December 25, 2010

How tasty are your taste buds?

Via fellow skeptical blogger Kristjan Wager:

Rules:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment at www.verygoodtaste.co.uk linking to your results.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding (Assuming this is blood pudding, ate it as a child, would never do so as an adult!
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses [I presume this refers to the cheese, not the French village]
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes (Would do so no more)
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper [I like hot stuff, but I'm not suicidal] (I've done raw Habanero and am taking it as an equivalent)
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda [No, but it sounds quite good]
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu [I prefer food which you can eat without risk of death]
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut [Not impressed]
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear [Careful of thorns when you eat them] (I've had the tunas, the fruits [similar to white grapes, but milder yet] as well as the nopales)
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin (other than the clay, not sure what this could be
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong (not a tea fanatic, unlike with coffee)
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano (I've never gotten into mole in Mexican food)
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta (Never understood the food snobbery surrounding what, as a lower-classes food in the U.S., is simply called cornmeal mush.)
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

December 24, 2010

John Steinbeck - fabulist; maybe plain old liar

So, it turns out "Travels with Charley" isn't true. It's not even "true to life." Not even close. That said, because it's deliberate confabulation, it's not really a novel, either, is it? It's a lie. Should we then re-address the motive behind Steinbeck's actual novels? Did he actually sympathize with Joad-type characters, or did he just think it was a good storyline?

I mean, "Grapes of Wrath" and "Cannery Row" are powerful and stirring. But, reading just how much Steinbeck fabulized, or just made stuff up, in "Travels with Charley," seriously makes me wonder if he was writing them for the story line more than the message.

AND ... although the Nobel Literature committee, unlike the Downtown Athletic Club with a Heisman Trophy, doesn't seem like it would ever revoke an awarded prize, IF Steinbeck was writing his novels for story lines more than any "message," should we reconsider his place in the literary canon?

That said, per Leo on Facebook, The Harvest Gypsies (the series of articles about migrant workers Steinbeck wrote for the San Francisco News) was the nonfiction basis for "The Grapes of Wrath." As Leo notes, what if Steinbeck faked that, too?

An 'aha' moment from 'It's a Wonderful Life'

At the end of George's extended vision, when he goes back to the bridge and discovers he's still alive? I believe the music at that point is a major-key variation on the medieval Dies Irae melody. (Doubt the average watcher would even pick up on that.)

The occurrence is just before Bert pulls up and says, "Where have you been, George"?" It just caught my ear. [That said, that's part of why I love Rachmaninoff, and I will hear the Dies Irae wherever it pops up.] Given that Dmitri Tiomkin, who wrote the score, was born in Old Russia 21 years after Rachmaninoff, and studies there under Alexander Glazunov and later, in Berlin, under Ferruccio Busoni, it adds to the possibility.

Apparently, it was his idea, and part of a darker original score, too, which got prettied up when the movie's Christmas sections were seen as the thematic core. See here for more on the score.

That said, what if Capra had ended the movie with George jumping? Or, had run it out another 30 minutes after the tear-jerker ending?

If you want to get more thought on that line, go here; is it "the most terrifying movie ever"?

Per the link, which talks about George's "resurrection," I think that IS a Dies Irae riff. That said, to riff on some of the ideas in the link ... it would have been interesting if, in the "salvation by friends" scene at the end, the actual Dies Irae had been playing, sotto voce.

Or, maybe it's time to do a remake?

Meet the Obama birthers' new enemy

Hawaii's new governor, Neil Abercrombie, took office Dec. 6, and has declared himself determined to shoot down birther nuttery. Given that he knew Obama's parents, he's probably in good position to fight the birthers.
Abercrombie, a native of Buffalo, N.Y., arrived in 1959 to study sociology at the University of Hawaii. As a teaching assistant, he met and befriended Obama's father, a native of Kenya.

That said, as the story notes, with this as with most conspiracy theories (which are usually as evidence-free and nonamenable to reason as fundamentalist versions of other faith-based ideas), Abercrombie is likely to produce a backlash.

"Sure, you were born in Buffalo, Mr. Governor ... "

MMM, the smell of tax-cut compromise pork

That tax-cut compromise that Stockholm Syndrome Preznit Kumbaya hailed? It's loaded with pork for the rich and corporations. Per the AP, that includes tax breaks for producing TV shows, rum subsidies for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, an exemption for banks, insurance companies and other financial firms to shield foreign profits from U.S. taxes, and a tax break for people who buy race horses.

Why?

The answer:
Most of the business tax breaks — about 50 in all — are part of a package that expires each year, creating uncertainty for tax planners but lots of business for lobbyists.

