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Sunday, March 19, 2017

Hidden history

This past week, during spring break, we had workers in our home stripping wallpaper from the master bedroom, dining room, and stairwell.

Underneath the wallpaper in the lower stairwell, the workers uncovered this message: "Native Dancer 1953." Here's a picture:


I'm curious about this as Native Dancer was a 1953 contender for the Triple Crown. It won the Belmont and Preakness, but lost the Kentucky Derby by "a head." In 22 career starts, Native Dancer won 21 races. Someone even wrote a book about him.

Why did someone scratch that into the wall of our home? Did they lose a big bet? Win a bet? Did they have a more personal connection? Dunno.

The horse was from Maryland, by the way, where I went to graduate school, was bred and owned by a Vanderbilt, and was nicknamed the "Grey Ghost." Wikipedia has these additional pieces of trivia:
"He appeared on the May 31 cover of Time magazine. Many consider the 'Grey Ghost of Sagamore' to have been the first Thoroughbred television star and TV Guide ranked him as a top icon of the era....In the Associated Press rankings of the greatest racehorses of the 20th century, he was ranked #3, tied with Citation, behind only Man o' War and Secretariat."


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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Oscars for 2016 Films

Academy Awards 2016
Public Domain from Flick: Jennifer Lawrence Films
The Academy Award ceremonies are tonight and my wife and I have again been using some of our leisure time to view nominated films and acting performances. Regular readers may recall that I only saw one of the films nominated for best picture during the 2016 calendar year.

We started watching nominees very late this year and didn't see many of the nominated movies or performances. Thus, this post is something that will be updated later in the year as we watch more of these films.

In any case, based on my recent attempts to see at least some of the contenders, I'm going to rank-order the films and acting performances. Obviously, this is my completely subjective perspective -- and hardly an ideal way to think about art. Plus, I can only rank the small sample of performances I watched. That is a big limit since I failed to see 6 of the Oscar-nominated Best Picture nominees (including the favorite) and I've yet to see most of the acting performances.

Keep in mind that these are not my predictions about winners in each category. Go to the Hollywood Stock Exchange if you want predictions based upon betting markets. Spoiler Alert: La La Land is a big favorite for Best Picture and its female star (Emma Stone) seems to be one of the biggest favorites in a major acting category. The film's director Damien Chazelle is also expected to win an Oscar. In other categories, Fences co-stars Denzel Washington and Viola Davis are strongly favored to pick up hardware, as is Mahershala Ali of Moonlight (and Hidden Figures).

Note for future readers: Films and performances shaded in yellow below will indicate additions/edits after the Oscars are awarded (and the original blog posting).

Best picture

Hell or High Water
Hidden Figures **
Moonlight

Arrival
Fences
Hacksaw Ridge
La La Land
Lion
Manchester by The Sea

Comment: I really liked Hell or High Water, but it is a crime noir film, one of my favorite genres. Hidden Figures was quite well done and I liked it too. Both films had some cliches of their respective genres. Moonlight is an excellent movie too.

Best director

Barry Jenkins – Moonlight

Denis Villeneuve – Arrival
Mel Gibson – Hacksaw Ridge
Damien Chazelle – La La Land
Kenneth Lonergan – Manchester by the Sea

Best actor in a Leading Role

Viggo Mortensen – Captain Fantastic

Casey Affleck – Manchester by the Sea
Andrew Garfield – Hacksaw Ridge
Ryan Gosling – La La Land
Denzel Washington – Fences

Comment:

Best actress in a Leading Role

Isabelle Huppert – Elle
Ruth Negga – Loving
Natalie Portman – Jackie
Emma Stone – La La Land
Meryl Streep – Florence Foster Jenkins

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Mahershala Ali – Moonlight
Jeff Bridges – Hell or High Water


Lucas Hedges – Manchester by the Sea
Dev Patel – Lion
Michael Shannon – Nocturnal Animals

Either of those guys could win. They were both fantastic.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Naomie Harris – Moonlight
Octavia Spencer – Hidden Figures **

Viola Davis – Fences
Nicole Kidman – Lion
Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea

Her character is a villain in the film, but Harris was great in her role.

