SocraticGadfly: 1/6/13 - 1/13/13

January 12, 2013

Counterfactual history - President Aaron Burr

Crazy idea for  the man who "murdered Alexander Hamilton," eh?

But, had he wanted the presidency in 1800 (he did NOT "grasp for it," a great triple biography reviewed just below shows) American history might have been a lot different. First, the review, then I'll pick up the train of thought further about how President Burr might have been different for America than President Jefferson.


Burr, Hamilton, and Jefferson: A Study in CharacterBurr, Hamilton, and Jefferson: A Study in Character by Roger G. Kennedy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a good re-evaluation for the better of Aaron Burr, basically freeing him from 200 years of accretion of the ... well, the lies that Thomas Jefferson had his minions spread about him. It also fits well in some recent columns and essays about Jefferson who, as Kennedy notes, was the first explicitly lying president, and able to be believed, anyway, by following on Washington, definitely, and also on Adams. And, we get dollops of Hamilton playing off of both.

First, Kennedy established that, when the electorally tied 1800 election went to Congress, Burr did nothing to "angle" for election himself. (It's well known that Hamilton worked against him.)

That said, Kennedy points out that, had Burr wanted the position it could have been his. Burr got electoral votes in 1792 and 96 as well as 1800. In the first two cases, many were in the South. In 1800, Jefferson’s agents specifically fought against this. Related to this,  Burr had Federalist as well as anti-Federalist friends, esp. in New York, and including John Jay. Hamilton, Burr, Jay worked together on abolition in New York as part of that.

A lot of the enmity went back to the Revolution. Burr was mistrusted by Washington due to his assn. with Gates and his clique, before, during and after Saratoga. Hamilton used this when Washington was prez to poison him against Burr. John Marshall was in the army at Valley Forge, as were Hamilton, and Washington. Marshall, as chief justice, presided over Burr's treason trial in 1807. All of the above, remembering Jefferson's "runaway" governorship of Virginia, had reason to disdain him.

A lot of Hamilton’s envy toward Burr may have been “projection,” Kennedy says, and makes a good case for this. He also hints that Hamilton may have seen the duel as a chance for "suicide by opponent" along with one last bit of revenge, having wrecked Burr's chance at the presidency, his chance at New York's governorship earlier in 1804, and before that, John Adams' presidency.

In any case, Burr’s post-duel plans in the Louisiana Territory, as an abolitionist, may have been part of why Jefferson was even further “set” against him. Jefferson himself had designs on  both the Floridas and Mexico himself, after all. But, with a chance to reset the "New World Order" in Louisiana, to meet the idealism of the Declaration and make it slave free, Jefferson took a pass.

But, that's not now. Kennedy informs us that Jeffersons’s Northwest Ordinance anti-slavery petition applied only to **new govts**  in the area. Given that, pre-Constitution, Virginia claimed the entire Old Northwest, as well as the future Kentucky, it was therefore largely vacuous.

There's lot more like this, combined with a "hail, reader" style of writing by Kennedy that I find generally ingratiating.

View all my reviews


OK, first, Burr would have bought Louisiana just like Jefferson. He probably would have created some expedition similar to Lewis and Clark up the Missouri, as well as Zebulon Pike up the Arkansas. He might have been more aggressive than Jefferson on trying to get East Florida, West Florida, or both from Spain.

And, he would have worked for a "reset of the New World Order," with Louisiana being admitted as a free state. He might even have encouraged it, like northern states at the time, to allow free blacks to vote. (They generally only lost or had restricted this right from the 1830s on.) Slavery would have been put on a path to eventual extinction.

That would have forced the South to look at diversifying its economy, including a mechanical cotton picker of some sort, perhaps.

Also, if Jefferson were defeated, we would have no "Virginia dynasty" of presidents. Madison might well have followed Burr, and out from under a Jeffersonian presidential shadow, done better than he did.

And, we wouldn't have had Jefferson's "Embargo," but Burr might have stood up to Britain even more, earlier, than Congressional "War Hawks."

January 11, 2013

#Sully - Andrew Sullivan, Josh Marshall, paywalls, tip jars, blogs (updated)

I'm going to tie all aspects of that headline together in just a minute. And, I've updated it to focus more on why you shouldn't shell out if you're a liberal, beyond the original angle, which was primarily about Gnu Media touting of Andrew Sullivan's "Brave New Move."

I'll start by saying this post is focused on Andrew Sullivan, and specifically on the conservative contrarian's announcement that he is leaving the Daily Beast, and striking out on his own — while asking readers for $20/yr subscriptions to the independent site, so he can make it ad-free.

Several thoughts.

