Who Wants to be an All-Star?

It’s been a fun and exciting first half of the season. Teams expected to be average (Rockies) are suddenly amazing; teams expected to do well are, well…. (Giants). Some players are maintaining their usual level of awesomeness (Mike Trout, Clayton Kershaw), others have come out of nowhere (Aaron Judge).

With all that, there’s barely time to consider making an All-Star team.

But we must. Now, a few things have to be kept in mind:

1. The fans pick the starting position players and DH.
2. Each team must have a representative.
3. Each team gets a total of 35 players.

Those are the basics. You’ll want at least three catchers and two or three people for each of the other defensive positions. And with #2, each team has *someone* who is having a good season.

With that in mind, what would my All-Star teams look like?

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BOOK REVIEW: Heaven’s Ditch

Heaven’s Ditch: God, Gold, and Murder on the Erie Canal
Jack Kelly
St Martin’s Press, NY
Copyright 2016 by the author

It was the nation’s first big infrastructure project. A canal connecting Lake Erie (and thereby the Great Lakes and the Northwest Territory) to the Hudson River (and thereby New York City and the Atlantic Ocean). A project vital to the growth and development of the United States, it also brought a palpable sense of excitement to upper New York…. an excitement that would have significant effects not only on individuals, but on the nation as a whole.

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It Was So Hot

Where I live, we’ve just been through the first “heat wave” of the summer. Three days where the temperature was in the mid 90s. Needless to say, people are already whining about how unbearably hot it’s been. Wusses….

My personal approaches to “beating the heat” involve sitting around the house in my underwear (who’s going to see me?), listening to Christmas music (to distract me), and remember that it can be a hell of a lot worse.

It could be as hot as it was in the summer of 1936….

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Walking Tour of Lower Manhattan

Some years ago I was summoned to perform a civic duty at the Federal Courthouse in lower Manhattan. As it turned out, my judgment was not needed on a jury that day. So around lunchtime, I found myself in the oldest part of New York City on a lovely summer day. What else could I do but stroll around and explore? There’s quite a bit of interest there, if you know where to look.

Should you find yourself in Manhattan with half a day to kill….

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Book Review: Dark Matter

Dark Matter
by Blake Crouch
Crown Publishers
(c) 2016 by the author

Since at least as far back as Murray Leinster’s “Sidewise in Time” (1934), science fiction writers have been penning tales of traveling through the “multiverse” of alternate histories. So despite what some of the reviewers might be saying, there’s nothing really novel about Crouch’s novel in that regard. But what is new is that instead of positing another world where the Confederacy won the War Between the States or the Nazis won WWII, Crouch makes it personal.

Everyone has made important decisions in their lives. What college to attend, what job to take, to break up or not to break up with a lover…. Crouch pens a fast-paced action-adventure story based around the individual “alternaties” that spring from the many choices we make.

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Festina Lente

Now that a Special Counsel has been appointed, the cries of “Impeach!” have died down a bit. Having the president out of the country playing with a palantir helps, too. We can all stop, catch our breath, and consider just what it is we are asking for with an impeachment.

You can look up the details of the impeachment process and history just as easily as I can, so I’ll leave that to you.

However, given the situation in Congress, and that Vice President Mike Pence may be caught up in the scandal, it’s worth it for the liberals / Democrats to come up with a long-term strategy. Something other than a simple “Get Trump out as soon as possible” plan.

Should Trump be removed from office, VP Pence becomes President, and he gets to nominate someone to take over as VP. That person must be confirmed by a simple majority vote in both houses of Congress before taking office. Although they are fractured, the Republicans still control both the House and Senate at the present time. It should be considered highly likely that they will force the selection of someone easily pliable, and able to help push through their agenda. The same outcome would happen if Pence is forced out first, and Trump (guided by the GOP) gets to “nominate” a replacement.

If Trump *and* Pence are both run out on the same rail, then Speaker of the House Paul Ryan becomes Acting President – and everything goes bonkers. The Constitution gives absolutely no guidelines on what happens then. Are special elections held right away? What powers does he have? Who takes his place in the House? Who becomes Acting VP? Whatever happens, the Republicans still control Congress, so they will basically have all the cards in this situation.

