SocraticGadfly: 11/10/13 - 11/17/13

November 16, 2013

Conspiracy theories to the right of me, conspiracy thinking to the left ...

With apologies to Stealer's Wheel's Steve Miller's song, "Stuck in the Middle with You," and with no apologies to Chris Mooney's insinuations that people of the political right are more likely to engage in "motivated reasoning" than those of the political left, our latest conspiracy theory?

The tea partiers are allegedly behind a would-be takedown of Obamacare's federal exchange website, conspiracy thinking most recently fostered by a selective reading of a Department of Homeland Security staffer's statement about cyberattacks:
A top Homeland Security Department official testified Wednesday that there have been approximately 16 cyberattacks on the website and one "denial of service" attack that was unsuccessful.

The testimony by Roberta Stempfley, acting assistant secretary of homeland security's Office of Cybersecurity and Communications, was the first public  acknowledgement by an administration official that there have been any cyberattacks on the Obamacare website.
However, there are several problems here.

First, it ain't serious. I knew that, before I read further. Just sixteen cyberattacks? I figured that wasn't much for a large federal government website. And, I was apparently right, as reading further confirmed.
On Wednesday, another department official admitted there had been “confusion” over statements on the issue, but added, “None of these incidents were considered significant. There have not been any reports … of any successful attacks on the website to date.”

The official noted, as a comparison, that DHS had recorded “approximately 228,700 cyber incidents” during the last fiscal year, “an average of more than 620 per day, involving federal agencies, critical infrastructure, and the department’s industry partners."
But, yet, many an Obamiac type says something to the effect of, no there has to be more.

Well, there isn't. And, the fact that there isn't, while many people want to believe there is, is yet another reason why, although I'm a left-liberal of some sort, at least in American terms, I regularly stress I'm a skeptical left-liberal.

Second, we don't even know who's behind the miniscule 16 cyberattacks. Pimply 16-year-old hackers? Anonymous types bored over no Occupy Wall Street? Chinese Red Army hackers wanting to further discredit Obama? Iran getting revenge for Stuxnet? Tea partiers? All of the above? Others?

How about identity thieves?
Noting the large amount of personal information that will be entered by consumers applying for health insurance on the site -- including Social Security numbers, addresses and income information — (Rep. Ron) McCaul said in his opening statement: "All of this information is a tempting target for hackers, identity thieves and other malicious actors. We already have reported cases of hacks, fraudulent websites and documented security vulnerabilities in the system."
Sounds as likely as anyone.

And, even if there is some semi-organized attempt to take down the website for ideological reasons, as Information Week says there is, it also notes, as conspiracy-mongers don't, that this is amateurish:
Eisenbarth said this DDoS tool most likely can't deliver what it promises. "The request rate, the non-distributed attack architecture and many other limitations make this tool unlikely to succeed in affecting the availability of the site," he said. Furthermore, he noted that to date, Arbor has seen no "active use of this software." 
That said, my pleas to Obamiacs to stop the conspiracy thinking, to stop blaming, ultimately, anybody but Dear Leader in the mirror, will almost certainly fall on deaf ears.

Third, this isn't the first such conspiracy theory monging.

In October, something similar came up. Turned out that, first of all, the problem wasn't that bad, secondly, it was limited to New York State, and thirdly, New York State has a state-level exchange and nothing to do with the federal exchanges.

Fourth, let me offer an alternate conspiracy theory. This is all part of Obama recanting about Obamacare and preparing a true single-payer national health care system, since he's already become the best arguer for that.

Fifth, back to my first paragraph.

This is not even close to the first time liberals have engaged in at least a mild disconnect from rational thinking, even though Mooney claims conservatives are much worse; a claim that's not just wrong, but simplistic to the point of motivated reasoning itself. (Such problems run through his "Republican Brain" book.)

Don't try to hand-wave this away by talking only about Jenny McCarthy and anti-vaxxers. Some liberals, outside of legitimate corporate worries about Monsanto, still harbor a bunch of generally false beliefs about much of GMOs as foodstuffs. Others, even while wondering how we can cut fossil fuel use, refuse to have a rational discussion of the pros, as well as the cons, of nuclear power.

And, though not an actual conspiracy theory, the claim that Obama is actually fighting against the Trans Pacific Partnership by at least one Obamiac certainly is among the same vein of motivated reasoning.

That's why I even invented a blog tag called "pulling a Chris Mooney."

Mooney, in his book and other writings, has a huge blind spot about tribalism. Tribalism has a lot to do with motivated reasoning and very little to do with political leanings or ideologies. Therefore, both liberals and conservatives, scare quotes or not, can be equally tribal.

Beyond that, Mooney  went intellectually downhill in my book for other reasons, starting with buddying up with Sam Harris, then from there diving deep into the shallow pool of Gnu Atheism. (If you want to find a cesspool of tribalism and motivated reasoning, you at least dived into the right place, Mooney.)

This all said, I don't doubt that wingnuts who favor not giving health care to poor people, wingnuts who think the UN is about to take over our golf courses, will like this post. Well, overall, you're nuttier, and certainly more callous, than liberals. So, buzz off.

That said, it's frustrating to see just how willful Obamiacs can be about keeping the blinders up. Of course, assuming she runs for president, the Hillarystas will be even worse.

One more year — keep Jack Morris OUT of #Cooperstown and the #HOF

Note: Not for reasons of hubris, but, if any readers do know a BBWAA voter, please forward this on.

This is an extensive overhaul of posts I've written the past few years about why I think Jack Morris, whom I call the anti-Bert Blyleven, should be kept out of the Baseball Hall of Fame, namely because just as sabermetrics proved the case for Blyleven, they prove the case against Morris.

First of all, I want to tackle the chief argument for Morris, raised by Murray Chass and other voters — Game 7, 1991 World Series, and Morris' 10-inning 1-0 shutout.

To which my blunt answer is: So what.

Don Larsen pitched a perfect game in the World Series. Bill Wambsganss converted an unassisted triple play in the Fall Classic. Neither one is in the HOF or ever will be.

Or, if you want a closer parallel, let's take a one-time Morris teammate. Kirk Gibson hobbled out of a dugout for his 1988 World Series Game 1 miracle, and he'll never be in the Hall, either. (That said, especially if you look at WAA rather than WAR, he's got at least as good, if not a better argument in some ways, than Morris!)

