Latest on Al Franken’s Election

TPM has posted a summary of the latest ruling by the Minnesota elections court. 

The Minnesota election court has just handed down a much-awaited ruling, laying out which previously-rejected ballots might just be counted yet — and though it’s unclear right now whose votes are whose, it doesn’t look all that good for Norm Coleman.

It looks as if, after a very thorough review, the Court is going to look at only 400 ballots to determine if they should be counted. 

Both campaigns submitted lists of ballots that they said they’d proven were legal and ought to be counted — and here’s what the court thought of them:

“Upon the Court’s initial review, it became apparent that the parties’ spreadsheets identifying the relevant exhibits were inadequate and unreliable. This required the Court to complete an exhaustive review of all the records and documents submitted by either party throughout the course of the entire trial.”

The court thus reviewed:

“…19,181 pages of filings, including pleadings, motions and legal memoranda from the parties; 1,717 individual exhibits admitted into evidence; and testimony from 142 witness examinations, including election officials from 38 Minnesota counties and cities and 69 voters who appeared and testified in defense of their ballots. The trial evidence comprised exhibits offered in three-ring binders that, when stacked, equaled over 21 feet of paper copies.”

Don’t think they’re just complaining about the length — not that anybody would blame them. The court is clearly establishing the level of diligence they went to in order to decide the questions at hand — thus guarding themselves against any appeal on procedural grounds.

As I understand the process, the ballots will be reviewed  by the Secretary of Stae to make sure they are complete and can be counted and however many of the 400 ballots pass muster will then be counted.  So I think one can assume that not all of the 400 will be counted and not all of the ballots that are counted will go to Norm Coleman.  Therefore this is bad news for Norm given that Al Franken has at least a 225 vote lead.

One of the commentators to TPM wrote

If all 400 ballots were counted, Coleman would need a 313-87 split to overtake Franken. There’d be about a 1 in a million chance of the votes breaking in Coleman’s favor like that. Ans since not all 400 ballots will be counted, so I think it’s safe to say that Coleman is finished.

If all this is true, Al Franken may be (finally!) just a few days from being Senator Al.

Looking for Dice-K

Yesterday I was minding my own business when I got an email from Florida.  A co-worker on vacation was at the Red Sox spring training game and sent a picture.  Then she said that Dice-K was pitching and Lowell, Pedroia and Youkilis were also playing.  Sent a wave of envy through my end of the floor when I forwarded the picture.

So the word on Daisuke Matsuzaka in his first spring training game is good.  Effective and efficient.  This this a good sign for the spring?  Will having pitched for the winning Japan in the World Baseball Classic hurt or help him in the long run? Hard to say.  But along with the various injuries that appear to be healing and Matsuzaka’s performance yesterday, the Sox look good. 

From the  Boston Globe’s Extra Bases blog

“Seventy-five pitches through five innings is ideally what we were hoping to get through today,” said pitching coach John Farrell after the Sox’ 4-3 loss in 10 innings to the Atlanta Braves.

“I surprised myself,” Matsuzaka said with a mischievous grin, suggesting he is growing tired of the constant questions about his pitch efficiency. “The Red Sox keep reminding me that I was a little bit ahead of schedule, but on the other hand, getting ready for the WBC put me ahead [of everyone else]. I’d like to take that in a positive way.”

There wasn’t much else to report from the clubhouse, where the Sox were eager to depart after two long road trips in two days. Farrell made repeated note of Matsuzaka’s willingness/ability to rely on his two-seam fastball, a pitch designed to quick outs and conserve pitches.

Matsuzaka also made a point of noting that he was working on his “movement,” suggesting he is more focused on, as Farrell said, “pitching to contact.”

The countdown clock to opening day reads 6 days, 7 hours, and 12 minutes.  It’s Spring!

My Final Four – 50% Result

I picked the number one seeds:  Louisville, Connecticut, Pittsburgh, North Carolina.  And we got:  Michigan State, Connecticut, Villanova and North Carolina. 

I keep telling myself that a great batter like Ted Williams only gets to .400. not .5oo while the average hitter is doing well to hit .280.  And don’t ask me about the earlier rounds, please.  I think I am at about 50%  or a bit over for most of the rounds.  Just a 50% tournament for me.

Part of my problem is I don’t know when to pick on sentiment and when not to do so.  Like I picked VCU bacause I taught and worked there once.  Bad move.  I also didn’t pick Kansas over Boston College because BC is a local Boston school.  But I thought very hard about not picking Louisville because I dislike Rick Pitino and I should have gone with instinct there. 

Oh well, the Final Four should be exciting anyway.  Go Tar Heels!

