Browse Month

April 2014

Four Reforms for the 2014-2015 St. Louis Blues

Reading Time: 4 minutes

If you’re reading this, the Blues blew it. Again.

I’m writing this six hours before Game 6 against the Chicago Blackhawks. If I wait to write this after the game, I’ll get a lot of complaints about foul language.

Yes, I expect the Blackhawks to end the Blues’ delusions of Market Street parades this afternoon. The Blues’ tenacity, hitting, and heart can’t overcome their lack of goal scoring and playoff goaltending. The 111-point regular season accurately reflects their design for regular season hockey. And their second consecutive one-and-done playoff exit reflects their playoff design.

A friend of mine is a fabulous data analyst. When clients wonder why their business isn’t flourishing as they expect, he likes to say, “you’re perfectly designed for the results you’re getting.”

That’s how it is for the St. Louis Blues. They’re designed to get the results they get.

I’ll spare you reminders of the remarkable similarities between the Blues’ 2013 first round loss to the Los Angeles Kings and their 2014 disappointment in the Blackhawks series. I will let you know, though, that I started worrying about the pattern after Game 2. I’ll also spare you a long list of excuses. This team has no excuses. Tom Stillman’s ownership group was more than generous with time, talent, and treasure. The officiating was underwhelming, but the bad calls and missed  calls cut both ways. The Blues’ early exit from the playoffs is on them—the players and their coaches.

So let’s get a head  start on next season.

1.A Playoff Goalie.  The hockey press pulled a fast one on St. Louis hockey fans. They convinced us Ryan Miller was a game-stealer. They convinced us he’s built for the playoffs and thirsting to drink from the Cup. They were wrong. I like Ryan Miller, and I think he’s an excellent goalie. He’s not Roman Turek. He’s . . . Jaro Halak. He’s Brian Elliott. He’s a good goalie. He can stand on his head, but he usually does that after giving up an iffy goal or two every game. If you buy the thinking that Stanley Cup winners require a lights-out playoff goalie, then the Blues need to keep looking.

2.A Goal Scorer. Back in November, a lot of people harassed me. The Blues were the scoringest team the NHL. Steen led the league. “Do you still think the Blues need a goal scorer?” people asked.  “Yes,” I answered. Look, I love the Blues scorers. But hockey doesn’t award the Stanley Cup for your record at the end of November. The Blues rely on every player scoring to his career average and two or three players to have once-in-a-lifetime seasons. That’s called relying on luck. Without a bona fide natural goal scorer, it’s unrealistic to expect a Stanley Cup in St. Louis.

3.A Shooting Coach. I probably don’t have to remind you that the Blues led the league in wayward shots this year. The Blues fire more shots high, wide, and into opposing shin pads than any team in hockey. That’s 100% psychology. The Blues need to hire a shooting coach who’s grounded in brain science.

4.A Special Teams Coach. Specifically, a power play coach. The Blues’ power play is dull, predictable, and impotent. It simply doesn’t work. Opposing teams with the lead have little reason to avoid penalties. They know the Blues are unlikely to put a single puck on net during a two-minute advantage. If opponents don’t fear a Blues power play, the goal scorers we might acquire or develop will never blossom.

That’s it. Four reforms to bring the Cup to St. Louis. Only two related to the players on the ice. So how do we get a scorer and a goalie?

First, I’d look in our system. Vladimir Tarasenko might be the scorer we need if paired with a top-notch play maker. I know Adam Oates is busy with the Washington Capitals, but we need a guy who thinks set-up first the way Oates did. The Blues have too many players conditioned to play every role: checker, shooter, passer, defenseman. A couple of specialists would help.

In goal, I think we need to look in the system, too. Brian Elliott is as serviceable as Ryan Miller, and he won’t cost the Blues two number one draft choices – the price to retain Miller beyond this year. Jake Allen also looks like a potential brick wall for playoffs as Jaro Halak was for the Canadiens. (But that’s water under the bridge.)

If we have to make a deal, think about what we could get for Shattenkirk. I realize Shatty oozes talent. He’s our most offensive-minded defenseman and a great playmaker. He’s also lazy. And he still makes too many rookie mistakes handling the puck. But the hockey world loves Shattenkirk. The press has built him up in the minds of NHL GMs the way Ryan Miller danced in Doug Armstrong’s dreams. With Ian Cole looking for a spot to play full time, Shattenkirk could attract a world class goal scorer to take some pressure off Tarasenko and off the Blues’ goalie.

Also expendable are Berglund and, sadly, Hitchcock. On the coach, let’s face it. The Blues did not progress from 2013 to 2014. They regressed. At least Game 6 last year was a contest.

