March 30, 2023

Baseball Changes

 Major League Baseball begins a new season today. And the season begins with new rules intended to increase scoring and get games over with faster. A sport that was distinctive for lacking a clock will now have a pitch clock, larger bases, restrictions on pickoff plays, and a prohibition of the defensive shifts that have frustrated batters. The universal introductions of the designated hitter and video replays seem like minor tweaks compared to the rule changes that will color the 2023 season.

Baseball rules have been remarkably stable over the game’s long history. Past changes have primarily been made to increase safety or fairness. (Changes to the mound height and the introduction of pitchless intentional walks are exceptions.) I have always thought that the size of the diamond and its bases are perfect. The dimensions make scoring a single or stealing a base difficult, which makes them more exciting when they occur.

I am not looking forward to the new MLB season. In fact, I think the game should no longer be called baseball. Like the reformulation that produced New Coke, the MLB game should be called New Baseball. We can hope that the history of New Baseball will be a replay of the history of New Coke.

March 26, 2023

Thoughts on Trump’s Legal Future

Like many people, I suspect, I am frustrated by Donald Trump’s unconstitutional behavior as president and his outrageous behavior as a civilian. He should have been removed from office and should be indicted and convicted of the misdeeds for which he is currently under investigation. Will this megalomaniacal psychopath again escape justice? He is now a citizen like any other and should receive no special treatment for having been president. In fact, since we have a right to expect more of our chief executive, he should be treated especially harshly.

If Donald Trump is indicted for his part in attempting to overturn the 2020 election by masterminding a coup, he should be arrested and placed in jail. He should definitely not be released on his own recognizance, as he clearly will remain a threat to the body politic. Even in jail, given modern communications, he could remain a threat to civil peace. He should therefore be incarcerated without the ability to communicate with anyone but his lawyers.

Most likely, of course, Trump will be treated with kid gloves. However he is treated, his Republican minions will decry his treatment and demand his release and exoneration. We must assure that that doesn’t happen.

March 13, 2023

On the SVB Collapse

The Federal Reserve took control of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) on Friday. Depositors were immediately reassured that insured deposits would be available on Monday morning, that is, today. Yesterday, however, the reassurances got substantially better: All deposits, even those beyond the nominal insurance maximum, will be made available. This, despite the FDIC’s explanation of insurance benefits:

The standard insurance amount is $250,000 per depositor, per insured bank, for each account ownership category.

As it happens, SVB is a favorite bank of venture capitalists and startups, and, unlike many banks, most accounts were much larger than $250,000. We are being told that no taxpayer funds are being expended to make depositors whole; the required funds will come from the FDIC account, which is funded by levies on banks. What we are watching, officials emphasize, is not a bailout.

Silicon Valley Bank sign
Well, it certainly looks like a bailout. At the very least, we have created a moral hazard—why should large depositors worry about insurance limits if the government will protect them whatever their apparent exposure. The funds not covered by SVB assets that will pay back depositors will have come from banks that pay into the insurance fund. This makes FDIC insurance less able to pay actually insured losses in the future. The FDIC, if necessary, will charge banks more. This cost of business ultimately gets passed on to customers, i.e., taxpayers.

Ask yourself the question: if your own ordinary bank failed and you had more than $250,000 on deposit, do you really think you would get it all back? Or, if your house burned down and your insurance coverage was written for less than its current value, would you expect the insurance company to pay the full value of your loss? But since SVB held lots of corporate funds, the government felt it had to indemnify them. Once again, we find that big companies are “too big to fail,” and the corporate world doesn’t play by the same rules as the rest of us. Are you as tired of this as I am?

Senator Elizabeth Warren wrote about the SVB situation in The New York Times. She argued that (1) the managers of SVB were irresponsible, and (2) that irresponsibility was facilitated by the government’s having removed some of the safeguards of the Donn-Frank Act. That loosening of banking requirements resulted from—you guessed—heavy-duty corporate lobbying.

Welcome to the world of unconstrained capitalism.

March 11, 2023


No, I am not interested in the insane pronouncements by a reputed government insider that has ensorcelled weak-minded so-called conservatives and thereby threatened the Republic. I am not interested in a person, real or imagined, at all. This post is actually about the letter Q.

In English, Q has led a rather forlorn existence. It is the second least used letter of our 26-letter alphabet; only Z occurs less often. (Q and Z, alone among the letters, are worth 10 points in Scrabble.) In English words not borrowed from other languages. Q is invariably followed by U. Naked Qs occur most often in borrowings from unrelated languages such as Arabic, Hebrew, and Chinese.

When I was in elementary school, I was told that a solitary Q only occurs in the name “Iraq.” Lately, however, Qs are showing up in a surprising number of pharmaceutical names. These include Rinvoq, Kisqali, and Cibinqo among others.

I have no idea why drug companies have suddenly become enamored of such a rarely-used letter. Are they trying to increase its pathetic usage statistics? Has Q somehow become cool (or are manufacturers trying to make it cool)? Naked Qs in medicine names is an odd trend not limited to one company. Rinvoq, Kisqali, and Cibinqo are all marketed by different firms. Are they each using the same consultants to come up with new names for drugs?

One can appreciate the difficulty in naming new drugs. Names need to be pronounceable, reasonably concise—a three-syllable name like Cibinqo is pushing it—and not a word, particularly an objectionable word, in any foreign language. Names should be catchy, however you might define that. Pharmaceutical names sometimes suggest, at least vaguely, what they might be used for. Flonase and Claritin, for example, are allergy medications. Rinvoq, Kisqali, and Cibinqo do not himt at how they might be used. Rinvoq claims to be a treatment for ailments as diverse as eczema and rheumatoid arthritis, so there’s an obvious problem there. 