More on the Party of Zero

In case you haven’t been reading since the Presidental election, you really should check in once in a while.  There is Nate Silver’s advance look at the the details to be released later.

Eric Cantor is said to want to eliminate North Dakota rather than Idaho, while Thaddeus McCotter has suggested using the balance of TARP funds to purchase scratch-off tickets

You have to see the diagram to get the rest.

From the Party of “No” to the Party of “Zero”?

What’s up with the Republican House leadership anyway?  After being criticized by all stripes of poltical commentators and just ordinary citizens for not offering any alternative to the President’s proposed budget, they released an eighteen page booklet with no numbers.  I repeat, no numbers.

According to David Gregory on MSNBC’s First Read,

Dude, where’s my budget? Let’s be honest: Yesterday’s House Republican budget rollout was a P.R. disaster for the GOP. “Here it is, Mr. President” was the title of the GOP Leader blog touting that they had answered Obama’s dare to produce a budget. The problem — their budget rollout didn’t contain any hard budget numbers or deficit projections. They say those hard numbers will come out next week. But now we learn that Reps. Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan objected to unveiling yesterday’s “blueprint,” but were overruled by Reps. John Boehner and Mike Pence. But bigger than any internal disagreements or any criticism about a lack of details is the fact that yesterday’s GOP non-announcement moved the attention away from the Obama-vs.-congressional Democrat storyline to the GOP’s lack of a budget. In fact, after yesterday, the White House and congressional Democrats can agree on one thing: The GOP — at least until next week — is the “Party of No.” What’s more, it puts more pressure on Ryan to truly put out a comprehensive budget alternative; Also, this episode could end up creating a rift in the GOP over how to combat the Obama White House. After all, Senate Republicans wanted nothing to do with an alternative, and now Mitch McConnell, et al are either laughing at their House GOP colleagues, furious at them, or both.

As proof that the Democrats are refocusing on the Republicans rather than each other is the new Democratic Party video.  Kate Phillips writes in the New York Times Caucus

As the House and Senate head toward a heavy budget battle next week, Republicans have been facing criticism from the White House and from Democrats over whether they have offered a real alternative when it comes to the proposals on the table.

In the Senate, what Republican leaders are promising is a lot of amendments. But in the House, Republicans held a news conference yesterday to announce that, despite President Obama’s remarks to the contrary, they did have a plan of their own.

Carl Hulse, chief congressional correspondent of The New York Times, reported that Representative John A. Boehner, the minority leader, was grilled by reporters on Capitol Hill because the blue 18-page “recovery” pamphlet that the Republican leadership released was short on figures, spending or revenue details.

Next week’s budget debate will be interesting.  The Democratic Blue Dogs have their own ideas and the Republicans are split.  The look of the final budget may depend on which party can come together sooner.

Obama’s Press Conference at 60+ days and other Presidential Matters

How’s he doing?  I thought the press conference last night showed a more subdued President Obama.   David Biespiel said on Politico’s Arena

Overall: Professor in chief. I saw the news conference on CNN from my hotel room. Will cable TV present every Obama news conference as if it’s the last night of Yalta? I disagree with the interpretation that these night time press conferences should be for dramatic events only. Meeting with the press monthly on prime time is good for democracy–whether the climate is dramatic or not. 

I tend to agree with him.  I don’t think the President is at his best with press conferences – he seems to do better with town hall meetings – but they are informative.  Maybe he should think about a prime time town hall meeting.

Thomas Mann from Brookings said on Politico’s Arena

What struck me about last night’s press conference was how the President managed both to maintain his signature leadership style — cool, intelligent, knowledgeable, and reasonable — and to forcefully advocate his position that his economic recovery program and his budget are inextricably linked. He also signaled clearly, especially in his closing remarks, that he fully understands the obstacles he faces and that some of his priorities will take years to accomplish. It appears he will continue to aim high with an ambitious agenda in spite of the clamor of critics for cutting back on his objectives. In a world in which an exclusive focus on short-term gains has dominated behavior in government and in the private sector, Obama is planning an eight-year program of governance that aspires to grapple seriously with long-term challenges.

Which leads me to talk about the Republican opposition.  Several Republicans posted on the Arena their disappointment that there was no real opposition agenda.  I believe that the President has also pointed out that there is no alternative budget so there can be a real discussion.

Eugene Robinson wrote in today’s Washington Post

Some listeners thought they heard flexibility or even retreat on the president’s ambitious agenda of health care, energy and education. I heard the opposite — a single-minded focus on these three initiatives, which Obama maintains are vital if the economy is to be put on sound footing. His strategy is to let Congress work out the details, but he was clear that he expects all of the Big Three to be reflected in the budget. One thing we’ll learn about him, the president said, is that he’s persistent. I’m going to take him at his word.

