Thursday, January 28, 2010

On the State of the Union, and Deficit Spending

So, as a disaffected liberal, I had no real intention of watching the State of the Union. At least, not all the way through. But old habits die hard, and I turned on the State of the Union to catch a few minutes. Well, a few minutes turned into the full hour and ten minutes, plus the post-speech commentary. I did skip the Republican response, but it looked like it didn't suck, so the GOP has that going for it.

Anyway, my quick thought was similar to the iPad - if you're an Obama fan, there was a lot to be happy with. For the first time in a long time, I was reminded of why I voted for the guy. I loved that he told the Democrats to stop being pussies, that he told the GOP that they're going to own the obstructionism, and most of all, I loved that he chastised the Supreme Court for its decision. That Justice Alito reacted was all the better. If ever there was a President who would make a good Supreme Court Justice, it would be Obama.

Now, if you're not an Obama fan, this speech probably pissed you off. It was combative, and sarcastic, and worst of all, really, really good. Obama in a formal speech setting is like Peyton Manning just before the two minute warning: you know he's going the score, and there's not much you can do about it.

That said, I have a nit to pick with Obama - the budget freeze. Per everyone's macroeconomic course, we all know that the GDP is made of up three things: consumer spending, business spending, and government spending. Because of the current economic conditions, consumer spending and business spending is down. Also, local and state governments have cut back their spending as well. So, the only thing that can prop up the economy right now is the Federal Government, and increasing overall spending. Freezing domestic spending in this climate is dumb.

Now, I understand why the GOP wants to prevent any government spending - once the government starts spending money on something, its hard to stop. That's why the Bush Administration and the Republican Congress spent like crazy. And when asked what to cut, most Republicans sound like this.

So, what to do? I think rather dramatic spending on infrastructure is called for, but with clear sunset provisions. The beauty of infrastructure spending is that once the infrastructure is built, the spending stops. However, the benefits last for 10-20 years after. So, let's keep spending for a short period of time.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Supreme Court and Corporations

As an attorney, I probably read fewer cases than I did in law school. At least, fewer when it comes to decisions of consequence. There are a couple of reasons for this: first, I read cases for work so reading cases for pleasure ain't fun; and, second, Supreme Court decisions are ridiculously long. So, let me first say that I haven't bothered to read the opinion of the Supreme Court with regard to corporate political spending but I am bothered by it.

Corporations are not natural born anything - they're the creation of lawyers and legislatures around the world. As economic actors, corporations give investors the ability to experiment with new ideas without putting too much of their personal wealth at stake. That's a good thing. But, corporations exist only so much as Congress lets them exist. If Congress passed a law, and the President signed this law, that eliminated all corporations tomorrow, all corporations would cease to exist because their underlying foundation - legal recognition - would cease to exist. Corporations would become essentially partnerships with each shareholder becoming a proportionate shareholder. The protections from company debt would be eliminated, and the partners would put their own fortunes on the line (as opposed to their share prices).

So, if a corporation is created by legislative action, can be eliminated by legislative action, then Congress should have the right to regulate the activities of these entities, including their "right" to free speech. Justice Rehnquist used to say that in the law, you have to take the bitter with the sweet, and here, the bitter is the inability of corporations to spend on campaigns directly, followed by the sweetness of existence. This is in contrast with actual people, who's creation cannot be so determined by legislative action.

So, what can be done? Simple, Congress can redo the legislation prohibiting corporate donations to campaigns, and then add a provision stripping the Supreme Court of jurisdiction to review the law's constitutionality. Since the Constitution grants Congress the power to decide what the Supreme Court's jurisdiction is (except for those provisions expressly provided for in Article III), Congress can tell the Court that its decision is wrong and tell them to go take a long walk off of a short pier.

