Thursday, December 18, 2014

"At one point Wednesday, Major League Baseball became so concerned about the reaction to Obama’s announcement that it sent a directive to its 30 teams pointing out that it remained illegal to scout players in Cuba or to sign them, because the U.S. embargo of the island remained in effect," and can only be removed with congressional approval-NY Times, Schmidt

12/17/14, "Once again, Cuba, with its history of the sport, beckons to baseball," NY Times, Michael S. Schmidt

"At a dinner in one of Fidel Castro’s palaces in 1999, Castro and several of Major League Baseball’s senior executives discussed one of the few bonds between Cuba and the United States: baseball.

The executives, including baseball’s commissioner, Bud Selig, were there for an exhibition game between the Baltimore Orioles and the Cuban national team, as part of an effort by President Bill Clinton to thaw relations.

As the dinner stretched into the early hours of the morning, Castro regaled Selig with tales from the history of Cuban baseball and fantasized about what would happen if the United States and Cuba ever normalized ties. Castro told one of the executives, Sandy Alderson, who had overseen preparations for the trip, that he was open to the idea of major league teams having academies in Cuba similar to the ones in the Dominican Republic, where teenage players honed their skills in the hopes of making it to the majors. Fifteen years after that dinner, the vision of an active relationship between Cuba and Major League Baseball became a little more real Wednesday after President Barack Obama’s announcement that he planned to restore full diplomatic relations with the island nation.

In one of Obama’s most significant foreign policy initiatives, he said he would open an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half century and said the United States would ease restrictions on travel and banking.

When Castro took power in 1959, Cuba’s pool of talented baseball players - one of the largest outside the United States - became off-limits to major league teams, except for the stream of players who defected. The 19 Cuban-born players who were major leaguers in all or part of the 2014 season - like Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig - made up the highest number since 1967, when there were 30. But scouts and general managers have said it would be far higher if teams could send representatives to Cuba and sign players, and then develop them.

Significant foreign policy announcements from Washington do not usually prompt the baseball commissioner’s office or the players union to respond. But after Obama addressed the nation Wednesday, both released terse statements saying they were monitoring the situation.

Baseball officials, team executives, scouts, agents and fans began to speculate about how soon major league teams might be able to sign players in Cuba. Some even wondered whether Major League Baseball might be tempted to relocate a team like the Tampa Bay Rays, which has a feeble fan base, to Havana, where it would most likely be a sensation. Others questioned how rich the Cuban talent pool really was.

At one point Wednesday, Major League Baseball became so concerned about the reaction to Obama’s announcement that it sent a directive to its 30 teams pointing out that it remained illegal to scout players in Cuba or to sign them, because the U.S. embargo of the island remained in effect. Obama cannot lift the embargo on his own, and a Congress that will be fully controlled by Republicans starting in January is unlikely to go along with the idea, at least any time soon.

Some baseball officials thought that the changes in travel restrictions that would now take effect could at least ease the chaotic process that started in the 1990s, when the island’s top players would escape, often in boats in the middle of the night, defect to the United States and sign as free agents with major league teams.

With 11 million people, Cuba would not just be a talent source for Major League Baseball if a working relationship was established; it would also be an ideal market. Baseball has expanded its efforts in the past decade in Asia and Australia as it seeks new revenue, and Cuba would be a welcome addition to the list.

As recently as 2007, Major League Baseball was quietly putting together plans for what to do if the United States changed its relationship with Cuba. Baseball officials, working with academics and business executives and with players born in Cuba, were determining how they could take advantage of the island’s interest in the game and its talent pool if the opportunity arose.
Still, while the best Cuban players are among the most talented in the world, it is not completely clear how well-developed Cuban youth leagues are and what shape the island’s fields and equipment are in.

U.S. scouts have had a chance to watch Cuban players in recent years at the World Baseball Classic, in which teams from around the world square off in a March tournament. And, of course, they have watched defectors like Puig, Yoenis Cespedes, Jose Abreu and Aroldis Chapman succeed on the major league level - and sign increasingly lucrative contracts.

Peter C. Bjarkman, a Cuban baseball historian, noted that the Cuban government had recently adopted a policy that allowed players to join teams in Mexico and Japan. But major league clubs in the United States are a different matter.

“The Cubans want their players to now have more experience and to play professionally overseas and earn some money,” Bjarkman said. “But there is a condition: They want those players to play in the Cuban league in the winter. Otherwise they will be throwing up their hands.”

Major league teams, however, would probably not agree to allow Cuban players to spend entire winters playing baseball back home, reasoning that the injury risk would be too great.

“This is an issue that’s going to be debated in Cuba now,” Bjarkman said. “They want to utilize baseball resources to bring more money into the country, but they don’t want to sell their league to North America.”

Cubans have played in the majors as far back as the early 1900s. The Brooklyn Dodgers occasionally had spring training on the island in the 1930 and 1940s, and there was minor league baseball, too. From 1954 to 1960, the Havana Sugar Kings, a farm team of the Cincinnati Reds, played in the Class AAA International League.

Roberto González Echevarría, a professor of literature at Yale and the author of “The Pride of Havana: a History of Cuban Baseball,” noted the Cuban government had often disparaged Major League Baseball, although that could become a thing of the past.

Still, he emphasized that one of Cuba’s biggest fears was a basic one - that if Major League Baseball was allowed into the island, with all its resources, it would eventually take over the sport, as it essentially did in the Dominican Republic.

“How that can be controlled if Cuba becomes freer is very difficult to say,” he said." via Free Rep.


Comment:  The fact that Congress "will be fully controlled by Republicans starting in January" is by no means bad news for any Obama agenda item. The only Republicans that matter are those in "leadership" and those individuals are simpatico with Democrats. In particular they're eager to help out Mr. Obama any way they can because he helped them beat the Tea Party. The NY Times is aware of all this but does its part to keep the good guy-bad guy narrative going as do the players in the Beltway.

