Friday, May 30, 2014

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

"The government is all of us," said Hillary Clinton.

That is a nice platitude, but is it real?

I will submit to you that it is a myth.

After all it helps those in charge to have the masses believe that the government works for them, that our leaders work in our best interest. Yet politicians, who claim to represent you and me, remain remarkably disconnected from the people that have elected them.

Government, like any business or charitable organization, promotes the goals of those that control it. In that sense, government at any level is no different from a for profit enterprise like IBM or a charitable entity like the Red Cross. It follows the direction of those that control it.

Which begs the question, who controls our government?

We as voters like to think that we do. We elect people that on the surface appear to represent our interests. We like to think that government is benign, working for the good of all citizens.

And nothing could be further from the truth.

The common perception is that our country is a democracy, where voters interests and well being are represented by the people elected and sent to Washington for that purpose.

Instead, I would posit that our nation is an oligarchy.

The definition of an oligarchy is a form of government in which all power is vested in a few groups, individuals, or dominant controlling classes.

Look at our current situation in this country and one would think that lower taxes, quality job growth, and limited government (which means more freedom for the individual) would be desirable objectives.

Yet, we see our government moving in the opposite direction.

The takeover of our healthcare industry; the impending environmental regulations by fiat on the utility industry that will raise costs dramatically; the harassment of innocent citizens by agencies like the Bureau of Land Management; a growing regulatory burden on business, to name a few, points to a government that is unresponsive to citizens and is in control of a few dominant groups.

There is no secret that government has become burdensome and onerous. It is the nature of government to grow and expand its power.

It does that because of the conceit and arrogance of those elected and unelected officials in Washington who think they know better how to govern our lives.

But it also moves in this direction because that government control of our economy, our businesses, and our individual lives financially benefits those that are on the inside of the oligarchy.

Our government has deigned to chose the winners and losers in the economy. Think of General Motors, where the feds decided to break the law and benefit certain classes of creditors (predominately the UAW) over others. No reason given except that it was believed by those in power- who benefited from the support of said UAW- to be the best course of action.

Other examples abound, such as the AARP reaping huge gains from the restructure of our healthcare system through the restructure of Medicare by having participants shunted to their Medigap insurance program. The fact remains that the government works for those that control it.

And it is not you and me.

Adam Smith, the classical economist, explained that in a normally functioning society, our self interest fills the marketplace with goods and services. The baker counts on hungry people to buy his bread. The tailor relies on people wanting to be clothed to purchase his wares.

A government that works for you and me promotes an environment where self interest can be promulgated and can flourish.

Instead, we have a government that throws sand in the gears of commerce, that burdens citizens with an unhealthy level of taxes, that places our nation on financial thin ice to benefit banks and their interests.

It is a government of oligarchs. A government that benefits the few, those connected and in power.

Thomas Jefferson said, "The government that governs least, governs best."

We do not have the best government. We have a government that is intrusive, authoritarian, and disconnected.

And it certainly does not work for us.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Friday, May 23, 2014

My View

Our lives are composed of memories. Some good, some bad, some forgettable. Some memories we wish we could forget.

And some memories are burnt onto our consciousness so that try as we might, we will never forget.

Some memories call us back to good times. Some memories serve as warnings against certain actions that once caused us pain. These memories are guideposts that serve to direct our steps in the future.

Memorial Day is a time of remembrance, and for many, it is an excruciatingly painful time. It is a time to recall the sacrifice of loved ones. Their sacrifice has secured our freedoms and our way of life. It is a memory of loss, of those no longer with us.

It is almost a trite saying to say "freedom isn't free", a phrase that rolls easily off the tongue.

No, freedom isn't free. It is won through toil, pain, and sacrifice.

Some have paid the ultimate price so that we can enjoy our freedoms. They have laid down their life to preserve ours and our way of life. Blood has been shed, loss has been felt by loved ones, and pain lingers for all their days.

No, freedom isn't free.

Memorial Day calls all of us to remember the cost of our freedom. It calls us to remember the heroism of those that have fought and are fighting for the freedoms we enjoy.

And it calls us to never forget, to never shove that memory to back of our minds.

Ponder- really think on what it costs to be free- and that process can be painful. Some have personally experienced the loss of a loved one in the defense of our freedom. All of us have benefitted from the sacrifice of those that defend our freedom.

