Peyton Manning’s future is IQ test for sports writers

There are more superstar quarterbacks that come back from major injuries than there are first round quarterbacks that turn into top 5 quarterbacks.

Andrew Luck is supposedly a great college player.  We’ll see if that means anything when he hits the NFL.

People are saying that the Colts will have to cut Manning because they will owe a $28 million bonus March 8 unless they cut him.

If so, it makes sense for Manning to renegotiate.  Because he probably isn’t going to get that $28 million. 

Manning leaving is a lose-lose situation.  If he leaves, it is for a team that isn’t built around him, and we’ve already seen how the team does with other quarterbacks .

Maybe the reason Aaron Rodgers is so good is that he was the backup to Favre for a while.  It wouldn’t hurt for Luck to have a few years learning at the NFL level without the same pressure. 

Who knows how many of those first round draft pick busts could have been hall of famers if they didn’t have to sink or swim the first year. 

The whole situation might be a big motivator for Eli Manning in the playoffs.  He knows better than anybody remaining that you never know, one bad hit and you’re done.  So you take every shot at the Superbowl and major records like it’s the last one ever.  And if life gives you a chance at another one, you take that one like it’s the last one ever.

About the only quarterback immune from ridiculous retirement chatter after a major injury is Brady.  Everybody else, we hear about who is the next guy.  And that’s how you lose guys like Drew Brees and Kurt Warner. The worst part is the general managers listen to it.



Bigger boats may require revised maps

I have this suspicion that the captain of the cruise ship that just crashed and the authorities who say that hazards are marked on nautical maps may both be right.

Cruise ships are getting bigger and bigger, starting to get aircraft carrier sized. The bigger a ship gets, the further under the water it is going to go.

Makers of water charts have to make a decision when they chart things about what is a hazard and what isn’t.

I’m not sure what their standards of practice are, but I would expect that, depending on when charts are drafted, the specs may vary.

When is something too deep to be listed as a hazard? 10 meters? 50 meters? 100 meters? The draught listed for the Costa Concordia is 8.5 meters, I presume that is empty.

This kind of accident happens from time to time, usually not with the same dramatic effect:

I would think that key things to look for would be how old a chart is and the specifications at the time, along with the reputation of the chart provider. Maybe what is needed is some kind of Google earth thing for the sea that goes over every inch of sea that is close to ports or shipping lanes and verifies everything with sonar.

There could be interesting tort issues here, if an uncharted obstacle was hit. They should be able to backtrack (I am assuming a $600 million ship has some kind of ongoing GPS tracking that is retained) to approximately the spot of impact.

If the captain went into charted waters that are not the typical route, is that negligent? If you use the route that all the other big ships are using the chance of hitting something should be negligible. Are you entitled to rely on the charts?

Whether there is any requirement in shipping to file a travel plan, like a plane would have to file a flight plan, I don’t know.

Chart makers I wouldn’t expect to have to anticipate future changes in technology and increased ship size.

Then there is the issue of the captain’s choice to head to shallow waters. Whether that makes him a hero or goat is hard to say. I’m assuming that there are enough lifeboats for all the people on board and it may have been better to get everybody on immediately.

On the other hand, I suppose there was a risk if anybody got trapped inside as the chance of rescue would be minimal if the boat was going to go down. I don’t know how long it takes to get those boats into the water.

Poor crew training may have been a factor in creating chaos.

Of course there is an issue of not knowing what was going on. It is a “fog of war” kind of situation.

If you are in waters where you shouldn’t be able to hit anything, and suddenly the ship shudders and gets an electrical problem, it is going to take precious minutes to figure out what that means. Did one of the engines kak out, did you just get hit by another boat (including somebody’s shallow submarine, you don’t really know at the outset what is going on. Lacking experience in what that means, it may be hard to interpret what those signs mean.

The first three deaths are people that jumped into the water rather than wait for the lifeboats. Cold water can kill in under ten minutes, and can cause an instant heart attack, so the movie inspired diving into the sea was misconceived.

It’s interesting that rock is actually embedded in the ship. The rock piece looks a little pointy and the general reports don’t suggest the type of impact that one would expect from hitting a rock wall or the main part of a reef, so it was probably just jutting up.

I have to wonder if there is some way to idiot-proof large craft.

