Friday, April 4, 2014

Okay, I'm Kinda Obligated: What's the Hang-Up With Rob McCord

So, I've told you that I don't agree with Allyson Schwartz's strategy, and why I'm not on-board with Tom Wolf yet. To be very honest, these pieces got a lot of hits, so I'm going to continue to spill some inner thoughts. Tonight, that means talking about Rob McCord.

I like Rob McCord, and have gone back-and-forth about whether or not to support him. He's been a good Treasurer, he has taken Corbett on in his office, and he's a smart guy. He seems to have a lot of labor support, and a good number of big local endorsers. He raised the second most money last year, and actually raised the most. I love his TV ads, as do most people who seem to see them. There's a lot to like here.

So, why is Rob McCord in single digits, not in the ballgame at all right now for Governor? I've heard lots of stupid theories, but one seems to stand out- they haven't been aggressive enough. They are now on TV, sure, but they allowed Wolf a solid two months on the air when they had enough money to go up on the air. They are matching up now with Wolf on television, but it's late. They have a lot of union endorsements, yet they aren't winning labor households, and you don't see labor airing ad buys on his behalf. I haven't heard a lot about mail on his behalf either. Then there's the issue of the local endorsements- it appears that he is banking on those endorsers to put together a ground game for him. That hasn't been the way to run a campaign in years.

I like Rob McCord, just like I like Tom Wolf and Allyson Schwartz. I think this is starting to become obvious, but I'm still unconvinced by the candidates.

Disrespecting the Office of the President is Only Cool When It's About Health Care, Not Wars

Remember all of those George W. Bush prime-time, Oval-Office speeches about the Iraq War? Me too. He got the networks whenever he wanted. I guess the issue was big enough to warrant that, but it was still nauseating, not to mention that a lot of what he said ended up being false.

So President Obama wanted to do an address in primetime on Tuesday night touting the 7 million enrollees in health care. The networks said no. I guess they had more pressing sitcoms, or coverage of a missing plane, to talk about.

An Embarrassment of Riches in SD-40

Picture from Lehigh Valley Ramblings
I did attend Mark Aurand's announcement for State Senate in the 40th District. Last night, Scott Parsons did attend our area Democratic Committee meeting. I've actually knocked doors in the past with and for Joe Capozzolo. I can say pretty honestly that I like all three of these candidates for State Senate in the 40th District.

So this is where I tell you how lucky we are to have all three of them running. We are. Any of them would be a great State Senator. I have two main criteria for who I'd back- who can win and who runs the best campaign. Mario Scavello, a Republican State Representative and Tom Corbett rubber-stamp from Monroe County, will have lots of money to attack our nominee. Our nominee should be ready and capable of hitting back, harder.

Charles Koch is an Un-American Idiot

The only difference between Charles Koch and a mediocre person born to poor means is that Charles Koch was born inheriting a lot of money. He did not earn his wealth, though he thinks it's his God-given right, and from what I can tell, the man is incapable of understanding the problems for democracy caused by his trying to buy elections. He is part of a cancer that has grown on this country, of incapable and untalented "inheritance class" types who think the rest of the country exists for them to make money, and that they owe nothing for it.

Harry Reid is right when he calls the Koch Brothers Un-American. It's not that they're traitors, it's that they believe, and want to whitewash history into, their way being the "American" way, when history tells us otherwise. The very best of American achievement has been based on the very things that Charles Koch calls "collectivism," and tries to deride as communist. Winning the Civil War, the World Wars, building suburbia and the middle class, creating the internet, creating Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, putting a man on the Moon, and building the interstate highway system are all achievements of the "collectivist" state that he derides, and claims isn't in America's true tradition. In short, the greatest achievements of our nation were, yes, done by the government. This takes people like him playing within rules, paying taxes, and not trying to dismantle our government.

Charles Koch wants us to see his "vision for a free society." His vision is for an incapable, dismantled government. We have seen states like this, in great places like Somalia. We've seen his vision of no environmental laws, in places like China. We've seen his vision of no workplace-safety laws, in America and Britain before the progressive movement of the early-20th century. We've seen his vision of "smaller government" in New Orleans during Katrina. We've seen his vision, and people don't like it.

So this gentleman's response is that he should be able to take all of his daddy's money he inherited and put it into lies and smears from his political action groups. People who attack his failed vision for the world must shut up. He puts up lies and actors talking about the Affordable Care Act, funds anti-science climate-change deniers, and runs smear ads through his "dark money" political groups that don't have to report their funding sources, but he's the victim now. He opposes workers banding together to negotiate better wages, and a raise in the minimum wage, but inherited lots of money and didn't have to work for it. He compares the President to "despots of the 20th century," but wants us to feel bad that his feelings are hurt. I guess we should like him for funding the arts, or something.

I'd like to give the guy the benefit of making his own argument, but his argument is a line of crap, and he knows it. If Charles Koch were honestly trying to make an argument for a "free society," and honestly thought that argument could win, he wouldn't need the veil of secrecy over his political spending, or get so mad when he was attacked. He doesn't buy his own lines, or at least he doesn't think you would honestly do so.

Koch is wrong. He's wrong about what is American. He's wrong about our history. The great Presidents of the last century- the Roosevelts, the Eisenhowers, Clinton, Johnson, Kennedy, and Truman- all rejected his view of the world. That is what America is about. If he doesn't like it, there are other places to be, he doesn't have to wreck our country.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

An Opening Day Look at the Phillies Minor Leagues

Photo by Richard Wilkins Jr.
It's Opening Day! For the Minor Leagues. The IronPigs, Fightin' Phils, Threshers, and Blue Claws will open today and tonight, and start games that count. For some of the Phillies top prospects, the journey to the big leagues starts today.

Here's my team outlooks-

Lehigh Valley IronPigs-
League- International (AAA)
Top Prospect to Watch- Maikel Franco- By a mile. What Franco does at the corner infield slots could impact the Phillies during this season. This will be a challenge though, as he played about half a season each in Clearwater and Reading last year.
Prospects on the Bubble- Phillippe Aumont and Tyson Gillies- I hesitate to even call these two prospects anymore. Picked up for Cliff Lee in December of 2009, neither has lived up to the billing, and neither showed much this Spring. Aumont still can't throw strikes and Gillies just isn't good. Both have 40 man spots though, and so they count.
Other Names to Watch- Cameron Rupp, Jon Pettibone, Jeremy Horst, Luis Garcia, David Buchanan.
Darkhorse/Intriguing Player- Jim Murphy.
Outlook- This group could definitely make the playoffs, though it's hard to predict AAA with all of the opt-out clauses. They have some pitching depth though, and a few guys with big league time in.

