Monday, February 11, 2019

Visiting Column #8 -- Revisiting Global Warming

Over four years back, when I was new to writing this column and dumping out on a daily basis some things I'd wanted to say for a long time, I did a column on global warming and the alarmists on the left

My point, then, was that we knew that the leftists who were trying to make global warming an excuse to socialize the nation were being disingenuous.  My premise was that if we were talking about climate change, there was no reason that every single outcome of it was a bad thing, yet you never once heard a lefty mention anything good that would befall the earth.

That, I wrote, was prima facie evidence that the left was just using fear of global warming for their insidious, socialist ends, rather than actually to do something positive for the planet.  And clearly, there are some good outcomes if the planet's temperature kicked up a degree or two.  I believe that I mentioned the fact that a bazillion square miles of land in Canada and Russia would become suitable for agriculture and ranching, a huge boon to those trying to feed the hungry.

There's no question about that, of course; it's just a matter of how much warmth would lead to how much increase in agricultural productivity, at least until the next Ice Age comes and hauls us back into a deep freeze, as it eventually will.  We would actually know the answer, of course, if universities weren't so rigidly leftist that no one is allowed to do a paper on the topic.  God forbid, you know, that climate change might be actually a good thing.

And that was my point.  Climate change is by definition "change."  Change is not, a priori, good or bad.  We should expect a reasonable balance of positive and negative outcomes, not the Hades on earth that the left would have you think.

What I didn't say was this.  The global climate is a complex thing, of course.  It is great in Hawaii, cold at the Poles.  The vast "temperate" areas on earth vary all over the place -- it's what we call "seasons."  Although I live in a sort of sub-tropical area, I spent nearly 40 years in northern Virginia, where the temperature could vary from near zero degrees (F) in February to 100 or so in July and August.

Without leaving home, I dealt with literally a 100-degree variance on an annual basis.  Now that, friends, was climate change!  But I stress the part where I said I "dealt with it."  I did, and a few million other northern Virginians did too.  We turned on the air in the summer, and hauled out the snowblowers and the ski jackets in winter.  Duh.  We dealt with it.

That's what I don't understand about the global warmist alarmists.  Do they not think that if the temperature slid up a couple degrees, we couldn't just deal with it?  Or that "dealing with it" would be a heck of a lot easier than socializing the entire economy?

Here's the thing.  To say that we need to fight climate change is to say that the current temperature norms are perfect; that they are exactly what our global temperature should be.  That the current flora and fauna habitats in February 2019 are ideal and must not be changed, even though the flora and fauna regularly have adapted to broad climate fluctuations for millions of years.

Does anyone believe that?  How does a huge population on earth regularly sustain 100-degree variances in the course of a normal year, but according to the left, if that 100-degree variance phase-shifted even a couple degrees up, the planet would suddenly be uninhabitable?  Moreover, that we need to kill our entire energy model to prevent that from happening?

You know how you never get a straight answer from a leftist if you ask what the highest rate that anyone should ever have to pay out of his income in taxes?  They won't tell you that, because then they can't try to get even more from you.

Well, the same applies here.  Has anyone asked a climate-change fanatic to describe what the perfect climate model is?  What, I would want to ask them, would constitute the actual goal of their movement, as expressed in a high and low temperature for every nation on earth?

You won't get it, of course, because the left never gives you an endpoint, lest once it is reached they no longer have an excuse for running your life.  But even if they did, there is Part Two of the question:

Why?

What, I would ask, is the reason that that particular temperature pattern is so in need of preservation exactly as it is, that it is worth overhauling the entire world economy and energy model in a doomed effort to keep it that way?

I would tell you that all the points in this column are precisely, collectively, why I will never subscribe to the notion that we should lift a finger to change, or prevent the change of, our planet's climate.

I encourage those of opposing views to answer me.

Copyright 2019 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There are over 1,000 posts from Bob at www.uberthoughtsUSA.com, and after four years of writing a new one daily, he still posts thoughts once in a while as "visiting columns", no longer the "prolific essayist" he was through 2018, but still around.  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu or on Twitter at @rmosutton

Thursday, February 7, 2019

Visiting Column #7 -- Declining Value of WAR

If you are a baseball fan -- and if you are, you already know this is to be a piece on baseball -- you have hear the term "WAR."  You may know what it means, or not, but you know it is something important.

A very quick explanation: WAR stands for "Wins Above Replacement", and is a fairly recent metric used to evaluate major-league players.  Essentially, it boils a whole bunch of evaluative factors -- hitting, base-running, defense -- into a single number that represents how many more wins a player's team achieved with that player on the field, vs. what the team would have had with a "replacement player", i.e., a player brought up from the minors.  There is also a version for pitchers, but let's ignore that for the moment.

WAR is cumulative; you can speak of the number of WAR earned during a season, or over a career.  So a player with skills exactly those of a rookie brought up from AAA would be rated at a 0.0 WAR, while a player with a 10-WAR season (or even more) has had a historically phenomenal year.  For example, two position players -- Mookie Betts (10.9) of the Red Sox and Mike Trout (10.2) of the Angels -- had WAR over 10 in 2018.

Finally, there are several versions of WAR out there, depending on which source's formula is used; primarily we use either bWAR or fWAR, named after the site that computes it.  They differ in minutiae regarding the value of things like base-running, but regardless, both use the currency of wins, boiling their analysis into number of wins a team earns vs. a replacement player in the position.

I bring all this up not for statistical purposes, but for a monetary one.

We of an analytic bent couldn't help but try to take WAR a step further.  Major league salaries are always an interesting topic, at least to me, since I write about them a great deal.  And as I write this, there is a fascinating dual case of two outstanding free agent players who are both excellent, young and, as the equipment trucks are already en route to Florida and Arizona for Spring Training, without a job.