Or, by WAR, if you want a very close comparison to Morris in career, AND, someone with as much World Series drama? Luis Gonzales won the 2001 World Series for the Arizona Diamondbacks with his broken-bat walk-off single, but nobody's ever mentioned him as a HOFer. Morris? 43.8 WAR. Gonzales? 51.5. Morris? 9.6 WAA. Gonzales? 19.8.

Now, why do I say we should keep Black Jack out?

For pitchers, my two baseline go-to stats are ERA+ and WHIP. You should have at least 110 in the former and no more than 1.25 in the latter. The latter number comes by eyeballing Hall of Fame pitchers. The former is simple: on ERA (which, over a pitcher's career, does substantially equal FIP), you should be 10 percent better for your career than the league as a whole. That's a reasonable minimum.

Morris is not only a near miss,  he roundly flunks with a 105 and 1.296.

Next, his value? His value at winning games, per what is a complaint about him at times and a would-be justification at others? His Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, of 39.8 would be OK if it were Wins Above Average, or WAA. But it's not, it's WAR. Speaking of WAA, as I'm learning to gauge that more, I think 30 is a minimum cutoff.

There, it's even worse. Hell, Morris can't even break single digits, at 9.7.'s WAR. Speaking of WAA, as I'm learning to gauge that more, I think 30 is a minimum cutoff. And, I'm like it better than WAR as a judge of Hall of Fame-level talent.

Bottom line? If it weren't for Game 7 of the 1991 World Series, we wouldn't even be having this discussion. Period. End.Of.Story.

Let's take yet two others from my list of World Series counterexamples, both of them precisely because they were in moments like Morris' in 1991: Joe Carter and Bill Mazeroski.

Carter, despite his walk-off homer in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series, has even less Hall of Fame cred than Morris, but, if I went by that, and then looked at nearly 400 HRs and nearly 1,500 RBIs, without some sabermetric eyeballing, I could argue he should be in the Hall, too. Instead, he couldn't even pass the first-year sniff test with the BBWAA.

Maz? The Veterans Committee wrongly let him in, in my opinion. The writers never pushed him past 50 percent. Total WAR of 36.1 and WAA of 4.6 doesn't cut it. And, lest anybody says that he was "discriminated against" because he was a defense-first person, Ozzie Smith had 71.6 career WAR and his career WAA of 41.5 topped Maz's career WAR, even.

So, again, Jack Morris shouldn't even be at the point where those of us who are sabermetrically minded are worried that today's baseball writers will be dumb enough — sorry, folks no other phrase works but dumb enough in bold — to vote him in the Hall.

But, 66.7 percent of writers were dumb enough last year, so here we are again.

On Morris, and why he should get in the Baseball Hall of Fame, one "tout" for him has been that he was "The Pitcher of the ’80s." But, a number of other people have noted, the ’80s really kind of sucked in terms of starters, other than Nolan Ryan, who you'd really call more of a ’70s pitcher.

Beyond that, if Black Jack really was "The Pitcher of the ’80s," why did he never win a Cy Young in the 80s? (Or in the ’70s or the ’90s, for that matter?)

That's as in he never won one! Zip, zilch, nada. He never even finished second in the voting. (Before you ask, Blyleven's two third-place finishes are the same as Morris'.)

Good question, eh? I'm trying to think of other starting pitchers, since the MLB went to separate Cys for both leagues, to get in the Hall without winning once. Or even finishing second once. Blyleven's the only one I can think of, and that was when voters looked a lot at W-L percentage, and very little at anything else. (Bleleven definitely should have won in 1973, even though he only finished seventh!)

Now, I'm going to raise the smackdown bar even more.

Among his contemporaries or semi-contemporaries, Brett Saberhagen, David Cone and David Wells are all more fitting candidates than Morris. So's Bob Welch.

All three have much better WAR and much, much better WAA than Morris. All three beat Morris on my two baseline stats. Wells just misses the HOF hurdles on both, but is still ahead of Morris. Cone easily qualifies on ERA+ and is borderline on WHIP. Saberhagen easily qualifies on both. Even Welch narrowly beats Morris on both.

Saberhagen unfortunately had a big case of the injury bug. Cone had some of that. And Wells was a fat, (sometimes) stupid, drunk somewhat better than Jack Morris guy.

But none of them is in the Hall of Fame, or likely to get there.

So, don't taint the Hall even further, in today's statistically enlightened age by voting Morris in.

Now, a little background to my Hall of Fame blogging —

I am a "small Hall" guy. In fact, I think there's plenty of people we should vote back OUT of Cooperstown. Here's some pitchers, and some batters, looking just at the modern baseball era, who need the boot. Please don't make me add Morris to that first list.

Or, there's another way to look at this. Maybe we could have a "provisional" wing, where you get in for 5 years, but just a 50 percent vote can take you out after that. Or, per the two links above, to clear out all the deadwood, BBWAA voters should get one slot every year to vote someone OUT of the Hall. Again, if 75 percent name the same person, out he goes.

November 15, 2013

Conniving DA Ken Anderson gets 10 days — oops, make that 5, sir!

Anderson, the former Williamson County district attorney, is getting 10 days in jail for his shenanigans in the 1987 murder trial of Michael Morton.

No, take that back! As of Nov. 15, he's out for good behavior after only five. What bullshit.

Like some commentators on the website, I think it's way too little, even if he's also surrendering his law license.

He not only helped get an innocent man imprisoned for 25 years, he helped let the actual murderer, Mark Alan Norwood, run free, and kill somebody else.

If there's anything good out of this scenario, it's this:
After the hearing, Innocence Project co-founder Barry Scheck announced that an independent review will be conducted of all cases prosecuted by Anderson during his 16 years as district attorney to determine if there were any other cases with hidden evidence.
Now, if we could just do all this, and more, with John Bradley. That said, KXAN says the audit will also cover some cases where Bradley may have been more at fault.

Per the comments on the first link, at the American-Statesman, new constitutional amendment aside, I'll believe that Texas is serious about reining in rogue judges and prosecutors when it actually happens.

And, maybe, if the statute of limitations hasn't run out, the family of Debra Masters Baker needs to see both Anderson and Bradley for wrongful death.

Cornyn's getting primaried — but gets Perry endorsement

Texas' senior U.S. Senator, John Cornyn (R-Tea Party Lite), is getting a primary challenge from a Houston attorney named Linda Vega. And, per her website, she certainly sounds like a tea partier, undiluted.

On the issues link, she also apparently believes money grows on trees, at least as far as funding the government:
We need to stop taxing people and small businesses. 
Well, theoretically, she does allow for taxing big businesses. Of course, they're the ones with all the tax loopholes. You know, the ones that promote "growth."