Reading Fightin' Phils-
League- Eastern (AA)
Top Prospect to Watch- Jesse Biddle- Last season the Phillies top pitching prospect struggle with his command, but had some great nights too. He must be more consistent to remain an elite prospect, but if he does, he could be a #2 in the big leagues some day.
Prospects on the Bubble- Zach Collier, Tommy Joseph, Anthony Hewitt, and Brody Colvin- Lots of guys on the bubble! Collier was a first round pick in 2008, and is on the 40 man roster for a second season, but last year he didn't really turn any heads. This is a very big year for him. Joseph remains, in my mind, the catcher of the future, but having missed virtually all of last season with concussions, he must re-establish himself this year. Hewitt, a former first rounder, really isn't in the plans anymore, but he did finally show some signs of life last year. Colvin is trying to salvage his career in the bullpen, but needs to command his pitches better.
Other Names to Watch- Severino Gonzalez, Aaron Altherr, Kelly Dugan, Ken Giles.
Darkhorse/Intriguing Player- Austin Wright.
Outlook- This team both has a lot of talent and a lot of question marks. I don't think they make the post-season, in part because I think some of these guys would get to move up to AAA if they are that good. With that said, if these guys get off to a good start, and the question marks play out, it could be a fun Summer in Reading.

Clearwater Threshers-
League- Florida State League (High-A)
Top Prospect to Watch- Brian Pointer- I'm going on a limb here, but I really like this guy. I like his tools, and I think he'll break through. This team lacks big time prospects.
Prospects on the Bubble- Ethan Stewart and Harold Martinez- Stewart has been a borderline type of prospect for two years, and stunk last year. This is a big year for him. Martinez is a former high pick, but hasn't broke through yet. This year is big for him.
Other names to Watch- Peter Lavin.
Darkhorse/Intriguing Player- Steven Inch.
Outlook- I can't see this team doing much, in the first half. Since the FSL plays "halves," look for some call-ups from Lakewood to help things out here. The prospects just aren't ready to be here yet, and Roman Quinn being out doesn't help.

Lakewood Blue Claws-
League- South Atlantic League (A)
Top Prospect to Watch- J.P. Crawford- There is a lot of talent here, but Crawford stands out. I'm really excited about what this kid did last year after being drafted, and look forward to seeing him be great here.
Prospects on the Bubble- Larry Greene Jr.- The good news is that he broke camp with a team this year. The former first rounder really needs to show the power the Phillies hoped for when they picked him, at some point.
Other Names to Watch- Gabriel Lino, Shane Martin, Mark Leiter, Shane Watson, Carlos Tocci, Zach Green, Andrew Pullin, Mitch Walding, Dylan Cozens.
Darkhorse/Intriguing Player- Yoel Mecias.
Outlook- Wow! Look at the talent here. I expect this team to be pretty good, but a few of these guys end the season in Clearwater. 

Why I'm Not Ready to Jump on the Wolf Bandwagon...

Jon Geeting is pretty ready to accept Tom Wolf as a nominee it looks like, which I guess is in part because he's not Allyson Schwartz. I'm not though. I have said throughout this process that I wanted the most electable nominee. That is still the case right now.

So what are my concerns with Wolf? Well, I have a small list, none of which at this stage totally disqualify him with me (yet), but all of which deeply concern me. Before I get to that, let me just say that I'm not dismissing some considerable positives with him. I like his ads. I like his ability to self-fund, and assume he's willing to put more cash in the bank out of his pocket. I also like that he takes away Corbett's bogus pro-business argument. Still though, I have my doubts.

What are they?

  1. Despite 6-8 weeks of unchallenged advertising, he's at 33% in the latest poll. Some polls put him at 40%. With the kind of herculean buy he made, shouldn't he be at 50%? Or is he kind of winning by "default" still.
  2. How many Democratic Governors from York have we had recently? How many Governors have we had who hadn't won any other kinds of elections before? How will Tom Wolf do a better job than Dan Onorato at energizing Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, without a Senate race to help? How does he do that, with no clear pathway to do so besides throwing money at it (which always works real well, right?)?
  3. I've heard more than a bit of grumbling about Wolf's claims to being "pro-worker," particularly that he runs a non-union shop. While he shares a percentage of his profits, unionization is a big key in establishing a more equitable economy. Tom Wolf hasn't necessarily shown that he gets that.
  4. Tom Corbett is going to skewer him on BonusGate. Tom Corbett prosecuted the BonusGate case, and will contrast that with Wolf, fair or not. Wolf served as a character witness for former Revenue Secretary and State Rep., turned convict on public corruption charges Stephen Stetler. Stetler was an important part in the scam to use public funds to pay government employees for campaign work. While Corbett politicized the investigation, the reality is that Stetler is a convict, and this would be a HUGE issue in the Fall. Sure, we may not think it should be, but we're not going to spend millions on attack ads either.
  5. The case of former York Mayor Charles Robertson bothers me more than anything else. Robertson was found not guilty in 2002 of being an accomplice to murder during York's 1969 race riots. The reason he was charged is that he was alleged to have provided the bullets that killed an African-American woman. Again, he was found not-guilty, so there is that. Wolf's connection to him is that he was his campaign chairman. Just imagine these ads from some natural gas company's PAC in greater Philadelphia this Fall, to drive down turnout. Yeah, I already have.
Beyond all of that, there's always something negative to say about a candidate's business ties, and he's a business man.

Tom Wolf acknowledges some of these issues, which is good, but he hasn't strongly answered them yet. I basically like what I see from him, but I have some strong doubts about his Fall electability right now. I think the Corbett folks do too, because if they thought he was the strongest nominee, they'd be beating him up right now. They're not.

You Stay Classy Right-Wing....

On PTSD...

I have a few really good friends that spent some of their young adult years in Afghanistan and Iraq. That is to say that they fought in the U.S. Military. Some of them saw heavy combat, some didn't. Some were physically wounded, and some weren't. The physically wounded troops I know actually made the best recoveries.

A few of my friends came back with cases of PTSD, on varying levels of seriousness. Some of them have managed to handle it decently, and some have had PTSD do a real number on their lives. There is literally no bigger long-term issue facing our troops than this. For tens of thousands of them, they come back with issues that the rest of us don't understand, and couldn't even try to.

As we watch the Fort Hood situation play out, and find out more about the alleged gunman, we need to keep in mind how many of our troops are battling these conditions. This is not something isolated, if in fact the soldier was suffering from PTSD. There are lots of potential cases like this, and we as a country owe it to these people to get them the help to prevent that.

Phillies Game Three: Our Bullpen Has a Problem

Photo by Richard Wilkins Jr.
Good starting pitching? Check. A Ryan Howard homer off of a lefty? Check. At least mediocre offense? Check.

Bullpen- no.

There are actually a lot of positives that the Phillies can take from their three games in Texas, though wins aren't in that mix. The Phillies lost two games where their starters went at least six innings, and left with leads, and that just isn't acceptable. Jake Diekman and B.J. Rosenberg both had their struggles, though both could be attributed to early season jitters and the way they were used. Mario Hollands struggled in his first appearance, but recovered nicely tonight. Really, only Antonio Bastardo was solid in this series. That won't cut it this season.

I'll save my worst venom for Papelbon though, or Papelbum in his second appearance of the season. A lot of writers and fans will make a lot of his loss of velocity on his fastball, and I won't downplay that completely, though I think it's overplayed. Does the drop in velocity prevent him from being able to do things he used to do? Sure. Should a closer and pitcher of his pedigree be able to adjust to that? Absolutely. As a pitcher ages, even a closer, they should become a better pitcher, even as they become a worse "thrower." That Papelbon can't adjust is a real problem. For now, they can't do anything about it. I have to wonder though, how long can the Phillies allow this to keep on going? It's only one blown save, but if this problem perceives, when do they cut it off?

