Thursday, January 31, 2013

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

In 2012, our economy as measured by the Gross Domestic Product (the value of all goods and services produced in the United States) grew at a rate of 2.2%. That is better than the rate of 1.8% for 2011. The GDP is a measure of economic activity and is closely watched by economists, politicians, and business leaders as one of the signs of overall economic health and growth. So it's a good thing that GDP grew in 2012 over the level of growth in 2011, right? Absolutely. But a troubling number emerged from the data. Although the full year number was positive, the 4th quarter surprisingly fell .1%, stunning economists who had expected the growth that occurred in the third quarter of 2012- up 3.1%- to continue. Part of the downturn is attributable to cuts in defense spending and slower growth in business inventories. The pullback in those areas offset growth in housing, consumer spending, and business investment. Longer term, a troubling consideration for the economy is that consumer confidence is starting to turn down as consumers come to grips with the effects of higher taxes, cutbacks in hours due to Obamacare requirements, and persistent high unemployment. As the nascent recovery tries to get traction, Washington should do all it can to encourage growth and business investment. As it is, Washington is more of an impediment to growth that an asset.

My children text me "plz" because it is shorter "please". I text them "no" because it is shorter than "yes".

In his inaugural speech, President Obama called for the U.S. to "respond to the threat of climate change." He went on to say, "Some may deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, crippling drought, and more powerful storms." The "overwhelming judgment of science"? Okay, let's see what the overwhelming judgment of science says about the very things you cited, Mr. President, as evidence of climate change. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, the number of annual wildfires has been consistently declining for 30 years. In fact, in the 90's, Federal Land management officials with the support of environmentalists began to let naturally caused wildfires burn to eliminate forest overgrowth and the abundance of kindling that results from that overgrowth. So the result has been a consistent decline in the number of wildfires in the U.S. So what about droughts? According to Global Soil Moisture Data Bank, global soil moisture increase throughout the 20th century at almost 100% of their soil measuring sites. Additionally, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)reported that droughts in the 20th century were much milder than in previous centuries. Finally, the peer reviewed journal Nature found that there had been little change in the number of droughts or the severity over the last 60 years.  And the more powerful storms supposedly caused by global warming? NOAA reported a long term decline in strong tornadoes in the U.S. and the National Hurricane Center reported that the past 40 years the U.S. has experienced the fewest hurricane strikes since the late 1800's. So what is the end game with the renewed interest in global warming? Simply follow the money, friends. Beginning with the corrupt Al Gore and his cadre of acolytes and continuing to President Obama, the goal is to cripple our economy in the name of being green and to transfer wealth to environmental causes and favored companies (take a look at all the bankrupt "green companies" this administration funded in its first term. You and I have paid out billions for nothing). This attempt by the administration to re-institute climate change initiatives is nothing more than a blatant money grab.

A friend dropped a box of Italian pastries on the floor. I cannoli imagine how he feels.

Do you know Richard Windsor? "Richard Windsor" is a fictitious employee that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson created so she could appropriate "his" e-mail account. Why do that? The false identity allowed Jackson to conduct official business on behalf of the EPA and avoid federal record keeping and disclosure laws. What's the big deal, you ask? The Windsor account contains some 12,000 secret and previously undisclosed e-mails. Now ask this question: why would the administrator of a national and public agency need a clandestine e-mail account? Why would she want to hide public business and not have that business conducted in her name? If the word "Solyndra" jumps to mind, you are probably close to the truth. I would guess that a great number of these e-mails are related to Solyndra, the first of the "green energy" companies that failed and cost the taxpayers a boatload of money. This account was intentionally created to allow the the agency and its administrator to avoid public accountability and to conduct government business under the table. It is a pattern with this administration, one that Obama pledged to be "the most transparent ever". And these are the people that want to run our health care system.

I have found that there are three kinds of people in this world: those who can count and those who cannot.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Woeful Predators Pummeled by Phoenix 4-0

The Nashville Predators continue their lengthy road swing with a contest in the desert against the Phoenix Coyotes. The Predators enter the tilt with a 1-1-3 record and some serious questions to answer.

Patric Hornqvist has been lost for 3-4 weeks with a sprained knee after being injured when Ryan Getzlaf of the Ducks fell on his knee in their previous game. The first question the Predators have to answer is who is going to step up and fill the roll of Hornqvist as a gritty presence in front of the net?

The longer term question- but equally important for the Predators- is what will it take to get their offense untracked? There have been stretches where the offense has been invisible, and the team is struggling to put the puck in the net. The Predators have to get balanced scoring out of their roster, and right now, the offense is sputtering. The quicker that question can be answered, the quicker the Predators get on track and keep pace with their rivals in the Central Division.

The Predators had Pekka Rinne in net, while the Coyotes went with Chad Johnson in his first NHL game of the season.

The Predators did not get the start they wanted as Antoine Vermette beat Pekka Rinne high glove side just 3 minutes into the game. Vermette just blasted a shot past Rinne from the face off circle, who had a good look but could not stop the puck.

The first period ended with the Coyotes leading 1-0 and the Predators still struggling to find any offensive push. The shots on goal were 6-3 for the Coyotes, a testament to the ineptness of the Predators offense.

The second period saw Pekka Rinne make two huge saves to keep the Coyotes off the board, one of which was a point blank stop from right in front of the net. Meanwhile, the Predators were never seriously threatening Johnson in the Phoenix net.

