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Dude, With Keyboard » 2010 » January

Archive for January, 2010

The Magic Wind Fairies

The magical wind power fairies fail, once again, to deliver on the promise.

Minnesota invested itself in alternative energy sources years ago, and so the revelation that the state spent $3.3 million on eleven wind turbines hardly qualifies as news. However, the fact that they don’t work in cold weather does. KSTP reports that none of the wind turbines work, prompting the Twin Cities ABC affiliate to dub them “no-spin zones.”

They apparently have a solution for this: heat the liquid that lubricates the turbine. One problem:

They’ll have to use either electricity or natural gas at each turbine to keep the mechanism lubricated. That will drastically reduce the net energy gain from each turbine, depending on how much heating the turbine fluid needs to stop congealing in the winter.

Once again, the lack of projected global warming screws with the poor frozen Minnesotans.

Message to the GOP: Don’t Bite

Simply ignore the Obama’s ending of “don’t ask don’t tell”. No good can come out of demagoguing it and a lot of bad: pissing off the independents who already think you need to move into this century, fairly or not.

You need a teleprompter to talk to 20 people?

President Obama, and the White House photographer, is apparently unaware of the absurdity of this. Really, he needs a teleprompter to talk to his Middle Class Task Force that looks like it may contain, like, 20 people. They sit at a cramped U-shaped table while he stands at the podium, flanked by Linus’s blanket his teleprompter. Do the people at the table feel looked down upon or has Obama and his teleprompter become so infamous that you actually feel a bit flattered that he feels meeting you is important enough that he requires a screen flashed speech writer prepared screed in order to talk to you? I don’t know. Larry Summers looks enraptured though.

State of the Union

I really hate, with the essence of my being, the advanced transcripts of the State of the Union. When did presidents (and their handlers) become so unaware of the concept of suspense? You want me to watch? Release the transcript afterward for the love of God. Same goes to you SOTU response guy.

Hoping like hell there is no other shoe to drop

Republican Scott Brown has won the Senate special election in Massachusetts. From what I can tell of this guy’s bio and what I’ve seen of him on this campaign: he seems like an exemplary fellow (or feller, as we say in these parts). Could he really be that good? To say I’m hoping he’s not a sex addict with an inability to delete text messages from mistresses, would be an understatement. I’ll say this: if he somehow manages to serve well and get RE-elected? As Republican in Massachusetts? Mark him down as a presidential contender no later than 2016.

Meanwhile, check out his victory speech. THAT is how you give a victory speech.

Hugo Chavez’s assault on basic economic theory continues apace

Hugo Chavez’s government devalued their currency by half at their whim. Of course, the market doesn’t work that easy. If you devalue the price of something, that doesn’t magically mean you paid less for it. Unless, you live in Venuzuela where the socialist utopia has magical snapping fingers that automatically makes things cost half as much. When he devalued the currency he commanded that businesses (who will have paid twice as much for the goods on their shelves) could not raise their prices. Well, apparently a foreign owned chain tried to maintain basic economic theory by adjusting prices accordingly to match the REAL cost they paid and thus charge the REAL price they needed to recover the costs (or God forbid, make a profit). The punishment for this perfectly logical behavior?  The government takes you over.

Venezuela President Hugo Chavez ordered the expropriation of Hipermercado Exito stores after alleging that the retailer broke the law by raising prices and hoarding goods.

The South American country will change its laws if needed to take over the retailer owned by Casino Guichard Perrachon SA of Saint-Etienne, France and Almacenes Exito SA of Medellin, Colombia, Chavez said today on state television.

“I order that we develop a dossier and prepare a new law to take over the Exito chain,” Chavez said. “Repricing and hoarding, what is this? You have to respect our house.”

Chavez’s government closed four Exito outlets for a day because the company allegedly increased prices following a Jan. 11 currency devaluation.