This also leads me to question the composition of this team. Ryne Sandberg didn't use three of his relievers put on this team. If he wasn't going to use three of them, why did the Phillies bring eight up north for the season? It seems they shorted themselves.

This is just one series. They get to go face a Chicago team that isn't that good next, and hopefully they can get on track. Hopefully these relievers can get on track too.

Happy Thursday- Some Old School Snoop For You

The President's Finest Hour

An anonymous commenter sent me this link yesterday, and I wanted to share it with you all.

Schwartz Should Be On TV, If She's Serious

Keystone Politics is up with an article talking about how 17% of voters think they've seen TV ads from candidates that aren't airing ads right now, and it got me thinking on another front:

Why isn't Allyson Schwartz on TV yet?

Tom Wolf has been up for about two months so far, and has built a big lead. Rob McCord is on TV with some excellent ads. Katie McGinty is airing ads in targeted markets, a micro or smart-buy, if you will. Schwartz is not on TV yet, 47 days out.

She shouldn't be more broke than say, McGinty, who she outraised nearly 3:1 last year. She only raised $100,000 less than McCord, who is now on TV almost two weeks. There is simply no excuse for her not being up yet. I know she's still in second in most polls, but she's not helping herself stay there by staying off of TV. I think I'd naturally probably be inclined to support her, but much like in the Lt. Governor's race, I'm trying to back someone who can win. I'm not much of a believer in the "hold your powder" strategy until the closing weeks, at least not when you're behind in both polls and money. Congresswoman Schwartz needs to start getting her word out, unless she's willing to cede that opportunity to Treasurer McCord and Tom Wolf.

My Personal Feelings on the Lt. Governor Race

In primaries, I try to vote with my head more than my heart. Hey, somebody has to. My goal is to nominate candidates that can win and govern, and not just one of the two. In the race for Lt. Governor this year, there are five options. The most important issue for me is nominating someone who is helpful to the ticket this Fall. The second most important issue is nominating someone I like.

Throughout this cycle, I've been leaning towards voting for Brad Koplinski, the Harrisburg Councilman turned Lt. Governor candidate. He's the most progressive candidate, and he comes out of the staff world. I've long believed that former Congressman Mark Critz was the front-runner though, and still believe that with Jay Paterno out. I formerly wrote off State Senator Mike Stack of Philadelphia, because when I did so, the front-runners were both "Philly" candidates. I hadn't given much thought to State Rep. Neuman or County Commissioner Smith previously.

So, how much does this thinking hold? Not much, to be honest.

I still feel pretty much the same about Koplinski. I'm a bit concerned by his polling, after a year of traveling to every county. With that said, you won't get a better choice on policy. In Critz, I think he's still favored, but his regionalism argument falls a bit more flat with Tom Wolf of York leading the primary field. Likewise for Stack, having a non-Philly front-runner makes me take a longer look at his very impressive record. Smith has seemed to build an impressive labor support list, though I wonder how he'll do with a Northeast PA base. Rep. Neuman has become more of a factor than I previously thought, though I still question how he, like Smith, finds their way to victory.

This leads me to a slightly different conclusion. My heart is definitely with Koplinski, if it was just who do I want to vote for. I also think that any objective read on the polling and conditions in this race to this point say that Critz and Stack are the front-runners here, and the "electable" candidates. I could even be convinced on Neuman or Smith, with something of a case made. I'd call myself truly undecided right now, but we're only 47 days out at this point. If nothing changes in the coming weeks, this will become a Stack-Critz choice for me, and any voter thinking things all the way through. I'm hoping still that Koplinski proves he's in the ballgame.

John Brown Admits that He and Council Republicans Were Executing a Wasteful, Illegal Contract

John Brown has fought with County Council Democrats for weeks about his $84,000 contract with Sahl Communications. He executed the contract without going through any procurement policy, essentially just handing out a no-bid contract on the grounds that "he said so." Never mind that the work proposed was a professional service, so he couldn't do this, or that the administrative code already gave this job to the Director of Administration. Brown was just going to do this. Council Republicans went against the advice of their own solicitor, and voted to not sue to stop him on this, essentially rubber-stamping his raw deal. Brown himself called the matter "settled," a few days ago.

Then, today, he backed off of it. The back-story is that he knew a couple of days ago who was going to sue him, he was all but told so, and given the case that was coming. That was on Monday. Monday went by, then Tuesday went by. This afternoon around 1 pm, County Controller Steve Barron filed a lawsuit against Brown's administration. By about 3 pm today, Brown's administration announced that they were withdrawing the contract.

So after weeks of fighting, and having a lost group of councilmen back him, Brown just gave in. Why? Well, he was going to lose, for one. Still though, he knew the facts of the case against him on Monday, so why didn't he drop it then, if he knew he was going to lose? A big part of this wasn't new though, since the GOP Council's Solicitor called the contract illegal. Why didn't he drop it then? Why did Brown, if his case was so weak as to drop it in two hours after suit was filed, keep this fight up so long? Was he willing to carry out an illegal contract, so long as no one challenged him? Clearly he didn't believe in his own B.S. enough to fight for it.

The "Good Guy" With the Gun Myth...

Military bases have to have guns. That's just a reality of the job. That sometimes a person loses their mind and does harm to others is unfortunately something that will happen sometimes. Military jobs are stressful, guns are around, and not all stories end well.

What happened at Fort Hood was an absolute tragedy. Yesterday's shootings cost four people their lives so far, and has nine others hospitalized right now. There's no words that change the horror of this event.

With that said, it's worth noting here- there were a lot of "good guys" with guns on that base yesterday, and that didn't stop this from happening. Now, this was a military base, where you can't take the guns away. With that said, doesn't this disprove the NRA notion that "a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun" from committing these acts? Those conditions existed, and yet there was a horrible tragedy. I think this puts to rest the plausibility of arming teachers and others in public settings, though I'm sure it won't for the NRA and other gun-manufacturer trade groups.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

So 17 Million Got Health Insurance- "BENGHAZI, FAST AND FURIOUS, BENGHAZI!"

Perhaps realizing that accusing the Administration of cooking the books doesn't quite work against Obamacare, the House GOP has dispatched resident wing-nut Darrell Issa to change the subject.

To what you ask?

Benghazi of course. The false scandal that the GOP can't quite hang on the President or Hillary's head just isn't going to die with these nut-jobs. Of course, Issa has to realize in his own mind that he's losing traction here, so he needs a back-up plan. He has it, if you check out his Twitter- an even older, failed scandal of his- Fast and Furious.

One party gives you 17-21 million insured people. The other? Lunatic witch-hunts.

Money is Not Speech, Corporations are Not People

Welp, there goes another rule to keep rich guys from buying elections. Just as Citizens United made bad things like Americans For Prosperity possible, today the Roberts Court ruled that there can be no caps on the total donations an individual makes for an election cycle. In other words, if some rich guy wants to fund 218 candidates for the House that will vote how they say, go for it.

