October 27, 2012

Counterfactual history: Taft wins in 1952


Robert A. Taft/Wikipedia photo
Just how much different would American history have been in Robert A. Taft, not Dwight D. Eisenhower, gotten the Republican presidential nomination in 1952, then gone on to beat Adlai Stevenson in the general election?

A lot in at least a few ways, and at least moderately different in a number of ways. For the sake of this counterfactual story, I am also going to assume that cancer does not kill him in 1953.

First, the lot of organized labor might actually be better. You may be saying “Huh?” if you recognize Bob Taft as one half of the Taft-Hartley anti-labor bill. But, by two or three years after it had been passed, he reportedly thought it had swung the pendulum too far, especially in terms of the amount of government intervention involved, and actually tried to modify it. However, the House and Senate couldn’t agree on one version.

So, +1 for Taft so far vs. Ike.

Second, we likely would not have a military-industrial complex. He would have gotten an end to the Korean War on the same terms as Ike and then, per his libertarian tendencies, would have fought to end the military draft. Along with that, he would have fought to cut general defense spending.

Now +2 for Taft.

Third, we wouldn’t have had the Cold War, at least not in the same degree. Again, in part due to his libertarian stance on many issues, he was not a fan of the Red Scare. Along with that, he would have cut Joe McCarthy off at the pass long before Ike did.

Let’s call it +3.

Fourth, Earl Warren likely wouldn’t be chief justice. As Dewey did in 1948, Taft in 1952 probably would have named him, not Dick Nixon, as Veep. That, in turn, affects the future Supreme Court hugely. And, it affects the civil rights movement along with it.

Oops, we’re back to +2.

Fifth, Taft would have at least tried to fulfill his pledge to roll back the New Deal. He probably wouldn’t have been completely successful, but probably would have gotten enough Southern Democrats to roll back fair portions of it. Social Security, even, might have been trimmed. It certainly wouldn’t have been expanded to include people like farmers, as Ike did in blatant GOP politicking.

Now, we’re back to +1, if that.

Now, some political futures.

First, I’m going to assume that Taft not only is not killed by cancer in 1953, but serves out his full term and is renominated.

However, the anti-New Deal push, plus Cold War fears being ratcheted up by Democrats, make him vulnerable. Stevenson is seen as damaged goods, since he didn’t lose to a war hero like Ike, just to Taft. So, who do the Dems choose?

Maybe Averill Harriman, who actually got last-minute backing from Harry Truman in the real 1956 Democratic race? Or Estes Kefauver wins after all? I’ll hypothetically say Harriman, with Eastern Establishment members of both parties backing him, to beat Taft.

But, with a Democrat now in the White House … the push for civil rights (with no unanimous Brown ruling of 1954 because of no Chief Justice Warren) heats up, and winds up making Harriman vulnerable in 1960.

That, in turn, leads to a more nuanced version of the 1964 GOP primaries getting moved up to 1960. Many Republicans favor Rocky, but others rally to Goldwater because an all-New Yorker race seems off-putting. (Dick Nixon is toiling away in the Senate still.) Goldwater gets the nod, loses to Harriman, but not as badly as to LBJ.

Result? No big mandate for a Great Society or a massive civil rights push.

Having way failed to get the presidential nomination for son Jack in 1956, Joe Kennedy tells his son to wait until 1964 rather than challenge the incumbent president in 1960 in a Democratic party battle. Jack, faithful to the legacy of his stroke-incapacitated dad in 1964, runs himself, but without all of h is dad’s connections, has to cut a deal with LBJ on the second ballot to get the nomination.

With civil rights on a speeding –up slow burn in 1964, and a Massachusetts senator seen as uncaring and a Texas senator seen as a southern racist, Rocky gets the GOP nod, wins handily, and serves two terms, with Nixon as Veep.

The Kennedys never get the same legacy as in real life. Bobby loses to Humphrey in the 1972 primaries. The Hump beats Nixon who, under the eye of Rocky, can’t do too many dirty tricks.

I won’t extend my alternative history further than that, but it’s an interesting concept at least.

Let’s not forget this could have a second option — Taft dies in presidential office of his cancer after all, and Earl Warren becomes president.

#Cardinalnation — #Stlcards look in good shape for 2013


What will Trevor Rosenthal's role, and spot on the team,
be for the 2013 Cardinals??St. Louis Post-Dispatch picture
On Thursday, I blogged about the St. Louis Cardinals’ 2012 season. Near the end, I said they looked to be in generally good shape for 2013, and how they probably didn’t need to do much in the free agent market. Today, I’m going to detail that more.

