"The house we hope to build is not for my generation but for yours. It is your future that matters. And I hope that when you are my age, you will be able to say as I have been able to say: We lived in freedom. We lived lives that were a statement, not an apology."


Tuesday, July 02, 2013

The Age of Obama

Nearly five years after the crash of '08 employment still hasn't returned to pre-recession levels, yet the president's legislative focus, as is becoming typical to his presidency, is on something other than the economy.  In his first term it was Cap & Trade and Obamacare, now it is the old stalking horse of "comprehensive immigration reform."  It has passed the Senate, probably will not pass the House, and either way it will not fix the immigration problem (it will probably exacerbate it long-term) and it certainly will not help the economy (we do not suffer from a paucity of cheap labor).  Nothing continues to be done to encourage economic growth and job creation -- or to address the reasons both are so negligible -- and the economy continues to limp along on the "new normal" of stagnation and malaise. 

The Age of Obama, at its core.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Zunino Promoted

Mariners fans are witnessing now the peril of having control of your franchise in the hands of a front-office and on-field staff that is almost certainly going to be terminated: desperate to save their jobs and give ownership some proof that the future is bright in their hands, they sacrifice the long-term interest of the franchise for an immediate gain.

The latest example is the promotion of Mike Zunino.  He hasn't figured out how to hit breaking balls -- and breaking balls in AAA are a poor facsimile in quality to those in the Majors -- yet this year and is posting an OBP barely above .300.  He'll need at least the balance of the summer in Tacoma to find an answer for breaking balls and to get himself into hitter-friendly fastball counts consistently.  That is in his personal best interest and in the long-term interests of the Seattle Mariners.

Instead, trying to show ownership some sign that they know what their doing, Zdurenciek et al are calling him up to the Majors.  It's far from certain what negative impact an undeserved call-up will have on Zunino long-term.  What is certain is that it will do nothing to help him.

Dave Cameron has it right: "This is what bad organizations do. The chain of events that led to this decision is just littered with poor decision making leading to obvious failures. This move, and the reasons why the team is making this move, is a prime example of why the Mariners need new leadership."

I firmly believe you shouldn't fire managers and GMs in-season unless you have credible replacements that will improve the team in the present and future.  Yet Jack Zdurenciek and Wedge might need to be replaced in-season -- credible replacement on-hand or not -- just to prevent them from further sacrificing the long-term interest of the franchise to their desperate personal attempts to save their own asses.  

Chuck them from the good ship Mariner before they inflict more damage to its hull.

Friday, March 15, 2013

"Modernizing" the Church

I am no Catholic, but I could not help but get petulant when, in the context of the recent papal conclave, commentators throughout American media waxed sanctimoniously of the Catholic Church's need to "modernize".

The task now before the Church -- the Holy, (small "C") catholic church -- is the same one that has been before it since the Ascension: to preserve and promote truth, specifically that essential Truth that determines and gives meaning to human existence -- the Grace and Salvation provided by Christ's Death and Resurrection.

This Truth is not true in one period and untrue the next. It stands outside past, present, and future; outside antiquity, modernity, and futurity; outside of every temporal consideration altogether. It is transcendent. The Church was instituted by Christ to "make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit". Outside of this the Church is without purpose. It is nothing.

It makes no logical sense then to say that an institution must change with the times when that institution's sole reason for being is to connect each passing life to the one Thing that stands outside of time and creation. Those who speak of the Church's need to "modernize" speak as if it is some brand that must continuously shift its meaning to gain a larger market share.

The Church is emphatically not this. It is the communion of saints, the promoting vehicle of the Gospel here on earth, the entity responsible for calling us from the finite to the infinite -- from this world to the "world without end."

No, the Church should not "modernize". It can't. The modern soon becomes the arcane. Always has, always will. Truth -- the Gospel -- stays the same. It is to the Church to seek, uphold, and promote It. It must do this in our present "modern" age and in all the modern ages to come.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Post-Sequester

The safe assumption is that the sequester will happen March 1st. Even if Speaker Boehner were inclined to accede to more tax hikes, his rank-and-file would bludgeon him with his own gavel were he to even suggest it.

