Sunday, October 9, 2016

Letter to The Blade's Ombudsman

I appreciate your lead topic in today's column.
Since returning to northwestern Ohio 8 months ago following a year and a half in Oregon, I have been continually amazed at the change in The Blade's editorial tone. It seems that the Blade goes out of its way to compliment Trump, and goes out of its way to criticize Clinton.
I could bring up numerous examples, but one that has stuck in my craw is a recent editorial entitled "Where is Hillary?". The idea that we as voters cannot decide who to vote for unless we see the candidate in person is ludicrous in this day and age. And the idea that Clinton must come to Toledo and offer solutions to all of Toledo's problems is also ludicrous. Toledo's problems are largely for state and local officials to deal with, not the president of the U.S.
The Blade's attitude is reflective of the selfish, "me-first" attitude which is so pervasive in today's culture. Every locale has its own set of problems. It is a president's job to be president of all the people, not a select few.
Another problem with the aforementioned editorial is its assumption that Ohio is still crucial to winning the election, hence candidates must concentrate on it. If you check out, you will see that Clinton currently has 334 electoral votes even without Ohio, way more that the 270 needed to win. In sum, a Republican cannot win the presidency without Ohio, but a Democrat can.
The Blade should not undertake to dictate to Clinton how she allocates her campaign's resources. Yet, it continues to do so. A headline in today's "Behind the News" section again talked about how many times the candidates have visited Ohio, something the Blade persists in harping on, the headline containing the phrase "but 1st time in Toledo was just last week" (emphasis added), referring to Clinton's campaign stop in Toledo. So, Clinton does as the Blade demands and visits Toledo, but your paper is still badmouthing her!
Yes, economic issues are important, as Mr. Block told you, but how does that translate into The Blade's pro-Trump approach? What possible reason does The Blade have for supposing that Trump would be anything but disaster for our beloved country?
Enough already.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Letter to "Chess Life"

Thank you for the excellent articles on Viktor Korchnoi, especially the great account from Yasser Seirawan about his days as a Korchnoi second.

While I commend your account as generally accurate, it still contains remnants of the Cold War. When Korchnoi defected, he abandoned his wife and son in favor of chess. He soon took up with Petra Leeuwerik, who the Western press, led by "Chess Life", insisted on calling his "dietician", even though she was obviously much more to him than a dietician. When Korchnoi's wife was allowed to leave the Soviet Union, he promptly divorced her and married Petra.

The quality of "Chess Life" is currently the highest it has been during my 50 years of reading it. However, I think your magazine still has some responsibility to correct the errors and excesses of the past, which were particularly outrageous during the period of 1984-1988, when you had an editor, Larry Parr, who was more interested in fighting the Cold War than in presenting factual information about the wonderful world of chess.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Letter to The Toledo Blade

Your "Where is Hillary" editorial was oddly disconcerting to me.

The idea that Toledoans should not vote for Clinton unless she comes to Toledo and hears their concerns is silly. Do you think people are unable to make up their minds without seeing the candidate in person? Besides, Toledo's "concerns" are primarily local and state issues, not issues which a president needs to be preoccupied with.

This gets to the problem with the way The Blade covers the campaign. You seem to think it is some big deal when a candidate comes into northwestern Ohio, hence all the front page headlines about Trump's campaign appearances, which you cover prominently whether or not Trump actually made any real news at a campaign stop. It would be far better to cover the campaign by highlighting the issues, something that would actually be of help to voters.

Also, Clinton does not need Ohio's electoral votes to win. The current map at shows Clinton with 302 votes to Trump's 236, even though Trump is ahead in Ohio. Trump, on the other hand, cannot win the election without Ohio. Is it any wonder Trump is giving so much attention to Ohio?