Best Documentary Feature

I failed to see any of these before the Oscars:

Fire at Sea
I Am Not Your Negro
Life, Animated
O.J.: Made in America
13th

Comment: Netflix had 13th available to stream prior to the Oscars and the O.J. film is on demand on TV -- from ESPN, I think. A couple of others are on Prime. This is a category that I should have given more attention weeks ago.

Best Foreign Language Film

And I haven't seen these either:

Land of Mine (Denmark) in Danish
A Man Called Ove (Sweden) in Swedish
The Salesman (Iran) in Persian
Tanna (Australia) in Nauvhal
Toni Erdmann (Germany) in German

Toni Erdmann tops some lists as best picture of 2016. I'm eager to see it.

** I saw these films or performances in the theater.


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Saturday, February 25, 2017

ISA 2017

View from my window at the Hyatt Regency

I attended the 2017 ISA conference in Baltimore this past week. It's enormous and I have ambivalent feelings about it. There are 75 to 80 panels at a time, with at least 5 people usually on each panel (4 or 5 papers is typical on "regular" panels, plus a chair/discussant). Lots of people complain about under-attended panels, but many show up for roundtables featuring prominent scholars in the discipline.

I managed to see a few old friends from academia and from the "real" world. I visited a brewpub and a craft beer bar, walked around Camden Yards, and took the commuter train to DC in order to do some work tied to my job as department chair. Soon, I'll try to upload a few pictures with this post.
Pictured below: the Babe Ruth statue outside Camden Yards and the beer menu from The Brewer's Art last Wednesday night.



Saturday morning, I presented a paper on "Trump and American Foreign Policy; A Threat to Peace and Prosperity?" I've uploaded it to my Academia.edu page and my Research Gate page. I'm grateful to Fabrizio Coticchia for his helpful comments. I'm not sure what to do with the paper, but Fabrizio had helpful insights about Silvio Berlusconi that seem directly applicable to Trump and about the literature on political "outsiders" who assume executive power.

If anyone reads the paper and has comments, please send them along. Also, I'm genuinely looking for ideas about what to do with it. At minimum, it has prepared me for teaching about Trump in class.

Note: "The Voice" tv program was conducting auditions just around the corner from my hotel and near the conference. Here's a photo of the line:




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Sunday, January 01, 2017

Films of 2016



As I note every December, I watch a lot of movies, though most are viewed on my television -- on DVD, from DVR recordings, or streamed from Netflix or Amazon Prime. Because I have not yet seen that many new films in the theater, I cannot yet write a credible post on the best movies of 2016. Most of the highly touted films are released in December, a very busy month. Eventually, of course, I will see them.

Again this year, I missed many of the summer blockbusters as well.

Indeed, the best films I saw this past year were movies that I originally missed in the theaters in prior years. I saw many late 2015 Oscar-bait films in theaters earlier this year. Again, I'll surely see most of the 2016 Oscar-bait films early in 2017.

To make this abbreviated 2016 list, I scanned the top grossing movies of the year, as well as IMDB's most popular titles for 2016. I also consulted Metacritic.

In rank order of my preference, these were the best 2016 films I saw this year, as best as I can recall:

Hell or High Water
Eye in the Sky
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them **
10 Cloverfield Lane
Keanu
Green Room

These were OK, but flawed films:

The Nice Guys
Swiss Army Man
Hail, Caesar!
Deadpool
Ghostbusters
Eddie the Eagle
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
How to Be Single

** I saw this film in the theater.

Only a couple of these films are doing well in end-of-year critic lists, but I anticipate the excellent Hell or High Water to be competitive for Oscars. Some of the others may be nominated for costumes, music, or effects.

The bulk of the my 2016 list consists of genre films -- comedies, action flicks, and science fiction. They are not ranked very carefully, though I think that the ones near the top are superior to the ones near the bottom.

Keanu provided genuine laughs for my entire family and Eye in the Sky offered riveting suspense and drama -- with a political context. I enjoyed Fantastic Beasts more than I did any of the Harry Potter films.