It is not like it matters anyway. Far from engaging leaders of Congress as is necessary, the president is running around the country attempting to politically shame Republicans into bending to his will again. The campaigning never ends and the governing never begins.

Yes, the sequester will happen, and when it does the president and his friends may come to regret their predictions of cataclysm. For a country that runs annual deficits north of a trillion dollars with over $16 trillion in debt, the sequester is but a drop in the bucket. Those it will touch are in the Beltway. For those of us outside the Beltway the sun will rise the next day and life will go forward unchanged.

Having proven to be a false prophet of doom once, how credible will the president then be when he beats his breast and gnashes his teeth over the next looming budgetary crisis -- contrived budgetary crises being his preferred method of (demagogically) operating? What will be left for him to stand on when there is a precedent that government spending can indeed be cut without entailing a national disaster?

Post-sequester disaster is not what has to worry the president. Post-sequester normalcy should. If government can be cut without the sky falling down on us all the president will be shown to have no clothes.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Sequester

The looming sequester threatens to hoist the president by two of his own petards.

As Republicans are all too happy to remind him, he proposed the sequester during the 2011 debt ceiling negotiations. Assured that Republicans would never be able to swallow defense cuts, he was undoubtedly convinced that the impending threat of them would give him leverage in future budget/spending battles with Congress.

The $1.2 trillion in cuts also provide a ready-made rebuttal to his own counter-proposal of cuts mixed with tax increases. He has always called for a "balanced" approach to deficit reduction. Taxes were raised by hundreds of billions of dollars -- with no attendant spending reductions -- to avoid the fiscal cliff. Proportionality then dictates that the revenue hikes from last time be balanced with expenditure reduction this time.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Liberalism, Conservatism & the Coming Fiscal Crisis

The import of American liberalism from the New Deal to Obamacare has been the creation, expansion and preservation of the welfare state. It is this state that has put us over $16 trillion in debt and counting. Such GDP-surpassing levels of obligation are unsustainable and will precipitate an economic crisis. Witness Europe.

Liberalism will not be able to respond to this fiscal-based crisis because its entire programs is the creation of the welfare state whose unaffordability is the genesis of said crisis. Liberalism has created this crisis, they have no response to it other than to ignore it altogether. When ignoring it is no longer an option they will be left sputtering.

Witness Europe again. Even as Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and (less directly) France teeter on the edge of economic collapse and the destruction of the entire European project, there are no real efforts at meaningful reform, only feeble requests for perpetual bailouts and debt integration.

When the contagion crosses the pond the Left, unable to respond to a catastrophe of their own making, will meltdown in exact concurrence with the economy.

It will then be to the Right to redress what the Left hath wrought.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

2nd Term Expectations

As President Obama officially begins his second term, it's important for his loyal opposition to have appropriate expectations.

The republic's present debt combined with its unfunded liabilities spell out national ruin. The level of taxation necessary to bridge that gap would bring the same result. Comprehensive reform of the entitlement leviathan -- the conductor of our red ink train -- is the solution, the only solution.

Someday -- probably when both our treasury and credit are depleted -- this conclusion will be inescapable.

That day will not be in the next four years.

If it was not already, the president's thinly-veiled paean to the welfare state on Monday made clear that any notion of reform beyond sophistic lip-service is dead-on-arrival. President Obama views himself as a White Knight of sorts, the figure that will not only consolidate the New Deal and Great Society but transform the American republic into a European-esque social democracy.

That we could become this is possible. That we could remain this for very long is delusional.

As one European state after another teeters on the edge of fiscal abyss, the upshot of emulating the European model is evident, or at least it should be. If facts are "stubborn things", as John Adams once said, then simple math is more stubborn still. It is inescapable: you cannot spend more than you take in forever, especially not at the yawning levels that we've begun to. You can only borrow so much. As a wise Iron Lady once said, "eventually you run out of other people's money."

