Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rules of Evidence for Political Ambulance Chasers

So Gloria Allred produced her "evidence" this morning. It consisted of a handwritten scrawl - allegedly written in Meg Whitman's husband's hand which advised Allred's (exploited) plaintiff - Nicky check this. As her employer the plaintiff was requested to verify the discrepancy raised by the SSA. The letter in no way asserts that the conflict on numbers suggests an illegal alien.  It merely says the numbers are in conflict and asks the employee/employer to clear it up.

On the most scanti standard of evidence Allred could assert that the Whitmans had knowledge that there may have been a conflict on SSNs, that is it. There is no evidence that Whitman knew her employee was illegal until June, 2009.  According to Allred's own assertion - he plaintiff did not notify Whitman of her illegal status until June of 2009 and at that point the Whitmans immediately terminated the employee.

This is a repeat of Allred's sleazy tactic during the recall election against the current governor.

Gloria Allred, Political Ambulance Chaser

On Wednesday a story broke about the GOP candidate for Governor in California.  Here are the facts as we know them.   Candidate Meg Whitman hired one Nicandra Diaz Santillan, using an employment agency, who it turns out was in the country illegally.   At the time of employment she provided a Social Security Card and California Driver's License as proof of status (verifications of the claims are presented in highlighted portions - to read the original story click on the highlight).   The LA Times says Diaz was paid $23 per hour.  Allred claims that Diaz was "exploited, disrespected, humiliated and emotionally and financially abused."   But what seems to be undisputed is that Whitman used an employment agency to hire Diaz  and that when Diaz confessed to her that she was in the country illegally, she terminated her.  LA Times Columnist Steve Lopez raises a good point, why did Whitman not report the agency and Ms. Diaz to immigration when she discovered her status.  (It is interesting to note that Lopez seems to have failed to read his own paper's story about the issue - because he claims he does not know what Diaz was paid.)  Allred claims that beginning in 2003 the Social Security Administration sent a series of communications to Whitman but the SSA cannot confirm that.

You may remember that when Arnold Schwarzenegger first ran for governor, Allred came up with a plaintiff who claimed that the future governor had "groped" her.   Unsurprisingly, the case was later dropped.  Allred tried to damage a GOP candidate but after the election the issues raised seemed less important.  See a pattern here?

One of my wife's friends, an ardent democrat, posted to Facebook last night "How could anyone have an employee for 9 years and not know her status?"  Odd question especially based on the documented role of an employment agency in the process.   Does she believe that employers, once gone through the documentation process naturally begin again conversations about whether they are in the country illegally?

From my perspective, there are two key issues in this story.  First, has Allred followed any legal code of ethics on this matter?   By producing the person at the press conference, Allred has highlighted that Diaz came into the country illegally.  That puts her in legal jeopardy.  The timing of this, before a Saturday debate in Fresno with Latino journalists on the panel, just a bit too cute.  Diaz was terminated in June, 2009.  Did it take 15 months for her to find Allred?   Is the purpose of Allred's release of this information at this time political or legal?   My suspicion is that the suit will be dropped quickly after the election but that Diaz will still face problems from the INS.  Allred scored her political point but Diaz lowered her security in the same instance.  Second, is it reasonable to believe that Whitman, if the substance of the claims by her campaign turn out to be true, did anything wrong?   From the press reports Whitman paid her a decent wage and treated her well until the discovery of the status and then did the appropriate thing, which was to terminate her.  It probably would have been smart to notify the INS, but it could be credibly argued that should have been the role of the employment agency.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A question of Experience

In a strange sense the US Senate race in California comes down to experience.  The incumbent, Barbara Boxer, has spent almost three decades in Congress.  The paucity of her legislative accomplishments is legendary.  Most of the objective ratings of members of the US Senate rank her near the bottom.   The one debate between the two candidates simply re-surfaced Boxer's utter incompetence.