I like the part about needing to “change the law if they have to”. Pesky laws are such a nuisance. The upside of being a dictator is you usually can do just that: change the law as you see fit. Clearly, Chavez doesn’t understand that supply gets created when the suppliers have an incentive.  Shortages in 5…4…3…2..

Poverty Doesn’t Cause Terrorism, Female Edition

A female neuroscientist is on trial for shooting at American soldiers in Afghanistan and getting caught with various collateral that could form the early chapters of How to Be Terrorist for Dummies. She was educated at Brandeis. One could be cute and say she learned to hate America at an American university, but we can wager that the hate was always there.  Whatever. Remember this though when people talk about the root causes of terrorism being poverty.

The UK’s definition of a criminal is utterly warped

A woman is at home alone with her young daughter and there some teenagers trespassing and trying to come in her garden. She brandished a knife and the kids ran. She called the cops. And sadly, its entirely predictable who was treated as the criminal. (via Samizdata)

The Steroid Era – One man’s take

Mark McGwire admitted he used performance enhancing drugs. You know, steroids and all that. This surprised absolutely no one. So, the question everyone will ask is if this gets him into the Hall of Fame? Jason Stark at ESPN recently noted that he put McGwire on his ballot.  Pretty much all the professional baseball writers at ESPN, save maybe Howard Bryant (who for my money is the one must read on the issue of the Steroids Era), try to rationalize how we can’t punish the guys because everyone was cheating and those gosh darn evil capitalist owners turned a blind eye. Stark, Olney and Kurkjian pretty much push this line ad nauseum. And it annoys the hell out of me.

First the easy stuff: Yes, McGwire coming clean (mostly anyway) is good and a bit cleansing. We figured we knew it and its nice to have confirmation. For McGwire, if this allows him to move on and be a baseball coach, I have no problem with this. He’s perfectly welcome to make a living in the game he loves. As a P.R. move, these confessional style interviews were a no-brainer and it was the only way for the Cardinals to have anything less than a circus at spring training and all their road games. Even if this was all cynical P.R. crap and McGwire is not actually sorry, I’m not really going to worry about it in terms of his post-baseball career.

McGwire’s confession was the best form of owning up compared to all the other guys. Clemons and Bonds still claim innocence (and Bonds is legally bound to do so lest he wants to get nailed for perjury) . A-Rod, Pettite, Giambi, Manny and everyone else gave utterly lame excuses that no one in their right mind, believes. McGwire lays it out there as being intertwined with the majority of his career even if he tries to say it didn’t help him hit home runs (Riiiiigggghhhhttttt). Again, thanks Big Mac. Maybe you’ll be a fine hitting coach. Just hope that none of your players see too sharp of an improvement. The presumption of guilt by association will be huge.

What I really care about, however, is the history and the Hall. I think its what offends me most about the ESPN guys. They think they are being serious journalists by wallowing in their chin scratching moral relativism. They think they are displaying nuance by saying “how do know who was clean and who was not?” And, how do you hold it against them when the owners knowingly turned a blind eye while profiting? Well, its called using your brain. And its called taking your vote seriously. Bud Selig’s general cluelessness is irrelevant ultimately to the issue of McGwire et al sitting beside Hank and Willie and Ted. You take what we know about PED’s and their effect on the body and we look at guys who had a major jump in their production beyond normal measures.

The great thing about baseball is its incredible consistency throughout history. And when there are anomalies, we have a good idea why (by “we” I mean the Bill James disciples). Is it impossible to quantify the actual impact of PEDs (say, post 1985?)? Sure its impossible to be exact. Particularly when workout regimens and athletic science is far more advanced and can’t be factored out of the equation. Neither can you easily factor out expansion (though I bet a good sabrematrician have taken a stab at this). Its probably exceedingly difficult to factor out the shorter fences in new ballparks. But voting for the HOF doesn’t require exactness. If they are borderline, then tie goes to goes to next year’s vote until he’s out of eligibility. The player needs to be both great in the era they played in AND great in any era.