The Predators started skating and getting shots on net, but did not get quality scoring chances. Meanwhile, the Coyotes won a face off in the Predators zone and fired a shot on Rinne that he blocked but could not control. The Predators looked to have control of the puck, but lost it in traffic. The puck squirted to Lauri Korpikoski and he rifled the puck into the net to give the Coyotes a 2-0 lead at  16:48.

After two periods, the shots on goal were 13-10 for the Coyotes. If the Predators were going to have a chance to get back in this game, their offense was going to have to get going in the third period. Too often in the first two periods, the Predators had few quality scoring chances and were many times one shot and done. The Preds needed to get shots on goal and traffic to the net.

The third period saw the Predators begin to activate their defensemen in an attempt to create some offense, but Johnson was able to see the shots cleanly and rarely gave up a rebound. The Coyotes defense was doing a good job of clearing the front of the net, and although the Predators out shot the Coyotes 5-1 early in the period, they rarely had a second chance scoring opportunity.

The Coyotes took a 3-0 lead at 11:34 of the third period as a back pass from David Legwand was intercepted and started a 4 on 2 rush. Nick Johnson took a pass from Keith Yandle and buried the shot to give the Coyotes an insurmountable lead.

The Coyotes tallied on the power play at 15:02 as Keith Yandle took a shot from the blue line that beat Rinne through traffic. Unlike the Predators, the Coyotes had three players in front of the net screening Rinne and he never had a chance on the shot.

For the Predators, they could only hope the clock quickly would run out and end this miserable night.

The game mercifully ended with the no further scores by the Coyotes. The Coyotes out shot the Predators 25-22, but the reality is that Chad Johnson rarely had to make quality saves.

For the Predators, the offensive impotence that has plagued the team all season continued in a big way tonight. If the offense does not quickly develop some chemistry and jump, the Predators will soon find themselves spending the remainder of this shortened season trying to get back into the playoff race.

This is early in the season to be sure, but the effort by the offense is alarming.

It is time to get hungry boys.

My three stars:

1. Antoine Vermette

2. Keith Yandle

3. Chad Johnson

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Predators Go to the SO (Again), Lose to the Ducks 3-2

The Nashville Predators were looking to rebound from a 3-0 drubbing by the St. Louis Blues as they traveled to the Honda Center to take on the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks were flattened by the Vancouver Canucks 5-0 in their last game on Friday night.

The Predators have won 6 consecutive regular season games against the Ducks and were attempting to keep that streak alive in their first meeting of the season.

The Predators had Pekka Rinne in net, while the Ducks went with Viktor Fasth as Jonas Hiller had the start the night before.

The key to the Predators getting back on track was simple: they had to control the puck, get through the neutral zone, and get shots on net.

The Predators did just that with their fourth line on the ice as Brandon Yip broke in 2 on 1 with Rich Clune. Fasth stopped Yip's initial shot but gave up a juicy rebound that Yip gathered in a fired into the net to give the Predators a 1-0 lead at 1:52 of the first period. This was Yip's first goal of the year.

The remainder of the first period saw both teams trade some good scoring chances. In particular, Pekka Rinne had to come up with a big save off a flurry in front of the net to keep the Ducks off the board. The shots on goal were 7 apiece in the first period.

For the Predators, they had better jump and skated much better than they did in the game against the Blues.

The Predators opened the second period with good jump and had a decided advantage in the offensive zone. Although they peppered Fasth with shots, they couldn't get a puck past the rookie netminder. It was going to be important for the Predators to keep up the offensive pressure in this game.

Although the Predators had the 1-0 lead and had controlled much of the play in the second period, the lead felt uneasy as the Ducks were just one good shot from tying the game. That sense of foreboding became a reality with just 32 seconds remaining in the period as Cam Fowler took a hard wrist shot from the point that was re-directed by Stompin' Bobby Ryan past Rinne to tie the game at one.

The shots were 6 for each team in the second period.

The third period was going to be a test of character for the Predators. They had to keep up the pressure and continue to skate hard. 

The third period was wide open, with both teams getting some good scoring chances and both keepers equal to the task.

The Predators broke the tie at 10:09 of the third period as they had good offensive zone presence. Kevin Klein took a shot from the high slot and Fasth gave up a rebound that David Legwand gathered in slid a backhand in to give the Predators a 2-1 lead.

The Ducks tied the game just over a minute later as Corey Perry drove the left side of the Predators defense and was able to get a pass to Daniel Winnik. Winnik out worked Hal Gill to get his stick on the puck and tipped it past Rinne, who had no chance on the shot.

Neither team could score, although each had several good chances, and for the third time in five games, the Predators were heading to overtime.

Shots were 19-19 at the end of the regulation time.

The Predators lost Patric Hornqvist in the third period as he took a Shea Weber slapshot off his thigh and was able to fight through that injury, but was lost when Ryan Getzlaf fell on his leg at an awkward angle.

In the extra period, both the Predators and the Ducks had some glorious scoring chances, but neither team could capitalize. So for the third time this season, the Predators were heading to a shootout and were looking for their first victory in the skills competition.

The Predators sent Marty Erat, Mike Fisher, and David Legwand out in the shootout, and all were stopped by Fasth. Ryan Getzlaf was stopped by Rinne, but Corey Perry scored the lone goal to give the Ducks the win.

