Thursday, June 30, 2011

Gratitude in Mexico

On Tuesday I spent an interesting day in Aguascalientes meeting with various governmental and university officials.  The new Governor is an interesting guy and he has hired a first rate cabinet.  But what struck me most was not the meetings but a small incident.

I have a pair of RayBan sunglasses that had lost one of the two nose protectors.  They were expensive (more than $200) at Lens Crafters and in the past when I have lost that piece and brought glasses back to the shop where I bought them, they have said "we do not replace those - buy a new pair."

On Tuesday, at the end of the day, I asked a friend whether he knew of a Lens Crafters equivalent.  He said there was a glasses shop near where we were so we went in and asked if they could fix the glasses.  The owner said she could but it would take a day.  I said I was leaving on Wednesday morning and she said "let me see what I can do."  In about 5 minutes she came back with a new piece in place.  I asked her "how much" and she no charge.  She had not expectation that I would be a customer but thought it was good business to help in this small way.  I am not sure how to express gratitude for that but it sure made my day.

Monday, June 27, 2011

More Complex than the coverage

In an article in the Bee this morning about a change in Fair Oaks Presbyterian Church.  The parish, which is one of the largest in the region, chose to separate from the denomination, based primarily on the full denomination's decisions relating to the ordination and marriage of gays.

What concerns me, as one who has a lot of friends in the congregation, is that it seems to ignore some major issues.   The separation of this parish and possibly others came about because of changes demanded by the liberal end of the denomination - several of the liberals in the denomination are quoted in the article. They are concerned that one or more congregations take their scripture seriously.  The decision of the parish was not taken lightly.  They first negotiated with the denomination to gain control of the property, but that was delayed because one of the more liberal pastors in the region tried to overturn the agreement. The language of the majority was conciliatory but dogmatic hardly a place to begin reconciliation.  In spite of the discussion of inclusion what the liberals really wanted was the real estate.  In the end the level of extortion (which is covered in the article) was a payment of $1.2 million.

Ultimately, a good many of the Protestant denominations have been taken over by the political left who argue that regardless of other's beliefs, their interpretations should prevail and persons with differing understandings of key issues, should simply shut up.  What all of these discussions point out is that majority decisions do not necessarily settle complex issues.   Had the liberals taken a bit more time and been more respectful of the conservative point of view, the decision by the Fair Oaks parish might not have happened.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Moronic Public Scold

Last week the President of Catholic University announced that the University would revert to single sex dormitories.   In an editorial in the Wall Street Journal, John Garvey discussed the decision to change their housing arrangements and explained that based on evidence that this might lead to some positive consequences.   The President mentioned that there is a high correlation between binge drinking and "hooking up" and that both seem to be related to proximity created by the current dorm situation.   While he did not mention it, there are plenty of instances of Catholic doctrine which would encourage such a change.  For example, Garvey quotes a study from a Loyola Marymount professor that suggests a"surprising number of studies showing that students in co-ed dorms (41.5%) report weekly binge drinking more than twice as often as students in single-sex housing (17.6%). Similarly, students in co-ed housing are more likely (55.7%) than students in single-sex dorms (36.8%) to have had a sexual partner in the last year—and more than twice as likely to have had three or more."

This morning in Inside Higher Education, we find that a George Washington University Law Professor, John Banzhaf, has announced his intention to sue Catholic University for a potential violation of the District of Columbia Civil Rights Act, under the bizarre legal theory of discrimination on the basis of sex.  Banzhaf commented that he saw this change as akin to the doctrine espoused in Plessy v. Ferguson, the 1896 case which led to an almost 50 year affirmation of Jim Crow laws.   The analogy is a tortured one.   In Plessy the Justices ruled that it was OK for a Louisiana railroad company to provide separate rail cars based on race.   In the case of a university students who do not agree with the dormitory policy have the option of attending another university or in living off campus.  I guess the professor could also argue that his University discriminates on the basis of sex because they offer no football program.

Banzhaf has been an activist plaintiffs lawyer for a long time.  I first heard about him when he joined in on suing tobacco companies.  About the time I was in Washington, D.C. he was suing to get radio stations to provide PSAs against smoking advertising.   But his quests have been far reaching and have included a whole series of other "environmental" causes including a series of suits to control the sale of fast foods.

