November 09, 2013

Do #Cardinals want Tulowitzki?

Ken Rosenthal at Fox says the Rockies should want to trade Troy Tulowitzki to the Cardinals. I'm not buying his suggested purchase price for the deal, though. Not even close.

Would you as a Cards fan sign off on this mass deal with the Rockies?
Tulo to the Cardinals for – deep breath now – first baseman Allen Craig, right-handers Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal and a fourth, lesser prospect, with the Rockies paying a chunk of Tulowitzki’s remaining $130 million.
To replace Pete Kozma?

Not me. Any deep breath would be to exhale any of the crack Ken Rosenthal is smoking.

And, agree or disagree, with me or Rosenthal, I've got a poll up now, and you can make your comment on best shortstop upgrade options.

First, trading two solid pitchers, both of whom would surely start for the Rockies (and Rosenthal should be given a way to do that in St. Louis via the trade of one other starter) seems a bit high. Certainly, adding in a fourth player, to be determined, is a huge overpay even if the Rockies would eat some of Tulo's salary.
 
Bernie Miklask of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch agrees on how stupid this is.
The notion that the Cardinals would give up Miller and Matt Adams and someone like Trevor Rosenthal for Tulowitzki is absurd, and anyone who seriously proposes that must have experienced some sort of foul-up in their medication. Because it's goofy. 
Well put.

Did Rockies staff, even if they claim that Tulo is untouchable, pay Rosenthal to propose this? Is Rosenthal overestimating how much the Cards want to pay, in either money or the coin of trade, to upgrade? Is he overvaluing Tulo? A bit of all of the above, including the snarky first question?

At most, and with Colorado eating less of Tulo's salary but still a certain chunk, I'd offer Craig, Miller and Lance Lynn, and no fourth prospect. Seriously, Ken, not Trevor, Rosenthal is smoking some sort of crack if he thinks this is a reasonable deal.

Even with the Rockies eating some of Tulo's pay, he's got fairly high Coors/road splits, and that injury history.

On the splits, here's my St. Louis prediction for him:
.280 BA .350 OBP .460 SLG .810 OPS. Note that his OPS+, which is park-adjusted, has never been over a very good but not at all fantastic 140. Most of what base-running speed he used to have has faded away. (His career road stats are .276 BA, .348 OBP, .471 SLG, .819 OPS.) Numbers like what I project and his career road splits show would give him an OPS+ of 115-120 or so. Again, nice, but not world beating.

I mean, those are all nice, but they're not end of the world. This is why I keep reminding Cards fans who lust after Tulo that he plays in Coors.

Back to the Cards' side of Rosenthal's proposed deal. Craig has approximately the same OPS+ as Tulo. He's not a Gold Glover, but Tulo hasn't been for a couple of years, and while 1B is a lower-leverage fielding position than SS, we shouldn't give Tulo too, too much extra weight on that. Add in that team-friendly long-term contract that the Cards inked on Craig, and, unless Rosenthal is proposing that Colorado eat at least half, if not more than that, of Tulo's contract, this sounds stupider and stupider the more I think of it.

It's not as dumb as Ray DeRousse's idea, discussed here. of trading Miller plus David Freese for Jurickson Profar, although it is close, in my opinion. It is also certainly dumber than my idea of trading the two of them (which might be a bit of overpay) for the Angels' Erick Aybar, touted here. At both those links, I discuss free agent options that are better than Rosenthal's ideas, too, including Jhonny Peralta or former Cards SS Rafael Furcal.

Just wow on Rosenthal. So, the answer to the rhetorical question in my header is almost certainly no, not at Rosenthal's price. It doesn't make sense to me, and it doesn't fit the style in which John Mozeliak has built the team.

And, it doesn't make sense for other reasons. ESPN recently noted that this year was the lowest-scoring year in MLB in 20 years. Busch Stadium is slightly pitcher-friendly. So, why shouldn't the Cards have some degree of focus on pitching and defense? And not overspend on upgrading at a defense-first position? Also, given a world in which Ricky Nolasco wants a 5-year, $80-million contract, and some team will be dumb enough to pay it, why shouldn't the Cards play a bit hard to get instead? Let others come to them begging for some pitching help. After all, Matheny's managerial shakiness aside, this is a team that's at least made it to the NLCS three straight years. (And, this is eventually going to become a separate blog post, trust me.)

Update: And, as of Nov. 14, no thanks on Peralta, if he's wanting 3/$45M, a massive, massive, overpay. There's also an attitude issue, and I don't care what fellow Tigers players said about his clubhouse presence. There's an attitude issue for him wanting that much money coming off the roiding suspension, and who's only busted 115 on OPS+ twice since 2005?

Will #Cardinals make a $14.1M gamble?

Update, Nov. 4: The Cards have made the qualifying offer, smartly. 

Update, Nov. 9: Beltran has reaffirmed he wants 3-4 years, so he won't be staying in St. Louis, if somebody else does pony up. (And, he won't get 4; he'll be lucky to get 3 guaranteed instead of 2+option.)

The St. Louis Cardinals are playing in the NLCS when I wrote this.

That said, their Mr. October, Carlos Beltran (overlooking seven years ago when Adam Wainwright caught Mr. October of the Mets looking at a 12-6 curveball) is a free agent.

And, the numbers are out this year on what the "tender" offers are for teams to make to free agents and get a compensatory draft pick if said free agent goes somewhere else.

And, that number is $14.1 million for this year.

The gamble is that of general manager John Mozeliak.

Cards fans all know how the Albert Pujols compensatory pick became Michael Wacha

That said, everybody knew that Pujols wasn't taking the Cards' offer.

And, that's not so sure with Beltran.

That said, I don't doubt he'll get a multi-year offer, at least a 2/$26 plus a player option year for, say, $12M more. He might even get a straight 3/$40.

I'm basing my guess on the goodies the Giants ladled out to Hunter Pence. And the fact that Jacoby Ellsbury is the only other outfield free agent of note. Sit down, Marlon Byrd and your career year.

If Pence is worth $16.5M next year and $18M years after that, Beltran's worth $13.5M or so on a shorter contract.

I'll give the younger Pence a slight bump over Beltran offensively, and call it a draw defensively.

Will there be interest? Sure.

He might want to go back to the Mets, and retire there. That said, their post-Madoff financial restraints might not let that happen. 

He might want to go back to Kansas City. (I'm sure the Royals, in turn, would only do 2+option and not a straight 3 on years.)

Would Cleveland, having gotten back in the playoffs, pay to upgrade over Drew Stubbs? The Cubs could move him to left, maybe saving his knees a bit more.

Heck, maybe the Pirates would chase him instead of Byrd, though I find that doubtful.

The Rangers might will let Nelson Cruz walk, though. Or David Murphy, and like the Cubs, move Beltran to left.

Would the Reds find him a cheaper option that resigning Shin-Soo Choo, and then move Jay Bruce to center? Or even gamble on Beltran there?

Even the Phillies might be interested.

And, of course, all the AL teams can give Beltran a bit of "time off" at DH.

So, I see the interest from other clubs there.

(And, I should have gone with my gut when first blogging this post. The Yankees are allegedly looking at including Beltran in a big spending spree. And, if they are OK with Granderson coming back for one year at the tender-offer level, they're going to give Beltran at least 3/$40.)

Now, what if it's all 2+option offers, and, at say, $2/25 + $11, instead of what I project? Would Beltran take the Cards' 1 year and stay?