This was a much better effort by the Predators. Once again, they desperately need to finish some of their scoring chances, but I cannot fault their jump and their effort.

This is a team that continues to gel. It is going to be important for them to gel quickly and begin to get some regulation wins.

My three stars:

1. Viktor Fasth

2. Brandon Yip

3. Daniel Winnik

Friday, January 25, 2013

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

Taro Aso is the 72 year old Deputy Prime Minister of Japan, and he made headlines this past week for remarks he made at a panel in his country to discuss social security reforms. His comments? The elderly should be allowed to "hurry up and die" to reduce the financial burden on the country that is responsible for their medical expenses. That is not the first time that Aso has gotten into some hot water over his remarks about the elderly and their medical care. In 2008, while then serving as Prime Minister, he called the elderly population in Japan a "feeble group" and said, "Why should I have to pay taxes for people who just sit around and do nothing but eat and drink?" To be sure, Japan, like the U.S. and other countries with an aging population, are faced with serious financial issues in delivering quality healthcare, and the high cost of care for the elderly is an issue that stirs many emotions and passions. There are those that feel as Deputy Prime Minister Aso does: why should limited tax resources be used to pay for those who typically have very costly medical care and a limited number of years in which to live? And lest you think that this is a phenomenon that happens only in other countries, know that some of those same sentiments are stirring here in the United States. Former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich recently told an audience, "We are going to have to, if you're very old, we're not going to give you all that technology and all those drugs for the last couple of years of your life to keep you going for another couple of months. It's too expensive, so we are going to let you die." The discourse today on healthcare has turned to government controlled healthcare- that is Obamacare- and government controlled healthcare creates a monopoly on treatment. This monopoly leads to rationing, and that leads to end of life decisions being removed from individuals and families and placed in the hand of the government. And that is not healthy.

I have a friend that is addicted to drinking brake fluid. I told him I was worried about him, but he said it was okay and he could stop any time.

The problem with government sponsored healthcare is the inhumane notion that the state has the discretion as to who lives or dies. The individual has no right to self preservation. Cloaked in the garb of developing and preserving financially a flawed health delivery system, the state has interjected itself into very personal decisions about healthcare and the intensely emotional decisions about the treatment of an individual at an end of life event. Where family and loved ones look at costs and potential outcomes through the lens of relationships and emotion, the government brutally bludgeons these individuals and families with a solely economic decision. I for one do not want the government telling me- or any member of my family- that I am "drain" on resources or on society and therefore I must die. As a society, we are not there. Yet. But know that the rationing of health care services, the establishment of the federal Independent Payment Advisory Board (which Sarah Palin called a "death panel" to great derision. Turns out she was more right than most knew), and the insinuation of government into private medical decisions, moves us closer to the establishment of a government monopoly on healthcare. And as history has shown, having a monopoly in any industry leads to higher costs and poorer service.

I have a friend who is Buddhist and he recently had a root canal without any Novocaine. When I asked him why, he said he wanted to transcend dental medication.

So if the federal government does eventually control most if not all of our health care system, it will operate in the best interest of all of us, right? Not so fast, my friends. Here is just one example of the imbalances and distortions that occur when the heavy hand of government gets involved in anything. Massachusetts Senator John Kerry added a provision to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) that allows hospitals in Massachusetts to increase their Medicare reimbursements by a factor of ten. TEN! Under Obamacare, hospitals in urban areas have to be reimbursed at the same level as rural hospitals. Massachusetts has only one hospital classified as a rural hospital, and it is a small 19 bed facility on Nantucket Island. Because the community is so wealthy and has such an extraordinarily high cost of living, it sets the floor for reimbursements to other hospitals. So over the next ten years, reimbursements to Massachusetts hospitals will rise from $367 million to nearly $3.5 billion. And under Kerry's provision, hospital reimbursement payments come from a nationwide pool of funds. So Massachusetts' windfall is going to come at the expense of reimbursements under Medicare to other states. By increasing control of the federal government over the healthcare system, Obamacare has made it easier for these types of imbalances to occur. And we want the federal government involved in our individual healthcare decisions?

I bought some furniture that was delivered and that I had to assemble. They should have called it "Divorce in a box".

And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Predators Fail to Show Up in 3-0 Loss to the Blues

The Nashville Predators traveled to ScottTrade Center to face off with the St. Louis Blues for the second time in 5 days. The first meeting between these two teams resulted in a 4-3 Blues shoot out win in Nashville, and the Predators were looking to keep pace with their Central Division rival.

Pekka Rinne was in net for the Predators and Jaroslav Halak, who was pulled in the first game between these teams, was in net for the Blues.

The game opened like a mirror image of the game in Nashville with the Blues holding a dominant territorial advantage, out shooting the Predators 4-1 early in the contest. The Blues would tally first on their second power play of the period as Mike Fisher was in the box. A shot to the net was not handled cleanly by Rinne, who let the puck hit the blue ice in front of him. T.J. Oshie crashed the net and was able to shovel the puck past Rinne for a 1-0 lead at 12:59.

The Predators had a difficult time getting through the neutral zone and establishing offensive zone presence in the first period. Rinne made a great save on T.J. Oshie  late in the period to keep the Blues lead at 1. If the Predators were going to make a game of it, they were going to have to be stronger on the puck and establish their offense, which was virtually non-existent in the first period.

At the end of the first period, the Blues held a 9-3 shot advantage.

