November 23, 2013

Scrap that Nov. 30 deadline for Obamacare website fix?

At least, that's the intuitive feeling I get.

Why?

First, Obama is considering letting people sign up for Obamacare directly via insurance companies. I think that's a fairly strong indication that HealthCare.gov will NOT be fixed by Nov. 30. (And Megan McArdle claims this is breaking the law.)

Second? If up to 40 percent of IT systems supporting it still need to be fixed, I don't see that being completed in 11 days.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Deputy Chief Information Officer Henry Chao (said) ... financial management tools remain unfinished, particularly the process that will deliver payments to insurers. ...

Chao said that the consumer portion of the website, including account registration, plan shopping and enrollment functions, won’t be affected by the ongoing development effort, but that “back office” functions including accounting and payment systems were not yet complete.
That said, from the rest of the story, it's clear House Republicans are playing at least as much politics as normal with this issue.

At the same time, per the second page, it seems clear oversight of HealthCare.gov is still haphazard. Yes, enrollment numbers may be increasing. But, per the second link, that's not the problem. The payout side is the biggie. And, if insurers ain't getting money, they ain't taking Obamacare clients.

Hence the first link. Which basically gets even closer to corporate socialism, in a sense.

So, if the website is fixed in the public's eye, it won't be, in the eyes of Blue Cross, et al.

There's another deadline. Dec. 23 is the deadline to sign up for insurance for the new year. Maybe Obama doesn't fully hit that target on software fixes either, as Amy Davidson notes at the New Yorker. She, too adds (this is the New Yorker, not the New York Post, folks) that much of the problem is Dear Leader's:
After five years in the White House, Obama still believes that he can go into a corner, tinker with something until it’s better, and win on the merits. The long view can serve him well, but it can also leave him unprepared when the other side won’t give up on an all-out battle. Health-care reform is the President’s signature legislative achievement, and a historic one. To preserve it, he needs to fight for it politically, state by state. This time, the Obama brand alone isn’t enough.
Chances of him truly grasping that? C'mon, we've seen enough of him over five years. Chances are 50-50 at best.

Meanwhile, Brian Beutler, now of Salon, but formerly of the Obamiac Talking Points Memo site (famed in my mind for running slide shows of White House photographers' pix, for doing like the mainstream media and unnecessarily letting Obama officials go off the record and other things) cites Kentucky's state-level exchange as Example A, and the only example, of why the GOP will lose the Obamacare fight. Given that it's a state-level exchange, and has about zip to do with HealthCare.gov, it sounds like what it is: an Obamiac puff piece. State exchanges were up and working from the start, therefore don't have to overcome the burden of bad expectations. Or bad base-level design, or other things.

And, Beutler's piece doesn't address any of the behind-the-scenes for individuals issues that the federal site probably won't have fixed by Nov. 30, either.

Have a #Coke and an #Upworthly-esque #positivity smile

An Upworthy-type website, breathlessly passing on Coke's annoucement of suspending "committed advertising" and redirecting that money to help Philippine victims of Typhoon Haiyan, might make you think so. But, let's look further?

First, the money it's already donated? A company as big as Coke budgets that every year as part of its nonprofit support expenses. Whether, at the end of its current fiscal year, Coke does anything more, I don't know.

Second, $2.5 million is nice, yes, but a drop in the bucket out of $48 billion in annual revenue and $9 billion in annual profit, per Wikipedia.

Third, if Coke wants to be a real corporate citizen, it can stop supporting paramilitaries in Columbia, stop supporting the harassment of union organizers by local bottlers, primarily in Columbia but also in Guatemala, then hiding behind the legal shield of "but, it wasn't us, just local contractors," stop exploiting groundwater exploitation in developing nations, and more. Wikipedia has a roundup link about its bad press in the past.

Is Coke as exploitative as, say Nike? Probably not. But, it's nowhere near a corporate saint.

And, back to the money. Coke doesn't need "scheduled advertising." Contra JPMorgan Chase with its recent Twitter Tweet-in stupidity, Coke knows its getting beaucoup free advertising from Upworthy, or rather Barfworthy, type websites who "blog" stuff like this uncritically, and then from people who pass on links like that on Twitter or other social media. From the business side, it's genius.

From the public side, it's bullshit.

Coke could have followed the "pray in your closet" admonition of Jesus, and done this in private, saying nothing until asked about why its ads were not on the air. Or, it could have done a bonus donation to the Philippines and kept quiet about it, while keeping its ads on the air.

Back again to Coke's statement:
"Any committed advertising space will be redirected to the relief and rebuilding efforts for the people in Visayas," Coca-Cola's statement on Tuesday read.
What constitutes relief and rebuilding? How long with this last? Is Coke working with recognized Philippine nonprofits and multinational NGOs that respect local issues, or will it be working with Westernized ones that cater to multinational corporate interests?

As with most big corporate PR, there's plenty of lines to read between. Unfortunately, "positivity" type websites let themselves be played in the likes of Coke's hands just like cheap violins. That said, Upworthy itself isn't all positivity, all the time. It occasionally bends a small bit, especially when it's to support a socially liberal neoliberalism of mainstream Democratic neoliberalism. Other places, like its longform cousin, Brain Pickings? Smile, smile, smile.

For people who call this "cynicism"? I call it reality, as run through the blender of skepticism and critical thinking. And, say that you might be the type of person gullible to the online-driven phenomenon of "branding."

And, with the continued hollowing out of the US economy, plus, Google's promise to individuals (which will be taken up much more by corporations) of being able to create social media "bots," this will only get worse.

Finally, any website that deliberately misspells a standard English word as part of its URL draws a baleful eye from me anyway.

4 out of 5 users may actually use #Obamacare! By Nov. 30!

If you're nearly my age, or older, you probably remember the old TV jingle about how "Four out of five dentists ... recommend Trident."

