Thursday, July 2, 2015

SCOTUS Gay Marriage Decision

The Supreme Court Friday issued its long-awaited gay marriage decision. As expected, Justice Kennedy delivered the majority opinion in favor of a right to same-sex marriage for a sharply-divided 5-4 court. The majority opinion is straightforward, and therefore not very interesting. Justice Kennedy, writing for a unified majority (there were no concurring opinions), reasoned that marriage was a fundamental right, and therefore denying that right to a segment of the population was a violation of the Due Process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. There was also a halfhearted effort to base the decision on Equal Protection grounds, but there was none of the rigorous, step-by-step analysis that is required of Equal Protection decisions.

The dissents were much more interesting. Each of the four dissenters wrote a separate opinion.

Roberts dissent. The main dissent was written by Chief Justice Roberts, who painstakingly took apart the majority's argument point-by-point. The problem with the majority analysis is that it was not based on sound legal reasoning, and therefore, it was easy pickings to be demolished by Roberts' cogent dissent. Certainly the majority opinion contains much good reasoning which would argue in favor of a legislator changing the law in regard to gay marriage, but nothing indicating it was proper for a court to do so.


The Roberts dissent starts out be observing that "for those who believe in a government of laws, not of men, the majority's approach is deeply disheartening". It goes on to say that "The majority's decision is an act of will not legal judgment. The right  it announces has no basis in the constitution or this court's precedent."

Roberts then gets to the details, examining the majority's argument that the court 's prior line of cases on marriage expands the definition of marriage, and this decision is therefore  only a logical continuation of that line.  The line of cases the majority relies on includes a case on granting mixed-race couples the right of marriage, granting prison inmates the right, and granting people who owe child support the right. However, Roberts aptly points out that the basic definition of marriage as between a man and a woman was never in question in any of these cases.

Roberts then examines the legal basis of the majority's position, which is substantive due process. This is clearly a contradiction in terms, and always has been, because"due process" refers to procedure, and not substance. This concept has been severely discredited and has practically died out; yet, the majority resurrects it from the legal cemetery in this opinion.

Substantive due process was first used in the infamous Dred Scott case in 1857. It reached its zenith in the case of Lochner v. New York, which Roberts refers to numerous times in his dissent. Lochner was a 1905 case which dealt with a New York law which limited the number of hours that a baker could work each day to ten, and limited the number of hours that a baker could work each week to 60. The court struck down the law on dubious substantive due process grounds. That decision has come to be regarded by legal scholars as one of the worst decisions in Supreme Court history. The whole substantive due process theory is considered today to be totally discredited, and it is surprising that the court could find no better basis on which to base a decision in 2015 than this discredited 158-year-old joke of a legal concept.

The basic problem with substantive due process is that the court is substituting itself for a legislative body. The court is saying that "we have a better idea of how things should be than the people's elected representatives." This obviously is a huge overreach for the court, and totally improper.

When a court does this type of overreach, it risks the possibility that the executive branch will simply ignore its decision. After all, the supreme court has no ability to enforce its decisions; rather, it must rely on the executive branch to do so. This raises the possibility that the executive branch might do as Andrew Jackson did when the Supreme Court issued a decision in favor of Cherokee rights; Jackson replied, "John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it."  Jackson then proceeded to ignore the Supreme Court decision and to remove the Cherokees from their homeland and relocate them to present-day Oklahoma, over the infamous "Trail of Tears".

Concerning the majority's halfhearted Equal Protection argument, Roberts easily demolishes this position. He says that "the majority fails to provide even a single sentence explaining how the Equal Protection Clause supplies independent weight for its position....In any event, the marriage laws at issue here do not violate the Equal Protection Clause, because distinguishing between opposite-sex and same-sex couples is rationally related to the States' 'legitimate state interest' in 'preserving the traditional institution of marriage'."


Roberts states that "Stealing this issue from the people will for many cast a cloud over same-sex marriage, making a dramatic social change that much more difficult to accept". Roberts is actually making a very interesting point here; his point is that it is always better for people to work out their problems themselves, rather than have a "solution" imposed upon them from a higher authority.

Any good teacher understands this, and will seek to enable students to work out answers for themselves. The same goes for any good parent; rather than "hovering" around and solving every problem for their kids, a good parent will allow kids to grow by letting them work out their problems for themselves. A good family law judge will also recognize this, and require the parties to go to mediation to work something out they both can live with, rather than having a judge arbitrarily decide issues of child custody and visitation.