Here's the annual list of 2016 movies that I intend to see in the future (hopefully in 2017):

13th, 20th Century Women, Above and Below, American Honey, April and the Extraordinary World, Arrival, Barry, A Bigger Splash, Bleed for This, Cafe Society, Captain America: Civil War, Captain Fantastic, Cemetery of Splendor, Certain Women, Creative Control, The Dark Horse, Deepwater Horizon, Doctor Strange, Don't Breathe, Don't Think Twice, Edge of Seventeen, Elle, Everybody Wants Some!!, The Family Fang, Fences, The Fits, Florence Foster Jenkins, Francofonia, Hacksaw Ridge, Hello My Name is Doris, Hidden Figures, Imperium, Indignation, The Infiltrator, The Invitation, Jackie, Jason Bourne, Krisha, LaLa Land, Lion, The Lobster, Lost City of Z, Louder than Bombs, Love & Friendship, Loving, Maggie's Plan, Manchester by the Sea, Midnight Special, Moonlight, Morris From America, Nocturnal Animals, Paterson, Patriots Day, The Phenom, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Sausage Party, Silence, Sing Street, Southside with You, Star Trek Beyond, Sully, Take Me to the River, Tickled, Time to Choose, Toni Erdmann, Tower, Under the Sun, Weiner, Where to Invade Next, Wiener Dog, The Witch, and Zero Days.

Keep in mind that I didn't get around to seeing many 2015 movies from last year's wishlist:

45 Years, '71, 99 Homes, Amy, Anomalisa, The Assassin, Best of Enemies, Beasts of No Nation, Carol, Chi-Raq, Clouds of Sils Maria, Crimson Peak, The Danish Girl, Dope, End of the Tour, Everest, Far From the Madding Crowd, Furious 7,  Good Kill, Goodnight Mommy, Home, Human Capital, I'll See You in My Dreams, It Follows, Jimmy's Hall, The Look of Silence, Macbeth, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Mr. Holmes, Salt of the Earth, Son of Saul, Straight Outta Compton, Timbuktu, Tommorowland, Truth, The Walk, A Walk in the Woods, Wild Tales, The Wrecking Crew, and Youth.

Virtually all of those films are now readily available -- as DVDs at my University library or as recordings on my DVR. A few are on Netflix, HBO, etc.


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Saturday, December 31, 2016

Books of 2016

Source: NEH.gov

As I have annually since 2005, I am posting a nearly complete list of books I read in the preceding year.

Please allow me to repeat the ground rules: First, I generally do not list academic books that I reviewed unless the review was published. In my academic job, for instance, I read a number of books competing for a $100,000 award exhibiting the best "ideas for improving world order." However, only the winning entry is listed here. I read it as a member of the Final Selection Committee.

Of course, since I'm an academic, I read multiple chapters and large sections of many books pertinent to my research and teaching. However, I'm not going to list those here unless I read them cover-to-cover. Save for the books I use in class or read for review, I often skim over some portions even of outstanding books. It's a time/efficiency issue.

So, what did I read this year, mostly for pleasure? (Some of the recommended books include a link to Powell's books; the blog receives a 7.5% commission on sales that begin via my Powell's links). I posted short reviews of most books at Goodreads (migrating from Shelfari). 

Non-fiction

Schools for Conflict or for Peace in Afghanistan by Dana Burde

How Bill James Changed Our View of the Game of Baseball ed by Gregory F. Augustine Pierce

Crazy '08 How a Cast of Cranks Rogues Boneheads and Magnates Created the Greatest Year in Baseball History by Cait Murphy

On Bullshit by Harry G. Frankfurt

I also read just about every word in Baseball Prospectus 2016, but not in cover-to-cover fashion. It was again edited by Sam Miller and Jason Wojciechowski.

Of these non-fiction books, the Burde book really stands out and it won the 2017 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order. Though the work focuses on the role of education in US foreign policy towards Afghanistan, it is more widely applicable to education policy in other nations.

