Thursday, March 21, 2019

Unpatriotic IPatriot Writer Celebrates White Supremacist's Murder of New Zealand Muslims

IPatriot is a news website that fashions itself as a conservative alternative to the liberal mainstream media. At least once a  day, I receive an email linking to the latest "IPatriot" column of which I've read several.  The website, which has a number of writers, is not actually conservative at all and I haven't found many writers for the publication who can seriously be called "patriots."  What the website is is 100% pro-Donald Trump on every issue.  Worse yet, the website regularly gives voice to the most
radical views of Trump's cultish followers.

For the record, several times I've tried to unsubscribe from IPatriot without success. 

Last week, IPatriot's Justin O. Smith took IPatriot's unpatriotic, anti-American and extremely unchristian views to a new low, writing in the publication about how happy he is that 49 Muslims died during a white supremacist's terrorist attack on New Zealand mosques:
So … 49 Muslims dead. That’s 49 less potential global terrorists who might wage Holy War against the West and America. Forty-nine who were a part of the Islamic ideology responsible for 9/11, for Benghazi, for the Boston Bombing, San Bernadino [sic], Florida and Chattanooga terror attacks and many more throughout the Middle East and Europe … the same ideology that beheaded thousands of Mosul’s Christian population and put their heads on spiked poles outside the city … the same ideology that placed Christians in cages and drowned them or burned them alive.
...
If God were to strike every God Damned Muslim off the face of the Earth today, in one fell swoop, I would not shed a tear. I have no tears in me for Muslim deaths.
Disgusting. Absolutely disgusting.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Can Senator Merritt Win The Indianapolis Mayor's Office Running on Infrastructure, Crime?

The answer to that question is a resounding "no."

Across my desk today comes a press release from Senator Jim Merritt, GOP candidate for Indianapolis Mayor, deploring the condition of Indianapolis streets:
INDIANAPOLIS – Current State Senator and Indianapolis Mayoral Candidate Jim Merritt laid the responsibility for the current pothole crisis on Mayor Joe Hogsett during an event held today at Clark & Sons Used Tires on the east side of Indianapolis. 
“There are potholes everywhere – over 7,000 of them, according to the Indy pothole viewer,” Merritt said. “This is the direct result of a failure of leadership and lack of planning by Mayor Hogsett.” 
According to Merritt, funds have been available to help fix the roads. “In 2017, the Indiana legislature appropriated $52 million to the City of Indianapolis to help fix the roads and I voted in support,” said Merritt. “Here we are again two years later and the city has practically nothing to show for it. The roads are in worse condition now than they were then. We’re going backwards.” 
Merritt commented that the costs of the pothole crisis are hitting Indianapolis residents particularly hard. “The price of a new rim and tire on a minivan is $300 or more. Add the cost of having a tow truck take your car to the repair shop and you’re creating a hardship for countless people here in the city,” Merritt indicated. “That’s the cost of medicine for some people. Imagine having to choose between your medicine and groceries for the week or a new tire to drive safely. These are real choices that residents in Indianapolis are trying to deal with.” 
Merritt emphasized that Mayor Hogsett’s administration has responded ineffectively to this crisis. “The money being spend now is reactionary. Paving now won’t fix the last three years of neglect by this administration,” said Merritt. “Last year, there were nearly 1,400 claims filed due to pothole damage to vehicles. Fewer than twenty of those claims were paid by the city. It’s obvious that Mayor Hogsett has a difficult time understanding the plight of hardworking citizens who face having to pay for unnecessary car repairs.” The concerns go beyond cost, however, according to Merritt. “Last month, the news reported about the very serious concerns of a local ER doctor who said that potholes are the biggest public health issue outside of opiates. He said an ambulance hitting a pothole can dislodge ventilators and IVs from infants, causing pain and life-threatening conditions.” 
Merritt concluded his remarks by saying that the legacy of the Hogsett administration is a city filled with undrivable roads, frustrated citizens, and stifled economic progress caused by ignoring our infrastructure. “The taxpayers of Indianapolis deserve better. The hardworking people of Indianapolis deserve better,” Merritt emphasized. “A brighter future for Indianapolis must include a mayor’s office working proactively on the challenges our citizens are facing every day. It’s time for new leadership.”
Senator Merritt is correct.  Indianapolis' roads are in terrible shape.  Traversing the city's streets requires constant dodging of potholes lest one end up with a flat tire or, worse, a bent rim.  Likewise Merritt isn't wrong to raise the issue of Indianapolis' ever increasing homicide rate.  But if Merritt thinks the issues of infrastructure and crime will propel him to the Mayor's Office, perhaps he'd be wise to learn the lesson of Mayor Melina Kennedy.

