Slack Chat: Shutdown III – Wag the Dog Slowly

T: Hey J, you nailed it on the shutdown. You win one internet; it’s in the mail.

J: Sure, and I promise not to come in –

T: Ok, it’s not really in the mail.

J: It’s good to see the end of the shutdown, even on a temporary basis. And I doubt they’ll play the shutdown game again. To quote Mitch McConnell: “There’s no education in the second kick of a mule.”

T: Yeah, but mules are way smarter than Trump’s base.

J: Good point.

T: I’m sure Trump’s pea brain is working feverishly on a slick, branded nickname for Pelosi. Trump is so simple and obvious. In his mind, I bet he still thinks he can declare a national emergency and get away with it. Or shut down the government again.

Editor’s note: three days later, Trump threatened to do both.

T: I wonder where this ends? Donald Trump is simply not capable of admitting defeat. He’ll start hurling weapons before he admits defeat on anything. Will the cabinet and/or Congress stop him if he tries to pull a Wag the Dog?

J: We’ll see what comes out of these negotiations. I suspect the Dems will throw Trump a bone and allow a hundred feet of cyclone fencing in San Antonio or something and let him call it a wall.

T: That’s pretty much my guess, too, some sort of face-saving gesture they can give Trump without him burying them in spiked footballs and neener-neeners while he gloats. They’ll consent to “some fencing” and that will replace Trump’s big, beautiful wall.

J: That would be a positive thing, I think. He is allowed to save some face, too. It’s how this shit works.

T: I think the key for Trump is that he gets the number. 5.7 billion.

J: I wonder if he might do something in Venezuela, make some kind of intervention there to protect diplomats or something?

T: That’s got “Operation Dick Waving” written all over it.

J: It would be so great if they actually called it that.

T: Did you see the article, right before the vote to end the shutdown, where McConnell let loose that he was pretty much ready to act on a veto-proof bill? I suspect that’s what got Trump moving.

J: I didn’t see that in so many words, but I did see something in the Washington Post to the effect that McConnell told Trump that he (McConnell) was losing control of the caucus, and that it was time to bring it to an end. Plus the air-traffic controllers all walked out, along with the IRS employees… Trump finally realized that he was holding a losing hand and it was time to fold.

T: Yeah, the actual story was an implied, “it’s time to act, before it’s taken out of your hands” from McConnell, after the lunch where a bunch of republican senators yelled at McConnell. McConnell said, in return, “are you implying that I’m enjoying this?”

J: Yeah, that was the message. And Trump got it.

T: McConnell acted in keeping with his personality and history, I think. Pelosi, put in the same position, likely would have acted the same way.

J: Are you softening on McConnell?

T: Maybe a little. I’m not in his shoes, so I might need to cut him a little slack for his horribleness. He might only be kind of horrible.

J: Horrible rhymes with adorable.

T: I didn’t say I want to date the sumbitch.

J: Noted.

T: Thank you.

J: I’m sure McConnell wasn’t enjoying the shutdown, and he’ll enjoy it even less if Trump tries to do it again. Second kick of a mule, right?

T: Problem is, Trump is way dumber than your average mule.

J: Well, more stubborn, anyway.

T: He thinks he’s the kicker, but he’s definitely the mule.

J: Yeah, Trump doesn’t seem to realize that he is usually the kickee, not the kicker.

Pelosi treated him like a mule – or a small child – refusing to even consider anything the Senate sent over till the government was open.

T: Tough love?

J: I don’t think “love,” “Trump” and “Pelosi” should ever be in the same sentence.

T: The same slack.

J: Not unless I get advance notice, so I can get a condom and a barf bag.

T: Pelosi won’t sign anything that says “wall” – she’d get roasted worse than Coulter is roasting Trump now.

J: The conference committee will come up with some face-saving measure to allow Trump to say he got something… but Pelosi clearly won the battle and will likely win the war, too.

T: I suspect we’ll either get a deal early next week, or we’ll wind up with Trump waving his dick at us with a national emergency move, which will wind up in the courts.

J: I tend to agree.

T: He’s asking Ivanka if he can declare martial law now, I bet.

J: I doubt they’ll run the clock down again, although Trump would probably like the attention he’d get for a week of, “will he or won’t he sign the bill?”

But the adults will get something done sooner, and he’ll grumble and sign.

T: I dunno about that last sentence, though. The question there is whether the “adults” can convince Trump to accept a deal without the words “5.7 billion” and “wall” in the agreement. I think Trump will metaphorically fold his arms and hold his breath until they give him those two words.

He blinked this time, but what will it take to get him to actually say uncle? I don’t think there is such a thing as a compromise without those two words. Congress isn’t dealing with a dealmaker, are they? They are dealing with a toddler. Plus Coulter and Limbaugh and the rest of those jackals will be demanding those two words.

J: I think he retreats, using mealy-mouthed words to pretend he actually won. He is already shifting away from the wall… before, it was a “big beautiful wall.” Now it’s a “smart wall” or a “barrier.” He said he never proposed a big concrete wall from sea to sea, although of course he did.

Trump is realizing that he’s just not going to get anything from Pelosi, and he’s backing down, little by little, until he gets to something Pelosi will let through the House. Coulter and Limbaugh will bitch, but then get behind the new deals.

T: How far can he back up?

J: Here’s a good analysis from that well-known liberal rag, the New York Times.

Here’s the key paragraph:

“Mr. Trump, for his part, has softened his messaging, conceding in a speech in the Rose Garden on Friday that ‘we do not need 2,000 miles of concrete wall from sea to shining sea — we never did.’ That semantic evolution could provide a face-saving way forward for both the president and Democrats, who have previously supported bills that include money for border fencing, though not a wall.”

T: Trump is trapped by his own lack of intelligence, isn’t he? Even in his conciliatory phrases, he still said, “we will build the wall!” I don’t think he ever cared about an actual wall, but he doesn’t know how to say anything else. He’s glib, but simple. He only knows a few key phrases – it’s all he’s ever needed.

Until now.

J: I don’t think he gives a shit about an actual wall either, except he feels like he needs it to placate his base. It’s important to them, so it’s important to him. If they lost interest, he’d lose interest. He has no interest at all in reaching out to anyone outside his base. That’s a losing long-term strategy, considering that the average age of a Fox News viewer is 66.

T: How many of his base (percentagewise) do you think actually cared about the wall before Trump made such a big deal out of it? I doubt it was even 10 percent. They care about the wall like they care about the players on their local football team.

If Trump dropped the wall, Coulter and Limbaugh would raise a ruckus, like a local sports-radio hack would if the star running back got traded, but his base would just follow the new one. He would lose some fans in the short-term, but I think most of them would come back on their conservative bungees.

J: I agree, 10 percent max. Before Trump, those people were way more concerned about the Second Amendment and health care than the wall.

The wall doesn’t really affect most of the people in Trump’s base; relatively few of them live in border states. But he appealed to their nativism and their racism, and he was able to make them care about something that didn’t actually have much, if any, effect on their day-to-day lives.

T: If Trump was smart, he would just stop talking about the wall. Give it a month and nobody would even care. He could — like you said — just brag that he got a good deal with all-around border security. I mean, he’s Mister Gaslighter. He can just keep saying he never said anything about a wall, and those morons will buy it in about ten seconds.

J: Just shutting up about the wall would be a smart play. It’d fall out of the news in a few cycles, and then they could quietly pass a border-security bill that didn’t include wall money and he could say that he got the bigliest deal ever on border security.

T: Bigly rhymes with jiggly.

J: Stop it.

T: Cake and Trump-y, sitting in a tree.

J: Egads.

T: k – i –

J: l – l – y – o – you.

T: Ok, ok … I’ll stop.

J: I need one of those flashers from Men in Black now.

T: Ok, so he’d get his bigly, jiggly deal.

J: Just bigly. But that’d be the smart play, which is why he won’t do it. He needs media attention like he needs oxygen. Maybe more so. “Quiet” just isn’t in his vocabulary.

T: He’s doing the #NeverTrump cause a huge favor by obsessing over the wall.

J: He’s giving the 2020 Democratic nominee, whoever it is, a whole lot of ammunition to use against him. People won’t forget about this shutdown; it did a lot of damage to a lot of people, hurt credit ratings and mortgages and budgets all over America.

T: Does Trump even run? I suspect he’ll know how bad it is (assuming he doesn’t get a lot more popular in the next year) and not want to risk his ego in what could be an embarrassing loss.

He’ll be a million years old, too.

J: There’s growing talk that he’s going to get primaried. And I wouldn’t be surprised if he, in his heart of hearts, welcomes it if it happens.

T: At this point I would put a second term at about 5/1 against, and I think it’s only going to get worse.

J: Unless he starts a war.

T: Wag the dog.

J: Yep.

Slack Chat: Shutdown II – Cake makes a prediction

January 24, 2019

J: Hey T, day 34 of the shutdown is here. What do you think of all this happy horseshit?

T: Another day, another round of rhetoric, but the shifts seem to be going the wrong way for the GOP. 

