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.

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 homner, 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!

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!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Deflategate is Back in the News

Judge Richard Berman's decision of 9/3/15 in favor of Tom Brady was quite well-reasoned and seemed to have ended the matter of Deflategate. Judge Berman's main basis for his decision was that Brady had no notice that equipment violations could result in a suspension. Indeed, the rules refer only to a fine for a first offense violation of an equipment rule. Concerning the matter of destroying his cell phone, Judge Berman said Brady also had no notice that non-cooperation with a league investigation could result in a suspension; indeed, he quotes former commissioner Paul Tagliabue, the arbitrator in the Bountygate case, as saying that "There is no evidence of a record of past suspensions based purely on obstructing a league investigation. In my forty years of association with the NFL, I am aware of many instances of denials in disciplinary hearings that proved to be false, but I cannot recall any suspension for such fabrication." There were other procedural grounds for Judge Berman's decision, and other Brady defenses which he didn't deal with because he didn't need to.

Pretty conclusive, one would think. However, along comes the Court of Appeals, and a three-justice panel recently gave the attorney for Brady's side an extremely hard time in oral argument. It is apparent that the Court of Appeals is siding with the NFL, and a suspension still could be imposed on Tom Brady. Concerning the cell phone issue, one justice commented that "Anyone within 100 yards of this case would have known that the cell phone issue elevates this merely from deflated balls to a serious tone of obstruction." When the Brady attorney attempted to defend Brady's action, the justice replied, "With all due respect, Mr. Brady's explanation made no sense whatsoever."

This is really in line with my original assessment of the situation. The evidence is overwhelming against Brady, and the tepid way the Wells Report phrased it, that it was "more likely than not" that Brady was "generally aware" of the system of deflating game balls, has led to much of the confusion here. The trial judge repeatedly referred to this phrasing, ignoring the mountain of evidence presented during the arbitration process that Brady was as guilty as hell.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Political correctness run amok

 "I really don't understand the world anymore."  --Jason Gideon in his letter to Spencer Reid on why he's leaving the BAU

I recently came across a list of words which a University of Missouri group says journalists should not use, for fear of offending somebody. This list came out in 1990, so it is not some recent thing. Here are a few of the words which supposedly should not be used.

ugh  --  said to be "highly offensive" because it mimics American Indian speech
Dutch treat  --  implies that Dutch people are cheap
burly  --  too often associated with large black men, and implying ignorance
fried chicken  --  again, a stereotype of black people
jock  --  can be offensive to some
rubbing noses  --  objectionable to Eskimos
many words used to describe females  --  airhead, buxom, dingbat, dizzy, gorgeous, pert, petite, stunning, sweetie

PCC December Swiss

Round 1, chessart(1827)-Richardson(1333/P5)
1 d4 d5 2 c4 c6 3 cd cd 4 Nc3 Nf6 5 Nf3 e6 6 Bf4 Bc6 7 e3 Ne4

     Only the 9th-most popular move in the database.

8 a3

     A database game continued 8. Bd3 f5 9. O-O Be7 10. Ne5 O-O 11. f3 Nd6 12. a3 Bf6 13. Qe1 Bxe5 14. dxe5 Nf7 15. Qg3 d4 16. Nb5 dxe3 17. Nd6 Nxd6 18. exd6 Qf6 19. Rad1 Qxb2 20. Bxe3 Bd7 21. Rfe1 Qf6 22. Bg5 Qg6 23. Qh4 h6 24. Bc1 Nd8 25. Bc4 Re8 26. Re3 Nf7 27. f4 Rad8 28. Rg3 Qh7 29. Bb2 g5 30. fxg5 hxg5 31. Rxg5+ Nxg5 32. Qxg5+ Kf7 33. Qf6+ Kg8 34. Rd3 f4 35. Qg5+ Kf7 36. Qf6+ Kg8 37. Qxf4 1-0

 8...Bd6 9 BxB QxB 10 Rc1 a6 11 Bd3 f5 12 0-0 0-0 13 f3 Nxc3 15 Rxc3 e5 16 de Qxe5 17 Bb1 d4 18 ed Qxd4+ 19 Kh8 Rae8 20 Nb3 QxQ+ 21 RxQ Re7 22 Rc2 Rfe8 23 RxR RxR 24 Nc5 Bc8 25 b4 g6 26 Kg1 Re3 27 Nd3 Kg7 28 Kf2 Re7 29 Nf4 Rd7 30 Ne6+ Kf6 31 RxR BxR 32 Nc5 Bc8 33 Ke3 b6 34 Na4 b5 35 Nc5 Ne5 36 Ba2 g5 37 f4?? Ng4+ 38 Kf3 Nxh2+ 39 Kg3 Nf8+ 40 Kf2 Nd2 41 fg+ Kxg5 42 Be6 BxB 43 NxB+ Kg4 44 Nc7 Nc4 45 NxP  NxP 48 Nd4 h5 49 Nf3 h4 50 Ne5+ Kf4 51 Ng6+ Kg5 52 Ne5 draw agreed 1/2-1/2

Round 2, Leung(1218)-chessart(1827)
1 e4 c5 2 Nf3 d6 3 d4 cd 4 Nxd4 Nf6 5 Nc3 g6 6 Be2 Bg7 7 Be3 0-0 8 0-0 a6 9 a4 Bd7 10 f3 Nc6 11 Qd2 Rc8 12 Nb3 Ne5 13 Bh6 BxB

       I have resolved to always take this bishop, after the debacle last week.