In 2011, Democrat Kennedy lost her bid to unseat Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard.   Republican Ballard's first term featured pot-hole filled streets and record homicide rates.  Kennedy made those issues a central feature of her campaign.  Even with a new Democratic majority in Marion County, Kennedy was unable to move the political needle enough to win.

Now, Merritt is trying to replicate the losing Kennedy strategy but from the Republican side. which is an even worse idea. While Kennedy at least had a new Democratic majority in Indianapolis which almost propelled her to victory despite her lackluster campaign, Merritt is now dealing with an electorate in which Democrats dominate.   The only Republican areas left of Marion County/Indianapolis are the three lightly populated southern townships,

Merritt's narrow chance of winning the Mayor's race is to run as a non-traditional, populist Republican, someone who can identify with and zealously defend the interests of Indianapolis working men and women.  But Merritt's entire political carer has been spent as a typical country club, corporate welfare- loving Indianapolis Republican.  Does anyone think Merritt would not continue the practice of handing out taxpayer dollars to politically-connected contractors and developers?  Does anyone think Merritt wouldn't reward big law firms in town with lucrative, no bid contracts for legal services that could be provided much cheaper (and often better) by smaller, less connected firms?

The answer to those questions is "no."  Senator Merritt is not going to suddenly become a non-traditional Republican who puts taxpayers ahead of the corporate interests which dominate this city.  That is the only type of GOP candidate who can now win in a city dominated by Democratic voters.  Senator Merritt is not that person and has no chance of being elected Mayor of Indianapolis.

A Baseball Reform That is Needed: Moving the Mound Back

"Play Ball."

So looking forward to those words.  Little excites me more than the coming of the Major League Baseball baseball season.  Right now the teams are in Florida and Arizona prepping for the start of the season.  Baseball = Spring and more importantly the end of Winter I hate so much.  For that reason alone, I have to love the start of the baseball season.

Unfortunately the game is in a crisis.  Baseball games, at least at the top level, have become an endless parade of strikeouts and home runs.  Balls put into play have declined dramatically.  The excitement of watching fielders scrambling after batted balls and players running the bases has become a rarity.  Strikeouts, in particular, are consuming the action in baseball.  In 2009, hitters struck out 33,591 times. During the midst of the 2018 baseball season, it was projected that 42,076 batters would strike out.  (Don't have access to completed year stats.) That is an increase of 8,485 or 25.3% in less than 10 years.

Why is this happening?  The chief reason is a dramatic increase in pitch velocity.  In 2008, the velocity of the average MLB fastball was 90.47 mph.  In 2018, the average fastball clocked in at 92.8 mph.   In 2017, there were 81 MLB pitchers who threw in excess of 100 mph.

Games now have become a parade of relief pitchers throwing extremely hard to get out just one or two hitters.  Thanks to modern conditioning, these throwers (I hesitate to call them "pitchers" as they rarely have much in the way of breaking pitches) have fastballs that clock in at 95 mph plus.  A decade ago, these relievers' fastballs would have been in the low 90s.  That limited velocity and their moderately effective breaking pitches would have made their stuff little better than that offered by an middle aged baseball coach pitching batting practice.  But now, with those pitchers throwing much harder, these marginal pitchers can have major league careers.

Political analyst and stats guru Nate Silver of Five Thirty Eight explains quite well the problem:
teams ... use a parade of relievers who enter the game from the sixth inning onward and throw the hell out of the ball, knowing they’ll probably max out at one inning at a time. (The Yankee bullpen is a prime example.) You might call these pitchers OMGs: One-inning Max-effort Guys. They can be incredibly, game-changingly effective, but they aren’t necessarily all that skilled. 
In fact, the whole problem is that OMGs are a renewable resource, with no real constraints on supply. Teams can take failed starters with two decent pitches and, after some weeding out, turn them into OMGs who will strike out 25 or 30 percent of the batters they face, provided they only have to throw one inning every second or third day. It also yields rosters that are grossly imbalanced relative to the amount of value that these relievers generate. 
According to FanGraphs, relief pitchers accounted for only about 9 percent of the value (in wins above replacement) that all position players and pitchers created last year. And yet, they occupy about 25 percent of roster slots.
And to a larger degree than you probably realize, these OMGs bear responsibility for the ever-increasing rate of strikeouts in baseball — something that was easier to shrug off until MLB attendance started to decline.
In his well-researched article, Silver proposed a reform - limiting pitchers on major league rosters to 10 along with one "emergency" pitcher.  MLB though settled on another reform for this season, requiring relief pitchers to pitch to at least three batters, or to the end of an inning.  Also, contrary to Silver's wishes, MLB went the other direction on roster size, starting in 2020 increasing MLB rosters from 25 players to 26.  Thankfully, the post-September roster expansion is now capped at 28, down from 40 players.  That was a change long past due.  Teams competing for playoff slots should not be playing their final games against teams out of the running which have filled their lineups filled with minor leaguers.