As the self-regarded heir of FDR, President Obama denies this -- and he always will. Seeking to duplicate the New Deal, he cannot escape from the fact that he doesn't enjoy the post-war (often illusory) surpluses his progressive predecessors did. (Ironically, in vainly trying to recreate what progressives of yesteryear did, the new progressive prince is himself quite reactionary.) The man and the moment are not one and the same.

With the force of a Democratic senate and his own presidential veto, he can and will enjoin the country in this delusion for the next four years.

Republicans cannot change this. For the next quadrennium America will continue full speed ahead towards the cliff and into oblivion.

What they can do is make the argument. Convince a country that needs convincing that there is a better way. The GOP can position themselves so that when the next opportunity comes -- when President Obama has returned to Chicago and is writing about himself again -- the crisis can be averted and the futures of current generations and generations to come can be restored.

The task then Republicans can commend themselves to is not a quixotic quest to reform with Barack Obama, but to try and seize the broom needed to clean the Augean Stables he will leave in his wake.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Civilization & the State

Civilization is replete with problems. The state can solve very few of them. It can be and is the source of a great deal more.

Monday, December 31, 2012

The '05 Seahawks vs. the '12 Seahawks

Any argument that the '12 Seahawks are better than their '05 predecessors should be neither made nor heard until this team equals (and hopefully exceeds) the latter's postseason accomplishments.

But as they try and do just that a couple of items to keep in mind.

THE 2012 SEAHAWKS ARE COMPLETE IN ALL THREE PHASES:

In total offensive production there is scarcely a comparison between the two. The '05 NFC Champions led the NFL all year on the strength of MVP Shaun Alexander racking up yards and touchdowns with Matt Hasselbeck making defenses pay with cruel efficiency when they sold out to stop Alexander.

This year's offense has not come close to matching the volume of that output. They weren't built to. Where they have compared to '05, especially in the 2nd half of the season, is in efficiency. Football Outsiders gives them a weighted DVOA of 31.2%, #1 in the NFL. The '05 offense finished with a 26.2% weighted DVOA, good for 4th in the NFL.

There is scarcely any comparison between the respective defenses. The '05 squad ranged from average to opportunistic, reflected in their dead-in-the-middle 16th defensive DVOA ranking. This year's team ranged from dominant to very good, ranking 4th in defensive DVOA. They also finish the season tops in the NFL and in franchise history in scoring defense.

The '05 teams special teams unit was satisfactory, ranking 20th with a DVOA of -.08%. This year's special teams unit is elite, ranking 3rd with a DVOA of 5.7%. Their respective coverage units rank in the top half of the league, Jon Ryan pins opposing offenses deep within their territory as a matter of course, and Leon Washington is a threat to turn every punt and kickoff into six points.

The 2012 Seahawks surpass the 2005 team in everything but total offensive proficiency, a chasm bridged by both unit's comparable efficiency ratings. On defense and special teams there is no comparison -- '12 clearly surpasses '05. All three units of this year's team rank among the top five in the NFL. The '05 offense is the only unit on that year's team that could make the same claim.

The 2012 Seahawks finished the season with a DVOA of 38.3% and a weighted DVOA of 46.6%, good not only for the top ranking in the NFL but the sixth best DVOA rating ever. The 2005 Seahawks finished with a meager-by-comparison team DVOA of 28.4% and weighted DVOA of 26.2%, the third and fourth best finishes that year respectively.

THE 2012 SEAHAWKS PLAYED A TOUGHER SCHEDULE:

Aside from the usual disrespect given to the Seahawks, the '05 squad's seamless run through the regular season was almost universally discounted because of the ease of their schedule. Their opponents had a .457 winning percentage. The 'Hawks beat the 11-5 Giants thanks in no small part to three missed game-winning field goals. They beat a 14-2 Colts squad that rested some of their starters (most importantly Peyton Manning) for a majority of the game.