Well, according to the Washington Post, it looks like an earlier blog post of mine saying I didn't expect Team Obama to have the federal exchange website for Obamacare ready by Nov. 30 may just be at least partially true:
The Obama administration has set a Nov. 30 deadline — next Saturday — by which officials have promised that HealthCare.gov will work smoothly for about four out of five consumers who attempt to use it to sign up for health plans. Even now, the official familiar with the project said, CGI’s work on the repairs is not always going well; roughly one-third to half the new computer code the company is writing cannot be used because it is revealing flaws when it is fully examined by a group of outside testers, including some insurance companies.
That said, since it sounds like even the latest promise from Dear Leader is likely to not be ... er, fully operative, to riff back to Richard Nixon days?

Meanwhile, having perhaps learned a lesson, I assume Team Obama's already working on its post-Nov. 30 "spin" plans. And, Obamiacs, especially the ones who have blamed right-wing DDoS attacks, or a CGI Federal who has contributed politically to both parties for allegedly deliberately tanking, are you working on your "spin" too?

Instead, why don't you ask the wunderkind to hold up a mirror to himself, because that's where a lot of the problems started.

Actually, there will be a Plan C.

Assuming that the promises above are indeed too optimistic? First, Obama is considering letting people sign up for Obamacare directly via insurance companies. I think that's a fairly strong indication that HealthCare.gov will NOT be fixed by Nov. 30. And, I believe he'll follow through on that, which in turn will actually cause even more havoc.

November 22, 2013

#Cardinals pull off Freese-Bourjos trade — shortstop ramifications

Actually, it's a four-player trade. The Cardinals are trading David Freese and Fernando Salas to the Angels for Peter Bourjos and minor league prospect Randal Grichuk.

Several thoughts, first in brief, then expanded.

First, this saves the Cards a few dinero, as Bourjos is one year behind Freese in the arbitration years cycle and four years younger, and Salas was entering his first arbitration year. Besides, Salas had no room in a jammed Cardinal rotation; heck, the Angels might try to make him a starter. Second, it adds speed to the current Cardinals roster, something I, John Mozeliak and Mike Matheny have all been looking for. Third, it leaves open the possibility of Jon Jay becoming trade bait, especially if the Cards judge that Oscar Taveras is big-league ready even before the start of spring training. Fourth, Grichuk could be of some value. He has a decent slugging percentage and a bit of speed, but needs to cut his strikeouts and take more walks.

And, as with the Rangers-Tigers trade, we know this means an expected position shift will now happen. Matt Carpenter's headed to third, and presumably, speaking of big-league ready, Kolten Wong's starting the year in St. Louis.

So, it looks like a win-win, but one that tilts toward St. Louis, I think. That's with the one big caveat of Bourjos staying healthy. And, assuming that happens, I might have been generous toward the Angels in my win-win. Rather, let's call it a win-make progress deal.

Now, about those money savings? It's not a lot, but, let's say, $4M a year total. That leads us back to shortstop land. The Cards now have more money to spend on either a free agent, or to pay a certain high-paid shortstop acquired by trade. Could this put the Cards in on Troy Tulowitzki, if Colorado will trade him at the right price, as well as Stephen Drew, Jhonny Peralta and the other free agents? In any case, this could be moving the Cardinals closer to the post-Pete Kozma era.

That said, if Peralta is now asking for $56-$75M, scratch him. Not worth it.

Anyway, on the grounds of the trade alone, this is a boost to the Cardinals. Plus, with Wong and Bourjas, plus any speed out of Taveras, this is a faster Cardinals team. Also, definitely vs. the 2013 Freese, the infield shifts should make this a better defensive team. ESPN pointed out that, despite winning the National League title, the Cards were in the bottom third of baseball in defense.

An upgraded defense plus all the young gun arms? Yikes.

Meanwhile, just as the Texas-Detroit trade seemed to tighten the market on middle infielders, the Cardinals have more money to play. Or, per a post of mine about a week ago, the Cardinals can feel more comfortable staying put, waiting to be the pursued rather than the pursuer, in the shortstop trade world.

Is the Green Party of Texas dead?

It's more than a rhetorical question, to be honest.

First, there's been no updates to the Texas Green Party of Texas's website, as far as news stores being posted, etc., since the start of August. That's nearly four months now.

Second, when I wrote to the contact email address to inquire about what was up with that and to inquire, since we're officially in the start of election season, if the party knew about any Green candidates who had filed for office yet?

My email bounced.

Now, I'm not registered as a Green, but I've voted Green in the last three presidential elections, and there was even a Green Congresscritter candidate in Odessa in 2010. I have promoted voting Green, and not just as a protest vote.

This ain't good, being dead in the e-water. Not good at all.

Anybody who has closer connections with official Texas Greendom than me, feel free to weigh in with any information.

Update: I have gotten an email back, from Kat Swift, co-chair of the state's executive committee. Don't know why my original bounced. The party doesn't announce filings until Dec. 9, when the filing window closes. I understand why, because you can have withdrawals. On the other hand, reporting filings as they happen juices up the party's presence in the news cycle.

November 21, 2013

Harry Reid trumps a 5-year Kumbaya chorus

I'm not a total fan of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He can still be in the pocket of hardrock miners in Nevada too much, and I'm still not sure just how liberal he is on socioeconomic issues.

But, I know he's less of a neoliberal, or seems to be, than Preznit Kumbaya, aka Dear Leader, aka President Barack Obama. And, he's certainly not in any special love with any mythical mellifluousness of his voice. 

First, the end of the filibustering of district and circuit court nominees was needed, period. Republicans, who talk about the poor as thieving criminals, were stealing not just one and a half loaves, but 3 or 4 loaves compared to the agreement to take the possible "nuclear option" off the table in Shrub Bush's presidency.

Second, anything that makes John McCain whine, exposes his hypocrisy, and catches his tail in a vice halfway between hardcore conservative and true nutbar is fine by me.