Other possible reforms, such as limiting  defensive shifts, adoption of the DH in the National League, reducing the strike zone, etc. are shelved for now.

The commonality of Silver's proposal and MLB's three pitcher reforms is that they they treat the symptoms of the problem while ignoring the underlying cause.  Bottom line is there is a limit on human reaction time.  While pitchers have been conditioned to throw harder and harder (if only for a few batters) the time required for a human being, even one as well trained as a major league baseball player, to decide whether to swing at a pitched ball has remained pretty much a constant. The modern day MLB fastball speeds are eclipsing the human reaction time needed to decide what pitch is being thrown and whether it is one at which the player should swing.

When it comes to baseball, I am as much a traditionalist as anyone.  I abhor the DH which robs the fans of seeing the major strategic move in baseball - whether to pull a well-performing pitcher for a pinch hitter during the game. I am adamant against the proposed limits on where defensive players can play in a baseball game.  But when it comes to baseball, I don't see anything magical about the pitching rubber being 60 feet 6 inches from home plate.  In 1969, the mound was lowered 5 inches to restore the balance between hitters and pitchers.  (The strike zone was also reduced to 1961 standards that year.) What is the difference between lowering the mound and moving the mound back, say 5 inches to a foot or two?   Just a little bit of extra time to evaluate a pitched ball would make an enormous diffence to hitters.

Over at Bleacher Report, Jacob Schafer argues that moving the mound back is a terrible idea.  He starts off with the bizarre claim that having to throw the extra distance will cause pitchers to have more arm problems. Of course, extra throwing distance hasn't caused a plethora of sore arms among outfielders.  It is not clear how Schafer came up with his theory that merely throwing a longer distance causes arm problems.

Schafer, however, is absolutely correct when he goes on to say that the longer distance means breaking pitches will be more effective, i.e. the extra distance gives breaking pitches more time to work.  But then Schafer goes on to theorize that the more effective breaking pitches will offset the additional time to respond to a fastball. He even finds an analyst who claims that the increased distance from the mound to home plate would actually hurt, not help, hitters.

Schafer is in essence arguing that with the longer distance pitchers will have rely more on off-speed pitches rather than simply throwing hard to strike out batters. So pitchers will have to go back to being  pitchers instead of throwers?  That's a bad thing why? Batters, on the other hand, will learn to hit the better breaking pitches (and will have more time to do so), most likely putting them into play instead of striking out.   Isn't that exactly what we want?

Instead of addressing the symptoms, MLB needs to address the problem.  Move the mound back.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

RIP: Gary Ogden, My Brother

Gary L. Ogden, 62, of Indianapolis, Indiana, passed away on February 25, 2019.   Gary was born on June 6, 1956 in Madison, Indiana to his parents, DeVon and Lucille.

Upon graduation from Madison High School, Gary became an electrician, working for years as a member of local IBEW #481.

After taking early retirement, Gary liked helping friends and his church with various projects.  Gary’s great passion throughout his life was nature, particularly growing plants and wildflowers. 

Gary is survived by his mother, Lucille (Ogden) Adams, his children, Rachel and Jacob, and his four brothers, Mark, Jeff, Paul (Kim), and Mike.  He was predeceased by his father, DeVon and stepfather, John Adams.

A memorial service will be held at Garfield Park Community Church, 743 E. Pleasant Run Pkwy, South Drive, Indianapolis on Friday, March 29th.  Visitation will be at 5 pm with the formal service starting at 6 pm.  A meal will immediately follow. 

Gary spoke often of his fascination with the beauty of the Franklinia, also known as the Franklin Tree. 
A Franklin Tree is going to be planted and nurtured as a living memory of Gary and his love of nature.  A GoFundMe page has been established for donations to the Franklin Tree Fund.  Or if you wish, you can send flowers to the Garfield Park Community Church for the memorial.