Boxer's supporters argue that Carly Fiorina's experience at HP was pretty bad.   Oddly they argue that her decision to move production out of the country is an indication of that.  Anyone with a modicum of understanding of the setting for international corporations understands that the discussions of keeping jobs in one country belie a profound lack of understanding of the competitive nature of enterprise.   Joel Kotkin, the author, argues that in the coming decade America may be uniquely positioned to re-establish a manufacturing base and that may be true.   But in the time that Fiorina was CEO of HP, the decision to move production off shore was a sound one.

That does not suggest that Fiorina was a great CEO.  The merger with Compaq was a decision to pay way too much for a crappy company.   The purchase used up a lot of cash and required HP to ignore some alternative opportunities, such as computer consulting, where the mix would have been a lot better.  However, the job of US Senator is not as a corporate CEO.   It takes brain power, and Fiorina's opponent has not demonstrated that she has much.

During the candidate's debate, Fiorina made a strong case why she would be a good member of the Senate.   She demonstrated a sound understanding of the nuances of issues.   While I do not agree with all of her positions on issues, in some of those where I disagree, she made a credible case for her position.   In the positions that Senator Boxer holds where I disagree, her best defenses were cliches.  It is bizarre to me that someone with almost three decades of experience cannot get beyond the mantra of her side of the aisle.

Boxer has had the luxury of having weak opponents in her previous campaigns for the Senate.  Her opponent this time has made a credible case for replacing her.   I will vote for Fiorina.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dear Montana

A reader named Montana gave an almost instant response to my immediate analysis of the debate - here is my response to the writer.

Dear Montana,

I come to a slightly different conclusion.  One could make a good case that Jerry Brown had his chance(s) and each time proved his continuing role which he demonstrated tonight as a political opportunist.  Go back to what Wally Ingalls said about Brown after the passage of Proposition 13, I think Brown demonstrated then and tonight that he will do anything to get elected.  On Boxer, as the SF Chronicle said a couple of days ago - her record does not justify re-election.  But elections are decided on the options between candidates and as I said in the earlier post, Whitman was unsuccessful in making her case tonight

When you look at the two opponents. I agree with part of the characterization about Fiorina at HP - I do not think she was a good CEO - we would differ on whether her position on outsourcing was good for the company.  I think she did a superb job in the debate explaining why the mantra about keeping jobs in the US at all costs is so absurd.

My point tonight about Whitman was that I believe that neither candidate made a credible case for election.  You can't honestly believe that the AGs attempted rant at class bashing was either sincere or credible.  Some of Jerry's best (former) allies are sitting this one out because of the courage of his convictions.   He demonstrated again tonight that he will constantly reinvent himself to curry favor.  That propensity may be just as dangerous as an inexperienced person in the political realm.

But I would offer one other point.   To the extent that the current governor failed to live up to expectations, and I believe that is correct, the defect was not from inexperience but from a certain inability to stay on task and a constant need to curry favor, a quality that Brown seemed to work on a lot tonight.

What is the purpose of a political debate?

Tonight's debate for California governor did little to explain what either candidate would they would do if elected.   There were a lot of prepared remarks offered by both sides.   But ultimately after you got through the cliches there was little substance.  Brown clearly wants to make this a populist rant - suggesting that anyone with resources should be prohibited from running for office (I guess he ignores the trust fund that helped sustain him).   But Whitman seemed to have glossed over some issues where I think she could have offered more substance.  I was struck during the Boxer-Fiorina debate that Fiorina seemed to have done some careful thinking about nuances, I was not convinced that Whitman has done the same.

Did I learn anything about the substance of either candidate?  I don't think so.  Did I learn anything about the demeanor of either?  Not really.  Brown did wax into the wonky version of himself a couple of times.   And while I understand the complexity of government I simply do not buy his argument that government is so tough that only someone with his long career would be able to handle the job of governor.  But did the debate help me make a decision about governor.  No.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Well duh!