We build styrofoam not to sink but not billion dollar boats. The old reed, oil and bitumen boats from thousands of years ago (including allegedly the ark) were practically unsinkable.

Most modern boats work on a cheat of physics, that they can keep enough air in that an object that is heavier than water can stay afloat. Systems of bulkheads have improved this in larger boats so that areas can be shut off. But the problem remains that if enough water gets in, down it goes.

Now if all bulkhead doors had to be closed except if somebody is stepping through, and the hull were thick and designed to have millions of air pockets, you could probably design a ship that could be gashed for its’ entire length and not go down. A military ship could be designed to take a hit from a regular torpedo and still stay afloat if the munitions don’t explode.

The question is always cost, but when you lose a boat that big, and face lawsuits, and probably lose a lot of business on the rest of your fleet, that adds up too.

Something about these vertical ships never did look quite right. They look too top heavy, like they are ready to tip over. If they are bigger from side to side and more squat they might be safer. Fuel costs may go up if there is more drag. It might also be harder to get a broader ship into harbour. Oh well.

There maybe needs to be some form of chart certification, confirming that an area has been sonar checked on a meter by meter basis, and outside of main shipping lines, make the standard something like 5o meters certified minimum depth.  Splitting hairs about whether you should be able to just make it is an unnecessary risk.  Maybe the passengers don’t get as good a view.  Oh well.

In geologically active areas it may be especially important to have a large margin of error.  If a flow of magma bumps something 5 meters higher you don’t want to have a problem.   Earthquakes may also shift areas several feet higher.

One thing I wonder about is whether these big vessels have some kind of sonar going at all times.  That doesn’t cost much and the ship could automatically alert crew if an obstacle is approaching.


More specifics needed on Romney’s time with Bain Capital

Romney has been running as much on his experience as a venture capitalist as he has on his experience as a governor.

That makes his actions at Bains fair game.

The problem with the game that we are seeing though is there is no scoreboard, no endzone, not anything that could let us analyze his activities in any disciplined way.

Romney says that he saved lots of jobs.  That is possible.  Here is the case for the Bain Capital approach.

Sears/Kmart has needed to be taken over and house cleaned for at least 20 years and the failure of anybody to do that may result in a formerly iconic brand collapsing within the next 2-3 years.

Walk into a Walmart, Target, Staples or similar store and you will be struck by the level of focus.  Every available space is taken up by something that somebody wants or needs to buy, usually at a realistic price.

Walk into a Sears store, or some of the other old dinosaur stores, and you see vast empty spaces sparsely filled with mostly garbage.  Within 30 seconds of walking in to a Sears store, you should be able to determine that no thought has gone into it as a business at all.

A couple of years back I was given a $250 Sears gift card.  I walked through the local store, top to bottom, and wound up settling for some socks and underwear and used the rest to buy a $200 prepaid visa card.

The few things in the store that I had any interest in were absurdly overpriced.  I couldn’t find anything to spend $200 on in the entire 2 level store.

Maybe 5 years ago I was in a Sears store for some electronic thing, I can’t remember exactly what it was, and I found it at a reasonable discount, so I took it to a till.

The person at the till was distracted for about 10 minutes by some caller on the phone who had some vague enquiry about some minor type of product.  The result of that conversation was predictably inconclusive, after which the cashier put in my purchase.  The price that came up was more than $100 over the posted discount price, presumably the undiscounted price. 

So I tell the cashier this.  About then somebody else comes up to the counter, he says he’ll look into it after he rings their purchases through.  Then we go to where the price is posted and he sees it.  I can’t remember exactly why he didn’t ring it in then and there as it was some time ago, whether he needed to call somebody for an override which may have been why he couldn’t just put in the posted price, and then he gets caught up with other people coming to the till with minor items (mine was I recall in the $200 range).

Eventually I just put it down and left in disgust.

If there is a number 1 egregious sin of sales, it is inability to close a made sale, a problem that some internet retailers used to have.  How do you lose a sale when the customer has decided to buy the item for the posted price and brought it to the cashier to pay for it? 

If you look at the majority of Sears clothing, the impression you will have is that somebody somewhere wants to ensure that their retarded nephew has gainful employment and has secured the retard a position designing clothing to be sold at Sears.

