Sunday, August 30, 2009

Chicago Bears Look Good

Watched the first half of the Bears game tonight - very solid effort. The D looked strong throughout the half, and after a slow start, the offense picked it up and delivered a very good performance. The 98-yard drive to end the first half was great.

It looks like the team is gelling and that Jay Cutler is making some friends on the defensive side of the ball. There was a scene with him and Urlacher talking on the sideline in the second half that I thought was a good sign.

I don't see issues with the receivers, but I have some concern about their secondary. Injuries have been an issue in the preseason at corner and with Danieal Manning (nickel back). There may be some rust on those guys if they return for the start of the season. In two weeks the Bears will be playing Green Bay and they will have to play well in the secondary if they are going to win.

I expect next week to be a week in which the starters only play a series or two. I cannot wait until Sunday night in two weeks - national TV against Green Bay.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Republican Confusion

This is a perfect example of the inanity of the Republican "position" on health care. (I put "position" in quotes because I don't know what their position is other than being against Obama.)

RNC Chairman Michael Steele is all tongue-tied when it comes to explaining the Republican "position."

Health Care Fight

There is a funny position that the Republicans seem to have about the public option. On one hand they say that if there is a public option it will drive out all of the private insurers. They say the non-profit system would knock out competition because private insurers could not earn a profit.

But then on the other hand they cry about how medical care will be so terrible becaue the government cannot run efficiently. You simply cannot have it both ways. If it sucks people will stay with private insurance.

The public option is simply a way for Americans to have more choice and to put pressure on private insurers to stay honest. If the public option is great and people are happy, private insurers will have to work harder and offer better services to justify higher costs (if they have them). What is wrong with that? It is good public policy.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Health Care and the Dems

There is an excellent commentary by Thomas Frank in today's WSJ that captures how I feel.

I have been greatly disappointed by the failure of President Obama and the Dems to push through health care reform. Actually, I could probably accept some of the delay in putting forward a bill if it was as simple as trying to iron out details. But the reality is that lobbyists have stoked a small group of angry, uninformed folks into believing that their freedoms would be taken away and Obama would create death panels to see to it that old, sick people were killed. Sadly, there are congressional Republicans who are playing political games knowing full well that they are contributing to lies and deception of the American people. As a result of this nonsense, Obama and many Dems looked like they caved on the public option.

There is still time and we still need reform. For anyone who isn't paying attention our premiums are rising rapidly, insurance companies are cutting services and payments to doctors, and the current Medicare system is unsustainable. WE HAVE TO HAVE REFORM. Serious people know that without reform soon, the American health system will face a dire situation in coming years. It is time for President Obama to stand up an lead the fight that he spoke so strongly about during the campaign.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Craig T. Nelson on Government Aid

This is the kind of idiot logic that is permeating much of the debate health care and the stimulus package. Craig T. Nelson (why he is on Beck's show talking about government spending is beyond me but anyway) threatened to stop paying taxes because the government was bailing out everyone.

Then, he says he was on welfare and food stamps, "did anyone help me out?" Yeah you idiot, the government (i.e., taxpayers) did!

Most Competitive NFC Division

I think the NFC is looking pretty tough this year.

In the East, I like the Giants and Eagles. Dallas and DC will be competitive in many games but are a step below.

In the North, the Bears, Vikings, and Packers are going to slug it out. Detroit won't go 0-16, but they won't challenge for the division crown. Obviously, I like the Bears, but I think it will come down to who is healthiest in the end.

In the South, Carolina and Atlanta look like the teams to beat, but Tampa and New Orleans will be tough. Of the four, I think Tampa is the weakest.

Out West, Arizona should repeat. I think Seattle is sliding and the Rams are still weak, but San Francisco under Singleterry will be competitive..

Looking out over the landscape, I think the West will be the weakest, and the other three should remain competitive until late in the season. I cannot really distinguish between the other three divisions as yet, but am confident that the Bears, Vikings, and Packers will all beat up on opponents throughout the NFL.

U.S. Budget/Debt Outlooks

There is news today that the 10-year budget outlook for the U.S. government has worsened. The White House puts the 10-year deficit number at $9 trillion, while the CBO puts it a little over $7 trillion. The White House number is far more accurate because it does not allow the Bush tax cuts to expire on those making less than $250K.

None of this is surprising to those who follow government finance. Obama took office with a $1.6 trillion deficit for this year. The economy is still shrinking and unemployment was rising quickly. It now looks like things are moderating.

