Monday, May 30, 2005

Blue Fans in Kansas City and Los Angeles

Hasn't been much to cheer about for baseball fans in KC nor LA.

I read in the LA Times: (Mike) Sweeney grew up watching the Angels and said attending Game 7 of the 2002 World Series ranked as "one of the coolest baseball moments of my life." In addition to hometown ties, he would love to play for the Angels because, he said, "With Arte Moreno heading the team, they're going to have a chance to win every year."

What is the buzz in KC Sports Talk about possibly moving Sweeney?

The article indicates the Angels don't appear too eager to part with prospects, however.

In another news item: Terry Collins, the Dodger player development director, interviewed for the managerial opening with the Kansas City Royals on Friday.

"I was extremely impressed with them," Collins said to the Kansas City Star. "They've really got a plan and believe in it and stand by it."

Who else is in the running for the skipper's job at the Royals?

As you might guess, in post-game DodgerTalk, there is a certain amount of "dump manager Jim Tracy" talk.

I suppose in the course of a season, the manager might make a few decisions that win or lose games by lifting or not lifting a pitcher who is running out of gas. Tracy usually takes a lot of heat after leaving a guy in too long. Some fans complain the Dodgers don't take many chances on offense in terms of hit and run or base stealing. I suppose it is all part of the moneyball emphasis on walks and home runs that leads to this kind of approach?

Anyway, I think the manager takes too much heat. After all, what can you do if your fifth starter, whoever he happens to be, gets shelled routinely, another starter goes on the DL (Perez) and yet another starter goes hot and cold (Weaver... finally had a solid outing on Sunday after a couple of dismal ones)?

Meanwhile, the relief pitching has NOT been as automatic (appears to be a MLB-wide problem with injuries to closers and late inning blow-ups) as Dodger fans are used to. Gagne is back but he has only been in the low 90s on his fastball. Fans are hoping it is just a matter of time and regaining full strength.

On offense, there is excitment over Perez the youngster taking over at third, dismay over the cooling off of Kent and the awaited big numbers from Drew and hope that Izturis will make the All Star Team.

The team is slightly above .500 which is where experts had them pegged. But this team did start off 12-2 so the difference between winning and losing isn't all that much. Here's hoping they will turn it around.

Go Blue!


Friday, May 27, 2005

LA Scene: Film Festival Links

(Thirteenth in a series of occasional posts about Los Angeles life)

Dear Kari and Two Tin Canners:

Living in Los Angeles means you are likely to attend some "industry" events.

Below are some links to film festivals I have attended over the years:

As they say, save me the aisle seat.


Tuesday, May 17, 2005

LA Mayor's Race Ends Today


Well, it finally comes to an end. I blogged about the race previously.

I went to vote this morning. I was the only voter at that moment when I stepped in. The poll worker estimated that 25 others had voted before me. Quite the far cry from the wait in line I had for the November 2004 Presidential election and a very far cry from the line out into the street for the California Governor recall election that removed Gov. Davis and elected the Arnold.

LA Observed thinks it will be an easy win for Villaraigosa. Hahn is probably starting to feel like Gray Davis on the eve of the recall as no LA Mayor in my lifetime has ever lost a re-election.


UPDATE: To follow the returns go here. As of 10:55, Villaraigosa leads by 17%.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Social Security: Old, Tired and Going Broke


Recently had an employee benefits fair where I work. I confess I don't usually sit around and think a whole lot about retirement and Social Security. However, when the fair rolls around I start thinking a bit more about that retirement program which in my case is a 403b account as I work at a non-profit. I did fill out the form to increase my contribution into the program so I'm trying to be good about it.

This event led me to think about the Federal government program Social Security. I'm in the age group that has had the age for full benefits raised to 67. I will hit that age in 2030. Okay, so now everyone in the blogosphere knows how old I am.

According to this report, the program begins to go into deficit by 2017 and exhausts by 2041. They also indicate that the Medicare program runs out of money by 2020. Oddly, we don't hear much talk about that in the news!

Anyway, Social Security reform is in the news. Seems to me the three general views are: don't mess with it, privatize the whole thing and somewhere in between.

I often like to drop by Kaus at Slate to see what he has to say about whatever is going on out in the political world to get a center-left take on things to balance my mixture of libertarian and center-right inclinations.

In a recent post he said this:
Discussing Social Security, Paul Krugman writes: [T]o avert the danger of future cuts in benefits, Mr. Bush wants us to commit now to, um, future cuts in benefits. This accomplishes nothing, except, possibly, to ensure that benefit cuts take place even if they aren't necessary.

But Bush isn't proposing a take-it-or-leave-it package. He's calling for a negotiation, in which the Democrats could soften the impact of his proposal by substituting some revenue increases for his proposed benefit cuts. You don't like the Full-Pozen "progressive indexing" scheme? Then do a part-Pozen! Make up the difference by raising the cap on payroll taxes--an option Bush has pointedly left open. ... The question of the moment is whether the Democrats should publicly even enter into such bargaining--whether Bush's plan is, as Krugman puts it, "worth discussing." Krugman's argument appears to be that they shouldn't negotiate because Bush's starting position is unacceptable. It usually is in negotiations!
Seems to me that doing nothing makes no sense!

When I look at my checkbook, I either have to earn more money or spend less! Almost always spend less!! Yet, critics are running around saying we can't cut benefits.