Voting McGwire into the hall spits in the face of Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson, Ted Williams, Mantle and on and on (and no, that some of these guys used “greenies” isn’t as relevant as the excuse makers make it out to be). Moreover, it spits in the face of the players who played clean and DIDN’T make it in the hall.

One might point out that the Hall has had all sorts of unsavory sorts. True. Ty Cobb was a world class bigot and asshole. I know the history. But, as far as we know, he didn’t cheat. At least he didn’t cheat to that level, as far as we know. Does anyone believe that McGwire, without the ‘roids, becomes a Hall of Fame caliber guy? No way. Maybe he puts together a Dale Murphy like career. And as much as love Murph, he’s not a hall of famer. And that’s a big maybe. McGwire’s one skill was hitting home runs and that is the single biggest aspect of one’s offensive production most helped by PEDs. He wasn’t a great fielder. Wasn’t a great runner. Didn’t have a great arm. He was a disciplined guy and would probably have always been a decent on base guy, but he wouldn’t have had Ruthian walk rates. Pitchers wouldn’t have been THAT scared of him. Sorry, nothing on his resume says hall of famer once you factor in the juice.

Getting back to the navel gazers at ESPN. Because of the difficulty in quantifying the effect on PEDs, we should ignore it and just go by the numbers. That’s basically Buster Olney’s stance. So McGwire was a better hitter than Reggie. Or Stan the Man. Why? Because the numbers say so, according to Olney. That’s just a cop out. Its a cheat. It prevents you from having to think. Its lazyiness disguised as principle.

There is enough information, or at least enough smoke to lead you to the fire. Off the top of my head, these are guys with HOF numbers who almost certainly cheated A LOT given their career arc and the evolution of their body type AND did not do anything well enough other than to have long careers with gawdy power numbers:

  • McGwire
  • Sosa
  • Palmiero
  • Canseco

Do we really feel like the HOF is a more empty place without these guys? Some other guys under suspicion:

  • Bagwell
  • A-Rod (A-Rod admitted it, but the question is HOW MUCH of his career should be tainted)
  • Thome
  • Manny (again, the question is How Much)
  • Sheffield
  • Piazza (I’d put him in the first group, but I’m probably in the minority)

Guys we think are innocent and in some cases, pray like hell that they are:

  • Griffey (this much we know, if he was juicing, it certainly didn’t help him stay healthy)
  • Chipper (OK, I pray like hell he’s innocent)
  • Pujols (yes, I know he should probably be in the previous section, but the bulk of his career has been in the “testing somewhat” era)
  • Frank Thomas (Any growth hormone he encountered was likely of the bovine variety)
  • Carlos Delgado (not Hall worthy yet, but still got a few good years left I’d guess
  • Vlad (for my money, the most fun player to see hit, followed closely behind Sheff)
  • Helton (but it doesn’t matter. He’s not getting in. His juice is perfectly legal and quite real. Its called Denver.)

What about the pitchers? We know Clemons. We know Pettite. After that, its cloudy as hell. I think my boys Maddux and Glavine are clean (praying). I’m officially an ostrich on John Smoltz. Please don’t ask me to answer honestly. I might need therapy if I do. Hoffman? No one has ever suspected it, so who knows. We think Mariano is clean. I hope so, even if I hate the Yanks. I would be absolutely shocked if Pedro was dirty, though I’d believe he used HGH just to recover from an injury way more than I believe Pettite. The Unit? I have no clue. I don’t think so, but who knows.  I just know you can’t teach 6′10″. Everyone else is in the “testing somewhat era” has little or no suspicion otherwise. Sabathia, Halliday and all the guys on any given “best chance at 300″ lists will be presumed innocent unless they get popped.