Adelson got his fealty pledge from Romney’s daughter but Romney himself crossed the aisle. Trump’s approval rating continues to tank, down to 39.5 and 56.8, the biggest spread in over a year. The votes today went two spots to the Dem side, not a catastrophe but not exactly a ringing endorsement for Trump’s wall.

Meanwhile, Trump is spouting the same line he’s been using since 2015 (gimme my wall!!!!) while the rest of the world is trying to say nice things about the need to compromise. What’s your take?

J: I think there’s going to be a compromise in the very near future. The Dems will roll out their border-security bill tomorrow and basically dare Trump to veto it… it’ll have money for everything in the world except the wall on it, and the fact that six Reps crossed the aisle should tell Trump and McConnell that this is probably the best deal they’re gonna get.

So Trump will agree to it and claim victory (as he usually does no matter how badly he’s had his ass handed to him). But I think we’re in the endgame now. I’d bet that the government is opened before the weekend’s out.

Editor’s note: the shutdown ended the following day.

T: I hope you are right. My intuition is that Trump won’t cave that easily, but he did cave on the SOTU speech. That surprised me.

Is he actually starting to feel vulnerable? Those tanking approval ratings sent a pretty strong message, didn’t they? I mean, 34 percent? That’s usually reserved for impeachments and depressions. My guess is that he won’t cave (wall or bust) but your guess has me doubting my guess.

J: He had no choice but to cave on the speech. Apparently it’s a law and not just a matter of policy that no one, not even the President, addresses a joint session of Congress without an invitation.

T: I thought he might hold a rally; somebody must have talked him out of it.

J: Schumer and McConnell are still talking… I think that they’re trying to get to a deal before the Dems roll out their border-security bill tomorrow. They’re apparently going to give $5.7 billion for other border-security measures, more Border Patrol agents, more judges, infrastructure at points of entry… it’s hard to see how Trump could say no to that.

Slack Chat: Shutdown Showdown I – Flexing

January 23, 2019

J: Hey T, did you see that Nancy Pelosi told President Trump to go have the State of the Union in a Holiday Inn in north Baltimore for all she cares?

T: Those two are funny. Pelosi’s doppelganger twin in this farce is actually Mitch McConnell, not Trump. McConnell’s resistance to a spending bill caused the shutdown. Trump can’t keep Mitch from introducing a bill; he can only ask. It’s on McConnell that he refuses to tell Trump no. 

J: The veto-proof bill, yes.  

T: I don’t think I realized just how politically incompetent Trump was until the shutdown. He has built this reputation as a deal-maker over the years, despite literally never making a deal, by being really good at bragging about all his deals. Now he’s in between two professional dealmakers, desperately trying to judge the wind between them to grab the credit.

And neither is having it. McConnell is standing back and making sure that everybody knows that the shutdown is Trump’s play, not McConnell’s play.

J: And Pelosi is an old hand at the one-upmanship game. 

T: Trump relies on misdirection to get away with his mostly obvious sales tricks. He’ll confuse everyone or distract them while he positions himself to get credit (or shift blame), then once he’s in position he’ll say “hey, look at me NOW!” 

He can’t do that here, because, well … ‘taint nobody lookin’ away this time.

J: I think he’s trying to deal with Pelosi (and probably McCornhole, too) the way he dealt with people in New York City, with bluster and bullying and threats. He’s not used to dealing with someone like Pelosi, who is in charge of the House and knows it. He doesn’t get on the House floor without an invitation, and she’s not about to give him one. Her House, her rules.

T: How do you think his speech will be treated? Will all the networks cover it, or will some of them farm it out to their subdivisions, like the wall speech?

J: I think they’ll cover it, it is the SOTU after all. But Pelosi knows how to hit him where he lives; there won’t be any pauses for applause, no standing ovation when he comes in, no adulation, and that has got to just be killing him. In that sense (the hitting-where-he-lives sense) it was an absolute masterstroke by Pelosi.

T: Will he bring in an audience of sycophants, like at one of his rallies? I bet he wants to. A screaming crowd of red hats, waving those d-picture of a fence signs … he’d feel like John Holmes grabbing Pelosi’s … well, attention.

J: I’m sure he wants to but I’m not sure how he’d pull that off. I expect he’ll do the speech from the Oval, and there’s not all that much room in there. He could go to one of the bigger rooms, but he’d run the risk of looking like he was speaking from a hotel conference room somewhere.

T: I mostly agree with you. But I wonder … given a week and with a desperate need to punch back, and a room full of dipshits who mostly think in revenge and grievance terms, I think something weird might happen. Will he try to be dignified? He really sucks at it, so that would be to Pelosi’s advantage. If I was advising him, I’d say book that area where the protest thing took place and invite everyone in but make sure the crowd is full of MAGA hats and screaming women.

J: I doubt he’ll be able to resist airing his grievances. The Democratic response will be interesting, for sure. What will they say? Will they stick the needle in further or will they try to position themselves as the adults in the room?

T: Trump is an incredibly predictable person, as we well know. His motivation will be clear (make Pelosi look bad) but his obsession with his dick means he can’t look weak. So he has to thread the needle between “she’s being mean to me” and standing over her in his wife beater tank top, pouring beer over her head.

How does he bully Pelosi while making it look like she is bullying him? His previous attempts have largely failed, mostly because he is so obviously lying about everything. He can’t play the truth card without a laugh track.

J: Trump needs a laugh track.

T: And subtitles. I think Kevin Nealon’s subliminal man would be a perfect translator.

Trump: “My wall”
Nealon: “My wall (penis)”
Trump: “National emergency”
Nealon “National emergency! (circle jerk)”
Trump: “Humanitarian emergency”
Nealon: “Humanitarian emergency! (Gimme my wall or I deport the entire cast of Machete)

J: He’ll probably go back to the same playbook as before, accusing Pelosi of being intransigent but not really offering any serious solutions.

T: A State of the Union address is supposed to list accomplishments … how is he going to threadt that needle? I mean, what’s he actually done?

J: He’ll talk up his tax cut, and probably talk about the economy, but other than that he really doesn’t have much to point to. Judges, maybe. But I suspect there’s going to be a lot of stuff that you wouldn’t normally hear in a State of the Union speech. And I’m sure he’ll try and get in a dig at Pelosi.

T: I suppose he’ll — well, he’ll just brag like a god dammed peacock about whatever he brings up, but I have a hard to finding something he can brag about. He’ll be spinning like a top, but the world is learning to wait until he stops spinning before they react.

J: Dreidel , dreidel, dreidel ….. makeamericagreatagaindreidel, dreidel, dreidel …

T: He’s been the Teflon Donald so far, but this could be a speech he’ll regret later. The narrative is in a dangerous place for him right now, and he’s about to provide confirmation bias for the centrists, not just the lefties.

J: He doesn’t realize how unpopular the wall actually is among the rank and file independents.

T: According to the latest AP/Norc poll: 80 percent of republicans still support him, but his overall approval rating is just 34 percent. That means independents have largely soured on him. 

J: He needs the independents.

T: Yep.

Testing the 2018 GOR candidates

Rick Ankiel, 0.1. Players with at least 40 home runs and 40 games pitched:

  • Babe Ruth (714, 163)
  • Rick Ankiel (76, 51)
  • Johnny Lindell (72, 55)
  • George Van Haltren (69, 93)
  • Cy Seymour (52, 141)

Ruth (93), Seymour (61) and Van Haltren (40) each won at least 40 games; Ankiel won 13. Ruth is the only pitcher to start a postseason game who had more career home runs than Ankiel.

Lance Berkman, 0.8. What were the most dramatic singles in baseball history? Merkle’s boner play comes to mind off the top of my head, but I’m sure there have been others that would rank higher. Berkman’s staved off defeat but it didn’t grab victory, so I’m not sure where it would rank.

Berkman had the range of a tree sloth, but he played nearly a thousand games in the outfield anyway because of Jeff Bagwell and (later) Albert Pujols. He was still a championship-level producer; a .400+ onbase percentage and a career ops+ of 144 gave him a net value around five wins above replacement every year, even with the defensive losses. He earned his six top-10 MVP finishes.

Kevin Brown, 1.3. Brown compiled 1.21 Cy Young award shares, 49th all time.

How good is 49th? There are currently 76 players listed in the BBR’s Hall of Fame pitcher register; 35 of them played in 1956 or later and 27 began their careers in 1956 or later.

Orlando Cabrera, 0.0. Last year I called Cabrera, “Edgar Renteria without the postseason highlights.” Renteria is actually third on Cabrera’s historical comps list, behind Royce Clayton and Dick Bartell. It’s a pretty impressive list; Tony Fernandez, Alvin Dark, Garry Templeton, Pee Wee Reese and Frank White are among Cabrera’s top ten comps.

David Cone, 1.0. Allie Reynolds, who missed election to the Hall of Fame by a single vote in 2010, retired at 182-107, 3:30 era, similar numbers to Cone. So if the Hall adds an Allie, it’ll pave the way for a Cone. Yes, I’m sorry. And no, I never considered just deleting it.