I added the emphasis, because it's what happens elsewhere. It's what will happen in 2012 with the next threatened expiration of the "Bush" tax cuts. (Hey, Kumbaya, just like the senseless war in Afghanistan, you officially "own" these tax cuts now.) It's what happens every year with threatened Medicare cuts.

Is filibuster reform just around the corner?

Could the filibuster finally get reformed? Senate Democrats made a unanimous noise in that direction, with the exception of the none-too-soon departing Chris "Housing Stud" Dodd.
Among the chief revisions that Democrats say will likely be offered: Senators could not initiate a filibuster of a bill before it reaches the floor unless they first muster 40 votes for it, and they would have to remain on the floor to sustain it. That is a change from current rules, which require the majority leader to file a cloture motion to overcome an anonymous objection to a motion to proceed, and then wait 30 hours for a vote on it.

Secret "holds" also could be eliminated under the proposed changes in Senate procedures. Holds would still be allowed, but not in private.

Boy, Harry Reid has had as successful a lame-duck session in terms of political skills as Obama has, arguably. Does he want to roll the dice Jan. 5?

That said, it's ultimately not Reid's call; he's not the Speaker of the Senate. And, IIRC, to the best of my knowledge, the man who is the presiding officer, Vice President Joe Biden, has never been "warm" about such reforms. With a smaller Democratic majority this time around, too, it could be hard to do.

And, outside of a Mark Udall, a Jeff Merkley and a Tom Harkin, where the hell were the rest of you 23 months ago?

Update, Dec. 24: Merkley speaks with Ezra Klein about his "modest proposal." Near the end, he notes that without the current pseudo-filibustering, Obamacare would have been four separate bills.

Surely, on at least one of those four parts, moderate Republicans might have been able to get changes they didn't to an omnibus bill. Hence, they're occasionally shooting themselves in the foot.

December 23, 2010

Gang Green struggles to accept Team Obama diffidence

Yeah, the "soft bigotry of low expectations" vis-a-vis the Bush Administration has finally worn off Gang Green environmental groups as the face the reality of President Barack Obama and Interior Secretary Kenny Boy Salazar on environmental issues.

They're still working to accept this reality.

And, here's why -- they're a bunch of fricking insiders!

Big Green's response to the failures of its strategies in Washington is, for the most part, disoriented silence. The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) did not respond to requests for comment. Fred Krupp, president of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), offered some thoughts in a widely read piece for The Huffington Post, in which he wrote, "While being more aggressive and vigorously fighting to achieve critical emissions reductions, we—the environmental community—must be more open." In an interview for this article Krupp said, "We need to do more to make existing laws function well. That means defending the EPA, working with states and public utility commissions. But we are also going to shift emphasis toward suing polluters even as we will continue to cooperate with corporations that are trying to reduce emissions."

There are structural factors, though, that will make it difficult for Big Green groups like the NRDC to join the Sierra Club and Greenpeace in a more confrontational and local approach. Big Green groups are heavily invested in fundraising (including from the fossil fuel industry) and DC lobbying. To get serious about organizing would require their leaders to first fire all their lobbyists (who are often their friends) and then probably fire themselves. As one leader, speaking off the record, put it, "It would mean they'd have to totally restructure themselves away from getting Senator Scott Brown to say this and not that. Their priorities would have to be something other than rubbing elbows with lawmakers." Greens need a presence in Washington, but it will produce nothing if the movement is not willing and able to threaten industry and mainstream politicians with serious disruption—meaning slow, expensive court cases, loss of profits, public humiliation and electoral defeat.

Smaller enviro groups have recognized the stupidity of chaining themselves to the Democratic Party.

And, they're not the first "special interest" to see that. Back in the 1940s, United Mine Workers boss John L. Lewis warned about the same thing.

Past Saharan change has global warming implications

A slight change in Earth's axial tilt has been implicated in the drying of the Sahara to today's conditions.

And, it has implications for global warming. Why?
Scientists from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory say that the current melting of ice in Greenland is already causing the tilt to change at a rate of approximately 2.6 centimeters each year. They predict that his change could increase in the years ahead.

Now, this change may seem slight. But, not to anybody who knows anything about Milankovich cycles and Earth's ice ages and warming periods in the past.

Gallup: Very religious are healthier

Gallup notes, in a new research poll:
Very religious Americans are less likely to report that they smoke and are more likely to say they eat well and exercise regularly than those who are moderately religious or nonreligious. Nonreligious Americans have the worst health habits of the three groups.

