SocraticGadfly: 12/15/13 - 12/22/13

December 21, 2013

Choo to Rangers? What about that Yankees deal, Scott Boras?

Shin-Soo Choo, surely the top free agent left in this market, is NOT going to New York. He's instead headed to the Texas Rangers.

Terms? Reportedly seven years and $130 million. But, wait, what about that 7/$140 offer that agent Scott Boras said the Yankees made and he had Choo decline?

Well, Boras was either lying about that 7/140 contract, or else bluffing, or else Choo doesn't want to be on the big stage.


Yeah, some writers are already playing up the "no income tax in Texas" angle. But is New York's income tax THAT bad? Just on straight money value, it would have to be above 7 percent. (New York State's top marginal tax rate is 8.82 percent. Allowing for deductions, exemptions, etc. plus lower rates on submarginal income, and we're probably right about that 7 percent. In other words, a wash.) Plus the Rangers contract doesn't have a full no-trade clause.

So, yeah, writers? Instead of the "no income tax" angle, why not focus on the "Boras slapped down" angle. Given all the money that's awash in this year's free agent market, that's a serious story. This on top of draft choice slotting and other things? It's hard to argue that Boras star isn't, finally, in at least a bit of decline.

On the other hand, Tim Brown of Yahoo says the deal includes (unnamed) bonuses. So, stand by. It may turn out to be a wash. But, it still won't be better; not comparing straight salaries.

As for the Rangers?

Nelson Cruz already seemed out the door. This guarantees it. The Mariners are a likely landing spot, perhaps.

And, a speculative trade with the Dodgers for Andre Ethier is also gone, it would seem. I'm venturing other Rangers moves in days and weeks ahead will be minor, on the salary side.

Choo's OBP proclivity aside, given the speed of Elvis Andrus, I think I bat Choo in the No. 2 hole, if I'm Ron Washington. His walks and plate patience can only help in taking pitches for Andrus. Then Adrian Beltre in the 3 hole and Prince Fielder cleaning up. That also lets Wash do the right-left-right-left to start the lineup.

On the Yankees' side, the firmness with Boras has to mean they still hope to get under the lux tax threshold. It's still doable — but, realistically, only if Bud Selig gets to give Alex Rodriguez the whole year off.

The Yankees' worst nightmare would be arbitrator Fredric Horowitz OKing a 100-game suspension or something. The Yankees would still need a 3B replacement, but have part of A-Rod's contract still like an albatross.

December 20, 2013

It's official: #H1N1 #swineflu hitting Texas hard

If you're feeling ill right now, and it seems to be kind of severe, there's a good, or not so good reason.

A certain strain of the H1N1 virus, often called "swine flu" because many of its strains hit hogs, is a serious issue.

Serious enough for three confirmed deaths in Houston and one confirmed death in greater Austin with another possible. That Austin link also reports four suspected flu deaths in Montgomery County in exurban Houston. 

Those at risk include the very young, those over 50 and especially the elderly, those with immune or respiratory problems and caregivers.

Folks, with this coming at Christmas, be careful. No matter how long its been since you've seen loved ones, if they're "buggy," be careful with the physical affection.

Two principles of liberalism collide in Duck Dynasty kerfuffle

First, this is NOT censorship, and I'm far from alone in saying that. (And kudos to L.Z. Granderson, whose background is in sportswriting, to note this.) Businesses have the constitutional right to control their company's communications, and in various ways, to control their employees' on the job communications.

And, all sorts of related things. Only governments can engage in censorship. And, too many liberals and conservatives alike get that wrong.

Now, per Charles Pierce, whether a corporation should be able to control OFF the job commenting is another thing entirely. As is whether liberals should support an idea like that, or even self-censorship.

In short, we have the idea of tolerance colliding with the idea of free speech.

Well, free speech USED to be a principle of liberalism.

But, with the surge in New Wave political correctness led by the social justice warrior types, it seems to be less and less that way. And, that's dangerous.

