Monthly Archives: February 2008

Many Words about the Cubs and Bears, and Some Love for Grossman

I’ve been talking a lot about politics lately, and I’m sure I’ll have some more stuff to say after tonight’s debate.  But I haven’t spent much time at all on sports, and it’s been a busy week for sports in Chicago.  No, I’m not talking about the Ben Wallace trade.  An NBA man I am not.  Rather, da Bears have been active, and it’s spring training.

I must say that I’m pretty excited about this coming baseball season.  I’m not sure Dempster’s World Series prediction is completely justified, especially with the Mets being the Mets (then again, the Mets are the Mets), but they should have a pretty decent shot of making the playoffs as the division champion or wild card.  It’s always hard to say a team’s a lock for the playoffs in baseball, because the season is so long and the playoffs are pretty exclusive, especially when you compare baseball to other sports (you have to be pretty bad to not make the playoffs in hockey and basketball).   But I it’s obvious the Cubs are better this year than last, when they won 85 games and the Central Division Championship.

The fifth spot in the rotation worries me a little bit.  Right now there’s competition for the fourth and fifth starters between Ryan Dempster, Jon Lieber, Jason Marquis, Sean Gallagher, and Sean Marshall.  Like I said before, when you have a lot of competition for a spot, it usually means there’s not a solid choice.  A team will usually spin it to say there are several strong candidates, but that’s typically not the case.  I certainly don’t mean to imply that a couple of good players competing for a spot is bad; competition usually makes the winner more productive and depth is often just as important as who’s starting.  However, when you start getting three or four players competing for a spot then usually there’s not a solid starter between them.  Most teams are not going to have three starting-caliber players for a position.  It doesn’t make sense; it’s a waste of money, and at least one of those is not going to get much playing time and will probably start to get disgruntled.

Pitchers are a little bit different than position players, because you need so many of them.  But to have five guys trying to pitch into two starting spots makes me nervous about the quality we’re going to get from the winners.  I’m sure out of the five at least one of them will have a solid year, so the fourth spot doesn’t concern me much.  But the Cubs already had Dempster, Marquis, Gallagher, and Marshall, and still found it necessary to sign Jon Lieber, so I think even they have their doubts about what kind of contributions they can expect out of the five spot. Fortunately, most teams’ fifth starter is kind of a “mop up” guy, and overall the Cubs do have an above average, if not excellent, rotation.

My preseason prediction, and mind you that there hasn’t even been an exhibition game yet so don’t hold me to it, is Sean Marshall will be the fourth starter, Jon Lieber will be the fifth starter, Gallagher will go back to the minors in case Lieber gets hurt (he has been hurt a lot the last few years), and Dempster will end up back in the bullpen.  Marquis’ days in the Cubs organization are probably numbered; though he might end up in the ‘pen he will probably be traded or released at some point.  He is an inning hog, but there’s not really room for him and he’s no better than any of the other four, so there’s not really any reason to keep him and he could be a valuable addition to a team lacking a fifth starter right now.  Also, Marshall is a pretty solid prospect and Gallagher does show promise, so I wouldn’t be surprised if one or both of them get traded by the end of the year.

Despite the competition “problem” that often manifests itself in a crowded field, there are three people (Kerry Wood, Carlos Marmol, and Bob Howry) competing for the closer’s spot, and I feel very good about this.  First, all three of them are going to be valuable out of the bullpen, so it’s really more like a competition for the number one spot in the rotation then, let’s say, starting at second base.  I also think all three will do a very good job.  Lou Pinella is going to reward the position based upon spring training performances, but I think Kerry Wood should just be given the job.  I have a lot of faith that Kerry Wood will be an exemplary closer.  I also have a lot of faith that Bob Howry would be exemplary, but he is probably the best pitcher in the bullpen and I would hate to see him pigeon-holed into the closer’s role.  Many people feel the best reliever should be the closer, but there are many times in a game which you need a big out just to get to the closer.  If the game is close and bases are jammed with one out in the seventh, I’d much rather have Howry coming in than sitting there waiting for a lead in the ninth.  I think Carlos Marmol is an extremely talented pitcher who can compete with Howry for “best in the pen,” but he’s still very young and closing is the most mentally and emotionally challenging position in baseball.  If you have a one bad inning, you probably just single-handedly lost a game your team should have won.  And you might be expected to come out tomorrow with the game on the line again.  Closing can kill a kid’s confidence, and sometimes his whole career, and veterans should fill that role with very few exceptions.

Honestly, though, I really think Dempster should just close, as he’s done for three years now.  People claim he’s too inconsistent to close.  If you examine his performance, that’s simply not the case.  Dempster had 28 saves in 31 opportunities last year.  28-3 in close situations is not inconsistent.  Any team would love to have a closer who’s 28-3, and most don’t.  Over the last three years, he has 85 saves in 99 opportunities.  Compare that to the Yankees’ Mariano Rivera, widely considered the best closer in the game right now, who has 107 saves in 118 opportunities (the Yankees have 56 more wins than the Cubs during that time, by the way).  That’s not a bad comparison at all.  Dempster got the “inconsistent” label because he struggled when he pitched in non-save situations.  The solution to that is easy; only pitch him in save situations.  Not getting enough work?  Have him throw BP.  Put him in during a blow-out.  I don’t really care how he gets his work in, but anybody who was 28-3 in close situations should be the closer the next year.  But I guess Dempster wants to start, and Pinella is rewarding his efforts with the opportunity.  He has worked very hard to for it, and I do hope he’s successful.