I was somewhat disappointed in the Frankfurt book. It was undoubtedly a good political year to read it, but it was kind of dull. I'd heard of the book more than a decade ago and the original essay was written in 1985. Watch the video linked here to see Frankfurt interviewed by Jon Stewart on The Daily Show years ago.

I read the Murphy book because it seemed like 2016 was going to be the Cubs year to end their losing ways. And it was. However, in truth, I kept falling asleep late at night reading the rich detailed history of the 1908 season. It is interesting if you like baseball history, but I could have used a more compact version.

The Festschrift for Bill James had some interesting passages, and it was a quick read, but it does not include a lot of new information for the savvy baseball fan.

Fiction

As I traditionally do, I place the best works of literature at the top of the list, then the genre fiction (though there are some books that could be placed in either category). The least interesting or entertaining books are listed last in each section.

Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain

Rabbit at Rest by John Updike

If He Hollers by Chester Himes

Earth Abides by George R. Stewart

Joyland by Stephen King

The Wheelman by Duane Swierczynski

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

F is for Fugitive by Sue Grafton

Borrowed Time by Robert Goddard

Early Autumn by Robert Parker

The Concrete Blonde by Michael Connelly 

The Zebra-Striped Hearse by Ross Macdonald

Black Betty by Walter Mosley

The Dreadful Lemon Sky by John D. MacDonald

The Jugger by Donald Westlake (as Richard Stark)

Xenocide by Orson Scott Card

To the Hilt by Dick Francis

Raylan by Elmore Leonard

Dog On It by Spencer Quinn

Jimmy the Kid by Donald Westlake

The Fountain and Updike books are definitely the cream of the crop here. I highly recommend Fountain's tale of a young war hero home for a PR junket to help market the war on terror. It is incisive and very well-written. Updike's Rabbit Angstrom is an interesting character who deserved another book. Put simply, Updike was a master. The book set in the 1980s mentions both Donald Trump and Roger Ailes.

I again read a couple of prominent science fiction works this year, books that true fans probably finished years ago (long before they were my age). Xenocide was OK, but the first book in the Ender universe is difficult to top. Earth Abides is definitely a classic, but some of it seems a little dated now. 

Thanks mostly to Bookmooch and PaperBack Swap, I continue to read books by a diverse array of (mostly) hard-boiled crime story authors. These writers typically develop a single main character across a long series of books: Parker's Spencer, Stark's Parker, John MacDonald's Travis McGee, Grafton's Kinsey Millhone, Mosley's Easy Rawlins, Connelly's Harry Bosch, and Ross Macdonald's Lew Archer.

Spencer and McGee are starting to confront their position in life. Grafton seems to get better with every book.

Several of the books near the bottom have comedic elements -- but the jokes don't always work.




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Monday, December 26, 2016

RIP Mom

Agnes Augusta (Ard) Payne was born October 1, 1939, into a very large family of seven children. Agnes was a common family name, as her grandmother McFayden was named Agnes, as was a cousin, and a direct ancestor (Agnes Scott) who lived in the early 1800s  in Scotland.

Ultimately, her family would include five brothers (Elmer "Buster," Merle, Jack, Ed and Bobby) and four sisters (Ethel, Lois, Edith and Verna). She also had two step-siblings from her father's previous marriage. The family lived in a modest-sized house in Osage City, Kansas.

Mom told few stories of her childhood and youth in the small town. She was born towards the end of the Great Depression and the family was poor even by the standards of the time. She shared a bed with multiple siblings and typically wore hand-me-down clothes.

One of her most vivid shared memories of her childhood was watching televised boxing with her father. In high school, she missed an entire year with rheumatic fever. She kept up with her studies, however, and graduated in 1957 with her classmates.

At age 20, Mom married my father, Allen Payne, in July 1960. The Payne family had been neighbors in Osage City and Mom's older sister Ethel married one of my Dad's older brothers (Dean).

Allen Payne worked for a road construction company, so he and my mother soon began living a nomadic life across Kansas and parts of Oklahoma. I was born in August 1961 in Ulysses, Kansas, and my sister Gina was born in October 1962 in Emporia, Kansas. Gina was born only a day after my mother's 23rd birthday.