Let me start by saying this- money is not speech, and corporations are not people. Ask any three year old that one. They would probably laugh at you. This court holds though that both of those are true. What they are saying, in practice, is that Sheldon Adelson and the Koch Brothers have more speech than you. This is what happens when you inject the market to free speech. Making that even worse is that they hold corporations to be people. Clearly they are not. Yes, they are a collection of shareholders, but it is not as though those shareholders run the company on a day-to-day basis. It's a ridiculous assertion.

Now, I think there are two responses that could work, one being plausible and the other not. The popular, but impossible one, is a constitutional amendment striking both of these court decisions down. There is no way the GOP will allow that though, since it's benefitting them right now, and demographics aren't. It's their only equalizer. The other response is not going to be popular on the left, but might just achieve our ends too- end all dark money, remove all rules, and make everything subject to reporting, possibly even more often than our current system. Yes, it creates the "wild west" on campaign finances, but it removes the secrecy that the Kochs want. It forces everything into

Mr. Jackson Goes to Washington

Ok, so your team is embroiled in a controversy over whether or not your team name is racist against Native Americans, you just had a rocky year with your franchise quarterback, and now you go bring in a potential member of the Crips to play for your team.

Just another day in Washington, D.C. football.

In all seriousness though, this is the nightmare scenario to me as an Eagles fan. I feared we'd cut him on some kind of ego trip, and he'd go in division. He did. It's even worse that he went to the Redskins. I can definitely see RG3 having a bounce-back year, and Jackson helps that happen.

I guess the challenge has been posted for the Eagles corners, twice this season.

No Soup For You! (Unless You're Rich)- Paul Ryan Releases His New Budget

No, he's not Vice-President right now, but somehow we all still have to listen to Paul Ryan pontificate for us every Spring when he puts out his budget. I mean, you know, he's serious. Very serious. Some DC types in the press even say so!

So, his 2015 budget is out, and it's as bad as normal. He does all of his normal poor-shaming in there, protects the rich, and even just makes stuff up. Take Social Security, where Ryan claims the government has "wasted" funds from the account, but it hasn't. He of course, would like to see that reformed, though he doesn't always include that in his budget proposal. Of course, he never proposes raising the cap on payroll taxes from $107,000, because yeah, that would cost rich people. Facts be damned!

Don't worry though, poor people bare the brunt of the Ryan-blast. He proposes more Food Stamp Cuts in his budget. You know, because the best way to help poor starving people is to take away a way to buy food. Don't worry, that's not all- he'd also cut Medicaid. Yes, he'd turn it to a block grant, but then he essentially freezes the spending levels on that, amounting to a cut over time of grave proportions. You know, that is one way to cut health care spending- just not spend the money and hope the people on the program somehow magically get care. You might take that seriously, if you don't care about people.

My favorite one of his cuts comes from the politically ironic department. Paul Ryan keeps the $700 billion of Medicare "cuts" in the Affordable Care Act (actually just ending a double-subsidy), but then claims his "cuts" are better than those "cuts." You'd almost have to laugh, if it wasn't serious enough to cry over.

Paul Ryan is a bad joke. His vision for America is some warped version of the "hunger games" for the masses. It's kind of sad to watch him get this much attention annually. All of these critiques aside, he supposes rates of growth out of thin air, pretends that spending less creates jobs, and does all kinds of other just false, unquantifiable crap. This man isn't serious.

For Your Listening Pleasure This Morning, The Stones

Spike That Football: President Obama Should Celebrate 7 Million, 17 Million, and 21 Million

I'm really proud today. You cast votes every year in this life, if you want, and most of them are not directly consequential in ways that we ever know. Sure, I know how many things government does for us every day, and how good those things are, but it's hard to always quantify the importance of fixing the pot-hole, of hiring the new cop, or of funding the scientific research. In the case of my 2008 and 2012 votes for President Barack Obama though, I can quantify it directly- 7 million, 17 million, and 21 million. For that reason alone, I'm in the camp that says President Obama should be proud.

The President isn't always one to celebrate his own accomplishments well. I think this post from OTHERWISE should do him some justice though:
Public attention has focused on the sign-up for health insurance by those who bought it on the now-subsidized markets.  That is 7 million now and it is an important accomplishment since most of those were uninsured.  And of those who were insured most of them have gotten subsidies and their health insurance costs have been cut.  American politicians are too timid to celebrate the subsidies, and much too timid to celebrate the 10 million who have been added to the Medicaid roles which now has the "welfare" stigma.

But Barack Obama is proud, not embarrassed because he knows he has helped millions of the poor and nearly poor, and the hard to make ends meet working class. He has been lambasted as weak, as tyrannical, as failing to lead, etc.  But just how did we add 17 mlliont the rolls of the uninsured but by leadership.  Steady, determined leadership.
From the day the rollout was botched, we've had to endure Republican taunts about the law failing. If you listen to the Koch-Brother-funded ads lies about this, no one wanted these health plans, it was being forced on us, and it would destroy America. Today it's reality, and none of those things held true.

Here's the facts- 
  • Seven-point-one Million (7,100,000) bought a plan on the health care exchanges.
  • Ten million (10,000,000) obtained insurance through Medicaid Expansion.
  • Four Million (4,000,000) stayed on their parents insurance plans, and are covered under new provisions.
I am a Democrat, and a Byzantine Catholic by birth. Much of why I am a Democrat is driven by my moral beliefs I was taught as a child. The bible that I read talked of helping those in-need. On the same day where Paul Ryan laid out another budget calling for the dismantling of Medicaid and Food Stamps, those of us on the progressive side celebrated 21 million covered on health insurance thanks to a law we fought for. 

I'm a proud Democrat today.

DC Mayor Vincent Gray Loses, Begging the Question- Can Anyone Successfully Govern DC?

Eight years ago, Washington, DC elected Adrian Fenty as their Mayor. In the eight years since then, Washington has taken some strides. Mayor Fenty of course didn't benefit from them- he lost his re-election four years ago. He's off making some bucks now I'm sure. Four years ago, another man, Mayor Vincent Gray was elected Mayor. Gray was a city councilman, and popular in the city's Southeast. He probably figured his political fate would be better than Fenty's. It wasn't though.

Muriel Bowser defeated Gray last night in the Democratic Primary for Mayor, essentially becoming the odds-on favorite to be Mayor. She is currently a City Councilwoman representing Ward 4 (Northwest Washington). She is a fresh face after the scandals have stricken Gray's administration, but she should tread lightly. We've now seen two different stylistic Mayors both go down after four years in a town that is very difficult, if not impossible, to govern.

You Stay Classy Mets Fans: De Blasio Boo'ed as he Passes Major Promises

There are a lot more Yankees fans than Mets fans in greater New York, but the one place there are Mets fans is Long Island, which coincidentally is both not a part of the city and a bit more Republican than the city. For that reason alone, it doesn't shock me that New York City's still pretty new Mayor Bill de Blasio was boo'ed on Opening Day in Queens. Plus, I mean, they're Mets fans. That, and he's kind of a Red Sox fan and Mayor of New York (somehow).

