Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tuesday's trackings

President Obama today makes a speech, and partly blames "instant gratification" for our economic troubles:
"President Barack Obama acknowledged in a major economic speech Tuesday that "times are still tough" and warned that a culture of "instant gratification" had produced neglect of major national problems that wound up undermining the economy."
Hmmm. Yes. For example, for the last decade, many Democrats urged that banks and other financial institutions ought to make loans to those who perhaps were not that well-qualified for them, cuz hey, everybody ought to be able to have his or her own house, right now. Right?
For some reason, though, I fear President Obama won't hold those Democrats to account. Most of his remarks over the past several weeks indicate he just wants to bash Republicans and the Bush administration on that score.

RIP: Mark "The Bird" Fidrych, 1954-2009. Many younger sports fans today probably don't remember The Bird. But all of us who grew up in Michigan during the 1970s rooting for the Tigers sure do. The Detroit Tigers were nowhere in the mid-1970s. They lost 102 games in 1975. Prospects for the next year were, well, uncertain at best. Our other pro sports teams in Detroit then offered precious little, too. But then came Mark the Bird--totally unexpected, a pitcher who was fun, a phenomenon, who made every start a party, who put the Tigers on the map again, who made that summer of 1976 a lot more fun for Tiger fans than we ever expected it to be. I remember I was enthralled by Fidrych--hanging on every pitch when he started, having my mom make me a Bird t-shirt out of an iron-on thing the Detroit Free Press made available in the paper, glorying in the fact that he started the all-star game.
In the years to come, injuries and bad luck ensured that Fidrych would never reach those 1976 heights again. But he never regretted anything, and we fans always had that one summer, which I still look back on fondly. Mark Fidrych died too soon. But he sure lived a whole lot in the time he had.

Hmmm...CNN's Gloria Borger doesn't like the GOP's (specifically, Newt Gingrich's) response to the Obama administration's handling of the recent pirate/hostage crisis:
"...what about the style of say, Newt Gingrich? The former House Speaker -- often mentioned as a possible presidential contender in 2012 -- decided to Twitter his inner thoughts on the pirates in real-time. Last Saturday: "Obama is making a major mistake in not forcefully outlining the rules of civilization for dealing with pirates. We look weak." By Monday, after the safe rescue of the captain, Gingrich was, er, a tad more laudatory: "The Navy seals did exactly the right thing in rescuing the American captain. President Obama did the right thing in allowing the Navy to act." A grudging kudo, if there ever was one. Would it have been better if the president of the United States had publicly engaged with a bunch of teenage thug pirates? It's beneath Obama's pay grade and dignity -- not to mention how it would have added fuel to an already incendiary situation. So how about just admitting that the administration performed admirably in this crisis?"
Er...Ms. Borger: he did. Before the administration acted, Gingrich and many conservatives said Obama should act. When he did act, we said "good job." What else do you want?

What's wrong with Obama's "stimulus" plan? Thomas Sowell tells us today:
"China is the largest foreign holder of U.S. government bonds. But, instead of buying more of those bonds as our skyrocketing national debt leads to more bonds being issued, China has been selling some of its U.S. government bonds this year. The Chinese are no fools. They know that all this unbridled spending — even when it is called “investment” — means that inflation is coming. That in turn means that the dollars with which U.S. government bonds will be paid off will be worth a lot less than the dollars with which the bonds were bought. Governments around the world have played this game for centuries, robbing those who trusted them enough to buy their bonds. Like Bernard Madoff, they call it “investment.” Inflation also means that all the talk about how higher taxes will be confined to “the rich” is nonsense. Inflation is a hidden tax that takes away the value of money held by everyone at every income level."
It all in the end goes back to what Friedrich von Hayek told us years ago in The Road to Serfdom--government intervention in the economy will always create lots of problems. Why? Because government planners can never have all the information they need to prevent all the unforeseen negative consequences sure to come as a result of their intervention.

By the way, back during the Bush years, Democrats loved the Congressional Budget Office and its criticisms of Bush budgets. So--know what it's saying now about the Obama budget?:
"CBO analysts shows several things to be true: 1) for all the talk of transparency and reform, Obama’s budget numbers are phony and based on risible economic assumptions; 2) previous administrations have been wasteful, but the current administration is full of wastrels; and 3) there’s a reason why even committed European social democrats think the president's fiscal plans are irresponsible."
Don't expect too many citations to CBO numbers in progressive writings about the budget anytime soon...

BASEBALL DIARY: the Tigers lost at home yesterday to the White Sox, 10-6. Key: a very poor start from Zach Miner, who allowed 8 runs, and 3 long home runs. Hopefully the cold weather and Miner's inability to feel the ball and thus locate his pitches was the culprit, as the linked article suggests. If not...if Miner will be a liability this year...it's not good.
The Chicago Cubs had a good day yesterday, though, shutting out the Colorado Rockies in the Cubs' home opener, 4-0. It was a raw, cold, rainy day. But the key for the Cubs: starter Ted Lilly, who allowed only 1 hit through 6 and 2/3 innings. Cub starting pitching continues to be a strength.
But pitching is not exactly a strength so far for the Texas Rangers, as they lost their 4th in a row last night, 10-9 to Baltimore. The Rangers didn't deserve to win; they got a poor start from Vincente Padilla, they booted the ball around in the outfield a couple of times, and then...in the 9th inning...Ian Kinsler doubled to start off the inning, but failed to tag up on a deep drive to the right-center field gap by Michael Young (hauled in on a great catch by Nick Markakis). Kinsler would have scored on Josh Hamilton's subsequent fly to center, but he was still on second. He never scored. To his credit, Kinsler admitted he blew it after the game. Ranger fans can be forgiven for saying "same old Rangers."

In other news, in a poll conducted by Vanity Fair magazine, respondents named Angelina Jolie the world's most beautiful woman.
Finally--something most people can agree on.

It appears the Obama administration is about to make a big concession to Iran concerning negotiations over its nuclear capability:
"The Obama administration and its European allies are preparing proposals that would shift strategy toward Iran by dropping a longstanding American insistence that Tehran rapidly shut down nuclear facilities during the early phases of negotiations over its atomic program, according to officials involved in the discussions. The proposals, exchanged in confidential strategy sessions with European allies, would press Tehran to open up its nuclear program gradually to wide-ranging inspection. But the proposals would also allow Iran to continue enriching uranium for some period during the talks. That would be a sharp break from the approach taken by the Bush administration, which had demanded that Iran halt its enrichment activities, at least briefly to initiate negotiations."
Hmmm. Why make this kind of concession? Apparently the administration's thinking goes like this:
"The proposals under consideration would go somewhat beyond President Obama ’s promise, during the presidential campaign, to open negotiations with Iran “without preconditions.” Officials involved in the discussion said they were being fashioned to draw Iran into nuclear talks that it had so far shunned. A review of Iran policy that Mr. Obama ordered after taking office is still under way, and aides say it is not clear how long he would be willing to allow Iran to continue its fuel production, and at what pace. But European officials said there was general agreement that Iran would not accept the kind of immediate shutdown of its facilities that the Bush administration had demanded. “We have all agreed that is simply not going to work — experience tells us the Iranians are not going to buy it,” said a senior European official involved in the strategy sessions with the Obama administration. “So we are going to start with some interim steps, to build a little trust.”

Question: isn't this however rewarding Iran for its long intransigence?
Even if you draw Iran into negotiations, why won't they simply continue their hard-line stance, hoping for more concessions? Will concessions--appeasement?--work? I doubt it.