Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Year and a Day

The Loop and The Lou -- long self-described as trailblazers in blogspace -- has slowed so far down, some would argue it isn't moving at all anymore. Others might argue that we're still on the go, it's just a different gear. But this blog has never been about arguing over details or semantics, has it?

We'd like to say hello again to our Dear Reader. We may have more than one reader, however our data shows that no more than one person reads our blog at the same time, so we feel comfortable personalizing our message, that's right, to you. How are you? It's been awhile, I know I know, we'll have to catch up...

I am trying to figure out what people are saying about this "fiscal cliff" thing. I like how quickly after this last election attention turned to this newest monster -- I assume in order to prove to us how effectively and earnestly our votes are working for us. As I was browsing some older posts here (our most recent ones, ahem), I noticed a striking similarity between what the politicians are doing now and what they were doing in the summer of 2011. Does this cartoon look familiar at all?

In a piece cleverly [shameless self-promotion intended] titled "You've Lost that Lovin Ceiling", it seems that the same dissatisfaction then has persisted to the present day. Posturing. Hypocracy. False Mandates. No Real Solutions. Ugh. Is Charlie Brown's Christmas special on TV? Much better for the soul.

And in case you have been suckered in to paying attention to the media/politician manufactured hype, consider this quote from a friend-of-a-friend professor in Kansas City:
The most stripped down version of the dispute between the two sides is that the Republicans do not want to raise income and corporate taxes and the Democrats do not want to cut spending. Neither position is tenable given the realities of the debt and deficit – at least according to the bulk of the analytical community. The Congressional Budget Office has been perhaps the bluntest of the messengers but they get support from nearly every economist in the country. The debt is bigger than the GDP (over $16 trillion and growing) and the annual deficit is on track to exceed $1.3 trillion. These are the facts in the debate.

The Simpson-Bowles plan remains one of the most realistic solutions as it managed to evoke massive opposition from all sides in the discussion. The task was to create a solution to the issue – not create a politically feasible solution. The result was a plan that would cut spending deeply at the same time that revenue would be hiked through a combination of higher income tax rates and closing of tax loopholes.

Analysis: The arguments that preoccupy the political leaders today are akin to asking how many angels can dance on the end of a pin. The Democrats and President Obama are bound and determined to task the wealthy but the revenue boost that will come from that hike will reduce the deficit by less than 10% over the course of ten years. The tax reform that the GOP suggests will bring in less than that. The spending cuts suggested by the Republicans will lower the deficit by perhaps 7% over the course of that decade. The Democrats have put forward a set of cuts that will reduce that deficit by less than 3%. In other words the fight is over a plan that does almost nothing to address the underlying problem.

The problem has been obvious for some time but the solutions are as elusive as ever. To reduce a debt and deficit of this magnitude means tax hikes for most everybody – something pretty close to the fiscal cliff we all fear. Reducing the size of government is not accomplished with some nibbling around the edges of marginal programs. A serious reduction means big cuts in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security as well as Defense and other sectors. This level of reduction will most certainly mean that the economy will slow. This is precisely what has been happening in much of Europe and the region has indeed sunk into recession.
Merry Christmas, Season's Greetings and Happy New Year from the Loop and the Lou to You, Dear Reader, and Yours. As we used to say before toasting a long-overdo drink with friends, "Here's to looking up your old address."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Pujols Legacy

It's the end of an era. In a bit of news announced today and anticipated by some for years, and by many for days, Albert Pujols has accepted a deal from the Anaheim Angels worth $250 million over 10 years. News of this deal and Albert's decision has left a lot of people with a variety of feelings, thoughts and reactions.

Comparisons are flying around. ARod, Stan Musial and LeBron James are just a few. Whatever the case may be, it is a little confusing to know what motivated Albert throughout this process. For many years, Albert has professed to want to be a Cardinal for life and had also said that it's not all about the money. Was he just playing the game, or was he playing us? It's not impossible to believe that someone's opinions or attitudes might change over 11 years, but a hallmark of Albert had been his consistency and his words matching his actions, both on and off the field.

Another facet to this seemingly complex story is Pujols' agent, Dan Lozano. By one report, Lozano is a total sleezeball, even in the world of agents, were sleeze is a currency. Was Pujols led down a path by the guy who was professionally trying to show him the money? Lozano's wisdom, without the sleeze attribute, has also been called into question by the deal he previously brought Pujols through -- a deal that made little sense from Pujols' perspective, locking him up through his prime at a severe discount to then try to make a deal in his early 30s.