Finally, Doug Armstrong has done a remarkable job as the Blues GM. He’s built a solid core. But he made a panic trade at the deadline for a goalie is clearly past his prime. And he sold that goalie to the fans as their playoff savior. Blues management needs to take a hard look at the GM position.

I’m done writing about hockey, now, until next fall. Thank you, St. Louis Blues, for another exciting year. It didn’t end well, but you warmed our hearts through the coldest winter in decades. For that, we all thank you. And we’ll bleed Blue forever.

 

So Far, Blues Playoff Run Is Carbon Copy of 2013

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I told my nephew Scott that I was worried about the parallels between this year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 1 and last year’s bitter collapse to the LA Kings.

That conversation happened last Sunday at an Easter party. The Blues were up 2-0 at the time, preparing for Game 3 in Chicago. My trepidation stemmed from the pattern emerging:

  • Blues playing defending Stanley Cup Champions in Round 1
  • Steen wins Game 1 on overtime goal
  • Jackman scores game winner in Game 2

The parallels didn’t stop there. Here’s the freaky comparison of Blues 2013 and 2014 playoffs:

2013 Round 1 Blues vs. Kings (defending Stanley Cup champions)
Game 1: Alex Steen scored game-winning goal in OT.
Game 2: Barret Jackman scored game-winning goal.
Game 3: Blues outshot Kings by nine, got shut out.
Game 4: Blues blew 3-2 lead late in third period, lost 4-3.
Game 5: Alex Pietrangelo scored game-tying goal (his first of the playoffs, assisted by Jaden Schwartz), Blues lost 3-2 in OT.
Game 6: Blues lost 2-1, eliminated from playoffs.

2014 Round 1 Blues vs. Blackhawks (defending Stanley Cup champions)
Game 1: Steen scored game-winning goal in OT.
Game 2: Jackman scored game-winning goal.
Game 3: Blues outshot Blackhawks by nine, got shut out.
Game 4: Blues blew 3-2 lead late in third period, lost 4-3.
Game 5: Pietrangelo scored game-tying goal (his first of the playoffs, assisted by Schwartz), Blues lost 3-2 in OT.
Game 6: ???

I’m not saying the Blues will fall today. Certainly, I wouldn’t bet on a 2-1 final. And would never predict that the Hawks will score the game winner on a 70-foot shot from center ice in the second period.

But the over-under on the game is 5 and gaming sites recommend taking the under.

Let’s Go Blues.

What the ACLU Teaches Us About Cliven Bundy

Reading Time: 4 minutes

In 1977, the National Socialist Party (Nazi) applied to march and rally in Skokie, Illinois. Few communities want Nazis marching down their streets, but Skokie held a stronger case against the Nazis than most towns in America. About one person in every six of Skokie’s large Jewish population was a Nazi prison camp survivor.

The debate was clear-cut: American Nazis claimed the right of free speech while their Jewish “targets” claimed the right to live without intimidation. The town, arguing that the march would assault the sensibilities of its citizens and spark violence, managed to win a court injunction against the marchers. In response, the American Civil Liberties Union took the case and successfully defended the Nazis’ right to free speech [source].

The Nazis won their case in the US Supreme Court, but the ACLU lost 30,000 members because of its support of the Nazis.

I was in seventh grade at the time. My adolescent, knee-jerk reaction was predictably simplistic. I hated Nazis. I hated the ACLU. Therefore, I supported the people of Skokie and hoped the Supreme Court would rule for the town.

The Bundy Ranch Parallels

The Cliven Bundy story reminded me of the Skokie case. And it offers a cautionary tale for liberty lovers. Cliven Bundy is a cattle rancher in Nevada, north of Las Vegas. Bundy grazes his cattle on state-owned public land. The US Bureau of Land Management claims to manage the land and demands a tribute for the “right” of grazing. Some years ago, Bundy stopped paying this tribute. He justified his action on two grounds. First, the Bureau of Land Management didn’t actually do anything useful. Second, the Bureau of Land Management was using grazing fees to systematically seize land from the state of Nevada.

Bundy’s fight came to a head recently when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s son struck a deal with a Chinese firm to build a solar energy plant on the land Bundy grazed. The deal offered millions in income to the Reid family. To smooth the transfer to China, Reid helped his former chief of staff into a senior position within the Bureau of Land Management (BML). The BML began a roundup of Bundy’s cattle. Bundy refused to back down. Soon, liberty lovers flooded the area to confront the BML and rescue Bundy’s seized cattle.

After a tense standoff, the BML backed down and returned the herd to Bundy. Then Harry Reid started calling names.He described Bundy’s supporters as “domestic terrorists.”

