SocraticGadfly: 1/13/13 - 1/20/13

January 19, 2013

#Stlcards fans say good-bye to #StanTheMan

Stan the Man
Photo via St. Louis Post-Dispatch

St. Louis Cardinals legend Stan Musial had been in ill health for some time, but ... that doesn't prepare anybody for his passing away.

The unpretentious Musial was arguably one of the top 10 batters of all time. Yet, unpretentious and playing in the heartland, not one of the coasts, he was almost left off baseball's all-time top 100 team several years back.

On the playing side? Seven battling titles, six slugging percentage titles. Five runs scored titles, two RBI crowns. Eight times leading the league in doubles and five in triples.

His Wins Above Average, of 81.6, is better than many a Hall of Famer's Wins Above Replacement. Nearly 2,000 career RBIs and nearly 2,000 runs scored. Seventh in career offensive WAR and 13th in career OPS. Still sixth in career RBIs, ninth in career runs, and second only to Hank Aaron in career total bases.

Stan Musial guards Busch Stadium.
AP photo via ESPN.
And yet, unpretentious and playing in the heartland, not one of the coasts, he was almost left off baseball's all-time top 100 team.

 Bill James even has him at No. 1, all time, on his Hall of Fame Monitor numbers.

If the Cards had had even better rosters in the 1950s, more postseason appearances might have helped. And, the boosted regular season numbers would have been incredible.

Just think of what one difference could have made ... Yogi Berra instead of Joe Garigiola behind the plate in St. Louis. Joe wasn't bad as a catcher, but he was no Yog.

 I'm sure Yogi, as well as another St. Louis-area native, and former teammate and Hall of Famer, Red Schoendienst (who just celebrated his 90th birthday), and others will be weighing in.

They will be, of course, talking about Musial's greatness as a person, as well as a player.

Musial was that, too. And, with some degree of Democratic political activism, including involvement with at least JFK's presidential campaign as a fellow Catholic. He then served as Lyndon B. Johnson's director of the National Council on Physical Fitness.

The AP story reminds us more of his character. He supported Jackie Robinson when he crossed the color line, and appeared to have good rapport with black ballplayers in general, at least of the pioneer generation:
Brooklynites had another reason to think well of Musial: Unlike Enos Slaughter and other Cardinal teammates, he was supportive when the Dodgers' Jackie Robinson broke baseball's color barrier in 1947. Bob Gibson, who started out with the Cardinals in the late 1950s, would recall how Musial had helped established a warm atmosphere between blacks and whites on the team.

''I knew Stan very well,'' (Willie) Mays said. ''He used to take care of me at All-Star games, 24 of them. He was a true gentleman who understood the race thing and did all he could. Again, a true gentleman on and off the field.''
Indeed he was.

William Nack talks more about his character, again, especially related to baseball's integration.

And so, while I think President Barack Obama isn't liberal enough, he had the right personal touch two years ago. From the Post-Dispatch:
President Barack Obama presented Musial with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor that can be bestowed on a civilian, at the White House on Feb 15, 2011.
Go read the story, and keep an eye there. Here's another good P-D story, from his 92nd birthday last November. And, here's a year-by-year blow of his career. Tim Kurkjian has a great tribute at ESPN.

I never met him in person, but did see enough of him on TV, hear him talk, etc., to take him as being genuine. Yes, he reportedly had a grudge against Garagiola in later years, but, if that's the worst about him, it's not too bad, eh?

Especially his political activism in an era when that wasn't common, and certainly not on the Democratic side of the aisle.

Meanwhile, yes, Earl Weaver died too; a good Post-Dispatch write-up here. And, perhaps not known to everybody, he grew up in St. Louis himself. 

January 18, 2013

Aggie Cons #gunnuts hates them some Danny Glover on #2ndAmdt

From a work email from the Aggie Conservatives:

Danny Glover referenced the slaveowner angle on the "insurrectionist interpretation" of the Second Amendment. Glover claimed that the right to bear arms was created to oppress slaves and Native Americans at Texas A&M’s annual Martin Luther King breakfast this past Thursday morning.

Here's the Texas Aggie Conservative response:
It's outrageous. It should be a time for real reflection and respect. Instead, the university pushes a political agenda. The university doesn't want its donors to know all this.  Donors need to hold the university accountable and withhold contributions.
That's from TAC Chairman Eric Schroeder.
Sorry, Eric and other wingnut gun nuts, but ... Glover's exactly right!