José Contreras, 0.2. Contreras posted a 48-27 won-lost record with a 4.28 era (107 era+) in his first four seasons, accumulating 9.8 WAR, 43 Winshares. The rest of his career seems like a massive bust at first glance, 30-40, 4.92 era (93 era+), 3.7 WAR, 24 WS. Keep in mind, though, that he was 31 years old when he threw his first major league pitch.

By then, Contreras had already collected more Cuban hardware than a Miami Beach outlet store the day after Christmas. He was named Cuba’s Athlete of the Year three times during the 1990s. He won gold medals in the Pan American Games, the Baseball World Cup and the Summer Olympics.

He compiled a 57-18 won-lost record with a 2.07 era in the Cuban National Series between 1997 and 2002 before defecting; he was 13-4, 1.76 in his final season.

Manny Corpas, 0.0. By most accounts and measures, Corpas had a huge outlier year in 2007 with a career-best 2.08 era and 19 saves, over half his career total. His eras from 2006-2010 were 3.62, 2.08, 4.52 and 5.88.

But he was the same basic pitcher the whole time. His FIP eras for the same four years: 3.61, 3.60, 3.96, 3.54.

Carlos Delgado, 1.0. In 2000, Carlos Delgado hit .344 with 41 homeruns, 137 runs batted in. He added 57 doubles for a total of 99 extra base hits and 378 total bases. He drew 123 walks and scored 115 runs. His onbase percentage was .470, his slugging percentage .664. Pretty special season, huh?

Not really. Delgado finished fourth in the MVP voting that year:

  1. .333-43-137, 476-.647
  2. .328-43-143, .436-.625
  3. .316-41-132, .420-.606
  4. .344-41-137, .470-.664
  5. Pitcher (Pedro, 18-6, 1.74, 284k in 217 innings)
  6. .324-37-145, .423-.579
  7. .351-38-122, .457-.697

Delgado’s season was one of six virtually interchangeable stat lines from that year alone.

Octavio Dotel, 0.0. Dotel pitched for 13 different teams, throwing anywhere from 5.1 innings to 449, and his earned run average was over three for all 13 teams. His best was 3.25 for the Astros, in 449 innings.

Guys like Dotel, the “have live arm, will travel” types, could be compared to the second wife centerfielders, I suppose. But “have arm, will travel” is dangerously close to “have arm, won’t tell your wife.”

Jim Edmonds, 1.1. Edmonds was a hell of a ballplayer. He was a hell-of-a ballplayer. The D-level Hall of Fame candidates are all like that, aren’t they?

They aren’t the Greats; the BBWAA grabs the Greats, sort of like how your parents used to steal all the snickers bars out of your candy bag on Halloween night. The D-level candidates are the ones that are left after the BBWAA gets done raiding the candy bag, the ones who get the “he was a hell-of-a ballplayer” treatment. They are the Helovas.

Joe Rudi was a Helova (player). Ron Cey was definitely a Helova (player).

Helova, helova, helova. I think this is where I’m supposed to doff my straw hat, wiggle my ears, shake my cane and dance away sideways.

Because old-timers committees are faced with a wide array of players within a narrow array of analytical values, separating them by analytical methods is pretty much impossible. So the committees tend to go for (1) popular choices, usually BBWAA near-misses (Jack Morris, Nelly Fox, Jim Bunning, etc.) (2) their own favorites (the Frischian choices) or (3) the best argument in the room before the voting (Jerry Reinsdorf selling Harold Baines to the 2018 committee).

I think that’s why the old-timers committee choices are invariably controversial. The respective differences between, say Jim Edmonds and Kenny Lofton, Rusty Staub and Harold Baines, Tommy John and Jim Kaat are too small to overrule subjective bias; I think we all understand that. But it’s the same thing with Edmonds and Kaat, Staub and Lofton, Baines and John. D-level candidates are virtually all within the subjective gray area of each other.

So the choices are emotional … and the protests are, in turn, emotional. The references might sound analytical, but the arguments can almost always be distilled down to emotional pleas.

In that environment, Edmonds should do well; he was a perfect Helova. Even his detractors thought he was a hell of a ballplayer.

Which, of course, he was.

Freddy Garcia, 0.1. I presume he holds the record for most 2-strike fastballs that sailed three feet high and wide of the strike zone. He did it so often that his catcher would sometimes just stand up and head over there while Freddy was still winding up.

3. Vladimir Guerrero, 2.2. Will he make it into the GOR before his son wins an MVP award?

Travis Hafner, 0.3. Musclehead Hafner was a Reader’s Digest-condensed version Jim Thome. Hafner led the AL in ops+ twice, in 2004 and 2006; Thome only did it once (2002).

Hafner wasted three years in the minors, waiting for a major league opening, and was pretty much finished as a top-level player before his 30th birthday. For three years in between, though, he was arguably the best hitter in the American League.

4. Roy Halladay, 2.1. Halladay led his league in complete games seven times. Granted, he wasn’t completing 30 games, but he completed nine games in four different seasons at a time when the typical number of complete games for a rotation regular was zero.

Todd Helton, 1.5. Take the air out of his stats and he’s Orlando Cepeda, who finished with an identical 133 ops+ and lands on his BBR comps list despite needing a downward context adjustment that would take a week to figure with a slide rule.

That’s not bad; Cepeda was a borderline C-level candidate who got in quickly through an old timers committee vote after just missing on the BBWAA ballot. I suspect Helton will have a similar path, and maybe get in a little quicker if can dodge the Feds.

Trevor Hoffman, no idea. I mentioned last year that there was no tangible difference between Hoffman and Lee Smith as Hall of Fame candidates. I suspect that is the argument Jerry Reinsdorf made in his (successful) argument for Smith before this year’s old timer’s committee election.

Brandon Inge, 0.0. He should have won a few gold gloves at third base, but as a hitter he was just a guy. I remember he used to hit a bajillion home runs in Spring Training every year. Insert your favorite Hedwig joke here.

Andruw Jones, 0.8. He crossed the defensive spectrum like he was shot out of a cannon. Unlike most D-level candidates, Andruw’s old-timers case will be more analytical than emotional. That might hurt his chances.

Josh Johnson, 0.1. Johnson ultimately underwent three Tommy John surgeries before grudgingly giving up one of the all-time what-if careers in January, 2016. Through 2011 (age 27) he was 48-23, 2.98 era (142 era+) in 725 innings. His top age-27 comp, according BBR, was David Cone.

Johnson’s age 25- and age 26- comps were, ironically as well as redundantly, Rich Harden and Rich Harden.

Nick Johnson, 0.0. Edgar Martinez stole Johnson’s career while he was on the DL nursing a hammy or something.

Jeff Kent, 1.1. Data on aging patterns is one of the simpler “forensic sabermetrics” tools available to the hard-core baseball sleuth. Kent’s aging pattern, for example, looked like a gerbil with the tail of a lion. Ok, maybe a ferret with the tail of a beaver.

Mark Kotsay, 0.0. Kotsay made the most jaw-dropping outfield throw I ever saw. While he was with the Padres, from his position in right field he ran and grabbed a rolling ball off the warning track in deep right-centerfield, spun and heaved it on a line toward the infield before colliding with the wall just right of the centerfield distance marker and rolling around toward left field. The ball traveled something like 380 feet in a giant banana hook and (I swear) hit the catcher on the fly.

His stats tell the story of his rocket arm and its eventual demise. His assist totals were 20-19-14-4 (injury year)-11-13-11 from ages 22-28, then seven to six to, “Hey, have you tried first base?” after that.

Kenny Lofton, 1.3. Lofton played 47 postseason games for five different teams after the age of 35, and four out of the five teams won a playoff series.

Lofton was certainly a Helova, but all that moving around might hurt his chances when it comes time to get emotional about his Hall candidacy. We tend to think of people who move around a lot as sluts; while we think fondly of sluts, we don’t fall in love with them.

Derek Lowe, 0.1. Lowe is one of three pitchers to have a 20-win season and a 40-save season (John Smoltz, Dennis Eckersley) and one of just three pitchers since WWII (Smoltz, Johnny Sain) to top the league in wins in one season and saves in another.

Hideki Matsui, 0.4. If you tied a bandanna around his head he’d look like the “where are they now?” version of a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle.

Willie McGee, 0.4. Speaking of players who looked like amphibians … Willie’s career, all things considered, was comparable to the average Hall of Fame candidate.

Corky Miller, 0.0. Miller played 216 games in 11 seasons with a career high of 39 games, 129 plate appearances. Career batting average .193, career earnings roughly $5 million. Bob Eucker, eat your heart out.

Kevin Millwood, 0.0. In his final ten seasons he pitched 283 games, all starts. It seems strange that he was never tried as a reliever later in his career, given that his early-career era from the bullpen was 1.88 compared to his 4.12 career era as a starter. His peripherals weren’t as impressive as the ERA, though, and it was only 14.1 innings.