First, Sully IS conservative of some sort, or something similar. Ignore his bromance with President Obama and remember he's British. His conservativism is not of an American stripe, whether Religious Right social conservativism or neoconservative warmongering (though he did do that in the past, see below), though he's not chided Obama as much as he could for his own warmongering. Of course, that's because, as he admits, Sully was originally FOR the invasion of Iraq. Hot and heavy cheerleader for it Another reason real liberals shouldn't like him that much.

Anyway, Sully's about order, preserving the state of things, and similar, to the degree that he's still a British-type conservative and not just a contrarian. (Or, he's some kind of libertarian; see below.) Picture one of those 19th-century British manor conservatives, an anti-egalitarian racialist of some sort. That's what you should think of, while then adding two scoops of American ice cream on top -- one of libertarianism (compatible with that British conservativism) and one of neoconservative warmongering -- also compatible with that British conservativism, all in the name of enlightening the darker-skinned type. (Chris Hitchens had one foot in this same world.)

Anyway, back to Sully's "Brave New World" and its Gnu Media angle for a minute.

So, why go ad free? Why not just do like Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo and other A-list bloggers and set up a tip jar system, which would make the Jay Rosens of the Gnu Media world love you more anyway?

Well, Derek Thompson at The Atlantic speculates that, on his own, Sully's contrarian enough he won't draw that many A-list advertisers, so making the pitch that his blog will go ad-free for enough subscribers turns a possible negative into a positive. It also reduced a bit of sales overhead.

Now, paying $20/yr for Sully?

I wouldn't do it. As I said, he's still some type of conservative, and liberal types who have a bromance with him because of his bromance with Obama are probably making statements aboutboth themselves and Obama. (Enough of them, surely neoliberals more than true liberals, along with Sully-type conservatives, have a bromance to the tune of $400K so far, reportedly, on Jan. 11.)

Anyway, per the picture above, and it's background (more on that below) we've got more ideas about what an independent Sully might be like.

So, to tie Jay Rosen back in... a commenter at his blog post talking about Sully's move said that he might pay the freight to see Sully unbound.

To which, I replied:
That said, Aaron, wasn’t Sully semi-unbound when he edited TNR?

Oh, yeah – an entire issue singing the praises of “The Bell Curve.”

See, Aaron, you can now save your $20.
Hence, my use of my Photoshopping from a few years back.

Further proof that Sully is a conservative of some sort? Or better yet, some sort of British-American libertarian fusion? Folks like Matt Welch of Reason commenting on that same thread. Other than gay rights, which he approaches from a libertarian angle, I challenge people to point out one authentically liberal stance of Andrew Sullivan.

Let's tie this back to Gnu Media, though. Sully admits he didn't get to the staffing size he did without partnering with a for-profit media company, first Time, then The Atlantic, then Daily Beast.

If his staffing level, etc., requires $900K and he's serious about going ad-free, and his "paywall" is going to be a New York Times one and not a Wall Street Journal one, that means he needs 450K people a year to pony up.

He may get it, but I won't hold my breath. I definitely wouldn't hold on sustaining that number.

This, then, leads to another question. Whether it's Sullivan's metered paywall or Josh Marshall's tip jars and fund drives, shouldn't you, if you are a contributor or subscriber, get some financial transparency? Shouldn't you ask for it, if you haven't been?

How much does Sully plan on paying himself? Or, since he's been independent a few years, how much does Marshall currently pay himself?

At your traditional newspaper, if it's part of a publicly traded company, much of that information, at least for executives, is publicly available. Others of it, via estimates, is available by occupational review websites, etc.

Another reason I wouldn't pay for Sully? A fair amount of what he does is nothing more than one sentence plus a link micro-mini-blogging, like Duncan Black, aka Atrios, and his Eschaton blog, which I stopped reading long ago for such reasons. A fair amount of the remainder is mini-blogging of just three grafs, maybe four. On average, I'd venture that at most 25 percent, possibly less, is in-depth blogging. And, most of that, even, is opinion. In that sense, he and his staff aren't Josh Marshall, with some degree of reporting as well as opinion.

Anyway, should this move fail, per my above comment, I would not at all be surprised to see him join Nat Hentoff at Reason.

Update, Jan. 11: Hell, I was just touching the edges on Sully as alleged journalist. Mark Ames really has the goods on him, from his gutting Clinton's attempt at national health care, to mau-mauing against discussion of Reagan's October surprise and more.

MUCH more. See details below the fold.

Overrated and underrated philosophers?

Massimo Pigliucci has a great post at Rationally Speaking, based on a Twitter survey by Oxford University Press, where he first talks about his favorite philosophers of all time, then, to narrow down response on an iPhone app, the most overrated philosophers of the 20th century.

I expanded my thoughts a bit in a comment there, to list underrated as well as overrated, and all-time as well as 20th-century.

Here it is.