Carl Bogus (who wrote an excellent, critical-in-the-historian sense bio of Bill Buckley) has made an excellent academic case for this reading, with James Madison himself, among others, pushing the Second Amendment for this reason.

Of course, any place that has Rick Perry among its top conservative grads has but a loose connection with the truth, right?

Joel Kotkin: Overrated and inaccurate

Joel Kotkin
Via a Facebook friend, I stumbled on a Joel Kotkin link about how progressives may not have such a green future. The piece wasn't bad, including his relabling the non-elected-officials portion of neoliberals as "gentry progressives."

So, I clicked on his piece touting the glowing future of the Great Plains. And, boy, is it all wet.

It's all wet because, for starters, he hasn't read Marc Reisner's "Cadillac Desert" to know that the future of the Great Plains is actually "all dry." Dry and getting drier in the future, especially if we focus on the High Plains portion of what he calls the Great Plains.

So, this:
First, with its vast resources, the Great Plains is in an excellent position to take advantage of worldwide increases in demand for food, fiber and fuel.
Ain't true. At least not the food and fiber parts.

Second, he lumps the eastern and western halves of each state that's arguably a "Great Plains" state together, in a piece written for Texas Tech University out in Lubbock.

Well, other than both being in Texas, Lubbock has about bupkis in common with, say Dallas.

Ditto for related observations across the area:
Third, and perhaps most important, are demographic changes. The late Soichiro Honda once noted that “more important than gold or diamonds are people.” The reversal of outmigration in the region suggests that it is once again becoming attractive to people with ambition and talent. This is particularly true of the region’s leading cities — Omaha, Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Kansas City, Sioux Falls, Greeley, Wichita, Lubbock, and Dallas-Fort Worth — many of which now enjoy positive net migration not only from their own hinterlands, but from leading metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, New York and Chicago.
There's a lot of problems with this.

 First, exactly what do you call "Great Plains"? I'm not sure I'd put Kansas City or Sioux Falls in it. I know I wouldn't put Greeley, Colo., in there. It's a Rocky Mountain city far more than a Great Plains, or High Plains, city.

And, that growth? Wichita was at a modest bit above national average, no more, in the past decade. Lubbock was a tick ahead, but no more. Metro KC and metro Omaha were moderately better, but not fantastic.

Related to that, Kotkin doesn't discuss how much of this growth was fueled by Hispanic immigration, both legal and illegal.

Third, Kotkin's "touts" apply only to the Great Plains' major metro areas. West of the 97th meridian or so (think I-35 from Austin-Dallas-Oklahoma City-Wichita, then straight north from there, and then shift your mindset about 50 miles west), nothing he said is true. There is no massively high-speed internet in Turkey, Texas, Goodland, Kan., or Valentine, Neb. The depopulation continues. The oil boom from shale oil will play out sooner rather than later, and probably at about the same time the Ogallala Aquifer does, which will be a huge double whammy. Kotkin didn't read Reisner, didn't see Ken Burns' "Dust Bowl" and is either ignorant of or ignoring of Peak Oil. And, I haven't even mentioned until now that climate change models say everything west of that 97th meridian is likely to get drier as well as hotter.

Maybe we should call the likes of Kotkin "gentry consultants."

January 17, 2013

Sorry, Texans, cycling fans, some libs — no sympathy for #Lance (updated)

Lance and Oprah, together forever in eternity?/Yahoo Sports
I don't need to see Oprah's "interview," because I know that she didn't ask one single one of the questions Dan Wetzel wishes she would have.

Read Dan's list of Armstrong's thuggery. And, yes, that's the word I use. His actions are consistently worse than Barry Bonds' were. Hmm, maybe newly-minted mountain biker Bonds showed Lance something about roiding? Or Lance showed him something about EPO doping? Who knows? They apparently have at least some degree of connectedness, beyond cheating.

Of course, Oprah is now saying Lance "did not come clean in the manner I expected, but more clean than that.

That said, a child rapist could admit to being a human being and Oprah would give him credit for something. Add to it that she's now going to spread the interview over two shows and I smell a craven search for ratings, and advertisers.

(Update, Jan. 17: Yep, Oprah's hyperbole struck again. Lance didn't really make that much of a confession. That's the shorter version.

Longer version? The Guardian live-blogged the whole thing. It's clear that Lance pulled at her emotional putty a few times, and stretched her alleged tough-asking interview prep into a blob of mush. Gee, what a shock.

And, Wetzel has a follow-up that, among other things, calls Lance "sociopathic." Bingo!)