So, what about the elephant in the room? The guy with the mutant melon on his shoulders? The guy who is probably about as much fun as an insurance convention? The Dude says Barry Bonds is a first ballot hall of famer, though I won’t cry if he’s made to wait a year. There can be no doubt that he is a world class jerk. But there can also be no doubt that he was one of the two best players for a solid decade BEFORE he became the most prolific home run hitter ever. This gets back to using your head. Barry Bonds was essentially the same player from the late ’80s to the late ’90s. Powerful, clutch hitter with speed. He had a great arm and great range in Left. He was the penthouse of the 30/30 club. If you believe, as I do, that he started using in the late 90s, partially because he was jealous of McGwire and Sosa, then you have to put him in the hall based on what he did up to that point. Post 1999, Bonds was slow and enormous. But he could rip the ball.

Some guys use Steroids to get their payday (Giambi). Others use it become all timers who dominate their era (McGwire). The juice took Bonds from being an all timer who dominated his era to being one of the 3-5 best players in the history of the game. But, if you tell me that Bonds belongs in the group with Hank, Ruth, Ted, Willie and Frank (or Mickey or Joe or Stan, take your pick), I’ll tell you that you are drunk.  ‘Roids put his numbers in that group and he doesn’t belong at the table of the immortals. But, he’s a hall of famer. I can use my brain and figure that out. And if that means I’m putting in a cheater over this or that possible cheater, then so be it.

The Steroids era deserves recognition in the Hall and if some of these guys are recognized in that context, then that is fine. The HOF is, after all, a museum. But, I don’t think some of the guys get a pass just because of “society” or the “lack of rules” at the time. When you put guys in the Hall, you are not merely comparing them to their own era, you must consider them in the context of all baseball’s eras. If the voters take their role as seriously as they say they do, they wouldn’t take such a lazy way out just because its difficult and possibly unfair. The guys in question got their payday and nobody is taking that away from them. They’ll be just fine without the HOF plaque. We owe them nothing.

George Orwell + John Lennon + Barney the Dinasour equals…

…this bit of inanity:

Decades ago, poor children became known as “disadvantaged” to soften the stigma of poverty. Then they were “at-risk.” Now, a Washington lawmaker wants to replace those euphemisms with a new one, “at hope.”

Positive labeling is more than a gimmick or political correctness, Franklin says. She believes her idea could lead to a paradigm shift in state government and to changes in classrooms across the state.

Sure, we can just legislate out all those negative thoughts.

(Via Dan Riehl and the Professor)

I’d pay to see John Edwards: The Movie

I professed early in the ‘08 campaign that John Edwards was my least favorite presidential candidate, possibly of my lifetime. I hated his obvious phonyness. I hated his obvious arrogance. He was the worst stereotype of an ambulance chaser and every speech I heard from him sounded like he was trying to convince a jury that he truly “cared” about some injustice towards his client. His two America’s speech was utter horseshit since he’d made a fortune off of suing people and lived like an unrepentant king. Moreover, he was personally responsible for actually driving up health care costs. John Edwards played a role in the increase in the C-section rate and on OB/GYN doctors having crazy high insurance costs.

I didn’t really have a beef with his wife but it struck me that he was clearly trying to get sympathy votes with her cancer. Mickey Kaus was on the Saint Elizabeth patrol very early on and so I started to buy into the idea that Mrs. Edwards was a con artist just like her husband thanks largely to Kaus’ invaluable punditry

That John Edwards and John Kerry, two Senators who’d accomplished remarkably little in their time in D.C., were on the same ticket for the Democrats really told you how low the talent pool had gotten in 2004. Both men were insufferably fond of themselves and their professed importance to the country.

We know now that Edwards was a philanderer and likely fathered a child with a woman other than his wife. We also know that the main stream media completely ignored all the evidence of this. The book, Game Change, is making the rounds right now with regular links from Drudge. It has some juicy stuff on the campaign, everything from Bill Clinton looking down his nose at Obama, to Palin’s adventures in vice presidential debates and I’m sure lots of typical campaign fodder. But, I just read the excerpt on John Edwards and I must say I’d love to see the movie version. Much like I enjoy seeing a sports team I dislike go down in flames, I’d certainly love to see the story of how John Edwards bought into his own press and also fooled around with a seemingly New Age ditz while cheating on his cancer stricken wife, a wife that the entire staff hated.

