Stick to baseball, 1/14/17.

I’ve been writing Top 100 stuff (and making related phone calls) all week, so the only content I wrote that didn’t appear here on the dish was my review of the boardgame DOOM, an adaptation of the 1990s first-person shooter video game and an update of an earlier attempt to make a boardgame of it.

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Stick to baseball, 1/7/17.

I’ve been working on the top 100 prospects package, which begins a three-week rollout on January 18th, since New Year’s, so I didn’t write anything for Insider this week. My boardgame reviews continue, with a review of the Celtic-themed game Inis for Paste and a review of the boardgame and new iOS app for Colt Express here on the dish. I did hold my regular Klawchat on Thursday.

You can preorder my upcoming book, Smart Baseball, on amazon, or from other sites via the Harper-Collins page for the book. Also, please sign up for my more-or-less weekly email newsletter.

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  • Several former Justice Department lawyers penned an op ed claiming that Jeff Sessions is lying about his involvement in civil rights cases. They say, “Sessions knows that his real record on race and civil rights is harmful to his chances for confirmation. So he has made up a fake one.” In a rational world, that would end his nomination for Attorney General.
  • Venezuela’s ongoing political and economic meltdown may lead to a recall of president/dictator Nicolas Maduro, but he appointed a successor this week in new Vice President Tarek el Aissami, who is (or was) under investigating by U.S. authorities for drug trafficking.
  • Author Ryan Holiday wrote an insightful, somewhat angry piece on the ‘online diversity police’, folks who immediately decry the lack of diversity on any list or grouping (often inaccurately, as it turns out).
  • Lindy West wrote one of the week’s best, most important essays, on why she left Twitter after six years on the service, citing the endless abuse and the rise of neo-Naziism.
  • The Daily Beast exposed the long con of 55-year-old “millennial” comedian Dan Nainan, who tries to pass himself off as 35 and has fooled several media outlets as such.
  • Esquire has a longread on former Deadspin and Gawker EIC A.J. Daulerio, whose career was derailed by the Hulk Hogan sex tape lawsuit.
  • Grierson & Leitch each posted their top ten films of 2016, along with a 100-minute podcast where they reveal their lists to each other and discuss them. As usual, Leitch’s list comprises fairly well-known films, while Grierson’s has several films I’ve heard of and three that may not actually exist.
  • The eight-year-old transgender boy kicked out of a New Jersey Cub Scouts group after other parents complained talked to the Jersey Journal, as did his mother, about what happened, in a piece that also explores the psychiatric community’s evolving understanding of “gender dysphoria.”
  • Jill Saward’s death didn’t garner much coverage here either, but she was an important figure in the movement for sexual assault victims’ rights, as the first British rape victim to waive her right to anonymity and publicly discuss her case.
  • Will Trump’s election mark the return of civil disobedience? So far it has, but can the various movements opposed to the Republicans’ reactionary agenda keep it up for four or more years?
  • Let’s talk about the Russian hacking operation, which a US intelligence report says Putin ‘ordered’ to get Trump elected. David Remnick weighed in as well.
  • The Seattle Times called out Trump’s “reckless linkage” of vaccines to autism, desperate overwhelming evidence that there is no link.
  • Lauren Duca of Teen Vogue has quickly become one of the most important voices in political journalism, thanks to pieces like this one about the family selling access to the President-Elect at a party at Trumo’s Mar-a-Lago resort that made over $420K.
  • Republican Christine Todd Whitman headed up the Environmental Protection Agency under President George W. Bush, but she said she fears for the planet under a Trump regime for many reasons, including his denial of climate change.
  • The Washington Post‘s Dave Weigel outlines the Republican Party’s plan for a “sweeping conservative agenda” now that they control the White House and both houses of Congress. I’d dispute the word “conservative” here, though; this is very much an agenda written by and for white Americans, especially Christians, but doesn’t bear much resemblance to the traditional economic and libertarian-minded conservatism of Reagan or Buckley.
  • The political crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo hasn’t gotten much attention here amidst our own, but President Kabila hasn’t signed the agreement to end his rule, which has been marked primarily by his looting of the country’s coffers of millions of dollars.
  • Finally, the Huffington Post made news of nothing with a piece on Mark Zuckerberg apparently becoming an ex-atheist. I’m linking this for one major reason – my disdain for the need to classify people by their religious beliefs, something I first encountered on Wikipedia maybe a decade ago, where articles on people can be categorized by the subject’s religion. You can change your religious beliefs on a dime; you can lie about them (in many countries, you may have to); you can fail to fit in any neat bucket of beliefs. As a general rule, I don’t think your religion is any of my business unless you wish to make it so, so I particularly dislike the idea that you need to know what someone believes or, as in this case, that a possible change in the beliefs of a famous person are somehow newsworthy. I’ll be happier when Zuckerberg’s beliefs include extirpating fake news sites from Facebook.

