December 31, 2012

Jon Chait STOPS fellating Obama, becomes bigger hack

Exactly two months ago, political insider Jonathan Chait wrote a big steaming pile of blather with this headline: "The Case for Obama: Why He Is a Great President. Yes, Great."

It included such dreck as this:
Obama can boast a record of accomplishment that bests any president since Roosevelt, and has fewer demerits on his record than any of them, including Roosevelt. 
And dreck that is indeed.

Says who?


Not just me, but ... Jon Chait!


Exactly two months later, he writes, with this headline: "Why is Obama Caving on Taxes?" and proceeds to excoriate Dear Leader up one side and down the other.


That includes this closing paragraph:

Obama may think his conciliatory approach has helped avoid economic chaos. Instead, he is courting it.
That's a Loooong ways away from "great," isn't it?

Well, the second Chait is right. But, refusing to let even 10 percent of that thought into a political puff piece two months ago (Note: Obama's biggest achievement, allegedly, Obamacare, actually is Nancy Pelosi's doing) shows just how much a hack he is.


But, really, he's a representative of a type. In days ahead (whether the House approves the "fiscal slope" deal or not) you'll see others like Chait, neoliberal but not quite as conservative as Dear Leader, and still clueless as to how bad an executive leader he is, similarly burn rubber and strip clutches at the strenuousness of their change-of-direction rethinking about O'Bummer.

I'll bet we soon smell similar burned-out clutches from Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, Markos Moulitsas at Daily Kos, Steven Benen at Washington Monthly, and Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, among others.

In order of hackery, Kos is right there with Chait, as is Benen, a consistent Democratic Party fluffer. Marshall at times ranks higher on the snootiness level, though.

And, even IF the House GOP approves this ... a definite if ... this is only a two-month Band-Aid. Why?  The "great" Dear Leader didn't get a debt ceiling long-term fix as part of the deal.

In any case, let's see exactly sort of Ricky Ricardo "splaining" they do.

My 2013 predictions in news, culture, etc.

Note any international readers: These are largely US-based, but still may have a bit of international play.

1. The so-called "fiscal cliff" will finally get a deal on ... wait for it ... Jan. 7. Stock market will continue to sag, but not totally tank until that date, therefore undercutting the Pete Petersons of the world. Both Republicans and Democrats will do some can-kicking, postponing many details for discussion — until after the 2014 elections. GOP will "bite" on what was originally the offer by President Barack Obama, aka Dear Leader, for "chained CPI" on Social Security, and pressure Senate Democrats to "lump it."

And, yes, I know, there's claims that a "deal" is just around the corner, as of 7 p.m. Eastern time Dec. 31. Read a story like this, though, and you get a Swiss cheese of caveat holes.

2. Speaking of that, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will make only minor changes to filibuster rules.

3. President Obama will offer only relatively minor changes in whatever gun control legislation he sends to Congress, and will make the announcement of such legislation itself relatively mild. (As in sending it to Congress after 5 p.m. on a Friday.)

4. Angela Merkel's coalition, the unwieldy one, will fall apart in Germany sometime this year over a mix of resentment toward the eurozone's south, the Free Democrats' stance on nuclear power, and a general weariness.

5. John Kerry will become US Secretary of State. Rep. Edward Markey will win the special election to replace him in the Senate.

6. Chuck Hagel will ultimately withdraw his name from Secretary of Defense consideration after lack of support from Obama. At this point, I won't even venture a guess over who's next on Obama's list.

7.  India's rape-murder tragedy will be the last straw for its current government ad will force parliamentary elections some time in 2013. The Congress party will suffer disastrous losses. The new BJP government will get more aggressive against both native Maoists and Pakistan. The BJP will not improve the lives of Indian women, though.

8. Climate change legislation will not even get considered by the US.  But, the European Union will hold firm on its airline carbon taxes.

9. The Texas Legislature's new budget will not only be more hardcore antiabortion, it will tighten the belt on health care for the poor and have no major new money for schools. The fact that Texas Parks and Wildlife is still soliciting for we the taxpayer to make direct donations underscores this prediction. (And, no, I won't make a donation myself; it's called "enabling the wingnuts" — as in a spouse/lover enabling an alcoholic/addict.)

10. The state of Texas will lose the school finance lawsuit while the Lege is in session, but even with an expedited appeals route, appeals will not be done in time.

11. The state of Texas will lose all its appeals and, shades of the past, have to have multiple special sessions of the legislature before passing an acceptable school finance bill.

12. The US will sell drones to South Korea, which will escalate tensions with China, both directly and vis-a-vis Japan.

13. Britain's Liberal Democrats, for reasons unknown, will remain in coalition with Conservatives.

14. Bradley Manning will eventually accept a crappy plea-bargain deal, while the British government and Julian Assange will remain at deadlock all year.

===

Culture

1. "Lincoln" will win Oscars for best actor, director, producer, cinemetography and possibly screenplay.

2. Some rock star past the age of the 60 will become a father.

3. The Minnesota Orchestra (management) will refuse to settle its strike/lockout with its musicians and the season will be washed out. 

4. Fox will announce plans for a new late-night talk show.

5. PBS will revamp "News Hour."

7. Whether to Europe or Native Americans, a number of US museums will make major repatriations of art and artifacts.

8. John Adams will start work on a new opera.

My 2013 predictions in sports

For any international readers I have, these predictions are largely, but not entirely, US based.

1. The St. Louis Cardinals will win the World Series. (Hey, I always predict that.)

2. Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell will get in the baseball Hall of Fame. None of the roiders will; even the two kings, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, will fail to pass 50 percent, though at least two other candidates will. (One, I've already reviewed, another, days ahead.) Jack Morris will fall just short  of 75 percent, leaving one more year to fight against his candidacy. (Read through recent blog posts of mine for detailed assessments of several candidates, or visit this blog post for an overview of all.

3. The Denver Broncos will win the Super Bowl. Peyton Manning will NOT retire afterward.

4. Jason Garrett will remain the Dallas Cowboys head coach.

5. The Miami Heat will repeat as NBA champs, defeating the Los Angeles Clippers in the finals.

6. The NHL will officially cancel its season, some time around Jan. 15. It will not settle the current impasse until late enough into 2013 to cause an abbreviated 2013-14 season.

7. Tiger Woods will not win a major championship in golf this year. Rory McElroy will win the Masters, post one other top 5, one top 10 and one top 20 in the other three majors. He will win four tournaments overall, maybe more, and repeat as player of the year. Two of the other three majors will have first-time winners. Tiger will win three times overall, but miss at least one cut. He will remain ranked No. 2, but at least as far behind Rory as he is ahead of No. 3.

December 28, 2012

Edgar Martinez — Hall of Fame for #Gar or not?

Edgar Martinez as a possible Hall of Famer is a tricky one indeed.

First, if you get the "luxury" of playing DH, you have to do better on both sabermetric stats and especially on counting stats than you actually did, I think.

There was some controversy, or discussion, at least, when Paul Molitor was elected. That said, he wasn't a career DH; in fact, he played the majority of his games in the field until he was 34. He still played 600 more games than Martinez.

Now, Baseball-Reference reflects that, in giving him, on a second-generation sabermetric stat, a big -139 on runs from positional scarcity. With no glove to offset that (although arguably, no glove to worsen WAR, either), that's an issue.