Fortunately, Gallup recognizes that a statistical correlation is not necessarily a causal one:
There are a number of factors that could contribute to very religious Americans' healthier lifestyle choices. Some of these factors are likely overt products of religious doctrine itself, including rules related to smoking and substance abuse. Seventh-Day Adventists, for example, strictly adhere to vegetarian lifestyles free of alcohol and smoking, while orthodox Mormons and Muslims do not drink alcohol. In some Christian denominations, gluttony and sloth are considered two of the seven deadly sins, and many evangelical faiths frown on drinking and smoking. The Bible indicates that one's body is the "temple of God," which could in turn help explain the relationship between religious orthodoxy and exercise and certain types of food consumption. It is possible, of course, that the noted relationship between health and religiosity could go in the other direction -- that people who are healthier are the most likely to make the decision to be religious. This could be particularly relevant in terms of church attendance, one of the constituent components of Gallup's definition of religiousness. Healthier people may be more likely and able to attend religious services than those who are less healthy.

It also notes that, if there is a causal correlation, it could go in the other direction than fundamentalist types will claim?
It may also be possible that certain types of individuals are more likely to make healthy lifestyle choices and more likely to choose to be highly religious. The most parsimonious explanation, however, may be the most intuitive: Those who capitalize on the social and moral outcomes of religious norms and acts are more likely to lead lives filled with healthier choices.

That said, besides allowing for Mormons and Adventists, how much of this is age-specific? I'll bet that once we get past the age of 40 or so, the gap narrows a fair degree.

Wil Glenn Greenwald cut ties to the ACLU, too?

Update, Dec. 14: Greenwald's resignation letter is here. It addresses JUST the WikiLeaks issues, and nothing else of CREW's recent problems. Sorry, Glenn but that is a half-fail.

Update, Dec. 22: CREW head Melanie Sloan's guypal, former Congressman and current DC fixer Lanny Davis, is now running flak for Ivory Coast's authoritarian ruler. Again, Glenn, leaving CREW's board over WikiLeaks is "nice," but what did you know, and when, about Sloan's dealings with Lanny Davis? Or for-profit schools?

First, Glenn, while it's nice, and I mean taht non-sarcastically, that you're upset enough about Citizens for Responsibiliity and Ethics in Washington's statements on WikiLeaks that you might resign from the board of directors, aren't you a bit late to the concern party? Why weren't you this vocal (as far as I know, and I have your RSS feed on my My Yahoo homepage) when your own online mag first exposed Melanie Sloan's ties to lobbyist/fixer Lanny Davis, along with questions of better board oversight of her, and, of course, her eventual successor? Or when CREW's fluffing of for-profit schools came to notice?

Or, per FiredogLake, why haven't you talked more, given that it's a War on Terror-related issue, about Sloan's husband working for SAIC?
SAIC is a parallel privatized secret government that promotes neo-con war policies and does the more dirty of the Cheney Dirty Tricks. SAIC has been involved in COINTELPRO, spying on Americans who protest the criminal wars that are so profitable for SAIC. Would SAIC target organizations to use against anti-war leaders such as Maxine Waters? Did SAIC and Porter Goss and Melanie Sloan collaborate to destroy Maxine Waters? Those questions might be answered if CREW would reveal its donors instead of keeping them secret. A common method used by oppressive Secret Police Organizations, such as SAIC, is to subvert organizations, turning them into a zombie, which then self destructs.

With the departure of Melanie Sloan, CREW seems to be in zombie mode. For the last six months CREW has used its resources to help corrupt corporations. CREW has attempted to falsely convict Maxine Waters in a Kangaroo Court run by Porter Goss. It may not be too much longer before CREW self-destructs. For Melanie Sloan’s replacement, I suggest Glen Greenwald or Steve Eisman.

I can't agree with the FDL blogger on recommending you as her replacement, though. (I'll also say that his style, at least, is a bit over the top!) I don't know what Gleenn has known or suspected, and when, about Sloan, and if he's called for an audit of CREW, changes in internal regs or anything else.

Hence, until I know more about what Glenn has known, and when, on these other CREW issues, and what comments he has made in either public or private, while his stance on CREW re WikiLeaks is nice, it is also ... "nice."

And, there's another reason to not put Glenn on a pedestal either — his continued, apparently uncritical, support for the American Civil Liberties Union.

Glenn, if you're looking to sever ties to organizations that don't support free speech, you should have stopped supporting the ACLU years ago. Teaching groups how to comply with the Patriot Act? Censoring its own board members, or trying to, by Excutive Director Anthony Romero and President Nadine Strossen? It's all here.
Since 2001, under the leadership of Romero, Strossen, and her successor Susan Herman, the ACLU has repeatedly been caught practicing the opposite of what it preaches.

In July 2004, the board learned that Romero had quietly agreed to screen the organization's employees against terrorist "watch lists" — the same lists the ACLU has condemned — in order to qualify as an officially approved charity for federal employees. Strossen characterized Romero's action as "clever," but it was quickly rescinded after exposure in the Times.

