A lot lower cost than had been rumored. Just this morning, the LA Times had said the Braves were expected to demand Kotchman, a starting pitcher in (or soon to be in) the major leagues, and an outfielder (presumably Juan Rivera).
This makes the team with the best record in the AL just that much better. I have liked ‘Tex’ a lot since I first saw him the Arizona Fall League not all that many years ago.
I don’t like rentals, so I sure hope the Angels sign him. But if this gets them deep into October, it will be worth it no matter what. Besides, as much as I like Kotchman, he’s had ample opportunity to show he is more than a .280 hitter capable of 15 or so homers a year. And he hasn’t.
This is oldish news, but then this never has been a news blog. (And the discussion continues in the comments!)
The week before last, the Vice President of Argentina, Julio Cobos, cast a vote in the Senate to break a tie on an important piece of legislation for President Cristina Kirchner. The vote was against the president’s declared preference on the bill.
It may be particularly rare for the VP to vote against the president, although it is not clear to me why we should expect the VP to always line up with the president, especially if the latter is unpopular and/or a constitutional lame-duck. Greg asks, “If you cannot control your own VP, then what does that say about leadership?” But I would ask, how should the president be able to control the vice president? Like the president, the VP is elected for a fixed term, and hence not institutionally subordinate to anyone. Unlike many presidents the vice president is almost always eligible to seek the presidency in the next election, and often ambitious.2 Moreover, many VPs (though I do not know about Cobos) are selected from a rival wing of the president’s party or even from a different party.
It seems to me that, institutionally, we should not assume that VPs would necessarily cast their tiebreaking votes in favor of the president’s position on the item in question. In fact, if VP votes against the president are rare, I suspect it is simply a shortage of cases: VPs probably do not face many such opportunities to advertise their independence. But they might be expected to do so when given the chance, except in cases in which they really are well screened and handpicked by the president (which is the case, perhaps unusually, in the contemporary USA).
I wonder if such provisions exist even where the legislature is unicameral; and what about those countries that have more than one VP? [↩]
Kirchner, on the other hand, is eligible for reelection. [↩]
The Angels have a pretty good bullpen and their closer is likely to break the single-season save record by a wide margin.
But today’s game shows how meaningless the “save” statistic can be, and how the save’s definition becomes part of game strategy itself.
The Angels had a 4-run lead in the 6th today against Cleveland, and brought in Justin Speier. He has a 5+ ERA, so my immediate thought was he was coming in to make the game close. To generate a save situation. But Speier failed miserably in this (cynical) definition of the set-up role. He set them down in order.
Darren O’Day did much better a couple of innings later, but the offense just would not do its part to keep the game close.
Then in came the rookie to show everyone how it’s down. Entering the game with a 4-run lead in the 9th, he gave up a run after 2 were out.
Out popped Mike Scioscia. Nice pat on the butt for the kid, and we have ourselves a bona-fide SAVE SITUATION!
One pitch, game over, 42 saves for K-Rod.
Could not script it better…
24 July: Corrected the 9th inning sequence above.
As expected–albeit a couple of weeks earlier than expected–the minority government of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh tested its confidence before the Lok Sabha (lower house of parliament) and won.
â€œIt (trust motion) was fully avoidable,” Manmohan Singh said as he moved the one-line motion seeking the trust of parliament for his government — reduced to minority after the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M)-led Left parties withdrew their legislative support in protest against the governmentâ€™s move to carry the India-US civil nuclear deal forward.
“I have repeatedly assured all, including the Left parties, that I myself would come to the guidance of parliament before operationalising the nuclear deal, if we were allowed to go to the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) to finalise the India-specific safeguards agreement),â€ said Manmohan Singh.
He said he regretted that the government had to seek a trust vote at a time its attention was on the economy, especially on controlling inflation and “implementing the welfare programmes for the people, particularly the farmers”.
The opposition Telugu Desam Party’s hopes of joining the Left and the Bahujan Samaj Party in a grand alliance1 were set back when the party split on the confidence motion (Hindustan Times, 23 July).
