Mailing It In

Voting by mail is all over the news these days. Rightfully seen as both a way to counter Republican efforts at vote suppression and the problems involved in conducting an election during a pandemic, it’s coming under fire recently, from people challenging its security to the president’s undermining of the Postal Service.

While nice if you need to do it, I don’t think it’s really the panacea that it’s made out to be. There are still issues of ballots being intercepted and delayed or lost, or damaged to the point of illegibility. And that assumes that people follow the instructions properly when filling them out and sending them back. I am aware that several states have been voting entirely by mail with no significant problems, but they’ve had years of practice. And they haven’t had chicanery at the scale we’re facing.

Yes, there are problems with the normal voting in person at a designated polling place, too. Machines can be hacked, and all that. But those flaws are known and anticipated, and any decent Election Commission is taking steps to be prepared.

One key advantage that in-person voting has is that the results are known extremely quickly, almost always the same day. With mailed ballots, you have to give time for them to be delivered and collected, and then counted. In any election that’s expected to be close, the longer you wait for results, the more opportunities there are for the prospective losing candidate to challenge them.

We can’t afford that this time around; the “worst case scenario” is Double Plus Ungood. It could be 1876 all over again, but, given the rabidity of the president’s “cultists”, with more violence.

The best option for the individual voter?

If you have the day off, go to your designated polling place and vote in person. Wear a mask and shower before and after with sanitizer if you have to.

If you don’t, but your designated polling place is close enough so that you can stop by before or after work, go there and vote in person. Wear a mask and use sanitizer.

If those aren’t possible, but you have “early voting” and can cast a vote at your Board of Elections a few days before Election Day, do that.

The fewer chances you give people to screw around with your vote, the better for everyone.

The Hiroshima Decision

Every August, you start seeing essays from professional and amateur journalists on the usage of the atomic bombs to end WWII. This month marks the 75th anniversary of that occasion, so you know there are going to be plenty more. And if this year is like all others, some of those essays will contain (or will have comments that contain) much wailing and gnashing of teeth about how we didn’t have to drop the bombs.

At least some of their reasoning involves post facto arguments, in that they use information that wasn’t available at the time. Or they rehash old, tired arguments that have been acknowledged and dismissed with justification.

What if we went back to the summer of 1945, and looked at the matter using only that information which was available at the time?

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This is Going to be Insane!

We’re finally getting some baseball! Hooray!

And it’s not going to look like anything we’ve ever seen before

The divisions are being mixed up. Everyone is using the DH. Extra innings will start with a runner on second. And that’s on top of the new rules for pitching substitutions.

The biggest change can be summed up in a single number:

2.7

With the season being reduced to just sixty games, every individual game will be worth 2.7 “regular” games (of a 162 game schedule). Every game will mean more in the standings, even with the expanded playoffs. With all the new rules in place, in-game strategy is going to be vital! And with rosters being much larger than usual, expect even more pitching changes than normal.

Then there’s the effect on “counting” stats. Adjust them accordingly, and 20 home runs for a hitter or 75 strikeouts for a pitcher will be phenomenal. With pitchers getting only twelve starts, do NOT expect anyone to get double digits in wins. “Rate” stats could be even more bizarre. If a player has a hot streak, it is within the realm of possibility for someone to hit .400 or have an ERA under 1.00….

And if there happens to be a localized outbreak of COVID-19, things could get even more wacky. Even this close to the start of the season, the Blue Jays don’t have a place to call “home”….

Given the abbreviated schedule, expect there to be ties in the final standings – with the resulting chaos for the playoffs.

The best thing for a fan is to not get caught up in the standings and pennant races, but to just sit back and be glad there are some actual meaningful games being played. It’s a heck of a lot better than following the season simulation at Strat-O-Matic…..

