Anthony Varriano

Anthony Varriano

Tuesday, 20 June 2017 22:36

Gentrification is the old gerrymandering

The United States Supreme Court will rule on partisan gerrymandering for the first time since 2004, deciding whether Wisconsin Republicans drew electoral district lines with the unfair intent of strengthening their political presence in the state. Gill v. Whitford will be heard by the Supreme Court in the fall and could result in a ruling that will set the boundaries for drawing electoral district boundaries.

 

The case at hand is pretty straightforward. While 51 percent of Wisconsin voters were Democrats in 2012, Republicans won 60 of the 99 seats in the state’s Congress. Republicans say that’s because Democrats have the disadvantage of living in metropolitan areas like Milwaukee and Madison, which is true. Metropolitans are generally underrepresented given the populations in their districts compared to the populations of rural districts, and that’s not Republicans’ fault.

 

But there’s more to the story. Thanks to the work of University of Chicago law professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos, there’s a new way to measure whether district lines are fair representations of representation or partisan gerrymandering designed to be advantageous to the political party drawing the lines. The efficiency gap measures “wasted votes,” or the number of votes wasted in a district where one party wins an election easily.

 

For example, take those metropolitan voters in Wisconsin. In Wisconsin’s fourth Congressional district, which includes parts of Milwaukee, incumbent Democrat Gwen Moore won 77 percent of the vote in a race that didn’t feature Republican opposition. You could argue that Moore wouldn’t have required all those votes to win even if there was a Republican challenger. Those would be considered wasted votes, and voters living on the edges of Milwaukee should have instead voted in neighboring first, fifth and sixth districts to make races more competitive.

 

The same could be said for Wisconsin’s second district that contains Madison. Incumbent Democrat Mark Pocan wasted votes beating Republican challenger Peter Theron by almost 150,000. Move 100,000 of those wasted votes to the sixth district and Wisconsin would have one more Democratic Senator. And we haven’t even started looking at the state assembly.

 

If we look at the Milwaukee area again, there are two districts, the 14th and 21st, that had competitive races Republicans won in 2016. Each race was decided by about 5,000 votes. Wisconsin's 14th district is bordered on the east by the 12th, 17th and 18th districts. Those districts are closer to Milwaukee and all went Democratic. In fact, there was no Republican opposition in any of those races, so the Democrats needed just over 5,000 votes of the 58,000 wasted votes they got in those three races to take the 14th district. Had the east boundary of the 14th district been drawn closer to Milwaukee, the Democrats would have likely won that district.

 

Wisconsin’s 21st district is neighbored by the 20th district to the north, which went to the Democrats unopposed. Another 21,222 votes were wasted in the 20th district, and Democrats needed just 5,000 to take the 21st district.

 

It’s a similar story for Wisconsin’s 42nd district, which is neighbored by the 79th and 81st districts, which went Democrat by a combined 16,000 wasted votes. Democrat George Ferriter needed just 5,000 of those votes to swing the 42nd district blue.

 

The point is Wisconsin Republicans probably gained seats by drawing the district lines where they did, which is not supposed to happen. This is the Republicans’ fault because they were last to draw the districts, and the Supreme Court could rule that the districts must be redrawn to make races more competitive. That was the ruling in the lower court.

 

If the Supreme Court agrees with the lower court, it would set the efficiency gap as legal precedent when determining whether partisan gerrymandering has taken place. It would also give the party disadvantaged by the gerrymandering a better chance of righting the wrong and achieving more accurate representation throughout states. That’s no small accomplishment, but it’s not a solution by any means, because gentrification is the old gerrymandering.

 

Gerrymandering has been around almost as long as America, but even older than America is gentrification, which will continue to weaken the power of the minority vote despite a ruling on gerrymandering. While gerrymandering is the drawing of lines around communities, gentrification is actively creating communities by displacing other communities.

 

There’s nothing stopping a city council our county commission from purchasing land to build whatever they want to “improve” their city or county. Cities, counties and states don’t need your permission to build “improvements.” They can just buy you or your landlord out. If you live in a metropolitan area, you’re likely familiar with these projects and might have been displaced because of them.

 

New research by the University of Minnesota found that “over a third of low-income census tracts in Minneapolis underwent gentrification...and about a quarter of low-income census tracts in St. Paul gentrified” from 2000 to 2014. Northeast Minneapolis is the best example of gentrification in the area, which tends to happen in downtown areas near public transit. So the people who actually need the bus and train to get to work no longer have access to it or have to walk/ride even farther to work.

 

But brown people moving to suburban or rural areas should even out the vote there, right? Wrong. Minorities had a voice in metropolitan areas because they had power in numbers. Those numbers being spread around suburban and rural areas dissipates the power of that collective vote. Those displaced people also lose local representation that’s been dedicated to their interests. They were a member of the majority when it came to their local community, and they are now a minority in a new community. Just like the local elected officials in the cities, the local elected officials of the suburbs and rural areas have the interests of the majority in mind.

Those same Wisconsin Republicans who allegedly committed partisan gerrymandering will simply resort to “improving” their communities and spreading the minority vote around into suburban and rural districts via gentrification in the future. Even if the Supreme Court rules the Wisconsin Republicans were in the wrong, gentrification makes gerrymandering unnecessary, because if you can move the people instead of the lines there’s no need to move the lines. Moving the lines is just cheaper and easier, for now. That’s why gentrification is the old gerrymandering.