Hume is a definite No. 1 on my favorites list. (He was for Massimo, too). He is eminently readable, a bonus among philosophers. Also, with his thoughts on the self, etc., arguably the father of modern psychology, and a more distant ancestor of modern cognitive science. Indeed, we could put Hume in a Tardis or whatever, bring him forward 250 years, and he'd have insights galore to offer in those fields and more. Unfortunately, he was also a racist, which is making me rethink this ranking of him as a favorite, whether overrated, underrated, or rated correctly.

(And, Nov. 27, 2020, update, per David Harris' 2015 bio, which I've now read, in many of his Essays Moral and Political, distressingly shallow, as if le bon David followed Addison too much and acted like he was writing for the 1750s British equivalent of New Yorker readers at best.)

Diogenes. Life would be more authentic if we, and the world in general, thought more like him. Let alone if we acted more like him. Arguably, he's a forerunner and progenitor to some modern absurdists like ...

Albert Camus, the leading expositor of absurdism (do not call him an existentialist) would be No. 3, I think.

Marcus Aurelius might be fourth; I'm not sure. He contributed nothing new to Stoicism, and kind of undercut his own intellectual high ground by naming his son Commodus as heir rather than adopting somebody else, but the "Meditations" are still a pleasure to read. And, on the other hand on Commodus, no emperor before Marcus had a natural-born son to inherit (setting aside Caesar's post-assassination toddler Caesarion.)

Ludwig Wittgenstein would be fifth, I think. Here, I strongly part company with Massimo, who puts him on his overrated list. I think the early Wittgenstein of the Tractatus may be overrated ... an affectation for some. The later Wittgenstein? Also an affectation of alleged intellect for many, but that doesn't detract from the fact that his ordinary language philosophy has been influential. And, on the popularity side, anybody willing to brain Karl Popper with a fireplace poker can't be all bad, right?

And actually, five years later ... I'm ready to join Massimo. Wittgenstein, both the first and second versions, seems to have been ultimately a closeted Platonist. And, since Plato himself is among the most overrated philosophers, Witty needs to join him.

As for linguistic philosophy in general, while he broke some new ground, others continued groundbreaking after him and in new directions.

If I add one more, it's going to be a mythical character, but that's that. Lao Tzu, the alleged founder of Daoism.

Now, a couple of underrated philosophers (all time, not just 20th C):

1. Pyrrho. Pyrrhonic Skepticism influenced Hume, among others.

2. Camus, per a comment above. More insightful than Sartre, yet barely even gets considered as a philosopher by many. And he should be. Because he was.

3. Gilbert Ryle. Influential on a number of late 20th-century philosophers, including, but far from limited to, Dan Dennett. His "ghost in the machine" is a good modern philosophical restatement of rejecting ontological dualism.

4. Diogenes. Even educated people know little about him other than his comment to Alexander the Great, and they know even less about capital-C Cynicism as a philosophy. It's a shame. I won't load the page up with links, but go to Wikipedia or the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and look up both the man and the philosophy. He's underrated precisely because he was a willing contrarian and outcast, and he made that the basis of his philosophy. And, winners write history.

Next, here's my all time, not just 20th century, overrated philosophers.

1. Socrates (my moniker for this blog and more riffs on the myth, not the reality, of the man, and ..
2. Plato.

These two go together. Plato totally set up straw men for Socrates to argue against, in the Sophists and others. The reality is that the Sophists were wanting to make the roots of a classical, Hellenic "gentleman's" education available to those who didn't have the time and money of the upper crust for private study. And, one need not be Izzy Stone to see that both were antidemocratic elitists, to boot, given that Socrates failed to condemn either the first or second revolt Alciabiades led/instigated against the Athenian democracy.

More thoughts of mine on Socrates here.

3. Aristotle. Were he Jewish and 200 years older, we'd probably finger him as the author of the "P" strand of the Torah. Highly influential in terms of basic logic, yes, but, if we want to in a sense call him the first philosopher of science, he was a disaster. And, there were early scientists and technologists around. His contemporary Eratosthenes used trigonometry plus geography to produce a highly accurate measure of the earth's circumference. A century later, Archimedes was a technological and inventive wunderkind. Therefore, Aristotle had no need to make the massive amount of evidence-free statements about human and animal life, classifications of life, etc. that he did. Nor, per thinking on metaphysics and other fields of philosophy at the time, did he have to postulate the four causes that he did. And, on ethics? Massimo is a virtue ethicist and so he loves Aristotle. I don't, as an educated layperson, consider myself to be aligned with any one school of ethics. I do claim, and did in comments to Massimo's 2012 blog posts about schools of ethics, that virtue ethics has about as many problems as Kantianism or utilitarianism.

4. Kierkegaard, Dostoyevsky and other Christian existentialists. Basically, they failed in their attempts to give Christianity, especially theodicy, an intellectual veneer in the late 19th century and beyond. That's especially true when they're mashed up with process theology (see below).