Let's read the Schmuck Talk Express™:
"They're governed by the newer members... who have never been in a minority, who are primarily driving this issue," McCain told reporters after the vote. "They succeeded and they will pay a very, very heavy price for it."
Really? Harry Reid's been around as long as you have, John.

See, what this is, is what psychologists call "projection." Here's what McCain was actually saying:
"(House Republicans are) governed by the newer members... who have never been in a minority, who are primarily driving this issue," McCain told reporters after the vote. "They succeeded (in the government shutdown) and they will pay a very, very heavy price for it."
Glad I could translate, Schmuck Talk.

Third, the Senate GOP had become the party of obstruction and obstruction, with young turks there finding a willing ally in Yertle the Turtle, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Reid pointed that out shortly before the denouement:
On the Senate floor Thursday morning, Reid pointed out that half of the 168 filibusters of executive and judicial nominees in American history have come during the Obama Administration. "These nominees deserve at least an up-or-down vote," Reid said. "But Republican filibusters deny them a fair vote and deny the president his team.
Half. Period. End of story.

The Atlantic notes that Reid and McConnell don't really like each other, but both have been in the Senate long enough to try patchwork fixes. But, McConnell either couldn't or wouldn't do more.

And, that's important related to this. McConnell has long crowed about his knowledge of Senate parliamentary procedure arcana, and Reid just trumped him. My take is Yertle wouldn't do more, rather

Fourth, we know Reid squeezed Vice President Joe Biden out of the picture on government shutdown talks earlier this fall. Per my Photoshopped caption, he just put Dear Leader on notice, I think, that he will play the same hardball tactics, or worse, come next year. Reid finally decided, in the Chicago language and mannerisms that Obama is allegedly supposed to understand and practice, that it was time to bring a gun to a gunfight. McCain, in negotiations, brought an inadequate counteroffer, or a water pistol, if you will.

As for long-term ramifications? Well, the GOP needs to do more work on getting its Ted Cruzes and other knucklewalkers in line. Because, if the inside-the-Beltway take is correct on how this will make the GOP madder, I think Reid is ready to fire back.

Maybe Harry can even dissuade Dear Leader from chained CPI for entitlements and other nuttery of his Catfood Commission.

Or, I hope, get the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee to find people to "primary" Carl Levin, Joe Manchin, and Mark Pryor.

So, is Andrew Sullivan now peddling "Bell Curve Lite"?

Ohh, I love Photoshop at times.
Sully, who once devoted an entire issue of The New Republic to touting the virtues of "The Bell Curve," now says that we're at an economic inequality tipping point.

After all, Curve co-author Charles Murray has come out with post-Bell books arguing that the white underclass, following those blankety-blank blacks, is largely bringing its own doom upon itself. So what happened to get Sully to lighten up a small bit?

Talking about suicide of the elites because Ted Cruz went to Harvard? There have been both nutbars and nonentities in national presidential life who graduated from Harvard in the past. A reasonable argument could be made that Jack Kennedy was one of the nonentities.

Wingnuts, or semi-so, or else just rich predatory bastards? Harrison Schmitt, John Sununu, Mitt Romney, Pete Du Pont, Alan Keyes, Grover Norquist, Bill O'Reilly and Lou Dobbs come easily to mind, or easily to Wikipedia.

So does Ted Kaczynski. Jeffrey Skilling. Amy Bishop.

See, Sully's ultimately still peddling elitism with a dollop of noblesse oblige. Just as I've said in the past about how Gnu Atheism is no guarantor of superior morality or superior critical thinking skills, neither is a Harvard education.

And, it's things claiming it does like that that perpetuate class inequality in America in the first place.

It's Andrew Sullivan. Don't be fooled again.





My favorite JFK conspiracy theories

1. Aliens from Area 51 did it, because they knew Jack was building Camelot on an artificial planet orbiting Alpha Centauri.

2. Eleanor Roosevelt did it, because she knew JFK wasn't a real liberal and LBJ was.

3. Bobby did it, because he had already been eyeballing Jackie.

4. Frank Sinatra did it, because he thought Jack was dissing him.

5. J.R. Ewing did it, as a prequel to the Dallas TV show.

6. Hillary Clinton did it, because, somewhere, somebody in the vast right-wing conspiracy machine is surely thinking this. Why? She's Hillary, so it's about taking a village to kill somebody or something.

7. Barack Obama's mom did it as part of his Kenyan birth certificate cover-up.

8. Jim Garrison did it, and then invented other conspiracy theories to cover his trail.

9. Mao did it, to frame Khrushchev.

10. It was a look-alike double. Jack couldn't handle the pressures of the presidency and so faked his own death. Look for any hot blonde women who disappeared in a month or two after that, and you'll start filling in more details.

11. Marilyn Monroe faked HER death in 1962 and came back a year later, brunette wig and other disguises, and hid on the grassy knoll.

12. Bigfoot did it. First, any creature so hard to find except by those in the know could easily get away with it. Motive? He wanted all of Jack's white wimmin.

13. Gnu Atheists killed him so that, 100 years from now, they could claim he was a Gnu Atheist. (More seriously? Gnu or non-Gnu atheists who believe in conspiracy theories, whether this or another, again prove my dictum that atheism is no guarantor of intellectual superiority or critical thinking skills.)

Laughable, you say? None are any more laughable than conspiracy theories that are supposed to be serious.

Reality? First, there's plenty of physical evidence tying Oswald to the murder, including palm prints on the Mannlicher-Carcano, tested shell casings from that gun, pictures of him posing with the gun after buying it, the receipt for him buying it, and his previous attempt to assassinate Gen. Edwin Walker with it.

Is that not enough? Hugh Aynesworth, a former Dallas Morning News reporter, got a hold of Oswald's personal diary (and refused to disclose to the FBI his source). Oswald's mental problems are even more detailed there.