Of course, Congress is almost completely owned by corporate interests, so this solution is unlikely. Typical.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Padres Blogging

I have to admit, I missed most of yesterday's games. The Chargers' loss was simply too painful. If I watch the Superbowl (let's face it, no one is watching the Pro Bowl next week), it'll probably be for the commercials. I am done with football for now. After living through horrendous seasons, I can definitely say that losing to the Jets is probably the most painful loss in recent Chargers history. Ugh.

Okay, onto baseball (normally, I'd say basketball, but since the Kobe rape trial, I've "divorced" the Lakers, and have no attachments to any team), to carry my interest and hopes. Now, while the Padres didn't do well last year, they were the hottest team in the Majors at the end of the season. Recently, Gaslampball, a blog covering the Padres, offered their descriptions of the Padres starting players.

I beg to differ. . .somewhat. Here are my views of the Padres starting position players:

Catcher - Nick Hundley - A good defensive catcher, iffy offensively, but has shown promise. All in all, a solid starting catcher.

First Base - Adrian Gonzalez - Good to great player with great defense and pretty good offense (which would probably be better outside of Petco). Perenial all-star.

Second Base - David Eckstein - he's not the all-star he used to be, but is still pesky, still works hard, and is a good influence on the kids. Jerry Hairston will see time at this position too.

Third Base - Chase Headley - Getting out of left field is a major plus, as he was a horrible outfielder. He can probably spend more time in batting cage. But he's an upgrade over Kouzmanoff. Headley had a higher OBP, SLG, and batting average, if I'm not mistaken. While Kouz hit more home runs, Headley had more doubles. Plus, Kouz led the league in hitting into double plays.

Shortstop - Everth Cabrera - the kid flies on the basepaths, plays good defense, and has shown surprising hitting ability. If he progresses, we're set at shortstop until he gets too expensive.

Left Field - Kyle Blanks - For a guy the size of a tight end - scratch that, Blanks is actually BIGGER THAN ANTONIO GATES - he moves amazingly well, and unlike Headley, can actually play the outfield. I just hope his injury wasn't caused by all the running. Anyway, we don't know how good the kid is, but he hits for enormous power. A true wait and see.

Center Field - Tony Gywnn, Jr. - he didn't hit too badly last year, and is the kind of slap hitter that the Padres need. We'll see if he can maintain it. On the plus side, he could platoon with Scott Hairston, who's a bit more proven. Wait and see.

Right Field - Will Venable - Venable plays good defense, and hit surprisingly well last year. I say surprisingly because he hit better than he did in the minors. Hairston can provide insurance at this position too.

Overall, the Padres are a "don't know" kind of a team. They could surprise everyone and have a 2008 Tampa Bay Devil Rays kind of season, or a look like the Padres last year. Likely, we're looking at a 70-75 win season. I love the Kouzmanoff for Hairston trade, as I see Headley being an upgrade at third. My gut says that Cabrera, Headley and Blanks play better than they did last year, and that Venable and Gywnn play worse.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

About that Massachusetts Race and the Chargers. . .

I need to rant a little bit today, so forgive me. . .hey, wait, that's what this blog is for. Anyway, let's get this over with.

Massachusetts Senatorial Special Election: So today in Massachusetts, the voters are voting on Ted Kennedy's replacement (Massachusetts law allows the Governor to appoint an interim Senator until a Special Election can be held). And lo and behold, the Democrat, Martha Coakley (the current Attorney General) might just lose to Republican State Senator Scott Brown.

Now this is big news for two reasons: first, Massachusetts is a liberal state; and second, attorneys general are elected statewide, and state senators are not. In other words, Coakley was a known commodity to Massachusetts voters, whereas Brown was only known to a small group of them. Now, while I'm sure that Bogart has some other ideas, let me state why this is happening from my perspective:

1) Coakley is a bad candidate - Even though she was the AG, from what I can tell, Coakley has been a terrible candidate. She hasn't worked for it since the primary. Voters can tell when they're being ignored and that's dumb. A good campaign is like a good college football team - there's no such thing as overkill. Since Sunday, Brown has made 66 campaign stops, and Coakley 19. Are you kidding me?