5. Dan Dennett. No, this is not a Poe or a total joke. He's not written anything original in nearly 20 years, and has actually made some whoppers, from where I sit, beginning with the evidence-free flat statement that evolution is algorithmic. He also gets merit here because of his philosophical influence on modern Gnu Atheism in general.

OK, underrated 20th century philosophers. This list is much shorter because, as noted above, I'm not a professional philosopher and therefore don't have the level of insight, or personal attachment, that Massimo does.
1. Camus
2. Ryle

Overrated, 20th C:
1. Heidegger/Derrida/Foucault and any progeny of any of their schools of thought. Let me add Stanley Fish by name. Basically, deconstructionism is self-refuting, petard hoisting, etc. Derrida doesn't have a leg to stand on. Structuralism has enough similarities that my critique extends to Foucault. Heidegger? His existentialist contributions to what became process theology are more than enough reason to put him here (adding Alfred North Whitehead, Teilhard de Chardin, Paul Tillich, and any other expositors of the Ground of Being), setting aside his Nazi friendliness.

2. Dennett as a special case. He certainly influenced me, nearly 20 years ago, but, I've moved on. Beyond his "recycling" and his refusal to accept that rejecting a "Cartesian meaner" logically also means rejecting a "Cartesian free willer," his invention of the word "Brights" for secularists was bad enough, but his following claim that there was no connotation, no implication, about religious people ... I see that as a transparent lie.

3. Sam Harris and any other Gnu Atheist claiming to have disproven the existence of god. Harris, especially, knows what any open-minded person who has taken a basic class on logic, formal or informal, should know — attempting to prove the nonexistence of anything is the logical equivalent of dividing by zero in traditional logic. Vic Stenger is another Gnu who does this. Harris deserves additional mention for claiming Buddhism is just a psychology.

Now, in certain types of modern logic, you can prove the existence of a deity, per Alvin Plantinga. And, it's even the Anselmian version. But, you also get a Satan of whom is perfectly evil by his existence proof.

4. Jean-Paul Sartre, with apologies to my Facebook friend Brett Welch. I think Sartre's stubborn refusal to accept the truth about Stalin and Stalinism, contra Camus, speaks a lot for and about him as a thinker. And, speaking of that, I think Camus had the edge on him as a writer, overall, at least a philosophical writer (No Exit is psychology first, philosophy second, as are several other works by Sartre) and think Sartre was jealous.)

#Stlcards fans - should La Russa be kept out of Hall of Fame?

Now that the dust has settled from no living baseball players being elected to Cooperstown this year, as the black cloud of roiding really started to hit home with the candidacies of Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, et al.

Well, the 2014 ballot will have many great, "clean" players. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, are all legit first-year entries for the Hall, and I think we'd recognize them all as PED-free.

But there's a twist. In 2014, the Veterans Committee returns to the "modern" era. And Joe Torre and Tony La Russa will be on the ballot as managers.

And, in Oakland, TLR managed the two most notorious known, admitted users in Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire. Re Big Mac, TLR has claimed he didn't notice anything, didn't know anything. He's been more circumspect about Canseco. And, per sportswriter Thomas Boswell, via Wezen-Ball, TLR probably DID know "something" was up, already in 1988.)

The fact that La Russa wanted to ink Bonds to a Cardinal contract when he was a free agent after 2007 also points to his total lack of innocence on this issue.

That's why I'd love a, say, Ken Rosenthal to put both of them, La Russa and Canseco, in the same interview room at the same time.

After all, although La Russa wasn't his manager, Canseco then went to Texas. We know about Rafael Palmeiro and PED use, and there's been a lot of suspicion about Ivan Rodriguez.

 Here's my thoughts on likely roiders among players. It applies to La Russa, too. (To riff on Ricky Ricardo, you got some 'splaining to do, and some apologizing, along with the players union, management, and now, I would say, at least one field manager.)

We can make some sort of guesstimate as to how your managerial career might have panned out without the "help." And, making it to three straight World Series in Oakland, then having a juiced Mac welcome a trade to St. Louis, to break Roger Maris' record, might not have happened, either.

(On the players side, with my best guesstimates, Bonds was already a first-round HOFer, Clemens a possible to likely first-rounder, but not guaranteed first rounder, Pudge was a possible HOFer Raffy was not, McGwire was not.)

A friend of mine asked me, What about Torre and his Yankee years? I said Clemens was juicing before that, Andy Pettitte has apologized, and that Torre was probably not aware of Andy. Whether he should have been aware of "Muchie Peachie" and others (Jason Giambi, pre- or post-apology) is a different question. 

That said, Torre might not deserve a 100 percent pass, either.

So, not quite a year from now, we're going to find out how well the Veterans Committee has studied this issue and how much it concerns them. 

