Archive for June, 2013

Supreme Court Punts

June 29, 2013

Charlie Rose, June 26, 2013

Jeffry Tobin in a discussion with Mr. Rose about recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, said “The Supreme Court punted…,” in other words the ball was kicked down the field until another day.

It seems like a lot of punting is going on in Washington D.C.

Roberts Plays a Long Game

June 28, 2013

The New York Times, Friday, June 26, 2013


Roberts Plays a Long Game:  Conservative Record Gained Step by Step

 by Adam Liptak

WASHINGTON–“Viewed in isolation, the Supreme Court term that just ended had elements of modesty.  The court declined to do away with affirmative action, gave Congress another shot at salvaging the Voting Rights Act and refused to find a constitutional right to same sex marriage.

But glancing at an end-of-term snapshot can be misleading.  The more meaningful way to look at the court is as a movie, one starring Chief JUstice John G. Robers Jr. as a canny stategist with a tough side, and his eyes on the horizon.  He is just 58 and is likely to lead the curt for another two decades or more.

Chief Justice ‘Roberts has proved adept at persuading the court’s more liberal justices to join compormise opinions, allowing him to cite their concessions years later as the basis for closely divided and deeply polarizing conservative victories.

HIs patient and methodical approach has allowed him to esablish a robustly conservative record while ranking second only to Justice Anthony Kennedy as the justice most frequently in the majority.

‘This court takes the long view,’ said Kaannon K. Shanugam, a lawyer with Williams & Connolly in Washington. ‘It proceeds in incremental steps.”

Long game, long view: sports, business and war can take such an approach.  Baseball teams, as well as many other teams, want to win a game, but they also want to win more games than their opponents so they reach the playoffs or perhaps the World Series.  Businesses want to win a contract which may take many meetings.  Winning an immediate battle does not necessarily lead to winning the war.

The idiom shot in the first paragraph derives from shooting and guns, or sports, such as basketball or hockey.  In contrast to the long game, this is short, but has a trajectory as does the long game.  It is part of the long view. (more…)

Supeme Court Raises Bar For Workers

June 25, 2013

The New York Times, Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Business Day:  Supreme Court Raises Bar to Prove Job Discrimination, by Steven Greenhouse

“In two decisions issued on Monday, the Supreme Court effectively made it harder for workers to prove that they had suffered employment discrimination.

One ruling narrows the definition of what constitutes a supervisor in racial and sexual harassment cases, while the other adopts a tighter standard for workers to prove that they had faced illegal retaliation for complaining about employment discrimination.

In both cases, the rulings were decided by a 5-to-4 majority, with the dissenting justices, the court’s four most liberal members, calling on Congress to fix what they said were overly restrictive rulings.”

Raising the bar is a metaphor/sports idioms from track and field events.  To understand more, please go to and search for the idiom, or go to some recent blogs on this site to see how they are used in newspapers.

What Is the Trump in Race and Affirmative Action?

June 25, 2013

The New York Times OP-ED Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Speed of Ascent, by David Brooks

“The Supreme Court didn’t exactly shock the world on Monday. But, by imposing stricter standards on how courts review affirmative action plans, the court did send another small signal that the era of explicitly race-based affirmative action is coming to an end…

So affirmative action gave us some wildly good and unfortunately negative outcomes, and it stirred up fierce debates. But that’s not why these racial preferences are going away.  They are going away because underlying realities have changed.

First, economic inequality now trumps racial inequality as the chief source of disadvantage… now the income gap is nearly twice (as) large as the race gap.  Given this, explicitly race-baced affirmative action just doesn’t respond to the needs of the moment…

We now have the means to measure speed of ascent in a fairer and better way. Explicit, raced-based affirmative action programs weren’t wrong for their time, but they are being replaced.”

Trump can be a verb as in the sentence above or a noun.  Its derivation is from a declared trump in cards, which when played wins over another card.   For example, if hearts are declared trump in a game of bridge:  My king of hearts trumps your ace of spades.

David Brooks, distinguished columnist on the New York Times OP-ED page, supports his thesis with specifc examples.  However, it is not the place for this blog to quote entire columns, but to point out how sports and games idioms are used in the media.

Bonds: Exotic Punts

June 23, 2013

The Economist June 15th 2013

Finance and Economics:  The Fed and Emerging Markets

The End of the Affair


“…South Africa has the financial markets of a rich country: it is easier to buy and sell bonds and stocks there than in most middle-income countries.  So the rand is a convenient currency in which speculators can take a position on emerging markets more generally.  As the fast-money crowd sense the beginning of the end of loose monetary policy in America, bonds and currencies in emerging markets are the assets they want to sell.  The rand is merely the worst-hit in a long list of vulnerable currencies.

In the past month 19 or the 24 emerging market currencies tracked by Bloomberg have fallen in value against the dollar.  The trigger for this sell-off was a remark in May by the chairman of he Federal reserve, Ben Bernanke, that the Fed’s purchases of bonds using central-bank money might soon tail-off…

Even so, the prospect of a tapering of the Fed’s bond purchases probably marks the start of a long grind upwards in American bond yields to more normal levels… Interest rates will bobble around in search of the right price.  The absence until recently of such volatility has made rich-world investors comfortable with exotic punts in emerging-market bonds.  As the waters become choppier, they will be far less willing to take such gambles.”