First, I'd rather have life real, than in a cocoon. It's good for Robertson to be honest about his statements, rather than hiding.

Second? Not too long ago, employers would fire employees for making PRO-gay remarks. Or, PRO-atheism ones. It's hypocritical to applaud A&E for putting Robertson on ice without wanting the same to happen to you.

The third riffs on this a bit. To use the old Texas phrase, "you dance with them what brung you." Stereotypes about rednecks aside, for A&E to not recognize they were getting a full human package from a Southern, red-state redneck is clueless. Or else lying by no comment.

Do you really want to applaud a corporation for acting like this just because it's worried about the monetary bottom line rather than principles?

So, social justice warriors? Especially those of you in the Gnu Atheism and Atheism Plus movements, who have been doing some dumb things pre-Christmas this year already anyway?

First, learn what censorship is, and is not. (Ditto on this one for wingnuts.)

Second, learn that "tolerance" is a sword that cuts both ways.

Third, learn that "tolerance" isn't the same as "acceptance."

Planned Parenthood, et al, get help in fighting Texas House Bill 2

HB2, lest we forget, is the bill restricting how late in a pregnancy a woman can have an abortion, and even more insidiously, putting many restrictions on abortion providers, including requiring hospital admitting privileges.

Well, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) and the American Medical Association (AMA) filed a joint amicus brief in the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in support of Planned Parenthood’s challenge to Texas House Bill (HB) 2. A synopsis of why:
ACOG and the AMA oppose HB 2 because it imposes government regulation on abortion care that jeopardizes the health of women in Texas and denies them access to the safest and most effective evidence-based protocols for medical abortions.
The release notes the other big grounds for opposition:
ACOG also opposes Texas HB 2’s requirement that physicians follow an inferior treatment protocol for medical abortions. Legislators should not block advances in medical care by prohibiting physicians from incorporating the best, and most current, scientific evidence into their patient care.

More details at that link.

The Fifth Circuit hearing starts on Jan. 6.  

#Obamacare: Further slouching toward Gomorrah?

True liberals know how I feel about Obamacare — a giveaway to insurers and if anything, a impediment toward the adoption of single-payer national health care, rather than a step forward in that direction.

Even worse, though, have been the technocratic failures with the implementation of Obamacare that have come out in the last couple of months, along with the ever-increasing Band-Aid fixes, the cheap kludges implemented to try to work around those failures.

The latest? The White House delaying the individual mandate for people who had old insurance plans cancelled. Along with the reason why — losing insurance is a "hardship" and one that falls under Obamacare's exemption hardships. Plus, as Ezra notes, this puts a crack in the individual mandate. With many younger people, especially, already indicating they'll pay the fine instead of buying insurance, chiseling away at your own foundation because of your slap-dash earlier work is pretty serious indeed.

And so, I can agree with conservatives like Arik Roy, even while disagreeing with their motives for attacking Obamacare:
These exemptions will substantially alter the architecture of the law’s insurance marketplaces. Insurers are at their wits’ end, trying to make sense of what to do next.
Problem is, of course, is that Team Obama first tried to do other fixes when the fire started over people losing old plans. However, most state insurance commissioners in states with state-level exchanges said Nyet to that. So, this is Obama's second fix on the same issue. And, like other fixes for other issues, no matter what he says, designed to punt it past the 2014 midterms, to make Senate Democrats, first, and House Democrats, second, breathe easier.

This, in turn, leads to two deeper issues.

One is that, as higher-doller opiners than me have noted, it undercuts the liberal idea that government works. In a twist on that, it undercuts the neoliberal idea that neolibs can make government work even better, and work much better when partnered with the market.

The other is that it further undermines the image of Obama's personal competence, which never was that high in my book. Some may not like to admit this, but his approach to his name project, after it passed, has been highly passive, as if he expected having his name on it, and his mellifluous voice talking about it, was all that was needed.