This report was followed by Romero's admission that early in his tenure at the ACLU, he had privately advised the Ford Foundation to "parrot" the Patriot Act in formulating controversial new restrictions on the speech of its grantees — restrictions Romero then quietly accepted on the ACLU's behalf. (After a protracted debate, the board approved the Ford restrictions and then narrowly reversed itself, after embarrassing publicity about the ACLU’s watch list agreement with the government.)

A year later, in 2005, Romero was caught trying to impose very broad confidentiality agreements and technology rules on ACLU employees, similar to workplace rules that the ACLU officially opposes. Like the proposal governing board members' rights to speak, the agreements nearljavascript:void(0)y imposed on the staff (but withdrawn after they became public) included a virtual gag rule; they also would have required the staff to acknowledge that all their communications on ACLU systems were subject to surveillance. Nadine Strossen defended these proposals in an email to the board, cheerfully noting her bizarre "presumption" that they "facilitate the ACLU’s commitment to both privacy and free speech."

And, that makes Glenn's ACLU column of a year ago a bit ... ironic, at least? Unless Glenn has said something about Romero and Strossen that I don't know about, that is.

For anybody wondering about me? I've not given the ACLU money in three full years, in fair part due to these concerns. Oh, I'll still do the e-mail activism. But, for money? There's still the Center for Constitutional Rights. Less sclerotic.

I'm blogging again - and holiday cooking for 1

For any followers or others, apparently somebody hacked my account early today. Had to get an authorization code from Google, then reset my password after I logged in with that code.

Anyway, I'm copecetic now.

Holiday cooking? I found a boneless pork loin on sale for $1.99/pound last night. I sliced it up and made a marinade from cinnamon, a bit of allspice, ginger and glove, apple cider and worcestershire, all diluted a touch with water.

It's going to soak until I get home from work tonight, then slow cook for a couple of hours.

I made some homemade potato soup earlier in the week, so, got a good combo. Kept skins on the potatoes and threw in some brown rice and flaxseed for a bit of extra fiber. No milk, so I used a mix of butter, cream cheese and cheddar in the broth. Added about 3/4 an onion, healthy amount of black pepper and a bit of Italian herbs mix.

More thoughts on why Blyleven isn't yet in the HOF

Bert Blyleven is UNarguably, in my book, the greatest living (and eligible) player not yet in the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. (Remove the "eligible" part and we're talking Albert Pujols, of course. And, no, we're NOT talking Pete Rose.)

So, why isn't he there?

Per his Wikipedia page, is Blyleven's history of disgruntlement as a player part of why he's still not in the HOF? Could be a part of it; supposedly, some voters still hold Ron Santo's 1969 heel-clicking against him.

Add in that he played for five teams, and none of them for more than 40 percent of his career, and that might be a bit of a factor. However, he's a broadcaster now for the Twinkies, who were his "primary" team, albeit before he hit his prime.

Plus, another overlooked area ... look at Blyleven's career fielding stats ... how did he never win a Gold Glove?

At the least, 1976 and 1989, he could have won vs. Palmer and Saberhagen, respectively.

Given that, for his career, he has above-average range factor AND fielding percentage, how did he never get a reputation as a good-fielding pitcher?

For people who continue to insist on win-loss percentage as a HOF qualifier for pitchers, hopefully King Felix winning this year's AL Cy Young award will help Blyleven too, if the same logic is applied.

For HOF voters who claim "he didn't dominate" season-to-season .... err, neither did Don Sutton! Of course, this is from a HOF voter enough of an idiot, jackass, etc., to think Jack Morris deserves in and Blyleven doesn't.

On the flip side, Rob Neyer makes the favorable Blyleven-Sutton comparison.

===

Robbie Alomar deserves in, too, but, if anybody gets in this year, it should be the Dutchman.

===

Here's the official 2011 HOF ballot. Other worthies? Bagwell, yes, although I don't think he's a first-year induction worth. Ditto on Larkin. Raines is just short of the cutoff for me. Everybody else is a bit further back.

===

Meanwhile ...

No wonder so many ESPN readers think Neyer's a douche. Not only Jack Morris, but Keith Hernandez and Dave Parker get a HOF shoutout from him. He even says a "possible case" could be made by unnamed "others" for Kevin Brown.

Jim Caple is another HOF maximalist. Must be something in the ESPN Kool-Aid.

He won't exclude roiders. Wants to vote in the vastly overrated Jack Morris. And Alan Trammell. And Edgar Martinez.

Banksters go from wrongful foreclosure to B&E

As in, breaking and entering:
When Mimi Ash arrived at her mountain chalet here for a weekend ski trip, she discovered that someone had broken into the home and changed the locks.