There is also dissension within the Left, with Somnath Chatterjee, the first Marxist to become a Lok Sabha Speaker, expelled from the Communist Party India (Marxist)2 for presiding over Singh’s call for confidence (Hindustan Times, 23 July).
So, at least for now, Singh and his government appear as strong as ever, and well positioned for general elections that must be held by late spring, 2009.
Often referred to as a Third Front, after the governing Congress-led United Progressive Alliance and the main opposition, BJP-led, National Democratic Alliances [↩]
Yes, the parenthetical adjective is part of its name: CPI(M). His having been chosen to be Speaker had been part of the agreement between the Left and the UPA, which was broken two weeks ago when the Left pulled support over the minority government’s nuclear deal. [↩]
AFP is reporting that a package of constitutional reforms has passed in France, by the slimmest of margins.
Details are sketchy in the AFP news item, so I am hoping a reader might have some more information.
Some of what AFP says:
VERSAILLES, France (AFP) â€” French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s flagship constitutional reform was passed Monday at a special congress of deputies and senators…
Of 906 eligible lawmakers, 905 voted with 896 counted after abstentions and spoilt papers. 539 voted for the project, 357 against. Under constitutional rules, Sarkozy needed three-fifths, or 538, to reach the winning post.
He did so thanks to Socialist Jack Lang, a former minister who sat on the committee that laid the groundwork for the bill, and parliament speaker Bernard Accoyer, who broke with convention by casting his vote…
The bill sets a two-term limit for presidents, gives parliament a veto over some presidential appointments, ends government control over parliament’s committee system and allows parliament to set its own agenda.
But the clause that dominated public debate is one letting the president address parliament once a year in a US-style state of the union speech, which the French head of state has been barred from doing since 1875 to ensure the executive and legislative are kept separate.
Sarkozy has argued that his reform of the constitution brought in by president Charles de Gaulle in 1958 would make the head of state more accountable to lawmakers and to the public.
Nate Silver (of 538) is attending the Netroots convention in Austin. He makes an observation about the activists and their connection to Barack Obama:
There is a certain amount of arm’s-lengthedness, aloofness, toward the Democratic nominee. Of the 2500 or so attendees here, Obama can probably count on about 2475 votes, and for significant fractions to donate, knock on doors, and volunteer for the campaign. But the enthusiasm toward Obama is a bit more cerebral than you might expect.
Silver attributes it as much as anything to the long primary contest, and concludes by noting some danger for Obama in getting too aloof from not only progressive activists, but from voters more generally. Fair points, but I see Silver’s observations as mostly positive indicators. As much as Obama likes–or, at least during the primary liked–to speak of a “movement,” as much as he can energize a crowd emotionally, and as much as he seems to “get” the idea that the change he promises comes not principally from him but from the people, there is a very real risk that all that movement energy will dissipate as soon as he becomes President (assuming he actually does).
If the activists–at least those Silver refers to–are keeping the candidate at arms length, good. It means they see Obama as a vehicle for their objectives (e.g. 50-state party-building and policy) rather than themselves as a vehicle for Obama’s. That strikes me as very positive for the Democratic Party, and more importantly, for democracy itself.
With the National League looking to end its current streak of defeats in the All Star Game later today, one key leading indicator again suggests they need some luck on their side. Consider the following summary of this year’s interleague play.
Number of teams above .500 against the other league:
NL 3 (of 16)
AL 11 (of 14)
Number of teams above .667 against the other league:
Number of teams at .333 or worse against the other league:
Continuing a theme from the previous India planting (click the country name in the planted in line of this one)…
The ruling Congress Party and its pre-poll allies in the United Progressive Alliance are working on arrangements with new allies who might help them govern without the need of support from the Left Alliance after the next election.
Before we will even know when the next election is–it is not due till spring–the government must get past an upcoming threat of a no-confidence motion. And, there is some question of whether the government’s own plan for a confidence vote is legal.