Scalia dissent. Scalia was his usual vitriolic, snide, sarcastic self in his criticism of the majority opinion. He writes right at the start about "this court's threat to American democracy". He says that "it is not of special importance to me what the law says about marriage. It is of overwhelming importance, however, who it is that rules me."

As to the idea that marriage expands our freedoms, Scalia correctly points out that just the opposite is the case; marriage limits our freedoms, not expands them. Scalia states that "Freedom of Intimacy is abridged rather than expanded by marriage....Anyone in a long-lasting marriage will attest that that happy state constricts, rather than expands, what one can prudently say."

Thomas dissent. Thomas also makes some cogent points in his dissent. His basic point is that "liberty has been understood as freedom from government action, not entitlement to government benefits." He goes on to discuss what "liberty" means. It basically means the freedom from restraint. The 14th amendment can only be invoked if a citizen is being deprived of "life, liberty or property" without "due process of law".  Thus, it cannot apply to this case.

It is interesting that Justices Roberts and Alito are the only dissenters not to join in on any of  their fellow dissenters' opinions. In the case of Roberts, I think this is due to the fact that Justice Roberts has a sincere and honest desire to protect the legacy and reputation of the court. To join in an opinion which contains the vitriol and sarcasm that characterize the opinions of the three right-wingers is just not something he is inclined to do, even though he agrees with the points being made.

Alito dissent. In the case of Alito, it appears that Alito wants to emphasize an issue mostly ignored by his colleagues. That issue is the threat the decision poses to the religious beliefs of those opposed to same-sex marriage.

A few observations are in order.

Democracy.  First, there is the idea emphasized by Scalia of "the threat to American democracy" which he thinks this decision represents. People like Scalia often talk about democracy when it suits their purposes, and ignore it at other times. The fact is, we do not have a democracy, we have a republic.

And thank God we do. We have seen instances all over the world in which democracy is used by the majority to persecute the minorities. Just look at Egypt, for example. The Western world rejoiced in 2011 when Mubarak was ousted as Egypt's ruler. However, the imprisonment of dissenters since then has gotten worse, and under the first democratically elected president, Morsi, the Christian minority was brutally persecuted. Many other examples from everywhere in the world could be given.
We had an idiot president take us into war in Iraq, on the misguided notion that toppling Saddam Hussein would take care of all of Iraq's problems. All it did was topple one ethnic group and substitute another for it as the ruling power. So, instead of the Sunnis persecuting the Shias, we now have the Shias persecuting the Sunnis. And civil unrest is at unprecedented levels. Such are the (rotten) fruits of democracy.

In India, we have a situation in which 24 of the 29 Indian states have regulations prohibiting either the slaughter or sale of cows. And to take this to an absurd extreme, the Indian state of Maharashtra now has a law making eating beef illegal, with violators subject to up to five years in prison!  All this despite the fact that India has a constitution which says quite clearly that India is (supposedly) a secular state and recognizes freedom of religion. Thank God the U.S. is more serious about following its constitution than India is.

The U.S. was settled by people who had been persecuted in their countries of origin, either because of their religion, their ethnic group, or their unpopular ideas. Consequently, our constitution was written so as to make it clear that we would not have a tyranny of the majority in this country. Governmental power was diffused in many ways, such as the separation of powers, which spreads power around among the three separate branches. Similarly, power between the federal government and the states is divided, so that everywhere one looks there are checks on governmental power over its citizens.

So, for Scalia and the other dissenters to use the word "democracy" as often as they do shows a clear lack of understanding of what our system is all about.

Makeup of the court.  As to whether the court can function properly as a "super-legislature", Scalia surprisingly goes into some detail about the personal characteristics of the Supreme Court's current makeup. They are as unrepresentative of the public at large as can be imagined. All nine graduated from either Harvard or Yale law schools. All but one are from one coast or the other, with only one coming from "the vast expanse in-between". Not a single evangelical Christian; in fact, and most amazingly, not a single Protestant! There are six Catholics and three Jews.

