Out There

Seattle Mariners Leadership Culture

Posted in Uncategorized by Pete on February 24, 2021

Every 10 years or so, we get another public indicator of the toxicity and dysfunction that seems to have held sway at the top of the team since it’s inception in the 1970s. So many great Mariners have come and gone Alvin Davis, both Griffeys, Mark Langston, Buhner, Randy Johnson, Ichiro, Brian Holman, Felix, and more recently, Kyle Seager, James Paxton, Kyle Lewis. While there have been a lot of great stories and personalities to root for, the culture at the top remains repugnant. And the team hasn’t been to the playoffs in 20 years.

I wanted to respond to one of the more minor transgressions from the rambling 45 minute video – the off the cuff slam that Seager is “probably overpaid.” Here is his career value at Fangraphs. $247.3 million dollars. And his career salary? Including his 2021 salary, his total career MLB earnings are $102 million. Yes, he is probably getting over paid in 2021, his 11th year in MLB. After being crazy-underpaid for the previous 10 years. Would you describe him then as “probably overpaid?”

Here is my general response to the whole thing, from what I put on facebook: Sadly, none of his comments were that shocking to me. He was a protege of Carl Pohlad, former MN Twins owner and generally thought of as the worst owner in MLB in the 90s, following Marge Schott in the 80s. I’ve grown really cynical about the upper echelons of baseball culture. Insular, privileged, self-absorbed, wealthy, and white. All of those times 100. It doesn’t have to be this way, but in Seattle, it is and maybe has been since day 1 in the 1970s. Which is why these days I prefer to take my kids to an amateur ballgame, or a 1A game in Everett to watch relatable young people playing their hearts out because they just love the game. I’ll still cheer for the M’s players, like James Paxton and Kyle Lewis, and other good stories and goofballs like Dan Vogelbach, Steve Delabar, Tom Wilhemsen, Charlie Furbush… But Kevin Mather? Jack Zduriencik? No.

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Kind of a Big Deal

Posted in politics by Pete on February 19, 2021

I get the NY Times daily news summaries in my email every day. I really wanted to remember this one. Especially:

“A party focused on rebuilding a national majority probably could not stay tethered to Trump.

But the modern Republican Party has found ways other than majority support to achieve its goals.

It benefits from a large built-in advantage in the Senate, which gives more power to rural and heavily white states. The filibuster also helps Republicans more than it does Democrats. In the House and state legislatures, both parties have gerrymandered, but Republicans have done more of it. In the courts, Republicans have been more aggressive about putting judges on the bench and blocking Democratic presidents from doing so. In the Electoral College, Democrats currently waste more votes than Republicans by running up large state-level victories.

All of this helps explain Trump’s second acquittal. The Republican Party is in the midst of the worst run that any party has endured — across American history — in the popular vote of presidential elections, having lost seven of the past eight. Yet the party has had a pretty good few decades, policy-wise. It has figured out how to succeed with minority support.”

Lots of the above has supporting links if you go to the actual article (linked above).

A frightening analysis of the corrosion of democracy thanks to the internet

Posted in politics by Pete on February 17, 2021

Ufda. That’s a long editorial with some scary stuff. For me, most notable was this:

“In other words, while designing systems to detect fraudulent postings “only gets harder and harder,” Ford writes, it gets

easier and easier for machines, and botnet operators to train algorithms to create progressively-more-convincing fake news and fake user profiles that before long will appear “more believable” to both machines and humans than real news or real user profiles.

Perhaps more significant, would-be reformers face an increasingly powerful array of digital firms that are certain to oppose any regulation that interferes with their exceptional profit margins.”

Cheers! And a reminder to myself: “My hope is built on nothing less…”

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Trump, Impeachment, and Outcomes vs Process (The Heart!)

Posted in politics by Pete on February 14, 2021

Yes, this.

By focusing the impeachment resolution on the charge of incitement of insurrection, the House made it easier for Mr. Trump’s supporters in the Senate to dismiss these acts of intimidation as irrelevant to the accusation on which they were voting.

I was a little mystified about this as well.

Zooming out to the history of Trump’s presidency, he obviously has a boatload of issues, beginning with crippling emotional insecurity which he desperately tries to overcome using deception and intimidation among other things. But as far as single impeachable offenses, the attempt to intimidate and pressure Ukrainian officials to dig up or manufacture damaging evidence against the family of Joe Biden, that was clearly an abuse of power. What is interesting to me is our human tendency to weigh guilt based on the impact of the alleged crime. The fact that Trump’s attempt didn’t lead to a whole lot of damaging information on Joe or Hunter Biden seems to lead most people to regard this as overblown and a weak case for impeachment. It makes me think about how the crime of attempted murder leads to a lesser penalty than actual murder. Why is this? For example, if someone tries to shoot someone to kill and fails, they get off easier because they are a lousy shot? Does that make any sense? The intent, or “the heart” from a biblical worldview, seems more important to me than the actual result.