Add in that she blames both Democrats and Republicans for problems in Washington, per the Chron, and she's a doozy.

And, if the Snooze is right that her announcement presser was poorly attended, Cornyn got the best tea party opponent he could. Low visibility, little personal money to fund her race, and likely little outside connection.

Oh, sure, another, more prominent tea party type could jump in the race. But, having one in there already probably undercuts traction for a second, unless he or she acts quickly.

And, as of Nov. 15, that's less likely. Gov. Helmethair, Rick Perry, has endorsed Big John:
Before officially filing for reelection today, Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) was endorsed by Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX) at a campaign kickoff rally. Sen. Cornyn accepted the Governor’s endorsement in front of supporters from across Texas at Scholz Garten in downtown Austin.

"Texans are fortunate to have Senator Cornyn defending Texas and our country against the endless onslaught of government intrusion and incompetence demonstrated by the Obama Administration," Gov. Perry said. "Sen. Cornyn stands strong every day in the nation's capital fighting for the conservative principles that have made Texas the beacon of freedom and opportunity in America, and it's vital to the future of our state and our nation that we keep him there to continue that fight."

“Under Gov. Perry’s conservative leadership, Texas has been a shining example that less government, lower taxes and fair regulations helps to grow jobs and move our economy forward,” said Sen. Cornyn. "It’s a striking contrast to the big government, big spending mindset of the current Administration. I’m grateful for Gov. Perry’s support, and I look forward to continue working with him to make Washington more like Texas.”
Stand by, but, short of Gohmert Pyle jumping into the race, this should wrap things up for Cornyn.

Now, tea partiers might counter with the name of Debra Medina as a claim that Vega should be taken seriously. The flip side? Medina got less than 20 percent of the vote in the 2010 gubernatorial primary, and she and Kay Bailey Cheerleader couldn't force Tricky Ricky into a runoff. And, since Ted "the anointed by somebody other than god" Cruz's win in 2012, nobody in the Texas GOP takes the tea partiers lying down.

And, speaking of Medina, per her 9/11 Truther-type meltdown on Glenn Beck, Cornyn just has to find the right question to ask of Vega. That's how Dudley Dewless lost to Cruz. He should have, at a rich, country-club GOP event, or more than one, raised Cruz's belief in Agenda 21 and asked those golfers if they really thought the UN was coming to take over their country club.

On the other hand, maybe Jim DeMint's former PAC will officially endorse Vega, like it has Mitch McConnell's challenger.

Meanwhile, via P Diddie, Cornyn's finally got a general election opponent of the D brand.

McCutchen right choice for NL MVP?

I'm not sure why Fox Sports, and perhaps some others, think that Paul Goldschmidt was "robbed" by Andrew McCutchen winning the National League MVP award.

There's far less controversy here, in my opinion, than Miguel Cabrera beating out Mike Trout again this year. And, in that race, compared to last year, there's less controversy this year, in my book at least, given that to the degree voters emphasize the "most valuable" angle, Cabrera shows that by grittily continuing to play late in the season.

Anyway, here's Fox's stand on the NL side:
Let's revisit the facts. Goldschmidt led the NL in slugging percentage (.551), OPS (.952), total bases (332), home runs (36), RBI (125), extra-base hits (75), intentional walks (19) and other important stats that some mathematic [sic] genius invented like: RE24, WPA, WPA/LI, REW. I think those acronyms speak for themselves, but I will elaborate further as I imagine you are not a statistician and are thinking that Goldy's deficiencies appear on the defensive side. 
Not disputing any of those true things.

But, Cutch lead in WAR, oWAR, dWAR and WAA, or at least was ahead of Goldschmidt. To me, it was about a toss-up, with a slight edge to McCutchen, perhaps. But, there was no "robbery."

The only "robbery" might be Fox trying to gin up a fake controversy for click-bait reasons, but I've taken care of any visitors coming from this page.

November 14, 2013

Do Democrats have Dream Team II with Van de Putte?

After pleading, expectation and hope, Texas State Sen. Leticia Van de Putte has made it official: She's following fellow state senator Wendy Davis and running for lieutenant governor, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Assuming both win the Democratic primary, it can only strengthen the general election ticket.

Slater notes two points. One is that Van de Putte spoke out during the pro-choice filibuster in the Texas Senate this summer:
When the Republican lieutenant governor failed to recognize Van de Putte to speak from the floor of the Senate, she said: “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues?” 
That comment back to Dudley Dewless needs to be part of the repeatedly hammered effort to recruit moderate woman voters. When GOP state Comptroller Susan Combs says the GOP has a "below the waist" problem, this is ripe for the picking.

But, per VDP, the focus needs to be on larger women's rights and not narrowly on pro-choice issues.

Second point of Slater:
Strategists say the addition of Van de Putte, a Latina with substantial political experience, could help mobilize Hispanic voters the Democratic Party needs if it hopes to break two decades of GOP political dominance in the state.
Indeed, and she's an authentic Democrat, unlike guv candidate Tony Sanchez of original Dream Team touting in 2002.

Another plus is that, even though guv and light guv technically are elected separately, VDP might help keep Davis from pandering to conservatives.

None of this guarantees anything, of course.

Other than 3 GOP Lite Guv candidates having one more reason to be pissed at Dudley Dewless (Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst) for allegedly botching that special session.

Bulimic alcoholics coming soon from drugs as salvific technologism

That phrase "salvific technologism" is one I invented a long time ago as a blog tag.

A longer explanation? It's the belief, usually associated with avowed futurists, that technology will always be the cavalry riding over the hill with the "salvation" of improvement for the future life, lifestyle and flourishing of homo sapiens.

It's a belief I reject.

And, here's the latest nuttery in this area, courtesy of this new story in Britain's The Independent newspaper.

Let's start here:
Scientists are developing a drug which mimics all the positive effects of being drunk without any of the health risks, addiction – or hangovers.
And then ask how realistic that is. In my opinion, as the rest of the story demonstrates, not a lot. And, it leads to the rhetorical question of my headline.

We go next to this:
The “serious revolution in health” is being pioneered by the former Government drugs advisor Professor David Nutt, and has been described as doing for alcohol what the e-cigarette has done for tobacco use.
Uhh, wrong right there! As far as his claims about this new drug, the analogy is wrong, because the verdict is still out, to a fair extent, on the e-cig. (Apologies to any e-cig users reading this.) A Google search of "e-cigarette" + "dangers" gets more than 7 million hits. Those include the fact that e-cigs have their own toxic vapors and have not been proven to help people quit cigarettes, as noted in this story.

