. It would have been easy to cave in to pressure to fund ESCR. Easy, but wrong. While a president can not no with certainty how judicial appointments will rule on issues of life, I'm very pleased with Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Alito. Separately, while many on the right excoriated President Bush for his appointment (later withdrawn) of Harriet Miers, I actually think he knew her positions on these issues much better than he could know any other nominee's stance. Sadly, since Bush is being succeeded by the most pro-abortion president ever, Bush's legacy in this area will be short lived as we can expect any gains to be quickly reversed. UPDATE: In one of his final actions in the White House, President Bush on Thursday declared Jan. 18 to be “National Sanctity of Human Life Day.”

* President Bush's low popularity has been cited as some sort of overarching repudiation of every action he took. Nothing could be further from the truth. Because of the fall out from the 2000 election, he was never going to be popular with a majority of the left. Bush's rapid decline in popularity in his second term is directly attributable to losing support of his base which can be traced to a few areas of disagreement. Some lost patience with the president for being wimpy and failing to fight vociferously for his positions. Some could not stomach President Bush's amnesty heavy immigration plans. Fiscal conservatives had apoplexy over his actions to deal with the credit meltdown that bordered on nationalization. He could do a couple things in his last week in office to restore some conservative support. Pardon Scooter Libby and commute the sentences of the two immigration agents (Compean and Ramos). Clarice Feldman (who knows the ridiculous Plame business better than anyone) makes a strong case for the Libby pardon. The case for a pardon of the two immigration officers is less compelling. I can support a commutation of their sentence but not an outright pardon.

Here are some other positions on President Bush and his legacy:
Bush's Achievements - Ten things the president got right by Fred Barnes.
Bush: The Man The Media Missed by John Gizzi.
George W. Bush, Winner by Lisa Fabrizio.
History will treat Bush kindly by Joe Scarborough.
Don’t misunderestimate Bush’s record by Dan Coughlin
Bush's Legacy by Thomas Sowell
G. W. Bush, a President Worthy of the Office by Kyle-Ann Shiver
"I love President George W Bush." says the Dalai Lama

I'll leave this post on top until 21 January and continue to add links.


Breaking News - Kim Jong Il Names Successor

North Korea has been a problem nation for decades. In recent years their leader Kim Jong Il has been unpredictable as he mislead the impoverished country. Kim Jong Il's health deterioration has lead to much speculation about which of his sons would take his place if he is incapacitated. Today we get news he wants his youngest son, Jong Un to eventually take over upon his death. Jong Un is only 24 so he could end up leading North Korea for a several decades.

Jong Un should not let his older half brothers prepare his food. While that is said in humor, I'm sure there will be internal strife over bypassing his sibling.


Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Next Obama Nominee to Fall to the Wayside?

Last week New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson was the first Obama nominee to have to withdraw from consideration due to ethical lapses. Treasury Secretary nominee Tim Geithner should be the next to withdraw. I am not asking for perfection from government employees. However, it isn't asking too much that they understand and follow the rules their department imposes on the rest of the population. Geithner would, if confirmed by the senate, lead the Treasury Department. The Internal Revenue System fall under the purview of Treasury. Geithner has been seriously delinquent in paying his taxes. While Geithner's supporters are defending his criminal actions as "honest mistakes," timing is important in considering whether these were merely honest mistakes. This paragraph says a lot about Geithner's actions:
Three years ago, the IRS audited Geithner for tax years 2003 and 2004, which resulted in him paying back taxes and interest--but no penalties--totaling $16,732.

However, Geithner voluntarily amended his 2001 and 2002 returns only after Obama expressed interest in nominating him to the Treasury post. The total bill this time: $25,970.
In other words, three years ago he was caught underpaying his taxes for two years (2003 and 2004) and had to know the same "mistakes" were made on his earlier returns yet he chose not to pay his arrears until he heard he might be nominated for a job requiring senate confirmation. NEXT!

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Tuesday, January 13, 2009

A Good Man Leaves Professional Sports

Far too often the reprobates and bad characters of professional sports get the lion's share of attention. Today take a moment to consider retiring Indianapolis Colts head coach Tony Dungy. Leo Durocher is misquoted as saying "Nice guys finish last." Well, Dungy puts that statement to rest. Tony Dungy is retiring as the active coach with the highest winning percentage and after leading his team to an unprecedented six consecutive seasons of 12 or more victories. During his time leading the Colts the team reached the playoffs every years and achieved a Super Bowl championship. Prior to assuming the reins in Indianapolis, Dungy was the first coach to have any real success with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In my opinion, his accomplishment in Tampa Bay is more impressive than his success with the Colts. In Tampa Bay he had to overcome a well developed culture of losing. More than "X's and O's" a coach's mission should be to create a winning positive mentality.