 

--

 

If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Know Your Rights

 

Amazon is attempting to monopolize retailing with its acquisition of Whole Foods for $13.7 billion. While Amazon started as a business unreliant upon brick-and-mortar locations, it is now realizing the products and services the company can offer is limited to the locations of its warehouses. The company even has actual bookstores now.  

 

For instance, While Amazon’s Prime Pantry service allows customers to purchase non-perishables online and have them delivered to their front doors, Amazon does not have the ability to connect customers with fresh food, which is where the more than 400 Whole Foods stores comes in.

Food Prices will Fall

Amazon’s price war with Wal-mart just got a steroid injection. The only revenue Amazon was yielding to Wal-mart was on fresh food purchases. That’s no longer the case. Amazon will likely change little in Whole Foods stores to start, simply absorbing the revenue already created at those locations from the customers who would shop there regardless. But it won’t be long before Amazon updates its online catalogs with Whole Foods products that can be delivered to your door the same day you order.

 

Food delivery has to be the way Amazon intends to cut into Wal-mart’s grocery market share. A service that started as a way for the elderly to get their food and evolved into a means for donated food to find its way to people lacking transportation is going to make a comeback on a massive scale. Since the grocery business is such a low margin industry, Amazon can charge a premium to the customers who are already Whole Foods shoppers to not come to the store. All they’ll have to do is go online, pick their food products and wait for them to arrive at their door later that day or the next. Whether Amazon closes the Whole Foods stores entirely and turns them into order processing warehouses for their fresh food is unknown, but it’s a pretty safe bet Amazon is looking to beat Wal-mart into the food delivery market.

 

Wal-mart is currently the top provider of food in the nation, and by large margin because of all its locations, so there’s plenty of market share to be had by Amazon. It’s already shown an interest in catering to the low- and moderate-income American by lowering its Prime membership (which includes Prime Pantry access) to $5.99 monthly for those utilizing the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). That’s a pretty good indication of what Amazon intends to do.

 

Amazon has basically exhausted its retail market share for all demographics but one -- the poor. But when Amazon starts enticing the low-income Wal-mart shopper to forego the taxi or bus ride down to the closest store for an online order they can have delivered to their door, there will be little market share for Amazon to gain and no place for prices to move. Until that day, you can expect prices on food to fall. This includes packaged foods like General Mills and Kraft Heinz offerings that have been forced to interior shelves inside grocery stores as Americans have become more conscious and cautious of what they’re eating.

The Acquisition Could Slow Inflation

While it’s unlikely the growth of inflation will come to a dead stop due to Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods, there will be a slight effect felt. Consider that Whole Foods private label, 365 brand, comes along with Whole Foods, and now that Amazon owns a private-label food brand, you can bet that label is going to be well-represented online. Amazon has been selling private-label perishables for about a year. Available food is cheaper food, and the 365 brand being available to consumers online could put Amazon in a position to compete with other private labels.

 

So while the effect on inflation might not be to the point that the Fed decides against acting to reach its two-percent growth target in 2018, cheaper food will certainly curtail inflation growth. Even considering real estate and rents increasing in cost, steady fuel prices that are relatively low given recent history help counteract living expenses. And with companies attempting to create an emissions-free semi-truck to change the way food is delivered to Wal-mart and Whole Foods, the cost of food could be falling ever further in the near future. You can do more than hope, though. Here are a few more ways you can save on food.

You’ll Never Have to Stand in the Line at the Store Again

The biggest value the Amazon acquisition of Whole Foods has for you, the consumer, is all the time you’ll save not standing in line at the store. We hear it all the time in America: “Time is money.” Well, companies are going to do their best to save you time like Amazon has done with its acquisition of Whole Foods because they can only cut prices so much, and making your purchase easier or more enjoyable is cheaper in the long run. If you don’t have to drive to the grocery store anymore, that’s likely an hour or so per week you have to do literally anything else. That’s four hours per week, and even if you make the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour, that’s almost $350 you’ll save annually. So if it costs you $6 per month for a Prime membership as a SNAP member, you’re still ahead $276.12, and you get streaming video at home. If you’re paying the full-price for Prime ($99 annually), you’re up almost $250 if you work for the country’s lowest wage.  Also keep in mind that Amazon will now be able to accept SNAP and WIC benefits.

 

Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods will have long-ranging impacts on the fresh food market and grocery market. It makes Wal-mart’s monopoly over low- and moderate-income Americans’ dollars vulnerable to the influence of Amazon. When my brother-in-law saw people getting out of cabs to go grocery shopping at Wal-mart he was stunned. “Why would you do that?’ he asked. “Well, people without transportation gotta eat, too,” I said. “And they’re not going to take a bus and haul groceries home everyday.” Amazon’s acquisition of Whole Foods will be good for the average American, but it could change the lives of low- and moderate-income Americans. There never seems to be access to fresh food in low-income areas. That’s why people eat so much fast food -- because it’s there. Well, now Amazon is there.

 

Editor's Note: An update follows.

 

Amazon’s next task is to apparently undermine Wal-mart's clothing sales by offering something called Wardrobe Prime, which allows online shoppers to have clothes delivered to their home to try on, and they can return what they don't like or what doesn't fit. You can sign up for when it goes live here. You'll get 10 percent off for keeping three or more items and 20 percent off for keeping five items or more.