Sadly, Mom's parents died in 1961 and 1962. My sister and I did not know our grandparents, but had an enormous supply of aunts, uncles and first cousins.

As construction projects were completed, our family moved repeatedly in Kansas -- to Salina, Manhattan, Wichita, McPherson, Ottawa, Ponca City (Oklahoma), Osawatomie (for school, but the rural route home address was Paola), El Dorado, and Kingman. Neither my sister nor I had ever attended the same school more than two years in a row when we arrived in Sand Springs, Oklahoma, in summer 1977. I completed my final two years of high school there and my sister was able to complete her remaining three years.

Throughout those school years, Mom was the primary caregiver as my father worked long hours and often commuted great distances to the worksites. In the construction business, it was common to work six days per week when the weather was good because winter often shut everything down to a stop. As he got older, my father also took on increasingly demanding work responsibilities as he was promoted from laborer to equipment mechanic, to machine operator, to foreman, to supervisor, to executive.

Mom was responsible for integrating the children into new schools almost every year, as well as packing the household for the regular moves. When settled, she transported my sister and I to swim lessons, sports team practices, Brownies and Cub Scouts, bowling leagues, etc. She often did this without much of a social network since the entire family was new to the communities we joined.

As her children grew up and gained independence, Mom occasionally worked in light manufacturing. She worked in sewing factories on multiple occasions, making men's sports jackets and blue jeans. She also worked in a Venetian blind factory as some sort of inspector towards the end of the production process.

Mom was largely responsible for my career as an academic as she was a firm believer in the value of education. She used to help my sister and I prepare for tests and she always made sure our homework was completed. My father and mother set firm rules about bedtime and clearly instilled strong values in my sister and I. Mom often regaled shoe sales staff and clothing clerks with stories of her childrens' successes (this continued through grandchildren). If they listened patiently, they usually earned a sale.

Mom loved dogs and had a fear of cats developed in childhood. The family had a pekinese named Blondie in Wichita that ate only when my mother fed her. She was tolerant of a beagle named Droopy that my sister and I had through most of the 1970s. After I went to college, my parents adopted a part-chow named Sam and a larger mutt named Boots. Sam was friendly to everyone in the family, but Boots followed my mother everywhere.

Mom liked to sew and also crocheted until her worsening arthritis made this impossible. My family still owns several afghans that she made in the 1970s and 1980s. She enjoyed the works of Erma Bombeck and owned a small library of her books. Mom also liked music, especially country music. She was a fan of Mac Davis and Charlie Pride in the 1970s and advanced to Randy Travis in the 1980s. We saw Mac Davis perform live in Kansas City at Worlds of Fun in the 1970s. Mom often spoke favorably of Owasso neighbor Garth Brooks and I think she liked Carrie Underwood as well. She enjoyed gardening too and once had an enormous tomato patch (nearly 50 plants!) and canned a great deal of food.

Mom was a loving and doting grandmother to my children, born in 1993 and 1996, and to a slightly older grandson who was welcomed into the family upon my sister's marriage. A final granddaughter was born in 1998. Grandma and Grandpa Payne traveled frequently to see these grandchildren, provided an enormous amount of babysitting, and generously purchased all kinds of toys, shoes, clothing, and other necessities of childhood.

As my father's career advanced, my parents were able to abandon the nomadic lifestyle. Indeed, my mother lived in Oklahoma from 1977 until her death. Initially, she and my father purchased some rural property near Mannford, Oklahoma and lived there for several years in the mid-1980s. In 1986 or 1987, they purchased a home in Owasso where they lived until late 2004. After a brief stay in a rental apartment, they moved into their last house in 2005 and Mom lived there until she had a bad fall a few years ago. Dad died in October 2008 on Halloween. Save for the last few months of her life, Mom spent several years in an apartment in an assisted living facility near the famous Southern Hills golf course in Tulsa.

Unfortunately, Mom suffered creeping memory loss and some form of dementia. She had a bad fall in August, which landed her in the hospital with a broken arm and injured leg. Sometime in September she contracted a serious infection that sapped her strength and will to live. Indeed, Mom never fully recovered even after a second hospital stay in the autumn. She died on December 23, 2016.