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Letter to Commonweal Magazine

Your editorial on the value of the Hyde Amendment misses the mark in several respects. You criticize Hillary Clinton for her position in opposing this law, because it might cost her votes. What this means is that you are advocating that her campaign decisions be made on cold and cynical political calculation, rather than on principle and integrity. Has it even occurred to you that perhaps Clinton is simply trying to do the right thing, rather than the most politically useful thing?
Another problem with your editorial position is that in arguing against any publicly-funded abortions, what you are doing is advocating for a public policy that allows rich people to obtain abortions, but denies that same right to poor people. Don't poor people also have the right to medical care?
While it is true that many European countries place a 12-week limit on abortions, it is not fair to compare this to the U.S.  The reason is that European countries generally have free medical care available to all, in stark contrast to the U.S. What this means is that poor women in Europe are much more likely to see a doctor early in their pregnancies and then get good advice about their options going forward.
Finally, you throw in the loaded and misleading word "elective" near the end of your editorial. This is a blatant mischaracterization of the very painful and gut-wrenching decisions women are called upon to make concerning their reproductive options. It implies that the decision to have an abortion is something made lightly, similar to the decision of what to eat for supper. The use of the term "elective" is highly unfair to the women of this country.

10-3-16 update.  The first issue after I sent this letter did not publish it, but instead had one from a representative of the group Catholics for Choice, which zeroed in quite well on the issue of the discrimination against poor people that occurs under the Hyde Amendment. The second issue, dated October 7, 2016, did publish my letter, and the magazine had the class to send me a complimentary copy of the issue by first class mail, at a cost of $1.57. Kudos to Commonweal for that!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Kudos to the Indians

This summer I have been listening to the Indians' games on radio, a vast improvement from last summer when, while living in the Pacific Northwest, I suffered through a disappointing Mariners' season. About three weeks ago the Indians started an amazing winning streak, a streak which didn't end until they had racked up a new franchise record of 14 straight victories!

The formula for the first 13 wins was that they would jump out to an early lead, and the starting pitching would take it from there. Then in game 14, played last Friday, the score was tied at 1-1 after nine innings. On and on it went, until the Tribe finally broke through in the 19th inning on a homer by Carlos Santana, winning 2-1 over the Blue Jays. This game started in the afternoon, due to it being Canada Day, and ended over six hours later in the evening. The Jays used a position player on the mound during the last two innings, while the Indians used the next day's scheduled pitcher, Trevor Bauer, for the last five innings.

The next day the fill-in starter got off to a shaky start, allowing three runs in the first inning. The Indians fought back to tie the score, but an overturned call at home plate in the 8th inning put the Jays ahead, and they won 9-6. A nice highlight for the Indians was Rajai Davis hitting for the cycle. He had the homer, triple and double, and came up in the 9th needing only a single, which he achieved.

The Jays then blew out the Tribe 17-1 on Sunday, but the Indians got back on track yesterday with a nice win, keeping their focus despite a two and a half hour rain delay before the start of the game.

7/7/16 update.  The Tribe lost yesterday to the Tigers, breaking two streaks. They had been 11-0 vs. the Tigers this year, and they had won their last 13 home games!

10/3/16 update. The Indians won their division by 8 games over the Tigers. Even though the division win was not in doubt, there was still plenty of drama on the final day of play yesterday. The Indians had gotten rained out Friday in Detroit, and the makeup game would have been today if there was any need for it.

There were two ways there would have been a need for the makeup game. The Indians entered the day tied with the Red Sox for season wins, so home field advantage for their upcoming division series was at stake. Fortunately the Indians won and the Red Sox lost, so the Indians did not need today's makeup game since they hold the tiebreak with the Sox.

Secondly, the Tigers still had a shot at a wild card berth going into yesterday. Had the Tigers won, and either the Blue Jays or Orioles lost, then the makeup game would have been necessary. Had the Tigers then won the makeup game, a play-in game would have been necessary to determine the second wild card berth!

There was similar drama in the NL, as had the Giants lost, they would have had to play a play-in game with the Cards to determine the second wild card slot. But they won, shutting out the Dodgers, so it will be the Giants vs. the Mets in the wild card game. Bring on the postseason!

Monday, April 25, 2016

Thoughts about the Nomination Process

There has been much hand-wringing this year about the influence of established party figures in the nominating process. The clear implication is always that there is something inherently wrong about this, because the "will of the people" might be thwarted.