Publicly, Pujols was an enigma in STL. In many ways you couldn't ask for a better franchise player: A family man and Christian, and a man who made efforts for certain charities he championed. On the flipside, Pujols seemed to only show up to the press after games where he was a hero, and seemed to disappear when he was less than stellar. He was also notorious for being critical of the press and not signing autographs for kids. As time wore on, many fans started noticing what they claimed were attitude changes on the field, including arguing with umpires on borderline pitches, not hustling to first and ignoring coaching staff. Maybe these are just the things that people notice in star players, or maybe Pujols didn't like or want the total package of what it means to be a star player in today's game.

From the perspective of the Cardinals brass -- the men who have to run the business side of this game -- it is hard to find fault. The offer on the table from the Cards that Pujols turned down was already a risky proposition that could have over-extended the entire franchise for years. However, I think many thought that the deal was warranted for Albert even though that kind of deal would probably never be offered to attract a free agent. It begs the question then, was there more to this deal for the Cardinals than just money? Was there some benefit from our perspective of keeping Albert a Cardinal for life? For many fans and for this writer, absolutely. There was nothing I wanted more than to give Pujols the chance for being immortalized next to Stan the Man and for in many ways elevating the entire game itself, still smarting from steroids and other problems. For plenty of other fans, though, no way. The deal was too big, and many are glad to see him go. In any case now, it is confusing. Will the Cardinals retire his number? If he enters the HOF, will he wear a halo or a bird? These are questions that most fans didn't want to have to ask.

There is also the question of his age. Albert is 32 in January, so a 10 year deal brings him through his 41st year. This is assuming he is actually 31 now. Many, many people highly doubt this, and with good reason. There is no birth certificate, and there is an unfortunate pattern of some Latino players lying about their age (or even names). If Albert really turns 34 this January, how much could he have left in the tank? His body type is also not the kind that typically ages well, as so many 20+ year players are skinny most of their career, not stocky or fat.

Either way, the first 11 years of Albert's career speak for themselves -- incredible. And he was loved in St. Louis despite all of his short comings. If it is difficult to compare players from different generations, it is impossible to compare the economics of the game now to those of, let's say, Musial's generation. Pujols walks in rarified air so far and is already considered an elite, all-time player. And although the game is a business, it is not only a business. Many are saying how hard it would be to turn down $50+ million, and that would certainly be true for your first 50. But if it is not about the money, and you already have $250+ million for your family, your children and your great-grandchildren, and you play for a team that has given you two rings with a history and tradition that is junior only to the Yankees and that has arguably the best, most loyal fans in baseball, then what is it really about? The darn humidity?

Let us hope the best for dear Albert, at least they wear red in Anaheim. I hope he breaks every record. But if the game is a business, then I have already given him everything he has earned. I will not bad-mouth or boo the man upon his return, but I will not stand to cheer him either. It's not in my contract.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Ron Paul

This is as funny as it is sad. Part of the reason I stay at all in tune with national politics is because I believe that if we can promote honest discussion on important issues, especially in the media, we will have a chance at reforming Washington.

All this tells me though is that the MSM pretty much comes from the same big business sources and that FOXNews is not really a "conservative" news channel, unless all the major networks are conservative in that they viciously protect the status quo at all costs. Honesty in important topics?

Let Jon Stewart say it funny:

I watched most of an episode of the O'Reilly factor show last night for the first time in a long time. I wasn't mad, I just got really bored. What a boring show. A bunch of people arguing over politicians and not one informative let alone intelligent thing is ever said. I couldn't keep watching and eventually had to watch Ryan Dempster pitch for the Cubs. That's how bad it got.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

You've Lost that Lovin Ceiling

One of the biggest things in the news these days is the hubbub the U.S. politicians are making over the debt ceiling. It's absurd. There's not much I can say about it, but I suppose people are talking about it and maybe might want to talk about it around here, which is fine.

The Republicans are hypocrates and the Democrats are Democrats. Both want to take your money and flush it down the Potomac. Actually, they want to pocket it and re-invest it in the greater D.C. area. Did you know that the majority of the top 10 richest counties are right outside Washington D.C. (the others are all right outside of Wall St.'s backyard).

Money continues to pour into our nation's capital, despite the fact that no elected official would send their kids to any of the local public schools, and we are supposed to concern ourselves with a debt ceiling?

There are some reports that the credit rating of the U.S. federal government will be downgraded regardless. There are reports that if we don't raise the ceiling a disaster beyond imagination will occur. There are reports that foreigners are buying up American homes. There are reports that Republicans are fiscal conservatives. Sorry, now is no time for jokes.

I have been thinking for awhile about writing a post about large numbers and trying to break down the scale of the deficits and debts and budgets to try to make them understandable. If there's enough interest, maybe.