Then, there's that game-playing.

In blogging about the HOF chances of Dale Murphy, I've talked about how he struggled with nagging injuries later in his career. Yet, he played more games than Martinez. If you're a career DH, and you have trouble with missing games, that's another issue.

And, so, Martinez's counting stats aren't that high. And, given the lineup Seattle had many years (for example, in 1996, A-Rod, Ken Griffey Jr., Jay Buhner) coudn't he have done even better on either RBIs or runs, among other things?

It wouldn't crush me if he never got in. But, for never having a single WAR season above 7.0 or WAA above 5.0, his case simply doesn't persuade me a lot.

Now, a little background to my Hall of Fame blogging —

I am a "small Hall" guy. In fact, I think there's plenty of people we should vote back OUT of Cooperstown. Here's some pitchers, and some batters, looking just at the modern baseball era, who need the boot.

Oh, and while you're here, please vote in my poll.   

And, click the  "MLB Hall of Fame" tag for more on other candidates on this year's ballot and my thoughts.


December 27, 2012

Larry Walker — injuries, Hall of Fame shot? #stlcards mainstay

Larry Walker with his sweet swing,
from Game 1 of the 2004 World Series.
More than Don Mattingly, and even more more than Dale MurphyLarry Walker to me illustrates the issue when a very good player fights injuries that shorten his overall career and also cut into games  per season.

I say "more" and "more more" for two reasons.

First, Walker was better than Mattingly and definitely better than Murphy. Somewhat better as a batter and much better as a defensive player.

Second, Walker had a variety of chronic, nagging, neck/back injuries that underscore the "injuries" issue.

(Disclosure: In case you either haven't read much of my baseball blogging or the hashtag didn't tell you, I'm a big St. Louis Cardinals fan. But NOT a "homer." Previous posts on Mark McGwire show that.

First, the basics.

Walker has 141 OPS+, 48.3 WAA, 69.7 WAR, 59.6 oWAR and 1.5 dWAR.

Mattingly: 127 OPS+, 17.7 WAA, 39.8 WAR, 36.9 oWAR and -6.8 dWAR.

Murphy: 121 OPS+, 16.3 WAA, 42.6 WAR, 44.9 oWAR and -7.6 dWAR.

If we're comparing just the two outfielders, let's add that Walker got his WAA, WAR and oWAR with fewer games than Murphy, making his per-162 average a LOT higher.

And so, Walker breaks the plane of the end zone on both Hall of Fame Monitor and Hall of Fame Standards at Baseball-Reference. Mattingly and Murphy do only on Monitor.

But, there's that injuries problem. It kept Walker to just 2,160 hits. He still had nearly 400 HRs and more than 1,300 runs and RBIs.

So, at that point, I'm ready to lean in his favor.

But, there's one issue I didn't yet mention.

Let's look at a few of his sabermetric stats, by team, for his career:

                                         
                  BA  OBP  SLG   OPS OPS+
COL (10 yrs)    .334 .426 .618 1.044  147
MON (6 yrs)     .281 .357 .483  .839  128
STL (2 yrs)     .286 .387 .520  .908  134

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/27/2012.

Yes, he played the peak of his career there, but, just a peak-years issue isn't all.

Larry Walker, more than Dante Bichette or Todd Helton, even, is arguably a beneficiary of pre-humidor Coors Field.

Additional proof? He moved from Colorado to St. Louis in the middle of a season in 2004. His OPS in Colorado? 1.093. In St. Louis? A still-nice, but much lower, .953.

And even with something as obvious as this, B-R fans think he's the 42nd best player of all time? Either there's a lot of Rockies "homers" voting, or a few Cards "homers," despite the lateness of his career time there, or else more B-R fans are more sabermetrically illiterate than I thought.

So, he's probably more near No. 75 on player lists, and right now, he's on the borderline of the borderline for the HOF, in my book. I wouldn't say an absolute "no" to him, but I would not at all be upset, either as a Cards fan or as a baseball fan, if he didn't get in.

Now, a little background to my Hall of Fame blogging —

I am a "small Hall" guy. In fact, I think there's plenty of people we should vote back OUT of Cooperstown. Here's some pitchers, and some batters, looking just at the modern baseball era, who need the boot.

Oh, and while you're here, please vote in my poll. 

And, click the  "MLB Hall of Fame" tag for more on other candidates on this year's ballot and my thoughts.

What's next for EPA with Jackson leaving?

Lisa Jackson/via New York Times
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson's announced resignation isn't really surprising. It is the start of a new term, but, there's more than that.

As the story indicates, Dear Leader undercut the EPA, especially after midterm elections, and for the political goal of his own re-election this year. That's why, over the past two years, we've seen a variety of EPA standards postponed, rewritten or otherwise softened.

Well, Obama got his re-election win. So, will he take a tougher line again?

Not too likely.

The bottom line is that he is, indeed, a neoliberal, and further environmental work by his second-term administration will be business-friendly. (That's except for any stimulus money that gets in a fiscal cliff bill; there will be no solar industry money, you can count on that.)

The bottom line No. 2 is that Obama just isn't that environmentally minded of a person. He's done bupkis on National Monument creation, for example. The National Park Service's centennial will occur during his administration, and so far, we have heard bupkis from Dear Leader and Interior Secretary Kenny Boy Salazar (who, notably, has said nothing about leaving his job) about celebration plans, let alone a special funding push similar to the NPS' "Mission 66" leading into its 50-year anniversary.

So, don't hold your breath, environmentalists. And, staunch environmentalists, don't believe anything you hear from Gang Green groups, either.

GOP demographic woes may be worse - racial or religious?

Whoa, the GOP may be in even greater demographic trouble than even many of us progressives have thought. Here in Texas, there's an old election saying that: 1 white = 2 blacks = 3 Hispanics. It's overstated, but it's based on historical differences in voter turnout. Well, according to Pew, nationally, 1 white now equals 1 black.

Now, as the chart shows, the difference in black-white turnout rate has been gradually, very gradually, narrowing for some time.

But, in this election, it really narrowed.

So, the obvious next question is "why"?

Two words come immediately to mind, and they are: "Mitt Romney."

Why do I say that? Black voters continued a steady uptick but white voters, who are overall, Republican voters, declined.

(It is true that some white liberals, as well as some black liberals, stayed home rather than either voting for Obama or thinking about Green candidate Jill Stein, but those numbers are probably small.)

So, why did white Republicans stay home?

One possible reason is that, due to his wealth, offshore bank accounts, etc., Romney did turn off some tea partiers who saw him as part of the problem more than part of the solution.

The second (and the two aren't mutually exclusive) is that conservative evangelicals, especially tea partier ones who believe all the Muslim lies about Obama, weren't and aren't ready for a Mormon president.

If it's the former, then any Republican candidate in 2016 who's not a current political office-holder, but instead, has cashed in on political connections, may be a GOP liability.

If it's the latter, then it may not be a GOP demographic issue but a religious one. (That said, are some of those conservative evangelicals still unreconstructed anti-Catholics? I'm sure the numbers are smaller than anti-Mormon ones, but, nonetheless,  it could be a small issue. Food for thought for Santorum and Gingrich, among others.)

