Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ category

Baseball’s New Reckoning

December 19, 2020

Major League Baseball announced this week that it would combine the performance records for MLB with those of the Negro League.  Looking back there is not much this gesture will do, looking forward, maybe.  

When the official records are merged and baseball player’s records from both leagues are shown in one list, it may be shocking to see how many negro league players rank well up within the total list.  It may be a shock how many negro league players deserve “Hall of Fame” status given an objective comparison with past MLB “Hall of Fame” players.  

During this comparison, it will be hard to overlook the irony of MLB players who seem to have been involved in performance enhancing drugs and whether their place in the Hall of Fame is still justified given the abundance of talented Negro League players.  Just as thought provoking will be the next few rounds of Hall of Fame nominees and while their records may be strong in comparison to today’s players, how strong will their records be when compared to those from the Negro League?

Despite these complications, the MLB decision to merge the record books offers a chance for Negro League players to gain (even posthumously) the recognition they have always deserved.  Three cheers for MLB.

How Will Covid End?

October 28, 2020

CNN reported today (like it does every other day) the number of reported US cases of Covid-19 and the corresponding number of deaths attributed to Covid-19.  The numbers were about 8.5 million cases and 223,000 deaths.  If life goes on as it has, taking into account the US population of 340 million, and a limiting herd immunity would require 70% of Americans to have immunity, one should expect over 6 million deaths.  That is not a pretty ending.

Of course there are other factors.  The 6 million deaths assumes that the rest of the US population currently not inflected is as susceptible to the virus as the previous 8.5 million.  This may turn out not be true and a somewhat lower death rate occurs. In addition, this projection does not take into account widespread availability to “treatments” and hopefully vaccines (that work).  Never the less, isn’t it sobering to read a worst case number?

The World Health Organization reports (https://covid19.who.int/table) a global death/case of 2.6% and the US is currently experiencing a 2.6% also.  Germany has experienced 450,000 cases and 10,000 deaths (2.2% death rate) while France is reporting a 3.1% death rate. And, Japan comes in at 1.7% deaths per confirmed case.

So much is still unknown.  For example, how long does someone have immunity from reinfection should one contract Covid-19 and survive?  How effective will the various vaccines be and will there be therapeutics available which dramatically lower the death rate of seriously sick patients?

There is much we do know, however, and the medical community is learning more daily.  We do know that face masks and social distancing do protect us.  And most importantly, the high number of cases in the US and its associated death rate IS NOT as measured because the US tests more than other countries.  

Most interestingly, the end of Covid-19 is not in our hands alone.  Covid-19 is a worldwide pandemic and even if the US should plateau at some very low level of daily infections, infections could spike again simply because someplace else in the world was not in a controlled status.  The Covid-19 could simply hitch a ride with a traveler, shipper, or immigrant from some other country into ours.  Covid could come with a visitor to the US or come back from a US resident who visited someplace else. And, think about the different attitudes in various States about face masks, for example. Success in one State can just as easily be wiped out through interstate travel.

America First does not work with Pandemics.  We all win or we all lose over time.

Hmmm.  

Waiting For Godot

October 6, 2020

The similarities may be slim, but the anticipation of an ending is real.  The Presidential election is one month off and for much of the civilized world, the out come could not be clearer in the realm of wishes.  Donald Trump must go.  For sure not everyone wishes for the same outcome, but at this point more people wish for the end of the twitter driven, narcissistic, failed New York developer than those in favor of 4 more years.

The argument for 4 more years is reasonably thin.  Was his economy so good until the coronavirus struck?  Hmmm.  Have you looked at the graph of “GDP per year” since President Obama took office?  Shockingly, the plot is a rising, straight-line, indistinguishable from the Obama to Trump years.  Hmmm. Despite a 2017 $2 trillion unfunded tax cut which should have meant to anyone a breakout economic boom, the Trump economy simply grew at the same rate as with President Obama.  Hmmm.

Geo-political pundits can with glee pick out one after another foolish or self-serving foreign policy moves President Trump has undertaken which damaged US international relations.  And then there were so many others which seem directly connected to the well being of Trump family investments.  So what?

This past week, the President has tested positive for the coronavirus and has undergone a regimen of tests and treatments which few, if any, other Americans can expect should they contract the virus.  End result is a President who thinks he is cured and ready to resume life as normal.  A great example to other Americans.