First, Cot’s Contracts has a list of potential 2013 free agents.

Second, here’s the Cards’ contract obligations for years ahead.

A couple of thoughts, combining both what I think the Cards need to do about salaries of some current players, their situation with current players, and what I think they should and should not do with free agency.

1. I’m not looking for any pitchers, if I’m the Cards. There’s young arms — Lance Lynn, Trevor Rosenthal, Shelby Miller — who are good for a few years. Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch agrees. Which of them starts the year in St. Louis, and whether as a starter or in relief, will make for a fun spring training.

2. I am looking at extending deals for two arbitration eligible pitchers — Jason Motte and Mitchell Boggs, followed by MarcRzepczynski, then Kyle McClellan

3. I’m waiting until spring training to decide what to do with either Chris Carpenter or Adam Wainwright, both of whom are free agents in 2014. Assuming Waino’s arm looks even better, I’m looking at a long-term deal for him. On Carp? No more than two years plus one mutual option year — a retirement deal. Jake Westbrook? Either extend his relative bargain contract two more years, or else look to trade him if the deal is right.

4. Position player free agents? A Mark DeRosa, or a Placido Polanco if willing to accept the likelihood of not starting, for a solid utility infielder, for a “veteran presence” on the infield, with Lance Berkman likely gone. Maybe a Ryan Ludwick for outfield depth, although the Reds have a $5M option on him, or possibly Ichiro, though the Yankees will pay about any price for him, I bet. Beyond that, Carlos Beltran, like Carp and Waino a 2014 free agent, gets a spring training health look, with decision on contract extension then. I would not chase a Torii Hunter, whom the Angels will pay lots for and will probably regress this year. If the Angels don’t resign him, the Rangers may try to snag him as a Josh Hamilton replacement. In any case, he may well be out of the Cards’ range and not worth the price.

5. Trades? If the Matt Carpenter era is here at second base, Skip Schumaker is indeed trade bait. I’ve already mentioned Westbrook. I would NOT, as some fans want, trade Matt Holliday for Adrian Beltre. Why? You’ve got David Freese at 3B already, healthy for a full year last year and younger than Beltre at a demanding position. (Longer-term questions about Beltran’s knees, etc., are another reason not to trade Holliday.) If the Cards don’t want a long-term deal for Rzepczynski, then a trade for a LOOGY is obviously a priority. Other than that, I don’t see the need for major trades at this moment.


What the Cards need otherwise, simply put, is development:

1. Another year of development for young arms, and Wainwright to step up more besides Carpenter as co-leader of the staff;

2. Another year of development of Yadier Molina as the team’s overall leader and completing the adjustment to post-Pujols life;

3. Another year of development for Mike Matheny as a manager.


Bottom line?

The Birds, barring major injury issues, should at a minimum equal this year’s 88-win season. Really, they should be at least a co-favorite with the Reds for the division title, if not a hair ahead of them.

And, as this year has shown, Bud’s Folly, the second wild card and one-game play-in, isn’t a spot any team wants.

So, the Cards have good reason for the push. With a tougher schedule with no Astros, and a Cubs team that can’t be worse than this year, 92 wins is doable, and should be enough to win the NL Central.


October 26, 2012

Translating #RickPerry on #PlannedParenthood

Texas Gov. Rick Perry said this about Planned Parenthood’s most recent legal counterstroke against him, Greg Abbott, et al:
“If there was ever any doubt that Planned Parenthood is more concerned about its own interests than those of Texas women, there is no longer.  Having lost on its constitutional claims, Planned Parenthood has now turned to Travis County judges in a desperate effort to find some way to keep making money off Texas taxpayers.  In Texas, we’ve chosen to protect innocent life.  We will keep fighting for life, and we will ultimately prevail.”
Translation?

“If there was ever any doubt that Rick Perry is concerned about wingnut white male conservatives’ interests than those of Texas women, there is no longer.”

Now, will the suit work? Probably not. But, it’s worth a shot.

October 25, 2012

Adios, 2012 #StlCards; what’s up for 2013?

Yahoo Sports’ baseball blog, Big League Stew, has yet to have anybody write an official concession speech for this year’s Redbirds, though Viva El Birdos is certainly a possibility, kind of like this one already up.