 

--

 

If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: USA Prepares, Building America, Free Talk Live, American Survival Radio, Jim Brown’s Common Sense, Drop Your Energy Bill, The Tech Night Owl, What’s Cookin Today

 

This is the second of a series of articles about how the impoverished American can overcome proposed budget cuts by utilizing other services and methods.


Donald Trump’s proposed budget would cut funding that provides low-income Americans with affordable housing. Specifically, the $3-billion Community Development Block grant program would be cut entirely. Of that $3 billion, 70 percent must be used to benefit low- or moderate-income persons. It prevents or eliminates “slums or blight” and addresses “community development needs having a particular urgency because existing conditions pose a serious and immediate threat to the health or welfare of the community for which other funding is not available.” I repeat, “for which other funding is not available.”

That’s not all, though. The entirety of the Section 4 Community Development and Affordable Housing Program funding -- the measly $35 million of it -- would be cut. That $35 million was distributed as grants in the following manner last year:

The HOME Investment Partnerships Program, the largest federal block grant to state and local governments designed exclusively to create affordable housing for low-income households, would also be cut from Trump’s budget. The HOME program awarded nearly $1 billion in grants in 2016 that built affordable homes all over the country.

Also proposed to be cut is the Choice Neighborhoods program, which has funded affordable housing on blighted or empty lots all over the country. To get an idea of what they’ve built go here. (UPDATE: A cut to Section 8 billed at $300 million would actually be a cut of $2 billion given inflation and raising rents.)

The Self-help Homeownership Opportunity Program, which awards grants to nonprofit organizations that build affordable homes with volunteer labor (like Habitat for Humanity), would also cease to exist. So affordable home builders would have fewer funds to build fewer affordable homes, and fewer Americans would realize the American Dream.

You might say the government shouldn’t be in the business of providing affordable housing, but if you say that, you’ve likely never been near a project or witnessed people sleeping on the sidewalk or under bridges. And just because you don’t see it everyday doesn’t mean it’s not happening. This money is an investment in America. It provides (or if cut, provided) funding to decrease the number of homeless Americans -- 8.6 percent of which are veterans.

But now that affordable housing is on the chopping block (actually it’s always been) and there will be fewer affordable homes to go around, a lot of low- and moderate-income Americans will have to find a way to pay a higher percentage of their income in rent.

There is still hope, though. The proposed budget cuts have to get through the Senate after all, and those programs are still at work building affordable housing throughout the country. Here are three ways you can pay less in rent despite budget cuts to housing and urban development programs.

Buy a Home

Bet you didn’t think that would be the first suggestion to save money on housing, but a mortgage on a single-family home is currently a cheaper monthly payment than a lease in most of America. I can see how much cheaper here. The Economist provided a review of America’s housing market in five interactive charts back in August of 2016, and the ratio of home prices to rents was below the long-run average.

In my area, even considering the low rent I pay because I share a two-bedroom apartment with a roommate, buying a home is 23 percent cheaper than renting. I know what you’re thinking: “But I don’t have enough for a 10-percent down payment.” Well, you don’t need it necessarily. There state and local, down-payment assistance providers who will loan or grant you a portion of your down payment if you live in the home for a certain period. You could end up putting down the minimum three percent down by coming up with one percent yourself and getting the other two percent as a grant if you live in the home for three years.

A good rule is to never pay more than 25 percent of your monthly income to your mortgage, home insurance, and property taxes. Use a mortgage calculator to determine the maximum amount you can spend on a home, and don’t let a lender tell you different, because they will.

I attended a Home Stretch homebuyer education course to get a better understanding of the homebuying process, and you should too. Registration fees for many of the courses are waived during the month of June for National Homeownership Month, and you can even complete the course on nights or a Saturday.

These classes tend to be offered by your state’s housing finance agencies, which you can find with a Google search of “<your state> housing finance agency.” I just searched “Home Stretch homebuyer education course near me” and registered in minutes. The class was very helpful, explaining the importance of inspections, budgeting and saving for a down payment, shopping for mortgages, working with a realtor and closing the sale. You even get a manual to take home, but the best part is you’ll get the business cards of people who can help you with the homebuying process. And since these folks already take time out of their day to help first-time homebuyers, you can trust them to look out for your interests. Sure they leave their business cards for a reason, but most of them wouldn’t present at the class if they weren’t interested in helping homebuyers.

The first thing you can do before you even start shopping for a home is start saving for a down payment by putting together a budget. The more money you can put down the lower monthly mortgage you’ll pay. And you should shop for a mortgage. There are so many banks out there, which means there’s plenty of competition for your money. Don’t take the first mortgage you’re offered. You should take the best of three or four options.

People think they can handle the homebuying process without a realtor, but a realtor doesn’t cost the homebuyer anything. Their fee comes out of the seller’s fees, so there’s no reason not to employ a realtor. It’s important to have someone looking out for your interests, and just because that realtor is from the same agency as the seller’s realtor, that doesn’t mean they’re trying to screw you over. In fact, it could work in your favor.

The one thing that does cost you money is the home inspection, which is worth the $400 to $600 you’ll pay. If you waive an inspection and buy a house that’s on land being eroded and have to repour a foundation, you will have wished you paid $500 for an inspection. And always be there for the inspection. It’s probably some of the most important information you can get before buying a home.

Also your responsibility is to investigate the neighborhood where you’re buying a home. The first rule of real estate is location, location, location. Go to open houses (they’re good practice) and afterwards talk to the neighbors to get an idea what the neighborhood is like. Come back at night and check the crime statistics online. Most police departments publish a crime map on their websites. If not, call them and ask what crimes have been committed in the area lately and how often. Zillow has a 10-point rating system for the schools in the area, but it’s not a bad idea to drive by them and the parks to see what kind of shape they’re in.

