Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Red $ox Preview

Virtually every year for the last 40 or so years I make the calendar with a bright red circle. That is the date I predict the Red Sox will have totally disappointed me and my usual pre season delusion that they will actually get into the playoffs and make some noise. This year there is no circle.

In my lifetime I have not seen a Sox team as balanced in all areas of the game as this one. The defense is outstanding with three Gold Glove infielders and arguably the best outfield since the days of Hooper and Speaker. Add to it a level of versatility and you have the whole defensive package from catching to infield to outfield.

Defense wins games and the most significant component of defense is pitching. A starting pitcher controls the tempo of the game and they have five starters who could be good, very good or downright outstanding. Buchholz and Lester are both potential Cy Young Award winners and both are capable of winning 20 games and almost did in 2010. Next up in the rotation is a slimmed down John Lackey. The Sox spent 85M to sign Lackey (14-11/4.40ERA)to a long term contract and while 2010 was not a bust it was a disappointment. Lackey will perform better. Then comes the mystery of Josh Beckett also signed in 2010 to a long term extension at 85M. Beckett was a pitching pinata in 2010 and has been in spring training. Can he return to say 2009 form? That was a 17-6 year and more than acceptable. In the same level of disappointment is Dice-K. Dice has done rather well in spring training and hopefully will return to 2008(18-3) status when he was one of the best starters in the league. IMO if Beckett and Dice-K return to previous performance levels start looking at possible playoff partners in August.

The 2010 bullpen was the worse in the league and has been totally rebuilt. If Papelbon continues his downward trend (9 blown saves)the Sox have both the experienced Jenks and closer of the future Bard waiting to take over. The addition of Dan Wheeler from Tampa Bay is a quality move as Wheeler is an experienced middle reliever who does have a tendency to give up a wee bit too many home runs. Tim Wakefield (AKA - One Trick Pony) has also returned to either spot start or work out of the bullpen. I have never been a "fan" of Wake but he can provide a variety of pitching services but I question his ability to do it competently. The rest of the bullpen is a mix and match with new comers Reyes, Albers and Aveces and a stock pile of old favorites in Pawtucket waiting for a call. Plenty of depth on this staff.

This offense is potentially amazing. There are several players who have the ability to be league MVP's. The hitting from top to bottom is balanced with guys who make contact, display plate patience and can drive the ball. This team will produce runs especially if Ellsbury returns to form and Crawford continues to improve his game. A Sox team that could lead the league in stolen bases? That would be something.

Virtually the entire lineup is in their prime years as players and the Sox have fewer stating players over age 30 than the Celtics. A big "if" in the lineup is Jarrod Saltalamacchia. So far he has shown signs of returning to his previous status as one of the best young catchers in baseball. I look for Ellsbury to have a huge year and also expect my personal whipping boy - JD Drew - to have a profitable last year contract sendoff. The bench players of Lowrie, McDonald and Cameron would be starters on 20 or so other teams.

I'm looking at a monster year for the Sox. Management has provided a serious upgrade, players have returned to health and the manager is perfect for Boston. Playoffs for sure with the potential for 105 wins.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

BOS Campaign

Another week and another war.

I’m Scott Brown and I drive a truck. I’m Allin Frawley and I drive a hammer. Both have some remarkable similarities and I am not discussing their view of politics but their approach. Both have actually managed to combine state of the art and old time politics. Brown has shown a streak of independence that has riled up left and right and Tea Party types. Allin has no personal agenda other than to serve to the best of his abilities - summed up fairly well on his web site. Brown had the novelty of his truck. He actually used that truck to campaign around Massachusetts. Allin opened up a storefront and he is there whenever he can be. I can go in and pat him on the back or whine. Where do I go to see MiMi? The CafĂ© Milano at noon time? For Marsha do I slip a note under the door in the Town Hall basement IT Department for Roger to forward? In politics so much is perception and not necessarily political position. BOS is about as local as it gets.

The last store front I can recall was for Gary Studds waaaay back. I know because I worked in that campaign with the usual stuff of handing out info, holding signs and going door to door. To listen to MiMi in the recent Enterprise article one would get the impression that Allin’s campaign is being funded by Soros or the Koch Brothers.

Just a thought but being a good person does not necessarily translate into being a competent person.