2) National Dems are repeating past mistakes: Coakley is the classic "Law and Order" Democrat - the current AG and a former DA, she's more conservative than Kennedy was, and hasn't differentiated herself from Brown. But, you see, that's why she won the primary - the voters and the National Dems backed her because they thought she was going to win because she was a more conservative Democrat. And quite frankly, that's insane. Some strategic voting is okay, but as Truman used to say - when given the choice between a Republican and a Democrat who acts like a Republican, the voters will choose the real thing.

Moreover, the Dems are forgetting that in a special election, turnout is key. And the only way to turn out Democrats is to excite the base. Moderates are great, but they don't excite anyone. With the insanity of the health care reform bill, Coakley would be in a stronger place if she went Alan Grayson/Howard Dean.

Anyway, here's my point - the Democratic Party needs to understand that its base is the same size, if not larger, than the GOP base. Expanding to the independents is good, but having the base with you is equally important. The most successful Democrats are always presumed to be more liberal than they actually are. So, stop being afraid to be liberal.

The Chargers choke again -

As a Chargers fan, last Sunday's game was painful. Without question, the Chargers choked - and choked big time. Ten penalties, three missed field goals, a dumb interception, the Chargers just didn't play up to their ability. I blame Norv Turner - but at the same time, the offensive line and the defensive line are not what they should have been. The D-line is excusable from a coaching standpoint (although A.J. Smith better do something to upgrade the D-line), but the offensive line play has been atrocious for years. Yes, LT isn't the player he used to be, but he hasn't had any holes to go through.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

First Post of the New Decade (really, this is the first? Wow)

Well, I've been slacking, per usual, and with no posts in two weeks, I'm sure blogger was thinking of dumping my blog. But never fear, bullshitters (new name for my readers, maybe), I am back with random news bits that piss me off. So, without further ado. . .

Harry Reid is a racist, but that's okay. For those of you who haven't followed the news, Harry Reid apparently said that Obama had a good shot at being President because he's light-skinned, and doesn't use "Negro" colloquialisms. A lot of Republicans have jumped onto these comments to knock off Reid as the Majority Leader, just as Democrats used Trent Lott's comments to end his tenure as Majority Leader. Of this, I have two points to make:

1) Be careful what you wish for. Trent Lott was a powerful and brilliant Majority Leader, who passed whatever Bush wanted, no matter how small his majority. He was replaced with Bill Frist, who got his ass kicked on a regular basis by Harry Reid. Reid, meanwhile, is getting his ass handed to him by the conservatives in his caucus. In other words, knocking off Trent Lott lead to a less effective GOP majority; knocking off Reid will probably lead to a more effective Democratic majority.

2) It wasn't that racist (if at all). Reid was speaking as a politician eying the attitudes of voters. In essence, Reid was saying that Obama is less threatening to the suburbian folks than Jesse Jackson. Well, duh. But it also appears that Reid was speaking from the perspective of the vaguely racist voters, and I'm pretty sure he was.

Most civil rights legislation passes because of men like Harry Reid, who are intellectually in favor of civil rights, but still, at a gut-level, hold racist beliefs. And that makes sense because the only way to get past gut-level racism is to have experiences and make friendships with people of differing ethnicities.

From my own experience, my father, who's strongly in favor of LGBT rights, is so homophobic that he can't be in the same room as a television playing "Will & Grace." He visibly squirms at the sight of two men holding hands or showing any kind of affection. In the meantime, I grew up taking his views on equal rights to heart, and am now on my second gay roommate. Now, I'm far from perfectly homo friendly, but I'm a lot farther along than my father, and my children will be farther around still. But it was my parents who started the ball rolling.

Oh, and Trent Lott's comments were far, far worse. He said that the U.S. would have been a better place if segregation was still in effect. Not cool.