Evidently the professor has not bothered to read up much on Title VII of the Federal Civil Rights Act or even on the First Amendment.   The DC Civil Rights Law has run roughshod over the First Amendment for a long time, so Mr. Banzhaf may have a case.   Let's hope he does not.  Catholic University is a Papal University, one of several around the world that was founded directly from Papal Authority.   Among the resources that the University offers is a superb research tool on the law of higher education.   Did I mention that the name of the place is Catholic University?   Evidently, professor Banzhaf doesn't think that is important.  But in this instance, the professor should respect the right of a Catholic university to determine how its inspiration will be applied.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Internet Miracles

Over the weekend I watched the Sean Penn movie version of the Robert Penn Warren's novel (All the King's Men).  Warren's book has been put to celluloid twice (once in 1949 with Broderick Crawford and then again in 2006 with Sean Penn).  It is a powerful statement of potential for corruption.   But it is also not historically accurate about the character Warren was writing about Huey Long. (Father of Russell Long)

Long was a populist of the first order and had a campaign song called Every Man a King (in that time period there were a lot of popular ditties associated with politicians).  I wondered if there is an extant recording of Long singing that song.  And indeed one short search and I found it.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Baseball's Two Requirements

As many have observed before Baseball is a strange sport because it relies on individual and team achievement.   But it also requires a mix of heart and skill.  

Last year the Rivercats got two big players who were initially nicknamed the "bash brothers."   Both had demonstrated a capacity to hit the long ball and also had the capacity for fielding.  But in their first AAA season both hit below their capacity.    At the beginning of the season, one, Michael Taylor, began to come into his own.  His hitting improved to just under .300.   And he has thrilled fans several times this year with outstanding pegs from the outfield to stop developing plays of the opposition.  (RIVERCATS PHOTO)

But the other ""bash brother" stumbled a bit.   Chris Carter had a pretty rough start in April and then rode the bench from middle April to middle June.  One of our friends who knows baseball said Carter had lost his "heart." Then on the 13th he came back.  His second night back he hit two homers.     Six of his nine hits in the season have come since then.

Last night the Cats went ahead in the first and then saw that lead evaporate in the fourth.  In the eighth the Fresno Grizzlies added another seeming insurance run to make it 5-1.  In the eighth the Cats came back including a two run homer from Carter.  We held them in the ninth.  When the Cats came up in the bottom of the ninth we developed some scoring possibilities but then went down with two outs.   Sogard got to third.  And the Carter came up again and hit the game winning single.   The dugout ran out  and pummeled Carter in a sheer sign of exuberance that they knew that the other "bash brother" was back.   This was one of the most exciting games of the season, but it was even more exciting to see the team support the return of one of their own who had struggled early on.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

An interesting piece of data

Mark Perry who is an economist from Michigan has a series of posts under the URL "Carpe Diem"  - while he generally is a conservative a lot of the data he posts is without ideological blinders.  For example, in the link above Perry shows that we have had a loss in agricultural jobs that is twice the size of the loss in manufacturing jobs since 1948.

When I posted this on Facebook a friend of the liberal persuasion took umbrage.  But the data is the data.  Most of these jobs have been lost to "productivity"- we now need fewer people to pick cotton or assemble cars.  That has allowed our economy to grow in new areas (computers, finance, other services, biotech) but it has also created dislocations among workers.  

From my perspective this is a lot like the data on suicides versus murders.  Most people think, because of the number of murders reported, that there are more murders than suicides.  Understanding the data is the first step in understanding possible responses in public policy.   Does a decline in agriculture jobs seem negative?  If not, why would the loss, which is twice the size of the manufacturing drop, be important.  Should we be concerned about all those lost jobs or should we simply celebrate that our economy is dynamic?   If the problem is real, what should we do about it (if anything)?

The Bee and its biases

A political figure in Sacramento today wrote an OPED in the Bee which explained why as a black man he had moved from being a Republican to being a Decline to State.   Ken Barnes wrote a superb piece which made a good case why he had chosen to leave the party.

There have been some ugly incidents in the last several months, especially one involving a party official from Orange County who saw nothing wrong in circulating a cartoon which compared the President to a monkey.   I left the GOP a decade ago but like Barnes remain a conservative voter.