Stumbleupon StumbleUpon

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Watching baseball game with Fidel Castro in Cuba in 1999 are Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos

Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos, Fidel Castro, and then MLB Commissioner Bud Selig at Orioles-Cuba exhibition game in Havana, 3/28/99, photo from Baltimore Sun, ap, 11/13/09

11/13/2009, "Orioles vs. Cuba: Back to the future?" Baltimore Sun, Peter Schmuck 


3/29/1999, "Castro presence puts politics at forefront," Baltimore Sun, Peter Schmuck, Havana

"Cuban leader watches game with Angelos, Schmoke and Selig."

"So much for subtle political overtones. The Orioles had hoped to cast yesterday's historic exhibition game against members of the Cuban national team as a nonpolitical, people-to-people event, but the high-profile presence of Cuban President Fidel Castro at Latin American Stadium nearly overshadowed the baseball dimension of the goodwill trip.

The Orioles worked overtime to score an 11-inning, 3-2 victory before a crowd of more than 50,000 but some of the most interesting action -- or interaction -- took place about 50 feet behind home plate, where Orioles owner Peter G. Angelos, baseball Commissioner Bud Selig and Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke sat with Castro throughout the four-hour game.

No doubt, the image of baseball's top-ranking official, a high-profile owner and a nationally known mayor schmoozing with Castro will cause tremendous consternation in the Cuban exile community. It could even spark a new round of protests at the Orioles' Fort Lauderdale, Fla., spring-training facility.

But Angelos said he knew going in that there was a public relations risk inherent in the controversial Cuban overture and refused to apologize for sitting down with a man who has been a bitter enemy of the United States for nearly four decades.

"He's the principal political person in his government," Angelos said. "If he invites you to sit with him at the ballgame, good manners would dictate that you accept."

Selig seemed more concerned that the visit might be viewed by critics as an accommodation of Cuba's repressive government, but defended the visit -- and the close contact with Castro -- as part of a new initiative by the U.S. State Department to encourage more contact between the Cuban and American people. "I'm extremely sensitive about that," Selig said. "But this is part of a sports and cultural exchange that our State Department wanted us to do. Baseball holds a unique position in both countries. It was logical that it be the linchpin of that exchange."

Angelos and Selig met Castro for the first time the night before, when they were invited along with American League President Gene Budig and National League President Len Coleman and a select group of officials to a state dinner at the Palacio de la Revolucion.

The Orioles were invited along with the Cuban team to another reception with Castro at the presidential palace before they boarded a charter flight back to Florida late last night.

Castro stayed for the entire game, which featured a late-inning comeback by the apparently outmanned Cuban team before Orioles designated hitter Harold Baines won the game with an RBI single in the 11th inning.

"I think he was a little disappointed because it looked in the late innings like they would prevail," Angelos said.

Angelos declared the game an unqualified success, from the pre-game flag ceremony that involved every member of each team to the warm interaction between the opposing players after the tense game.

"It met and exceeded my expectations," Angelos said. "It was a perfect game, because we won and the Cuban team showed that they are capable of competing with a major-league team. The highlight of the entire event for me was the way the Orioles and the Cuban ballplayers shook hands after the game."

The conversation with Castro was memorable, too, even though it did not stray far from the sport that had brought the Orioles owner to Cuba for the second time in three months.

"We talked only about baseball," Angelos said. "He was asking questions with respect to salaries and how the game operates. He knows about some of the stars of the game. It was a very interesting experience, and I think everything about it was positive.

"It was one great day in the effort to bring the Cuban and American people together. It's one small step, but I think other teams will follow. I think what the Orioles have begun will go on and on. We've got some very substantial political problems to be resolved, but we are working together to do some positive things.""

Stumbleupon StumbleUpon

Friday, December 12, 2014

On Monday, two dozen NY City Council members went into the street in front of City Hall and blocked traffic. Mob rule settles in-Henninger, Wall St. Journal

12/10/14, "Mobs of New York," Daniel Henninger, Wall St. Journal

"How did we get to the point in the United States where street protesters are treated as sainted figures, no matter what they do? 

How did it happen that important public leaders—the American president, the mayor of New York, college presidentsfeel obliged to legitimize these protests, no matter what they do to a city, its citizens or owners of private property? Why is it that the leaders of America’s most important institutions are no longer capable of recognizing a mob when they see one?

On Wednesday last week, the day of the grand jury decision in the Eric Garner case on Staten Island, hundreds of people marched through New York City’s main streets and highways, blocked bridges, invaded the crowds of parents and kids gathered for the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, and spread themselves on the floor as “die-ins” amid commuters in Grand Central Terminal.

Despite the massive inconvenience, many New Yorkers, who like to think they live in a tolerant city, more or less accepted this venting. Message sent and absorbed. Whatever political course the controversial Garner case would take next, it was time for everyone to resume their lives on Thursday. 

But no. One sensed where this was headed on seeing photos in the morning papers of New York City Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, stoically accepting that his face and suit were covered with red paint—“blood” tossed by a professional anarchist. The protesters decided that immobilizing city streets wasn’t enough to make their point. 

They marched into the Apple store on Fifth Avenue. They did it at the huge, crowded Macy’s on Herald Square. They entered an HandM store and blocked the escalators. Inside a Forever 21 store in Times Square, they surrounded a display taxi cab and covered it with a sign: “The system is guilty. Burn it down.” 

H and M, Dec. 7
Where is it written that a city has to put up with this?

It got worse.

In Berkeley, Calif., a mob protesting the grand jury decisions in the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases broke the window of a Trader Joe ’s supermarket. They wrecked a RadioShack store and smashed ATM machines. 

That still wasn’t enough. 

This Monday, some two dozen New York City Council members went into the street in front of city hall and disrupted traffic. For the people gridlocked in their cars, taxis and delivery trucks, Councilman Andy King explained: “We have a responsibility to wake you up, and the only way people get woken up is if you disrupt their everyday normalcy.” 

That evening, President Obama in an interview gave his approval. Calling violence “counterproductive,” the president nonetheless said, “Power concedes nothing without a fight, that’s true, but it’s also true that a country’s conscience has to be triggered by some inconvenience.” This, he said, was “the value of peaceful protests, activism.” 

Let me rephrase that: The president of the United States is holding the door open for politics by mob rule, the invasion of private property and economic damage to store owners.

Police Commissioner Bratton said he was giving the protesters “breathing room.” New York’s mayor, Bill de Blasio , said the effect of the demonstrations was “minimal.” 

