SocraticGadfly: 10/6/13 - 10/13/13

October 12, 2013

Well, Horns fans, looks like Mack Brown is safe, at least for now

With the Texas Longhorns, massive underdogs in the Red River Shootout (I remember when it had no title, pre-DrPepper hype) upending the Oklahoma Sooners in Dallas today, it looks like Longhorn coach Mack Brown is officially off the hot seat for the rest of the year.

My previous 5-7 projection automatically updates to a minimum of 6-6, with a reasonable shot at going at least 7-5 and making a trip to the postseason.

That said, will he recognize he got lucky, or whatever, this year? That he's still coaching a program that's been struggling for multiple successive years and probably would be better without him?

I doubt it. Mack sounds like a stubborn man, even by the standards of NCAA Division I football coaches. That includes the fact that his contract doesn't expire until the end of the decade and he's already indicated he expects to be "taken care of."

Until recently, speculation was he would step up to the athletic director's chair once its current occupant, DeLoss Dodds, steps down.

However, per news of earlier this week, there's just one problem (other than Mack's potential "I'm still a good coach" vein of stubbornness) with this scenario. And, that's that UT administration may not have Mack in its sights.

Well, if UT is hiring an outside search firm to look for Dodds' replacement, this scenario might not be so true.

Of course, spending the money on the search firm, and possibly having to buy Mack out if he won't retire and they won't name him AD, while cutting 500 jobs, shows the ridiculousness of the power of college football.


Meanwhile, while I'm here, here's a quick hit look at the Big 12.

Baylor now looks to be the team to beat.

Oklahoma, which didn't look impressive against TCU, is in some sort of tie for second with Oklahoma State and Texas Tech right now. And, with the Horns, now 3-0 in district, they have to be considered at least near that mix now, too.

Instead of OU-Baylor being the hot game, it could be Baylor and the Longhorns. Or Baylor and the Cowboys.

Finally, I have to agree with Brent Musberger in the press box. Bob Stoops and staff called a poor offensive game. Why wasn't Bell running more from quarterback? And with that, plus the struggle against TCU a week ago, the second guessing can migrate from Austin to Norman. A pitiful offensive performance against a defense that had been getting maligned far and wide will draw that second guessing.

October 11, 2013

#GohmertPyle goes wingnut on John McCain

I guess Texas Congresscritter Louie Gohmert, aka Gohmert Pyle, was getting tired of Ted Cruz sucking up all the oxygen in the world of wingnuttia.

Because he now thinks John McCain is an al Qaeda supporter.

No, really. Watch away.

Gohmert Pyle later tried to nuance and expound on his nuttery somewhat. That's because he can't:
This isn’t the first time Gohmert has accused McCain of conspiring with al Qaeda. In May, he said McCain and President Obama were partly responsible for the deadly attack on the U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012. Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, died in the attack.
Hence the Gaddhafi reference in the video.

Of course, we here in Texas know that Gohmert is more batshit-crazy all around than Cruz is. He's just stuck with the big pile of crazies in the House, though, while Cruz has a high profile in the Senate.

That said, there's been speculation that John Cornyn, speaking of Texas senators, might get primaried. There's been, more hope from Democrats than speculation among both "major" parties, that Gohmert Pyle might be the person doing that. 

I could hope, but doorknob, I'm afraid that he might actually win, no matter how much Corny n panders himself. And, not just win the primary, but win the general, as nutty as that seems.

Is Mack Brown going to retire? Should he? Is he out of the AD running?

Update, Oct 11: The assumption around Longhorn Land has always been that, when DeLoss Dodds stepped down as athletic director, Mack Brown would move up to take his place. And might be encouraged to do so.

Well, if UT is hiring an outside search firm to look for Dodds' replacement, that might not be so true.

Of course, spending the money on the search firm, and possibly having to buy Mack out if he won't retire and they won't name him AD, while cutting 500 jobs, shows the ridiculousness of the power of college football.

Meanwhile, the original post:

According to Greg Couch, and I know others, the rumors, and speculation, are swirling that Texas Longhorns football coach Mack Brown is getting ready to announce his pending retirement. Indeed, Yardbarker puts him at No. 1 on its Division 1-A coaching hot seat.

Couch says, as part of diagnosing why the Horns are currently 1-2 (and likely headed to a losing season, though he doesn't say that) asks "what happened to the recruiting"?