I think the Mayor probably can handle it though. He managed to win a "fight" with Governor Andrew Cuomo, and pass his pre-K initiative into law for the city, though the Governor did not give him his tax increase on the rich to do it. He also managed to change the conversation on education from one of outsourcing more of it to the "private" sector, to one of expanding early-childhood education. In fact, you can now tell the Bloomberg era is over on education.

Sure, he may not be loved in Nassau County right now, but Bill de Blasio is passing the stuff he promised in his campaign.

Reading Tops Lehigh Valley as Aumont is Still Aumont

Last year's 222 Showcase.
Photo by Richard Wilkins Jr.
In general, if you have a right-arm that can fire 90 plus mph fastballs, and the only thing holding you back from making millions of dollars in the big leagues is your inability to throw strikes, you learn to throw strikes. Not if you're Phillippe Aumont. The Phillies "prospect" obtained for Cliff Lee in December of 2009 is an IronPig instead of a Phillie today because of his control. That was true last year, and it's true this year too. He's still not throwing strikes though, as he showed in the exhibition game in Reading last night. He retired one guy, walked two, and gave up the winning run in the bottom of the ninth. Reading's Cameron Perkins, who dropped a fly-ball to allow the game to be tied in the top of the 9th, delivered the game winning hit.

It's also noteworthy that Jon Pettibone pitched four innings of three run ball in the 4-3 loss. He gave up a three spot in the second, then settled in to retire seven in a row. The rest of the IronPigs bullpen was really good in the loss.

You can read the IronPigs article here.

Boo! Phillies Drop a Bad One

At the end of the baseball season, you can usually count the number of games that separate a team from being .500/contending/making the post-season/winning the division on your fingers. The fact is that all of these guys are professional athletes, and aren't "over-matched" to the point of not belonging in the league (unless you're Michael Martinez- he sucks). For that reason alone, you have to count up the bad losses.

Tuesday, April 1st should go first in any count for the Phillies. In a game they got six innings of one run ball against a great line-up, in a game where they once held a two run lead, they lost in a walk-off. As a fan, you have to brush it off, since they won't ever go 162-0, but these games do count, so be mad.

What did we learn? Well, young lefty Martin Perez showed the Phillies achilles-heel to still be lefties. Though they went with a very righty-driven line-up, you could see the back-up righties aren't so great. We also learned that bullpen management is going to be an issue.

Yes, I'm going to plant this one on Sandberg and the bullpen. Jake Diekman blew a lead by not getting out guys he's supposed to get out. Mario Hollands, while he deserves some slack in his MLB debut, didn't retire either lefty he faced either, which is why he's here. You can't walk lefties when you are a lefty reliever. B.J. Rosenberg also didn't strand runners, which is what he and his upper-90s fastball are supposed to do. As for Sandberg, I'm already fearing that he'll over-work his core guys- Diekman, Bastardo, and Rosenberg- and I'm not sure why he's using Rosenberg over De Fratus so far.

Oh well. There's 160 games to go. This is just bad loss #1.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Jaccpot: My Feelings on DJax

I wanted to let the DeSean Jackson fallout settle for a few days before I weighed in on it, because while the narrative was gripping, this is a simple story, every way you look at it. Is DeSean a cancer? Is he a thug? Did Chip Kelly's ego get in the way? Does any of that even matter.

Let's start with the basic rule that has to be accepted from the start- Chip Kelly wanted to get rid of DeSean Jackson. I don't know why, though we can guess- his asking for more money, locker room problems, his cap hit (which makes more sense for next year), he wants to draft a different WR, or he just doesn't like him. It really doesn't matter why, the point is that he wanted him out. We can only speculate on the why, but it doesn't change the basic condition, that the coach wanted this player gone. I think this also probably extends to Jeffrey Lurie, who does not like "troublesome" players, regardless of what you think of the Michael Vick signing (who turned out to be a model citizen in Philadelphia). The Eagles prefer that their players say little, don't get noticed off the field, and never question their contract.

So walk through my basic working theory with me for a minute. Kelly wants to part ways with Jackson, and floats out there that he's on the trade market. The fanbase reacts, understandably, negatively, especially when they realize what the Eagles will get in return. The Eagles have always been a hyper-PR conscious team (see Owens, Terrell), and were nervous about that reaction. They were also nervous that there weren't a lot of good offers in exchange for Jackson, or at least good by their standards. They were probably prepared to just cut him, because again Chip wanted him out, but didn't like the backlash the fanbase was going to get.

So someone leaked a story from 2010-2011 about Jackson being involved with LA Crips. At least that's my angle on this, and it makes more sense than all of this coming out of the blue.

I'm not going to defend Jackson's affiliations right now, because they're crazy. I am going to say this though- the Eagles are a worse team today, essentially because Chip Kelly didn't like a player, for whatever reason. There are great receivers in this draft, guys with great hands, huge verticals, and large frames, that can be good players, but there aren't really many burners like Jackson who can stretch a field deep. Additionally, the need for a receiver now means they probably can't go defensive in rounds one and two, which is where they needed to be.

I'm willing to concede to anyone who asks that DeSean Jackson probably caused his own problems with Chip Kelly. I'm willing to concede that if he's in a gang, he's stupid, and should probably be out of the league this season. In exchange though, you pretty much have to concede that this won't help the Eagles at all this season, and removed the opportunity to upgrade other things. They cut a good player, because they didn't like him.

The NFL is trying to be a place for the "choir boy" crowd under Roger Goodell, but let's be serious for a moment- Michael Irvin, Ben Roethlisberger, Ray Lewis, Lawrence Taylor, and Leon Lett, to name a few, have hoisted the Super Bowl trophy up. It's not about being a good guy in the end, it's about being a good player. There are other places to judge the character of people.

Let's also be honest for a moment. Jeffrey Lurie tries to run an above-board ship, and a lot of people respect that. I do, even. The Eagles also haven't won a Super Bowl though. You have to sit and wonder if maybe a bit more veteran Chip Kelly would have tried to work through these issues with Jackson, in the interest of winning. I just hope we don't have to watch him torch our corners twice a year now.

Thoughts on the Pigs

Every year, when the IronPigs release their roster, I feel conflicted. As a Phillies fan, I want to see the top prospects play in Allentown. At the same time, it's well known that the formula for winning in AAA baseball is to have a lot of borderline roster guys, and former big leaguers. This conflict was still evident for 2014.

They gave us some prospects, this time. Maikel Franco will play in Lehigh Valley, a chance to for him to face more "mature" (to be read, breaking balls) pitching, and something for me to be excited about. He's not the only prospect to make the team though. Jon Pettibone and David Buchanan could both end up helping the Phillies staff this season. Both will throw for the Pigs to start the year. Cameron Rupp is going to be catching for this team, and projects to be the Phillies back-up sooner-or-later. While not necessarily prospects anymore, Phillippe Aumont, Jeremy Horst, and Luis Garcia are all on the 40 man roster, and in the bullpen, while Kyle Simon and Shawn Camp are also interesting to watch. If you want to still call Tyson Gillies a prospect, he's here too. Jim Murphy, while kind of stuck at first base right now, intrigues me too after leading the Eastern League in homers.