What an irony. At the infamous 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago, two groups—the Yippies (formally, the Youth International Party) and the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam did the same thing. New York’s theatrical protest groups are the progeny of the Yippies and the Mobilization. But now, they are the Democrats’ base.

A city is a fragile exercise in normal daily life. The idea that we are all complicit if we don’t metaphorically “burn down” this normalcy for some cause is false. 

The need to protect civilized urban life from the poison of disorder is the reason George Kelling and the late James Q. Wilson formulated the “broken windows” theory of policing. Some, notably Al Sharpton , are now arguing that “broken windows” is a mistake, that we should absorb minor disorders and police only major violations. 

But disordered city life has already caused one of the greatest social upheavals of our time. The charter-schools and voucher movements exist largely because minority parents in rough neighborhoods wanted to get their children out of chaotic, dangerous public schools, where daily disorder made learning too difficult. That has been a productive protest. 

President Obama created a task force on policing techniques. Good. Maybe we will learn something. But perhaps this task force should extend its writ and have a real “dialogue” with the residents of these neighborhoods about the quality of their daily lives beyond the police. Where is an objective social documentarian when you need one?

If we have learned anything in the past century, it is that when politically approved mobs start invading shopkeepers and smashing their windows in the name of politics, it is a sign that a society is veering off the rails."

Image: "Protesters block an escalator in a New York City HandM store, Dec. 7. Reuters


Comment: How did we get to this point? In part, Mr. Henninger, because of people like your billionaire boss whose first order of business is that we the people shut up. Thus ends discussion of law, order, illegal immigration, scabies, and civil society. When people can't think of anything but their own safety they won't be checking up on politicians and their billionaire pals selling out the country.

Stumbleupon StumbleUpon

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Former NBA player Dennis Rodman says Ferguson and Staten Island protests are like nothing he ever saw in Martin Luther King days, they never blocked freeways and bridges so people can't get to work or home to their babies. This is making everything worse-Newsday, Neil Best

12/9/14, "Dennis Rodman says Ferguson and Staten Island protests 'increasing the problem'," Newsday, Neil Best

"Former NBA All-Star Dennis Rodman offered some pointed thoughts Tuesday on recent protests over the failure to indict police officers in the deaths of young men in Ferguson, Missouri, and Staten Island.
"Instead of trying to solve the problem, they're increasing the problem," he said. "I've never seen it before. Even back in Martin Luther King days, they never did this, going on freeways and bridges and just laying down on the ground and people can't go to work, people can't go home to their kids and stuff like that.

"People aren't thinking about stuff like that. They're thinking about, well it's unjust, unfair. What about people trying to go tome to their babies, to their mothers, to their fathers, to their loves ones and stuff like that and you're holding traffic up for like four or five hours a day? That makes no damn sense.''

Rodman was in Manhattan on Tuesday for a breakfast to promote Steiner Sports' new line of handwritten essays by former athletes over pictures of key moments in their careers. The event was held at Michael Jordan's Steakhouse in Grand Central Terminal.
Rodman expressed ambivalence over players such as LeBron James wearing "I Can't Breathe" T-shirts during warmups to protest the choking death of Eric Garner on Staten Island.

"I can't breathe, OK, great, but what happened to that 12-year-old; why didn't you support that?" he said, referring to Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old killed by Cleveland police last month. "What about that guy, 12 years old? Nobody supported that one. And that [Garner death] wasn't even on purpose. It's a Catch-22 when people select things they want to support and it's a sad thing.""

Image: "Dennis Rodman sings Happy Birthday to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, seated above in the stands, before an exhibition basketball game at an indoor stadium in Pyongyang, North Korea on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2014. Photo Credit: AP / Kim Kwang Hyon," Newsday


Comment: That's the point, Dennis, this isn't about civil rights, it's about anarchy, like the Occupy movement only bigger. It's about destroying the United States, inciting hatred and racism, stealing millions of dollars from already stretched municipal budgets, stealing tax dollars of innocent people, breaking civil society, forcing Americans to stay in their homes because it's just not worth it to try and go anywhere. They know their helpers in the media will splash negative images of the US around the world. It's a big party. The entire political class is fine with it. They prefer chaos. When voters can think of nothing but their own safety, they can't be checking on politicians selling out the country.

Stumbleupon StumbleUpon

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Thank-you, David Robertson, good luck with the White Sox

12/9/14, "David Robertson agrees to four-year, $46-million deal with White Sox," Erik Boland, Newsday

Robertson, Rivera in Panama 3/15/14
"The Royals made it to the seventh game of the World Series in large part because of a lockdown bullpen that shortened games to six innings, and the sport took notice.

The Yankees were among the teams that took note of the Royals' methods, and they dreamed of perhaps as devastating a seventh-eighth-ninth-inning combination with Dellin Betances, the recently signed Andrew Miller and closer David Robertson. Time for Plan B.

Robertson, who went 39-for-44 in saves and struck out 96 in 641/3 innings last season as Mariano Rivera's replacement, agreed to a four-year, $46-million deal with the White Sox late Monday night, a contract first reported by USA Today.

The Yankees were willing to discuss the possibility of a four-year deal with the 29-year-old Robertson, but ultimately not at the kind of dollars the White Sox were willing to give.

Robertson's departure leaves the Yankees, who signed the lefthanded Miller to a four-year, $36-million deal last Friday, in the market for additional bullpen help. General manager Brian Cashman, who arrived here for the winter meetings Monday afternoon, already had been working the trade and free-agent markets for late-inning bullpen help in the event Robertson left, efforts that no doubt will be redoubled in the coming days and weeks.

The Yankees very well could go into spring training with the intent of giving righthander Dellin Betances -- who had a 1.40 ERA and struck out 135 in 90 innings (70 appearances) last season -- every opportunity to earn the closer's role, and add a veteran closer, such as Jason Grilli, as insurance.

The Yankees traded for lefthander Justin Miller earlier this offseason, getting him from the Pirates for Francisco Cervelli, and many in the organization expect Jacob Lindgren, a lefthander who was the club's second-round draft pick last June, to compete for a bullpen spot in spring training.