And, when he was shown to be wrong, we've seen that neoliberals, when scrambling under deadline, are no better, and no more ethical, than the general populace in such situations.

Meanwhile, Christ Mooney, proving yet once again he's an in-the-tank Democrat engaged in just as much motivated reasoning biased thinking as the conservatives he blasted in Republican Brain, now claims Obamacare will be a great tool for expanding atheism in the U.S.

Of course, to make this stupendous claim, he confuses Obamacare with a true national health care system, whether single-payer or not, that exists in other advanced developed nations:
Existential threat, in the form of an earthquake, produces more religiosity; existential stability—in the form of an established rule of law, universal health care systems, and strong welfare states—leads to the opposite. And that, says Norenzayan, helps explain low levels of religiosity in Europe, even as it may also explain why the US is an outlier among developed countries when it comes to religion. "Compared to other advanced democracies, there is much more existential insecurity in the United States,” Norenzayan says. We didn't have health security (until recently, anyway), and we have a large gap between rich and poor compared with many other industrialized countries.
No ... we still don't have "health security," Chris. We have a cobbled-together neoliberal hodgepodge of handouts to the insurance industry, plus the tech industry (electronic patient records).

He then doubles down on fellating Obama in the next graf:
What this line of thinking suggests is that passing a major US policy change like Obamacare could, in the long run, produce more atheism by making people's lives more secure. When life is good, stable, and unthreatening, it seems that you don't need religion so much to give you hope for a better future in the afterlife. You already have that hope—for this life.
We don't have other stability either. Obama's new-found religion on income inequality will be ephemeral. His continued push for "free trade" agreements shows that. His cybersnooping on Americans shows that.

NSA vs. neocons — game on!

Looks like the shit may really hit the fan now on that the National Security Agency stands exposed of spying on foreign governments, even foreign leaders. Well — on one particular government.

Per the header, Gen. Keith Alexander and his groupies not only spied on people like Angela Merkel, prime minister of Germany, but on Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, as well as (at least) two Israeli embassies.

Yep, I'm sure al Qaeda was hiding spies inside the Israeli Defense Ministry.

If this doesn't put paid to the cybersnooping, at least in its current format, what will?

In reality, it shows the NSA's vacuuming operations, in this case, are really nothing other than a massive extension of older traditions of government espionage for reasons of fixing foreign policy, or, as in the case of one other spying, for trade policy reasons:
Also appearing on the surveillance lists is Joaquín Almunia, vice president of the European Commission, which, among other powers, has oversight of antitrust issues in Europe. The commission has broad authority over local and foreign companies, and has punished a number of American companies, including Microsoft and Intel, with heavy fines for hampering fair competition. The reports say that spies intercepted Mr. Almunia’s communications in 2008 and 2009. 

I mean, that's all this is. The EC also harbors no al Qaeda operatives. But, it does have a stronger bent toward corporate regulation, in many cases, than does Dear Leader and his gang of merry neoliberals.

At the same time, don't forget that Britain’s General Communications Headquarters was a willing partner in much of this. The industrial side of the cybersnooping targeted a bunch of non-AngloAmerican companies, like French oil giant Total. Don't tell me that this isn't related to post-war Iraq oil drilling shenanigans involving big American companies plus Shell and BP.

So, it's more insidious than even previously known. And, as conducting industrial espionage, like Hannah Arendt on Adolf Eichmann, more banal. But, that's even worse.

Evil is at its most dangerous when it's at its most banal.

And, that summarizes not just the industrial espionage, but NSA spying in general.

It's always presented as if it's "for our own good," but when We the People ask for details of how it's been for our own good, we're either shushed or else fobbed off with lies. Those lies, in turn, are often based on FBI sting operations that border on, if not engage fully in, entrapment.

December 19, 2013

Is it time for the Lakers to tank? Riggin for Wiggins in LA?