Anyway, whatever the cause, the turnout rate issue would partially (other than pure hubris on Team Romney's part) explain why the Romney camp and Rasmussen Reports polls, among others, blew the election. In either case, I wonder if they even thought about polling for the possibility of a Mormon  "Bradley effect"?

Kenny Lofton — will he get much HOF love?

Even more than a previous blog post where I compared Dale Murphy and Dave Parker, Kenny Lofton stacks up pretty closely to Tim Raines, whose HOF chances, and qualifications, I analyzed here.

That said, Lofton has several problems Raines doesn't.

First is what is normally a deal-killer for me. At just 107, his OPS+ is below 110, and that's a baseline snap judgment tool for me. That in turn primarily reflects much worse BB/K ratio than Raines. He also is not quite as impressive on the stolen bases front.

However, on the flip side, Lofton won multiple Gold Gloves and deservedly so. His career dWAR is well into positive numbers.

On the third hand, though, his black and gray ink figures are even skimpier than Raines' numbers. Plus, whatever sort of peak he had seems even shorter — and earlier in career — than Raines.

That second one could hurt. People see you start well, but then you don't hit another gear, and they start to write you off a bit.

A second hurt? The number of teams for which Raines played. Since admission is based on baseball writers, many of whom work for specific newspapers in specific cities, not having a "home city" will probably hurt Lofton a fair amount with voters.

On "deserving," I'm not sure whether he's a legit candidate or not, but, really, I'd put him just a skoosh behind Raines.

On "likely"? I doubt he'll get in. I doubt that he'll break the 20 percent mark in this, his first year.

Oh, and please vote in my poll!  

And, click the  "MLB Hall of Fame" tag for more on other candidates on this year's ballot and my thoughts.

December 26, 2012

Christian existentialism, Ground of Being, Christmas and faith

Three columns finally led me, at my philosophy blog, to put together some in-depth refutation of liberal theological mush, as I call it.

I blogged about the first and second separately over there, respectively about the Grand Inquisitor and about ev psych proving the need for religion. But, Maureen Dowd letting her column be hijacked was the last straw, so I took it plus the two previous posts to go in depth about the Ground of Being here.

To me, there's an analogy. Much as I like the Green Party, one can't logically demand that conservatives "support the science" on global warming, then turn around and "support the pseudoscience" on anti-vaxxer claims and such.

Ditto, one can't demand that conservatives be honest about what biology has taught us vis-a-vis fundamentalism and then be less than honest about what evolutionary psychology has and has not taught us about religious belief, and what the likes of Chomsky and Wittgenstein have taught us about the use of language.

Two of the three columns, the first of the two about which I blogged previously, and Dowd's priest, were both writing about Newtown. And, that's the ultimate angle.

Some Facebook dialogue helped me to see more of where I was really heading with this post, especially vis-a-vis Dowd's priest, who was writing in light of the Newtown mass shooting.

And, beyond criticizing the Ground of Faith or Christian existentialism, it's a warning shot related to that old Gnu Atheist word "accomodationism."

Sometimes, that's not a four-letter word, but potentially an actual problem for some secular humanists. My answer to that is that secular humanists can challenge liberal Christian as well as conservative Christian theodicy, but in a non-arrogant way. More details on that are at the third link.

Tim Raines — Hall of Fame or not?

Tim Raines, now that Bert Blyleven is in the Baseball Hall of Fame, has become a focus for some sabermetrically inclined fans as to the next "overlooked" candidate who should be in the Hall.

And, to be honest, I'm of two minds about Raines, now in his third year on the ballot.

One of the newest stats is Wins Above Average. It goes Wins Above Replacement one better in that it compares the player in question to a theoretically average MLB player rather than, with WAR, a player theoretically just called up from AAA ball. (That said, I do NOT like Baseball-Reference's WAR7 stat because it's not based on consecutive years and therefore, theoretically, does not measure a "peak." That then said, I'd like a P-WAR5, or a P-WAA5, where we had a five-year consecutive peak — I think seven is too long — based on either WAR or WAA, preferably the latter.)

Anyway, an eyeball on HOF candidates, and some lower-level members of the HOF, says that 35 WAA is probably about the cutoff line on this new stat.

And, Raines is right there.

OK, let's look at the case for and against him. (And please, any commenters, do not cite that Lou Brock is already in the HOF as a way to boost Raines' candidacy. I know Brock is an iffy HOFer, and were it not for the single-season and career stolen base records he had at the time, along with 3,000 hits as a counting stat, he might not be in there now. And, as a Cardinal homer, I can say he probably shouldn't be, or definitely shouldn't be without those then records.)

But, at the same time, Brock makes a handy comparison.

Raines has a better stolen base percentage. He has a much better BB/K ratio, a much better on-base percentage, and slightly better slugging even while having the fewer strikeouts. And, while neither was great in the outfield, Raines wasn't as bad.

The biggest negative is he has less black and gray ink than Brock does. And of course, for both of them, most the black and gray ink comes in the stolen base category.

All in all, I'd say Raines is deserving of the Hall. At the same time, if he has to wait another year, I wouldn't be crushed by that. On the third hand, dependent on some voters changing their minds on roiding, if he doesn't get in this year, it could be a long wait.

Note: This is part of a series on HOF candidates. I've already tackled Dale Murphy, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens in context of roiding, and a bit of Jack Morris, who I've covered extensively in the past, as I have Edgar Martinez. (I've said "no" on both ... with multiple exclamation marks on Morris.) Click the "MLB Hall of Fame" tag for more on other candidates.

Now, a little background to my Hall of Fame blogging —

I am a "small Hall" guy. In fact, I think there's plenty of people we should vote back OUT of Cooperstown. Here's some pitchers, and some batters, looking just at the modern baseball era, who need the boot.

Oh, and while you're here, please vote in my poll. 

And, click the  "MLB Hall of Fame" tag for more on other candidates on this year's ballot and my thoughts.

December 25, 2012

Bye, bye West Antarctica?

It looks like warming amounts of the West Antarctic ice sheet have been undermeasured. (And shock me that climate change deniers have claimed just the opposite.) Here's what might be happening ahead:
In the summer of 2005, the interior of West Antarctica warmed enough for the ice to undergo several days of surface melting. 
Dr. (David) Bromwich is worried that this could eventually become routine, perhaps accelerating the decay of the West Antarctic ice sheet, but the warming is not fast enough for that to happen right away. “We’re talking decades into the future, I think,” Dr. Bromwich said.

I would like to be that optimistic, but what if Bromwich is too optimistic?

Joe Romm gets blunt about what climate change without major, near-term intervention could cause.

And, I don't think Romm is being too scary. A warming on land of 3C by 2050 is quite likely, I think, per his links and others I've read. That's at best a "few decades," not counting any tipping points.

December 22, 2012

To be, or not to be, a #GnuAtheist #Grinch

I have been thinking more and more about Tom Flynn of the Center for Inquiry and his Gnu Atheist Grinch post.

In a nutshell, Flynn says atheists should not celebrate Christmas, no way, no how, not even in its secularized form in modern America. 

Flynn could see this as a great way to write about science, as I did, from astronomy and celestial mechanics down to human evolutionary biology, as well as celebrating someone who was some sort of humanist.

But, nooo ... we get another Gnu Atheist proving himself to be a village idiot atheist.