And, per the column and a linked St.Louis Post-Dispatch piece by Rick Hummel, is there some bad Cardinal DNA that implodes in Game 7s where the team finishes off blowing a 3-1 lead? I had forgotten about the 1996 NLCS, but I vividly remember the 1985 World Series. In fact, by the end of Game 6 of this year’s NLCS, the way the Cardinal bats went to sleep, I was already seeing parallels. And, the Cards didn’t totally implode in Game 7 of the 1968 World Series, but they weren’t great.

Anyway, Cardinal GM John Mozeliak has confirmed he doesn’t expect to resign Kyle Lohse, nor does he expect to find room for Lance Berkman, even if the Big Puma accepts a reduced role.

Of course, ESPN will be all over touting the latter, encouraging teams to sign a person they’ll still want to tout as a potential future Hall of Famer, even when he’s not close, either in traditional counting stats, or, overall, in most career sabermetric stats.

Besides, he just doesn’t pass the “look test,” does he? Other than ESPNites who may like him because of East Coast homerdom on their part and Berkman’s half-season as a Yankee, can you really say that he had a huge “crest” of 3-5 years that made you say, “Yes, he’s a HOFer,” especially when by age 33, you knew he was clearly moving downhill?

Lohse? His career year is going to drive his value on the market, a market relatively weak in free-agent starting pitchers. This is one free-agent bid Mo is smart to shy away from.

And, per another Hummel piece, the Cards don’t need him. Count young arms Trevor Rosenthal and Shelby Miller, along with a full, fully healthy season by Adam Wainwright, more grit from Chris Carpenter, and hopefully, an acceptance of surgery and a quick return by Jaime Garcia, and the Cards have a very good pitching staff for next year. That’s very true if Lance Lynn can get his ERA+ and other stats to live up to this year’s W-L record

And per a third Hummel piece, offensively, look for more at bats for Matt Carpenter and a possible trade of Skip Schumaker.

With an additional year, or first full MLB year, of seasoning for these younger players, the Cardinals are well positioned for next year. And, assuming Mo doesn’t sit totally on his hands, a strategic mid-priced free agent or two may get acquired.

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Cot’s Contracts has a list of potential 2013free agents. Speculation about possible Cardinal signingts coming in a future blog post.



Paleo-progressivism, neo-progressivism and national health care costs

A guest blogger at Naked Capitalism says that Obama’s neoliberal-based concerns about even higher deficit possibilities, or bigger taxes, led him to never seriously consider a true “Medicare for All,” do a head fake with another version of the “public option,” and finally push for something largely written by the health insurance industry.


I agree.

But, that’s a partial picture at best.

Neither Obamacare, nor the “public option,” nor a true “Medicare for All,” as best as I can determine, have adequate cost controls compared to other developed nations.

The failure to stipulate that such cost controls need to be part of national health care is, let's call it ...

Paleo-progressivism.

I don't want "Medicare for All" if we're still spending 50 percent more per capita than other developed nations, or more, for health care.

Period.

There are times where legitimate financial constraints on medical insurance under any name need to be considered.

And, if doing so gets a label of “neo-progressivism,” I’ll wear it.

I’ve hammered on this issue since 2009.

And will continue to do so.


Medical education costs much more than elsewhere in the developed world. States are restraining college and graduate education costs less and less.

State insurance regulation departments are paper tigers. Obamacare proposes no such federal department, nor would “Medicare for all” proponents who don’t accept the reality that even in other countries with national health care, it doesn’t cover everything and private insurance still has some working space.

Meanwhile, with the current “Medicare for seniors,” Congress routinely proposes new restrictions on doctor payments only to waiver them within a year; what would make Medicare for All different?

And, the American culture is attuned to believing the lie of Sarah Palin’s death panels. Even worse, for a country allegedly so highly Christian, as compared to other developed nations, the US has a fear of death that is, itself … morbid!

Add that up, and the increasingly expensive “end of life care” that thoughtful people know we can afford less and less, yet still pay for more and more, is becoming a lead anchor.

Gallup, public, have good news for Dear Leader

I don’t know how much of a bounce he is going to get from this, or how much of a firewall it already is, but a new Gallup poll reports that for the first time in five years, more people feel better off than worse off, financially. It’s a slight edge, and no more, but, it’s not much less than Bush had in 2004.

And, that includes 34 percent of those independents that are so crucial in the so-called swing states. Obama’s still slightly negative there, with 40 percent of them feeling worse off … but that’s not too bad, he has to figure.

Add in that it’s likely that by election day, if not already, Obama will have presided over a net jobs gains as president, and may be getting help from that, and it all looks good for his re-election.

