Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Remember When This was So Fictional it Was Funny?

Another one from December that I hadn't thought to put here.  Check out the quiz at the end.

R̶a̶c̶h̶e̶l̶ ̶P̶h̶e̶l̶p̶s̶ Lew Wolff, a f̶o̶r̶m̶e̶r̶ ̶L̶a̶s̶ ̶V̶e̶g̶a̶s̶ ̶s̶h̶o̶w̶g̶i̶r̶l̶ real estate mogul, has i̶n̶h̶e̶r̶i̶t̶e̶d̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶C̶l̶e̶v̶e̶l̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶I̶n̶d̶i̶a̶n̶s̶ purchased the Oakland Athletics baseball team from h̶e̶r̶ ̶d̶e̶c̶e̶a̶s̶e̶d̶ ̶h̶u̶s̶b̶a̶n̶d̶ a couple guys who didn't want to win.he wants to move the team to the w̶a̶r̶m̶e̶r̶ richer climate of M̶i̶a̶m̶i̶ San Jose. In order to do this, he must reduce the season's attendance ̶a̶t̶ ̶M̶u̶n̶i̶c̶i̶p̶a̶l̶ ̶S̶t̶a̶d̶i̶u̶m̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶u̶n̶d̶e̶r̶ ̶8̶0̶0̶,̶0̶0̶0̶ ̶t̶i̶c̶k̶e̶t̶s̶ ̶s̶o̶l̶d̶,̶ ̶w̶h̶i̶c̶h̶ ̶w̶i̶l̶l̶ ̶t̶r̶i̶g̶g̶e̶r̶ ̶
a̶n̶ ̶e̶s̶c̶a̶p̶e̶ ̶c̶l̶a̶u̶s̶e̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶t̶e̶a̶m̶'̶s̶ ̶l̶e̶a̶s̶e̶ ̶w̶i̶t̶h̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶c̶i̶t̶y̶ ̶o̶f̶ ̶C̶l̶e̶v̶e̶l̶a̶n̶d̶ to perpetuate the narrative that Oakland fans don't care about the team.  He alienates every fan possible starting at the introductory presserAfter he moves the team,he would also be able to release all the current players and replace them with new ones. he instructs n̶e̶w̶ General Manager C̶h̶a̶r̶l̶i̶e̶ ̶D̶o̶n̶o̶v̶a̶n̶ Billy Beane to hire the worst team possible from a list she has already prepared. The list includes v̶e̶t̶e̶r̶a̶n̶ ̶c̶a̶t̶c̶h̶e̶r̶ ̶J̶a̶k̶e̶ ̶T̶a̶y̶l̶o̶r̶,̶ ̶w̶h̶o̶ ̶h̶a̶s̶ ̶p̶r̶o̶b̶l̶e̶m̶s̶ ̶w̶i̶t̶h̶ ̶h̶i̶s̶ ̶k̶n̶e̶e̶s̶,̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶w̶a̶s̶ ̶l̶a̶s̶t̶ ̶p̶l̶a̶y̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶i̶n̶ ̶M̶e̶x̶i̶c̶o̶;̶ ̶i̶n̶c̶a̶r̶c̶e̶r̶a̶t̶e̶d̶ ̶
p̶i̶t̶c̶h̶e̶r̶ ̶R̶i̶c̶k̶y̶ ̶V̶a̶u̶g̶h̶n̶;̶ ̶p̶o̶w̶e̶r̶-̶h̶i̶t̶t̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶o̶u̶t̶f̶i̶e̶l̶d̶e̶r̶ ̶P̶e̶d̶r̶o̶ ̶C̶e̶r̶r̶a̶n̶o̶,̶ ̶w̶h̶o̶ ̶p̶r̶a̶c̶t̶i̶c̶e̶s̶ ̶v̶o̶o̶d̶o̶o̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶t̶r̶y̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶h̶e̶l̶p̶ ̶h̶i̶m̶ ̶h̶i̶t̶ ̶
c̶u̶r̶v̶e̶ ̶b̶a̶l̶l̶s̶;̶ ̶v̶e̶t̶e̶r̶a̶n̶ ̶p̶i̶t̶c̶h̶e̶r̶ ̶E̶d̶d̶i̶e̶ ̶H̶a̶r̶r̶i̶s̶,̶ ̶w̶h̶o̶ ̶n̶o̶ ̶l̶o̶n̶g̶e̶r̶ ̶h̶a̶s̶ ̶a̶ ̶s̶t̶r̶o̶n̶g̶ ̶t̶h̶r̶o̶w̶i̶n̶g̶ ̶a̶r̶m̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶i̶s̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶c̶e̶d̶ ̶t̶o̶ ̶d̶o̶c̶t̶o̶r̶ ̶h̶i̶s̶ ̶
p̶i̶t̶c̶h̶e̶s̶;̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶t̶h̶i̶r̶d̶ ̶b̶a̶s̶e̶m̶a̶n̶ ̶R̶o̶g̶e̶r̶ ̶D̶o̶r̶n̶,̶ ̶a̶ ̶o̶n̶e̶-̶t̶i̶m̶e̶ ̶s̶t̶a̶r̶ ̶w̶h̶o̶ ̶i̶s̶ ̶u̶n̶d̶e̶r̶ ̶c̶o̶n̶t̶r̶a̶c̶t̶ ̶b̶u̶t̶ ̶h̶a̶s̶ ̶b̶e̶c̶o̶m̶e̶ ̶a̶ ̶h̶i̶g̶h̶-̶p̶r̶i̶c̶e̶d̶ ̶
p̶r̶i̶m̶a̶ ̶d̶o̶n̶n̶a̶.̶ trading current all-stars "to get back younger players in return than those they dealt. They aren’t hiding the fact that the players they’d be looking for are ones who’d be playing in any potential new stadium. The soonest the A’s could get a stadium completed would be in three years, for the 2015 season. So Double-A players, maybe even high Class-A players could be on their wish lists, conceivably."  As manager, P̶h̶e̶l̶p̶s̶ Beane hires L̶o̶u̶ ̶B̶r̶o̶w̶n̶ Bob Melvin, a̶ ̶t̶i̶r̶e̶ ̶s̶a̶l̶e̶s̶m̶a̶n̶ ̶w̶h̶o̶ ̶"̶h̶a̶s̶ ̶m̶a̶n̶a̶g̶e̶d̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶T̶o̶l̶e̶d̶o̶ ̶M̶u̶d̶ ̶H̶e̶n̶s̶ ̶f̶o̶r̶ ̶t̶h̶e̶ ̶l̶a̶s̶t̶ ̶3̶0̶ ̶y̶e̶a̶r̶s̶"̶.̶ who had been twice fired and failed to get a job during the regular off season.