Economists are not a very unified lot except on some issues.  CNN Money did a poll of their panel of economists about what Congress should do about the Bush tax cuts.  By a 6:1 margin they argue that for now they should extend the cuts completely rather than targeting them to the middle class.

From my point of view there are some elements where there might be some alternative results.  For example, rather than extending the complete abolition of the "death tax" I think it might be prudent to set an exclusion amount at a level which excludes both the vast majority of Americans and also some small businesses and then set the rate considerably below the confiscatory level before Bush (55%).   But it is odd that the brilliant people in the Obama economics team should be able to get the wisdom here both political and economic.   But they do not seem to.   That is 60% of this broad group of distinguished economists think the tax cuts should simply be extended versus the 10% of think the extensions should only go to the middle class.

The San Francisco Chronicle and Barbara Boxer - Half Right

The SF Chronicle lead their editorial failing to endorse a candidate for US Senate with the following "The incumbent, Democrat Barbara Boxer, has failed to distinguish herself during her 18 years in office. There is no reason to believe that another six-year term would bring anything but more of the same uninspired representation."  The editorial goes on to assert that the reason they do not endorse Carly Fiorina is because her positions seem to be out of the mainstream of California. (Although they do admit that on important matters like jobs Carly has done a pretty good job of thinking out the issues.

From my perspective, even if you do not agree with Fiorina on some of her issues the lead on Boxer's record suggests that one should vote for her opponent.  After all in this case a non-vote is the same as re-electing a person who the Chronicle argues there is "no reason to believe that another six year term would bring anything but more of the same uninspired representation."

Friday, September 24, 2010

Just Desserts

William Ayres, friend of the President, founder of the Weather Underground and un-repented agitator, who once authored a book dedicated to Sirhan Sirhan was denied emeritus status at the University of Illinois - a favor granted to most who request it.  It turns out that Chris Kennedy, one of Robert F. Kennedy's sons is the current chair of the University of Illinois at Chicago.   Ayres is a lefty nutcase.  He supports the butchery of not only Sihran but Hugo Chavez and was a co-conspirator in the bombing of the house of a New York Judge.  His only comment about all of these prior activities has been ""I feel we didn't do enough." In his apologia for his actions he said he found "a certain eloquence in explosives."

Fine.  If there were real justice he would not only be denied emeritus status but would be required to send back the salary he has collected from the institution.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Taxes and California

We've had a couple of interesting days in the tax area.    The prior post explains why the Administration's strategy of demonizing people above a certain level of income is the wrong strategy to either win elections or to reduce deficits.

Last Thursday, while I was in the mountains fishing, the Tax Foundation released an interesting interactive calculator which looks at the effects of various tax regimes in the states going back to 1993.  For me the most interesting part of the chart is the state to state migration data.   In 1956 Charles Tiebout released a paper called the Pure Theory of Local Expenditures which argued that people make location decisions based on conditions in various areas.  Thus, if you want a place with good schools for your kids or some other amenity, you may be willing to pay more taxes.   But the notion also suggests that if tax regimes become too oppressive, people will vote with their feet.

The Tax Foundation makes the estimates for each state based on state data.  Thus it calculates the number of returns filed between to periods and where taxpayers went.  In the case of California during the first eight years of the decade California lost almost 350,000 taxpayers.   That amounted to a total loss in net Adjusted Gross Income of more than $26 billion.    Where did those former Californians go?  Not to New York.  Not to Massachusetts.  But they did migrate to places like Arizona (more than $5 billion in AGI) and Nevada (Almost $6 billion). A tiny little state like Idaho gained almost $1.3 billion from former California AGI.   How can you characterize the differences.  The former are states with higher taxes, the latter with generally more friendly tax regimes.

Obviously, not all movement between states is based on tax policies.  People do move to New York, even with that tax system.   Indeed, the District of Columbia experienced a net increase in tax flow from Californians moving from one tax sucking region to another.   But the biggest changes came from Californians moving to states with lower net taxes (including sales, income, property and other taxes).  Add the regulatory burden in the state and you can see why California's net in-migration during this decade has been negative.

