Archive - Jan 2013


January 11th

More Miserables, cont.

 If you can bear this without losing your lunch, you may be ready to endure Les Miserables!

January 10th

Hall of Fame

The steroids suspects, namely Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Rafael Palmiero and Roger Clemens, were shut out of the Hall of Fame in voting this week, despite possessing statistics which outpace the usual standards for induction. The reason for the rejection, of course, is that the writers who vote don't think cheaters should be rewarded for cheating, at least beyond the tens of millions they earned after they juiced up.

Trouble is, nobody knows who cheated and who didn't. The guilty are admitting nothing. Was Ken Griffey, Jr. doping? You don't hear much about it, but for a while there, he hit home runs at an unheard of pace. There are many others I suspect. I am convinced that one very prominent Twins player was juicing early on. 

Here is a story which claimes the sportswriters are hypocrites. The writer makes the good point that the steriods era probably saved baseball, as it renewed fan interest after the ridiculous labor disputes of the mid-1990s. As I can barely recall, the 1994 post-season was cancelled due to a strike. I can barely recall it because I was so disillusioned with baseball at the time that I quit following. It didn't hurt that the Twins were putrid at the time. 

When they came back from the strike, the players juiced. When one player saw the millions earned by a player juicing, he was pushed to keep up as well. Suddenly, singles hitters became sluggers--and millionaires. 

I had a steroid shot for allergies last summer. Wow! I felt like a million bucks. So, I can imagine the temptation. Man, if I could hit like Barry Bonds by taking injections--I might!

As far as the Hall of Fame goes, I think it will all shake out in the end. If our descendants feel Bonds, Clemens and the others were unjustly omitted, they can have a special vote. Maybe they can put them in "Steroids Corner."

Meanwhile, fans should remember that Roger Maris and Babe Ruth hit many of their 61 and 60 home runs during their most memorable seasons into the 340-foot short porch at the old, old Yankee Stadium (pre-1973 remodel), a right-center field fence built shallow specifically for Ruth, and built shallower than any other in the major leagues at the time. You could debate whether Maris' 61st home run would even have made it out of any other ballpark. 

Another fact: Amphetamines were used in baseball for decades and decades. They were handed out like candy. They allowed players to play in pain and forget about their injuries. After their ban, I think we've seen a lot more players sitting down for injuries--which is proper, in one sense. 

My way of coping with all this non-sense, and the additional non-sense of players all moving to high budget teams after they have a few good years, is to concentrate upon the game on the field. Joe Mauer's beautiful swing. Bryce Harper's panache. R. A. Dickey's knuckler. Jim Thome's moon shots. I concentrate upon the beauty of each game, the 1-0 complete game shutout, the double plays, the strategy. The defenses have never been better. Fielders are more acrobatic than ever before. 

So, there is much yet to enjoy. 

You just have to block out the baloney. For me, that baloney includes the Hall of Fame. 



January 8th

Texas Capitol


Spent the past four days in Austin, TX attending a funeral––four days, including two travel days. Yesterday, I had time to go see the Texas Capitol in downtown Austin. Above is a drum circle, the noise from which resounded through the massive building. 


Just as with many capitol buildings, the staircases are meant to impose. 


Even the hinges on the massive oak doors let there be no mystery where you are. 


This plaque was on display in a prominent location near the rotunda. In response to the second paragraph, it is always interesting to ask people who hold to this creed, and they still exist in large numbers, just why the Civil War was fought. 

They usually just sputter. 

January 3rd

Fiscal cliff non-sense

Now we're supposed to congratulated Congress for doing what they should have done long ago. All they did was avert a disaster of their own making. 

The tax increases agreed to are so very minor they barely make a difference. Even so, the House Republicans were ready to scotch the deal and let taxes go up on everybody rather than allow tax increases on those who clear over $250,000 per year. In the end, they settled reluctantly at $400,000 per year. Sorry folks, but we need a lot more revenue than that. We need a full return to the Clinton era tax rates, which were perfectly reasonable. I think the economy did fine those years, as I recall. 

I am a firm believer in steeply progressive marginal tax rates. That is, as you make more, you pay a higher percentage. Far from decreasing business activity, a steeply progressive rate encourages reinvestment rather than savings. I have said it here in this space very often: High marginal tax rates (we had up to 91% rates on the highest incomes in the 1950s, when we prospered and built the interstate highway system, funded the Marshall Plan, and paid off World War II debts) encourage businesses to re-invest in their business rather than squirrel the money away. If you save 50% on what you spend, you're more likely to do it!

Of course, it is stupid to buy a new pickup just for the deduction if you don't need one. A lot of people were buying machinery and cars and other toys at the end of last year to avoid taxes. Foolishness. But if it is an authentic investment in building your business, it is wise. 

We had a good year at the nursery this year. Did we squirrel the money away? No, I didn't want to pay the tax. Instead, we dumped $47,000 into tarring our yard, and improvement in our business which will last for decades. Why was I so happy to spend that money? Because the tax on that money would have been about $20,000, so that brought the cost of the tar down to $27,000. No bargain, but you can understand how the higher tax rate on the last money I earned in profit encouraged me to reinvest and keep the tar guys busy. They spend that money again--in fact, a lot of the guys who helped tar the yard have already ordered trees for next year!

A high tax rate on higher incomes keeps the money going around as people avoid that tax. 

A flat tax is insane, and a recipe for economic stagnation. If you lower Joe Mauer's tax rate so he has an extra $2 million per year to take home, what will he do with it? Build another house? Hire a new maid?  I doubt it. He has all he can do to spend the $12 million or more he takes home already out of his $20 million salary. 

Our existing tax policy is not all that bad. All we need to do is revert to a few years back. What is really crazy are some of the ideas, particularly the ideas which are accepted as dogma by the House Republican caucus. 

I wish I could say it is fun to watch the Republican party implode. However, they seem intent upon bringing down the country in the process, which nobody should wish for.




January 1st

Frost in Gold Canyon