Jamie Moyer, 0.5. If Bobby Mathews somehow gets the call to Cooperstown – Bob has friends on the 19th century committee so it’s possible – Moyer would be behind only Tony Mullane, Tommy John and Jim Kaat on the win list among outsiders. I can see all those guys getting in, which would leave Moyer as the wins leader outside Cooperstown.

10. Mike Mussina, 1.7. Would his Hall chances be better had he not played for the Yankees? I suspect he gets a little reverse-discriminated against because he was perceived as an underwhelming postseason pitcher, mostly from his overexposed and overreported work with the Yankees.

I don’t think it’s fair. He was so much older then; he’s younger than that now.

John Olerud, 0.8. Smooth as melted caramel, flowing down a warm spoon.

Roy Oswalt, 0.3. Curt Schilling lite. As a pitcher, I mean; I don’t know a thing about Oswalt’s politics.

Rafael Palmiero, 1.3. Two players come immediately to mind when I think about Palmiero: Will Clark and Al Oliver. Clark, who swapped places with Raffy twice, finished with 1.84 career MVP shares, most of them with the Giants before the PED rush. Al Oliver, Raffy’s closest pre-juice comp, finished with 1.25. Raffy finished with 1.20.

Andy Pettite, 0.8. Pettite doesn’t do well on the Test, but that might just mean I’m sort of sour on him because I’m a Yankee hater. I wonder how he’d do if Marisfan Tested him.

Juan Pierre, 0.3. Pierre led his league in caught stealing while playing for five different teams.

Pierre eventually played for seven teams if you count his return to the Miami Marlins, eight years after leaving the Florida Marlins, but unlike Kenny Lofton, Pierre was never traded during the season. If Lofton was the pricy call girl you paged from the bar; Pierre was a Seinfeld character. Every show, Jerry had a different girl friend and Elaine was dating some guy we’d never heard of. But they limited themselves to one per show.

Darren Oliver, 0.1. Oliver is almost certainly a one-and-done, and I’m sure some people wonder why he made the Cooperstown Hall of Fame’s 35-man ballot But the extreme conditions of Oliver’s time hid how good he was, to an extreme degree.

As a reliever, Oliver posted a 205 era+ when he was 41 years old. It wasn’t one of those 20-inning flukes, either; he pitched 62 games, 56.2 innings. From 2008-2012, in 314.1 innings, his era was 2.52, an era+ of 175. As a young starter (25 years old), he finished 14-6 in 1996 despite a 4.66 era. Was he pitching in good luck? Sure, but not as much as you might think. His era+ was 113.

Oliver threw nearly 2,000 innings in 20 years of major league service, retiring with what looks like a replacement-level 4.51 era but an adjusted era+ of 104 (for reference, Jamie Moyer’s was 103). Oliver posted an era+ of at least 108 in six of his first seven major league seasons, including three seasons of at least 30 starts. After his 35th birthday, he posted seven consecutive seasons with an era+ over 120 as a reliever, five straight over 150 and three straight over 180.

That ain’t a Hall of Famer, but I think he earned his spot on the ballot.

Tony Phillips, 0.3. Phillips played at least 294 games at 2b, 3b, ss, lf and rf, adding 97 games in cf. His range factor was above league average at every position.

Plácido Polanco, 0.1. An outstanding defender who won gold gloves at both second and third base, Polanco may have been miscast. His range numbers at shortstop, albeit in a small sample size, were outstanding. But the Cardinals signed Ed Renteria in 1999 and the Phillies (his next team) had Jimmy Rollins.

Had Polanco gotten a shortstop gig at the start of his career, he may have been a legitimate Hall of Fame candidate. He may have been a gold glove defender and he was a better hitter than Renteria, who was a good enough hitter to be a Hall of Fame candidate.

Jorgé Posada, 0.9. One curious effect of the 30-team league, compared to the old 16-team league, is that it doesn’t spit out more A-, B- and C- level Hall of Famers than the 16-team league did. But it spits out nearly three times as many D-level players.

Bob did a study in 2010 on 2,000-game careers; here’s the link:

I repeated the study, using different criteria (I must have, I got different results):

By decade, using the final season of the player’s career, the number of 2,000 game careers:

  • 1890s: 2 (Cap Anson, Bid McPhee)
  • 1900s: 6
  • 1910s: 10
  • 1920s: 9
  • 1930s: 15
  • 1940s: 9
  • 1950s: 5
  • 1960s: 14
  • 1970s: 24
  • 1980s: 41
  • 1990s: 31
  • 2000s: 41
  • 2010s: 36

The proliferation of D-level Hall candidates will generate cries to “raise the bar,” but I don’t see how that can happen. The “bar” can’t really go up. As I said, the number of A,B and C level candidates hasn’t increased, just the Ds. The Helovas.

Finding separation between Helovas is mostly emotional; if you’ve analyzed these guys as much as I have, you know that there is relatively little analytical difference between them.

Every Helova election brings out the editorials, imploring the BBWAA to “shut the back door!” in an attempt to keep all those rejects from invading the Hall through the old-timers committees. But if the writers close the door, the Hall of Fame will just open it back up. They want their five speeches per year, and it’s their door.

What’s the solution? Tiers. Cooperstown needs to build a new Hall of Fame home with separate tiers to make each tier its own special place. But that’s another discussion, far too big a discussion for, um … who was I talking about?

Oh right, Hip-Hip Jorgé. He’s probably screwed until they build a bigger box. Who’s next?

5. Manny Ramirez, 2.6. Manny’s only top-ten finish in WAR came in 1999, when he finished fourth. His career black ink was below the average Hall of Famer, his gray ink a wee bit above average. He never won an MVP award. Based on his production alone, Manny was one of the best for a long time, but never the best; that makes him more of a C-level candidate than a B.

He was A-level famous, though. Various incarnations of Manny through the decades:

  • 1880s: King Kelly
  • 1890s: Pete Browning
  • 1900s: Heinie Zimmerman
  • 1910s: Joe Jackson
  • 1920s: Hack Wilson
  • 1930s: Joe Medwick
  • 1940s: Vern Stephens
  • 1950s: Gus Zernial
  • 1960s: Leon Wagner
  • 1970s: Rico Carty
  • 1980s: Daryl Strawberry
  • 1990s: Albert Belle
  • 2000s: Manny Ramirez
  • 2010s: Bryce Harper

1. Mariano Rivera (unknown). He’s the 4.0 of relievers, but I have no idea where that should rank compared to, say, Mike Schmidt or Yogi Berra. He’s a no-brainer first ballot Hall of Famer, so there won’t be any argument about that.

Here’s an argument for you: where does Rivera rank among pitchers, period? Is he in the top ten? The top twenty? Forty? BBR’s WAR ranks him 77th among pitchers; the BJOL website shows 273 career Winshares. I suspect Bill is closer – 273 winshares has to be ranked higher than 77th among pitchers, doesn’t it? – but I don’t really know. And nobody else does, either, which should make for a fun argument.

Mauricio Robles, 0.0. Robles is one of 51 players who retired with a higher career whip than era. He is one of eight players who retired with a career era under two and a career whip over two:

  • Steve Larkin pitched twice in May, 1934 for the eventual AL champion Detroit Tigers. He struggled with his control most of his career, compiling a 5.3 bb/9 in the high minors, but pitched as many as 280 innings in a season.
  • Suter Sullivan, who took the mound once for the 1898 St. Louis Browns, played 127 games for the infamous 1899 Cleveland Spiders, primarily at third base. He spent 15 years in organized baseball (1896-1910), playing for two American League teams in 1900 in addition to his two years as part of the St. Louis/Cleveland syndicate. BBR has no record of him pitching in the minor leagues.
  • Harry Raymond tossed an 11-walk complete game in his only major league mound appearance, in 1889. He was Louisville’s regular thirdbaseman in 1889-1890 and played five years in the majors. He also pitched a game for San Antonio in 1888, giving up 11 hits and eight runs in six innings (2.00 whip) but only two earned runs (3.00 era).
  • Bob Pepper got into a single game with the Philadelphia A’s in 1915, during their first purge. BBR doesn’t have any minor league records for him.
  • Jim Delahanty played about half his games at second base and the rest all over the field during an 11-year major league career plus two later years in the Federal League. He was one of the better hitters in the game, but he never found a defensive position he could play well. In case you aren’t sure, yes. He was the fourth-born of five Delahanty brothers who played in the majors. He had the second most impressive career of the family.
  • Doug Allison, primarily a catcher between 1871 and 1879, pitched once for Providence in 1878. He returned to the majors (as a catcher, not a pitcher) for a single-game cameo in 1883, collecting two hits in three atbats for the American Association Baltimore Orioles.
  • Steve Connelly, who appeared with the 1998 Pirates, had a 3.000 whip to go with his 1.93 era. No other player on the list had a whip over 2.75, so he owns that list. A career reliever, Connelly would have likely had a career in today’s game. but the bullpen labor pool was smaller in 1999. He is currently the pitching coach for the Midland RockHounds, the A’s AA farm team.

