December 24, 2004

My rating of the Cards' free-agent, trade moves

So far, I'd probably give them a B/B-.

I agree that Renteria wanted too much. Boston is paying for hopes of getting the 2002-03 Renteria at the plate and I think he is gone for good. The Sox's Orlando Cabrera was then overpaid by the Angels. Of course, that left a cheap David Eckstein available and, as I expected, he was picked up.

Barry Larkin considered as SS? That would have been interesting. I might have said yes, if he could be talked out of retirement, considering the price.

Losing Womack? His price was a bit high, but not tremendously so. If former Card Miguel Cairo can be inked at the right price, though, the deal should be OK.

The Mulder deal with the A's? Think the Cards overpaid by putting minor league phenom catcher Daric Barton in the mix. Otherwise, Haren had shown flashes of promise, but just that. Calero, a very good setup man, but that's not all that. And, contrary to some writers, at 30 to start the new season, he's not a young pitcher any more. Barton should have been held for development, or a later trade as he showed his worth at a higher minor league level.

Part of the judgment on this trade is, of course, Mulder's health, and his mentality to be an "ace," especially since Matt Morris won't be available until May.

Biggest free-agent passed ball? Not signing former Astros mound stud Wade Miller, especially when Boston got him for the bargain basement price of $1.5 million in a one-year deal.

The Bonds-BALCO connection could get a workout this year

After the San Francisco Giants' barrage of free-agent signings this winter, they figure to field the major leagues' All-Ancient Team this year.

Here's their projected starting lineup, with player ages (courtesy of Peter Gammons of ESPN):

C-Mike Matheny, 35
1B-J.T. Snow, 36
2B-Ray Durham, 33
3B-Edgardo Alfonzo, 31
SS-Omar Vizquel, 37
LF-Barry Bonds, 40
CF-Marquis Grissom, 37
RF-Moises Alou, 38
Average age: 36

What is veritable rookie Alfonso doing in there? But, Giant fans should not despair. Perhaps they can still get Barry Larkin talked out of retirement. (Word is, the Cardinals had been considering just that thing.)

Anyway, if I see Matheny catch 140 or more games this year, or Alou steal 20 bases, I'm raising the BALCO red flag.

Why Adam Smith was wrong

First, his "invisible hand of the market" is grounded in a time-specific philosophical stance, 1700s Enlightenment Deism.

Deism, with its "clockwork God" who set the universe in motion, to run with predictable precision and exactitude, has foundered and wrecked on the shoals of quantum physics and its uncertainty principle.

Second, the rationlist mindset of Deism has been demolished in other ways. Although I think Freudianism as a working theory of psychology is thin soup, nonetheless Freud was the pioneer in looking at the emotional drives of homo sapiens, to be followed on a more scientific basis by neuroscience, then on a better-defended philosophical plane by things such as game theory and certain threads in cognitive science.

Beginning with Freud, moderns began exploring — and then demonstrating — how many human actions were emotionally driven even to the point of being quite irrational.

By analyzing brain structure, neuroscientists have shown these emotional drivers are in the most primitive parts of the brain and therefore overridden only fitfully and with difficulty by modern rationalist thought.

Smith himself unwittingly demonstrated this, as do his less-thinking devotees today, as the wants of the consumer of modern capitalism are clearly driven by greed — a base-level, primal emotion that is often highly irrational. Quod erat demonstratum, as old high school geometry tests said at the end of proofs.

Madison Avenue knows this all too well, as any advertising or marketing person today can tell you. Their job is to break down rational resistance in the brain, not build up rational analysis.

Why I contribute little to MoveOn

(Note: The following observations have at least some degree of relevance to many other activist organizations)

The reasons for my relative noncontributions were exemplified by much of its 204 political ad strategy.

The push of MoveOn and related groups was primarily against President Bush. But to the degree it and they, such as environmental groups and other activist organizations tried and continue to try to change Congressional policy as well, they took a top-down, elite-media focused strategy, one with which I strongly disagree.

These groups had the normal strategy of taking out splashy ads in the New York Times, Washington Post and network television programs. But this strategy simply does not help bolster up local grass-roots pushes for local Congressmen to change their votes.

That is especially true in trying to "move" a Republican Congress in which many members are openly skeptical, if not openly contemptuous, of "Big Media." This strategy may have worked in the 1960s for the Sierra Club in fighting dams in the Grand Canyon; it has much less value today.

MoveOn, et al, need to buy billboards in Tulsa and Topeka, local ad space in Kansas City and Kalamazoo, just as much if not more than full-page New York Times splashes.

Until groups like MoveOn learn to consider even taking this approach to Louisville and Laramie, I fear they risk becoming nearly as obsolescent as the current incarnation of the Democratic party and the Democratic National Committee.

Here's a good example of what MoveOn could do:

Let's say the war in Iraq is the issue. Buy billboards in the heartland that have, on the left-hand one-third, a gas pump price face with $1.99, or whatever per gallon gasoline, and the slogan, "the apparent price of gas." Then, on the right-hand two-thirds, have that same pump picture surrounded by pictures of dead soldiers in Iraq and the phrase "1,300 dead and counting," with the slogan, "the real price of gas." That would be bottom-capped, then, by MoveOn's relevant action campaign.

If MoveOn wants to shed elitist perceptions, that is what it will do. In the heartland.

December 21, 2004

Environmentalists can be hypocrites too.

The World Wide Fund for Nature is willing to advise Christmas shoppers to “avoid coral jewelry, crocodile skin and Beluga caviar if they want to enjoy a guilt-free holiday season,” as reported here.

But, based on my experience with wildlife and environmental organizations, if you are considering becoming a member, or otherwise making a donation, they’ll tempt you with stuff like miniature stuffed polar bears and pandas — all made in China.

So why is it OK to uphold environmental rights while ignoring human and labor rights?

It isn’t, of course, not to mention ignoring the general problem with outsourcing of jobs.

But this, in my opinion, is why the largely white, upper-middle-class and above environmental movement hasn’t reached out better to organized labor, minorities and other progressive interest groups. Their own single interest can have pretty heavy blinders on at times.

Oh, sure, the Sierra Club has outreach programs for inner-city students. And they are laudable. But even it has been guilty of lack of proper concern for the origin of its gewgaws and trinkets in the past.

So, if you want to be an environmentalist, please, only do it as part of a broader, informed progressivism.

It’s torture — no other word for it.

Who said that about Guantanamo? The ACLU?

Nope. They’re quoting the FBI, as they document here.

The FBI said Defense Department methods were “torture.” Today allegations came out about inmates made to defecate on themselves, inmates who had hit cigarettes stuck in their earholes, inmates made to fall on barbed wire and more.

It’s torture. No other word for it. Read more about it here.

Time’s “Person of the Year” cover is barf-inducing

The faux-serious, faux-aged-depth-of-wisdom airbrushing on the cover is so hagiographic it’s ridiculous. Time’s editors obviously have their collective heads buried deep up Bush’s bunghole.

December 20, 2004

Sound the China alarm

All you free-traders, Democratic Leadership Council fellow travelers and the like, who scoff at worrying about Chinese economic imperialism, take note.

When adjusted for purchasing power parity, China already is the second-largest economy in the world. Enough said?