If you're any sort of NBA fan, you've heard that Kobe Bryant is out six weeks (optimistically) with a broken leg.

Given that Pau Gasol and Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni had just had a spat, before a kiss and make up session, about how Gasol wanted to operate in the Lakers offense, that Jordan Farmar and Steve Nash may be out for the rest of the year for all we know, and that at 10-15, the Lakers are already out of the Western Conference playoff hunt ...

Why not tank?

Enter the Riggin' for Wiggins sweepstakes to nail down a shot at Kansas freshman star Andrew Wiggins?

Yes, it's hard to get veteran players to tank, as well as a coach worried about job security.

But ... getting more of those Ping-Pong balls in front of the eyeballs of Adam Silver, replacing the lovely David Stern on lottery day, when you now know you're guaranteed to get a couple, is a no-brainer.

As for D'Antoni? Mitch Kupchak can offer him the appropriate guarantees of security.

That said, players are slower to heal as they get older, even Kobe Bryant. That just signed two-year extension has to look like an albatross in Kupchak's mind now.

Brian Schweitzer for president?

I'm pretty sure I'll still be voting Green in the 2016 general election, but I am interested in seeing, and promoting, alternatives to Hillary Clinton in the 2016 Democratic primaries.

And, former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer would be an alternative indeed, as he showed in Iowa when indirectly calling out Clinton for her Iraq War vote.

Schweitzer's not perfect. I see him as fairly soft on environmental issues, especially anything connected to the carbon industry, for one thing. And, it's not just Big Carbon; his pro-hunter stance moves into anti-environmental territory. That said, his coal gasification ideas were part and parcel with supporting alternative energy, so that's not all bad.

But, he does have his plus points.

He's from the growing West, the place that's become more purply in Nevada and Colorado. (Well, it was semi-purply years ago there, and has always been that way in New Mexico.)

He was a governor, which in relatively recent years, has been a good pathway to the presidency, especially since he chaired the Democratic Governors' Association.

He does appear to have a fairly good outside-the-Beltway stance on some issues.

He supports, at least at the state level, single-payer health care.

And, he's not totally in the pockets of the hard-rock mining industry.

At a minimum, Clinton would underestimate him with almost the same degree of peril she underestimated Barack Obama.

Add in that the mainstream media didn't like his Iowa speech because it sounded too folksy and the Iraq War callout was allegedly outdated, and, were I to vote in a Democratic primary, that right there would be an additional reason to pull the lever for him. 

More details here, in a follow-up post, on both his greatness and his flaws.

So, "Go, Brian, Go."


Meanwhile, per P. Diddie's comment, gimme a couple of days. I'll whip out a blog post of who some of the "worse than Hillary" Democratic candidates could be.

December 18, 2013

Saban still in race to replace Mack Brown? If not shooting himself in foot?

More on that second rhetorical question in a minute, as you read this delicious piece, with the final section as a block quote to whet your appetite:
Late December 15th, 2013 

One of Saban’s close associates reaches back out to Longhorns boosters:

“Had to sign the extension, too much heat. If you guys can wait, lets talk after January 2nd.”

Hope is alive. 

Confidence (of landing Saban):6
Tres interessant.

Problem is, this "close associate" is apparently NOT Saban's agent, Jimmy Sexton, who is always identified by name in the piece when he's known to be the person talking to Longhorns folks. Hence my second rhetorical question. Folks in Tuscaloosa, should Texas want Saban, even at the ridiculously overpaid amount of $10 million a year, might insist on the Horns paying every penny of whatever buyout Saban has. Somebody might even file a breach-of-contract suit against him.

We already know how Brown's rabid opponents in Austin shot themselves in the foot; it's quite possible they're not alone.

If I'm a rabid UT booster, I'd move that confidence needle back to about, say, 3. Steve Patterson still needs to start looking at all Plan B coaching replacements.

LCRA appoints Rick Perry political hack Phil Wilson

Well, this is interesting.