Sullivan, Raymond, Delahanty and Allison were position players and Pepper was a cypher, leaving Robles, Connelly and Larkin as the only career pitchers on the list.

Robles is still just 29 years old, but he last pitched in 2016 for the independent Bridgeport Bluefish. He could resurface, but he’s swimming down there pretty deep.

I’ll wrap up a few loose ends here:

  • Austin Maddox has the lowest listed era among the 51whip-over-era finishers (0.52, compiled for Boston in 2017) but he’s still active. He was awful in the minors in 2018, though, so it’s possible he’ll hold onto the record.
  • Juan Pena, incidentally another Red Sox pitcher (1999) is second on the list with a 0.69 career era and a .985 whip. Just 22 years old, Pena compiled a 1.64 era in 2000 Spring Training and was slated to be the Sox’ fifth starter. Just before the season started, though, he was hit on the elbow by a line drive. He underwent MCL surgery and never got back to where he was. He retired in 2005 to his native Dominican Republic, continuing to pitch winter ball until 2008.
  • The innings leader among the whip>era guys is Harry Otis. Otis threw 26.1 innings for the 1909 Cleveland Naps, compiling a 1.37 era and a 1.671 whip. He won 24 games in the minor leagues in 1909, but that’s about all I could find. Nicknamed “Cannonball,” Otis passed away in Teaneck, New Jersey in 1976 at the age of 89.
  • The wins leader is Don Florence, who went 3-0 with the 1995 Mets (1.50 era, 1.917 whip). I’m sure one of you guys knows more about him than I can find online. He pulled off the whip>era feat in the minors in 1995 as well, pitching 47 innings with a 0.96 era and a 1.149 whip.
  • Florence pitched the most games (14) with Maddox (13) right behind him. Pena (15) had the most strikeouts.

I didn’t include pitchers who did not give up any earned runs at all. John Dagenhard pitched the most innings without giving up an earned run, 11 in two appearances for the 1943 Braves before leaving for WWII. BBR has no record of him pitching after 1943, but he lived until 2001. His final game was a complete-game win on the final day of the 1943 season.

Scott Rolen, 1.4. If the BBWAA passes on him, he’ll be tossed in the mix with Darrell Evans, Matt Williams and Graig Nettles. I suspect he’ll be at the top of that list because of his high WAR and all the gold gloves, but I don’t know if that’s fair or not.

WAR is an attempt to reflect reality. The key word, in Rolen’s case, might be “reflect.”

Think of WAR as a mirror. It allows you to see what something looks like in reflection, but mirrors distort when you hold them at bad angles. I think there are four angles that are noticeably prone to distortion:

  • Good-but-not-great offensive production at a key defensive position
  • Poor defense at the left end of the spectrum
  • Great defense at the right end of the spectrum
  • Offensive production during periods of extremely high scoring

There is a fifth distortion, but it’s hard to explain because it’s more like the blind spot in the reflection than an actual distortion. The middle positions – second base, center field and third base – get exaggerated results with players who combine good-but-not-great defense and good-but-not-great offense.

I think what happens is that they get sort of a double-count, effectively being twice credited for the difference between average and replacement without being penalized for their lack of value above average. I suspect that the distorted area is largest a little below the .500 player point, roughly halfway between replacement and championship level. Above that point the distortion starts going the other way, as the double counting balances out. I’m sure it exaggerates at the top as well, but wins above championship level might be worth double the wins at replacement level or average level.

Rolen was a good defender at an important position and played in a historically high offensive context. That’s a lot of distortion factors, and all of them in the same direction. I don’t think he’s massively overrated by WAR, but I do think the existing metrics overrate him.

6. Johan Santana, 2.1. That’s by far the highest Test score I’ve come up with for a player who didn’t survive his first year on the ballot. I suspect it’s in part a weakness of the Test itself, with Santana taking advantage of the distortions much like Scott Rolen does with WAR.

Santana is a special case, a condensed version of a 3.5-4.0 pitcher with basically half a career. The BBWAA, awash in perfect resumes, can afford to ****can his imperfect resume, regardless of how impressive his plus-attributes are. Santana will be a far stronger candidate once the Greats are sifted out and he’s up against other flawed resumes. All those double plusses will work in his favor, and the double negatives won’t be as damaging.

7. Curt Schilling, 2.2. I took a moment to look at his politics, including a skim down his Twitter feed. He’s a Koolaid-drinking Tea Party conservative, but I didn’t see any Nazi stuff in his feed. I think his politics are wildly slanted and short-sighted, but I think that about Koolaid-drinking liberals, too.

8. John Smoltz, 2.2. When did the Doyle Alexander trade stop being defensible? I could argue just about any year between 1990 and 1996, depending on how stubborn you feel. Pennants fly forever, though, and the Tigers absolutely would not have won in 1988 without Alexander. It takes a lot to make that move a bad move, and Smoltz took a few years to become the great pitcher we remember.

9. Gary Sheffield, 1.7. If Mike Cameron, Jim Edmonds and Kenny Lofton were the great second wife centerfielders, Sheffield was, I dunno … maybe that witch of an ex who celebrated every divorce with a face lift and a boob job but was still a lousy lay?

Sammy Sosa, 2.0. My favorite Sammy fact: He did not lead the league in home runs in any of the seasons he hit over 60. I would put Bonds in before Sosa. Bobby Bonds, I mean.

Miguel Tejada, unknown. Tejeda (that’s the correct spelling according to his birth certificate) was repeatedly beset by scandal late in what looked like a C-level Hall of Fame career. Revelations of age deception and PED use, a federal charge for lying to the Congress and a 105-game suspension for amphetamine use did everything but erase Tejeda/Tejada from baseball’s history books.

Tejeda/Tejada made $96 million in his career. Now living on a Florida chicken farm he owns with his wife and two kids, Tejeda/Tejada declared bankruptcy in 2015. I don’t know if that means he’s broke or if he is just fading some expenses, and I suspect it’s the latter. But if he’s broke, that’s the cherry on top of a fall from grace that would give Horatio Alger whiplash.

2. Jim Thome, 2.4. I suppose it’s a comment on something that the very white, very large and very Midwestern Thome was thought by some writers to be retarded (he isn’t) and assumed by most writers to be PED-clean (who knows?). Stereotypes are hard to fight against.

I think it’s fair to say, based on the statistics, that Thome was a (slightly) poor man’s version of Harmon Killebrew, though they didn’t look at all alike; Thome looks like Moose from the Archie comics while Killebrew looked more like an 1890s bareknuckle boxer.

Omar Vizquel, 1.1 Vizquel started with the Mariners, and I got to watch him play for a couple of years before he moved on to Cleveland. When he hit .333 in 1999, I figured it was a typo.

And it was, basically. He never hit .300 in any other year.

Billy Wagner, 0.4. His case got a huge boost when the old timers elected Lee Smith. Wags might be the next man up; it’s either him or Dan Quisenberry. If so, Wagner’s grotesque postseason record will probably be dismissed as a small sample size.

I can’t remember who I argued with about Wagner (I think it was a couple of guys), but I’m happy to admit that I was wrong about his Hall of Fame chances. At this point, I think he’s going to make it in. It’ll be a few years yet, but his chances are just miles better now than they were a year ago.

Tim Wakefield, 0.1. I can’t remember why I gave him the .1, but he’s still on the ballot. That’s something.

Larry Walker, 1.4. Walker went from a pitcher’s park in the early 1990s to Coors Field in the middle of the PED era. He missed a lot of games in Colorado and people said he was brittle, but maybe he was just suffering from decompression sickness.

Vernon Wells, 0.0. Hit .270 with 270 homers. I didn’t look; did anyone do that with more homers?

Wells was just a guy, really – a left fielder with a 104 career ops+ – but he had a couple of all-star level years and won three gold gloves. He is still married to his high school sweetheart.

Bernie Williams, 1.2. Bernie was the best first-wife centerfielder of his generation, ironically because the rest of ‘em sucked and he didn’t.

Matt Williams, 1.1. Will he get another chance to manage? He’s coaching third base with the A’s now, a good organization. With his bald pate, pasty white skin and cheek full of chaw, he could be the next Don Zimmer. Is it too late to stick a steel plate in his head?

Kevin Youkilis, 0.1. Youk now scouts for the Cubs, owns a brewery with his brother and is married to Tom Brady’s sister. Apparently preferring underinflated things isn’t a family trait.

Michael Young, 0.2. At the plate he looked remarkably similar to Steve Garvey, the whitest guy in the universe, but Young is ethnically Hispanic; his mother’s family is from Mexico. His wife Christina is also of Mexican descent, so his kids are three quarters Hispanic.

I hope they don’t get deported.

Slack Chat: Stone Wallin’

T: Hey J, did you see this interview with Roger Stone?

Stone might be a serious paranoid – he’s always shifting his eyes everywhere like he’s about to jump at a shadow – but he’s glib, intelligent and very much at ease in front of the microphones.

J: Stone is going to be a tough nut to crack; as you say he’s quick-tongued, and he doesn’t seem the type to fold under pressure.