You will find much higher quality at Value Village.

Sears employs 300,000 people.  If somebody like Bains Capital doesn’t come along and clean house, all of them will lose their jobs.   If the right people come along, Sears might employ 200,000 people 3 years from now.  It might go from there to employing 5 million people 20 years from now, with multiple branches in Berlin and Moscow and Beijing and Tokyo.

I take it that Sears has survived for so long on brand loyalty.  Nobody hates Sears.  There is something all-American about it, down to the blissful incompetence of a monolithic company and intransigence in the face of looming disaster. 

Surviving on brand loyalty and nothing else is like surviving in an ICU on a ventilator.  Brand loyalty is the ventilator, making the patient’s chest go up and down.  You need more than that to have a future.

The collapse of a monolithic company makes waves.  Marquee companies like Bear Stearns, AIG, Fannie Mae, Lehman Brothers etc. seem to have a stronger negative effect on the markets, and possibly the economy, than hard data.  It is better if a way can be found for them to be saved, if it is viable.

Here is the negative side of the “Vulture Capitalists”.  Some groups of investors have historically done the opposite of the above, performed essentially hostile takeovers of undervalued, viable companies and looted them, turning them into unviable disasters.

Romney has been accused of being a party to some of these raids, although there is a lack of readily available published specifics.

If Romney did take a company over and destroy the lives of everybody involved so he and a group of corporate predators could get rich, I would see that as extremely relevant as to whether he could be trusted to be president. 

I would, however, need to have more specifics. 

I would be particularly interested in facts such as the financial situation of a company and the wage profiles of the employees before the takeover and at various stages after the takeover. 

If there is a company taken over by Romney that had a profit in its’ last quarter before takeover, and which was in good shape, but which closed within a couple of years after takeover, which sending out massive amounts of cash to Romney and his investors, that would be a major black mark on Romney’s record.

The assessment has to be done for each company that his group took over.

The only specific company that Romney’s group took over that I know anything about [that I am aware of] is Staples, which he organized a takeover of.  Staples is one of the more useful companies out there, and branches keep sprouting up everywhere, so it is more than viable.  On the other hand the staff are a little dim so I suspect that they aren’t paid much.

One possibility is that the results are a mixed bag and that it is possible to financially save a company but kill it’s soul.   Romney has been made out to either be a corporate saviour or a corporate antichrist and it is more likely that there have been some good and some bad results, sometimes mixed together. 

If Romney is the only candidate to save or create more minimum wage jobs than Rick Perry, that would not make him particularly heroic.

There is insufficient information published in any readily available media links to assess Romney’s business record in any disciplined way.

I take it that the failure of any campaign, including Romney’s, to publish such information and make it readily available is because the information if published will muddy the issue and detract from the simplistic, improbable clarity of the messages of the individual campaigns.  That said, I would really like to see the information myself and make my own assessment.



Canada’s gay marriage flap probably overstated

Canada’s marriage laws have been awkward from confederation, with the provinces having jurisdiction over marriage and the federal government having jurisdiction over divorce.

It’s been said that the federal government has stated that gay marriages of foreigners in Canada are not valid, but that is probably overstated:

Really the federal government doesn’t have standing to make such a decision for the provinces.

I suspect the trivially true position that if you marry in Canada as a tourist and then go back to live in your home state that doesn’t allow gay marriage or recognize it, your marriage is invalid for your jurisdiction.

It is hard to imagine how such a position could even be described as provocative.   If Canada were to purport to direct e.g. property division and other marriage and divorce related matters in other states, that would be a provocative position. 

Canada has a divorce requirement of residency in the jurisdiction of a year, which is a similar courtesy.   Divorce tourism is not desirable and the social decisions about child custody, property division, spousal support etc. are properly made in the jurisdiction with which the parties have the closest connection.

The idea that Canada could be compelled to change it’s divorce laws to accommodate foreigners that have married there as tourists, doesn’t make any sense.  

If there is to be any criticism it should be of the provincial governments for allowing lax residency requirements for marriage, which encourages gays and lesbians to enter into marriages they may have difficulty ending.


Romney tax plan is awful

So Romney intends to tax the poor more and give the rich more tax breaks.