He might. And, that's not horrible. Jon Jay still seems a bit flighty at times (and that's probably the most polite thing we can say about his fielding in Game 3 of the LCS), Matt Holliday isn't getting younger or healthier either, and so, if nothing else, Allen Craig can unlimber that OF glove a few more games a year to make sure Matt Adams is at least semi-regular at first base. (Because of the depth of his ankle problems, I am not expecting Oscar Tavares to be on the 2014 opening day roster in St. Louis.)

So, if Beltran took the deal, it might clog up the outfield a bit, but not that much.

And, it wouldn't clog up the Cardinals' wallet, either.

And another and, Mozeliak appears to have the same idea.

As I said, it's a poor free agent market. Plus, with his agent giving semi-official word, we know that Chris Carpenter's money is entirely gone due to his retirement, and that Jake Westbrook ain't coming back. (Nor, in all likelihood, is Edward Mujica.) So, you have a $1 million raise for Beltran, less $25 million being dropped. That's enough for a modest arbitration raise for David Freese, lesser raises for the pitching young guns, and hitting the free agent market to upgrade on Pete Kozma at short, if you don't trade Freese for that reason, if you can't get Rafael Furcal to resign on the cheap as a "bridge."

There's not a lot of downside, and, the Cards could use that extra draft choice.

ESPN noted that five players from the 2009 draft are on the big squad. That's great, but it means that great farm system could use some restocking help.


November 08, 2013

Galloway v Town of Greece — legal strategies v Gnu Atheism (updated)

University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock
took part in a moot court session Monday in preparation
for oral arguments in Town of Greece v. Galloway
at the U.S. Supreme Court./Photo via U.Va.
Update: Galloway lost, Greece won, on a 5-4 vote; Wikipedia has a good overview. Per my comments below, plaintiff attorney Doug Laycock couldn't get a "count" up to 5 Justices in what was a tough case, beyond Gnu Atheist kibbitzing as to strategy. I disagree with the ruling; I would have accepted Breyer's more narrow concurring dissent rather than Kagan's somewhat broader one, but certainly would not have said no to Kagan.

Now that Galloway vs Town of Greece is at the Supreme Court, we may get more clarity on an issue the Nine in Black have long dodged, and often deliberately. Or, we may not. And, from a secularist's perspective, we may get clarity we don't want.

The question at hand, based on how the grievance was filed, has two different possible legal approaches.

One is that,  the whole idea of government-backed prayer, like invocations before city or town council meetings, as in the case of Greece, is religiously coercive.

The other is that prayer itself is not necessarily coercive, but the content of it, and to the degree it can be defined, the intent of it, is, or something along those lines.

And, even though one of the two plaintiffs is an atheist, the plaintiff's lawyer, University of Virginia law professor Douglas Laycock, appears to opt for Strategy No. 2, not No. 1. And, per my warning at the end of the first paragraph, and contra some wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth in the last 36-48 hours from some Gnu Atheists, pursuing Strategy 2 is almost surely the right one, and throwing the plaintiffs' lawyer under the bus for so doing is ridiculous.

That said, as shown in the recent Proposition 8 and DOMA cases, in a situation like this, a lawyer has to count to "five," with one of those five being Justice Anthony Kennedy.That's how you win, and last I checked, a lawyer is supposed to win the case for his or her client, whether it's criminal or civil. Even if it's constitutional law.

Center for Inquiry Executive Director Ron Lindsay, a lawyer himself, has a piece that's good in some ways in lining out the case, but with bits of Gnu Atheist tone-snarking, enough for non-Gnu friends of mine to note that this is exactly the type of stuff that feeds into stereotypes of atheists. And, per what I said, basically accuses Laycock of throwing atheists under the bus. No quotes. Sorry. The more I think about it, the more I'm upset about the tone, and about him as a lawyer who knows better not writing better.

I find it pandering to Gnu Atheists, and this is nothing new, either in his doing so or in my noting that. The fact is that Laycock was the plaintiffs' lawyer from at least the time they responded to Greece's request to the Supreme Court to grant certiatori. Indeed, that response makes clear that it was about "sectarian prayers," and that's a quote from the response, and not about prayer vs. no prayer. The idea that CFI and Lindsay should know this, too, is doubly true since CFI was among groups filing amicus briefs.

So, A, this "Strategy No. 2" can't come out of the blue. B. Lindsay himself, as a lawyer, knows that in civil as well as criminal law, the lawyer's ultimate job is to win the case, even if the win is an ugly one at times. It's called legal strategy, per U.Va's PR explainer, and that piece makes that clear. That piece also makes clear Laycock's considerable experience in this area:
Laycock is best known for defending the free exercise rights of churches, having argued three cases before the Supreme Court on behalf of a Lutheran church, the Catholic archbishop of San Antonio and an Afro-Caribbean religious group. (Hosanna-Tabor Evangelical Church and School v. EEOC; City of Boerne v. Flores; and Church of the Lukumi Babalu Aye, Inc. v. City of Hialeah, respectively.)

Yet he also wrote the briefs on behalf of the plaintiffs in Santa Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe, a case involving high school football prayers.
Ergo, C as a subset of A. The plaintiffs, and the variety of groups filing amicus briefs, including Lindsay's own CFI, Laycock addresses the applicability of Marsh, or not, and more, too. 

Fellow U.Va. law prof Micah Schwartzmann, who helped Laycock prep, also weighs in:
“In Town of Greece, the Supreme Court has the opportunity to clarify the limits of legislative prayer, especially as it is practiced by local governments,” he said. “Legislative prayer is constitutionally anomalous. Usually the government is not allowed to assert religious views. When it does so in a sectarian manner and in a context in which citizens are likely to feel pressure to conform, we should be concerned about that.”

Schwartzman added that he does not think anyone has expressed that concern more forcefully than Laycock.

“The respondents in Town of Greece are very fortunate to have him representing their views in the Supreme Court,” he said.
So, Ron Lindsay or Doug Haycock? I know which one I think probably is smart on how to actually plead this case. In short, this isn't as simple as Lindsay would have it. Nor, per the other blogger, does it seem that higher-grade legal talent, per my rhetorical questions, saw a chance to overthrow Marsh or this case to be the vehicle for that.

Meanwhile, the Gnus are trying to undermine Laycock's credibility by noting he was a plaintiff for the church denomination defendant in this case. That said, the ones snickering at Laycock and my defense of him conveniently ignored that SCOTUS ruled unanimously in that case. They also ignore that Laycock's years of expertise on the First Amendment in general mean that he doesn't necessarily agree with them. And, the fact that SCOTUS ruled unanimously, is arguably a testimony to Laycock's skills. 

Related to that, Policy Mic has a piece that claims trying to overthrow the town's stance entirely was the intent of co-plaintiff Stephens. It, in turn, has its own bit of snarkiness, and somewhat ignores the whole issue of whether the Marsh v Chambers case's precedent should or shouldn't be overturned. It even more, like Lindsay, ignores whether Marsh can be overturned, either in front of this Court in general or with this case as a particular vehicle.
Greece misses a chance to clarify precedent set by 1983's Marsh v. Chambers. In that case, the Court recognized "legislative prayer" (specifically, the public salary of a legislative chaplain) as legal so long as it was primarily ceremonial, traditional, and didn't "proselytize [or disparage] any one … faith or belief."