Still not enough? Oswald's brother, Robert, still alive in Wichita Falls, Texas, thinks his brother did it, alone, and not as part of a conspiracy.

As for alleged conspirators, besides the ones I list above?

1. LBJ was just worried about staying on the ticket in 1964, not only because Bobby didn't like him, but because the Bobby Baker shite was about to hit the fan. And, in a state of semi-permanent low- or even medium-grade depression, he didn't have the mental energy for this. In short, to use one of LBJ's own phrases? Jack Kennedy had LBJ's pecker in his pocket.

2. Castro? Fidel knew enough about Operation Mongoose that he didn't have a death wish. Plus, to the degree Jack and Bobby were thawing slightly toward Cuba (although this has been overblown), he had even less reason to rock the boat.

3. Khrushchev? The Supreme Soviet, etc., was already worried about his adventurism with the Cuban Missile Crisis, part of why he would be forced out of power less than a year after Oswald shot JFK. And, as for how Oswald got out of the USSR? His brother gave him the money.

4. The Mafia? Not all mobsters were totally in the Kennedy gunsights. Some probably figured they had ways to blackmail him. As for those like Carlos Marcello, facing deportation? Hey, it's a dog-eat-dog world in the Mob. Some mobsters probably were willing to help through a few others under the bus.

Personal reality and related thoughts? More on that below the fold.

November 20, 2013

Prince Fielder for Ian Kinsler? Wow!

Yep, that's the blockbuster deal, per ESPN. First baseman Prince Fielder leaves the Detroit Tigers, along with $30M in "cash considerations." Back comes Ian Kinsler, from the Texas Rangers. (I had who was paying who right, first, then thought I didn't have it right and changed it, based on one story I read, and now it's right again.)

As for top-grade analysis, Jonah Keri and Peter Gammons both are right on top of this. They both lay out the general big-picture items that I note below, so let's jump in!

Several quick questions, first for the Tigers.

Is Miggy Cabrera now going to first? MLBTradeRumors says his offseason surgery was making the Tigers think it was time. If so, is Jhonny Peralta staying in Motown and playing third? Or signed for short with Jose Iglesias moved to third? And, I assume Omar Infante is gone, not to be re-signed? Or would the Tiges try HIM at third or short?? Or moving prospect Nick Castellanos, who started as a 3B but was converted to OF, back to his original position.

And, for the Rangers? Is Jurickson Profar back off the trade market now, and the Rangers' new regular second-sacker? And is Elvis Andrus then safe at short? Mitch Moreland will likely DH, though he could get some OF time, Rangers GM Jon Daniels says.

And, then, for the Cardinals, if that's the case, how does this impact their plans on upgrading at shortstop from Pete Kozma? Especially if the Profar, Andrus and Peralta elements are all true? Because then, a Stephen Drew just got more pricey. Or can the Cards see if Infante can play short again? That said, if the Tigers decide Castellanos is the 3B answer, they'll likely pass on both Peralta and Infante.

That is, if the Rangers are done here. David Schoefield says Daniels and new CEO Ray Davis may have even brassier balls, and be looking at Robinson Cano. In such a scenario he suggests a trade with the Cardinals for ... Oscar Taveras. I consider that doubtful, to be honest, as I don't see them wanting two mega-contracts both running through the end of the decade, but that would be a second bold move.

For the two teams involved, if neither of the Rangers' middle infielders gets moved, I do see it as a win-win. Definite power upgrade for Rangers, which could affect re-signing Nelson Cruz or not, and chasing Shin-Soo Choo, or not, or Carlos Beltran, even, especially based on plans for Moreland. And is Brian McCann still a target?

For the Tigers? If they shift the pieces as I project, including re-signing Peralta, it's a definite defensive upgrade. And, if Peralta's not too pricey, might free room for them to keep Max Scherzer.

Ryan Jackson officially ain't the #Cardinals answer at SS

For strange, at least to me, reasons, a fair amount of Cardinals fans saw Ryan Jackson as the potential answer to the Pete Kozma black hole. The fact that he had batted far worse than Kozma during his brief time with the Cardinals, followed by the fact that Memphis told him to pick up an outfielder's glove in the second half of the season this year, still continued not to phase fans who apparently didn't want to believe he was being trained to be a Daniel Descalso type utility player, or, given that it was an OF glove, a Skip Schumaker with less bat.

Well, he's not even a potential SS savior, or hole-plugger, for the Cards. The Astros claimed him off waivers. Why, I don't know, other than their 40-man still isn't at 40 players. Jonathan Villar is younger, and seemingly better, in experience about as limited as Jackson's.

A few bloggers have suggested, just like the occasional hint about Shelby Miller, that Cardinal management politics or something kept Jackson down at Memphis. Nope, don't think so. They would have used him during Kozma's end-of-year black hole if they thought he was the man. They wouldn't have given him the OF glove to learn.

Occasionally, problems between player and field manager may lead to a move, like the trade of Colby Rasmus, or the undercutting of Ozzie Smith. But, unless it's a contract issue, front-office politics don't often affect players.

As for hot stove league talk, at least that gets a few fans to start thinking clearer about just how low Jackson's value is.

#GnuAtheists try to score antihistorical point off of Lincoln

Photo via Wikipedia
Gnu Atheists are trying to score some cheap points, and make Abraham Lincoln into a crypto-atheist or something, by claiming he didn't say "under God" as part of the Gettysburg Address.

Wrong. Completely wrong, as the Constitution  Center makes clear and anybody who actually knows much about the Gettysburg Address knows. (I knew all of this before a friend sent me both that link and CFI's link to Hemant Mehta's riffing on this issue, as started by the Freedom from Religion Foundation here.

Folks, the version he spoke at Gettysburg had "under God." Why he added them, we're not sure. But he did. It was not something he added after he spoke. So, Hemant, your whole analysis falls apart. That includes the idea that it was a dig at the Confederate Constitution, a fundraising ploy, or anything similar.