To replace its current general manager, Becky Motal, whose previously announced resignation is effective as of the first of the year, the board of director of the Lower Colorado River Authority appointed former TxDOT head Phil Wilson:
Wilson, a former deputy chief of staff for Gov. Rick Perry, was named Texas secretary of state in 2007. He left that job in 2008 to work as a lobbyist and senior vice president at Luminant Energy. He left there to join TxDOT.

Let me see. A top assistant to a global warming and climate change denialist, who then went on to work for a major coal-fired electric utility, adding to the global warming and climate change his previous boss denies, now is going to work for an entity whose primary business is water management, and whose primary business was hit hard by a 2011-12 drought that may have been exacerbated by climate change and global warming? Wunderbar.

LCRA's board head tries to sell this as an "experience" decision:
LCRA board chairman Tim Timmerman said Wilson’s experience as secretary of state, as executive director of TxDOT and as an executive with Luminant Energy made him the best choice.

“He’s been in the public sector, been in the private sector, and we’re sort of in the middle” as both a water and electricity wholesaler and the manager of parks and the region’s main water supply, Timmerman said. “It seemed like a perfect fit.”
Given that, per the National Weather Service, all of 2014 is likely to very likely to have above-average temperatures in West Texas, and somewhat likely to likely to have that for the full state, and with rainfall for West Texas likely to be below average for the first half of the year, Wilson's going to have his hands full.

Indeed, a week ago, LCRA already asked the state for permission to cut back on downstream flow-throughs in 2014, like it did this year and last year.

This is why: Flow into the Highland Lakes was the second-lowest on record last year.

Meanwhile, both newspapers in Marble Falls, in the center of the Highland Lakes, have little different to say than the American-Statesman story. Of course, the owner of one of them doesn't believe in anthropogenic global warming, so, there will be no op-eds of concern about this issue.

Rating, and overrating, the 2013 St. Louis Cardinals

Jeff Gordon has passed out grades for this year's St. Louis Cardinals, and he gets a fair amount right, but several wrong.

The ones that he misses?

Allen Craig did not get an A. Injury alone, even if not his fault, knocks him down to an A-minus. Actually, he was more like a B-plus.

Ditto, Matt Holliday should be an A-minus, not a straight A.

And, likewise, Carlos Beltran. Looks like Gordon's doing a bit of grade inflating.

And, you simply cannot give Michael Wacha a full A based on just 65 innings as a starter. I would do a multiple grade, like A-minus/Incomplete. And, Trevor Rosenthal also should be an A-minus based on limited sampling size.

Shane Robinson? Oh my doorknob, he's a flat C, not a flat B.

Kevin Siegrist? I'd actually bump him up to B-plus from Gordon's B.

Sam Freeman? A month's worth of end-of-season set-up work doesn't even deserve a grade.

Daniel Descalso? D-plus instead of C-minus.

Kolten Wong? "Incomplete" as a grade is understandable, but then why not do the same for some other younger players?

Oh, and Mozeliak deserves better than a B-minus as general manager.

And, Mike Matheny deserves less than a straight A as field boss. Shelby Miller post-season issues aside, he's not higher than an A-minus.

See, it's crap like this that leads fans like us to come to the conclusion that plenty of modern sports writers are hacks.

December 17, 2013

Trying to have your adjunct outrage and eat it, too

Rebecca Schuman, from her blog
A very interesting, boiling over (seemingly) essay on Slate from an adjunct college instructor frustrated with coddled students who can't write.

Rebecca Schuman's answer? Stop making them write

Uhh, no.

Increasing the coddling? That's called "enabling."

From the world of addiction, I know that doesn't work.

Second, she appears to be pulling the "and eat the cake, too," routine.

On her blog, she has two posts about the Slate essay. On the earlier, she sure makes it sound like this is more than snark:
After this, I might get fired from my job adjuncting…and honestly, I don’t really care. I would rather tell the truth than be “safe” in the spike-covered arms of academia, where I am a barely-recognized non-person anyway.
That sounds serious enough.

