Changes in Congress could put an end to ‘endless’ Middle East quagmire.

The 2018 U.S. election is over, with a few exceptions. From how to control the border on the right, to protecting pre-existing conditions on the left, Americans were swamped with promises. One subject politicians of any stripe refused to touch was war. That’s odd considering war touches every citizen.

Some children who weren’t born when this latest round of war began will join the military when they graduate from high school in seven months. If they are to die in Middle East, Americans should know why.

The U.S. has spent some $900 billion in aid to Afghanistan since 2001. Congress approved some $5.6 trillion for combat in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001. The bill has gone directly to the national debt, something not debated during the election. Interest debt is expected to add another $1 trillion a year by 2023, according to a Brown University study.  In addition, nearly 6,800 deaths of U.S.military personnel in the theater have been reported since 2001.

Are we at war?

The Constitution gives Congress the exclusive power to declare war. However, the legislative has body refused to exercise this requirement since World War II. Instead, Congress grants the executive branch free reign in combat through an authorization for the use of military force (AUMF).

Congress wrote President George W Bush a blank check to usher in the end times by attacking al Qaeda and the Taliban regime in Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 attacks. Of course almost all of the terrorists who hijacked the planes used in the attack were Saudis. Still, the Bush White House and military industrial complex managed to fabricate a story the media sold to the public in support of the endless war for which the U.S. still has no exit strategy.

Will the 116th Congress change this? The ball is now in the Democrats’ hands.

Democrats should have at least a 10-seat House majority when all is said and done. (Some races are so close recounts are needed.) The party of the donkey could spend all of its time investigating everything the president does – some oversight is certainly needed – or it could take a broader view and pass spending bills and investigate.

Bring troops home

Stopping the current AUMF would satisfy both. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) cited the “overly broad powers” granted the chief executive when she cast the lone vote against the so-called war powers act. In 2017, the House Appropriations Committee approved Lee’s amendment to repeal the 2001 authorization for the use of military force, but it failed on the floor.

The Afghani government might control 44 percent of that country. Neither the Syrian situation, nor ISIS existed when this authorization passed. Losing in Afghanistan is nothing new. The British and Soviets did it when they had strong militaries. Once troops are redeployed and DOD waste eliminated, the debt, healthcare and infrastructure repair can be addressed.

If combat is necessary, the president can always ask Congress to debate a declaration of war in public. Of course if the president’s desire is based on faulty intel, i.e. “a slam dunk,” the public may get to the truth before the vote and influence Congress.

Advertisements

Is Bryce Harper worth the biggest MLB contract ever?

The 2019 Major League Baseball free agent list includes many who are past their prime.  Only five hitters are in their best years and of them one, Jason Heyward, 29, would be foolish to opt out of a $106 million contract.

Bill James , the granddaddy of sabermetrics, developed the “Value Approximation Method” (VAM) to measure player performance. He found that the player-age of 27 had the highest total performance of any other age. “If you must assign a five-year peak period to all players regardless of description, the best shot would be 25 to 29,” he said.

Twenty-six-year-old Bryce Harper is thought to be the cream of the free agent crop. Rumors have had him seeking the biggest contract in major league history. In reality, the right fielder, who has the speed to play center, hit just .249 in 2018 with 13 stolen bases. On the plus side Harper clobbered 34 dingers and knocked in 100 runs. The outfielder is a .279 hitter with 184 homers, during his seven-year career. The most favorable stat for Harper is his .900 OPS. Harper has averaged .267 with 28 home runs over the past three seasons.

Owners getting smart?

By way of comparison JD Martinez, 2018’s top paid free agent, signed a five-year $110 million deal with the World Series champion Red Sox. Martinez hit .330, with 45 homers and s AL-leading 130 RBI. He hit .315 with 110 dingers in the past three seasons.

Last year owners were accused of collusion for avoiding long-term, expensive contracts. However, when one looks at the bad deals given to players in the past it a simple matter of economics. The Mets were scheduled to pay Yoenis Cepedes $29 million in 2018, but he only played in 38 games.  He made an immediate impact after the Mets traded for him in 2015, but Cepedes only played half of 2017.

Similarly Miguel Cabrera was set to make $30 million from the Tigers last season, but injuries limited the 36-year-old to just 38 games. Miggy will be one expensive DH in ’19. Dare we mention Albert Pujols? The future Hall-of-Famer hit just .243 over the past two years, but it has cost the Angels $41 million.

Player’s worth

Unlike Harper, Heyward had a couple of good contract years. The result was the Cubs signing Heyward to an eight-year $184 million deal in 2016. The right fielder has five Golden Gloves to his credit.  Of course that is a whole lot of money for an average hitting outfielder who is challenged in the speed and power departments.