Overall, I feel very good about the pitching this year, and there are very few weak spots in the field, too.  Starting second baseman, Mark DeRosa, has had arrhythmia and might need an operation.  This is bad news, but the Cubs are pretty deep in the infield (I have no problems at all about starting Mike Fontenot), so as long as he’s not lost for very long (which he shouldn’t be) they’ll be okay.  The Cubbies have been entertaining trading for Brian Roberts all winter, and this may convince them to finally give up what the Orioles want for him.  He would be a great addition to the team and really push the Cubs over the edge, but he might only be around for a year or two and would probably cost Matt Murton and a couple other young guys to get him.  Murton doesn’t have a spot in the outfield right now, which makes me sad.  I love this guy, and hope he gets a chance to be the everyday right fielder at some point in the future.  Soriano in left, Fukudome in center, and Murton in right is an outfield that I would love to see for years to come.  Murton does have to work on his defense and show a little more consistency at the plate, but man, do I like him.

Center field is probably going to be weak offensively.  I just don’t think that Pie is going to turn into the player the Cubs have been touting him as for the last couple of years (Corey Patterson comes to mind).  But he is a great defensive player, so I’m happy to give him a shot.  The Cubbies should have a good enough offense to make up for him even if he drastically underperforms at the plate, and it’s important to have a strong defensive center fielder.

Da Bears I’m not so optimistic about.  They did not franchise Bernard Berrian, and I am very worried he won’t be back.  This could be fatal for them next year.  The Bears did sign Rex Grossman to a one-year deal to give him another shot (which I love, and will explain why in just a second), and I think that’s going to go a long way in convincing Berrian to stay.  But if he ends up leaving via free agency there’s not a lot of people for Sexy Rexy to throw to. (Or Kyle Orton.  What’s a good name for Orton?  Old Style Kyle?  He does look like a drunk.  If the Bears hadn’t released Muhsin Muhammad I’d go with “Orton Sees a ‘Moose’”, but most people probably wouldn’t get it anyway.)  They did resign Dez Clark, and between him and Greg Olsen have one of the better, if not one of the best, tight end groups in football.  Devin Hester is going to be a great wide receiver someday.  Someday.  I think he’ll always have problems dropping the ball, and you just don’t go from defense to great receiver in one year, especially if that one year is in the NFL.  Mark Bradley is a good receiver, but he’s hurt a lot and any team which lines even a healthy Bradley as their number one option is in a world of trouble.  Rashied Davis has made a few huge catches for the Bears, but he seems like a specialty receiver who’s really only effective in three or four receiver sets.  I think Bernard Berrian over-estimates his skill level, but he’s the best the Bears got, and by a lot.  Plus, he seems like a team guy.  Nobody ever complains about him, and he doesn’t have that WR affliction of running the mouth that seems so prevalent in the NFL today.

I appreciate that the Bears organization does not want to overpay for anybody.  I really do.  It makes good football sense and as a fan I’m happy they won’t be handicapped for years by a stupid signing in the heat of passion.  But the Bears need to just pay the guy what he wants, or at least let him test the market and start matching offers.  It’s going to be very, very difficult for them to get all the new people they need to be successful, and I’m one of the few individuals who’d actually be happy with Grossman, Orton, and Griese back next year.  On the Bears list of “needs” is a starting running back, at least one starting offensive tackle and one starting guard (and they could do with three new starting O-linemen), a solid backup safety capable of starting, (since Mike Brown’s always hurt) and a solid linebacker (Lance Briggs is as good as gone; they do have a couple of guys in place who can start, but you need a good contingency plan when you lose a guy like Briggs).  The draft is loaded with good offensive tackles; they should do well there.  But most teams could use a good starting running back or offensive linemen, so it’s not like we get our pick of the litter here.  It’s going to be tough to fill all these positions with quality people, let alone to do it and find a number one receiver.

I can just see it now; they lose Berrian, Benson takes 75% of the snaps, they aren’t able to adequately fix the offensive line, and then when the offensive sucks more than Monica everybody says they made a huge mistake staying with Grossman.  You almost have to wonder why he would want to be back.  People, Grossman is not the problem.  The QB play in general is not the problem.  But since everybody seems to have an anti-Rex bias, let’s try a little “hypothetical” thinking exercise, shall we?

Let’s say you’re the general manager of a football team, and you have to rebuild your offense.  Now let’s say last year the passing game was ranked, oh I don’t know, fifteenth in a league of thirty-two teams.  And let’s say your running game was ranked 30th, just for shits and grins.  And let’s say you have the oldest offensive line and NFL.com ranked them second to last in the conference and 29th overall.  Now, would you be in panic mode trying to get a new quarterback?  Would you think the reason why your offense is sub-par is a crappy passer?  There is no reason why almost any team should have a passing game ranked in the middle of the pack when they have no offensive line and no running game.  None.