Stick to baseball, 12/31/16.

No Insider pieces and no Klawchat this week, between the lack of MLB activity, a little holiday-related travel, and me just generally taking it easy this week. I did review the boardgame City of Spies: Estoril 1942 for Paste, and have reviews coming up for Doom, Kodama, and Inis.

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And now, the links…

  • Texas is making rapid progress in becoming the nation’s worst backwater, from anti-gay laws to wiping out abortion clinics to reducing environmental protections to a statewide cut in special education resources, as detailed in this Houston Chronicle investigative report on how tens of thousands of disabled children in Texas aren’t getting the education help they deserve.
  • This New York Times profile on an Iraq War veteran suffering from PTSD who was convicted of a home invasion highlights how little we do for soldiers returning from active combat duty, and how costly the war in Iraq has been in human lives.
  • I thought the Telegraph had the best piece on George Michael’s career, life, and death at age 53, possibly the result of a heroin addiction. If you haven’t heard his 1990 album, Listen Without Prejudice, Volume 1, it stands up incredibly well today for its mixture of styles that, at the time, was seen as a disappointment by fans who wanted him to remain a bubblegum pop star. And the same publication also wrote how horrible Gene Kelly was to a 19-year-old Debbie Reynolds during the filming of Singing in the Rain, and how Fred Astaire came to the rescue.
  • Security expert Bruce Schneier, who coined the term “security theater” to refer to all the things we do to appear to make our lives safer, points out that TSA Pre-Check also won’t work, as it just provides a second way for a would-be terrorist to beat the system and get on a plane. He links to a former TSA administrator’s post explaining Pre-Check’s vulnerabilities, but the two disagree on the solution – Schneier wants less pre-flight screening for everyone, rather than for a select few, saying that terrorists are going to pick ‘clean’ operatives no matter what we do.
  • This longread on Olympian Debbie Thomas’ descent into mental illness and poverty is from March, but I just found it this week and it’s one of the best and most awful stories I’ve read in the last few months. Thomas won a bronze medal in Calgary in 1988, became a doctor, but has lost everything in the last few years as a result of bipolar disorder.
  • Donald Trump took credit for Sprint’s decision, made in April, to add 5000 jobs in the U.S., and here’s a partial list of media outlets who repeated his lie in headlines without pointing out its untruth. Yes, there’s more to an article than a headline, but I know from experience many people will read the headline and then move along … but will still send me an angry email about a headline I didn’t write. (Editors write headlines, not writers.)
  • A New York Times investigation found rampant bribery among Homeland Security officials charged with protecting our borders. I doubt there’s a simple solution to this: no private or public entity will pay agents more than defeating the security is worth to those trying to do so.
  • The same Russian hacker group that has been accused of trying to influence our election placed malware on a computer at the main electric utility in Vermont, raising concerns about an attack on our infrastructure.
  • Meanwhile, the Russian government has also been supporting far-right movements across Europe in an attempt to destabilize EU states, finding success in Hungary, Estonia, and Bulgaria, along with the rise of the neo-Nazi National Front Party in France.
  • “More than a third of the almost 200 people who have met with President-elect Donald Trump since his election last month, including those interviewing for administration jobs, gave large amounts of money to support his campaign and other Republicans this election cycle.” So begins this Politico story on the rising kleptocracy in Washington, where money buys you direct access like we haven’t seen in decades (under either party).
  • Another neo-Nazi group is planning an armed march in Whitefish, Montana, where its founder’s mother lives. There’s more background, and information on the community’s response, in this audio piece from NPR, which describes businesses putting menorahs in windows to show support and solidarity this week.
  • Jane Coaston of MTV.com looks at the roots and insolubility of the Syrian civil war.
  • New York issued the first (known) birth certificate for an intersex person – that is, one that states the person’s sex as “intersex,” referring to someone born with physical and genetic characteristics of both sexes, often including sexual organs. This is law catching up to science, but I ask you, North Carolina and Texas and Mississippi and every bigot out there trying to make life miserable for people unlike you: What bathroom would you like her to use?
  • In 2018 and 2020, remember how the Republicans stole a Supreme Court seat by refusing to even hold a hearing for Merrick Garland, nominated to fill that vacancy by President Obama.
  • The political crisis in Burundi, sparked by the questionable re-election of Pierre Nkurunziza to a third term as President, was not helped when he hinted he might run again in 2020. The Burundian constitution limits the president to a single re-election, and his decision to run roughshod over that clause led to 500 deaths and over 300,000 refugees leaving the country.
  • An open letter from 23 activists, many of them Nobel laureates, calls for the UN Security Council to stop ethnic cleansing in Burma against the Rohingya minority – and criticizes Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi for her inaction on this issue.
  • That Gambian election a few weeks ago that appeared to end the tyrannic rule of President Yahya Jammeh? Yeah, well, so much for that, as Jammeh is trying to annul the results and declare himself the winner. Senegal, which surrounds Gambia on all but the latter’s tiny coastal border, has said a military intervention is only a “last resort.”
  • Fortune looks at the recent spate of frauds among tech startups, asking whether this is a growing trend giving the amount of VC money flying around.