The second period opened with the Blues continuing to dominate in puck possession and the Predators unable to establish offensive presence. If the Predators were going to make a game of it, their offense was going to have to control the puck and generate some chances.

That was not happening for the Predators. The Blues controlled the puck, choked off the Predators entry into the zone, and did not let the offense get established. The Predators did not record their first shot on the Blues goal until 12:21 had elapsed in the period.

The Predators defense was caught asleep as Patrick Bergland broke in alone on Rinne and was hooked by Mike Fisher. Bergland was awarded a penalty shot and he beat Rinne stick side to give the Blues a 2-0 lead. As bad as the Predators offense was tonight, that lead looked to be insurmountable for the Predators.

The remainder of the period was scoreless, but the Predators never seriously challenged the Blues net and the offense was throttled by the Blues defense. In the second period, the Predators were out shot 11-4. If the Predators were going to get back in this game, they were going to have to commit to getting the puck in the zone and getting shots on net, something they had not done during the first 40 minutes.

The final 20 minutes were going to be a test of the heart and will of the Predators.

The Predators opened the third period with 1:30 of power play time, but had difficulty even entering the zone. The power play expired with no serious scoring threats. Another power play shortly thereafter yielded a few shots but again no serious scoring threats.

Vladamir Tarasenko made it 3-0 at 9:04 as he was left all alone on the left side of the ice after jumping off the bench on a change. Alex Steen found Tarasenko gliding toward the net and slipped a pass to the wide open winger and he roofed a shot over Rinne to give the Blues a lead that the Predators were not going to threaten the way they were playing.

The only question remaining in this game was how badly the Predators would be embarrassed by their lack of effort tonight.

The Predators effort tonight was embarrassing. They were out shot 24-13 and rarely threatened Halak in the offensive zone. The forwards were dominated by the Blues defense. The power play was impotent.

An all around stinker of a game by the Predators.

This team is a team that has to bring the effort every night to compensate for their lack of talent. Tonight, the effort was woefully lacking.

The Predators get a chance to wash this bad taste out of their mouth Saturday night in Anaheim.

It can't come quickly enough.

My three stars:

1. T.J. Oshie

2. Vladamir Tarasenko

3. Jaroslav Halak

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Predators Pick Up First Regulation Win, Defeat the Wild 3-1

The Nashville Predators ventured out on the road for the first time in this young season, traveling to the XCel Energy Center to take on the Minnesota Wild and former teammate Ryan Suter. While many have focused on the story line of the Predators facing their former co-anchor on the blue line, the real story for the Predators was attempting to elevate their game to the level to which they are accustomed.

For the Predators, Chris Mason was in net and Niklas Backstrom was in net for the Wild.

The Wild opened the scoring at 6:02 of the first period as Dany Heatley skated just inside the Predators blue line and lofted a shot toward the net. The puck appeared to glance off Kevin Klein and re-directed past Mason, who had no chance on the shot.

Once again, the Predators were at a decided territorial disadvantage for most of the first period, being out shot 9-2 through the first 16 minutes.

That would change at 16:31 of the first period as the Predators gained the zone and controlled the puck. Kevin Klein let a shot go from the blue line, and Backstrom was able to block the shot coming through traffic, but Nick Spaling pounced on the rebound and slapped it past the sprawling netminder to tie the game at 1.

The first period ended tied at 1. The Wild out shot the Predators 12-5.

For the Predators, their struggles to clear the zone and establish offensive zone presence continues to be a problem. However, they were able to capitalize on some puck possession time to tie the game, and it was good to see Spaling get on the score sheet. The Predators have to have production from their third and fourth lines.

The Predators also welcomed back Gabriel Bourque, and he was dynamic. He had a break away chance that was stopped by Backstrom, but was on the ice and kept the puck alive for the Predators goal.

The second period would open with 4 on 4 hockey as Patric Hornqvist for the Predators and Mikko Koivu picked up coincidental minors for roughing at the end of the first period.

The Predators opened the second period with better jump and created some chances with traffic to the net. They had a chance to take advantage of a Minnesota penalty with their first power play of the game, but quickly short circuited that effort as Shea Weber was called for interference just 20 seconds into the man advantage.

The Predators had a much better effort throughout the second period. The Predators got their legs and skated much better, and this was reflected in the shots on goal as the Predators out shot the Wild 10-7. While the Predators created some scoring chances, the Wild did as well, and both netminders came up with some good saves to keep the game tied.

The second period ended with the Predators killing off a Brandon Yip roughing penalty, and the Wild would open the third period with a fresh sheet of ice and 1:17 of man advantage time.

The Predators opened the third period by killing off the Yip penalty, but the Wild used the man advantage to quickly re-establish their offensive zone presence, and the Predators were once again having difficulty establishing their offense.

Although the Wild had stretches of the game in the third period where they were clearly skating better and stronger on the puck, the Predators kept pushing and their effort was rewarded as the puck was chipped out of the defensive zone and into open ice. Marty Erat was in pursuit but Backstrom came out of the net and beat Erat to the puck. His clearing attempt from between the face off circles hit Erat in the chest, and he was able to get control of the puck and stuff it into the open net to give the Predators a 2-1 lead at 11:45.

An improbable goal?


But a goal from effort and hustle, a goal that came from not wilting under the pressure the Wild were putting on the Predators.

The Predators continued to withstand the pressure from the Wild and thwarted their scoring chances. Chris Mason came up with some big saves to keep the Wild off the board.