Jack Healey had a nice letter for Allin Frawley in the Gazette and it represented quite a you know what slap to the M & M duo. Jack had served as town manager during part of Marsha Brunelle’s reign so it appears he had some real issues with her performance both as a TM and now as a Joe Citizen. His letter about summed it up.

MiMi Duphily also had her campaign letter in the paper and as tempting as it is I will be silent on that one.

So far letters of note have been from a former chair of the BOS and a former TM and I wonder if any will be in the paper from any sitting members of the BOS?

As I cruise around Middleboro (AKA - Middleborough) I notice that the number of election signs have started to blossom. I usually end up counting them and it is fairly even for all candidates with Jay Austin having a slight edge.

A few issues have surfaced in the BOS race but I think it will really come down to change versus no change as the primary issue. This will not be a one trick pony election as it was with the gin mill floundering around. If the status quo is acceptable then look for M & M to return.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

PBS/M & M/Newt

The newly empowered Republicans in Congress have not targeted the big ticket items such as Medicare and Social Security with their budget axe but have focused on NPR and the CPB to trim funding and even eliminate public subsidies. I applaud this move.

The Herald has run a series of articles that have clearly shown the excesses of the local affiliate WGBH which provides about 30% of the programming for PBS. Salaries and a cushy state of the art studio have been a central point but what caught my eye was PILOT. PILOT is payment in lieu of taxes that most if not all non profits - a joke in of itself - contribute to the City of Boston. WGBH moved into their new digs four years ago and have contributed the grand total of zero dollars despite having that new $85,000,000 studio. Prior to that the contribution was about $10,000.

Now those pesky Republicans view the fiscal attack up Elmo and the rest of the crew as political payback as the far left slant of PBS that is rather well known. Just as Juan Williams canned for expressing his opinion on FOX. Or one of the honchos at the public broadcasting trough who fell for an undercover scam that had him labeling Tea Party types as “racist.” That seems to be the code phase du jour for the far left to explain away opposing points of view. Having a nice British accent does not exactly mean what you hear is the truth and the resulting faux pas led to a resignation.

The budget input for tax dollars for WGBH represents about 8% of their budget so somehow they will survive. Maybe a nice tea (party) put on by some of the more concerned citizens in Cambridge and Brookline can make up the cash loss. Across the board the loss will be somewhere in the neighborhood of about 10% of the various public broadcasting leeches so that is manageable. Maybe the heavy contributions of the Koch Foundation can be increased? A last total the Koch Foundation had contributed $7,000,000 to PBS - not bad for a Libertarian/conservative.

If all goes down the tubes there is always the option for the executives to move into other positions at other non profits and I understand there is about a dozen slots that may open up soon at Blue Cross. In the meantime I will have to miss the mating ritual of some obscure Australian rodent or the opportunity to pay exorbitant amounts of money for DVD’s from groups and individuals who I have never heard of. Seems whenever I tune into WGBH and their various other incarnations I see a string of semi ads anyone. Just go ahead and let Ronald McDonald replace the obnoxious Big Bird.

Mansfield found it necessary to run Saturday sessions to make up for school days lost to snow. Naturally the “For the kids” teachers union stepped in with a union protest but it was unnecessary since the kids didn’t bother to show up. Session two was canceled.

MiMi and Marsha are running as a tandem team much like a tag team in the WWE. I have no idea of what their election platform will be? Plant more flowers? Tazer those who dare approach the sacred podium? Sit in the audience when a discussion gets around to the IT Department? Whine about a pooch on your street? So you get a mirror for your vote. Vote for both and you get exactly the same and from what I can gather MiMi should change her name to mimic since that is usually her path on the BOS - Mimic Marsha. Marsha has IMO reached that point in performance and presentation that is like a party guest who is boring the bejabbers out of everyone and proceeds to stay around and entertain you when everyone else has left. How can I miss you when you won’t go away? With MiMi I have no idea what she is doing aside from making comments that leave me just wondering if it is me only to discover - thankfully - it is not.

I remember back about a year ago when the gavel was forced to at least grovel a bit when you saw an interesting group lined up at the podium - Neil, Steve, Lincoln, and several other who I have left out that served the BOS quite well. Those with a clue approaching a Chair without a clue? At least it presented a stark beep…beep….beep moment as the Chair managed to backtrack a bit.

So it is fairly easy to understand who I will vote for and it will not be a bullet vote. The political chain that is the BOS has two weak links and maybe - hopefully - they’ll be voted off the island.

