Saturday, June 11, 2016

Friday, June 10, 2016

Gordie Howe, Mr. Hockey, Passes At Age 88

One of hockey's all-time greats, Gordie Howe, died today at the age of 88.  Before Wayne Gretzky came along, Howe was the all-time NHL career scoring leader. "Mr. Hockey", as Howe was called, is arguably the greatest player ever, racking up 810 goals and 1,850 points in a long and illustrious career.  He still holds the record for most NHL games played, 1,767, and retired at the ripe old age of 52 after a season in which he played in all 80 games and registered 41 points. In fact, he stayed in the league so long that he was able to play on a line with his two sons in what he said was his proudest hockey accomplishment. And, make no mistake, Howe didn't mind the rough stuff - the phrase a "Gordie Howe hat trick" meant getting a goal, an assist, and a fighting major penalty all in the same game. Off the ice, Howe was held in as much respect as he was on it. On a day when we lay the Greatest to rest, another great one also passes on - a sad day indeed.


How Quickly The Horse Race Can Change

Most people do not follow the election horse race on a day-by-day basis and, really, why should they bother. But it is pretty interesting how attitudes can change virtually 180 degrees in a very short time when you're in the Washington/media bubble.  At the beginning of the week, everyone was worried about a split in the Democratic party between the Bernie and Hillary camps.  It was quite possible that Sanders might win California, leaving Hillary limping into the convention where Sanders would still push his case for being the nominee. Meanwhile, Trump would continue consolidating the Republicans around his candidacy, as Paul Ryan's (ill-timed, as it turned out) endorsement showed.

Well, it's only a few days later. Hillary won California resoundingly and is on her way to unifying Democratic support with endorsements from Obama and Warren as well as positive words from Sanders. And Trump, well, after a disastrous week attacking Judge Curiel, Trump is now hearing rumblings about the party establishment trying to find some way, any way, to deny him the nomination at the convention. Like Atrios, I have my doubts about Trump's real desire to be President. But it's clearly not a good sign for the Republican party that members are pretty openly discussing a convention coup at this late date.  How quickly things can change.

Butts Nomination The Epitome Of Puerile Republican Obstruction

It is now 118 days since Justice Antonin Scalia died and President Obama's choice to replace him on the Supreme Court, Merrick Garland, has still not had a hearing in the 86 days since he was nominated. Senate Republicans have made it clear they have no plans to hold hearings until they see how they fare in the November election and, if Republicans still maintain the Senate while losing the presidency, they may never fill that ninth slot on the Supreme Court.

Ever since his election way back in 2008, Republican hatred for Obama, otherwise known as Obama Derangement Syndrome (ODS),  has shaped their policies more than anything else.  Mitch McConnell's goal for Obama's first term was to make sure he was "a one-term President" and that laid the groundwork for Republican obstruction. And nowhere is that obstruction more clear than in Senate Republicans unwillingness to confirm so many of Obama's appointees, especially in the judiciary - Merrick Garland is just the most notable.  As a New York Times editorial noted yesterday, there are now 83 unfilled federal judgeships nationwide, 30 of which are in districts with such an overwhelming backlog of cases that are classified as judicial emergencies.  Currently, 37 Obama appointees have not made it out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and, like Merrick Garland, 30 of them have not even had a hearing. And Chuck Grassley, chairman of that committee, has made it clear that no hearings at all will take place until late July at the earliest. Seventeen nominees who have somehow made it out of the Judiciary Committee are still waiting for a full vote in the Senate in order to be confirmed.  Apparently, Senate Republicans do not believe in a fully functioning judiciary and the Constitutional right of every American to a speedy trial. As Elizabeth Warren said yesterday after Republicans blocked another attempt to get a vote on fifteen of those seventeen judges, "Senate Republicans have made it their priority to keep key positions empty for so long as possible, to hamstring efforts to protect consumers and workers, to delay efforts to hold large corporations accountable, to slow down work to promote equality." She continued that  "[t]he view of Senate Republicans seems to be pretty simple — if government isn't working for them, for their rich friends or for their right-wing allies, then Senate Republicans won't let it work for anyone." She ended comments by saying of the Republicans' obstruction, "it is small, it is petty and it is absurd".

But just to show you how petty and puerile the Republican obstruction has become in response to its ODS, just take a look at what happened to Obama's choice to become ambassador to the Bahamas. Cassandra Butts, after a distinguished career in public service, was nominated for that position in early 2014. After a Senate hearing in May, 2014, her long wait began.  First, Ted Cruz put a hold on all State Department positions in retaliation for the administration's Iran nuclear deal. Then Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas held up the confirmations of Butts as well as the ambassadors to Norway and Sweden, again, over an unrelated political dispute. Cotton eventually relented and let the other two ambassadors get confirmation votes, but he still held up Butts' confirmation. Butts eventually went to see Cotton about why he was still blocking her and his response was, and is, simply astounding.  Cotton said that he knew that Obama and Butts had been classmates at Harvard Law School and that she was a personal friend of Obama's. By blocking the confirmation of Obama's personal friend, Cotton felt that he could inflict special pain on the President! Incredibly, even today, Cotton's office does not dispute the accuracy of this story!

The ambassadors to Norway and Sweden waited for around 850 and 500 days to be confirmed. Obviously, diplomatic missions have a continuity even without an ambassador, but we do have ambassadors for a reason. Sadly, Cassandra Butts died suddenly on May 25th from a case of acute leukemia that went undiagnosed until it was too late. She had been waiting 835 days to be confirmed and the US has now gone without an ambassador to the Bahamas for over 1,600 days, that's nearly 5 years. And all this was not over any policy or competency issue at all - it was simply to inflict some personal pain on the President.

This is beyond absurd, beyond petty, it is simply puerile. It is high time that Republicans stop acting like children and do the jobs they were elected to do.



Krugman Blames Germany For Disastrous And Unnecessary Austerity

I see that my favorite economist, Paul Krugman, is once again going after the "Davos elites" about the disastrous turn to austerity in Europe. He is especially critical of Germany, saying that country "bears some of the responsibility because of turning what should have been viewed as essentially a technical economic problem into a morality play". 

The lectures on fiscal responsibility by the European technocratic establishment simply provide a cover for them to take advantage of a difficult economic crisis in order to impose structural reforms in the labor and other markets in the Southern European countries and, of course, protect the big Northern European banks who had the most exposure to southern debt at all costs. And it has turned into a disaster. As Krugman notes, after eight years of grinding austerity, the debt-to-GDP ratio in Greece is actually higher than ever. And the (usually overly optimistic) forecasts for the future predict that Greece's unemployment rate will not get below 10% for another 25 years - basically condemning nearly two generations to under-employment. That is sadly, but truly, the definition of failure.