But as Justice William Brennan noted in his dissent, that answer didn't address the important question: should religion belong in the town hall, taxpayer-funded or not, at all? "The Court is carving out an exception to the Establishment Clause, rather than reshaping Establishment Clause doctrine …. If the Court were to judge legislative prayer through the unsentimental eye of our settled doctrine, it would have to strike it down as a clear violation of the Establishment Clause."
So, the question indirectly raised by this author is, was the intent of Stephens at least, to overthrow Marsh, at least once she understood what Marsh was?

He says in his next graf:
In other words, on the matter of legislative prayer, we still don't know the Court's opinion on whether the First Amendment's instruction that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion" refers to government not establishing one particular religion or, as Justice Brennan argued, a prohibition on establishing the specter of religion itself. Unfortunately, that decision will have to wait.
He's probably right. However, Lenny DiFranco, who has the excuse of not being a lawyer, unlike Lindsay, but no other excuse, started this piece off with a bit of muddle-headedness that would be worth of St. Ron of Gnuness:
The two petitioners, Susan Galloway and Linda Stephens, brought their legal action as part of an activist campaign to assert, and then entrench and fortify, the line between church and state. This righteous goal would have been well served had their case's central question addressed the legality of a town board soliciting religious prayer, which is a question the Supreme Court has, to date, skirted.

I'm convinced they acted out of this motivation, but for some reason they built their case around a nonsense claim of being offended at the explicit Christianity of the prayers. 
Note how much is fact-free here?

"I'm convinced." By what? "Righteous" goal? Assuming DiFranco is some sort of Gnu himself, doesn't this kind of illustrate how Gnus can adopt not only the posture, but the actual language of those they claim to despise? "For some reason they built their case around a nonsense claim." Again, really? The response to cert indicates this strategy is not de novo. Laycock's background indicates this is not a nonsense claim.

Back to the explicit claim by DeFranco, and the implicit one by Lindsay, that this case was "originally" about overthrowing Marsh. Set aside the fact they have no proof for any sudden bait and switch. That said, given the current make-up of the court, now is probably not the time to raise that issue anyway, and Laycock, beyond narrow legal grounds, knows that. Let's not forget that, to America at large, atheists are more vile than gays, and we just got DOMA narrowly decided in a theoretically pro-gay way. And, that said, he also appears ignorant of the fact that Laycock's been the plaintiffs' attorney for some time.

In light of that, it was Breyer and not Kennedy who invited Laycock, when he appeared to founder on whether any prayer might fit the non-coercive bill, to consider a different line of thought. As on Prop. 8 and DOMA, Breyer doesn't matter; Kennedy does. Oh, and I know Lindsay knows all of this.

That said, as Dahlia Lithwick notes at Slate, whether through how the complaint was filed, or the strategy of plaintiffs' lawyer Douglas Laycock, Marsh will likely remain in place.

That's even though Kennedy might appear poised to at least narrow it, per Lithwick:
Kennedy stops (defense lawyer Thomas Hungar again: “The essence of the argument is we've always done it this way, which has some force to it. But it seems to me that your argument begins and ends there.”

Kennedy adds, this “involves the state very heavily in the censorship and the approval or disapproval of prayers."
And, Kennedy appears to be ready to modify, at least, and potentially reject, the history as precedent idea that Hungar argued, and that was part of the basis of Marsh. That said, any good SCOTUS watcher knows not to read too much into oral argument posturing in general, and very much so with Kennedy

For a further understanding of that, you need to go to an excellent analysis at ScotusBlog. And, the Economist has a good straight news story.

An even worse problem, for me, and one should be indefensible for Obamiacs, is that Dear Leader filed an amicus brief — on the side of the Town of Greece.

OK, from here, let's look more at that Marsh decision and the dead weight of the historical background that Kennedy raised.

OK, from here on out, below the fold, I want to address two issues. One is my take on Marsh. Related to that is my generic take on how I'd like this issue to go, versus current issues of reality.

Lenin, Khrushchev, ropes for hanging, and the capitalist #iPhone

Photo via Secrets of the Fed blog.
Did Steve Jobs forget a condom one night?
Vladimir Lenin once said:
The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.
Then, about half a century later, Nikita Khrushchev said:
We will bury you.
Well, capitalist politicians, political scientists, political commentators and economists have all enjoyed laughing at Ulanov and the hog farmer across the decades.

But, what if they were right, just a century, or half a century, or so, respectively, too soon?

It's all about that magic gizmo, the iPhone.

Well, it's about smartphones in general, but since Apple likes to brag on its overpriced version of the product, and enough people are dumb enough, or branding-gullible enough, to pay that extra price, the iPhone deserves an extra degree of criticism vs. the generic smartphone for illustrating this capitalist, or even hypercapitalist, rope of the capitalists.

That photo up top is one of 23 at this blog post that indicates that Lenin and Khrushchev may indeed be right and that we're all doomed.

The other 22 have iPhone and Android users taking selfies in the mirror, smartphoning while eating dinner with friends, smartphoning (it's my blog, and I'll invent new grammatical forms of words when I want to!) in an art museum, etc.

That blog post goes hand in hand with an entire Tumblr site devoted to nothing but selfies at funerals. The Twitter caption says it all, beyond any I might add.

The narcissism behind such an act, even as old Vlad is laughing in his grave as he understands the word "selfies," actually shouldn't be tsk-tsked by oldsters as much as it should be soberly accepted as part and parcel of the behavioral drives of the modern "Western" hominid Homo capitalismus, subspecies Americanus.

It's entirely that self-centered feeble-mindedness that's behind capitalism, as even Adam Smith, in his philosophical myopia, knew when he admitted the word "greed" to his analysis.

This particular hominid, after all, can be greedy for power and fame just as much as for money. Since the iPhone in general, through the mystique of branding, touts the possibility of acquiring power and fame via some magical osmosis (surely not from your fingerprints that Apple wants to lift from the iPhone 5, because it would carefully segregate your file from a celebrity's), it's the perfect tool that way.

Meanwhile, per the author's comment in this CNBC piece about the funeral selfies, the exponentially growing Narcissism 2.0 is apparently trickling back up the age curve to people near my age range.
Believe me, I'm as guilty as anyone. I've posted selfies looking my absolute worst all done up in foil under a hair dryer at the salon. I tweeted a photo of all the functions available on a public toilet in Japan (though, technically, you don't see me in the photo, but you get the picture, if you know what I mean). I, like so many others, need to step away from the "send" and "share" buttons. But even I wouldn't snap a self-portrait inside a funeral home with Grandma visible in her open casket behind me. Someone else did that. 
Shocked am I? No. After all, the kiddos at Ground Zero of Narcissism 2.0 are often the stereotypical progeny of stereotypical helicopter moms. Where do you think they learned their narcissism?

But, beyond that, the hypercapitalistic world encourages its associates (Walmart through a Silicon Valley blender) not to think. Let the device do the pseudo-thinking for you. It encourages the narcissism that lies behind all greed, the narcissism that "I'm different," and therefore, "Therefore!"

And, none of that is to mention the literal self-absorption that mobile online devices seem to promote, above and beyond traditional computers. Combine that with the absorption that Facebook can promote, and voila, Lenin's capitalist rope is clearly visible.

Yes, it's fashionable for conservatives to say that America is in decline.

True liberals and left-liberals can point at these images and say, yes ... America is indeed in decline, because of the hypercapitalism you conservatives worship.