T: I suspect he has the Trump gene, the ability to believe everything he says. Perfect self-delusion is the ultimate mission for the pathological liar. Stone is a master, and I have no doubt he could pass a lie detector test.

J: That old saying, “he’s so cool, butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth,” fits Stone to a tee. He’s better at sounding plausible than anyone else in Trump’s orbit; Trump probably should have considered him for press secretary.

T: He’d be good at it, for sure. Way better than Sanders,who still has some shriveled remains of her soul left in her body, fighting its way out through her facial expressions.

J: I’ll just wait here while you post about 20 Sarah-memes.

T: You know me too well … I’ll put in a slide show.

J: If you hate Sarah Sanders’ face, this would be a good time to look away.

T: Yeah, this is a lot of Sanders-face. 

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J: Ok, you can look again. Can we get back to Roger Stone?

T: Speaking of faces that could melt nunnery walls, if you gave Roger Stone a dorsal fin he’d look like a Great White shark, wouldn’t he? I suppose that’s what he is; he’s basically a prehistoric predator.

J: All cartilage, digestive tract and alligator shoes.

T: Something like that.

J: Stone is painted into a corner now… he pretty much has to tell the truth because his plausible deniability has been blown. If I were him, I’d be looking for the best deal I could get; the truth without immunity might land him in federal prison for the rest of his life.

T: His latest defense is that none of this stuff is illegal. And I can’t really argue with him. Can you?

J: I forget who it was that said that it’s not the deed that gets you into trouble, it’s the coverup.

T: Mae West?

J: I was thinking one of Nixon’s conspirators.

T: Mae West was a Watergate conspirator?

J: No, she was a vestal – I mean vessel – um, never mind. I don’t think that talking to Assange, in and of itself, would have been illegal. But lying about it to investigators is.

Same thing with Cohen; it wouldn’t have been illegal for Trump to go ahead with the hotel in Moscow, but it was extremely bad optics for a presidential candidate, so Trump had Cohen lie about it and say that they killed the deal in January when in fact it was in the summer. Lying about it was the crime.

T: See, that’s the rub. It’s a coverup, but it might not be the coverup of an actual crime. Trump and his people are paranoids who instinctively cover up whenever they get any attention; it’s as automatic as Stone putting on his dorsal fin and torpedoing a stray baby seal. They are like petty thieves on the streets of Brooklyn; they see a cop, they run, even if they aren’t doing anything technically wrong at the time.

But all the arrests in the world won’t matter without a predicate crime to prosecute. Legally, Mueller and congress might be able to prosecute dozens of these people for the coverup. But without an actual crime beneath the cover, the public will never go for it.

Unless Mueller can find something in the Wikileaks/Russia/business connection that was an actual crime, Trump is going to keep stomping on the White House lawn, fingering the Statue of Liberty and wiping his butt with the Constitution. And his base with stand behind him with arms folded.

J: Conspiracy is a crime. If Mueller can prove conspiracy between the Russians, Stone, Assange and Trump, there’ll be an actual, prosecutable crime that Nancy Pelosi can point to and say “Here, this is why we want to impeach him.” And it would be a godsend for Democrats, who could say “Vote for our guy/gal… he/she isn’t in Putin’s pocket.”

T: Sure. But what is the crime? Conspiracy to do something legal isn’t a crime.

J: Conspiracy to obtain something of value (the Presidency) by deception (of the voters) is a crime.

T: We both know Trump has committed hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands of impeachable offenses — obstruction, abuse of power, conduct unbecoming the office, refusal to support the constitution, etc. But those are fireable offenses, not prosecutable. To find a prosecutable crime, the investigation has to prove the Russia/Wiki/Trump connection was more than gamesmanship.

By your standard, J, the Stormy Daniels payment should have resulted in Trump leaving the White House in cuffs. So where is the line?

J: The problem with the Stormy payment was that Trump used campaign money to pay her off, not his own. I don’t know what ever came of the campaign-finance charges… Avenatti seems to have more or less dropped off the face of the earth after his domestic violence arrest.

T: Daniels is distancing herself from Avenatti like he tried to fart and accidentally crapped himself, but I never thought the campaign finance violation was a big deal in the first place. It’s technicality stuff, fine print crime. It’s not the sort of thing they can present to the public and ask them to care about. To the public, campaign fraud is like speeding or fudging a little on your taxes. They don’t care. And it’s not like Trump needed the 130 grand.

It was hiding of the affair that I thought was criminal. He had just been outed by the Access Hollywood tape as a womanizing sexual predator. To have the Daniels scandal on top of that must have seemed catastrophic. So he had Cohen pay her off. Did Cohen pay anyone else off?

J: There was another one, Playboy model Karen McDougal. Cohen paid her off, too.

Trump used the campaign money because he thought he’d never get caught. It’s one more example of his sense of entitlement, his sense that laws and such are for other people, not him.

T: I think Trump lies more out of fear than aggression. Stone weaponizes lying, using lies like hammers, chisels and anvils. Trump uses lying as a deflector shield, protecting his tender romantic self-image. There is an underlying insecurity that permeates everything Trump says, especially in his Twitter storms.

I think that might be why he’s lied and covered up so many things relating to the Mueller investigation.  It’s not that he’s covering up a heinous crime – the more we see, the less likely it is that any heinous crime was committed – but that he’s trying to hide from embarrassing revelations of weakness.

Trump can’t stand being seen as weak, stupid or shallow. Protecting against that is a constant battle, because (of course) he’s all of those things.

J: I think that’s a pretty fair assessment. Trump didn’t know how solidly his base was behind him, so he covered up the embarrassing story.

I think the comparisons between Trump and Nixon that keep coming out are quite apt; neither of them, in the final analysis, did anything that really influenced their respective elections (since the Watergate burglars were caught), but the subsequent coverups ensnared their associates and ended up bringing Nixon down. I don’t know if Trump will end up the same way, but if Cohen has more tapes the historical parallel will be even closer.

Good Night, Mr. President

George Herbert Walker Bush was the last living GOP president whose service predated the shift in party focus from the middle class to the rural poor. To the end of his life, he presented an image of integrity, honesty and kindness.

I was in the Navy during Desert Shield/Desert Storm; President Bush defined, in my mind, the term, “my President.” He was my president, and I was happy to ride into battle on the horse he chose for me. I didn’t always agree with his policies, but I always trusted his judgement.

He wasn’t quite the last of his kind, but there are precious few left.

Senator Bob Dole may well be the next to go. At 95, Dole is wheelchair bound and mostly skin and bones. His sunken eyes can no longer generate tears, but if you watched the video of Dole saluting President Bush as he lie in state, you know that they are still able to convey emotion.

As he sat back in his wheelchair, exhausted by the simple effort of propping himself against an aide and straining to give President Bush a left-handed salute, Dole’s sunken eyes glowed as he thought about their long lives of service to the flag draped over his old friend’s coffin.

What lives they led.

Each began his service to the country as a teenager, enlisting for World War II. Dole joined the Army as an enlisted man in 1942, becoming an officer in 1945. Bush enlisted in the Navy on his 18th birthday in 1942, took pilot training and was commissioned just before his 19th birthday in June of 1943.

Bush survived the loss of his plane during a bombing mission by flying the flaming plane out to sea and bailing out, eventually getting rescued by a submarine. Pilots who were captured during that mission were executed by the Japanese; had he bailed out when the plane caught fire, Bush would have been one of them.

Dole was hit in the back and upper right arm by German machine gun fire in the mountains near Bologna, Italy in April 1945. He was so badly wounded that his fellow soldiers were powerless to do anything for him. They simply pumped him full of morphine and painted an “M” on his forehead in his own blood, so the medic wouldn’t double-dose him if he lived to see one. He survived (of course), but his right arm was rendered virtually worthless.

Both men served the nation in a variety of roles, Dole primarily as a lawmaker and Bush primarily as an administrator. Dole, long known as a dour, humorless man, built a second career poking fun at himself and touring the nation’s media as a political pundit after losing the 1996 Presidential race. Bush built a family dynasty, of course, and wore just about every hat in the executive branch of the government.

Both men had personalities that suited their generation. Both were strong, stoic leaders during their public service, and both remained heavily involved in civic and charitable projects after they retired from the Beltway.

With the passing of Bush, Dole may be the last Don of the political Greatest Generation. I don’t necessarily buy into the idea that the WWII generation was uniquely great, but they did the deeds. They deserve the applause. We would be lucky to have one of them running things now, or at least keeping the GOP’s current leadership honest.

Rest in peace, Mr. President. My president.

This ain’t your Grandmother’s Climate Change

The biggest obstacle to understanding climate change is that global warming gets all of the attention. The warming aspect is just one aspect of the larger picture.

I am not the most qualified climate change analyst, so take my words with a grain of alcohol (trust me, that’s the best way to take me pretty much all the time).

I see Climate Change as a four-prong issue. These are the four members of the Climate Change band, as first explained in last week’s slack chat with John.

