Baseball trading day and the Red Sox

On the day of the deadline for non-waiver trades, the Red Sox picked up a starting pitcher, Erick Bedard,  from the Mariners.  Does this mean that the outlook for Clay Buchholz returning this season is slim to none?  According to MLB.com

The Red Sox traded four Minor Leaguers in two separate deals. Catcher Tim Federowicz, pitcher Stephen Fife and righty Juan Rodriguez were sent to the Dodgers for outfielder Trayvon Robinson. The Red Sox then dealt Robinson and outfielder Chih-Hsien Chiang to the Mariners to complete the exchange for Bedard and Minor League reliever Josh Fields, a right-hander.

I think I agree with Nick Cafardo’s reaction in the blog posting soon after the news broke

Think Tim Federowicz and Chih-Hsien Chiang are going to be pretty good players. Federowicz was certainly the Sox’ most complete catcher. Chiang’s taken a while to get going, but now a pretty good player.

At least Sox didn’t have to give up third baseman Will Middlebrooks, who didn’t play for Portland today giving rise to speculation he might have been involved in a deal.

Still unclear as to why Erik Bedard cost them this much.

I have only had a chance to see Middlebrooks and Chiang when we got to a Portland Sea Dogs – New Hampshire Fisher Cats game a week ago.  I remarked to Bob that Chiang had a good shot of making it.  Middlebrooks didn’t stand out.  So now he will, only for Seattle.

MLB.com had reaction from Kevin Youkilis

Bedard, 32, has made 16 starts, going 4-7 with a 3.45 ERA. In 91 1/3 innings, he has allowed 77 hits and opponents are hitting just .226 against him.

“He’s nasty,” Red Sox third baseman Kevin Youkilis said of Bedard earlier this week. “I think he owns me. When he was pitching against us, when he was healthy, I don’t know if we beat him — he beat up on us. He’s good. He has a great slider. When he’s healthy and he locates pitches, he’s a pretty remarkable pitcher.”

When he’s healthy is the key.  So the Sox will likely give Bedard Andrew Miller’s spot in the rotation.  Andrew Miller struggled again today even though the Red Sox rallied to beat the White Sox again.  His problem has been walks, but today he gave up 10 hits instead.  The other pitcher who could be pulled out the rotation is Tim Wakefield who is actually having a pretty decent year for a guy who will be 45 in 2 days.  He just got  his 2000th strikeout and will probably get win 200 next time out.  Yes, the knuckleball is unpredictable, but I can’t see replacing him with Bedard.  You can call me sentimental, but let’s let Wake finish the year in the rotation.

And we also got a utility infielder, Mike Aviles.  A sign perhaps that as optimistic as everyone is sounding about Jed Lowrie, they are worried about him staying healthy.  He arrived in Chicago last night

Aviles, who was in Cleveland with the Royals, arrived in Chicago in the third inning, put on his new uniform with No. 3 on the back, and played the bottom of the ninth inning at third base.

The 30-year-old has played second base, third base, and shortstop this season. The righthanded-hitting Aviles is batting .222 this season, but is at .309 with a .944 OPS in 55 at-bats against lefthanded pitchers. He is a career .296 hitter against lefties.

Playing off the bench for the Red Sox, Aviles said, is not a problem.

“The situation here is completely different,’’ he said. “We’re in first place and we have an opportunity to win a world championship. It’s going to take more than 25 guys to do that. I’m more than happy to be one of those guys.’’

And the Red Sox are rolling.

Watching the circus

Watching the circus in Washington used to be a fun activity, but right now it is just depressing.  I got home from work last night expecting to watch the Republican vote on the Speaker’s plan only to learn that it had been postponed.  When I went to bed at 10 it was still pending.  At 5 this morning, I learned it didn’t happen because the Republican leadership didn’t have the votes.  All this for a bill that is DOA in the Senate.

We are all being held hostage by a handful of tea partiers and other Republicans who are convinced that their election gave them some kind of mandate to kill the country.  As they are learning in Wisconsin, people are beginning to have buyer’s remorse.  On the other hand, the tea partiers are threatening to run against the very people they elected if the new Congressmembers don’t come through.  Among those making the threats are Sarah Palin and the founder of the Texas Tea Party on Al Sharpton’s MSNBC show last night.  So I don’t think the 20 or so votes that Boehner is looking for will materialize, but then again, this whole spectacle is full of surprises so one never knows.