And we should never forget what it has cost to be free.

This Memorial Day, we honor those that have sacrificed and remain with us. We remember those that have paid the ultimate price so we can be free.

We offer our humble gratitude for your service and sacrifice.

And we will never forget.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Second Round Review and Conference Championship Predictions

Better late than never...

Time to take a look at the second round and my predictions as well as my fearless prognostications for the conference champions.

Eastern Conference

Montreal vs Boston

Prediction:     Boston in 7

Outcome:       Montreal in 7

Too much speed and balanced scoring by the Canadiens did in the Bruins. Carey Price was stellar in net for the Candiens, and while Tuuka Rask was not bad at all, he did get outplayed by Price. The Bruins scoring touch evaded them in this series, especially from their top line. The Habs speed was too much for the Bruins in this series, keeping them back on their heels much of the series, and they refused to be drawn into the Bruins grind it out, physical style of play.

Pittsburgh vs New York

Prediction:     New York in 7

Outcome:       New York in 7

Too much heart and Henrik for the Pens to overcome. Down 3-1, the Rangers rallied behind Marty St. Louis, whose mother tragically passed away during the series. Playing on emotion, the Rangers stepped up their game and no one stepped up more than Henrik Lundqvist. He was outstanding in net and shut down the potent Pens attack in the final four games. Much will be said about the lack of production from Sidney Crosby, but the real problem for the Penguins was the lack of secondary scoring. Once Crosby and Malkin were contained, the Pens were in trouble.

Western Conference

Chicago vs Minnesota

Prediction:     Chicago in 6

Outcome:       Chicago in 6

The Wild and their stifling style of defense made this an interesting series, but eventually the offensive firepower of the Hawks and the solid play of Corey Crawford in net were too much for the Wild. This wasn't an easy series for the Hawks, but their talent eventually wore down the Wild. Crawford is playing with confidence and it showed in this series.

Los Angeles vs Anaheim

Prediction:     Los Angeles in 7

Outcome:       Los Angeles in 7

The Kings must have ice water in their veins as they won their second consecutive game 7 in the playoffs, blowing out the Ducks at the Honda Center. Balanced scoring and an unrelenting attack by the Kings, coupled with questions in the net for the Ducks, swung this series in favor of the Kings. John Gibson was superb for the Ducks until game 7, and you have to wonder if the pressure got to him. This was Teemu Selanne's last NHL game, which is the only reason I was sad to see the Ducks lose. The only reason.

Now on to the Conference final predictions.

Eastern conference

New York vs Montreal

Prediction: Rangers in 6

If Lundqvist continues his stellar play, the Rangers will win this series. The speed and balance of the Habs will give the Rangers some problems, but the Rangers have the wheels to counter this aspect of the Habs game. By now, we all know Carey Price was injured in game one and will miss the rest of the series. This will be a huge blow to the Canadiens, but they have the talent to make this an interesting series. Interesting, but not enough in the tank to beat the Rangers.

Western Conference

Los Angeles vs Chicago

Prediction: Chicago in 6

Jonathan Quick has struggled against the Hawks, and I expect the offensive talent of Chicago to give him problems again. For the Kings to win this series, Quick will have to be exceptional. His counterpart, Corey Crawford is playing some of his best hockey right now, and I expect his level of play to continue. The Kings are going to have to be clicking on all cylinders to win this series, and you have to think that to grueling series that went to 7 games may have left the tank a bit empty.

There you have it folks.

It is the most wonderful time of year for hockey fans.

Friday, May 9, 2014

My View

Random ruminations from your resident curmudgeon...

I want you to think about some events that have occurred recently, and while they seem disparate, there is a common thread that runs through them.

We are all aware of the remarks made by Donald Sterling, the owner of the Clippers of the NBA. Sterling's comments, secretly recorded by his girlfriend, were racist, stupid, reprehensible, and whatever other negative adjective that you can conjure.

The fallout from Sterling's remarks is a ban from the NBA and the probable forced sale of his team.

Now think about that for a moment.

Stupidity publicly expressed could result in the loss of a very valuable asset for Sterling. His biased and racist remarks could cost him dearly from a financial standpoint.