(Update, April 23: Not sure whether sociopathy or what was the driving reason, but Lance turned down a possibility where he could have kept five of his formerly seven Tour de France titles, by cooperating with anti-doping folks.)

Getting back to what Dan Wetzel hoped Oprah would ask, though — I partially disagree with Wetzel. Lance's doping was also a fraud for cancer recovery. Many people who wanted to believe in not only some degree of recovery but "as good as before" got deceived by Lance's "better than before." (And Oprah apparently asked him bupkis about that.)

And, if they were deceived enough to give money to him rather than, say, the American Cancer Society, which surely has a lower "overhead," then, the cause of cancer research might indeed have been hurt.

Because, while Livestrong has publicized issues of cancer among various minorities and such, and it sounds good, that is his bottom line — cancer awareness, which is different than funding research. If "awareness" leads more people to change behaviors, get tested, etc., it helps, no doubt. I'm not trashing promoting awareness. I'm just saying that, for the buck, research, whether on causes or treatment, has a bigger bang. Also, re the "overhead" issue, the Ad Council does PSAs, etc., some in conjunction with folks like the Cancer Society, that promote "awareness."

And, let's not forget Relay for Life, which hits small towns across America year in and year out. And certainly has less overhead than Livestrong, and often involves minorities.

That said, Wetzel does raise an interesting question related to cancer.

That's the issue of wondering if Lance doped pre-cancer and, if he did, whether we shouldn't wonder if that may have been contributory.

So, even if Armstrong makes a more thorough confession than Mark McGwire, who really didn't talk that much detail about the past, years after saying he didn't want to talk about it at all, let's not put him on a pedestal again.

To do so would be to fall too easily into the mythos of American self-help and public redemption movements. (Which, it appears, is exactly what Lance was trying to pull off and which Oprah, in her search for rating and stretching this into a two-parter, didn't mind.)

It's interesting. Sports that have less severe punishments (that's you, NFL and NBA) vs. baseball, cycling and Olympic sports, don't have this drama because with less punishment, there's less perceived need for redemption, too.

Meanwhile, ESPN's Grantland has a great post about the top 10 sports apologies — that never happened

Will Obama snoop on our #DNA next?

"He knows where you've been driving,
he knows where you've been staying."
First, Team Obama still doesn't want to reveal if or when it's spying on John or Jane Doe, without a warrant, with a GPS tracking unit.

From the ACLU:
Two key memos outlining the Justice Department’s views about when Americans can be surreptitiously tracked with GPS technology are being kept secret by the department despite a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the ACLU to force their release. The FBI’s general counsel discussed the existence of the two memos publicly last year, yet the Justice Department is refusing to release them without huge redactions. ...

The Justice Department’s unfortunate decision leaves Americans with no clear understanding of when we will be subjected to tracking—possibly for months at a time—or whether the government will first get a warrant. This is yet another example of secret surveillance policies—like the Justice Department’s secret opinions about the Patriot Act’s Section 215—that simply should not exist in a democratic society.
Pretty straightforward about what Dear Leader is doing (to the degree we know what he's doing) isn't it?

It may also be a bit related why he's never nominated a director for Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms his entire administration. Far be it from me to give gun nuts more ammo, so to speak, but Dear Leader's doing so himself.

But, that's nothing.

Hey, Gadfly, is that you I see?
Now, we've got a new "holy crap" moment.

It's pretty damned easy to identify real people from their DNA. Even if supposedly is somewhat "anonymized."
The genetic data of more than 1,000 people from around the world seemed stripped of anything that might identify them individually. All that was posted online were those data, the ages of the individuals, and the region where each of them lived. But when a researcher randomly selected the DNA sequences of five people in the database, he not only figured out who they were, but he also identified their entire families, though the relatives had no part in the study. His foray into genomic sleuthing ended up breaching the privacy of nearly 50 people.
Holy crap, indeed! Go read the whole story.

Among other things, a certain Dr. Botkin is incredibly naive:
"Dr. Jeffrey R. Botkin, associate vice president for research integrity at the University of Utah, which collected the genetic information of some research participants whose identity was breached, cautioned about overreacting. ... He added that “it is hard to imagine what would motivate anyone to undertake this sort of privacy attack in the real world.”
Really? The (he shall not be named) Presidential Administration who thinks extrajudicial killing of Americans with drones and extrajudicial spying on Americans with GPS systems, and a massive "war on leakers," wouldn't have ideas for what to do with this?