The preliminary pre-poll alliance plans concern the Samajwadi Party (SP), reports S Shivakumar, in Merinews
The understanding as of now seems to be that the constituencies wherein the SP performed better than the Congress at the last elections will go the SP way and the constituencies wherein the Congress performed better than the SP at the last elections will go the Congress way. This is based on the principle that both parties should approach the issue of seat-sharing objectively, which means ground reality has to be factored in. What better way to gauge the ground reality than the actual performance of the two parties in the elections last held in the state? Even this obviously simple modus operandi would involve several rounds of talks on the part of both the parties [because of bargaining over concessions regarding the cabinet].
“Seat-sharing” here means that one partner would not present a candidate in a given (single-seat) district, directing its supporters to vote for the candidate of the other.
Meanwhile, as also alluded to here previously, some of the parties of the Left bloc are less than eager to vote no-confidence in the current UPA minority government, despite having formally withdrawn their support for it in parliament. The reason is straightforward.
The Left does not want to precipitate an early poll… The Left knows that never in the future it can win as many Lok Sabha seats and wield so much power (vide, â€˜Left fears the PM will call its bluffâ€™).
I suspect that is correct.
Another item, from Reuters, discusses the policy interests of an alliance between the “pro-business” SP and UPA: Govt shackled over reforms, even without left as ally. The story also suggests that the UPA is not keen on early elections, either, due to inflation. On that “shackling” claim in the headline:
Key state elections are due later this year and federal elections next year and the government is keen to be seen tackling soaring prices rather than lose more popular support with controversial reforms.
(Besides, although not clear in either story linked here, in the current parliament, the UPA+SP remain short of a majority.)
In addition to the pre-election coalitions and inter-election bargaining in a multi-party parliament, that quote points up another of the key salient aspects of Indian politics and policy-making: federalism, specifically with staggered elections in states where the “minor” federal parties are often locally major parties.
Finally, a Hindustan Times item has some interesting discussions of the procedures surrounding confidence and no-confidence votes in the Indian parliament, noting that a government seeking a confidence vote is “highly irregular.” That is, at least by one interpretation, under Indian law “the onus of proving that a government is in a minority is on the Opposition and those who move a motion of no-confidence. By withdrawing support from the government outside the House, the Left parties have proved nothing… So the floor test is the final test, but only after a motion of no-confidence.”
Indian politics, always interesting, are really getting interesting about now!
Someone really needs to teach the good folks at ESPN about majority methods for selecting a single winner out of a multi-candidate field. And here “field” means the old ballyard. With the All Star Game upon us in this centennial year of the greatest song ever written, ESPN sponsored a Battle of the Bands.
From an initial field of ten artists doing their interpretation of ‘Take Me Out To The Ballgame,’ ESPN gave its viewers a runoff among the top three. The winner (Gretchen Wilson) won with 44%.1
Seems we might have come up with a better election method; my first choice out of the ten came in third (with about 20%, in the runoff) in the runoff, so I suggest Condorcet.2
As announced on Baseball Tonight yesterday; at my check this morning, the website still mentions only that there are three finalists. [↩]
Knowing, of course, nothing about the actual distribution of second choices, but I’ll take my chances. [↩]
I suppose this is a record for Georgia: the state claims two former members of Congress running for president on partisan tickets in the same year, with McKinney joining Bob Barr (former Republican member).
At pollster.com, Mark Blumenthal discusses the challenges to measuring the support of third-party and independent candidates, and notes that the pollster.com team has recently added a graphic tracking the presidential race with Bob Barr and Ralph Nader (a non-partisan candidate). Pollsters, and pollster.com should now add Cynthia McKinney to their analysis for the 2008 US presidential campaign.
On purely objective criteria–name recognition and prior experience–has there ever been a better field of third-party/independent presidential candidates? In spite of the objective quality of the candidates, I suspect that Nader and McKinney will have a hard time combining for even 2% of the national popular vote, and that Barr would have an outside chance of cracking 5% only if Republican John McCain appears to be headed for a loss of blowout proportions.
Peak apricot season has arrived within the past week. And that’s always one of the best seasons of the year!
The ‘Newcastle’ reached its peak this year a little later than usual–first week of July rather than end of June. A very heavy crop again, as usual. And always one of the best tasting–at least of the apricot apricots (that is, those with “apricot”-color flesh).
