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Sunday, December 03, 2017

Nash-Vegas

My family and I traveled to Nashville for Thanksgiving 2017 -- meeting my sister and her family there. It's an interesting travel destination and my spouse and I have visited several other times in recent months and years. Because of the multiple recent visits, we did not return to the Johnny Cash museum (which we previously enjoyed) or the bars along Broadway (which we sometimes didn't enjoy)..

This trip, we stayed in a chain hotel near Vanderbilt University and walked Wednesday to the Parthenon in Centennial Park. The large statue of Athena was worth seeing, but odd in some ways.

Friday night, we went to the Grand Ole Opry:


Ashley Campbell (daughter of Glen) sang a nice version of "Gentle on My Mind" and I enjoyed Sierra Hull's bluegrass performance. Charlie McCoy's harmonica playing was simply phenomenal -- he played "Orange Blossom Special," which our wedding band also performed back in 1991. I have never been a fan of final act Restless Heart. William Michael Morgan had a good voice, but needed more interesting songs.

Saturday, we visited the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, It held up well compared to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which we visited on an Oberlin trip back in 2012. I was not that interested in many of the most recent exhibits, but the roots section was especially interesting and the video about country musicians on television was quite good. Why didn't Wanda Jackson become a bigger star?

Sunday morning, before we all departed, my oldest daughter ate this waffle:



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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Climate change political update

The new issue of Sustain magazine includes my brief article "Global Politics of Climate Change."  I submitted it in late summer, so it includes some analysis  of the remarkable G20 statement by 19 of the member states that vowed to remain committed to the Paris Climate Accord even though President Trump announced just prior to the G20 meeting that the U.S. would withdraw.

With that link, interested readers can also view other pieces in the "Political Will" themed issue. The issue includes articles by my colleague Melissa Merry (on framing environmental communication), activist-writer Bill McKibben, Environmental Defense Fund's Fred Krupp, and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer.



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Tuesday, October 31, 2017

The "young, low level volunteer named George"

The title of this post comes from one of President Trump's tweets earlier this morning.

A post shared by President Donald J. Trump (@realdonaldtrump) on

George Papadopoulos is third from left in this picture, seated a few feet away from Donald Trump. Yesterday, it was revealed that Papadopoulos had pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his contacts with representatives of the Russian government. The photo was posted by Trump on his Instagram feed on March 31, 2016 with the caption  "Meeting with my national security team in #WashingtonDC." Current Attorney General Jeff Sessions (then-head of the national security team) is seated at the opposite end of the table.

The FBI guilty plea agreement says Papadopoulos first met with an alleged Russian intermediary on March 14:
...defendant PAPADOPOULOS met the Professor for the first time on or about March 14, 2016, after defendant PAPADOPOULOS had already learned he would be a foreign policy advisor for the Campaign; the Professor showed interest in defendant PAPADOPOULOS only after learning of his role on the Campaign...
Additionally, Trump mentioned Papadopoulos by name as an advisor in The Washington Post on March 21.  Thus, the picture above isn't some random photo opportunity showing Trump with a campaign volunteer or celebrity.  During at least a few weeks in March 2016, Papadapoulos was meeting with Russians who allegedly had dirt on Hillary Clinton -- and Donald Trump knew him by name and sat with him at a table of national security advisors. He apparently stayed with the team for 7 to 11 months.

On August 14, The Washington Post had a story about Papadopoulos and his efforts to connect Trump and Russia. Lots of people in the story tried to play down the importance of these efforts even as senior officials like Sessions and Jared Kushner actually later took meetings with Russians. For lots of interesting links and assessment amidst some conspiratorial speculation, see this September 22 Twitter thread from Professor Seth Abramson. Continued here and here. All 100 tweets are also on Facebook.

Note:

The photo is also here, in case the Trump team takes it down. Fox had an informative news bit about investigator interest in the meeting in late September, 2017.


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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

2017 B Louisville Sluggers

The Louisville Sluggers are again participating in the World Series in the Original Bitnet Fantasy Baseball League.

I've participated in the OBFLB since 1991. It's a 24 team fantasy baseball 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. This year, however, we lost 2 owners at mid-season and didn't have sufficient time to find replacements. Thus, we had 2 divisions of 11 teams. There were not enough weeks to play a complete round robin, as we usually do.