The reason its so criminal that the main stream media ignored the story (being reported by the Enquirer with some pretty amazing evidence) is that they probably got on their high horse about how politician’s personal lives don’t matter. Well, if they have a (D) after their name anyway. But Edwards’ loyalty to his sick wife was one of the cornerstones of his campaign. If that turns out to be a blatant lie, that’s news is it not?

Anyway, read the whole tawdry excerpt. I’d really love to see the movie. I’m thinking Julie Roberts nails to role of the mistress. Color Tom Cruises hair blonde and I know he knocks Edwards out of the park. Cruise and Edwards seem like two sides of the same coin anyway.

On the Scott Brown Hype

Yes, if he’d be the 41st vote against health care “reform”, then I’m all for him. But, reading this report, makes it sound like would be Senator Scott Brown is iffy the issue of tax cuts. He hammers his opponent on being a tax raiser and that’s all fine and good. But apparently he can’t answer clearly on whether or not he’d maintain the Bush tax cuts.

“The whole Bush (and Vice President Dick) Cheney referrals all the time, that’s old. That joke’s old,” Brown said, later needling Coakley for trying to brush off the tax issue.

“There is no one in the audience who thinks Martha is a tax cutter,” Brown said.

Coakley later cornered Brown on his stance on former President Bush’s tax cuts, telling him to answer “yes or no” as to whether he would maintain the current cuts.

“It’s not a yes or no answer, and I’m not going to play a yes or no game,” Brown said.

“If you’re not going to say yes or no, then I don’t want to hear your answer. Thanks,” Coakley said.

I hope his hesitence is with the “Bush” part of the question and not the “tax cuts” part. He clearly doesn’t want to be associated with Bush and I can appreciate that in Massachusetts or anywhere else. I only wish it was for the right reasons. Bush was a big government “conservative.” He had conservative sensibilities to be sure but he wasn’t exactly a conservative rock in the way he governed. Hell, he governed like an incompetent northeastern Republican in his 2nd term (General Petreus is the main reason term #2 wasn’t a complete disaster). I’d say any Republican who feels the need to throw Bush under the bus should be free to do so, as long as its for the right reasons. If we are going to get another “moderate” northeastern Republican whose moderation always results in bigger government then consider me decidedly mixed on Mr. Brown.

I guess “transparency” means “Your Lies are on Youtube”

Surprisingly, the health care negotiations never occurred on C-Span. You know, I’m not sure even Daddy Bush’s infamous broken “read my lips” pledge is this brazenly false. I didn’t know the new “era of transparency” would simply mean that Obama’s promises would be transparently false.

Boy, I’m sure glad we got rid of that super secretive Bush cabal.

One Less Corruptocrat

Senator Chris Dodd will not seek re-election. Which certainly means Connecticut stays Dem. Bummer that but I’ll take it if Dodd is gone. Unfortunately his damage is probably done any way (see Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac).

I also agree that the idea of him as Treasury Secretary to be too ludicrous for even the political tin eared Obama administration. But, if it were to happen, the prisoners at Gitmo will start a pool as to which one of them will get to head up the TSA.

Great Headline Rolling Stone!

In the annals of ill timed headlines, this is a pretty nice entry. From Rolling Stone:


Meanwhile at Drudge:

Next Arctic Blast blows even colder...
Persistent cold tightens grip on nation...
Britain's big snow shuts cities...
Weekend Freeze Looms for Gulf Coast...
Florida races to save crops...
Cold snap spurs power rationing in China...

We are freezing down south. I’d love for some global warming right about now.

Ah…the Venuzuelan Paraiso

Tales from socialists resource management.

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