Stick to baseball, 12/24/16.

For Insiders this week, I wrote up Cleveland’s deal with Edwin Encarnacion and the Clay Buchholz trade, as well as a piece last Saturday on some potential problems in the new CBA. I also held my regular Klawchat on Thursday.

My first-ever piece for Vulture ran this week, a holiday gift guide to boardgames for gamers at various levels (including newbies to the hobby).

You can preorder my upcoming book, Smart Baseball, on amazon. Also, please sign up for my more-or-less weekly email newsletter.

And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 12/17/16.

My main piece for Insiders this week went up this morning, on the many lost opportunities in MLB’s new collective bargaining agreement, discussing money and rights the union may have left on the table, and why the agreement seemed to come together so late. I also wrote about the Dodgers’ two re-signings earlier in the week, and I held a Klawchat here on Thursday.

At Paste this week I ranked the ten best boardgames I saw in 2016. A few folks have asked why the highly-rated Scythe isn’t on the list; I think that game is too long and overly complicated, with playing times that can top two hours (and a retail price of $90). All ten games I listed are clearly better, in my opinion.

In case you missed it, my list of my 100 favorite songs of 2016 went up here on Wednesday night.

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And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 12/10/16.

I wrote a bunch of stuff this week to cover all the major transactions before and during the winter meetings, including:

The Cardinals signing Dexter Fowler
The Yankees signing Aroldis Chapman
The Nationals’ trade for Adam Eaton
The Cubs/Royals trade with Wade Davis and Jorge Soler
The Rockies signing Ian Desmond
The Rays signing Wilson Ramos
The Red Sox trading for Chris Sale
The Red Sox trading for Tyler Thornburg
The Giants signing Mark Melancon
The Yankees signing Matt Holliday
The Astros signing Carlos Beltran

I also held a Klawchat on Friday afternoon.