Let me put it this way; teams with good running backs, good offensive lines, and bad quarterbacks don’t get their passing game ranked fifteenth in the league.  Teams with bad quarterbacks, bad offensive lines, and bad running backs get ranked at the very bottom in passing.  The very bottom.  We’re talking as low as, well, as low as the Bears offensive line and running game was ranked last year.  Teams with bad quarterback situations just don’t end up doing as well as the Bears did last year under the conditions which they had to work with.

Of course, that’s not going to stop people from complaining about the quarterback play because, let’s face it, people want to believe two things about the NFL:  First, the quarterback is a magical player who will transform any group of twenty-one other guys into a world champion just by showing up and giving a good motivational speech during half time ever now and then (the premise for every football movie ever made, save “Rudy”).  Secondly, the Bears will never, ever, ever have a quarterback who is good enough to play on a professional football team.

I’ll tell you this much though.  If the Bears let Berrian go, don’t find another number-one running back, and don’t dramatically improve the line in the offseason, Jesus Himself couldn’t quarterback this team to the playoffs unless somehow Jerry Angelo can convince Durga to play wideout.

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Obama Does Have Foreign Policy Experience

In response to my last blog, my friend and blogging inspiration said people have complained to her that Barack Obama does not have enough foreign affairs experience (she commented on The Great Geno’s Myspace page, where I also post all my blogs).  Since my blogs are usually ranting against somebody instead of for Obama, I would like to make three points on this subject.

Tell your friends.

First, Obama does have foreign affairs experience.  He currently is on the Senate Committee for Foreign Affairs, as well as the Committee for Homeland Security and the Committee for Veterans Affairs.  Further, he co-wrote the Lugar-Obama Act, which was a non-proliferation bill designed to keep anti-aircraft and other conventional weapons, as well as weapons of mass destruction, from being sold to terrorist organizations or other governments and organizations who would use them for nefarious purposes.  From my understanding, most of these come from the former soviet states, and either are or have the potential to be sold illegally to help further everything from terrorist efforts against the United States to the civil wars in Africa. 

Secondly, obviously he does not have the foreign affairs experience of McCain, but that does not mean he won’t be a better President.  Foreign policy is just one part of a President’s job.  He’s the head of the executive branch, whose primary responsibility is to enforce the law of the land, not to send us into war.  Remember when everybody thought George H.W. Bush was brilliant in foreign policy but failed to re-elect him because of his shortcomings in domestic policy?  And the President will be surrounded by top-notch guys (and gals).  Many people would argue most of the military decisions should be made by the Chiefs-of-Staff.  But it’s more about how effectively Obama will make his decisions based upon the information he’s given, using the people at his disposal.  I think Obama will surround himself with competent people, not “yes-men” who are rewarded for loyalty, and I feel very strongly that his ability to make sound decisions is impeccable.

Finally, Senators are the only people outside of federal executive offices who are allowed to deal with foreign policy decisions on an official basis.  Governors, by law, are explicitly forbidden from engaging in foreign policy.  This is a federal, Constitutional check on a governor’s power, and is not open to interpretation.  So, the last President we had who was a former senator was Nixon.  Since then, there have only been two Presidents who have fought in a war or had foreign policy experience; Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush.  All the others; Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush W., were elected from governorships, did not serve in a war, and had no foreign policy experience.

So the point is, other than George H.W. Bush, Obama would actually be the most qualified to lead our country’s foreign policy than any President since Nixon/Ford.

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Dead In the Water, But Still Splashing Around

Last night Obama won big in Wisconsin and Hawaii.  Hawaii was pretty much a given; so much so that neither candidate made a personal stop there.  But the Clinton campaign was hoping for either a win in Wisconsin or a close loss, and they were blown out of the water via a 17-point defeat.  It really says something about the state of the campaign that people in her camp are saying the seventeen point loss showed the negative ads were starting to work or that Obama’s negatives have “nowhere to go but up.”  (Also that Clinton is giving speeches in high school gymnasiums while Obama’s giving them in college arenas.)  They’re obviously running scared and Obama has the victory about wrapped up.  Clinton’s hope has changed from needing to win Texas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania to needing to win those states big (probably bigger than 17 points).  However, Obama has come within two points in Texas in a CNN poll, and some are saying that Ohio is close enough to Wisconsin that Obama might end up winning that one as well.  If Hillary wins Texas close and Ohio big, no doubt she will feel like she has a legitimate chance of gaining enough superdelegates to win.  If both are close than it’s going to be very, very difficult.  If Obama wins Texas it’s all but over and if he wins Texas and Ohio I think we’ll start hearing calls for Clinton to concede the race and quit.  At that point it will be virtually impossible for her to win.