On the later, she sounds halfway as narcissistic as the students to whom she wants to stop giving essays.

My initial response to her outrage, whether real or faux "outrage"?

First, this, which I posted on her later blog post in comments:
Better yet, why don't we just have colleges spread their legs, open themselves to bidding from students, then just given them that piece of paper, and free Skype for four years to "virtually" pledge themselves to the appropriate frat? Oh, and love the renaming of "adjunct" as "contingent." Hey, it's still a sow's ear, not a silk purse, Ms. Schuman. If you really don't want to grade papers, you can always stop being an adjunct instructor.
And, that's that. 

My more serious thoughts, if she's serious herself?

Some people might say writing has a certain amount of bullshit. I could argue back it's impossible to bullshit your way through a good essay, too. (And, I taught adjunct classes myself for a year-plus, so I'm not a total stranger. As for my sarcasm, I was trumping hers. I told her that if she wants a serious response to the issue, it's called unionizing adjuncts, which may not currently be the case in St. Louis. If she doesn't want a serious response, then some of us will out-sarcasm her original, I guess.

She, in one post on her blog, claims this is white hot serious, but later on, in another post, she appears to try to have her cake and eat it too. So, which is it?

She says:

"Most students enter college barely able to string three sentences together—and they leave it that way, too."

Then flunk them.

If they make progress, even crappy, you can give them a lady's or gentleman's D.

Anyway, I don't know how old she is, but she sounds perhaps half as narcissistic as half the students she bemoans. Given that her BA is in 1998, I'm probably guessing right on her age, that she's from the tail end of Gen X/start of Millenials. Given that her BA is from Vassar, my initial snark about elitist schools and just skipping actual college entirely seems about spot on.

It is sad that tenure-track literature professorates may be dead, as she claimed in what she says is her most bomb-throwing Slate essay, the current one being No. 2.

However, at the same time, given the tenor of that essay, she sounds like a classic Dunning-Kruger Effect case study, knowing that she was in a rat race before completing the Ph.D., yet somehow thinking that wouldn't apply to her. I second that because, per the "areas of research AND teaching interest" (my emphasis) on her vita, it seems like she bought right into the postmodern literary academia world she then decried.

She also sounds elitist in another way. From that top bomb-thrower, "Thesis Hatement":
When this happens to you—after you have mailed, at your own expense, the required 60-page dossiers to satellite campuses of Midwestern or Southern universities of which you have never heard ...

And, you're teaching in St. Louis now. Loverly. Hope you're loving those Midwestern/edge of Southern college or university students as well today as you gave the appearance of wanting to do in "Hatement."


The positive way to address this issue would be, for students who bring a modicum of writing skills from high school to college, to be to promote the real-world post-collegiate value of essay-type writing.

Let's say you're majoring in business, management, entrepreneurship, etc. If you can't write a sales proposal, a form of mini-essay, or midi-essay if a bit longer, you're in a lot of trouble. And, I'm probably going to reject your proposal if I'm the decision maker and its written badly enough.

If you're a hard sciences postdoc and you can't write a grant proposal, you're in a lot of trouble. And, I'm probably going to reject your proposal if I'm the decision maker and its written badly enough.

Or, if you might be in a career that involves a fair amount of video creation. Well, the speech you give on a video is going to start as at least a roughed-out, if not fully fleshed out, speech. (If you're making a proposal by video and it's purely stream of consciousness, if I'm the decision maker, I'm going to reject it.)

Thoughts on 20 years of NAFTA

It's now been 20 years since the approval of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

The agreement was signed by leaders of the U.S., Canada and Mexico 21 years ago today. In the US, the House passed it in late November, 1993, after Bill Clinton had replaced George H.W. Bush as president. The Senate passed it shortly thereafter and Clinton signed it on Dec. 8, 1993.