Meanwhile, in another piece, from the Atlantic, there's more reason to call this all a capitalist rope.
For those of us lucky enough to be employed, we’re really hyperemployed—committed to our usual jobs and many other jobs as well. It goes without saying that we’re not being paid for all these jobs, but pay is almost beside the point, because the real cost of hyperemployment is time. We are doing all those things others aren’t doing instead of all the things we are competent at doing. And if we fail to do them, whether through active resistance or simple overwhelm, we alone suffer for it:  the schedules don’t get made, the paperwork doesn’t get mailed, the proposals don’t get printed, and on and on.

But the deluge doesn’t stop with email, and hyperemployment extends even to the unemployed, thanks to our tacit agreement to work for so many Silicon Valley technology companies. 

Increasingly, online life in general feels like this. ...

Often, we cast these new obligations either as compulsions (the addictive, possibly dangerous draw of online life) or as necessities (the importance of digital contact and an “online brand” in the information economy). But what if we’re mistaken, and both tendencies are really just symptoms of hyperemployment?

When critics engage with the demands of online services via labor, they often cite exploitation as a simple explanation. It’s a sentiment that even has its own aphorism: “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.”  ...

While often true, this phenomenon is not fundamentally new to online life. We get network television for free in exchange for the attention we devote to ads that interrupt our shows. We receive “discounts” on grocery store staples in exchange for allowing Kroger or Safeway to aggregate and sell our shopping data. ... Of course, we shouldn’t just accept online commercial exploitation just because exploitation in general has been around for ages. Rather, we should acknowledge that exploitation only partly explains today’s anxiety with online services.
Ian Bogost goes on to say, in essence, as I interpret him, that, online services also create a general existentialist angst in the way that previous exploitation did not.

#WendyDavis already pandering for moderate voters (updated)?

NOTE: This will be updated on a regular basis through the end of the campaign, with chronological updates at the end to reflect my ongoing take on Davis' continued efforts to "track right."

That said, that rhetorical question in the header?

My initial reaction is to say, it sure looks that way.

And, as of Nov. 7, and her dodging appearing with President Obama when he was in Texas, it largely appears that way to blogging compadre Brains and Eggs as well. Here's his "tell," down near the end:
Here's the deal, my Democratic friends: if Wendy Davis is going to follow the Angles' advice -- worse yet, if it's her natural inclination without needing encouragement --  and run a race like Bill White's except in heels and Mizunos, then she's going to get the same result.
Amen, brother, amen.

As for ducking Obama, he said here was the better advice:
Davis could have, instead, met the president in Dallas, said forcefully that when she is elected governor she'll expand Medicaid, that Ted Cruz and John Cornyn were wrong in blocking ACA, and that Greg Abbott represents a continuation of Rick Perry's cruel policies that leave millions of Texans sick and dying without healthcare coverage.
Bingo. And sell that to suburbanites living on the edge, as well as inner city and Valley folks.

I wrote the initial version of this blog post a month earlier, when Davis gave a "Texas exceptionalism" answer to the federal government shutdown, another example of doing like she did earlier this week. (And, the fact that she's not a Texas native makes the "Texas exceptionalism" even more barf-inducing.)

So, back to that original post.

Newly-official Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis, per the Texas Tribune, is giving a "tiptoe" answe on Tea Party inanity in DC. Tiptoing around around who's to blame for the federal government shutdown doesn't help her in my eyes.
 “People don’t want to see us getting into those kinds of squabbles,” Davis said when asked who should be blamed for the shutdown. “They want to see us doing the work that we’ve been elected to do. And Texas, I think, has done a better job of that. I know people don’t want to see us be Washington, D.C.”
Already pandering for independent voters, or what is up with this? Since this was given in Waxahachie, which is not just moderately "red" but very much so, it's hard to think anything else, especially since she hinted at that.
 “We want to hear from voices all over the state of Texas, and this campaign is about including all those voices,” she said. “That means going everywhere, having conversations with folks, not writing anyone off because of their partisanship.”
On the other hand, since we've seen, as is obvious to all but his most ardent fanboys and fangirls, how President Barack Obama became Just.Another.Politician.™,  but avoided doing that so quickly and so drastically so early in his campaign, Davis runs the risk of alienating swing voters of the type who are looking Green if there's not the best Democrats available.

People like me.

Also, as someone not native to this state, I really do not like the "we do that better in Texas" angle. It pretty much makes me want to barf.

Basically, it's the Texas version of American exceptionalism, and people most sympatico with my politically know exactly how I feel about that. In fact, she just inspired me to create a new blog tag to that end.

And, yes, Texas does do some things better. Under current management, Texas is best in:
  • Most death penalty executions;
  • Highest percentage of uninsured;
  • Highest percentage of minimum wage jobs.
And, that's just for starters. I mean, do you really, really, want to get into a pissing contest over whether Texas state governance is better than federal governance, without distinguishing between the two parties? 

(And, I'm not alone. A featured Kossack poster even agrees to fair extent!)

Anyway, on that last point, at least she's running for an in-state political office and not US Congresscriter or Senator.

And, even if Texas natives are "indoctrinated" about Texas exceptionalism in school as kids, theoretically, they can rise above it. 

Six hours down the road, and back home after my normal Saturday trip to Waco, I have six more issues (and counting) with Davis' "better job" statement.

First, this is the way Rick Perry has been sounding all the time for years, not just within Texas but when out of state on his job recruiting trips. If I want a governor who sounds like Rick Perry, I'll vote for Rick Perry, dammit.

Second, and related ... it's going to be harder to pin Rick Perry on Greg Abbott if you sound like Rick Perry.

Third, you know this is simply not true, Sen. Davis. You know it's not true based on how you were treated during your abortion filibuster.

Fourth, given that even some Republicans, at least up in DC, admit that they're more than halfway to blame on the shutdown, your statement looks transparent as hell in the level of pandering.

If you had truly had a bipartisan, or quasi-bipartisan issue, like Texas education, it would have been different.

Fifth, if this degree of pandering was accidental, rather than simply saying, "I'm running for governor, not senator," then you better put your adult britches on and get ready for the big show. Because if it was accidental (which I don't believe) you're not 100 percent ready for the big show yet.

Sixth, a lot of the moderate Republican voters that campaign analysts think you need to go after aren't Texas natives either. This "we do everything better in Texas" line may not grate on all of them as much as it does a left-liberal non-native Texan, but it has to be at least a little bit off-putting to at least a few. Not everybody now in Texas who wasn't born here "got here as fast as they could."

As for why I'm so seemingly harsh on her? I deliberately use the word "seemingly," by the way. It's for the same reasons I have strongly critiqued the Texas Democratic Party and Battleground Texas. No, I'm not expecting LBJ, or even Miss Ann, as the next non-Republican governor. But, I want somewhat reliably liberal, someone less blatanly political than the current occupant of the governor's mansion, and someone with more authenticity than him, too.

Her filibuster indicated she may (not guaranteed, but may well) have item three down. Item one, I've already wondered about, outside abortion and gay rights. Her Waxahachie speech has seriously brought item two into question, and made even item three a bit iffy.