Why let a cheap shot go by? Homeowners stage a protest and Quelle and Frawley marched with them but our own twin Marie Antoinette’s offered them cake! What, MiMI, no flowers?

So Newt wants to get into the oral office and bring the entire nation to its knees like he does his paramours. Maybe GM will revive the Hummer in honor of Newt? As far as the arm candy she has figured out the way to his heart is not through his stomach. Maybe he can hook up with Clinton some day and discuss an oral history of the presidency?

Speaking of comedy in presidential politics it is not yet a done deal that Sarah Palin will run for the office. Is she a female Dan Quayle destine to be the punch line of jokes? Appears that way. The Republican Party ran roughshod over the Democrats in the last election cycle but appear to have quite a leadership vacuum for those running to grab the big enchilada. And I just love the personal foibles of some of the more morally anointed ones getting their PAC’s ready. I guess they have to fill the void of hypocrisy that Ted Kennedy left behind.

I read a nice assessment of President Obama where the connection was made to how he is an academic type that is prone to lecture and not leadership. Seems to be a high degree of vacillation when certain issues hit home with the Community Organizer In Chief.

The recent disaster in Japan is reflected in world wide financial markets with a massive sell off. Investors remind me of when a forecast of two inches of snow is in the works and the supermarkets empty of milk and bread in panic buying only with the financials it is panic selling.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

More Bogo Brilliance

Charlie Sheen is a wreck. Listening to his incoherent and disjointed ramblings makes one wonder when the mother ship will beam him up. His illustrious behaviors have been well documented and need no repeating. Now these behaviors could be the results of excessive drug use and mental health concerns and maybe a combination of both but what I really take note of is the way the media is actually taking advantage of the situation. Sheen appeared on numerous outlets and I question why they even have him on. To my simple mind it appears that ratings trump personal disaster. Now I’m waiting for someone to step up in this situation either his family or his entourage to at least address the issue. In the meantime the paparazzi and media will continue to take advantage of a person obviously in need of intervention.

Giving a monetary handout to a street person has always presented me with a moral dilemma. A large portion are what we called “bums” or “vagrants” when I was much, much younger. What is an issue with me is slipping a buck or some change into a coffee can knowing with an almost certainty that I am feeding an addiction. Now I use to write a clearing of the conscious check to Pine Street Inn and Rosie’s Place but even those have been outed for having some rather excessive salaries so that is now gone. Some local food pantries and places such as The Conway House provide something with a bit more contribution security. As the years have gone by virtually all of our charitable contributions have been local.

On the above paragraph I remember a time I was in Boston and stopped at a light when a woman came to my car with a young child in her grasp and requested money for food since she and her child were hungry. Across the street was a Burger King so I told her to go over there and I’ll buy her a meal. Her response? “F**k you.” That’s what makes me jaded.

I remember several years ago on a visit to Mexico we observed Mexican youth washing the windows of cars snarled in traffic. This is quite commonplace and anyone who is in a major city sees it. I pointed out to my daughter and wife “Look at the shoes.” They both did and my daughter recognized some real high end kicks. Quite a lucrative business.

Been numerous reports across the nation regarding some rather violent and in your face activity towards counter demonstrators at state house rallies. The rallies supporting union rights have a strong union presence and some have taken to heart Capuano’s “blood in the streets” statement. Wonder why that is being downplayed as isolated incidents when the same “isolated incidents” happened at Tea Party rallies during the last election cycle. Seems like the only major media outlet to really focus on it is Fox.

Having a campaign headquarters as Allin Frawley has done returns me to those electioneering times of yesteryear when the practice - even for local elections - was quite common.

The Obama administration is a wreck and shows little signs of getting out of the quagmire and 2012 is just around the corner - but there is good news. Think Newt, Mitt, Rudy, The Donald and a few others and all looks rosy for an Obama repeat.

How did John “I’d Walk A Mile For A Camera” Kerry miss this one? A quirk in Colorado law allows some estates to pay taxes at the agricultural rate. Tom Cruise has a property he bought for 18 million yet pays $400 in taxes since he allows sheep to graze for a short period of time a few times a year.