Over at Paste, I reviewed Terraforming Mars, one of the best new boardgames of 2016, and one that will place high on my ranking of the top ten games of the year when that’s published in the next few days.

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And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 12/3/16.

I had a couple of Insider pieces this week, on the trade of Jaime Garcia to Atlanta, the Cespedes contract, the trade of Alex Jackson to Atlanta, and my proposal for an international draft (written before the CBA negotiations ended). I also held a Klawchat on Thursday.

My latest boardgame review for Paste covers Grifters, a “deckbuilder without a deck” that I thought played a little too mechanically.

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And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 11/26/16.

Chris Crawford and I ranked and wrote up the top 30 prospects for the 2017 draft, with Vandy outfielder Jeren Kendall at #1. I also wrote posts for Insiders on the Segura/Walker trade, on the Brett Cecil & Andrew Cashner contracts and other moves, and on the Astros’ moves last week. I also held a Klawchat on Tuesday, in advance of the holiday.

Over at Paste I reviewed the new Martin Wallace game Via Nebula, a great, family-level route-building game that we found simple to learn and quick to play.

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And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 11/20/16.

I spent the last week on vacation with my family, in the Bahamas, which was lovely due to the weather, the friendly people, and the rum. Before I left, I filed four offseason buyers’ guides, to the markets for starting pitchers, relief pitchers, infielders & catchers, and outfielders. I also participated in a ’roundtable’ piece with Dan Szymborski where we discussed our NL ROY ballots.

I reviewed the family boardgame Legendary Inventors for Paste; it’s cute but feels a bit unfinished given the imbalance across the various scoring methods. Earlier this month, I updated my all-time favorite boardgame rankings, which now runs to 100 titles.

You can preorder my upcoming book, Smart Baseball, on amazon. Also, please sign up for my more-or-less weekly email newsletter.

And now, the links…

Stick to baseball, 11/12/16.

I ranked the top 50 free agents available this offseason, for Insiders; once these guys start signing, I’ll post reaction pieces as appropriate. My annual offseason buyers guide series started on Friday with the outfield market; the infielders guide will go up today, followed by relievers Sunday and starters on Monday. I wrote an overview of the potential for big trades this winter, given the weak free agent class.

I held my regular Klawchat on Thursday, but there will be no chat this upcoming week.

My latest boardgame review for Paste covers Cones of … I mean, Council of Blackthorn, a pretty good backstabbing game that I think has one major mechanical flaw.

I also updated my all-time favorite boardgame rankings, which now runs to 100 titles. I think that’s plenty, even with the 40-50 or so I try each year for review purposes.

