SocraticGadfly: 10/30/11 - 11/6/11

November 05, 2011

Clayton Williams sticks foot in mouth again

Texans my age or older remember "Claytie," Texas oilman Clayton Williams, and his stupid and offensive remark when running against Ann Richards for governor in 1990, when he said this about rape:
"If it's inevitable, just relax and enjoy it."
Well, Claytie has done it again, and deliberately. While breaking ground for a new oilfield pipeline, he said, at the end of his invocation:
“In conclusion, the prayer is over,” he said. “God bless the United States of America and piss on Obama.”
You can email the investor relations office for Clayton Williams, Inc here. Tell them what an ass he is.

November 04, 2011

CO2 takes record jump: #climatechange concern?

Wowsa. The world's emissions of carbon dioxide jumped 6 percent in 2010 from 2009.

Economic growth will undercut itself in the longer term if we don't address this, just as economic rebounds, even partial and scattered ones, now push oil prices higher and undercut themselves in part. Meanwhile, as China and India hugely ramp up their coal-fired power plants, that seems true indeed. The melting Himalayan glaciers will eventually undercut both agriculture and hydroelectric power in both countries.

China is now well ahead of us on emissions, and India is No. 3 and rising.

It looks like the upper end of temperature change forecasts by the IPCC and everybody else are going to come true, as we break the 400 ppm barrier on atmospheric CO2 any time now.

That said, Beijing is phasing out incandescent bulbs.

Most of the developed world can, from a modernist point of view, be a bit more "virtuous":
The developed countries that ratified the 1997 Kyoto Protocol greenhouse gas limiting treaty have reduced their emissions overall since then and have achieved their goals of cutting emissions to about 8 percent below 1990 levels. The U.S. did not ratify the agreement.
Note that I said "most" of the developed world; the United States still doesn't qualify. Texas will undercut itself by Houston having regular flooding in 50 years even as most the state dries out. Arizona by, speaking of glacial melt (and snowmelt) by watching what's left of the Colorado River shrivel up, again, cutting both agriculture and hydroelectric power, and Florida will watch much of the peninsular part of the state turn into a semi-regularly flooded swampland.

At that point, I'll expect these reddish-to-bright-red states to demand regular natural disaster relief from the federal government, continuing to live high on the welfare hog. In the near term, how will wingers react to China's announcement it's phasing out old-fashioned light bulbs? They went batshit over U.S. lighting efficiency regulation, even though it technically didn't ban incandescents, ignoring that it was a BushCo bill. More on that batshittery and what it might lead to next is here.

GOP: Who wins if #PIzzaMan Cain crashes and burns?

And, with a third woman (who had not filed a formal complaint) alleging that Cain sexually harassed her around the same time as two other women at National Restaurant Association offices, and that he allegedly acted inappropriately in some way in Iowa in the last month, and in the office of arguably Iowa's top conservative radio talk guy, Cain WILL crash and burn. We still don't know how quickly and how badly, but it will.

First, will this feed into stereotypes still deep inside the head of  many an old white Republican: That black men are all oversexed? If those are still floating around and latent, he WILL fall hard.

So, who "wins"?

If there were a woman in the race less batshit-crazy than Michele Bachman, that would be my No. 1 guess; a sympathy vote of sorts for a woman able to exploit it. But, that's not the case.

Rick Perry? Not after his episode of being looped out on pain meds in New Hampshire (if he indeed asn't drunk). That probably was the last nail in his coffin.

Sit DOWN Ron Paul and you Paul-tards. No big win for you. Even with more GOP activiist voters in Iowa and New Hampshire more batshit-crazy, you're still not doing much better than 2008.

Newt? Even as opportunist as he is, to try to exploit womanizing? He'd fall flat on his face.

So, who benefits?

Two people. Mitt Romney. And Barack Obama. (On the other hand, the usually-insightful NYT columnist Charles Blow says Cain wins, at least within the GOP.)

Between Perry's meltdown and Pizza Man's "heat up" (heh, heh), combined with Plastic Woman's lack of traction, Romney gains. And, in a sense, loses. A semi-early set of primary wins leaves most the batshitty of the tea party staying home. Ron Paul's goldbugs hang in, making the party look crazier yet. The GOP establishment doesn't jump to Huntsman, so he looks at Americans Elect.

And, so, Romney faces a general election with little party enthusiasm.

Hence, Barack Obama wins. (Cain is blaming Obama, indirectly, via Rahm Emanuel in addition to blaming Perry. Perry's blaming the Mittster.)