Arguably the best thing for the Democrats to do would be to let the investigation proceed and the evidence accumulate until the 2018 mid-term elections (Note that it took a year after the first try at a resolution of impeachment before Nixon finally resigned). They can then use the scandal – and the prospect of impeachment – as the driving issue in the campaign. Don’t give the Republicans time to recover and regroup. If they aren’t totally inept, the Democrats should be able to take control of the House. And with a little luck, the Senate as well. That will put them in a great position to control the agenda for the remaining two years, and set them up well for the 2020 election.

In the meantime, they can be the principled opposition, and block everything evil that Trump and the GOP try to do. While it’s tempting to kick Trump out as soon as possible, we probably don’t want to leave his enablers in power. Let Trump and the GOP destroy themselves while continuing to mitigate the damage. It won’t be easy to keep the radical left (the ones chanting “Lock him up!”) in line, but if patience helps get rid of the worst / most reactionary elements in the GOP, it will be worth it in the end.

Unless, of course, Trump’s offenses are shown to be so egregious that we cannot afford to keep him in office one day longer.

 

#Resist

The Eurovision Camp Factor – II

Well, another Eurovision has come and gone. Portugal’s Salvador Sobral won everyone over with his passionate love song, “Amar Pelos Dios”.

But of course, no one watches it for the songs, right? You all want to see wacky staging and crazy costumes!

A few weeks ago, I posted a “Eurovision Camp Factor” scale, setting up scores from 1 (a basic, straightforward performance) to 10 (way over the top in everything). How did the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest turn out?

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In Defense of James Comey

One could say it was all the fault of Loretta Lynch.

As Attorney General, she should have known better than to have a private meeting – no matter how brief – with Bill Clinton when she was in the middle of overseeing an investigation into Hillary Clinton’s e-mails.

But she blew it, and had to pass the buck to FBI Director James Comey.

Under normal circumstances, Comey would have wrapped up the investigation and handed everything over to Lynch, along with a recommendation, for her to make the final decision. But now, Comey was thrust into the limelight. He, in effect, would have to make the final decision as to whether or not to bring any indictments on Clinton.
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Cinco de Mayo

I haven’t been seeing much in the way of advertising this year for any Cinco de Mayo festivities or promotions. Perhaps it has to do with the current socio-political environment, or maybe I just haven’t been looking in the right places.

Be that as it may, the holiday is in effect “Mexican-American Day”, just as “Juneteenth” and “Columbus Day” are “African-American Day” and “Italian-American Day”.

Those gringos who think it marks Mexican Independence Day are way off. That happened on Sept. 16, 1810, when – taking advantage of Spain’s preoccupation with Napoleon – Fr. Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla made the first cry of revolt against the hated Gachupines (native Spaniards) in the village of Dolores. Eleven years later, the Treaty of Córdoba (signed on August 24, 1821) completed the War of Independence.

This holiday actually commemorates the Battle of Puebla in 1862. A weak Mexican government found itself heavily in debt to European countries. Britain and Spain negotiated a settlement plan, but France decided to invade and seize control of the country. Outnumbered by roughly three to one, the Mexican Army dealt the French invaders a stunning defeat.

It’s not so much an “independence day” as it is a “coming of age” celebration (a Quinceañera, if you will) for the country, as it marked their first real victory over a foreign power.

So share some tequila with your friends and neighbors (and friendly neighbors), and and celebrate how much of what makes America great is that we’ll welcome anyone, especially if you bring something to the party.

Presidents Barack Obama (US) and Enrique Peña Nieto (Mexico) enjoying tequila in 2013. Photo by White House Photographer Pete Souza

Eurovision: The Camp Factor

Another Eurovision approaches, and commentators here in the US are, if they talk about Eurovision at all, will often bring up the “campiness” of the proceedings, and go on in a snarky attitude about how silly the whole thing is.

While it’s true that the show has been campy in the past (thanks in part to scoring rules that tended to favor spectacle), and still gets there occasionally, the acts you see are more like those who would appear as the musical guest on a late night talk show. The performances aren’t really different than what you’d expect to see for an act with a similar career arc (a few years in the business with an album or two under their belt) at a similar venue.

If you insist on watching the show for the campiness and not for the great number of fine performances, here’s a handy 1 – 10 scale for judging the Camp Factor of a performance (with examples from the past five years of Eurovision). There’s no “zero” score (or “nil points”, to use the Eurovision term) for campiness. Simply by association, you get a bit of campiness rubbed off on you.

(lots of embedded videos after the jump)

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