Even with average home prices increasing due to a lack of supply and low interest rates, it’s not a bad time to buy considering the proposed cuts to housing and urban development budgets. Supply is expected to increase but still won’t satisfy demand, and while it’s a seller’s market, taking advantage of the relatively low interest rates before they climb could save new homeowners thousands. Homes are only going to get more expensive, albeit at a slower rate, so you might as well get in while the getting’s still good.

Rent to Own

If you can afford to purchase a home outright, negotiating a contract for deed on a home is still better than paying rent. Paying rent doesn’t allow you to create equity in your home, but a contract for deed does. You’re going to own that place someday, but be careful to read your contract for deed carefully. Some are written so that just one missed payment can void the contract. Then all the work you put into the place that wasn’t yours yet is lost to holder of the deed. A lot of condos and townhomes can be found on a rent to own basis, and can still be cheaper than renting.  

Rent a Spare Bedroom

If you don’t qualify for a mortgage, you can still make renting more affordable if you rent a spare bedroom. Yes, renting more space than you need is more expensive and costs more to heat and cool, but you can make a whole lot of money in a whole lot of places renting that spare bedroom by the night using Airbnb. There are stories of Airbnb hosts making $1 million annually, but you’d need pretty nice digs to do that. But if you’re struggling to make rent (which is likely why you stumbled onto this piece), an Airbnb business can be a lifesaver.

If you’re a natural clean freak and don’t pay for water or laundry, an Airbnb business is perfect for you. All you have to do is figure out how much you can afford to pay in rent, because if the third month comes along and you don’t have half the rent because you couldn’t get enough people to reserve your spare bedroom, you won’t have a home for very long. Generally, if you're paying more than half of your income on rent, that's an unsafe place to be. But if you're going to rent your spare bedroom, you can stand to pay half of your income in rent. Whether the owner will accept your credit based on your income is another story, though.

The beauty is Airbnb does most of the work for you (for a small fee, of course, generally 3 percent of earnings). Take some pictures of your clean home and describe it, you and the location. Be honest. Don’t expect people from out of town to know what they’re getting into. You don’t want to host the people that give you bad ratings because of your location, even though they actually choose the location. If you’re in an urban area where gunshots are regularly heard, make sure people know that before they wake up to gunshots. Even community demographics can be helpful, because some people are racists, and you don’t want to host those people. Being thorough in the description of your home and location can save you from bad ratings down the road, and your rating will affect how many reservations you secure and what price you can charge.

Before you get ahead of yourself, though, call your city hall and ask them if there is an ordinance governing short-term renting or home sharing. Airbnb is not legal everywhere. Some cities have outlawed “transient lodging” or “short-term rentals,” with hefty fines accessed to those who are caught.

New York City started fining Airbnb hosts in February, but has issued only a few fines since. Basically, it’s a really hard law to enforce in large municipalities where city employees are already overwhelmed. But neither GCN Live nor I advocate illegal home sharing. I’m actually trying to change the ordinance in Bloomington, Minn. outlawing short-term rentals less than 30 days by forcing hosts to pay the same percentage in lodging taxes that hotels pay. It’s only fair, and it won’t cut too much into hosts’ profits. The city council doesn’t seem to be interested in taking me seriously, but if I get enough people to help me persuade them they’ll have to address the issue.

If home sharing is illegal in your city, move. If you can’t afford to move, you can use the following as a template to get the ball rolling on legalizing home sharing or short-term renting in your city. Of course, you’ll have to find the law governing transient lodging or short-term renting in your city code and alter it accordingly. Otherwise, you can use this to draft a letter or email to your city council:

To Whom It May Concern:

I think Bloomington’s ban on transient lodging is wrong, and I have a solution. First of all, what people do with the homes they own or rent is up to those people and their landlords, and the City of Bloomington, or any municipality, should not be allowed to limit a person’s ability to make a living.

Secondly, the current law is nearly impossible to enforce, because despite monitoring websites like Airbnb, there will still be transient lodging made available through Craigslist, WarmShowers, and other websites. People will find a way.

There’s no reason why the City of Bloomington shouldn’t profit from transient lodging, though. If every Airbnb or similar host paid the applicable lodging taxes for their location, hotels would have little reason to complain, as the people renting Airbnb rooms are more likely to camp than pay for a hotel, and the hosts would be paying the same taxes as the hotels.

I propose the following alteration to the City of Bloomington Code of Ordinances subsection 14.577.

14.577 ILLEGAL RENTALS, OCCUPANCY LIMITS AND NO SUBLETTING

An owner may adopt standards that reduce the maximum allowed occupancy of a dwelling unit from the standards set forth herein. The maximum permissible occupancy of any licensed rental dwelling unit is determined according to the 2012 International Property Maintenance Code and as follows.

 (a)   Not more than one family, except for temporary guests, will occupy a licensed rental dwelling unit.

 (b)   No one will lease, license or agree to allow the occupancy, possession or tenancy of a licensed rental dwelling unit to more than four unrelated persons.

 (c)   Tenants of a licensed rental dwelling unit must not lease or sublet the dwelling unit to another without the prior approval of the property owner.

 (d)   No one will lease, license or agree to allow the use of a dwelling unit, or portion thereof, for transient lodging, unless applicable lodging taxes are paid.