We are talking, of course, about the shortstop Manny Machado, late of the Dodgers but mainly an Oriole throughout his career, and the outfielder Bryce Harper, a National through the expiration of his contract this past October.

Fans have been anticipating this offseason for several years, when it seemed that both would be free agents in the same season.  Machado toiled for the low-budget Orioles, who couldn't afford him, and Harper played for Washington, which could afford him and offered a huge contract while he was still a player there, but he is represented by Scott Boras, an agent who insists his players go to free agency.  So this was coming.

Needless to say, countless words have been written in the press about the gargantuan salaries each would get, and where they would fit into the small number of teams which could actually afford such numbers -- and had an actual opening.  And those numbers were huge -- multiple articles had forecast Harper getting $400 million over ten years, even though no player has ever gotten close to an average annual value of $40 million.  Machado was not far behind.

They had projected these numbers based on WAR, of course.  They used very common schemes that in recent years have put a dollar value on one point of an arbitration-eligible or free agent player's WAR -- four or five million or so, although I really can't tell you what the current analysts use.  I can't tell you because I really don't care; salaries to me are based on such varied criteria that I think such ratios are of no real value.

But they're out there, and they were used liberally by players, agents and teams.  More importantly, they are used constantly by the media to project ludicrously-high salaries -- and, as they say, "sell papers."

That, friends, is a mistake.

The mistake is that, even if you concede that a ratio could hold for players in the lower echelons (i.e., for whom all 30 teams could financially compete), it is not a linear relationship.  That is, once you are talking about a top-rank player in the $20 million/year or higher bracket, the parameters change.

There is a finite supply of those players, but the demand dips accordingly.  In the case, say, of Harper, more than half the teams simply can't afford him; they can't afford to tie up that high a percentage of their payroll in one player.  At least two of the big-money teams, the Yankees and Red Sox, have full outfields and simply don't need him. 

As I have written, it isn't whether (in this case) Harper is "worth" $40 million to such teams, but whether the upgrade over whichever outfielder would be replaced is worth the difference in salary, and in those cases, he simply is not.

From what can be believed in the latest press accounts, the actual salaries are going to be much less.  Machado has only 3-4 teams even negotiating with his agent, including the White Sox, Phillies and maybe the Padres, while Harper is talking with Washington, the Phillies and maybe the Dodgers.  But for now, it is just talk.

And the numbers we're hearing are nothing at all like the talk -- we hear that Machado was offered "only" $175 million over six years from the White Sox and may not even have another offer, while Washington appears to have confirmed that the ten-year, $300 million offer to Harper they made last year is still on the table -- or maybe not. 

The potentially 10.0-WAR players simply are not seeing the dollars-per-WAR curve apply to them -- and Machado has never had over 7.0 WAR in a season, while Harper hit 10.0 in 2015 but has not been not over 7.5 since.

I believe that is because the ratio, so touted by the people who create it and swear by it, is not a linear but an asymptotic one, that is, it flattens as salaries approach the ridiculous levels.  It has to, since the demand factors that are maximized when we're talking about an "average" or "good" player, are minimized when only a few teams can participate.

WAR, from whichever source, is an excellent way to ascribe value to players, both seasonally and over a career, expressed as wins added.  But salaries are simply not proportional, and while arguably they should be, or at least should approximately be, absent a salary cap and present enormous greed (and a hyperactive media), they simply won't be what people think they are.

Owners learn, too.

Copyright 2019 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There are over 1,000 posts from Bob at www.uberthoughtsUSA.com, and after four years of writing a new one daily, he still posts thoughts once in a while as "visiting columns", no longer the "prolific essayist" he was through 2018, but still around.  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu or on Twitter at @rmosutton

Monday, February 4, 2019

Visiting Column #6 -- No Room for Daddy?

As I write this, Virginia's governor, Ralph Northam, is calling an emergency meeting of his staff to try to decide whether to step down in the wake of the discovery of a racially-charged picture on his page of the Eastern Virginia Medical School yearbook.

To be kind, Northam did not have a good week.  But whether or not he actually was one of the two individuals in the yearbook -- one in blackface and the other a Klansman in a hood and robe -- is of no concern to me.  Of course, I'm 100% certain that if the lieutenant governor had been a Republican, the chorus of screams for his resignation would be far quieter, hypocrites that the left can be.

But I digress.

Northam's bad week started when he went on a radio show in Washington and, to the horror (I assume) of the interviewer and most of the listeners, described a bill that had been proposed in the Legislature up there to deregulate abortions.  Specifically, it would literally allow an abortion up to (and I quote him) dilation, meaning within hours or minutes of an actual delivery -- as "late term" as humanly, or I guess, inhumanly, possible.

But that wasn't enough.  Northam went on to clarify even more, and here is where I got pretty steamed.  He described the timing of when an unborn child could be killed, and added that it included after birth.  That decision, he stated, would be "up to the woman and her physician."  Yes, he was very clear that a baby could be killed right after birth if the woman and her doctor okayed it.

I'm on record, as you who are regular readers know, as being far from passionate about the abortion issue.  It has mercifully never affected me personally.  I suppose that as a Christian, with sympathy for all, that I am offended by what we could call "abortion for convenience", while not being offended in cases of rape, incest, severe genetic abnormality.  The law will never sort that out, and I don't expect it to.

Moreover, because it is a moral issue, it needs to be up to the States and not to the Federal government to decide what is legal, according to the moral leanings of the people of that State.