I think the story of the e-cigarette's alleged benefits is even more bullshitting than Big Tobacco's pre-1964 stance on the alleged benefits of cigarettes themselves. I'll stop there before I get even more wound up.

Meanwhile, back to our story at hand, now that we know our good professor is wrong about e-cigs and we know to be skeptical.

Here's where my "bulimic alcoholics" angle comes in:
It targets neurotransmitters in the brain directly, giving the taker feelings of pleasure and disinhibition that are in some cases “indistinguishable” from the effects of drinking. Yet because it acts directly, it can also be immediately blocked by taking an antidote – with “drinkers” potentially able to then drive or return to work straight away.
So, get "drunk" for an hour, take the "antidote" (interesting that its called that), then get "drunk" again. Lather, rinse, repeat!

Beyond that, this is a simplistic, 20th-century view of neurotransmitters. The "one neurotransmitter creates one constellation of results" idea is almost as simplistic as "one gene codes for one protein" in molecular biology.

Finally, the good ex-drugs adviser has not a clue, it seems, about the mental and psychological components of addiction. His whole conception of why alcoholics drink to addiction totally ignores that, so the idea that this will stop alcohol addiction is pure nonsense. Per the "bulimic alcoholic" comment, so, someone gets drunk for four hours, takes a pill, and starts getting drunk again. Like one of Nero's vomitoriums for food bulimics. With "friends" like this, alcoholics sure don't need more enemies, I wouldn't think. In short, I don't think this will prevent people who are subconsciously determined to do so from going down the road of addiction. I'm no fan of AA in general, but currently, there isn't an "easier, softer road" to get out of addiction, and especially for people who are predisposed by prior life history and psychology toward becoming addicted to alcohol, or other drugs, this won't stop that, either.

Next, along the line of him misrating the health value of e-cigs, what if he's misrating the health value of this? If somebody finds out, "Hey, if I grind and snort these babies, I can hallucinate" or something, then even minimal health value is out the window.

But, wait. Maybe if it can't help alcoholics get sober, can it at least do harm reduction for them? Or prevent a non-alcoholic drunk from an auto accident or something?

I'll agree with accepting whatever "harm reduction" it can do. That said, at at least the current level of pharmaceuticals capability AND the current level of what we actually know about the brain, vs what Pop Neuroscience tells us, no pill is going to instantly "un-drunk" anybody. Nor will it produce the exact effects of alcohol otherwise. And, I'll venture it can't come close to that without causing some psychological dependency effects. Beyond that, even current anti-craving drugs like naltrexone are nowhere near a sure shot for stopping cravings.

If you've been drinking too much, and don't want to have a wreck, call a cab. That's your best advice for today, and for 20 years from now.

And, for that reason, he's also spinning a conspiracy theory, I think. After all, Big Tobacco's given a cautious eye at investing in e-cigarette makers, even while their market remains tiny. And, that's the flip side. The market for a pill like this, for all the reasons I mentioned above and more (hard to put this pill in a college beer bong, especially an anal one) will remain tiny.

Alternative history: Kennedy vs Goldwater, 1964

What if Jack Kennedy had never been assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963? Would he have been re-elected?

Contra the Camelot mythers, Jack wasn't universally politically popular. And, pre-Watergate, presidential polling tended to reflect personal popularity of presidents more than it did political popularity at times. Yes, his poll numbers were still high; however, they'd been slowly but surely slipping across most of 1963.

The most recent American Experience, a two-part, four-hour special, details much of this.

So, what about 1964, in an alternative history?

Jack probably would have won, but by nowhere near the margin that LBJ did.

For purposes of this counterfactual thought exercise, I'm assuming Barry Goldwater still gets the 1964 GOP nod.

First, Jack wouldn't have had a martyr's coattails, plus an extended presidential honeymoon, on which to run. With liberals, he wouldn't have had any 1964 Civil Rights Act to run on, either, because he wouldn't have gotten one passed, and frankly, he probably wouldn't even have tried. Therefore, he would have had to run on both the minuses and pluses of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Berlin Wall, and Vietnam.

Second, and related to that civil rights bill, he would have been facing a less-extreme sounding Goldwater. Sure, Barry still might have said, "let's lob one in the men's room of the Kremlin," but he wouldn't have also looked like a racist for opposing the 1964 Civil Rights Bill because there would have been no such bill to oppose.

Third, do to fears of appearing soft on Communism, Jack might have escalated in Vietnam in 1964 MORE than LBJ did. (That said, he he been re-elected, he likely would have escalated less than LBJ afterward.)

Fourth, from Jack's own words in the second half of 1963, we know he was worried about the election in general and about Goldwater as a specific opponent. (That said, Barry had his moments of naivete at times, if he thought that Jack would have run a lot "cleaner" election than LBJ actually did. Reality is that Jack would have run a more suavely dirty one.)

Now, per good, no time travel alternative history, how do we get to this point?

Quite simple.

In real-world Dallas of Nov. 22, 1963, I believe that Vincent Bugliosi and Gerald Posner are right about Lee Harvey Oswald. The first bullet missed, the second was the so-called "pristine" one (it wasn't), and the third was the head shot.

Let's say Oswald's first shot misses, as in reality. And then, his Mannlicher-Carcano jams! Not for long, but, say 6-7 seconds. He snaps off a second shot, as Jack's limo starts to turn onto the Stemmons Freeway, and misses again. He's quickly found out and arrested.

That said, I'm not sure if Jack would have kept Lyndon on the ticket in 1964 or not. I could see either option. And, I'm not sure how much difference it would have made.

Per Wikipedia's 1964 presidential election article, I see Kennedy, vs. Johnson's actual 1964, I see Kennedy losing all border states except Missouri and West Virginia. That alone would take him down to 388. If he lost those two plus Indiana and Utah, he's down to 353. And, California would take this down to 313. I'm listing these in order from most to least likely. Midwestern farm states might also be more in play, as in 1960. And, the Rust Belt states. Urban blacks might have stayed at home.

And, what would the result have been? Probably little more accomplished in the second term than the first. Kennedy, to protect family Cold Warrior legacy in order to give brother Bobby a shot at the throne, would have escalated in Vietnam, but at a slower pace, again, than LBJ. We would have been at 150K troops, but no more, by the end of the 1966 midterms. After that, it would depend on whether Bobby (who might well have run for Senate in 1964 anyway) had a shot at the crown or not.