The Problem of Personality

Now we learn that Bundy’s views on race are approximately those of Archie Bunker.

Here’s the problem for us liberty lovers. The people who rallied against the BML were not necessary Bundy supporters. They were opponents of unrestricted government activity. The liberty lovers had no particular affinity for Bundy, but they believed Bundy a victim of an abusive, tyrannical, and corrupt federal government.

But many of us who defend liberty often make linguistic mistakes that damage our position in the public eye. Many of us described ourselves as “pro-Bundy” when, in fact, we were merely pro-liberty. By attaching our beliefs to a highly fallible person rather than to an infallible principle, we assumed the character and qualities of the person. So a flaw in Bundy becomes a flaw in the cause, at least to the casual observer.

Most Americans are casual observers, even of their own lives. Cat video on Facebook seem more interesting now than our child’s first steps. When people hear that Cliven Bundy wonders whether “Negroes” were better off slaves, Bundy’s idiocy infects the whole liberty movement like MERS virus in a Riyadh whorehouse (assuming there are such).

Promote the Principle, Not the Person

A few of us in the liberty movement need to learn a lesson from the ACLU. Though the ACLU lost 30,000 members in the Skokie fight, it survived. The ACLU managed to attach itself to the principle of the First Amendment’s rights yet distance itself from the message its client hoped to spread with First Amendment protections. The ACLU lawyers in the Skokie case represented everyone protected by the First Amendment. The Nazis were just a tool.

In the Bundy Ranch case, the Bureau of Land Management threatens to spread corruption and to seize state property. It operates in abject violation of the law. It does so for the financial benefit of a powerful and wealthy member of Congress.

The fight in Nevada is between liberty and tyranny, not Bundy and blacks.

Thirty-seven years after Skokie, I admit that my knee-jerk position was less than perfect. I can say “let the Nazis march if anyone may march.” I won’t say “let them wear their swastikas.” The death camp survivors on one side. The evil on the other. I still can’t go all the way.

The ACLU was right, though, to defend the First Amendment, even if its client was evil incarnate. Right principles like freedom of speech, press, religion, and association apply to angels and demons alike. As Thomas More explains to young Will Roper in my favorite dialogue from Robert Bolt’s A Man For All Seasons:

I hope those who rallied against tyranny in Nevada two weeks ago will continue to stand for their principles even though the person at the center of that fight is a seriously flawed old man. And I hope the liberty movement, myself included, remembers the lesson of Skokie by attaching itself to principles instead of people, giving even the devil the benefit of the law.

P.S. Though the Nazis won their case in the Supreme Court, they never held the Skokie march.

Jonah Goldberg Perfectly Defines the GOP Establishment

Reading Time: 3 minutes

I hope you read Jonah Goldberg’s short article on National Review Online last week. If not, you missed the best definition of Establishment Republicans EVER!

Goldberg’s piece also exploded the myth of “pro-business” way too many conservatives believe. Conservatism isn’t pro-business, it’s pro-market. I’ll let Jonah explain:

Just to clarify, the difference between being pro-business and pro-market is categorical. A politician who is a “friend of business” is exactly that, a guy who does favors for his friends. A politician who is pro-market is a referee who will refuse to help protect his friends (or anyone else) from competition unless the competitors have broken the rules. The friend of business supports industry-specific or even business-specific loans, grants, tariffs, or tax breaks. The pro-market referee opposes special treatment for anyone.

BOOM! In one paragraph, Goldberg destroys that myth that pro-business equals pro-market. In fact, the two are mutually exclusive.

So how do you tell the difference between a pro-market conservative and pro-business Republican? You’re about to get your chance.

The Export-Import Bank Lights Up the Rats

The Export-Import Bank symbolizes pro-business. The bank provides sweetheart deals to businesses who donate lots of money to politicians. The Ex-Im bank will go away in September unless Congress reauthorizes it.

Any Republican who votes for (or trades his or her vote for) re-authorization of the Export-Import Bank exposes himself as a crony capitalist who puts himself and his political career ahead of good policy and free markets. 

Jonah Goldberg:

GOP politicians can’t have it both ways anymore. An economic system that simply doles out favors to established stakeholders becomes less dynamic and makes job growth less likely. (Most jobs are created by new businesses.) Politically, the longer we’re in a “new normal” of lousy growth, the more the focus of politics turns to wealth redistribution. That’s bad for the country and just awful politics for Republicans. In that environment, being the party of less — less entitlement spending, less redistribution — is a losing proposition.