Yes, manuscripts of the speech that were written out after he spoke had "under God" in them. That's because he said them at Gettysburg. Sometimes, instead of conflating statistical and causal correlation, people just get the wrong cause cited.

Such analysis, to score cheap Gnu Atheist points, manifests a clearly shallow of Lincoln at best and plain misunderstanding at worst. Thank doorknobs Mehta just teaches math at whatever high school he is at and not history. He added on to a cheap point-scoring attempt from FFRF.

Freedom from Religion Foundation is even worse, even though it backhandedly accepts . Anybody who knows Lincoln knows he did NOT "ad lib" in public speeches, despite its stupid claim. Also, in making that claim, FFRF also demonstrates some degree of ignorance of the chain of custody and related issues on all the different manuscripts of the speech.

And, FFRF gets worse yet, here:
Lincoln routinely punctuated his eloquent addresses with deistic references to “Divine Providence,” in which he firmly believed. But it’s doubtful most U.S. citizens realize Lincoln was strongly rationalist and not a Christian. Among other words also inscribed at the Lincoln Memorial is an excerpt of Lincoln’s Second Inaugural address. While full of conventional references to the “Almighty,” Lincoln slyly observed of the North and the South: "Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.”
Wow. No, Lincoln wasn't making a sly dig, again. Such idea cheapens the whole thrust of what he actually said.

Like the last paragraph:
With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.
No "strong rationalist" wrote that. Rather, a man of deep, complex, but religiously-oriented philosophizing did.

First, Lincoln was not a fully conventional Christian, but let's not make him into some crypto-atheist, or a "strong rationalist." His religious beliefs could best be described as a more deistic version of Calvinistic determinism; see Wikipedia for a good, in-depth insight on his religious beliefs and their evolution. It includes this 1846 quote:
That I am not a member of any Christian church is true; but I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures; and I have never spoken with intentional disrespect of religion in general, or of any denomination of Christians in particular.... I do not think I could myself be brought to support a man for office whom I knew to be an open enemy of, or scoffer at, religion
His "doctrine of necessity" was about fatalism, not rationalism, as much as anything. And, if anything, again, albeit not in a conventional Christian sense, but Lincoln became more religious as the Civil War ground on.

Anybody promoting stupidity like this, or that the Gettysburg Address was supposedly, in original form, a dig at the Confederacy, should read Lincoln's nuanced thoughts on religion as expressed in his Second Inaugural Address, and not as run through a Gnu Atheist filter.

FFRF was trying to score totally untrue cheap points. Mehta, who fortunately is a high school math teacher, and not a history teacher, added on, or piled on. Then Fidalgo went one worse by uncritically (Center for INQUIRY??? the name of the organization) posting Mehta's link.

And, at least one commenter on Mehta's post is about at the level of the Pharyngulac followers of P.Z. Myers. Said person gets the old appeal to authority fallacy wrong, first. And, that's not the first time I've seen a Gnu do that when confronted with actual facts from an expert. The actual fallacy is falsely appealing to an authority outside his or her area of expertise.

It also infuriates me personally. Between having a graduate religious degree, an undergraduate minor in history, graduate classes in religious history, a reader of multiple Gettysburg books, including one just about the address, I consider myself a semi-expert on the different strands intersecting here: Presidential history, Civil War history, Lincoln history, religious history in America and more.

And, considering we had an original wrong, compounded by a second one, then lazily passed on from there, I consider this to be intellectually lazy as part of the points-scoring.

Update, Nov. 21: It's gettting worse. Bob Aldrich, who retweeted FFRF's tweet about its post, and whom I thus Tweeted back in reply, today said:
According to Lincoln scholars Abe read the first hand written version without under god
I retweeted, specifically saying that the AP reported, at the time of the speech, he said "under god," and thus, it doesn't matter what version of the speech he used. And, I also noted specifically that he didn't "ad lib."

Aldrich, who is at @SactoBob, also says:
Later versions had under god added. But 1st version did not. Fact!
Irrelevant. The thrust of the FFRF piece was to first, try to make Lincoln into someone he did not, and second, to do so by implying motives for his use of "under god" that simply aren't true.

The fact is that Lincoln used the two words. The fact is that he did so in part out of a growing religiosity. FFRF et al want to elide around the first fact and, to be blunt, lie about the second one.

We're probably going to enter David Barton territory at some point, if we haven't, arguably, done so already.

November 19, 2013

We cannot hallow ... but we must consecrate

Abraham Lincoln uttered the first phrase 150 years ago, in his Gettysburg Address. It is up to us, today, to continue to do with the second phrase, reversing his secodn "cannot," started being done on Nov. 19, 1963, so that "government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth."

In an era when BOTH major political parties actively support spying on We the People, actively support dissing We the People by pandering to the rich, and cast crumbs to the "dogs" of seemingly loyal constituents, including increasingly nutty ones on the GOP side, this is more important than in many a decade.

Allen Guelzo does a good job of that, from a mainstream history point of view. His new book, "Gettysburg," is worth a read indeed. But, we must go beyond mainstream history and gauzy veils. That is then, this is now.

Voting Green, or Socialist, or even Communist, rather than Democratic, at least for today's national Democrats, is part of that, for me.

It is about this:
It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced.
And doing so requires moving beyond today's largely neoliberal (certainly at the national level) Democratic Party and its leaders. Period. As Lyndon B. Johnson said a bit over a century after Lincoln, you don't take the shackles off someone and immediately expect them to start running and sprinting. (Unfortunately, he was on a sprint to send more troops to Vietnam, too.)

Speaking of, I forgot all about LBJ's speech at Gettysburg, not at the official 100th-anniversary celebration, but earlier in the year:
One hundred years ago, the slave was freed.

One hundred years later, the Negro remains in bondage to the color of his skin.

The Negro today asks justice.