Taxes and Equity

E.J. Dionne wrote a book a couple of decades ago called Why Americans Hate Politics.  He should go back and read it.  Before he became an apologist for lefties, he thought that the American political system did not serve the broad interests of most voters.   In a column (click on his name to read it) in the Sacramento Bee this morning Dionne laments that the democrats have let the GOP define the issues on extension of the Bush tax cuts.

I should reiterate that I am not a fan of the W tax bill on a number of fronts.  In some cases, for example, in the estate tax elimination and then reinstatement, I thought the long term policy was absurd.  Indeed, if a person dies on December 31 of this year, assuming that the tax cuts are not extended, or January 1, 2011 - the federal tax treatment of the estate will be substantially different.   While a case can be made to totally eliminate the estate tax, I think most Americans would support an exclusion which reflects a reasonable amount (perhaps $3-5 million) and a reasonable rate beyond that.  

I was also concerned that a lot of the policies established in the Bush bill made no long term sense.  I support reductions in rates but the Bush bill allowed political expediency and the absurdity of congressional scoring to create a bill which gives the current administration to argue that somehow people above an arbitrary level of "income" (as defined in the tax code) should be subject to much higher income tax rates.   My worry at the beginning of the decade when the Bush bill was being debated have come true.

What Dionne does not seem to realize is that the vast majority of Americans dislike the current income tax structure but that does not mean they support screwing their fellow Americans who make a bit more than them.   Good tax policy would do two things.  First, as was proven in the 1986 tax act, improvements in the tax system can be made by LOWERING rates and broadening the base.  What happens is a simultaneous improvement in tax collections (more revenue) and improvements in tax equity.   But Dionne is stuck in the absurd position of arguing for arbitrary limits on what is the right level of income for people to earn.  Most Americans understand that is a silly line of thought (if you can call it that).

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Last week was spent in the High Sierra on a Trail Ride/Fishing Trip.  You can see the whole set of photos in another place on my site.  But a friend who also went, compared my Blog Photo (see my Profile) with a picture of me on this Trail Ride.  He said I looked better in the other picture.

He seems to have a point.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Happiness is....

Today, my Grandson Mason scored the game winning tackle in his football game, in overtime.  I had a great week last week fishing in the Eastern Sierra, (of which I will write about later and a good reason why I was silent for a week) but this is, indeed, the true definition of happiness.

We spent time with him and his brother tonight as their dad and mom were coaching and running the snack bar for the high school team that my son coaches for.   I had the chance to meet one of my son's players from last year who is now in college.  He continues to impress me with his articulate speech.  He will redshirt this year and then possibly move on to a four year institution.  So all of my son's volunteering is having a good effect on the young men of Christo Rey, Sacramento.

But then there was Mason.  Wow!

It is not hard to understand why there is skepticism about the courts

Last Friday, the Ninth Circus Court of Appeals (and with decisions like this the proper term is Circus) struck down a Hermosa Beach ordinance which limited the number of parlors that could be located in the city limits. (Anderson v Hermosa Beach) Surprisingly the court found that the issue was somehow related to the First Amendment.

Cities have a legitimate responsibility in limiting the numbers of some businesses, for example liquor stores.  Some nimrod judge named Jay S. Bybee wrote the decision (he was a W. Bush appointee).  He was supported by two other clowns from the Circus - John T Noonan (a Reagan appointee) and Richard Clifton (another W appointee).  The braintrust suggested that tattoo parlors fall under expressive speech - “The process of expression through a medium has never been thought so distinct from the expression itself that we could disaggregate Picasso from his brushes and canvas, or that we could value Beethoven without the benefit of strings and woodwinds.”
Bybee also wrote that “the fact that the tattoo is for sale does not deprive it of its First Amendment protection,” and said the ordinance was “not a reasonable ‘time, place, or manner’ restriction because it is substantially broader than necessary to achieve the City’s significant health and safety interests and because it entirely forecloses a unique and important method of expression.”