This is an example of why I despise Republicans generally.  They use Jesus to convince people they have to vote for a Republican [notwithstanding the party is so removed from Jesus they are practically devil worshippers], and then attach their religious manifestos to economic manifestos.

The practical result is that since abortion for instance is a constitutional issue, voting for somebody based on their position on abortion is a non-sequitor, a form of moral support that doesn’t change anything…except that the people pimping that non-issue are using it to distract from their real purpose of returning us to a feudal society run by corporations instead of barons.

Ron Paul is the only Republican right now that I can really stomach and he objectively is more of a Democrat.

Here is what is most needed in a tax plan: simplify.

Eliminate as many loopholes as possible or reserve them for the poor and lower middle class who need them.

One of the most important things is reducing the number of taxes.

If done properly, that can be revenue neutral while dramatically reducing the cost of government.  Most tax should be income tax and progressive.   

One tax that should be abolished everywhere: property taxes.

I can think of no tax more heinous or regressive than a tax on real property.

If a man has earned a property, he should be allowed to keep it unmolested by the government, who in most cases will not even be a party to the purchase and sale.

Property taxes are sometimes used to pressure people to sell their homes so that it will be easier for developers to redevelop property.

Property taxes are tied to the presumed value of the property if it were sold, even if it is not for sale.  There is no connection with ability to pay.

Propery taxes create a redundant taxing authority which can be entirely eliminated without any loss of revenue, other than from the taxes of the incomes of the parasites that run it.

Too often the governments play shell games with taxes, making lots of taxes, concealed taxes, and then drop the income taxes down to dupe the voters.  That is an expensive, immoral and dishonest approach.  It conceals taxation, which may be superficially popular, but the result is a more cumbersome tax system.

Municipalities should be funded differently.  Funding municipalities through property taxes is a mistake.

Tax collection should be streamlined and equitable. 

Imagine if there were a stereo tax, and every year you had to pay the government $50 for the right to keep using the stereo you already paid for, or they would take it away and auction it.

Or a fridge tax.

Or a car tax.

If any government did the same thing with any other kind of property there would be universal outrage.

It could be said that the property taxes paid for services.  But that is a mistake.  There is not much correlation with the costs of services and that can be addressed with a proper system of taxation and/or user fees. 

If person A has a property that is assessed at $500,000 and person B has property assessed at $250,000, person A is probably going to be paying twice as much in property tax as person B even if person B lives in a location where the incremental cost of providing the same services is double.

In some cases, where person B makes less money, that may in a roundabout way have a result similar to progressive taxation.  But the same result could have been achieved with greater certainty with a proper and higher progressive income tax, which would save the entire cost of the property tax system.

And, if person A is somebody’s retired and disabled grandpa and would will be forced out of the home he worked his whole life to earn, there would be nothing equitable, justifiable or desireable about the result at all.

I’d like to see it in the constitution: no property taxes.

Rope a dope in Denver

First time I’ve seen the “rope a dope” type strategy in football.  Throughout the first quarter the Denver Broncos were absolutely awful.  The plays called were so bad I was embarrassed for the players.

The thing is, one of the weaknesses of the Steelers is that they sometimes go to sleep if they outclass an opponent and lose a game they should win.

Denver has a better chance against New England than they did against Pittsburgh so this could get interesting.

Brent Crude benchmark is the enemy, not Iran

Although the “Brent Crude” category of oil is losing objective relevence due to depleted stocks, and is priced higher because of those supply problems, it is becoming the “benchmark” for setting oil prices because producers have discovered that consumers and businesses are will pay the higher amount.

That is of course because we don’t have any choice.  That is why government is supposed to take action against price fixing.

One of the reasons why car gas prices have been high all year even though oil’s price per barrel was relatively low for much of the year is this spread.  Another is the parasitic speculation that our governments negligently allow.   What you might call “naked buying” of oil is far more dangerous to the world than “naked short selling”. 

Naked buying means that investors who add no value and never take delivery or deliver any oil at all are receiving some of the proceeds.  That drains money that would be spent on the real economy.  It is a dangerous form of price fixing because the only way to opt out of paying the prices is to not use any oil products such as gasoline at all.  To the extent that gas prices are built into food costs there is no way to opt out at all.  Food will have to be shipped to markets and the additional costs will be passed on to the consumer.