Everyone, including President Obama, has let this small faction define the fight.  I think Eugene Robinson is right:  The Republicans have one easily stated idea:  Reduce the deficit (and deny Obama a second term) while the Democrats and particularly Progressives don’t have an easily stated idea.

Those who would chronicle events in Washington can find no richer source of analogy and metaphor than the Three Stooges. These days, I’m thinking of the times when an exasperated Moe, having suffered the indignity of an accidental spritzing or clobbering, turns to Larry or Curly and demands, “What’s the big idea?”

The premise of the debt-ceiling fight is too far-fetched for a Stooges film, since no audience could imagine leaders of a great nation stumbling into such a mess. Moe’s trademark line is still relevant, however, even if it’s not followed by the two-fingered poke in the eyes that our elected officials richly deserve.

It is clear that unless President Obama ends up taking unilateral action to break a hopeless deadlock, Republicans will win. The House, the Senate and the White House are all working within GOP-defined parameters: New tax revenue is off the table, painful budget cuts are a given, everyone seems to accept the principle that a debt-ceiling increase — which allows the Treasury to pay bills Congress has already incurred — must be tied to reductions in future spending.

Besides not having an easily stated idea that everyone repeats, the Democrats have done all the compromising.  And it hasn’t worked out so well.  Look back at the retention of the Bush tax cuts:  Do you see any jobs?  Robinson concludes

Obama talks about “winning the future,” but that’s too nebulous. I’d suggest something pithier: jobs, jobs, jobs.

People may dislike paying taxes, but they dislike unemployment more. Progressives should talk about bringing the nation back to full employment and healthy growth — and how this requires an adequately funded government to play a major role.

The next time Moe asks about the big idea, Democrats, say “jobs.” You might avoid a slap on the noggin and a poke in the eyes.

I think it maybe time for the President to stop trying to compromise, to get together with Reid and Pelosi and make a real proposal.  To quote Paul Krugman

Some of us have long complained about the cult of “balance,” the insistence on portraying both parties as equally wrong and equally at fault on any issue, never mind the facts. I joked long ago that if one party declared that the earth was flat, the headlines would read “Views Differ on Shape of Planet.” But would that cult still rule in a situation as stark as the one we now face, in which one party is clearly engaged in blackmail and the other is dickering over the size of the ransom?

The answer, it turns out, is yes. And this is no laughing matter: The cult of balance has played an important role in bringing us to the edge of disaster. For when reporting on political disputes always implies that both sides are to blame, there is no penalty for extremism. Voters won’t punish you for outrageous behavior if all they ever hear is that both sides are at fault.

,,,

So what’s with the buzz about a centrist uprising? As I see it, it’s coming from people who recognize the dysfunctional nature of modern American politics, but refuse, for whatever reason, to acknowledge the one-sided role of Republican extremists in making our system dysfunctional. And it’s not hard to guess at their motivation. After all, pointing out the obvious truth gets you labeled as a shrill partisan, not just from the right, but from the ranks of self-proclaimed centrists.

But making nebulous calls for centrism, like writing news reports that always place equal blame on both parties, is a big cop-out — a cop-out that only encourages more bad behavior. The problem with American politics right now is Republican extremism, and if you’re not willing to say that, you’re helping make that problem worse.

Time for the President to not only talk the talk as he did last week, but also walk the walk.  Compromise by only one side has lead to this circus that is not even very entertaining.  At the very least, round up enough votes in the Senate to pass the Reid plan so the Democrats can at least say they did something.  You can compare plans here.  And please, let there be only one vote.  I don’t think anyone can take this again in 6 months.

 

 

 

 

If you don’t laugh, you have to cry

After John Boehner decided to walk out on the debt talks on Friday (and John, we know that it was not because of the President, but because Eric Cantor said no taxes even if you call them tax reform), we moved even closer to default.  So a little humor (from the left) on the situation for Sunday morning.