In the development of the First Amendment it was clearly intended to protect political speech.  But somehow many who read the simple language have never bothered to read the underlying thinking behind the protections.  Too bad.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Is Jerry Brown an Enigma?

Peter Schrag, in an opinion piece in the Sacramento Bee today calls democratic candidate and former Governor Jerry Brown an "enigma.Schrag writes "Some people who have followed Brown's career believe that his experience as Oakland's mayor – and probably his term as attorney general – have made him a much more focused executive than he was as governor 30 years ago. In that era his prophetic impulses sometimes seemed to get in the way of the politician; he preferred to preach and philosophize rather than manage. It made him interesting and often admirable but also caused him trouble.

In that respect, the old record may not tell much (though it will tell more than Meg Whitman's blank slate). But it should tell Brown that, especially in this age of rabid anti- intellectualism and populist disdain for elites, especially elites of the educated, the most dangerous thing for a politician is to look too smart. If Brown, the anti-politician, has one great flaw, that's it. On the other hand, this really is the era of limits." Schrag, who was a supporter of Brown in his first incarnation as governor seems to be trying to put lipstick on a pig.

Whether he was an enigma or not he was a horrible governor. Schrag claims that Brown ran up a surplus during the first couple of years that he was governor and that is correct. But it could be argued that his propensity to preach rather than govern helped to cause Proposition 13. ANd indeed when the provisions were adopted, that surplus became an easy way to transfer power from local to state government.

Schrag considers Brown an intellectual. Again, Brown had a tendency to rely on obscure authors like E.F. Schumacher, who wrote the hackneyed "Small is Beautiful" as you go back to this Waldenesque vision of the world it looks even more laughable than it was when it was first written. Brown, in order to look intellectual, flitted with a whole bunch of other unconventional writers. Some had some provocative ideas but many were just fringe lunatics. His appointments reflected his "philosopher" role. He arguably appointed the worst secretary of transportation in the state's history and three of the worst Supreme Court Justices (who were recalled). The three justices supported a radical vision of the legal system which voters soon recognized was bizarre at best.

HIs tenure as a radio talk show host, as Mayor of Oakland and as AG show the same kind of irresponsibility. In some ways Brown reminds me of a figure on the right, Robert Bork. The only difference is that Bork could be legitimately called an intellectual. For someone who took a couple of tries to be able to pass the California bar exam, it is hard to justify the term intellectual.

Look at the problems of the state today - an overwhelmed infrastructure, lousy public schools, outrageously expensive public employee pensions. Each of those can be traced, in part, back to the eight years of Brown's governoship.

This election is between the dfevil we know and the one we do not. Past experince suggests that candidates who come with no government experience don't do very well. But if the choice is between no government experience and the record of Jerry Brown, then for at least one voter there is not much of an enigma.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

The Chamber of Commerce and Endorsements

Last week the California Chamber of Commerce endorsed Meg Whitman for Governor.  That led to the resignation of the Chancellor of the California Community Colleges from the Board.  A few hours after that the President of the University of California "suspended" his membership.

The Community College Chancellor, Jack Scott, was a democratic legislator.  Scott, in a letter to the President of the Chamber, commented  "Today I resigned from the board, effective immediately. Although I would have preferred to remain in the position, in light of the Chamber’s action to engage in electioneering, it is no longer possible for me to serve in this capacity."  UC President Mark Yudoff took a bit less drastic step by suspending his membership in his letter he said "I must preserve my politically agnostic status."    Agnostic is a pretty good place for educators to be in this contest - although they may harbor personal feelings for one candidate or the other.   But resigning probably does not preserve agnosticism.

From my perspective both moves qualified as "bonehead."  Indeed, higher education must remain outside of electoral politics.  So in one sense the moves make sense.   The better move would have been to simply vote no on the endorsement and then to publicize the no vote.   By resigning and suspending memberships the education leaders, whether they want to or not, look partisan.   