And, no, this is not a snarky attack on the BBWAA or anything similar. It's a legitimate issue, I think.

And, managing roiding players aside, how do we judge "borderline" managers? See here for my cry for a WAR for managers.

And, what good is a post like this without a poll?

Free polls from
Should Veterans voters treat La Russa, Torre like BBWAA voters on alleged roiders?

Yes   No   Uncertain     


Media pay rising? NOT! #HuffPost NOT real journalism

One Caroline Fairchild at the Huffington Post, who must be an actual paid staffer if she's got a HuffPost email account, claims media wages have shown their biggest climb since 2006.

Ahh, but she forgot, or didn't analyze, this the nut graf (emphasis mine):
The job category, which comprises public relations jobs [and] media and communication workers as well as entertainers and performers, saw a 4.6 percent increase in wages, outpacing the national average wage increase of 3.5 percent for the year and far surpassing any wage increases in the industry since 2006. 
Let's be real.

If you worked in an actual media job, your pay remained flat. If you worked in PR, it went up.

As a commenter there notes, a lot of the PR/communications hike was possibly election-related, too.

If you worked in an actual media job, your pay stayed flat — unless your job disappeared.

More refutation of Ms. Fairchild?

In Philly, the owners of the Inquirers and Daily News are threatening to shut BOTH and liquidate if they don't get "major concessions."

January 10, 2013

Inauguration Day — Another Obama panderfest?

Forget the bazillions of private dinero he's seeking for inauguration donations. (Also try to ignore any Democratic National Committee or White House/Obama emails in your inbox, eh?)

Instead, look at him try to straddle a political, moral and civil rights gap by appointing an antigay preacher for the inaugural prayer but a gay writer as inaugural poet.

Fortunately, Louis Giglio has withdrawn himself from becoming Rick Warren II.

Still, where does Obama come from with this? Is his staff vetting work that bad? Gives you a lot of confidence in his second term, eh?

Prrivate health care sux, as does privatization in general

How else to put it? The NYT has a damned good take on it, starting with for-profit nursing homes doping up people a lot more than nonprofit ones.

And, the piece gets worse, from there. Like this:
We let the private sector handle tasks other countries would never dream of moving outside the government’s purview. Consider bail bondsmen and their rugged sidekicks, the bounty hunters.
American TV audiences may reminisce fondly about Lee Majors in “The Fall Guy” chasing bad guys in a souped-up GMC truck — a cheap way to get felons to court. People in most other nations see them as an undue commercial intrusion into the criminal justice system that discriminates against the poor. 
The author notes it's part of the bullshit rugged individualist myth. 

That's the myth that sees under-50 Americans with the worst lifespan in any of 17 developed nations.

And a neoliberal president, with a "national health care" plan reliant on the private sector, with a Catfood Commission that could well push more privatization in other areas?

He doesn't care. Or at least gives no public indication of that.

Obamacare has no cost controls. It established no federal bureau for insurance regulation. Government PSAs for preventative health? When have you seen one?

January 09, 2013

Kyrsten Sinema, Rebecca Watson, Keith Ellison,Gnu Atheism and values

Kyrsten Sinema, sworn in on a US Constitution by Speaker John Boehner.
So, nonbeliever Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema wouldn't be sworn in with a bible but refuses to be identified as an atheist, or anything similar?
"Kyrsten believes the terms non-theist, atheist or nonbeliever are not befitting of her life's work or personal character," spokesman Justin Unga said in email. "She does not identify as any of the above."
First, Justin, and Kyrsten, that sounds pretty lame-o.

It sounds lame-o precisely because of your quite visible swearing-in "statement," first of all.

It also sounds like you're avoiding the Big A because you're afraid of a stereotype or two about atheism. But, as Chris Stedman points out, by so doing, you're perpetuating the stereotype.

That may not be that big of a deal. But, Ms. Sinema, you took principled stands on LGBT issues — hell, you're bisexual yourself — and more as a state legislator in a state as wingnut as Arizona.

So why not now, on this? If voters elected you anyway, and had some idea before the election that you were some sort of nontheist, which you didn't dispute, then why the worry?

Hemant Mehta, the "Friendly Atheist," agrees:
My only complaint so far about Sinema is that she appeared to let on that she was “one of us” during her campaign only to assert her “unaffiliation” after she had won. That statement by Sinema’s campaign that Chris alluded to didn’t come out until just after the election, even though the rumors about her supposed atheism were online for months prior to that and many atheists had donated money to her campaign.

Mehta then ties that, like me, to the sexuality issue:
The strange thing is that Sinema never backed away from the label of “bisexual.” It didn’t seem to hurt her at all, and that’s great news.  
Yep. That's why it looks like she has a "problem" with the label of "atheist" or anything close.

Related to that, people knew your background enough to ask what the book was in the swearing in, if it was NOT a bible. So, at least in the secularist world, whatever label each of us uses, you're "out." Intentional use of that word.