1. Global Warming. This is the actual temperature rise. The public sees a couple of degrees and thinks it’s no big deal, but that’s not how it works. If the ocean temperature goes up a couple of degrees, everything dies. And the balance at freezing moves up and down in fractions of a degree. One degree of temperature rise could mean several hundred miles of coastline melt, and several hundred feet of mountain ice caps.

We have ice ages and tropical ages, of course, so the public justifiably sees small changes as simple ups and downs. They may be right. But the baseline temperature is now significanlly higher than it was before we started burning coal and oil, and before cow farming (coming next).

2. Deforestation. Trees regulate land temperature along with waterways. Deforestation isn’t JUST cow farming, but that’s most of it. The rain forest has gone through some horrible things over the past few decades, as cow farmers and the thugs who love them kill anyone and everyone in their way in order to cut down the forest and replace it with cow farms.

To understand the value of the rain forest, compare the climate around the Amazon to the climate in the Middle East. Because that’s what it would become if you remove the temperature- and rainfall-regulating trees and replace them with grass and methane-spewing cows.

3. Overfishing. Studies show that roughly 90 percent of the Pacific Ocean garbage island is made up of fishing nets. Without a global governing body protecting the oceans, Japan in particular has been fishing the Pacific to within an inch of its life.

Fish used to be cheap, then a little pricier, then actually expensive. Fish houses used to be like burger joints. Now they are gourmet restaurants. The only change? The price of fish, because of how much harder it is to find good fishing in the Pacific Ocean.

4. Resource Depletion. If we use all the oil, the Earth will replace it. In a few million years. Using oil for cars when we have other options is insane.

Think of oil like a bag of halloween candy, about a month after Halloween.

We already ate the snickers bars and most of the other chocolate. Fracking is literally us digging into the bottom of the bag, trying to find the rest of the chocolate. Oilsands — like the Canadian stuff, the so-called Keystone Pipeline stuff — are the dum dum suckers and jolly ranchers.

We use petroleum for tons of other things. What happens when we run out? What happens when oil is so expensive — like fish is now — because it’s so hard to get to, when we’ve sucked all the surface oil dry, fracked the hell out of the rest, and drained the oil sands?

And it’s not just oil. Coal mining … compare mining to using meth. Look around West Virginia, Pennsylvania, at the strip mining. Read up on acid rain, where the smoke stack exhaust rains down on the people living downwind of the plants. Go drink the water in Flint, Michigan. Mining has a lot of the same effects on the Earth as meth on your teeth.

Are there solutions? Sure.

1. We can fix carbon (separate it from the rest of the air), we can reconvert plastic to petroleum, and we can stop using oil and use solar, wind and steam power in its place. We can build batteries out of recycled tires and other refuse, and use the stored power to balance the grid.

2. Trees grow back, but the demand for cow meat is dangerously high. Beef is an incredibly inefficient food source; sooner or later, we have to either learn how to farm in space or eat something else.

3. We need a worldwide governing body to manage resources, including the oceans. Net fishing desperately needs oversight, to prevent overfishing as well as stop the practice of discarding the nets. Better material for the nets — making them more permanent as well as more valuable, so they can’t be discarded — would be a positive step.

4. We only use about two percent of the sun’s ambient power. Technology is advancing, but it will advance a lot faster with public backing. We got a man on the moon in less than a generation. We can get the sun to power our cars, homes and businesses if we make it a priority.

Can we fix it? Yes. Smart people are the most valuable resource in the human race. And they are working on all of the Climate Change issues. They just need public support. Pubic faith, public belief in the need for their work.

Can we wait? I don’t know. But if you found out you had cancer, would you wait until you started puking up blood before you took steps? Of course not.

Ask yourself who is denying it. Do they have a conflict of interest? Of course they do. The rich old men who keep telling us that climate chage is a hoax … of course they do. They want to keep flying around the world in their Gulfstreams, farming cows, drilling for oil, strip mining and otherwise grabbing the Earth’s pussy.

Of course they deny climate change. They deny it like a little kid denies it’s dark when it’s time to come in and take a bath. They don’t want it to be dark, so they’ll keep claiming it’s still light out, even after they can’t see the hands in front of their faces.

The old white men aren’t going to stop denying Climate Change because they flat-out don’t want to believe it’s true.

It’s up to us to stop believing them.

The Will to Power

Robert Robb, who wrote this piece, is not some right wing kook. He’s a dammed good columnist. But he’s wrong here.

Presidents wield power comensurate with their experience and expertise. They need that power to handle their myriad responsibilities.

They have no unique right to power. The President is a public servant, not a master. We own the sumbitch. A big part of the job — the predicate move to gain power — is to understand that the power is within the populace, not the executive office.

President Trump can rewrite executive orders, but the nation does not have to let him just rewrite them in whatever way suits him. He does not have the right to rewrite, so to speak.
He does have the power to rewrite. But the judicial system has the power to rescind his rewrite, if they determine that it runs counter to constitutional law.
That’s what happened here. Because of the president’s public displays of racial animosity toward immigrants who were not white, the court ruled that the rewrite was disengenuous and counter to the public interest.
And they were correct. And the next time President Trump tries to repeal President Obama’s actions regarding immigration, chances are they will also be struck down. Because they will run counter to public interest.
The judges were not liberal, and their decison was not based on partisan animosity.
Most judges are centrist, not really liberal or conservative in the terms we are used to thinking in. Brett Kavanaugh, who the democrats tried to paint as to the right of Breitbart, would be considered a blue dog republican by most political candidates, too liberal to run for office as a republican. The so-called left wing of the Supreme Court would all be considered conservative compared to your average liberal political candidate.
The courts are, at least at the moment, the last bastion of centrism in the nation. They would — and did — shut down Obama when he went too far. They shut down Jefferson, they shut down Lincoln and they shut down both Roosevelts when they overreached, while allowing to stand policy moves that they did not deem as counter to the public interest.
We need to stop thinking in terms of rights for powerful people, and responsibilities toward powerful people. The more power a person has, the more responsible he is supposed to be. Power should never be given as a right. Only despots exercise the right to power.
Power is a tool, and a dangerous tool that should never be given to someone untrained in its use. The courts are the nation’s protection against misuse, abuse and inadvertant damaging use.
Trump’s DACA repeal was all three. Untrained in the use of executive power, Trump hamfisted a new policy that was unenforceable, prohibitively expensive and ruinous to millions of tax paying, longterm Americans. He tried to use his executive power to bully it through, selling it to his supporters as racial animosity.
It’s up to you to decide why he is so convinced his supporters are racists, but the point has nothing to do with racism. The man took the job with no experience. The man does not read or listen, so he isn’t learning how to do much of anything; he still has no real experience.
Even more dangerous is that the nation is getting used to him. They don’t remember what it was like when an actual professional ran the country.They don’t remember when we had a president who didn’t brag about everything like a 5-year-old boy.
Over 40 percent of the nation wants Toonces the Driving President to take the wheel and drive us over a cliff. The courts are our last defense.
Robb is a good journalist, and a thoughtful columnist. He just missed the mark this time. 

Slack Chat: Fuelings … nothing more than Fuelings

T: Hey J, did you know “llamba growing” is an anagram for “global warming”?

J: That doesn’t make any sense. What’s a llamba?

T: I’d tell you, but it would offend the Twitter-verse.

J: Why would that stop you?

T: You are right; the Twitter-verse is to being offended what Beeker is to nervous lab assistants.

J: Got one for climate change?

T: Um ….

How about “tea chime clang”?

J: That sounds like a rap group I’m about to characterize with a wildly racist stereotype.

T: I dare you.

J: No way. I get enough GOP junk mail as it is.

T: That wasn’t racist.

J: No, but it was sort of partisan … Partisanist? Partist? Sanist?

T: Careful.

J: Sanist is the other part of … never mind. What do you want?

T: Just catching up … how’s the weather up there in Connecticut?

J: It’s 60 and sunny. We are thinking about planting a banana tree.

T: In Connecticut?

J: This global warming stuff is getting out of hand.

T: Come to think of it, Grillmates just came out with a line of sun screen.

J: Lady Gaga’s meat suit is now medium-well.

T: I can see snow out my window, so we are at least a little pink in the middle, still.

Wait, Lady Gaga’s meat suit? How long ago was that?

J: I dunno … ten years?

T: That suit would be ripe enough to gag a maggot by now.

J: How long did you have that locked and loaded?

T: I dunno … ten years?

J: I think I heard it the first time from my grandfather when he was changing my diapers.

T: Are you still …

J: Stop it.

T: It’s a good thing Gaga passed that meat suit through her body first, or it would really stink by now.

J: A poop joke? We are roasting on our own spit up here, and you are making poop jokes?

T: Hey, at least you’ll cook evenly.

J: Seriously, though, the weather has been pretty warm here lately.

T: We’ve been fairly mild too, at least the last couple of years. I think over time our seasons have moved a little bit forward, too. We seem to get spring a little later, and fall lasts a little bit longer every year compared to what I remember from when we were kids.

J: Well, that’s global warming for ya… it’s subtle, but it’s there. Like the notes you don’t play in jazz.