Before news of Robertson's signing, Andrew Miller indicated how much respect he has for Betances. He said that if Robertson left, he expected Betances to get the first chance to close.

"What he did was pretty incredible,'' Miller said. "Everything he did was what I was trying to mimic as much as possible. It seemed like when he came in, he was aggressive from the get-go. He has pitches where it doesn't really matter what he's throwing. He just was really aggressive in the zone, and that's what I'm trying to do myself. His ability to come in and pitch to lefthanders, righthanders, whatever inning it was, was really impressive.''

Though Miller, who posted a 2.02 ERA and struck out 103 in 621/3 innings in 2014, has only one save in nine seasons, if the opportunity to close is given to him, he will embrace it.

"I certainly think I'm capable,'' Miller said on a conference call with reporters much earlier in the day.

"If Robertson does not sign, then I would assume they clearly feel comfortable with . . . Everybody saw what Betances was last year. I'm pretty confident in myself. I think I can get three outs at any point in the game. Wherever that may be, whatever it is, is fine with me. I want to win. I want to shake hands and high-five at the end of the game more than anything.''...

The rotation needs bolstering -- counting out the Yankees in the pursuit of some of the big-name starters on the market, a common theme earlier in the offseason, should be done with caution -- and insurance is needed at third base. Chase Headley remains the Yankees' preferred target, as has been the case since this year's free-agency period kicked off.

And though Cashman has talked about a spring training battle at second base between rookies Jose Pirela and Rob Refsnyder, he also is looking for depth at that position."...


David Robertson, Winning Pitcher, ALCS game 2 vs Angels at the Stadium, final 4-3 in 13 innings. 10/17/2009.


3/1/14, "Mariano Rivera honored in Panama, throws ceremonial first pitch to new Yankees closer David Robertson," NY Daily News, Mark Feinsand. photo, Sipkin, NYDN

Stumbleupon StumbleUpon

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Gregorius' sketch of Jeter

"Gregorius brings another tool to the clubhouse: a pencil. He is a skilled sketch artist who shares his drawings on Twitter.

“I’ve seen his book, and he’s good,” Nieves said. “He’s got a gift for drawing.”

Gregorius has drawn Batman characters, animals, nature scenes and baseball players. The most recent sketch he posted, just after the regular season, was of a player in pinstripes tipping his helmet to the crowd: Derek Jeter."

12/5/14, "Jumping Into Big Shoes, Yankees Look to Didi Gregorius to Replace Derek Jeter," NY Times, Tyler Kepner

Image: "A Gregorius sketch of Jeter," via NY Times

More Gregorius drawings:

12/5/14, "Gregorius’ sketch of Jeter basically told the future," NY Post, Jonathan Lehman

Gregorius twitter


Stumbleupon StumbleUpon

NY City Mayor de Blasio says US in profound crisis from centuries of racism, he's had to train his biracial son to expect abuse by police

12/4/14, "New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio's Personal Reaction to Eric Garner Case," ABC News, Dan Good via Good Morning America

"The death of Eric Garner left a personal impression on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. De Blasio, speaking at a news conference Wednesday after a grand jury’s decision not to indict officers in the July choke hold death of Garner, said the case made him think about his 17-year-old son, Dante, who is biracial

“A good young man, a law-abiding young man, who would never think to do anything wrong, and yet, because of a history that still hangs over us, the dangers he may face – we’ve had to literally train him, as families have all over this city for decades, in how to take special care in any encounter he has with the police officers who are there to protect him.”

De Blasio called the case a “national moment of grief, a national moment of pain.” 

“We’re not just dealing with a problem in 2014, we’re not dealing with years of racism leading up to it, or decades of racism – we are dealing with centuries of racism that have brought us to this day,” he said. That is how profound the crisis is. And that is how fundamental the task at hand is, to turn from that history and to make a change that is profound and lasting.”"...

Stumbleupon StumbleUpon

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

NY Times remains the most powerful force for evil, hatred, and premature death in the world. Latest, published home address of Ferguson officer. Without the NY Times, the world would have a chance

11/25/14, "The New York Times and Other Members of the Ferguson Hall of Shame," Roger L. Simon, PJ Media

"That the photograph of Walter Duranty--the New York Times Moscow correspondent who deliberately whitewashed Stalin’s 1930s forced starvation of millions of Ukrainians and won the Pulitzer for it--still is on the newspaper’s wall of fame with their other prize winners is apparently no aberration. The New York Times has no moral center. In fact, it’s despicable. On November 24, they published the home address of Officer Darren Wilson.

By now most of America knows who Wilson is--the Ferguson, Missouri, police officer exonerated for the murder of Michael Brown, the supposed 6′ 6″, three-hundred-pound “gentle giant” who was reportedly on his way to college, but it turns out was holding up convenience stores and trying to grab Wilson’s gun and bashing him in the face all while the officer was sitting in his police car. We also all know the reaction of some of the angrier members of the Ferguson community and those omnipresent “outside agitator” dime-store anarchists to the grand jury announcement — cars torched, minority businesses burned down, looting, gunfire, freeways blocked, etc., etc. A lot of out-of-control mayhem from L.A. to NY with racial hatred fanned at every turn. The NYT apparently doesn’t give a shit (excuse the French, but it’s merited). In the midst of all this, they print Wilson’s address. It was to them “all the news that’s fit to print.” Who cares what might happen to the cop and his family? He’s just a cop, after all, and a white one at that. Definitely not a member of the elite — not bon type, bon genre. (Maybe someone should do a country song — “Two thousand miles from Zabar’s.”)

So much for that newspaper. They’re cancer.

Not quite cancer but pretty bad is Jay Nixon, the governor of Missouri. Not only did he attempt to prejudge the case, calling for Wilson’s head like some minor league Robespierre months before there was any evidence, but then, on the night of the grand jury announcement, after having brought in the National Guard, he goes completely AWOL and doesn’t use the Guards at all, leaving the poor store owners of Ferguson to fend for themselves, not to mention the police. Everyone got to watch the results on TV.

