Looks As Though There’s a Government Shutdown in Our Futures

September 29, 2013

In just over 24 hours, the federal government will drastically scale back operations and come practically to a standstill, if the House vote on a continuing resolution that includes several amendments to delay the implementation of Obamacare (set of Tuesday) eliminate the medical device tax (major funding source) and, oh yes, delaying the rule that non-church employer benefit plans cover contraception without copays, stands.

Good patriots that they are, they did add an amendment to make sure members of the armed forces get paid. They, by the way, will also continue to be paid, although their staffers who will be furloughed will not. Likewise, Americans who need the WIC (Women, Infants, Children) program, which helps pregnant women buy healthy food, will be stiffed. National parks (a revenue source) will close. Head Start grants that expire Oct. 1 will not be renewed. The National Institutes of Health will not take new patients. Air traffic controllers will be on the job, but good luck getting a passport if you wanted to fly overseas. The EPA – long a Republican target anyhow – would be shuttered.

And while the actual economic costs are hard to predict, there seems to be a consensus that a shutdown of about three weeks could cost the economy about $2 billion and shave 1.4 percent off GDP in the fourth quarter, which begins Tuesday.

A core of Republicans, most notably Sen. Ted Cruz, who apparently has also become the de facto Speaker of the House, have convinced themselves this will boost their political fortunes.

They haven’t read the polling, which shows that even though Obamacare is not viewed favorably by a majority of Americans (although, interestingly, approval goes up if the pollster calls it something besides “Obamacare;” go figure), large majorities, around 60 percent, do not want the government closed just to stop Obamacare from launching.

Wall Street and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce have cried, “Don’t do this!” Senior Republicans in the Senate have said this is a dumb idea (Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina said as much). I’ll wage Speaker-in-name-if-not-in-fact Boehner would not go there if he wasn’t a slave to the Tea Party Caucus. (Although they should check polling, as well; their “party” is down to a 22 percent approval.)

All that said, this is about a small group of (let’s not mince words here) extremists, backed by a big wad of corporate cash (check the National Journal’s September 24th story), who will create economic and social chaos to try to win a fight they actually can’t win. And they’re willing, if the shutdown isn’t enough, to block an increase in the debt ceiling that is due sometime in mid-October.

Call it cruel, crazy or just blindly ideological, this doesn’t end well for the Rs, and at least some of them know it.



Cardinals Finish Tied With Boston for Baseball’s Best Record

September 29, 2013

The Cardinals, who were slumping so badly a month ago, made a September charge, going 19-8, that not only put them back on top in the NL Central, but tied them with the Sox for the best season record in the majors, 97-65. They completed a sweep of the Cubs this weekend, and other than the 2 runs Edward Mujica gave up Saturday, shut them out.

They now wait for the results of Tuesday’s playoff between the Pirates and the Reds in Pittsburgh. The Bucs swept the Reds this weekend in Cincinnati, so it’s anyone’s guess if the Reds are going to be fired up and spoiling for revenge or worn out.

Today’s 4-0 whitewash of Chicago appropriately came on the 50th anniversary of Stand Musial’s final game, in 1963. The Cards did a nice, classy thing by letting Jake Westbrook, who’s thrown well in his stint with St. Louis, but who faltered this year, start the game, which is likely to be his last in a St. Louis uniform. Joe Kelly came in and threw 5 1/3 scoreless innings, his fastball, curve and changeup all working. He got into some trouble in the 7th, with runners on the corners and 1 out, so Matheny lifted him and hailed Randy Choate, who threw one pitch and induced a double play to end the threat.

The only disappointments, to my mind, were Matt Carpenter, who went 1 for 10 in the Cubs series, missing getting his 200th hit in three trips to the plate, and Carlos Beltran, who may also be ending his tenure in St. Louis, missing hitting his 25th homer.

However, Carpenter finished the season leading the league in hits, runs scored (126), doubles (55) and multi-hit games (63). His .320 batting average was 3rd in the league and first among second basemen. I want Yadi to win the MVP, but Matt Carpenter should get a lot of votes.

The Cardinals end the season leading the NL in runs scored (779), RBIs (741), and perhaps most importantly, batting average with runners in scoring position (.330), the highest in the majors in 40 years. Team batting average (.269) was .001 behind Colorado.

Pitching was outstanding in April and May, but the staff struggled through the middle three months of the season only to return to form in September. Adam Wainwright tied for the league lead in wins with 19, and Joe Kelly was outstanding, going 10-5 after being put in the rotation.