Otherwise, does anyone think Obama, Reid or Boehner has the best interest of the American people at heart? This is why I, a patriot and life long Republican voter, have not voted in a federal election since I voted for Bush the second time. What difference does it make?

But I still read a lot and stay informed. I thought this was an interesting interview, and that this was a very informative article.

Debate on...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hump Day Wednesday

In spite of being a "computer guy", I've never given much thought to hackers. I always thought that they were both glamorized in movies but over looked in real security matters (like when Congress gets hacked and the IP addresses are always from China).

But this group seems to wield a good bit of power. LulzSec. Never heard of them before, but the story is pretty interesting. Gotta admit it's probably a lot more exciting than whatever their day jobs are.

I've always been a big fan of looking for more thorough ways to utilize the energy that I think of as just laying around. Gravity is a big one for me, wind, and now I guess sun. This guy designed a machine that does some pretty cool stuff just with sun power, and that's not just what you think of as "solar power" but also the amplified, direct light of the sun.

Forgive me for linking to a NYT article (I believe they're just a step slower than the average paper, or else they would be up on phone hacking charges now too). But this was an interesting observation and something I've been thinking about in general. Are we making childhood too safe for our children to turn into decent human beings? Not sure this article is making any grand claims like that, but it does make some good points.

OK, and so these videos are cool. The skydiving from plane to plane is sort of wild and hair-brained. But the flying squirrel suits this couple dons create some pretty beautiful situations.

Every time a 26-year-old girl in America quotes 'The Bachelorette', a 13-year-old girl in China graduates from college.
--from Twitter, @NotKennyRogers

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

News Nits

"All the news that's fit to reprint."
Greetings, Dear Reader. News Nits is back from our stint on the DL and is currently in our basement ditching a tornado warning. Reminds me of the folks in Joplin, MO, who were lucky if they were able to ditch the storm, as many of them were not so lucky.

Check out the following videos of a group of bystanders in a gas station who got through the storm in a walk in fridge. An incredible testament to just how scary it must have been. Then check out the second video to see just how dangerous it really was and how they all might have died had they remained in the store. Thus, we are in the basement, which is not too bad since the wireless router is still working.

In other news, when a storm does come to town, it is always good advice to find shelter. However, you may want to stand while in that shelter. Turns out, sitting is bad for the body, regardless of exercise rates and other factors. Even NPR agrees, and this is bad news for those of us who have desk jobs and work in front of a computer or on a phone all day.

Did you hear about the rumor about the emails Sarah Palin didn't send? Well, in a rather brilliant move, Alaska released all of the emails that Sarah Palin sent as Governor of the state (after legal teams screened them all). The brilliance of the move comes in the form that they released all the email by paper -- 6 boxes totalling nearly 25,000 pages. And reporters lined up to get their share. Poses an interesting problem, though, how would one actually go about reading through all these emails and finding any juicy tidbits left by Palin's warpath to stardom? An information processing problem indeed. Who knows, maybe this will allow Mrs. Palin to claim she has created more jobs than her GOP opponents if she runs for President.

To round out the nits as our power just went out... there is a rising anti-intellecutalism in the Geek community. Sounds sort of contradictory, right? But think how many successful Geeks bypassed the academic path... and Geeks are always right, right?

High power magnets can thin your blood in seconds, which is cool since TLATL has a strict no drug policy. The drones are here, which is not cool, because they are here to stay. Pretty interesting look into the seedy underbelly of the military-industrial complex. Who will police the drones? I dunno, the Coast Guard?

Please enjoy and comment away a slow morning or afternoon, as we strive to enrich our readers. I need to go find a flash light.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Decision Time

This isn't exactly The Loop vs. The Lou, but it is Missouri vs. Illinois. And not on the basketball court.

In downstate Illinois, you have Cairo, IL. Wedged in between the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, this town of 3,000 is the southernmost town in Illinois. And now it is being threatened by rising water levels. In 1937 it was the Ohio. This time it's the Mississippi. The solution that the army corps of engineers has come up with is to blow-up a levee and flood over 130,000 acres of Missouri farmland (and 100 homes). This blogs respective newspapers are on top of the story. Chicago Tribune explains the situation here. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch here. Please keep in mind that these links may change as the story develops.

If the state borders didn't go by rivers there is no way Cairo would be in Illinois. Judging from Google Maps, the distance from the Mississippi and Ohio at Cairo is less than 2 miles and appears to be narrower to the north of it. This little piece of land could easily be Kentucky or Missouri. And if it were Missouri, the Supreme Court might not have to step in.

So what's the right move here? Save a 3,000 person town which has been evacuated? Or blow up a levee and destroy 130,000 acres of farmland but only 100 homes? Should Missouri land suffer to save an Illinois town?