Stedman then anticipates those who would say "give her some space" with this:
“[Rep. Sinema] believes the term Muslim is not befitting of her life’s work or personal character.” Does that sound right? It shouldn’t.
I agree.

Let's take the first open Muslim Congressman:
“Keith Ellison believes the term Muslim is not befitting of his life’s work or personal character.”
And no, that does NOT sound right.

So, why not accept that this is America, people will hang some sort of religious/metaphysical label on you and already have, know that Pete Stark partially broke ground, and take it the next step.

Think of Stark as having a "civil union" with the term of "atheist" or "nontheist" as a Member of Congress. You can now "marry" it.

That said, if you're ambiguous enough about such identifications (as using any book rather than none at all instead of a bible would indicate), then how and why did basic information about your secularism come out in the first place?

With that in mind, Gnu Atheist types shouldn't expect to get much PR traction from Sinema. Which is what Gnu Atheists want. So, Stedman's right to critique her statement; Gnus are wrong for wanting her image on a bus somewhere. And, that's what they want, in my opinion.

So, in light of that, you know ... maybe we should sic Rebecca Watson on you. Maybe you're not a true feminist, either? Hell, maybe you're not a true bisexual, either.

Watson would surely do her damndest to get to the bottom of both.

More serious sidebar: See my thoughts on Stedman's book, "Faitheist."

And, to update this, per a friend of mine, atheist and feminist, who lives in Arizona, adn I think in Sinema's Congressional district, Sinema says she is not an atheist, but not a person of faith, either.

Ergo, she's a "None."

Deal with it, Gnu Atheists; no bus or billboard ad with Rep. Sinema's face on it.

Also via Facebook, I've asked a Gnu Atheist who claims she held herself out differently on the campaign trail for some specific evidence. I'm guessing there probably will be none. And, it wouldn't be the first time that Gnus have read more into a situation than is there.

(Like claiming the surge in "Nones" means there's a surge in atheists.)

Anyway, that invite extends to other Gnus: If you've got some specific evidence that Sinema held herself out as an atheist, and not just a "None," on the campaign trail, I'm all ears. If not, stop claiming what you can't support.

That said, per a commenter below, maybe the LGBT community asked her to "focus herself" on that, and she and/or the community thought that also self-identifying as an atheist would be distracting?

Wow ... nobody elected to #Cooperstown

Wow. Now I can write a more complete post, with the BBWAA votes posted at its website.

And here's a list of vote returns from writers who went public.

And, I have emailed or tweeted every voter with a public ballot, for whom I could find an email address, who voted FOR Jack Morris. If sabermetrics fans had a campaign FOR Blyleven, there can be one against Morris, right?

First, aside from the vote, for the roiders, they have a new enemy, who may reflect many writers' thoughts.  Ken Burns calls them "motherfuckers," as reported via Yahoo

That would be you, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, et al. Here's my thoughts on likely roiders. 

Related to that, Jayson Stark asks some of the right rhetorical questions (along with some of the wrong ones, being "big Hall" voter). But it's a start.

And at right, we see the BBWAA thoughts. Both the Bobbsey Twins were below 40 percent. 

Contra Stark, I don't have a problem with that, if the folks in Cooperstown and Bug Selig don't. If they do, and Michael Weiner of the players union does, too, then, it's their problem to start fixing. The writers have spoken about the roiders. Already had on a few.

That said, I think Stark is probably full of crap if he thinks we've already elected a roider. Even Rickey Henderson, thought by some to "fit the profile" on Boswell's comment on Ken Burns' "10th Inning," doesn't. His career takes pretty much a normal non-roider decline, starting at age 34. Eddie Murray had a one-year spike at age 39, but, that is a clear outlier. I've gone back more than a decade and don't see any roiders in the HOF. More ESPN "big Hall" BS.

But, I thought for sure that Craig Biggio, as a hon-roiding "message man" had a good shot this year. I even thought teammate Jeff Bagwell might join him. Why, why is he still waiting? He shouldn't be.

Now, as to that vote?

Biggio is close. He could get in next year, but that stacked 2014 ballot could spell trouble.

At least Jack Morris, the antimatter to Bert Blyleven among sabermetrically smart, didn't get in. He's not close to deserving. With just a 1 percent gain from last year, I don't see him getting in next year, but, we need to keep up a campaign against him.

Tim Raines: Can he get in soon or not? His modest jump may not spell "soon," but should keep him hopeful.

Alan Trammell: Can he step out from Cal Ripken's shadow and get in or not? Wow, he fell. Not good news at all for his last three years on the ballot.

Curt Schilling: His sabermetric stats parallel Bagwell, but  what did voters think of low career counting stats? At nearly 40 percent, and crabbed voters, he did OK, I guess. I want to see 2014, with its ace pitchers on the ballot, and how his numbers do then.