Let's say, on the "leakers" angle, Department of Justice subpoenas every piece of paper in a reporter's possession. And tests it for any bits of DNA it can find.

It identifies people, and starts going from there.

We've seen how draconian Team Obama was with Aaron Swartz. So, if you think this is hyperbolically unrealistic, think again.

And, would I ever want my DNA tested for anything? Not anymore.

#Nullification: will Obama become Andy Jackson or not?

Since this is being coordinated by the Tenth Amendment Center, I'm sure the Texas Legislature is not alone in considering legislation that would officially nullify any federal action that allegedly violates the Second Amendment. Of course, the NRA is ultimately behind this, which means just about anything could be considered a violation.

But, we've been partially down this road before with Obamacare, on nullification threats, and the Compromiser-in-Chief kept his mouth shut then. Now, there is such a thing as keeping one's powder dry, so to speak.

But, do we really have any indication that if push came to shove, he'd do anything? Notta lotta.

Meanwhile, for both state-level and federal-level Texas officials, if you want to worry about Obama Administration actions inside Texas, I suggest:

1. The Obama EPA shutting down an investigation of fracking contamination in Weatherford, and ...
2. The likely approval of Keystone XL this portends, along with the property rights violations, the petrochemical problems sure to increase in Houston, etc.

January 16, 2013

Joey Dauben, felon (updated)

I was wondering why my last previous post about Ellis County (south exurban Dallas) newspaper reporter Joey Dauben was getting more hits.

And, I now see it's because he's been convicted. And on the lesser of two cases.

The more serious one? Charges of sexual assault of a minor. He goes on trial for that early next year.

And (updated Jan. 16, 2013) a Corsicana jury has given him plenty of reasons to wipe the smug look off of his face.

Either 10 years, or 30 years, worth of reasons, depending on whether a judge says his sentences should be consecutive or concurrent.

For those coming here for the Ali Alexandar / Ali Akbar pre-Start the Steal nuttery, go here to get there immediately. But, consider reading through first, so you can see just how big a nutter it was, in the person of convicted felon Joey Dauben that said Akbar / Alexander was really thrown off.

Per the three links above, Dauben is an exotic mashup of Walter Mitty with dreams of being William Randolph Hearst and possible repressed homophobe. (The alleged victim in the sexual assault case is male but in his teens, so there is the issue of sexuality in play, as I've noted here, wondering why a writer at Dallas' LGBT mag, the Voice, has such an interest in Dauben's case.)

Dauben was also extensively profiled for some strange reason by the Dallas Observer (my blog take on that here.) Weirdly, per the new picture above, replacing a link bust, I didn't realize that D Magazine, with piece written by Mike Orren of then-independent Pegasus News, had also fellated Dauben.

The man, or man-child, is incorrigible. He violated terms of his pre-trial release on bond. He acts like this is all some big libertarian "game."

Well, Joey, and any of your friends like "sunflower" who see this? It's not a game.

But, I don't expect you to admit that. In part, I think the Walter Mitty is grasping at a dream you'd like to be true. In part, I think it's hiding from a past you'd like to not be true. Indeed, I wonder where your crusading against child abuse (or, wrongly identified non-abusers, in this case) comes from.

That said, per the Corsicana charges, one could laugh at Dauben being hoisted by his own petard, too:

“At the end of the day, Joey Dauben raped a 14 year old boy,” said Navarro County District Attorney R. Lowell Thompson. “He complained about Ellis County being soft on sex offenders. He found out that in Navarro County, we aren’t.”
But, of course, it's not a laughing matter. Certainly the sexual assault isn't, and ultimately, and sadly, neither is the character of Joey Dauben.

And, sadly, I don't expect you to admit you're gay, either. (And, no, if both my suspicions are correct, I don't believe child abuse makes you gay.) Speaking of this, Dallas Voice contributor David Webb hasn't written anything about Dauben since last April. What gives?

Update, March 16, 2013: I had a new light bulb pop on tonight. Joey Dauben reminds me of a slightly less mature James O'Keefe of Breitbart fame, detailed here in all his sordidness.

Update 2, July 19, 2017: How did Dauben know that a mayor of tiny little Henderson County burg Seven Points, way away from Ellis County, was gay unless Dauben has a gay grapevine or good gay gaydar? 

And, why did you feel compelled to say "I'm not gay"?

Joey, you're in prison because of repression and denial, IMO. And, maybe not denial at the end, as you said — after both conviction and sentencing — that you were taking responsibility for this. (That said, a gay news author, well known on the case, David Webb, in that wandered awfully close to the area that child abuse of a boy can make him a gay man, while at the same time, still insisting Dauben's not gay.)

