Monday, April 28, 2014

Income Inequality on the Football Field

and on the basketball court.  Some of these mentors are pulling in some big bucks to lead high profile amateur athletic programs. Mike Krzyzewski, legendary coach of the Duke University basketball program gets checks totaling $9,682,032 per season. Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz pulled in $3,985,000 while directing the football Hawkeyes to an unexciting 5-4 record. Nick Saban led the Crimson Tide in exchange for $5,545,852, undefeated in the regular season. On the other hand, successful North Dakota State paid its basketball coach Saul Phillips a paltry $188,347 and all the potatoes he could eat.

The issue here isn't the pecuniary rewards of the most successful teams in college sports, its the salaries of those in the second tier schools. Take the Minnesota Golden Gopher football program, for instance. An exercise in futility since its remarkable NCAA championship way back in 1960, the Gophers have given a number of coaches an opportunity to change the script. The latest is epileptic Jerry Kill, whose sideline seizures have forced him to do his coaching from the press box. In 2014 Kill himself will be paid $2.1 million, the result of a re-negotiated long-term contract. One of Minnesota's competitors for the lowest rung of the developing BIG conference is Indiana. The Hoosiers, never the winners of a Big Ten title, have been led to a 10-26 record in the three year tenure of Kevin Wilson, who receives $1.2 million per season.

One has to wonder if the strategy of the hapless Gophers and Hoosiers is really the most cost effective one considering the results they've been able to obtain. A different approach might be in order. Rather than scouring the lower ranks of college coaches for one that would be overjoyed to take over a high-profile but failing program, why not just take bids for the position from coaches willing to PAY for the opportunity? There are thousands of coaches at all levels in the country. They all think they have what it takes. If an opening occurred at Bloomington, an enthusiastic coach could talk his friends and associates into pooling the money to buy the position, confident that his inevitable success would lead him to securing a position at another university that would actually pay big bucks that he would then share with his investors. By engaging the high bidder, instead of the coaches salary being a debit on the first school's finances it would become a profit center. Things couldn't be any worse for the Hoosiers and Gophers, they'd have nothing to lose. A coach that could take them to a major bowl game would be next in line for a post at serial under-achiever Tennessee, 4-5 during the 2013 season while paying Butch Jones $4,860,000.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Available at the MN Horse Expo - Wheelchair Rentals:

Wheelchair rentals will be available at the MN Horse Expo on a first come, first serve basis. Wheelchair rental costs will be $20.00 (cash only) plus a deposit. A current valid drivers license with photo will be required to rent a wheelchair for the day. The wheelchairs will be available in the Expo Office.

Justice Dept. Sticks Up The Banks Because That's Where The Money Is

This 8 paragraph WSJ article (the product of at least three writers) describes the latest extortion by the Justice Department upon the unsavory banking industry for the inconveniences of the 2008 financial meltdown.

As it has done with other banks, the Justice Department is going to make an offer to Citigroup to terminate its investigation of the bank's dubious handling of mortgage-backed securities in exchange for a payment of billions. Earlier, using this same tactic, they got $13 billion out of J.P. Morgan Chase and are also in talks with Bank of America, a $20 billion settlement being presented.

This particular article doesn't explain the options available to both the Justice Dept. and the banks. Is there the possibility that senior executives of Citigroup could go to the big house if they don't cooperate? Are the current execs the ones that made the fateful decisions that robbed innocent homeowners and put children into shelters or are those guys now living on Ibiza? Are these operations limited liability corporations? Is it fair to penalize stockholders that aren't part of the decision-making process for management errors? What happens to the billions that the banks transfer to the DOJ? Does any of it go to bonuses for DOJ lawyers?

Call me skeptical but this looks more like a kind of tax on banks and an unregulated revenue stream for DOJ than any law enforcement effort.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Forging Abstract Art, How Do You Copy a Rothko?

                                                                                                                                                         This is a Mark Rothko abstract painting. A Chinese art forger, Pei-Shen Qian', has been accused, with some accomplices from Spain, of painting similar works, or maybe even copies, of Rothkos, Pollocks, and other wizards and selling them as originals.  It's a fair question, isn't it, to ask if it's even possible for someone else, an artist less gifted than Rothko, to produce a painting that could be mistaken for something the master himself made? How could one develop, over the course of an ordinary lifetime, the requisite skills to create something this impressive? And, if it were possible, shouldn't we honor the talented forger almost as much as we worship his inspiration?

Furthermore, how do we know that Rothko himself painted any particular painting? Maybe he decided to spend a month or so hunting for mushrooms or fishing and delegated some work to an apprentice or local housepainter. Would such a painting still be  a "Rothko"? A DNA analysis might confirm or deny that Rothko actually touched it at one time, although that wouldn't guarantee that he held the brush or roller himself.