(I was prompted by an NPR piece talking about the 20th anniversary of NAFTA, which, unless I'm missing some detail that I can't find on Canadian or Mexican approval dates, isn't quite true.)

Then-president Bill Clinton remains unapologetic for it, or the much larger World Trade Organization, evolving out of the old General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs in 1995. He remains unapologetic for enforcing the environmental sidebars of NAFTA which, skimpy as they are, could have prevented both U.S. manufacturing AND Mexican agriculture from being gutted quite as much as they were.

And, speaking on that last point, he also is unapologetic about how NAFTA likely increased illegal immigration, and the pressures behind it, rather than decreasing it.

That leads us to President Barack Obama. His DREAM Act for addressing Mexican immigration still doesn't address the causes of it. And, despite blaming NAFTA for increasing unemployment, during the 2008 presidential election, he continues to shove "free trade" treaties down the American throat. As long as such treaties bolster Silicon Valley and expand international copyright and intellectual property protections for Hollywood products, Obama really doesn't care about how such agreements increase the income inequality he recently has found religion about, or how they continue to undermine organized labor.

Meanwhile, in light of Canada's tar sands and its current Prime Minister Stephen Harper, aka Bush with a Brain, seeking to exploit the oil from those sands in any way possible, then premier Jean Chretien's worry over Canadian energy sovereignty seems almost laughable. Of course, Chretien seems like a Quebecois Canadian version of Clinton. And Carlos Salinas de Gortari was a conservative hack of a party of conservative hacks in Mexico. Enough said, there.

Bottom line? People wonder why I vote Green rather than Democrat for president?

One reason is the flat-out lies that Democratic presidents tell, have told and will continue to tell on labor issues.

Does the NBA need a 4-pointer?

Over at ESPN's Grantland site, Zach Lowe has a good, in-depth piece about how NBA teams (for the most part) are moving ever more toward 3-ball offense.

He also notes some folks, like Stan Van Gundy and Billy King, are worried about this trend (as if Billy King actually has much idea of success in the NBA or how to get there), and how they and others are suggesting possible remedies.

One of them is to make the current field goal worth 3 and the current 3-ball worth 4, but Lowe notes that would diminish free throws and lead to Hack-a-Shaq late in games, at least if non-shooting fouls under such scenarios only got two free throws. (Or slow the game dreadfully if they drew three free throws.)

My alternative?

Add a 4-pointer on top of the 3, and make Antoine Walker's dreams come true.

I'd consider moving the 3-line in from its current 23-9 if we did this. Probably not all the way to the 22-0, matching the corners, as the David Stern League did briefly in the mid-’90s, but maybe 22-6, or if not, 23-0.

Then set the 4-pointer at, say, 26-0. Maybe 27-0. But no further out.

Mr. Logo, Jerry West, is probably wishing he was balling in this league.

I mean, the league could at least try this in preseason for the next year or two and see how it flies, so to speak.

December 16, 2013

Is Rudolph coming to the baseball majors in 2014?

Rudolph, per Baseball-Reference, just completed his seventh year in organized baseball.

I think he needs to get out of the Holiday League and come to MLB.

His team? Well, the Cardinals should go after him, no matter if his posting fee is above the $20 million for Japanese pitching stud Mashahiro Tanaka.

First, he fits in well with the color scheme.

Second, he's a switch hitter. John Mozeliak's already said he wants right-handed utility bats; a switch-hitter is even better. Sorry, Mark Ellis, you might be yesterday's Cardinals news.

Third, Matt Holliday is one of his top 10 similarity scores, so he's got company.

Fourth, if any of you doubt he's real, he has been part of an official "nine" since Santa added him to the team. 

And, speaking of that, he is a team player.

That said, he is a shortstop; why didn't Mo sign him instead of Jhonny Peralta? Did he want too much cold cash? Are those rumors about him and that young lady elf true? Was his sleigh on an innings limit, thereby lowering evaluation power? 