Along with so many others, President Trump has indelibly stained the reputation of Dr Sean Conley, his personal doctor, for not speaking truthfully to the press.  Dr Conley could have said, “the President is in stable condition and that is all I am going to report.”  Instead Dr Conley provided a script filled report conjured up by a trickster.  Hmmm, that a life long reputation is of so little value.

Polls released since the first debate (and before the President’s diagnosis), have shown Joe Biden at his largest poll lead.  Hurry sundown.

While nothing is final until the ballots are counted,  Godot is waiting for a breath of fresh air and honesty in the White House. 

Does It Matter?

September 14, 2020

These past few weeks, the 7/24 news is all about President Trump.  For someone who strives for being the center of all that is interesting and on people’s minds, the past few days may not have been what the President had in mind.  But does it matter?

Trump’s former personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, labelled the President as a liar, cheat, and genuinely bad person.  Cohen’s comments could be seen as “the pot calling the kettle black”, or “it takes one to know one”. Mary Trump, President Trump’s brother Fred’s daughter and the President’s sister Marianne said as much in separate reports.  In any case, “never Trumpers” see all these revelations as just confirming what they already knew.

Watergate famed reporter/author Bob Woodward may claim the prize for the most “what was Trump thinking” question when the President granted Woodward interview time.  Woodward in his book “Rage”, builds on many hours of taped interviews in which the President step by step appears to hang himself.  In one instance, the President rehashes his dislike and distrust of the top Pentagon officers.  This has been reported before but the gravitas taped recordings puts forth is impressive and reduces drastically the President’s ability to deny his words.

But the quote that is playing the most today is Trump’s admission that he (Trump) knew as early as late January that covid-19 was no flu “look-a-like”.  The President knew that covid-19 posed a big problem for the US and the rest of the world.  When asked by Woodward, “but you did not say that in your “tweets” and public statements”, Trump replied, “that’s true, I just did not want the American people to panic”.  This statement is all one has to know in order to understand what type of person President Trump actually is.

In “Trumpian thinking”, people can be lead in any way that is beneficial to President Trump regardless of any collateral damage to themselves.  One can suppose that President Trump figured that enough people would keep working (and therefore keeping the economy humming) and Trump’s reelection would be assured.  Hmmm.

But, does it matter?

The real take away, IMO, is that President Trump, despite his unsurpassed ability to monopolize the center stage, is uniquely unqualified to be President.  Regardless of the President’s genuine intentions, the President’s decision to appear cavalier about protections for the pandemic and failure to recognize publicly the deadly potential the coronavirus represented is a failure in judgement regardless of the President’s intent.  It makes no difference whether the President lied or truly wanted only to prevent “panic”, his choice to “down play” the seriousness of the pandemic has directly contributed to the dismal US performance in response to the virus… 

President Trump is not responsible for the advent of the novel coronavirus, nor its transmission to the US, nor even its initial spread within the US.  But Trump’s decision to ignore the central organizing role which the Federal Government alone can play, has demonstrably resulted in shortages of PPE, higher costs for PPE and related medical equipment, and undoubtably cascaded into more deaths.  

But does it matter?

With respect to the coronavirus, those Americans who lost loved ones, it certainly does matter.  With respect to all Americans, wake up and smell the coffee, President Trump is leading all aspects of the government in a similar manner without regard to unwanted consequences.

How Far Will He Go?

August 29, 2020

In nature, when there is an epic struggle between two wild beasts, when the end is obvious, the defeated animal often submits to the other offering its throat for the final blow which will extinguish its life.  Or, like in the game of chess, the Kings lies down when the end is clear.  Will President Trump act similarly or will he do what is unthinkable and see how that works out?

With a little over two months to go until the November 3 election, the polls do not look good for the President.  No one who has observed the last 4 years would expect this President to lie down and admit defeat.  Rather some predict the President will claim the election was fraudulent and refuse to turn over the reigns of government “while the election results are investigated”.  Others suggest the President will use his office to reward large groups of voters in hopes of gaining their votes.  Still others suggest the President may try to disrupt the election claiming civil unrest or concerns over the virus.  Hmmm.