The Right POV - Does It Change? Or Does It Remain The Same?

The Right Point of View is a semi-regular guest post by my favorite Western fiction writer, Edward Massey.  His life is like one of his novels - from the hills of Utah to the renowned McKinsey & Co. to managing the band Blondie to owning a minor league baseball team. He has his own blog about the trials and tribulations of being a writer and you can also pick up copies of his wonderful books at edwardmasseybooks.com. Please check it out when you can. Edward is a good friend and a great guy but his conservative/libertarian politics are more than just my polar opposite - we might not be on the same planet.  But I've always thought it was important for Democrats to at least hear and understand what the other side believes, especially if we are to convert them to our side. They may be right, but that certainly does not make them correct.

This was originally posted on the Western Fictioneers Blog earlier this week.  Be sure to check that blog out sometime soon.  It is re-posted here with the kind permission of the Edward Massey, the author.



Today's presidential cycle asks us to choose between one candidate characterized by her non-supporters as corrupt and another characterized by his non-supporters as boorish. Considering the value system that argues for ignoring corruption over boorishness (not meant to introduce a modern day political discussion), I started to wonder what happened during the Old West years. Starting in 1865, the year of the final armed engagement of the Civil War, fought in Texas, and the Harper's Magazine publication of "Wild Bill" Hickok's shootout with Davis Tutt in Springfield, Missouri, and ending with Roosevelt's presidency in 1909, here is a brief look at each election.

1868 - Ulysses S. Grant
 
Never a politician, only a general, in fact, the antithesis of a politician, he retired in 1854 and rejoined a year after war broke out, after eight years of struggling financially in civilian life. Marked by his commitment to victory, criticized by his detractors for being an aggressive commander, he became Commanding General in March, 1864, only two years after rejoining.
Horatio Seymour, the most prominent Democrat of his day, 18th Governor of New York, was the "White Man's" candidate in a racist-tinged election. Following Grant's election, the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution was adopted. Section 1 guaranteed the right to vote regardless of race, color, or prior servitude. Section 2, little regarded, required New York State (and, of course, others) to comply.

1872 - Ulysses S. Grant
Grant's easy and decisive re-election came in the face of a split within the party that resulted in a defection of many liberal Republicans to Horace Greeley. Because of its strong desire to defeat Grant, the Democratic Party nominated the Liberal Republicans' Greeley/Brown ticket and adopted their platform. In the process, Democrats pushed professional politician Tomas A. Hendrick's reward out to 1885 when he successfully became a Vice President. After the popular vote, before the Electoral College cast its votes, Greeley died.

1876 - Rutherford B. Hayes

Hayes lost the popular vote to Samuel J. Tilden (D) but won a disputed Electoral College vote after a Congressional commission awarded him twenty contested electoral votes. Tilden, 25th Governor of New York, worked closely with the New York City business community and led the fight against the corruption of Tammany Hall. Hayes believed in meritocratic government. His policy toward Western Indians anticipated similar assimilationist programs. Hayes kept his pledge not to run for re-election. His achievement was to restore popular faith in the Presidency.

1880 - James A. Garfield

The only sitting House member to be elected President, Garfield was assassinated after 200 days in office by a person who had wanted, but was not given, a government job by Garfield.
Winfield Scott Hankock (D), based on his reputation as a war hero at Gettysburg, his status as a Unionist, and his support of states' rights, made a strong candidate who ran a strong campaign and was narrowly defeated. His noted integrity was a counterpoint to the corruption of the era. In the words of President Rutherford B. Hayes, "...when we make up our estimate of a public man, ..., we are to think first and chiefly of his manhood, his integrity, his purity, his singleness of purpose, and his unselfish devotion to duty, we can truthfully say of Hancock that he was through and through pure gold".
Chester A. Arthur

Chester A. Arthur (R) became the 21st President after Garfield was assassinated. He never ran for re-election, haunted by his ouster as the Customs Collector for the Port of New York for doing political favors for his party supporters.

1884 - Grover Cleveland

The winner of the popular vote three times - 1884, 1888, and 1892 - Grover Cleveland was one of two Democrats (with Woodrow Wilson) elected President during the era of Republican political domination from 1861 to 1933. The only President to serve two non-consecutive terms, Cleveland won praise for his honesty, self-reliance, integrity, and commitment to the principles of classical liberalism. He fought political corruption, patronage, and bossism and had such prestige that the like-minded wing of the Republican party, the "Mugwumps", largely bolted the GOP Presidential ticket to support him in the 1884 election.
James G. Blaine (R) represented Maine as a Representative and a Senator and twice served as Secretary of State (the only person to hold the position under three separate Presidents), went down to a narrow defeat (largely because of the defection of the Mugwumps over corruption).

1888 - Benjamin Harrison

The grandson of the ninth President, William Henry Harrison, Benjamin Harrison lost the popular vote but won the election because he received more electoral votes. Harrison's increased tariffs (taxes) on foreign goods and increased government spending caused him to lose the 1892 election to Grover Cleveland.

1892 - Grover Cleveland
Cleveland, the 24th President of the United States, who lost his bid for re-election as the 22nd President, won the presidency back.

1896 - William McKinley

The last President to have served in the Civil War, enlisting as private in the Union Army and ending as a brevet major, William McKinley conducted a front-porch campaign advocated "sound money" (the gold standard unless altered by international agreement) and promising that high tariffs would restore prosperity. During his presidency, the U.S. started and quickly won the Spanish-American War in 1898, resulting in the independence of Cuba from Spain. Also, the US took possession of Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. Later the Hawaiian Islands were annexed. For the first time in history, the United States became a world power.
William Jennings Bryan (D) stood three times in the populist wing as the Democratic party's candidate for President (1896, 1900, and 1908). With over 500 speeches in 1896, Bryan invented the national stumping tour in an era where his opponent stayed home. In his three presidential bids, he promoted free silver (1896), anti-imperialism (1900), and trust-busting (1908), calling on Democrats to fight the trusts (big corporations), big banks, and to embrace anti-elitist ideals of republicanism.