In any case, the Sluggers won the Clarkson division with the best record in the league: 115-65. It was actually 110-60 with 10 ties. We have 10 categories and it is not uncommon to have ties in pitcher wins, saves, home runs, or stolen bases. Two other teams shared the best record, but the Sluggers held the tiebreaker based on better week-to-week performance against all the other teams in the league.

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

The winners of the divisions play against a wild card team in an initial playoff round 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 for the B season. The Sluggers beat the Arizona Young Guns 13-7 in last week's playoff. Arizona was managed by another long-time owner.

In the World Series, the Sluggers are matched up with the Southern Hemispheres, owned by an emeritus academic from western Australia.  We're both old-timers in the league and met in person once years ago when he was traveling across the States and stopped in Louisville. In fact, this is a rematch of  the 1996B, 1997A,  and 1998A World Series! Southern won the first of those prior matchups, the Sluggers won the next two.

The Sluggers are 8-2 in all prior World Series; Hemispheres are 4-5. Reminder: there have been over 50 World Series titles during the 26 years I have been in the league.

This is the lineup I'm using in the Series, with notes about acquisition of each player (the 8 players retained before the mid-season draft are in red):

C: Ianetta ARI (drafted round 27)
   Hedges SD  (round 19)

1B: Votto CIN 
     Olson OAK (free agent July 24)

2B: Merrifield KC (round 14)
    Escobar MIN (round 20)

3B: Arenado COL
    Escobar MIN
    Hernandez LAD (round 22)

SS: Escobar MIN
     Russell CHC 
     E. Hernandez LAD

OF: Benintendi BOS
OF: Buxton MIN
OF: Kiermaier TB (round 24)
    Phillips MIL (free agent September 25)
    Kepler MIN (round 16)
    Acuna ATL

DH: Olson OAK (injured and presumably won't play)
      Phillips MIL
      Kepler MIN

SP: Archer TB
SP: Bauer CLE (round 15)
SP: Greinke ARI (trade August 28)
SP: Duffy KC (round 9)
SP: Cobb TB  (round 11)
   Gonzalez TEX  (free agent July 17)
   Biagini TOR (free agent September 11)
   Foltynewicz ATL (round 12)
   Keller PIT (minors) (free agent August 28)
   Nelson MIL(mlb and OBFLB DL) (round 10)

RP: Bradley ARI (round 18)
RP: Greene DET (trade August 28)
RP: D. Hernandez ARI (round 26)
RP: Lorenzen CIN (round 23)

Players no longer with the team:

SP Pineda NYY dropped July 17 (Tommy John surgery)
Round 13 M Smith TB traded August 28 for Greinke
Round 17 Renfroe SDP traded August 28 for Greinke
Round 21 Buehler LAD traded August 28 for Greinke
Round 25 Duffey MIN traded August 28 for Greene
Round 28 Choi NYY dropped July 24

I'll post results in a few days. The stats we use include Monday September 25 through Sunday, October 1.


Update 10/1/17: Southern wins 12-8. Sluggers win steals, plate appearances, ERA and WHIP decisively. The team needed 3 more hits to win batting average.
     
 BAHRSBPARPINNERA
WHIP
W
S
Spheres
0.310
9
1
164
0.283
47
5.5532
1.5957
3
4
12-8
Sluggers
0.293
8
6
184
0.240
35.33
3.8208
1.3302
2
2
8-12


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Sunday, August 27, 2017

East Coast Vacation 2017

University of Louisville classes started last week and I already taught two sessions of my senior capstone seminar on "Politics of Climate Change."

Before summer slips away altogether, I'm posting a few pictures of our early August vacation trip -- to Baltimore first for a couple of days, then to the Delaware shore for about a week with extended family.

In Baltimore, an old friend snagged four tickets to the August 2 Orioles game against the Kansas City Royals. The O's won 6-0, unfortunately. We were seated very close to first base, so I snapped this photo of Eric Hosmer. The game was briefly delayed by rain in the early innings, but I still had a great time in terrific seats. Plus, the storm presaged the arrival of moderate August temperatures throughout our visit.