Think you know the difference between the 2012 A's and the movie "Major League?"  Click here to take the BISR quiz.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

A's Give up on 2012-2014; Santiago May Opt Out

The A's have officially given up on the 2012 season and are just playing out the string. Long time fan Roberto Santiago has informed the team that he is considering opting out of his contract and exploring free agency.

According to Susan Slusser of the San Fransisco Chronicle the A's have traded All-Star pitcher Trevor Cahill to the Arizona Diamondbacks for prospects.  This move is in keeping with the A's philosophy as they look towards a future that involves moving to San Jose. As Slusser had previously reported the A's are looking to trade many of their recent All-Stars, "to get back younger players in return than those they dealt. They aren’t hiding the fact that the players they’d be looking for are ones who’d be playing in any potential new stadium. The soonest the A’s could get a stadium completed would be in three years, for the 2015 season. So Double-A players, maybe even high Class-A players could be on their wish lists, conceivably."

Today, Slusser reports that the trade of Cahill, an All-Star in 2010, and RP Craig Breslow, “lines up with what Arizona is trying to do, and what Oakland is trying to do. Win now – or win three years down the road.”

This news may be the last straw for long time A's fan, Roberto Santiago who has expressed reservations about his future with the club ever since Lew Wolff bought the team in 2005 and immediately announced he was moving them to Fremont. Santiago, who grew up in the Oakland/Berkeley area told reporters privately that any impending move could jeopardize his future with the club.  With the A's clearly trying to alienate fans and tank in advance of the 2015 season Santiago's future with the club is very much in doubt.

Santiago has been tied to several major league markets including Los Angeles, New York, Washington DC, and Boston. The Red Sox may be in position to sign Santiago after previously signing him to a ten day contract in 2008. To date that ten day deal represents the strongest move made by an MLB team to recruit the long time baseball fan since the 1989 World Series.

Despite the Red Sox strong financial commitment some speculate that Santiago might sign with Washington, where he keeps a residence, in order to be closer to his family.

"My son goes past the National's stadium everyday on his way to school so it would be cool to be a part of that." said Santiago. He continued, "With the new park, some good young players and a willingness to try for quality free agents Washington could be a good place for me."