First up, Ruben Bolling and my favorite, Tom the Dancing Bug

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Then ( I have to say I love it that Daily Kos collects the Comics), we have Matt Weurker’s Tea Party Tango

Matt Wuerker

To tango or to compromise, it takes two, Mr. Cantor. 

Speaking of Mr. Cantor, you can hear him yourself at this animation by Scott Bateman.

And to end, two editoral cartoons.

Tony Auth on Congress

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And Dan Wasserman

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The President has taken himself out of the talks, telling Congress to come up with a solution.  We shall see.

Mitch McConnell, John Boehner, Nancy Pelosi, and Harry Reid are pictured. | AP Photo

Warren Buffet and Boston Speed Dog

There is someone in this universe who doesn’t know who Warren Buffet is.  That someone is Greg Dale the owner of Speed Dog, the Boston food truck.

According to the Boston Globe

The billionaire investor was in Boston this week for a meeting with execs at Yale Electric. Afterward, we’re told, Buffett, his burly bodyguard, and a few folks from the Dorchester-based home appliance store headed over to Boston Speed Dog, the food truck in Roxbury that sells the most scrumptious hot dogs. Not surprisingly, Buffett loved the dog and joked that he wanted to buy the truck. When we asked Speed Dog co-owner Greg Gale about his brush with fame, he was confused. “Really? He was here? I didn’t even know,” Gale said. “I love his music.” No, we explained, it was Warren Buffett, not Jimmy Buffett. He’s an older guy with grey hair and glasses, we said. “Oh yeah,” replied Gale. “Now that you mention it, I did talk to him. He said he wanted to buy the place, and I told him, ‘You don’t have enough money.’”

Recording artist Jimmy Buffett looks up to spe...

Image via Wikipedia

 

 

 

 

 

Warren Buffett speaking to a group of students...

Image via Wikipedia

 

 

 

There is some resemblance.  I wonder if Warren can sing.

 

 

The “gang of six” plan and the debt ceiling

In case you are wondering what it is, the New York Times has published a summary.  It is really a budget and deficit reduction plan and not something to raise the debt ceiling which still has to be done.  And time is running out.

A couple of interesting comments about the plan on Politico’s Arena.

First from Jeff Smith, professor at the New School and former Missouri State Senator:

The one real piece missing from this entire conversation? The piece that would make the numbers work and dramatically reduce the pain?

Comprehensive immigration reform. That’s right. There’s only one pool of 15 million people begging to be able to pay more into the system, and this country has spent the last several years fighting to make sure they can’t.

We need to get over our xenophobia, give them a path to citizenship, and let them start paying in to the system at regular rates in regular intervals. The nation’s immigrant population tilts much younger than the native-born population and is predominantly in the workforce, and would reverse the trend of a rising retiree-to-worker ratio, thereby shoring up both major entitlement programs

The immigrants would pay taxes, pay into social security, and Medicare.

Bernie Sanders (D-VT) points out

While the spending cuts for programs that working people desperately depend upon are enforced by specific spending caps, there is no such enforcement or clarity regarding the $1.1 trillion to be raised in revenue over 10 years.

What happens if that revenue target is not reached? There is no language that deals with that. Where does the revenue come from? That very important issue is kicked to the tax writing committees with no guarantee that hundreds of billions of dollars in new revenue will not come from the pockets of low- and moderate-income Americans. While nobody knows for certain what provisions might be adopted, there is reason to expect that some of the areas that the House and Senate will be looking at include the home mortgage deduction for middle-class families, taxes on health care benefits, and increased taxes on retirement programs such as 401(k)s and IRAs. In other words, while there is a reasonable degree of specificity in terms of cuts there is only vagueness in terms of revenue.

But Dean Baker from the Center for Economic and Policy Research asks the questions I’ve been wondering about:  What is wrong with the deficit at a time when we have no jobs and isn’t there a solution besides massive budget cutting?

The arithmetic is clear as day. The United States does not now, nor will it in the near future, face a serious problem meeting its debt obligations. It had a debt to GDP ratio of 116 percent after World War II. The baseline projections have it getting to 90 percent by 2021. 116 percent is much larger than 90 percent. (The difference will be more than $5 trillion in 2021.) This should be understandable even to a 6-figure Washington policy wonk or budget reporter.