The following day, my spouse and I went to the Baltimore Museum of Art. It turns out they have a cast of Rodin's "The Thinker." The same statue has a prominent position in front of Grawemeyer Hall at UofL. In fact, the one at UofL used to be in Baltimore, but was sold when Baltimore acquired this one.

The BMA also has a number of Andy Warhol pieces, including a version of the "Last Supper." The city's artistic side is also revealed in its tribute to local native John Waters (pink flamingo, pictured below).

As beach preparation, I also bought six packs of local beers Duckpin Pale Ale (brewed by Union) and Penguin Pils (brewed by Brewer's Art). I loved the Duckpin, but found the Penguin Pils overly influenced by Belgian style. I prefer German or Czech pilsners.


During beach week, we visited the Dogfish brewpub in Rehobeth, toured the Seacrets Distillery in Ocean City, and ate our share of fresh crab -- including some caught by family members. The younger generation cousins used chicken necks and nets to catch a family-record number this year! The first one we caught is pictured below.

















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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Nuclear weapons radio interview

I was recently interviewed by Philosophy Professor Avery Kolers for his "Ethics Forward" local radio program (on WFMP-LP 106.5 FM). The show's topic "Fire and Fury" was about nuclear weapons, deterrence, and tensions between the U.S. and North Korea.

Now that it has been broadcast over the airwaves, you can listen to the broadcast online at Soundcloud:




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Monday, July 31, 2017

Radio interview

Louisville has a new community radio station, WFMP-LP 106.5 FM "Forward Radio." Today, I visited their station at 4th and Broadway to record a half hour program with host K.A. Owens called "On the Edge."

The topic? "Is terrorism an existential threat to the West?"

If you want to listen, the program will be broadcast locally this weekend -- at 2:30 pm Saturday and then again on noon Sunday. A complete schedule of programs can be found here. 

The station is searching for financial support. 

My friends from UofL Justin Mog ("Sustainability Now!") and Avery Kolers ("Ethics Forward") have their own programs. Justin is UofL's Sustainability Coordinator and Avery is a Philosophy professor who has previously blogged here.

Here's the broadcast range:



I'm actually out of broadcast range this weekend, so if anyone makes a recording, I'd appreciate a copy.

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Saturday, July 01, 2017

Foundation Forensic Audit

Have you been following the media coverage of the University of Louisville Foundation's Forensic Audit?  I've ended up reading some of the report, but haven't had an opportunity to go through all of it. However, I wanted to post this to serve as a place I can find media links easily. I meant to post about the audit a few weeks ago, but I've been sick, we traveled to Michigan, and time simply got away from me.

There are a lot of outrageous findings in there, some of which I have previously discussed on the blog -- such as the salary of top administrators and compensation for athletics personnel. Even the Board of Trustees chair says the audit "paints a disturbing picture."

Some Foundation personnel authorized multimillion dollar loans to "assets" that were really subsidiaries of the Foundation that had no significant cash value. They used those funds to repay other loans and to pay secret salaries. This trick drained perhaps tens of millions of dollars from the Foundation, but the costs were hidden by the decision to list the "program" as an investment asset.

Decision makers initiated terrible real estate transactions (including the dubious purchase of a Golf Course) and invested in start-up projects that ended up losing big bucks. The University bought nearly $10 million in athletic tickets during the audit period, including $800,000 annually for football and men's basketball season tickets. Top personnel often made these decisions without fully informing the Board other than in a cursory way. Often, they exceeded discretion that had been granted to them. For example, they exceeded spending for particular projects.

Here is a rundown of some egregious personnel spending:

$   1.7 million additional (secret) compensation for joint Univ./Foundation employees
$ 21.8 million deferred compensation plan for top University officials (some also Fdtn)
$   4.9 million for salaries of Athletics Association personnel

That adds to over $28 million!

Athletics is disputing some parts of the audit.



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Friday, June 30, 2017

Lansing Lugnuts

While on vacation last week, my spouse and I managed to take in a baseball game in Lansing. We've been vacationing in Michigan for many years, but we have not attended a baseball game since 2004. We previously took our children to White Caps games in Grand Rapids -- and the kids received free caps!

There was not much of a crowd Monday, June 26, despite it being "Dog Days of Summer" night (dogs entered for free with their owners). It was a bit cool for late June baseball -- 66 degrees for the first pitch. In any case, we got to see two of Toronto's top hitting prospects. Both are sons of former major league players.