That said, when she first announced her first candidacy for state senate, let's not forget that a lot of people thought she was a Republican. The Waxahachie event makes that easy to understand, for a wider audience. Also per that blog post, there's allegations of past conflicts of interest of Davis' law firm, which gets back to the Just.Another.Politician.™ issue.
Ms. Davis said that although her legal work has never presented a conflict, she would temporarily halt it if she ran for governor. And she says she would give it up altogether if she won. In the meantime, she said that she planned to ask her public-sector clients to waive attorney-client privilege so she can publicly name them. She had previously resisted calls to disclose her client list.
“What’s happened is there’s this big, ballooned story,” she said. “I think we can come to a way to describe the work we do and the compensation we’ve received.”
We're waiting. Don't make the public of Texas wait longer. 

Now, just one more point for now.

A lot of those legal conflicts of interest involved the North Texas Tollway Authority. Given that a lot of Texans are tired of TxDOT not being what it once was, and it and the Lege falling ever more on the idea of toll roads for highway development, especially urban bypasses.

How much of a fan of additional toll roads is she? And, will some A-list reporter think to ask this?

At the same time, she did, on the Fort Worth City Council, show an ability and activeness in occasionally being totally the opposite of that moniker. When will she show us that in a non-pandering way?

Were it not for her abortion filibuster, we'd never be at this point and Democrats would still be scrambling for a candidate. It's sad in a sense that the one Democrats have may still be a creature of the Bass family for all we know.

Also, methinks Davis may be falling victim to what many political candidates do: believing their constitutency is more conservative than actually is this case. That said, due to voting skewing due to age, and age generally tending to skew conservative and better off, voters, not constituents, may be almost that conservative, at least.

Solution? Getting younger people out to vote, though even Dear Leader, while good at it in 2008, wasn't fantastic.

Finally, thank doorknob the Green Party will have statewide ballot access in Texas next year. I'll have a choice when I vote. And, just as I have shown in multiple presidential elections, I have no problem voting Green, nor in encouraging others to do the same.

Update, Oct. 9: Jim Schutze thinks she's already done too much pandering to the right, namely on allegedly working with Dan Patrick on Senate Bill 5.

As I noted on my recent Craig Watkins blog post, Schutze is an ax-grinder. And, as part of this, he likes to oversimplify issues. SB 5 has its bad spots, no doubt. But, reducing the number of standardized tests, with at least the possibility of this reducing "teach to the test" issues is a good thing. So is any, any additional accountability for charter schools. And, that statement he cites doesn't list Patrick by name; fact is, per the Lege's website, the original bill version was reported unanimously out of both House and Senate education committees. And, the final, post-conference version of both bills was unanimously passed by both houses.

I do believe Davis will need to address education beyond just resting on her HB 5 laurels. Of course, she HAS NO laurels to rest on there, as she's not even listed as an official coauthor. Oops!

Which means Davis' website statement to which Schutze linked is a bunch of blather. And, that's the forest, Mr. Schutze, not the trees.

Update, Oct. 10: Supposedly, Sen. Davis is having a moneybomb today. I might tout such an idea here ... if somebody from her staff first admits that the Waxahachie speech was a screw-up. Until then, no.

Update, continuing: Finally, thank doorknob the Green Party will have statewide ballot access in Texas next year. I'll have a choice when I vote. And, just as I have shown in multiple presidential elections, I have no problem voting Green, nor in encouraging others to do the same. When I hear about a Green candidate for governor, I'll let you know.

Would I accept Davis over Greg Abbott? Yes, I would. From what I see so far, could I vote for her, if there's a Green candidate on the ballot? No. And, that's why I retweeted the URL for this post with the #GiveToWendy hashtag.

As I said before, told friends on Facebook, and more, she had easy ways to dodge the shutdown question, Texas exceptionalism aside. Her speech and stance there came off as a state-level version of standard modern Democratic neoliberalism. Until I see more to convince me otherwise, don't expect my enthusiasm.

November 07, 2013

Federal judge believes Susan Combs' environmental greenwash on dunes lizard

Texas Comptroller Susan Combs, even though she's not running for another office in 2014, made a naked pitch to Tea Partiers this summer, and now she's gotten a federal judge to buy it.

Defenders of Wildlife and Center for Biological Diversity are suing the US Fish and Wildlife Service over its refusal to list the dunes sagebrush lizard on the Endangered Species Act, after other environmentalists and oil companies agreed to a Texas Conservation Plan to help the West Texas critter out somewhat, at least theoretically.

Here's what Defenders says about the merits of the case:
“The Fish and Wildlife Service is operating completely in the dark in Texas on this one. Denying Endangered Species Act protection for a species that is clearly imperiled based on a wink and a nod from the state is downright negligent at best, since the Service has no way of validating the quality or effectiveness of the agreements,” said Jason Rylander, senior attorney for Defenders of Wildlife. 

After the lizard spent nearly 30 years as a candidate for endangered species protection, in 2010 the Service proposed to protect the lizard as endangered. This was a promising move for lizard survival, since the species’ narrow range has gotten narrower due to increased oil and gas drilling and herbicide spraying on livestock grazing land. However, 18 months later, the Service withdrew the proposal, citing the conservation agreement with Texas as a reason.
Don't forget that former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar never met an oilman he didn't like, even while in office, before I move you on to any comments by Combs, who helped develop that TCP and who is presiding officer of the legislatively created Interagency Task Force on Economic Growth and Endangered Species.

According to an emailed presser by her in August:
 At the time, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar lauded the TCP, calling it “a great example of how states and landowners can take early, landscape-level action to protect wildlife habitat before a species is listed under the Endangered Species Act.”
Translated: Salazar showed oilmen how to do neoliberal environmentalism-lite.

And, from that same presser, that task force "assists local communities and governments with maintaining continued economic growth while they respond to ESA actions."

Translated, that means that task force "refuses to price the value of environmental protection, and tourism and recreation based upon protected environments, while continuing to pursue growth often unwittingly subsidized by taxpayers through things like economic development agencies.
 new
Unfortunately, Combs has gotten a federal judge to agree with her. From a new PR email from her office:
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs was granted a motion to intervene in a lawsuit filed by environmental groups against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) regarding the decision not to list the dunes sagebrush lizard (DSL) as a threatened or endangered species.

The court has agreed to hear input from those who would be directly affected by this litigation, according to the Oct. 24 ruling by U.S. District Judge Rudolph Contreras.

“The judge’s decision ensures that stakeholders who worked on an important lizard conservation plan have a say in the proceedings,” Combs said. “The plan is part of our continuing efforts to help Texas strike an appropriate balance between environmental protection and economic growth.”

The judge ordered the parties to submit a Joint Status Report with a proposed briefing schedule to the Court no later than Nov. 22, 2013.

The lawsuit, filed by Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity, asked the court to require FWS to reconsider its June 2012 decision not to list the lizard. The plaintiffs argued the DSL was not being protected because the Combs-led Texas Conservation Plan (TCP) for the DSL was voluntary in nature, and the partners to the plan were providing too little information to FWS. According to Combs, this is simply not the case.
Well, according to We the Environmental People, this IS the case.

Defenders and CBD say the state and private landowning/oil-extracting partners aren't passing along enough information about how the TCP is actually working.

She says:
More than 110,000 of 197,000 acres of Texas DSL habitat are held by participants who are actively providing conservation measures for the species. 
But, if inadequate information is being provided, how do we know this is true? And, even if it is adequate, that's still just half its habitat.