Chances are that after all this publicity Pei-Shen Qian' will occupy his own elevated spot in the art world. He could become as celebrated as the late Elmyr de Hory.

Monday, April 21, 2014

One Urination Defiles 38 Million Gallons of Water

Can it get any crazier? Nick Fish, the bureaucrat in charge of the Portland, Ore. water supply, has decided, with the help of some anonymous professional water experts, to drain the city's Mt. Tabor #5 reservoir because security cameras recorded an individual urinating in it last Wednesday morning. It's been pointed out that there's a pretty good chance other unpleasant things have found their way into the city water supply without catastrophic results but Mr. Fish plans on pulling the plug anyway. Let's say that two cups or so of urine splashed into the reservoir. That would mean about one part in 405 million parts. It would be a little like refusing a trip to China if there were two serial killers running around in the country. Anyway, as a practical matter, how about the Portland water ninnies dump a gallon of highly-chlorinated water in the reservoir in exactly the same spot that the kid did his pee thing? The addition would probably follow the same path as the urine molecules did, at least eventually. In a couple of days that water would be OK for a shampoo or even a bourbon and branch.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Keeping the Competition in High School Class Rings

Bloomington, Minnesota based Jostens Inc. has given up on its attempt to acquire American Achievement Corp., a competitor in the high school class ring business. Jostens offered AAC $486 million for the company but the Federal Trade Commission Bureau of Competition went to federal court seeking an injunction to prevent the merger and Jostens threw in the towel as described here. The logic behind the FTC action is described in their press release.

Despite the fact that the voluntary purchase of a class ring is hardly a necessity to the success or even survival of the graduate and that if the business is indeed a lucrative one, competition should be present, an interesting aspect of the situation is the make-up of the FTC Bureau of Competition itself, headed by Deborah Feinstein:

  The Federal Trade Commission announced Monday that the partner leading Arnold & Porter LLP's U.S. antitrust practice has been appointed director of the FTC bureau that investigates the economic impact of mergers and acquisitions and stifles anti-competitive conduct, and that it had tapped a new head for the Bureau of Consumer Protection.
Arnold & Porter partner Deborah Feinstein, who has headed up the firm's 80-lawyer antitrust practice since 2011, is expected to take charge of the Bureau of Competition on July 1, she told Law360 on Monday.

"I am excited by the opportunity to work again at the FTC under the leadership of Chairwoman [Edith] Ramirez to foster the FTC’s mission of protecting consumers," Feinstein said in an email.

She will be taking the reins of the bureau where she worked as an assistant to the director from 1989 to 1991, before returning to Arnold & Porter — the firm where had she started her career in 1987.

During her tenure with the firm, she compiled an impressive client list, representing General Electric Co., megaplex chain AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., PepsiCo Inc. and other corporations in multibillion-dollar deals.

Named one of the most influential female lawyers in the country by The National Law Journal, Feinstein provided counsel for BP PLC during the FTC's nine-month investigation into Tesoro Corp.'s proposed $2 billion purchase of BP's Southern California refining and marketing operations in 2012. The FTC approved that transaction, finding it would not substantially reduce competition, in mid-May.

She also represented Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, a joint venture between Sony Corp. and the estate of Michael Jackson, in its successful bid to buy EMI Group Ltd.'s music publishing arm from Citigroup Inc. for $2.2 billion — a deal the FTC approved in June 2012.

Deborah Feinstein can obviously navigate the maze of the federal bureaucracy that she exits and enters with ease. One more example of the crony capitalism that infests Sodom on the Potomac.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

$3.7 Million Painting May Have Gone to the Landfill

Snowy Mountain Painting Worth Millions Thrown Away? It's happened again. A conscientious but artistically wanting security guard has sent a pricey piece of art to the trash collector, maybe, according to this story. Sold on Monday and missed the next day, security cameras showed a guard kicking the painting into a pile of genuine garbage. While this could be the story, isn't this also an effective method of making off with the treasure?

Monday, April 14, 2014

Feds Won't Recognize the Tribe of Pocahontas

Pocahontas and her son, Thomas Rolfe, for whom the 1965 Preakness Stakes winner and champion 3 yr. old male, out of the race mare Pocahontas, was named.