Bo Bichette (son of Dante) is a shortstop hitting about .400. In the picture below, he drove in the first run of the game in his first plate appearance. I'm glad I snapped quickly as he swung on the first pitch, which he also did in his next PA. Later in the game, he struck out and then was also called for interference -- a runner attempting to steal second base on his swing was also called out. Bichette has a quick bat, but did not seem to be a patient or controlled hitter.


Vlad Guerrero Jr. (son of Vlad) is listed as a third baseman (and played the hot corner in this game), but looks to be destined for the opposite corner given his build. He is also having a very good offensive season and some analysts believe he will be in the majors before he is 21. My spouse and I saw Guerrero's father play in Montreal in June 2001 when we were in that great city celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary during their annual jazz festival. Vlad Jr. would have been 2 at the time. Both he and Bichette are younger than our daughters who did not travel with us to either Montreal or Lansing.


A couple of other top Jays prospects were also in the game. Outfielders J.B. Woodman (2016 round 2 draft pick) and Joshua Palacios (2016 round 4 pick) were a combined 1-for-8 in the game with 3 strikeouts. Palacios led off with a hit in the first inning and scored the game's first run.

The game ended 4-3 for the home team as Guerrero led off the bottom of the 9th with a single and advanced to second on a wild pitch. A pinch runner moved to third on an infield out. Then, the Bowling Green Hot Rods elected to walk the next two batters intentionally. After a strikeout, a relatively new member of the Lugnuts, catcher Javier Hernandez ended the game with a walk-off single. He was mobbed by his teammates.

Tampa Rays infield prospect (playing 3B Monday) Adrian Rondon was 0-for-4 in the game with two strikeouts. Outfielder speedster and 2015 Rays #1 draft pick Garrett Whitley was 0-for-2 with a walk. The Rays #1 draft pick from 2016, infielder Josh Lowe, hit a 3-run homer in the 8th inning to tie a game that had been 3-0.

Game Notes: When Hot Rod SS Lucius Fox batted, I tried making Batman references, but no one within ear shot seemed to know what I was talking about....I also tried pig Latin references when Mitch Nay batted, but....A local Michigan SABR member sat just behind us. He mentioned writing bios for the SABR bio project and traveling to various minor league parks (including Slugger Field). Unfortunately, we didn't talk long and I don't get his name....We had great seats right behind home plate, but probably could have sat about anywhere for less than the $12 per seat that we paid. The stadium was really empty....For a couple of innings, we sat in the leftfield restaurant Good Hops. The food was good and the tap list looked impressive, but I was not drinking beer thanks to meds I was taking for a summer illness....The ballpark is called Cooley Law School Stadium, which seemed strange. Any other parks named for units within a local University? We drove by the Cooley Law School downtown as we headed to our hotel.

Update July 9: Baseball America has released its midseason top 100 prospects and Rays outfielder Jesus Sanchez is #100. He was 2-for-4 in the game, both singles. He batted 6th in the Hot Rod order and played LF.

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Friday, April 28, 2017

Athletics: Follow the Money

Two weeks ago, I blogged about "Papa" John Schnatter's widely publicized comment that "Until you fix athletics, you cannot fix this university." As I wrote, local journalists and University of Louisville leaders reacted to that remark as if they did not see any problems with Athletics -- and could not conceive of them.

For example, in today's Louisville Courier-Journal, Athletics Board member Bill Stone was quoted offering "praise and support for [Athletics Director Tom] Jurich's leadership and said that other areas of the university are what needs fixing."
'Oh my god, our athletic department is the envy of the country," Stone said. "... We need to put our effort into University Hospital and bring that health care facility back to where it was, where it was the place of choice. That's where we need to spend our attention, not on what works.'
Local radio personality Terry Meiners was also puzzled: “'His comments at the board meeting made zero sense to me,' Meiners said. 'And I mean zero-point-zero.... Everybody’s a little baffled with this one.... I grew up here,' Meiners said. 'I’ve seen the difference in the growth of the school starting Day 1 with Jurich. It’s as if he’s built an entire civilization that we were thirsting for in our community.'”