We would NOT have had Medicare or Medicaid. Any civil rights acts would have been tepid. We would NOT have had a fair housing act. The gloss would have finished coming off Camelot, and all of Jackie's horses and all of her men and Manchesters couldn't have put it back on again.

And, I'm not alone in saying that. James Patterson at History News Network has a great analysis of what the next 1,000 or 2,000 days would have looked like, and he largely agrees.

November 13, 2013

Review: Philosophers without gods

Philosophers Without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular LifePhilosophers Without Gods: Meditations on Atheism and the Secular Life by Louise M. Antony

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A great book of essays, each running from around 10 to 20 pages in length, about issues of "deconversion" to non-theism, all by people who are now professional philosophers.

Only one, Dan Dennett, is an outright Gnu Atheist. Only a few others might be called "evangelizing atheists." But none is a shirking violet as to how they address these issues.

Some spend more time on their actual deconversion and how that appears from a philosophic angle. Others, whether evangelizers or not, focus on their current relations with religion in general, or conservative apologists for the religion of their childhood, either Christianity or Judaism. (The one small down point: no ex-Muslim atheist philosopher seems to be in this book.) On this issue, the different philosophers vary within themselves on issues such as "respect" for Christianity in general (I'm taking this as the "default" in America and Britain alike), or how much respect, or whatever, more liberal versions of Christianity deserve.

Others focus more on their post-deconversion lives, including with bits of wistfulness, though not full regret, for some parts of their past.  One, Paul Farrell, whom has promised me some materials via snail mail, talks about second-order values and applying those in a secular way after having learned to in a Catholic way when younger. (I found this triggered thoughts of Catholic, and Lutheran in my case, "vocation," and also got me to thinking about Aristotelian flourishing, among other things.)

Anyway, per that last comment, you'll probably gather, if you're someone who follows my reviews, that this is a book to read. There's no formal logic or anything else even very close to being technical or jargonistic.

Update: She's had an interview with Gary Gutting, who oversees the New York Times' philosophy blog The Stone.

View all my reviews

Blue moon time? I agree with Greg Abbott, on AA/US Airways merger

Even though I'm sure his reasons on this particular issue are different than mine.

The issue at hand was the proposed merger of American Airlines and U.S. Airways. Here's Abbott's reasoning explained by him.

First, as of Oct. 13? It looked like the two airlines' financial reasons for wanting the merger, at least for now, don't even currently exist.

And now, as of Nov. 12? There is a settlement, and I don't totally like it. AA didn't have to give up any gates at DFW. The two at Love are a throwaway. Four-eight gates at DFW would have been different.)

I agree that it's probably not a good consumer issue in general. The two have a lot of route overlap. Plus, with respective hubs in Dallas and Phoenix, flying anywhere in the Southwest will price up.

And, speaking of Southwest Airlines, re this issue:
1. It's not always that much cheaper than legacy airlines;
2. It would undercut whatever the merged airline would charge on route by just enough to tantalize customers;
3. Therefore, it's not some magic answer, certainly not from the consumer point of view, and neither from the reality world of how "the market" works, contra a Tom Pauken, even more in the ozonosphere than Abbott.
4. Per the story about the settlement, Love Field is not a "destination" airport in Dallas, as the north-side burbs, from northwest to northeast, on the Dallas side of the Metroplex, continue to grow further and further away from downtown.
5. Southwest will never fly out of DFW, at least not "never" for the next 20 years. So, we have to expect Jet Blue et al will keep DFW rates lower. But, without some gate surrenders, it's harder for them to do that.

As for concerns about American's future? Er, their most recent earnings say that, for right now, they look healthy enough. (They've also got enough money to blow to bother changing from old to new logos at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.)

Beyond that, corporations usually make deals, like in airline mergers, spinning off some routes. Maybe selling routes, and gate space, at both DFW Airport and Sky Harbor in Phoenix, to the likes of ValuJet, for example. Or selling space at Charlotte.

I was against United-Continental's merger for somewhat the same reasons as this one. Denver and Houston are close enough together as primary hubs, plus there was enough route overlap, to raise at least some concerns. But, just because Dear Leader's Transportation Department and Justice Department signed off on that merger doesn't mean it should sign off on this one.

Delta-Northwest had somewhat greater separations. So, it wasn't quite as worrisome.

That said, "Ask the Pilot" guru Patrick Smith agrees with airline industry financial analysts that the merger won't be that big a hit to the consumer wallet.

Anyway, here's Abbott's nutgraf:
But don’t take my word for it; take the word of the airlines: The president of US Airways — the company American is trying to merge with — said that consolidation among airline competitors helped pave the way for airlines to hike fares. He later noted that it’s “impossible to overstate the benefit” of mergers in giving airlines the ability to impose new fees. He also said that they were “able to pass along to customers” “three successful fare increases” because of mergers and consolidation in the airline industry.
See, it's really just that US Airways President Scott Kirby got caught with his pants down and Greg Abbott is running for governor and the Metroplex is Texas' largest urban area.

Were it not for that, Abbott wouldn't give a rat's ass about the merger, as if he really cares for consumer issues. After all, did he do anything about the United-Continental merger? Nope.

In short, I don't like the merger either, but for authentic reasons, not Abbott's bull. And I'm not alone, The Patriot-News out of Harrisburg, Pa., does a great job of laying out what's wrong with the merger. Add in that these are already two of the crappier airlines overall, and the likely result is an even crappier one.

But, here in Tejas? Given that Abbott let the previous sleeping merger dog lie, I agree with American representatives: This is special targeting.

But, the Allied Pilots Association, which represents American, or the Air Line Pilots Association could have made similar comments for the merger of United and Continental, if they had managed to get a new labor deal like Allied's already getting from American. Also, it's not like American, at least pre-bankruptcy, or U.S. Airways, has a history of being more friendly to pilots unions' than United or Continental. U.S. Airways actually has a bad reputation. As for American, it could still expand by merging with a semi-major regional partner, like, say, Frontier.

Beyond that, the merger will, WILL, will, I said, result in non-union job losses from duplicated middle management positions. There's no guarantee how many of them will be lost in Dallas, and how many in Phoenix, is all. So, this "save jobs" thing may just be hot air.

Well, pilots, I bet if your union started giving money to Abbott's campaign, he'd change his tune.

In fact, a former senior board member of Continental, on the board of the merged UnitedContinental, shows just how true that is.

Additional thoughts.