One thing that’s amazing to me is that Obama did better in Wisconsin than McCain.  They both won by 17-point margins, but Obama actually got a higher percentage of the vote (58% to 55%).  Further, Obama not only got more votes than all the Republican candidates combined, but the difference between his votes and the entire GOP total is larger than the number of votes McCain received.  The vote total, I’m sure, is partly due to the fact that McCain already has won the nomination for all intensive purposes.  However, for that very same reason it’s remarkable that Obama’s margin of victory was equal.  McCain really should be pulling 65% or 70% of the vote by now.  And who’s still voting for Ron Paul?  Honestly!

This really bodes well for Obama heading into the general election.  What’s even better is that McCain is borrowing from Clinton’s playbook; last night he made the claim that “I may not be the youngest candidate, but I’m the most experienced,” and said that he needs “make sure Americans are not deceived by an eloquent but empty call to change.”  Evidently his old age is causing a bit of dementia; these are the exact same arguments Clinton has used, and the more she has used them the worse things have gotten for her.

McCain also made a huge tactical error that I really hope Obama calls him out on.  In pointing out his foreign policy inexperience during his victory speech last night,  McCain asked “Will we risk the confused leadership of an inexperience candidate who once suggested invading our ally, Pakistan?”  This morning,  on “Good Morning America,” McCain said that “Obama wants to bomb Pakistan without talking to the Pakistanis.  I think that’s dangerous.”  Evidently it’s okay to hunt for bin Laden and al Qaida in enemy territories, but not so much in allied ones (assuming a rather loose interpretation of the word “ally”).  But as I pointed out a few days ago on my blog, this really isn’t that deviant from American policy now.  You don’t have to take my word for it.  On Monday, that’s “Monday,” as in two days ago, America did, in fact, bomb Pakistan without asking the Pakistanis.  I’m not a war hawk by any stretch of the imagination.  I’m a peace-at-all-costs guy.  But I do understand that sometimes forceful actions need to be taken to preserve peace; that failure to disturb the peace in a controlled method now may result in less peace over the long-term which we cannot control.  And I’d like to think I’m a long-term thinker.  I’d like to think McCain is, too.  Which is why I’m sure he doesn’t object to Bush’s use of drones to bomb outlaying areas of Pakistan where al Qaida may be hiding, and without permission if the Pakistani government won’t give it.  It’s just baffling that he would attack Obama for holding this view the day after the United States took such action.

As for Clinton . . . what can I say about Clinton?  As the race moves on she’s getting more and more panicky and taking more and more extreme actions and she keeps losing worse and worse.  I thought that Obama had a good chance to win all the states between Super Tuesday and March 4th.  I thought it probably wouldn’t happen; that Clinton would win at least one or possibly two (namely Washington and Wisconsin), yet I had hope.  But I could not have imagined he would win these so convincingly.  Yesterday’s 17-point win was actually his smallest margin of victory since Super Tuesday. 

Clinton is not doing herself any favors.  She’s really starting to show her true colors, and it’s putting people off.  I hate to admit it, but I really think the left (me included) is starting to see the Clintons for what the right has been telling us they are for sixteen years.  I haven’t changed my opinion of the Clinton presidency.  He did some good things (obviously the economy, or increasing the use of computers in schools, or increasing the number of children who could afford to go to college) and he did some bad (NAFTA, selling the radio waves, and giving secrets to China come to mind).  But this election cycle has made me realize that he’s just a petty individual hell-bent on maintaining power in any way he can.  And Hillary Clinton’s stock has fallen just as dramatically, but she didn’t have as much to begin with.

Last night she gave a terrible speech, which included the oft-championed vision she has of “insuring every single American.”  I HATE how she acts like she’s a champion for health coverage, and everybody just allows it.  The way she went after health care changes in the 90’s pushed us back decades in the fight for universal health care.  And her plan won’t cover every single American, at best it will leave out tens of thousands and at worse tens of millions.  She makes exceptions for the very poor who can’t afford coverage, just like Obama does, and just like Edwards did.  I will admit that it may cover more people than Obama’s plan, though I like Obama’s plan better because I believe it will do more to lead to single-payer coverage, which I think is ideal (which is why every other civilized, and some not-so-civilized, countries embrace it).  But here’s what really got me about the speech:  She asked, “Who are we going to leave out?  Would we leave out the mother I met who grabbed my arm and said the insurance company wouldn’t pay for the treatment that her son needed?”  Senator Clinton’s “universal health care” plan would mandate that all Americans buy health insurance.  If you’re going to argue that more people will be covered under your plan, fine.  That’s fair, and I’ll admit it.  But don’t lay a sob story on us about the currently insured and act like your plan is going to magically save those being hurt by the insurance companies.  The truth is she changed from single-payer to mandated purchased insurance about the time the insurance companies started loading up her coffers.

Not to mention that, though her plan would mandate coverage, she’s all but admitted it won’t pass.  Her claim that Obama’s plan is not good enough is that she knows if a plan that starts out covering all Americans is not introduced, by the time it’s whittled down by Congress it won’t help anybody.  Again, you can make that argument if you want; it’s a fair argument (though I think it says more about how she perceives the failures of her leadership than its accuracy across the board).  But don’t say you’re going to use universal coverage as a way to negotiate to an Obama-esque plan and then claim it’s so much better than his.