Sources say there is little credit to the idea that Santiago would consider a move to the either of the New York teams. Much like the rumors around Cliff Lee last year there is a feeling that Santiago would be more comfortable in a smaller market. Even though he has family ties to both the Mets and Yankees, those close to the veteran fan doubt he would consider New York unless they made an overwhelming offer, several times what the Red Sox committed in 2008.

The Dodgers are thought to be ruled out due in part to their unsettled ownership situation and reports linking Santiago to the Angels and Orioles were dismissed as being completely without merit. According to one source, "His long time hatred for those two franchises would make them highly unlikely fandom destinations despite loose geographic ties."

There is still a chance Santiago could remain with Oakland, the franchise that drafted him in the first month of 1977. Santiago has stated that beyond this year, his decision to re-up with the club is likely contingent on them building a new stadium in downtown Oakland. In 2006 Santiago was quoted as saying, "I don't mind rebuilding, but I don't want to be involved in a move."

"I'd love to stay in Oakland my whole career." Santiago continued, "But it's not totally up to me. The team has to show that they want me. At the same time we all have to understand it's a business. We all have to do what's best for us and our families even when it hurts."

The Giants front office is rumored to have hopes the two sport fan who has been a long time supporter of the 49ers might follow former A's All-Stars Barry Zito and Vida Blue across the bay. This harkens back to speculation that the Giants might have been courting Santiago in 1997 when he was seen in a Candlestick Park luxury box with former Giants and one-time Athletics hall-of-famer Orlando Cepeda. Though those rumors never found legs, Santiago claimed it was merely a social call, it wouldn't be a surprise if people tried to draw a connection. Also Fueling the "Santiago to the Giants" talk is the story that as a kid in the late 80's Santiago liked those funky half A's/half Giants hats.

Monday, June 18, 2012


Tonight I did something I haven't done in several years, several more years than the four represented on the death certificate, I sat down and had a beer with my dad.  The last time I remember doing this, just the two of us, has to be around 1998.  He was managing a movie theater in San Mateo, California (or somewhere equally foreign to  Berkeley boy with no car) and he insisted that we walk around to the other side of the mall and have a couple tall boys in the parking lot.

The next time I remember seeing him we didn't drink, which was a bit of a surprise.  Dad always drank.  But this next time I saw him he was in his apartment and a problem with his foot wouldn't allow him to get around like he used to.  This time it was 2003 and I was there to extend an olive branch and invite him to my wedding.  He showed me around the apartment building, the pool, his car, the cute neighbor.  That was one of the few times we talked about our past.  About him disappearing for long stretches of my childhood.  It was one of the few time I got a glimpse of his shame though he never said "I'm sorry."  Through that shame shone the same man I'd come to know over the years.  The one who didn't understand that a kid doesn't need a hero or a grand gesture, all he needs is a dad.  All he needs is the dad he remembers best.  Not the one with presents or an old Cadillac, but the one who can throw a football in the park or who has just enough money for a malt in the bleachers.  He wanted me to forgive him then, as he had when he'd first gotten back in touch again, after vanishing for a period of years.  Again. What I had to offer him was a wedding invitation.  He accepted though he didn't actually come.  By the time the wedding came he couldn't drive.  His foot condition had gotten worse.  His helper was supposed to bring him but something came up. 

The next time I remember seeing my dad, or even talking to him was a few years later.  I was bringing my new fiancee, or maybe she was still "just" a girlfriend at the time, to meet him.  We went out for Mexican food.  I took a short video of them dancing in the restaurant.  I think it was the last time I saw him.  He didn't make it to that wedding either.  Diabetes had taken his sight and his mobility.  He'd already survived throat cancer, lung cancer, prostate cancer, at least one pneumonia induced coma, alcoholism, heroin addiction, and the Bronx.  He was in no shape to travel.  I couldn't commit myself to keeping in touch.  After all, this was the man who'd abandoned me so many times and who kind of shrugged off my attempts to hash this out.  I knew he was sorry, I knew he was as damaged by it as I was but I just didn't care.  I wanted my pound of flesh.

My wife got pregnant at just about the very first possible chance after we were married.  My mom had been dead for a year already at that point and my contact with that side of the family was dissolving.  I kept meaning to call my dad and tell him but something, friends, work, resentment, always came up.  Besides, we were waiting three months before telling people because we knew the statistics.  About a week before we were ready to tell the world that there would indeed be another generation of the Santiago line I came home to find a business card stuck in the screen of my front door.  It was from farther away than I'd have expected and my first thought was that my grandmother had been compelled to drive farther than she should have.  When I called the number and got the news I couldn't believe it, mostly because I'd expected to hear it twenty years earlier.  Then ten years earlier, then five.  "We regret to inform you that your father is dead.  He was found by a friend.  Here are some numbers where you can reach people who knew him."