What about

  • Starting a War.  The old adage, don’t switch horses in the middle of a stream?  Would Trump think a manageable conflict was the source of some votes?
  • Making Promises.  Since Trump would be term limited if he won reelection why wouldn’t President Trump promise anything and everything, and worry about the consequences during his next term?
  • Misrepresentations.  Trump could separate truth from his accusations during the upcoming Presidential debates?  (That is not a maybe, that is a given.)
  • New investigations and incitements.  In 2016, the FBI sowed just enough doubt in Hilary Clinton that many Democrat voters just stayed home.  Hmmm, could it work again with an inditement of Hunter Biden and while at it, why not Joe Biden too?
  • Pardons.  How about Trump using his pardon powers to clean up the records of popular stars and athletes?  That could attract votes.  But the one pardon, which would be a calculated risk, would be to pardon himself!!!  The President could picture himself as the aggrieved party in so many cases that the only way he could be truly free to fight for the average American would be if he was free from future investigations and incitements.  (This is an option President Trump could (and would likely) use if he were to lose the election in any case.)

There is still plenty of time for former Trump Administration officials to speak up and tell it like it was.  Rex Tillerson, Jim Mattis, HR McMaster, John Kelly, and John Bolton could correct the record that they were just “losers” and point out the dangers of a Trump second term.  Hmmm.

For consecrative leaning Republicans, the thought of progressive, liberal Democrats is more than enough for heartburn.  How could any of them speak out for Joe Biden and against President Trump?  This is the quandary distinguished Republicans have faced during the first 4 years. 

Most people get only one or at best a few chances to stand up and be counted when it really counts.  Now is that chance for many already distinguished officials to “get one more chance”.

Post Office

August 24, 2020

Post Master General Louis DeJoy is testifying today before Congress.  At issue, regardless of the questions asked, is whether the Trump Administration has directed or influenced DeJoy to sabotage postal operations just ahead of the November elections.  If these accusations are true, there certainly would be grounds for another impeachment.  So far it appears that President Trump has learned a little from his Ukrainian affair.  

The first red flag was the curtailment of overtime.  If any administrators wants to illicit poor morale and unpredictable worker behavior, take away the gravy associated with overtime pay. 

While overtime reduction or elimination could be associated with a slow down in mail delivery, removing automated mail sorting equipment (without an immediate replacement with new equipment) can only be seen as a deterrent to on-time mail delivery. 

And the removal of mail collection boxes?  What do you think about that?

The Post Master General, however, is quick to point out the horrifically poor financial performance the USPS is experiencing.  While some of that red ink is related to the pandemic, most of it predates the virus and comes form operating costs exceeding revenues.  Hmmm, pretty classic.

Anyone familiar to life in Japan, France, or Germany, or most other modern countries, knows that mail postage is a bargain in the US.  Sending a letter in other countries is twice or more as expensive as the US.  Is that another sign of US exceptionalism?  Or could it be that political considerations keep the postage price down?

USPS provides an essential service in our open society.  For example, if one does not use Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, how else could one receive all that junk mail?  E-mail services do a admirable effort to flood our waking time with junk ads and solicitations to be sure, but there is nothing like the mail box.  But amongst all the unwanted ads and magazines, the USPS delivers essential mail ranging from personal letters to bank statements to key communications with Federal, State, and Local governments.  Birthday cards, party invitations, and subscription requests for the orchestra, sports teams, or theater groups all arrive via the mailman.

There are probably two main issues at stake. 

  • First, a broken USPS might be expected to break under the onslaught of “vote by mail” ballots.  Whether true or not, President Trump has said that would be a good outcome. 
  • Second, Americans love to hate the Post Office and bitch about the cost of a stamp (even though a stamp almost any place else in the world cost at least twice as much).  But when polled, Americans say they depend on 6 days a week postal service.  And for some, delivery of medicines has become more than a convenience.  So, the theory has been proposed that President Trump for yet to be explained reasons is set upon darkening Americans’ confidence in key institutions.  The postal service has just joined the FBI, the FDA, the CIA, and so many others in President Trump’s estimation of deep State membership.

The USPS is in dire need of fixing if economics is the only measure.  But the current Administration is poorly equip to judge what role the USPS should play.  For my vote, I want an independent operation which provides service to the entire country.  The mail must not become politicized nor allowed a monopoly position.  Like so many problems facing Washington, real fixes won’t be forthcoming until the next President is in office, if even then.

Do You Know Joe?

August 22, 2020

The Wall Street Journal published an editorial asking readers whether they knew Joe Biden and what policies to expect from a President Biden. 

Summarizing, the WSJ concluded Joe was probably a decent, civilized being who was unencumbered by deeply held policy positions.  The WSJ asked whether that policy uncertainty was enough to keep President Trump from a second term.  Hmmm.

Since the WSJ editorial board is composed of educated persons, it is not likely the WSJ has not cringed frequently when President Trump speaks pointedly about something where he has the facts wrong or totally irrelevant, or has used his public office to demean or denigrate someone, especially women or those of lesser status or power. 