But let's set that aside and return to Northam's comment on air.  I'm going to paraphrase here, but he did say this, whatever words were used: According to the proposed law, supported by Gov. Northam, a living baby can be legally killed, after it is born, if the mother and her doctor say it is OK.

The mother.  The doctor.  Isn't someone missing?

Even if you are to concede the weird leftist argument that a fetus is "part of the mother" and therefore all decisions about its life belong solely to her, once a baby is born alive, the rules change.

Once a baby is born, it is not the exclusive province of the mother to decide its fate.  Now (and, in my judgment, during pregnancy as well, but so be it), there are two parents and any decision about what happens to that child belongs to the father equally with the mother, whether or not he is a present figure in the life of the mother.

I have not heard a single word about this point of view, although perhaps there would have been more people to think about it had the networks actually paid any attention to Northam's radio interview -- outside of Fox, barely a minute of network and cable news even mentioned it -- NBC, ABC, CNN and NBC totally ignored the story.

But I didn't.  And I will scream from the rooftops that once a baby is born, there are two parents who both need to be involved in any decision to terminate the life of a living, born child.  I will scream from the same rooftops that if the father is not in the picture, it is still vital that he be found and brought into the decision before such a drastic step is taken.

Because at that point we're talking about a baby, not a body part.  And as it takes two to create it, it needs to take two to decide its fate.

How uncivilized would any decision to the contrary be.

Copyright 2019 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There are over 1,000 posts from Bob at www.uberthoughtsUSA.com, and after four years of writing a new one daily, he still posts thoughts once in a while as "visiting columns", no longer the "prolific essayist" he was through 2018, but still around.  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu or on Twitter at @rmosutton

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Visiting Column #5 -- Did I Have to Sit There?

So this is not about a challenging trip on a commercial flight, or anything remotely like that.  It is, however, a brief vignette from my life way back when, and yet another opportunity to go back and laugh at myself and invite others to do the same.  I can actually do that.

Many, many years ago, in the far-off land of Massachusetts, I was living in Boston and performing in comic operas for a living, or at least to supplement my living.  I had an actual day job back then, but this was adding to the fun in my life -- usually.

Naturally, as a performer of Gilbert and Sullivan productions, I had grown to admire the most famous performers of the genre, which at that time meant those associated with London's D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, which was actually founded 100 years or so earlier by the impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte, to produce those very operas as they were written.  Until 1982, when the Company closed, they were the place where the original direction of the author and composer were protected and faithfully performed.

Although the operas themselves have different settings, are set in several different countries and the stories are different, for the most part there are characters common across all of them -- the lead tenor and soprano, for example, who may or may not end up together at the end as they do in "HMS Pinafore" and "Pirates of Penzance" -- but don't in "Ruddigore" or "Patience."  There is a part in most all the operas for a large bass-baritone, and for a lower-voiced soprano with a flair for comedy.

And, of course, there is the "little man who dances around the stage and sings the patter song", as the British comedienne Anna Russell declared long ago in one of her routines.  Those not very familiar with the genre still know him as the "model of a modern major-general" or the First Lord of the Admiralty, who sings "When I Was a Lad ..." -- that guy.  And there's one of them in all the operas.

Naturally, over the years the performer in the D'Oyly Carte who played those roles, in any era, became the "star" of the Company.  John Reed, who performed the roles brilliantly for over 20 years until shortly before the Company closed, is the one that most people alive today would have seen, and certainly heard on the recordings done the last few decades of the Company.  I was privileged to have seen him in a number of performances during their USA tours.  We think of the eras of the Company in terms of who played those roles.

Martyn Green took that position on in 1934 and performed with the D'Oyly Carte for the better part of the next 20 years, with a break during the Second World War, until 1951.  He was certainly famous as a performer before and after that tenure, but it was as the comedian with the Company that he was best known.

I had read a book many years back which may have been about him directly, or perhaps in which he commented.  It might have been an article, actually -- I can't recall.  But I do remember that he was discussing W.S. Gilbert himself, and on being unable to answer a particular question, Green was quoted as saying "[I can't answer that], I only sat on Gilbert's knee once [as a small boy]".  Green was born in 1899, and Gilbert died in 1911, so the story makes sense.  For some reason, I recalled that.

In 1974, I was just beginning the first years of my performing career, such as it ever became.  Martyn Green, who had moved to the USA years before, was coincidentally performing on Cape Cod in a production of "HMS Pinafore" as a guest in a summer stock show.  He was just 75 at the time, and I was 23.  You figure, you have only one chance to see the Martyn Green, and it wasn't too far, so I went to see him and perhaps shake hands afterwards.

Now, understand that Green had lost one leg 20 years earlier in a horrific elevator accident, and made his way about on an artificial left leg.  So his performing did not include a lot of that "dancing around the stage" that Anna Russell had described, but you would simply have watched, had you not known that, and inferred simply that an older gentleman was no longer as spry and needed a cane to get around.  The performance was pretty good, but it didn't matter; we were there to see whatever version of Martyn Green was still there.

So afterwards, as is frequently done, the cast of the shows lined up outside for the audience to meet and greet, and at the end of the line Martyn Green sat and shook hands with people.  Naturally, I got in that line and, at my turn, approached him with a smile.  "You did sit on Gilbert's knee, correct?", I asked him.  He acknowledged that he had.

I couldn't help it.  "Would you mind if I sat on your knee for a second?", I asked.  He was a bit nonplussed, but readily said it was OK.  I'm a pretty small person to start with, and I only "sort of" sat on his knee, respecting his age, his mono-legged status and the relative propriety of the request.  I have to think that the friends I had gone with just shook their heads at me, because it was certainly something I would do.

Martyn Green died the following February at 75 years of age.  He once sat on W.S. Gilbert's knee, around 1904, and I sat on Martyn Green's knee in 1974.  The chain goes on.