And, in fact, the lawsuit specifically refutes such claims:
In announcing the lawsuit, Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Biological Diversity criticized the Texas conservation agreement, saying it only vaguely described the actions required and leaving specific  conservation measures to be spelled out in certificates between each participant and the state of Texas. They criticized the fact that those certificates are guarded from public access by state law, leaving “no way for Fish and Wildlife, or scientists and other experts, to determine whether such measures are adequate to prevent the lizard’s extinction. The lack of knowledge and transparency in this case not only further threatens the survival of dunes sagebrush lizard, but also sets a dangerous precedent for other species waiting in line for protection.”

Compounding the problem, the two groups said, Texas has delegated authority to implement the agreement to a private entity, the “Texas Habitat Conservation Foundation,” which is run by three lobbyists from the Texas Oil and Gas Association.
This is the key. We the Environmental People have no way of knowing if Combs is telling the truth. And, given the state's general history on environmental issues in the last 20 years, it makes sense to assume she's lying until proven otherwise.

#Cardinals NOT teh stupidz: Freese plus Miller for Aybar

I blogged a few days about how stupid it was for someone like Ray DeRousse (or others) to propose trading Shelby Miller PLUS David Freese for Texas Ranger phenom, unproven at the MLB level, Jurickson Profar to upgrade at shortstop above Pete Kozma.

But, to revive 2013 trade talk that was happening between the Cardinals and the Los Angeles Angels near trade deadline, for Erick Aybar? Hey, sign me up.

Aybar is a solid fielder, per Peter Gammons he's one of the top 10 batting shortstops in MLB, and, at $8.5M a year for the next three years, the price is definitely right.

And, agree or disagree, with me or or Gammons, I've got a poll up now, and you can make your comment on best shortstop upgrade options. 

We know the Haloes need pitching. We also know that Freese would be an moderate upgrade at third over the Alberto Callaspo they had until making a trade with Oakland and a definite upgrade over the Chris Nelson that replaced Callaspo. (Given his cup of coffee and minors performance before that, I don't think the Haloes view Luis Jimenez as a real solution at third, either.) This is a win-win. (That said, Cards fans, as much as you might want to dump Lance Lynn, that won't get this trade done, I don't think. That said, it might be worth a test run to start the offer with Lynn plus Freese.)

I would put this deal ahead of signing Jhonny Peralta as a free agent, well above a free agent overpay for Stephen Drew and at least somewhat ahead of a stop-gap resigning of Rafael Furcal.

And, as of Nov. 14, no thanks on Peralta, if he's wanting "much more" than 3/$45M, a massive, massive, overpay. Hell, 3/$45 is an overpay itself, let alone "much more," whatever that means. (What it really would mean is Tulo-range money, and in that case, I'll trade for Tulo if the price is halfway right.) There's also an attitude issue, and I don't care what fellow Tigers players said about his clubhouse presence. There's an attitude issue for him wanting that much money coming off the roiding suspension, and who's only busted 115 on OPS+ twice since 2005?

As of Nov. 16, Christina Karhl, in her weigh-in, for some reason, ignores Aybar entirely, and also thinks Drew is available for less than $10M/year. I kind of doubt that, but ... if he is, I'd take him over Aybar for sure. Because then, we're near a salary wash, without trading anybody. Sign me up.

Also, although his stolen-base percentages aren't always fantastic, Aybar offers the Cardinals more speed than any of the other options above, with the possible exception of Profar. And, as I blogged about a week ago, the Cardinals need more speed, and more general improvement in base-running.

The move offers the Cardinals other benefits, too.

Opening up a spot in the rotation, the Cardinals can give Trevor Rosenthal his wish and let him compete for a shot as a starter along with Carlos Martinez. (Doorknob bless Joe Kelly, but, long term? I see him as another Lynn. And, we don't know about John Gast, post-surgery, or Tyler Lyons period or Jaime Garcia for that matter. I'm a sabermetrics guy. If Rosenthal has got the pitch array to start, he's worth more there than as a closer.

If you're worried about how well Jason Motte will come back from surgery, then deal with John Axford, or even Edward Mujica. You still won't keep both, and you can bid the two of them against each other. (The Cards should do that anyway, pending any trade that moves one of the starters somewhere else.)

So, to me, this is a no-brainer. It's win-win for both teams as far as immediate needs. It tidies up the pitching staff as far as longer-term needs. And, by the end of 2015, the team will know for sure if Greg Garcia is the longer-term answer or not. (And again, Cards fans, we already know Ryan Jackson is NOT the answer to replace Kozma.)

November 06, 2013

TxDOT wants to cut losses on 130, toll I-35 in Austin

Well, this would be a new level of teh stupid: The Texas Department of Transportation’s Commission is considering proposals to add tolls to portions of IH-35 within Austin and converting the SH-130 toll road to a free-use road. 

I am assuming that our state's transportation leaders have broached such stupidity for political reasons, namely the possible bond default by Cintra/Zachry, Rick Perry's best buds since Trans Texas Corridor days, on the currently tolled Texas 130 of 80mph speed limits and no more than 80 cars per hour of traffic.

Anyway, here's the nut grafs, followed by my response:
TxDOT and local officials are considering more than $1 billion in possible projects that could relieve some of the congestion on I-35 through Austin, including adding toll lanes and redesigning frontage roads. Last month, the Austin City Council approved allocating $2 million toward TxDOT’s expenses to “evaluate creative solutions to reduce congestion and improve safety and mobility along and across I-35.” Redesignating a portion of SH 130 as I-35 and tolling those lanes remains an option, officials said.

“That’s what we’ll be looking at in the next nine to 18 months,” said Robert Spillar, transportation director for the city of Austin. “I think we need to consider every tool available to better manage I-35.” He stressed that he was not advocating for swapping a tolled highway and a non-tolled one.
Really?

First, where the hell are you going to put those toll booths for those lanes? And, unless it's going to be one fee for several straight miles of road, that question is double in spades for downtown, double-decked I-35.

Ditto on other things. I don't see how you can get much relief from redesigning frontage roads, because there ain't much room for that, either.

Second, unless you jacked the toll price for I-35 high, high, high, even if 130 now becomes free, I can't see this cutting downtown Austin traffic that much. And, if you do that, you need to upgrade mass transit to downtown, find new space for more Park-and-Ride lots, etc.

The problem, of course, is the city's exorbitant growth rate, combined with geography, especially being at the edge of the Hill Country on the west side.

Austinites like to compare their city to San Francisco, or maybe elsewhere in Silicon Valley. Due to the geographic issues, on freeways, L.A. is a more apt comparison.

And, the population issue is ridiculous. Travis County is expected to about double in 20 years, and Williamson to triple.

"Growth for growth's sake is the theology of the cancer cell." — Ed Abbey

As for TxDOT's side, outside of any Cintra/Zachry politics, this has to be its dumbest move since proposing that it double-deck the LBJ on the north side of Dallas.

I'm also suspicious of timing issues. Yes, a constitutional amendments election isn't high profile, but did TxDOT folks hope they would get some news camouflage?

And, per Burnt Orange Report, I wonder if this is the state's attempt to help salvage the private parties' credit rating.

Dewhurst: Playing politics with juveniles

This op-ed from the Odessa American, pretty much sums it up.

Both Lite Guv David Dewhurst (and Speaker Joe Straus, for that matter), are all about claiming to be fiscal conservatives, etc.