McCain also made a swipe at Obama’s plan, saying it would “bankrupt the country and ruin the quality of American health care that is the envy of the world.”  He has a point there.  The American health care system is the envy of the world, which is why the World Health Organization, a part of the UN, ranks the U.S. health care system at 37th.  Right below Costa Rica and right above Slovenia and Cuba.  Evidently the U.S. is the envy of the world because it’s so close to Costa Rica.  Get sick?  Just fly down to the Caribbean; health care and a vacation in one go!  McCain says Obama can’t solve our problems with speeches; well, you can’t solve our problems with your head in the sand, either.  Denial is not a solution, it’s the problem.

Speaking of solutions vs. speeches, have you noticed that Hillary Clinton says she’s in the “solution business” instead of the “speech business,” but all her speeches are about how she offers more solutions without actually providing any information on what those solutions are?  Saying that you’re in the “solutions business” for twenty minutes does not actually offer any solutions.  If you can wade through the seven pages of NT Times trascripts, do so.  Obama gave a lot of examples on things he will do to change America.  Clinton only complained about how Obama can’t change it.

Finally, I want to vent about how much a sore loser Clinton is getting to be.  Yesterday she gave her speech without mentioning her loss or congratulating Obama on victory.  Even McCain congratulates Huckabee for doing so well.  And it’s not just that she ignores the fact that she’s getting killed.  Every loss comes with an excuse.  “This state has a large black population,” or “Caucuses aren’t democratic,” or “We knew we were going to lose anyway.”  She’s been constantly trying to change the rules to make her losses less impactful for a month.  She said the delegates in Michigan and Florida need to be seated though she agreed with the DNC’s decision not to seat them when she thought she was a shoe in.  She thinks that caucuses are not democratic because they force people to show up at a certain time, even though they’ve been in use for hundreds of years and she didn’t seem to have a problem with them until Obama started winning them handedly.  She tells the super-delegates to support and push her to the nomination, even if she loses the popular vote, the delegate vote, and the majority of states.  Now she wants to try and pick-off Obama’s pledged delegate votes.  You try to change the rules before the game, not after you start losing.  She’s acting like a manager complaining that balks aren’t “baseball-enough.”  I’m still bitter about the 2000 election, but it’s because rules were not followed (i.e. a recount mandated by law was halted).  I don’t think Gore lost unfairly because of the Electoral College or because of Nader and Buchanan siphoning votes.  Like them or not, these rules were in place in November of 2000 and we have to abide by them.  Now she should have to abide by the rules she agreed to play with.  Obama vs. Clinton is starting to be less of a choice between leaders and more of a choice to defend the democratic system the U.S. is based upon.

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King George’s Laws

I’d like to take a moment to point out once again that our “prestigious” president doesn’t have the slightest clue about the Constitution. Yesterday he addressed the country to try a persuade Congress to pass the Protect America Act. This act makes it lawful for the government to eavesdrop on electronic communications (i.e. phone calls or internet usage) of “foreign intelligence targets in foreign countries” without a warrant from the FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) Court. This act was already passed, but due to the incendiary nature of it a “sunset” clause was included, making the law expire on February 1st. It was then granted an extension for two weeks, which would be today. The President argues that it is necessary because our foreign intelligence service cannot be “bothered” with obtaining a warrant when an immediate risk is possible and eavesdropping may be the only way to mitigate it. However, this act is actually wholly unnecessary because FISA is able to grant warrants retroactively; that is, after the intelligence is collected. Thousands of warrants are granted every year, and only five have been denied in its entire existence. Further, the PATRIOT Act already amended FISA to include terrorist groups not supported by foreign governments, which was not originally allowed.

So why do we need the law? Simply put, even if they collect the information, if the FISA Court later says that no warrant should be issued then the evidence can no longer be used. So the law is needed to expand the conditions under which our foreign intelligence can conduct business without a court warrant because the President wants to conduct eavesdropping operations which are not currently legal.

And what operations would those be? Ones in which a person within the country who is not necessarily a target is a party. In other words, this would allow the government to eavesdrop on anybody inside the United States, providing only that they are communicating with somebody outside the United States who can be justified as a terrorist threat. This can be done, by the way, based upon the evidence created with the eavesdropping; it’s not necessary to justify it before the eavesdropping occurs as long as it can be justified after. It pretty much opens up any international communication to government eavesdropping, either via phone (which for the average person probably doesn’t happen a lot) or internet (which happens all the time.) These actions are explicitly against the law, and the President knows that a change to legalize such surveillance would never pass. So instead of just not doing it (i.e. only conduct legal operations) he is trying to eliminate the requirement to justify illegal operations under the guise of eliminating a barrier to collect legal information (a barrier which doesn’t actually exist).

The law would also force “third parties,” namely telecommunications and internet companies, to release this information to the government, even if they have moral qualms about doing so.

Unfortunately, in my humble opiniont, Congress does not seem to care. In fact, they want to pass this law. Fortunately, Bush is greedy. It’s not enough that he should get this loophole to circumvent the law. But he also wants “third parties” who knowingly and readily broke the law by giving this information to the Bush administration to be exempt from lawsuits from people whose conversations were collected and given to the government illegally before this loophole was passed. He claims that these companies should not be held liable for committing illegal acts when they were asked to do so by the President.