1900 - William McKinley
McKinley easily defeated Bryan again in a campaign focused on imperialism, protectionism, and again free silver. He served as 25th President until his assassination six months into his second term.
Theodore Roosevelt

Coming to office without an election, our 26th President brought to the office a true Western experience, having taken the time to grieve the deaths of his wife and mother by escaping to the wilderness and operating a cattle ranch in the Dakotas before he returned East to run (unsuccessfully) for Mayor of New York City in 1886. National fame for courage gained during the Spanish-American War enabled him to return a war hero and gain election to Governor of New York in 1898. His nomination to the prestigious but powerless position of Vice President on the McKinley ticket reflected not further progress in his political career but the reward conferred by a state party leadership that distrusted him. He campaigned vigorously and helped McKinley win an already certain landslide victory over Bryan. In September 1901, at 42, he became the youngest President in the country's history. And, by virtue of his Dakota experience, the most Western.

1904 - Theodore Roosevelt
Soldier, explorer, hunter, naturalist, author, blessed with a cowboy image and robust masculinity, our 26th President tried to mobilize the Republican party towards ideas of Progressivism. During his term, particularly his second, Roosevelt increased the size of the US Navy, started construction of the Panama Canal, and won the Nobel Peace Prize for helping end the Russo-Japanese War. He exemplified well the basic Western value of "Speak softly, and carry a big stick".
His opponent in 1904, Allen B. Parker (D), capped a career as a judge when he defeated liberal publisher William Randolph Hearst to run for President. Mounting a disorganized and ineffective campaign, Parker carried only the (then) Democratic solid south.




Clinton-Warren Ticket Still Makes No Sense For Democrats

With the revival of the drumbeat for Elizabeth Warren's selection for Vice President by Hillary Clinton, I guess I'm going to have to re-post my thoughts from over a month ago on why this is a terrible idea. Yes, it will help Hillary solidify her support with Sanders' voters, but progressives lose not only a powerful voice in the Senate but also what could be an important Democratic vote.

I really wish that this drumbeat for a Clinton-Warren ticket would simply go away as it really only makes sense for Hillary and no one else - certainly not Democrats as a whole. Why Elizabeth Warren would willfully neuter her effectiveness as a progressive voice by becoming Vice President, where your beliefs are by definition subservient to the President's, is beyond me. And with a chance to flip the Senate, why would Democrats want to potentially lose a Senate seat that is safely in their hands. Remember, the current Massachusetts governor, Charlie Baker, is a Republican, having defeated Martha Coakley in 2014.  He would be able to make an interim appointment until a special election occurred, some 5 months after Warren vacates her Senate seat.  That would mean that Democrats would lose a safe vote in the Senate during whatever short honeymoon period, if any, Clinton may get and until June, 2017. And let's not assume that Democrats would automatically win that special election - Scott Brown defeated the very same Martha Coakley (do we see a pattern here?) in the special election to replace Ted Kennedy after his untimely death. And that lost vote in the Senate turned out to be critical on a host of issues.  Yes, having Warren as her VP would probably help Hillary shore up her support with Sanders' supporters.  But for everyone else on the Democratic side, it just doesn't seem to make sense.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

The Deck View - Cocktail Hour!

Cocktail Hour!


EU Parliament Starts To Focus On Brexit Possibility

It looks like at least the European Parliament is beginning to focus on the very real possibility of Brexit and the resulting chaos. The issue for the Parliament is whether those British MEPs would still be allowed to vote if, in fact, they chose to even show up at all.  One can certainly imagine that the UKIP MEPs would be on the first plane home. And this is probably only the tip of the iceberg of problems a British exit would precipitate.

Obama Endorses Hillary; Bernie On Board

Our long, national nightmare is over - well, no, it's only just beginning with Donald Trump as the nominee of the Republican party. But, on the Democratic side, things are beginning to come together. Today, President Obama gave a rousing endorsement of Hillary Clinton, saying there's never "been someone as qualified to hold this office". See the video here:


And Obama also appears to have brought Bernie Sanders into the fold after meeting with him at the White House earlier today. After that meeting, Bernie said, " Donald Trump would be a disaster for the United States".  He closed his remarks with, "I spoke with Secretary Clinton yesterday and look forward to meeting with her in the coming days to work together to beat Trump".

After a long, hard primary that helped move the Democratic party to the left (thanks Bernie!), Democrats are uniting rather quickly and easily. And that's good news for the fall.

Republican Commitment to "Local Control" Only Goes So Far

Republicans continually expose the inconsistencies in their beliefs, especially when it comes to the principle of "local control".  Apparently, that only applies when Republicans agree with it. Last month, we had the Republican legislature in North Carolina pass, and the Republican Governor sign, the bill that regulated the use of bathrooms, blocking a transgender-friendly ordinance passed in the city of Charlotte. Today, over at Moneybox, we find that Republican-controlled states such as Arizona, Indiana, Idaho, and Wisconsin have all passed laws that restrict local communities from regulating the use of plastic bags. Remarkably, some of these states have no existing community that regulates the us of plastic bags, which only shows the power of ALEC and the plastics lobby as well as the cravenness of the Republicans in those states. Recently, New York City also passed a bag bill  and on Tuesday the State Assembly voted to ban the city from banning plastic bags, largely with Republican votes and the help of some Democrats who worry about the effect of the 5 cent fee on poorer communities. For an interesting history of one person's crusade to curtail the use of plastic bags, I suggest you read this profile in the New Yorker. But, for Republicans, apparently "local control" only goes so far.

Obama Eager To Campaign For Hillary And Democrats

President Obama's approval rating is now up around 50% and, unlike Bill Clinton who was essentially sidelined by Al Gore, it appears that he is eager to get out on the campaign trail and work hard for Democrats around the country, with Hillary Clinton's approval. Obama is actually a much better retail campaigner than Clinton so he will complement Hillary's more cerebral style quite well. And as foreign policy partners for four years, he can make the case that she will be a continuation of Obama's policies.  In addition, he can be a clever and effective attack dog in going after Trump and the Republicans, relieving Hillary of having to go negative.  In my rather extended lifetime, I have never seen a popular two-term Democratic President actually get out and actively campaign for the new nominee and the Democratic party.  So, it should be fun to see a relaxed Obama, under no re-election pressure himself, out on the campaign trail this fall, energizing Democrats and taking his shots at the Republicans. I'm sure they will complain, as usual, that he is not being Presidential.