Former CEO Cleve Killingworth of BC/BS is reportedly on the boards of at least a dozen other companies and many are non profits. How much compensation he receives from this is unknown. AFL-CIO union president Robert Haynes has been rather reluctant to discuss his 72K kiss from his board position except to say in is only “pennies a year” compared to the billions BC/BS rakes in. Tell that to the folks who have had their premiums doubled in the last three years. But some behind the scenes wrangling obviously took place and the board announced they are “suspending” Their salaries - translation is let’s do this until it all blows over.

William Good is a public sector employee who gets it. He is Commissioner of the Inspection Services Division in Boston and The Herald brought to his attention some rather disturbing problems with how his agency does business. His response? “You have identified a problem and we are going back and clean it up.” No deflection. No evasiveness. No getting defensive.

On Tuesday, conservative activist James O'Keefe posted a hidden-camera video in which NPR executive Tom Schiller bashed the tea party movement as "racist" and "xenophobic" and said NPR would be better off without federal funding. That is an excerpt from a wire story on the resignation of Vivian Schiller - no relation to Tom Schiller - from NPR. This agency should have been cut from the fiscal herd decades ago.

Mike Tyson is in trouble. No it is not a domestic incident, biting an ear off or a threat to “eat your children” but something even more serious - PETA. Iron Mike has a show on Animal Planet about pigeons and pigeon racing but he is no novice since he’s been doing this for 30 years. Well…PETA is all up in feathers over this and has started to picket his house - now that is something I’d really want to do if Mike goes off on one of his bipolar rants. When I lived in Marshfield decades ago a neighbor was involved in pigeon racing and I can’t think of anything that would get me upset about it. His wife claimed the birds got more attention and better care than her or the kids and she was right.

The Wall Street Journal has reported a significant slowdown in municipal bond offerings as state budgets have to be addressed before adding long term debt for capital improvements. The bonds also will have to start paying more attractive (punitive) interest rates thanks to ratings drops. Same applies to local communities.

Newt Gingrich has a unique solution for all husbands that are involved in affairs - the passion for my country made me do it. Yep, Newt, that will go about as far as your presidential attempt.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Too Much To List

At least the rain cleaned off my car.

Companion tickets for airline travel have long been a marketing ploy to get you hooked into specific credit card offers. These are traditional BOGOFREE (Buy One Get One Free) items but they come with a catch. The ticket is only good in specific inventories or fare classes. I have one from American Airlines and decided to attempt to use it but knew what would happen. Round trip airfare from Boston to Houston - Hobby for two tickets came out to $781.60 booked online with all taxes and fees. The same fare booked with an agent (required and $20 per ticket) amounted to $824.20. So using a “free” ticket actually cost more. No surprise.

The above are usually handed out with a credit card offer for 25,000 to 40,000 air miles which is what I am after. Sometimes you may get a pass to their executive club, companion tickets, money off coupons and so on but most are worthless. Just go for the air miles and don’t pay for the card - first year is usually fee free - then cancel out when they hit you with a fee. Impact on your FICO score is negligible. You can also negotiate at that point and I have had the fee dropped and been given 5,000 to 10,000 bonus miles. Remember the more you charge the more they make off merchants who have to pay a fee - all eventually passed on via higher prices.

Capital Planning Committee was well organized in their presentation and their recommendations. The condition of some of the equipment is beyond belief especially those fire trucks. This represents heavy use equipment in all sorts of weather conditions and the results become obvious.

Barney Fife department. A Girl Scout leader says young members of her troop thought they were headed to jail when a Georgia police officer told them to quit selling cookies.
The city's police chief and mayor spoke with the officer. They say he did nothing wrong and that it was a misunderstanding. The troop now has a permit to sell. And to smooth things over, the city is offering the girls a pizza party. Here is the real story. That cop was an idiot. Carrying a badge and having a gun does not make for common sense.

One of the big problems I have with overrides for education is the money goes into salaries and benefits.

The Gas & Electric fiefdom has budgeted $38,000 shutters. I guess they don’t shop at Lowe’s. Maybe they can un-budget it and put that 38K back to the ratepayers? Historical preservation is nice but lower rates are nicer.

So the stock market goes nuts and oil prices go through the roof over Libya. Libya produces about 2% of the world supply which is about what is probably spilled by tankers. The Saudi’s were on record as saying any loss of production from Libya would be made up by increased production from their fields yet that had no influence on the speculators.

Under funded pensions in the public sector amount to about 3 trillion.

