I have a huge problem with this Associated Press Story

The Associated Press has a salacious and fascinated story up right now. It features President Donald Trump, payoffs, an affair. It’s basically straight out of the National Enquirer.

And there’s a huge problem with it.

Continue reading “I have a huge problem with this Associated Press Story”

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I have a huge problem with this Associated Press Story

Don’t cry for Kevin D. Williamson

Kevin D. Williamson has been fired from The Atlantic, so you’re about to see much handwringing from “serious” conservatives about a purge of right-wing viewpoints from mainstream media outlets.

This is absolute stool in a box on your doorstep. Continue reading “Don’t cry for Kevin D. Williamson”

Don’t cry for Kevin D. Williamson

Can one of Major League Baseball’s superteams miss the playoffs?

Basically everyone expects seven teams to make the playoffs this year. There is little doubt that the Houston Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs, New York Yankees, Cleveland Indians, Washington Nationals and Boston Red Sox will win their divisions (with the Yankees or Sox winning a wild card). That leaves 23 teams fighting for three spots, two in the National League, one in the American League.

If I were to rank the superteams in order of their likelihood to make the postseason, it would look like this:

Indians

Astros

Dodgers

Nationals

Cubs

Red Sox

Yankees

Continue reading “Can one of Major League Baseball’s superteams miss the playoffs?”

Can one of Major League Baseball’s superteams miss the playoffs?

The Southpaw’s Major League Baseball Preview Extravaganza 2018

Little known fact: Handel penned the “Hallelujah Chorus” after seeing Tris Speaker track down a Ty Cobb liner in the left center field gap and realized that was the highest moment of human existence.

If only he’d seen Ken Griffey Jr. swing a bat, or Andrelton Simmons turn a double play at second base.

With that in mind, let’s make some fearless predictions for the Major League Baseball regular season

10. Trade Winds a-blowin

With the greatest free agent class in history about to hit the market, teams are goin to make some major deals at the deadline this year. Don’t be surprised to see a former World Series MVP (Cole Hamels) hit the market.

9. Centers of attention

The Major Leagues are stuffed with incredible center fielders right now. They’re going to dominate the show like they have in no other era since Willie, Mickey and the Duke, not to mention Whitey and Larry Doby manned the position. Defensive dynamos with fantastic offensive skillsets are not the rarity. We all acknowledge Mike Trout is the best centerfielder in the game, but who’s second? Is it Byron Buxton? But what about World Series hero Russ Springer? Or Charlie Blackmon of the .331/.399/.601 mark with 37 homers and a league-leading 14 triples. The position is still deep with players like Tommy Pham, Odubel Herrera, Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain still playing at high levels.

8. Super team dominance

Five of the six divisions will be wrapped up by mid-September, but the Wild Cards will be wild. If either the Yankees or Red Sox struggle, it’s likely that all six divisions will be sewn up quickly.

7. Milestones will be reached

Albert Pujols will get his 3,000 hit sometime in May. Joe Mauer will become just the fifth catcher with 2,000 hits. Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler will get their 400th doubles. Adrien Beltre will score his 1,500th run. Justin Verland will get his 2,500th strikeout and 200th win.

6.  Clayton Kershaw will dominate

The Dodgers’ Ace is at the age where pitchers slow down. This will be his last dominant season. He hasn’t pitched 200 innings in three of the past four years. He will this year.

5. No one will hit 50 homers

Home run records will be shattered this year. Unlike last year, no one will get to 50, but several players will reach the 40s.

4. The National League will win the All Star Game

It won’t be a bad game, but it won’t be super close.

3. Youth is served

The game is riddled with young talent, especially considered it’s cheaper than paying established veterans. But the top of the crop is poised to blow you away this year. From Scott Kingery to Joan Moncada to Ronald Acuna, this should be fun to watch.

2. Labor strife will heat up and the MLBPA will change leadership

The sport is headed toward a work stoppage. The MLBPA will move toward a more lawyerly centered opperation in preparation for that.

1. No manager will be fired until September’s final week

Team’s won’t make any midseason firings because  the teams that will lose will have been expected to lose, the superteams will win and many of the mediocre teams have new managers.

Continue reading “The Southpaw’s Major League Baseball Preview Extravaganza 2018”

The Southpaw’s Major League Baseball Preview Extravaganza 2018

Lost in a good book

I’ve spent the past month reading the inimitable Garry Wills. His “Head and Heart: the History of Christianity in America” might be the most fascinating book I’ve ever read.

It’s riddled with fascinating facts and stories about the country’s history with regards to religion.

His main premise, that America alternates between an evangelical (heart) and enlightenment (head) look at religion, is fascinating. One of the secondary premises is how much James Madison, Thomas Jefferson and a few others really wanted a complete wall between religion and state.

I’m almost done, but I just got to the part where he talks about the rise of Catholicism in the United States politically. He points out that during World War I, the National Catholic War Council was a unifying force for the denomination. However, when the war ended, the group struck out politically.

“at the end of the war, the bishops felt they should continue the party as the National Catholic Welfare Council (NCWC), and father Ryan wrote their peacetime agenda in what became the Bishops Program of that year. It called for a minimum wage, the banning of child labor, government insurance for the elderly, and equal pay for women workers.

That last one stands out, doesn’t it?

Lost in a good book

Political panels will be the death of me

Washington Post media columnist Paul Farhi has a great and important column about the panelization of news.  One problem with the fact that so many people get their news diet filled with cable news and the Sunday shows is that they have to watch all of these panels. It’s like only eating crab-covered soft pretzels, drinking milk and thinking you’re getting your needed nutrients. The panel is the go-to way to breakdown the news today.