Updates:

Obituary here.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial contributions to the:

Alzheimers Association
225 North Michigan Ave., FL. 17
Chicago, IL 60601
Alz.org


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Sunday, December 04, 2016

Dr. Strangelove's "Wargasm"


I forgot to blog about this, but back on November 4-5, I attended the annual ISAC-ISSS conference at Notre Dame University. If you are interested, my paper was entitled "Grappling with Dr. Strangelove’s Wargasm Fantasy," which was placed on a panel "Perspectives on Gender and Security."

Here's the abstract:
Dr. Strangelove continues to be one of the most acclaimed comedic films of all-time, often appearing on critics’ lists enumerating great films. Likewise, international relations experts commonly view the film as a “no brainer” choice among the most essential IR-themed movies. Dan Lindley’s 2001 Teaching Guide to Dr. Strangelove offers the standard rationale for studying this film. It can be “a springboard to discuss deterrence, mutually assured destruction, preemption, the security dilemma, arms races, relative versus absolute gains concerns, Cold War misperceptions and paranoia, and civil–military relations.” This paper considers critical theoretical concerns raised in the film that Lindley and others overlook. First, the film’s narrative is scripted as a satire or black comedy rather than as a tragedy or romance. This is a meaningful choice that strongly influences the way the film should be understood. Second, as film critic Tony Macklin argued decades ago (1964), the film can be viewed as a sex allegory, a dominant theme that has typically been ignored. Even director Stanley Kubrick acknowledged the film’s “sexual framework.” What does the film’s “Wargasm” imply about international relations and nuclear strategy?



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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

"Vicious cancer"

Conservatives in Washington have claimed that "personnel is policy" at least since the Reagan administration. If there is any truth to that maxim, then Americans might want to be worried about the announcement that retired Army three-star Lieutenant-General Michael Flynn will be Donald Trump's National Security Advisor.**

Why should Americans be uneasy about Flynn's advisory role in a Trump administration?

First, Flynn is one of those hawks who believes the US is in the midst of an unending war against radical Islam. In the words of the BBC, "Flynn believes the US is losing a global war against Islamist extremism that may last for generations." As national security journalist Eli Lake noted when reviewing Flynn's book, "the skeptical reader" might see Flynn's war against radical Islam as "a recipe for endless war."

While Donald Trump certainly campaigned as a hawk when discussing ISIS and terrorism, he also tried to signal that the US under his leadership would not make dumb decisions that would commit it to long and unwinnable wars. I believe this explains his criticisms of the Iraq war (including his repeated false claims that he opposed the war before it started -- and his similar false claims that he opposed US intervention into Libya and Syria).

Trump has clearly expressed opposition to nation-building and regime change. Moreover, he often tried to sound less hawkish than most of his political opponents during the election cycle (whether Republican or Democrat). In his foreign policy speech from April 2016, Trump said:
"I will not hesitate to deploy military force when there is no alternative. But if America fights, it must fight to win. I will never send our finest into battle unless necessary – and will only do so if we have a plan for victory. Our goal is peace and prosperity, not war and destruction 
....unlike other candidates for the presidency, war and aggression will not be my first instinct....The world must know that we do not go abroad in search of enemies, that we are always happy when old enemies become friends, and when old friends become allies."
Despite Trump's efforts to assure the voting public that he was opposed to many of America's recent wars, he has picked a National Security Advisor who seems to think the US is in for a war without end.

Second, Flynn seems to be a bona fide Islamophobe.  Politico recently quoted an unnamed "former senior intelligence official" saying that Flynn's "views on Islam are off the charts." How far off the charts?

The BBC again:
In February 2016, he [Flynn] tweeted "fear of Muslims is RATIONAL", while in July, he told the New York Post "the Islamic world is an epic failure" as he advocated his plan to beat radicalism. 
In August, he spoke at an event in Dallas, Texas, for an anti-Islamist group Act for America, saying that Islam "is a political ideology" and that it "definitely hides behind being a religion".
Perhaps worse, in that Dallas speech (video here), Flynn called Islam a "vicious cancer." Note, he said this about Islam, not radical Islam.