Especially if you add in the fact, as Nate Silver reports, that he’s apparently fully stopped the bleeding from the Denver debate and Romney has no more momentum.

But, this is about more than just the US presidential election.

Such feeling isn't just for the present term:
Although Americans' evaluations of their current finances, overall, are fairly tepid, 66% are optimistic when asked whether they expect their financial situations to be better or worse a year from now. This includes 80% of Democrats, but also 62% of independents, and 57% of Republicans.
Herbert Hoovers and Barack Obamas aside, "confidence" is part of the issue for a modern economy, especially a capitalistic one. And, it’s “funny” that only 16 percent of Republicans admit feeling better now

This may not give Obama too much of a bounce now, BUT ....

If Preznit Kumbaya will become Preznit Cojones in his second term, this will help him with the GOP.

Also, if this means a bit fewer people on unemployment AND more tax dinero coming into the Treasury, it helps him that way.

It might, just might (but likely not, this is ingrained) lead him to be Preznit Cojones vis a vis his own Catfood Commission.


By a 56-33 margin — higher than for the second debate — people think Obama won the third debate. That includes a 56-27 split among those coveted independents.

#Facebook: The new #MySpace?


Graphic courtesy Dangerous Minds
To be honest, it should already be that way, if Google had handled the rollout of Google+ better, on issues from pseudonymity (where it failed to see it had an issue where it could have trumped FB) to business pages (with many small businesses, now, using G+ but NOT FB) and more.

But, Google, with a mix of cockiness and sluggishness, both of which makes one wonder if maybe it hasn’t gotten so big it’s resting on its laurels a lot, didn’t do that.

But, Facebook is deciding to shoot itself in the foot, over and over.

First came the revelation that posts, on average, were only reaching about 16 percent of our friends. With pages, rather than individual people, it soon became apparent that might be deliberate.

The rollout of Facebook’s “promote” button, for $7 a pop to promote a post, pretty much erased all doubt.

This is like going to a doctor on your HMO — an HMO that only has two or three doctors and this one is allegedly the best, by far — and the doctor deliberately making you sick so you’ll come back even more.

One Facebook friend, Leo Lincourt, notes that FB is just a big group blog, in a sense. I suggested Tumblr, then needed to either start its own social networking site, or go “Meta” (or somebody else should)— somebody like Networked Blogs doing something improve the meta-social media interface, for less techie people to easily use?

Leo had previously noted Firefox was rolling out a few tools, but they were all Facebook-based, at least to start. He adds that WordPress is incorporating some social media features in its platform. And I note that … as owner of Blogger along with Google+, it seems Google is staring another great idea in the face and being too slow to react. (That said, from what I know, Blogger’s consistently behind the curve against WordPress.)

Then, there’s the issue of the “sob story” pages on Facebook. Many of them, the alleged “sob story” either isn’t real, or happened five years or more ago. One commenter, rightfully, calls them the equivalent of chain letters.

But, that’s not the big issue. The big issue is that these are pages that are, often, being started by corporations or, in political silly season, PACS, think tanks, etc., to get enough “likes” to massively gin up their Edge Rank, the Facebook equivalent of Google’s Page Rank. Then, the page owner does the bait-and-switch and starts corporate marketing, politician marketing, etc.

Per Facebook friend Matt Crowley, in its mix of generally skeezy tactics and lowest-common-denominator appeal, Facebook is already going down the MySpace road.

So, let’s just call Mark Zuckerberg Rupert Murdock in a hoodie.

Beyond that, though, let’s call for social media sites to be viewed by our federal government as something akin to a utility (especially pre-deregulation days) and implement some (light-handed) regulatory framework. Once again, despite its monetary problems, the European Union is already be ahead of us on this issue.


That said, this is why I’d like Firefox and its parent, the Mozilla Foundation, or somebody like it, a nonprofit organization, jump more fully into the social media world than it has to date, and to do so on its own, rather than with extensions or plug-ins, especially if they’re Facebook-connected, at least to start.

October 24, 2012

Obama says: On your marks, get set, KILL!

The Washington Post reports President Barack Obama is, as we speak, continuing to expand a top-secret "kill list" of alleged terrorists. No word if he's doubling up on destroying civil liberties by including more American citizens, like Anwar al-Awlaki, on the list.

And, this is just downright scary:

Although the matrix is a work in progress, the effort to create it reflects a reality setting in among the nation’s counterterrorism ranks: The United States’ conventional wars are winding down, but the government expects to continue adding names to kill or capture lists for years.