And, now, The Mittster obviously sees Cain as wounded and wants to go for the kill, as much as possible, in Iowa; he's targeting Perry with new robo-calls. But, if Charles Blow is right, Romney may be wrong.

And, just maybe, third parties win.

Losers? Mitch Daniels, Chris Christie,etc. That said ... was a dalliance by Mitch .... or Mrs. Mitch, divorced, then married back to him ... part of the reason he didn't run?

November 03, 2011

#Stlcards and free agency

We all know what the No. 1 need is, or seems to be, both on the field side and on the marketing side, for the St. Louis Cardinals this offseason, as Hot Stove League time heats up: Re-sign Albert Pujols. With no other free agents of significance and Jason Motte the one potentially big arbitration case, followed by Ryan Theriot/Skip Schumaker as semi-big arbitration cases, per Cot's Contracts, the focus is Pujols, followed, perhaps, by Rafael Furcal (option was bought out) and the unlikely-to-return Octavio Dotel (option also bought out).

But if the team does that, there's zero left in the tank for any "splashes" in free agency otherwise. And, there's need in the middle infield, of some sort.

But, if they don't re-sign The Machine, they'll need to look at SS and 2B needs more carefully. Yahoo's Jeff Passan has out his annual version of the free-agent tracker, and unlike ESPN's, it's not paywalled, so let's take a look at who the Cards could pursue either way.

Personally, I'd try to re-sign Furcal on the cheap first. I'm not a Theriot fan, and even though he pushed to get him, by the end of the year, neither was Tony La Russa, apparently. Give  something OK in arbitration and go from there, or let him walk, too?

OK, if they pass on Skip and Ryan both, would they pay a few $$ more for Kelly Johnson? For the record, I am not a fan of Tyler Greene, even as a "hole-patcher," getting more significant time at either SS or 2B. After Johnson, 2B falls off a lot in free agency.

SS? Jimmy Rollins and Jose Reyes are the name players. Realistically, they only come in the picture as part of Plan B if the Cards don't re-sign Pujols. After them, free-agents at SS fall WAY off. So, realistically, that means re-signing the bought-out Furcal or calling somebody up from Memphis, if the Cards re-sign Pujols. Of course, if you look at the Cardinals' list of top 10 prospects, you'll see nary a middle infielder there. If not? I'd look for Reyes first, before Rollins, as well as going Kelly Johnson and putting Skip back in the OF as the fourth outfielder while Lance Berkman moves to 1B. Realistically, though, with Lance indicating that possible retirement is why he wants to go year-to-year, that's not a good option.

And, outfield free agents are fairly thin, too.

So, what this means is that, if Mozeliak won't pay, or even "overpay," to keep Pujols in a thin free-agent market, he's either going to overpay for a middle infielder or else gamble that with the return of Adam Wainwright, his pitching staff is so great that he can try to cut corners for a year. 

And, in order of for whom I'd prefer to see overpaid, factoring in how much they're likely to be overpaid, Pujols would be first. Under Plan B, Rollins would narrowly edge out Johnson, primarily because he won't command that much, leaving money available for other things.

Besides, looking beyond 2012, Mozeliak will get more flexibility. Lohse's a free agent and won't be back. Westbrook is an option that likely won't be picked up, or will be bought out, depending on its terms. Shelby Miller will be ready to come up from Springfield by then. Jaime Garcia's locked up through 2015. So, 2013 is a "gravy year" on contracts. If Berkman does another one-year deal, it will be for no more than this year.

2014? Carpenter's gone, in all likelihood, and probably retiring. Wainwright will want, and get, big money. But, with Carp gone (four of the Cards' top five prospects after Miller are pitchers), that leaves Carpenter's money to go to Pujols' contract. 2015? Garcia's still signed, as is Matt Holliday. Younger outfielders like Allan Craig and John Jay will get raises in arbitration, but not huge ones.

Besides, as I've said elsewhere, Mo, you'll make it up in ticket sales. If not re-signing Pujols costs you 200,000 in regular-season ticket sales at $20 a pop, that's $4 million right there. Add in, on average, one home playoff game a year not played at all, with 50,000 fans (roughly) at $30 a pop, and that's another $1.5 million.

So, Mo ... Albert Pujols is worth $5.5 million in ticket sales. Add that to the $16 million he made last year, and right now, you're at $21.5 million. An additional $3.5 million per year, given what I spelled out, should be easy to find.

#Cubbies: Will Ron Santo finally get in the HOF?