The IronPigs also are getting some opportunities to win. Greg Smith was excellent for them in a starting role last year, and he's back throwing for them this year. Leandro Castro, Clete Thomas, and Steve Susdorf are all experienced outfielders. Andres Blanco and Reid Brignac both took their assignments here. Koyie Hill and Cesar Jimenez have seen the majors too.

In short, the Phillies gave the IronPigs the right mix to try and be decent this season. As we saw last year, you only have to be slightly above .500 sometimes to make the AAA playoffs (they finished .500 and just missed), but your squad will undergo a lot of changes as the season goes.

Tonight, they play at Reading in an exhibition game. I'm predicting the IronPigs to win the IL Wild Card and lose in the Governor's Cup Finals this season.

If Just for a Day.... Phillies Are Good

It was just one game, I tell myself, but it was a good one. The offense hit, which only surprised me because of how well they did, not that they don't stink. The starting pitching wasn't good, which did surprise me, but I guess that's the "one day" thing. The bench was productive and the bullpen did hold a lead, even if it wasn't pretty, and suddenly, something surprising happened.

The off-season doomsday chatter stopped, for a day, and the team won a game.

It was a good win for many reasons. Texas is a good team. This is the kind of game they would have lost last year. All the red flags in the line-up, for a day, produced. It was a good win.

The first twelve games of the season may matter more for the Phillies than anyone else. After Texas, the Phillies go to Chicago, then welcome Milwaukee and Miami to town. If they don't come out 7-5 or better to start the season, the doomsday talks will commence. My target number is 8-4. Now they only need 7 more wins to do that.

Get Ready for Silly Season on County Council

As a matter of rule, once you vote for an illegal, unnecessary $84,000 contract, you should be stripped of any ability to claim "fiscal discipline" in your language. Unfortunately, wasteful conservatives don't follow that rule. Hence, get ready for this kind of sillyness, chronicled by Bernie:
Though the Grinch only comes out at Christmas, there must be a Grinch on Northampton County Council coming out to ruin Easter. At their last meeting, Northampton County Council unanimously approved either $800 or $900 for the annual Easter Egg hunt on put on for 300 children by the Deputy Sheriffs. In addition to an egg hunt at Tuskes Park, there's pony rides, a special appearance by the Easter Bunny and all kinds of treats. It's a great family outing. But I've been told that one member of Council has submitted a resolution to take the money back, after it's already been approved. It would also be a Council member who thought there was nothing wrong with an $84,000 no-bid contract for propaganda.
Get ready for lots of proposals to "nickel and dime" on things that help the public. After wasting tens of thousands of dollars on John Brown's "government by consultant," you'll hear a lot about saving a buck here, and a buck there, from the tea people. My guess is that this councilman is one of the new guys- so put my money on Hayden Phillips, with Geissinger and Benol as the other possibilities. 

ACA Deadline Day, Part III: Seven Million Sign-Ups

Despite two months of a bum website, despite millions of dollars in Koch Brothers funded ads, despite the GOP calling it a failure daily and voting to repeal it for the 54th time, and despite every guess to the opposite, the Affordable Care Act hit it's raw numbers goal for 2014: 7 million sign-ups.

This means seven million people bought a plan. The numbers I'm hearing are nine million more who received Medicaid, and another four million stayed on their parents plans. That's twenty million. I also saw a report though of seventeen million people earlier in the day. I guess we'll have to wait on that number.

Either way- Obamacare beats the Kochs and conservative dead-enders, again.

The Sillyness of the Kane "Scandal"

I think this passage from Jon Geeting puts it in perspective for me:
The only actual offense the sting uncovered – non-reporting of gifts – is a misdemeanor. The gifts themselves are legal. And we know that the gifts, which are the focus of all the media attention, can’t be the real issue, because otherwise the same people would’ve been hyperventilating over Tom Corbett’s wife Susan taking over $11,000 in gifts from business execs who have interests before state government.
But some natural gas baron giving Susan Corbett an expensive fancy dress doesn’t offend the right-wing id quite like a blah person getting a Tiffany bracelet, so the latter is a “scandal” and the former isn’t.

I gave Seth Williams some thought, personally though, I can't buy it. There is no way any prosecutor could have established a "quid pro quo" on lawmakers who oppose Voter ID taking gifts and then voting against Voter ID.

So why is this an issue? Frank Fina is firing an advance shot at Kane because she's going to try to skewer him with the Sandusky report. Frankly, the AG's office of Tom Corbett, in which Fina served, bungled the Sandusky case, and left him on the streets too long. The attempt to make this investigation into a major scandal for her just seems too transparent for me. If we're concerned about gifts influencing people, why not convene a grand jury on Mrs. Corbett too?

Obamacare is Winning- In Polls Now Too

Bad news for the conservative-right moving forward:
Support among Democrats jumped from 65 percent in January to 76 percent in the new poll. Independents (44 percent support; 54 percent oppose; and Republicans (20 percent support; 78 percent) was more stable, according to the poll. Surprisingly, the poll found a significant shift in support for the law among conservatives, with 36 percent of them backing it now compared to 17 percent in November.
On Republican efforts to replace Obamacare, Americans were also narrowly split: 47 percent support those efforts, and 49 percent oppose them.
Funny how that works, right? 47% support repeal, Mitt Romney made comments about "47% of the public," and Romney got 47% of the vote. In other words, this is a losing strategy for the GOP in the long term. In a Presidential electorate, the ACA is now a winner, and in the mid-term, it probably will split close to even. That may work for the GOP in this electorate, since the House is gerrymandered and the Senate map is favorable to them.  That's a loser in the long-term though, and they remain married to it in order to get a decent mid-term for themselves.

Welcome to the highway to extinction.

On Nate Silver and Predictions

A lot of Democrats are very disturbed that Nate Silver is predicting a 60/40 chance of a GOP takeover in the U.S. Senate in 2014. I've said already that i'm not as freaked out as others by 2014, and what it means. It has literally nothing to do with what will happen in 2016. It will mean a long two years of investigating if wind-mills are a communist plot or not, but that already goes on with the House.

So I guess I'm really reluctant to attack Nate Silver's predictions, since, I kind of believe in what he's selling. Silver doesn't write stupid articles about abstract "momentum" and such in Presidential elections, like say Politico, but rather writes about things that actually matter- demographics, enthusiasm, polls, etc. I still believe in his work, and why not? He got every state but one right in the last two Presidential elections. How can you argue with that?

I will say this though- that doesn't mean that he's perfect. He got North Dakota wrong, amongst other Senate races in 2012. He's made a few mistakes on these races, because conditions are a lot less clear in these races than a Presidential race. In other words, he's not "Gospel truth" here.

Why does that matter? Well, there are about ten races in play this year, 8 Democratic seats and 2 Republican ones. Republicans have to be plus six to take the Senate this year. He gave them the upper hand in four seats, and said they'd pick up 2 of the additional 4 Democratic seats, probably. In other words, the Republicans have to be pretty close to perfect in this election to win the Senate. Even in Silver's projections, they have a hard road.