Mike Piazza: Besides "bacne," is catcher durability the biggest PEDs allegation shadow for him? Apparently not that much. I'd venture he gets in by 2016 if not earlier.

More thoughts as I update.

First, readers agree with me. Biggio and Bagwell both crossed 75 percent in the poll here.

Second, will either the Hall, the head of the BBWAA, or Selig make a statement? I doubt it.  Unless, per ESPN, the town of Cooperstown starts to feel the loss of tourist dollars.

Selig? Per another ESPN story, will either he or Michael Weiner/the union listen to Schiling?
"I think as a player, a group, this is one of the first times that we've been publicly called out," Schilling said. "I think it's fitting. ... If there was ever a ballot and a year to make a statement about what we didn't do as players -- which is we didn't actively push to get the game clean -- this is it."
Selig's not crying, not so far:
"Next year, I think you'll have a rather large class and this year, for whatever reasons, you had a couple of guys come really close," Commissioner Bud Selig said at the owners' meetings in Paradise Valley, Ariz. "This is not to be voted to make sure that somebody gets in every year. It's to be voted on to make sure that they're deserving. I respect the writers as well as the Hall itself. This idea that this somehow diminishes the Hall of baseball is just ridiculous in my opinion."
But union head Weiner sure is:
"To ignore the historic accomplishments of Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, for example, is hard to justify. Moreover, to penalize players exonerated in legal proceedings -- and others never even implicated -- is simply unfair. The Hall of Fame is supposed to be for the best players to have ever played the game. Several such players were denied access to the Hall today. Hopefully this will be rectified by future voting."
Well, boo hoo. If you want it fixed by future voting, then you and/or your predecessor, Don Fehr, have to be part of the solution.

And, so do writers themselves. I'll take a look at a few, then offer a wrap-up, below the fold:

January 08, 2013

Stop it with the #Krugman for Treasury nonsense, please

First, the neoliberal president who appointed the Catfood Commission and who 10 days ago made Social Security cuts part of "fiscal cliff" talks is not going to nominate Paul Krugman to be his next Treasury Secretary to replace Little Timmy Geithner. In fact, Beltway rumor  is solidifying that the Compromiser in Chief will nominate his chief of staff, Jack Lew.

Second, Krugman wouldn't take it if offered. Besides leaving both academia and the New York Times, he knows that Obama would geld him somehow, like by moving the real action to the Council of Economic Advisors, plus nominating Geithner to replace Ben Bernanke at the Fed next year.

Yeah, yeah, Obama said almost four full years ago that he wanted to be pressured from the left. Don't tell me you still actually believe that.

This is just the surface of the issue.

Unless I'm in full idealism mode, I prefer online petition drives that are:
1. Relatively realistic;
2. Not in some way connected to fundraising efforts.

The Krugman petition does, as far as I know (especially if it's a White House site one) theoretically cross the second bar. But, it doesn't cross the first.

That's why I don't do global warming petitions to Obama. They're unrealistic, not just because of Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, but also because of Barack Obama. And, they're usually connected to fundraising, especially by Gang Green enviros.

January 07, 2013

Democrats wade into "dark money" cesspool, too

A new story, done by ProPublica in conjunction with High Country News, details how "off books" liberal groups WAY outspent conservative ones in the Montana Senate race between Democratic incumbent John Tester and challenger Denny Rehberg.

A few takeaways.

First, liberals (and a guy in the White House) will play hardball, as the story shows. (Which makes me wonder where that "hardball" is when dealing with the House GOP?)
Liberal groups set up field offices, knocked on doors, featured "Montana" in their names or put horses in their TV ads. Many of them, including Montana Hunters and Anglers, were tied to a consultancy firm where a good friend of Jim Messina, President Barack Obama's campaign manager, is a partner.

The end result? Tester beat Republican Rep. Denny Rehberg by a narrow margin. And the libertarian Cox, who had so little money he didn't even have to report to federal election authorities, picked up more votes than any other libertarian in a competitive race on the Montana ballot.
Related to that ... people who claim Greens are hypocritical for allegedly taking GOP money? Even if true, Democrats-only types obviously don't have much ground to stand on. 

Second, after a few years of grumbling about Citizens United, many national-level Democrats, like Tester, will "move on" if Round 2 of a deliberate test case from Montana, or something else, doesn't get SCOTUS to modify its ruling. That's because Congress, even if Democrats have congrol of both houses with a filibuster-proof Senate, aren't revisiting campaign finance issues any time soon.

In fact, they're probably hoping you will "move on," too, accept today's Democratic Party as it is and that's that.

That's not to say that Republicans aren't worse. It is to say, per ZZ Top, that Dems are about as pure as the driven slush.