I believe that tax is seven percent for the City of Bloomington. You can find the applicable codes here: http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/hrd/pubs/lodgetax.pdf.

Since Airbnb hosts must pay taxes on their Airbnb income and fill out a W-9 or other appropriate tax form, collecting the tax would be as simple as applying that seven percent to the Airbnb income already reported each year. Let me know your questions or concerns.

Sincerely,

Your Name

If a member of your city council or an administrator from city hall doesn’t get back to you in a couple of weeks, contact them and ask when it will be addressed. If they say the council isn’t interested in addressing the issue, ask them when the next city council meeting is and attend. There’s always a time for public comment at those meetings, and it’s a good way to get media exposure for your cause and recruit other supporters. There really is strength in numbers, so if you show up to the next city council meeting with 20 people behind you, and every one of them takes the time to speak their mind on the issue, your city council members will have little choice but to refer your suggestion to the ordinance committee for review.

It takes months to accomplish anything in city government, so be prepared for a lot of waiting. Take solace in the fact you’re trying to improve your community by increasing tax revenue for street and sidewalk repair, etc.

So there are three ways to pay less in rent despite housing budget cuts. Next up in our series on how to navigate federal budget cuts, we’ll look at how to get around proposed cuts to energy and transportation.

--

If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, The Tech Night Owl, The Dr. Katherine Albrecht Show, USA Prepares, American Survival Radio, Jim Brown’s Common Sense, Home Talk

In a prior post I called Jose Berrios the ace of the Minnesota Twins pitching staff. Not because I think six starts proves anything, and not because I don't believe in Ervin Santana. I do. Santana gets by on pitching prowess like Greg Maddux. But Berrios can flat out miss bats, regardless of who's swinging them, and that's what makes an ace. We'll get a good indication of Berrios's development on Thursday at noon against a hot Mariners lineup that roughed up Ervin Santana, Wednesday.


 

This was originally published at FoulPlaybyPlay.com, a community for foul-mouthed, sports broadcasters providing commercial-free play-by-play during select games.


 

Berrios is in a position to lift his team with a strong start. It's kind of a big spot, especially with the disarray that is the Twins pitching staff. The only thing we can honestly expect from the three other starters in the Twins rotation is that they will leave plenty of innings for baseball's worst bullpen. Even if Hector Santiago comes back and is serviceable, there's still at least three innings left in every game he starts! At least! The same goes for Kyle Gibson and Adalberto Mejia (or anyone else). And while the Twins bullpen is terrible, all bullpens are less terrible the fewer innings they pitch.

Berrios pitched into at least the seventh inning in each of his first three starts this season. He hasn't done so since. While he allowed just four runs against the game's best Houston Astros (and that is an accomplishment), it took 105 pitches to get through five innings. He only went five and a third innings against San Francisco, the worst offense in baseball. And while he struck out eight, I think Paul Molitor would have preferred he pitch seven innings.

I know, I'm starting to sound like Terry Ryan. But Berrios must find that happy place between missing bats and kissing bats. "Strikeouts are boring. Besides, they're fascist. Throw some groundballs." Sure, it's from a movie, but it's 100 percent correct. When you have the game's best defense, you can kiss bats rather than miss them and get easy outs, especially if you work ahead in counts.

Jeff Sullivan of FanGraphs raves that the Twins finally have a strikeout starter for the first time in nine years, but being a member of a team requires sacrifice. When the bulk of your bullpen arms can't miss bats nor prevent runs, the starter must do everything he can to extend his starts.

Santana has not been great his last six starts. He's allowed 18 earned runs during that span. But you know what he has done over those six starts? He's pitched 41 innings -- three more than Berrios over the same number of starts. If that trend continues, Santana will have pitched an entire game's worth of innings more than Berrios over 18 starts.

You know what else Santana does that Berrios must? He doesn't leave runners on base for the bullpen to clean up. In 14 starts, the Twins bullpen hasn't inherited one runner in a game Santana has started this season. That's huge for a bullpen that allows 29 percent of inherited runners to score.

Over Berrios's six starts, he's left three of them with runners on base, and the bullpen's inherited four runners total. That trend can't continue. The solution is to get outs with fewer pitches earlier in games to leave something in the tank for later.

When your pitches naturally move as much as Berrios's do, it's understandable that some days you just can't find the strike zone. That's when a hard fastball comes in handy. In the past, Berrios would appear visibly frustrated when he couldn't command his pitches, but this season he's acting more like Santana -- cool, calm, collected. He's getting out of jams by believing in his fastball and locating it for quality strikes. He's just not doing it late in games because it's hard to trust anything you throw when your "arm feels like Jell-O."

So while Santana struggled Wednesday, there's still plenty to be learned from his outing if you're Berrios. First, when you don't have command of your pitches early, trust your fastball. Santana got strikeouts of Nelson Cruz and Danny Valencia to get out of the first inning on Wednesday by elevating his fastball and enticing swings. Next, don't let an early mistake control your approach. There's a lot of game left and your team needs every inning you can give them. Finally, never leave a game with men on base. Santana didn't have a single 1-2-3 inning on Wednesday, but the closest he got was in his final inning. If Berrios can take these few pages from the Smell Baseball book of pitching, he will have earned the title of ace.

--

If you like this you might like these GCN Live talk radio shows: View from the Couch

 

The deepest of Republican values is to respect states’ rights, but attorney general Jeff Sessions isn’t doing so by asking Congress to let him prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries.