I'd say they are probably a slight favorite, but they were favored to win the Senate at this point in 2012. It didn't happen. Freaking out at a numbers guru makes sense at this point. I'm sure he'll do later projections.

Guv Primary: An Update

Ok, so now lots of changes in the Governor and Lt. Governor races in Pennsylvania. I think we FINALLY have a field of candidates in place.

In the Governor's race, Jack Wagner is out. He withdrew on the last day of eligibility to do so, and is off the ballot. With Hanger already out, the field is down to four. Tom Wolf, Rob McCord, Katie McGinty, and Allyson Schwartz are in this race. All but Schwartz have been up on TV in some form, and Wolf leads the polls. I love the McCord ads though, I must say.

In the Lt. Governor's race, the field also got smaller. Jay Paterno is out of the race now, a big development in it's own right. Paterno had lead some polls. This leaves Mark Critz, Mike Stack, Brandon Neuman, Brad Koplinski, and Mark Smith in the race. Critz and Stack would be the assumed front-runners now.

With four Governor candidates and five Lt. Governor candidates, the field is now set. I would call Wolf and Critz the front-runners right now. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Major League Predictions, 2014 Edition

It's Opening Day of the 2014 MLB Season, or my favorite day of the year. It's also prediction time for the 2014 season. Here are my regular season predictions:

AL West:
  1. Oakland (95-67)
  2. Texas (91-71)
  3. Seattle (85-77)
  4. LA Angels (70-92)
  5. Houston (60-102)
NL West:
  1. San Fran (94-68)
  2. LA Dodgers (92-70)
  3. Colorado (81-81)
  4. Arizona (78-84)
  5. San Diego (72-90)
AL Central:
  1. Detroit (95-67)
  2. Cleveland (88-74)
  3. Kansas City (85-77)
  4. Chicago (74-88)
  5. Minnesota (72-90)
NL Central:
  1. St. Louis (97-65)
  2. Pittsburgh (88-74)
  3. Cincinnati (82-80)
  4. Chicago (74-88)
  5. Milwaukee (69-93)
AL East:
  1. Baltimore (95-67)
  2. Tampa Bay (94-68)
  3. New York Yankees (87-75)
  4. Boston (83-79)
  5. Toronto (75-87)
NL East:
  1. Atlanta (96-66)
  2. Washington (90-72)
  3. Philadelphia (84-78)
  4. New York Mets (73-89)
  5. Miami (62-100)
So, I am predicting the Cardinals, Braves, and Giants to win NL Divisions, while I have the Dodgers and Nats edging out the Pirates for the Wild Cards. In the AL, I have Baltimore, Detroit, and Oakland all winning divisions, while I have Tampa and Texas getting in as Wild Cards. Yes, I picked the defending champs to miss, and the Dodgers to lose to their old rivals out west. It's hard to repeat a great season.

For the awards, I have:
  • AL MVP- Evan Longoria
  • NL MVP- Freddie Freeman
  • AL CY YOUNG- Felix Hernandez
  • NL CY YOUNG- Adam Wainwright
  • AL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR- Masahiro Tanaka
  • NL ROOKIE OF THE YEAR- Billy Hamilton
  • AL MANAGER OF THE YEAR- Buck Showalter
Some statistical winners too:
  • AL HOME RUN CHAMPION- Prince Fielder
  • AL RBI CHAMPION- Miguel Cabrera
  • AL WINS LEADER- Justin Verlander
  • AL ERA LEADER- Felix Hernandez
  • AL INNINGS LEADER- Hernandez
  • NL HOME RUN CHAMPION- Paul Goldschmidt
  • NL RBI CHAMPION- Freddie Freeman
  • NL WINS LEADER- Adam Wainwright
  • NL ERA LEADER- Jose Fernandez
And, so, with all of that- my post-season predictions:
  • WILD CARD GAMES- Dodgers edge the Nats, Rays take down Texas.
  • DIVISIONAL ROUNDS- I have the Cardinals taking down the Dodgers in 5, and the Giants taking down the Braves in 4 on the NL Side, and the Rays taking down the A's in 5, and the Tigers taking down the Orioles in 3.
  • LCS Series- I have St. Louis over San Francisco in 6. I also have the Tigers over the Rays in 5.
  • WORLD SERIES- Tigers over the Cardinals in 7.

My Outlook for the 2014 Philadelphia Phillies

On Friday night, I was sitting in section 108, where I have now since 2004 at Citizens Bank Park. It's our 23rd year with our season ticket plan, and as usual, I'm excited about the season. Are my as excited as I was from 2007 to 2012? Yes, actually. It's baseball season, and for me, that's a reason to be excited, whether the Phillies can win or not.

Let me get this out of the way at the outset today- I believe the Philadelphia Phillies will go 84-78, and finish third in the NL East, out of the playoffs. Now, I agree with anyone who says that's unlikely- a team playing over .500 is likely to try to upgrade during the season, and a team below .500 is likely to blow it up and lose a lot more, so an 84-78 finish can only happen if they play good early and fall apart late. With that said, that's the number I came up with, and here's why.

My baseline for 2014 is the 2013 record- 73-89. I don't accept the premise that this team is better or worse "just because," so I start there. I ask myself, are they better, or are they worse than they were a year ago. A few things jump out at me as better:

  • Ben Revere is going to play the whole season in centerfield, meaning you won't have a half-season of John Mayberry Jr. and Roger Bernadina out there.
  • Marlon Byrd is a huge upgrade on the Delmon Young/Mayberry/Laynce Nix right-field crew that manned the spot most of the season. Even against Ruf (who got most of the looks in the last two months), Byrd stacks up favorably because of better defense.
  • I'm not as down on Ryan Howard as most of you are. Forget his contract for a second- no, he's not worth $25 million a year. I think he can be modestly productive though, maybe even knocking 30 homers out of the yard (though don't tell me he's hitting 40 or 50), which will make him an upgrade at the position against last year.
  • A.J. Burnett as the third starter is a huge upgrade on Roy Halladay the last two seasons, even if A.J. doesn't belong mentioned with Doc. He posted an ERA last year a solid run and a half better than Doc and Pettibone did in this spot. In short, even some regression would make him an upgrade.
  • Same can amazingly be said for Roberto Hernandez against the Lannan/Martin tandem that mostly handled the fifth spot. The upgrade is modest, but there.
  • I think Cole Hamels will both be a lot better, and a lot more lucky this year. I think it's fair to hope for that too, given his contract and track-record.
  • Papelbon had a hopeful Spring, Adams seems to be healing, Bastardo is back, and Diekman is here.
Ok, so that's all the sunny-side stuff, I know. I also know that J-Roll could be in decline, Utley and Dom Brown could both fail to replicate last year, Chooch isn't younger, and we don't know about Asche. I know that Cliff Lee, as great as he is, will someday meet father-time, as Doc did, the bullpen could explode, and Kyle Kendrick is still Kyle Kendrick. I also know that any or all of my positives could blow up too. I'm not a sunny-side optimist to an extreme point. I think it's fair though, if we have a better rotation, a few better line-up spots, and get a decent year at the back-end of the bullpen, to think this team can be in the low to mid-80s for wins this season. I think that's a reasonable expectation.