The man sounds like a Gnu Atheist Scrooge! And, it got me wondering just what else he might want to forgo because it has a religious connotation.

So, Tom, will you refuse to eat kosher food, simply because it's been killed in a certain style for religious reasons? Will you stop eating Easter eggs, because of their Christian background which in turn came from pagan fertility thoughts? Likewise, will you stop eating the chocolate Easter bunny?

Do you refuse to say Gesundheit because it derives from superstition? 

Even worse? He's so pedantic to dislike the current calendar because of its pagan-god names for days and months. No, really:
As I’ve written elsewhere, I got kind of psyched for the French Republican calendar when Madalyn O’Hair tried to bring it back in American Atheist magazine some years ago. (Happy first of Ventose, by the way.) But it would be seriously deficient for adoption today. For one thing, it has the same problem as a calendar that the Winter Solstice has as a holiday: it’s not applicable to today’s global society. The month names are tied to the climate in the northern temperate zones. For example, the current month, Ventose, means “snowy.” One of the summer months is Fructidor, which means “fruitful.” Good luck getting the folks in Rio to embrace that!
Wow. (He got his Revolutionary French months screwed up, but later corrected that.) Anyway, even the godless Communists, in their Russky incarnation, still kept religious names for days of the week when they made a new calendar.

More seriously, and tying to ideas I often go into in more depth at my other blog, will you stop listening not only to "Silent Night," but also the "Messiah," or Mozart's "Requiem"? What about Alfred Schnittke's "Requiem," written by an apparent unbeliever in the Soviet Union?

The first time I heard "Messiah" live was when I was either a junior or senior in high school, and it was also my intro to a major symphonic group, as the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, under principal guest conductor Raymond Leppard, was playing it.

Well, I think the night before the performance I went to, he was interviewed on St. Louis' classical radio station. And the announcer asked him a question along the lines of, "How can/do you, a secularist, perform this piece?"

And Leppard said something about "the human spirit."

And, in hindsight (which I certainly didn't have at the time) that epitomizes the secular humanist vs. the stereotypical Gnu Atheist.

At the time, I didn't get it.

The son of a minister who had just gone back to seminary for his doctorate of theology, in the main conservative denomination within Lutheranism, I just didn't get it.

It took a bit after I made my journey to atheism more than a decade later, in fact, to get it. While I wasn't a GnuAtheist type, nonetheless, I couldn't see how one could appreciate the "human spirit" of a clearly religious work, from a secularist angle.

But, even before reading the likes of a Scott Atran or a Pascal Boyer on the evolutionary biology of religious belief, eventually my atheist thinking matured and I did "get it."

So, whether it's "Messiah," Bach's "Magnificat," or a requiem, either by Mozart, Schnittke or Brahms, I can appreciate the human spirit which dealt with serious matters of life and death through magnificent musical works, or also works of art.

And, to the degree I feel these creators had the wrong answers, I can nonetheless sympathize with their drive, even empathize, and also feel a bit ... pensive? poignant? about that all.

December 21, 2012

Perry loses AGAIN on women's health — as does state

In Waco, US District Judge Walter S. Smith has just ruled that the US Department of Health and Human Services can indeed stop sending money to Texas if Gov. Rick Perry and his GOP numbnuts keep trying to put Planned Parenthood out of business, essentially, by changing how it operates the Women's Health Program.

It's a sad turn of events. But, the legal ruling is certainly expected.

Perry and Greg Abbott will of course appeal.

I assume they'll lose at the appellate level, and then SCOTUS will refuse to grant cert.

So, soon enough, we'll be at eyeball-blink time. What will Tricky Ricky do?

Answer? If the Lege is still in session, he'll stay the course, and won't go back to previous funding. He doesn't want a tea party firestorm. If we're after the end of May, who knows.

Texas to lose its oil perch?

Fracking has expanded production in the Permian Basin, and gone on to open the Eagle Ford play for oil as well as gas. That, combined with the decline of the North Slope in Alaska, moved Texas back into the No. 1 slot among oil states a few years back.

But, the same modern techniques may make that perch short-lived. And, no, it's not North Dakota that's threatening.

Instead, the Golden State may be the new kingpin for black gold.

A shale play near Monterey, Calif., could have double the reserves of Eagle Ford plus North Dakota's Bakken combined.

Of course, as the story notes, Californai has strong environmental  laws. How much that will affect Monterey production, I don't know.

But, with California's population and refineries, you know oil companies are just itching to get at this.

At the same time, this has to be another concern for global warming issues. It certainly means that oil prices won't go so high as to discourage too much SUV use in the US, or the growth of car ownership in China and India.

Adjusting for inflation, if the Monterey play starts development any time soon, I'd say oil will stay below $110/bbl for the rest of the decade.

But, that's a big if. The Center for Biological Diversity has already annouced plans to sue. That area is also the home of wine grapes, strawberries, Gilroy-area garlic, and more. That alone will slow development.

And, it's also the home of earthquakes. Given that fracking already seems pretty well connected to some small earthquakes, fracking in close proximity to the San Andreas Fault sounds scary as hell. It also will be challenging, I'm sure.

Also, even if this bonanza leads us to meeting all our oil needs domestically, that still doesn't insulate the US from world oil issues.

December 20, 2012

The real Obama - he was always there


Obama's latest sellout reminded me of some of my photoshopping from a few years back. I did this on Shepard Fairey's own iconic photoshopping. It has a 2012 campaign companion photo here.

No, I'm not being too harsh on Obama. Wake up, folks. Vernon Jordan took him on a dog-and-pony show before a bunch of Wall Streeters way back in 2003 for their USDA Prime seal of approval. (He got it.)

You Obamiac types are still "projecting" your wish fulfillment on him. You "my Democrats right or wrong," as I've said before, are "enabling" Obama like a spouse or lover enables an alcoholic or addict.

So, stop posting your Daily Kos and Salon links on Facebook. If you want any chance of stopping Obama's Social Security sellout, the only way is by dealing with the Republican devil.

Yeah,  I know, he's actually a genius. Secret plan to end the war, too, and all that.

Of course, exactly two years ago, he was a genius in the same situation, right? Only it wasn't even the same situation, because the GOP didn't yet control the House. Yet, somehow, Dear Leader managed to turn the Bush tax cuts into the Obama tax cuts with almost nothing  of note in return.

December 19, 2012

Bummed over #OBummer and Social Security? A modest solution

I love that Democratic friends of mine on Facebook are saying "call your Congressman" over Dear Leader's proposed cuts to Social Security. (This doesn't mention a possible increase in the Medicare retirement age, or whatever else is in his magic box of rocks, either now, or in 2014 when Fiscal Cliff Part Deux hits the shitscreen.)

Now, why would I do that?

O'Bummer is surely already leaning on Hairy Reed, aka Harry Reid, to take back any hint of possible opposition he has expressed to this idea.

You want to try to stop this effing train wreck?

If you're a Democrat, whether "Democrats always, right or wrong," an independent-minded Democrat, an independent-minded left-liberal of sorts like me, or whatever, there is a Plan B.

Especially if, like me, you live in a red state.

DO call your Republican Congresscritter or Senator.