A recent diatribe on this subject comes from columnist Charles M. Blow, who apparently is the resident idiot at the New York Times. Blow calls the process for the Democratic nomination "outrageous" and "unjust", and concludes by saying that "For a Democratic Party that prides itself on the grand ideals of inclusion and fairness, the nominating process is anything but."

What Blow and those like him fail to realize is this: primary voters do not nominate candidates, political parties do. This is so important that it bears repeating. Primary voters do not nominate candidates, political parties do.

Blow and those of his ilk badly need a history lesson. If they bothered to study any history, here is what they would learn. The system of using political conventions was begun in 1832, because it was thought to be a more democratic system than the one used up till then, which was that congressional caucuses picked the nominees.

The event which caused parties to desire more participation from the general public was the chaos of the 1912 Republican nominating process. Here Teddy Roosevelt was the overhelming first choice of the general Republican electorate, but incumbent president William Howard Taft controlled the conventional machinery, and he managed to hold off the challenge from TR. Even at that, Taft won only because the voting on which delegations to seat in the cases of the 254 disputed delegates (out of 1,078 total) was rigged by allowing the disputed Taft delegates to vote on their own cases. Had they not been so allowed, TR would have won the nomination. (A similar situation developed in the GOP race in 1952 between Eisenhower and another Taft, Robert Taft, but here a rule was passed prohibiting the Taft delegates from voting on their own cases, so Ike won this battle, and then the nomination.)

The folly of denying TR the 1912 nomination was revealed when TR ran as a third-party candidate in the general election and received more votes than Taft! TR won six states, while the hapless Taft won only two. After this fiasco, both parties tried to democratize the process to allow more input from party members in the general public.

However, even as late as 1968, a candidate could still win the nomination without winning a single primary. This is what happened with Hubert Humphrey, who was nominated in 1968 without winning a single primary, indeed, without even entering a single primary. The Democratic Party (over)reacted to this by democratizing the process, which led to the disasters of George McGovern in 1972, and Jimmy Carter in 1980.

The party then tried to steer an intermediate course between the voters choosing delegates and the party leaders choosing delegates. This has resulted in the system we have today. Although there is some public participation in the process, we need to recognize that it is still the party which is in charge of picking the nominee. As Elaine Kamarck of the Brookings Institution says, "The nomination of a president is not a public process. It's a party process that the parties in modern times have allowed the public to participate in."

On the Republican side, we have Donald Trump whining that the nominating process is "rigged". George Will points out that just the contrary is true. He says that, " Actually, [Trump] is having the novel experience of competing in systems that are not rigged." This is because the rules are set out in advance for all to see and use.

Will goes on to say that Trump "is theatrically enraged by two things he finds inexplicable and illegitimate — the spirit of federalism and the wisdom of The Federalist Papers. He is offended that states have the right to have different delegate-selection processes. And he is scandalized that some states have chosen processes that establish what the authors of The Federalist Papers, and the Constitution’s Framers, recommended — indirect democracy (the Framers wanted only House members directly elected) that tempers opinion by filtering it through multiple layers of deliberation. Complex delegate-selection processes test candidates' abilities that are pertinent to governing, including skillful staffing and an aptitude for long-term planning."

It can be argued that the Republicans need to have more superdelegates, like the Democrats do. The GOP does have some superdelegates, but they are obligated under the rules to vote for the candidate who won their state. Plus, they make up only 7% of the total, compared to 15% for the Dems (but not 30% as the aforementioned Mr. Blow erroneously claimed in his poorly-written column).

The idea many have that the candidate going into a convention with more delegates than anyone else should not be denied the nomination is ludicrous. If this is the case, why even have conventions? Voting could be done on the Internet, saving much time and expense. The only reason to physically get together and deliberate with other delegates is for a party to have the chance to arrive at a consensus on who the nominee should be, and in what direction the party should be moving.