Despite the apparent bewilderment of local elites, my post referenced some potential areas of concern and linked to several of my previous posts on the topic. Additionally, in the interim between the first story and today's, reporter Tim Sullivan did some research:
Stephen Clark, a tenured professor who has spent 18 years at U of L, perceives Jurich not as “invisible” but “untouchable.” 
Athletics is truly untouchable at this university,” Clark said via e-mail. “It has a different set of rules than all the schools within the university. That goes for things such as ‘conflicts of interest’ particularly. 
“... While athletics means so much to a university, the athletic director and coaches should be under the control of the administration of the university and should operate under parallel guidelines. I don't think that's true at U of L.” 
Student Body President Aaron Vance, whose office entitles him to a seat on the Board of Trustees, seconded Schnatter’s vague statements in a post-meeting tweet: “Papa gets it,” Vance wrote. “Something we have all been thinking here for years.”  
...The U of L Athletics Association operates independently of the university’s general fund and boasts at least 15 straight years of balanced budgets, but its spending patterns could be seen as extravagant in those departments with tightening belts and by those students dealing with rising debt.  Monday, Vance's Twitter feed included a copy of a 2011-12 student government resolution urging U of L to abolish its $50-per-semester student athletics fee.
This week, Athletics is firing back. Yesterday, as the C-J reported, Associate athletics director Kevin Miller "presented an information sheet detailing the amount of money the athletics department provides to the university and vice versa." First, Athletics did recognize that some of their costs are borne by the rest of the University:
According to the document, the athletic department receives a total of $7.344 million in benefits from the university and U of L student fees. Those benefits are $3.263 million in expenses, mostly related to the costs of utilities at the sports facilities; $1.323 million in gender-equity funding; $829,900 in assistance to boost student-athlete academics; and $1.928 million in student fees ($50 per student per semester). 
What about the other side of the relationship?
In turn, athletics reportedly accounts for $30.6 million in tuition, room, board and books for the university due to the presence of student-athletes, managers, spirit groups and the pep band at the school, according to the information sheet.   
The athletic department also provided $4 million to the U of L general fund ($2 million in 2013-14 and $2 million in 2016-17), according to the document.
I have previously mentioned the relatively paltry sums (a few million dollars) that Athletics has provided during particularly difficult years for the University. In reality, those mostly offset the student fees they collect.

The $30.6 million is a more interesting question. Does Athletics subsidize education for all of those students, or does this figure include funds paid by students enrolled in the University? I suspect the latter since the 2014 and 2015 Athletics audit posted online revealed only about $13 million in total athletic scholarships.

So what is missing from the figures Athletics provided yesterday?

First, if the discussion is going to consider revenues collected by one institution thanks to the spending of the other institution's students, then UofL should receive credit for ticket sales to students (and alumni). I haven't seen a breakdown focusing only on students and alums, but UofL athletics collected about $27 million in ticket sales in 2015. For 2016, media reports placed those revenues at just under $30 million.

Not all students or alumni attend games, of course, but many watch those events on television or listen on radio. UofL Athletics has been collecting significant sums from direct TV deals and shared payments from the Atlantic Coast Conference: about $13 million in media rights fees and $7 million from the ACC. That's $20 million more thanks to students, alumni and other fans of the University's teams.

UofL Athletics also collects about $29 million in contributions from donors. As I've blogged previously, some academic research suggests that those donors might otherwise give to the University if Athletics was not asking them for cash.

Finally, there is the matter of the University of Louisville name. When individual UofL athletes depart the campus, a few become stars in the NBA or NFL and help their franchises collect big profits. Presumably, the players are rewarded with lucrative salaries.

However, the largest portion of former UofL basketball players (which is UofL's most lucrative sport) toil in relative anonymity in development leagues or foreign leagues. The players are presumably more skilled and experienced once they leave campus, but they no longer generate nearly the same revenues for their new programs. UofL fans cheer these players, and pay for tickets, sweatshirts, and TV ads, precisely because they wear the cardinal red of the local sports team and perform their feats on local courts and fields.

Does UofL Athletics pay the University for this association? No. Instead, Athletics collected $23 million in licensing and royalties in 2013.

Literally, Athletics rakes in tens of millions of dollars annually thanks to its affiliation with the University.


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