The Seahawks' opponents this year had a winning percentage of .500 with wins against the 12-4 Patriots, the 11-5 Packers, the 10-6 Vikings, the 10-6 Bears (on the road), and the 11-4-1 49ers. They went 5-1 against teams that finished the season with a winning record and they owned the highest strength of victory in the NFL.

The main disparity between the two strength of schedules is the strength of the NFC West. None of the three other NFC West teams in 2005 finished with more than six wins. The 'Hawks basically picked on the handicapped, going 6-0 against divisional opponents.

In 2012 the NFC West was arguably the toughest division in football. The 49ers, a preseason favorite to make the Super Bowl, went 11-4-1 a year after going 13-3 on their way to the NFC Championship game. The 8-7-1 Rams showed exponential improvement under Jeff Fisher and finished with a 4-1-1 record against the division. The 5-11 Cardinals jumped out to a 4-0 start on the strength of a Top-10 defense before succumbing to historically porous quarterback play.

The difficulty in playing the NFC West was reflected in the Seahawks' 3-3 record, splitting the home-and-home season series with all three of their divisional opponents.

The 2012 Seahawks finished with a worse record than in '05, but they played a markedly tougher schedule and performed better against teams that finished with a winning record.

THE '05 SEAHAWKS WERE A VETERAN TEAM:

In 2005 the Seahawks entered their seventh year under Mike Holmgren and were at the very top of their win curve. Matt Hasselbeck entered the year as the teams' starting quarterback for the third consecutive season. Steve Hutchinson was entering his prime, offensive veterans Walter Jones, Shaun Alexander, Robbie Tobeck, Chris Gray, Mack Strong, Darrell Jackson, Joe Jurevicius, and Bobby Engram were on the outer fringes of theirs. Ditto Grant Wistrom, Chartric Darby, Bryce Fisher, Andre Dyson, Kelly Herndon, Marcus Trufant, Marquand Manuel and Michael Boulware on defense. Linebackers Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill would never again match the success they enjoyed that year in their rookie seasons.

The 2012 Seahawks were among the league's youngest. Obviously there was Russell Wilson, a rookie 3rd Round pick that started all sixteen games at quarterback. They ended the year with a third-year left tackle, fourth-year center, rookie right guard (a converted defensive tackle out of the seventh round), and a third year split-end.

Youth was especially prevalent on defense. Starting safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor were in their third years; starting cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman their second. At linebacker a rookie started 16 games at middle-linebacker, a second year player started fifteen games at strong-side linebacker, and sophomore Malcolm Smith earned a preponderance of the reps at weak-side linebacker by season's end. Rookies Bruce Irvin, Gregg Scruggs, and Jeremy Lane played meaningful roles as well.

The youth of this roster is surpassed only by its talent, reflected in the fact that they went 4-4 in the first-half of the season, 7-1 in the second. Struggling to find consistency in September and October, a young Seahawks team led by a rookie wunderkind at quarterback began impressing its will upon opponents in November and December. They now enter the playoffs having posted the third best regular season record in franchise history and are winners of five straight. Given no choice but to acknowledge what is happening, national analysts are universally declaring the Seahawks to be "the hottest team in football" and "the team nobody wants to play in the playoffs".

In comparing regular season performances, the 2012 'Hawks compare very favorably to '05, especially when considering their youth and strength of schedule. The regular season is not where legacies are made though.

The post-season is.

Seven years ago the 'Hawks proved their doubters wrong by besting the Redskins (that year's "hottest team" entering the playoffs) in the divisional round and by dominating the previously iron-hot Panthers in the NFC Championship. (I won't put any 12 through reoccurring pain by mentioning subsequent events.) In so doing they immortalized themselves in franchise history and in the hearts and minds of every 12th Man.

