April 27, 2015

#BruceJenner vs. Renee Richards, the #SJW world and more

Bruce Jenner/Wikipedia
As everybody in the US not in hibernation probably knows, 1976 Olympic decathlon winner Bruce Jenner is "out" as a transgendered person.

And?

While this is interesting, is it something that necessarily needs huzzahs and handsprings? Maybe, maybe not.

"But he's famous," somebody will say, and that will publicize transgender issues.

He's famous for what?

Per a commenter on NBC Sports' Hardball Talk blog, Jenner has voluntarily been part of the Kardashian circus for more than a decade. Name me something else he's famous for, other than recently killing a person in an auto accident.

In addition, nobody forced him to go on camera. His choice. Per that commenter:
In other words, Bruce Jenner represents a tiny, all but quantum fraction of the total number of transgender patients. He only receives this much attention because (1) he is a former Olympic champion, (2) he has recently been involved in a fatal automobile accident in the media subcapital of the world, but most of all because (3) for the past umpteen years he has been a willing participant in one of the biggest self-aggrandizing, self-promoting media freak shows in history and by his own volition a darling of tabloid dumpculture. 
That might be somewhat harsh. But, is it totally so? I don't think so.

And, while transgender and sexual identity issues are confusing, Jenner seems more confused yet. To claim that he's conservative, Republican and Christian is one sign of that. Many liberally religious people don't have a problem with transgender issues, as the forth initial in the LGBT civil liberties quasi-acronym. However, Christian conservatives have plenty of problems with that. Problems enough that, as the religious right takes stronger hold of the modern GOP, it's perplexing that folks like the Log Cabin Republicans continue to identify as Republican. There are more than two parties in America, you know; you could be Libertarian. But, I guess that the largely two-party duopoly has too much of a hold on you, and you're willing to sacrifice an essential part of your personhood for the Religious Right's agenda.

And, speaking of LGBT? Jenner's claim that he has little need for its rights or it as a movement is even more perplexing. I suspect that, at some point, organized LGBT groups, if they don't abruptly dump Jenner like a hot potato, will at least slowly walk away from him. The social justice warrior types, the SJWs, may be having rapture right now, but probably should think again.

I mean, the NYT, in one article, found his political leanings more shocking than him coming "out."

That NYT piece also notes his circus show background:
This was a coming-out about gender identity and also of television genre. Mr. Jenner tried to disentangle himself from his reality show skin, shedding the slightly goofy, Father Knows Least persona he plays on E! to reveal a more forceful and assertive version of himself. He became exercised – and even sarcastic — when Ms. Sawyer told him that his Kardashian years (she only referred to the series as “that reality show”) made people wonder whether this too was a publicity stunt. “Yeah, right,” he drawled. 
 Instead, he reframed his reality show career as the price he paid to create a platform for his new calling. “Yeah, I know,” he said, referring to what Ms. Sawyer described as “a shameless selling of everything.” He said this was different. “But what I am doing is going to do some good and we’re going to change the world. I really firmly believe that,” he said shaking his finger at Ms. Sawyer. He added, “And if the whole Kardashian show and reality television gave me that foothold into that world, to be able to go out there and really do something good, I’m all for it. I got no problem with that. Understand?” 
 His reality show days aren’t over, however. Mr. Jenner said he was doing an eight-episode documentary with E! that will air this summer but said he drew the line at giving the camera the kind of access he allowed on “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.” 
As for that conservative Republican part?
Mr. Jenner described himself as conservative and Ms. Sawyer seemed taken aback. When she asked him if he would ask Republican leaders to champion the transgender cause, Mr. Jenner was full of aplomb. “I would do that, yeah, in a heartbeat, why not? And I think they’d be very receptive to it.”
Yeah, right. You’re either a full-on idiot, totally clueless, or else think you can tame the Religious Right GOP circus just like a Kardashian circus.


And, that’s another reason not to put him on any platforms.

After all, Christine Jorgensen went public with this 60-plus years ago! Renée Richards went public as an athlete still in competition 40 years ago. Both did so less voluntarily than Jenner, but with more aplomb, perhaps; certainly, remembering Richards, she did so without the apparent publicity-seeking of Jenner. So, while Christina Kahrl is partially right to salute Jenner, she shouldn't be going overboard, either. 