I am not sure about the derivation of the word “punt” in this article as it is from The Economist.  It could be from punting on a stream or river, such as the Thames, but it also could be from punting a football in American football or rugby or in soccer.

Raising the Bar

June 23, 2013

The Economist June 15th 2013

Education: Raising the Bar

Chicago:  A Battle Over School Standards

“…the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers have been pushing for “Common Core” national standards in maths and English.  Forty-five states have said they will adopt them.  Science standards are being developed by a separate group of 26 states, and were released in April.  

The Common Core sets out the essential skills that pupils are expected to learn in every grade… The most important question, naturally is whether tougher standards will lead to better results.  In rich countries, school systems with exams based on robust national standards (ie, similar to Common Core) perform 16 pints better on the PISA test (an international benchmark) than school systems without them, says Andreas Schleicher, an education expert at the OECD, a rich-country think-tank. This puts them half a school year ahead. The effect is larger than almost any other national variable.”  

Raising the bar and lowering the bar are track and field idioms, the first makes jumps more difficult, the second easier.  Common Core School Standards will be tougher than current state standards.

Pitching Products

June 22, 2013

The New York Times, Thursday, June 20 2013



“Ads following you on the Web feel as old as ‘Mad Men.’  But now advertisers are stepping up their game… 

New Ways Marketers are manipulating data:  Not just as ad for a car, but one you may not have known you wanted….Online marketing companies are already focusing on the next generation of targeted advertising–one that collects and analyzes vast streams of data from social media, credit card histories and Web habits…

‘If I have three different cars, how do I launch them to the right audience?’ Mr Hagedorn (the chief executive of Annalect, a data marketing company) asked.  In milliseconds, fast technologies can determine whether a person is in the market for a new car or has bought a car recently, yielding different types of ads…”

Advertisers pitch products as does Hollywood movies.  Baseball pitchers pitch balls.


Frank Deford, Commentator for NPR Speaks About Sports Idioms.

June 17, 2013

Mr. Deford’s September 26th NPR (National Public Radio) broadcast had this title:

RG3: A Game Changer for Thirds Everywhere

We’re all familiar with the many sports terms that have moved into general usage: “par for the course,” “slam-dunk,” “curveball,” “photo finish” and so on.  Curiously, though, every now and then something of the inverse occurs, and we get an expression which is commonly used that has been derived from sport, but never used in sport. For example, that awful, overdone cliche, “level playing field.” Never in my life have I ever heard anyone in sport — that is, somebody actually right there on the level playing field — say, “I’m glad we’re playing on a level playing field.”   

Mr. Deford  discussed a few other terms he had never heard anyone use in tennis:  The ball’s in your court, or It’s in your court.  And soccer moms: he had never heard anyone use that term about soccer moms in reference to soccer.  However, Mr. Deford, my niece’s school had soccer teams and a mother’s team called “Soccer Moms.”

 “Real games have turning points. But things that are not games have game changers:

Here, though, is a game changer, uniformwise, that especially interests me. The star rookie quarterback of the Washington Redskins is named Robert Lee Griffin III. And so far as I know, he is the first player ever — ever — in the entire history of sports uniforms, to have “the third” on his uniform. It says “GRIFFIN III.

The Stimulus Comment That Agitated Traders

June 16, 2013

The New York Times: Business Day, Friday, June 14, 2013

News Analysis: Wall Street Agitation over Bernanke’s Stimulus, by Peter Eavis

“Amid the current turmoil in global markets, one question is being obsessively debated on Wall Street:  Just what was Ben S. Bernanke thinking three weeks ago when he said that the Federal Reserve might soon cut back its stimulus efforts?

Since May 22, when Mr. Bernanke made those remarks, global stock markets have lost $3 trillion in value, according to the Bank of America Merrill Lynch.”

Among the four theories postulated by Mr. Eavis, the correspondent, is “A Tap on the Brakes,” that Mr. Bernanke” has shifted his stance…he has intellectually moved closer to ending the asset purchases than people might realize…”

“Back in December, the Fed didn’t know if we would fall off the fiscal cliff, said David Rosenberg, chief economist at Gluskin Sheff & Associates.  So it may have thought, ‘We’ll shoot now and think later.”

If in doubt, one might shoot  first and ask questions later.  Of course, shooting with a shotgun or rifle while hunting (or “shooting” in Great Britain) is a sport.  The same can apply to a  state of war, but that is not what this site is about.

Missing the Target

June 15, 2013

The Wall Street Journal: WEEKEND INVESTOR, Saturday/Sunday, June 15-16, 2013

Missing the Target, by Liam Pleven and Joe Light

“A growing number of investors have big chunks of their retirement savings in ‘target-date’ mutual funds. But these simple-seeming funds can be unexpectedly complicated…

Target-date funds have become one of the most important ways that Americas save for retirement.  But for many investors, the funds are still wide of the mark. The funds generally are set up so that investors can put their entire nest egg into a single one linked to the year they expect to retire, in effet putting a savings strategy on autopilot.  The funds typically shrink their stock allocation to become more conservative as the retirement date nears.”

Hitting a target wide of the mark or the bull’s eye is not a good hit.   “In practice, though, the simple concept can get complicated, and many investors use the funds in ways designers never intended”