Some may rejoice at the superficial diversity currently existing on the court. Consider that the first Catholic wasn't appointed until 1836, the first Jew not until 1916, the first woman in 1981, and the first Hispanic in 2009. But look at where all this politically correct nonsense has gotten us. We now have Catholics (25% of the nation) and Jews (less than 2%) representing 100% of the court. Just think, important abortion cases are decided by a court that is 2/3 Catholic, a church which condemns abortion and denies communion to politicians who support abortion rights. Protestants like myself, along with other religious groups, represent 73% of the population, yet we have zero representation on the court!

Now, if the court were to fulfill its proper role making legal decisions instead of political ones, then we would not want it to be representative of any group except the group of top-flight legal scholars. But when the court gets into this sort of political quagmire, the elitist nature of the court's makeup becomes relevant.

The court's reputation.  Roberts moans that "The stuff contained in today's opinion has to diminish this court's reputation for clear thinking and sober analysis." It is ironic that two of the dissenters (Scalia and Thomas) were part of the decision which by far did the most to damage the court's reputation. That decision was the atrocious Bush v. Gore decision in 2000.

What makes Bush v. Gore so atrocious is that the constitution gives the state legislatures the right to choose electors any way they want to. It does not even have to by a vote of  the people (in contrast to the election of Senators, which under the 17th amendment must now be chosen by popular vote).  In light of this, for the federal branch of government to interfere in how Florida was choosing its electors is downright shameful. And the hypocrisy of the right-wingers knows no bounds,. These are people who supposedly are so big on states rights and preserving the federalist nature of our system. And yet, this are the same group which interfered in a function which the constitution grants to the state of Florida to determine its electors for president.

After her retirement, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor acknowledged the damage done to the court's reputation, and admitted that taking the case was a mistake. Alan Dershowitz minced no words when he stated: "The decision in the Florida election case may be ranked as the single most corrupt decision in Supreme Court history, because it is the only one that I know of where the majority justices decided as they did because of the personal identity and political affiliation of the litigants. This was cheating, and a violation of the judicial oath."

The constitution doesn't mention same-sex marriage. This is no doubt the lamest argument of all, made by Alito at the start of his opinion, when he says that "The Constitution says nothing about a right to same-sex marriage." There are two basic reasons why this argument is so lame.

First, the constitution doesn't mention a lot of things. There is no mention in the constitution of automobiles, of trains, of planes, of telephones, of the internet, and one could go on and on. Just because the constitution does not mention these things, doesn't mean that the constitution has no application to them.

But the real problem with this type of analysis is that it presumes that the government is all-powerful. That is, it presumes that "We the people" have no rights or freedoms except those specifically granted by the constitution.

This stands the constitution on its head. Our system, unique in the history of the world, makes the people sovereign, not the governmental rulers. The government only has the power which "We the people" have granted to it. Therefore, the correct inquiry is not "Does the constitution grant a right to same-sex marriage, but rather,  "Does the constitution grant the power to the government to deny same-sex couples the right to marry?".

A reading of the Bill of Rights makes it clear it is not intended to be a complete list of rights and freedoms enjoyed by the people. Thus we have the 9th amendment, "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people". And the 10th amendment, saying that "The powers not delegated to the United States by the constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

This analysis points the way to what a proper basis for the court's ruling would have been. Marriage is a fundamental right, as even the dissent acknowledges. Nothing in the constitution gives the government the power to deny that right to a certain class of adult citizens. Yes, the power to regulate marriage is given to the individual states, but the states cannot exercise that power in a way that discriminates against a certain class of citizens. Basic freedoms must be allowed to flourish, even if not specifically mentioned in the Bill of rights.  QED

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

On Self-Identification

The story of Rachel Dolezal has gotten many in an uproar in recent days. She is the Spokane, Washington, woman who has been president of her local NAACP chapter, but now it comes out that her parents say she is white, not black. She says she has self-identified as black since she was five years old. She was forced to resign her NAACP post in the wake of this revelation.

I am perplexed by the hysterical reaction of the media to this development. In almost every other case I can think of, it seems the media bends over backwards to honor the self-identification that public figures give themselves. I first became aware of this phenomenon when Bill Clinton took office in January of 1993. All of a sudden, his wife was no longer "Hillary Clinton", as she had been all during the campaign, but now his wife magically became "Hillary Rodham Clinton". Obviously the Clinton camp asked the media to make this change, and the media, like the sycophantic lemmings they are, readily obliged. Interesting that when Hillary decided to run for president in 2007, she did an about-face, and decided that she was now, again, "Hillary Clinton". The media followed along with this change with absolutely no comment.

