Saturday, October 09, 2010

From Hope to Fear.

The Obama White House is in transition, writes the FT's Ed Luce. Hope and change is out. Fear is in.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Collapse of American Politics.

Exhibit A.

That's Why They Call It Dope.

Are you ready for bonds backed by a tax on marijuana? California apparently is fired up and ready to go.

Romney Campaign Sends A Message.

Mitt Romney began his career as a management consultant. He was very, very good at it. From there, he rose to guide one of the nation's leading private equity firms (Bain Capital), and he was very, very good at that as well. One of the keys to Romney's business success was that he always surrounded himself with exceptionally smart and capable people.

Weirdly, he has not done this in his political campaigns. His 2008 presidential campaign team was awful in virtually every respect. They misunderstood the political environment. They misunderstood the economic environment. And they didn't even bother to address the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which were of gigantic interest to a huge swath of the US (and especially the GOP) electorate.

After the 2008 debacle, one might have assumed that Romney would clean house and get himself a new team. No dice. Roughly the same team is still in place. And they're busy making new stupid mistakes which make Romney's nomination as the GOP standard-bearer in 2012 less likely.

Consider the state of Iowa, home to the nation's first presidential preference vote (a straw poll attached to precinct caucuses). Iowa has played host to the GOP's first serious presidential straw poll for as long as anyone can remember. And it will again in 2012.

Not so fast, says Mr. Romney's legal advisor Ben Ginsburg, who may be the only person in the world who thinks Iowa will not lead off the 2012 presidential campaign voting. Specifically, Mr. Ginsburg is quoted as saying: "Whether Iowa goes first in 2012 is up for grabs in unprecedented fashion...."

Here's a rough translation of what Ginsburg is really saying: Mitt doesn't want to run in Iowa because he did that in 2008, spent a ton of money and got hammered by some guy he'd never heard of (Huckabee) who spent about 1/10th of what Romney spent. In 2012, he's afraid that if he loses to Palin in Iowa, he will be much diminished going into New Hampshire and the not-Sarah vote will look elsewhere for a champion. So he would like for New Hampshire to be perceived as the nation's first true test of the GOP presidential primary/caucus season."

Good luck with that.

Iowans will translate Ginsburg's musings as follows: "Romney really doesn't like us very much, doesn't want to campaign here, thinks Iowans are too difficult and prickly, so he's going to do everything he can to lessen our influence on the nomination process."

Good luck with that.

Here's the way the system works. The networks and the major news organizations draw up a three part budget for the 2012 campaign: primary coverage, conventions coverage, and general election coverage. Invariably, they end up spending more money than the budget calls for in what is called the "year previous" (which in this cycle will be 2011). They then amp up their spending to ludicrous levels covering the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary. And on the day after the New Hampshire primary they are all essentially out of money; they have to steal from the convention budget and general election budget to keep the machinery going.

What this means is that Iowa and New Hampshire are determinative; they decide who the front-runner is and they decide who the "challenger" is, and the rest of the field is relegated to zone coverage that, very quickly, ends up being no coverage at all. Media coverage is the oxygen of American politics. Without it, candidates simply evaporate. Their money dries up. Their support disappears. They call a press conference and no one comes.

All that being true, dissing the first-in-the-nation caucus state is an astonishingly stupid tactical error. That's what the Romney campaign just did.

Robert Miller.

All soldiers, regardless of their rank, are required to salute soldiers who have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. The last salute for Sgt. Robert Miller was yesterday, at the White House.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010


Roy Halladay paints a masterpiece.

iPhone Coming to Verizon

The battle between Google and Apple for market share just got a whole lot more intense. By the end of this decade, it is believed that there will be 5 billion smart phones in active use. A lot of people think that that the vast majority of those smart phones will be powered by Android.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Baseball's Resurgence.

Attendance at Major League Baseball games was down for the third straight year; slightly (0.5%) when comparing this year to last. The raw data can be found in the links within this story. Minnesota had a great year, the Mets were a huge disappointment.

Inevitably, this will lead to commentary about the decline of baseball, but what's really going on is this: baseball has bottomed and is at the beginning of a talent renaissance. By 2016 or 2017, that renaissance will be filling stadiums across the nation.

Why? Because professional football has peaked. The level of play in the National Football League has never been better. The coaching has never been as sophisticated or ingenious. The players themselves are much bigger, much faster, much stronger and much more athletic than they have ever been.

And that's the problem. Last weekend Chicago Bears QB Jay Cutler suffered a concussion and Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick was injured. There are 20 players who suffer concussions every week and another twenty who suffer injuries that either end their seasons or dramatically reduce their range of motion or ability to compete.

All this carnage has not gone unnoticed. Concussions are not only an immediate and serious health issue, they're potentially catastrophic for players. We're not talking bad knees for the rest of your life. We're talking brain damage.

The parents of highly talented high school athletes are watching this and reading the latest medical information carefully. And at some point there will be a tipping point, when a majority of those parents say to their sons: "You know what, son, you should concentrate on baseball or basketball, football is too dangerous." That moment is almost upon us now, if it hasn't happened already.


The American Ryder Cup team staged a stirring comeback in singles play today, with astonishing performances by Ricky Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods. The rally fell short. The Euros captured the Cup on the strength of their play in the foursomes and fourballs.

But the news today was Tiger Woods. He was 9-under par through 15 holes and was unquestionably the best player on the golf course.

Goodwill Games.

If you look closely at GM's balance sheet, you quickly learn that there will be no IPO this year. Absent some bizarre accounting for goodwill, the company has negative equity. (via Kausfiles)


JP Morgan Chase has re-opened a vault for gold storage, as "investor uncertainty" drives gold prices higher and higher. Gold storage is a booming business, which sort of tells you everything you need to know about our current economic environment.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Advantage Europe.

Coverage Begins at 4am on the USA Network.

4:05 a.m. ET: Steve Stricker vs. Lee Westwood

4:17: a.m. ET: Stewart Cink vs. Rory McIlroy

4:29 a.m. ET: Jim Furyk vs. Luke Donald

4:41 a.m. ET: Dustin Johnson vs. Martin Kaymer

4:53 a.m. ET: Matt Kuchar vs. Ian Poulter

5:05 a.m ET: Jeff Overton vs. Ross Fisher

5:17 a.m. ET: Bubba Watson vs. Miguel Angel Jimenez

5:29 a.m. ET: Tiger Woods vs. Francesco Molinari

5:41 a.m. ET: Rickie Fowler vs. Edoardo Molinari

5:53 a.m. ET: Phil Mickelson vs. Peter Hanson

6:05 a.m. ET: Zach Johnson vs. Padraig Harrington

6:17 a.m. ET: Hunter Mahan vs. Graeme McDowell

A Team USA comeback depends on winning three of the first four matches. I don't know about you, but I wouldn't bet a dime against Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy or Luke Donald. Donald's play, in particular, has been sensational.