And, of course, there's those speculations about deer antler spray.

Judge slaps down NSA phone snooping — will Obama listen?

Calling it "almost Orwellian," Judge Richard J. Leon of the District of Columbia has given an official slapdown to the National Security Agency's snooping on domestic phone calls.
“I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary’ invasion than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval,” Judge Leon wrote. “Surely, such a program infringes on ‘that degree of privacy’ that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment.”
Take that, Barack Obama, Keith Alexander, James Clapper et al.

Judge Leon stayed his injunction ordering the NSA to stop the snooping at issue in the case for six months, allowing time for appeal. Which will certainly happen.

Now, let's hope it holds up through the appeals process. And that, if it does, Obama actually responds in the appropriate way. Because, like Andy Jackson vs. John Marshall over the Cherokee Removal, I'm seriously not sure he will.

No, that's not hyperbole. Should Judge Leon's ruling hold up all the way through the Supreme Court, I'm not sure President Obama will fully obey it.

And, given the bipartisan War on Terra establishment, I'm not sure a majority of Congress will challenge him on that.

That said, this is just an injunction. But, it's the first time that the spying-industrial complex has lost in court. Here's more from Judge Leon:
“The question that I will ultimately have to answer when I reach the merits of this case someday is whether people have a reasonable expectation of privacy that is violated when the government, without any basis whatsoever to suspect them of any wrongdoing, collects and stores for five years their telephony metadata for purposes of subjecting it to high-tech querying and analysis without any case-by-case judicial approval,” he wrote. “For the many reasons set forth above, it is significantly likely that on that day, I will answer that question in plaintiffs’ favor.”

That said, given that this just an injunction, the full process might not wind down until near the time Dear Leader leaves office.

Here's Leon's reasoning, which, as the Times notes, rejects previous claims of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court as to what the NSA can "vacuum":
In laying out his conclusion, Judge Leon rejected the Obama administration’s argument that a 1979 case, Smith v. Maryland, meant that there is no Fourth Amendment protections for call metadata — information like the numbers called and received and the date, time and duration of the call, but not the content.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which secretly approved the N.S.A. program after hearing arguments from only the Justice Department, has maintained that the 1979 decision is a controlling precedent that shields the program from Fourth Amendment review. But Judge Leon said the scope of the program and the way people use phones today distinguishes the N.S.A. data collection from the type at issue in that case.
It's going to be tough sledding to have Leon's reasoning stand up, per what Smith v Maryland says. But, it's just possible. A pen register recorded much less than today's phone metadata. And, that doesn't even touch on things like using GPS tracking to tie phone calls, duration, etc., to caller location.

At least we have "some hope." And, Leon's ruling will force SCOTUS, eventually, to consider modernizing its thought and rulings in this area in general.

December 15, 2013

Cards fulfill RH infielder need with Ellis

General Manager John Mozeliak had been saying all along that he wanted a right-handed batting infielder for the St. Louis Cardinals, with both apparent 2B Kolten Wong and 3B to be Matt Carpenter batting left.

Mark Ellis, formerly the Dodgers' 2B, was the best available bat, in all likelihood, after the Marlins signed former Cardinal Rafael Furcal with the intent of moving him from SS to 2B. 

Ellis is primarily here as an offensive option to Wong and to break him in slowly after his cup of coffee at the end of last year wasn't too good. But, he has on occasion played 3B in the past and can presumably spot Carpenter on the occasional day off.

The only question I have left is, is his contract more, or less, than the $3.5M Miami gave Furcal? Given that the Dodgers turned down a $5.75M option on Ellis, if it is more, it's probably not much more.

And, with that, it's time for spring training and seeing what Wong, Oscar Taveras and others can do.

Up date, Dec. 18: I'm wrong, and a bit sadly. It IS $5.75M, the same as the team option the Dodgers rejected.