We have the example today of Bruce Jenner, who has decided he will become a woman and be henceforth known as Caitlyn. The media follows along without questioning the change.

For some reason the media is obsessed with race. Poor Rachel gets pilloried, when every other public figure is given the courtesy of self-identification.

Here in Oregon we have the recent example of the former governor, John Kitzhaber, whose girlfriend insisted on being called "the first lady", and who gained the title of "fiancee" to bolster her claim to first lady status. There is no evidence that either one of these people has any intention of getting married, yet the media obligingly goes along with identifying Cylvia Hayes as Kitzhaber's "fiancee", despite no evidence that there is any legitimacy to the term. If they really want to get married, why don't they go ahead and do it? Investigations have uncovered much evidence of Ms. Hayes' nefarious past, and it is obvious that she is nothing but a no-good gold digger. This is backed up by emails that the media has obtained documenting her gold-digging goals. Yet, to this day you will not find her referred to as Kitahaber's "girlfriend", even though this would be the most accurate term. No, she is still his "fiancee". For non-Oregonians, it should be pointed out that Kitzhaber has resigned his position as governor, due to the gold-digging actions of his girlfriend.

Now, we have a new governor, Kate Brown, who is called "the first openly bisexual governor in US history". And how do we know she is bisexual? The answer is we don't, all we have is her statement to that effect. She is married to a man, and presumably happily so. So, why are supposed we to see her as "bisexual"?

The only example I can find in which the media makes reference to the self-identification issue is in referring to the Islamic State. The media always says "self-styled Islamic State". With terrorism, the normal rules are obviously out the window. But in every other case, the media does not say "self-styled", or "self-identified", but simply goes sycophantically along with the dictates of the subject involved.

The importance of this issue is magnified by the trend towards misrepresenting one's background. It has become commonplace to lie on one's resume; for example it is said that most resumes these days contain at least one lie. Lying about one's military service, or lack thereof, became so commonplace that in 2005 Congress enacted the "Stolen Valor Act", making it a crime to lie about military honors received. The Supreme Court declared the law unconstitutional in 2012 on free speech grounds. The majority opinion made the cogent point that it would be an easy matter to put a list of medal recipients on a website, so that claims could be checked quite easily and, if unfounded, refuted. This in fact is what the federal government did following the decision. The point for our present purposes is that it still presupposes a media that is ambitious enough to actually do this checking, which we do not currently have.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Portland Chess Club March Game/60 Swiss

This tournament was a complete disaster. I lost rounds 2 and 3 to lower-rated players and then withdrew, losing 40 rating points. Here is what happened.

chessart(1935) - Mike Hasuike(1500), Rd. 1, Alekhine's Defence, B03

1 e4 Nf6 2 e5 Nd5 3 d4 d6 4 c4 Nb6 5 ed ed 6 Nc3 Be7 7 Be3 Nc6 8 Bd3 Bf6 9 Nge2 h6?

This seems pointless. If black wants to move a king-side pawn, ...g6 is usually played.

10 Rc1 Bg4 11 Qd2 Qe7 12 0-0 0-0-0

I have never seen black castle queenside in this opening.

 13 h3 Bh5 14 Nf4 g6??

 This loses a piece.

15 g4 Nxd4 16 BxN BxB 17 gh g5 18 Bf5+  Black resigns, 1-0
 
Kian Patel(1734) - chessart(1935), Rd. 2

1 Nf3 c5 2 b3 d5 3 e3 e6 4 Bb2 Nf6 5 d4 Be7 6 Bd3 0-0 7 Nbd2 Nc6 8 0-0 cd 9 ed Re8 10 Ne5 NxN 11 PxN Nd7 12 f4 Nc5 13 Be2 Bd7 14 b4 Ne4 15 a3 Rc8 16 Bd3 NxN 17 QxN g6 18 Rf3 Bf8 19 g4 Qh4 20 Qg2 Bc6 21 Bd4 Bg7 22 g5 h6 23 Raf1 h5 24 h3 Ba4 25 Bf2  Black resigns, 1-0


chessart(1935) - Danny Phipps(1642), Rd. 3, Caro-Kann Defence, B13

1 e4 c6 2 d4 d5 3 ed cd 4 c4 Nf6 5 Nc3 Bf5?