You may stop laughing now.

Copyright 2019 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There are over 1,000 posts from Bob at www.uberthoughtsUSA.com, and after four years of writing a new one daily, he still posts thoughts once in a while as "visiting columns", no longer the "prolific essayist" he was through 2018, but still around.  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu or on Twitter at @rmosutton

Monday, January 14, 2019

Visiting Column #4 -- Put "Our" Money Where "Your" Mouth Is, Nancy

So Nancy Pelosi, the farmer's wife to Chuck Schumer's farmer from Grant Wood's American Gothic in their recent wooden response to President Trump's address to the nation last week, thinks that walls are immoral.

"Immoral", she says, in the same tone that she usually uses when she is saying something for political purposes that she knows not to be true.  Of course, whether a border wall is immoral or not can't be true or false, since morality, in the eyes of the left, is a relative notion that shifts depending on whether it can create votes for Democrats or not.

You know, and I know, that she means none of what she is saying.  We know that morality does not apply to nations protecting their own borders from illegal crossings, human trafficking, drug smuggling and gangs, unless we decide they are indeed acutely moral because they prevent all those bad things.

And they do of course.  Just ask the Israelis.  Or our own Border Patrol.

But Democrats need to stick to their narratives for at least six months, after which the sympathetic leftist press has long since moved on, and refuses to dig up clips of them saying the opposite of what they are proposing then, later.

Never mind.  Nancy Pelosi thinks walls are immoral this week, and she is the Speaker of the House for some reason, meaning that she controls the legislative agenda of the House of Representatives.  And apparently, based on her opposition to authorizing $5 billion to extend the current border wall, she has some newfound concern for our Federal budget.

But morality should overcome any of that fiscal sanity, right?

That gets me to my central point.  If Nancy Pelosi thinks that new wall construction would be immoral and so wrong, then it is logical that the wall already built is equally immoral.  And if it is equally immoral, it needs to be removed.

So Nancy -- here is my point:  Why, if you think that border protection via barrier is immoral, have you not already introduced legislation to fund the removal of all border walls at our southern border?

Walls either are or are not immoral; they either do or do not work.  Now, we all know that they are very moral, and we certainly know that they work.  But Pelosi has now gone on record as saying the opposite, and it is past time for her to introduce a bill that would authorize taxpayer money -- yours and mine -- to do what, in her eyes, is the "moral" thing and tear down the existing wall.

You have to ask why she hasn't already done that.  Could it be that the Border Patrol, from rank and file all the way up to the last five Directors, would scream bloody murder and cause her to lose the narrative?

But she already said it is immoral.  There are no two ways about it; if it is wrong it needs to be removed.  And if she does not introduce a bill to do so, she is a coward of the highest degree, not standing up for what she claims to believe in.

So how 'bout it, Nannykins?  Put our money where your mouth is.

Copyright 2019 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There are over 1,000 posts from Bob at www.uberthoughtsUSA.com, and after four years of writing a new one daily, he still posts thoughts once in a while as "visiting columns", no longer the "prolific essayist" he was through 2018, but still around.  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu or on Twitter at @rmosutton

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Visiting Column #3 -- Accelerating the Off-Season

Earlier today, I happened to come across a few articles bemoaning the rather dull Winter Meetings by Major League Baseball.  There has been a signing or two, and a couple minor trades, but when the Meetings are advertised as the place "where things happen", and the press piles into whatever hotel is the headquarters to follow what is happening -- but nothing happens, it's a downer.

The reasons are several, but I can point to one, and his initials are Scott Boras.  And I have a solution at the end of this piece.

Scott Boras, of course, is a sports agent, meaning that he negotiates contracts on behalf of his clients, which for this piece's purposes are major-league baseball players.  Keep that in mind.

With the World Series ending by about November 1st, and Spring Training beginning in mid-February, that's about three and a half months for free agents to figure out where they are going to play when the following Spring Training begins.  Typically, there are a few dozen free agents in a given season, and only a handful, 4-5 at most, are primo players.

The annual dance, of course, is between the teams with needs at certain positions, and the players who play those positions.  The teams want the players they covet, and the players are trying to get the most money.

Of course, there are risks on both sides.  If you are a very good, but not "primo", player, the teams needing you may be waiting to see if they can first sign the primo player at your position.  Then if the primo player signs elsewhere, you want to make sure you get a job, and the teams which missed out on the primo guy want to make sure they get a very good player.  So there are risks on each side, and neither has a sense of control.

If that was almost clear, you will understand when I say that the fates of most free agents, and the rosters of most teams, are all waiting on one thing -- the signing of the primo players.  If that were to happen early in the off-season, then all the other dominoes could fall neatly, players would know where they're going, and teams would know their rosters.

But for the most part, it does not happen in the off-season, despite the extended tumult the delay causes.  And that goes back to the agent who is never in a hurry to get his player clients signed.  That would be Scott Boras.

Now in fairness, Boras is doing his job, which is to get the most money for his clients and the highest commissions for himself.  To do that, he drags the negotiations out with multiple teams -- and we're talking about his primo clients here -- to where Boras clients often don't sign until January or February.

While that shouldn't matter, it does.  The delay in signing primo Boras clients drives the market for all the other players at those positions, whose salary offers are frequently linked to the relative value of the contracts of the primo players at their positions.  Now, a few smart, non-Boras free agents sign early in the season, to make sure they have a job.  They may not quite get the contract they wanted, but they have more choice of teams, and know where they're going to play long before Spring Training.

So the Boras delay tactic has only one salutary effect, and that is for a very few players -- his top ones -- and, of course, for Boras.  The hope on his part is that the passage of time may add more teams into the mix and drive up prices.