Fourth, per the story, expect the blizzard of names to be even more obfuscating in the future. I normally associate "patriotic" in a name as signifying wingnuts. Well, one liberal-leaning "dark group" put "patriotic" in its name for that reason.

Fifth, something I"ve mentioned to friends before. Expect more paid commenters to hit the webpages of stories like this and try to spin, spin, spin, the moment they come out.  In fact, I suspect that happened already in the 2012 elections. Journalism analysis sites like Columbia Journalism Review, in the last weeks before the election, were routinely having political stories hit by wingnut spam commenters.

Sixth, if this does continue to happen, there's a couple of more specific takeaways. The first is "know your audience." Ads misspelling Tester's name, not being Montana-specific, etc., were likely to carry less water. The second is timing. An early blitz runs the risk of losing attention later, or having to be repeated more and more, which then risks numbing out watchers/listeners. 

Don't trust the banks? Financial pros don't either

An in-depth article in the Atlantic says that Dodd-Frank (why is he overrated, anyway?) and other financial measures of the past four years have done almost nothing to make banks more transparent or more trustworthy.

And, that financial world experts know that, and that's why bank stocks remain depressed and more. Here's a good selection:
More and more, the people in the know don’t trust big banks either. .... Some four years after the crisis, big banks’ shares remain depressed. Even after a run-up in the price of bank stocks this fall, many remain below “book value,” which means that the banks are worth less than the stated value of the assets on their books. This indicates that investors don’t believe the stated value, or don’t believe the banks will be profitable in the future—or both. Several financial executives told us that they see the large banks as “complete black boxes,” and have no interest in investing in their stocks.
And, this issue is scary. Scary indeed, as a look at Wells Fargo shows:
Like other banks, Wells Fargo uses a three-level hierarchy to report the fair value of its securities. Level 1 includes securities traded in active, public markets; it isn’t too scary. At Level 1, fair value simply means the reported price of a security. If Wells Fargo owned a stock or bond traded on the New York Stock Exchange, fair value would be the closing price each day. 

Level 3 is hair-raising. The bank’s Level 3 estimates are “generated primarily from model-based techniques that use significant assumptions not observable in the market.” In other words, not only are there no data about the prices at which these types of assets have recently traded, but there are no observable data to inform the assumptions one might use to generate prices.  
Even worse, Wells Fargo has significant "exposure" to Enron-type Special Purpose Vehicles. But, because of the opacity of its reporting, you, I and even the best of journalists don't know how dangerous this "exposure" is.

First, the roots are bipartisan, going back to Larry Summers and other neolib Democrats leading the charge in the late 1990s to repeal Glass-Steagall. (Frank, though voting against the repeal, in his words was at best equivocal in his opposition.)

Second, that bipartisanship has increased through campaign finance corruption.

Third, there would be one way to stop it. FORCE Congressional pensions to be invested with these deceitful banksters.

Fourth, per the article's authors, we could make the rules much fewer, but much more broadly written. It was that way at one time, they note, and courts gave regulators more leeway.

The Jamie Dimons of today who complain about "overregulation"? They like it that way.

Natural gas — the bridge fuel to more global warming?

A good new article from High Country News notes two basic facts:

1. To truly be a "bridge fuel" that is less creative of climate change than coal as an electric power plant fuel, total leakage from natural gas production must be under 3 percent or so, due to methane's own greenhouse gas effect.

2. In Utah's natural gas fields, currently under intense development, that leakage is reportedly as high as 9 percent.

Go read the full story for more about leakage rates, measurement issues and more. That includes a link to a study that says the leakage is worse from fracked gas wells. Here's the level of the problem:
Compared to coal, the footprint of shale gas is at least 20% greater and perhaps more than twice as great on the 20-year horizon and is comparable when compared over 100 years.
Not close to a "bridge fuel" in that case.

January 06, 2013

Anchor babies DO exist

Sorry, fellow liberals, but conservatives are sometimes right. Even wingnuts are occasionally right. And, per this story out of Los Angeles, anchor babies do exist.

How much of an issue is it? I don't know. It almost surely is less, maybe even far less, than wingnuts play it up to be. But, if there is/was an entire "maternity hotel" in suburban LA for Chinese women to fly here on tourist visas (and, don't forget Bobby Jindal's parents wanting to make sure he was born in the US), isn't it just possible that similar facilities, if lower key, exist for Mexican illegal immigrants along the southern border?

The story says that there's a whole "industry" for this, apparently Chinese-specific, though the story is not quite clear, in LA's San Gabriel Valley. That would seem to underscore that something similar could indeed exist for Mexican and/or other Hispanic immigrants, whether illegal or legal.

Is the answer to revoke birthright citizenship, as wingnuts want to do? Probably not. That said, what answers short of a greater police crackdown on, and dragnet for, maternity hotels, is there?