Well, other than taking a pass on Johnny Football, has he recruited that badly? Absolutely not, according to the likes of Dennis Dodd.

Rather, as I told a good sports friend of mine, isn't he the football version of Horns hoops coach Rick Barnes? Great recruiter, not so great on X's and O's all the time? True, Brown did win it all with Vince Young, whereas Barnes couldn't pull that off with even Kevin Durant, but that's another story. The general analogy seems to stand.

Canning Manny Diaz as d-coordinator for Greg Robinson, who hadn't been a standout himself in his earlier run in Austin, did seem a bit panicky.

Here's two reasons who Brown should announce his resignation, and before the Red River Shootout.

1. You're fixing to get your ass kicked by Oklahoma, again.

2. You're looking at a losing season.

The way I see it, Brown announcing his resignation is the only way for the Horns to gin up enough spirit to at least get close to the Sooners, setting aside the idea of a win, and to do well enough otherwise in the Big XII to go 6-6 overall and claim a bowl bid as a farewell to Mack?

Let's take a look at the rest of the Horns' season otherwise.

First, the K-State game is a reality check. After losing by 20 at home to Ole Miss, this is a must-win. But, I'm not sure they will, especially without that Mack retirement announcement. K-State isn't fantastic this year, but home advantage may be the only differentiation in this game, if that's enough of a bump. (Right now, the Horns are a 5-point favorite.) As a reality check, a loss that doesn't get much into double digits, like no more than 10-12 points, a minimum. Lose by more than that, and we know you're bad.

Let's take a look at the remaining schedule.

Overall in the conference, I'd rank them behind every team but Iowa State and Kansas. Arguably, home advantage should be enough to beat K-State. If it is good enough for that, and for beating Tech, that would give them a 4-5 conference mark and 5-7 overall. If they can only beat one of those two at home plus Kansas, and lose all road games except Iowa State, plus the neutral Shootout, that's 3-6 and 4-8.

So, yeah, that's why the K-State game is a check-down on where the team's at. Plus a momentum game. Yeah, momentum is overrated. But not totally or always. (And, Mack crossed this hurdle, just above where most oddsmakers placed the point spread. So, a victory of sorts, over a K-State team playing on the road and possibly not as good as last year. He's likely still on track for 5-7, though, unless the Horns are better than the Red Raiders, or pull an even bigger upset somewhere else.)

As for his record? A 5-7 mark would tie for his worst ever at Texas. The 2010 campaign was the only time he's won less than 8 games.

If those two reasons to retire aren't enough, here's a third: DeLoss Dodds.

He can deny the rumors all he wants, but I believe he's retiring by or before the end of the current school year. (If he isn't,  he'd better hope Barnes has better rabbits in his hat than Mack does, lest he be forced out himself.)

And, so, if you announce your retirement before Dodds steps down, you get to leave gracefully, on your terms. And, you get to do Dodds a solid of having more time to look for your replacement, and look for your replacement himself. He might even name you as HIS replacement, in turn.

Obviously, we're late enough in the week that Mack isn't making an announcement before the K-State game. But, he's got a bye week before Iowa State, which would give him time to reflect before the Shootout. Or, if he takes a whiff on making an announcement then, he has another bye the week after Oklahoma, before TCU. Assuming the Shootout scenario plays out as I expect, or worse, and if Texas has also lost to K-State, then Mack's an idiot if he doesn't make an announcement, because more upset alumni will be howling for his scalp at that point.


Meanwhile, who would replace him? Gary Patterson at TCU doesn't seem a likely move, especially if Mack jumps up to the AD's chair.

Well, a year ago, one UT regent had a desire, a hankering ...

For Nick Saban.

If you breathe burnt orange, though, don't hold your breath:
"Nothing went on that I know of. I haven't talked to anybody about that situation," Saban said Thursday on his weekly radio show. "... Quite frankly, I'm just too damn old to start all over some place else."
Really? C'mon, now. On the other hand, he IS the same age as Mack, so there is an element of reality.

And that all said, he's ensconced at Bama like Bear Bryant's long-lost son. Barring some huge scandal, he ain't moving. And, no, the recent player-cum-fixer reports aren't enough to do that.

But it is interesting to note the mindset at Austin of someone who, theoretically, is an indirect ultimate boss of Brown — and of Dodds, for that matter.