Hands down, the WSJ is implying that President Biden would be a better person and as such a better face for the US Government.  But what does the WSJ imply with their observation that Biden is not linked tightly to this policy or that one?

The President’s grand strategy for reelection had been jobs and the economy, “never been better”.  Covid-19 changed all that with GDP and jobs having tumbled this year.  Prospects for a quick recovery are not certain and certainly not until the virus is under control.  Hmmm.

One must remember that unlike what the President claims, he and his Administration have had little or no impact upon the jobless and economic numbers even after having added a trillion dollar unfunded tax cut.  The nation’s economic performance (see https://ihsmarkit.com/products/us-monthly-gdp-index.html) was totally predictable from past performance.

 GDP from January 2008 until June 2020

Nominal monthly GDP numbers from January 2008 until June 2020 show a steady increase until April this year.  In other words, President Trump and his administration inherited so much positive momentum driving the economy that despite some very questionable and disjointed policy moves, the economy kept rising.  With the GDP rise, so followed jobs.

Voters (along with the WSJ) need to get a grip on themselves.  President Trump is a charlatan who lacks the most basic skills to manage a large and complex economy (not to mention national security or foreign policy, and for sure game changer issues like global warming or multicultural relations). 

Getting A Bang Out Of Life

August 17, 2020

During the twin assaults presented by the Pandemic and the Trump Administration’s brazen thuggery against American institutions, a brave country tries to carry on.  Baseball with cutout spectators, basketball with empty huge arenas, and golf on wide open courses, America struggles to find normalcy.  But some how in some places, normalcy is not there.

In parts of Philadelphia and Cincinnati, for example, normalcy is disturbed regularly.  This past weekend Cincinnati experienced 18 shootings and 4 killings while Philadelphia clocked in with 20 shootings and three fatalities.  Similar stories can be relayed from other large cities such as New York, Chicago, and Baltimore. 

So what do these shameful statistics tell us?

Should we disband the police all together?  Should we drop requirements for wearing face masks?   Should we call (even from the “beautiful suburbs”) for stronger law and order?

Law enforcement authorities has been unsure why there have been these surges.  The shootings seems unconnected to police excesses such as in George Floyd’s death.  And the Center for Disease Control has not found any links to Covid-19.  So what could have caused this violent behavior and what should we do?

Newspaper reports indicate that most of the shooting victims have been innocent by-standers.  And, the shootings took place in economically challenged parts of these cities (a politically correct way of indicating the victims were minorities).  And in almost all case, the shootings were not provoked by police activity.

Hmmm.

Some reports have cited “gang” involvement while others hint at a few “bad apples”.  In any case, authorities are left with no win options.  Guns and ammunitions availability  are clearly a contributing factor.  But how do authorities get guns off the streets?  Stop and frisk?  Unfortunately that procedure has been declared “un-American” due to profiling excesses.  Yet the areas where these shootings are taking place are areas  predominantly populated by minorities.  Hmmm.

Curfews are another tool.  While normally reserved for prolonged and violent demonstrations, curfews might help as long as we overlook which neighborhoods will be impacted (since more affluent areas and the suburbs will not).  Hmmm.

And as all too often, society simply waits until people stop shooting each other.  In other words, let the minorities shoot it out and then when they have finished, life can go on.  Hmmm.

So who should take the lead?

How about Black leaders in general and especially BLM activists.  These leaders, undoubtably will inherit a tough problem but they, and they alone, are uniquely qualified to tackle.  These shootings, largely Black on Black, can not be solved by White leaders alone. 

And continually referring to the enslaved period as the root of every problem won’t cut it either.  And reparations, as well, do not appear as the magic solution.  

What seems clear to me, however, is that the availability of guns and ammunitions is the secret ingredient which too many citizens adopt to voice whatever their grievance might be. Like a tourniquet on a bleeding leg, something bold must take place to stop the shooting now.

“No guns or bullets” does not end the grievances that has caused these shootings, but it will make it more difficult for one person to take his/her anger out on another.   Community leaders must step forward with more fundamental and lasting solutions.  The time for blaming enslavement and then doing nothing should be over.

All lives matter and especially black lives.  This is the time for Black community leaders to rise up, step forward, and take ownership of these senseless shootings.  Black leaders need to come forward with rational plans and commit that they will see these plans through.   The greater community must find ways to support these plans.

No one wants to “get a bang out of life” as is now happening.