1. Contra the Fort Worth Business Press, I don't think this will help consumers.

2. Contra many people, I don't see this as a jobs-saver any more than United-Continental, as I noted above.

 3. Supporting the merger just because Wendy Davis does and Greg Abbott doesn't is poor reasoning. That's like an Obamiac supporting his stance on NSA snooping because Dear Leader does and Rand Paul doesn't. If you agree with Davis on the merits of the issue, fine. I don't. And, if she does, where was she on United-Continental? Sure, she had a lower profile then, but she was a state senator then. Did she speak up one way or the other?

4. If Abbott is blatantly pandering, is Davis doing the same on a smaller scale and a different way? Abbott's pretending to be a consumer advocate, which isn't that true. Davis is actually looking out for DFW interest. Those interests may not be the same as the rest of the state on this issue, and in fact probably aren't. They're almost certainly not the best national interests. And, even if US Airways' maintenance center moves from Pittsburgh to the Metromess, there still will be other jobs lost in DFW from this merger. Also, since that Pittsburgh center is only 5 years old, expect Steel City to be aggressive on clawbacks of any economic incentives it offered back then.

5. This all said, the feds' late intervention in this merger smells about as fishy as does Abbott's. This is the only major anti-merger stance Holder as AG has taken besides AT&T/T-Mobile. Well, DOJ did do a bit on MillerCoors/Grupo Modelo, but not a lot. But, that technically wasn't anti-merger.


 Basically, there's a fair amount of pandering here by Holder, Abbott and Davis alike. Holder's pandering, as backed by his boss, is likely due in part to the ongoing revelation about NSA snooping.

A possible second reason might be that Charlotte's a major U.S. Airways hub, North Carolina is a swing state, and 2014 midterm elections are ahead. But, that's a stretch. Obama's cared no more about his party's position in Congress, realistically, than any other president of the last 40 years.

Beyond that, I can't figure any other reasons.

And, if Dear Leader were really concerned, he'd address what's really wrong with the American airline industry, starting with the Transportation Security Administration's gropefests.

Abbott's is even clearer, as noted. He wants to be seen as a consumer advocate of some sort.

Davis? Her angle is probably shoring up union support, should she be running for governor. A pilots' union isn't a typical union, but it is a union, and one with active voters, too.

Can't the #Cardinals be the pursued, not the pursuer, in trade talks?

Everybody and his or her grandmother has ideas on what the Cardinals need to do in the Hot Stove League. Most of it involves upgrading at shortstop above the unsuitable Pete Kozma. I've shot down two ideas there, both Ken Rosenthal's would-be pickup of Troy Tulowitzki, deconstructed here, and Ray DeRousse's pursuit of Jurickson Profar, discussed here,  while offering my own alternative of going after Erick Aybar, touted here.

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 Ervin Santana thinks he's worth $100M, and some team will be dumb enough to pay both of them, and that the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez and Matt Garza are also likely to be overpaid, 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, while a Texas Rangers has a middle infield logjam similar to the Cards' pitching logjam, and can hold firmer, other teams aren't so lucky.

And, Bernie Miklask of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch agrees.
If Cardinals GM John Mozeliak wants to make a so-called blockbuster deal for a shortstop this winter, he's in the best position of any general manager in baseball. The Cardinals' pitching surplus makes it easily doable. 

Easy, that is, in terms of having the pieces to pull off such a trade.

What isn't so easy: deciding who to give up. That's the hard part. 
Bingo on all three grafs.

Shelby Miller and Trevor Rosenthal are definite trade objects, obviously. I wouldn't trade both unless deemed very necessary, and that would have to be in two separate trades. Lance Lynn is, while ugh, no more ugh, really, than Nolasco and a lot cheaper, so can be a "topper" in a trade as necessary.

Sidebar: Did the Matheny-Mozeliak "conspiracy" to hold Miller out of the WS ding his trade value? Do you believe Ray DeRousse's interpretation of Joe Strauss that this was because the Cards had a deal pretty much lined up? If you do believe that, then where's that deal? Bernie also addresses that, saying something else may be up, but who knows what? 

That still leaves Michael Wacha, even if both Miller and Rosenthal are traded, plus the likelihood of Carlos Martinez, to follow Adam Wainwright, and likely be joined by Jaime Garcia.

Let's say either Miller or Rosenthal, more likely Miller, were traded, plus Lynn. That leaves a rotation of Waino, Wacha, Rosenthal, Martinez, Garcia. Now, I'm assuming Martinez can crack the rotation, and Garcia is recovered from his surgery to start, even at the No. 5 slot.

But, depending on what came back in trade, and for what position, that's a good rotation. And I didn't even mention Tyler Lyons, Joe Kelly or John Gast. They're all a bit further down the talent list, of course, but will all get further MLB service time as starters, somewhere, if not St. Louis, though Gast will still probably be on the shelf at the start of 2014. Maybe not great careers, but ...

Again, in a world where somebody will have some dumb overpay for Nolasco and Santana, the Cards should maybe not look too anxious to go "chasing" a deal. We're flush with pitching, let some other teams chase us instead.

Like the Rangers. Ken Rosenthal notes that they've got a logjam in the middle infield, with minor-league prospects pushing hard behind Profar, Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler. Yet another reason the Cards can just chillax a bit.

And, the Cards have said they won't swap Miller for J.J. Hardy. Totally agreed, on a player with just one year on contract, on the far side of 30, etc. That said, Jon Heyman is right; the mishandling of Miller in the postseason may have other GMs a bit gun-shy.

I've complained more than once about how Matheny and Mozeliak mishandled, or mis-nonhandled,  Miller in the postseason. Per Will Leitch, maybe the 2011-13 gloss is off. As the Cardinals look to improve, it's not just in the roster where they need to look.

Meanwhile, if you do still feel the need to weigh in on shortstop issues, hit the poll at right.

November 12, 2013

#Beltran to the #Astros?

The Cards officially made their qualifying offer, smartly, to Carlos Beltran. He not only declined, but 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.)

Among possible suitors? The Yankees have been mentioned, and are likely serious. Boston? In my opinion, they're just trying to drive up the final price tag since David Ortiz is at DH, Shane Victorino in right, and the Johnny Gomes/Daniel Nava platoon in left. Tigers are an outside possibility.

I think he could be "hidden" in a small outfield ballpark in the NL. The Reds aren't going to buy him, but what about Philly? Not likely, with the Marlon Byrd signing.

But, I'm going to jump back to the AL, and one team in particular, that nobody else is mentioning: the Astros.

