The Russian Hacking Story in a Nutshell

In this digital age, government spend enormous amounts of money trying to penetrate the computer system of adversaries, like the US against Russia and China, and presumably our friends, as well. It would be nice to know what the British were thinking, after all. The Russians spent lots of money trying to “hack,” or penetrate, political party servers during the past campaign. It worked in part and failed in part and that is the story.

The Russians successfully penetrated the Democratic National Committee’s e-mail server by sending a Phish to its leader. He opened the email and disclosed his password, that, curiously because similar behavior by a child would be rare, was “password.” I don’t know if he used a capital “P,” but nevertheless!!

The Russians spent a lot of time trying to hack the Republican e-mail servers but, because the Republicans were serious about security, were never able to penetrate its servers.

Wikileaks got the Democrats stuff and it was hilarious, ripping each other, and making just outrageous comments that made them look stupid. This is not to say the Republicans are not stupid, and if the Republican servers were penetrated, I am sure similarly salacious e-mails would have been discovered and released to the enormous embarrassment of the Republicans.  That didn’t happen because the Republicans used solid security to avoid such embarrassment and the Democrats didn’t. Thre was no pro-Trump bias, as it is apparent the Russians were thinking Clinton would win up to the morning of November 9 and were simply toying with her.

This story is really that simple. A senior Democrat, some say John Podesta, used “password”  as his password. Oh, well, it proved to be the Key to the Kingdom. Now Clinton’s e-mail servers were also hacked, but that’s a different story, but also one based on a colossal lack of security in what is now a well known tale.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Economics of the DH

Designated Hitters and the Economics of Baseball

TOM SZCZERBOWSKI/US PRESSWIREFrank Thomas

But let’s instead focus on another aspect of the DH rule: the practical effect of the rule on the game’s economic structure, and why the economic effects of the DH rule are precisely why we can neither get rid of it nor extend it to the National League.

A major league roster has 25 players, but the cost of those players is not evenly distributed, and neither is their impact on the team’s success. Most teams carry 11 or 12 pitchers, of whom five starters and perhaps three relievers will play critical roles. A National League roster has eight everyday players and a four- to six-man bench; in the American League, the DH means there’s one extra everyday player, generally at the expense of one bench job. Due in part to the expansion of bullpens, platooning is far rarer today than it was two decades ago, so there’s a wide gap in pay and playing time between true regulars and bench players. So, an NL team has about 16 crucial jobs, an AL team 17. But wait: A typical team will be able to fill about seven of those jobs with players who don’t have enough service time to demand high salaries. The reality is that adding another regular can take a team from nine to 10 jobs that truly require a major outlay of cash.

The numbers bear this out. The average AL payroll was $92.8 million from 2006 to 2010, while the average NL payroll was $80.1 million. If you look only at teams with winning records — working under the theory that those are the teams actually trying to spend enough money to compete and succeed — the disparity is even larger: The average winning AL team had a payroll of $108.4 million compared to $88.7 million in the NL. That’s a $20 million-a-year difference.

Is the DH rule to blame for this? It’s obviously not the only reason, but certainly it’s a contributing factor.

Over the same five-year period, the 14 American League teams employed something like a full-time DH in 57 out of 70 possible seasons. (“Full time” is defined here as 300 or more plate appearances with at least half the player’s games at DH.) The average salary of those players? $6.8 million. And that doesn’t include the cost of DHs who break down due to age or injury. Travis Hafner made more than $8 million in 2008, Ken Griffey $2.3 million in 2010, and neither made it to 300 plate appearances. Frank Thomas had a $12.5 million salary when he was with the Blue Jays in 2008, Pat Burrell was making $9 million from the Rays in 2010, Shea Hillenbrand $6 million from the Angels in 2007. All three were cut early in the year and were signed for a song by other teams.

The financial impact of the Designated Hitter rule also widens the gap between big- and small-market teams. Just compare the haves and have-nots: Over the same five seasons, the average AL team that finished .500 or worse had a payroll of $71.1 million, indistinguishable from the $72.0 million average in the NL but $37.3 million behind the winning teams, while the NL teams trailed the winners in their league by $17.6 million. Some of those American League teams kept their costs down by just giving up. Sure, a well-run small-market team can compete by filling roster spots with players who haven’t reached free agency yet and thus are paid below their market value. But the more roster spots there are to fill, the harder it is to use the farm system to keep up with the teams that are buying high-end veterans on the open market, especially the big sluggers who generally fill the ranks of DHs. The average age of the starting DHs in the AL over that period? 32.7 years old. Aside from Billy Butler on the 2007-08 Royals, no American League team employed a DH under the age of 25, and the only AL franchises to use a regular DH under age 29 were the Royals, Twins, Rays, and Blue Jays. And the DH gives roster flexibility to the biggest players in the free-agent market. The Yankees, for example, could move guys like Jason Giambi and Hideki Matsui there near the end of big contracts to make room for still more high-priced acquisitions.