I don't know if he and John Margetis were gay lovers or not, as a spite-laden blog claims, per the Dallas Observer. To be honest, I'm likely to say no; if they were, why would Joey have committed not "just" statutory rape, but same-sex statutory rape?

Sadly, had you not been repressing, none of this would have happened.


Update, Aug. 22, 2021: Besides "Sunflower" and his other groupies who trailed him, at the Ellis County Observer, Dauben had as one of his flunkies a guy named Ali Akbar, who also allegedly was working on the Texas effort for John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign. Today, you know him as "Stop the Steal" would-be thief Ali Alexander. Dauben, per this piece, back then thought Akbar (already then a convicted felon) was shady as shit, claiming that Akbar/Alexander had talked back then of ways to rig an election. And, if Joey Dauben thought that ...
Sept. 1, 2022: Oath Keepers legal council Kellye SoRelle (don't you love how White Karens who laugh at Black names can't spell straight themselves?) has been arrested for conspiracy. Per Twitterati, she previously fingered Alexander as one of three leaders of the Jan. 6 insurrection, along with Roger Stone and Alex Jones. 

Update, April 17, 2023: Akbar/Alexander now accused of soliciting "dick pics" from followers of Nick Fuentes. Says he's been "battling" same-sex attraction. Uses "so gay" as a slur. Statement, via Twitter, claims he's done nothing illegal. Other than possibly breaking the law if any of these were of minors (and hence highly illegal), sounds like he needs to stop battling and start accepting being bisexual. Plus, it's all about the money. Milo Yiannopoulos (THAT Milo) ratted on him after he and Fuentes cut him out of a "potentially lucrative" position with Kanye West's presidential run. (Was this 2020, or is he looking at another in 2024? YE gads.) And, rats like Marjorie Taylor Greene are trying to dissociate from both.
Non Akbar/Alexander updates:

Meanwhile, some of his critics probably WERE as libelous as Dauben. Why else would their blog now be invitation-only on readership?

Related? Update, Oct. 25, 2021: Joey's friend John Margetis, who allegedly kept running Joey's piles of crap after his arrest, was himself arrested and after Joey's conviction. The charges aren't related to that, but just show the company Joey kept in his weird crusades.

Dennis Kucinich, liar and Faux News 'token'

Dennis Kucinich/AP photo via Buzzfeed
Note to Denny the Dwarf. Be honest, take the Faux News money, and admit it's because you don't have a real job now since having been redistricted out of your Congressional seat and deciding not to run in Washington state.

Do NOT claim that you're not going to be a token. Because you are.

And, true progressives, who at one time wondered if you might run as the Green Party presidential candidate, are now, instead, watching your stature continue to shrink. So to speak. 

BuzzFeed itself is laughable in claiming that former Faux contributor Evan Bayh is a liberal. Even more laughable when it had to scramble for the name of Bob Beckel as another liberal to list alongside of Bayh.

Who? Yeah, I had to Google Bob Beckel myself. Anybody who wants to extrajudicially shoot Julian Assange, and is "red meat" enough to call someone not a citizen of the United States a "traitor" is no liberal.

You're a token, Dennis. (Of course, given the fold like a cheap suit nature of your House Progressive Caucus best buds, you're in good company with talking tough but selling short.)

Per claims about Beckel and Bayh pulling punches on Faux, let's see how short your arms really are. Heh, heh.

Gimme five years, and we'll be calling Denny the Dwarf a neoliberal. Even better, gimme five years and hopefully he'll be so faded off the radar screen we won't be calling him (for) anything.

Before you celebrate Obama's gun control speech

It all sounds good, doesn't it?

But, let's stop and think.

Finally, planning to fill a 6-year-old vacancy for ATF's head? That goes back to before you even became president. What took so long, Obama?

And prosecute more gun-purchase crimes? If this is such a good idea now, why hasn't it been such a good idea for the last four years? In the realistic world of law enforcement and jurisprudence, either you know this would be of limited effectiveness, and so this move is more grandstsanding than substance, or else you've been criminally negligent the past for years. Which is it?

In either case, you've only prosecuted about 70 out of about 7,000 gun-purchase violations. 

And, some, like the Obamacare "clarification," are small potatoes, indeed.