For years, Cubs fans have insisted that legendary heels-clicking 3B Ron Santo should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. And for years, I've pushed back, though I have started to soften. This year, per Yahoo Sports, he could be the most likely "veterans commission" candidate to get in.

First, he arguably tops the list of eligible players.

Second, Brooks Robinson is on the selection committee. And favors Santo's admission.

That said, Ken Boyer is on the ballot, and I've also said before he's not that much below Santo overall. Where do you draw the line? More discussion of Boyer's chances/deservingness here.

Of the others on the veterans' list? Luis Tiant would get the most support from me, as a Catfish Hunter equivalent or better, though I really would prefer to vote out Hunter.

Gil Hodges? No. Everybody else among players on that list, no.

I could, though, see voting in Charlie O. Finley as an exec. Possibly Buzzie Bavasi, too.

November 02, 2011

I was JOKING about Ryno to #Stlcards

In my blog post a couple of days ago about Tony La Russa retiring, I said, in essence, with all the talk about the Chicago Cubs trying to sign Albert Pujols in free agency, wouldn't it be funny if the Cards made a managerial play for Cubs 2B legend and former Iowa AAA manager Ryne Sandberg. I was joking; the Cards apparently aren't.

Whoa, would that be weird or what? And, seriously, if David Eckstein is right that hiring Jose Oquendo would help keep Pujols in Cardinal red, what is John Mozeliak thinking?

Well, Mo was serious that he would search far and wide for TLR's replacement. Guess Terry Francona should indeed stand by the phone.

And, although he's not signed (yet?), is Prince Albert being given any vetting rights over managerial interviews, per Eckstein's comment?

Bernie Miklasz isn't joking about Francona. Think: He could join TLR and Sparky in the 3WS club and the WS in both leagues club. Unless he really, really wants a break, he has to be interested.

My personal take? Francona is more than just the "safe" candidate. He's got anger from being kicked to the curb by Boston and could parlay that in St. Louis. Sandberg is intriguiging as a second option. Oquendo? Unless that's absolutely the only way to re-sign Pujols, no. As others have pointed out, on baserunning decisions, he's been a bad 3B coach off and on for years. And other than Eckstein talking him up on the Pujols angle, he's never been mentioned as managerial material.

There are other options, too, like Tampa coach Dave Martinez. Terry Pendleton, who had hoped to succeed Bobby Cox, is another good one. GM John Mozeliak will probably take the rest of this month to work through all of this. Francona isn't likely headed to the Cubbies, so Mo has time.

Here's a list of several possibilities.

Maddon's not coming; the Rays won't release him from his contract and an "interim manager" thing doesn't float my boat.

November 01, 2011

Shermer's latest libertarian pseudoskeptic fail - anti-OWS

Hey, Skeptic's Guide to the Universe contributors and others!

I again rightfully tee off on a Skepticblog blogger for writing libertarian politics under the guise of alleged skepticism. This time, it's Michael Shermer, writing a long, extended sneer about Occupy Wall Street. He concludes with five points, summarized below:
  1. Why has no one from Wall Street gone to jail for the financial meltdown? Bill Maher has asked this question several times on his HBO show Real Time. I have asked many experts myself, including economists, lawyers, and Wall Street traders. Answer: no one went to jail because they didn’t break any laws....
  2. What, exactly, did these Wall Street people do that was so wrong? Well, for one, the protestors seem to think that they are too greedy. T..
  3. The Wall Streeters accepted bailout money that they shouldn’t have gotten. Yeah, well, whose fault is that? What did you think they would do? Turn the money down? Heck no! ...
  4. Wall Street CEOs and their resident COOs, CFOs, traders, and the like, make too damn much money, hundreds of times more than the gap used to be between the highest paid and lowest paid members of corporations. Emotionally I am once again sympathetic to the Occupy Xers: the amount of money some of these guys makes is obscene, and the income gap between them and us is Grand Canyonesque in yawning abyss. But what’s the number? How much is too much income? $1 million? $10 million? $100 million $1 billion? $10 billion? Is it really the job of some government agency to set a ceiling on how much anyone is allowed to make? Would any of my readers care to pick a number and defend it? And what if it is a number well under Bill Gates’ income? ...
  5. The government should regulate Wall Street more. I agree that all competitions must be regulated by a well-defined set of rules. ... But from where I sit as an average Joe the Skeptic position of modest income who tries his hand at stock market trading in figures infinitesimally smaller than the Big Boys, it all looks like insider trading to me—from the Wall Street CEOs to the Beltway politicians appointed to look after them, who seemingly trade jobs and hold their positions no matter who is in power, Democrats or Republicans. Obama has drunk the Wall Street Kool Aid no less than Bush did. They all do. The entire system is corrupt, in that sense. Once you allow the players to dictate who enforces the rules of the game, the game is over. It would be like Barry Bonds being appointed Director of the Steroid Drug Testing Agency overseeing baseball to insure a fair contest, while he is still playing the game! 
My response, point by point:
Re Shermer, and posting in response to Mark so I can get at the top of the comments heap.