Islam is a religion of about 1.6 billion people on the planet. Wherever you are reading this, there are likely practicing Muslims in your town. Many famous athletes and celebrities are Muslim. There are thousands of Muslims currently serving in the US military. Members of Congress practice Islam.

I would also note that this kind of phrasing is inconsistent with what Trump himself has said about Islam. This is Trump in his ISIS speech in August 2016:
Just as we won the Cold War, in part, by exposing the evils of communism and the virtues of free markets, so too must we take on the ideology of Radical Islam.
While my opponent accepted millions of dollars in Foundation donations from countries where being gay is an offense punishable by prison or death, my Administration will speak out against the oppression of women, gays and people of different faith.
Our Administration will be a friend to all moderate Muslim reformers in the Middle East, and will amplify their voices. 
...one of my first acts as President will be to establish a Commission on Radical Islam – which will include reformist voices in the Muslim community who will hopefully work with us. We want to build bridges and erase divisions.
Trump in his "Foreign Policy" speech in April 2016 claimed, "we’re going to be working very closely with our allies in the Muslim world, all of which are at risk from radical Islamic violence. We should work together with any nation in the region that is threatened by the rise of radical Islam."

After an unsteady start, George W. Bush was very careful not to describe the "war on terrorism" as a war on Islam. Famously, North Korea was one state listed in the "axis of evil." By contrast, in recent world history, Flynn's kind of loose talk linking a group of people to a disease or disease carrying insect has proven to be very dangerous. In the US, think of the pernicious red scare that led to blacklists of people labeled as "communists."

Newt Gingrich, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, has openly called for restarting the House Un-American Activities Committee.

That idea seems quite Un-American to me. However, it is the kind of idea fed by Flynn's loose talk about Islam.

-------------
**The National Security Advisor is a White House position that does not require Senate confirmation. Some presidents have leaned quite heavily on their National Security Advisor(s), while others have relied more on different personnel for policy advice and viewed this role as more managerial. Flynn campaigned for Trump and is often viewed as a close policy advisor.

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Thursday, October 20, 2016

2016B OBFLB Champions

I've periodically posted draft results or season results from my two long-running fantasy baseball leagues. This is an update for one of those leagues.

Since 1991, I've owned the Louisville Sluggers in the Original Bitnet Fantasy Baseball League (OBFLB), a 24 team online league that plays two seasons during each major league season. The second (half) season begins after the all star break and typically features 9 weeks of head-to-head competition by teams in three 8 team divisions. Everyone plays a round robin schedule, plus teams from the other divisions that are determined largely by first half performance with an eye toward equality. As it happens, one of the two teams I played during this out-of-division week was another divisional champion The Ballplayers in Arlington. My team lost that week.

Indeed, the Sluggers were certainly lucky to be in the playoffs. As measured by CBS's statistical Breakdown (universal head-to-head results), the Sluggers were the 7th best team in the league (only 8th prior to the playoffs). I tip my hat to Men of LA and Snoqualmie Spazmatics for having really good teams that failed to survive the short second half regular season.

The winners of the divisions and a single wild card team play against each other in the playoffs during the next to last week of the regular major league baseball season. Then, the winners of those head-to-head matchups play each other in the final week of the regular season to determine the World Series champion. The wild card team Theocracy (owned by a Cub fan, I believe) came from my division, so the Sluggers ended up beating all 3 of the playoff teams, including Theocracy in the final week of the regular season and a revenge rematch against TBiA in the first round of the playoffs.

In 2016B, the Louisville Sluggers ultimately won the championship against the Valley Dudes, a team managed by my friend Barry. I recruited him into the league long ago, but don't get the idea that this league is local. Generally, the owners are from across the US, though one team is operated from western Australia. I've only met a few of the owners face-to-face, but have known many of the owners online for 20+ years.

This was the Sluggers 8th World Series championship in a bit more than 50 (half) seasons of competition. No other team has more than 7 (Men of LA).