By the way, Cepedes, Heyward and Mike Trout were the highest paid outfielders at the start of 2018. Most baseball analysts say the Los Angles center fielder is “worth” his $32.3 million, but Trout’s contract expires in a couple of years. Giancarlo Stanton’s $25 million salary from the Yankees is another deal Harper-watchers should consider. The former Marlin inked a 13-year, $325 million deal before the Bronx Bombers acquired him. Stanton hit a MLB-leading 59 homer with an MLB-leading 132 RBI and won the MVP in his contract year.

Who are the best to ever suit up as Washington’s nine?

Washington has only been home to the Nationals for 11 years, but between 1891 and 1971 the District of Columbia enjoyed a rich, though rarely successful, professional baseball tradition. The Washington Statesmen threw out the first pitch in 1891. It was a major league franchise in the American Association.

The team switched to the National League the next season and changed its name to the Senators. A few years later, they changed the moniker back to the Nationalss. They were never very good. During their best season the Nats — probably short for National as in the league, but the city is built on a swamp and has plenty of gnats — drew 223,000 fans in 1895 their best year at the gate, but, never came close to a .500 winning percentage.

The club mercifully folded after losing 101 games in 1898 and 98 in 1899. The fact that the club drew only 86,000 that year, or next to last in the NL, may have figured into the decision.

The city had a new team, the Nationals and new league, the American League, in 1901 for a new beginning. The only problem was this team played like the old ones. A few years later, they were the Senators again. It was the same old story for another decade, until 1912 when Walter Johnson and Bob Groom combined for 57 wins between them.

WJ2

Contrary to popular belief the Senators were not always losers. In fact, Washington was competitive with those Damn Yankees during the roaring ’20s. The Senators went to three World Series and won one. Naturally, most of the best players in DC history date back to those days. However, two play on the Nats today.

Sorry Bryce, Hondo and Max, but you guys don’t even get honorable mentions yet. The Homestead Grays, who played half of their Negro League home schedule in DC during the war years and two-thirds it during the late 1940’s, have a few players.

Infield

Hall-of-fame first baseman Buck Leonard played for the Grays in Washington between 1943 and 1948. It’s hard to compare Leonard’s numbers to white players, because segregation banned him from the majors. Still Leonard compiled a .300 batting average and 19 home runs in Washington. Bucky Harris was the second baseman/manager of the Senators in the club’s glory years of the ’20s. Harris batted .275 with 64 triples. Joe Cronin spent seven years a Washington’s shortstop in the 20s and 30s. He was a two-time all-star for the Senators. Ryan Zimmerman was on the hot corner between 2005 and 2013. In that time he was a solid .280 hitter, Zim offered 20+ HR potential each season and he brought runs home.

Outfield

Sam Rice 2

Sam Rice

The best leftfielder in Washington baseball history is Goose Goslin. He hit .323 during his 12-year career, held an .888 ops and scored 100 or more runs three times in his career. The Homestead Grays of the Negro League played parts of their seasons in Washington and Pittsburgh during World War II. Their centerfielder, James “Cool Papa” Bell, is the best to ever play the position in DC. He played the final four seasons of his 24-year career with the Grays. Bell’s statistic’s amounted to what an average position player starting in the majors with 511 at bats. Cool Papa hit .344 at the ages of 40 – 44. Noted for his speed throughout his career, Bell stole 16 bases for Pittsburgh/Washington. Nineteen-year veteran Sam Rice roamed various outfield positions for the Senators, but mostly right field. The career .323 hitter collected 183 triples, 200 or more hits five times, 346 stolen bases and an .804 OPS.

Battery

Walter Johnson is the best pitcher Washington ever had. It’s in a book, look it up! The Big Train twice won more games in a season that Max Scherzer will start this year. Johnson won 25 or more games in seven consecutive seasons. Johnson struck out more than 3,500 in his 21 years, pitched more than 5,900 frames and kept an ERA of 2.17 over his career. Did I mention his .600 career win/loss record in spite of playing on some awful teams? By the way, the Big Train was a career .235 hitter, with 24 homers and a .616 OPS. The southpaw is none other than Gio Gonzalez. While his numbers are not great, Gio has a .586 win/loss percentage and a 3.51 ERA in Washington. If you didn’t like the Gio selection, you’ll probably like this even less. Darold Knowles was a fireman with the expansion Senators. Beginning in 1967 he was called on to keep the team in games and even save the few those Nats’ won. Over 229 games, Knowles hurled 374 innings, struck out 268 batters in 374 frames, saved 60 games and kept his ERA around 2.45.