1. This is a flat lie. Nobody's gone to jail because governments have so far brought only civil cases. That in no way means that crimes weren't committed. Fallacy of unexcluded middle, colloquially speaking, and other logical fails here. How selective were you of whom you asked these questions, Shermer?
2. The crimes they committed? Fraud. I don't care what Moody's said on ratings, these folks knew the "products" weren't that good; that's why Sachs sold its own clients short and bet against those same subprime alphabet soup products. And, speaking of ... that itself is break of fiduciary duty, which I believe can be criminally as well as civilly tried.
3. There is no such thing as "real capitalism" except in the nonexistent nighttime wet dreams of libertarians. Reality is that greed will lead every time to economic systems being rigged. Reality No. 2 is that Adam Smith based his "invisible hand" on the "wind up the universe like clockwork" deity of Enlightenment Deism. Multiple world wars, the Holocaust and atomic bombs have shown in one way that such a deity doesn't exist; the quantum theory behind those atomic bombs have shown that in another, even more complete way.
4. We "pick numbers" all the time with progressive tax brackets. I'd be more than happy to add additional tax brackets with rates of 50 percent or so to our current tax structure, Shermer. Geez, what a nutbar statement this is. I'll wait for Shermer to officially defend a flat tax next.
5. You assume all non capital L Libertarians are part of a two-party system, I guess. Well, I and many other Greens and Socialists also know Obama drank the Kool-Aid. Fortunately, the Greens' first announced presidential candidate, Dr. Jill Stein, looks very good. (Google her.)

My answer on bailouts was the one true progressives proposed all along, Shermer -- the Swedish answer of nationalizing the banks. If there had been no bailout at all, sadly, you and I wouldn't be arguing your stupidity level right now. The correct answer was bailouts with many more conditions.

To put it another way and show further just how fallacious Shermer's "reasoning" is: In 1888, five prostitutes were killed in grisly fashion in London slums. But, because nobody was ever arrested, no crimes were committed, right?

It's clear that Shermer's violated the No. 1 principle of skepticism, approaching a new subject with an open mind. Instead, he went to Zucotti Park to see what he wanted and expected to see.

Now, regular readers of this blog know that I'm far from a blank-check fan of Occupy Wall Street myself, and that I'm nowhere near a fan of two of its backers/boosters, Adbusters and Anonymous. But, I do believe the anger is legitimate and motivated by real causes of criminal malfeasance.

Beyond that, Shermer's underlying guiding principle, Adam Smith's "invisible hand," is simply wrong.

On the "invisible hand," there's good evidence that Adam Smith was influenced by the "wind up the universe and let it run like clockwork" deity of Enlightenment Deism.

The existence of such a deity has been directly refuted by quantum theory, above all the uncertainty principle. It's been indirectly refuted by things like two world wars, the Holocaust, and atomic bombs linked to that very same uncertainty principle.

It's "amazing" how people like Shermer never want to discuss this. (Other than trying to deny that Enlightenment Deism is what influenced Smith, and I find those arguments unconvincing.)

UNESCO has morals on #Palestine; the US doesn't

Now, UNESCO's had its share of problems over the years and decades. A decade ago, it was the hands-down winner as the UN's most kleptocratic agency. It also had a reputation for anti-Semitism, which complicates its action yesterday.

Nonetheless, it must be applauded for the principle of admitting Palestine as a member nation Monday.

Likewise, the Obama Administration U.S., in what cannot merely be ascribed to electoral politics pandering, given what the al Jazeera papers have shown about American one-sidedness, has cut off all future funding for UNESCO.

U.S. petulance, though, was exceeded by that of Israel:
Before the vote, Israel's outspoken foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, said that if the measure passed, Israel should cut off ties with the Palestinian Authority. It was not clear whether he was voicing government policy.
Even France has morals, voting Yes instead of abstaining. Of course, this is part of Sarkozy's drive to improve French power in the Mediterranean in general. However, even if some sub-Saharan African country can be accused of anti-Semitism, that's a harder charge to level at France.