Fed's Fever To Raise Rates Ignored Tumbling Labor Index

Last Friday's abysmal jobs report has apparently put the Federal Reserve's plan for a rate hike in June on hold, probably at least until September. But what's especially puzzling about the push for the rate increase is that the Fed had a pretty good idea that a jobs slowdown was coming. Justin Fox over at Bloomberg points out that there is a measure put out by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) called the Labor Market Conditions Index (LMCI), a composite of 19 different indicators, and, apparently, this measure is a also favorite of Fed chair Janet Yellen. After peaking in late last year, the index has now shown a decline in each of the last five months and has been increasingly in negative territory in each of the last four, the worst sequence since the recession since 2008. So May's awful jobs numbers probably did not come as quite the shock to the Fed as it did to the rest of us.  Which brings us back to the question of why the Fed seems so insistent on raising rates in the current environment. Inflation is still under the Fed target of 2%, hourly wages may be rising but hardly at a runaway pace, there looks to be substantial global headwinds to runaway economic growth, and the current recovery has been relatively long by historic standards although, admittedly, it had a huge hole to recover from. If anything, the risks are still clearly to the downside. So, again, why is the Fed in such a fever to raise rates?

Recent Polls Show Brexit Likely

Recent polls over in the UK show that the camp that supports leaving the European Union has opened up a slim lead. The recently released government report that showed a net inflow of over 330,000 new immigrants to Britain in 2015 has given a boost to those that want to leave the EU.  Of course, polling in the UK still has a black eye from totally missing the massive win by Conservatives in the last election, so those polls must be taken with a grain of salt. But the polls are certainly not a reassuring sign for David Cameron and those who want to stay. And relying on the belief that voters, once they get into the polling booth, will step back form making such a dramatic change is hardly a confidence booster for the "stay" camp. The vote will take place on June 23 and right now markets seem to be completely unruffled by the possibility of Britain actually leaving the EU. But that may change as the date gets closer and polls continue to show a lead for those who want to leave. And if the leave votes do prevail, the cascading tremors of that vote could shake the European project to its core.

Green Energy Jobs Growing Fast

In what is hopefully not too little, too late, our green energy future is getting closer and closer each day. And now we have some other great news about the explosion of green energy jobs. The International Renewable Energy Agency, IRENA, reports that green energy employment around the world grew by 5% in 2015, employing about 8 million workers. And in the United States, over 750,000 people were employed in the green energy sector compared with only about 250,000 in the more heavily subsidized oil, gas, and coal sectors. And as the price of renewables continues to drop, the outlook for green jobs looks far rosier than the shrinking fossil fuel sector of our economy. And, in the end, that will be good for all of us.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Sickening Case of Worker Exploitation In The UK

I guess I'd always thought that unions were still relatively strong over in the UK and that workers' rights were at least decently protected.  But I guess all that has been stripped away ever since Margaret Thatcher gained power and whatever was left of workers' protections has been taken care of by David Cameron.  But this story at the conditions at "Sports Direct" is positively sickening.  In the span of two years, 76 paramedics or ambulances had to be dispatched to their distribution center to deal with employee health issues and nearly half of those incidents were life-threatening conditions.  Workers were so afraid to take time off or even complain to management that one worker actually gave birth in the toilet of the facility.  Of course, these are all contract workers so I'm sure the parent company can legally keep their hands clean. But tell me, please, who are the barbarians who run companies like this.

The Ugly Details Of Republican Irrelevance In California

Just a quick follow-up on the near total irrelevance of the Republican Party in California these days. Kevin Drum has kindly put together nice graph of the vote totals for the Republicans running in the Senate primary in California yesterday:


Not one Republican could top 10% and all 12 Republicans combined could not even garner 30% of the vote.  This is the tidal wave that is coming to swamp Republicans in states with large and fast-growing minority populations. And their Presidential candidate is only making this wave bigger and more devastating.

Republican Policy Proposals Look Backward As Usual, Not Forward

You probably missed this because the news has been totally dominated by Trump's racist rhetoric and the reactions to it. But on Tuesday, poor Paul Ryan, in at least an attempt to make it look like the Republican party actually has some policy proposals, put forward his latest proposals about poverty, national security, the economy, the Constitution, health care, and tax reform. Sadly, the only proposal which has any substance is the poverty plan - any details on the others will apparently be coming later. His proposals on poverty are the usual combination of pushing more people to work, devolving more responsibilities to the state while somehow still maintaining careful oversight at the federal level, combining and better coordinating existing programs, and perhaps increasing the Earned Income Tax Credit. This is pretty much a repeat of a plan he offered last year when it looked like he might jump in the Presidential race.  And, even for Republicans, it seems a pretty weak effort and much of it has already been discredited. For instance, the plan leaves it up to local communities and charities to deal with the problems of child care, transportation, and housing that inhibit recipients from being able to work. The plan offers nothing to help solve those problems.

But Jordan Weissman over at Moneybox uncovered the best tidbit of all hidden in Ryan's plans.  You may remember the Department of Labor recently announced a new rule requiring financial advisers to act in the best interests of their clients. Previously, advisers only needed to provide recommendations that were "suitable" which could include plans with higher fees or where the adviser would receive a higher commission. Now, you might think that would be something that should have been in place a long time ago. But apparently Paul Ryan believes that having financial advisers act in your best interest "will make it harder to save and plan for retirement".  It takes a lot of nerve to put in a provision that is a total sop to Wall Street in an anti-poverty program, but Ryan is willing to go there.

And yesterday, tea-party darling Jen Henserling unveiled a Republican plan to essentially repeal the major elements of Dodd-Frank - eliminate the Volker rule restraining risky proprietary trading, prevent the Financial Stability Oversight Council from designating a "too big to fail" bank, and changes to structure of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that would essentially gut the agency. In its place, Henserling  would allow banks to exempt themselves from certain liquidity and regulatory standards if they have enough capital to maintain a 10% leverage ratio. Needless to say, this proposal is going nowhere not only because Democrats are sure to block it but also because it appears that Wall Street itself is not terribly supportive of the plan. Having already spent millions to get in compliance with Dodd-Frank and raised a significant amount of extra capital, it would take another huge effort for Wall Street firms to raise even more billions to reach Henserling's 10% leverage ration, something they seem unwilling to do. Well, at least it's not another attempt at repealing Obamacare, but you have to wonder how far House Republicans have lost their way when even the industries their proposals are intended to help won't support them.

I'm starting to sound like a broken record, but repealing whatever has passed during the Obama administration is not a forward-looking agenda. The same old tropes of tax breaks for the rich and repealing regulations burdensome to industries that have, time and again, proven unable to regulate themselves will not win elections any more.  These ideas are only slightly more serious than getting Mexico to build a wall or deporting 11 million people. It is high time for the Republican party to put together some proposals that actually deal with the serious problems the citizens of this country face today and going forward.  If they want to become the permanent minority party, they can continue to try to go "back to the future".