When she finally got into the house, it was empty. All of her possessions were gone: furniture, her son’s ski medals, winter clothes and family photos. Also missing was a wooden box, its top inscribed with the words “Together Forever,” that contained the ashes of her late husband, Robert.

The culprit, Ms. Ash soon learned, was not a burglar but her bank. According to a federal lawsuit filed in October by Ms. Ash, Bank of America had wrongfully foreclosed on her house and thrown out her belongings, without alerting Ms. Ash beforehand.

And ...
In Texas, for example, Bank of America had the locks changed and the electricity shut off last year at Alan Schroit’s second home in Galveston, according to court papers. Mr. Schroit, who had paid off the house, had stored 75 pounds of salmon and halibut in his refrigerator and freezer, caught during a recent Alaskan fishing vacation.


“Lacking power, the freezer’s contents melted, spoiled and reeking melt water spread through the property and leaked through the flooring into joists and lower areas,” the lawsuit says. The case was settled for an undisclosed amount.

So, when you talk about the good Obama did on DADT, don't forget, he's still in thrall to the banksters.

In thrall to these banksters and their mortgage servicers:
This is in essence a burglary,” said Ms. Ash, walking through the vacant home, with its four levels and commanding mountain views. “But when a burglar goes in, they don’t take your photos and your husband’s ashes.”

How will make this year's baseball HOF? Who SHOULD?

Here's the official 2011 HOF ballot.

And here's my take on who should get in this year, who should get in eventually, and who WILL get in, either this year or eventually, among top candidates.

Bert Blyleven - Should get in this year, should have been in long ago. I think he will get in. But, less than 80 percent vote.

Robbie Alomar - Probably will get in this year; if he does, it will be in the 75-80 percent range, like Blyleven. Should he be? Despite all the Gold Gloves, he has a negative career defensive Win Above Replacement. And, only once, in an individual season, was his dWAR +1.0 or better. He is still a good enough offensive 2B to qualify.

Barry Larkin - Deserves in eventually, but not this year. Anybody with ZERO points under Baseball-Reference's black ink line should NOT be a first-year entrant. Should get in eventually, but probably not this year.

Larry Walker - Should not get in, any year, though I loved the guy as a Cards fan. Great fielder, but, outside of pre-humidor Colorado, he's a much more iffy batter, for his road splits as a Rocky, before that as an Expo, and after that. Had he not had injury problems, maybe he could have "sold us," but, he did and so he couldn't. (Todd Helton will face similar issues, and with the number of 1B in the league, probably won't qualify either.)

Jeff Bagwell - May get in this year but probably not. If he doesn't do it in another year or two, could get lost in the shuffle. I think he deserves in, but, the relatively early career dropoff at a relatively undemanding position, 1B, may be a negative. Bagwell and Walker are the only first-year eligibles who (currently) deserve serious consideration for the future.

Jack Morris - No, no, never! The luckiest pitcher of the last 30-40 years. Were it not for Game 7 of the 1991 WS, we wouldn't even be discussing him. And, I don't think he will, not just this year but any year.

Lee Smith - No, all counts. I agree that saves by themselves are overrated. In the era of the one-inning or less closer, you've got to have more. Plus, his career WHIP is above 1.25, a big red light in my book. (Yes, many sabermetricians say pitchers can only control walks, not hits; that's only partially true on hits.)

Edgar Martinez - No on "should" get in. Relatively fragile for playing primarily DH and couldn't even get 2,500 hits, despite a .312 BA. And, he probably won't. Being a DH without flashier career numbers may be held against him.

Tim Raines - Up there w/Bagwell of the best shot besides Blyleven and Alomar this year. Should he? I'm not anti-Raines, but I'm not as sold on him as some are.
Alan Trammell - Won't get in, and I don't think he should. Nice, but just not quite there.

Fred McGriff - Just can't quite pull the trigger on him. And, I think that will be his "will he" fate, too.

Rafael Palmeiro - No, not until he fesses up, on the "should." And probably ditto on the "will he." Hence my "currently" on Bagwell. That said, Rafe is like Barry Bonds; without juicing, he probably would have been a HOFer any way. He might still have gotten 3K hits, with 400 HRs, 400 2B, and 1,600 RBIs.

Mark McGwire - Big Mac made a semi-confession. He might have been less injured without 'roiding, and maybe gotten to 2,000 hits, which shows just how one-dimensional he was. I mean, six career triples and just two after his rookie season? And at least Palmeiro had a decent glove.

Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, et al. Still not HOFfers and I hope no veterans committee sneaks them in 20 years from now.

Meanwhile, don't believe most ESPN fluffery on this subject.