As for Kahrl entering the social justice warrior world by chiding Jenner's mom for saying "he" and "him," the New York Times used male pronouns for its story, and offered what was to me a reasonable editorial defense, noting that Jenner had not chosen a female name nor set out for public understanding other parameters of his identity transitioning. And, it would be bad enough to chide other media outlets; selecting Jenner's mom as the object lesson for a "teachable moment" is kind of sad, in my book.

Jenner's second ex also uses male pronouns in writing for Huff Post. She notes that he had started the transitioning before they divorced. That said, he went on to marry Kris Kardashian, not go further down the transitioning road, and join their media circus.

So, shake your finger at Diane Sawyer, or me, or others, all you want, Bruce. I don't believe you're going to convert a bunch of Republicans. I'm not shocked, or even surprised, that you may go back to reality TV as a "pulpit," or a "slimepit." Please, don't push yourself as America's role model for this. 

Meanwhile, this is further proof that there's no omnipotent god or Intelligent Designer behind this world in general or human procreation in particular. Beyond gender identity issues, sexuality also goes haywire during fetal development, due to hormone insensitivity issues or other things. And, we haven't even discussed things like teratomas, as blogged about by me before, or mosaicism, or even the 25-35 percent of human conceptions that are spontaneously aborted due to various abnormalities. As Francisco Ayala, a nominal Catholic and world-class biologist has said, if God's the Intelligent Designer, he's also the Great Abortionist.

Any would-be commenters who mention "original sin" get their would-be comments deleted.


April 26, 2015

No, the #Cardinals are NOT chasing Cole Hamels

Adam Wainwright
The Achilles injury of Adam Wainwright seemingly has the St. Louis Cardinals on the look for a starting pitcher. But, contra the uninformed speculation of sports bloggers like Bill Baer, they are NOT "in" on the Cole Hamels market.

Tim Cooney can fill in for a couple of starts if needed, then either Jaime Garcia or Marco Gonzales will be rehabbed from injury. I'll pass on Tyler Lyons; he hasn't impressed before; if we have to use him, well, "OK," but let's try Cooney first. If he doesn't work, maybe Jaime or Marco will be ready.

Going outside? On Hamels? If the internal options don't work?

GM John Mozeliak might pay the salary price, but his Philly counterpart Ruben Amaro has given no indication of reducing his ask.

Mozeliak said he'll first look at the team's internal market at Memphis before talking to other clubs, anyway. And, Bernie Miklasz speculates that "low hanging fruit" like Kyle Lohse, Aaron Harang, or even Jeff Szamardjiza, will all be available soon enought Bernie also mentions David Price or Jordan Zimmermann, but I expect the Tigers and Nats to both be in the playoff hunt, therefore ruling them out. (And, both teams owners have no problem spending money to hold on to players in walk years.) Lohse's Brewers are already out, as are Harang's Phillies, but RAJ might want too much back for even Harang. There's also signing Paul Maholm out of retirement as a spot starter/long reliever.

And, other possibilities will open up by the end of May or early June; Mo said he's not likely to look outside internal options before then. So, there's no need for the Cards, or Cards fans, to panic. Mozeliak knows that, and Ruben Amaro will soon learn that. Maybe Bill Baer will too.

April 24, 2015

Josh Hamilton, Texas Ranger?

Josh Hamilton
According to Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, with Bill Baer at Hardball Talk rounding up several additional links, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Downey, and Owner Cluelessness are prepared to make a "dump" trade of — no stereotyping words — outfielder Josh Hamilton to the Texas Rangers, the city where he made good.

And, it's reportedly a done deal, with the Angels eating all but $15M of his salary.

Several questions, issues, and thoughts.

1. On that "eating salary," per more information, on USA Today and a Hardball Talk commenter, reportedly this is NOT adding up to $68M + $15M. The Angels are allegedly saying that because Texas has no state income tax, Hamilton:
(I)s also expected to help offset the remaining $15 million, according to a person involved with the talks.
I am sure this is not the first trade of a player from a state with income tax to a state with none, or vice versa, with one party eating contract. On the vice versa, the stRangers ate some of A-Rod's contract, but the Yankees weren't asked to "help Alex out" because he would now be paying state income tax.

To me, this sounds like a violation of the collective bargaining agreement between owners and the players union.