But, almost as much as our state's money-waster in chief, Attorney General Greg Abbott, when fiscal conservativism hits the reality road of political priorities, in this case, paying off political buddies in the Lege, at the expense of not doing right for juveniles under the state's charge, it's a different story. (That said, I'm not sure any of the other blind mice who are challenging Dudley Dewless would be any less political on an issue like this, if it were THEIR political BFFs at stake, or at stakeholders.)

Here's the story, per an Austin American-Statesman piece referenced by the OA. I'm using a long block quote which I will trim as much as I can to fit fair use issues:
The Corsicana Residential Treatment Center is a rather benign name that belies a facility with a troubled history of problems. In 2010, a federal review discovered a high number of assaults in facilities run the Texas Youth Commission, including the Corsicana unit, which notched the dubious distinction of having the second-highest sexual assault rate in the country. ...

There were also reports of problems with staffing and structural problems. ...

To make the facility meet modern standards would cost Texas taxpayers $26 million. That number was for repairs — not for increased staff at a facility that has also encountered shortages of mental health professionals to care for the youth held there.

The Corsicana facility was an ideal candidate for closure, and in 2013 legislators voted to do just that, amid plenty of self-congratulation over a job well done.

There are some Capitol stories, however, that resist a happy ending, and the Corsicana facility is one of them. ...

The institution has powerful friends who include Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who is campaigning for re-election on a record of government frugality, and House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio. 

Though Straus isn’t given to chest-thumping histrionics, he is loyal to his lieutenants. One of those is state Rep. Byron Cook, R-Corsicana, in whose district the facility sits. Cook chairs the House State Affairs Committee.

Dewhurst is courting the support of state Sen. Bryan Birdwell, R-Granbury. The Corsicana facility is in Birdwell’s district. ...

The Corsicana facility, ... at one time housed 200 youth committed to its care; now it houses 60. ...

But those 60 detainees translate to 280 jobs that would leave Corsicana were the facility to be shuttered as the Legislature clearly intends.

So, Dewhurst and Straus sent letters to juvenile justice officials last month saying the closure decision warrants further review. As co-chairmen of the Legislative Budget Board, they can spend money when the Legislature is not in session

There's one other piece here, which both the OA and the AAS have neglected.

I've long been on record as saying Texas, even if it wants to keep a part-time Lege, at least needs to go to every year, rather than ever other year, legislative sessions. Yes, a lot of those in power want to run Texas like a banana republic, and a Lege that meets every two years makes that easier.

But, do we have to put up with that, including the banana republic issue of the LBB being able to play fiscal kingmaker when the Lege is gone? No.

Of course, the LBB could be reigned in by the Lege as it now stands. Require any spending, or spending shuffling, of more than X dollars without a demonstrable emergency, to require a special session.

November 05, 2013

#AP becomes an #advertorial sellout as does #TexasTribune

First, I don't like the term "native advertising," precisely because it's NOT pejorative.

So, in this webspace, we still call it "advertorial."

And, that AP in the header is the one and only AP, the Associated Press.

Since former AP CEO Dean Singleton, et al, botched up how much the AP charged news aggregators back in the 1990s, with dreams of a "TV model" for website advertising revenue, it's now trying to make up lost ground with ...

Advertorial from AP!

First, the why:
In an acknowledgment that licensing content has become a disappointing business, the Associated Press will begin introducing native advertising into its stream of news and features on mobile apps and hosted websites next year.
So, AP admits it screwed up.

Next, the what:
Sponsored content will run the gamut, from text to video to photography, though the AP declined to discuss what exactly content will look like except to say that the ads won’t look like AP content. Instead the sponsored content will sit alongside AP material.
Well, we'll see how different it looks when it comes out.

And, we'll also see how this plays out:
“They’re really new and want to be really careful as their credibility is at stake,” the source said. “When someone like the New York Times or AP gets into native, they have more to lose.”
Given that I've seen ever more grammatical errors in AP stories, like increasing "its" vs. "it's" misuse, the AP's credibility has ALREADY gone downhill in the past decade, editorially. And, on the business side, per what I said above, its credibility went downhill proportionally to that of ... Dean Singleton.

Of course, the AP itself has already "lost more" on the ethics side, like when it decided to prostitute itself to celebrities two years ago.

And more of the what:
The ads will not run on the AP’s roster of syndicated sites. Instead, they will only run on AP’s owned and operated sites. Sources say the ads will be priced as a premium ad product and can range anywhere between $3,000 and $25,000. The ad content would be created by outside freelancers, not AP journalists. The AP will be using Polar, a native ad platform, to deliver native ads across its sites.
Not cheap, but premium indeed.

Speaking of, as newspapers tout premium websites, and some, like the Dallas Morning News, tout their affiliated online marketing and branding shops for other businesses, I'm surprised more metro daily newspapers aren't going into their own advertorial "product" creation.

I'm sorry, they ARE. And, an official New York Times affiliate is doing that too ... at that "more to lose" risk.
The Texas Tribune will begin experimenting with sponsored content in 2014 with a site dedicated to both standard and paid opinion pieces.

TribTalk will be the Austin-based news nonprofit’s answer to both the newspaper op-ed section and and the wave of interest in branded advertising — a place for commentary on Texas politics and an opportunity for the Trib to find a new stream of revenue.
Oh, doorknob.

What will happen?

Rich conservative organizations that have been serious astroturfers in years past will now turn their astroturfing campaigns to this new venue.

So, guess what, Texas Trib?

You just lost a lot of "more."

Here's its "what":
As an exercise in sponsored content, what that means is the Tribune might see submissions from organizations like the Beer Alliance of Texas, AT&T, or Texans for Education Reform. But the goal is to round out the site with unpaid submissions from readers, officials, and others, Ramshaw said, and they’ve already reached out to 200 experts and other thinkers around the state to ask if they would be interested in contributing. 
Oh, those "experts and other thinkers" may be unpaid by you, but ... unpaid by anybody? I doubt it.

I just threw up in my mouth, twice, over this one.

#PED problem: Should Torre & La Russa get in the Hall of Fame?

 Joe Torre and Tony La Russa could soon be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
In 2014, the Veterans Committee returns to the "modern" era. And Torre and La Russa are on the ballot as managers.

But should they be in Cooperstown, given that the Baseball Writers Association of America has punished recently retired players who have used performance-enhancing drugs, incluing players managed by Torre and La Russa?

You know, like Roger Clemens, and Mark McGwire?

This is especially a matter for debate and discussion since former Major Leaguer Eric Byrnes has now joined longtime sportswriter Thomas Boswell in claiming that the Baseball Hall of Fame already contains, in Byrnes' words, not just a member, but a "prominent" member who was a serious user of performance-enhancing drugs.

Here's the money quote:
Disturbingly, not long ago I was having dinner with a former long time Major League player that spoke about the steroid use of a prominent Hall of Famer that played the majority of his career in the 70′s and 80′s… Ha! Not like I was shocked but damn… So many members of the Hall of Fame, including this character, have recently spoken out and condemned guys who have had ties to performance enhancing drugs, saying there is no place for “cheaters” in the HOF.
OK, "prominent." From Byrnes' angle, I take that not necessarily as a first-ballot HOFer, though it certainly could be, as someone who is well-known, keeps in the public eye, etc.

When Boswell's statement came out in 2010, some sites, like Wezen-Ball, speculated on who it might be. That said, per a poll I put up at the time, in a follow-up piece, Wezen-Ball has a 1988 quote from Boswell that indicates TLR  Tony La Russa had some idea what was up and therefore, from where I stand, should be kept out of the Hall just as much as Barry Bonds and the aforementioned duo.