No wonder so many ESPN readers think Rob Neyer's a douche. Not only Jack Morris, but Keith Hernandez and Dave Parker get a HOF shoutout from him. He even says a "possible case" could be made by unnamed "others" for Kevin Brown.

Jim Caple is another HOF maximalist. Must be something in the ESPN Kool-Aid.

He won't exclude roiders. Wants to vote in the vastly overrated Jack Morris. And Alan Trammell. And Edgar Martinez.

Add Fox's Tracy Ringolsby to the HOF fluffers, specifically the Black Jack Morris fluffers.

Adam Smith, mercantilism, 'invisible hand' and Deism

I've written an occasional post touching on the edges of what's at the heart of this one.

And, that is that Smith wasn't such a pure-blooded Platonic idealist capitalist, first.

Even more important, secondly, is how his economic theory, especially as connected to his moral-sense ideas, and economically culminating in his "invisible hand," were based on Enlightenment Deism, an optimistic version of that religion that is scientifically, philosophically and psychologically untenable today.

For defenders of Smith the simon-pure free trader? You're wrong on the mercantilism, Smith and the colonies (Google Docs link). I quote, from a book: "Smith likewise approved of the laws which authorized the payment of a bounty for the production of naval stores in the American colonies and prohibited their export from America to any country other than Great Britain. This typical mercantilist regulation was justified, in Smith’s view, because it would make England independent of Sweden and the other northern countries for the supply of military necessities and this contribute to the self-sufficiency of the empire"

Source? "Wealth of Nations," Book IV, pp. 545-546, 609-610, 484, note 39.

Now, naval stores isn't all colonial goods, but given that they related to national defense, albeit loosely, Smith had no problem bringing them under a mercantilist umbrella.

Elsewhere, Smith accepted government support for start-up industry, retaliatory tarrifs (albeit on a limited basis) and other things.

On whence Smith derived ideas of "an invisible hand" or "the invisible hand," no, I can't prove it's from the wind-up-the-universe God of Enlightenment Deism. Nonetheless, it sounds reasonable, and I know it can't be disproven either, that as a source. Per Wikipedia, referencing his obit as a source, he rejected Orthodox Christianity at Oxford and was generally understood to have become a Deist.

Beyond that, von Mises says in Wikipedia again that he thought Smith thought the invisible hand was God.

Beyond that, we know that Deism was a strong influence on Smith's theory of moral sentiments. (Google Docs link.)

It's arguable, and has been argued by some, that the "invisible hand" doesn't apply to the workings of the market. But, even if it's considered an "inner witness," and not directly linked to Deism, nonetheless, via Smith's theory of moral sentiments being Deist influenced, a denial of any connection at all is hard to maintain. Certainly, the ideas that an invisible hand will rationally maximize production to the ultimate benefit of all is pure Deism at its most optimistic and moonshiney.

And, of course, Deism was scientifically undercut in 1900 by Max Planck. Before that, indirectly, as Voltaire knew, such an optimistic Deism was shaken by the 1755 Lisbon tremblor. Since then, nuclear weapons, world wars and the Holocast have further shattered Smith's blithely optimistic Deism.

Speaking of science, James K. Galbraith argues Smith is non-scientific in another way - he's pre-Darwinian! Very interesting. And, Galbraith applies this thought to all Smithian descendants, namely those nutbar Strausians and related Chicago School economists.

December 22, 2010

Rob Neyer, baseball HOF fluffer

No wonder so many ESPN readers think Neyer's a douche. Not only Jack Morris, but Keith Hernandez and Dave Parker get a HOF shoutout from him. He even says a "possible case" could be made by unnamed "others" for Kevin Brown.

Jim Caple is another HOF maximalist. Must be something in the ESPN Kool-Aid.

He won't exclude roiders. Wants to vote in the vastly overrated Jack Morris. And Alan Trammell. And Edgar Martinez.

Add Fox's Tracy Ringolsby to the HOF fluffers, specifically the Black Jack Morris fluffers.

Rafael Anchia –Dallas Congressman? Elba Garcia?

Update, Dec. 22, 2010: Texas will get FOUR new Congressional seats.

Because Texas is under the Voting Rights Act, because much of its population growth is Hispanic, and because part of the Texas GOP still dreams of recruiting more Hispanic voters, or even Hispanic elected officials like Texas State Rep. Aaron Peña, a taco -- or whatever other Hispanic variant on "Oreo" you prefer, there is very likely going to be a Hispanic congressional district in DFW.

Here’s why I say that about the man D Magazine called “the Hispanic Obama.” Or about the woman who became the next Dallas County Commissioner, unseating Ken Mayfield.

The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is expected to get one of the two new Congressional seats Texas picks up from redistricting after the 2010 Census.

It’s very possible to make a Hispanic-friendly, if not Hispanic-safe, district out of that.