The later attempt to intimidate and pressure Georgian republican elected officials to “find” “extra” votes to put him over the top in that state, that was really bad. But the worst by a mile, for me, was his failure to act on 1/6 after the mob had gotten so violent. Yes, worse than his incitement that same morning, or his lies and incitement over the previous 2 months. The mob was eventually in the capitol building, chanting “Hang Mike Pence” with a gallows built outside, and according to witnesses the President was watching delightedly on TV and fielding desperate calls from powerful democrats and republicans asking him to call off the mob and he chose to not to. Instead, at 2:24 he tweeted out 

Presentation by the Democrats shows Donald Trump's tweet and footage of the attack
This picture was lifted from the BBC timeline article I link to below

Followed by a 3:13 tweet and a 4:17 video tweet that are half-hearted attempts to call off the attack. To me, the interval from about 1 pm to at least 3:13 pm is the damning interval in which he chose not to act, a clear dereliction of duty. As the NYTimes editorial posits, it seems curious that the house managers didn’t try to charge Trump with a more broad, general offense as opposed to incitement, specifically. Then the intimidation of GA officials and pressure to commit voter fraud is much more relevant. As is the refusal to protect congress once the mob was out of hand by or before 1:00.* Again, the money quote:

By focusing the impeachment resolution on the charge of incitement of insurrection, the House made it easier for Mr. Trump’s supporters in the Senate to dismiss these acts of intimidation as irrelevant to the accusation on which they were voting.

I do acknowledge, as the editorial did, that finding enough Republican senators with the integrity and courage to convict would have been unlikely anyway. And I think the house managers did a pretty good job, but they unnecessarily made it harder on themselves by charging him with only incitement.

See a more full timeline here.

Getting back to my bunny trail about intent and “the heart,” is there any doubt that if the mob had reached Mike Pence and hung him on the gallows, Trump would have been impeached? The mob narrowly missed a confrontation with him and his security detail. Basically, it came down to officer Eugene Goodman and luck, or perhaps providence. So, is that just? I think the intent, the process, or “the heart” should weigh much more heavily than the outcome. It makes me think of the Jesus quote from the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5:

21-22 “You’re familiar with the command to the ancients, ‘Do not murder.’ I’m telling you that anyone who is so much as angry with a brother or sister is guilty of murder. Carelessly call a brother ‘idiot!’ and you just might find yourself hauled into court. Thoughtlessly yell ‘stupid!’ at a sister and you are on the brink of hellfire. The simple moral fact is that words kill.

27-28 “You know the next commandment pretty well, too: ‘Don’t go to bed with another’s spouse.’ But don’t think you’ve preserved your virtue simply by staying out of bed. Your heart can be corrupted by lust even quicker than your body. Those ogling looks you think nobody notices—they also corrupt. (from here)

Obviously, this is not how our earthly legal system works. But I’m dissatisfied with our apparent overemphasis on outcomes, rather than on process. If someone poisons someone, and the victim barely survives due to skillful medical intervention and some luck (like Alexei Navalny), why should the penalty for that crime be less than the penalty for poisoning that results in death? If you have a reasonable answer to this question, I’m sincerely interested in reading it in the comments. For now I will try and put my attention and trust on the good judge who will, ultimately and inevitably and inexorably, deliver justice. From which we all need mercy. Which reminds me of this great Tim Keller sermon.

*I would even argue that his obsession for the last 2 months of his presidency with doing anything, telling any lie, to overturn the election results – this constitutes dereliction of duty as well because he didn’t care about governing and helping the country via servant leadership (hahahaha), his entire focus was on his reelection bid. I do realize that by this standard, a great many or perhaps most politicians would be guilty of the same offense when it gets close to election day. So be it.

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Democratic Presidents are Better for the Economy? And a riff on the potency of explanatory narratives

Posted in Uncategorized by Pete on February 3, 2021

I found this really interesting, and wanted to remember this article. Usually in that case I just put it on facebook, where I can scroll back in my feed and find it later. But the title seems sure to serve as hyper-partisan click-bait, and I’ve had my fill of charged red vs blue dialogue, so I’m putting it here which gets a lot fewer eyeballs.

Anyway, the “pragmatism gap” is interesting and seems fairly believable to me. Certainly, based on what we’ve seen in the last 14 months in terms of the former president downplaying Covid-19 and Republicans in congress fighting democratic efforts to legislate large economic relief packages. Trump seemed to vacillate wildly on the topic though, like when he at the last minute argued for $2,000 relief checks for every American, far more than what Democrats had been asking for in deadlocked congressional negotiations. This is an explanatory narrative that makes sense to me, and will probably stick with me.

This sentence really stuck out to me, too:

The elder George Bush signed a tax increase that contributed to the deficit reduction that, in turn, fueled the 1990s boom.