The negatives?  Lots.  The other players, particularly the very good, next-tier free agents, have to wait until Boras's primo clients sign, because their best market will be with the teams that fail to sign the top Boras client at their position.  They hate that, because either they wait, or they take less to sign earlier in order to ensure they have a job where they'd prefer to be.

The teams hate the Boras delay as well.  All of them do.  They want to plan; they want roster certainty and they want cost predictability.

And so, as we get to the Winter Meetings in mid-December each year, little ends up happening.  For example, this year, the now-former Washington outfielder, Bryce Harper, is a Boras client.  He is not signing anytime soon, and that is delaying the signing of Manny Machado, a shortstop whose agent wants him to get a bigger contract than Harper, and so is waiting on that move.

Teams needing an outfielder or a shortstop, with the revenues to pay a big salary, will make a far different decision if they sign one of the two, versus what they do if they lose out to another team.  And if Harper doesn't sign until, say, February 1, there are a bunch of teams not knowing who their outfielders will be, and others not knowing who their shortstop will be.  The "losing teams" end up having to scramble, while the other free agents at those positions can't make life plans until right before Spring Training.

So ... this is, of course, a problem, in everyone's eyes except those of Scott Boras.

Well, Major League Baseball owes Boras nothing, and therefore should feel free to take action that will make this situation a whole lot better for all teams and for most players.  And there is, of course, an answer.

I propose that no contract for any player, with an average annual value above $2 million may be signed between January 1st and the date of the first regular season game.

Think about it.

All free agents of decent quality will obviously be paid more than $2 million a year.  So in order to be available to start the season, they need to sign a contract before January 1st.  The teams gain roster certainty comfortably in advance of Spring Training, and the players all know, pretty much, where they will be playing.  And, of course, the Winter Meetings would be a deserved center of offseason attention.

More importantly, November and December provide plenty of time for the negotiations that need to take place -- instead of everyone stalling and goofing around, as soon as the World Series is over, the negotiations can start.  Any linkage between what one player makes and another player's offer is clear earlier in the offseason.

And -- there will be immense pressure on the very few primo free agents to sign early enough to leave time before January 1st for teams that don't sign them to deal with the remaining free agents at the positions of need.  I'd be certain that if that rule were in place now, and Machado or Harper waited until December 31st to sign, he'd be taking beanballs every other game.  The players take care of their own, you know.

We have problems, we have solutions.  Comments are welcomed below.


Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There are over 1,000 posts from Bob at www.uberthoughtsUSA.com, and after four years of writing a new one daily, he still posts thoughts once in a while as "visiting columns", no longer the "prolific essayist" he was through 2018, but still around.  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu or on Twitter at @rmosutton

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Visiting Column #2 -- Omission in the News

The other day I happened to have come across an interesting article regarding the former tennis great and notorious bad boy, John McEnroe.

John McEnroe is now 60 years old, and apparently over the years it has been suggested that he take on, in an exhibition match, one of the current female tennis stars, generally one of the Williams sisters, as they have been among the top few female players in that time.  McEnroe appears to be the go-to guy for that kind of match, mainly because he is, to say the least, outspoken and quite loud, in a New Yorker sort of way.  Good TV, we assume.

The idea for this, of course, dates back to 1973.  Bobby Riggs, who was 55 at the time and the 1939 Wimbledon men's singles champion, had declared that, even at that age, he could defeat the best women players currently on tour.  He challenged the best to a match.

Margaret Smith Court, who was then the #1 player in the world, accepted.  She would ultimately win no fewer than 64 Grand Slam titles, including 24 singles wins.  She would win the Australian, French and US Open titles that very year and was clearly the best woman player in the world that year, with or without the rankings to confirm it.

Mrs. Court accepted the challenge and, on Mother's Day  1973, the two played a match.  She was the best woman tennis player on the planet; Riggs was, well, 55.  He had won Wimbledon, all right, but it had been 24 years since and, well, he was 55.

It was not close.  Riggs won the match, 6-2, 6-1, and it took less than an hour.

Why do I feel the need to mention all that history?  Because, as we all know, about four months later, Riggs tried it again, this time against Billie Jean King, also then a highly-ranked player.  This time, Mrs. King won, 6-4, 6-3, 6-3.

The key is my phrase "as we all know."  You see, the match against Mrs. Court seems never to have been mentioned in any story that mentions the Riggs-King match.  That's odd, since Riggs's thesis was that an old, old long-retired top male player could beat an active women's Grand Slam champion, and he had already proved it before playing Mrs. King.

If anything, the King match, given the score, and certainly when considered along with the Court match, provided a couple data points that demonstrated, at the least, that the long-retired man was a comparable skill measure to an active woman champion.  Were John McEnroe to take on a Williams or two, given enough time to get back into whatever a 60-year-old would think of as "playing shape", we should expect him to hold his own in a close match.

Now this will not happen.  McEnroe, though he says now he thinks he could win, has no interest in such a match, and so we would not expect it to happen, ever.

But that is not the point.  Today's media narrative and, to be fair, the narrative for about 45 years, has totally ignored the fact that Riggs defeated the #1 woman player in the game despite a 24-year age difference.  Totally ignored it -- if you ask people in their 30s and 40s (i.e., mature but too young to have seen it) who will have heard about the Riggs-King match, I would opine that fewer than 1/4 of them would know that it was the second match and that Riggs proved his point in the first.

Yes, this is a commentary on the media and their narratives.

