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Thursday, May 27, 2010

The Cuban Missile Report

Tonight, I went with a group of friends to see the Louisville Bats against the Gwinnett Braves. Behind Cuban pitcher Aroldis Chapman, the Bats won 7-0.

Much-discussed prospect Chapman struck out 7 in five innings. More importantly, he issued only one walk and was generally in control of the strike zone -- so long as you don't worry about the 2 or 3 times he threw the ball above his catcher all the way back to the screen (officially, he issued 2 Wild Pitches, which require men on base). Many of his pitches, especially early in the game, were clocked at nearly 100 mph. He bested that mark a few times, including one pitch of 103 mph that was met with cheers from the crowd.

The game was supposed to start at 7 pm, but it was nearly 7:45 when the first pitch was thrown. Louisville suffered a brief thunderstorm prior to the event. My friends and I took advantage of the time to enjoy the $1 pre-game brews at Brownings.

Though Chapman was long gone, we stayed through the final out (partly redeeming my early exit from Saturday's game). Whatever the claimed attendance, there were very few fans in the stands at the end.


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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Berry, LeCure and the Bats

Yesterday, I went to Louisville Slugger field a bit early to check out honky tonk singer Johnny Berry as part of Budweiser's $2 "craft beer" promotion. Berry sounded great, but he stopped playing at 5:30 even though the game began at 6:05.

In the game, pitcher Sam LeCure dominated the visiting Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees. He was perfect through 4 innings, but then walked 2 batters in the fifth when it appeared that he had lost his rhythm. Unfortunately, I had to leave the game at that point to have dinner with my oldest daughter, but I caught some of the game on the radio and learned later that LeCure threw a 1-hitter rather than a no-no. The final score was 5-0.


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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rand Paul

Kentucky held a primary yesterday that received national attention thanks to the participation and victory of "tea party"-backed Senate candidate Rand Paul, son of libertarian Representative Ron Paul of Texas. The seat is currently held by Republican Jim Bunning, a Hall of Fame former baseball pitcher. The race was noteworthy because Mitch McConnell's preferred (and groomed) candidate, Secretary of State Trey Greyson lost the race.

Meanwhile, on the Democratic ballot, state Attorney General Jack Conway defeated Lt. Governor Dan Mongiardo and won his party's nomination for the same Senate race. Rob Farley declared this "Good news from Kentucky... Conway is more progressive than Mongiardo and polls better; against the Randernaut he might have a chance."

Frankly, I suspect most Kentuckians know little about Rand Paul. I'm also betting that Conway will make sure that voters learn a lot more before November.

What's to know?

Like his better-known father, Rand opposed the Iraq war -- and he thinks the "murky" Afghan war needs to be formally declared by Congress. Those are defensible positions, but they are clearly not reflective of Republican policy in the last decade.

Many of the policies Rand and Ron Paul reject were proposed and implemented by Republicans in power during the Bush era: bank bailouts, deficit spending, war without end, etc. This is likely why Dick Cheney supported Greyson in the primary and why neoconservatives are alleged to be upset by his prospects for success.

Indeed, Paul himself says that he typically agrees with his father on policy issues:
Washington Wire: Are there any areas where you disagree with your father’s views on issues?

Paul: There are some minor areas where we disagree.
He then notes that his father will sometimes introduce an earmark, while he thinks "the whole system is broken down, and it’s my opinion that we shouldn’t put earmarks on bills."

He thinks drugs should be a state issue, which is an evasive way of saying that the federal government shouldn't make them illegal. Right?

Libertarians oppose drug laws, but what about health and safety issues? How much should the federal government do to help save lives? The New York Times Magazine asked him this question in April:
But in light of your distrust of the federal government, where are you on an issue like seat belts? Federal legislation requiring people to wear seat belts could obviously save lives.

I think the federal government shouldn’t be involved. I don’t want to live in a nanny state where people are telling me where I can go and what I can do.
The "nanny state" is a line used by people who don't think the government should try to limit tobacco consumption, promote better nutrition, etc. However, these examples may also mask antipathy towards environmental regulations, occupational safety and health standards, minimum wage laws, etc.

Paul has a somewhat dystopian view of the economy and is fairly cynical about the culture as well:
I see us in the latter stages of the Roman empire, when you have bread and circuses to placate the mob... I think there’s a danger that we could destroy our currency and be like 1923 in Germany, with the Weimar currency, with money in wheelbarrows. Germany was a civilized country in Europe, and they destroyed their currency and then elected Hitler, so things have happened before and they could happen again.
Paul certainly isn't a Keynesian as he favors a constitutional amendment to balance the budget. He is "worried that the deficit will consume our nation."

The bipartisan Keynesian economics we witnessed in 2008-2009 reflected legitimate concerns that the banking and credit system would collapse without emergency assistance, thus destroying the economy and provoking another Great Depression.

I cannot wait to hear what Paul has to say about that topic, as well as aid to Israel, farm subsidies, Social Security (!), public education, etc.

Helpfully, Trey Greyson's campaign maintained a website of "randpaulstrangeideas.com." It seems to have been taken down, but the google cache of the central issues is still available for now. Here's an idea of what it used to look like.


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Friday, May 14, 2010

I briefly ducked out...