Gibson (2)

The best catcher in Statesmen/Nationals/Senators/Grays/Senators/Nationals is Josh Gibson. He hit .381 during the last four years of his career with the Grays. That included 33 home runs in 483 at bats. “There is a catcher that any big league club would like to buy for $200,000,” Walter Johnson is attributed as saying after his career ended. “His name is Gibson…he can do everything. He hits the ball a mile, and he catches so easy he might as well be in a rocking chair. Too bad this Gibson is a colored fellow.”

Should sports stick to athletic competition?

Sports are being used to make cultural and political commentary now more than ever before. Whether it is NFL players taking a knee or locking arms during the national anthem in the United States or a former tennis champion standing for traditional marriage in Australia, free speech is also under attack.

The more President Donald Trump denounces protesting football players, the more the attention of the protest moves from social justice to anti-Trump. When Jemele Hill, a black woman, called the president a “white supremacist” in a tweet, she was suspended for two weeks. A few years ago, a white commentator, Curt Schilling, was fired after posting a statement opposing transgender people from using bathrooms that do not match their birth gender. Both commentators were employed by ESPN. The disparity in their punishments has raised questions about free speech and culture at the Disney-owned sports network.

 

NFL

Free speech is also moving toward center stage in the NFL debate. The controversy arose in 2016 when then-San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem. He said he was protesting social injustice, particularly police shooting unarmed black men. A few players joined him. Hundreds, including several owners joined the protest this season after Trump began tweeting nasty remarks about players demonstrating.

kap

The NFL is facing a backlash. Television ratings and attendance are down. CBS, NBC, ESPN and Fox pay about $5 billion per year to the league for coverage rights. That deal expires in 2020. Much of that money goes to ever increasing player contracts. A Gallup poll released Oct. 13 shows the NFL has dropped 10 percent in popularity among U.S. adults between 2012 and 2017.

Kaepernick accuses NFL owners of not signing him since Kaepernick walked out of his contract with the 49ers earlier this year. The quarterback’s high-priced lawyer says it is all about politics.

However, the 49ers were 1-10 with Kaepernick at the helm in 2016. His ESPN qb rating—a measure of quarterback performance that incorporates all of a quarterback’s contributions to winning, including how he impacts the game on passes, rushes, turnovers and penalties—was 49.5. The highest in the league was 79.6; the lowest was 37.5. Kaepernick’s passing rating was 90.7, No. 16 among 30 qualifiers. Passer ratings are calculated using a player’s passing attempts, completions, yards, touchdowns, and interceptions.

Should homosexuality be forced on society?

If you think America is the only place sports and politics are interwoven, think again. The winningest women’s tennis player of all-time is under fire in Australia for supporting heterosexuality. She and a former WNBA player Candice Wiggins were both scrutinized for claiming their sports were full of lesbians.

mc

Some claim athletes influence on social change is many who have come out as members of the LGBT community thus challenging social stereotypes and influencing more acceptance of LGBTs. Some ask if that is a good thing? Others point to the negative example set by athletes who say “I am not a role model.”

Tennis champ rebuked

Margaret Court, the women with the most Grand Slam major titles in history, was forced out of the Cotteslove Tennis Club in Perth. Now a Pentecostal pastor, Court’s sin is opposing a same-sex marriage referendum underway down under.

“No amount of legislation or political point-scoring can ever take out of the human heart the knowledge that in the beginning God created them male and female and provided each with a unique sexual function to bring forth new life,” Court was quoted in The West Australian newspaper in an interview last month. “To dismantle this sole definition of marriage and try to legitimize what God calls abominable sexual practices that include sodomy, reveals our ignorance as to the ills that come when society is forced to accept law that violates their very own God-given nature of what is right and what is wrong.”’

Vote

Australia is embroiled in a national, non-binding same-sex marriage vote. Voters have until Nov. 7 to mail their votes. The results are scheduled to be announced Nov. 15. Parliament is expected to vote on changing the marriage law if “yes” votes win.

Australia has a “temporary” ban on “hate speech” through the end of the election. Those found guilty of vilifying, intimidating or threatening harm “on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, intersex status or religion” could face a $10,000 fine. Australian Conservatives Sen. Cory Bernardi told ‘No” supporters that a change to the Marriage Act could lead to the criminalization of thoughts or speech, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

Confusing children?

Court says she does not use Qantas airlines in protest of the company’s support for same-sex marriage. Further she opposes the country’s SafeSchools anti-bullying program. It, Court said, leaves children confused by telling them it is permissible to identify with a gender other than their birth sex.

“There is a whole plot in our nation and in the nations of the world today to get the minds of the children,” Court said. “That’s what Hitler did and that’s what communism did – got the mind of the children. And there’s a whole plot in our nation, and in the nations of the world to get the minds of the children.”