Understand that in no way do I concur with the remarks that Sterling made. At the same time, the act of confiscating the assets of an individual because of impolitic and stupid comments is dangerous.

All of us have made comments we have regretted. Some have required an apology. Some have been embarrassing. But I suspect none have caused us to forfeit any of our assets.

We are also aware of the scandal at the IRS, where conservative organizations had the approval of their tax exempt status delayed indefinitely to thwart their efforts to raise funds to support their candidates in the 2010 election. By contrast, left leaning groups have their tax exempt status approved expeditiously.

Now that is an atrocity, but delve deeper and you find that the IRS asked these conservative groups for their donor lists, which is an unusual move. But the IRS did not stop there. Once those names were obtained, the IRS set about to audit the contributors to these conservative groups.

The IRS annually audits approximately 1% of tax filers.

The percentage of conservative donors that were audited?

In Congressional hearings this week before the House Ways and Means Committee, it was revealed that the IRS targeted 10% of the donors listed for these conservative groups.

The IRS has the ability to make any citizens life hell, and the specter of an audit can be daunting. When over 10% of conservative donors are targeted by this arm of the government, does one reasonably think this wasn't an act of intimidation?

You also may be aware of  William Baer, the Gilford , New Hampshire father that was arrested at a school board meeting.

His crime?

He dared to speak against the school board that had assigned the book 'Nineteen Minutes" by Jody Picoult, which was assigned to his 14 year old daughter's (and all freshmen) reading list. The book contains some explicit passages about rough sex, and Baer questioned the school board members at a public meeting as to why he as a parent was not notified of the content of the book and given an opt out option.

Ostensibly, Baer was arrested for exceeding the 2 minute speech limit and not sitting down when asked. He was charged with disorderly conduct and led out of the meeting in handcuffs.

All because he as a concerned parent questioned the choice of reading material made by the school board.

Do you notice the common thread that runs through these vignettes?

Disagree with the powers that be or the politically correct view and there will be retribution.

Again, we all have said stupid things, but have we faced a threat of having our assets confiscated and our wealth diminished because of that stupidity?

Or has a political view that is contrary to the party in power resulted in such a blatant response by the government's attack dog, the IRS?

Has disagreement with a local board's view of appropriate reading material resulted in a specious charge that leads to arrest?

The danger that these examples present is that societally we are moving toward an environment of "thought police" where non-conforming thoughts are punished. Part of this is the toxic partisanship that both parties in Washington have cultivated, but more disturbing is the use of power to limit opposition to those in power and question their actions.

When contrary thoughts and speech result in confiscation of assets, audits, and arrests, we as a nation are on a dangerous path.

Our society has enjoyed the privilege of free speech and the reasonable discussion of opposing ideas. Take that away and encourage group think and our country becomes weaker and we ostracize those in society that don't hold to the prevailing political view.

Our country becomes weaker when this happens.

And our individual freedoms are diminished.

And that, my friends, is my view.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Predators Name Laviolette Head Coach

The Nashville Predators have named Peter Laviolette as the second Head Coach in franchise history. Laviolette is currently in Belarus coaching the U.S. squad in the Worlds.

Here is the press release from the Predators:

Nashville Predators President of Hockey Operations/General Manager David Poile announced today that the club has hired 2006 Stanley Cup-winning coach Peter Laviolette as the second head coach in team history and signed him to a multi-year contract. Also joining the coaching staff is Kevin McCarthy, who will serve as an assistant alongside Lane Lambert and Phil Housley.
“Having reached the peak as a Stanley Cup Champion, Peter knows the intensity and urgency it will take to help our team reach its ultimate goal,” Poile said. “He is a great hockey mind who not only has a winning resume, but has done it with an aggressive offensive philosophy while also excelling in helping young players reach their potential. We look forward to Peter instilling his culture in Nashville immediately following his duties coaching the United States at the 2014 World Championship.”
“I love the nucleus of this team, starting on the back end with two of the best players at their positions in defenseman Shea Weber and goaltender Pekka Rinne, in addition to a solid group of dependable veterans and talented, rising young talent,” Laviolette said. “My challenge will be to impart a system that enables our young forwards to thrive and reach their offensive potential. Being a perennial Stanley Cup contender requires buy-in, passion and commitment from every player on the roster. I can’t wait to get to Nashville and get started on our journey.”
In parts of 12 seasons with the New York Islanders (2001-03), Carolina Hurricanes (2003-09) and Philadelphia Flyers (2009-14), Laviolette has compiled a career coaching record of 389-282-(25)-63 (866 points), and each of the three teams improved exponentially in the first full season after he took the helm: the Islanders finished with 96 points and the eighth-best record in the League in 2001-02 after finishing 30th with 52 points the season prior; the Hurricanes went from 23rd in the NHL with 76 points to fourth with 112 points in 2005-06; and the Flyers improved from 88 points and 18th in the NHL to 106 points and fourth in 2010-11. Laviolette won 52 games in his first full season with Carolina in 2005-06 – earning him runner-up Jack Adams Award honors in the closest vote in award history – recorded back-to-back 47-win seasons with Philadelphia in 2010-11 and 2011-12, and hit the 40-win mark on three other occasions (2001-02, 2006-07 and 2007-08).
Including his Stanley Cup win in 2006 with Carolina, Laviolette has made six postseason appearances, posting a series record of 9-5. He led the Islanders to back-to-back Stanley Cup Playoff appearances in 2002 and 2003, ending a seven-year postseason absence for the franchise, and advanced beyond the opening round three times with the Flyers, including the 2009-10 campaign, when he took over midseason and proceeded to lead the team to Game Six of the Stanley Cup Final.
Laviolette’s offensive-minded philosophy is evidenced by his teams’ goals for rankings through the years – six times in eight full seasons his teams have finished in the Top 10 in the category, with three of those being top-three results. When coaching a team for a full season, Laviolette’s squad has never finished lower than 13th in goals for. That doesn’t include his two midseason takeovers where the Hurricanes improved their goals for average from 1.87 to 2.23 when he moved behind the bench in 2003-04, and when the Flyers finished eighth in goals for in 2009-10.
Multiple young, developing players – who have gone on to become dependable NHL players and in some cases superstars – were cultivated under Laviolette’s watch. Most recently in Philadelphia, Claude Giroux played his first full season under Laviolette in 2009-10, and has become one of the NHL's elite offensive producers, posting 93 points and finishing fourth in Hart Trophy voting in 2011-12; James Van Riemsdyk played his first NHL games under Laviolette in 2009-10, then hit the 21-goal mark as a 21-year-old in his sophomore season in 2010-11; Jakub Voracek improved his point-per-game average from .58 with Columbus to .75 with Philadelphia after a trade in the summer of 2011; Wayne Simmonds doubled his goal total from 14 in 2010-11 with Los Angeles to 28 in his first season with Laviolette's Flyers in 2011-12; and Matt Read posted 24 goals as a rookie in the same season. Former Predator Scott Hartnell also hit career highs in goals (37) and points (67) in 2011-12, being named to his only All-Star Game.
In Carolina, Eric Staal played his first four-plus seasons under Laviolette, notching a career-high 45 goals and 100 points to finish fourth in Hart Trophy voting during the Cup-winning campaign; Justin Williams, a two-time Stanley Cup winner, posted his top two point totals and only two 30-goal seasons under Laviolette in 2005-06 and 2006-07. Current Predator Matt Cullen also posted his two best point totals of his 1,150-game NHL career under Laviolette, notching 49 points in both 2005-06 and 2007-08. Finally with the Islanders in 2001-02, a 24-year-old Mark Parrish hit the 30-goal mark for the only time in his career.
Second in wins among U.S.-born NHL coaches and now one of just nine men employed as an NHL head coach to have won a Stanley Cup, Laviolette is currently serving as head coach of the United States’ entry at the 2014 World Championships in Minsk, Belarus, his third time in the role (2004, bronze medal and 2005). He has also represented his country in four Olympic Games, first as a player in the 1988 Calgary Games and the 1994 Lillehammer Games, then as a head coach at the 2006 Torino Games, and as an assistant at February’s 2014 Sochi Games.
After amassing 268 points (78g-190a) in 594 minor-league games in the American and International hockey leagues (Indianapolis, Colorado, Denver, Flint, Binghamton, Providence and San Diego) from 1986-97, and appearing in 12 games for the New York Rangers in 1988-89, Laviolette began his coaching career with the ECHL’s Wheeling Nailers in 1997. After posting a 37-24-9 record and reaching the conference finals in his rookie coaching season, he was hired as head coach of the AHL’s Providence Bruins, and led the team to an AHL-best 56-16-4-4 record and a Calder Cup in 1998-99, just one season after the team had gone 19-49-7-5 and finished last in the league. Following the 1999-2000 season, the 1999 AHL Coach of the Year was promoted to assistant coach of the parent Boston Bruins, which he held for a single campaign (2000-01) before starting his NHL head coaching career with the Islanders in 2001-02.
A native of Franklin, Mass., and graduate of Westfield State College, Laviolette and his wife, Kristen, have three children – sons Peter and Jack, and daughter Elisabeth.
McCarthy brings more than 25 years of front office and coaching experience to the organization. Prior to five seasons as an assistant coach with the Philadelphia Flyers from 2009-14, the Winnipeg, Manitoba native spent 16 seasons in the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes organization from 1992-2009, including its Stanley Cup-winning campaign in 2005-06. After three seasons as an assistant for the Whalers (1992-95), McCarthy served as head coach for the franchise’s AHL affiliates in Springfield (1995-97) and New Haven (1997-99), compiling a 156-123-36 record. He rejoined the parent team for the 1999-2000 season, and spent the next nine years as a Hurricanes assistant. McCarthy’s coaching career started as a player-assistant coach for the AHL’s Hershey Bears (1987-88), before a full-time move behind the bench as an assistant in 1988-89 and head coach in 1989-90. McCarthy also had front office experience as the Flyers Director of Professional Scouting from 1990-92. The former defenseman spent 10 seasons in the NHL with the Flyers, Vancouver and Pittsburgh from 1977-87, posting 258 points (67g-191a) in 527 career games. During his time with Vancouver, he served as the Canucks’ team captain and was named a starter in the 1981 NHL All-Star Game.
Quick analysis:
This is a comfortable hire for David Poile, given his familiarity in working with Laviolette with Team USA. Laviolette has shown that he can coach successfully and has an offensive mind that has resulted in his teams scoring in bunches. That is something the Predators desperately need. it remains to be seen how Laviolette will treat players that go into long scoring droughts, something the Predators have contended with their forwards throughout their history. His predecessor, Barry Trotz, was known as a players coach, and Laviolette will bring a bit more edge and a different coaching style than Trotz. It will be interesting to to see how the team reacts to this new voice.
McCarthy is a good add, with a wealth of experience as a player and a coach at the AHL level. Hopefully, he can develop some of the younger players on the roster. McCarthy was a Stanley Cup winning defenseman with the Carolina Hurricanes, and it will be interesting to see how he and Phil Housley work with the defense and their division of duties.
The Predators also retained Lane Lambert, so they will enter the season with 4 coaches behind the bench. Again, it is going to be interesting to see how their duties are assigned for the upcoming season.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