Recently, on the Duck of Minerva group international relations (IR) blog, I wrote these posts:

Thursday, May 13, "DVD review; 'Capitalism: A Love Story,'" which is obviously my take on Michael Moore's latest film. I'm a big fan of his work, but this movie was flawed.

Saturday, May 1, I posted "Threat inflation: intergalactic edition." The post considers whether IR scholars should take UFO/alien threats seriously. Some major scholars have taken UFOs seriously and Stephen Hawking suggests this might be a good idea.

April 22 featured my post "Information," which is about the problems of secrecy and mystery (in addition to "known unknowns," Rumsfeld's "unknown unknowns") in IR. The piece was specifically tied to the recent explosive sinking of a South Korean naval vessel near North Korean waters.


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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Oil spill

Google engineer Paul Rademacher has generated a valuable visual aid to help people understand the magnitude of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The spill is spewing at least 200,000 gallons of oil per day, which is important to keep in mind since his map is based on an estimate of the size on May 6 (one week ago).

Visitors to his webpage can enter any location in the world to get an idea of the size of the spill relative to territory they know.

By the way, some private sources estimate that the spill could be discharging 10 times as much oil as officials are saying publicly.

It's an environmental calamity.


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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Meeting Carbon Targets

Wednesday, Kevin Drum blogged about the impressive U.S. reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The near 10% reduction over the past two years has very little to do with policy decisions made by the new Democratic administration. Rather, this reflects continued decline in economic activity, as well as reduced energy intensity, and increased use of cleaner energy (promoted in the stimulus package). Drum says that those three explanations contributed about one-third each.

The accompanying image is very revealing.

This is a terrific jumpstart towards bigger reductions in the future, though the challenge will be to fulfill greater energy demand with non-fossil fuel sources once the economy is growing steadily again.


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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Bike to Work Month

May is Bike to Work Month and various groups in Louisville are promoting it. At University of Louisville, I've joined fellow Sustainability Council members as part of a group challenge on the Greenlight website.

It will be difficult for me to accumulate miles as I do not actually go into the office all that often in May. The semester ends prior to the Kentucky Derby. My grading is finished and I'm working on the Grawemeyer entries for 2011 and some writing and research projects.

May 21 is Bike to Work Day if you want to join in the festivities.


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Monday, May 03, 2010

Bad Press

Yesterday, soon after awakening on a rainy weekend morning, I went outdoors to pick up the newspaper. The bagged Sunday paper was heavy with ads, so I immediately sorted the recyclables from the sections with real content.

Very quickly, I noticed that the sports section, which I usually read first during baseball season, was missing. That's not good in Louisville, the day after the Kentucky Derby.

The front section was also missing.

The Metro section was not included. The only sections included in the bag were those that could be printed in advance -- like the television listings, real estate ads, and Features section.

I found the customer service number in Saturday's paper and dialed it to complain, but a recorded voice said the newspaper had a technical problem and missing sections would not be delivered until after noon. Later, the paper's webpage said a "press failure" explained non-delivery to thousands of customers. Ironically, one section customers did receive included a piece from the publisher touting the paper's circulation rate -- to readers "passionate about our products."

Finally, this morning, the missing sections were delivered with the Monday paper.

I'm sure thousands of out-of-town Derby visitors were unfavorably impressed by the Sunday paper this weekend. The paper's special Derby insert will not be a valued souvenir for those who left town before the company managed to print the news of Saturday's race.

The size of the paper and the diversity of the local writing staff has been in steep decline for years (thanks most recently to ad revenues lost to Craigslist and Ebay), but this was a ridiculous moment for the paper.


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Saturday, May 01, 2010

Baseball Players tell Arizona to Repeal the Law

The new Arizona immigration law has received a lot of attention in the short time since it was signed into law in late April. As the BBC notes, the law "will require state police to question people about their immigration status if there is 'reasonable suspicion'.

The bill - which takes effect in 90 days - also makes it a crime under state law to be in the US illegally."

Yesterday, the Major League Baseball Player's Association announced its formal opposition to the law. In a press release, Executive Director Michael Weiner, summarized the player's union opposition:
“The recent passage by Arizona of a new immigration law could have a negative impact on hundreds of Major League players who are citizens of countries other than the United States....

The international players on the Diamondbacks work and, with their families, reside in Arizona from April through September or October. In addition, during the season, hundreds of international players on opposing Major League teams travel to Arizona to play the Diamondbacks. And, the spring training homes of half of the 30 Major League teams are now in Arizona. All of these players, as well as their families, could be adversely affected, even though their presence in the United States is legal. Each of them must be ready to prove, at any time, his identity and the legality of his being in Arizona to any state or local official with suspicion of his immigration status. This law also may affect players who are U.S. citizens but are suspected by law enforcement of being of foreign descent."
The MLBPA "opposes this law as written" and calls for prompt repeal or modification.

Some voices are already calling for baseball to move the 2011 All-Star game, slated to be played in Phoenix. White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has announced that he will not participate in the game. A number of current players have also spoken out against the law and mentioned their concerns about playing in Arizona.

About four and a half years ago, I noted a small number of athletes involved in progressive causes, including one baseball player openly opposed to the Iraq war. The latest reaction is timely and apparently provokes broader concerns.


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