A huge mistake. White scores 80% or better against it.

6 Qb3!

Wins a pawn by force, and in the process destroys black's queenside.

6...Nbd7

Black has no good moves here. Most usual is 6...Nc6, but white scores 90% against it.

7 Qxb7 dc 8 Bxc4 e6 9 Nf3 Be7 10 0-0 0-0 11 Bf4 Nb6 12 Bb3 Nfd5 13 NxN NxN 14 BxN PxB 15 Rfe1 Bd6 16 BxB QxB 17 Re7?

White should play 17 b3 to prevent black from regaining his lost pawn. I throw away my pawn and a half advantage by my carelessness.

 Rfb8 18 Qc7 QxQ 19 RxQ Rxb2 20 a4 f6 21 h3 Bd3 22 Re1 Re2 23 Rec1 a6 24 Rd7 Bc4 25 Rb1 Kh8 26 R1b7

Despite material being equal, I now have a huge advantage due to my doubled rooks on the 7th rank.

Rg8 27 Nh4 Re1+ 28 Kh2 Rf1 29 Kg3 Bd3 30 f3??

This horrible move loses a piece. I considered 30 Rxd5, the idea being that if 30...Be4, I can play 31 Rh5 and he cannot take my R/b7 due to 32 Ng6#. But Danny was playing very carefully and deliberately, and I felt certain he would not fall for the trap. I was unable to visualize how the game would then proceed, so I backed away from this line. He cannot kick my R/h5 with ...g6, as then I have (either)Rxh7#. However, later analysis shows that black has 31...g5!, which leaves two of my pieces en prise, so my gut instincts were correct here.

30...g5 31 Rxd5 PxN 32 KxP 32 Rf2 33 Rd6 R2xg2 34 Rxf6 R2g3 35 d5??

35 Rff7 and at least the game goes on, although black has a point and a half advantage.

35...Bf1! White resigns, 0-1

Friday, June 5, 2015

A New Start in Chess: Portland Chess Club's March 2015 Quad/45

Up until thirty years ago or so, I regularly played in chess tournaments; however, around the mid-1980's my duties as a father took precedence and I have played little since then.

This all changed this past March 21st when I journeyed to the Portland Chess club for a one-day Quad. I prepared well by taking a Melatonin the night before and getting a good night's sleep, plus eating a good breakfast, taking good stuff for lunch, and taking my Prozac and multi-vitamin before leaving my apartment. Still, I was apprehensive, since playing in a Quad meant three tough games, unlike the more usual Swiss System, when the first couple of games are usually pretty easy for someone rated in the upper echelon.

I was put into the highest Quad, with one Expert and two fellow A players. Here are the games.

Michael Goffe (1944) - chessart(1930), Rd. 1
Closed Sicilian, B23

1 e4 c5 2 Nc3

An early surprise. The Closed Sicilian is a notoriously unenterprising opening for white against the Sicilian. I should know, for I played it for years before abandoning it.

2...e6 3 f4

I never could understand the appeal of this move for white. If he trades off his pawn on e4 (after black's ...d5), then the pawn on f4 becomes more of a liability than an asset; i.e., white has weakened his king-side defenses for no good attacking reason. On the other hand, if white pushes to e5, then he has the "big center", but this has been shown to be easy for black to play against.

3...d5 4 ed

A database I consulted shows this to be the worst of the white choices here. The other choices -- 4 Nf3, 4 Bb5+, 4 d3, and 4 e5--all score better: .

4...ed 5 d4 Nf6 6 Bb5+ Nc6 7 Nf3 Be7 8 Ne5 Bd7 9 dc Bxc5 10 Nxd5?

Falling right into my trap. The thematic idea here is indeed for white to try to win black's isolated pawn on d5. However, taking the d-pawn now does nothing to meet my threat of 10...Nxe5. White, playing capriciously and somewhat obliviously, makes his move without thinking through the ramifications. As a result, he pays a heavy price.

10...Nxe5! 11 Nxf6 Qxf6 12 Qe2

12 fxe5 is out due to 12...Qf7#, which is perhaps what white overlooked when he went into this line.

BxB 13 PxN?

Better is 12 QxB+, hoping for 12...Qc6 13 Qe2!, and black recovers his piece. However, I can thwart this with 12...Nd7, but white then at least still has his queen, which gives him some chances compared to going into a hopeless endgame.