Pocahontas was captured by the English as a teenager in perhaps 1612 in what is now Virginia and married two years later to Englishman John Rolfe. Her everlasting fame is because she supposedly saved the life of John Smith who was about to be decapitated by native warriors. Although she was an international celebrity during her own lifetime, passing away in Gravesend, England in 1617, the tribe to which she and her father, the chief Powhatan, belonged is unrecognized by the US to this day, according to  this article in the Richmond Times-Dispatch. Somehow the federal government has assumed the right to determine if a person does or does not belong to a smaller group. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sixty-seventh Anniversary of Jackie Robinson's First Major League Game on Tuesday

Tuesday, April 15, will be celebrated in ball parks across the US as the anniversary of Jackie Robinson's intial major league game and the first for an African-American per this from Major League Baseball.

The story fails to mention exactly how Robinson got into the Dodger line-up. One might get the impression that he simply showed up one day and laced up his cleats, picked up his glove and headed out to the infield. In reality, a person never mentioned in the article, Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey, was the man who integrated major league baseball by signing Robinson to a Dodger contract, assigning him to the Dodgers' Triple AAA club in Montreal, and then bringing him up to the big club in Brooklyn. If anyone deserves to have his number retired it's Branch Rickey.

Branch Rickey and Jackie Robinson in Rickey's Brooklyn Dodger office.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

An Exerpt From E. E. Evans-Pritchard's "Social Anthropology"

E.E. Evans-Pritchard
Social Anthropology and Other Essays
Free Press, NY, NY 1964
Lecture VI, Applied Anthropology
pg. 125

...for primitive peoples must have an interest for anyone who reflects at all on the nature of man and society.  Here are men without revealed religion, without a written language, without any developed scientific knowledge, often entirely naked and having only the crudest tools and habitations-men in the raw, as it were-who yet live, and for the most part live happily, in communities of their kind. We cannot imagine ourselves living, far less living contentedly, in such conditions, and we wonder-and I think we should wonder-what it is which enables them to live together in harmony, and to face courageously the hazards of life with so little to aid them in their battle against nature and fate. The mere fact that savages have no motor cars, do not read newspapers, do not buy and sell and so on, far from making them less, makes them more, interesting; for here man confronts destiny in all its harshness and pain without the cushioning of civilization, its anodynes and consolations. No wonder the philosophers thought that such men must live in constant fear and misery.

That they do not do so is because they live in a moral order which gives them security and values which make life bearable. For closer inspection shows that beneath this superficial simplicity of life there lie complex social structures and rich cultures. We are so used to thinking of culture and social institutions in terms of material civilization and size, that we miss them altogether among primitive peoples unless we search for them. We then discover that all primitive peoples have a religious faith, expressed in dogmas and rites; that they have marriage, brought about by ceremonial and other observances, and family life centred in a home; that they have a kinship system, often a very complicated system and wider than anything of the kind in our own society; that they have clubs and associations for special purposes; that they have rules, often elaborate rules, of etiquette and manners; that they have regulations, often enforced  by courts, constituting codes of civil and criminal law; that their languages are often extremely complex, phonetically and grammatically, and have vast vocabularies; that they have vernacular literature of poetry, rich in symbolism, and of chronicles, myths, folk tales, and proverbs; that they have plastic arts; that they have systems of husbandry which require considerable knowledge of seasons and soils and of plant and animal life; that they are expert fishers and hunters and adventurers by sea and land; and that they have great stores of knowledge-of magic, of witchcraft, and of oracles and divination-to which we are strangers.  

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Colton Barrett Racing For Athlete Octane Cycling

A national champion on the road and the track, national Div.1 Collegiate Criterium champion, North St. Paul, MN native and Marian University cycling star Colton Barrett will be riding on the Athlete Octane cycling team this summer.
Update: On May 3, Colton won the silver medal in the criterion competition at the 2014 UCI college road cycling championships in Richmond, Virginia.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

DC Cops Use Of Force Policy Is A Secret

On October 3, 2013, US Capitol Police and uniformed Secret Service agents shot to death Miriam Carey for making a legal U-turn near the US capitol and then driving away. Her baby was strapped into a car seat in the Nissan she was driving. Six months have passed but no official report on the fatal encounter has been released by authorities. This article in WND describes the current status of the situation, with no information forthcoming in over six months, except an autopsy report that showed no drugs in the system of the murdered woman.

One interesting and troubling aspect of the affair has been the refusal of either of the law enforcement agencies involved to release their use of force policies, under what circumstances are police personnel permitted to use deadly force? Why should this be a secret? Shouldn't everyone know for sure what circumstances could lead to their death at the hands of the cops? If the policies aren't made public, how does anyone know that they're not tailored to fit individual situations as they arise? What's the relationship between a police department policy and the law itself? Should the law authorize a cop to kill someone for not obeying an order?