As part of that story:
Under contract until 2020 and being paid $5.4 million this year ... Brown has said he plans to coach through his contract.
I didn't realize that Brown's current contract is through 2020 and that he still says he's going to coach through it. If he's not 100 percent serious, that means he wants the Horns to "Take care of him" in some way if he announces his retirement.

Meanwhile, the story gets more fun, speaking of Mack possibly wanting the Horns to "take care of him":
Joe Jamail, a billionaire trial lawyer who is one of the top donors to Texas, is Brown's attorney. When asked about the conference call with (Saban's agent Jimmy) Sexton and the lunch meeting, Jamail suggested ( Regent Wallace) Hall was acting on his own and threatened to sue anyone outside the university if they try to pressure Brown to resign.
There's backstory to Hall, too:
Hall is under an impeachment investigation by the state House of Representatives, and lawmakers have complained that Hall has tried to force out university president Bill Powers, who has been a strong advocate for Brown. Steve Hicks has been among the regents backing Powers in a public spat that has embroiled the board members and state lawmakers for more than a year.
So, any move to dump Mack has all sorts of state politics tied to it, as former Aggie cheerleader Tricky Ricky Perry giggles in a corner.

Just call me #Gawker

Well, that's what Technorati does, in its latest listing of "authority levels" on US politics.

True, I'm not the only non-"name" blog to be there. But, I'm also listed at the same authority level as Fairness and Accuracy in Media, or FAIR.

And, I'll give you a more rounded, diverse take on a larger variety of issues than will Gawker. And, I won't SEO-hook you with headers that say "10 reasons" or "12 items." I won't build listicles like that, either.

Instead, you'll get insightful, critical political commentary from a skeptical left-liberal perspective, working to try to bring a 21st-century version of real liberalism back to American politics.

And, yes, it's a bit of tooting my own horn. And yes, Technorati was really cool about a decade ago, or at best, about 2006. But, it is what it is.

I don't toot my own horn often. Those ratings will change soon enough. And Technorati isn't the be-all that it kind of used to be.

But, I am tooting my horn this time. Those are the current ratings. And Technorati isn't 100 percent dead, either.

October 10, 2013

California does a 180 from Texas on abortion access

In the past, in this blog, I have identified myself as somewhere in the great middle of Americans on abortion issues, albeit at the left side of center.

In an ideal world, this is how I would break out abortion issues, per Roe's trimester structure:
1. First trimester: Unlimited access for adult women, and for minors with judicial notification. Restoration of Medicaid funding.
2. Second trimester: Moderate restrictions on access. I might allow a two-doctor's visit requirement, but no minimum time spacing between visits. I would be more likely to allow this for minors. Some restrictions on where abortions are performed.
3. Third trimester: States can bar most abortions, with exception of maternal life, notable maternal health issues, and notable maternal health issues. Incest exception for minors would still be allowed (including genetic testing to corroborate the "naming"), but the rape exception would not. (Sorry, that should be done by the end of the second trimester.)

That all said, it's very interesting to see what California is doing on first-trimester abortions.

Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into law a measure letting people other than doctors do such abortions.
The Early Access to Abortion Bill will enable trained nurse practitioners, certified nurse midwives, and physician assistants to perform first-trimester abortions by vacuum aspiration. It’s the logic of cause and effect: If you make it easier to access an abortion, earlier, and from a legitimate provider, there will be fewer desperate customers turning to unsafe providers.
Yep. It's specifically addressed to the issue of Dr. Kermit Gosnell.

And, while there's still no Medicaid funding behind it, letting these other professionals do first-trimester abortions will make abortion safe in another way by making it less expensive.

It's safe, it's now legal in California, and, per the third touchstone word, could make late-term abortions rare, or at least rarer.

Kacal gets a primary challenge in Texas House Dist 12

Incumbent state Rep. Kyle Kacal, whose House District 12 includes Falls County, has an announced primary opponent, but it won’t be a new face.

Timothy Delasandro, a Navy veteran and registered nurse supervisor, said the district needs what he called “authentic conservative leadership.”

"Protecting small town values requires Texas-sized courage. We deserve a representative that will promote and protect our freedoms in Austin. I have a proven record of standing up for the rights of Texans and will continue to do so as your representative. Today, I’m announcing my candidacy in the Republican Primary for House District 12. I’m asking for the right to represent our district with an authentic conservative voice that truly reflects the will of our rural communities," he said in a press release announcing his candidacy.