While my dad's death was a shock it wasn't really a surprise.  The amazing thing is that he'd lived this long.  My senior year of college I'd spent three weekends driving from Los Angeles to the Bay Area to be by his side because the doctors swore "He's going to go this weekend."  This was his pneumonia (and vodka and pills) induced coma.  After three weeks he still wasn't dead.  I stopped going.  Two weeks later they found him wandering around the ICU.  He'd woken up suddenly, pulled all the tubes out and was trying to go home.  He'd been on a respirator.  He had a tube running down his nose to his stomach to feed him.  None of that seemed to matter to him, he just pulled it all out which means he was either on a ton of pain meds or just a complete bad ass.  Whenever we'd discuss any of his seemingly life threatening ailments later he'd always come back to one explanation, which he'd draw out in his raspy, one-lunged-life-time-smoker rattle, "Nothing can kill me, I'm from the Bronx."

In the end he was right.  It wasn't the various cancers that got him.  It wasn't the diabetes or the vodka.  In the end the only thing that could kill my dad was himself.  One day he called his case worker, told him what he was going to do, took a shit load of who knows what, laid down in his La-Z-Boy and went to sleep.  I got the card from the coroner's office a few days later. A few days before I was really going to call and tell him he was going to be a grandfather.  A few days before I might have given him something to live for.

I've carried that guilt with me the last four years as I've watched my son grow up without half his heritage.  I don't know if my dad would have been any better a grandfather than he was a father, but I wish we'd had the chance to find out.  Now, instead of answers or apologies, I have a five by seven by three inch box.  It's strange to think that all that we are can be distilled to 105 cubic inches.  I always felt like I was going through the motions when I tried to openly converse with the dead.  There's something about talking to a headstone or a photo that always seemed like I was just acting out a trope from a thousand staged dramas.  But recently it's felt real.  So tonight I sat down to have a beer with my dad.  To forgive him. To thank him for the good things I remember. For the lessons he provided, if not by instruction, then by example.

I love you dad.  I miss you.  I wish you could have met Feechy Jr.  Thank you for giving me baseball.  Thank you for buying me that yellow Pittsburgh Pirates pill box cap even though we were at a Giants game.  For letting me love Willie Stargell.  For letting me see those old rainbow Astros unis in person.  For letting me steer the van as a kid.  For teaching me about the Three Stooges, Little Rascals, and Honeymooners.  For taking me to one of the last lunch counters.  For giving me some moxie.  For that little taste of the South Bronx.  For my name, for my looks, thank you.

I love you dad.  I forgive you.  Happy Father's Day.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

We are the 27%

The cries of the in-debt college graduate remind me a little bit of the underwater homeowner of a few years back.  Some who were underwater were basically victims of unscrupulous lending. If someone says you can afford the loan, you believe them. Not all were duped by predatory lenders but some were.  In some ways college graduates over at least a generation were given a similar lie, “Hey, it’s cool.  You can totally afford this. The market always goes up.”  As we are seeing now, and as we saw in the housing market, there is always a bubble.  Now that the education bubble is seen to be bursting I see many people suggesting that all college loan debt be forgiven.   Facebook is periodically awash in petitions for legislation that would forgive student loan debt.  The basic premise is a mix of, “It would stimulate the economy” and “It’s time the rest of us got a break.”  What really disturbs me is that many of my friends who claim to be “The 99%” and who opposed the Wall Street bailouts are now calling for their own handout.  This seems both na├»ve and short sighted.  After all, wouldn’t this just take billions off the books of the very same banks we just bailed out?

The other thing I wonder is whether the Feds still own our debt or if it's been securitized and sold off. If its backing bonds then forgiveness would essentially default those bonds and hurt investors which could have other nasty macro-economic effects. If the Feds guarantee the bonds and forgive the debt then they put themselves in a huge hole that tax payers, including those who never had the chance to go to college, would need to pay off.

But, maybe like or unlike the underwater home "owner," we did it by choice. Beyond that, we did it by privilege. Sure we're not the elite but we had opportunities that not everyone has. And I say this as someone who's had to fight, in one way or another, for almost everything I've achieved. Still, I know I've also been very lucky.