As Fahri says:

“From early in its history, cable news found the panel format — featuring people from different perspectives and disciplines — to be a lively (and cost-efficient) way to deliver opinions on current events. The discussions can be enervating, enlightening or infuriating, depending on who is on which side of the food fight.

But, as the Korean news demonstrated, it’s often hard to tell the reporters from the opinion slingers, especially when the panels bleed into the delivery of the news itself.”

UnbelievableOPINION IN NEWS

I just finished Katy Tur’s fantastic memoir “Unbelievable” about her time covering the Trump campaign. One of the best aspects of the book is that she’s honest about the issues with panel news. At one point she brings up how she was on a panel but wasn’t allowed to say much even though she was the reporter on the ground.

I’m someone who actually thinks we need more opinion in our reporting, particularly from the reporters who see things up close. I’m not talking about partisan opinions. I’m talking about reporters who are knowledgeable of the fact because they are on the ground and have information on background that might help put issues in perspective. I also think reporters have been too timid to call “bullshit” on elected officials because they’re afraid of looking partisan. Tur touched on this fact in her book, particularly when she talked about reporters craving access and fearing reprisals. (A post for another day: I believe reporters were not afraid to raise the BS flag on Trump as the campaign went on not only because he lied more than the average politician, but because they knew they wouldn’t really lose access. It’s not like Maggie Haberman still isn’t getting calls from “John Barron” despite Trump’s constant attacks on the New York Times.)

The problem with the opinion that we see on cable news is that it’s often just partisan pablum from lickspittles.

Here’s more from Farhi:

News reporters bristle when critics tar them as liberal or conservative. They’re quick to insist that they have nothing to do with the opinion side of their organizations. (“We serve different masters,” Fox News anchorman Shepard Smith told Time magazine this month. “We work for different reporting chains, we have different rules.”)

And yet panels with multiple talking heads arguably make the situation more fraught for them by lumping them with former politicians, think-tank scholars and opinionated party hacks — a blending of news reporting and commentary that’s bound to leave some viewers confused.

What Farhi misses pointing out, probably because it’s too obvious to those of us who work in media or those who work in DC, is that the experts on these panels only discuss the politics. They never discuss the policy.

That’s the big problem.

POLITICS OVER POLICY

Imagine if we’d seen policy experts discuss issues like the passage of the ACA, the Benghazi attack, the recent tax bill. When Constitutional issues arise, for example, 80 percent of  the people on  those panels should be Constitutional scholars like Akhil Reed Amar, Lawrence Lessig, Jonathan Turley and Gillian Metzger. Give viewers the facts of the policy, not the spin of the politics.

I know one problem is that those scholars don’t offer familiarity to viewers, who know Paul Begala, Jerome Corsie and the like. Now it’s true some of the regular panelists can speak authoritatively on certain subjects. Van Jones, on CNN, has worked in environmental issues. Ironically, I rarely see Jones on panels when the environment does come up.

ZuckerOne other issue that Farhi just touched on that viewers probably don’t understand is that it is cheaper to have a set of panelists than it is to do actual reporting. When you pay 12 pundits (I should point out that some of these pundits, such as Gloria Borger, David Gergen and Fred Barnes, are very good.) to be knowledgeable about issues from the political side, you don’t have to have five bureaus around the world and dozens of reporters who dig into specific issues.

ABC learned this in 1968 when it tossed William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal on TV every night to debate the political conventions because it didn’t have the money to journalistically compete with NBC and CBS only to win the ratings war.

I’d be interested to find out if there’s a definite correlation between how how news covered the Benghazi attack compared to how it covered the 1983 Lebanon embassy bombing and how that affected the public’s knowledge of the issue. I’m willing to bet Congress’ stagnation on gun control and public safety has a lot more to do with crimes and terrorist attacks being covered from a partisan political viewpoint than from boots on the ground reporting on public policy at the federal and state level.

The problem, as most things with the media, is that the audience craves something it won’t admit to. It wants reporting that backs up its own biases. Audiences might not stick with a cable broadcast that includes policy experts when partisan arguments are more entertaining.

As Jeffrey Zucker said, he sees his panalists as “characters in a drama.”  And Americans, who put Donald Trump into the oval office, clearly want drama and not answers.

Further reading

From the blog

Journalism in America – When you work to get a story only for the source to tell the world on their own.
Bias in the media – The problem isn’t a partisan press.

 

Political panels will be the death of me

An afternoon with the bricks

In recent years, I’ve gotten a Lego set on my birthday. I usually put it together with Michael. We’re building a little beach town for him and his sisters.

This year, however, I got the Woman of NASA set and put it together this afternoon.

We had a ton of fun. Minnie helped a lot with the Margaret Hamilton piece, but left most of the rest up to me.

One thing that fascinated me was which face Minnie wanted with each head. Like most Lego “characters” the heads offer two faces. For this set, one face had a smile and the other was serious. She picked the smiling faces for Nancy Roman and Mae Jamison. Sally Ride and Hamilton got the serious face. I asked her why she chose the faces. She liked the eyebrows on Sally Ride’s serious face and thought Hamilton looked like a teacher.

It’s pretty cool that NASA and Lego teamed up on this set. (You can also get the Saturn V). I like this outreach to women and girls much better than the Elves and Friends Series. Those series look different from other Lego sets and series. This is a difference from Lego’s previous philosophy that all the sets were for both girls and boys. I think it would have been better had The Disney sets had the regular Lego figures instead of the thin-waisted and angular faced figurines.

A few of the City sets we have included professional woman. There’s a ferry set that includes a business woman in her car. Here’s hoping the City series has some sets that feature only women – and they’re not a beauty parlor but a doctor’s office or a school bus.

An afternoon with the bricks