Peter Kinder, the vice governor of Missouri, wants to know what happened. Why no Guards, when they were all set to go? Did the word come down from the White House or the Department of Justice to keep the Guards out? Nixon didn’t answer, just accused Kinder of playing politics. (At least he didn’t play the race card, but that would be hard, white man to white man…. although it’s possible.) 

So we don’t know…yet.

And then there’s Brown’s stepfather who looks about five years older than Brown himself and exhorted the crowds to “Burn the bitch down.” Geraldo wants him indicted, which says a lot. To me he’s a minor player.

And finally there’s the Revered Al, a character straight out of the pages of Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man. A demagogue with the ear of the president and attorney general, he’s no minor player. 

No wonder he hasn’t been collared for the 4.5 million in back taxes his various organizations are said to owe. O’Reilly thinks he’s the most hated man in America right now and he may be right. He’s certainly in competition with the KKK of old for outright race incitement, although he hasn’t gone as far as lynching, unless you count the Tawana Brawley case, which was pretty close to that....

When it comes to civil rights, more than most of them, I have been there and done that. I was there in the sixties and I was, to my shame, a financial supporter of the Black Panthers. I’m not a young guy and I have seen a lot. And nothing I have seen, after all this time, is sadder than Ferguson."

Stumbleupon StumbleUpon

Rush Limbaugh describes his friend Al Michaels' new book about events and people in his sports broadcasting career. Limbaugh was at a restaurant in Kansas City with George Brett when he first met Michaels

11/25/14, "A Great Book By NFL Broadcast Legend Al Michaels! You Can't Make This Up: Miracles, Memories, and the Perfect Marriage of Sports and Television," Rush Limbaugh

"Now, we're coming up on Thanksgiving and the holiday season. I want to take a brief moment to tell you a little bit about a friend of mine that you all know but you don't know. And his name is Al Michaels. I got to know Al Michaels some years ago. It was at a restaurant in Kansas City. It was not long after this program birthed. I was in Kansas City, I think for a Rush to Excellence Tour or some such thing, with George Brett

I stopped in Indiana to pick him up at a popcorn factory. He was doing a public appearance. We stopped, went to a restaurant in Kansas City, Plaza III, which, when I lived there, it was a treat.  I mean, it still is, one of the best restaurants in town, of so many.  They had the greatest Plaza III salad, the salad dressing.  I don't know if it's still the same, but back then -- talking seventies and eighties -- it was just out of this world.

So, anyway, we're in there, and I think the Chiefs are playing the Steelers. I think it's a playoff game on the following Saturday. This might have been a Thursday night or Friday night, I forget which.  Anyway, we're walking out, and Dan Dierdorf comes over, says, "I've got somebody that would love to meet." It was Al Michaels. I met Al and we've become fast friends, golf buddies now and then. Al was prominent at our wedding. He's just a great guy, but, you know, you don't know him because he's such a consummate professional.

I know a lot of people in media, of course, and particularly in sports broadcasting, and a lot of them are really good. Jim Nantz is a great guy and a huge talent.  It's a field, you know, you've got two or three that are really exceptional, and Al Michaels is probably the leader of that pack. They're all great people. They do their jobs so well that you don't know them....If you had the chance to meet Al Michaels, I guarantee you he would be exactly what you would hope he would be.

You see him on television every Sunday night doing Sunday Night Football. You see him on Monday Night Football and Monday Night Baseball, start Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants baseball.

He's been doing this for years and years, and he's just a consummate professional, and as such you don't learn much about him because he's not the story. You don't get to know Al. He becomes your friend. You become totally trusting. You respect and understand his authority.

He's one of the few that makes the event bigger than it is by his presence. You could put Al Michaels on the worst Sunday afternoon game on an NFL schedule and it would become the biggest, and there aren't too many who've done what Al does that you could say that about. You could say that about Cosell. You could say it about Jim Nantz at CBS. There aren't too many, but Al is at the peak here.

He's funny. He's happy. He's a great citizen. He's reliable, trustworthy, but the point is he's written a book.

People have been after him to do this for years and he's always resisted. He's not the story, doesn't want to become the story.  He does not take advantage of all of this airtime he's had. I mean, I can remember two occasions where Al Michaels has said something in relationship to taxes or something that everybody agreed with, and I was swamped with e-mail: "Hey, even Al Michaels last night, did you hear what he said about taxes?" Just a five-second line about it.

But he's written a book. He's finally relented and succumbed to the pressure to write a book of his experiences and the people he's known and the stories that are just out of this world. Stories about all the people he's worked with, many of the athletes, some of the other fellow broadcasters. And he doesn't pull any punches on any of these. He's not like a jock, a former player gets a gig in the booth and then immediately shuts up so as not to offend friends that are still players and, you know, gets vanilla.

This book is not vanilla. It's funny, it's outrageous, but it's got some hard hitting stuff in it, too, things that you will never know unless you read the book. Things that you'll never hear about.  And if you're a sports fan, you're gonna eat all of this up. You're gonna hear some of the truthful reactions that Al had to Cosell. You're gonna hear about things that happened in the Monday Night Football booth that you will never hear about anywhere else but this book....

I'll tell you something else about Al Michaels. He makes everybody that works with him better just by virtue of his presence. He elevates everybody else's work. It's not too many people that have achieved this pinnacle, particularly in broadcasting. And he never calls in sick. He's there. He shows up. He's dependable as can be, and when Al is there, you know it's big, and it has that feel, it has that aura about it.

The book is called -- I have it right here. I've got my official copy, and it is called "You Can't Make This Up: Miracles, Memories, and the Perfect Marriage of Sports and Television."...

But even if you're not a full-fledged sports fan, if you're just interested in stories about people in the media and particularly in this case the sports media, and want to learn some things that you'll never know by just watching, you -- and Al's doing some interviews talking about the book. So he's talking about some of these things now, but on Sunday Night Football he will not say a thing about this unless they do a special segment about it a in a pregame show. He will never intrude on the game.

That's a remarkable thing.  It's remarkable professionalism, and it's a throwback mentality about respect for the game, for the job....

It's gutsy he's done this with still a lot of years left in his career. He doesn't pull any punches. I mean, he even goes after Costas in this book over a couple things. Not Costas per se, but an event that involved Costas and salary and baseball.  It's good. You'll like it.  So while you're out there populating your Christmas baskets with Rush Revere and the American Revolution, check out Al Michaels and You Can't Make This Up, because you can't."