What bothered me about the article was the photo at the left, which the paper choose to illustrate the OPED.   The person is a Tea Party member on the Capitol steps, during a rally.  The picture he is holding compares Obama to Fidel Castro.  (The picture below includes some photoshopped images of Obama and Hugo Chavez).   In fairness, Barnes does mention the Tea Party.    Obama's economic policies have been among the most far left of an American president in history.  It seems to me it is perfectly legitimate to criticize any elected official based on their ideas.  And I think that is what Barnes tried to do.   But the clear implication of the photo the Bee chose to use, is that it is illegitimate to criticize this president for his ideas.   I agree with Barnes that there are certain areas where it is inappropriate to make comments - I would extend beyond the issue of race to things like the President's family.   But from my perspective it is perfectly appropriate to criticize any president's policies.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Phobias in Politics

A liberal friend of mine posted a Facebook comment yesterday about the "homophobic" supporters of the Defense of Marriage Act.  It amuses me that much of the left tries to describe that conservative viewpoints are based on fear.   I work with a lot of people who support maintaining the current definition of law on marriage not because they fear gay marriage but because they have a deeply held set of religious beliefs, based on their interpretation of scripture, which compel them to take that position.   Many of those people are fine with changing laws to allow gays to have the property rights that people in traditional marriages have.  That seems to show a lot more flexibility than the "religophobics" who refuse to accept legitimate differences in beliefs. Or those who think all religious belief is somehow primitive.  I voted against California's Proposition 8 but I understand the position taken by many who supported it.

If there were anything close to comparability, I guess the logical conclusion would be that if one opposes the absurd economic positions of the left, that might be called "demophobic." The evidence of the last couple of years - where there have been huge increases in deficits and no real progress on improving the employment situation for many Americans is a pretty strong testament to a reason to have concern if not fear.  But in this case, unlike my friend's an hominem characterizations, the fear is based on demonstrated reality.   Wouldn't it be better for the left to try to understand the differences in thinking than coining terms to deride their opponents?

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Good Sense and Propriety in Politics

In the last week we have been forced to live through a couple of melodramas that should not have been.

#1 - Anthony Weiner - Yesterday as I was driving back from a board meeting, I heard a long discussion from a "friend" of the Congressman who said that Weiner had broken no laws in posting his photos to Twitter.   That is true but irrelevant.    Weiner has compromised the dignity of his office.    Weiner is one of those all consumed politicians who argues that as long as I am advancing the progressive agenda nothing else matters.  When he first ran for office he used a race baiting brochure to squeeze out a close win against one Audrey Cohen.   He should resign based on his long record of lacking any sense of propriety.

#2 - Sarah Palin - The former candidate for president made the absurd statement last week that Paul Revere's ride had been to warn the British.   There is indeed some evidence that is a correct interpretation of history.   Revere is one of those figures who is surrounded in myth and according to a couple of first rate historians Revere's own account of his ride suggests that he said things which could support Palin's assertion.  The problem I have here is not whether Palin is correct or wrong (history is full of nuance).  Rather it is how predictably the commentariat jumped on the issue in thoroughly predictable ways.   Lefties pointed out how dumb Ms. Palin is without ever having bothered to think about the statement and figure whether it has any validity.

#3 - Jon Huntsman - Yesterday on Hugh Hewitt the former Utah governor was questioned by the host about a series of issues including the possibility of vetoing an assault weapons ban.   I know that much of politics is code but the very premise of the question is absurd.  Does Mr. Huntsman support the Second Amendment?  Based on his record in Utah, one would think yes.  Is the Second Amendment an absolute restriction on the ability of citizens to own any firearm, of course not.   In the current configuration of  congress, which presumably Mr. Hewitt would support extending to the Senate, it would be absurd to assume that the House would vote to restrict purchase and sale of firearms beyond current restrictions.  So does Mr. Hewitt assume that the democrats would be able to take back the House in 2012?  Or does he assume that somehow a bill which would be against some pretty strong GOP principles would be able to be slipped by the majority in the House?

Elected officials have a responsibility to act not just within the law but within reasonable ethical standards.  Journalists, broadly defined, have a responsibility to measure their words.   In the last week the public has been mis-served because several in the public square of debate and discussion have forgotten those principles.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Raising taxes without raising rates

The chart at the right should offer two items of instruction on our tax system.  It is compiled from CBO data.   First, individual income tax revenue increased by 28.5% year over year without a change in rates - or with the extension of the tax cuts that the Obama Administration loves to hate.  

Second, the source of that bump comes from one major source - capital related income - capital gains and options exercises.   While that bump will produce a minor drop in deficit projections the income stream is an extremely volatile one.

That leads to a third conclusion. It you think the problem on the deficit is caused by lack of taxes (individual income taxes grew by 28.5% - certainly higher than any projections the Obama administration has offered for revenues if you raise rates - our deficit continues in the north of $1.5 trillion.  To paraphrase Bill Clinton's 1992 phrase - it's the spending, stupid!