The article from the Australian author, the gentleman that I cited in the beginning of this piece, was a perfect example; it mentions the King match but there is no allusion to the Court match at all.  Now to the gentleman's credit, he did tweet back to me, when I pointed it out, to apologize for it as an oversight, and I thank him for that.  I don't actually lump him in with that "media", since I truly believe it was an oversight on the part of a younger writer.

But as I always say and more frequently hear, the media influence as much or more by what they do not say as by what they do say.  The true outcome of the 1973 Riggs matches was that, even at 55, a male tennis player could compete on a level basis with an active champion female.  That is not the media's interpretation, which is that "women can compete with men in anything", but which the two matches together would have refuted.

Except that the Court match, the crushing by a 55-year-old man of the then-top female player, would render that narrative as hogwash.  Therefore, it was to be ignored, forgotten and left out of the story totally.  And the media continue to do so to this day.

Unfortunately, history is a pesky thing, and facts can be inconvenient.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There are over 1,000 posts from Bob at www.uberthoughtsUSA.com, and after four years of writing a new one daily, he still posts thoughts once in a while as "visiting columns", no longer the "prolific essayist" he was through 2018, but still around.  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu or on Twitter at @rmosutton

Friday, November 23, 2018

Visiting Column #1 -- Voter ID and Yahoo's Bias

So please don't think I'm going to do this too often, but once in a while there surely will be a stimulus for a column, and this one is it.
Yahoo, as we know, has allowed its leftist leanings to show itself more and more in recent months.  I've written to that, of course, as their "news" feed, that is supposed to be somewhat neutral (if it wants to call itself "news"), will offer ten stories, nine of which lean hard left/anti-Trump and the other is some fluff piece about this or that pop tart.
Today their tippy-top piece was about the Republicans in North Carolina.  It shouldn't have been, but it was.  Here is the headline:
"After referendum, North Carolina GOP tries voter ID again"
 Now, what does that suggest to you?  To me, it would sound like the Republicans in the state are trying to re-institute a voter-ID law requiring that you prove who you are in order to vote, right?  The word "tries", though, suggest that there would be a challenge and that the GOP was trying to do something nefarious.
Well, here's the thing.  The referendum the headline refers to was one that was on the ballot here in North Carolina a few weeks ago.  the voters of the great State of North Carolina voted overwhelmingly -- more than 55% -- to authorize a requirement for voter ID in the state, in the form of authorizing a constitutional amendment.
So the job of the legislature is to implement that.  Now, what the mechanics of that are, I don't know, but obviously in the aftermath of the election, the legislature is mandated to create a model to implement that requires voter ID.
The article suggested that in the waning weeks of the legislative year, before a new and less-Republican legislature takes office, the current legislature would try to implement the new amendment as law before the no longer veto-proof majority takes over.  The governor, Roy Cooper, is a Democrat, you see, and might veto such a move despite the -- did I mention this -- 55% majority vote demanding voter ID be written into the State constitution.
I don't know.  I don't know what Yahoo has against requiring that people be required to demonstrate who they are in order to cast a vote.  I don't know why they don't want North Carolina voters to be protected against the weakening of our votes by illegals and non-citizens voting.  I don't know why it should be an issue to require the same demonstration of identity to vote that is required to drive a car or buy beer.
Well, I do know, actually.  The ballot box has not always been kind to the left.  In 2016, all of Hillary's lead in fund-raising was not enough to overcome the country's revulsion at what a crummy candidate she was, and how she had no evident reason for running, and that she was demonstrably corrupt.
The left would prefer that it not have to risk actually asking Americans to vote for them, and just to take and hold power.  Governing is really not the big deal for them; power is.  Whatever means are necessary to grab power, even allowing hordes to storm our sacred borders, or to have people vote illegally or vote often, well, my diluted vote is just collateral damage to them.
And even when the people stand up against that and vote to amend our constitution to mandate voter identification, we have Yahoo protesting away that showing who you are in order to vote is somehow "racist", their go-to word for everything (hint: they've cried wolf on that one a few too many times).
Well, I wish the NC Republicans well and hope they can get the procedures legislated into law quickly and reasonably.
I hope to show up at the ballot in a year or two with a photo identification and actually be asked for it.
Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There are over 1,000 posts from Bob at www.uberthoughtsUSA.com, and after four years of writing a new one daily, he still posts thoughts once in a while as "visiting columns", no longer the "prolific essayist" he was through 2018, but still around.  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu or on Twitter at @rmosutton

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

#1000: It's Been Real, But Good-Bye

Way back in 2014, when I was only paying $500 a month for health insurance for a private plan that covered my wife and me, I had a thought.

There had always been "thoughts," rattling around in my head about this notion or that.  Things like the fact that "moderate" was a stupid term to use for people, since that didn't define anyone's actual beliefs so much as their approach to debate, so much so that two "moderates" could be in 100% opposition to each other.

Things like the notion that "maturity" is really an accumulation of cause-and-effect relationships that allow us to guide our actions by their expected outcomes, relationships I called "cubbyholes" and had always enjoyed describing to people.

Things like the fact that because socialism doesn't work, the power-hungry had to be brutal in their politics, because they couldn't win arguments based on performance, past outcomes or pretty much anything else.

So I got the idea that I would set up a sort of provisional blog site and write a few of these notions down as essays.  I figured if I wrote them and no others occurred to me, that would be it; I'd just take down the site and go do something else.

But then after the first few, a few more occurred to me, driven by life, or the news, or whatever.  How our tax code had gotten like a plate of spaghetti.  How America's Got Talent had lost contact with the notion of "talent."  The economics of baseball.  D.C. statehood, and how D.C. idiotically insisted that its employees had to live in the District.

