Politics And Corporations

Those pesky corporations, allowed by Citizens United, are at it again exercising their right to free speech.  Just to remind you of the case:

The United States Supreme Court held (5–4) on January 21, 2010 that the free speech clause of the First Amendment to the Constitution prohibits the government from restricting independent expenditures for communications by nonprofit corporations, for-profit corporationslabor unions, and other associations.

Really, the vote was 5-4 so we were that close to losing a basic freedom.  Well, we think it really was two basic freedoms: speech and association.  Recently we got this email from Airbnb.  We have only excluded the signatures:

The US Supreme Court decided to uphold the travel ban. We are profoundly disappointed by the Court’s decision. The travel ban is a policy that goes against our mission and values — to restrict travel based on a person’s nationality or religion is wrong.

And while this news is a setback, we will continue the fight with organizations that are helping those impacted. Airbnb will be matching donations to the International Refugee Assistance Project (IRAP) up to a total of $150,000 through September 30, 2018 to support their work advocating for systemic change and legal pathways for those affected by the travel ban. If you’d like to join us, you can donate here.

We believe that travel is a transformative and powerful experience and that building bridges between cultures and communities creates a more innovative, collaborative and inspired world. At Airbnb, we are so grateful to our community who will continue to open doors around the world so that together, we can travel forward.

We are glad that Airbnb didn’t lose their right to speak to their customers and others on political issues. We are glad that the court made the decision on the legal issues rather Airbnb’s mantra of travel is good.   We are travel fans too but it should have nothing to do with the legal decision the court made.  We will continue to use Airbnb despite our differences.


MLB Scheduling And Relegation

Relegation in MLB, as we discussed recently, is the only real solution to tanking.  By tanking we mean teams that give up on the current year to either maximize current profits or build for the future.

Sidebar: We saw a nice example of soccer tanking in the 0-0 tie between France and Denmark  both teams were happy with a tie and did little to try and score.  Will Belgium versus England be the same today?  End Sidebar.

It is unlikely to happen but if it does there is one additional problem: MLB doesn’t play a balanced schedule.  For example, consider the situation where MLB relegates exactly one team.  Currently, the Orioles (23 and 56) would be the first choice for relegation and the Royals (25 and 55) would be the second.

In soccer leagues that use relegation it is a fair result because every team plays a balanced schedule of each opponent home and away.  In MLB, teams play division rivals more often.  So far in 2018, the teams with the two best records in MLB are the Red Sox and the Yankees.  The Orioles will play each of them 19 times.  The Royals will play each of them six times.  It seems likely that the ranking of the Orioles and the Royals would be reversed if the teams played a balanced schedule.  Our proposed MLB relegation would raise a ruckus but it would be a triple ruckus, and properly so, without a balanced schedule.

Competitiveness in MLB

Ben Fredericton at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch brings a big baseball issue back into the limelight.  Every sport requires that teams be competitive.  Fans will lose interest if one baseball team wins 130 games.  Local fans will lose interest if the local team loses 130 games.  Ben is fired up and says:

Pointing fingers at the media coverage won’t help. Fans have better ways to spend their money than by watching bad baseball. Even if their team tanks right, like the Cubs and Astros, the empty seats will be waiting when the momentum turns.

Until baseball finds a way to reward competitive teams, or punish the ones that don’t mind losing, there will be clubs that repel fans at home and on the road.

We are not convinced of Ben’s assertion that “tanking right” is a bad idea.  His example of the Cubs and the Astros seem to be doing fine.
Competition has been an issue for some time.  It was a big concern of the Commissioner’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Baseball Economics.  Because of revenue sharing teams can be profitable without drawing many fans at home.  As many teams have shown, like the Astros, Cubs, and Pirates, it is a reasonable strategy to sell off established players and build for the future.  Tanking can and does work.  Tanking can also be very profitable for owners even if it doesn’t produce winning teams in the future.  The problem for Ben and everyone else is that it is hard to identify good tanking (creating a better team in the future) and bad tanking (just doing it for the money).
The problem for Ben and MLB is that there aren’t any good options.  You could hire MWG at exorbitant rates and we could decide who to penalize and who to absolve but baseball prospects are notoriously hard to evaluate.  Relegation is a great idea but where are the teams to promote?  The farm system in baseball where the MLB teams control almost all minor league teams means there are no real opportunities for promotion to MLB within the US.
One relegation solution would be to allow international teams into MLB.  We create a league with, say, ten teams in various cities outside the US.  The top three go into MLB and the bottom three MLB teams go into the international league.  It is unlikely to come about because the small market teams will stop it but it is a real solution.


A Trump Trade Proposal To Support

James Freeman at Best of the Web on WSJ has news on a Trump trade proposal that we would support:

At the rancorous G7 meeting recently in Canada, Mr. Trump suggested tariff-free trade among the participants.