The post-season will be a battle, no question, but the Cardinals, winners of their last 6 in a row, are going in strong.


Cardinals Clinch the NL Central

September 27, 2013


The Redbirds clinch their 12th division championship, and their 8th in the last 14 seasons, shutting out the Cubs tonight, 7-0.

Lance Lynn was strong, and he needed to be: he went deep into the count a lot, but nobody crossed the plate. His line: 6 innings, 4 hits, 9Ks. Not too shabby.


Yadi went 2 for 4 with 3 RBIs. David Freese and Matt Holliday both homered.

Now the question is whether the Cardinals will get past the Braves in the final two games of the season for the best NL record, which gives them home field advantage in the playoffs.

We’ll see. For tonight, the champagne is flowing. It’s been a long, hard season, full of disappointment, but they rallied big time in September, going 17-8.

One other note, from St. Louis Post-Dispatch sports columnist Bernie Miklasz:

When the Cardinals clinched a spot in the MLB postseason tournament this past Sunday, it reinforced their status as the NL’s best team since 2000. This will be the Cardinals’ 10th postseason appearance over the 14-year period. The only misses occurred in 2003, 2007, 2008 and 2010.

The Cardinals also have the NL’s best regular-season winning percentage, .561, since the start of the 2000 season. They’ve also played in more postseason games (95) and won more postseason games (62) than any NL team since 2000. Over that time the Cardinals have competed in 39 more postseason games than the Giants, who rank second in the NL. The Cards’ 62 postseason wins are well ahead of the Giants’ 34.

Since 2000 here’s the list of the top-five number of postseason appearances since 2000.

St. Louis, 10
Atlanta, 9
San Francisco, 5
Los Angeles, 5
Philadelphia, 5

In the AL, only the Yankees (with 12) have more postseason appearances than the Cardinals and more regular-season wins, and postseason games and wins than the Cardinals going back to 2000.


What a Night for Michael Wacha

September 24, 2013


Comes within 1 batter of a no-hitter. Retired 14 in a row before Matt Carpenter’s error breaks up a perfect game. Final line – 8 2/3 innings, 9 Ks, 2 walks, and one lousy hit, a scrubby infield single with 2 away in the 9th that hopped over Wacha’s glove.

Cards win, 2-0. Pirates are putting a hurt on the Cubs, but the hated Reds lost. Bucs now back 2, Reds 3, with 4 to play.


Eight Days to Shutdown?

September 22, 2013

I’ll have more to write on the possibility of a federal government shutdown in the near future, but I want to pass along a couple of things right now.

In their efforts – which are now approaching frantic – to stop the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare – from going into effect, the GOP majority in the House passed a measure to continue to fund federal operations, but cut off the new health care law. So, 217 Members of Congress are willing to force government to grind to a halt in order to make a statement they’ve already made 42 times with their votes to repeal the law. They may succeed in forcing a shutdown, but I’m skeptical. However, read Byron York’s detailed report on the likely fate of the bill in the Senate. It ain’t gonna fly, and some Rs are pretty ticked we’re even having this battle.

The NY Times also editorialized on the politics behind the political theater. Basically, some of the most extreme ideas have some of the most money behind them, and the people with that money, as I’ve posted before, darn well intend to spend it.

So some Members are scared you-know-what-less of being targeted for a primary defeat next year.

Of course, if they don’t manage to shut down the government, they’ll just go at it again when we hit the debt ceiling later in October. Then they’ll be trying a far more dangerous gambit, risking another economic crisis in order to stop a law they probably realize will actually deliver on its promise.

Back in 1994, Newt Gingrich warned his fellow Republicans they had to stop the Clinton health care reform law, no matter what the cost, because if Americans came to realize that a government-administered health insurance program (can you say “Medicare?”) worked, then the crucial pillar of Republican ideology, that “government isn’t the solution; government is the problem” would be knocked down.

Nothing’s changed.


Global What? Call Us When the Water Makes it Up to 57th Street

September 22, 2013

There are a lot of reasons why global warming isn’t covered more thoroughly by my former colleagues in the Fourth Estate. Most of them are bad.

This Union of Concerned Scientists blog has five good reasons why it should be.


Happy 58th Birthday to Joan Marie Larkin, alias Joan Jett

September 22, 2013

When you want it loud, fast, and stripped down to the fiery heart, there’s no one better.

Here she is, with Henry Rollins:

And here’s her website. And the one for The Runaways.