And, it's a bogus argument anyway. Twenty-one states have laws on their books to tax the salaries of visiting athletes in road games, meaning the "tax-free state" argument is bullshit. There's more here on how accountants who specialize in working for athletes have to deal with this. Wikipedia even has a jock tax page.

But, per the latest update on the situation, with Hamilton getting an opt-out after just 2 years (like he's gonna use that), Hamilton is eating $6 million of contract money.

Oh, and does anybody think Josh Hamilton is either:

1. Dumb enough to exercise that opt-out and leave $30M on the table (or $28M, after 1/3 of that $6M "no state income tax" is deducted), or
2. Going to have a banner year in 2015 or 2016 making it worth his while to opt out?


If the MLBPA thinks that's worth eating $6M, the players ought to fire Tony Clark and see if they can get Donald Fehr back, or somebody.

A lot of fans, I'll bet, don't get that the money per se isn't the issue; it's a player voluntarily undercutting a signed contract by renegotiation. See Section 2 immediately below.

2. Grant says originally said a buyout of Hamilton's contract is was being mentioned, with the Rangers then signing Hamilton for the veteran minimum, rather than Angels' owner Arte Moreno eating a chunk of the current contract. Unless the buyout is for 100 percent of what's left on the contract, the Players' Association and current executive director Tony Clark have to get involved, don't they?

Do they have that power? Well, if the attempted trade of Alex Rodriguez by the Rangers to the Boston Red Sox is an indicator, the answer is yes:
And the MLBPA nixed it. The union had to approve any alteration to a player’s contract that would reduce his salary. It also had to look out for the best interests of all its members, for whom Rodriguez’s contract was a benchmark rising tide that lifted all boats. And so it said no.
Sounds simple enough. 

That said, per the update, Tony and the union need to get involved on the "no tax, Josh will help us" issue.

3. What is Commissioner Corleone's role, if any?

We know that Rob Manfred, as former Commish Bud Selig's right-hand man for labor issues, was the person who got the Budster to bring the hammer down on A-Rod over Biogenesis. We know that he's been lackadaisical, even when called out on it, in looking at who leaked about Hamilton being under a potential disciplinary gun. Is he seeing this as a chance to push the union, if buyout is the operative word?

4. Given Hamilton's latest relapse is connected to him filing for divorce, and his sobriety support network starting with his soon-to-be ex-wife and ex-father-in-law — as Christian Right/prosperity gospel wingnutty as they are, as I discussed here — what sort of structure does he have for support, or does he expect to have?

Ron Washington is no longer the manager there, after all. With his own background, even if no addiction was involved, of having used cocaine, perhaps Washington, generally known as a "players manager" in terms of clubhouse chemistry, was part of that previous support — and on-field success — too? Jeff Banister may be a decent enough guy, but he didn't manage Hamilton before.

That said, Grant notes:

The Rangers have worked through a number of scenarios, including how Hamilton would fit back into the clubhouse. It should be noted that Roy Silver, who was hired as a special assistant in player development over the winter, operated the faith-based baseball academy at which Hamilton was reintroduced to baseball in 2007.
So, that may help. Or may not.

After all, just a month ago, Silver said Hamilton should retire.

5. Whether as a buyout for "considerations" or a straight trade, who do the Rangers send back? A few people on Hardball Talk have suggested Shin-Soo Choo. That would be even dumber, IMO, for Moreno than keeping Hamilton. Sure, it's over twice as many years, but Choo's remaining contract is 50 percent more than Hamilton's. I've suggested Elvis Andrus, who's just starting a long-term contract that's a moderate but not humongous overpay. Either he or incumbent Erick Aybar could be moved to second, as I highly doubt that Johnny Giovotella's start this season will last.

6. That said, per other fans, I don't get what's in this for the Rangers, other than a marketing deal. They're nowhere near contending this year, and many thought they'd be lucky to finish ahead of the Astros and stay out of the cellar, especially after losing Yu Darvish for the year to Tommy John surgery. Maybe they want butts in seats that badly, and the price was cheap enough, given that we have yet to hear any names of players going back to the Angels.

7. How will he do? Better than in LA, on non-park-adjusted stats, since Arlington's a launch pad and Anaheim is slightly to moderately pitcher friendly.