The Export-Import Bank isn’t the only tattletale of pro-business cronyism. The Missouri Republican legislature is pretty much a sea of cronyism. Every GOP legislator who supports Medicaid expansion, China Hub, Obamacare health insurance exchanges, and red light cameras practices crony capitalism.

Democrats, of course, believe wholeheartedly in crony capitalism. They want the state and business to meld into one. (And a police state runs through it.) Republicans, on the other hand, like to preach from Hayak’s gospel and quietly sing from the corporatism hymnal.

Republican Hypocrisy Turns Off Millennials

The Millennials represent the largest generation in American history at 79 million members. Millennials are the future of elections for the next 20 years. The oldest Millennials are 32, the youngest about 10 or 12. By 2016, the youngest will be 12 to 14 and the oldest 34.

This generation radiates a libertarian streak balanced with a strong concept of teamwork. In other words, they vote, buy, and move in large groups. And they can smell hypocrisy a mile away.

When Republicans preach free markets but legislate to benefit GOP donors through the Export-Import Bank, Millinnials ask, “how stupid do they thing we are?” Jonah Goldberg notes this, too.

Also, for the first time in years, there’s an organized — or mostly organized — grassroots constituency for the market. Historically, the advantage of the pro-business crowd is that its members pick up the phone and call when politicians shaft them. The market, meanwhile, was like a bad Jewish son; it never called and never wrote. Now, there’s an infrastructure of tea-party-affiliated and other free-market groups forcing Republicans to stop fudging.

If the GOP hopes to regain the White House or the Missouri Governor’s Mansion, it better decide soon whether it’s the party of free markets or the party of crony capitalism.

As Jonah Goldberg said, they can’t have it both ways. Republicans in Washington and in Missouri will either live up to the promise of their rhetoric or slide down the Waste Management dump truck into the ash heap of history.

 

Rockwood School Board Quid Pro Quo?

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From the “see, I told ya so” file . . .

Rockwood NEA President Suzanne Dotta worked hard to influence the recent school board election. The candidates Ms. Dotta pushed won.

The new board hired Ms. Dotta as Director of Professional Learning within 72 hours of the election.

I expect Ms. Dotta to teach Rockwood’s professionals how to game the system for personal gain at taxpayer expense.

If you’d like to question this apparent quid pro quo, the next Rockwood Board meeting is April 24.  Meetings are held at Crestview Middle School, located at 16025 Clayton Road in Ellisville.  Meetings begin at 7:00 p.m.

Yes, the Government Should Fear the People

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Every inch of US territory is a Constitutionally guaranteed free-speech zone. I am all for arresting and prosecuting without mercy any government employee–including military–who attempt to limit the size or scope of this zone.

us-free-speech-zone

During the Bundy Ranch standoff in Nevada, the Bureau of Land Management set up “free-speech zones.” I prefer to call them “First Amendment pens.”

The government uses these pens to segregate people. The US government says, “If you want to speak your mind, you may do so only within the pen. If you want out of the pen, keep your damn mouth shut.”

free-speech-pen

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Free-Speech Zones are Unconstitutional

Luckily, government courts agree with the Constitution on this matter. College administrators seem eager to abandon the First Amendment. (Remember that US university professors and administrators were the intellectual source of Hitler’s persecution of Jews, too.) Numerous colleges try to limit free speech to tiny areas on the fringe of campuses, but judges quickly bar the abridgments to free speech:

In 2002, West Virginia University dropped its free-speech zone policy after being sued by a civil liberties organization. Two years later, a federal judge struck down Texas Tech’s policy establishing a 20-foot-wide gazebo as a free-speech zone. Last year, Des Moines Area Community College abandoned a policy restricting student leaflet-distribution activities to a table in the student center. And earlier this year, Modesto Junior College in California agreed to drop its free-speech zone and pay $50,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a student who was barred from distributing copies of the U.S. Constitution on Constitution Day. [source] 

Look again at what’s going on here. The US government limits free speech, giving special privileges to those who surrender their power to speak. That’s one of the highest crimes against the United States a person can commit, and those guilty–including those who simply follow orders–should be prosecuted without mercy.

People Have The Power

The Declaration of Independence provides our moral and philosophical justification for defending our rights and preserving power to the people:

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Over 1,000 freedom lovers descended on the Bundy Ranch prepared to fight and die for the First Amendment. They were prepared to defend the Constitution against its greatest enemy: the US government.

On Thomas Jefferson’s birthday (April 13), remember what the Declaration’s author said about little rebellions as we saw in Nevada:

I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.

and

When the people fear the government there is tyranny, when the government fears the people there is liberty.

So let the government fear the people. It should. We built it up, and we can take it down.