Sessions wrote a letter to Congress in May requesting protections of state marijuana laws that have been in effect since 2014 be undone so he can fill America’s already-full jails and prisons, both rural and urban, with non-violent, drug offenders. The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment doesn’t allow the Justice Department to spend federal dollars preventing states from enforcing their own marijuana laws. If that’s no longer the case, medical marijuana providers can expect Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) raids.

It’s no surprise to anyone familiar with Sessions that he’d want to lock up potheads. He’s long despised marijuana and went so far as to cite the opioid epidemic as a reason to enforce federal marijuana prohibition, because he’s either un- or misinformed, or just doesn’t care about the facts.

In states where medical marijuana is legal, either medically or recreationally, opioid overdose deaths are down considerably. States with medical cannabis laws had a 24.8 percent lower annual opioid overdose mortality rates compared with states without medical cannabis laws, a 2014 study revealed.

Sessions would be better served focusing his efforts on legalizing medical marijuana federally by rescheduling cannabis so it could be prescribed by doctors throughout America. Emergency department visits involving misuse or abuse of prescription opioids increased 153 percent between 2004 and 2011. So obviously the easiest way to slow this increase is to offer a prescription pain reliever that has never killed a soul and is already linked with fewer opioid overdoses.

These sort of Republicans like Sessions are the worst sort because they’re not even Republicans. They’re fascists. Only fascists would have an interest in governing what people do in the privacy of their own homes, including the bedroom.

If you think tax dollars should be spent to take a proven medicine away from people with debilitating pain or illness, you’re no Republican. And no Republican would advocate for bigger government, which is exactly what you’ll get if the Justice Department is allowed to spend your taxes busting medical marijuana providers.

Medical marijuana is supported by 94 percent of Americans according to this Quinnipiac poll. It has bipartisan support in Congress as well, so hopefully your representatives don’t cave to Sessions request. Contact your Senators and Representatives to express your opinion on the matter.

--

If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: America’s Healthcare Advocate, The Bright Side, The Dr. Daliah Show, Dr. Asa On Call, Dr. Coldwell Opinion Radio, Drew Pearson Live, Good Day Health, Health Hunters, Herb Talk, Free Talk Live

For a lot of people (just under 95 percent, according to an MLB Trade Rumors poll), the Minnesota Twins' selection of California shortstop Royce Lewis with the first pick in the 2017 MLB Draft was a surprise. It shouldn't have been. Most knew there was no consensus number one pick in this draft. There were five potential number ones. The Twins took one of the five.


This was originally published at FoulPlaybyPlay.com, a community for foul-mouthed, sports broadcasters providing uncensored, commercial-free play-by-play.


Lewis can play anywhere and received the highest possible grade for his speed. Unsurprisingly, the Twins might have found another impact center fielder. Lewis already has a swing that stays in the zone a long time and allows him to barrel up a lot of balls. He struck out just seven times in 116 plate appearances this season. The mental makeup is everything you want in a player -- natural, born leader. He is still years away from the majors, so Byron Buxton fans need not worry.

Many Twins fans bemoaned the pick, hoping for high school shortstop/pitcher Hunter Greene or college first baseman/pitcher Brendan McKay. Those fans shouldn't be disappointed.

<script>

The Twins likely saved nearly $1 million by taking Lewis number one overall, which allowed new chief of baseball operations Derek Falvey to allocate more money to later picks. Since the Twins also selected at 35 and 37 overall, Falvey could use that money to sign more expensive or harder-to-sign draft picks that fell out of the first round.

Falvey was rewarded with the best college hitter of the year. Mississippi State outfielder Brent Rooker (great baseball name) had a 1.371 OPS in 2017. He's set to become only the second player ever (Rafael Palmeiro) to win the SEC Triple Crown, batting .387/.495/.810. Some were surprised Rooker got past Oakland with the sixth pick.

Then, Falvey scored Canadian high school right-handed pitcher Landon Leach. Leach is committed to Texas but could be persuaded to sign with Minnesota given the money the Twins have to offer. The approximate pick value is $1.8 million.

You could say the Twins should have gone with pitching at number one overall, but that would have severely limited Falvey when offering Rooker and Leach contracts. And there's a lot of draft to go.

The Twins next picks are 76 and 106. They will pick first in each of the next 36 rounds of the 2017 MLB Draft. I fully expect Falvey to target high school pitching he can develop, since that's sort of his thing. But I wouldn't be surprised if he takes Oregon State starter Jake Thompson if he's there at 76.

Other pitchers ranked around that 76th pick for the Twins are right-handed pitcher Kyle Hurt (another great baseball name), and lefty Daniel Tillo, who the Twins drafted in 2015. Jackson Rutledge is interesting at 106. He's six-foot-eight and throws 94 mph with an expectation for more.

While I can understand Twins fans' frustrations given the downfall of their pitching staff, there's no solution to that problem in the draft. Even Brendan McKay would likely be a year away from the majors, and perhaps more if given the time to adjust at the plate as well as on the mound. Hunter Greene has even more development time ahead of him. Evaluating a draft that can't be evaluated for at least three years is completely pointless. Reacting as if the Twins organization was "cheap" is incorrect. The Twins were "frugal," and it's already paying off.