Next year, if economic recovery picks up steam the 10-year budget figures will start to improve. Everything is still moving largely according to plan.

Monday, August 24, 2009

More Faux News B.S.

First Faux was for the AMA (when they were against Obama's health plan), now they are against the AMA (not surprising given the AMA's support for Obama's plan).

Folks who actually believe that Faux is an actual news network are funny. Cable news - liberal and conservative - is mostly infotainment. It's all about the blond hottie who disappeared, or the cute child who is missing, or Michael Jackson/Britney Spears/Lindsay Lohan/etc. Mixed in is some actual news.

Solid Bears Performance

The Bears were dominating in the first half against the Giants. I know it is preseason, but it was good to see a solid performance all around.

Cutler led three scoring drives and the Bears were up 17-0 when the starters left the game. They would probably have been up more had Kevin Jones and Garrett Wolfe not fumbled - Wolfe fumbled inside the Giants 10 yard line right before halftime.

The D only gave up about 60 yards in the first half to Eli and his first team crew. They sacked Eli twice in the first half and also held the Giants to a field goal after Jones fumbled at the Chicago 25 in the middle of the second quarter. Great overall performance on D.

I'd like to see a backup running back emerge and am not totally comfortable with the backup QB situation, but it was good to see everything seem to fall into place this past game.

I cannot wait for the season to start.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

White House May Grow a Pair

Looks like the White House may get back on track with health care and just forget about trying to work with the obstructionists (i.e. Republicans). I'm all for the Senate passing the bill through reconciliation. That would only require 51 votes to pass the bill into law and it would largely take away the chances for a Republican filibuster.

Obama and Health Care

I'll start by saying I am greatly disappointed with Obama and his Administration for how they are handling health care reform. They don't seem to be locked on a plan and seem to have backed away from the public option (although I don't think they have abandoned it). On top of that, they have wasted so much time trying to negotiate with obstructionist Republicans and all it has done is splintered the Dems.

Let's lay out a couple of basic facts. First, health care must be reformed in this country. It is far too expensive and inefficient as it is now. Medicare/Medicaid is unsustainable, tens of millions of Americans don't have health care insurance, and those of us who do are seeing our premiums increase by 8-15 percent per year over the last decade. That is also unsustainable.

Second, a public option makes perfect sense. The government can provide basic coverage and catastrophic coverage for far cheaper than private insurance companies because of economies of scale. Private health insurance companies that can provide better coverage (even at higher prices) will still thrive, but they won't have a monopoly on care and they won't be able to just deny service when they don't feel like paying without penalty. It is the only way to keep private firms totally honest because there will be real choice for Americans.

Third, the Republicans are never going to work with the Dems on this. They simply won't. It is a complete waste of time to try to get them on board. Put a bill together and put people on record as having voted for it or not. Then let the American people vote and let's see who comes out on top.

In the end, that is what is going to happen. The Dems are recognizing the above and if enough of them can be brought together in a coalition they will push it through. There will even be moderate Republicans who come along. If they don't even bring a bill to the floor of both Houses, they are just playing into special interests' hands and the hands of Republicans who will say, "See, the Dems couldn't pass health care reform so give us a chance."

Monday, August 17, 2009

One Fantasy Football Note

I am on two leagues this year. The draft for one of the leagues was this weekend and for that team I am stocked with Bears. I have Matt Forte, Greg Olsen, and Devin Hester in my starting lineup, then I've got the Bears D and Robbie Gould as my kicker. I love it, but obviously there is a lot of risk for me. If the team sucks, my team will suck.

All that said, I ended up changing the name of my team to "Chicago Bears United." I love it. Now I am going to be rooting for the Bears even more than I already would be.

Chicago Bears Thoughts

First preseason game was largely a dud for the Bears first team. Cutler was average and the receivers apparently had their troubles. Cutler got on Devin Hester for not making a good attempt to break up a pass that was intercepted. On D, the secondary looked porous. Trent Edwards went 10-10 against the first string D - not a good sign.

Obviously there were starters sitting out, but it was not a good overall performance. The thing that I find amusing is that on the Trib comments section after the stories about the game, there are fans complaining loudly about Cutler. This is the problem with Chicago - they hate QBs. I mean really, the guy has played one quarter of football for the Bears and there are fans who already want him out. It is crazy, but that is Chicago.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Health Care Reform Will Pass

There is a lot of noise about belligerent protesters shouting at Democratic members of Congress at town hall meetings. All I can say to that is, "So?" These angry, rude folks just get up and yell about the Constitution or Socialism or whatever, but they don't make any sense. They are a noisy minority that appears to just be the reincarnation of the "tea bag protestors." Remember them?