Amazon: You Can't Make This Up: Miracles, Memories, and the Perfect Marriage of Sports and Television - Al Michaels 

Stumbleupon StumbleUpon

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Derek Jeter visits Goldman Sachs technology conference in Vegas

11/22/14, "Derek Jeter plays ball with tech honchos," NY Post, Stephanie Smith

"Could Derek Jeter be the next tech mogul? After launching his new sports Web site, The Players’ Tribune, the retired Yankee captain made the rounds at the Goldman Sachs technology conference in Las Vegas.

Jeter has made some noise with several stories on the Tribune, a site the lifetime .300 hitter describes as “a place where athletes have the tools they need to share what they really think and feel.”

It’s where Tiger Woods recently expressed disgust with a satirical column by golf writer Dan Jenkins [“Journalistically and ethically, can you sink any lower?” Woods said], and where Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, a devout Christian, said he was a bully in grade school.

“I threw kids against the wall. I rubbed their heads in the dirt at recess. I bit them. I even knocked teeth out,” Wilson wrote in an essay.

Last week, Jeter spoke on a panel with Kim Posnett, Goldman’s head of global Internet investment banking, at the powerhouse Wall Street firm’s annual Vegas tech confab.

He was also spotted chatting up star Jessica Alba, who was a panelist with her Honest Company co-founder Brian Lee at an after-party at the Hyde Bellagio. Alba’s company is prepping to go public with a $1 billion valuation.

In December, Jeter will also discuss business with Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban at a charity breakfast hosted by Steiner Sports at the Hudson Theater in New York

“Witness history as the two trade secrets to their success, talk startups and reminisce about becoming a champion,” the site says of the breakfast.

Meanwhile, in Vegas Thursday night, Jeter partied with girlfriend Hannah Davis, his sister Sharlee, and buddies Tino Martinez and CC Sabathia at Tao nightclub for what looked like a retirement party.

He was also spotted out at Surrender Nightclub in Encore at Wynn after signing copies of his book “Excellence and Elegance.”

A rep for Jeter didn’t get back to us."

Stumbleupon StumbleUpon

Derek Jeter plays golf with Obama and big democrat donor in Vegas

11/22/14, "Obama golfing with Derek Jeter – but Shadow Creek may be the real star," csmonitor.com, Linda Feldman, North Las Vegas, Nevada

"President Obama is playing golf Saturday at Shadow Creek in North Las Vegas, one of the most exclusive courses in the world. Retired Yankee great Derek Jeter is on the links with him."

"President Obama loves his golf – and on Saturday, snagged a round at one of the most exclusive golf courses in the world, Shadow Creek in North Las Vegas.

On the links with POTUS: recently retired Yankee great, Derek Jeter. Rounding out the foursome are Stephen Cloobeck, a Las Vegas businessman and big Democratic donor, and Brian Greenspun, editor and publisher of the Las Vegas Sun.

But the real star of the show might be the golf course itself. Built in the late 1980s by Las Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn, the course is a lush oasis amid the Nevada desert. Dirt dug up during construction was used to create a berm that surrounds the property, protecting the exclusive clientele from prying eyes.

“What happens at Shadow Creek stays at Shadow Creek,” Josh Sens wrote at Golf.com in 2012.

“That's the unwritten rule at this hush-hush desert hangout, prime migration grounds for Las Vegas whales and Michael Jordan's home away from home.”
“Officially, of course, the Tom Fazio design is public access and has been since it opened in 1989, with greens fees pegged at $1,000 (the price has since been slashed in half). But more than two decades later, the course remains willfully under-the-radar, the golf world's answer to Area 51.”

Perhaps, some wags have suggested, getting to play Shadow Creek is the real reason Obama wanted to come to Las Vegas to give a speech Friday promoting his move to defer deportation for up to 5 million undocumented immigrants.

“Pool” reporters accompanying the president, yours truly included, rarely get a glimpse of the president teeing off, and this time is no exception. But we can report that the club house is nicely appointed – comfortable, not flashy. And they serve up a nice Arnold Palmer, a blend of iced tea and lemonade.

“To land a tee time,” writes Mr. Sens, “you not only have to cough up $500 (that includes limo transport to and from the Strip but not the caddie whom you're required to take), you also have to be a guest at an MGM-owned hotel. If your name isn't, say, George W. Bush or Justin Timberlake, play is limited to Monday through Thursday. And even then there's the chance you'll be bumped by a bigwig, someone with the clout to claim the whole joint to himself.”

We did see a limousine or two – and a Rolls Royce – drive onto the property while we (the pool) were held in vans near the main entryway for the first hour. So apparently Obama didn't commandeer the whole club for his party. Indeed, after we got into the club house, we could see another party playing the 18th hole."

Stumbleupon StumbleUpon

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Staten Island house featured in 'The Godfather' is up for sale

11/13/14, "The Staten Island mansion was made famous by the iconic 1972 film," Getty

"The Godfather: 'Corleone family home' for sale," BBC

"The mansion which served as the fictional headquarters of the Corleone family in the 1972 film The Godfather has been listed for sale.

The five-bedroom, seven bathroom mansion in Staten Island, New York, is being advertised for $2.9m (£1.84m). The house was gutted and renovated in 2012 after having been a family home for six decades.

The film, directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Marlon Brando and Al Pacino, won three Oscars.

The Godfather was also, for a time, the highest grossing film ever made. The exterior is most famous for being the location of a Corleone family wedding at the start of the film.

The film's production crew transformed five houses on the same street into the Corleone family residential complex."...


11/13/14, "Staten Island house featured in 'The Godfather' up for sale," Fox News
"Technically, only the home's exterior was filmed in the making of the movie, but the Staten Island Advance reports that the current owner, who bought the home in March 2012, has remodeled some of the interior rooms to make them seem more like the ones seen on screen. Among the renovated rooms is a first-floor office made to resemble where Marlon Brandon's don greets supplicants and well-wishers on his daughter Connie's wedding day.