I don't get why the Stros aren't in the bidding. He played there before, it's a hitter's park, they're now an AL team with a DH slot, and they need to spend money on somebody before they start seriously losing fans.

And, he would be a definite upgrade over J.D. Martinez in left, L.J. Hoes in right, or the post-Carlos Pena/revolving door era at DH. You could pencil in Beltran for 135 games at DH, and maybe 10 in each corner OF slot to give a day off to them. He's no more pricey, I'll venture, than Nelson Cruz and less so than Shin-Soo Choo, and makes the Astros more serious right away, while still on a shorter-term contract than Choo's, so not interfering with longer-term plans. Heck, they could pay for Beltran AND one or two others with that $26M payroll from this year the starting point.

This all said, contra an writer, I do NOT see him as going to the Royals. He might like the idea, but there's no wallet crowbar that big in Kansas City.

Does #CFI, #CSH, or #SOS still have financial problems?

First, let me spell out the alphabet soup up top.

CFI is Center for Inquiry, once the leading secular humanist organizatoin and now, in my opinion, trying to become the leading Gnu Atheist organization. CSH is an affiliate, the Council for Secular Humanism, publisher of The Humanist magazine and doer of other things. SOS is Secular Organizations for Sobriety, a 12-step group alternative. (Disclosure: I have connections with another 12-step alternative, one of my reasons for interest in all of this, as well as my interest or concerns about things Gnu Atheist.)

A month ago, as I blogged here, SOS sent out an urgent fundraising appeal, with the full appeal and parts of surrounding text following.
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.)

Well, on Nov. 11, Jim Christopher renewed the appeal. Which I posted on Facebook, in part because neither CFI nor CSH has given me a straight answer on their current financial well-being.

There's actually a third reason, specific to SOS. As noted above, I have connections another 12-step alternative. SOS not only gets whatever subsidy it does from CFI, it's also headquartered at CFI West, paying below-market rent, if any. I'd also like to see exactly how much, or how little, in donations it gets, if ithat's broken out somewhere, which it should. SOS's appeal (and I'm assuming CSH is offereing a 1-for-1 match, like enviro groups regularly do), is a month old.

That said, I'm venturing that SOS's renewed plea indirectly answers my question about it. I'm guesstimating that whatever CSH's current funding level is, whether $75K or higher, SOS does no better than one-third of that in donor contributions.

At the same time, I'm still trying to figure if the CFI complex and funding affiliates like CSH are trying to "monetize" other low-rent entities, too, whomever they might be. That's something that nobody from nowhere in either one of the organizations would directly tell me, no way, no how, when I started inquiring at the time of my initial blog post.

So, to Ron Lindsay's minions? If SOS has another email appeal in a month? I write another blog post, even stronger than this one, if I don't get more information than I did a month ago. And, I can start looking through your 990s as I have time, myself, and making guesstimates, or flat out assumptions, from there.

At the same time, to Jim Christopher and Duaine Metevia, his No. 2 and chief apple- and pedestal-polisher? I want more specific answers from you, too. I suspect the financial problems, relative to total budget, are worse with you than with CFI/CSH. Unfortunately, Christopher surely continues to be a bad manager, with the same founder's syndrome issues as many other organization starters, while Metevia not only enables this, but spreads this word to the SOS masses. (I know because I've seen it in person and know why SOS had a split/offshoot 15 years ago. And, indirectly, I've gotten additional confirmation of why that split was a good idea, and that, sorry Paul Kurtz touters, but this goes back to his doorstep.)

To be honest, SOS, with the CFI resources behind it, should be as big as SMART Recovery plus Lifering Secular Recovery combined, and I know that it's nowhere near that.

So, I suspect this is more on SOS's dime than CFI's or CSH's. It should still be honest, though. Assuming this is an SOS issue, and more precisely, a Jim Christopher issue, CFI isn't doing SOS any favors by not being even sterner than it is. And, being that much on the CFI/CSH dime is as bad as the larger CFI, under Kurtz (even if this has allegedly been overstated to a degree) basing a quarter of its budget on one donor.

And, this is also why, although I don't cotton to most of Gnu Atheism, I know that CFI needed to make some sort of "move" a few years back. Ron Lindsay may have been the wrong move. But, Paul Kurtz could have prevented that with his retirement and a name of another successor.

And, that all said, this may be a "test" of Christopher. If he gets close to the match amount, he may stay on. But, if not, CFI and/or CSH may pretty bluntly tell him it's time to retire.

November 11, 2013

Veterans Day — too bad it's needed this much

True liberals and left-liberals among regular readers of my blog know my feelings on American exceptionalism, and recently, what I've also called Texas exceptionalism (and since then, learned that similar thought runs even among academic historians).

Well, it should be no surprise that this spills over to Veterans Day. Most of the wars the United States has fought have been unnecessary at best and imperialist at worst.

That starts, of course, with our various wars against Indian tribes. We could have been like Tsarist Russia versus its Siberian aborigines, and simply killed people without the "benefit" of first making treaties then breaking them. That, at least, would have been honest.

Mexican War: Sorry, Texas exceptionalists, but when Tejas was a province of Spain, then of Mexico, its normal boundary was the Nueces, not the Rio Grande/Rio Bravo del Norte. A Congressman named "Spotty" Lincoln was right about President Polk wanting, and pushing for, and conniving for, this war when Mexico refused to sell California, and using Texas issues as the cornerstone of his conniving. Also, El Paso never was a part of old Tejas, either.

Spanish-American War: President McKinley is on record before the 1896 election as wanting the Philippines. Spain requested a third-party investigation of the Maine explosion, arbitration, etc., Nope. We then had a three year imperialist war in those newly-American Philippines after the Spanish-American War itself was done.

World War I: President Wilson was a Britain-leaner far before April 4, 1917. And, the British blockade by extension (blockading Sweden, Denmark, etc., to no more than pre-1914 foodstuffs so they couldn't trans-ship to Germany) was just as illegal under international law as was German submarine warfare. We should have let both sides beat themselves senseless.

Vietnam: "Old hands" in the State Department knew the 2,000 years of Vietnamese-Chinese animosity, and knew that the domino theory was dumb on that account alone.

The Gulf War: I still believe April Glaspie that we set up Saddam Hussein in some way, egging him on in invading Kuwait. Even if we didn't, we have no doorknob-guaranteed right to cheap oil.

There was only one war that we really "underfought" in a sense. That's the Civil War, or actually, Reconstruction. Instead of 20,000 troops in the South for a decade, we should have had 200,000 for a generation, at least.