My question is, why do I deserve say, $60K more than the really smart motivated person who had to forgo college to help raise their siblings, or take care of their parents, or didn't qualify for loans or whatever it was that kept them out of school? Why do I deserve it more than someone who never had a chance to mortgage themselves?

Also (sorry for the rant here but I am still me) the thing about the indebted educated class is if we suddenly find ourselves out of debt it's no sure thing that we'll go out and stimulate the economy. In fact I'd suggest that we're way more likely to put that extra money towards our credit card debts or other things we're already paying for. Maybe a little extra principle payment on that second higher rate mortgage they made us get as part of our home purchase. Or maybe we'll just put it in savings. The point is we won't do much to actually stimulate the economy. Just like trickle down economics didn't stimulate job growth. Just like bailouts for Wall Street and tax breaks for oil companies and bailouts of airlines didn't create jobs or save jobs or stimulate lending or reduce gas prices or get us back to the sweet sweet Clinton Era.

I like what Kai Ryssdal suggested, If you really want to stimulate the economy give $10K to kids between the ages of 13 and 19. They don't save. They buy all kinds of stuff.

The thing that bothers me is that there's a lot of people with student loan debt championing this thing and not many people asking what else is affected if it happens.

Sure, I'd love an extra buncha money, but what is the real economic impact? How many of us just want free stuff?

Also, are all mortgaged selves equal? If you spend $200K getting a PhD in something that's got no job prospects are you contributing to society the same as an engineer or MD? Should we, the American taxpayer subsidize a degree that doesn't contribute to the GDP? I think there's a lot of issues here that go beyond helping out our best and brightest.

I hope PhDs are valued, I'm getting one right now. But I'm getting one in an employable field. I’m not saying PhDs aren't important but if you get one in a field with no prospects you basically made a poor choice. Why should I, the taxpayer, subsidize someone's vanity degree?

Right now we're desperate for engineers and doctors. Our Federal government is importing them from other countries. Maybe if we had more doctors the ones we have now could work normal shifts and not make mistakes that kill people. Maybe (but not likely) supply could keep up with demand and drive down costs. There may be a problem with having too many MDs and engineers but we're decades away from having to think about that.

My real question is, where is the real value to the economy of forgiving this debt? Especially since we're likely to put our savings towards things that don't stimulate growth?

I feel you, oh educated and indebted minions. I am a farmed-out adjunct making next to nothing. I'm also facing a future where tenure track jobs may not exist. But I'm doing it with my eyes open, not expecting the government to come in and wipe out my debts. It's not that a PhD in English is "bad," it's that if you do it we can presume you're smart enough to know what you're getting into. If you're doing it for love of the subject or love of teaching or whatever then that's great! I am all for it. I just don't think the Feds, and by extension tax payers, should be subsidizing the dream.

I also don't think we should be giving huge tax breaks to billion dollar corporations, I'm not for most farming subsidies, or tax breaks for the rich. If I don't think others should be getting handouts based on their decisions I have to apply the same standard to us.

Also, taking it away from the philosophical "are college students valuable or deserving" discussion, can anyone show that this would actually help the economy, aside from this vague idea that we'd then have disposable income, which seems unsubstantiated? I know if I had an extra $2,000/month or whatever my household will be paying when I'm done with school, I'd be putting it towards my mortgage or a college fund for the kids. I would not be putting much or any of it back into the economy.

True, I have a mortgage. But I already bought the house so forgiving my debt isn't going to get me to buy more houses, the money from that purchase is already out there. It's a done deal. The trends I've seen seem to show that our people, the educated middle class, are not inclined to go out and do a bunch of spending. It's why the Bush stimulus didn't work. If you send me $600 I'm not spending it. I'm paying down credit cards or saving it. It doesn't really help the economy.

I did some very rough fast research. If the national student loan debt is roughly $850B let's say the government holds 1/4 of that. So $200B. Let's say half of that has been turned into bonds. If you forgive it you have to call those bonds at a cost of $100B plus the forgiveness is going to cost you $200B. So you're now at a $300B outlay. Then you figure you're not getting interest that you would have gotten on those payments so maybe that's another $100B. So now we're looking at $400B for this idea. Roughly half of the Wall Street bailout. Is that really what we want? Without knowing the projected gain it just doesn't seem worth it.

I've seen this a million times and yet no one has actually presented on HOW this would stimulate the economy when people with degrees are more likely to SAVE than SPEND.

I didn't want bailout for the privileged class above me, why should I support a bailout that ignores those less fortunate than me?  How is this anything than another hand out for people who have a higher earning potential than those who did not have the good fortune to need a student loan in the first place?