To reach equal and hopefully greater heights this Seahawks team will have a much steeper climb. They won't enjoy the benefit of a first-round bye or home-field advantage. They will have to win at least two, most likely three games on the road. They will ultimately have to beat teams with elite quarterbacks and rosters at the top of their win curves. Essentially, to surpass the 2005 Seahawks they will have to beat teams that fit the same profile of the 2005 Seahawks: Elite, veteran, in-their-prime rosters at the top of their win curves.

A daunting task, but this team has the talent and determination to not only earn the recognition they deserve, but seize it from the unwilling clutches of everyone across the country that has discounted them when they haven't been ignoring them altogether.

Do that and they surpass the '05 team without question.

Do that and they leave the football world sputtering and stumbling as they try to explain what they never took the time to foresee.

Do that and they become immortal.

GO 'HAWKS.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Against STL

Sunday against St. Louis presents another opportunity to demonstrate we have become the elite kind of team that prepares and plays at the same level week in, week out. As Hawkblogger points out, there are many potential traps set out this week that could very easily ensnare a lesser, talented-but-inconsistent team.

Avoid them. Prepare this week for the Rams like this week and this opponent are the only ones that matter -- because they are. Tune out the good feeling from spanking the 49ers. Ignore the national plaudits that have begun to come. Disregard any concern for who has to beat who, playoff seedings, and potential match-ups next week.

We are the only opponents the Rams have left. Relevant for the first time in years, they would love nothing more than to knock the "hottest team in football" down a peg. They would love to be the only opponent to knock the Seahawks off at CenturyLink Field. They would love to go undefeated against the NFC West, a division putatively owned by the 49ers and Seahawks.

This is their shot. The only game left. The only game that matters.

Treat them the same way, Seahawks. The one thing better than three consecutive dominating performances is four consecutive dominating performances. Avoid the traps. There is no one else but the St. Louis Rams. Beat them.

Sunday is another chance to excel. Take it. Be elite.

Go 1-0.

GO 'HAWKS.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

This Fiscal Cliff & That Fiscal Cliff

The largest issue confronting the United States in the immediate and long-term is debt. The largest drivers of that debt are entitlements, especially Medicare, whose growth outpaces both that of the economy and of government revenues.

This is the "fiscal cliff" the republic faces, not the putative one being discussed currently.

The president is ignoring this. His proposal to raise taxes four percentage points on a minuscule segment of the tax-base will tackle our debt level in the same way a fat guy tackles his weight problem by getting a haircut. It is not an attempt to reduce the debt crisis. It is either political posturing, an attempt to impose some abstract notion of redistributive fairness on the wealthy, or some sort of amalgamation of the two.

Speaker Boehner is not going to get any meaningful reform of entitlements here because President Obama is making clear -- in deed, not word -- that he has no interest in pursuing meaningful reform. He and the Left will continue to "defend" entitlements until they collapse under their own weight.

The best the House GOP can do is to trade some insignificant hikes on an even smaller portion of the tax base than the president originally proposed in exchange for minor spending reductions and minor adjustments to the growth of Social Security and Medicare. These may not be a lot, but unlike the president's tax proposals, they are not nothing either. As Avik Roy argues, it is well past time that Republicans start "making small changes to entitlements today that pay big dividends in future decades."

Get some important concessions, make a little progress, and do not diminish your ability to make some more progress on another day.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"Not Really" Black

Rob Parker's comment today on ESPN's "First Take" that Robert Griffin III is "not really" black logically implies that the color of an individual's skin defines certain ways that person is supposed to think and act.

Not only does this kind of perspective exacerbate gratuitous stereotypes but it reflects the same kind of racial determinism (albeit from a different direction) that the abolitionist and civil rights movements strived decades to eradicate.

If America is to be a place where each is judged by their character and not their skin color, then Mr. Parker's view that someone must behave a certain way to be authentically black is no more permissible than the belief that blacks or anyone else are inferior because -- and only because -- of the color of their skin.