And, for both Israel AND its Religious Right wingnut supporters in the U.S.,this will have fallout:
Even if the vote's impact isn't felt right away in the Mideast, it will be quickly felt at UNESCO, which protects historic heritage sites and works to improve world literacy, access to schooling for girls and cultural understanding. One of the first concrete results of Palestine's membership could be that the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is listed as a world heritage site; the Palestinians have already prepared an application for the traditional birthplace of Jesus.
Guess what, Christmas and Easter pilgrims? You're going to be dealing with some new folks.

Meanwhile, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki says he has enough votes to win Security Council approval for membership. Given the UNESCO vote breakout, he may be right. France has shown it won't veto that, which leaves the U.S. and the U.K.

October 31, 2011

#StlCards manager TLR retires

I wondered about this a week ago, as it looked like the St. Louis Cardinals had a shot to win the World Series. I thought that, even though he had a chance to pass John McGraw into No. 2 on the all-time managerial wins list by staying one more season, Tony La Russa had a chance to go out a winner.

And now he has.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a full roundup of stories, starting here.

Several issues.

GM John Mozeliak mentioned the team's desire to resign Albert Pujols. Given that Pujols was perceived as a TLR player, even a Tony La Russa-babied prima donna (over the post-Game 2 media no-show) will this further decrease the odds The Machine returns? I'd say yes, by 5 percent or so, depending on how soon a new manager is named and who that person is.

La Russa didn't mention his long-time "caddy," pitching coach Dave Duncan. But, given Dunc's wife's health, surely he's moving on, too. In fact, he may already have privately hinted that.

And, theoretically, the Cards have a good lineup in 2012 without Prince Albert. David Freese at 3B for hopefully a full, healthy year. Lance Berkman is your 1B. Matt Holliday, Allan Craig and John Jay are your OF. With Adam Wainwright back, the pitching staff is solid indeed in starters, and Jason Motte, starting the year as closer, is going to get better.

So, Mo could spend the "Pujols money" on stabilizing the middle infield with an A-list SS or 2B. I've previously suggested Jimmy Rollins IF the price is right. But, his initial demand show that the price is currently far from right.

Next, and, it's got to be said ... steroids. More below the fold.

October 30, 2011

Is there such a thing as atheist fundamentalism?

One of the newer bloggers at Freethought Blogs tries to claim there isn't.

In the sense of a "creed," true, there might not be such a thing as atheists fundamentalists. But, in the sense of atheist evangelistic fervor, including willingness to misread/misinterpret polling data and other things, ohhhh, yes there is!

And, from P.Z. Myers on the sexuality of Gnu Atheists on to Penn Jillette, Al Stefanelli (who posted the linked story on Google Plus), Center for Inquiry and MANY others either ignorantly or else deliberately confounding/confusing "irreligious" with "atheist" on sociological polls, Gnus do exactly this An.

The specific column does its share of twisting in other ways.

1. Theistic evolution doesn't "deny" evolution. I personally think a deity is superfluous to the process, but, there's no way of PROVING that. And, if a proposed deity's interventions were generally on the rarer side, on the non-massive amount of change side, and especially if said deity weren't necessary omnipotent or omnibenevolent, wouldn't deny evolution at all.

2. It assumes that "fundamentalist Christianity" = "Christianity." Common, often deliberate, tactic of Gnus. Many liberal Christians (though perhaps still not often enough and forcefully enough) not only separate themselves from fundamentalists, but denounce their tactics and beliefs. And, no, Mr. Atheist Fundy, religious moderates and liberals do NOT accommodate them.

3. It assumes that "Western/Middle Eastern monotheism" = "religion." Given that Hindus plus Buddhists in the U.S. likely now outnumber Muslims and perhaps Jews, and given that, worldwide, Hindus plus Buddhists are approximately equal to Christians, this is a huge error. And, then, you have a Sam Harris multiplying the cheating by trying to claim Buddhism is "just a  psychology."

4. Like other Gnus, this one in particular is a fundamentalist, psychologically, for another reason - he's not open to discussion and argumentation beyond the straw person level.

And, that's why I don't engage Gnus too much myself. It's also why "atheist" is far and away from being my only philosophical self-descriptor, and why I can see "apatheist" has attractions for many.

That said, one commenter on the blog does correctly note Gnu Atheism as an "identity movement." Anyone who knows the sociology of identity movements knows that they often wind up headed to Trotskyist purity drives, a secular fundamentalism indeed. Trotskyist socialism itself as well as Randian economics are two clear examples from the 20th century, and yes, both are "fundamentalist" movements.