There should always be a question about whether the leaders of higher education should, by the position of their leadership in one sector, be on the board of a business organization. If the Chamber is an important venue for the business community and if relationships with that community are important to higher education, then the leaders of two segments of public higher education need to use the venue, which they deny themselves if they resign or suspend.

The election for California governor, at this point, is a fairly close contest.   One could make the argument that the Chamber bumbled in making the endorsement (although from my perspective when Jerry Brown was governor the last time, he had one of the most anti-business records of any governor in recent memory).   But given that they did make the endorsement, the choice to the Chancellor and President was to get out of the organization or to simply not support the action by the board.   The downsides of getting out seem to outweigh the downsides of making one's non-endorsement public.

Monday, September 06, 2010

The Revival of the Ward Healer

The NYT has a story on a new scam called Congressional Charities.   In these entities Members of Congress solicit charitable donations for activities that they choose in their district.   They technically qualify as charitable entities but what they really become is a reincarnation of the worst kind of boss politics.  While the Times quotes a constituent as saying this is great - the article appropriately describes these activities as "something akin to a permanent political campaign."  The funding for these things does not come from the largesse of the Congressman but from corporations.   But guess who gets the credit, if you guessed the politician, you are right.

The nexus of political contributions which in a normal situation would be considered inappropriate are fine under these situations.  The corporate givers understand the link between a politician's causes and his "charitable" causes.  In the end they become the same.

If a politician wants to do charitable work with his own dough - then that is fine.  But the potential for impropriety here argues that these arrangements should be curtailed immediately.  The Executive Director of a Foundation founded by (soon to be) former Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski said “Nothing about this is political,” she said. “Everyone is here just to support the charity.”  Yeah, right.  How come all of the supporters seem to be organizations who wanted access to the Senator?

The New York TImes on Islamaphobia

The NYT has an article in today's edition called American Muslims Ask, Will We Ever Belong?   While it is an interesting question, I am not sure it is the right one.   At least in the part of the country where I live Muslims are accepted as are many other faiths.   However, even among the most tolerant of our citizens there are legitimate questions which need to be resolved.  To the extent that Moslems are being targeted for hate, that should stop.  The idiotic proposal to burn Korans should be condemned by anyone with sense.  But there are three questions that need to be considered to understand how Muslims should fit into this society.

#1 - Is the proposed Center near where thousands of Americans were killed an appropriate thing to build?  This is not, as the President tried to define it, a legal question.  There is no legal question here but a moral one.  I agree with those who raise the question of taste here - the Pope recognized that it was inappropriate for the Catholic church to build a nunnery near a Nazi death camp.  This may be a similar example.

#2 - How do practicing Muslims in the US want to relate religious law with civil law?  In Minnesota and other areas of the country, some Muslims have demanded special treatment so they can adhere to their religious beliefs.  That has included demands by cab drivers to not carry passengers who are carrying things like alcohol, which Islamic rules forbid.  The local transportation commission wisely told the cab drivers, you are publicly licensed, so either stop your protest or get into some other kind of business.

Our own Judeo-Christian heritage has a tradition of separating religious law from civil (Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's - in Matthew).  It is an essential underpinning of our civil heritage and also allows for the tolerance inherent in the First Amendment.

#3 - What should be said about the extremists?  Groups like the Council for American Islamic Relations that purport to attempt to bridge whatever gap there is between Muslims and others seem noticeably silent on the extremes of some adherents to the faith.  There is a fundamental conflict for "civil rights" organizations as CAIR proclaims itself to be as to how to approach political issues.  The group needs to understand principles that made the country what it is and work within those limits.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

What Happened to the Grizzlies?

In Mid-June the Fresno Grizzlies were the hottest team in Triple A baseball.  Since then they have moved their position in relation to the Sacramento Rivecats by 17 1/2 games.  That would be amazing in a 144 game season even with more than 40 games played.  The Cats were down by 12.5 in mid-June and at day next to the last day in the regular season - they stood at 5 games up on the highway 99 rival.  The last 10 games the Grizzlies have been 1 and 9 while the Cats are 8 and 2.  Tacoma looks like the opponent in the series for the Pacific Division.   In their last 10 games they are 6 and 4.