Adjusted stats? He'll probably do somewhat better than with the Haloes, but a fair amount worse on both adjusted and unadjusted stats than he did with the Rangers the previous go-round. And with him in left and Choo in right, Leonys Martin will have to bring his A game defensively every night.

#TxLege — Freedom from Big Gov for me, but not for thee, Texas cities (updated)

Texas politicians, whether many current occupants of the Legislature, or even more, the past and current governors and the current lieutenant governor, are fond of wanting Washington off Austin's back. After all, our new governor, when he was attorney general, used to brag about waking up and suing Obama, even though he often lost those cases.

But, especially in the current year and current legislature, home-rule cities' attempts to be free from Austin's tyrannical thumb, it's a different story.

Many of us have read the basics, but the Texas Municipal League shows just how bad it is, per Bennett Sandlin, executive director of the Texas Municipal League:
“Every legislative session, bills are introduced to prohibit, limit, or require certain actions by local governments. But this year, legislators have launched an unprecedented assault on the authority to make decisions at the local level.”
The top bill on that list is, of course, a larger-scale response to Denton's ban on fracking. Other legislation specifically addresses fracking. Yet other oil and gas related legislation would ban cities from going beyond the state in pipeline regulations.

Update: Meanwhile, as of April 24, I'm updating this post. It seems the hypocrisy needs to include TML itself, which went "neutral" on the revised version of House Bill 40, which bans local control over fracking.

But there are other fun ones. Doubling down on the "Oprah law" about agricultural defamation a number of years ago, some people in the Lege want to restrict cities' rights to put extra regulation on agricultural products.

Another biggie, about one-third of the way down the page, and of high importance with Indiana and Arkansas' recent Religious Freedom Restoration Act tussles, would prohibit cities from going beyond state law in adopting ordinances that create a protected class or prohibit discrimination on a basis not contained in state laws.

In plain English, no more HERO ordinances if this passes.

Related to that, another one would prohibit cities from enforcing any federal law the state finds in violation of the state constitution. We'll call that the anti-gay marriage services law.

Sandlin, again, talks about stuff like this:
“Texans want their community to be able to solve its own problems in its own way. When politicians in Austin decry a ‘patchwork’ of local ordinances, they are saying all 26 million Texans must conform to one way of thinking and one way of living dictated by the legislature.  Texans care deeply about their own neighborhood but they aren’t losing sleep over local ordinances in a city 300 miles away.”
And, that's not all.

Other laws, if passed, would:
  • Bar cities keeping their police officers from being immigration cops if the state says they have to.
  • Prevent local regulation of Tasers (Waiting for Taser Open Carry Tarrant County to form)
  • Keep cities from keeping propane tanks off urban property
  • Prohibit cities from enforcing federal firearms laws
And, the winner of the tinfoil hat prize? The Lege wants to ban cities from
Enter(ing) into agreements, contracts, accept money from or grant money to any organization accredited by the United Nations to implement policy that originated in Agenda 21.
That's our Lege!

TML has promised that link will be updated, so you can bookmark it.

April 23, 2015

Today's real appeasement isn't what wingnuts claim it is

With Sen. Tom Cotton and the letter of "The 47" of the Senate GOP to Iran, and three declared GOP presidential candidates and more on the way, expect words and phrases like "Iran," "appeasement," "Munich" and "Neville Chamberlain" to get mouthed by more and more Republicans in the next 18 months.

Or, with two Cuban-Americans in the race, substitute "Cuba" for "Iran."

Fact is that neither of these is what the real "appeasement" is.

Rather, as most recently illustrated by the Trans Pacific Partnership officially entering Congressional fast-track discussion, the real appeasement is continuing to "engage" with China in the blind, unsubstantiated belief that such "engagement" will automatically, at some point, liberalize Chinese government.

But, why would it?

Singapore was an authoritarian capitalist government for decades under Lee Kuan Yew. Israel is moving in a more anti-democratic direction as we speak, as is Turkey.

And, for worshipers at the hagiography of human rationality, Adam Smith never said that his invisible hand was dependent on a certain type of government. Since 1700s Britain was hardly democratic, that alone undercuts the slavering shibboleths of today's bipartisan foreign policy establishment about China.

Beyond that, it's not just Beijing that's being appeased — it's rich businesses, ever more multinational in character, even if officially incorporated in the US.