This year, we also have several varieties of “white” apricot.
We had a few fruits on this ‘Shaa Kar Pareh’ apricot last year, but this year the crop is quite heavy. This is an amazing fruit, and they are not even fully ripe yet. So sweet, they are edible even while still a little on the firm side. Incredibly juicy and with a tang that might lead you to think it was a plumcot, rather than an apricot.
We also have fruit on the ‘Canadian White Blenheim.’ This is actually not as white as the Shaa Kar Pareh’ but it certainly is paler in color than any “ordinary” apricot, and also distinctive in flavor. It has never set before for us, even though it has bloomed in some of its five previous springs since planting. What a treat!
Exciting as all the above is here at Ladera Frutal, nothing in Ladera Frutal history quite beats the thrill of harvesting one’s own Hunzas!
It had only three fruits, but this tree has earned its keep on just those three precious apricots. I have previously had ‘Hunza’ apricots only dried, imported from Pakistan, where they are a staple of the diet in some of the valleys of their origin. The dried fruit has a sugary intensity unlike any other dried apricot, and the fresh ripe fruit is just intense! It is amazingly sweet, very juicy and just packed full of flavor unlike any stone fruit I have ever eaten before. It also is one of the largest apricots you will ever see. To top it all off, the kernels are edible, too. (I have not yet cracked open the pits, but that’s on the to-do list.)
Here are a cut Shaa Kar Pareh (left) and a Hunza alongside the pit of another Hunza. There should be a tasty little kernel inside that pit!
(We did not yet have any ripe White Blenheims at the time I took that photo.)
I am not sure if the ‘Hunza’ really qualifies as a white apricot, but I think I have seen it so-classified. It certainly is paler than your typical apricot. Let’s just call it an unbelievably delicious apricot and leave it at that!
Yes, this has been a good year for apricots! And here I have not even gotten into the ‘Flavor Delight’ aprium and ‘Royal Rosa’ apricots earlier in the season, or the ‘Autumn Glo’ and ‘Earli Autumn’ yet to come. Nor did I even mention ‘Royal’ (small crop this year, just about done now, but not to be forgotten).
The Indian government empowered after the 2004 election faces its first real governance crisis today as the Left Alliance has withdrawn its support from the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) cabinet. The government was formed when the UPA, a pre-election coalition of the Indian National Congress and numerous state-specific parties, won the most seats, but less than a majority at the election. It formed a minority government with formal support from outside provided by the alliance of leftist parties. It is a conflict over the terms of “outside support” that has generated this crisis. Specifically, the UPA has told the Left that it can’t share the terms of the nuclear pact it has negotiated with the International Atomic Energy Administration with “third parties.”
That the governing agreement would fail some time in 2008, and that it would likely come to a head over the contentious issue of the US-India nuclear accord, is less than surprising. Elections are due by May, 2009, and have been widely expected to come sooner. The UPA and Left each have no other certain allies in the current parliament with which to form a majority,1 which means the government may survive a while until the UPA decides it is time to go to the polls and seek a majority on its own (possibly including new pre-poll allies). The Left, on the other hand, needs to emphasize its independence leading up to elections.
The UPA government is expected to call a confidence (or “trust“) vote on 11 August. Presumably it will survive, for now, as the Left will not want to vote along with the opposition BJP and force either an immediate election or a temporary BJP minority government leading up to elections.
The first-linked item notes that the government’s parliamentary backing “would go up to 265 with the support of the Samajwadi Party’s 39 MPs, but leave it still seven short of the 272 MPs needed for majority support.” [↩]
The same BBC news broadcast that had the video of Zimbabwe’s vote-rigging, which I mentioned earlier today, also ran some amazing footage of the rescue of Ingrid Betancourt. For some reason, there is no sound (unlike on the segments that were broadcast on TV), but unlike the Zimbabwe footage, this one actually plays for me on BBC’s video player.
If by my laws you walk, and my commands you keep, and observe them,
then I will give-forth your rains in their set-time,
so that the earth gives-forth its yield
and the trees of the field give-forth their fruit.
--Vayikra 26: 3-4