  • I’m going to start this week with reactions to the election of Donald Trump and the Republicans’ de facto control of all three branches of the federal government (assuming they fill the SCOTUS vacancy with one of their own). If you read just one story about the election, make it this one, on how the GOP’s attack on voting rights may have delivered them the White House. If you support the erosion of the voting rights of American citizens, you stand in opposition to a fundamental principle of the modern democracy. Rolling the clock back to the time of poll taxes and literacy tests just to get your guy elected is wrong, and every one of us should be willing to see a candidate we oppose elected if that is the cost of letting everyone who is eligible to vote have the opportunity to vote. If you live in one of the fourteen states that worked to restrict voting rights, you need to stand up now for yourself and for your neighbors.
  • Rod Dreher, senior editor of the American Conservative, called this America’s front-porch revolt. Michael Moore, of all people, predicted the Trump victory months ago and I think he’s correct about the economic insecurity that drove it. (His five-point “plan” for Democrats is a little light on details.) Glenn Greenwald points out that this was partly the result of politicians’ refusal to heed the lessons of Brexit, that (my words here) economic insecurity and self-interest will trump (pun intended) a lot of other concerns. Esquire‘s Charles Pierce is just plain confused by it all. David Remnick of the New Yorker called Trump’s victory an American tragedy. Unlike the book of that name, however, this won’t be boring, even if the ending is just as awful.
  • Garrison Keillor says Trump’s core voters won’t like what happens next; I suspect he’s right about much of this. Amanda Taub of the New York Times calls the win the rise of white populism, using social science research to identify three driving factors there – fear of outsiders, fear of physical attacks, and the collapse of “white identity.”
  • Even Leslie Knope weighed in, with her usual dose of wide-eyed optimism after despair.
  • A Muslim-American woman wrote for the Washington Post why she voted for Donald Trump. It’s an eloquent, thoughful piece, although I wish I shared her lack of concern over civil rights matters.
  • Climate Central says we’re fucked. Scientists in general are stunned and dismayed as the most anti-science President in our nation’s history is set to control the EPA, the NSF, the USDA … okay, that one sucks, but you get the idea.
  • The Guardian wrote before the election how journalists face “tough choices” when climate science deniers are elected. No, they don’t. You fucking hit them with the truth every time. There is no ‘both sides’ here, like there’s no both sides on evolution or vaccinations. If politicians, elected or appointed, deny the truth of climate change, then it is the media’s responsibility to stick to the truth rather than play along for their jobs’ sakes.
  • Did third-party voters cost Hillary the election? I find this piece overly speculative, since some of those voters may have stayed home rather than vote for either major-party candidate, but if you consider the issue of, say, Hillary failing to convince Jill Stein supporters to come vote for her, there’s merit in the examination.
  • “A KKK-endorsed man who openly bragged about assaulting women has risen to power by stoking rural, white Americans’ fears, and, come January, every branch of the federal government will belong to him and his allies.” Ann Friedman at the Cut tells voters angry over the results what to do now.
  • North Carolina’s HB2, the so-called “bathroom bill” that also created a statewide ban on ordinances protecting LGBTQ people from discrimination, may have cost Republican Governor Pat McCrory re-election. The race is close enough that provisional ballots must still be counted, so it’s not quite over yet. Yet despite this, Trump took North Carolina, in part by suppressing the African-American vote.
  • Kavitha Davidson, my colleague at the magazine and ESPNW, wrote about being a rape survivor, including a graphic description of how invasive the examination is at the hospital after the fact, for those of you who still think women just make this shit up for kicks.
  • The best longread of the week, election or otherwise, was the New Yorker‘s piece on the failing state of Venezuela, which has implications for baseball, oil, and global security. Hugo Chavez was a disaster, but his death has left the country even worse off.
  • The mother of comedian and writer Harris Wittels, who wrote for and appeared on Parks and Recreation, writes about her son’s long battle with and death from heroin addiction.
  • Astronomers around the world will collaborate in the spring of 2017 to try to take the first picture of a black hole. That’s tricker than it sounds, since nothing, not even light, can escape the black hole’s gravitational pull within its event horizon.
  • Researchers in Queensland, Australia, are trying to develop the first ‘vaccines’ for food allergies. With such allergies on the rise in the developed world, this could be a lifesaving invention for millions of people.
  • California voters rejected Proposition 60, which would have required porn stars to wear condoms on screen, but was opposed by public health groups as well as the industry itself as a backdoor (pun unintended) attempt to drive the industry out of state.
  • Does Trader Joes force its employees to act too cheerful? The New York Times explores some employee complaints about the privately-held retailer, which enjoys a cult following on both coasts (of which I am very much a member).
  • The NY Times article from last week claiming GM crops didn’t deliver promised results was flawed, but so were some responses to it, in part because of misunderstandings of the technology itself.
  • The Times also had an article just before the election on Latina hotel workers gaining a political voice in Nevada, one of the only swing states to end up on Clinton’s side on Tuesday. The article is extremely well-written and even David Simon praised its kicker at the end.
  • The BBC visits a private radio station in Damascus, still playing music and sharing news in the midst of the country’s devastating civil war.
  • A new strain of meningococcal disease is on the rise in Australia, raising calls for the relevant vaccine to become part of that country’s required list of childhood vaccinations.