Among senior Obama administration officials, there is a broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade. Given the way al-Qaeda continues to metastasize, some officials said no clear end is in sight.
All right ... a decade of killing!

Read the full story. It's five webpages long, and very in-depth. The Post says it's part one of a three-parter, too.

And, as Glenn Greenwald notes, the killing will likely head to Libya soon.

An email correspondent of Glenn's, in another post, said he would have loved this question at Monday's "debate" on foreign policy issues:
"Your administration has not just employed targeted killing; it has made the case for targeted killing to the rest of the world. What would you tell the leader of another country who wants to make use not only of technology pioneered by America but also of legal arguments pioneered by America? Do those arguments only count for America, or do they count also for Russia, China, and well, North Korea and Hezbollah?"
I would have loved to hear that same question asked.

But, in America, it's really a silly question.

It's right because we're Americans, dammit. Most Repubs and most Dems both believe it. Answer No. 2? It's right because it's the guy from our party doing it, not the other guy.  

And, here's the latest on Afghan children being killed by such attacks. 

Meanwhile, the ACLU battles Obama's attempt to expand the snooping here at home.

Yes, I know Jill Stein, the Green nominee, won't win.

But, how can any real liberal vote for Obama, even as the "lesser of two evils"?  

October 23, 2012

A moment of silence for #PaulKurtz


Secularists, please take a moment of silence for Paul Kurtz.

If one could finger one person as a “founder” of modern, post-World War II secular humanism in the United States, it would be Kurtz, the creator of Humanist Manifesto II and an energizer of a more activist, more engaged secular humanism. Beyond that, he founded Prometheus Books to give secular humanism its own “voice.”

Well, he died today.

Sadly, in a power struggle and a philosophy struggle, the Council on Secular Humanism booted him from his leadership posts two years ago. Kurtz had opposed the rise of “New Atheism” or “Gnu Atheism” if you will, due to a confrontationalist psychology it espoused, which I have previously argued was and is a “tar baby” mirror of Christian fundamentalism’s evangelism style.

No, Kurtz wasn’t perfect, and perhaps could have been a better financial manager of CFI.

That said, Wikipedia’s entry well sums up Kurtz’s philosophy in one short paragraph:
Kurtz believed that the nonreligious members of the community should take a positive view on life. Religious skepticism, according to Paul Kurtz, is only one aspect of the secular humanistic outlook.
Indeed. And, vis a vis Gnu Atheism, Kurtz wanted to look at positive ways to collaborate with religious people of faith, positive ways to present what secular humanism is about and more.

I don’t know who will be the primary leader of his new (of 2009) institution, Institute for Science and Human Values. But, let’s hope that there’s a centralized voice for carrying on his vision about secular humanism.

For more about Kurtz, see his website

And, despite issues he had with CFI, it does him right with its obit

Prometheus Books has a good obit, too. 

Among mainstream media, Reuters' was decent. AP's was crappy, mainly by being short enough to not be much more than a death notice. Shockingly and disgustingly, the New York Times didn't have an obit of its own, and just ran the AP version. Even more disgusting, the Buffalo News ... this is where he lived, all those years of building secular humanism ... has had NOTHING so far.

Email NYTimes Public Editor Margaret Sullivan at public@nytimes.com and in Buffalo, contact Interim Editor Brian Connelly at editor@buffnews.com. With the News, you can also visit its Facebook page

Meanwhile, while Kurtz was not a "Gnu Atheist," he also wasn't a "religious humanist." And, having seen at least one religious humanist on Facebook trying to downplay his significance, this is why labels are important at times. 

Update, Oct. 23: The AP finally has a real obit, including interviewing an online friend of mine, Nathan Bupp, who was close to Kurtz. And the Buffalo News also finally got on the stick. The New York Times finally has its obit up ... squeaky wheels!

And a great tribute at CFI's website by John Shook, who identifies Kurtz as being, in part, a philosopher. And, an even better, in-depth one from Michael Shermer. Shermer notes Kurtz's work to "reach" people who aren't hard-core skeptics, but don't totally believe New Ageism, alleged paranormal actions, etc.

Finally, a personal comment. I never met Kurtz. But, after graduating from seminary (divinity school) and trying to figure out just where I stood theologically and philosophically, and specifically, metaphysically (or naturalistically) since metaphysics transcends both disciplines, Free Inquiry and The Humanist helped me through the transition, and with some comfort level the first year or two after I felt I was a confirmed secularist.