He was crushed for that tax increase, losing to Perot/Clinton in 1992, with attack ads replaying his “Read My Lips, No New Taxes” promise ad nauseum. Yet another example of how doing what is right just might get you fired. I’m not suggesting Bush Sr was a perfect President or anything (What do I know? I was in high school at the time), but the only narratives I know for why he lost that election (it’s rare for an incumbent president to lose) center around Ross Perot siphoning off votes from Republicans (I believe this has been studied and largely disproven), and the effectiveness of the “Read My Lips” attack ads.

Our brains seem to really, really like, even need, explanatory narratives. And we often double down on them over time, for reasons that have nothing to do with evidence or truth. But these explanations we cling to are usually grossly oversimplified, or even completely wrong. We make them up when they aren’t even there, and then refuse to change our minds, even in the face of evidence to the contrary. I still believe the first one from the article, above, given there is some scholarship and data behind it. But it’s not gospel truth, and I want to remain open to changing my mind.

Let Justice Roll Down!

Posted in grim stuff by Pete on December 14, 2020

I know that this is just one of a million such stories, but I think that’s kind of the point. It’s a slap to the face, to wake up and realize how people live outside of our little, comfortable bubbles. Perspective.

I believe that there will be justice. I believe that there will be a terrible, inexorable judgement, for all this stuff, and all that led to it, and all that came after. It may come before death, or after, but it will come.


From Luke 12:
3 What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.
4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more.
5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.
6 Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies [1] ? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.
7 Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.

There’s a slow, slow train comin’ up around the bend. We run, we hide our shame, we rationalize and deny and use substances or people or work or entertainment or sex or anything that might distract us from the truth. We do anything but embrace true repentance, the only thing that would actually set us free. Jesus, let your justice roll down, the sooner the better, that we might turn and finally find freedom in you.

The Sonic / Microwave Weapon and the Cover-Up

Posted in Uncategorized by Pete on November 8, 2020

Well, this is disturbing. Read it. Hopefully it is exposed and an action movie is made out of the whole story, before it is scaled-up and used against even more innocent people. Even more disturbing than the existence of the weapon and it’s use on diplomats and their families, is the apparent cover-up by our government. I’m not one for conspiracy theories, especially these days with all of the nonsense half our country seems to believe, but I think this is for real, and shameful.

Pink Slime and the fall of “The News”

Posted in Uncategorized by Pete on November 4, 2020

I’m cleaning out my email inbox, and came across an editorial from “Yahoo Finance” that I thought was insightful. I wanted to share and preserve it, so here it is: https://www.yahoo.com/lifestyle/a-different-way-the-news-is-dividing-america-113945965.html

I encourage you to check it out.

Racial Wealth Disparity

Posted in politics by Pete on July 8, 2020

I heard this stat on a podcast the other day and I’m embarrassed to admit I had no idea the disparity was so large. I couldn’t find the podcast quote, so here it is from another source:

A close examination of wealth in the U.S. finds evidence of staggering racial disparities. At $171,000, the net worth of a typical white family is nearly ten times greater than that of a Black family ($17,150) in 2016. Gaps in wealth between Black and white households reveal the effects of accumulated inequality and discrimination, as well as differences in power and opportunity that can be traced back to this nation’s inception. The Black-white wealth gap reflects a society that has not and does not afford equality of opportunity to all its citizens.

Boom. Succinct and devastating. They talk only briefly about the complex reasons behind this disparity, and possible ways to reduce it. The whole article is short and informative – I recommend it.

Ugh…

Posted in Uncategorized by Pete on April 7, 2020

This type of crime happens disturbingly often in Alaska. But this is a pretty extreme example of what happens. The offender’s callous attitude, his position of leadership and esteem in the community, the 11-year old victim, and the fact that “This is the second time in a month that police have responded to claims that Anderson-Agimuk had sex with a minor after giving them alcohol,” make this one even more chilling than most.

There is plenty of blame to go around. Including for all of us Alaskans for electing a governor and representatives who have put in place and enabled a deplorably underfunded system of justice, statewide, and even more so in the bush. There have always been a lack of prosecutors and public defenders, but Dunleavy has made even more cuts. Like this one:

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has cut from the state court system an amount his administration says is commensurate to that for state-funded abortions.

A budget document explaining the $334,000 cut says the legislative and executive branches oppose state funding of “elective” abortions. It says the only branch that “insists” on them is the Alaska Supreme Court.

The lack of prosecutors and public defenders leads to lots of plea-bargaining to avoid lengthy court cases, and rushed cases to meet statutory guidelines for how long the state has to bring charges after an arrest, that kind of thing. I’ve seen this from the perspective of a juror on grand jury duty (many times), and as a victim of a crime or two over our lengthy time in this region. Apparently, most Alaskans prefer this sort of assault and lawlessness, in the bush, to a modest income tax. Shameful. We reap what we sow.