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. 

(For the money, poll respondents said they thought the actual, original Mr. October was Byrnes' most likely guy.)

But, in the case of both La Russa and Torre, but especially the former, the questions don't stop there.


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. 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. Because, to be honest, I don't believe La Russa. And, given that he's got a law degree, he knows just how to parse and shade his language.

And, although La Russa seems "dirty," given his connection to Canseco and his "milkshake," let's not let Torre off the hook too lightly either.

What about Torre and his Yankee years? I said before that I thought Bonds' courtroom appearance twin, Roger Clemens, was juicing before that. Then there's Andy Pettitte who, yes, has apologized, and I said that Torre was probably not aware of Andy. But, I don't know. Whether he should have been aware of "Muchie Peachie" and others (Jason Giambi, pre- or post-apology) is a different question. 

That said, here's my thoughts on likely roiders among players. It applies to La Russa and Torre, 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.

That said, Torre might not deserve a 100 percent pass, either. How much did Yankee roiding help his team win four World Series in five years, and make it to five in six years?

So 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.

This all is also complicated by one other issue, an issue we all saw illustrated during the World Series. Both Torre and La Russa now work for MLB, for ... Commissioner Bud Selig, he of ostrich-head in the sands during the early years of roiding, followed by playing Marshal Matt Dillon, with the help of leaking to a complicit, compliant press after that.

Given that the Veterans Committee is a partial creature of the commissioner's office, though its members are picked by the BBWAA, will it crap in Bud's retirement bed?

About as likely as Bud is to ban the DH from the American League.

But, if you want to persuade them otherwise, here's the committee's members:
This year's committee includes Hall of Famers Rod Carew, Carlton Fisk, Whitey Herzog, Tom Lasorda, Paul Molitor, Joe Morgan, Phil Niekro and Frank Robinson; Blue Jays president Paul Beeston; retired club executive Andy MacPhail; Phillies president Dave Montgomery; White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf; Steve Hirdt of the Elias Sports Bureau; Bruce Jenkins of the San Francisco Chronicle; Baseball Writers' Association of American Secretary-Treasurer Jack O'Connell; and retired Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter Jim Reeves.
But should the VC find the same conscience I do? I'll get it to try. I still have to contact the BBWAA to keep Jack Morris out of the Hall one more year. It will be an uphill sled with HOF players possibly not buying my argument that a manager should be aware of this stuff, plus Whitey and Tommy surely in their corner. But, gotta try! (And, the Morris contacts are now pretty well done!)

By the way, just like my stance on Big Mac, my stance on TLR should be proof I'm not so much a Cardinal homer that I can't stand up for truth, justice, and the real baseball way.

Meanwhile, there's a third manager on the ballot.

Bobby Cox? I've heard nary a rumor about any Braves roiding. Nor, laughingly, other than his propensity for getting tossed out of games, does he have any real black marks of other sorts. Obviously, although the Braves only cleared the World Series victory hump once, his teams had an incredible run during the 1990s. Vote him in. 

Otherwise, there's also two other overdue people. Folks, labor leader Marvin Miller and catching great Ted Simmons, who had the misfortune of playing in Johnny Bench's shadow, in the same league, for much of his career, should also both be in the Hall.

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



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

Yes   No   Uncertain     


 

November 04, 2013

The insurance sellout called #Obamacare

The failure of our neoliberal Dear Leader to push for a single-payer "Medicare for All" national health insurance program, rather than the hypercapitalist-driven, insurance-lobbyist written Obamacare, becomes clearer by the day.

Insurance companies cancelling policies without telling now ex-policyholders about options in the exchanges. 
Donna received the letter canceling her insurance plan on Sept. 16. Her insurance company, LifeWise of Washington, told her that they'd identified a new plan for her. If she did nothing, she'd be covered. 

A 56-year-old Seattle resident with a 57-year-old husband and 15-year-old daughter, Donna had been looking forward to the savings that the Affordable Care Act had to offer.

But that's not what she found. Instead, she'd be paying an additional $300 a month for coverage. The letter made no mention of the health insurance marketplace that would soon open in Washington, where she could shop for competitive plans, and only an oblique reference to financial help that she might qualify for, if she made the effort to call and find out. ...

 Across the country, insurance companies have sent misleading letters to consumers, trying to lock them into the companies' own, sometimes more expensive health insurance plans rather than let them shop for insurance and tax credits on the Obamacare marketplaces -- which could lead to people like Donna spending thousands more for insurance than the law intended. In some cases, mentions of the marketplace in those letters are relegated to a mere footnote, which can be easily overlooked. 
And, surely, continuing to do this because Team Obama's use of Twitter as a PR beatdown mechanism, while good for press pushback, does bupkis to actually rein in insurance companies.
"You never find an organization that is collectively this good at Twitter," said Peter LaMotte, head of digital communications practice at Levick, who advises major corporations on using social media.
The story details just how much this is true, on Twitter as PR weapon.. 

Insurance companies playing a time-generated version of marketplace skimming to avoid poorer risks. (Which, in turn, is being spun in conservative press outlets, then attacked by Team Obama's Twitter-swarm, but still continuing to happen.)


“The company’s plans reflect its concern that the first wave of newly insured customers under the law may be the costliest,” UHC Chief Executive Officer Stephen Helmsley told investors last October. “UnitedHealth will watch and see how the exchanges evolve and expects the first enrollees will have ‘a pent-up appetite’ for medical care. We are approaching them with some degree of caution because of that.”
 

The company packed its bags and dumped its beneficiaries because it wants its competitors to swallow the first wave of sicker enrollees only to re-enter the market later and profit from the healthy people who still haven’t signed up for coverage. 
But, the state of California, playing its neoliberal version of hypercapitalized state politics, contributed to this:
The two insurers were also operating at a tax disadvantage in the state. As California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones explained, “One of the factors I believe contributed to this decision….is the special tax break that California law gives to Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, which has allowed and continues to allow those two companies to avoid paying $100 million in state taxes a year.” “Aetna and United Healthcare don’t get the special tax break provided to Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, and so they faced a major competitive disadvantage in California.”
So, there you go.

Will Aetna and UHC demand their own tax breaks to come back in the market? Why wouldn't they?

Anyway, this is just the tip of an iceberg of a "national health care" plan that may only insure one-quarter or so of the currently uninsured, as I blogged before. Or maybe one-third, if we make allowance for the young uninsureds who will deliberately pay the tax penalty, which is modest, rather than buy insurance. (Wait for insurers to lobby for an increased penalty after Obama's out of office.)

So, there's shoes that will continue dropping for some time.

Yes, I will agree with Team Obama that we shouldn't judge Obamacare by a clunky website.

Instead, we should (faux outrage from Faux News types aside) judge it by how well insurers can ultimately game it.

Stay tuned for how much insurance companies cram inside that "80 percent for actual services" provision, as I blogged before, including cutting staff to make sure CEOs get their continued large cut. After all, some companies are already cutting commissions to sales agents.

Stay tuned for how little electronic patient data and records actually save, vs. how much money it makes for the companies creating their software, as I've blogged before. Also stay tuned for how little they're able to communicate with each other.

Stay tuned for the possibility of more employers dumping their health care coverage — as I've blogged before, in fact, more than once.  Which will then lead us to further ask if there is that much savings from Obamacare or not, since that was a touted point.