If you recall, Barack Obama stuck to a consistant message throughout his campaign.  He never let himself get sidetracked to drawn into debates he didn’t want to have.  I think last night showed he is still the same person, that what we saw during the campaign is what we got as a President.

One negative note to my evaluation of his first 60 days.  I am still worried about some of his appointments, particularly in the economic area.  As I have said before I am very very skeptical about Larry Summers in particular.  Christopher Hayes gave this piece of advice back in January and I think it is still relevant.

But as the Obama administration continues to fill thousands of government positions, they’d do well to heed the words of a wise man who once said that “tallying up your years in Washington is no substitute for judgment.” That was President Obama, whose primary campaign was largely predicated on the principle that having gotten something crucial, like the Iraq War, right when other people got it wrong was of such overwhelming importance that voters should elevate someone who’d been a state senator just a few years earlier to the highest office in the land over a competitor with years in Washington under her belt.

The voters agreed, and I continue to think they got it right. Maybe the president should go back and read some of his old speeches the next time there’s an opening in his administration.

And not to beat a maybe dead horse:  where is a job for Howard Dean?

Gerald Henderson the Elder

Gerald Henderson a native of Richmond Virginia played for Virginia Commonweath University.  I watched him play for VCU, and even worked out at the same gym.  (back then it was a Nautillus Club and there were only a couple in the Richmond area so lots of people were members.)  We were all excited when he was drafted in 1978 and in my family at least, we were most excited when he started playing for the Boston Celtics.

Today, his son, Gerald, plays for Duke as a key player in their NCAA tournament run.  This weekend the Hendersons return to Boston: Gerald the Elder to revisit the town where he made his most famous play and Gerald the Younger to try to lead Duke into the Round of eight – and maybe the final four.  All this will take place in the building that is often referred to as the New Garden, the real Boston Garden long torn down to make way for an area that has changed names multiple times.  The New York Times has an interesting article about father and son.

Twenty-five years after Gerald Henderson stole the ball, his son of the same name is going to Boston, scene of the crime.

What was that crime?

Go back to May 31, 1984, Game 2 of the N.B.A. finals, the Celtics facing the unthinkable prospect of losing the first two games at home to Magic Johnson and the Lakers. With 18 seconds left in the fourth quarter, the Lakers had a 2-point lead and the ball in the backcourt.

Henderson is a little fuzzy on whom he was supposed to guard, on what exactly came next, but he will never forget James Worthy, after taking a pass from Magic, floating one to the right side, toward Byron Scott.

For years, Scott would rue his rookie mistake of not moving to the ball, of letting it come to him. Henderson seized his parquet moment, angling in for the interception, deflecting the ball with his left hand, soaring to the basket to lay it in.

Resuscitated, the Celtics won in overtime, 124-121. The series would end with Magic overdribbling the Lakers into a Game 7 defeat in Boston, where Bird’s triumph over Johnson was illuminated like a darkened Garden full of victory cigars.

The son, who bears a striking facial resemblance to his father, goes to Boston in the 25th anniversary year. Maybe he celebrates by stealing the show.

Of course, I didn’t pick Duke to get to the final four, but they are an ACC team and even if they mess up my bracket I won’t be too unhappy is Gerald the Younger leads them to an upset of Pittsburg.

Paul Krugman v. Tim Geithner

It is no secret that I’m not an economist.  I have long depended on Paul Krugman to help me understand what was going on.  And given the current state of the world, I seem to be blogging about economics a lot.

So is the Tim Geithner toxic assets plan viable or not?    Larry Summers (against whom I have a grudge because of what he did to Cornel West while president of Harvard) took at slap at Paul Krugman’s op-ed piece saying “I wish he waited for the plan to be announced before he wrote his column.” 

What exactly did Paul write?

And now Mr. Obama has apparently settled on a financial plan that, in essence, assumes that banks are fundamentally sound and that bankers know what they’re doing.

It’s as if the president were determined to confirm the growing perception that he and his economic team are out of touch, that their economic vision is clouded by excessively close ties to Wall Street. And by the time Mr. Obama realizes that he needs to change course, his political capital may be gone.

Let’s talk for a moment about the economics of the situation.

Right now, our economy is being dragged down by our dysfunctional financial system, which has been crippled by huge losses on mortgage-backed securities and other assets.

As economic historians can tell you, this is an old story, not that different from dozens of similar crises over the centuries. And there’s a time-honored procedure for dealing with the aftermath of widespread financial failure. It goes like this: the government secures confidence in the system by guaranteeing many (though not necessarily all) bank debts. At the same time, it takes temporary control of truly insolvent banks, in order to clean up their books.