Of course, we recommend unilateral tariff disarmament.  We hope everyone agrees on this sensible proposal.  We’re pretty sure that it is so sensible that the parties will not be able to agree on it, in part because The Donald suggested it.  Too bad.


Bridge Dilemma

Last week in our duplicate club game we had great but insufficient information.  We were West and South had bid One No Trump and there was no additional bids.  We won the tenth trick and it stood that we had four tricks and declarer six.  Our hand contained two clubs, the ace and ten, and the jack of diamonds.  The dummy, North, had no significant cards.  Our partner surely had three clubs including an honor.  Declarer had the queen of spades and two clubs including an honor.  Our opponents use 15-17 HCP for One No Trump openers and two queens or queen and a king would fit in her hand.

Here is the first step of the dilemma: Who has the king of clubs?  If South has it then I should lead the spade and we get the last two tricks as South is endplayed.

Sidebar: South is endplayed because if she leads the king we play the ace.  If she leads low we do too and East wins the 12th trick and we win the last with the ace.  End Sidebar.

But if East has the king then we should lead the ace followed by the ten and we get the last three tricks.  But if South has the king that action leads to South getting two of the last three tricks.  In party bridge you should lead the ace because of the scoring but duplicate has ordinal scoring so there is no obvious reason to play it either way based on scoring.

The night was not going well so we led the jack and, of course, South produced two black queens and we ended up with one instead of three.  We had really good information about everybody’s hands but not quite enough.

Born Yesterday – The Play

We accompanied the Lady de Gloves to see the opening night of Born Yesterday at American Players Theatre (APT) in Spring Green, Wisconsin.  We encourage you to go to APT any time you have a chance and especially to go “up the hill.”  Up the hill is to the Hill Theatre cut into the top of a hill in the woods.  Some evenings when the lights go out the stars are spectacular.  Other evenings, like ours, it gets amazingly black.  You do have to worry about rain but it is worth the chance.

APT has developed a talented Core Company over the years.  We got to see two of the stars shine despite the clouds: Colleen Madden as Billie Dawn and David Daniel as Harry Brock.  Colleen was wonderful as the ditzy show girl turned into an intellectual with a ditzy touch by a writer at The New Republic.  She gets to wear great styles to stunning effect.  The late forties must have been when The New Republic drifted away from the Progressive cause because the reading list he prepares pays homage to the Founders.  David is the most disgusting cut-throat capitalist you could imagine.  He is ill mannered in speech, manners, and behavior as well as poorly educated and dishonest.  Every moment he is onstage you loath him.  Compared to him The Donald is a model of decorum.

One interesting part of viewing Born Yesterday was the audience.  Spring Green is close to Madison and Madison has a well deserved reputation.  Our first take was that it was a typical bad businessman story was influenced by the audience.  Make no mistake, Harry is one of the most antagonistic antagonists but the play is much more than that.  We think is makes important statements about rights, education, and power.

The first point is that even folks as loathsome as Harry have their rights.  We forget if Billie or the writer is responding to the legality of Harry’s project by saying we’ll change the law.  Here the protagonists have forgotten their principles, specifically rule of law.  Rights are not rationed by niceness.

The second point is about education.  Billie’s education is a classically liberal one with documents from the Founders and classics from writers Charles Dickens.  Billie’s education compares well to most university curriculums today.  We think that important point was missed by the audience.

The third point is about power.  At the end Billie has Harry in her power.  Is she any better than Harry?  We don’t want to resolve that point but as a point of comparison go see Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  Prospero is more magnanimous than Billie.  It doesn’t mean that Billie is bad it just shows her humanity.

It is an excellent play in a great place with wonderful performances.  Go see it.


A Venezuela Reminder

Kevin Williamson is on the Venezuela beat at NRO.  It has the electronic marker of socialism-always-fails.  Nice.  Do read the whole thing.  Kevin channels Jonah’s new book (the review is currently in the works) when he concludes about the aberration of capitalism’s great enrichment of humans:

That’s because being rich is temporary. Countries, like families, can go from shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves — and it need not take three generations. As the Scots say: “The father buys, the son builds, the grandchild sells, and his son begs.” A nation that is not building is on its way to begging. Venezuela is already there.

In a 2006 poll conducted by the University of Chicago, Venezuelans led the world in national pride. One wonders what they would say now, if they weren’t too terrorized to speak. It is difficult to be proud when you are scared, hungry, and miserable.

Funny thing: The second-proudest nation in that poll was the United States.

We need to avoid Venezuela.  As many folks have pointed out the problem with socialism is socialism. It never works as NRO points out.  The problem with capitalism is capitalists.  Capitalism works but capitalists, like Harry Brock in Born Yesterday (another review from APT in the works) make folks reluctant to embrace capitalism.  Keep reading Kevin will help us make the critical decisions.