The house was purchased for $1.7 million from the Norton family, who had owned it since 1951. The five-bedroom, seven-bathroom home was originally built in 1930 for future Staten Island Borough President Joseph Palma, who lived there with his wife and 11 eleven children.

But it wasn't until over 40 years later that the home became part of cinema history. Producers and location scouts selected the home for filming on the advice of Staten Island native Gianni Russo, who played Don Corleone's abusive, treacherous son-in-law Carlo Rizzi."...

Stumbleupon StumbleUpon

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Global Warming snow falls on Mt. Rushmore, 11/11/14

11/11/14, " 21h21 hours ago, Le Mont Rushmore est sous la neige! ...Additional EarthCam link

Stumbleupon StumbleUpon

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Happy Veterans Day

World War II US Air Force pilot and his Stearman biplane; below same soldier in his Air Force Uniform in the 1940's, surviving. At the end of the war in the Pacific, Dad rescued some American soldiers the Japanese had captured. He said the soldiers were in pretty bad shape.

  • Born in Brooklyn in 1922

Portrait in the 1990's. Thanks, Dad.

Stumbleupon StumbleUpon

Monday, November 10, 2014

Fulton Center Subway Complex reopens in Lower Manhattan Mon. Nov. 10-NY Times

11/9/14, "Out of Dust and Debris, a New Jewel Rises, Fulton Center, a Subway Complex, Reopens in Lower Manhattan," NY Times, Vivian Yee

Image: "The platform level of the Fulton Center a day before the restored transportation hub opens to the public. Credit Damon Winter/The New York Times" 

"The glass-and-steel prism called Fulton Center began life as a public-transit labyrinth, a spaghetti-bowl tangle of dimly-lit corridors, narrow switchbacks and baffling signage cobbled together out of five subway stations built in the early 1900s.

A century later, and more than a decade after part of the Lower Manhattan subway complex was destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the nine subway lines that converge on Fulton Street and Broadway have been knit together anew. New Yorkers, accustomed to thinking of transit hubs like Penn Station and Times Square as places to suffer through, will find on Monday morning a kind of Crystal Palace, crowned by a dome that funnels daylight two stories below ground.

Even with ballooning budgets and repeated delays, Fulton Center was the kind of megaproject designed to inspire hyperbole, and it did: “Forget the Grand Central clock,” said Gale Brewer, the Manhattan borough president, at Fulton Center’s opening on Sunday afternoon. “They’re going to come here.”

She and the other politicians and transit officials who spoke at the opening reminded the crowd of the days after the Sept. 11 attacks, when dust and debris entombed the surrounding streets. As daylight streamed through the oculus’s “Sky-Reflector Net,” the speakers all came to the same point, most succinctly summarized by Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York.

“This station,” he said, “is a metaphor for a revitalized downtown.”

Around Fulton Street, the scaffolding and cranes that chopped up lower Manhattan have come down. The National September 11 Memorial Museum opened in May. The skyscraper at 1 World Trade Center welcomed its first tenants last week. Up to 300,000 passengers a day are expected to pass through Fulton Center.

But like the others, Fulton Center was never intended simply to restore: with retailers like Tom Ford claiming space in the World Trade Center and a food court drawing buzz in nearby Brookfield Place, officials envision the new building as downtown’s answer to Grand Central Terminal.

A classical guitarist serenaded the opening-event guests. Burberry ads flashed across large screens....

The Metropolitan Transit Authority’s architects and construction workers had to resolve century-old rivalries among the nine subway lines around Fulton Street, the 2, 3, 4, 5, A, C, J, Z and R. Their stations originally belonged to three competing subway companies.

“It was a nightmare, and you never knew what direction you were headed,” recalled Michael Horodniceanu, the transit authority’s president of capital construction. Now, he said, “We expect it to become the new paradigm for stations.”

The builders smoothed out connections, diminishing the bobbing-and-weaving that had made navigation at Fulton Center an ordeal. Now, among other changes, the A and C lines run a few flights of stairs down from the 4 and the 5. Passengers can reach the 4 and 5 trains from any point along the platform, rather than from the three doors they squeezed through before. And the entire complex is accessible to the disabled.

They threaded a 350-foot-long pedestrian passageway under Dey Street to link Fulton Center with the R and, sometime next year, the World Trade Center PATH train complex, designed as a companion hub. Once the World Trade Center’s complex opens and the Cortlandt Street station is rebuilt, passengers will also find the E and 1 lines through the passageway.

At the end of the new passageway, they brought back something old: ceramic tile art by Margie Hughto that was originally installed at the Cortlandt Street R station in 1997.

They encircled the central hub with shops and kiosks.

Next door, they preserved and built a new foundation for the historic Corbin Building, which will hold more than 36,000 square feet of office space.

The scale of the project was such that the transit authority felt the need to distribute a fact sheet.

There are, for instance, 1,950 fire alarms in the building, which used 60,000 square feet of granite.

More than 50 screens carry maps and service updates, digital art and advertisements, including one for a Burberry watch that displays the correct time when it appears onscreen.

What went unmentioned in the fact sheet were the major setbacks along the way: cost overruns, delays and a corresponding downgrade in ambitions, problems that have plagued other transit authority projects in recent years. The dome was scaled back, a planned direct connection between the R and the E lines scuttled. What was supposed to open in 2007 at a cost of $750 million took seven more years and totaled $1.4 billion.

So it was perhaps understandable that a handful of impatient passengers tried to cut into the station on their way from the A train to the 4 on Sunday afternoon.

Mr. Horodniceanu beamed. “Tell them to come back at 5 a.m.,” he called."

Stumbleupon StumbleUpon

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Where college football means the most-NY Times map

"Source: Facebook; stadium locations from football-reference.com"

11/9/14, "The places where college football means the most," NY Times, by

It is hard to explain to someone who grew up in a big city in the Northeast just how big a deal college football is in the Southeast.

College sports, and particularly football, occupy a role at the center of daily life in the South — like in South Carolina, where one of us grew up — that is hard to imagine for many people who grew up in New York or Boston.

Last month we published The Upshot’s map of college football fandom, showing where people root for what college teams. That map offers great detail about what teams college football fans root for in a given location, but nothing about how concentrated college football fans are in that place.