I'm really disappointed that nothing is happening on this issue. Even the Social Security administration in their own report I linked to above says:
Social Security could be brought into actuarial balance over the next 75 years in various ways, including an immediate increase of 15 percent in the amount of payroll taxes or an immediate reduction in benefits of 13 percent (or some combination of the two). To the extent that changes are delayed or phased in gradually, greater adjustments in scheduled benefits and revenues would be required. Ensuring that the system is solvent on a sustainable basis over the next 75 years and beyond would also require larger changes.
The latest proposal out there was to index to wages the benefits of lower income recipients and indexing higher income benefit recipients to cost of living. I wonder how much of the way does that go to balancing the accounts?

So far I haven't heard much on the revenue side of the equation. I wonder how many percent will the tax increase be on top of the indexing of benefits to bring the numbers in line?

My gut feeling about the partial privatization ideas is that it is politically dead. Critics don't think the people can do it without wrecking their own retirement.

I wonder how many percent of the workforce are already taking advantage of 401k, 403b, IRAs and Roth IRAs? If a fair number are using these vehicles then I'd say the public is already making choices about their retirement planning. But I suppose only a small percent are doing so? And how good are they at doing it?

This item seems to say the main problem is that there is participation in 401k programs but the amounts being put away by employees is too low and often not in a diverse way. I have to say I find that amazing given how ubiquitous this woman is on TV!

Time to get organized folks!

Not so young, not so fabulous and don't want to be broke,

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Blocked Judicial Nominees


In the political world there is a lot of talk about blocked judicial nominees and the proper interpretation of the "advice and consent" role of the Senate.

One question I had was: who are these judges being blocked. A quick Google search yield this news item. Drum roll please ... snip and paste from the item linked above ...
Those the White House said will be renominated, the respective courts and the dates on which they were first nominated are:

For the Court of Appeals:

  • Terrence W. Boyle (4th Circuit; May 9, 2001)
  • Priscilla Richman Owen (5th Circuit; May 9, 2001)
  • David W. McKeague (6th Circuit; Nov. 8, 2001)
  • Susan Bieke Neilson (6th Circuit; Nov. 8, 2001)
  • Henry W. Saad (6th Circuit; Nov. 8, 2001)
  • Richard A. Griffin (6th Circuit; June 26, 2002)
  • William H. Pryor (11th Circuit; April 9, 2003)
  • William Gerry Myers III (9th Circuit; May 15, 2003)
  • Janice Rogers Brown (D.C. Circuit; July 25, 2003)
  • Brett M. Kavanaugh (D.C. Circuit; July 25, 2003)
  • William James Haynes II (4th Circuit; Sept. 29, 2003)
  • Thomas B. Griffith (D.C. Circuit; May 10, 2004)
  • For District Courts:

  • James C. Dever III (Eastern District, N.C.; May 22, 2002)
  • Thomas L. Ludington (Eastern District, Mich.; Sept. 12, 2002)
  • Robert J. Conrad (Western District, N.C.; April 28, 2003)
  • Daniel P. Ryan (Eastern District, Mich.; April 28, 2003)
  • Peter G. Sheridan (N.J.; Nov. 5, 2003)
  • Paul A. Crotty (Southern District, N.Y.; Sept. 7, 2004)
  • Sean F. Cox (Eastern District, Mich.; Sept. 10, 2004)
  • J. Michael Seabright (Hawaii, Sept. 15, 2004)
  • The Democrats claim that these people are radical judges outside of the mainstream and must be stopped. The Republicans claim they are respected jurists and should get an up/down vote by the Senate.

    Who is telling the truth hear? On what basis would fair-minded people make that determination?


    Tuesday, May 10, 2005


    In the relentless and shameless cross- and self-promotion department, I'd like to direct readers to I have volunteered to be one of the collaborative bloggers over at that site. My first of hopefully many more posts can be found here.

    So if you are a Los Angeles reader or will be visiting Los Angeles and are hungry, be sure to check out and get the collective food wisdom of LA's bloggers!


    Friday, May 06, 2005

    Beane Count

    Hey Kari and the Tin Canners ...

    Have you seen this?

    I've only had a vague awareness of the "moneyball" stat hound approach of Billy Beane, the general manager of the Oakland As. I've become more aware of the concept now that one of his assistants, Paul DePodesta, is now the general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    I heard one stat they really like is the "OBP," the on-base percentage. And according to the web page I've linked above, the home run and walks gained by the offense and given up by the pitching staff are also key numbers they like to look at.

    Anything else I should know now that my team has a "Beane Counter" for a GM?

    Anyway, one key trade by DePodesta was getting Hee-Seop Choi. I heard when the deal was made that Choi was a prime example of a classic underpriced good "moneyball" player. At the end of last year and early this year, the consensus on post-game Dodger Talk was that Hee-Seop Choi would be gone by the All-Star break. But he has perked up of late and the fans are changing their tune. In fact, when I was at the stadium last Sunday, the crowd, the full panoply of Los Angeles cultures were cheering as one, HEE SEOP CHOI ... HEE SEOP CHOI ... HEE SEOP CHOI. Tonight, he went 3-4, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 3R and 1BB.

    Of the big name moves by DePodesta that appear to be working out are Jeff Kent, Brad Penny (hope his arm holds up!) and Derek Lowe. DePodesta also has to be credited with some lesser light pick ups that have done well such as Jason Philips, Rickey Ledee and Jason Repko. Ledee and Repko have been filling in for Werth at LF who should be back in a couple of weeks. The side-armers of the bullpen Wunsch and Schmoll have been pleasant surprises.

    J.D. Drew was another big budget pickup and he is warming up after a slow start but so far remains not quite up to the price tag. Valentin had the tough job of taking over for Beltre at 3B and unfortunately wrecked his knee in a collision at home plate this past week and will be out for a couple of months. The Dodgers look to platoon at 3B with some bench players who don't have a lot of experience at third.

    Go Dodgers!