The disparity in labor costs makes the National League more attractive to owners in the free-agency era. Two teams were added to the National League when Major League Baseball expanded in 1993, matching it with the American League. Then came the 1998 expansion and realignment. Tampa Bay and Arizona were added, and Commissioner Bud Selig managed to move the Brewers from the American League to the National League. The Rays and the Diamondbacks agreed that they could be shifted to another league without their consent, but when Selig floated a plan to realign them in 2001, the Rays expressed interest in going to the NL; the D-Backs, facing transfer to the AL, fought the plan. With another realignment scheme in the air this year, Astros owner Drayton McLane is singing the same tune.

Yet the same payroll considerations are why we are stuck with the DH. The MLB Players Association will fight tooth and nail to avoid losing those high-paying jobs, and, as was the case with steroid testing, owners seem to have higher priorities in the zero-sum negotiations with the union than fixing structural problems for the greater good of the game. In the case of the DH, the big-market AL teams have no financial incentive to reduce their competitive advantage, and the NL owners have no real stake in reducing the AL owners’ cost of doing business. Unless and until all the owners are willing to make financial concessions in other areas to bring an end to the DH rule in the AL, we’re stuck with it as is.

Dan McLaughlin is an attorney practicing in New York, and blogs on baseball, politics, pop culture and law at Baseball Crank. He also writes on other political and sports sites and was formerly a weekly columnist at bostonsportsguy.com.

Hidden Figures is the Movie of the Year

Sima and I saw Hidden Figures recently and the house was sold out for several showings. It is the most inspirational movie of recent times. The story is compelling and involves the space program in the early 1960’s and three women’s critical contribution.

This is a “must see” movie that deals with a very important subject.

7.9/10

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Hidden Figures (2016)

PG | 2h 7min | Drama | 6 January 2017 (USA)
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Thomas Sowell’s “Farewell.” This is important!

Farewell

Thomas Sowell
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Posted: Dec 27, 2016 12:01 AM
 Even the best things come to an end. After enjoying a quarter of a century of writing this column for Creators Syndicate, I have decided to stop. Age 86 is well past the usual retirement age, so the question is not why I am quitting, but why I kept at it so long.It was very fulfilling to be able to share my thoughts on the events unfolding around us, and to receive feedback from readers across the country — even if it was impossible to answer them all.

Being old-fashioned, I liked to know what the facts were before writing. That required not only a lot of research, it also required keeping up with what was being said in the media.

During a stay in Yosemite National Park last May, taking photos with a couple of my buddies, there were four consecutive days without seeing a newspaper or a television news program — and it felt wonderful. With the political news being so awful this year, it felt especially wonderful.

This made me decide to spend less time following politics and more time on my photography, adding more pictures to my website (www.tsowell.com).

Looking back over the years, as old-timers are apt to do, I see huge changes, both for the better and for the worse.

In material things, there has been almost unbelievable progress. Most Americans did not have refrigerators back in 1930, when I was born. Television was little more than an experiment, and such things as air-conditioning or air travel were only for the very rich.

My own family did not have electricity or hot running water, in my early childhood, which was not unusual for blacks in the South in those days.

It is hard to convey to today’s generation the fear that the paralyzing disease of polio inspired, until vaccines put an abrupt end to its long reign of terror in the 1950s.

Most people living in officially defined poverty in the 21st century have things like cable television, microwave ovens and air-conditioning. Most Americans did not have such things, as late as the 1980s. People whom the intelligentsia continue to call the “have-nots” today have things that the “haves” did not have, just a generation ago.

In some other ways, however, there have been some serious retrogressions over the years. Politics, and especially citizens’ trust in their government, has gone way downhill.

Back in 1962, President John F. Kennedy, a man narrowly elected just two years earlier, came on television to tell the nation that he was taking us to the brink of nuclear war with the Soviet Union, because the Soviets had secretly built bases for nuclear missiles in Cuba, just 90 miles from America.

Most of us did not question what he did. He was President of the United States, and he knew things that the rest of us couldn’t know — and that was good enough for us. Fortunately, the Soviets backed down. But could any President today do anything like that and have the American people behind him?

Years of lying Presidents — Democrat Lyndon Johnson and Republican Richard Nixon, especially — destroyed not only their own credibility, but the credibility which the office itself once conferred. The loss of that credibility was a loss to the country, not just to the people holding that office in later years.

With all the advances of blacks over the years, nothing so brought home to me the social degeneration in black ghettoes like a visit to a Harlem high school some years ago.

When I looked out the window at the park across the street, I mentioned that, as a child, I used to walk my dog in that park. Looks of horror came over the students’ faces, at the thought of a kid going into the hell hole which that park had become in their time.

When I have mentioned sleeping out on a fire escape in Harlem during hot summer nights, before most people could afford air-conditioning, young people have looked at me like I was a man from Mars. But blacks and whites alike had been sleeping out on fire escapes in New York since the 19th century. They did not have to contend with gunshots flying around during the night.

We cannot return to the past, even if we wanted to, but let us hope that we can learn something from the past to make for a better present and future.

Goodbye and good luck to all.