With Backstrom pulled for the extra attacker, the Wild were pressuring the Predators when they were called for slashing with 23 seconds remaining. On the ensuing power play, the Predators capitalized as David Legwand took a nice pass from Nick Spaling and buried the one timer to give the Predators a 3-1 lead and their first regulation win of the season.

This was a character win as the Predators withstood the pressure the Wild brought throughout the game and persevered in a hostile environment.

As the game wore on, the Predators begin to assert themselves. After a slow first period in which the Preds were out shot 12-5, the Predators out shot the Wild 21-18 over the final two periods. This is the type of win that the team can use to build their confidence and their belief in their system and each other.

They will need it in this short season.

My three stars:

1. Chris Mason

2. Nick Spaling

3. Marty Erat

Monday, January 21, 2013

Predators Pick Up a Point in 4-3 SO Loss to the Blues

For the second straight game, the Nashville Predators went to a shootout, and both times the results were the same as the Predators dropped a 4-3 decision to the St. Louis Blues.

Unlike the previous game with Columbus, the Predators played with more purpose. Like the previous game, there were stretches where the visiting Blues dominated puck possession and kept the Predators pinned in their own zone. Make no mistake, part of this is the fact that the Blues are a very talented team, but the fact that the Predators can be dominated as they were in their own zone is troubling.

In regulation, the Blues out shot the Predators 33-24. In the overtime period, the Predators could not muster a shot and were out shot 6-0.

The Predators opened the scoring at 9:10 of the first period as Colin Wilson took a pass from Patric Hornqvist and fired a shot from just inside the face off circle that beat Blues netminder Jaroslav Halak. Wilson was strong on the puck all night and played a very good game. In the two games of this young season, he has been the best skater for the Predators.

The Blues tied the game at 10:28 of the first period as rookie Vladamir Tarasenko fired a shot over the shoulder of Pekka Rinne for his third goal in two games. Tarasenko is a dynamic young player and a force for the Blues. He later added two assists on Blues goals to give him 5 points in two games.

The Blues took a 2-1 lead at 15:04 of the first as Andy McDonald tallied on the power play with David Legwand in the box for hooking. McDonald was able to roof the puck over an out of position Rinne for the Blues lead.

The Predators returned the favor on the power play at 17:13 of the first period as Mike Fisher took a nice cross ice feed from Marty Erat and beat Halak high stick side.

Although the Blues out shot the Predators 14-6 and had a decided territorial advantage in the first period, the opening frame ended tied at 2. Rinne made some good save to keep the Predators in the period as the Blues had a tremendous offensive zone time advantage.

The Predators were stronger on the puck in the second period, and although they were out shot 9-8, they tallied the only goal of the period on the power play. Patric Hornqvist got free down low and lifted a sharp angle backhand over the shoulder of Halak at 12:53 the give the Predators a 3-2 lead on only their 11th shot of the game. That was enough for Blues Coach Ken Hitchcock as he pulled Halak and inserted Brian Elliott in net.

That proved to be a wide coaching move by Hitch as Elliott would shut out the Predators the rest of the way.

Once again, the third period saw the Predators unable to hold a lead as the Blues tied the game at 12:10 of the third as Alex Pietrangelo was able to get the puck past Rinne.

Shots were 10-10 in the third period, but Rinne made some exceptional saves and the Predators hit the post on three occasions and couldn't finish their chances.

The Blues owned the overtime session as once again Rinne made some good saves to keep the Blues off the board. The Predators could not generate any offense and did not have a shot on goal in the extra session.

In the shootout, Craig Smith and Marty Erat were stopped by Elliott and T.J. Oshie and Alex Steen were able to beat Rinne to give the Blues the second point.

On the positive side, it was good to see Hornqvist and Fisher get on the score sheet. Hornqvist had a strong game and has been quietly effective. Colin Wilson had a solid game, skating well and was strong on the puck. Wilson has been the Predators best skater in the first two games and his game has matured nicely.

Troubling for the Predators is the way that the Blues were able to dominate in puck possession. There were stretches of the game where the Predators were fortunate to just get it out of their zone. Part of this is that the Blues are a very talented team. Part of this is that the Predators were sloppy with the puck. This has to improve for the Predators to get in the win column.

The other aspect of the Predators game that has to improve is the secondary scoring. Last year, the Predators were the beneficiaries of the third and fourth line contributing with timely scoring. So far, these lines have not had any offensive pop, and the Predators have to have these lines chipping in with some goals.

The Predators are in Minnesota tomorrow night, and this is another opportunity to continue to get their game back to Predator hockey. Some good strides were made tonight.

The progress has to continue.

My three stars:

1. Vladamir Tarasenko

2. Patric Hornqvist

3. Colin Wilson

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Predators Stumble, Lose to Columbus 3-2 in a SO

The Nashville Predators lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets at Bridgestone Arena in a shootout by a 3-2 score. Several aspects of this game stand out:

The lack of high end scoring continues to plague the Predators offensively. The top line of Mike Fisher, Sergei Kostitsyn, and Marty Erat scored one goal, on the first shot of the game by Erat. He wired a shot over the glove of Blue Jacket netminder Sergei Bobrovsky. Unfortunately, this was Erat's only shot of the game. Fisher recorded three shots on goal; Kostitsyn did not have a shot on net (although he was credited with two assists). This is usually a formula for trouble for the Predators, and tonight, it bit them. Four shots from the top line and precious few quality chances will not usually lead to success.