The 2008 economic crash was primed by the surge in the costs of oil and gasoline, which crippled the economy.  The first step in that catastrophe was a surge in oil and gas prices caused by speculation rather than supply and demand.

If we allow the same  crippling action again we are inviting the next crash, having not yet recovered from the previous one.  With the problems in Europe we are teetering on the brink of worldwide economic depression.

Such a depression will not serve the oil producers for a number of reasons (although I am certain that  Goldman Sachs will find a way to make money out of it).  Consider for instance that during the great depression worldwide manufacturing dropped by one third.   If that happens one would expect that supply of oil will vastly exceed demand and oil producers will be lucky to get $20 per barrel for 5-10 years.   If the humanitarian disaster and artificially constructing tensions that could lead to world war 3 aren’t enough of a motivator to get oil producers to cooperate with sensible pricing, maybe the prospect of cheap oil will do the trick.

One commentator noted in 2008 that demand for oil was actually dropping at the time of the price surges back then so supply and demand were not the cause of the problem.

As with health care and other critical economic areas, private citizens, small business and even most big businesses have almost no leverage to control the price and the responsibility for doing so falls to the government.  Unless supply exceeds demand, most consumers of oil and gas have to pay as much as they can barely afford in the short term, if necessary at the expense of cutting in other areas.

One of the more offensive aspects of this price fixing is that, to the extent that oil and gas are domestically produced, our own oil and gas are getting sold back to us at a 100% premium.  That adds insult to the injury of giving away our natural resources almost for free and giving the wealthiest corporations on earth tax breaks in return for them accepting the onerous obligation of robbing us blind.

So if oil costs are rocketing, why is it that the US and other countries are making the terrible decision to impose sanctions against Iran, one of the world’s leading oil producers?

The reason is that the sanctions have nothing to do with Iran’s non-existent nuclear threat.  The conclusion of the ominous UN report that Iran’s nuclear weapons program “may” have continued after 2003, i.e. there is no evidence that it did continue after 2003, is a preposterous basis for severe sanctions in 2011.

What the sanctions will do is reduce the supply of oil which will tend to drive prices higher, and more specifically prevent prices from collapsing to a more realistic level.

In some ways, from the perspective of an evil investor, such an arrangement may even be preferrable to conquering Iran as was done with Iraq and Afghanistan.  A war may disrupt supply, but eventually when the supply is back on line, there is no longer an excuse for keeping it off the market.  Sanctions create the possibility of perpetually keeping supply out of the market without the risk and expense of a war.

The sanctions against Iran will be worth tens or hundreds of billions of dollars to those who are making money off artificially inflated oil and gas prices.

This is at a time that the public, legitimate businesses and governments can ill afford to give greedy rich individuals and corporations such an unearned gift.

We probably won’t see any real action from Obama on this because he, like Bush, is far too close to Goldman Sachs, who spearheaded the creation of the commodities bubble in 2007-8 and probably a similar role with the present bubble.

I note that if anybody who had prior notice of sanctions against Iran could have made an enormous amount of money with investing positions that exploited access to that information.

A government that wished to respond in kind could time announcements for the opposite effect, say by using intelligence agencies to determine a hostile corporation’s long and short exposure and resulting weaknesses. If they, say, are long in options in a commodity, a well timed government announcement could render those options worthless, and if they have no advance knowledge, they could be stuck. If they do protect themselves by making what would be an irrational decision without that knowledge, you nab them on insider trading.

The US – Iran standoff is a lose-lose situation for both nations and their citizens.   The foundation for it is even worse than the foundations for the Iraq war. 

What the west should be doing is looking at how to integrate Iran into global civilization.  That will, in time, have the desired effect of moderating Iran. 

Iran needs to sell its’ oil and we need to buy it.

There is an obvious solution here.

The solution is not diminished in any way by its failure to make Goldman Sachs money and its potential to lose Goldman Sachs money.

The 2009 Pentagon report on economic terrorism hypothesized that there could have been a multi-staged plot to destroy the US economy, with phase one being an artificial escalation of commodity prices.

If a government were to make the implied finding against Goldman Sachs and take appropriate measures to seize their international assets and other steps, I would probably not disagree, although the most perverse aspect of the events of 2007-8 is that it is not clear whether those driving the world to the abyss violated any then existing law.