That said, per the more detailed article here, I do give a kudo for him having the appropriate federal agencies start investigating gun violence and mental health. Of course, they can investigate to their hearts' collective delight. The question is, what action will be taken based on any findings? And, even any investigation, beyond the most cursory, will require additional funding for the CDC, NIMH, etc. And, the power of the purse is still Congress's, not Obama's, for any new money. Obama can, of course, redistribute existing funds; of course, some of the GOP right would probably then push to cut CDC or NIMH funding by that same amount.

Also, before Obamiacs think about calling me a downer, let's remember that, in his last couple of years in the Illinois state senate, he was anything but tough on guns. And, he wasn't memorable for anything related to gun control during his four years in the US Senate. (Of course, he wasn't memorable for much of anything there other than planning on running for president.)

So, again, back to that "laundry list."

Two of its biggest items are inexcusable for being on that list in the first place.

Half of the remainder will require Congressional money for serious implementation.

Remember Jared Loughner? How much did Dear Leader speak about gun control after he shot Gabby Giffords?

Well, maybe that's a bit harsh, but is it really THAT harsh?

I don't think so.

January 15, 2013

Overrating Obama by the inside-the-Beltway media

OH, doorknob, the inside-the-Beltway media is myopic. PBS' Frontline tonight is looking at the Compromiser-in-Chief's first term, and Jonathan Alter says, "this was the greatest presidential transition in history."


Quincy Adams-Jackson
Lincoln-Andrew Johnson

All of them, in various ways and for various reasons, were greater transitions.

Beyond overrating Obama, it overrates the current era of America, arguably. But, it starts with overrating Obama.

However, it's a general shallowness and a larger myopia, too. And, it's massive acid trip on Beltway media egotism. This transition rates as the most important in history because folks like Alter wrote about the horse race.

And, that's why thoughtful people like me don't have a lot of use for a lot of national-level media. It's not so much the Obama bias among the liberal media, it's the Obama bias among the neoliberal establishmentarian media.

Did Nats overpay for Soriano or not? And Lohse and #StlCards?

Well, Scott Boras has gotten one of his remaining free agents signed.

Rafael Soriano is headed to the Washington Nationals. Price? Yahoo says 2 years, $14 million per year, plus an option year for the same price.

If you say that each full point of Wins Above Average is worth about $6 million, then, per his performance last year, it's a good deal for the Nats, arguably even a shade of an underpay.

But, as folks like Jonathan Papelbon (looking beyond just saves) and Brad Lidge have shown us, many a good closer can suddenly spit the bit, either temporarily, in Papelbon's case, or permanently, with Lidge. True, Soriano had great saves years in 2009 and 2010, but the likelihood of him being worth the full $14M each of the three years (I'm assuming he appears enough in this year and 2014 to vest that option) seems less likely.

So .... it's still possibly to probably a good deal the full three years, but not guaranteed so.

That said, the Boras logjam is broken a bit, at least.

So, quo vadis Kyle Lohse? Back to the Cardinals, for perhaps a similar deal? Or on down the road?

I'd be willing to give him a similar contract. Chris Carpenter is certainly a question mark after his contract expires after this year. Certainly, Jake Westbrook is at least a question mark if not a see you later after this year.

Will ratings agencies downgrade US credit rating? And, so what?

Fitch's is threatening to downgrade the US government's credit rating if the deficit isn't fixed. And more.

Here's the core of the warning:
Fitch also warned starkly that the U.S. rating could be downgraded even if Washington gets its act together and raises the debt limit without a self-inflicted crisis first, because America’s economic strength is “being eroded by the large, albeit steadily declining, structural budget deficit and high and rising public debt.”

Fitch added: “In the absence of an agreed and credible medium-term deficit reduction plan that would be consistent with sustaining the economic recovery and restoring confidence in the long-run sustainability of U.S. public finances, the current Negative Outlook on the 'AAA' rating is likely to be resolved with a downgrade later this year even if another debt ceiling crisis is averted."

The agency also dealt a blow to a popular conservative response to warnings about the dire consequences of not raising the debt ceiling. Some Republicans have said that the government will still take in enough cash to make interest payments, meaning that it won’t default on its debt, and will simply have to “prioritize” which programs it will fund.

“It is not assured that the Treasury would or legally could prioritise debt service over its myriad of other obligations, including social security payments, tax rebates and payments to contractors and employees,” Fitch said.

So what would happen? You guessed it. Per Fitch: “Arrears on such obligations would not constitute a default event from a sovereign rating perspective but very likely prompt a downgrade even as debt obligations continued to be met.”
That said, did anything really happen to US borrowing costs after Moody's downgrade two years ago? No.