It didn't end.  And I found myself treating the essays as a daily exercise in thinking and writing, a bit of a distraction from the formulaic writing I did for a living the rest of the day.  Sometimes I would have as many as five essays stacked up, already written, after a weekend of events and thoughts.  Sometimes I'd wake up in the morning with nothing, thinking "What do I care about today?".

And now, 1,000 essays later, it's time to let it go.

It got very political during the 2015-16 campaign season, and the evolution of my feelings toward now-President Trump as a candidate are documented in almost diary form, given the percentage of that period's daily essays devoted to the campaign.  And on the day of the election, I wrote not about the candidates or their platform, not an encouragement to go vote, or to vote for anyone particularly, but an essay on why I don't really like dogs very much.

I've had diversions to topics that were just the event of the week, and those that reflected many months of cogitation.  And in all that time, although this one is probably my very favorite, five columns have become the most-read of all the 1,000 columns of which this one will be the last.  So I'm going to go out by sharing them with you.

#5: Political Courage Needed, Sen. Franken -- a wasted appeal to Al Franken, who was a senator then before having to resign for being caught groping a sleeping woman and, absurdly, photographing it.  He had asked a question of Jeff Sessions in his confirmation hearings about Russian contacts in his capacity with the Trump campaign.  Although Sessions had a passing contact with a Russian in his Senate role, he answered "no", logically thinking that the question had been about campaign contacts. Franken knew that from the context of his own question, and I thought he should have the guts to say that.

#4: The Privilege of Dating -- a piece exposing the immaturity of 20-somethings in the context of a dating set-up feature in the Washington Post.  I get into the utter lack of understanding of life and the world on the part of two wide-eyed young people with no possible insight into what socialism does to societies on which it is imposed.

#3: A Look Back from 2019 or So -- written shortly after the inauguration of Donald Trump, where I suggest that all the people who back then were expressing "fear" about this or that (actually, the just kept saying "fear" as if we were supposed to get why they were afraid) should write down what they were afraid of President Trump doing, and then maybe in mid-2019 they should look back at that list and realize how many of those fears would turn out to have been completely unfounded.

#2: Adieu and God Bless, Santa Claus -- a eulogy to my first college roommate in my fraternity house at MIT, who had passed away.  Randy Vereen was a great fellow all his life, but his playing Santa at Christmas time was something that not only he continued to do all his life, but which defined the kind of person he was and would always be.

#1: When Leftist Worlds Collide - Again -- the most widely-read of any of the thousand columns was this one.  A black professional football player in the NFL, Edwin Jackson, had been killed by a drunk driver who was an illegal alien that did not belong in the USA.  The leftist press tried hard to ignore the immigration status of the driver and the fact that, had there been a wall at our southern border, Jackson would still be alive.  But at the same time NFL players were disrespecting the national anthem by kneeling, one of their own had been killed precisely because of lack of border enforcement.  The left, I wrote, had so many constituencies that the inevitable clashes among them for attention were its biggest problem -- as this one so tragically showed.
           _ _ _

I don't doubt that I may add a piece here and there in the future.  I've written one every workday for over four years, and I'm already of a mindset that there is an essay, a point to be made, deriving from at least a quarter of the news stories I read.  And there is still a World Series this year, and the Red Sox are still in the hunt for it, up 2-1 on the hated Yankees in the Division Series, as I write this.

But the daily commitment expires here, today.  I'm going to pour a glass of something (I like beer.  I still like beer, to quote the newest justice of the Supreme Court) at some point, start with #1 and read through all 1,000 to see what I may have learned about myself.  That could take a while.  But I'll make time.

And to all of you, the 90,000-plus who have read this far, I want to thank you for getting through the thickness of my prose and caring what I had to say.

Adieu and God bless.
Bob

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at www.uberthoughtsUSA.com at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu or on Twitter at @rmosutton

Monday, October 8, 2018

How Democrats Will Be Remembered -- Hint: Not Well

I am beginning to write this shortly after Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) announced that she would be the "yes" vote needed to give us the presumption that Judge Brett Kavanaugh would indeed be confirmed by the Senate over the weekend, as indeed was the case.  Immediately thereafter, the far less-courageous Joe Manchin (D-WV), facing a difficult reelection in a state that President Trump won by 40 points, also indicated that his was a "yes" vote.

[Note -- in fairness, there is word that Sen. Manchin had already informed the White House earlier that he was a "yes" vote regardless, but I would give the senator more of the benefit of the doubt had that been announced publicly ... it was not.]

In both cases, the senator's office had been, and then was thereafter, the scene of screaming protestors who somehow are allowed in the Senate building (hopefully through metal detectors, but we don't know).  They looked like robotic hippies from the '60s, chanting slogans that were not going to change anyone's mind about the issues.

But they could -- and will -- change people's minds about the people who paid them to be there and to scream and make general horse's rears of themselves.

That would be, um, Democrats.

I am of the opinion, and I don't mean this to be self-serving as a conservative, that the Democrats are going to get their backsides handed to them in the fall elections.  It will be analogous to the shock they got in 2010, when the voters rebelled against their seizure of power to ram Obamacare down our throats.  Or to 2016, when the Trump revolution kicked the Obamas and Clintonistas out of the White House for good.

But it will be for a slightly different reason.  Those other times, it was for other reasons.  The 2010 voters, reminiscent of the 1994 midterm, kicked the Democrats out of the majority in Congress because they had far overstepped their bounds.  When they had the presidency and both houses of Congress, and acted so dictatorially and unilaterally, the voters were moved to end that domination decisively.

In 2016, it was a clear lack of direction that doomed Hillary Clinton.  She was a terrible candidate with no evident platform, providing no reason to vote for her, all while Donald Trump had some discrete proposals and a pledge to bring a businessman's acumen to a job that sorely needed it.