Delasandro challenged Kacal in the 2012 Republican primary and lost badly, getting just 12.25 percent of the vote in a three-way race. He also ran in the 2010 GOP primary for U.S. House District 17, now held by Rep. Bill Flores, and got just 4.79 percent of the vote.

Delasandro said that Kacal had failed several conservative litmus tests in his first term in the state House, including on issues like school choice, abortion, and concealed weapons.

He comes off as standard modern tea-party type Republican insurgent. Wanting no new taxes, yet wanting better infrastructure for the district, per his "issues" link, is just one example.

'Moderates' in the GOP and debt limit denialism

First, when Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker is called a moderate, rather than a straight-up conservative, the press is practicing some cousin of "equivalence."

That said, Maine Sen. Susan Collins IS a moderate in today's GOP, and was somewhat of one even by late 1990s GOP standards. And, Corker isn't a wingnut So, it's not just ridiculous, it's highly scary for the two of them, as well as others, to claim Oct. 17 isn't debt ceiling D-Day.

And, it's highly frustrating, on the House side of the GOP, for so-called "moderates" to say they support a "clean" continuing resolution to end the budget shutdown, when in reality, they continue blocking it. That includes the alleged "king" of Republican moderates, New York's Peter King.

Besides not being so moderate on this issue, King's a neocon on the Middle East and Islamophobia.

Anyway, I had originally put my over/under on the ending of the government shutdown on or about Oct. 23, with a caveat that, if things weren't done by then, I'd move that back a full month.

Well, I may be ready to adopt that first move-back date already before then.

Oh, and "dear mainstream media" (by which I include mainstream web media like Salon)? Stop calling Peter King a "moderate," or a "realist," or whatever. His Islamophobia should already have eliminated that idea.

October 09, 2013

Joe says it is so with Yankees

Joe Girardi is remaining as manager of the New York Yankees. Joe just inked a new four-year contract, with plenty more bucks than his old one.. So, we can scratch rumors of Don Mattingly going there, speculation primarily fueled by the team's failure to extend his option yet. That said, I see that as merely being a formality because of the Dodgers still being in the postseason. Unless new Dodgers ownership, besides Magic Johnson possibly breaking tampering rules by saying the Bums won't make a free-agent bid for Robinson Cano, is really that dumb.

Speaking of ...

What's in store for the Bronx Bombers next year?

They've already said that his original request for 10 years/$300M is a non-starter. Indeed, Hal Steinbrenner has said he's not necessarily a must-sign player. (Even with free-agent prices going up and the market being thin this year, I can't see more than 7/$200, and even that, or very close to it, would be an overpay. He's never had an OPS+ above 150 and he'll be on the far side of 30.)

C.C. Sabathia showed noticeable fall-off this year. I'll assume he won't bounce back 100 percent, which means resigning Hiroki Kuroda is vital. Because, after that, especially with Mariano Rivera's retirement, their pitching staff is a sack of hammers. And, that's even without noting Andy Pettitte also needs to be replaced.

Speaking of sacks of hammers, I know Hal would love for Alex Rodriguez to get suspended as long as possible to free up free agent money. But, they're got sacks of hammers at 3B, even more so if Derek Jeter has to DH much of next year, assuming he exercises the player option on his contract. A-Rod, injuries and all, still had an OPS+ of 111.

And, they still have to figure out what to do with Curtis Granderson. Even if they re-ink him, and he's healthy, that means Ichiro plus Vernon Wells are your third outfielder. Given that Ichiro's relatively cheap, Wells has most of his salary still coming out of the Haloes' pocket, and Travis Hafner will NOT be back to DH, is it possible that Carlos Beltran could be on the Yankee radar? That's a definite, if he doesn't get a Cards contract and Granderson talks go slow. Not so definite if Granderson re-signs. With Alfonso Soriano still there, that's a lot of limited at-bats, especially if Jeter needs some time at DH.

Have fun juggling those lineups, Joe!

Yeah, the Yanks were above .500 this year, even though their Pythagorean said they should have had a losing record. Some of that was Girardi, I don't doubt, but some of that may have been plain luck. If the Jays do in 2014 what people thought they would this year, it could be a long summer in the Bronx.

Also, it means the Chicago Flubs are on Plan B in their managerial search. Which also looks like a sack of hammers, when a retread like Manny Acta is getting touted.

And, while Cal Ripken now indicates he's available, I don't see him going to the Windy City.

Craig Watkins beats the rap in Dallas — Jim Schutze doesn't care

Watkins, the Dallas County district attorney, had his contempt case dismissed today.