14 QxB Be6 15 Nd2Qb6+ 16 Kh1 Qxb2 17 Rab1?

       Losing the P/b2 is one thing, but this drops a whole piece.

17...Qxc3 18 Rxb7 Qxc2 19 Rxe7 Qxa4 20 h3 Rc2 21 Rb1 Rfc8 22 R1b7 Rc1+ 23 kH2 qA1 24 bF1 RxB 25 RxR QxN 26 RxB Nxf3+! 27 PxN

       27 Kg3 Nh5+ 28 Kg4 Nh2+ 29 Kg5 Qf4#

27...Rc2+ 28 Kg3 Qf2+ 29 Kf4 Qd2+ 30 Kg3 QxQ 31 Rbe7 Qg5#

Round 3, chessart(1827)-Ethan Wu(1804)

1 d4 d5 2 c4 c6 3 cd cd 4 Bf4 Nf6 5 e3 Nc6 6 Nc3 Bf5

     My first-round opponent shut in his Queen Bishop with ...e6. White retains a 10% advantage against both approaches. 

7 Nf3 e6 8 Bb5 Bd6 9 BxB QxB 10 0-0 0-0 11 Rc1 Ne4 12 NxN BxN 13 BxN bc 14 Nd2 Bg6 15 Nb3 e5 16 Qd2 Rfc8 17 Rc5 ed 18 ed Bf5 19 Rfc1 Qg6 20 Qf4 Bd3 21 a4 Bf5 22 Na5 Bd7 23 Qe3 Rc7 24 Qc3 Rc8 25 Kf1 Qe4 26 Re1 Qg6 27 RxR+ BxR 28 Qc2 Qf6 29 Qc3 Qe6 30 b4 Re7 31 Qd2 Bd7 32 Rc1 Qd6 33 Kg1 h6 34 Nb7 Qg6 35 Nc5 Bg4 36 Re1 Qc2! 37 Qc1 Re2! 38 Rf1  1/2-1/2

     I was down to two minutes here and stopped keeping score. We drew after many more moves.

Round 4, Berger(1532)-chessart(1827)
1 d4 Nf6 2 Nf3 c5 3 e3 d5 4 Nc3?

     White should play 4 c4, after which I would have traded pawns on d4, transposing into the Panov-Botvinnik variation of the Caro-Kann.

4...e6 5 Bb5+ Bd7 6 0-0 BxB 7 NxB a6 8 Nc3 Nc6 9 a3 Rc8 10 PxP BxP 11 Nd4 NxN 12 PxN Be7 13 Re1 0-0 14 Re3?

     It is hard to see the point of this move. Brian has a habit of developing his major pieces prematurely. For example, in a prior game with him he moved his queen 17 times in his first 34 moves!

 Qc7 15 Qf3 Qb6 16 Rd3 Rc6 17 h3 R8c8 18 Qe2 Qc7 19 Qf3 Ne4 20 Bf4

     My idea here was that 20 NxN PxN 21 Qxe4 Rxc2 is good for black.

20...Bd6 21 BxB QxB 22 g3 NxN 23 RxN RxR 24 bc Qc7 25 Rb1 b5

     I saw no reason to allow him the counterplay to be had with 25...Qxc3 26 QxQ RxQ 27 Rxb2.

26 Rb3 h6 27 h4 Qc4 28 g4 a5 29 g5 hg 30 hg a4 31 Rb4 Qxc3 32 Qe2 Qxc2 33 Qxb5 Qc1+ 34 Kg2

     34 Kh2 Qf4+ is equally bad.

34...Qxg5+ 35 Kh2 Qf4+ 36 Kg2 Rc2

     36...Qe4+ 37 Kh2 Rc1 and white is helpless against the threat of 38...Rh1+ 39 Kg3 Rg1+ followed by 40 Qh1#

37 Qf1 Rc3 38 Rxa4 Qg4+ 39 Kh2 Qh4+ 40 Kg1 Qg5+ 41 Kh2 Rc1 42 Ra8+ Kh7 43 Qd3+ g6 44 Qh3+ Qh5

     Black must be careful to avoid 44...Kg7?? 45 Qh8# and 44...Qh6? 45 Rh8+! and I lose queen for rook. Fortunately I had enough time left to think through the position and avoid these blunders.

45 QxQ PxQ 46 Kg3 Kg6 47 f3 Rc5 48 Rg8+ Kh7 49 Rg5 Kh6 50 Rg8 ??? 51 Rh8+ Kg6 52 Rg8+ Kf5 53 Rh8 h4+ 54 Kh3 Ra4 55 Rh5" Kg6 56 RxR RxR+

     I must have counted out the moves a dozen times to make sure my king can stop his a-pawn. It indeed does, as I get to b7 when his pawn would still be at a7. I forgot about the simple rule of thumb of moving into "the square of the pawn", which avoids all the tedious counting.

57 KxP Kf6  And white resigned some 20 moves later. 0-1