Roman Josi was solid, logging 27:30 in ice time and was even on the night in plus/minus. Josi seemed to handle the workload with ease and was rarely caught out of position. He looked comfortable and meshed well with Shea Weber.

The Predators got sloppy with the puck in the second period and it cost them. Artem Anisimov worked past Paul Gaustad and tied the game with a sweet backhand over Pekka Rinne's glove. Anisimov is a good add for the Jackets, coming over in the trade for Rick Nash from the Rangers. The Predators lack of puck possession gave the Jackets a lot of zone time and created some good chances. Anisimov made the Predators pay for some loose play with the puck.

Scott Hannan played well on the second D pairing with Kevin Klein. I like the fact that Hannan jumped in after a questionable hit on Klein and dropped the gloves. Hannan is not spectacular, but he was positionally sound and will log some quality minutes this season.

David Legwand continues to be invisible. For a second line center to record no shots on goal and never threaten offensively is beyond words.

This abbreviated season is going to be a sprint to the playoffs. No team will be afforded the luxury of time to get their game to a high level. For the Predators, the game against the Jackets should point out the fact that this team is going to have to bring their best game every night. It is imperative that the Predators play their style of hockey if they are going to be successful: shooting the puck and getting the dirty goals.

Most importantly for the Predators, the guys that are being counted on to contribute are going to have to contribute. The top two lines have to generate more chances and the team has to have more jam to their game. Own the puck and create chances.

Fail to do that, and this short season will be a long season

Friday, January 18, 2013

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

There is a concept in economics called "friction costs". These are costs not directly associated with producing a product or service. Friction costs are things such as regulatory costs, the cost of complying with government regulations and reporting requirements. These costs are not part of the manufacturing process or the cost of providing a service, yet businesses must pay them. And this means that those costs are passed on to you and me. How bad are the regulatory or friction costs imposed by the government? They are horrific. According to the American Action Forum (AAF), led by former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin, American business spent 87 million man hours completing regulatory paperwork at a cost of $236.7 billion in 2012. The total in new regulatory costs after the first term of the Obama presidency is $518 billion according to AAF. These regulatory costs are a drag on businesses and further strain an anemic economic recovery. The intrusiveness and over-reach of government has a lot of consequences, not the least of which is the economic drain on society. It is time to realize that government regulations exact a significant financial toll on our economy, and it is a price that you and I pay.

Men say women should come with instructions, but what is the point? Have you ever seen a man read the instructions on anything?

Here are some numbers that are mind boggling: Since President Obama took office, our economy has created 2.5 million jobs. During that same time frame, 5.9 million new people have been added to the roles of Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) recipients. According to the Social Security Administration, 10.9 million people, the highest number ever, are receiving SSDI. A record 1 in 14 workers now receives disability benefits. And once a worker goes onto SSDI, they rarely leave. In 2011 36% of the recipients died while receiving benefits; 52% reached retirement age and moved over to receiving social security retirement benefits; 6% returned to work; and 3.6% left the program because of an improved medical condition. According to the Congressional Research Service, SSDI cost the American taxpayers $128.9 billion in 2011 and the program operated at a deficit of $25.3 billion. This program is funded by a 1.8% payroll tax on all workers and comprises 18% of all social security spending. CRS estimates that at the current rate of growth and expenditure, the SSDI trust fund will be totally depleted by 2015. While the program has served a legitimate purpose, the explosive growth in the last four years is indicative of a program that has been manipulated for the gain of some at taxpayer expense. When Washington talks about raising your taxes, keep in mind the growth and spending in programs like SSDI.

I have been reading a book on anti-gravity. I can't put it down.

As we debate and argue about the fiscal direction of our country, I want to point out some figures that may cut through the confusing array of numbers and statistics. In 1935, our nation transferred 3% of our GDP to social programs that served as a safety net for those that were less fortunate. As of 2011, that number has grown to 20% of GDP. 65% of all federal spending in 2011 was for payments to individuals under some form of federal program. That is up from 21% in 1955. As we debate taxes and the economic direction of this country, we will need to honestly discuss the explosive growth of the array of entitlement programs. As the item above points out, we can do nothing and the programs will go broke. Quickly. Or we can begin to honestly assess these programs and make them viable. But demogoguing and misrepresenting the facts about the financial weakness of these programs for political purposes does no one any good. And it will make the solutions much more painful if we continue to do so.

I went into a general store once, but they wouldn't let me buy anything specifically.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Hockey Is Back, and All Is Good. Or Is It?

Hockey is back. The game that we all love was shelved while owners and players quarreled over revenue sharing, division of revenues, and various other issues. While the owners and players postured and positioned their arguments to gain their objectives, fans were left in the lurch waiting to see if a season would happen.

And now that an abbreviated season has been salvaged, the League, owners, and players have begun the process of mending fences and saying "We're sorry". Here is a copy of a letter from the League that will appear in all local NHL markets in their major newspaper,

Dear fans:

As your teams prepare for the opening face-off of the 2012-13 season, we thank you for your patience and we apologize to you for the time we missed. From today forward, we will do everything we can to make this season worth the wait.

We are committed to earning back your trust and support the same way it's earned on the ice: with hard work and unwavering dedication. Your cheers drive us forward, and we're committed to making you proud to be a fan - by delivering a game with the action, the skill and the intensity you deserve.

