Saturday, December 27, 2014

50 Years of Failure

That's how long Cleveland professional sports teams have been losing:
This Saturday will mark the 50th anniversary of Cleveland’s last pro sports championship when the Browns beat the heavily favored Baltimore Colts 27-0 to win the NFL title, the last for the franchise and the city. Since then, the Browns, Indians and Cavaliers have gone a combined 141 seasons without winning it all.
That’s five decades. That’s 18,262 days. That’s a long time.
“It’s hard to believe,” Hall of Fame running back Jim Brown said. “Because when you look back at 50 years, something’s wrong, because somebody should’ve figured out something. ... We’ve got money and we’ve got a new building and we’ve got green grass and we can draft players, and we can’t do any better than that?”
Cleveland’s title drought is the longest for any North American city with three pro franchises. San Diego has gone 51 years since the Chargers won an AFL title, but the California city no longer has an NBA team and it’s a little easier to handle misery when it’s sunny and 70 most of the year...
It hasn’t all been bad. There have been a few magical seasons, they just didn’t end magically but with heartbreak. The Browns made it to three AFC title games from 1987 to 1990, but lost each time to Denver and quarterback John Elway. Two of those defeats have been given lasting nicknames: “The Drive” and “The Fumble.”
The Indians, who haven’t won a world championship since 1948, ended a 41-year drought by getting to the World Series in 1995 only to lose to Atlanta. Cleveland returned two years later but lost Game 7 in extra innings to Florida.
With All-Stars Mark Price and Brad Daugherty, the Cavaliers had some title-worthy teams in the 1980s that were stopped by Michael Jordan. They made it to the NBA Finals for the first time in 2007 but were swept by San Antonio...
 But on Dec. 27, 1964, when LBJ was in the White House and the Beatles had invaded America, the Browns ruled.
Facing a high-scoring Baltimore squad favored by double digits and loaded with future Hall of Famers like Johnny Unitas, Lenny Moore and Raymond Berry, the Browns won their first title since 1955. Wide receiver Gary Collins caught three touchdown passes in the second half from Frank Ryan, Lou Groza kicked two field goals and Cleveland’s defense pitched an unlikely shutout in front of 79,544 fans.
When he reflects on a game most Cleveland fans know only through black-and-white footage, Brown, who rushed for 114 yards, remembers one play vividly.
“My greatest memory of the game is Galen Fiss breaking through the line and tackling Lenny Moore for about a 7-yard loss,” the 78-year-old Brown said. “Galen was a real fine linebacker, but he wasn’t a great linebacker. But that day he played fantastic. ... After that I think, boy, what a great team effort. This is what team sports are all about.”
The Colts, coached by Don Shula, came in averaging more than 30 points per game. They were expected to bulldoze the Browns, who went 10-3-1 in the regular season under Blanton Collier and had nearly cost themselves a chance at the championship with a late-season loss at St. Louis.
However, they recovered by beating the New York Giants 52-20 to get to their first title game since 1957.
Even worse, it's not like the economy has been kind to Cleveland over this stretch.

Final 2014 Weekend Links

A mixture of new stories and lists of the best of 2014:

Best of Longform: SB Nation's Finest Features of 2014 - SB Nation

Inside the Indiana Megadairy Making Coca-Cola's New Milk - The Salt.  Fair Oaks Farms.

China's Pork Obsession Is Endangering The World - The Economist via Big Picture Agriculture

The Ugly Goatlings of 2014 (Or Stories You Should Have Read) - Modern Farmer

Dealing Christmas Trees In New York City - Priceonomics

A Tree Is Known By It's Fruit - Texas Monthly.  Murder and family secrets.

The Messy Minds of Creative People - Scientific American blog

Chicago gave hundreds of high-risk kids a summer job.  Violent crime arrests plummeted - Wonkblog

As North Dakota Oil Town Booms, a Priest Steadies the Newcomers - New York Times

Oil Jobs Squeezed as Prices Plummet - Wall Street Journal. “Having to do everything yesterday costs a lot of money. People will quit making $150,000 a year for $25,000-a-year skills.” See also, Some States See Budgets at Risk as Oil Price Falls - New York Times

The Best Wired Stories of 2014 - Wired

14 for 2014: Great Reads From The Wall Street Journal - Wall Street Journal

The Real Story of How America Became an Economic Superpower - The Atlantic

Ground Truth: In Dozier's neglected cemetery, a search for lost boys and the reasons why they died - Tampa Bay Times

Longreads Best of 2014 - Longreads

It's a Wonderful Life, Comrade - Truth-out.  How the FBI believed Communists were behind the movie, It's a Wonderful Life, and how Ayn Rand was involved in that report.  Also, Cult Edit of It's A Wonderful Life Is the Best Holiday Movie You've Never Seen - Wired

RAND Corporation report says the Iraq War was George W, Bush's greatest blunder - Raw Story.  News of the Obvious.  Thanks RAND.