--

If you like this you might like these GCN Live talk radio shows: View from the Couch

Monday, 12 June 2017 18:47

Trump’s attorneys are staying busy

The State of Maryland and District of Columbia are suing the President for failing to divest his private businesses while in office. Unlike a similar suit brought by the watchdog organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), the plaintiffs in this case are actual governmental entities, which might have stronger standing in court. The plaintiffs are also demanding that Donald Trump release his tax returns.

The Emoluments Clause of the Constitution makes it illegal for anyone “holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them” from profiting off their position or accept gifts without the consent of Congress.

The Atlantic provided a comprehensive list of all the conflicts of interest that might motivate Donald Trump’s decisions as President through his pocketbook. Warning: there are a lot of them, and Senate Democrats have introduced legislation that would force Trump to divest his interests or face impeachment.

There’s no shortage of reasons to impeach Trump, and now members of his own party are admitting it. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) said that if Trump asked former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director James Comey to drop the bureau’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, then that would be grounds for impeachment. Firing Comey could be considered obstruction of justice, which was one of two charges used to impeach Bill Clinton and one of three that was recommended against Richard Nixon.

The American people seem to think the President should be impeached, too, as Trump’s approval rating is lower than people’s approval of impeaching him. With a Republican majority in both houses of Congress, though, starting impeachment proceedings doesn’t necessarily mean Trump would be removed from office. But about two-thirds of people are betting on Trump not finishing his first term in office, according to BetFair.com.

Impeachment aside, Trump received another blow in the court system, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit upheld the freeze on Trump’s travel ban by unanimous decision. The three judges ruled that Trump’s travel ban lacked a sufficient national security or other justification that would make it legal. All three judges were appointed by Bill Clinton, and with a Supreme Court recess around the corner, the ban will likely expire before the Supreme Court rules.

--

If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio

The Major League Baseball (MLB) Draft starts at 7 p.m. EST, with pre-draft coverage starting at 6 p.m. EST on MLB Network and MLB.com. Here are five things you need to know about the 2017 MLB Draft.


 

This was originally published at FoulPlaybyPlay.com, a community for foul-mouthed, sports broadcasters providing uncensored, commercial-free play-by-play.


There’s No Consensus #1

While MLB.com analysts all agree on the first five picks of the draft, any one of those five players could go number one overall.

Two, Two-way Players Atop Draft

Two of the top five projected players could start their professional baseball careers pitching and hitting. High school right-hander Hunter Greene is an easy choice at number one because while he’s at the top of the draft because of his 102-mph fastball, he’s easily a middle first-round talent as a shortstop as well.

The same goes for college left-hander Brendan McKay out of Louisville. McKay has legitimate power as a first baseman to go along with his collegiate, pitching prowess. He hit 17 homers this season for Louisville to go along with his 2.34 ERA on the mound. The fact he has collegiate experience might push him to the top of the draft.

Whoever drafts Greene or McKay will likely have them pitch once every five days and play the field on days between starts in order to evaluate their hitting and fielding ability.

Minnesota Twins Pick First

For the first time since Joe Mauer was selected number one overall back in 2001, the Minnesota Twins will open the 2017 MLB Draft with the first overall pick. MLB.com has the Twins and new chief of baseball operations Derek Falvey taking McKay number one overall. With the Twins bullpen the worst in baseball in ERA, FIP, average against, line-drive rate, strikeout rate, fastball velocity and swinging strikes, it makes sense that they would lean towards a college pitcher they can start at AA rather than a high school pitcher who will start in rookie ball.

Vanderbilt righty Kyle Wright was considered the Twins favorite by analysts until his latest start on ESPN against offensive powerhouse Oregon State, during which he allowed seven earned runs over six and two-thirds innings while tossing 120 pitches. There’s no telling what that outing has done to the Twins interest in him until the draft kicks off tonight, but it’s likely the Twins front office had already made its decision prior to the start. Analysts seem to think McKay is the Twins’ pick.

Hunter Greene Won’t Fall Past the Reds

If the Twins pass on Greene, he likely won’t get past the Cincinnati Reds, who pick second overall.

Most Valuable Player Won’t be Drafted on First Day

This might sound like a bold prediction, but it’s really just taking the field over the first round. The 2017 MLB Draft’s first round will be held Monday night, including 27 regular, first-round picks and three compensatory picks. The Blue Jays, Rangers and Cubs each added first-round picks when free agents Edwin Encarnacion, Ian Desmond and Dexter Fowler signed with the Indians, Rockies and Cardinals, respectively. Rounds two through 40 will be held Tuesday and Wednesday, with coverage on MLB.com. So there’s 1,170 players who will be drafted after the draft’s first day.

Albert Pujols, who became the ninth member of the 600 home run club last week, was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 13th round out of a Kansas City community college. Twenty-four teams passed on Mike Trout. And Mike Piazza went 1,390th overall in the 62nd round back in 1988.

Basically, the best MLB players aren’t always drafted in the first round. The Twins took Adam Johnson back in 2000 with the second overall pick and he has a career ERA of 10.25 in just over 26 innings pitched. He washed out after the 2006 season. So keep an eye on the later rounds, because that’s where you find the diamonds in the rough.

--

If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: View From The Couch

 

Ervin Santana tossed his third complete game shutout of the season Friday night. That's one more than the rest of the league combined despite it coming against a San Francisco Giants team with the lowest team OPS in baseball (.651). But the "Maddux" Santana pitched Friday night in San Francisco is so important given the recent stress on the Twins bullpen and the struggles it has experienced all year.