The mob mentality of these folks is not constructive in any way. Let me say, I have no problem with them expressing themselves. If they want to yell and scream and make fools of themselves that is fine with me. But, that doesn't change the fact that most hard working, in many cases economically struggling, Americans want access to affordable health care. There are good pieces by David Broder and in the Providence Journal that talk about how these folks will hurt their own cause.

The current system is broken and is unsustainable. The Obama plan includes spending caps, technology upgrades, improving systems, and a public option. There is nothing to fear from progress and creating public competition. If private health care providers can provide better services they will be just fine. If not, Americans will have the public option - IT IS OUR CHOICE.

Serious Republicans have a choice to make. Do they throw their lot in with the ignorant mob who is spouting out angry and ridiculous untruths about things like "death panels" that want to see granny dead rather than receiving health care, or do they get serious about solutions. Either way, some type of major reform will pass within the next few months. Then, when the mid-terms come about the people will pass judgement and I am sure most Americans will be appreciative that their health care options have increased, their services are better, and their costs are lower.

Bears vs. Buffalo

The Bears are gearing up for this weekend's exhibition game against the TO's. It looks like there is still a lot of competition at a lot of positions as the Bears are going with a lot of "co-starters."

I'm not too worried about depth, except at QB. If Cutler goes down it would be on the shoulders of Caleb Hanie who is a second year player from Colorado State. He is OK, but I'd much prefer to see some experience. I'm guessing the Bears will pick up someone who is cast aside later in the pre-season for depth.

Mike Vick was in town for some "evils of dogfighting" warnings for kids, but it is unlikely that he will be a Bear. I wouldn't mind having him around, but there is no reason to upset Cutler when he is trying to establish himself in Chicago.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

I'm Back From Chicago

It is great to be home. I've been away for 4 of the last 6 weeks and can finally settle in for a few weeks. The Bears look pretty good in camp - but we'll see what happens when they get into the pre-season. What I can say for certain is that the O-line will be greatly improved and Urlacher looks like he is healthy again. I like the way the D-line seems to be shaping up. Cutler seems to be adjusting nicely. The secondary and wide receivers are playing well in camp, but they are the big question marks.

I cannot wait for the season to start.

Friday, August 07, 2009

More Good Economic News

The unemployment number dipped. I certainly don't feel we are out of the woods, but again we see more economic progress. As I have been contending for months, as the stimulus dollars really hit the economy over this quarter and into Q4 we should see some improvement in the number of jobs created. We are still losing jobs, but certainly mighty progress is being made.

FYI, I am presenting papers at two conferences in Chicago for the next few days so my responses will be sporadic. I don't have regular access to the Internet.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Bears Camp Notes

It looks like Cutler is having a pretty good camp the first couple of days. He was particularly sharp today in 7-on-7 drills. It looks like he is building a good repoire with Greg Olsen and Earl Bennett (Bennett played with him at Vandy).

The Bears seem to be toying around with the "Wildcat" offense with Hester at the helm - I like it.

The O-line also appears to be much improved.

All that said, the Bears need to get back to great D. The last two years have been disappointing, but Urlacher is healthy and the D-line looks to be much improved with Marinelli in charge. I have a good feeling right now about the team.

Real Estate Improving

For the fifth straight month pending home sales (homes under contract but not yet closed) rose. This is another good sign for the economy.

As the summer comes to a close and traders/investors come off of vacation, we should see a continuation of the current rally. In fact, given what looks like clearly improving economic news, I fully expect this Christmas shopping season to be a fairly healthy one. I am increasingly believing we will see growth and perhaps even fairly strong growth in Q4.

2008 Q4 was dismal. The economy was falling at an annualized rate of -5.4 percent (this has been adjusted from the originally reported -6.3 percent). If we end up with 2 percent growth, that would be a 7.4 percent improvement in one year - absolutely remarkable.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Growing Economic Confidence

It is clear that the economy is significantly improving under Obama. Based on the rapid growth on the major Wall Street indices, we can see that the private sector is getting more healthy. It is no wonder that many CEOs are supportive of Obama.

It looks like the futures are up fairly strongly today so the Dow and NASDAQ will rise in early trading. I think the surprisingly good GDP number from last week has given Obama some credibility with respect to his stimulus. If we get growth this year, and perhaps even this quarter, it will be seen as highly effective.