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Differences in Perceptions

I had an interesting discussion this morning about the uses of Facebook and of political issues in general.  I lamented that a college roommate who recently discovered Facebook has tended to post opinions like "I had lunch with some friends today and all of them agree with the idea that we should raise taxes."  My friend was a national debate champion so at one point - where he had posted a Mother Jones article which he agreed with - I responded by reading the article and going through it for each chart and posting responses which I think suggested that the justifications used in the article were factually wrong.  He did not respond.  One of my hiking companions suggested that  my friends' response was simply a feeling but not one he wanted to debate or discuss.  

There are a lot of things that bother me about that response (which I believe is accurate with many people). First, public policies should be based on some careful analysis not simply on whether you feel good (or bad) about something.   There are honest disagreements about results and even research but that should not inhibit discussion and debate.  But if a political figure exploits feeling over substance - does the political system benefit?

I raised a real issue - the Ryan plan on Medicare/Medicaid (which was also developed by democratic stalwart Alice Rivlin).  One could argue about whether the proposal would actually solve the problem of the rising costs of Medicare.  One could also argue that more involvement by the government would be a better way to solve the problems.   But the response by most congressional democrats so far has been to simply say "those mean old republicans are trying to take away the safety net."  Without true engagement by both sides the country will continue to fall into an economic abyss which at some point we will not be able to recover from.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Live Blogging at 30,000 feet

I am flying to Burbank for a dinner tonight and using Southwest's WiFi - at $5 bucks a day it is reasonably priced, simple to get into and relatively fast. All in all pretty good. The iPad photo link does not seem to work on blogger in either Safari or Mercury for the iPad.

The Recently Completed Series with Salt Lake

The Cats finished a four game set with the Salt Lake Bees last night and they showed some great things.  First, while they let get an early lead in all four games - they were able to claw their way back to win in three out of the four.   There were also some bright spots in hitting.

Where there was concern was with our starters.  A couple of the starts were pretty weak.  Our relievers, for the most part, did a good job in recovering.   But we would not have had the need to catch up with a bit stronger start from the mound.

The three night games were also pretty cold - that is not the Cat's fault but this Spring weather has been downright chilly.  The Coffee guy near our section has been doing a landmark business.  I wonder when he will be able to switch over to the smoothie side of his business.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Reflections on Two Issues - Jobs and Taxes

The May jobs numbers are in - the stunning Obama recovery created 54,000 new jobs - about half of what is necessary to just break even.  But the numbers are even a bit worse.  In early May McDonalds ended up hiring 62,000 people on their "hiring day" if all those numbers are included in the May figure that means the recovery produced a net negative job growth of 8000.   One of the President's cheerleaders, Ron Blackwell the chief economist of the AFL-CIO beamed ""Basically, this is what economic stagnation feels like."

The share of the 13 plus million people who are out of work that have been in that condition for more than six months amounts to 45.1%.   Mr. Blackwell may be a bit of a Pollyanna.

A recent Gallup Poll highlights the partisan divide on the issue of redistributing wealth.  By huge margins, democrats believe in using government to redistribute wealth and by almost similar margins republicans do not believe in redistribution.   The independents split slightly (53-43) against redistribution.  That means the total electorate is slightly against (by 2%) against redistribution.

The Right Decision with a Wrinkle

A decision by a federal judge made a lot sense to me but it troubled me at the same time.  Judge John Coughenour ruled that the National Gay Amateur Athletic Alliance was within its rights to establish qualifications for their gay baseball tournaments.   The judge said the association could use First Amendment provisions to limit the number of straight players in their games and more that they could define what those terms meant for purposes of establishing qualifications.  The current rules now limit teams to two "straight" players.   Evidently one of the teams in the tournament had a couple of players who had had relationships with both men and women.   So ultimately the dispute was about how "gay" some of the players were.   From my perspective the NAGAAA has the right to do exactly as the judge ruled they did - to define the terms of their association, so long as the definitions do not violate broader constitutional guarantees.

All that sounds absolutely correct.  But it seems to me that if the case had been heard in a California court there would have been an extra wrinkle to the issues under review.  Under California law it is illegal to discriminate on the basis of "sexual orientation" - wouldn't that mean that the NAGAAA could not legally limit the number of heterosexuals on a team?

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

More on Mark Haines

I ran across another example of the genius that was Mark Haines.  Here Haines tried to get Barney Frank to cut his BS - Frank is used to having fawning media lap dance over his nonsense.  Dodd Frank is a disaster.  Frank tried to bully Haines into listening to his nonsense and Haines refused.