 

This was first published at FoulPlaybyPlay.com, a community for foul-mouthed, sports broadcasters who provide live, uncensored, commercial-free play-by-play and color commentary during sporting events.


The Twins bullpen allows the highest opponent batting average in baseball (.273), which has resulted in baseball's worst bullpen ERA of 5.20. So when Santana doesn't pitch a complete game shutout, there's a pretty good chance the bullpen will allow a little more than one run every two innings (1.155 to be more precise).

If you take the average start of all Twins starters besides Santana, you get a dismal 4.68 innings pitched per start. Santana has nearly raised that by an inning by himself (5.5). So if we can depend on a Twins starter to go four and two-thirds innings instead of Santana's three complete game shutouts, 16 more innings would have been pitched by Major League Baseball's worst bullpen. That would take the Twins from 12th in fewest bullpen innings pitched (197.2) to 20th, which would likely inflate the bullpen ERA, too.

Given that run every two innings the Twins bullpen allows, you're looking at nine more runs allowed. That's the difference between first place and not first place for a team with a -24 run differential (third worst in the American League).

It's not only what Santana has been able to do in his three complete game shutouts that's been important to the Twins. Even in games he's not right he's given a break to the bullpen. Despite allowing five runs to Colorado on May 18, Santana went seven innings. He went six innings against Boston despite allowing six runs. In fact, only one of Santana's starts has not been longer than the rest of the team's average start length of 4.68 innings (last week in Anaheim). Santana is tied with Clayton Kershaw with most innings pitched so far this season (90).

With Santana throwing just over 90 pitches in his third complete game shutout, he actually saved the Twins an inning for later, which is another half run the bullpen can't allow. So regardless of who Santana is facing, his ability to pound the strike zone and get out of innings with low pitch counts will continue to pay off for the Twins because of their bad bullpen.

Last week I urged the Minnesota Twins front office to acquire pitching -- any pitching -- and not to wait too long in doing so. Well, here are five pitchers the Twins could target if they want to remain competitive this season, but most of them will cost something you might not like to lose.


 

This was first published at FoulPlaybyPlay.com, a community for foul-mouthed, sports broadcasters who provide live, uncensored, commercial-free play-by-play and color commentary during sporting events.


 

Pat Neshek

Neshek is familiar to Twins fans, and his side-armed delivery should play well out of a Twins bullpen that can't miss bats. He misses plenty (8.4 K/p) despite going on 37. He's a free agent at year's end and playing on a bad team in rebuilding mode. I can't imagine Philadelphia would have interest in bringing back Neshek, so the Twins should bring him home. It's only money after all (over $6 million per year, so $4 million as of this writing). But with the year Neshek's having (.797 WHIP), the Phillies could ask for a lot. So what do they need? Well, starting pitching, which the Twins can't afford to lose.

The Phillies seem set on letting 22-year-old, third baseman Maikel Franco work through his struggles (68 OPS+). But the Phillies also have a 30-year-old, light-hitting, bad defensive right fielder who will be a free agent at the end of the year. Michael Saunders (73 OPS+) is not the future. Of Philly's minor league outfielders, center fielder Cameron Perkins (26) is closest, and he's more likely to take light-hitting, center fielder Odubel Herrera's place (82 OPS+). Nick Williams fits the bill as a power-hitting right fielder (11 HRs and 10 2Bs for a .515 slugging percentage). He's even got okay range and has logged quite a few innings in right field.

Anyways, it's going to be hard to find something to pluck from Rochester unless you're talking about Daniel Palka, and I doubt that'd be enough. So now we're looking at something more complicated than a one-for-one deal, which isn't really a problem.

David Phelps

Phelps is another one who will cost the Twins plenty because Miami won't want to give up his final arbitration year for anything less than young, starting pitching. I got nothing.

Drew Storen

Storen is quietly having a pretty good year (196 ERA+) but a regression is on the horizon given the massive difference between his ERA (2.25) and FIP (3.80). He can still miss bats, though (7.5 K/9). But the Reds need the same thing as everyone else: starting pitching.

Brad Hand

San Diego is a most interesting trade partner because they have glaring need at shortstop, and the Twins have a really good, young one in Nick Gordon. He's untouchable, however.

Sam Dyson

It sure seems like the Twins are the perfect landing spot for Texas Ranger relief pitcher Sam Dyson. The Twins are in the mix and the Rangers are nearing a deal, according to Darren Wolfson. GM Thad Levine came over from Texas, and Dyson could probably use a change of scenery (10.80 ERA, 9.05 FIP). He's given up more homers this season (6) than last (5) for a HR/9 of 3.2, but maybe the depths of Target Field, where nothing but rain drops, will help Dyson get back on track.

It's pretty sad that the best the Twins front office might be able to do to fix a broken bullpen and bending rotation is picking up a guy allowing 16.7 hits per nine innings, but trading for any kind of pitching is expensive. I can't imagine any team with a competent reliever giving him up for anything else than high-upside, starting pitchers (think Kevin Jepsen for Chih-Wei Hu).

Hey, the Twins should get Glen Perkins back in mid-June, though. And Joe Nathan is available. He only allowed 10.7 hits per nine innings in AAA before being released by the Nationals. He was striking out 8.4 batters per nine, though. I guess I'm saying the options suck, and the Twins are stuck. Hey, at least they claimed Chris Heston, right (12.66 FIP, 23 ERA+, 5.4 HR/9, 25.2 H/9, 5.4 K/9 this year and last)?