Like you, we've missed NHL hockey. We've missed the clutch goals, the big hits, the electrifying saves. We've missed the flash of red light, the sound of the siren and the way the building shakes when the home team scores.

It's time to focus on the best athletes in the world, on the enduring greatness of the game and - above all - on the connection that binds fans, players and families everywhere. NHL hockey is the best in the world. The future is incredibly bright. So let's drop the puck and marvel at all the remarkable things the players do with it.

With respect and appreciation,

The National Hockey League.

P.S. We hope you'll get in on the action. And again, thank you.

Fans in most NHL markets have enthusiastically welcomed the return of hockey. Things are returning to normal and all is right with the individual fans and sponsors of the League.

Or is it?

Brian Cooper, President and CEO of S&E Sponsorship Group, a firm that handles significant NHL sponsors, said, "My clients are beyond frustration with what has happened. The public has soured on them. Better to wait until the brand is forgiven. By then, it's probably next summer at the earliest before people will consider the NHL brand again."

According to Cooper, corporate clients want three things: consistency, accessibility, and an emotional attachment to product. Cooper says all three have been shattered since the lockout began.

Cooper speaks from the perspective of the national sponsors for the League. There is no doubt that each local NHL market will rebound at varying degrees depending on the relationship the club has with its local sponsors. For the Predators, their efforts at engaging the local sponsors and being transparent with them will be a strong positive.  The exceptional effort to develop local sponsors and engage them in various promotions such as "Preds Pride" has kept the sponsors involved and the lines of communication open.

The fact remains that whether in a local market or nationally, sponsors have to sell their product. Sponsors that had committed dollars to hockey had to come up with other ways to promote their product. While hockey fans are passionate and develop a strong emotional attachment to their team and the companies that support that team, accessibility was short circuited because of the lockout, and consistency was badly damaged by the work stoppage. The money question for the League and for the individual teams is can this relationship with their sponsors be repaired?

Only time will provide the answer to that question.

As far as the individual fans, they have already shown they are ready for hockey to be back.

On several occasions during the lockout and the negotiations, it was stated by League officials and the Players Association that the game has the greatest fans and that they will be back once the season resumed.

That assertion will most likely be proven true.

Yet that attitude is troubling in this respect: the owners and the players can fight over the particulars of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and take the game away and leave the fans caught in the middle. The attitude by both sides that the game is so great, so special, takes for granted the fan that spends their hard earned dollars to go to the game. "The fans will come back, no matter how much crap we dish out, because they love the game and their team" is a dangerous way to operate the League.

When the current CBA expires in ten years, or the opt occurs in eight years, will we as fans face this same scenario? That question is far from unrealistic given the attitudes and actions of the owners and the response of the players.

The reality of the NHL is that as a League, there is more interest by the owners in the success of individual teams than the League as a whole. The contentious fight among the owners about revenue sharing is proof of that fact. Until that attitude changes and the good of the League as whole becomes the driving dynamic, the potential for future lockouts remains a real possibility.

If that happens, it leaves sponsors and fans once again without the game they love and to which they have made a significant financial commitment. How long will that commitment last if there is another work stoppage? 

And risking that commitment from sponsors and fans is not good for hockey.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

A funny thing about politicians. Since so many lack any real world experience, they believe that those of us in the real world do not react and respond to their policies, laws, and regulations. Specifically, changes in the tax code tend to prompt swift and decisive action by those affected. Perhaps one of the most notable recent events was French actor Gerard Depardieu renouncing his citizenship and becoming a Russian citizen. His actions are in response to President Francois Hollande's attempts to push through a 75% income tax on all incomes exceeding $1 million as well as a "wealth tax" on top of the income tax. Depardieu did, predictably, what most of us would have done if we had been in that situation- rather than have his income confiscated, he relocated to a country that has a flat tax. A much lower flat tax. His actions have been called "unpatriotic" and "pathetic" by French officials. I say not so. Instead, this is the normal response to protect income and assets from an overreaching and rapacious government. Granted, most of us do not find ourselves in the economic circumstances of Depardieu nor with the ability to move our citizenship. That still doesn't mean there are not effective ways to lower the tax bite of our government. And this is what all politicians fail to grasp. Those that work for their income and are attempting to build wealth will respond to the laws and the environment and do what they can to preserve their assets. This is exactly why, in the history of our country, that tax collections have averaged 18% of GDP regardless of the tax rate. So if we are going to begin to move toward fiscal sanity in this country, raising taxes, as this example shows, does not have a lasting long term impact toward bringing in more revenue.

Well, if the Mayans have taught us anything, it is that if you don't finish something, it's not the end of the world.

Get ready to pay more for a new car. This past fall, the Department of Transportation in conjunction with the EPA released the finalized new car and light truck fuel efficiency standards. These standards mandate that by the 2025 model year, the corporate average fuel economy per vehicle must be 54.5 miles per gallon. What this means is that consumers will bear the costs for the research necessary to try to get to this mileage standard. By the way, the standard for this year's vehicles is 29 mpg, so you can see that the new standards are asking for the auto industry to nearly double fuel economy over the next 12 years. This also means that consumer choice will be limited as certain types of vehicles are no longer profitable to produce because they will harm the average fuel economy. All of us want a clean environment, and we certainly want good gas mileage out of the vehicle we are driving. This, however, is significant government intervention into the market that will cost all of us unnecessarily.