So his argument is that he has a legal right to ask people to do illegal things and they have a legal right to do them.

His obvious disillusion that the laws of this land do not apply to him is not new news (as is evident by his use of signing statements, which he has currently used in excess of 1,000 times). This is something which most people have known about for some time. Some people don’t care, which is scary, but I think even the people who don’t care have to understand he holds this view. (On second thought, maybe some of them don’t. Some of those people are pretty damn stupid, I must admit.)

But it’s not just his apparent disregard for working within the parameters of the legal system. He also apparently doesn’t understand why the Constitution has established a bicameral legislative body. In a speech he gave yesterday, he stated “If Republicans and Democrats in the Senate can come together on a good piece of legislation, there is no reason why Republicans and Democrats in the House cannot pass the Senate bill immediately.” So he believes that if one house of Congress passes a bill, then it should become law? The other house should just subject to their whims and blindly pass the legislation?

One wonders why when the Senate passes something bipartisan the House must do the same, but the President does not. Evidently the Constitution’s view of passage of law is relevant when he gets a say, but not when the full Congress does.

Not only doesn’t he understand how law should be passed, but he also gets a little fuzzy-headed on what exactly law says. He claims the February 1st expiration of the PAA was a “deadline they set for themselves.” Actually, the February 1st expiration, as I alluded to earlier, was a sunset provision designed to limit the bill’s effectiveness to a certain time period. This is not done as an arbitrary deadline Congress imposes, but rather as a way to get a bill passed when it contains language that many members of Congress would find objectionable. Often times this occurs because something must be done quickly, but Congress is worried about possible long-term implications of a law that seem like a good idea in the heat of the moment. A great example was the USA PATRIOT Act. When it was signed everybody was drunk with fear, but Congress was smart enough to know that when the dust settled they may not be as willing to cede some of the power they were granting to the President. Sure enough, after a couple of years they realized there were things in the bill which they just went overboard with, and so when the bill expired they passed a more reasonable PATRIOT Act (though some argue that it was not reasonable per se, everybody outside the White House would have to agree it was more reasonable).

Another example of a sunset clause was in the 1994 assault weapons ban, which President Bush opposed. When it was time to expire, he certainly did not view it as a deadline to fix and pass the bill again.

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Today in Washington, Wednesday in Mesa

On Fox News Sunday, Bush gave his critique of Obama, saying “I certainly don’t know what he believes in.  The only foreign policy thing I remember he said was that he’s going to attack Pakistan and embrace Ahmenidajad.”  Evidently he feels like America doesn’t know what he stands for.  Fortunately for us, Barack Obama has given us a fairly detailed account on his plans for American foreign policy under his administration.  I can’t really blame Bush for not knowing what it is, however.  If he wasn’t able to keep up with foreign policy issues when he was running for President, why should we expect him to keep up with another candidate’s?

It’s ironic that such statements were an example of “the old Washington game trying to tear somebody down” when they were directed at him, but seem acceptable when he’s the old Washington guy.  I guess he’s the typical “dish it but can’t take it” type.

What I find especially insulting, though, is that he’s making such negative remarks about Obama when Obama’s policies really reflect some of the few bright moments in Bush’s historically inept foreign policy.  When Obama said he was “going to attack Pakistan” he was saying that the U.S. should unilaterally embark on bombing campaigns inside Pakistan if there is credible evidence that they would help capture or kill Osama bin Laden but the Pakistani government won’t assist with the effort.  You know, kind of like how we attacked Afghanistan and overthrew their government because we had credible evidence bin Laden was there but the Taliban wouldn’t assist with the effort.  In other words, Obama said he would take whatever actions are necessary to clean up Bush’s mess, since, you know, Bush wasn’t able to find the guy.  Of course, there is a big difference; in Obama’s “attack” he said he’d avoid situations like bombing wedding ceremonies. 

As far as the “embrace Ahmenidajad” remark, Obama did certainly say that he would embrace diplomatic relations with Ahmenidajad to help stabilize the region and remove the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran.  Remember when Bush said unilateral diplomatic relations with North Korea would be embracing Kim Jong-il but then his hard stance ended up enabling a nuclear-armed North Korea and then all of Asia hated us and the only way he was able to stop it was to finally just talk to the Korean dictator?  Evidently Bush doesn’t.

I guess the question then becomes, how can we expect Bush to know what a Democrat candidate’s positions are when he evidently has so little knowledge of his own?

By the way, don’t you hate when Republicans claim withdrawing combat troops from Iraq would encourage terrorism when Obama said he would keep troops in Iraq to battle al Qaida and will use the withdrawal to increase the focus on Afghanistan?  I sure do.  Of course, God forbid the GOP might have to face the reality that the Iraq war is what caused al Qaida in Iraq and allowed the Taliban to come back in power.