We do not answer him--we do not answer those who lie beneath this soil--when we reply to the Negro by asking, "Patience." ...

Until justice is blind to color, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity is unconcerned with the color of men's skins, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact. To the extent that the proclamation of emancipation is not fulfilled in fact, to that extent we shall have fallen short of assuring freedom to the free.
Bingo.

And, if only LBJ had known, at the time he was escalating in Vietnam, that Kennedy traded Turkish (and Italian, which most people don't even know) missile sites for ones in Cuba, he might have been less likely to escalate quite as much, perhaps.

Anyway, speaking of him ...

We must dedicate ourselves to the unfinished work of a 21st-century Great Society, something about no national Democrat of today would endorse. Jobs training programs? Enforcing the Fair Housing Act? Enforcing both environmental and labor safeguards in NAFTA? Ditto in the WTO?

Oh, no, because that might offend rich Silicon Valley donors.

But, We the People need "a new birth of freedom." And, it's insanity to expect that to come, in terms of labor rights, economic equality, class-based as well as race-oriented opportunity assistance, and more, from going back to the same old well, time after time.

Abraham Lincoln was the first president of a new party, founded less than a decade before he was elected. We have liberal third-party vehicles now. We need to boost them. We need to unite them. We need to get Greens to better explain the jobs value of environmentalism, and its health value. We need Socialists to better explain to Greens why they want a focus on jobs, income equality and related issues above all else. We need the Justice Party to explain adequately why it was ever formed as another party in the first place, especially since 2012 presidential candidate Rocky Anderson ain't all that liberal.

Above all, we who already feel this way need to convince more other people to stop voting Democratic for nothing other than "fear factor" reasons. After all, what did Obama provide? An underfunded stimulus, a national health care plan handout to insurance agencies and even more spying on Americans than Bush. Gay rights? His administration opposed DOMA, and gay marriage was a state-level issue. Besides, while not belittling civil rights, without economic rights, that's still neoliberalism.

That said, third parties start from the ground up. That was a bit true with the 1850s GOP, and its very true today. So, that means voting for Green or Socialist city council members, county commission members, state representatives and such, too.

It also means third parties finding better ways to sell themselves to the public. And, it means better running the ways they already have. I asked the Texas Green Party a couple of weeks ago if there had been people filing for 2014 elections yet. I got no answer to my email, and the last news bit on the website is from the start of August.

Finally, third parties of the left, without totally ditching idealism, must have real, realistic policy proposals. Regular readers here know how much I critiqued the various wrongs of the Occupy movement. And, third parties, even more than national-level Democrats, must not let linguistic political correctness substitute for real liberalism.

That, that whole train of the last few paragraphs, is what LBJ was getting at in that same speech:
The law cannot save those who deny it but neither can the law serve any who do not use it. The history of injustice and inequality is a history of disuse of the law. Law has not failed--and is not failing. We as a nation have failed ourselves by not trusting the law and by not using the law to gain sooner the ends of justice which law alone serves.
He worked hard to that end, to bend the arc of justice. That arc needs further bending today.

The more national Democrats continue in their neoliberal pandering to big banking and big business, the more opportunity opens up for alternatives. But, this won't come easily.

A simple first step? Extending the presidential campaign finance law to Congressional races, and making it easy for third-party candidates to get at least partial financing.

November 18, 2013

Robbie Cano, meet Albert Pujols; introduce your agents, too

It's becoming more and more clear that Robinson Cano, the Yankees' Division 1-AA star, is NOT going to get $300 million in his next contract, not from the Yankees and not from nobody else. Why would his agent be making carefully parsed noise like this if the case were otherwise?
While no teams have publicly emerged for Cano, his agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, continues to say that it would be silly to believe there's no interest in a player of Cano's magnitude.
There's a lot of difference between "no interest" and "less than $300M difference," and Wagenen knows that well.

Why did I make the Albert Pujols and agents comments in the header?

First, Pujols' 10-year length on his contract surely has scared off other teams from similar ideas with Cano, first. Second, I suspect that Van Wagenen, like Pujols' agent, Dan Lozano, was hoping to get his name in the American Sports Agents Book of Records with a new record new contract for a player. (And, when I first wrote this, I forgot that the ultimate mogul here is Jay Z.)

Well, Lozano couldn't pass Alex Rodriguez (and Scott Boras) and neither will you two.

And, ESPN's story on the latest Yankees response makes clear that that's part of what's at stake for Van Wagenen and Jay Z: bumping aside Boras.

Calling Cano "the next Michael Jordan" as part of that is simply laughable. Plus, as the story notes, the Yankees made Derek Jeter "drink the reality potion" a few years back. Cano & Company will be drinking that potion, whether with the Yankees or somebody else.

Next, why did I make the "Division 1-AA" comment?

Because Cano isn't at the level of those players. He's not the next Jordan, nor is he the next Pujols or A-Rod.

Steroids or whatever, as late as 2008, at the age of 32, A-Rod had an OPS+ of 150. Pujols had a 173 at the age of 30, followed by 148 at 31. No steroids involved, to the best of our knowledge.

Now, let's note this fact:

Cano has NEVER had an OPS+ of 150. Never. Period. End of story. Maybe he's 1-A, but, he's not part of the BCS mix, to continue that analogy.

OK, since he's won multiple Gold Gloves, let's compare the three on WAR and WAA, then.

Cano's best? A 8.5 WAR, 6.0 WAA in 2012. Pujols had a 9.7/7.6 in 2009. (And won two Gold Gloves.)  A-Rod had a 10.3/8.1 in 2000. (And won two Gold Gloves also.)

I think, even in today's baseball salary world, anything above $25M is an overpay, as is more than 7 years. So, Cano and Van Wagenen, if you want 7/$180M, you might get that. But, more? Not a chance. Certainly, not a chance for 7/$200M, which closely approaches the $30M/year mark.

