Baseball writers primed to report the news they made

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Donald Trump, a beneficiary of performance-enhancing evasions, should note that it's Election Day for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, two of the greatest baseball players — and perhaps cheaters — ever.

Do they make the Hall of Fame?

The announcement of the latest class comes Wednesday and, given conflict of interest and transparency questions hovering about Donald Trump, you might note the curious election to decide enshrinement in the hamlet of Cooperstown, New York.

The balloting is among members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America. It's an act that raises a basic question: Should folks who report the news also be making the news?

It's an old debate — if not them, then who should comprise the electorate? But when I asked Tuesday, associate secretary-treasurer Jack O'Connell indicated that five prominent outlets don't let their staffers vote: The New York Times, Washington Post, Baltimore Sun, Los Angeles Times and Atlanta Journal & Constitution.

"The thinking is that we report the news, we don't create it or influence it," said Jason Stallman, sports editor at The New York Times.

It's "a long-standing sticky wicket," says Jeffrey Seglin, an ethicist and policy expert at Harvard's Kennedy School.

"Are sports writers like news reporters?" he asked. "Or are they more like movie critics who also vote on awards? It's important for news organizations to be clear with readers about their policies."

If a reader knows a sports journalist votes on the Hall or other issues, he or she can decide how credible the source is, Seglin said. Some publications allow travel writers to accept junket trips. Others don't. Shouldn't a reader be informed about such things?

It's a very intriguing election in which transparency has clearly boosted the chance of Bonds and Clemens.

As FiveThirtyEight notes, "More and more voters have been disclosing their votes publicly, and in December the association announced that all members must reveal their ballots starting in the 2018 election." That's good for the two fallen icons.(FiveThirtyEight)

“Bonds’s and Clemens’s on-field accomplishments have been overshadowed by allegations of performance-enhancing drug use, but they’ve also tended to fare much better in the public voting results than the anonymous ones. With increasing voting transparency, Bonds and Clemens should be more likely to make the Hall of Fame — if not this year, then soon."

As of last night, Ryan Thibodaux, a Hall of Fame ballot tracker at @NotMrTibb (yes, the American labor forces includes Hall of Fame ballot trackers), tweeted that 234 of about 450 voters had gone public, mostly on social media, with their ballots. Bonds and Clemens have been in the 60 percent range.

You need 70 percent to get in, so they seem to be getting close. If not this year, then pretty soon.

Ah, yes the salutary impact of transparency. Imagine if the president-elect ever reveals those tax returns.

Facebook about-face

"Facebook spent more than $50 million last year paying publishers and celebrities to create live video on the social network." (Recode)

"Now numerous publishers tell Recode that Facebook is de-emphasizing live video when it talks to them. And none of the publishers we’ve spoken with expect Facebook to renew the paid livestreaming deals it signed last spring to get live video off the ground."

Billionaires and Mike Bloomberg

"How concentrated has wealth become in the globalized modern world? Here’s one answer: Just eight of the richest people on earth own as much combined wealth as half the human race." (The New York Times)

The group consists of Bill Gates, Amancio Ortega Gaona, Warren Buffett, Carlos Slim Helú, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Lawrence Ellison and Michael Bloomberg. But don't waste your time checking the diabolically fascinating Bloomberg News' "Bloomberg Billionaires," a daily ranking of the world's richest. (Bloomberg)

Per its longstanding policy, the index makes no reference to the company boss. Again, he's among eight whose combined wealth equals that of half the people on the planet. Yet one of the great news organizations totally tanks when it comes to journalistic honesty.

Teach your kids how to play golf

If you want to cover the wealthy and can't get a job reporting on Wall Street, try the PGA Tour. Golf Digest's look at the 50 highest-paid golfers is notable less for their earnings on the course than their stunning revenues off the course. (Golf Digest)

For example, the essentially retired Nick Faldo made $43,000 competitively but $8.25 million off the course. That put him at a mere 28th of the top 50 earners.

The retired Greg Norman made not a penny playing but $10 million in business ventures. Japan's considerably younger Hideki Matsuyama made $8 million off the course, Gary Player (who is 81) made $15 million in ventures, Jack Nicklaus (76) made $20 million, Jordan Spieth earned a total of $30 million, Tiger Woods made $34 million (he's fallen to a mere fourth in the rankings) and Rory McIlroy led at $49 million as he earned $32 million off the course.

Obama's farewell (cont.)

President Obama was very classy as he interrupted Josh Earnest's 345th and last daily press briefing at the White House to sing his praises. It can be a totally miserable job but he did it pretty well.

"There are people you meet who, you have a pretty good inkling off the bat, are straight shooters," Obama said. Earnest has "never disappointed...He is a really, really good man."

Obama exited, Earnest went on with his job for the 345th time and concludes, "Thank you all, it's been a genuine pleasure."

The importance of cops

Criminal justice reporters might check out a paper by Steven Mello, a Princeton doctoral candidates, on the impact of police on crime. He dissects a police hiring program that was re-activated in Obama's stimulus package.