In other political news, Hillary Clinton’s campaign has changed managers.  First she has to give $5 million to the campaign, then she asks for weekly debates, then she gets swept over the weekend, and now she’s changing managers.  Sounds like she’s on the ropes to me.  Of course, she denies it.  I guess she could have a point.  After all, don’t successful baseball teams change managers in the middle of a season all the time?  And don’t companies who are very profitable often change CEOs just to “liven things up a bit?”  And didn’t California elect Schwarzenegger because Gray Davis was doing so well?  Wait . . . my sources are telling me the answer to all of those questions is “no.”  Evidently, only a moron would believe that.  Well, that’s what I pay my crack research team for.  Good catch, guys!

Anyway, we’ll see if Obama can keep it up through March 4.

Finally, Wednesday is one of the most joyful days of the year.  The signal that winter is nearing an end and warmer days are upon us.  A beacon of light in the darkest of every year.  A renewal of hope that could only come from the graces of all that is good and whole in our lives.  I’m speaking, of course, of the day that Cubs’ pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

I’m cautiously optimistic about this upcoming year.  I am a little disturbed when I hear claims that 85 victories could win the Central division, as that is the total the Cubbies had last year and they should be better this year (and we shouldn’t have to suffer the Pinella “break-in” period that took most of last April and May).  The Cubs didn’t do much this offseason, but they were able to keep all their important pieces, shed Mark Prior (addition by subtraction, I think), and sign Kosuke Fukudome (which was huge).

However, two things do worry me.  Namely, they have five pitchers competing for the last two starting positions, and three competing for the closer’s job.  The obligatory argument from the Cubs is that signifies how deep they are in those spots.  The thing is, usually when you have a bunch of people competing for one spot, it doesn’t mean you have a bunch of excellent candidates; it means you don’t have a one.

The Mets signing Santana makes them the obvious favorites to win the NL pennant.  But I do think this year’s Cubbies are going to be a lot of fun to watch.

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The Cognitive Dissonance of Global Warming

Last night Hardball host Chris Matthews had Tom DeLay, that wonderful man who upholds such conservative moral values as conspiracy to violate campaign finance laws and money laundering, live from the Conservative Political Action Conference (i.e. the 2008 Texas Honky Festival) to ask about negative statements he and other Republicans made about John McCain. Turns out people like DeLay and conservative talk radio hosts would rather vote for Hillary Clinton than McCain. They haven’t said if they would vote for Obama or not. Probably because a show full of hate speech against Obama won’t rake in nearly as many listeners. I don’t mean to imply that conservative talk radio would put their ratings above the good of the nation, just that they’d put their pocket books above the good of the people.

Of course, in DeLay’s case he hates McCain because he had the gall to actually insinuate activities like DeLay participated in are detrimental to our democracy and should be outlawed. Now the “Straight Talk Express” may be showing the former House Majority Leader what it’s like to run naked backwards through a corn field. The nerve!

Well, DeLay brought up a laundry list of things he didn’t like about McCain, including finance, immigration, and global warming. Global warming kind of came out nowhere, so Chris Matthews said he had to take the opportunity to ask what the Republican’s official position on climate change is.

He said man could not be causing climate change. Evidently, there’s no scientific evidence supporting such a claim. Because crooked politicians know more about scientific evidence then, um, scientists.

Chris Matthews then asked him, rather pointedly, what he would call the “latest report from the Rocky Mountains that the snowpack is disappearing” and humans are causing the problem, if not scientific evidence.

The response? “It is arrogance to suggest that man can affect climate change.”

That’s not a scientific response. It’s a philosophical response, and rather absurd one at that.

Being that the environment is something I’m passionate about (the same kind of passion I have for admittedly abstract things such as life, breathing, drinkable water, and an inhabitable planet for my grandchildren), I have had arguments with people about the effects of climate change, and whether or not people cause it. I don’t recommend it. It’s like arguing that Saddam Hussein did not have ties with al Qaida; it’s already been proven and the only people who don’t believe it are those who already decided it must be true, regardless of what actual facts may say. They are in a text-book state of cognitive dissonance. However, if you ever have the desire to actually ask someone what evidence they have it doesn’t exist, you will find the following:

People who argue against man-caused climate change don’t have any grasp on the scientific evidence at all. In fact, if you really start dissecting their arguments with them, they will invariable admit that, not only do they not know what the evidence is in either direction, but they don’t care. Just like Mr. DeLay. Knowing that it is, in fact, a question of science, they find it necessary to back up their opinion with the claim that no scientific evidence supports that climate change. But when confronted the volumes of scientific evidence that does say climate change is occurring and humans are a major component of it, or the fact that even agencies W. Bush has established to comment on climate change say it is occurring and that economic measures need to be taken to combat it, suddenly the argument shifts from science to philosophy. The reason is very obvious; since all physical data shows that it’s obviously true, they are trying to think the truthiness out of it. Kind of like, if you think really, really hard that you didn’t break the law, they can’t arrest you for campaign finance fraud. Too bad it doesn’t work.

It’s not a philosophical argument at all. It’s a scientific one. And they must understand that or they wouldn’t start with the line that science does not back up the claim, even when they don’t know whether or not that’s true or just lying through their teeth.