And, I'm sure he's right that the Eff Bee Eye isn't pursuing him over the mortgage fraud charges a grand jury had brought against Al Hill III. (Now, it might be Dallas County Republicans' wet dream [eh, Wade Emmert] that this were the case, but I'm sure its not.)

And, while not necessarily believing Watkins is as pure as the driven snow, I must say that this is the first time since I've first read him that I disagree with Jim Schutze's take on a major issue in Dallas County politics.

Maybe Jim either had wayyy too much coffee, or else maybe he thinks all black elected politicians in Dallas County look alike and so Craig Watkins = John Wiley Price. Or, halfway related, he thinks all black politicians in the city of Dallas and/or Dallas County owe their status to Price's political machine. I can see it's possible Schutze at least thinking that about Watkins; however, from what I see, I don't see a strong connection between Watkins and Price, or Watkins and south Dallas black pastors.

Or, option three is that he's somewhere, somehow, simply gotten a burr up his ass about Watkins and he just can't let go of it, or him. This last one is very possible, especially given the folio logo on his blog. Jim had Watkins in his cross-hairs, pulled the trigger, and ... missed!

Given that, according to WFAA and widely reported, contempt judge Lena Levario allegedly has her own boatload of bias on this issue, Schutze is even more out of line from where I stand.
(A) recently demoted Dallas County employee filed an affidavit that accused Levario of making comments that indicated she was purposefully working against Watkins. Jill Reese, the county's jail population coordinator, said the comments were made to her during a lunch with the judge at a Fort Worth restaurant in May.

"Levario stated to me that she was 'going to serve Craig Watkins ... on a silver platter to the FBI,'" the affidavit read.
I don't know how true this is, but, for Schutze to not even consider it has to raise an eyebrow or two. Lovario had Watkins in her cross-hairs, pulled the trigger, and ... missed!

So does the fact that, even though Judge Brotherton's ruling dismissing the contempt charge was handed down before 10 a.m. today, and Schutze's a pretty prolific writer, he's yet to post anything about the ruling.

I mean, c'mon, Jim, you DID have time to write another blog post on Friday, after the Brotehrton ruling. This was about Dudley Dewless' call to the Allen PD about his niece's wife, a story more than 36 hours old in its public airing by that point.

And, Jim, if Watkins believes the FBI's not after him, and he's been cleared on contempt charges, what will you say if he does ask a grand jury to consider Hill's case again?

Now, again, that's not to say Watkins is as pure as the driven snow. And, having lived there long enough, and seen and heard myself, without Schutze having to tell me, about alleged John Wiley Price shenanigans with Richard Allen and the Inland Port in Dallas, Lancaster, and Wilmer, I know what politics in that area can be like. For more on JWP, go here on my blog.

That all said, Schuetze's got a lot thinner reeds of support here than with Price, at least from where I sit. The contempt charge is gone, and I doubt Watkins would have spoken so assuredly about his currrent relationship with the FBI unless he had good reason to do so.

And, Jim, your silence after the Brotherton ruling speaks volumes until you write.

Update, Aug. 26: OK, Schutze's not on vacation, and has done a blog post today, too. And, it's not about Watkins. Man up, Jim. (As I tweeted him.) And, as of Aug. 28, done yet more blogging, namely about Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles, part of why I expanded the possibility of Schutz's thinking on Watkins and a possible connection to JWP machine politics.

And, with Robert Wilonsky now at the Snooze, there's no other Observer writer with quite the tenure of Schutze to rein him in, or counter-fire, on an issue like this.

So, instead, on Aug. 29, based on the Observer's reaction to a relatively minor ruling by an appellate judge in the Hill case itself, Schutze apparently sicced co-blogger Eric Nicholson on Watkins. That's about all I can judge from Nicholson's post.

Update, Oct. 9: Per this UT professor, Schutze is allegedly all wet about Dallas ISD Superintendent Mike Miles, too. That said, given that Miles is also African-American, this undercuts the possibility that Schutze is grinding racial axes with Watkins. But, is he grinding axes? Sure. He does it regularly.

And, so, I'll stand by, and make more explicit, the idea that Schutze won't drop those axes when it's clear he's got the wrong ax, wrong grindstone, or both. Nor will he readily admit he's wrong.