13...Qh4ch!

White was no doubt banking on 13...BxQ 14 PxQ B moves, 15 fg, with some cheapo counterchances due to his pawn on g7. With 13...Qh4ch, I give white hopelessly messed-up king-side pawns, ensuring an easy endgame for me, with my extra piece.

14 g3 BxQ 15 PxQ Bh5 16 Bg5 Be7 17 Rg1 BxB 18 RxB g6 19 Kd2 0-0-0+ 20 Kc3 Rhe8 21 Rf1 Re7 22 Rg3 Rd5 23 Re3 Rc7+ 24 Kb3 Bg4

This well-timed maneuver gets my Bishop into the game, and from e6 the bishop will guard my pawn on f7, which is my only weak point, as well as participate in the attack on white's exposed king.

25 Re4 Be6 26 c4 Rd3+ 27 Kb4 Rd2 28 Kc3 Rxh2 29 a3 b6 30 Rg1 a5 31 b3 Rh3+ 32 Kb2 Rd7 White resigns 0-1

Either mate or serious win of material follows soon.

Jason Cigan (2139) - chessart(1930), Rd. 2
Grunfeld Defence, D07

1 d4 Nf6 2 c4 g6 3 Nc3 d5 4 Bf4

There are many possible moves here, 4 Bf4 being the third-most popular after 4 cd and 4 Nf3. For many years I played the Stockholm Variation, 4 Bg5 Ne4 5 Bh4, popularized by GM Mark Taimanov in the 1970's, but I recently decided that it was passe. At some point one must let go of the past.

 4...Bg7 5 e3 0-0 6Nf3 c5 7 dc Ne4 8 Rc1 Nd7 9 cd Qa5 10 Qc2 Ndxc5 11 Nd2 Nxc3 12 bc Na4 13 Nb1 Bd7 14 Bd3 Rac8 15 0-0 Nxc3 16 NxN RxN 17 Qd2 Rfc8 18 e4 Qa3 19 RxR RxR 20 Rd1??

A horrible blunder. I realized my mistake as soon as I let go of the piece. Simply 20 Bb1 and an even game ensues.

20...Ba4 and 0-1 in a few more moves

chessart - Moshe Shai Rachmuth, Rd. 3
Chigorin Defense, D07

1 d4 d5 2 c4 Nc6 3 e3 e5 4 de

4 cd scores better.

 dc 5 QxQ KxQ 6 BxP NxP 7 Be2 Bf5 8 Nf3 NxN+

8...Nd3+ gives white some temporary discomfort, but he remains in decent shape. White can castle queenside if need be.

 9 BxN c6 10 0-0 Nf6 11 Nc3 Bd6 12 e4 Bg4 13 BxB NxB 14 h3 Ne5 15 f4 Bc5+ 16 Kh1 Ng6 17 f5 Ne5 18 Bf4 f6 19 Rad1+ Ke7 20 BxN PxB 21 Rd3 Rad8 22 Rfd1 RxR 23 RxR Rd8 24 RxR KxR 25 g4 Bc4 26 Nd1 Ke7 27 Kg2 Kf6 28 h4 h6 29 Kf3 K 7 30 g5 h5 31 b3 b5 32 Ne3 BxN 33 KxB c5 34 Kd3 a6 35 a4 Ke7 36 ab ab 37 Kc3 Kf7 38 Kd3 Ke7 drawn

Going over the game afterwards, Moshe kept saying during the latter part of it that he thought he had the draw. My response was always the same: "Yes, black has a draw but only if he finds all the right moves!" Moshe did indeed find the right moves, limiting my king in his quest to infiltrate black's position. 

So, I break even in the tournament and gain five rating points. Not a bad (re)start. 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Wells Report on Deflategate

The Wells Report is out on deflategate, and I am astounded at some of the idiotic responses. Some of the idiotic responses are so thoughtless as to not merit a second thought. However, one, John Canzano, really troubles and surprises me because I have previously thought him to be a thoughtful, intelligent commentator on the sports scene. He has a three-hour radio show every weekday from noon to 3 that I used to listen to.