Conclusion: The number of cops makes a difference on rates of property and even violent crime. The conclusion:

"My estimates suggests that an additional officer is associated with 1.39 fewer robberies, 9.6 fewer larcenies, and 3.5 fewer auto thefts. I also find evidence of a sizable effect of police on murder – the coefficient in the main specification is statistically significant and implies that one murder per year can be prevented by hiring eleven officers." (The American Interest)

Headline of the day

"Coming soon: A luxury hotel with the worst weather you’ve ever seen — New Hampshire businessman plans a $10 million tourist lodge high on Mount Washington, which is prone to dense fog, hurricane-force winds, flash summer snowstorms, and can only be reached by a tricky hike, a treacherous drive or a 150-year-old cog railway." (The Wall Street Journal)

Tucker Carlson meets performance art

So a Los Angeles man going by the name "Dom Tullipso" conned the likes of The Washington Times into thinking he was organizing a big anti-Trump protest at the inauguration. (Washington Times) Fox beckoned him for an appearance on Carlson's new show after Carlson put two and two together and realized he was a hoax, though hours after Snopes had put two and two together, too. (Snopes)

What ensued was very funny, with both essentially winking at one another, realizing it's a con — but "Dom Tullipso" having arguably come out the winner as he procured a big chunk of national airtime.

It included his announcing, with a pretty straight face, that he'd decided 30 minutes earlier to alter his group's essence and now was going to bring 100,000 to Washington to protest the protesters. (Twitchy)

It was a neat definition of fake news. Watch it, replete with Carlson's air of sly self-satisfaction and "Dom Tullipso's" transparent delight in pulling his con.

And you thought Ringling Brothers was closing? Carlson made Sean Hannity look like Brian Lamb. Of course, Twitter loved it.

A bogey at Woodmont

Here's a sports story tinged with Middle East politics: "The mayor of a...Maryland suburb resigned from a prominent golf club on Monday because the club might not welcome President Obama as a member." (The Washington Post)

I can attest that Woodmont Country Club is terrific. Alas, that mayor is exiting due to a debate at the heavily Jewish club as to whether Obama should join. Some members "have said they would not welcome Obama, who has played there four times during his presidency, because of his recent decision not to veto a U.N. Security Council resolution criticizing Israeli settlements."

The morning babble

"Fox & Friends" had Ainsley Earhardt's interview with Trump in which he chided U.S. Rep. John Lewis as "very divisive" for not coming to the inauguration, showed photos of 60 Democrats who won't make the swearing-in and heralded the New York Daily News for an editorial calling such actions "juvenile." (New York Daily News)

What's the impact, wondered CNN's "New Day?" Fewer phone calls returned, not as many budgetary goodies? More important, suggested co-host Chris Cuomo, is what the heck happens with Obamacare, given seeming differences between Trump and many congressional Republicans. It gave a shout-out to Jim VandeHei's new operation, Axios, which got an interview, too, in which Trump didn't made that confusion any clearer as he said this:

"You know there are many people talking about many forms of health care where people with no money aren't covered. We can't have that." To Axios, "He back-tracked a bit from his promise of insurance for everybody, saying he wanted to find a mechanism — Medicaid block grants, perhaps — to help the poorest get insurance." (Axios)

"Morning Joe's" Trump Whisperer Joe Scarborough said Trump should continue to use Twitter it if helps to bring jobs and lower taxes, but not to bash Alec Baldwin, Meryl Streep or John Lewis. Mike Barnicle finds many of the transition tweets to reflect three personalities Americans don't like: "braggarts, bullies and B.S. artists."

But, watch, said Mark Halperin, history shows Trump can turn on the dime, realize his polling his awful and cast aside previous positions. Scarborough added that there is "no rule book, no guidebook" with him and, now, "there are no rules for a guy like him, who has rewritten every rule in American politics. There is no parallel in American history....What he's found is that he's stepped on the gas too much."


Justin Peters of Slate is not a big fan of Tom Friedman's latest best-seller on the pace of technological change.

"Tom Friedman is a B player interpreting A players for the benefit of C players, and there are lots of C players, and maybe it’s that simple. But both B players and C players habitually miss the point — and, in the end, so does "Thank You for Being Late."

Because, starting this week, the federal government will be in the hands of the D players, people who respond to Jiro Dreams of Sushi by complaining that people like Jiro are stealing their jobs. And a truly prescient commentator would have seen this coming." (Slate)

Robin Wright on Trump

The press is naturally more focused on Trump comments about domestic policy. But two recent interview with overseas publications give pause to the estimate Robin Wright, longtime foreign correspondent and observer:

"Over the next four years, Trump’s comments—made by an ingénue in foreign policy and national security, with no apparent respect for the nuances and niceties of diplomacy—could throw an already fragile world into disorder. It’s one thing to go after Meryl Streep and Hollywood, on Twitter, in polarized America after the Golden Globes. It’s quite another blithely to go after China (the world’s most populous country, with one of the two largest economies and the three strongest militaries), Germany (Europe’s largest economy), and 28 allies (in the mightiest military alliance in world history)—and all at once and all on a global stage." (The New Yorker)

Vice News Tonight

The three major broadcast networks predictably went big last night with the commutation of Chelsea Manning, the congressional boycott of the Inauguration, Obamacare's fate and Vladimir Putin's defense of Trump. By and large they were predictably indistinguishable beyond David Muir's exclusive interview with Betty White, who's turning 95.

Then there was "Vice News Tonight" on HBO, which actually led with the British prime minister's big speech on going ahead with Brexit. And there was its good piece on how Martin Luther King Jr. Day underscored the challenges of recruiting minorities to the Chicago Police Department amid unceasing criticisms of how the cops treat minority citizens.

It's tone and tenor remains sharply less hyperbolic than its giant network competitors. Will an audience find it?

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    James Warren

    New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S. News & World Report. Former managing editor and Washington Bureau Chief, Chicago Tribune.


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