Include much of his west Dallas state House district, and pieces of east central Dallas near downtown. Go into Southwest Dallas and perhaps the suburb of Duncanville, the most Hispanic of the south Dallas suburbs. Include most of Grand Prairie and all of south Irving. Find any other bits and pieces necessary to get to the population total for the district and there you go.

Of course, the the D Mag story notes Anchia has been rumored to have an eye on Kay Bailey Hutchison’s Senate seat.

And, the last page notes that not all Dallas Hispanics consider him a “Hispanic’s Hispanic.”

On the other hand, Garcia has to carry the stuffed to the gills baggage of her husband, state Rep. Domingo Garcia.

On the flip side to that, she, albeit at the local level, has probably actually gotten a better record of accomplishments than Anchia.

Fleecing the IRS, if not the "flock"

Non-Catholic ministers don't take vows of poverty. Some are FAR from it.

Example?

A minister gets a base salary of $40,000 AND a housing allowance of $65,000.

Guess what he pays in federal income tax?

A paltry $740.

Click the link above to see all the bullshit deductions he gets.

That's why, per the interviews Dan Dennett had recently with atheist and agnostic ministers, I can sympathize with them not wanting to leave the ministry for financial reasons.

Having gotten my M.Div myself, with a pre-ministry undergraduate degree, and then willingly NOT gone down that route myself?

I could empathize, but I deliberately choose not to do so.

Science-journalism split gets lost in old-new media stereotypes

I like a lot of what Bora Z has to say, but ...

That magic "but" ...

While I'm not a blanket defender of "old media" in any way, I think he's a bit too ... PR-ish, shall we say, about the bright, shiny future of "new media."

Contra McLuhan, in this case, the medium is not necessarily the message; it's just a vehicle.

Latest cast in point? Bora's first extended blog on Scientific American.

First, not everyone's objection to the "mainstream media" was over, say, finding self-reinforcing quotable people for the story, as it was the particular self-reinforcing quotable people. (Yes, that happened, and still does, in the MSM.) I.e., the people who produce Faux News continue to do this, and the people who watch eat it up! That all goes hand in hand with some recent surveys about how Faux watchers are the most misinformed.

Beyond that, Bora seems to assume that the new media wouldn't do that. (Your silence gives free play to my assumption.) Bullcookies, sir.

Next, if blogs are partially replacing mainstream media, and actually writing news stories, not just brief blog posts, shouldn't we hold them to the same standards on correct spelling, which Bora seems to poo-poo a bit, not to mention correct grammar, which he doesn't even address.

Answer? Yes!

To be a bit snarky, yet serious, isn't this a bit of "soft bigotry of low expectations"? Arguably, yes.

If blogs are going to be "serious," Bora, that includes spelling, grammar, style consistency and other things.

December 21, 2010

Eclipse photography



This one is from about 10 minutes before the start of totality; the greater light meant less bitmapping, plus you can still see lunar features.



This one is from peak totality.

December 20, 2010

Will Cards trade Carp?

Without Uncle Cliffy Lee in hand, Yahoo's Tim Brown says the Gotham Pinstripers might be interested in Chris Carpenter.

Xns shooting selves in foot with 'War on Xmas'?

When I saw the title for Ross Douthat's latest op-ed column, I thought he had become the latest Bill O'Lielly/Faux News surrogate.

But, I read on, and was surprised, at least partially pleasantly. Especially in the latter part of the column, with this:
Having popularized the term “culture war” two decades ago, (University of Virginia sociologist James Davison Hunter) now argues that the “war” footing has led American Christians into a cul-de-sac. It has encouraged both conservative and liberal believers to frame their mission primarily in terms of conflict, and to express themselves almost exclusively in the “language of loss, disappointment, anger, antipathy, resentment and desire for conquest.”

That said, Hunter is, as Douthat notes, a social conservative.

Douthat then adds that
Harvard’s Robert Putnam (of “Bowling Alone” fame) and Notre Dame’s David Campbell ... argue ... institutional Christianity ... seems to be gradually losing its appeal.

The bottom line?
Putnam and Campbell are quantitative, liberal, and upbeat; Hunter is qualitative, conservative and conflicted. But both books come around to a similar argument: this month’s ubiquitous carols and crèches notwithstanding, believing Christians are no longer what they once were — an overwhelming majority in a self-consciously Christian nation.

Douthat, of course, laments that. I welcome it.

He does add a coda:
Or to put it another way, Christians need to find a way to thrive in a society that looks less and less like any sort of Christendom — and more and more like the diverse and complicated Roman Empire where their religion had its beginning, 2,000 years ago this week.