If you want to be more positive, and say they are a playoff team, a lot has to go right. Ryan Howard has to post an OPS over .800, along with 35 homers/120 RBIs. Dom has to be a little better than last season, while Chase and Marlon Byrd have to match last year. Revere has to be a .350 on-base guy, and Jimmy has to bounce back for real. Chooch can't fall off, the big three pitchers have to be excellent, and the set-up men have to be dominating. That still might be enough, but this is just the baseline for it.

I'm not on the "Phillies must suck" bandwagon though. I think it's en vogue right now to predict this team to flop, and most people will. Hey, I think it's more likely they're even worse than last season's 73 wins than they are a 90 win team too. I just don't think either of those scenarios are most likely. I see a mildly competitive, more interesting team than last year. Perhaps that's a terrible thing, as they stay in this "in-between" purgatory for 2015 as well, but given their contracts and relative low trade values on the roster, coupled with their lack of big prospects knocking on the door, I think being an entertaining, if not contending team, might be the most likely, and most acceptable outcome.

Thank You Detroit, From Every Sixers Fan

I'm fine with the Sixers being 16-57. I knew this team would stink, and I knew this season was about building long-term. As I occasionally watch a March Madness game, I like to think about a Wiggins or Randle in Philadelphia. It's comforting when you just lost 26 straight games. It makes it all seem okay.

It's really not though, and I'm glad to see the streak stop at 26 games. Not only does that tie the NBA record, but it ties the North American professional sports record. Don't get me wrong, I don't care if this team wins games or not, but you don't want to carry around that level of futility with your favorite basketball team. We already have the worst season ever, and now tied this record (not to mention the Phillies have the most losses in sports, and the longest MLB losing streak), so we don't need anymore, thank you.

We just needed a visit from an equally dead, unmotivated, bad team. Detroit gave us that, as the Knicks almost did late in the streak too. Disappointing teams can be this way sometimes, and Detroit lived up to the hype. We'll all thank you for years to come for that.

The War on Contraception: Sex is NOT a Dirty Thing

Often times, in the fight over whether contraception should be covered on all health care plans, we retreat to the argument that not all contraception use is for pregnancy prevention, but also for health reasons beyond that. That argument is true, and is a good way to end the debate about the use of contraception, but that also in some ways allows the paradigm to exist in which Rush Limbaugh calls Sandra Fluke a "slut," and some men continue to hold the feeling that they don't want to pay for women to be able to have sex.

You (the reader of this blog entry right now) were created by your parents have sex. Your parents had sex on other occasions too. Your siblings have had sex. Your friends have had sex. Hopefully, you have some sex too. Sex is a natural act, that if we were created by a God (and I actually do believe we were), that God allowed us to be freely capable of. Now, by no means are my arguing that sexual activity is sometimes inappropriate, or can't get us into trouble. I'm making a very simple argument though- sex is not a bad thing.

We have made many advancements in modern society that have allowed men to have sex free of many repercussions, and to have sex beyond their "prime" years. Condoms allow men to be much more free sexually. Viagra allows men past their "primes" to continue having sex. There's nothing wrong with that, nothing at all. Contraception, particularly "the pill," allows women that freedom too. Insurance companies cover things like "penis pumps," but not birth-control? That is basically sexist non-sense.

The problem is that for some of these folks on the right, such as the ultra-religious "Hobby Lobby" crowd, women being free to have sex is a problem. They don't think women should be able to enjoy their sexuality the same way as men, and they basically view women as a vessel for reproduction, or an object for their enjoyment, not as an equal and opposite sex. This backwards, old-world view drives them to think that women must be denied things that give them the freedom to act as they please. Hence, we get this argument that contraception is somehow "abortion." Basically, they view every egg in a woman as a child.

I could go on here, and cast aspersions on the men who hold these views, but I won't. Clearly they don't live in the same world as I do though. I just hope for their sake that they understand that one sex can't treat the other as objects, and then be mad when they politically strike back in future elections.

Get Ready for a Crisis in Turkey

If you pay much attention to foreign crises, you may remember protesting in Turkey. A lot of people were pretty unhappy with Prime Minister Erdogan's government, and were willing to take to the streets over it. The situation was genuinely making people worried, as they feared Erdogan would crush them.

Prime Minister Recep Tiyyip Erdogan's party won elections for local offices that just ended, and they won them convincingly. He promised that he would enact retribution now against "opponents" whom he says are trying to overthrow his government.

If I were these people, I'd be really afraid.

A Photo of the Day: Obama and Francis

Crimea River: Would You Bomb Russia or Not?

There's been a lot of right-wing criticism of President Obama's handling of the Ukraine crisis, in which they basically say he hasn't been tough enough. The ones capable of intellectual though have crowed about not bombing Syria when they "crossed the red line" as emboldening Putin, but in reality, that's a scarecrow argument. Putin didn't invade Crimea, or annex it, because of Syria. He did it because he has a warm-water port there, a base there, and gets a lot of his natural gas and oil out to the world from there, and he couldn't afford to lose it if the Ukraine turned away from Russia. This isn't about strength for him, it's about survival.

So now, as he amasses troops along the Ukraine's eastern border for "military exercises," let's ask a really basic question of those who want to get tough with him:

Would you bomb Russia?

Now, it's not hard, and some people have some credibility on this. President Carter, on an interview this weekend, talked about his "Carter Doctrine," when he threatened military retaliation against the Soviets if they went beyond Afghanistan. He even said though, that was the Cold War. If you now want to "talk tough" on Putin and Russia, you have to be willing to carry through. Are these right-wingers willing to do that? Are they willing to sign on to fight a war with a nuclear power?

If not, shut up. It's really kind of easy.

In Government, You Don't Get to Declare Something "Settled"

Oh, John Brown. He's a breath of fresh-air in local government- if you think people in government shouldn't know anything about government. He screwed up his contract with Sahl Communications, but the Republicans on council are giving him a pass, so he's going to get sued. His response? From Bernie:
In his second news conference as County Executive, attended by Channel 69's Will Lewis and yours truly, John Brown defended his $84,000 contract with public relations firm Sahl Communications, operated by Kim Plyler. He brushed off hints of a looming lawsuit as well. "I'm not concerned about it," he shrugged. "I think it's been put to rest."

He explained that Kim Plyler will be "telling the story of the county," calling our local government a "$1 billion machine driving the local economy." He dismissed concerns that an outside firm would be less effective than an insider with a more detailed knowledge; the danger that it could be perverted into a publicly-financed propaganda machine for him; or worse, that Plyler ould use insider knowledge to open doors for other possible vendors like Donna Taggart.

Interestingly, Taggart just happens to be a County vendor, and one who shares office space with Plyler.
Uh, no. No, Mr. Brown, it's not been put to rest. You're going to be sued over this. Even if you win,  your inability to handle this in a normal manner of procurement has cost the county credibility, and soon, money. You can say it's "settled," but that doesn't make it so.