The Rainiers have won five fewer games than the Cats. We've just barely won our home stands (By 2 games - which means that we did not go into positive numbers until the last three games of the Fresno series.  On the other hand Tacoma is five games down on road games while we are up in road games by thirteen.

All these stats are interesting until Wednesday.  At that point - the team with the most heart wins. Both the Division series and the PCL championships are five games.

Sports Socialists

Marcus Breton, one of the sports columnists for the Sacramento Bee, wrote today that for the region to keep the hapless Sacramento Kings (last season's sparkling record was 25-57) we need to put up some public money or (shudder) we will lose them.   I say "bye bye." Their record last year was an improvement over the 2008-09 campaign where they managed to win 17 games.  The year before that they won 38 games.   They did have a recent winning season (2005) where they won 44 games.

Breton argues that the Kings are a "rallying point for people from Stockton to the Oregon border."  I guess I have a different view of a "rallying point."  The team has declining attendance and over-priced tickets.  Why should anyone support that involuntarily?   For civic pride?  To be a laughingstock of the NBA?

Breton argues that public subsidy is "the price of doing business in sports."  Says who, the owners of the franchises?  Of course they would claim that.  But think for a minute about the premise of the argument.  Would we give a couple of hundred million dollars to get a shoe store?  And, if we did, because many localities offer incentives to businesses that provide real jobs, would we do it every couple of years as the sports owners seem to demand?  If that is the price of doing business in sports how come the European soccer leagues all are non-subsidized? If it is true how come so many cities are laughing away the pleas of owners of franchises?

These sports owners got a lot of localities to pony up dough to keep their civic pride but that is changing.  If the owners of the Kings can't get a bribe to stay here, then good riddance. And if it bruises Breton's pride - let him go too.

The American

George Clooney's new film could have been a lot better than it is.  He has some intriguing characters.  Clooney plays a spy who is near the end of his career.  For an unexplained reason he is chased by a group of "Swedes" and so finds refuge in a small city in Italy.  

While in hiding he gets commissioned to construct a specialized weapon to do one final "hit."  But in the small town he begins to interact with a local prostitute named Clara - played very alluringly by Violante Placido.  He also meets an old priest named Fr. Benedetto (Paolo Bonacelli).  His handler keeps telling him to not get involved and he violates the rule.

The film is done in a minimalist style.  You are not told much about anyone in the picture so you get the plot and the characters by their interaction.  But from my perspective I wanted a lot more or a lot less.  As I left the movie (I will not reveal the ending - although it was not unexpected) I wanted to know more about Fr. Benedetto and Clara.  Both were fascinating but we simply did not know enough.  But I also thought that an investment of 103 minutes - seemed a lot larger than minimalist.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

16 1/2 games in fewer than 100

The Cats won tonight (BIG - 16-9 off 19 hits) and the Grizzlies lost (3-1 against Tacoma and SL lost to Reno).  That means that since mid June we have moved from twelve and half behind to four ahead.  On a 144 game season that is pretty impressive.  Salt Lake is one game behind Tacoma but I suspect we won't know our opponent for Wednesday until Monday when the regular season ends.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Not my definition of Fan Appreciation Night

Tonight the Rivercats failed to clinch their division.  It was not because Fresno kept alive - they lost to Salt Lake (3-1). We knew about that outcome pretty early in our game.   It was not because our bats were cold - we got four homers (Taylor, Sogard, Everidge and Baisley), and a total of 14 hits and 10 runs.   We did have three errors, although only Hunton's (who eventually got the loss) was catastrophic.  No, it was the 11 walks our pitchers offered up.  Walks that seemed to come at just the wrong time.  Lansford pitched a third of an inning and still offered up 3 - in case you're not counting that is 12 of his 19 pitches were balls.  Hunton, a third of an inning, offered 2 in addition to the bonehead throw to third.