Florida AG Solicited Trump Donations Before Shutting Down Trump U Investigation

In an earlier post, I noted how the Trump University scandal was also morphing into a campaign finance scandal as Trump-related entities made donations to the re-election campaigns of the Attorneys General of Texas and Florida shortly after they dropped their investigation of the "university".  Now comes the news that Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi personally solicited a donation from Trump several weeks before announcing the possibility of Florida joining a multi-state lawsuit against Trump University organized by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.  Four days after that announcement and in apparent contravention of the rules governing political donations by charities, a Trump family charity donated $25,000 to a political group backing Bondi's re-election which added to a $500 donation Ivanka Trump had made a week earlier. Shortly thereafter, Bondi announced that Florida would not be joining the multi-state lawsuit and dropped their own investigation. All this happened in 2013, long before Trump had announced or was considered a serious candidate for President, so you might wonder why the Trump family was so interested in a state-wide election in Florida. Needless to say, Bondi's office claims that her solicitations from Trump happened weeks before any money was received and that Bondi herself was unaware of the volume of complaints that her office had received about Trump University when she spoke to Trump. And, of course, under the Supreme Court's view, without any definitive quid-pro-quo, nothing illegal happened here.  But it is interesting to note how little it seems to cost to apparently influence an investigation by a state Attorney General. If only we all had the opportunity to do that.

California Senate Result Is A Foreboding Sign For Republican Party

The results in the California primary to choose who will replacing the retiring Senator Barbara Boxer should be a clear sign for the future for the entire Republican party.  In California, only the top two vote-getters in the primary advance to the November election and yesterday those two were both Democratic minority women, Kamala Harris and Loretta Sanchez. So, for the first time in a century, there will be no Republican on the ballot in a California Senate race. As the non-white population of California grew, so did the Democratic share of the vote until now they control the state legislature, the governorship, and both Senate seats.  The Republican party has shrunk almost to the point of irrelevance in the state.

California has long been a bellwether state - trends that start there tend to slowly move across the rest of the country. With a growing minority population, continued Republican attacks on minority voting rights, and truly racist rhetoric from the Republican Presidential nominee, the future for the Republican party in many states around the country could look more and more like California and much sooner than many in the party seem to believe.

The Right POV - Even A Conservative Has Had Enough Of Bill Kristol

The Right Point of View is a semi-regular guest post by my favorite Western fiction writer, Edward Massey.  His life is like one of his novels - from the hills of Utah to the renowned McKinsey & Co. to managing the band Blondie to owning a minor league baseball team. He has his own blog about the trials and tribulations of being a writer and you can also pick up copies of his wonderful books at edwardmasseybooks.com. Please check it out when you can. Edward is a good friend and a great guy but his conservative/libertarian politics are more than just my polar opposite - we might not be on the same planet.  But I've always thought it was important for Democrats to at least hear and understand what the other side believes, especially if we are to convert them to our side.  They may be right, but that certainly does not make them correct.

What do you do when a Conservative goes off the rails?  Worse, what do you do when a thoughtful voice of reasoned opposition goes cranky and rogue?  Double it when two of them do.  Tidal Sounder has observed the passing of Bill Kristol’s (such familiarity for William) Third Party, of course, with a few words that suggest he does not approve of Bill’s brand of thinking.  In this instance, he should not.  Nothing in years has been as off-base, incoherent, and useless as the nasty and petulant refusal of both The National Review and The Weekly Standard to accept, champion, and guide the Trump phenomenon. Trapped in my own sense of loyalty, I continue to subscribe.  No, I won’t “cancel (my) own damn subscription,” but I will continue to hope that leading Conservative thinkers develop discernment.  In this case, recognizing that Anybody But Hillary is better for this country and get to work writing articles that put shape on the Trump phenomenon and stop nipping at his heels.

Hillary's Big Wins in CA and NJ Provide Crediibility To Unite Dems

Even though the AP had reported Hillary Clinton had won the nomination the day before yesterday's primaries in six states across the country, a loss to Bernie Sanders in California would have been seen as a true sign of weakness, almost limping across the finish line. But her convincing, double-digit victories in the two most populous and important states, California and New Jersey, has her finishing on a strong note.  Although it is hard to know how much the AP announcement effected turnout, California's win was especially important as that really had been the place where Sanders was making his last strong stand. With those two victories as well as the closer ones in New Mexico and South Dakota, Hillary ends the primary season not only as the official winner but also looking like a winner. And it gives her greater credibility in uniting the party to face the menace that is Donald Trump.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Kristol's Third Party Dies A Quiet Death

Bill Kristol's third party candidate has decided not to run after all. He never had a chance anyway but with his withdrawal, Kristol's third party alternative goes quietly and meekly into the night. I'm guessing its time for Kristol to hitch his bandwagon to the Libertarian party or actually do the unthinkable and quasi-endorse Trump with a multitude of caveats. With Kristol, neither would be a surprise.

Yellen Postpones Rate Hike Probably Until September

In a speech yesterday, Janet Yellen, chairwoman of the Federal Reserve, indicated that it was likely the Fed would abandon its plans for an interest rate hike at the next meeting later this month in light of the disastrous employment numbers for May. Although she left open the possibility of a hike in July, that pretty much looks like just posturing. Tim Duy, the go-to guy on reading the Fed tea leaves believes that July is off the table and September is the earliest month in play right now. You really have to wonder about the Fed - the rate hike in December turned out to be incredibly ill-timed and now the June hike has been put on hold with more bad economic news.  You think that they might get the message that it might be worth holding off on raising rates until the economy really shows signs of overheating.  Of course, it might help if fiscal policy could pull some of its own weight but that's not likely to happen in an election year or with a Republican Congress.

Grudging Credit To GOP Senators Refusing To Endorse Trump

Let's begrudgingly give credit where credit is due and that is to two Republican Senators who have refused to endorse Trump's candidacy in any way.  Those two are Jeff Flake from Arizona and Ben Sasse from Nebraska, not the two most likely names that you would think of. As opposed to Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell who condemn or disagree with Trump's racist rhetoric but still support him as the Republican nominee or other members of the Republican establishment who have just remained silent lately (hello Bush brothers), these two have never and apparently will never support Trump. Flake will not be up for re-election until 2018 but at least seems to realize that the growing power of Latino voters in his home state makes it important not to totally alienate them in order to win that race.  Sasse, who is more of a maverick, has probably been the most outspoken GOP Senator against Trump for the last few months, pretty much refusing to countenance endorsing Trump long before he won the nomination.