T: I’m not sure that qualifies as global warming. Global repositioning? I dunno.

J: Global forwarding? Global call forwarding? Global your pleasure, Global your fun?

T: “Doc, all this heat is making me dizzy and I have global vision.”

J: George Global-U Bush.

T: Nope. Doesn’t work.

J: Worth a try.

T: Yaknow, I don’t think global warming is all that well understood, at least by the masses. Political causes use it like a football so much that it’s almost impossible to get a good grasp on what the term actually means.

J: People tend to confuse climate with weather.  Weather is what you see when you look out the window; climate is the big picture. People look out the window and see that their weather is pretty much the same as it ever was, so they tend to think climate change is a hoax.

T: Yep. Plus Climate Change and Global Warming aren’t the same thing, but they are bandied about together so much that the public thinks they are.

J: That’s true too. Global warming is just the number by which the Earth is warming. Climate change is the effect that number has on Mother Nature’s big muscles, the ice caps, the oceans and the forests.

T: To me, Global Warming is the lead singer of the Climate Change band. Here’s the band:

  1. Global Warming, playing the greenhouse effect. And sometimes the tambourine.
  2. Deforestation, playing the cow farms replacing the Amazon rain forest and other temperate climate forests that keep the land masses from becoming deserts.
  3. Resource depletion, playing the oil derricks, coal mines and occasionally the spoons.
  4. Overfishing the oceans, playing the fishing nets that comprise 90 percent of the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Island.

Global Warming interacts with the others, especially with deforestation. Forests regulate temperature patterns along with rainfall patterns.

J: All of those things play into climate change. It’s not as simple as just cars or cow farts, although both of those play a role, maybe the bass fiddle or the keytar.

T: I think a lot of people use the term Global Warming when they really mean Climate Change, and vice versa.

I’m not sure which is more disingenuous. Using Climate Change when you mean Global Warming dismisses the effects of deforestation, overfishing and resource depletion. Using Global Warming when you mean Climate Change gives deniers an excuse to scream bullshit, because they can’t tell weather from climate.

And it works, because the people who need to be convinced can’t tell, either.

J: It’s not helpful that there seem to be a lot of deniers in the government at the moment. Their mantra seems to be “drill, baby, drill” despite the strong scientific evidence that CO2 emissions are the lead guitar and backing vocals of the Climate Change Band. And no, I’m not gonna let go of that analogy. I like it.

T: The Climate Change band album:

  1. “Rock my World” (with an actual rock)
  2. “Love me Tender” (but stop eating cows)
  3. “Joy to the World” (Jeremiah was an extinct bullfrog)
  4. “Stairway to Heaven” (made out of fishing nets and discarded fracking equipment)
  5. Inna Godda Davida (I got nothin’, that’s just the phonetic spelling of Iron Butterfly’s drunk-assed lead singer trying to say “In the Garden of Eden”)

OK, it’s an EP. Sue me, I got bored.

J: I won’t sue you, but the Iron Butterfly guy might.

T: By the way, you used climate change for global warming again. I’m going to start charging you a quarter every time you do that. I need a jar…

J: A jar for one quarter? Optimistic, aren’t you?

T: That’s one hell of a superhero nickname, isn’t it?  I’m “The Iron Butterfly Guy! AWAY!” (tries to fly, falls into the drum set)

J: Anyway, what are we going to do about it? People ain’t gonna stop eating cows, and they ain’t gonna quit driving cars. So what do we do? Give cows Gas-X?

T: I think Global Warming is the least worrisome of the four horsemen of the Climate Change apocalypse.

J: Jeez, mix metaphors much?

T: It’s the Ringo in the Climate Change band. Satisfied?

J: I am, but now Ringo’s getting a lawyer.

T: Smart people have learned how to fix carbon, and other smart people have learned how to turn old plastic bags into fuel. It’s early in the process, but the Wright Brothers didn’t start out with a 747.

J: Good point, Batman.

T: Thank you, Alfred. Sunpower is the long term solution, I think. We only use about two percent of the sun’s ambient power potential. We’ve made massive strides recently, and we’ll make more.

Wind power, I suspect, is the eight-track tape of the new energy paradigm, but it has led to some nice innovations. One is that battery storage can bridge the gap between oil- and coal-based electricity and sun power. Maybe wind is the cassette tape to sun power’s MP3 of the future.

J: What’s the CD?

T: It’s a disc they use to … oh, you mean metaphorically?

J: If it’s not too much trouble.

T: Lemme think about it.

J: The huge (glowing) elephant in the room is nuclear power, if we could just eliminate the regulatory issues. The next generation of nuke plants are far more efficient than current ones.

Germany gets something like 80 percent of its electricity from nukes. It could be done here, too, but people still hear “nukes” and think “Three Mile Island”, even though that was really no biggie, radiation-wise. Chernobyl was WAY worse, but that was a reactor design that was archaic in the 1980s and would never even be considered today.

T: Nuclear power might be the CD in the metaphorical alternative fuel soup.

J: That’s a lot of adjectives for a soup nobody will ever order.

T: I’m sure Sarah Sanders has had a bowl or two.

J: Saliva is not an alternative fuel.

T: Or metaphorical.

J: So how is it the CD (nuclear power, not saliva)? Impress us with your amazing logic, Batman. If that is your metaphorical name.

T: Well, the public issue with nuclear power is the fear of a blowup. I don’t know what the blowup chances are, but it’s like anything else that would be catastrophic if it ever happened. One blowup is too many.

The primary concern, as I see it, is that nuclear power generates so much toxic waste that, in comparison, the ocean garbage island looks like a flower pot.

And nuclear waste isn’t just dangerously toxic to humans. It’s literally the earth’s juice being wasted. How much nuclear power can we get from the earth before we are right back to dangerously depleting its resources?

Like the CD, we’ve made nuclear power largely obsolete by harnessing wind and the sun. We don’t need nuclear CDs in an MP3 world of wind and sun power.

J: I don’t think there’s any one “right” answer; I think solar, wind, hydroelectric and nuclear all have their places in the future.

The biggest thing we need to do is get away from burning fossil fuels, for power generation and (especially) in our cars. Electric cars are the wave of the future; we should do more to encourage people to buy them and, equally importantly, encourage car makers to build them. There used to be a tax credit for buyers of electric cars; that should be reinstated, and there should be some form of subsidy for manufacturers.

Ironically, steam-powered vehicles were just about to overcome their major tech hurdles when they were swamped by the Model T. They had problems with boilers either not lighting or exploding, but Stanley had ironed those bugs out. Unfortunately, they – along with most other early automakers – got crushed under Henry Ford’s wheels.

T: The best way to get electric cars into the mainstream is to make electric cars that the public will want to buy. We need electric sports cars, big ole electric trucks and white electric panel vans for pedophiles.

OK, maybe not the last one.

J: Tesla is already building electric sports cars; electric semis are on the horizon, but still a couple years from mass production. As far as electric pedophile vans go, I wouldn’t know. Hopefully, they’ll have the capability to connect the battery directly to the driver’s testicles.

Burma Shave and a Haircut

This is different. Vice President Mike Pence braced Myanmar’s leader about the nation’s treatment of Muslim refugees coming in from Bangladesh and the jailing of two Rueters journalists.

“The violence and persecution by military and vigilantes that resulted in driving 700,000 Rohingya to Bangladesh is without excuse,” Pence said.

Her response:

“We understand our country better than any other country does. I’m sure you will say the same of yours.”

Every news outlet has the story. I culled this passage from the Associated Press:

“Myanmar’s government and most of the nation’s Buddhist majority say the members of the Muslim minority are ‘Bengalis’ who migrated illegally from Bangladesh, and do not acknowledge the Rohingya as a local ethnic group even though they have lived in Myanmar for generations.”

Sound familiar? Even though they have lived there for generations. It’s the birthright citizenship argument. ‘Migrated illegally’ is code for ‘we don’t want them here.’

That should sound familiar. Every immigrant group in American history has tried to close the door behind it. Irish, Italian and German immigrants were treated like we treat Muslims and Hispanics now, back in the 19th century.

That might be the crux of the immigration debate right there. Half the world thinks we are all part of the same race, allowed to move freely and mingle. The other half thinks there are distinct races, and thinks they ‘own’ the borders of their nation.

I suppose both are equally valid in a political arena, but even Vice President Pence is telling you that national borders are not sacrosanct.

The Burmese leader doesn’t agree — it’s MY border! MY CHEESY POOFS!!! — and that’s part of the understanding. It’s a lot easier to see how immigration is supposed to work from a distance. It’s not so easy when it’s your cheesy poofs that some outsider is reaching for.

How can we get a little bit better here? What can we learn?

I think we should simply take Pence at his word. The GOP’s #2 man just said, in front of the world’s press, that a national push to refuse, reject and remove immigrants based on religion or previous nationality is (his words) “without excuse.”

This won’t change anything, at least not in a hurry. But I will step a little lighter today, knowing that there is at least one member of the GOP leadership who isn’t a rabid nationalist.