They say you should test your fire alarm once a month, but it is costing me a fortune in houses.

Something that we all should watch is the financial health of many of our states. Many states have well managed finance departments that have soundly managed budgets and expenditures. More importantly, these states have elected leaders that have not given away the state coffers in to unions in unachievable pension and benefit promises. However, there are a number of states that are significantly underwater from a financial standpoint. Bloomberg news estimates that state budget shortfalls have accumulated over the past 4 years to nearly $500 billion dollars. When a state gets into financial trouble, the options are limited. They can raise taxes on property owners and businesses. California has done just that and the exodus of productive businesses and individuals with the financial means to do so has been extraordinary. The state also has the option to go back and modify benefits and ask current employees to contribute more toward their benefits. This was what the fight in Wisconsin was about last year. They can do nothing and just let the train wreck happen. Or they can petition Washington for help and ask for the federal government to bail them out. None of the options are easy, but some are more politically expedient. With rare exception (Wisconsin's Scott Walker), most politicians opt for expedient. While California is the poster child for financial mismanagement, look for other states to begin to wilt under the untenable load of pension and public union benefit packages.

I tell my daughter that if she quits school to remember two things: 1) you tried your best and 2) I don't like pickles on my Big Mac.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Friday, January 4, 2013

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon....

Welcome our new dog for 2013. When looking for the new picture, I wanted something that was appropriate for our time and where we are in our country. There were a number of quality candidates, but I think this little fella really captures the spirit of our day.

So we have avoided the "fiscal cliff" in a last minute deal between the Obama administration, Democrats,  and the recalcitrant Republicans who were demanding real spending reform. As we all know, the Republicans caved and the bill was done. Now that we have had a few days to pore through this travesty, there are some interesting facts that have received little fanfare from the main stream press. Fear not, friends, for I am about to expose some of the dirty secrets buried in the bill. A few of the items tucked inside the bill were: a $78 million accelerated tax write off for owners of NASCAR tracks, which specifically benefited Michigan International Speedway, courtesy of Debbie Stabenow (D-MI); Democrat Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico saved a tax credit for companies that operate in American Samoa, costing tax payers $62 million; rum distillers received a $222 million tax break; businesses that operate on Indian reservations received $222 million in accelerated depreciation tax breaks. Companies that manufacture wind turbines and other green energy equipment (think: General Electric) received tax breaks totaling $12 billion; bio-diesel manufacturers received a $2.2 billion tax credit; and algae based fuel manufacturers received a $59 million tax credit. Perhaps the most egregious giveaway of your money was the continuation of tax breaks to Hollywood film producers, who get to write off the first $15 million of their production costs for any film produced in the United States. While Congress and the White House give lip service to "comprehensive tax reform" and making the tax code "fairer", the truth is that our elected leaders continue their practice of giveaways to favored groups. Remember that as your taxes are going up this year.

Wisdom comes with age. So does memory loss. And you forget things.

While most of us will breathe a sigh of relief that we avoided higher income taxes, we will be paying more in taxes under the new bill that has been signed. Here are the particulars: households that make less than $450,000 (or $400,00 for individuals) will maintain their current tax rates. Cross those thresholds, and income tax rates will rise from 35% to 39.6%. If you have capital gains or receive dividends in a taxable account (non-retirement account), then your taxes on those items will increase from 15% to 20%. This will have a significant impact on seniors, many of whom augment income with dividends and capital gains. If household income crosses $250,000, some deductions will then be phased out. This includes mortgage interest deductions and charitable contributions. Payroll taxes will go up by 2% regardless of income level (so much for protecting the middle class). For some, there will be an additional 3.8% tax to fund Obamacare. This bill was anything but favorable for the middle class. Yes, income tax rates, as I mentioned, remained the same for most of us, but there are other bites taken out of our household income. And with a moribund economy struggling to rebound, these tax hits will further slow the process.

Math problems are the only time two trains can be speeding toward one another and no one is concerned.

While much of the discussion and attention in recent weeks was focused on the fiscal cliff, the more troublesome crisis that we have yet to seriously address is the $48 TRILLION in unfunded obligations of the federal government, primarily with deficits in Social Security and Medicare. Some even feel that the estimate of  $48 trillion is very short of the real problem. Lawrence Kotlikoff of Boston University estimates the real amount of our unfunded obligations to be north of $200 trillion. Obamacare will spend $1.7 trillion over the next 10 years. As troubling as that is, Social Security is already running a deficit. According to the Social Security Trustees, $45 billion more was spent than was collected from payroll taxes. That deficit is going to grow substantially as more people become eligible for benefits. Even with the tax hikes that Obama proposed, our deficits will run over $7 trillion over the next 10 years. The next crisis? In March, the nation will reach its debt limit. And the fight that will occur then is going to be much more fierce than the one we just went through with the fiscal cliff. The reality is that we cannot raise enough taxes to cover these obligations and service the existing debt. Spending control and entitlement reform is going to be critical to get these programs and our country back on sound financial footing. Our elected leaders continue to shirk their responsibility to make the tough decisions and bring fiscal sanity to our country. It is imperative that each of us get engaged in this process and demand that our representatives make the tough and prudent decisions to keep our country from becoming the next Greece.

I started using a new shampoo that promised more body. It must be working. I have already gained 5 pounds.

And that, my friends, is my view.