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Archive for January, 2010

Roger Federer made it to the finals of the Australian Open today, so I was checking out his wiki page. And it really leaves no doubt that he is the best tennis player in history. Consider:

– Most Grad Slam titles in history (15)

– Longest helm at world #1 ranking (286 weeks)

– One of six players to capture the career Grand Slam

– 23 consecutive appearances in at least the semifinals of a Grand Slam

– 19 of last 20 appearances in at least the finals of a Grand Slam

Those stats are individually ridiculous, especially the last two. Together, I hope they convince you that Federer is the best.

And yet, Federer has an overall losing record (7-13) in his career against Rafael Nadal. Obviously Nadal has the advantage of being superior on clay, and many of his victories over Federer were on clay (including all those finals at the French Open.) But still, Nadal also won against Federer in the finals of both the Australian Open and Wimbledon.

None of this takes away from Federer. And Nadal’s recent woes and injuries only serve to further highlight Federer’s incredible consistency and longevity. But still, has this been seen in any other sport (or even non-sporting events?) That one person can so clearly be the best in history at something, but still consistently lose to someone else? Pitching matchups? Chess games? It seems unique to me, but I’d love to know other examples if they exist.

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I’ve never been more convinced of this than I am now. A Pew survey shows that only 26% of Americans realize that it takes 60 votes to break a filibuster.

As Yglesias says:

“To a small slice of Americans, the GOP’s minoritarian obstructionism is a heroic stand. To another small slice of Americans, the GOP’s minoritarian obstructionism is an undemocratic disaster. But to the majority of Americans it’s completely invisible and all they see is a Democratic Party that can’t get things done.”

This is why the Dems must make the GOP filibuster. By which I mean, bust out the cots, stop shaving, talk for 100 hours straight, and read every word from your favorite cookbook Bible. Only when this happens – and only when coverage of it saturates the media – will the public realize that one party is completely nihilistic, determined to let zero legislation pass ever be voted on. Until that happens, all the public sees is a Democratic President with a Democratic Congress that is unable to pass any laws. Game over. This has been so obvious to me for a year. I wonder if the President will ever get it?

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The speech was good. Obama said everything he needed to say, and effectively made a statement to rally the base and reestablish his presidential philosophy.

Stuff I liked:

  • Calling out the Senate for procedural matters
  • Showing that he’s willing to use executive order (and by extension, recess appointment) to stand up to obstructionism
  • Continuing to hold economic reform, climate change, and health care as the key tenets of his agenda
  • Clear statement to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell
  • Laugh lines (“That’s how a budget works.”)

Stuff I didn’t like:

  • War on terror as the final section — terrorism is neither an existential threat nor the primary one to America’s dominance
  • Panders on clean energy — the clean coal guys aren’t going to be on your side anyways, so why pander?
  • Blaming Bush — what’s the point of this now?

As always, he can talk the talk. We knew that already.

The next year will show if he can fulfill what he promises. And that remains unclear.

I am cautiously optimistic. My guess is that Linus is pessimistic. (A post about differences between Linus and me may also follow sometime.) Sometimes, we’re the other way around.

tl;dr – we’ll see.

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If you didn’t have a chance to read James Fallows’ piece on how America must repair itself over the next few years, you should do it now.

Because otherwise, you will look at our political landscape and despair.

Linus once asked me whether anything could be added to health care to change me to a “kill the bill-er”… well, taking out the requirement for health insurance to cover pre-existing conditions would pretty much do it. God, that’s awful. And it might happen.

Health care will die; Obama will triangulate; Republicans will triumph; America will crumble under the weight of its decaying patriarchy; etc.

One item that Linus alluded to in his post on Obama’s weird spending freeze idea is that it will have little to no impact on the general state of the federal budget.

Let’s look at the federal budget, shall we?

Here’s a helpful chart I made from Wikipedia:

Which is to say, if you plan on freezing costs, you cannot just freeze non-defense discretionary spending. In fact, if you were really concerned about the ballooning federal budget, you might look at controlling health care costs or reining in defense spending. BUT THAT’S JUST CRAZY TALK! Anyone serious about reforming health care has either lost faith (see: Dean and the left) or has hidden for cover (see: Baucus, Snowe and the center). Anyone serious about reforming defense spending hates America.

Look at that graph! It’s ridonkulous! Freezing non-defense discretionary spending to stop deficit growth will do absolutely nothing to control spending, but will have a direct impact on people who receive services from the federal government.

Obama’s challenge is great (and a longer column on the topic is forthcoming), but the point is that history favors the bold. We never expected Obama to be a liberal lion, but the circumstances have forced his hand. He thought he could be a consensus builder, but the opposing side has no interest in consensus. Every compromise has been rejected and every helping hand has been slapped away and shot with a nail gun.

In short, our nation is doomed (probably).

I can’t even read the news any more because I get too mad. Honestly, I have to focus on teaching high school students about the promise of America in its literature. One of my students, after reading the Introduction to Fast Food Nation asked me today if America would collapse soon and end up like the Roman Empire. Honestly, I didn’t know what to tell her.

In the meantime, I can wallow in pop culture. Watch this:

I hope this is dug up in the ruins of our civilization.

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Breaking news on CNN.com is that Obama will propose to freeze discretionary spending for three years. It goes on:

“The proposed freeze, which could help position Obama in the political center by sharpening his credentials on fiscal discipline, would exempt the budgets of the departments of Defense, Homeland Security, and Veterans Affairs, along with some international programs.”

It’s difficult for me right now to keep my entries from becoming useless Obama hatred, but that’s what it’s come to. Our military is wasting trillions of dollars this decade and next on Our Excellent Mideast Adventure, with no tangible results at home. Discretionary spending does not include entitlements, so what’s left then? What will be frozen? Here’s a partial list:

– education

– energy

SCIENCE

– transportation

– environment

It would be both fiscally responsible and brave for Obama to have proposed the opposite, to have frozen or scaled back military spending or even entitlements. Instead, he’s more or less freezing every program I care most about. Fuck him and fuck this. I’m staying home November.

-UPDATE-

Ok, I freaked out. And while I am updating this almost immediately, before anyone has likely seen it, I won’t edit out anything because I think people should see my initial reaction. That being said, there are still details to work out and Matt Yglesias runs through some of them. I trust Yglesias a lot, and while he admits his skepticism, I will wait before commenting much more on this.

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Observation for the day

I try not to make myself nuts reading comments on pretty much any site besides Ta-Nehisi Coates and Balloon Juice, but sometimes I can’t help glance at a few when I read a WashPo blog entry, or a Politico story, or a few other mainstream and less ostensibly partisan sources like that. And I have to admit that the ratio of pro- to anti-Obama comments is stunning. If I had to guess, it’s at least 10:1. Of course, Obama’s opposition doesn’t outnumber his support 10:1, but this anecdotal example of the enthusiasm gap does show how  a Democrat can very easily lose even in Massachusetts.

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This cartoon is making the rounds today. It pretty accurately represents what is happening, and why progressives feel so demoralized:

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