Other countries had and have much higher ratios of debt to GDP and still face no problem paying their bills. In Japan, the ratio of debt to GDP is more than 220 percent, yet private investors are willing to lend the country money long-term at interest rates of less than 1.5 percent. Of course investors are also willing to put their money on the line in the U.S., lending us money long-term at interest rates close to 3.0 percent. So the people who actually have money on the line are saying as clearly as they can that the debt is not a serious problem.

Furthermore, there are many ways to deal with the debt that do not require attacking ordinary workers, who have been the victims of Wall Street greed and economic mismanagement by the deficit hawks. (People like Kent Conrad held positions of responsibility in the years of the build-up of the housing bubble, but were so utterly incompetent they either did not see it or recognize its danger.)

We could just have the Fed hold $3 trillion in government debt indefinitely. It would then refund more than $1 trillion in interest payments to the Treasury over the next decade. The inflationary impact of the additional reserves could be offset by raising bank reserve requirements. What could be more simple and costless than this mechanism? But the Gang of Six would rather cut Social Security and Medicare.

We could follow the example of England and impose a financial speculation on trades of stock, futures, options, credit default swaps and other financial instruments. This could raise more than $1. 5 trillion over the next decade. But the Gang of Six would rather cut Social Security and Medicare.

It is my understanding that we didn’t have a debt ceiling until World War I and that no many countries have one so why not do away with our?  Politico had this piece about that from Moody’s a few weeks ago.

The United States should do away with the debt ceiling altogether to bring greater certainty to investors in U.S. Treasury bonds, Moody’s suggested Monday.

With the August 2 deadline for raising the debt ceiling barely more than two weeks away, the bond-rating agency issued a report Monday noting that the U.S. is one of just a few countries that has a statutory borrowing limit and saying that the limit creates “periodic uncertainty” for investors, Reuters reported.

Rather than continuing to use the debt ceiling in an effort to keep U.S. borrowing down, the government should look toward Chile, Moody’s suggested. There, “the level of deficits is constrained by a ‘fiscal rule,’ which means the rise in debt is constrained though not technically limited.” Chile is considered to be Latin America’s most fiscally sound country.

And, the report noted, it’s not like the debt ceiling has been effective in keeping U.S. debt down: Congress has in the past raised it often and has not linked it to spending levels.

So the bottom line is that the Gang of Six plan may be a place to start talking budget and deficit reduction, but we should do something about the debt ceiling first – like abolish it.

 

Tax breaks and the debt/budget crisis

Feeling hot and kinda pessimistic this evening.  I feel as if the progressive forces are fighting windmills and I worry that President Obama will cave in with dire consequences. 

Here is a very interesting chart posted by Chris Bowers on the Daily Kos this afternoon.

Class Warfare

If these numbers are accurate, and I believe they are,  it is interesting how they match up.  We don’t really have to do much to keep programs running. 

In the meanwhile Politico reports

Turning right with a vengeance, Republicans will bring to the House floor Tuesday a newly revised debt-ceiling bill that is remarkable for its total absence of compromise at this late date, two weeks before the threat of default.

Final revisions made Friday submerge conservative demands to reduce all federal spending to 18 percent of gross domestic product — a target that threatened to split the GOP by requiring far deeper cuts than even the party’s April budget. But Republican congressional leaders still want a 10-year, $1.8 trillion cut from nondefense appropriations and have added a balanced-budget constitutional amendment that so restricts future tax legislation that even President Ronald Reagan might have opposed it in the 1980s.

Indeed, much of the deficit-reduction legislation signed by Reagan would not qualify under the new tea-party-driven standards. And even the famed Reagan-Tip O’Neill Social Security compromise — which raised payroll taxes — passed the House in 1983 well short of the 290 votes that would be required under the constitutional amendments being promoted by the GOP.

One of the more interesting aspects of this fight centers around the battle between Eric Cantor and John Boehner for control of the Republican House.  If Cantor wins, it may drive the more moderate Republicans toward the Democrats.  But it doesn’t appear at this point that the Tea Party Republicans really care about reelection – and perhaps they don’t even care if Obama wins reelection.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia, right, stands with House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio on Capitol Hill in Washington. | AP Photo

Paul Krugman has an interesting take of the Republicans.