Book Review: Sci-Fi and Fantasy Stories From ‘The Sun’

Sci-Fi and Fantasy Stories from ‘The Sun’
by Edward Page Mitchell
Feedbooks.com edition

Before Hugo Gernsback laid down the law, no one knew there was such a thing as “science fiction”. Many writers, not just Verne and Wells, dabbled in “scientific fantasy” or used the eventual tropes of the genre to give a gloss to their political screeds.

Mitchell wrote his stories to sell newspapers.

In 1874, he published his first (known) stories, “The Tachypomp” and “Back From That Bourne”. The latter appeared in the New York (City) Sun, one of the leading newspapers at the time. It wasn’t uncommon for newspapers to publish short stories – even putting them under the guise of actual news. Mitchell would pen twenty-eight more stories for The Sun over the next twelve years. He’d eventually become editor of that paper, whereupon he stopped writing fiction.

His work remained forgotten until science fiction editor and historian Sam Moskowitz recovered it in the early 1970s.

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The Name Game

With the Washington Redskins once again coming under fire for their team name, the Cleveland Indians have taken the proactive step of announcing that they will be reviewing their team name. Apparently, they are concerned that the name might cause offense, and want to get ahead of any possible controversy.

The names of the Atlanta Braves and Kansas City Chiefs are coming under scrutiny as well.

I am puzzled. Not that they are taking such a step these days, but that the names could be found “offensive”.

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Site Maintenance – 1

Just a little note to announce there’s a new “page” tab thing up at the top: a quick index for all my book reviews posted here. There are more than I thought I had! I wonder if I should bother adding a note or symbol to indicate the general category of the books: Baseball, History, Science, Science Fiction…. Perhaps later….

Tearing Things Down

Christopher Columbus came up with a bold and daring idea to answer a well-recognized economic problem. He persuaded enough of the right people to give him financial backing, then personally led a team to a successful (at least to his backers) result. But as we all know, he was really a deranged, bloodthirsty, slavering, genocidal maniac who personally killed and enslaved every native he came across (even those he never met), so every statue and monument to him must be destroyed, and everything named for him must be immediately renamed for some celebrity du jour….

George Washington had the leadership skills to keep the Continental Army together and fighting through the entire Revolutionary War. And afterwards, when he was the unanimous choice to lead the infant nation, he was modest enough to refuse to be a king, instead choosing to become a Chief Administrator, thereby setting the precedent for all who would follow. But alas, he owned slaves, and before the Revolution, fought the Native Americans. So his statues must come down as well, and everything with his name on it must also be renamed (presumably with an equivalent to Boaty McBoatface)….

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MOVIE REVIEW: Killings at Outpost Zeta (1980)

I’ve watched a lot of low-end sci-fi movies in my time. There’s something fun about either finding a bit of gold in an otherwise forgettable movie, or coming across one so bad that it turns into an unintentional comedy. I get suggestions by reading the many movie review blogs that are out there (most notably The B-Masters Cabal). I cannot recall which of them mentioned the current subject to me, but suffice it to say that whoever it was didn’t have anything really good to say about it. Intrigued by their description, I went looking for it. And I found that someone had posted a crappy (but complete) print of it to YouTube….

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BOOK REVIEW: Oscar Charleston

Oscar Charleston: The Life and Legend of Baseball’s Greatest Forgotten Player
Jeremy Beer
University of Nebraska Press
Copyright 2019 by the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska

Thanks to so many people, from Buck O’Neil to the researchers at Seamheads, we know a lot about the Negro Leagues – the players and the business and life in general as a Negro League player. But there are still huge oversights. Josh Gibson (on the basis of his legend) and Satchel Paige (thanks to having actually played in the Major Leagues) are rather widely known among baseball fans. Oscar Charleston, however….

Jeremy Beer has done a remarkable service in correcting this oversight. He has written a truly comprehensive biography of the Hall of Famer, from his childhood in Indianapolis to his death at an age too young to have been part of the Negro League “rediscovery” in the 1970s. He has dug through the archives, and even paged through a scrapbook kept by Charleston over the course of his life and career. This is as good a work on baseball in the Negro Leagues as you are likely to find.

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