If I understand him correctly, what Krugman is worried about is 1) should we have just gone ahead and nationalized the banks temporarily and gotten it over with and 2) if the plan doesn’t work does it will Congress vote more money to nationalize.

I think Krugman is a great economist, but he maybe underestimating the larger political situation.  I think President Obama believes that health care reform and, to a less extent, eduational reform are additional keys to turning the economy around.  Obama is already hearing the footsteps of those in Congress who are looking at the deficit and wanting to put the breaks on.  Obama wants to pass his budget. Therefore he didn’t want to pick my option 1 and nationalize the banks.  If the plan doesn’t work, option 2 is an unknown.

One thing I do know is that while the market did go up today and that Tim Geithner did do marginally better that his first disasterous press conference, I love Jonathan Mann of Rock Bottom Cookie’s new song, “Hey Paul Krugman”.  Mann extoles Krugman while putting Geithner down.  Great catchy song.  Listen to the song and sing along with the refrain.” When I listen to you it seems to make sense, when I listen to him [Geithner] all I hear is blah, blah, blah.”

At this point all we can do is hope that the Geithner gamble works out.  I’m sure that Paul Krugman will be the first to be happy if it does.

AIG Backstory: The Gramm Leach Bliley Act

Today (May 11, 2012) JP Morgan Chase appears to have engaged in the same kind of behavior that lead to the 2008 meltdown and people are talking about reviving the Glass-Steagall Act.  I thought I should repost this from March 2009.

Yesterday one of my Random Thoughts was to ask if anyone remember when banks were banks and stock brokers were stock brokers.  A few hours later, Rachel Maddow had a piece on the Gramm Leach Bliley Act (GLBA) of 1999. According to the summary of the bill the first provision is


 Repeals the restrictions on banks affiliating with securities firms contained in sections 20 and 32 of the Glass-Steagall Act.

(The GLBA also did some good things like require lending in poor neighborhoods which began to end redlining, but that’s a whole different story and discussion. It also required ATM’s to post fees for use. And I need to confess that  in 1999, Representative Bliliey was my Congressman.)  

At the signing, by President Clinton, of the Gramm Leach Bliley Act Senator Phil Gramm said

“In the 1930s, at the trough of the Depression, when Glass-Steagall became law, it was believed that government was the answer. It was believed that stability and growth came from government overriding the functioning of free markets.

“We are here today to repeal Glass-Steagall because we have learned that government is not the answer. We have learned that freedom and competition are the answers. We have learned that we promote economic growth and we promote stability by having competition and freedom.

So it has taken about ten years to figure out Phil Gramm was wrong.  We did not “..promote stability by having competition and freedom.”

The GLBA was what allowed AIG to go from insurance company to a financial behemoth “too big to fail”.  It let CitiBank purchase Traveler’s Insurance and become CitiGroup. 

Circling back to Rachel Maddow, her guest David Cay Johnson compared the lack of Wall Street regulation which was supposed to save tax payers money with deciding that we no longer needed the expense of traffic lights, speed limits and stop signs because drivers will regulate themselves. 

My bottom line?  We need to get back to some sensible regulations with proper funding of regulators.  But will Phil Gramm’s sucessors – Eric Cantor and the other Republicans – understand that their essentially unregulated free market because government is bad mantra is what helped get us into trouble and brought us to the place where we are spending trillions to bailout the very companies that Gramm Leach Bliley helped to create.

Friday Night Random Thoughts

Why have I picked the wrong upsets in the first round?  I picked  Cornell over Missouri and VCU over UCLA for example and totally didn’t see Dayton beating West VA. 

Why is everyone so focused on the President’s Special Olympics “gaffe”?  I thought his dancing around the Tim Geithner question was much worse.  Besides all those special olympians are now going to get to bowl at the White House. 

Why hasn’t Norm Coleman surrendered yet?  I have read that it is expected that Al Franken will likely pick up some votes as the court studies some more ballots.  Then Coleman says he will appeal.  Franken is asking Coleman to pay his legal costs.  I think Minnesota needs an second Senator and let’s just certify the election and let Al take his seat.

Why is is always so cold on the first day of spring in Boston?  At least this year it isn’t snowing.

I wonder what criticism the Republicans will come up with about the White House vegetable garden?  Marion Burros had a lovely story in the New York Times yesterday.  Seems everyone will have to pull weeds, including the President.  I guess that will be more time he is wasting when he should be focused on the economy.

Will President Obama and Barney Frank acually suceed in rewriting the regulations concerning financial institutions?  Does anyone else remember when stock brokers were separate from banks and the twain was never supposed to meet?  Maybe we need to go back to those days?

The cats are gathering and telling me it is time to stop having random thoughts and focus on their dinner.