All those Trump apologists and endorsers in the Republican party, whether they believe they can control him or they don't have the courage to stand up to him, had better hope Trump loses this election. If not, the disaster that will be the Trump Presidency will be their responsibility and history will not treat them kindly. Rather history will point to Flake and Sasse as beacons of sanity and courage, whatever their motivations.

Democrats Should Be Proud To Have Nominated A Woman

I guess it's because Hillary Clinton has been in the public consciousness for so long and the fact that she ran so well, but not well enough, in the primaries in 2008 that her clinching the Democratic party nomination for President of the United States seems almost ordinary as opposed to the historic event that it is.  She will be the first female major party candidate in the history of our country. And every Democrat should be proud of the fact that, of the two major parties, our party is the first to nominate a woman as Vice President, an African American man as President, and now a woman as President. It is a credit to all those who fought to enlarge our party - LBJ, Bobby Kennedy, Shirley Chisholm, Geraldine Ferraro, Carole Moseley Braun, Jesse Jackson, Howard Dean, and so many, many others who had a vision for our party and fought and sometimes died to make it happen. I certainly know that when I was a child, the idea that there would be an African American and a woman as the standard bearer of a major party in two consecutive elections was just a dream.  As Democrats, we should all be incredibly proud of the fact that we made these dreams come true.

Republican Attacks On Voting Rights Assures Their Minority Party Status

Terry McAuliffe's executive order in April providing clemency to all Virginia's convicted felons and essentially nullifying a provision in the Virginia State Constitution that barred felons from voting for life has put Republicans once again in the position of fighting to restrict the voting rights of primarily minority voters.  This constitutional provision was primarily introduced and used to deny the voting rights of African Americans in post-Civil War Virginia, as well as in some other former Confederate states. A research group estimates that 20% of Virginia's African American voters were currently ineligible to vote due to felony convictions.  Virginia Republicans have filed a lawsuit that challenges the Governor's ability to restore these voting rights with such a sweeping executive order and the Virginia Supreme Court will take up their case in a special session in July.

For those who have served their time and re-integrated back into society, the restoration of voting rights offers another opportunity to become truly part of their community once more. And Republicans short-sighted efforts to restrict their voting rights for political gain in the near term will end up costing them dearly in the long term. As the demographics of the country change, Republicans can no longer count on winning elections with just white voters - they will eventually need to bring some minority voters back into their camp.  Kevin Drum had a post yesterday about how the rise of the non-white population in California closely tracked the rise in the Democratic share of the vote, turning that state from solidly red to blue. When the Democrats essentially threw the old segregationists out of the party in the 1960s, they spent over twenty in the political wilderness when it came to Presidential elections. The Republicans gladly took those disaffected Democrats and gained political dominance for nearly a generation.  But, as the Democrats found out back then and Republicans are finding out now, eventually that nativist core is like a cancer on your party.  Gerrymandering and the small state bias of the Senate will only slow the inevitable. Until Republicans can find a way to speak to minority voters not only with respect but also with definitive, proven policies that solve the problems those communities face, they will increasingly become the permanent minority party.

Astrophotography Adventure - Saturn With Registax

In the prior Adventure, truly disappointing pictures of Saturn sent me back to the drawing board.  But, after another adjustment, I got some pretty clear, in-focus pictures of the Moon.  The major adjustment was focusing through the camera, rather than the eyepiece, and using my glasses.  In retrospect, those are a couple of really obvious things to overlook, but overlook them I did. But that's why astrophotography is a lot of trial and error. So, it was time to go back to Saturn and see whether I could improve on the previous poor images I captured.  And what an improvement!  In order to really see whether I was in focus, I needed to boost the magnification I was getting through NightCap Pro. I ended up somewhere between 5x and 7x magnification and that made the image big enough to actually see how well it was in focus.  So here is probably the best single image I got:


Not great but not too bad.  Seeing was pretty poor that evening - we have been getting a lot of haze from the terrible forest fire in Alberta here in the Northeast.  So, all things considered, an OK image.

Since I was pretty happy with the clarity and focus of what I was seeing through the camera, I also decided to see what results I could get taking a video and then using Registax to stack the best individual video frames into an image for me. So, I ended up taking a 17 second .mov video of Saturn using the NightCap Pro video feature. 


video


As you can see, the picture does jump around quite a bit, but that was really my fault as I was still fiddling with the camera while the it was taking the video. The first problem I encountered is that Registax only uses .avi formatted video files.  So, after a little research on the interwebs, I decided to get PIPP (Planetary Imaging Pre-Processor) which will convert .mov files to .avi files for you. PIPP can be downloaded for free and it is a pretty useful tool.  It has some nice default options for optimizing its output for planetary, solar, and lunar videos.  Having converted the .mov to .avi, you can then use the .avi as the input for Registax.  I really just used the standard defaults but if you'd like a pretty clear tutorial on the basics of using Registax, take a look at this link.  In any case, here are the results I got:


Considering the poor seeing, I am pretty happy with the result.  I would be great to get a bit more resolution but I'm not sure whether is need to bring down the ISO some more or whether this was as good as I was going to get in such poor viewing conditions. But that's something I'll find out on another night.

Malloy Tries To Cut $22 Million Using Line-Item Veto

Governor Malloy has employed the line-item veto to eliminate $22 million from the state budget, the first time a Connecticut governor has used that power in nine years.  Malloy's cuts were prompted by the last-minute failure of the legislature to adopt his criminal justice reforms which would have saved approximately $15 million by reducing prison populations. Of the $22 million in cuts, about $20 million were reductions in municipal aid.  As most municipalities in the state have already finalized their local budgets, these reductions could require municipalities throughout the state to adjust their budgets accordingly, either through increased fees and revenue or, more likely at this point, reductions in services. On the other hand, the legislature has the opportunity to override Malloy's cuts when it convenes for the veto session later this month. No line-item veto has survived an override by the legislature in 45 years so, if history is any guide, these cuts will probably suffer the same fate.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Bernie's Transformative Campaign Coming To A Close

Tomorrow will be the unofficial, if not the official, end of Bernie Sanders remarkable, transformative campaign.  Hillary Clinton should certainly pick up enough delegates tomorrow with the primaries in New Jersey, California, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and New Mexico in order to clinch the nomination with a combination of elected delegates and committed super-delegates.  Sanders liberal campaign has energized millions of Democrats and helped move Clinton and the party in a more progressive direction. And, even without winning the nomination, history may look at his campaign as a bellwether for what was to come as opposed to what looks to be more of a caretaking Clinton presidency.