First Round Review and Second Round Predictions

The first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs is in the books, so let's take a look at my predictions and how they panned out.

Western Conference

Dallas vs Anaheim

Prediction: Ducks in 6

Outcome: Ducks in 6

The Stars were scrappy and should have forced a game 7, but they were finally vanquished on their home ice by a flurry of third period goals by the Ducks. The Ducks had too much offensive firepower throughout their line up and that proved too much for the Stars to handle.

St. Louis vs Chicago

Prediction: Blues in 7

Outcome: Blackhawks in 6

This version of the Blues was eerily similar to last year's team, jumping out to a 2-0 lead over their opponent before imploding and losing 4 straight. Ryan Miller was pedestrian at best, and his .868 save percentage certainly was not what the Blues management had hoped to get out of him when he was acquired from the Sabres.

Colorado vs. Minnesota

Prediction: Avalanche in 5

Outcome: Wild in 7

The highly talented Avs were smothered by the defense of the Wild and had to work for every goal, but surprisingly, the Wild showed the offensive chops of their own. The Wild overcame 4 one goal deficits to win in overtime in the pivotal game 7. Nathan MacKinnon of the Avs is the real deal, though, and their future looks bright.

Los Angeles vs San Jose

Prediction: Sharks in 7

Outcome: Kings in 7

The Sharks had their hearts ripped out by the Kings. Facing a 3-0 deficit, the Kings never lost their swagger and battled back to become only the fourth team in NHL history to win a series when behind by that margin. Lots of questions to be asked of the Sharks in the off season, and they will be hard questions.