Tell him (it's very unlikely to be a her) that you oppose this deal because it's not good enough. For example, if you're here in Texas? Tell John Cornyn, Lamar Smith, even Gohmert Pyle if you have the stomach, to hold out for more. Tell them to buck John Boehner.

That's the only way this gets stopped.

Of course, there's a hell of a risk.

And, if you aren't still wearing rose-colored glasses, you know that risk.

It's that O'Bummer finds even more stores to give away.

And, it is a real risk.

Why?

Because he's a liar. He's telling a tacit lie that Social Security has something to do with the deficit.

That's not just me saying that.

Ronald Reagan (and remember how much Obama likes him?) says so too:






The GOP — Plan B vs. Plan B

So, here's your GOP cheat sheet, as Carrot Face, John Boehner, pushes a "Plan B" to avoid a fiscal non-cliff. Plan B is fine when it imposes deficit austerity and screws the poor and middle class. Plan B is horrible when it's a birth control pill to prevent tragically unwanted effects of screwing among the poor and middle class.

It's all about who's been screwed, when, where and why.

John Cornyn gets an "F" in US history

Hear's what US Senator John Cornyn (R-Wingnut), soon to become Texas' senior wingnut US senator, said about his retiring colleague, Kay Bailey Hutchison:
This is an historic moment for many reasons. We are paying tribute to an extraordinary woman who has made history by being the first female United States Senator, and someone who spent the last two decades fighting for commonsense values here in our nation's capital. 
Rather, per the Senate's own website, Rebecca Latimer Felton had that honor back in 1922. Indeed, Hutchison is only 22nd in seniority.

Whether this is more due to "everything's bigger in Texas" or what, I don't know. But, for a US Senator to be that ignorant of Senate history, women's history in the US and more is just unbelievable. Of course, this just opens him to further charges of not really caring about women, women's rights, etc.

And, yes, he does say that, himself, about 1 minute in. That's not a staff transcription error. (His staffer on press emails commented back, "first in TX." Not acknowledging her boss screwed up.)

Speaking of, boy he sure does look "heartfelt" in his farewell, doesn't he?


December 18, 2012

Obama's Social Security sellout is starting - let the lies follow

Yeah, yeah, Obamiacs. Tell me how "he's better than the alternative." Tell me about how his hands are tied, etc.

And, I'll respond with reality.

So will Ronald Reagan, who also, to put it politely, sets Obama straight, or to put it bluntly, calls him a liar:



Obama's already caving on how COLAs will be calculated for Social Security. And he's also caving on the Bush Obama tax cuts ending, changing the baseline from $250K to $400K.

And, we're nowhere near a "deal" or Jan. 1, 2013 yet.

What's next?

Raising the retirement age?

Raising the Medicare eligibility age?

And what of substance is the GOP giving back?

Have we heard anything about raising rates on capital gains? Closing top-end loopholes?

No and no.

Simpson and Bowles will probably get invited to a White House press conference about the Catfood Commission's stamp of approval before that happens. Stand by for Dear Leader to continue compromising away the compromise.

Krugman says he's not sure on the deal parameters so far, and, he's not mentioning what else could be in the mix before we're done. Ezra Klein says it is indeed possible it will include Medicare age hikes.

So, I will actually be in the reality-based community.

Where the Obama-based community will be, I don't know.

Beyond a backstabber, he's a liar, if Social Security is being put in the mix in order to cut the deficit. Because we all know that FICA taxes have nothing to do with the deficit. Period. End of story.

Therefore, Obama acting as though they do? He's a liar. Sorry ... no other word for it. He's not claiming it's to help Social Security's solvency. Rather, it's part of a deficit/debt deal in the general budget, therefore he's a liar.

Will Harry Reid stand by his pledge last month to reject any "deal" that includes Social Security, or will he become a liar, too? Stay tuned. His most recent verbiage have him at least halfway firm, but, White House pressure to do any deal before Christmas will probably get hot and heavy.

For a realistic idea about what to do to try to stop this, go here.

If you're going to elect Dale Murphy to the Hall of Fame, you gotta ...

With just weeks left until this year's Baseball Hall of Fame announcement, beyond the special splash this year of speculation of how many votes recently retired alleged roiders will get, there's the annual push to get Dale Murphy and Jack Morris in the Hall of Fame.

This post is about the Murph, so ...

Let's look at the Murph's stats.
                                                                     
R         H  2B 3B  HR  RBI  SB  CS  BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
17       40   9  1   4   14   1   1   2   27 .288 .308 .453 .761  111
27       62  10  3   4   29   3   3  10   53 .282 .322 .409 .731  108
75      172  35 10  25  101   8   6  38   89 .308 .357 .541 .898  149
82      168  28 10  13   90  19   7  30   80 .313 .349 .475 .824  133
107     215  44  8  21   88  17  19  58  107 .338 .397 .531 .927  145
102     194  32 12  30  117  20   7  57   92 .334 .394 .585 .979  166
109     193  45  7  25   94  20   4  67  101 .310 .380 .526 .906  140
71      153  31  1  17   79  10   7  25   69 .295 .327 .458 .785  115
29       62  14  3   9   48   6   2   9   25 .258 .287 .454 .742  105
41       66  19  3   6   29   7   5  22   45 .270 .330 .447 .776  113
68      154  29  4  12   69  12   9  28   89 .279 .311 .411 .722   97
73      173  28  0  16   94  11  10  41   89 .285 .328 .410 .738  104
88      198  42  4  34  125   5  13  52   80 .312 .365 .551 .916  149
89      174  31  3  31  116   1   6  56  126 .273 .330 .477 .807  117
77      149  28  0  26   97   7   3  44  104 .253 .311 .433 .744   92
43       97  18  1  12   55   0   1  32   70 .257 .314 .406 .720  103
56      146  27  0  22   97   0   0  38   91 .264 .308 .432 .741  110
71      176  30  3  21   92   4   7  41  102 .289 .330 .451 .781  118
47      120  26  2  11   59   3   3  33   98 .239 .288 .365 .653   81
45      108  22  2  11   56   3   2  29   91 .232 .279 .358 .638   76
2        12   4  0   0    3   0   1   4    7 .333 .400 .444 .844  130
1272   2712 526 75 339 1493 154 113 683 1537 .290 .339 .471 .810  121

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/18/2012.
Nice, solid numbers, eh?

Now, a few of you may be scratching your heads at this point. Those of you really familiar with his stats know they're not his.

No, they're not. They're Dave Parker's numbers.

Here's Murphy's.