Of the four declared presidential candidates of both major parties so far, do you seen anyone who's not an appeaser?

April 22, 2015

#EarthDay at 45

Earth Day Flag by John McConnell / Wikipedia
It's hard to believe, indeed, that Earth Day is 45 years old.

And, the limited knowledge we had then about just what all needed protecting. The Cuyahoga River catching fire seemed like big stuff. It was big enough, but it wasn't that big.

We didn't know about the ozone holes at both poles, threatening to let more and more of Earth be hit with ever-higher amounts of cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation.

Nor did we know that one of the replacements for the chlorofluorocarbons causing the ozone hole, hydrofluorcarbons, would turn out to be global warming gases — and potent ones. And, we're just now learning that carbon dioxide driving global warming may intensify ozone depletion.

Of course, we didn't know about anything about the reality of global warming in 1970. We didn't realize that, short of carbon scrubbing equipment that isn't likely realistic for decades, if at all, we need to stop using fossil fuels as much as possible and as quickly as possible. (And, even the alarmists are probably overselling what that will do; a 2C temperature hike is almost certainly already cooked into our climate.)

We know that, now. We also know that renewable energy is become more and more cost-competitive all the time. But, we still don't know if it's as readily storable as we might wish, and just what the carbon impact of massive storage systems might be themselves.

In short, we've learned a lot about just how little we know about Planet Earth. Not just in what most people think about environmentalism, but basic ecology issues, like the discovery of a new species of grass frog.

And, per the Wikipedia link, we know that "green" is a powerful word, especially when corporations combine "green" with "green." We're learning that, while it's not bad for corporations to have a true environmental consciousness, that many corporations will greenwash themselves all they can. (See friend Perry for a roundup of Earth Day op-ed cartoons on this and other subjects.)

So, look at a nonprofit site like EarthDay.org to commemorate Earth Day correctly and non-capitalistically. Note that, despite Gaylord Nelson latching on to it, and pushing it, the first Earth Day had no politicians connected to it, either. Click the link in the Earth Day Flag caption for John McConnell for more information on that front.

NOT NEEDED

As noted above, we don't need politicians claiming undue credit for the environmental movement. But, we can salute them, even if, like Richard Nixon, the Clean Air and Clean Water acts were not only his personal conviction, but were part of trying to "steal" white suburbanites from the Democrats.

Nor do we need badly written blog posts trying to "privilege" something like "Presbyterian environmentalism."

Mark Stoll's claim that because John Muir and Ed Abbey were raised Presbyterian, thus that influenced them as adults, is bad enough. As an adult, Abbey was a secularist of some sort and Muir would best be labeled as a Spinozan pantheist, I think. (Even Stoll, while writing precisely, notes that the adult Muir was NOT anywhere near a conventional Presbyterian.) Transcendentalists like Emerson and Thoreau were in the same general ballpark as Muir, of course. Some of other things are worse. And, not knowing, or else ignoring, that Abbey rejected the word "environmentalist" to describe himself? Sounds like an author working with a shoehorn.

Based on all this, if/when I see the author's book, if I read it, it will be with a very critical eye. Did "people of faith" have an influence on environmentalism because of their faith? Yes. But, I just listed four people above who weren't conventional Christians. I'll give you a fifth: Stewart Udall, Interior Secretary for Kennedy and Johnson.

And, I'll give you a sixth. William Howard Taft, whom myth still presents as somehow anti-environmentalist as compared to Teddy Roosevelt, was no such thing. And religiously? He was our nation's sole, to date, Unitarian president — again, not a conventional Christian.

So, while Mark Stoll is right about "people of faith" and environmentalism (and I have no problems recognizing that), his idea of specific denominational influences seems forced and overblown.

Nor do we need the likes of John Horgan continuing his bromance with the neoliberal, tech-driven Environmentalism 2.0 of Michael Shellenberger, Ted Nordhaus and the rest of Breakthrough Institute.

We've seen what Net 2.0 is already doing to the political world — dragging neoliberals into ever-more libertarian-leaning technology-based ideas to attempt to solve poverty, unemployment, etc. It's a variation on what Evgeny Morozov calls "solutionism," and we don't need to get environmentalism running down that road.

There, I'll end an Earth Day blog post with noting the interesting twist of having Evgeny Morozov mentioned in it.