That said, yes, Watkins, if he is "pushing" office attorneys to run for district judge's offices, may be doing some sort of political hardball. Still not criminal. Not necessarily unethical. And, he may not be "pushing," for that matter.

Fact is, half of his staff who have filed to run were there before Watkins was elected. And, those three all have at least four years' seniority on Watkins in the DA's office, so they're probably immune to bullying.

And, given that Jim's an even more deliberate contrarian than I am, and with less reason most of the time, yeah, I kind of like poking him.

Cal Ripken throws hat in managerial ring

Well, this is an interesting one. Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, he of the ironman 2,462 consecutive games played, says he's interested in managing.
"I have thought about how cool it would be to manage," Ripken said. "And even Donny Mattingly got me thinking about this a little bit more. He said there's nothing like being a player, and coaching is pretty good because you help other people do what it is that they do.

"But managing is the closest thing to being a player, and I've always thought that anyway, internally. Now I'm starting to think about that a little bit more."
A kind of trigger for this is Jayson Werth saying that Cal would be his favorite choice to manage the Washington Nationals. As ESPN notes, the Nats, along with Cubs, Mariners and Reds, have managerial openings.

Of course, there other tumblers that could tumble one way or another in managerial locks.

If the Yankees don't re-sign Joe Girardi, then that slot comes open. Rumor has Don Mattingly going there, speculation primarily fueled by the team's failure to extend his option yet. That said, I see that as merely being a formality because of the Dodgers still being in the postseason.

(And, we can scratch those rumors: Joe just inked a new four-year contract.)

If Cal wants to go straight to the majors, without paying "dues" or whatever at the minor league level, or being a coach, not a manager, at the big show, he's also not going to want to start low. That definitely rules out the Mariners, and probably the Cubs.

So, Nats, Reds, or something that pops open late.

Those two teams have some challenges, but lots of upsides.

The Nationals were arguably just a Stephen Strasburg grounding away from the World Series last year and a team that got dinged up and underperformed the first two-thirds of this. Davey Johnson has the team in decent shape overall, and, other than Orioles fans thinking him a traitor for going just up the road, this could be an easy bounce-back.

The Reds? Dusty Baker couldn't quite get them over the hump in what's the National League's toughest division.

Now, what type of manager would he make?

I would see a focus on fundamentals, yet someone who's definitely a "player's manager." How much he would buy into sabermetrics, I don't know. I do know that he's sharp enough he'd always be thinking ahead on in-game strategy.

And, while he has no managerial experience, he surely learned something from his dad.

October 07, 2013

We want the SPIRIT of Glass-Steagall back

Leave it to Andrew Ross Sorkin, an untrustworthy insider in the NY-to-DC axis, to set up the straw man that progressives who fear the banksters and too-big-to-fail banks want a literal reinstatement of the exact Glass-Steagall Act. Leave it to one of his Dealbook buddies to pass this on without critical review, in a story noting what I already know, that Janet Yellen ain't that much more progressive than Big Ben Bernanke.

Of course, if the original Glass-Steagall doesn't cover some aspects of banking today, I want something better and stronger, like a Tobin tax that I am sure Sorkin would oppose. (To the degree "regulatory capture" is true, it still can't be more than half as true as "media capture.")

I will give Sorkin credit for reporting Sen. Elizabeth Warren's statement that its repeal set up a new mindset on both Wall Street and its regulators, and for noting just what G-S redux wouldn't have addressed. But, he fails to follow up on Warren's "mindset" comment, and how that still plays out today. In fact, he exhibits, to some degree, that exact mindset.

Because Warren, Berksley Born and many other people have never said that a simple reinstatement of G-S is a cure-all. A Tobin tax, higher marginal requirements on banks, and elimination of liar's loans, along with Born's long-ago plea for full-blown derivatives regulation, going into the larger financil world, would address a lot of problems.

Oct. 7 news briefs roundup — Libya, Tricky Ricky, more

• What I take away from the Libya and Somalia raids by our Special Forces?

Beyond the obvious ones, namely that Somalia is a failed state and there's limits to our power in a lot of places unless we want to shed a lot of blood (remember that, you "Syrian action" fanatics) is that our exercise in nation-building in Libya seems to be pretty much of a flop (remember that, too, "Syria action" fanatics).

Also, that, among Obamiacs as well as Bushies, the continued blindness toward this thing called "boots on the ground" seems only to grow in response to concerns like the one I just expressed.