Tony Dungy will be remembered in the various cities where he played and coached as much for his off field contributions to the community as for his football accomplishments. He lived his Christian faith openly without being pushy or showy about it. He was a quiet reserved leader. While he seems to have been forgotten since retiring, Chuck Noll is likely the biggest influence on Dungy's coaching style. Noll was another guy who was able to be successful without letting football take over his life.

While I'd be glad to see Dungy lead the team I root for some time in the future, I hope he is able to find success in other pursuits. Listening to his retirement speech I heard a voice which would easily lend itself to public service. However, he may just be too good a man for the nasty business of politics.


Monday, January 12, 2009

Baseball Writers Elect Two to Hall of Fame

Today the results of this years Baseball Hall of Fame balloting was announced. Congratulation to Rickey Henderson and Jim Rice on their elections.

Henderson was a no brainer choice as the all time leader in both stolen bases and more importantly in runs scored. Bill James once, when asked about whether Henderson was a Hall of Famer, replied "you could cut Henderson's career in half and you'd have two Hall of Famers."

Jim Rice is a somewhat controversial pick. He was elected on his 15th and final year on the ballot. Rice had a few great years, a few really good years and then he fell off a cliff performance wise. He will not be the worst player in the Hall of Fame, but the there are several better players who aren't close to election. Just looking at other left fielders, Albert Belle was a comparable if not better player and he fell off the Hall of Fame ballot after one election. Regardless, congrats Mr. Rice.

More egregiously than the selections were the omissions, the writers have not elected a starting pitcher whose career started in the last 40 years. The most glaring oversight is the continued failure to elect Bert Blyleven. Blyleven pitched from 1970 to 1992 and finished his career 3rd all time in strikeouts. Even being retired 16 years he remains 5th all time in strikeouts and 9th in shutouts with 60. The thing the myopic writers seem to be holding against Blyleven is his won loss record which is as much or more a reflection of the offensive talent of a pitcher's teammates than the pitcher's talents. Bert is credited with 287 wins. Thirteen more and he'd have 300 would likely have been elected on his first or second go around. Sully of Sully Baseball took a game by game look at Blyleven career and found 42 games where he got a loss or no decision that likely would have gone the other way with a little offensive support. Here is a little of his research:

1971 with Twins
LOSS - 8 IP, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 hits, 5, K's. Twins lose 1-0. May 2.
NO DECISION - 10 IP, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 hits, 6 K's. Twins lose 2-0. September 1.

1972 with Twins

LOSS - 10 1/3 IP, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 Hits, 9 K's. Twins lose 1-0 in 11 innings. September 27.
NO DECISION - 10 IP, 0 ER, 6 BB, 7 Hits, 10 K's. Twins lose 1-0 in 11 innings. July 8.

One thing that jumped out from that data was how many times Bert pitched more than nine innings. I knew he was a horse that pitched a lot of complete games, I just didn't realize how many times he pitched ten or more innings. I wonder what the modern record is for number of games pitching more than 9 innings. Bottom line: If voters stopped looking at matters largely outside a pitcher control (wins and losses) and actually took the time to evaluate his K's, WHIP, ERA, ERA+, SHO's, CG's, etc, which measure his performance they would have to consider him worthy.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Congratulations Texas Longhorns

Sadly, with the assistance of the officiating crew, the Texas Longhorns beat The Ohio State Buckeyes tonight. The officials put a skirt (in the form of questionable roughing the passer calls) on Texas quarterback Colt McCoy allowing Texas to win the game. If that sounds like sour grapes I don't care. My grapes are really sour right about now.

In a case of regretting being right, with 2:50 left on the clock I said to the wife "They need to eat up the clock - - don't score too quick." Right after that, OSU running back Daniel Herron ran for a touchdown. While you obviously want your team to score touchdowns I was afraid Texas had too much time left and they did.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

First Obama appointee to fall to the wayside

Under investigation for "pay-to-play" allegations, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson has withdrawn his name as a nominee for secretary of the commerce. That didn't take long. Change we can believe in is looking a lot like the last Democratic administration with their myriad ethical lapses.

It's a darn shame he had to withdraw from the confirmation process. It would have been good theater considering Sen. Byrd's declaration that Richardson would never get confirmed for another government job based on how he screwed up as Energy Secretary.

Oh well, if we can't have Richardson giving up a governor seat maybe Obama can find another senator to appoint to the commerce job. At the current rate the Dems will have close to 30 seats to defend in 2010. More seats they have to defend the easier it will be to pick off the low hanging fruit (like Harry Reid).

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