In this league, teams submit lineup cards to prioritize 9 hitters (at 8 defensive positions, plus DH), 5 starting pitchers (minimum 4), and 3 relief pitchers (minimum 2). Through the week, the teams compete in 10 categories, including batting average, home runs, stolen bases, plate appearances, runs produced average ((R+RBI-HR)/ABs), pitching wins, saves, innings pitched, ERA and WHIP. We award 2 points per victory, with each team receiving 1 point for a tie.

The Sluggers won the Series 12-6-2 (so 13-7). Here's the line score from CBS, our stats service:

Tms 
BA
HR
SB
PA
BA
IP
ERA
WHIP
W
SV
Sluggers
0.282
9
0
220
0.282
25.67
3.5065
1.2468
2
2

Dudes
0.237
5
2
178
0.204
50.33
3.7550
1.3907
2
5

The 2016B World Series was closer than the final 13-7 score looked. In the middle of the afternoon on Sunday, Adam Wainwright was working on a shutout and had put the Valley Dudes narrowly in front in ERA. Had the pitcher been able to hold that ERA lead and attain a pitching victory (the Cardinals easily won this game 10-4), the final World Series score would have been 10-10 and Dudes would have won because of the Breakdown tiebreaker. Valley Dudes were a better team through the season.

However, the Pirates lucked into a couple of baserunners with 2 outs and then Andrew McCutcheon got a huge RBI hit that cemented the ERA category for the Sluggers. Wainwright left the game before the Cards built a big lead and that sealed the deal.

Incidentally, Wainwright was not listed as a starter last week by the Dudes manager, but was forced into action when Tiger starting pitcher Matt Boyd was skipped in the rotation thanks to a rainout against Cleveland.

The World Series heroes for the Sluggers played mostly on offense. Joey Votto batted .419 in the Series and slugged 3 HRs. Rookie Byron Buxton hit 2 HRs with a .571 RP, completing his strong final Sept/Oct (9 HRs, .287 BA, with 1 SB. and .327 RP in 113 PA). Four other Sluggers hit a homer, including star 3B Nolan Arenado.

On the pitching side, youngsters Mike Foltynewicz and Blake Snell (in a start shortened by rain) combined with the bullpen to throw nearly half the team's innings for the week, allowing only 1 ER and a 0.77 WHIP. Chris Archer also had a good start and earned a much-needed victory.

Below, you can find my lineup card. I'm putting my mid-season retained players ("keepers") in bold red text and noting draft round or free agent acquisitions status for all other players. the draft is 28 rounds, but begins with round 8 as all teams ahve to keep at least 7 teams. I kept 10 players, so my draft started round 11.

C: Zunino SEA (round 22)
    Navarro TOR (round 24)

1B: Votto CIN
     Marte LAA (round 25)
     Gosselin ARI (round 27)

2B: Kipnis CLE
    Russell CHC
    Gosselin ARI

3B: Arenado COL
     Marte LAA
     Gosselin ARI
   
SS: Russell CHC
    Tulowitzki TOR
    Gosselin ARI

OF: Schebler CIN (free agent)
OF: Buxton MIN
OF: Santana MIL (round 23; released, reacquired as free agent)
    Benintendi BOS (round 11)
    Marte LAA
    Kim BAL  (round 15)
    Guyer CLE (round 19)
    Gosselin ARI

DH: Tulowitzki TOR
    Benintendi BOS
    Marte LAA
    Kim BAL
    Guyer CLE
    Gosselin ARI
    Navarro TOR

SP: Archer TB
SP: Smyly TB
SP: Snell TB (round 13)
SP: De Leon LAD (round 12)
SP: Foltynewicz ATL (round 18)
SP: Conley MIA (round 14)
SP: Dickey TOR (round 16)
SP: Andriese TB (round 20)
SP: Skaggs LAA  (round 21)
 
RP: F Rodriguez MIL
    Dyson TEX
    Feliz HOU (round 26)
    Law SF
    Conley MIA
    my SP, in order listed above

I released these draft picks during the season:

OF Rasmus HOU (round 17)
OF Taylor WAS (round 28)

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