More relevant to this case, President Trump has succeeded since, both economically (of course) and diplomatically (who would have guessed?).  Against that backdrop, one of actual performance in office and making life perceptibly better for Americans, we have, um, the Democrats.

And who represents them?  Well, in one sense there are Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters and other unpleasant types, bringing no productive platform except "resistance", which falls flat when people have gotten actual pay increases and now have jobs.

But in the other sense, and more importantly, you have the people that the voters see as the representatives of the Democrats, and those are the elevator screamers, the picketers, the Antifa types throwing chairs through windows.  And the leaders of the Democrats apparently thought that those were the people who somehow were going to sink the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh.

I don't know why they might have thought that, but they're certainly the ones who orchestrated the protests and still are doing so, so they must have thought they would be effective.

Unfortunately for them, though, they did not, in that calculation, consider that they might lose.  By not thinking of that, they missed the possibility that they would lose, and that would mean that not only would Brett Kavanaugh be on the Supreme Court, but that the Democrats would now be seen by the voters as represented by the screaming protestors -- being them, in fact.

When America goes to the polls in November in places like North Dakota, and West Virginia and Montana and Missouri and other places where incumbent Democrats are running to hold Senate seats where President Trump won, they will not be in the same frame of mind as they were, even in 2016.

They will be voting for a senatorial candidates who will continue our turn toward policies promoting economic prosperity, and against one who allowed the uncivil screamers in the elevators to represent them.  If the Democrats don't immediately disavow them, they will get hammered in November.

Because otherwise, the screamers will be the Democrats.  The only ones.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at www.uberthoughtsUSA.com at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu or on Twitter at @rmosutton

Friday, October 5, 2018

If It Was About Beer, What About Obama's Coke Habit?

Last week, we were treated to the splendid theater of Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) poring over the yearbook entries for Judge Brett Kavanaugh from some 35 years ago.  Whitehouse had his head in the yearbook, while asking about beer, and flatulence, and more beer, and why a classmate was referred to with the term "ffffffffffff" in the book.

I watched it, although I was laughing pretty hard at the pathetic spectacle of a United States Senator asking someone who is about to be a Justice of the Supreme Court, about things that couldn't possibly be any less relevant, but asking with a very serious tone in his role of advice and consent.  But that's the Democrats for you -- if it means possibly delaying the process another five minutes, they'll do it, as long as they can keep aborting babies (which is, of course, what this is all about).

And let us leave no doubt about the quote from the hearings that may last, at least in this house, even longer than we call Cory Booker "Spartacus" for his imbecilic reference to the old movie, in trying to make a point we have since forgotten.  In every subsequent election, Booker will now be derisively referred to as "Spartacus" before being laughed off the stage.  He asked for it.

But what we will longer remember and cite here was Judge Kavanaugh's impassioned opinion about beer.  "I like beer", he said in his opening statement and then in answers later.  "I still like beer!", he then added. 

Don't you just love that?  I know we did.  It didn't change our opinion of the type of Supreme Court Justice that he would be, but at least we know how he might relax after a long day of briefs and judicial arguments.

The questions or, more specifically, the answers to Sen. Whitehouse's odd line of inquiry, will not change his vote on the confirmation one bit.  He is a blue guy from a blue state being run into the ground by blue leaders, one who is never going to vote to confirm a nominee of President Trump even if he sniffed the nominee's butt and smelled flowers.

But he did ask the question, and so I have one for the good Senator.  So let us set the tone one more time.  Imagine that I'm a reporter doing an interview of Sen. Whitehouse live, and he is a captive audience.  Imagine that for the moment:

"Senator, you appear to have been particularly interested in Judge Kavanaugh's high-school life and his friends back then, and especially with his consumption of beer.  You are not explicitly stating that having consumed a lot of beer in one's college days is an automatic disqualifier, even against a pristine 30-year judicial career, correct?"

"Uh, no," Whitehouse will answer.

"OK, I'll make that assumption.  But, of course you are not voting to confirm Judge Kavanaugh anyway, as we know.  So what if, instead of beer, he had been using cocaine, and everything else was the same as far as incidents, the yearbook, all that.  Tell me how that would have been different in terms of just how aggressively you were going to oppose the nomination.  After all, cocaine is an illegal drug and now we're in Federal crime land."

"Well, that would have been a lot worse", the senator would have responded, or something like that.


"OK, then.  But Senator, you were a big supporter of Barack Obama, weren't you?  You were a senator the entire time that he was president.  Barack Obama admitted to extensive use of cocaine, a drug that it is illegal under Federal law to possess, use and distribute.  He used it during the same age period that Judge Kavanaugh supposedly made the yearbook entries, and drank the beer that you seemed intent on asking him about as if it actually were some type of disqualifier.

"And yet, Senator, I'm still curious as to why you did not call for hearings by the Judiciary Committee in 2009, when your party still held the chairmanship, into the capacity of Barack Obama to continue to be president, given that he had done what you admit are worse things during his teen years, than Judge Kavanaugh apparently did? 

That should probably say it all right there, even though I'm straw-manning by putting words in Whitehouse's mouth.  The left cares about what the left wants, which is power, by any means necessary, including by worrying about the amount of flatulence generated by a 17-year-old high school student.

We must do what we can at the ballot box, the proper place, to see that they don't get it.  The power, I mean. 

Their flatulence is a given.

Copyright 2018 by Robert Sutton
Like what you read here?  There's a new post from Bob at www.uberthoughtsUSA.com at 10am Eastern time, every weekday, giving new meaning to "prolific essayist."  Appearance, advertising, sponsorship and interview inquiries cheerfully welcomed at bsutton@alum.mit.edu or on Twitter at @rmosutton