 

A Gentleman In Moscow

August 15, 2020

Reading recently Amor Towles’ “A Gentleman In Moscow”, I was struck by the other face of fascist authoritarianism.  Today, Americans, if they choose to open their eyes, can see a President who if given a chance will adopt the mantle of authoritarian leadership.  President Trump will continue to assert executive power, place greedy, compliant supporters in top Administrative jobs, and use social and traditional media to spread a false but glowing face of his Administration before voters.

Trump followers appear to be conservatives who prefer paternalistic leaders, those who think they know what’s right and don’t take no for an answer.  In the Fascist playbook, this type of leader morphs into a dictator almost without his supporters and followers knowing it.  And when voters do understand, it is too late.

So, how can a country so used to freedom or speech, press, and movement get lulled into what should be a forbidden affair?

Could it be that if someone opposes leaders like Trump, “that person will be labeled a socialist”.  And everyone knows socialism leads directly to communism, full stop.

In “A Gentleman in Moscow”, the reader becomes acquainted with Bolshevik revolution where the “people” took over. What could be more democratic?   Instead of the educated and landed gentry, everyday citizens (comrades) took control and reorganized life.  And just like fascism, the Russian form of communism  established a ruling class and citizens more equal than others. 

For Russia, instead of the royals and wealthy landowners, there were now communist party leaders and loyalists in the military, secret service, and key government departments. (More recently, China has embraced the Communist one party approach to governance. After some totally kooky days with Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution, more reasonable Chinese leaders introduced elements of capitalism and China boomed. Today, President Xi appears ready to tighten party control and the virtues of capitalism may disappear.)

One is left with the deep impression that any form of government is susceptible to bending and warping by the humans who attain positions of power.  Or said differently, without a sound understanding of “balance of powers” and a deep understanding and respect for diversity of thought amongst leadership, any government structure is susceptible to extremes.

Socialism in and of itself should not be feared.  Unbridled capitalism and an “executive branch heavy” government are probably far more dangerous, especially to the American dream. 

In the 20th century, growing income inequality and unavailability of critical social services (like healthcare, housing, and education) have lead to establishment of most authoritarian states (fascist or communist).  

The American Dream is under siege.  November offers the best chance to put American Democracy back on the tracks.  The question is, will enough voters understand the dangers all around us?   

A 25th Amendment Scenario

August 13, 2020

One should never count ones chickens before they hatch, we are told.  But in view of the unprecedented Trump Presidency, it might be worthwhile to consider the following scenario.

“As November 3 approaches, and polling clearly indicates President Trump will lose the general election by a wide margin.  At some point the President throws caution to the wind and make wild moves in foreign and domestic policy combining troop withdrawals with wild promises to foreign countries, especially those with unfriendly US relations combined with even more attacks on clean air, water, and global warming.  Once the election day has passed and Trump’s defeat is clear, President Trump will escalates his destructive and scorched earth policies. Other than mental illness, the only probable motive seems to be to leave President-elect Biden with domestic and foreign conditions so degraded that American security and economic recovery will be severely retarded for the next 4+ years.  In other words, President Trump rather than preparing the reigns of government for a smooth transition of power will instead attempt to sabotage the country’s future.”

Under such a scenario, one which would seem prima facia abnormal and hardly the intentions of any sane President, would Trump’s subordinates invoke the 25th Amendment declaring President Trump unable to perform the duties of president?  Hmmm.

There are some realities which make the 25th Amendment use problematic. 

  • Removing any President from office against his/her will represents a major precedent and cooler minds would first look for ways to delay Presidential actions with an eye to the clock running out on January 20, 2021. 
  • Second, Vice President Pence would need to be leader in any 25th Amendment use and being a person of conviction and initiative is not a well established Pence characteristic. 
  • And a wounded animal is often at its most dangerous stage.  President Trump, under this proposition, would likely fire cabinet heads, promise great rewards for loyalty, and attempt to form a cabinet of rock solid loyalists who would not support the 25th Amendment’s use.

Regardless, if one suspects that President Trump has been conflicted during his Presidency with far more influences than a self image of grandeur and self enrichment, it should not be a great leap of imagination that one last round of “deals” which cost the United States but financially benefit Trump and his family is not too wild an idea.

First things first.  Voters must turn out and vote for Biden. 

Next, after a few moments of relief for ending the Trump presidency, it must be all hands (Senate, House, Supreme Court, and the Press) on deck or the White House silverware might be on the moving van  Hmmm.