Eastern Conference

Montreal vs Tampa Bay

Prediction: Canadiens in 6

Outcome: Canadiens in 4

The loss of starting netminder Ben Bishop was too much for the Bolts to overcome. While Anders Lindback was not exceptional in net, he got little help from the team in front of him. The big guns for the Lightning were not enough to overcome the balanced and relentless attack of the Candiens, who had a surprisingly easy time in this first round matchup.

Pittsburgh vs Columbus

Prediction: Penguins in 6

Outcome: Penguins in 6

The jackets played a highly competitive series with the Pens and were in every game. The Pens got scoring throughout their lineup, even without Sidney Crosby scoring a goal, and had too much talent for the BJ's to overcome.

Boston vs Detroit

Prediction: Bruins in 6

Outcome: Bruins in 5

The speed and puck possession of the Wings should have made them more competitive against the Bruins, but the Wings could not overcome the loss of Jimmy Howard. Injured Henrik Zetterberg was a non-factor in the game he played and the Wings did not have enough scorers in their lineup to threaten Tuuka Rask, much less score enough goals to win games.

Philadelphia vs New York

Prediction: Flyers in 7

Outcome: Rangers in 7

Henrik Lundqvist was the difference maker in this series. These two team were fairly evenly matched, but Lundqvist outplayed Ray Emery and Steve Mason in net. While physical, this series wasn't nearly as nasty as I thought it would be.

Now, on to the second round and my fearless predictions.

Western Conference

Anaheim vs Los Angeles

The Freeway Fracas portends to be a great series, matching the stifling defense and grind it out style of the Kings against the explosive offense of the Ducks. Jonathan Quick has shown that he is a winner and is not daunted by adversity, and his play carried the Kings to an improbable win of the their first round series. Quick is going to have to be at the top of his game once again as the Ducks can fill up the net. For the Ducks, the play of their goaltenders has been shaky. Frederik Andersen is the putative starter, but he looked rattled at times against the Stars. If he cannot carry the load, the Ducks have the capable Jonas Hiller to man the pipes, but confidence for these two guys is going to be critical. If their confidence is shaken, the Kings will capture this series. I think they will

Prediction: Kings in 7

Chicago vs Minnesota

The Wild have to be entering this series with an abundance of confidence. They will need it all as the Blackhawks look to be a team on a mission to capture the Cup. The Wild will need to be at the top of their game defensively if they are going to have a chance in this series, and they have shown they can play tough D. The Blackhawks are going to have to play their game and be patient, because the Wild will limit their chances. It is imperative for the Hawks that they capitalize on their chances. The question for the Wild is who will tend goal. Darcy Keumper was injured late in the game 7 against Colorado and did not return. If he cannot go, Sergei Bobrovsky will man the pipes, and that should be a humongous big adventure.

Prediction: Blackhawks in 6

Eastern Conference

Montreal vs. Boston

This is a blood feud between two teams that have a genuine dislike for each other. Carey Price is going to have to be strong in net as the Bruins are an opportunistic team that can score from anywhere in the offensive zone. The Bruins will use their size to try to push around the Habs, while the Canadiens will us their speed and skill to try to pressure the Bruins. Just as Price will need to be on his game, Tuuka Rask will have to continue his strong play from the first round. The Canadiens have the ability to pressure the net and will not be afraid to put pucks on Rask. This series will most likely go to the team that can keep their head and keep their butts out of the penalty box.

Prediction: Bruins in 7

New York vs Pittsburgh

There is no doubt that the Penguins are the more offensively talented team, but the Rangers have the capability of shutting down talented offensive teams. if the Rangers can frustrate the Penguins skaters, then it will come down to the play of the goaltenders. Henrik Lundqvist gives his team a chance to win every night. Marc-Andre Fleury is another story, as the Pens never quite know what they will get out him in the net. Fleury appears to be fragile mentally, and if the Rangers can light him up early, this could spell trouble for the Pens. This may be the most surprising series of all in the second round.

Prediction: Rangers in 7

There you have it friends. More outstanding playoff hockey awaits, and we get to enjoy it.