But yesterday he went clear over the top with his lunacy. First, he hammered the Wells report because of the "more probable than not" language on whether Tom Brady knew about the deflated balls. Canzano makes the same mistake that Brady's dad made, which is to confuse civil and criminal standards of proof. We are not talking about any crime here, we are talking about a civil matter, the violation of NFL rules. Anyone who reads the Wells report can easily see that Brady knew, but the author was being cautious in his characterization of his conclusions. There is no way, given the overwhelming evidence, that Brady did NOT know.

Second, Canzano complains that 11 Patriots balls were tested at halftime, and only 4 Colts balls. He says this difference in sample size is a fatal flaw. How he reaches this idiotic conclusion is anyone's guess, but the fact is that 11 Patriots balls were tested, and every one was below the allowable standards. There is now way this could happen by accident. The only reason Colts balls were tested was to see if there was something about the weather conditions that could have caused the deflation. Four Colts balls were tested and were found to be within allowable limits. No rational person can fail to conclude that someone in the Patriots camp was messing with the balls. And the report identifies the person, that being the person who ducked into a rest room with the balls, locked the door, and spent a minute and 40 seconds there, long enough to deflate the balls. The referee said it was the first time in 19 years that the game balls disappeared like that from the officials' locker room.

Next, we have the ludicrous assertion that the Patriots blew out the Colts in the game, so it doesn't matter if the Patriots cheated. This is like saying that the Watergate break-in to the Democratic headquarters in 1972 doesn't matter, because Nixon won the election in a landslide. It is a ludicrous assertion. At the time of the misdeeds, nobody knew what the final outcome would be, either of the game or of the election. Cheating is cheating, something Mr. Canzano and his fellow idiots seem not to understand.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

2015 MLB Picks


Some exciting trends to look for in the new season soon to start. Lots of excitement about several teams which have been down but look like they are ready to move up--Cubs, Astros, Marlins, Padres, Mariners. Any of these teams could be the Royals of 2015. With Joe Maddon at the helm of the Cubs, it will be particularly interesting to see what their year will look like.  Here are the picks:

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

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

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

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

AL West  --   Mariners, Angels, A's, Astros, Rangers

NL West  --  Dodgers, Padres, Giants, Rockies, D-Backs

I have learned my lesson about making sentimental, or idiosyncratic, picks. But the Mariners, my new "home team" since I moved to the Pacific Northwest, look to be much stronger, and I pick them over the Angels, one of my favorite teams. Similarly, I hate to bet against the Cardinals, one of my other favorite teams besides the Angels, but the Cubs might well strike gold this year, and what a fun trip that would be. Reason suggests the Cubs are a year away, but for fun I pick them this year. Reason also suggests the Royals will drop back down after their great run last year, but I don't know who else to pick for first in that division.

For comparison purposes, here are the picks made by "Sports Illustrated" magazine.

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

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

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

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

AL West:  Mariners, Angels, A's, Rangers, Astros

NL West:  Dodgers, Giants, Padres, Rockies, D-Backs

And here are the picks from "USA Today":

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

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

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

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

AL West:  Angels, Mariners, A's, Rangers, Astros

NL West:  Dodgers, Giants, Padres, D-Backs, Rockies

Friday, March 27, 2015

"Too soon to Say Goodbye", by Art Buchwald

I have enjoyed Art Buchwald's humorous political columns for about as long as I've been reading the daily newspaper.I have never used the cliche "I couldn't put it down" before, but that applies to this book. I literally could not stop reading.

After declining to go on dialysis due to failing kidneys, Buchwald checked into a hospice in February of 2006, with two weeks to live, three at the most. Many friends started visiting him, some, like Ethel Kennedy, on a daily basis.

But miraculously, his kidneys started to function, and when July rolled around and he still had not died, the hospice kicked him out and he went back home to Martha's Vineyard. He then wrote this book about his experience. He asked his friends and family members who had been writing eulogies to be delivered at his funeral to submit them, and they are included in this book.

Buchwald finally died the following January, after having lived a life so rich and filled with great experiences that the rest of us can only look on with envy and admiration.

There is much autobiographical material in this book, as Buchwald looks back on his life in expectation of his imminent death. A mild caveat to readers: Buchwald's actual autobiography, "Leaving Home", contains some duplication of material, but both books are well worth reading and both contain much heartfelt material about Buchwald's life growing up in foster homes. In a number of places in "Leaving Home", Buchwald says "I have never until now told this to anyone". It is obvious that writing these books was a healthy and therapeutic experience for him. RIP, Art.