                                                                    
R         H  2B 3B  HR  RBI  SB CS  BB   SO   BA  OBP  SLG  OPS OPS+
3        17   6  0   0    9   0  0   7    9 .262 .333 .354 .687   91
5        24   8  1   2   14   0  1   0    8 .316 .316 .526 .842  112
66      120  14  3  23   79  11  7  42  145 .226 .284 .394 .679   80
53      106   7  2  21   57   6  1  38   67 .276 .340 .469 .809  113
98      160  27  2  33   89   9  6  59  133 .281 .349 .510 .858  135
43       91  12  1  13   50  14  5  44   72 .247 .325 .390 .716  100
113     168  23  2  36  109  23 11  93  134 .281 .378 .507 .885  142
131     178  24  4  36  121  30  4  90  110 .302 .393 .540 .933  149
94      176  32  8  36  100  19  7  79  134 .290 .372 .547 .919  149
118     185  32  2  37  111  10  3  90  141 .300 .388 .539 .927  152
89      163  29  7  29   83   7  7  75  141 .265 .347 .477 .824  121
115     167  27  1  44  105  16  6 115  136 .295 .417 .580 .997  157
77      134  35  4  24   77   3  5  74  125 .226 .313 .421 .734  106
60      131  16  0  20   84   3  2  65  142 .228 .306 .361 .667   89
60      138  23  1  24   83   9  3  61  130 .245 .318 .417 .735   99
38       81  14  0  17   55   9  2  41   84 .232 .312 .418 .731   96
22       57   9  1   7   28   0  1  20   46 .266 .328 .416 .744  105
66      137  33  1  18   81   1  0  48   93 .252 .309 .415 .724  103
5        10   1  0   2    7   0  0   1   13 .161 .175 .274 .449   26
1         6   1  0   0    7   0  0   5   15 .143 .224 .167 .391    1
1197   2111 350 39 398 1266 161 68 986 1748 .265 .346 .469 .815  121


Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/18/2012.
Just not quite as good as Parker's, are they? The biggie career stat, OPS+, is a virtual tie. Counting stats? Parker's well ahead in most.

But, surely, Murph was affected by injuries in part. And, surely, with 2 MVP awards — shades of Joe Morgan! — he was the more valuable player.

I won't argue there.

Here's the Murph's career number on a few sabermetric stats:
                                  
RAA    WAA RAR  WAR oWAR dWAR oRAR
140   16.3 412 42.6 44.9 -7.6  445

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/18/2012.

And here's Parker's:
                                  
RAA   WAA RAR  WAR oWAR  dWAR oRAR
44    6.7 354 36.3 37.9 -15.5  375

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 12/18/2012.

So, Murph WAS more valuable, yes. But, enough more valuable, not only in comparison to Parker but the HOF hurdle, to offset a relatively short career, and various injuries, and get in?

I say no.

If you use injuries/short career as an "out," then ... you have to elect Don Mattingly! Without me collapsing and formatting tables, just click his link along with Murph's. Mattingly had similar counting stats, and similar WAA and WAR, in an even shorter career.

(Sidebar: Murphy's dWAR shows that arguments for his admission based on part on his defensive prowess are overrated, too. And Parker was even more overrated.)

Anyway, that's the "you gotta" from the header. If you're going to elect Murph, you gotta elect the Cobra, or at least give him some serious consideration. (And, sidebar, you really gotta elect Mattingly, then). Because their careers almost exactly overlapped, comparing their Wins Above Replacement and Wins Above Average is very relevant. And, because they were both outfielders, the same goes for dWAR.

Now, related to that, why doesn't Parker get the HOF love Murphy does?

I'll be blunt.

I think it's a black and white issue, pun very much intended.

Related to that Parker was dirty — cocaine dirty — while Murphy was squeaky clean. Related to that, Parker was an irritating personality, while Murphy was ingratiating.

So, if you're the type of person who says we're worrying too much about actual, alleged, or possible roiders, or gamblers, and we shouldn't necessarily keep those types out, I'll do reverse intellectual judo and say, don't give an extra bump to somebody just because he's a nice guy.

Now, on point No. 3, on Murphy-Parker differences, some people make the same claims as to why Jim Rice took so long to get in the HOF. Well, first, he doesn't belong there. But, a Murphy-like campaign got him in. His personality has nothing to do with it.

And, I grew up in the 70s, too. And, to be honest, perhaps also reflecting personality differences, but perhaps also reflecting baseball ... I never feared Murphy at his peak the same way I did Parker.

Now, a sidebar, picking up from the top.

Morris, I've covered before. Shorter case here: He is not even close to Bert Blyleven, so those of you making this claim, stop it. Reality is that he's the worst 250-game winner in the history of baseball. He is at best no better than Early Wynn, who shouldn't be in the Hall himself, probably, and who definitely shows what happens when you rely too much on one single "counting" stat.

My two quick and easy reference stats for pitchers are ERA+ and WHIP/9. If your ERA+ for your career is above 110, good. If the career WHIP is at or below 1.25, good. If you only clear one of two hurdles, not good.

Well, Wynn and Morris both miss both hurdles. Pretty clear that one's a fake HOFer and the other shouldn't be let in. Blyleven, on the other hand, clears both hurdles with ease. Or, to put it another way, Blyleven's WAA is higher than Morris' WAR. Sabermetric types know that's a HUGE difference.

So, if you compare Black Jack to the Hotfooter on this blog, I'll kick you in the cybernads. Period.

Now, a little background to my Hall of Fame blogging —

I am a "small Hall" guy. In fact, I think there's plenty of people we should vote back OUT of Cooperstown. Here's some pitchers, and some batters, looking just at the modern baseball era, who need the boot.

And, click the  "MLB Hall of Fame" tag for more on other candidates on this year's ballot and my thoughts.


Oh, and while you're here, please vote in my poll.

Dallas Morning News comes out of the marriage closet

I had missed this, and a Dallas Facebook friend or two hadn't told me about it, but the Dallas Morning News, last Sunday, ran a house editorial explicitly supporting gay marriage.

Wow. Just wow.

That said, Snooze op-ed columnist Bil McKenzie wrote an in-house column also supporting gay marriage back in 2010. Of course, that's different than a house editorial. The Morning News is not a wingnut paper. But, I'd still call them officially "conservative" as far as op-ed tilt.

Here's the heart of the editorial:
We respect that some religious traditions see same-sex unions as an affront to their canons, scriptures and traditions. The First Amendment protects such places of worship from being compelled to conduct same-sex marriages. Additionally, the justices should take care to carve out strong and significant protections so that the institutions’ religious liberties, for instance their tax-exempt status, are not circumscribed.
In 2004, this newspaper opposed a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. We have backed efforts to outlaw discrimination against employees based on sexual orientation. Now, we believe that the Supreme Court should conclude that equality under the law includes the right of gay couples to wed.
What’s at stake before the Supreme Court is how a secular society should respond to the growing demand for same-sex marriage. That is where Olson’s arguments seem so persuasive. How can a secular government grant marriage rights to some but not others?
Go read it all.

And pass it on to your red-state friends.

ESPN Bill James BOTH wrong on Steve Garvey

I don't care if Steve Wulf of ESPN says that Bill James says that Steve Garvey should have been in the MLB Hall of Fame 15 years ago, because they're both wrong.

Yes, the 70s and 80s were low-offense eras, and he played in Dodger Stadium. Still, a 1B with less than 300 HRs and barely 1,300 RBIs? Plus, he didn't deserve a single one of his Gold Gloves. I guess Mr. Sabermetric Guru Bill James missed that he had a negative dWAR every one of his Gold Glove seasons.

He was NOT "an excellent fielder."

Here's the reality. A career Wins Above Average of 7.0. Zero WAR years above 5. That's not even close to a HOFer. I mean, while Keith Hernandez also isn't a HOFer, he's a hell of a lot closer than Garvey.

Hernandez would at least, realistically, make my Hall of the Very Good. Garvey? He wouldn't even get to breathe that room's air.

I grew up in the 70s. In New Mexico. Got KTLA on our cable. Saw Steve Garvey (while hearing Vin Scully). Saw minor leaguers move up from AAA Albuquerque.