So, after tomorrow, it is up to Bernie to decide whether he wants to continue to fight up to and including the convention or bow to the reality of Clinton's eventual nomination. He is frankly entitled to choose either course.  But I rather hope he stays in the race all the way to the bitter end, fighting for the causes that rallied his supporters throughout the campaign, and avoiding attacking Clinton directly.  As should be clear to every Democrat, the real enemy this year is a dangerous demagogue in the form of Donald Trump.

More Prosecutorial Misconduct May Chill Recanted Testimony

It was nice to see the NY Times editorial today focusing on the pervasive misconduct by prosecutors around the country, especially detailing an egregious case in Louisiana. Unfortunately, the editorial did not mention the decision by New Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro to pursue perjury charges against two men whose recanted testimony resulted in the murder conviction of Jerome Morgan being vacated 20 years after he was found guilty. Morgan had maintained his innocence throughout and his conviction was vacated in 2014 with the help of the Innocence Project who uncovered a 911 call that was withheld by from the defense by prosecutors that made it virtually impossible for Morgan to have been the killer. That, along with the recanted of the testimony of the two main witnesses, Hakim Shabazz and Kevin Johnson, who claimed they were coerced by police, led to Morgan's conviction being vacated.

Of course, that did not sit well with the DA and his office continued to pursue a retrial of Morgan until the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled last month that the prior testimony from Shabazz and Johnson could only be used if the two agreed to testify again. Without just the original testimony, the case could not go forward.  But that still did not stop DA Cannizzaro - on Friday, he decided to charge both Shabazz and Johnson with perjury, saying that they either perjured themselves in the original trial in 1994 or when they recanted their testimony in 2013, which is undoubtedly true. But both men were only 16 years old in 1994 and maintain that their testimony was coerced by police. And with the revelation that exculpatory evidence was withheld from the defense, it seems pretty clear that it might be more proper to investigate what really happened during the case in 1994.  But, no, Cannizzaro is going after these two witnesses now and ignoring the misconduct by law enforcement back then.

It is hard to know what kind of chilling effect this could have on other witnesses who come forward to recant testimony years after a trial.  It is certainly not an uncommon occurrence as people get older and grapple with their consciences, especially if their testimony was coerced by police or prosecutors which is sadly also not an uncommon occurrence. It would be a shame to see those people remain silent and continue to hide the truth simply due to the fear of a perjury trial. Regardless of what DAs like Mr. Cannizzaro think, the purpose of law enforcement and the criminal justice system is to get to the truth, not to perpetuate past mistakes.

Unfortunately, the Times' recommendation of federal oversight of offices where prosecutorial misconduct has occurred seems like pretty weak tea.  The point is to make sure misconduct does not happen, not to monitor the situation after the fact. If you ever want to see how prosecutorial malfeasance can rip apart the fabric of a community, I suggest you watch the ESPN's 30 for 30 story on the Duke lacrosse scandal.  Despite cell records showing the three men charged could not have been physically present when the crime supposedly took place, the DA suppressed exculpatory DNA evidence and twisted those results to imply positive matches. The DA, Mike Nifong, was eventually disbarred but served only one day in jail - a pitiful show of justice for someone who nearly destroyed a community and the lives of three young men.  I continue to believe that the only way to stop this behavior is to mete out some serious punishment for law enforcement officials engaged in misconduct, including disbarment and, more importantly, significant time in jail. It will not stop otherwise.

Reality Check - Initial Data On Seattle's $15 Minimum Wage Hike

Monday's Reality Check - a weekly presentation of facts and figures to help us all discuss important issues with some degree of understanding. Because, despite living in this post-modern, post-truth world, the fact remains that facts still remain.

Well, it's been over a year since Seattle implemented its $15 an hour minimum wage so enough time has gone by to start seeing what, if any, effects on prices and employment that change has made. Back in March, 2014, Kshama Sawant, a socialist recently elected to the city council began promoting the $15 an hour minimum wage. With the support of also newly elected Mayor Ed Murray, that proposal passed in June, 2014 and the first of the phased-in increases went into effect in April of 2015, when the minimum was raised to $10 or $11, depending on the size of the business.  At the beginning of this year, the second phase kicked in moving the minimum to between $12 and $13, again depending on the type and size of business. In fact, it won't be until 2021 that the $15 wage goes fully into effect.

As is the case anytime there is a discussion of raising the minimum wage, businesses raised their usual objections. The response from businesses primarily focused on three areas - they would have to reduce staff, raise prices, or cut back on other worker benefits.  In order to stay in business, firms would have to use any or all of these three strategies.  Proponents of the increase said that many studies have shown that a modest increase in the minimum wage has a minimal, if any, impact on those three areas.

One year into Seattle's experiment, we now have some preliminary data to look at. An initial study mandated along with the enactment of the law was just released by the University of Washington.  And it shows that the feared price increases have just not materialized. The study states, “Our preliminary analysis of grocery, retail and rent prices has found little or no evidence of price increases in Seattle relative to the surrounding area".  Additionally, in an interesting twist, some employers were actually encouraging their employees to enroll in health plan or even adding health care benefits because Seattle's law allows the employer's contribution to workers' health care coverage count as part of employee compensation.  The study will provide further updates relating the employment effects later in the year.

Initial indications on the law's impact on employment have been mixed. One study by the American Enterprise Institute showed a 1% increase in Seattle's unemployment rate, with the city's total employment reduced by 11,000 jobs and its unemployed up by about 5,000 workers. The team at the University of Washington took issue with the methodology in that study and a recent report showed that restaurant employment actually increased 5.4% since the new law started going into effect. Right now, it seems, it is just too early to tell what the employment impact has been - we will just have to wait for the UW study to come out later this year.

It is clear that the initial fears that businesses had about rising prices and rampant job cuts has just not come to pass.  So far, prices have remained fairly stable and the employment impact is still be determined.  The increase in businesses offering health care seems to be an additional positive. On the other hand, Seattle is barely only half way there to reaching the $15 minimum wage level so we really have no idea quite yet what the long-term impacts will be. That's just a fact.


GOP And Halperin Refuse to Denounce Trump's Racial Attacks

As Donald Trump expands his attacks on the Mexican ancestry of Judge Curiel, who is presiding over a lawsuit against Trump, to now include questioning whether even a Muslim judge could be neutral in handling his case, it is sad to see just how many Republicans stand by and accept this blatant racial animus.  Let's put aside the fact that many of Judge Curiel's rulings came long before Donald Trump even entered the Presidential race and headed down the road of open race-baiting. Or that Trump has produced no evidence of a pattern of bias in Judge Curiel's rulings other than his heritage. Facts like that never get in the way of the Donald. But Alberto Gonzales shameful defense of Trump, Paul Ryan's indefensible claim, only hours after endorsing him, that these Trump attacks come from "out of left field", and the deafening silence of so many other GOP politicians only show that there is no politician with any courage in the Republican party to stand up, denounce, and renounce Trump the demagogue.  Poor Abraham Lincoln is probably spinning in his grave.