And why do they try that line, anyway? Do they just assume because they don’t really have a clue nobody else does, either? Or are they trying to bluff their way into an argument they know is completely unwinnable?

The fact is that people give “scientific evidence” to show that smoking does not cause cancer (according the linked article, it only contributes to a lung cancer rate that’s 8 times higher than those who don’t smoke. Also, the hard data does say that “only 3%” of people in the U.S. die of lung cancer, an obviously small percentage that equates to a remarkably low death total of only 9 million deaths per year. If you really think about it, that means only slightly less than 1,000 people died of lung cancer in 2001 in the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center. So obviously there’s an unscientific, anti-smoker liberal bias here.). But that doesn’t actually mean that the scientific evidence supports the claim. If you have 99 scientists working at colleges and labs and public health agencies saying one thing, and you have one scientist working for Black Gold Texas Tea saying another, who are you going to believe?

I guess that depends upon two things. First, how much money you stand to. Secondly, whether or not you actually think for yourself, do some basic research, or just copy and paste arguments you hear from a hillbilly heroin addicted college dropout. The latter are not worth the headaches and lowered IQ caused by talking with them.

Though if anybody actually knows of any credible scientific evidence that shows climate change does not exist or humans aren’t causing it, I’m all ears. I doubt anybody will even attempt to take me up on the offer.

Finally tonight, I’d like to share some news for you in a new segment I like to call “You Don’t Know Dick (About Cheney): The Great Geno Edition.” Turns out Mr. V.P. had a presidential motorcade, “including Secret Service, motorcycles, and limousines” drive his labrador retriever to the vet, per Chris Matthews. (Limousines? How many limousines do you need to take a dog to the vet, honestly?) Of course, these motorcades are run on the public’s money. So let’s summarize here: it’s fiscally responsible to use tax-payer’s money to send a dog to the hospital, but not a lower-class child. I would say Cheney and Bush have their own little spot in Hell, but I’m afraid we may already be in it.

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From Here on Out on the Left

Obama currently holds the leads in pledged delegates.  There are still some delegates left to count, but it seems likely that after they are all allocated Obama’s delegate lead will actually increase by a few votes.

That is good news, as the Obama campaign said before Super Tuesday if they were behind by only about 100 delegates they thought they could win the nomination.

That’s not counting the “super delegates,” but they could change, and Obama is still only going to be down by about sixty delegates or so even if those are included.

Also, the Clinton campaign is having trouble raising as much money as Obama.  They downplayed the fundraising difference, but Hillary Clinton admitted to “loaning” her campaign $5 million, and staffers are going without pay.  McCain showed us why this isn’t a death knell for a candidate (although it should be noted most of his major monetary problems were before voting started to occur), but it certainly means that something is seriously wrong with Clinton’s war chest.  Maybe she should borrow some money from the Clinton Foundation.  And she is sending surrogates out to campaign for her in upcoming primaries, which include Chelsea (how many times have you heard glowing admiration for Chelsea Clinton?) and Bill (and we know how well that worked out in South Carolina).

I’m starting to get more confident, but not entirely so.  Maybe it’s the continuous letdown of Chicago sports teams that’s drained optimism from my essence.  And Obama is, after all, from Chicago.

However, by all accounts, even the Clinton campaigns’, Obama should do very well in the month of February.  Up next are primaries this Saturday in Louisiana, Washington, and Nebraska.  Obama has won most of the states by Louisiana and Nebraska, and Washington is expected to go to him, as well.  Next Tuesday is another cleverly named primary; either the “Potomac Primaries” or “Chesapeake Tuesday” depending upon where you get your news from, which includes Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C.  Obama is thought to win all those, as well.  In the following weeks there are primaries in Hawaii, where Obama grew up, and Wisconsin.  So out of these eight states, the only two which the Clinton campaign can really be too optimistic about are Washington and Wisconsin.  It could end up with an Obama sweep of all eight.

However, on March 4 there are primaries in Ohio and Texas, states which Clinton has held big leads in.  These are obviously pretty large states, many more delegates than Nebraska, for example, so I am a little nervous about this.  Obama has been much, much better at nicking away at Hillary’s leads than she’s been at expanding them, so over the next month I expect Obama’s numbers to crawl ever closer to Hillary’s.  Truth is, I find it hard to believe that Texas could go for a Clinton.  But it does have a very large latino population.  I’m not sure how many of these latinos are legally allowed to vote (I just coined the term “underground highway.”  Just now.  Use it a lot, and inflate my ego), but my sources tell me a lot.  Obama has made some headway in the latino population, but it hasn’t been much.  As for Ohio; I’m through even guessing about Ohio and Florida (did you see some Floridians actually showed up to vote Tuesday?  Florida was named after the Spanish word for “flowers.”  Some people stop to smell them, they stop to smoke them.)

I will say this; if Hillary Clinton has big wins in those two states it will be a huge boost in her favor.  If Obama wins one of the states or comes close to an even split of delegates, I think that will just about wrap things up for him.  That is assuming, of course, that the delegates before then go as much in his favor as even the Clinton campaign seems to predict.

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