Las Vegas did not even take the lead until the top of the sixth and we got it back in the bottom of that inning.  So their final lead came in the eighth and just to add insult to injury they added 2 in the ninth.

The remainder of our season is in Colorado and we've done pretty well against the Sky Sox.  We are 7-3 for our last 10 (this would have been 10 for 13 had we won); Fresno by the way is 2 and 8, Colorado 6 and 4, and Tacoma 4 and 6.   Salt Lake one and a half out of first in the Northern Division so things could shift for the playoffs.   For now we have to win one or Fresno lose one to get to the divisional championships - the odds look pretty good - unless we play like we did for Fan Appreciation Night.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Another Comment on the Debate

There was one feature of the debate that I really did not like.  The event was co-sponsored by a couple of TV stations(.   For some obvious reasons they asked before the candidates entered to have everyone turn off their cellphones.  But they also prohibited any electronic device.  I had brought my iPad to take notes.  I had it set in the airplane mode so it would not interfere with any of their electronics and I was sitting near the back.  But the audience was prohibited from using any of these devices.  One minor fascist said right before the beginning "You will be immediately ejected" if you use an electronic device.

In my mind they should have been able, in a state where electronic technology is a big part of the deal, to allow the use of laptops or tablets for the purpose of taking notes.   The announced reason for the ban was not the real one.  Had you allowed students and others to use their devices - even with the ringer turned off - there would have been a lot of live blogging.  That might in some small way diminish the impact of the three sponsors of the debate by allowing outside coverage which was immediate.  There is plenty of video on the web but it would have been better to allow live blogging.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

The Babs and Carly Show

I was invited to the debate between Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina tonight at Saint Mary's College.  I came prepared not to be impressed.    Boxer has been one of least able senators in the US senate for all of her three terms.  Her legislative output in the total of 28 years of being in Congress has been pathetic.  She has but four bills passed that she initiated although she claimed that she had her name on 1000 pieces of legislation.  That is a nonsensical claim.

I also start out as not a fan of Carly.  I believe her work at HP was hype not substance.  I worked a bit with the firm that advised Walter Hewlett and think the transaction over-payed for Compaq but a lot of dough.  

But the exchange was one of the best debates I've ever witnessed.  Boxer relied on trying to tie Carly to Wall Street.   But the claims, in my opinion, fell hollow.  Carly was able to hammer Boxer on her positions and her inability to work with republicans.  

There were several interesting exchanges.  Fiorina said she supported the "dream act" but opposed amnesty for illegals.  Boxer argued that Fiorina had moved a bunch of jobs out of the US and Carly countered that we operate in a global economy and that jobs were as likely to compete with China or Brazil or Texas (all of which offer incentives to employers).  She said she supported Proposition 8 but also supported ending "don't ask, don't tell" and changing federal law to allow domestic partnerships to allow gays to gain the benefits of tax and other provisions that benefit married couples.  She had a nuanced position on stem cell research which I believe is close to what most Californians would support.

For three terms in the Senate, Boxer seemed remarkably inept in explaining the most basic of public policies.  At every point that Fiorina tried to make points, Boxer kept going back to cliches.

I came into the debate unsure about who I would vote for.   After an hour with both candidates, I became an enthusiastic supporter of Carly.

Where we are in this improbable season

Sacramento brought us to a magic number of 2 with 5 games left.  That means Fresno needs to run the table to get into the playoffs.  We've got to lose 4 of the remaining 5 games - including the 4 at Colorado (we are currently 8-4 in the series this year).  And they have to win all five. Fresno has won 7 of 12 against Tacoma and they are ending the season at home.  But that is a pretty high hill to climb.

We've won 9 of the last 12 and that kind of momentum is hard to deny.

OH,  our record against Tacoma - which is our likely opponent in the first round if we get there is even.