That said, he's ignorant of the history of Christian development and evolution, and ignorant of how battles over orthodoxy in those days made today's American Religious Right look like pussycats at times.

And, beyond that, Douthat does not seem cognizant that the mindset of the modern Religious Right simply isn't amenable to change.

December 19, 2010

Free will not so free? And not so human-specific

I've long been of the opinion that "free will" vs. "determinism" is, if not a false dilemma, at least something close — a pair of false polarities, rather than something on a continuum.

(I've also been of the opinion, taking Dan Dennett's stance on consciousnesss that there's no "Cartesian meaner" to its logical conclusion — as does Daniel Wegner and others, I'm not alone — that there's no conscious, central, controlled location for free will in humans, as well. That is, there's no "Cartesian free willer" either. But, I digress.)

There's a German-based neuroscientist who agrees with me on the "polarities" angle. But, that's not all.

Bjoern Brembs also says that this free will — free will within constraints — is exhibited by animals, too.
Brembs and others have used mathematical models to simulate brain activity on a computer, finding that what worked best was a combination of deterministic behaviour and what is known as stochastic behaviour - which may look random but actually, in time, follows a defined set of probabilities.

Personally, I actually don't see this as that big of a deal. Given that consciousness itself is understood as being on some sort of continuum, rather than "we conscious humans" vs. "you unconscious animals," how could a will, and a will that is partially free, also not exist, and again, on a continuum?

That then said, I do find it a bit more questionable to extend some degree of free will, as Brembs does, all the way down to the level of flies, just as I would find it questionable to attribute consciousness to an animal with so few neurons.

To talk about a dog, or the old laboratory vertebrate standby, the lab rat, as having some degree or type of free will? Yes. The laboratory insect standby, a fruit fly? Per Carl Sagan, that's an extraordinary claim. I expect more evidence.

I'll stand by for more research; this is surely going to be a hot topic not just for months but for years.

More on the 'case' against Assange

First, I put "case" in scare quotes because, since charges haven't been filed, is this legally a "case" under Swedish law? I don't know.

Second, let's not forget point No. 1.

That said, there's new details about what's up.

Claes Borgstrom, the lawyer for the two Swedish women, who is Sweden’s former equal opportunities ombudsman (said) ... Assange’s statement that he has “heard no evidence whatsoever” to support the allegations was false, since the contents of the police report were made available to his Swedish lawyers weeks ago.

OK, a couple of questions right there.

First, what Swedish lawyers? All we hear about and from is Mark Stephens, Assange’s British lawyer, from the “sex by surprise” comment on. So, who does Assange have working for him in Sweden? What’s their take on all of this? Why aren't they commenting?

That said, we are being told now, in this story, that Anna Ardin is “a left-wing activist.” We’ve heard Counterpunch describe her (via FiredogLake) as a tool of CIA front groups. We've heard The Age (Australia) note she's not even in Sweden now and describe her as generally being on the more liberal and activist side. If Counterpunch's story had any truth, it would seem she's either naive at times, or a bit flighty, which I'm thinking anyway.

And, per The Age, linked above, yet more questions:
Assange was staying with Ardin, then he was with (Sofia) Wilen, and then later in the week he went back to a crayfish party at Ardin's place, pausing only to text Wilen. Ardin later threw him out, and at the end of the week, the two women - who did not know each other - had compared notes and gone to Klara police station in Stockholm to inquire about forcing Assange to take an STI test.

If Ardin and Wilen don't know each other (and I don't know what level of "not knowing" is meant — not knowing each other at all? not knowing each other well? not knowing each other outside of the cyberworld?) how could they have known to have "compared notes"?

There's plenty still up in the air. Nate Silver of 538 will have to keep working on his Bayesian probabilities on this one.

That all then said, if half of what if alleged is true, Assange is a criminal. And stupid. If he is right, as I believe he is, that the United States imperialist government was looking for a chance to legally incarcerate him (before possibly stooping to illegal incarceration and detention?), then why did he — every sort of pun intended — expose himself like this, if he did?

MoJo Dowd writes a sensible, serious column?

Yes, and the lunar eclipse tomorrow will be a blue moon.

Seriously she writes about wondering whether DADT repeal will have any significance for the possibility of a gay president.
I called Barney Frank, assuming the gay pioneer would be optimistic. He wasn’t. “It’s one thing to have a gay person in the abstract,” he said. “It’s another to see that person as part of a living, breathing couple. How would a gay presidential candidate have a celebratory kiss with his partner after winning the New Hampshire primary? The sight of two women kissing has not been as distressful to people as the sight of two men kissing.”

She gets other insights, too, from other people.

You know, if she'd write something like this once every three months, even, people wouldn't call her out so much on all her crap.

But, she doesn't.

Atheists - less criminal than Christians

Enough said.