Monday, December 10, 2012

The Next Step

Elite teams go 1-0 week in, week out. Regardless of opponent, venue and the extraneous, they remain consistent. They tune out the noise, they focus on the task at hand, they win as a matter of course.

The Seahawks have not attained that level of consistency -- they have only begun to hint at it. Consecutive victories at Chicago and at home against Arizona are significant, especially the former. But this team has yet to string together three wins in a row. At best it has been two steps forward, one step back.

No more of that. No steps back. Keep making steps forward. You do that by winning on a neutral field in Toronto this Sunday against Buffalo. Lose that eminently winnable game and much, if not all of the good feeling and accomplishment from the last two weeks is erased. Win it and you have a three game winning streak (two on the road), a guaranteed winning season, a stranglehold on a playoff spot, and possibly a chance to play San Francisco for the division championship the following week on your home field.

We've proven that we can take care of the best and worst the NFL has to offer at home. We've proven that we can take the field on the road and beat one of the league's better teams against a plethora of adversity in Chicago.

What we need to prove -- and can prove on Sunday -- is that we are able to consistently win on the road against inferior opponents. That is a different beast altogether. The NFL's elite do it as a matter or course. Young, talented and inconsistent teams routinely struggle with it.

Sunday at Buffalo is our next, possibly last chance in 2012 to abdicate the latter characterization and assume the former.

It is the next step.

It is the hardest step.

GO 'HAWKS.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

After the Indian Summer

It has become common, if not cliche for people to lament the partisanship in Washington and ask heaven and everything under it why both parties cannot just come together and find common ground. (It is gratifying, after all, for one to cloak themselves in moderation and maturity and to cast poxes on everyone else.)

As lamentable as this cacophony may be, it is the inevitable byproduct of being broke, and we are very broke.

The post-war surpluses that permitted the oft-elegized age of bipartisan comity are gone. In fact, the genesis of our present predicament is that much of that "surplus" was illusory -- it was borrowed. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and every other manner of federal spending were not paid for with surplus revenue but with the national credit card. Under this arrangement Democrats got their government spending and Republicans preserved their (relatively) low tax rates. Everyone was happy, the unsustainability of the equation a problem for another generation.

Alas, that generation is our generation. The Indian Summer of high spending and low taxing has come to an end and reality, along with the tab, has come. We have to pick one path or the other, a choice that brings to the fore the fundamentally different philosophies of both parties.

With such stakes at issue, no wonder consensus is hard to find. Someone must win and someone must lose. Both sides have dug into their respective trenches, hunkered down for a long, earth-scorching, zero-sum battle.

You may not like the disagreement in Washington, but you may as well get used to it.

Monday, December 03, 2012

The Fiscal Cliff

If House Republicans agree to President Obama's proposal -- tax hikes on the wealthy, no spending reductions -- the economy will slow. If they do not agree and the country careens off of the "fiscal cliff", the economy will slow. There is no incentive, in other words, to accede to the president's imperious dictation. It will neither improve economic growth nor put more than a modest dent in the federal deficit.

Neither is there a political incentive. Republicans have already signaled their willingness to increase revenue through eliminating loopholes and deductions in exchange for spending reductions and entitlement reform. The White House has refused to discuss anything other than rate increases and promises to only consider minor spending reductions after the new year. In effect it is asking Republicans to sacrifice their brand as the low tax party on the basis of fear that they will be blamed for the economic downturn that follows if we do go over the cliff.

There is good reason to believe that fear is unfounded. The House leadership has not only offered to negotiate but even indicated the grounds upon which they would be willing to make concessions. The president refuses to countenance anything but gratuitous tax hikes that will accomplish nothing beyond satisfying some stupefying sense of "fairness".

Should the paychecks and well-being of every single American be sacrificed on such an absurd, ideological altar there is every reason to believe they will assign the blame appropriately, not upon the head of John Boehner.

There is absolutely no compelling reason for House Republicans to allow the president to trample over them.