Because, you, Robbie, aren't worth it. Even if you're a bit of a late peaker, I still don't expect you to every break 150 on the OPS+, nor get any better on fielding range. And, if your agent's in this for head games, I'd find another one, and quickly. The one-year tender system has been a way for owners and GMs, if not those of the Arte Moreno ilk, to exercise a modicum of enforced self-control by mutually assured undercutting with those compensatory draft picks.

And, that's the deal. The more you pay for a free agent with a tender offer, the more burden to perform you face.

You see, you and your agent aren't only facing Pujols and his injuries, you're facing tender-forfeited draft choice Michael Wacha. Maybe owners aren't thinking quite so much about that, but at least a few GMs surely are. If you deteriorate like a cheap suit at a post-George Zimmer Men's Wearhouse, a GM comes under fire for your overpay. If you deteriorate like that and the Yanks get the next Michael Wacha in return, for pennies on the dollar, said GM is really in trouble.

Beyond that, where's the market for Cano? The Dodgers already signed Cuban defector Alexander Guerrero. Boston has Dustin Pedroia. The Angels don't have the money. Neither do the Phils, who anyway have Chase Utley through 2018 if he hits vesting option targets.

The Cubs are the only other team with this type of money floating around, with the exception of the Astros if they put a crowbar in their wallet, and there's been no serious buzz about you going to either place. Besides, the Astros have Jose Altuve as one of their less bad, more promise, cheap young players.

And, if the Yankees are thinking about signing Stephen Drew and trying him at second, according to some rumors, or doing that with Jhonny Peralta, if he's not replacing a suspended A-Rod, or moving the re-signed Brendan Ryan there on days he's not spelling Jeter, the Yankees sure aren't overpaying.

Of course, a Yankee signing of either of those first two affects the Cardinals' SS plans.

Obama himself makes best argument for single-payer

Although he will certainly deny it, his Thursday announcement that insurers can wait one year to cancel low-grade plans has, to some degree, thrown health insurers under the bus. Nonetheless, as the ACA was written at the behest of America's Health Insurance Plans, their lobbying arm, they have little room to grumble.

It also throws his own Obamacare under the bus, with the stipulations insurers have a couple of hurdles to meet if they want to do this:
The temporary fix allows insurers — if they so choose — to reinstate canceled individual policies for a year or two instead of having them expire at the end of 2013. They can extend the policies only if they first take two crucial steps — inform the policyholders of all the consumer protections their current policies lack (like yearly limits on a patient’s out-of-pocket expenses), and make them aware of their options to buy better policies in the exchanges, often with the help of federal subsidies. This option would apply only to people who have had their current policies canceled. It does not apply to others who might want to buy similar plans. 

In other words, Obama is admitting Obamacare inadequately regulates insurers. And, because his Band-Aid only applies where people have already had plans cancelled, he admits that won't change.

But, that's OK, because, now, as of Nov. 18, Obama is considering letting people sign up for Obamacare directly via insurance companies, which is an obvious indication that HealthCare.gov will NOT be fixed by Nov. 30. (And Megan McArdle claims this is breaking the law.)

But, the insurers are saying even this introduces more instability and confusion into the market. That said, they should like that. Such confusion is part of the bamboozlement that helps sell insurance policies. If anything, they now have another year to test-market how much of that will transfer to full-blown Obamacareland.

The Times is honest about GOP Rep. Fred Upton's bill, which would let these non-complying plans remain in place forever. But, Obama's opened the floodgates, and now, he'll have to explain why, if his one-year delay is good, Upton's bill isn't. Which, in turn, will lead to yet more obfuscation somewhere.

Even Obama's proposed fix will lead to more confusion. And, at least one state with a state-level change is officially opposing it.
Commissioner Mike Kreidler said Thursday he won't allow insurance companies to extend their old policies that didn't meet the requirements of federal health care reform. An estimated 290,000 Washington residents have received notices that their old insurance policies will be canceled.

"Trying to do what the president has proposed would be very disruptive to the insurance market in the sate of Washington so no, we will not be allowing insurance companies to extend these policies," he said. "You'd have to go back and re-rate all of the policies, and the premises for what they originally proposed rates would all change." ...


"I do not believe his proposal is a good deal for the state of Washington," Kreidler said.
That said, per the story, Obama's plan requires state approval from states that have their own exchanges. And, especially if wingnuts start astroturfing, people like Kreidler are on the firing line.

That, in turn, leads to Obama making the best argument yet that the gap between Obama the reality and hope and change the myth is at least as much as between the reality of JFK and Camelot the myth.

No wonder more and more Democrats become more and more leery of a man who seems to be flying by the seat of his pants, and with less skill and suavity than Slick Willie Clinton had at it. Beyond the Obamacare undercutting, there's the apparent lack of backbone this demonstrates and more.

And, that afraidness showed up in the vote on Upton's bill. It got 39 Democrats. I'm pretty sure it will still fall short in the Senate, but ... it might not.

This has other political fallout. All of the alleged advantage Congressional Democrats, by generic ballot, had gained over the government shutdown, has vanished. And, since insurance CEOs are at the White House today, we may see yet more flip-flopping to come.

As for the success stories? Sure, they're real — in states with state-level exchanges.

Yes, in states without, in many of them, governors have been deliberately obstructive, and that's part of the problem. And? Dear Leader should have anticipated that, and thus, could have made more provisions for that, even if he found it hard to find much more money for that.

Don't blame me, folks; I didn't vote for him either time, and in 2008, I voted for the black and the woman on the same ballot, to boot. Only George W. Bush's famous phrase, "the soft bigotry of low expectations," keeps many people from realizing just how bad Obama is at times, because he's being compared to the low expectations from the Bush presidency.

Otherwise, just be honest — you can claim a lot of the problem is about optics, as long as you don't claim all of it is. You can claim that Obamacare has helped reduce health care costs without claiming it's been the primary driver.