This NYT piece hits the nail on the head: Rick Perry's job hunting trips are likely not even about recruiting jobs to Texas but instead about a 2016 presidential run.

Immigrants can help revitalize a "dying" city; one such city, Dayton, Ohio, is actively pursuing them.

A liberal Catholic philosopher agrees with my insight and says there's no doctrinal changes out of the mouth of Francis the Talking Pope, just "changes of style and tone."

October 06, 2013

Center for Inquiry still got financial issues? Or Lindsay looking at monetization?

Per discussion below, survey says "Yes" on the first question, either about CFI itself or at least about its affiliate, Council for Secular Humanism. The lack of a straight answer otherwise falls under the old maxim: "Silence gives assent."

CFI, regarded by many as the leading outpost of secular humanism in the US, has had financial concerns for several years, ever since Ron Lindsay, hired by CFI founder Paul Kurtz to be his right-hand man and seeming eventual successor, quarreled with Kurtz over the changes in direction Lindsay was already starting to make, and what he seemed to want to do in the future.

The upshot was that Lindsay (with the seeming support of the majority of CFI's board) took over in what could be called some sort of palace coup. However, one major, anonymous donor, who reportedly had contributed so heavily as to make up one-quarter of CFI's revenue stream, stopped the checks. I've blogged a bit more about the issues here, without saying that Kurtz was 100 percent right on overall management of CFI, or on depending that much on one donor. Wikipedia has a bit more about the 2010 showdown on Kurtz's bio page.

CFI slashed staff (along with support for ventures and such) left and right after that. However, the doldrums apparently still continue. (And, this was reportedly only a one-year cut, and any other loss in revenues since then was not due to this donor. See more below.)

Per an emergency alert email sent to Secular Organizations for Sobriety's email support group, and also on its website:
For over 23 years, the Council for Secular Humanism (CSH) has financially supported Secular Organizations for Sobriety. Now, due to their own loss in funding, CSH will severely cut their financial support for SOS. This is set to occur at the end of March 2014; however, CSH has recently agreed to continue their current level of financial support for SOS if SOS can raise $75,000 prior to March 31, 2014. We urge you to send your tax deductible donation today to:


Save SOS

4773 Hollywood Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA 90027

(Credit card donors call 323-666-4295 24 hours)

Secular Organizations for Sobriety has helped countless thousands of addicted persons reclaim their lives for over 28 years. We need your help now in order to effectively continue the implementation of the world’s oldest and largest alternative to 12-Step religious support groups.

Thank you so very much!

Jim Christopher

SOS Founder
SOS is officially headquartered at CFI West's office in L.A., and the Council for Secular Humanism is a CFI affiliate, to spell out the connection. Sidebar to the end-of-email claim. The "largest" is highly doubtful. SOS's list of meetings is largely populated with inactive ones or "pre-meetings." Below the listings for each state is this message:
There is someone living in this zip code who has started an SOS Meeting or is interested in meeting with others.
"Interested in meeting with others" is not a meeting, and which is which aren't always clearly distinguished. (That said, the listing of "orphans seeking meetings" is not necessarily bad.)
Also, its online presence in general is quasi-amateurish, despite the buckets of money it gets. You want proof? Here you go: the SOS homepage. (It actually looks less crappy by far than it did 2-3 years ago, when it really looked sad.)

Also sad is that, even with CSH/CFI money, SOS, unlike SMART or Lifering Secular Recovery, has no online meeting room. (There's "control" issues inside SOS behind this, not money, but that's another story entirely.) 
First, Tom Flynn, a Gnu Atheist type who has said that atheists should not celebrate Christmas, even as a secular holiday, and who has also said that he would, if he could, officially rename the days of the week so as to remove the names of pagan gods, is the current executive director of CSH.
Second, CFI's rapid expansion of physical satellite locations from 2006 on probably hasn't helped the financial bottom line. 

Third, allegedly, CFI in general isn't really hurting.

If that's the case, this may be Lindsay pushing for a monetization value of CFI affiliates. Given some previous comments of his about monetary values, donors, and related things, which I blogged about here, it would be no surprise if this is the start of some new, larger, neoliberal-to-libertarian trend in how Ron is viewing CFI affiliates. (This link has a lot more about the Lindsay-vs-Kurtz showdown, via linked in-depth interviews of both of them.)

Fourth, if this is a "monetization" issue, that's sadder yet. 

That said, I know none of this for sure. Therefore, having had contact with him via Massimo Pigliucci's blog, I've contacted Michael De Dora via Facebook. I am truly curious about this.