But why all the Qs. In every medicine name I have encountered, the Q is sounded like a K and could easily be replaced with a K. Why do we not have Rinvok (or Rinvoke), Kiskali (or even Kiscali, which would sound the same), or Cibinko? I have no idea. This seems to be novelty for novelty’s sake.

I do hope this trend does not continue. Children have enough trouble with spelling without confusing them further.

March 4, 2023

GOP: The Party of Freedom

It is supremely ironic that the Republican Party insists that it is the party of freedom, whereas its policies are mostly those that limit freedom. This led me to make the graphic below, which outlines the freedom that the GOP offers the nation. This graphic may be freely copied.

A Disclaimer for Fox News

I frequently watch movies on disk. (No, I’m not a troglodyte who doesn’t know how to stream content. Many of the films I want to watch, particularly older ones, are only available on  DVD or Blu-ray disks.) These disks often include commentary or interviews. In such cases, a disclaimer is invariably included similar to this one I encountered recently from Lions Gate:

This Blu-ray Disk audio commentary contains views, opinions, and statements of the individuals participating herein.

Lions Gate Entertainment Inc. does not represent or endorse such views, opinions, or statements.

In other words, although the studio is responsible for the movie on the disk, it takes no responsibility for the extra-movie material over which it has exercised limited control.

Fox News logo
Through discovery in the Dominion Voting Systems defamation lawsuit against Fox News, we’ve learned that neither the on-camera talent nor the management of Fox actually believed that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from President Donald Trump. Nevertheless, the Big Lie, in all its aspects, has been promoted heavily on the channel with the enthusiastic support of management.

Under the circumstances, Fox should perhaps follow the lead of movie studios on the consumer disks they market. Fox programs could be preceded by a disclaimer such as the following:

This program contains views, opinions, and statements of on-camera Fox News employees and guests.

Neither Fox News, its management, nor its on-camera employees represent or endorse such views, opinions, or statements.

On the other hand, a more straightforward explanation might be more appropriate, something like the following:

The following program is for entertainment only and is not guaranteed to be factual or reasonable.

March 1, 2023

Adolescent Women

I heard a phrase on NPR this morning I have never heard before: “adolescent women.” Why not “adolescent girls” or “adolescent females,” I thought. Is calling a teenage female a girl not politically correct now? Women often refer to themselves as girls. My immediate reaction to “adolescent women” is not that it is more respective of teenage girls as it is less respective of women. But that’s just my gut reaction. 

Are teenage boys now going to be “adolescent men”? Will we now speak of “toddler women” or “infant men”? Does anyone else find this strange?

Writing Someone Else’s Congressperson

I read something that Congressman Jamie Raskin said and wanted to express my approval of his having said it. He complained about Republicans using “Democrat” as an adjective, as in “Democrat Party.” I had written about Republicans’ avoidance of the word “Democratic” myself. I thought I would write to the congressman and include a link to my blog post, which he might perhaps find amusing.

Rep. Jamie Raskin
Rep. Jamie Raskin
I found Mr. Raskin’s congressional Web site, filled in my name, address, and e-mail address, and typed my message. When I tried to send my comments, however, I received an error indicating that my Zipcode was wrong, in other words,
my own Zipcode is not in his Maryland district. This is not the first time I have encountered this problem trying to communicate with a member of congress who does not technically represent me.

I appreciate that a congressperson can be easily overwhelmed with messages even from constituents. (Framers of the Constitution intended for representatives to have many fewer constituents than they do today. They did not anticipate Congress’s limiting the number of members of the House of Representatives, thereby eliminating the cap on the constituent-to-representative ratio.) Messages from non-constituents can make the deluge of messages seem even more overwhelming.

Modern American media give members of Congress national exposure, and it is not unreasonable to think that someone who is not a constituent might have good reason to communicate with a representative or senator. In my case, I wanted to praise Mr. Raskin for saying what has been needed to be said for years and to encourage him to continue saying it. I also wanted to communicate my thoughts on the same subject as set forth in my 2017 blog post.

Having been denied the opportunity to send the representative e-mail—I don’t know his e-mail address, and the form on his Web site prevented my sending e-mail through that mechanism—I thought of calling his office. I did have access to a telephone number, but I thought that communicating my blog post over the telephone would be cumbersome. Before picking up the phone, however, I realized that I could write a letter and enclose a copy of my blog essay. So that’s what I did.

I later discovered that Mr. Raskin has a Facebook page, and I could conceivably have communicated with him through Facebook. I think the letter was a better idea, and perhaps demonstrated greater commitment to getting my voice heard. That message was not time-sensitive, and I’m not sure what would have been the best channel to use had it been. Probably I would have used the telephone in that case.

I am offended by public officials limiting who is allowed to contact them conveniently. Mr. Raskin is not the only offender here. Not long ago, I wanted to send a message to Senator Liz Chaney and ran into the same restriction—I was not from her state. I dropped the project.

I suspect that not all members of Congress have a pressing need to limit their e-mail messages. But those with a high profile may consider that a necessity. This is a shame, and I don’t know what to do about it. Legislators could be given much bigger staffs to handle communication, I suppose, though the real problem is that we have too few people in Congress given the number of citizens needing to be represented. I don’t see us fixing that problem anytime soon.