Here, we are looking at another question: not which teams fans root for, but the proportion of the population in various places who are fans of any college football team. We asked Facebook to compile that information, and the results offer a portrait of America’s college-football obsession — or lack thereof. To be more specific:
Alabama has the highest concentration of college football fans. This perhaps shouldn’t be surprising, given that the University of Alabama has finished the season ranked No. 1 in the country in three of the last five seasons and that Auburn has finished twice in the top two. It will also not surprise anyone who has read “Rammer Jammer Yellow Hammer,” by Warren St. John. Almost 34 percent of Alabama Facebook users were fans of a college football team, more than five percentage points higher than in the state with the next-highest level.

It is difficult to separate correlation from causation from coincidence, however.

Is Alabama college football fandom more intense because its teams are so good? Or are its teams so good because there is such intense fan support, including of the financial variety? (Nick Saban may be the best coach in college football, but he doesn’t come cheap, with a reported $7 million annual salary.) Or have the passionate fans of Alabama been blessed with lucky several years?

We don’t have useful historical data, because widespread adoption of Facebook is too recent a phenomenon.

Regardless, the Facebook data offers circumstantial evidence that last year’s Iron Bowl rivalry game between then-No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Auburn, featuring arguably the greatest ending to a college football game of all time, created a perfect vortex of human emotion.

The South loves college football, but so do pockets of the Midwest.
Our original intuition — that college football means something entirely different in the South than the Northeast — holds up. The states with the lowest rates of college football fandom are five New England states (all but Connecticut) followed by New Jersey and New York. In those seven Northeast states, fewer than 4 percent of Facebook users were fans of a college football team, based on their likes.

Beyond Alabama, the South is heavily represented among states with the highest levels of college football fandom; in the top 10 are Alabama, Oklahoma, Arkansas, South Carolina, Kentucky, Mississippi and Louisiana.

But Big Ten country makes an impressive showing as well — at least the areas that have a Big Ten college with a strong football tradition. Nebraska, Iowa and Ohio also make the top 10 states for fan concentration, with Wisconsin and Michigan close behind.

Fandom is distributed a bit more irregularly in the Midwest than in the South. For example, Illinois is only No. 40 among states for football fandom despite the presence of the Fighting Illini and the Northwestern Wildcats. Minnesota, home of the Golden Gophers, beats only the Northeastern states in concentration of college football fans.

This data supports the idea that college football fan intensity is linked to football greatness over a long period. Nebraska has a tradition of football success that Illinois and Minnesota don’t, which may factor into high levels of fan attention in that state.

College football attracts the most fans in rural areas without professional teams. There is quite strong evidence in this data that devotion to college football increases the farther you get from large cities, especially large cities with professional sports teams like N.F.L. franchises.

The seven states where more than 25 percent of Facebook users are college football fans have between them exactly one major professional sports franchise: The Oklahoma City Thunder, the pro basketball team that has existed since only 2008 (after relocating from Seattle).

The pattern shows up even more clearly when you look at county-level data. Georgia is a prime example; it is thick in the intense band of Southeastern Conference fandom, surrounded by the football hotbeds Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee. The University of Georgia has both a tradition of excellence and has been highly ranked in recent years. Yet only 13 percent of Georgia Facebook users were fans of a college football team, roughly half that of South Carolina.

What’s going on? As it turns out, rural Georgia counties have similar college football intensity to neighboring South Carolina and Alabama. But the Atlanta metro area is the culprit, with only a 11 percent rate of fandom in DeKalb County and 15 percent in Fulton County.

There are two possibilities: One is that Atlanta residents have the N.F.L.'s Falcons to root for and so aren’t as attached to the Bulldogs. Another is that there are more transplants from other regions where college football is less of a passion. Both probably play a role.

Similarly, fandom in Florida is less concentrated in Miami than in the northern parts of the state.

In Cook County, home of Chicago, only 4 percent of residents indicated support for a college team. And the five counties in the United States with the lowest rates of college football fandom are the five boroughs of New York City. Manhattan manages 2 percent, and the other four are all below 2 percent.

Recent excellence (may) matter. You might expect that if a local team has been hugely successful in the recent past, it would attract more fans through a bandwagon effect. That may well be at work with Alabama. There is some evidence this is the case, but it is not conclusive.

One way to test that is by looking at fan intensity in places where the local team has had recent success but not a historical track record of excellence.

The University of Oregon has finished the season among the top 10 teams in five of the last six seasons, but previously was only sporadically ranked in the top 25. One might expect this recent success to coincide with a rise in interest in college football in Oregon. And you would be right. Some 20 percent of Oregon Facebook users were fans of college football, easily more than any of the surrounding states.

But there are some counterexamples.

Boise State has been one of the most exciting college teams of the last decade, finishing in the top 25 nine times since 2002 and going undefeated in 2006 and 2009, despite the program’s having little national success before that. But Idaho’s rate of fandom is actually a bit lower than that of neighboring Wyoming, where the University of Wyoming Cowboys have had a losing record in five of the last seven seasons.

And the University of Missouri has also had a track record of mediocrity before finishing the season in the top 25 in four of the last seven years. Yet Missouri continues to have a much lower concentration of college football fans than neighbors like Arkansas and Iowa.

It will be worth looking at data along these lines in the future to see if the rate of college football fandom rises in places with successful teams and falls in those where the home team has a weak spell.

Add it all up, and it is easy to explain why Alabama and Nebraska have the highest rates of college football fandom. They are both states without large cities and major professional sports franchises, in regions with a strong history of college football support, and with teams that have been excellent in the recent past.

And if there is any question of what parts of the country will have the most collective energy invested in the activities of a bunch of unpaid 18- to 22-year-old men crashing into one another this Saturday, we now have some answers."

"About the Data: It was provided by Facebook using estimates of support for the Football Bowl Subdivision programs, based on the share of Facebook users in a county who “like” a team. Facebook likes are an imperfect measure of fan intensity, including the fact that Facebook users may not be representative of the population at large. The results are also influenced by how intensely different universities cultivate their social media presence, and how widely Facebook is used by people in a given location."

Stumbleupon StumbleUpon