And, beyond that, Fitch is threatening a downgrade anyway.

That said, let's guesstimate the political play.

Both President Obama and House Republicans will ratchet up the blame game. The GOP will then turn to Fitch and others and ask them to suggest some specific ideas and ways to alleviate concerns. Obama, to prove he's serious, will stop his tough talk and put stuff like chained-CPI for Social Security back on the table.

Obama will not say the whole matter of the debt ceiling is largely an artificial construct. He will not point out that little happened after Moody's 2011 ratings downgrade.

That's because he's a neoliberal, folks. Still. Leopards and spots, you know.

Paul Krugman will probably have something about this on his blog, but, Obama doesn't listen to him.

January 14, 2013

Dear Texas Senate: 1.8 percent isn't enough

But, that's what the Texas Senate proposed budgetarily. An $88.9 billion  budget, just 1.8 percent above the previous budget-slasher, simply isn't enough.

Hell, even Dewhurst said last week that the Senate, and state in general, needed to be prepared to lose the school finance lawsuit. Seems like we've got a different David Dewhurst speaking today.

This baby cuts the mustard with nobody but the far right.

January 13, 2013

#Lincoln — #Reconstruction, rosewater, Tony Kushner (updated)

Image via Bartleby's Second Inaugural page
As I said in a previous blog post, there’s one thing wrong with the new Lincoln movie. (Actually, with further reflection, there's more than one thing that, if not wrong, could have been done better; see poll at right to cast your own vote on the movie's historicity.)

Tony Kushner recently, on NPR’s Fresh Air, was claiming that the “lost cause,” the rise of the Klan, etc., were due to nobody in the North listening to Lincoln's “Malice for none.” WRONG!

Reality? The Klan arose during the first half of Andrew Johnson's administration, precisely because Johnson was too soft. And, as partial illustration? The Klan's leadership was first offered to Robert E. Lee, before Nathan Bedford Forrest. Lee turned it down but not on moral principles. Rather, it appears he thought such type of work was beneath him and his position in the Southern social hierarchy and caste.

Reality? Kushner needs to read Eric Foner’s “Reconstruction.” As do a lot of Americans. Or Gabor Borritt’s “The Gettysburg Gospel.”

I don’t put Lincoln on too much of a pedestal myself, but, I think April 14, 1865 was clearly the most tragic single day in American history. (That said, see my full review here.) As for Kushner’s thoughts, Lincoln probably would have toughened up his “rosewater” reconstruction plans when he saw the rise of the Klan, while yet extending carrots to smart-minded Southerners. He would have put down the Klan and related groups immediately, unlike Andrew Johnson, that’s for sure. And, from 1869 on, he would have been a Republican elder statesman to guide President Grant.

But, the real problem is that Kushner seems to be committing the same error that was deliberately done by white Northerners and Southerners on the Gettysburg Address no more than 20 years after Lincoln spoke it, as Boritt points out so well.

And that is, he’s assuming the “Malice toward none and charity for all” were to apply to Southern white folks only.

Rather, both at Gettysburg and at Washington, D.C., on March 4, 1865, Lincoln clearly includes blacks in the “all” who should get charity and the “none” who should not suffer malice.

After all, soon after this inaugural, Lincoln was postulating extending the vote to at least some freed slaves and, as John Wilkes Booth knew, “that means nigger citizenship,” as he surely spoke for many a white Southerner.

Let’s look at the full last paragraph of the Second Inaugural:
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
We’ve already talking about the first two clauses. Now, let’s look at a few more.

1. “(W)ith firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right.” Lincoln’s views on black Americans had evolved and grown throughout the war. He had abandoned the idea of colonization. He had now ventured the idea of black voting. He was seeing more — and surely would also have supported the 14th Amendment as well as the 15th — as “the right.” And, per the language of the 14th Amendment, would have taken necessary action in Reconstruction against the Klan and other white power groups.

After all, this was a president who had once suspended habeas corpus across the entire Union, and had had no problem using military tribunals to avoid civilian courts when he deemed it necessary. Yes, he expressed his hope that a Jefferson Davis might just flee the country, but, confronted with a Nathan Bedford Forrest who, rather than flee the country, sought to repress newly-freed black Americans, Lincoln would have been resolute.

He would have offered an olive branch with his rosewater. But, for the Forrests who refused his proffered cocktail?
The Almighty has His own purposes. Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.
Or, per a Psalm: “Woe unto that man. Better for him had he never been born.”