And, Michael says he doesn't know. I can't find a direct email address so far for Tom Flynn, so my Facebook query will go in his "other messages" folder. I've emailed the "info" addys at both CFI and CSH, while not using the term "monetization," but asking if this is designed to make SOS more "self-sufficient," and if this is just SOS, or other affiliate-type organizations, too. Stay tuned. 

Update: Without providing details, but stipulating that I personally know SOS webmaster and unofficial No. 2 in the SOS hierarchy Duaine Metevia, it is as I originally suspected, before I suspected CSH/CFI. SOS isn't getting enough in independent donations relative to how much money CFI/CSH funnels.

Mr. Metevia once threatened to have me arrested should I ever show up again at the Dallas SOS meeting; given that this was a multi-party email, and an unwarranted threat, I don't consider it privileged information.

Knowing some of the details of why another group, Lifering Secular Recovery, split off from SOS, none of this surprises me. And, while SOSers who worship Jim Christopher, including Mr. Metevia, may get them to meet that fundraising drive, the organization, and secular alternatives to the 12-step world, would be better off, in all likelihood, if the matching drive failed, and failed enough to require SOS to do a bit of searching.

On the other hand, said email didn't directly address what's at the top of the alert, that CSH has lost funding. I believe CFI is a major source of CSH's funding, so, again, somebody please answer that question?

And, so far, said answers have not come to me. 

Therefore, even if there's some hyperbole, or even a bit of unsubstantiated claims, coming from Jim Christopher, I'm going to assume CSH is having some difficulty, and if so, that that in turn may stem from CFI.


Per the end-of-Kurtz/post-Kurtz financial matters?

Here's what CFI said at the time. It followed with a timeline (PDF) relative to its attempts to work with this donor. And, with apologies to Paul Kurtz's defenders, I agree with Orac (a link to whom I can't find, but I summarized it in another post), and that is that you don't put one-quarter of your fisc in one basket, and I'm not alone in that, either. At a minimum, save and invest part of the annual contribution. Better yet, do like SOS is being told to do now, and make part of that money contingent on matching pledges from John and Jane Does. (That said, the failure to do that is not necessarily Kurtz's direct failure, but he was captain of the management ship.)

There's interesting comment on this James Randi Educational Foundation thread, both pro- and anti-Kurtz, both on financial and other management issues.

My larger summary is that this was a Gnu Atheist palace coup — but that some welcome changes could, and should, have been made, perhaps by another less-Gnuish CEO not named Ron Lindsay. That observation may not be totally satisfactory to either Kurtz's closest defenders or those of the current CFI.

To be honest, I'd like to hear from someone who left CFI before Lindsay was hired. I've already heard from people about Kurtz vis-a-vis Al Seckel, which is another reason that, although I don't like the current look at CFI, I don't give Kurtz a hall pass, either.

That, in turn, makes me thankful that I'm not, nor was I before, closely involved with CFI, or with "movement" atheism or secular humanism.

Speaking of that, since I indirectly referenced them above, here's the excellent separate interviews of Kurtz and Lindsay by Eric Veith. There's surely elements of truth in the words of both men.

Also, per some of the comment in the Randi thread, this isn't something peculiar to CFI. Transitions away from the founders of small-to-medium nonprofits are never easy.

At some point in the future, I may look at all of this more. But not now. Knowing a fair deal about SOS led me to this post; I have no desire to wade deeper in CFI history waters at this time.

New York Times book reviewers mangle history

And, it's well-known reviewers, too.

In his review of a book about Nixon and Kissinger essentially supporting genocide in East Pakistan during the 1971 civil war that led to the independence of Bangladesh, Dexter Filkins claimed the British forced the Muslim-Hindu partition of the Indian Raj.

Wrong. It was Muhammad Ali Jinnah. Wow, what a basic error. I mean, that's just basic.

In his review of a book about the year 1945 and the end of World War II, Adam Hochschild implicitly repeats the old canard of the "punitive" Treaty of Versailles that ended World War I, namely its indemnity on Germany.

Allowing for differences in population and 50 years of inflation, Prussia actually imposed a harsher financial indemnity on France in 1871 at the end of the Franco-Prussian War than the Allies did on Germany in 1919. And France paid it off in advance.

Another basic error. This one made by many a historian in previous generations, though the truth is getting written more and more often recently.