Now that the Dow has hit 18,000, let us remember the worst op-ed in history - Wonkblog

Also, I just read James Fallows's cover story in next month's The Atlantic, and it will definitely get a post when it goes up online.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Drilling Permits Cut In Half In Texas

Dallas Morning News:
Oil drilling activity in Texas is falling dramatically, as the steep decline in crude prices since the summer takes hold, state regulators reported Tuesday.
The Texas Railroad Commission issued 1,353 permits for oil drilling last month, 50 percent less than it did the previous month. And in the months ahead, that will likely translate to rigs being shut down and layoffs across oil fields in West and South Texas.
“There’s more to come in the months ahead,” said Pavel Molchanov, an energy analyst with Raymond James. “This isn’t pleasant, but this is how the market rebalances itself.”
For now drilling rig counts are holding relatively steady, as companies wind down their contracts. Since peaking in October, the number of drilling rigs operating in the United States has declined by just 5 percent, according to the oil field service company Baker Hughes.
That number should continue a steady decline as companies make the decision to delay drilling on their leased land.
In recent weeks companies including Conoco Phillips and Marathon have both announced their drilling budgets for next year will be 20 percent less than 2014. For smaller companies, which fill out the bulk of the oil field, the reductions are even more dramatic.
Even so, oil production in Texas continues to grow, as existing wells flow and new wells come online. The Railroad Commission reported Texas produced 2.2 millions barrels a day in October, a modest increase from the previous month.
Production will quickly decline if that trend lasts very long.  That would also make it appear that the Saudis will be able to make the shale drillers the swing producers, and keep their own market share up, as they stated was their intention.  We'll quickly find out how solid all that junk debt the drillers piled up the last few years really is.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

MF Global To Pay $1.2 Billion In Restitution

The New York Federal Court ordered MF Global Holdings to pay $1.21 billion in restitution fees, in addition to a $100 penalty, for its unlawful use of customer funds, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission said Wednesday.
Litigation continues against ex-MF Global chief Jon Corzine and MF Global's former Assistant Treasurer Edith O'Brien, the CFTC said.

MF Global, a subsidiary of MF Global Holdings, collapsed in 2011 at the height of the European debt crisis when markets became spooked by the firm's $6.3 billion bet on European government bonds. U.S. authorities have accused the firm of using customer money to cover liquidity shortfalls.
The CFTC deemed MFGH responsible for MFGI's failure to notify regulators account deficiencies and its unlawful use of customer segregated funds in 2011.
How does Corzine manage to stay out of jail?

Undercover Christmas

Via Deadspin:

Take five minutes to watch this video of a disguised P.K. Subban surprising some local kids with Habs gear, a day on the ice at the Canadiens' practice rink, and, eventually, himself. If you must, skip to 3:20 for the big reveal—and his refusal to go easy on the young skaters.
Link to the P.K. Subban profile in The New Yorker here.

Cattle Ranching Nuns

Benedectine nuns blend work and prayer on a farm run by the Abbey of St. Walburga near the Colorado-Wyoming border. From left are sisters Maria-Gertrude Reed, Ann Lee, Maria-Walburga Schortemeyer and Elizabeth Baumgartner.
Sonja Salzburg for Harvest Public Media
The Salt:
Many beer aficionados are familiar with the rare breweries run by Trappist monks. The beer is highly sought after, but it's not the only food or drink made by a religious order. Many abbeys and convents have deep roots in agriculture, combining farm work with prayer.
Just 5 miles south of the Colorado-Wyoming border you'll find one of these places. Idyllic red farm buildings sit in the shadow of the main abbey, all tucked in a stony valley. At the Abbey of St. Walburga, cattle, water buffalo and llamas graze on grass under the watchful eye of Benedictine nuns.
Sister Maria-Walburga Schortemeyer runs the abbey's ranch. Other sisters volunteer their time to work. The list of agricultural activities is long. In addition to the cows and llamas, the nuns raise chickens and bees, most of which are used in the abbey's kitchen. The water buffalo are the newest addition, brought on in April and milked to make mozzarella cheese. But because the sisters need a health certification for their operation, the cheese-making is currently on pause.
The biggest moneymaker on the farm comes from the beef cattle. The sisters are very aware of their marketing edge, Schortemeyer says.
"We have kind of a corner on the market — you know, nuns selling natural beef. People just kind of believe in it," she says.
Religious orders have a lot of farm operations.  The Congregation of the Holy Cross, which runs the University of Notre Dame, owned almost 1,500 acres until they sold a few years back.  Closer to home, the Missionaries of the Precious Blood own a large farm at the site of their old seminary in Carthagena.  Back in the day, they had plenty of labor and plenty of mouths to feed.  Today, not so much.  But the growth in the local foods movement gives the religious orders much needed income.