2. “(L)et us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds …” Those wounds weren’t just white Southerners or white Northerners. Remember, Lincoln had just said:
Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.’
Binding up the wounds of “two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil” would be part of Reconstruction as he saw it. And woe to those who would derail such work.

Lincoln would have supported a Freedman’s Bureau at least as much as Radical Republicans, and might have eventually seen an even broader mandate for it.

In short, Kushner’s reading of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural is superficial. And, sadly, although the movie does decently overall with Lincoln’s relationship to black Americans, one wonders if Kushner’s ideas didn’t harm the screenplay just a little bit. I will have to keep that in mind with my next viewing. 

And, while the movie was already 2:30, I partially agree with this NYT critic that a more forceful black American could have had more airtime. Fred Douglass was initially turned away from the inaugural soiree, before Lincoln personally intervened with gala security, then talked with him. That scene could have been inserted before the scene about Lincoln and the black vote. 

And, far beyond a relatively young Northwestern professor, let's look at the man arguably the dean of modern Civil War scholars. Eric Foner also says the movie has a limited view, namely that Lincoln didn't start the push for emanicipation in general or the 13th Amendment in particular.

In a video interview with CNN, Foner also says the movie overdramatizes things. True, the next Congress was not set for regular session until December, but Lincoln had pledged to call it into special session in March if necessary.

But, to nuance Foner, Lee surrendered April 9, and Lincoln had no idea if an event like that might happen earlier. So, I'd have to criticize that criticism of his. And, per Lincoln not jumping on the "amendment bandwagon" until the middle of 1864, Foner himself writes enough about Lincoln's political skills, and evolution on slavery in general, in his latest book, that one could honestly wonder if, although not to the degree an Amazon reviewer claimed, that there's not a small bit of sour grapes at work. 

At the same time, Foner defends Lincoln well from the claims he was a racist slave supporter. He's right that Bennett is overwrought and "cannot take yes for an answer." 
Which was the real Lincoln — the racist or the opponent of slavery. The unavoidable answer is: both. Bennett cannot accept that it was possible in nineteenth-century America to share the racial prejudices of the time, and yet simultaneously believe that believe that slavery was a crime that ought to be abolished.
Foner goes on to note that the Emancipation Proclamation was a turning point for both Lincoln and the country. After it, he more openly accepted blacks serving in the Army and also let go of his earlier colonization schemes, Foner claims.

However, Foner is wrong, at least on colonization. He mentioned it on Dec. 1, 1862, in his second State of the Union. And, he continued to push it at least in the early part of 1863. Sebastian Page lists what's well known to Civil War historians less exalted than Foner. Indeed, Lincoln didn't write finis to the Haitian scheme until 1864.

In light of that, including the overly generous assessment of Foner, it is clear Lincoln was grasping for how black and white would live side by side in postwar America. Perhaps he was even recognizing that blacks would theoretically be free to move North, bluntly confronting states with "black codes" like his own Illinois. And, that's why Corey Robin's words about Thomas Jefferson allegedly looking to that end are much more applicable to Lincoln, as I have blogged.

So, while the movie may be somewhat hagiographic, it perhaps as much as it could be. And, it's not a documentary. Do we want Ken Burns to do a sequel to the Civil War, with eight episodes on Lincoln? If so, no Bennett and no Thomas diLorenzo. Fortunately, Shelby Foote is dead.

That said, Lincoln's ongoing interest in colonization, not just in 1864 but even 1865, possibly, also means that Foner may also be wrong for criticizing someone like Donald Miller who claims Lincoln was too passive, too often. On colonization, at least, in the face of continued support for it by the more clearly racist types, Lincoln may just have been too passive.

Update, Jan. 13, 2013: Speaking of Foner, per his "The Fiery Trial," the movie does have at least one historical inaccuracy. In the opening sequence, when the more outspoken of the two black soldiers mentions pay inequality? Congress fixed that in the middle of 1864. Also, having now read that book, I feel more confidence in my thought that Lincoln would eventually have had a sterner Reconstruction plan than what Andrew Johnson thought, or projected, Lincoln had.

First, Lincoln would have recognized the way the north in general and his party in particular were headed.

Second, postwar activities, above all the start of the Klan, would have disabused him of much of his remaining thought about likely degrees of cooperation among white southerners. 

That said, I think he still would have worked for a more in-depth solution than the Radicals had in mind, while recognizing the power of the legislative branch.