That said, it's  understandable why Obamiacs would like to blame anything and everything, usually starting with  tea partiers and now running on to claims there's a targeted effort to take the exchange website down with directed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

When, over the real question of that website, Obama either has a White House and related staff of gross incompetence levels, which ultimately gets back to the rotting fish's head at the top, or else, once again, is lying with less suavity and conviction than Slick Willie, I understand the psychological need to grasp at conspiracy theories, no matter how untrue they are.

I'm about ready to stop following the NFL (updated)

It's becoming ever more clear, that on the issue of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and the likelihood that its "product" is a significant scientifically causal contributor to this, that the National Football League is indeed like big Tobacco.

The continued denial by the league and Commissioner Roger Goodell is in the same class. 

If you missed "League of Denial," the start of a new season on PBS's Frontline, go to the website. There's a lot more there, beyond the two hours of show. 

(Update, Nov: 18: The NFL surely doesn't love this. Quarterbacking icon Brett Favre, whom the Rams tried to talk out of retirement just a month ago, is worried about possible CTE symptoms that he's already showing, and said that, if he had a son, he probably wouldn't let him play football. Coming on top of Cowboys legend Tony Dorsett saying he's sure he's got CTE-type symptoms, the NFL has to "love" this.)

And, I'll again take the opportunity to call ESPN chickenshit to the tune of $2 billion (its NFL contract) for backing out of its original partnership with Frontline, as I originally did here. No, Frontline did not overly sensationalize the issue. But, ESPN, after ducking out, can't even put up a link to the Frontline piece?

To not admit responsibility for this as part of the $765 million concussion settlement, with its flaws, was bad enough. For Goodell to explicitly state after that settlement was announced that the NFL was not admitting liability of fault is disgusting.

Yes, it's technically true that we don't have a causal correlation scientifically nailed down yet. But, given that CTE has also shown up in the head-banging sport of hockey, was originally known as pugilistic dementia from boxing (aka the old "punch-drunk" syndrome that doesn't go away) and has been identified in one deceased high-school and one deceased college football player, to continue to skate along on such narrow technicalities is disgusting. And, it's what Big Tobacco did. Of course, eventualy, with cigarettes, the correlation was nailed down as being causal, and Big Tobacco still remained in denial. And, I think there's a fair likelihood, given more than 15 years now of history, that the NFL is carving out a mindset to remain in denial after a causal correlation on CTE starts getting established.

And, undercutting the NFL, it now seems possible that a PET scan on still living players can find evidence of CTE.

And, if the findings first noticed by Dr. Bennet Omalu do lead to the end of football as we currently know it, at least, is that such a bad thing either?

It's also disgusting in another way, the NFL is. No American sports league is at the top of the game in testing for steroids, but, Major League Baseball is well ahead of the NFL. So, for the NFL spokespeople to say that roiding rather than concussions might be the cause of CTE is a big hypocrisy. And, while steroids might be of moderate help

Also disgusting is the NFL's racism toward Dr. Omalu and sexism toward Dr. Anne McKee. There's no other word for it, and, with Dr. Omalu, the Richie Incognito crap hitting the fan, and related issues, don't make this good in general.

And, I know that for many liberals as well as conservatives in Texas, football is about like God. That said, I agree with two of the researchers on the issue: If I had a kid, at a minimum, he wouldn't play tackle football under the age of 14. At a maximum, he wouldn't play at all. 

And, that's not just me saying that. See Favre, Brett, above.

Meanwhile, Goodall wants to add two more playoff teams to the postseason. Great — two more teams playing another game in the current NFL to have more chances of brain damage. 

Update, Oct. 11: ESPN's shunning of Frontline turned out all for Frontline's good, a big spike in viewership and its website. Beyond this being a #fail by the Worldwide Leader (in bad ethics), it seriously did good in showing just how bad the problem is — the concussion problem and the dollar bill problem behind that. 

And, don't forget, folks. We could have safer helmets, but out of the fear of indirectly admitting liability, Goodell teamed up with helmet-maker Riddell to quash them

Also, yes, the NFL is a nonprofit; that's not an urban legend. More here on the different 501(c) categories.

November 17, 2013

Change in commenting, hopefully temporary

I've got a persistent, obviously computer-generated bot trying to drop spam comments here. I have moderation set up, so they don't get posted, but I still have to officially mark them as spam and then do a permanent deletion.

So, for a day or two, at least, you have to have a Blogger or G+ account, or otherwise be registered, if you feel the urge to comment here.

Is Drew the shortstop answer for the #Cardinals?

Boston free-agent shortstop Stephen Drew wasn't my original top choice for the Cardinals to fill the Pete Kozma black hole at short.

That's because I thought he would be too pricey.

That made my top options Erick Aybar via trade, as discussed here, or Rafael Furcal via internal re-sign.

But, Christina Karhl, in her weigh-in on the Redbirds' shortstop needs, 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 in that case.

That's a lot cheaper than Jhonny Peralta from the Tigers,  if he's wanting "much more" than 3/$45M, which is a massive, massive, overpay. Hell, 3/$45 is an overpay itself, let alone "much more," whatever that means. And, it's in spitting distance of Aybar's contract, as noted.

Drew, Aybar and Peralta are all in the same neighborhood, at least. Decently above average at bat for the position, and at least a bit above average with the glove. Peralta's a year older than Drew, and with a lot more MLB games mileage on his tank. Aybar's a year younger than Drew, but with about the same amount of MLB games.

That said, to be honest, I'm not even close to convinced Karhl's right. She also didn't even mention the Scott Boras factor with Drew's free agency, of which Bernie Miklasz reminds us. If Peralta's asking $15M/yr, let alone "much more," then Drew has to be asking at least $12M, right? Now, whether either one will draw offers in that area, I don't know. But, $12M/year makes me think a bit more, at the least.

If anybody comments, let me know if you think Kahrl's right, and if not, what's the max per year you'd pay for Drew?