And. I. Never. Never thought Garvey was a HOFer. Never.

Anyway, here's the crux of Wulf's stupidity:
But he's also one of the great players from that period who have been hurt by the inflation of statistics fueled by the increasing use of PEDs, which happened to coincide with the HOF eligibility for the earlier era.
Well, maybe that's true for writers who aren't sabermetric-friendly.

But Wulf, and James, both know that WAR and WAA are measured only against a player's peers on the field from year to year. So, to the sabermetrically minded who are also sabermetrically honest, we know that Garvey isn't deserving.

And, per the comments thread, I think James was touting as well as predicting. And, he's been wrong on other touts.

Stuff like this is also why I turn to Yahoo Sports for real sports news and to ESPN, with exceptions here and there, for laughs.

ESPN is better on golf still, I'd say. But, on the major sports? Not even close.

Oh, and despite his guru-like status, this is far from the first "howler" out of Bill James' mouth, too. Indeed, in the same article, Wulf quotes him as touting Dave Parker and Dale Murphy. Both are better candidates than Garvey, but no better than Hernandez, if that.

As for Parker, I think that reflects my stance that James was touting, not predicting. Anybody who looks at Parker vs. Dale Murphy and was a fan back then knows that Parker carries more "personal baggage" than Tim Raines or Jim Rice, as I blogged about.

And, with Murphy, it's clearly an emotional choice.

Anyway, can't some people simply accept the contributions Bill James has made while at the same time not putting him on such a pedestal?

(Beyond this ESPN piece, Dick Allen is another player that James gets TOTALLY wrong on touting — yes, touting, not predicting — him as a HOFer.)

And, click the  "MLB Hall of Fame" tag for more on other candidates on this year's ballot and my thoughts. 

Also, per the commenter below, Bill James gets Jack Morris very wrong. And Bill Mazerowski, too, if James really claimed he was the greatest defensive player of all time.

Walmart: Aggressive and crereative corrupter

The New York Times has a big new series of articles apparently coming out, picking up on reporting from April, about Walmart's briberies in Mexico.

Here's the nut grafs from the intro piece:
The Times’s examination reveals that Wal-Mart de Mexico was not the reluctant victim of a corrupt culture that insisted on bribes as the cost of doing business. Nor did it pay bribes merely to speed up routine approvals. Rather, Wal-Mart de Mexico was an aggressive and creative corrupter, offering large payoffs to get what the law otherwise prohibited. 
How much, how bad?

We're not talking a few thousand dollars. Nor a few tens of thousands.

Just a little ways into the story, if you're adding the bribe amounts mentioned, you already roll the money odometer past the million-dollar mark.

There's also a culture of corruption. Walmart allegedly never paid bribe money itself, directly, to elected or appointed government officials. Instead, it used a group of ... well, fixers! And ones apparently known to be good at their work. Which then leads one to wonder just how much Walmart knew about them, in terms of advance research.

Anyway, the article is long, but good.

December 17, 2012

I'll personally kick Obama in the nads if ...

If this rumor/speculation is true and Tim Geithner is his choice to replace Ben Bernanke to run the Fed.

Incompetence, Peter Principle, arrogance, ego, elitism, etc., etc ... dammit, I'm running out of adjectives to describe Geithner.

But, William D. Cohan lays out a strong inside-the-Beltway case for Little Timmy both wanting, and probably getting, the job:
The usual list of highly qualified candidates to replace Bernanke -- including Lawrence Summers, the former Treasury secretary and Harvard University president; Janet Yellen, a current vice chairman of the Fed; and Alan Krueger, the precocious chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers -- misses the person who probably wants it the most and continues to have Obama’s ear on a regular basis: Geithner.

Last spring, Geithner told Obama he wanted to leave Treasury as soon as possible and return to New York so that he could rejoin his family, while his youngest child was still in high school. But Obama prevailed on Geithner to stick around until after the election. And he remains in Washington to help Obama negotiate a deal on spending and taxes with Congress. 

Had Geithner been serious about wanting to leave town, he probably would have thrown his hat into the ring to become president of Dartmouth College, his alma mater. But that position went to Philip Hanlon, the provost of the University of Michigan, without Geithner’s name being mentioned. Expect Geithner to seek a short-term sinecure at a liberal think-tank, such as the Brookings Institution, or to return to the Council on Foreign Relations, or to cash in as an adviser to a hedge fund (as Summers did at D.E. Shaw & Co. after he left Treasury) while he awaits the possibility of getting nominated as Fed chairman. 
Doorknob help us all ... the Fed will be cutting all sorts of backdoor deals with the banksters. Even more so if Jaime Dimon is named Geithner's replacement at Treasury.

That said, be honest. Even if you're an off-the-boards Obamiac, would such a move really surprise you?

The only possible condolence is that he might be better at the job than Summers. But, you know? I'm not even sure about that.

December 14, 2012

So how much was Seward Lincoln's eminence grise?


Seward: Lincoln's Indispensable ManSeward: Lincoln's Indispensable Man by Walter Stahr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Excellent read, especially in light of the new Lincoln movie

I had never read a full bio of Seward before, and this was great.

First, looking near the end of his life, I did not know he was such a conservative on Reconstruction. Indeed, while not a racist like Andrew Johnson, he fully supported the generally conservative nature of his approach. He appears not to care much for the fate of post-war Southern blacks, and also, ironically at least, fretted about too much federal intervention in states' rights. It made me wonder if he would have tried to influence Lincoln that way, had Lincoln lived.

Oh, and other things that kind of connect to the Lincoln movie?

Apparently, a fair amount of bribery was used to get the treaty of purchasing Alaska approved by the Senate; shades of 13th Amendment passage. (And, speaking of, which the movie doesn't tell us, Kentucky's Rep. Yeaman? Was named minister to Denmark for his vote swap; that's a pretty big payoff.)

Anyway, beyond that, it's stuff like this, and other stuff by Seward's "Karl Rove," Thurlow Weed, that make this a very good read.

View all my reviews

===

Meanwhile, related to my posts about the Lincoln movie, some of its issues with historical nuance and depth, and Lincoln's claw-like attachment to colonization, makes one further wonder just how much different Lincoln would have been from Andrew Johnson on Reconstruction. Maybe he, like Seward, would have found the Freedman's Bureau too much government meddling. Would have rejected Reconstruction military districts.

I don't know. We do know that he pocket-vetoed the Wade-Davis bill, which called for stringent Reconstruction.

Czechs in West, Texas now have St. Nick


It's the "real" St. Nicholas in West, Texas. And, this is also the "real" to do high dynamic range photography without overdoing it. It took me no more than 10 minutes or so to get this right, to make a creative, dynamic photo without overdoing the HDR effects.

This weekend is the last weekend for West's Christmas festival. It's the first year for Christmas-related Czech-themed activities in the small town just north of Waco, which for years and years has had a Labor Day Czechfest.

So, if you're anywhere in the area, and want some good small-town East European "ethnic" holiday fun, with kolaches, sausage and shopping, you know where to go.

For other photos from the area, hit this photo album of mine.

Hutchison going wingnut on 'saving' Social Security

Over the past several years, Kay Bailey Hutchison had developed and cultivated an image as a moderate conservative Republican, that is a non-wingnut conservative.