An Advertisement Against Religion?

Via the Dish:

Merry Christmas and pass the inclined board, the towel and the water pitcher.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Future of the Bakken

Ron Patterson has been trying to read the tea leaves in the Bakken based on the first 24 hours production numbers in the Bakken.He's starting to see a trend:
It is unclear, to me anyway, whether the lower production per well is because of downspacing, moving further away from the sweet spots, or both. But it is clearly happening. Newer wells, or at least those with higher permit numbers, are definitely coming in with lower production numbers.
In 2015 we will see the squeeze coming in from two sides, fewer wells being drilled and lower production from those that are being drilled. It is my prediction that the Bakken will peak in 2015. In which month it will peak is hard to guess.
But there is a third squeeze, from another side. The junk bonds that many small shale drillers depend on for their financing are dropping through the floor. That means yields are going through the roof.
I've been pretty wrong, both on production from the shale plays, and on oil futures prices, but I'm positive of one thing, the shale plays will peak, and it will be sooner than optimists think.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

NASA Photo of the Day


Tyrrhenian Sea and Solstice Sky
Image Credit & Copyright: Danilo Pivato
Explanation: Today the solstice occurs at 23:03 Universal Time, the Sun reaching its southernmost declination in planet Earth's sky. Of course, the December solstice marks the beginning of winter in the northern hemisphere and summer in the south. When viewed from northern latitudes, and as shown in the above horizontally compressed image, the Sun will make its lowest arc through the sky along the southern horizon. So in the north, the solstice day has the shortest length of time between sunrise and sunset and fewest hours of daylight. This striking composite image follows the Sun's path through the December solstice day of 2005 in a beautiful blue sky, looking down the Tyrrhenian Sea coast from Santa Severa toward Fiumicino, Italy. The view covers about 115 degrees in 43 separate, well-planned exposures from sunrise to sunset.

Oil Prices Through History

From Business Insider:

Our economy has only grown significantly with prices under $40 in 2013 dollars, and only led to a prosperous middle-class around $20.  Think our economic growth was predicated on cheap energy?

The Greatest Example of Wasteful Government Spending

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and counterterrorism operations have cost the U.S. a combined $1.6 trillion since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, according to a new Congressional Research Service analysis.
Through fiscal 2014, which ended in September, Congress approved $815 billion for warfare in Iraq, $686 billion for Afghanistan and other operations against terrorism, $81 billion for other war-designated spending and $27 billion for Operation Noble Eagle air patrols over the U.S., according to the report posted on the agency’s internal website. The total includes $297 billion spent on weapon procurement and war repairs.
The assessment is the agency’s first full update of war costs since March 2011. About 92 percent of the funds went to the Pentagon, followed by the State Department and the Department of Veterans Affairs. It includes war operations, training and equipping Iraqi and Afghan forces, diplomatic operations and medical care for wounded Americans over the past 13 years, the agency said in the report dated Dec. 8. It also includes most reconstructions costs.
“The main factor determining cost is the number of U.S. troops deployed” at different times, the research service said. U.S. troops in Afghanistan peaked at 100,000 in 2011; there are 11,600 there today as the U.S. withdrawal continues.
The figures include war-related intelligence funding that wasn’t tracked or spent by the Defense Department, according to the report. It wasn’t updated with the $63.7 billion in war spending for the current fiscal year for Afghanistan operations and the first installment of operations against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
The Iraq invasion--initiated on a pledge to rid Saddam Hussein of weapons of mass destruction he didn’t have -- resulted in 4,491 U.S. military and civilian deaths and 32,244 wounded, according to Defense Department data compiled by Bloomberg.
The U.S. invasion to destroy al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and remove the Taliban from power has led to 2,356 military and U.S. civilians deaths and 20,060 wounded as of Dec. 16.
In addition, 128,496 U.S. military who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, according to September data from the Defense Medical Surveillance System.
Unlike academic estimates, which have calculated total costs as much higher, the Congressional Research Service doesn’t include in its calculations the lifetime costs of medical care for disabled veterans, imputed interest on the deficit or potential increases to the base defense budget deemed to be a consequence of the war, according to Amy Belasco, author of the report.
 So the real costs are much higher still, and what did we get for that?  Nothing.  And yet, most politicians, and a sizable number of citizens have learned nothing from these massive fuckups.  Much like in the torture debacle, where all evidence indicates we learned nothing valuable, and were sent chasing fabricated leads, yet many of the same politicians and citizens think torture works, and should be used in the future.  Many of these folks complain that Obama is weakening America, which is a joke, but based on the actions this nation has taken in the 21st century, it appears the nation and the world would likely be better off if we were too weak to project military power and torture interrogations wherever we feel like it.

On the subject of the wastefulness of the military-industrial complex, here is a very good article focusing on the F-35 boondoggle.