The GOP convention is shaping up as potentially being quite similar to the 1880 GOP convention. There, former president Grant went into the convention as the front-runner, just as Trump is today, and he faced two challengers, Sherman and Blaine, just as Trump today faces two challengers, Cruz and Kasich. With the convention deadlocked during the first 35 ballots, the anti-Grant forces finally united behind a single candidate, and Garfield was nominated on the 36th ballot. Similarly, we have today the anti-Trump forces trying to coordinate with each other to deny Trump the majority he needs, and there is talk of the anti-Trump forces uniting to nominate Paul Ryan, who isn't even running, just as Garfield was not running in 1880.

Because there is such a bias against this sort of deliberative process, we have semi-pejorative terms being thrown around, such as a "brokered" convention. And of course there are always the negative references to the "smoke-filled" room in which the party bosses supposedly met in 1920 to choose Warren Harding as the GOP nominee. I say we should either have real conventions or do away with them. Bring on the smoke-filled rooms!

Monday, March 28, 2016

2016 MLB Predictions

Here we go again.

AL East  --  Blue Jays, Orioles, Yankees, Rays, Red Sox,

Blue Jays have had a taste of success and have seemed to come together as a team, so I look for them to repeat. My first draft had the Red Sox second, but then I did an analysis of my past seven years of predictions and saw that I consistently underrated the Yankees and Orioles, and consistently overrated the Sox, hence the Sox got dropped to last.  The Pablo Sandoval disaster illustrates the poor management that the Red Sox have demonstrated. After giving him a ridiculous $95M contract a year ago, he has now been benched because of his poor play. Analysis shows that he was perhaps the worst everyday player in baseball last year. His offense was bad, and his defense at third base was even worse.

AL Central  --  Royals, Indians, Tigers, Twins, White Sox

Two sabermetric systems predict the Royals to be sub-.500, but the Royals have proven that their approach defies the usual sabermetric analysis. The others were a toss-up for second, but the White Sox went off the rails with the Adam LaRoche controversy, which should have been handled quietly in-house but became a public spectacle, with many players unhappy about it. Hence I pick them last, as bad feelings like this will linger and have an effect, and it shows the ineptness of the Sox management. The Indians for second is a sentimental pick, they being my childhood team. The Tigers became buyers again after Verlander had a good second half (2.27 ERA in his last 14 starts), and they acquired Jordan Zimmerman, Mike Pelfrey, Francisco Rodriguez, Justin Upton, Mark Lowe, and Justin Wilson. So they go into 3rd, leaving the Twins at 4th.

AL West  --  Astros, Rangers, Mariners, Angels, A;s.

Astros should only be better, while the Angels have regressed. Mariners should be better under new management.

NL East  --  Mets, Nationals, Marlins, Braves, Phillies

Mets certainly should repeat, with their great young pitching. Nationals should be better with Dusty Baker replacing Matt Williams; however, Dusty is only an average manager, in my opinion.

NL Central  --  Cubs, Cardinals, Pirates, Brewers, Reds

Cubs are everybody's choice as the best team in baseball, and with good reason. Their offseason acquisitions were sparkling, and they will be fun to watch this year. The Cardinals seem to always find a way to do well, so they are 2nd. The other three fall into place after that.

NL West  --  Giants, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Rockies, Padres

Giants could repeat their even-numbered year success. D-Backs are better with the acquisition of Zach Greinke, while the Dodgers are worse without him.

Let the games begin!

10/5/16 update. Here are the results of the predictions I and others made befoe the start of the 2016 seaosn. The winner was SI, only 20 places off, 2nd was Grant Brisbee at 24, 3rd was USA Today at 26, and tied for 4th/5th was me and payroll, at 28. The only picks 4 off were me with the Red Sox, and payroll with the Indians. 3 off were payroll with the Yankees and the Angels, and Brisbee with the Yankees.

Interesting that the consensus picks for first place were right only in the case of the Cubs. The other 5 all finished 2nd or 3rd. 4 were last year's winners, and the 5th, the Giants, were picked over the Dodgers due to their every-other year pattern in recent years, and due to the Dodgers losing Zack Greinke to free agency.  Only Grant Brisbee had the foresight to point out that the Dodgers' pitching staff was just fine, even without Greinke.

By contrast, the consensus picks for last lace were right in 5 of the 6 divisions. Only thing off was the Braves taking last while the Phillies finished 4th.