That said, it's fun to watch and hear "The Battle Hymn of the Republic" sung at Veterans Day and Memorial Day events in the South, since it was a Union-based Civil War song, as stanza 2 makes abundantly clear.

And, for Christians who love to selectively quote Romans 8, you might want to ponder further the issue of "obedience to the governing authorities" in light of both the Revolutionary War and Obamacare. That's you, dominionist Ted Cruz.


Update: I totally agree with this Salon piece.

Most of our "freedoms" are constitutional ones, not from foreign enemies. True, a foreign enemy might want to overthrow them, but, outside of war, the Center for Constitutional Rights, or the ACLU (second to the CCR in my book for the past several years) defends those freedoms more than the military. Also agreed that the fusion of sports and "Patriotism(TM)" pretty much makes me ill. 

November 10, 2013

Coming soon, a #Kindle Sparks, ie, a Kindle Junior?

Actually, I'm surprised that Jeff Bezos and his Amazon minions haven't already come out with a Kindle targeted at teens, maybe even joined by a Kindle Glow for pre-teens.

But, he may have more reason to do this now.

Amazon recently bought online math education company TenMarks, and wants to use it to make math apps. So why wouldn't it build off this to make a teen-based version of the Kindle Fire?
The move is interesting on a couple of levels, as Amazon flat out says that it will be building its own education-oriented apps for ‘multiple platforms’. I don’t doubt that those platforms will begin with the Kindle Fire and perhaps even Kindle. Amazon has shown little reluctance to ship apps on other platforms in the past, and currently offers Kindle on iOS and ‘stock Android’.
Especially since Intel just bought a similar company, and, in that story, Tech Crunch says that Microsoft and Apple may be prowling for similar buys, Amazon is probably in a hurry.

In the bigger sense, especially with Amazon, Apple and Microsoft, this is a horrible dark side of the Internet problem. It plays right into neoliberal ideas of how technology should be used to improve education, meaning that Obamiac-type Democrats, like Gavin Newsom out in California, and surely our newest Messianic senator, Cory Booker, will give carte blanche to these companies to pass out discounted versions of their tablets to public schools. The companies, in turn, get malleable young minds to turn into hypercapitalist mush.

It's probably too late for Amazon to crank out a Kindle Sparks in time for Christmas this year. But, don't be surprised if this happens about 11 months from now. Besides the education apps, you could preload it with Mozart Effect stuff and other drivel guaranteed to make helicopter moms start drooling and lusting.

Remember, you heard it here first.

And, missing in the hypercapitalist names above? Google.

Sure, Android is nice, but, by being too open to individualization, Google may be cutting its own throat. Google's been slow to develop Google Plus into an overall "platform," and clunky at best in recent attempts to speed up that pace. And, online ad rates, including for Google Ads, continue to fall. Google's eventually going to have to look at some new software, or else creating its own "device" of some sort besides Google Glass, I think.

#Cooperstown Class of 2014: Initial thoughts

I'll do something more in-depth later, tackling the roiders like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens in more depth again, as before. And, I'll certainly write one more column about the one more year of effort needed to keep Jack Morris OUT for sound reasons; here's what I wrote about a year ago on that.

Right now, though, I want to focus on the first-year eligibles on this year's Hall of Fame ballot, especially the Big Five, if you will, of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, Frank Thomas, Mike Mussina and Jeff Kent.

I think all five should be in the Hall. I think the first four, not just the first three, have strong legitimate arguments to be first-year HOFers, and even Kent isn't out of bounds, though I lean no. That said, I'm not on the BBWAA, so, as I look at each one individually, I'll also address what I expect to happen.

Maddux: We're talking one of the 10 best pitchers ever. We're also talking someone whose fastball couldn't break a pane of glass and about  whom there have been zero steroid allegations. He's far above my career baselines for ERA+ and WHIP. He will get in, as well as should, and will likely hit or pass the 95 percent mark of ballots.

Glavine: It would be easy to call him a poorer-man's lefty Maddux. But, that would hide him behind his fellow long-time Brave without looking at him closely. And, more closely, while he's no Early Wynn, when you get past his 300-win mark, he's not quite so hot. His career WHIP of 1.314 is well above my normal HOF max of 1.25 and is, in fact ... in Jack Morris territory! (Actually, it's worse than Morris, and it is halfway to Wynn from Morris.) His ERA+ of 118 is strong but nowhere near that of Maddux. And his career WAA is a tick below 40. I think he still deserves in on the first ballot. But, I'm OK if he doesn't break 90 percent, but I think he will.

Thomas: The Big Hurt has a great career OPS+ and slugging, and broke 500 HRs, a key marker before the pre-1990s explosion. There's not been any real roiding allegations about him, either. That said, he also failed to break even 2,500 hits, and his career WAA of 39.1 is relatively low. Plus, he spent more than half his career at DH, yet, like Edgar Martinez and David Ortiz, still had injury problems. I think he's still a worthy first-ballot winner, but "should" get about the same vote percentage as what Glavine "should."

Mussina: He "should" get in, and actually, he's at least as deserving as Glavine. Higher ERA+, WHIP not just below 1.25 but below 1.2, higher WAR, much higher WAA, and better K/BB ratio. Of course, for the BBWAA voters still stuck in the pre-sabermetric era, he didn't win 300 games. Indeed, some of them might even want to "punish" him and make him weight a year behind Maddux and Glavine. In my book he should get in, and he should get in with a better vote than Glavine. As for will he? I think he gets in this year, but, he'll likely be below 85 percent for the reasons I mentioned.

Kent: A top slugging second baseman, he still fell short of 400 HRs and 2,500 hits. His career WAA (30 is my normal cutoff and 35 is preferred, and I am liking WAA more than WAR) is only 26.4. His career WAR, even oWAR, is below 60. As I said above, he's got a decent to good argument for eventual admission, but there's a good argument about him not being a first-year player, and the number-crunching at the bottom of his B-R page says about the same. (And, contra all the ESPN guys, I can see legitimate symbolic reasons for agreeing a guy is a HOFer, but yet not a first-year HOFer.) As for the writers? Kent doesn't seem to be a favorite of theirs. And, if Moose gets in, a five-person entry class, setting aside Mike Piazza, Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, not to mention Morris and the likely roiders, seems unlikely.

Off the top of my head, and hedging bets a bit, I say the top three, plus one of the four from Mussina/Piazza/Biggio/Bagwell gets in. I think Bags and Pizza Man are both more deserving, if we're talking about relative entry order, than Biggio.