A government shutdown is now possible but it is not a rare occurrence from what I have read. Been at least ten in the last 30 years with no shutdown of social security checks. Despite this Obama has said that may happen. Always count on scare tactics.

Teachers should be compensated to the best of the ability of a community but when the fiscal well has been tapped out then a certain reality must set in.

The Herald had an article about court officers having a second job by altering their schedule. Seems to be rather commonplace and many of the court officers are compensated in excess of a $100,000 a year. The pubic is becoming aware that there are now two classes of people - the public service elite and those who compensate them.

The GM of the Boston Celtic - Danny Ainge - shipped out about half his team at the trading deadline. The team is in first place and has the second best record in the NBA so this is a substantial risk. Check back in June for tar and feathers or sainthood.

I just can’t imagine a bigger political disgrace than Democratic legislatures fleeing rather than voting. You oppose a bill and do not have the support to stop it so you play hide and seek. If this happened in Massachusetts the Republicans would be perpetually on the lamb.

Soon the candidate night action will take place. Oak Point (Where every day is a tax free holiday) will have one sponsored by their extremely pro active vets group.

Those pesky Tea Party types have actually been serious about cuts and debt reduction. Seems that too many Democrats have now developed a status quo regarding the perfect storm with benefits and wages to the public sector.

The real action of those influenced by the Tea Party appears to be in the various state legislatures were the perpetually passing down of fiscal insanity has finally caught up. Cuts have to be made or taxes raised.

Have got tickets for the Red $ox games in Houston and Kansas City. I guess spring is here. Even made plane reservations for myself and my wife - The Lovely Cynthia - for KC using air miles. My wife will not attend games but “hang” with other ladies who are indulging our baseball wishes. Oh the payback I face on this!

Warren Buffett remains “optimistic” about our economy. Hey if I had 50 billion or so I would be optimistic.

Rush the blabbermouth has pointed out another wonderful inconsistency in the White House by shedding some caloric light on the eating habits of the First Lady. Michelle Obama does not exactly practice what she preaches to the hoi polloi.

I just wonder when the activity of pirates will grab some type of concerted effort on the part of nations. Seems the defensive exercise is rather shoddy and inconsistent.

The Razzies were handed out and I pay more attention to that award than the Oscars.

The sports team that generated the most revenue in 2010 was Real Madrid a soccer team that made 583M.

Freedom Of Information Act has shown a wee bit of negativity regarding late Senator Ted Kennedy including his rental of a brothel in Chile and a petulant and pompous attitude. Ted is a great example of DYKWIA (Don’t you know who I am?) mentality that seems to have been passed down the genetic food chain to his son “Patches.” I will say I greatly admired JFK and even more so RFK but Ted I had no use for since I have personally witnessed some of his DYKWIA behavior.

You know you are getting old department. The last WWI vet died at 110. I remember attending parades in the early 1950s when you had vets from the Spanish - American to Korea marching. The WWI group was about the age I am now. I do believe the last vet of the Civil War dies in the mid 1950s.

I saw The King’s Speech and it was an entertaining movie but I passed on The Fighter.

Regarding The King’s Speech I found dramatic license taken with the character Lionel Logue who became the therapist for the Duke of York. Logue was shown to be somewhat of a down and out character when the reality was he was financially quite comfortable with an extensive collection of wealthy clients that allowed him to also treat those with limited resources for free. Logue was a well respected professional who was actually the founder of British Society of Speech Therapists. In regards to The Duke of York he confidently made many speeches before the address that became central to the movie. It’s the movies!

Another scammer made contact with me the other day and it was not the English Lottery or some lost relative in Nigeria. This was a cold call from Texas Allied Petroleum for investment in a drilling operation. Just a mere 60K for a ten times that return and complete with a slick brochure that arrived the next day. Only issue is in this day and age one with even my limited internet skills can do ten minutes of basic research that shows this “company” has more red flags than a May Day celebration in Red Square.

The return call was a thing of beauty and lasted less than a minute especially when I pointed out the long trail of complaints and that all their fiscal reports were company created and unaudited. The sad thing is that some folks get dizzy with the promised returns only to be duped out of large sums of money. Be aware that they will often attempt to have the prospective sucker (investor) use their IRA as a means of investment. There are enough shady characters with legitimate credentials without having the fly by night frauds hanging around.