As she heads toward retirement pasturelands, she seems determined to gut that.

The latest? Her plan to "protect" Social Security.
I have put forth a plan, the Defend and Save Social Security Act, to preserve and strengthen Social Security.  My approach is sensible, fair, and easy to implement.

First, as Americans live longer, it makes sense to increase the retirement age gradually – without impacting those who are about to retire.  Under my bill, anyone who is currently 59 years or older would not be affected.

For everyone else, both the normal retirement age and early retirement age would increase by three months each year, starting in 2016. That means the normal retirement age would reach 67 by2019, 68 by 2023, 69 by 2027 and 70 by 2031. The early retirement age would also be gradually increased to 63 by 2019 and 64 by 2023.
Reality? Kay Bailey Cheerleader is all wet in numerous ways.

First, as anybody who knows one iota about Social Security knows, FICA taxes have zip to do with the general budget, and so does Social Security's expenditures.

Second, life expectancy is more and more nearly plateauing.

Third, related to that, life expectancy may already be flat for anybody not in the 1 percent.

But wait, that's not all! Any year the COLA would be above 1 percent, her act would trim 1 percent off the COLA.

Of course, the Big Question is not about KBH — it's about what sort of "negotiations" Dear Leader will do with allegedly "sensible conservatives" like her.

December 13, 2012

Hamilton to Angels - time for that all-LA Freeway Series

Josh Hamilton/ESPN photo
Well, it didn't take the Los Angeles Angels very long to get over losing Zack Greinke. They just signed Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton for 5 years, $125 million.

First, the batting order? Mike Trout followed by Hamilton and Albert Pujols, in whatever order? Crap, that's a killer order. Throw in anybody else you want. Kendrys Morales had half a comeback last year, at least, from his broken leg and complications. Mark Trumbo will surely become more of a contributor. Vernon Wells just has to not be a fuck-up. Of course, he could soon be on the trade block, if he doesn't at least hit .260, depending on how much of his salary the Angels will eat. I mean, he's clearly the fourth outfielder, unless Mike Scioscia tries to move Trumbo to 3B. (That said, he did play a few games at the hot corner last year; it's a possibility they try to move him there permanently.) If Erick Aybar and other position players just "maintain," this is clearly the best offense in baseball.

And, the Angels can move Hamilton to RF, with Trout in center, to boot. This gives them hands-down the best defensive outfield around, overall, too.

Second, the deals?

Hamilton for 5/125 is, in my opinion, definitely a better deal than Greinke for 6/147. So, I think the Angels, by this deal and by stealing from within the division, are first in line for that potential freeway series.

Yes, Hamilton had issues this past year, while any issues that Greinke has had appear to be in the past. Yes, Hamilton is three years older.

Nonetheless, besides his top year, Hamilton has three other years of 3 WAR or more, including one 5-WAR year. Besides his top year, Greinke only has one other 3-WAR year. Related to that, Greinke has, really, a one-year peak; maybe a two-year, if you also count 2008. Meanwhile, throw out Hamilton's bad 2008, and every year he's played has been 2.5 WAR or better.

Finally, I think the fresh start will help. True, LA might be an issue of sorts for Hamilton, with his substance abuse history, rather than Greinke with his social anxiety, which is further in the past.

However, with Pujols there, Hamilton doesn't have to be the No. 1 bat. With Trout there as well, he doesn't even have to be the No. 2.

The Dodgers, on the other hand, signed Greinke to be their ace. Unless the trade they made with Boston last year shows dividends, spotlight's on him as leader of their pitching staff.

Intl court: El-Masri was tortured

It's about time this is on the record. The European Court for Human Rights has officially ruled that Khaled el-Masri was kidnapped by Macedonian police, apparently tortured by them, then "rendered" to the CIA and certainly tortured by it in some way, all a case of badly mistaken identity under the War on Terror.

It's nice his case has been legally recognized, and that he's getting a bit of compensation.

On the other hand, who cares, really, about the government of Macedonia having to pay 60K Euros? El-Masri needs to do intellectual judo on the War on Terror by taking a page out of the US War on Drugs, and start filing for asset seizure forfeitures of US property abroad.

December 12, 2012

Leave it to ESPN to fluff Greinke — a No. 2 starter

So, the Ddodgers decided to pay nearly $25M per year, or clear No. 1 starter money, for a guy in Zack Greinke who, except for one year in 2009, has never shown better than No. 2 numbers, if that.

The Baseball-Reference numbers tell us that, out side of 2009, Greinke has never had more than 3.5 WAR. That's No. 2 starter territory, and borderline at that. Yet the fluff machine at ESPN is all over touting how he's worth  every penny. 

Add in that Greinke's career year was three years ago, going on four and, IMO, he's never going to be more than a No. 2 starter. Yes, they're a big-market team in LA, adn doesn 't spending work? Look at the Yanbkees, right? 

Wrong. The Yankees spent and spent and spent from the mid-80s to the mid-90s and went nowhere.

I'll bet Greinke never busts 4 WAR in a year in the first half of the contract and never busts 3 WAR in the second half.

Assuming that's the case, with a payroll already likely to be at $220M next year, and assuming this means Clayton Kershaw gets at least $30M a year if the Dodgers want to keep him, I can see monetary sand being pounded down ratholes right now.

Comparing the two pitchers? Kershaw has, year in and out, had a higher Wins Above Average than Greinke has had Wins Above Replacement. That's a HUGE difference.

I just haven't gotten the sports media's "love" for Greinke in general. ESPN is the worst on this, but I think he's generally been overrated.

It's not just that the Dodgers have an actual No. 1 in Kershaw. Grienke might have been a default No. 1 with the Royals or the Brewers, but he simply is not an "ace."

Update, Dec. 13: The Angels, meanwhile, made a better deal in landing Josh Hamilton.

Big Brother may be spying on your bus ride

Photo via Wired.
Is Wired promoting a conspiracy theory mindset, or should there be a legitimate concern? Related to that, is it being too alarmist (as in stereotypical media) about how it raises such concern?

Given that at least some of the money is from DHS, first, that's one reason to be legitimately concerned. Second, having the surveillance hyper-visible is often something deliberate, whether just to get people more mannerly, or to deliberately remind them of Big Brother, or to even encourage snooping.

Third, remember the school district that was remotely viewing students via laptop cams? True, that was not the "public square" and this is; nonetheless, it does raise some parallels.

As for the ideas raised under my "second" point, I raised the issue of the Overton window when a friend posted this on Facebook, before I shared it. And I was accused of pop-sociology bullshit.

Sorry, but I disagree. In matters of propaganda and similar, the government has, in WWI, WWII, the War on Drugs, and the War on Terror shows a repeated desire to shift the window on what it wants the public to consider as legitimate surveillance, whether the legitimacy factor is one of legality or one of ethics. In the War on Terror, let's not forget waterboarding, warrantless wiretaps, drone warfare with kill lists and more. And, again, let's not forget that on all but the first, Obama has pushed that window further than Bush.

And, per "public square" arguments that say the government has a right to do this, whether Big Brother is the government (in this case) or Big Business, "legal" does not equal "ethical."  Per Wired, the fact that in one case, a local government had constitutional worries show that this isn't being overhyped.