Let’s talk for a minute about what Republican leaders are rejecting.

President Obama has made it clear that he’s willing to sign on to a deficit-reduction deal that consists overwhelmingly of spending cuts, and includes draconian cuts in key social programs, up to and including a rise in the age of Medicare eligibility. These are extraordinary concessions. As The Times’s Nate Silver points out, the president has offered deals that are far to the right of what the average American voter prefers — in fact, if anything, they’re a bit to the right of what the average Republican voter prefers!

Yet Republicans are saying no. Indeed, they’re threatening to force a U.S. default, and create an economic crisis, unless they get a completely one-sided deal. And this was entirely predictable.

First of all, the modern G.O.P. fundamentally does not accept the legitimacy of a Democratic presidency — any Democratic presidency. We saw that under Bill Clinton, and we saw it again as soon as Mr. Obama took office.

As a result, Republicans are automatically against anything the president wants, even if they have supported similar proposals in the past. Mitt Romney’s health care plan became a tyrannical assault on American freedom when put in place by that man in the White House. And the same logic applies to the proposed debt deals.

Put it this way: If a Republican president had managed to extract the kind of concessions on Medicare and Social Security that Mr. Obama is offering, it would have been considered a conservative triumph. But when those concessions come attached to minor increases in revenue, and more important, when they come from a Democratic president, the proposals become unacceptable plans to tax the life out of the U.S. economy.

Which brings me to the culpability of those who are only now facing up to the G.O.P.’s craziness.

Here’s the point: those within the G.O.P. who had misgivings about the embrace of tax-cut fanaticism might have made a stronger stand if there had been any indication that such fanaticism came with a price, if outsiders had been willing to condemn those who took irresponsible positions.

But there has been no such price. Mr. Bush squandered the surplus of the late Clinton years, yet prominent pundits pretend that the two parties share equal blame for our debt problems. Paul Ryan, the chairman of the House Budget Committee, proposed a supposed deficit-reduction plan that included huge tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, then received an award for fiscal responsibility.

So there has been no pressure on the G.O.P. to show any kind of responsibility, or even rationality — and sure enough, it has gone off the deep end. If you’re surprised, that means that you were part of the problem.

It was fun for a while to watch Boehner herding the Republican cats and watching the infighting, but now it is time for moderate Republicans to join the Democrats and show some common sense.

 

Remembering Betty Ford

It was November 1977 in Houston, Texas at the huge somewhat chaotic American celebration of International Women’s Year: The first National Women’s Conference.  I was a delegate from Virginia.  Things hadn’t gone well when I arrived to a lobby full of women looking for rooms only to be told that people hadn’t checked out and we had to spend one night at another hotel.  For a young woman traveling on a limited budget and knowing no one in Houston except other members of my delegation who were to be my roomies (who I couldn’t find), it was pretty traumatic.  If the same thing happened today, I would have demanded taxi and meal vouchers at the very least.  But the next day things improved immensely.  I found my room, my roommates and the Virginia caucus.  I spotted famous women all over.  It was hard not to be star struck.  But we all had work to do.  It was the first time there was an Asian women’s caucus and we ended up at a Chinese restaurant trying to hammer out a statement that accounted for the  so called model Asian as well as the brand new immigrants working service jobs.  It was all exhilarating.  Women were on the rise.  But the picture I carry with me to this day is this one.

 

Prominent American women
 

A line up of prominent women. From L to R are: Bella Abzug, First Lady Rosalyn Carter, Betty Ford, Lady Bird Johnson, Linda Johnson Robb, Maya Angelou, Coretta Scott King, and Judy Carter.  (From Jo Freeman)

I was reminded of this moment when I saw the pictures of the First Ladies at Betty Ford’s funeral in California.

Eulogists at service recall Ford and convey her bipartisan message

(Carter, Obama, Clinton and Reagan)

And here where you can see Charles and Linda Johnson Robb and three of the first ladies.  Linda is in white in front of her husband and I think that may be Maria Shriver next to Chuck.

Betty Ford's funeral

 

The news today is that the Westboro Church is going to protest at Ford’s service in Michigan.  I think Mrs. Ford would be proud.

 

 

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