But as bad as the Republicans have been, you really have to hand it to Mark Halperin. Halperin is currently the senior political analyst for both MSNBC and Bloomberg and co-hosts a daily TV show, "With All Due Respect" with John Heilemann. On Friday, Halperin defended Trump's attacks on Judge Curiel as not being racist because "Mexico isn't a race". With all due respect, I find that defense pretty indefensible.  It is hard to believe that, as of now, Halperin has not been reprimanded in any way by MSNBC or Bloomberg.

Ken Starr Needs Three Tries To "Speak Freely"

I wanted to follow up on the Ken Starr story at Baylor that I had a post on few days ago.  As you may remember, Starr was the special prosecutor in the Whitewater investigation of Bill Clinton which ended up being a witch-hunt into Clinton's private life and infidelities. Numerous reports of sexual abuse on campus finally forced the administration into an internal investigation that showed an incredible failures by the school administration, especially when it came to accusations against members of the football team. After initially just being transitioned from President to Chancellor of Baylor University in response to that report, Starr decided to step down from that post last Wednesday so he could speak more freely about the need for transparency with regard to the accusations of sexual assaults on the Baylor campus.  As of now, Starr still remains as a professor at Baylor Law School.

Starr has always maintained that he was "behind a veil of ignorance" when it came to understanding the depth of the problems at the university.  Unfortunately for Starr, an email from a former student claiming she was raped and sent directly to Starr and other Baylor administration officials has been uncovered by ESPN's Outside The Lines program. That kind of rips apart the "veil of ignorance" argument. And, when confronted with this email in an interview with KWTX television, Starr also displayed problems "speaking freely". Take a look at the interview:


Now it's not quite as bad as Bill Clinton's "it depends on what the meaning of the word 'is' is". But it certainly looks like he is using some pretty evasive language in his three(!) attempts to answer a rather straightforward question. The incredible irony of this happening to Ken Starr is hard not to notice.  But, as I mentioned in the prior post, the real tragedy is the many victims of sexual abuse who were considered as merely the price to pay for a football program that brought in millions of dollars for Baylor University. And that is something we don't need a Starr-like investigation to see.

French Open Recap

For any of the finalists this year at the French Open, it was long, hard slog just to get there. For virtually the entire fortnight, there was rain or the threat of rain and a number of days were rained out entirely.  The New York Times appropriately called it the "Drench Open".  And the wet weather made the red clay slow and the over 60,000 tennis balls used quite heavy pretty quickly. This made for some pretty long matches, especially in the early rounds.

On the men's side, with Roger Federer out nursing his back for Wimbledon and Rafa Nadal's withdrawal in the first week with what sounds like a pretty serious wrist injury, this was Novak Djokovic's best opportunity to win the French and the highest seeded player he had to face before the final was #7 Thomas Berdych whom he demolished in three quick sets.  After the first week, it looked like the only two players in the draw that were a threat to Novak were Andy Murray, who struggled in 5 setters in his first two rounds, and Stan Wawrinka, who just did not seem to be in top form either. Fortunately for Djokovic, those two met each other in the semifinals with Murray coming out on top. Djokovic breezed through the final which I covered yesterday. In doing so, he made history by becoming the first man to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time since Rod Laver won the calendar Grand Slam in 1969. And he could make even more history if he wins Wimbledon and the US Open, both of which he will be an odds-on favorite to win, and completes the calendar Grand Slam as Laver did twice.

On the women's side, Serena breezed straight through to the finals, losing only one set. But she still didn't seem quite as dominant as she usually is. The first round eliminated two of Serena's contenders as Victoria Azarenka was forced to retire with a leg injury and Angelique Kerber, who defeated Serena in the finals at Australia, went down to an ignominious defeat. Then, in the fourth round, second-seed Agnieszka Radwanska and sixth seed Simona Halep both lost on a day where play lasted for just over the 2 hour minimum that would avoid customer refunds before being called for rain. Both players complained bitterly about being forced to play in the rain for a time during their matches, saying conditions were almost unplayable. That only left Garbine Muguruza, the fourth seed, to take on Serena in the finals. In what was a pretty scruffy match, Muguruza seemed to determined to not get in long rallies with Serena and both of them seemed to want to end the points early with winners. But Serena just made too many unforced errors and seemed just a half step slower than usual, while Muguruza, who lost to Serena in last year's Wimbledon final, held her nerve when it counted and won a 7-5,6-4 victory.

In doubles, the French had a team of their own to cheer on as the French pair of Caroline Garcia and Kristina Mladenovic won the women's doubles. In men's doubles, the Bryan brothers lost the final in the deciding set to another pair with the same last name (but not related), Feliciano Lopez and Marc Lopez. And there was more history made in the mixed doubles as the age-defying team of Martina Hingis and Leander Paes both reached a career Grand Slam in mixed doubles with their win in Paris. Hingis, at age 35, and Paes, at age 42, both play the game with the joyful enthusiasm of children, laughing and smiling as they run through the competition, but have all the craftiness of the wily, old veterans they really are. They are just a pleasure to watch - so deserved congratulations to them both.

After a few grass court tournaments for warm-up, we'll see you at Wimbledon.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Djokovic Gets Career Grand Slam; Positioned For Calendar One

Novak Djokovic completed his career Grand Slam today winning the French Open by crushing Andy Murray by the score of 3-6,6-1,6-2,6-4.  Murray took the first set handily as he was aggressive, attacking Novak's second serve (he did that all match), and Djokovic looked really tight, making way too many unforced errors.  Murray had a break point in the first game of the second set and perhaps it would have been a different match if he had been able to convert; but he couldn't. After that game, Djokovic took control and just dominated the match, serving well and moving Murray all over the court, and Murray seemed to run out of gas. Even the final set was not as close as the 6-4 score indicated, as Djokovic was up a couple of breaks before getting really tight as it became clear he was finally going to win the one Grand Slam title that had eluded him.

With the win today, Djokovic becomes the first man since Rod Laver in 1969 to hold all four Grand Slam titles at the same time.  And now the pressure will really start to build on Novak, as it did for Serena Williams last year, as he will be the odds-on favorite to win Wimbledon and the US Open and complete the calendar Grand Slam.

I'll have a full recap of the French Open later on.

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