January 11, 2014

Conservative elites vs. tea partiers on the ground: The War on the War on Poverty

National Review's long piece on Booneville, Ky., often a journalistic venture spot as ground zero of Appalachia (along with the Owsley County that contains it) and thus, of the success or failure of the War on Poverty, illustrates the sneer conservative elites can have for the tea party leaning folks on the ground, even while presenting the latest conservative economic theoretical nostrums, the latest tricking up of trickle down, as gospel

That's clear indeed on page 4:
The lesson of the Big White Ghetto is the same as the lessons we learned about the urban housing projects in the late 20th century: The best public-policy treatment we have for poverty is dilution. But like the old project towers, the Appalachian draw culture produces concentration, a socio­economic Salton Sea that becomes more toxic every year.
Kevin Williamson is lying through his teeth here.

Conservatives (as well as a fair amount of what were to become neolibs) fought like hell to block expansion of "dilution" of poverty, through making public housing units smaller and moving them out of the ghetto.

They fought like hell, and as Pro Publica has documented, both Republican and Democratic presidential administrations were right with them, on things like HUD grants. Folks in Booneville, if you think Kevin D. Williamson wants you moving into HIS neighborhood, I've got some Kentucky beachfront property to sell you.

That's bad enough. Making your last graf of the piece one of outright condescension, with a twist of Social Darwinism, wrapped in the flag of pity, is worse:
And if you ... look over your shoulder back toward the mountains, you don’t see the ghost of Elvis or Devil Anse or Daniel Boone – you see a big sign that says “Wonder Bread,” cheap and white and empty and as good an epitaph as any for what remains left behind in those hills and hollows, waiting on the draw and trying not to think too hard about what the real odds are on the lotto or an early death.
With conservative elite friends like this, do tea partiers in rural white poverty land really need enemies?

In between, there's the conservative truisms that are wrong, like blaming regulation for the demise of the coal industry, rather than noting mechanization, played-out coal seams, and cheap natural gas have all been part of that, while regulations have also protected safety for the (fewer and fewer) remaining miners.

In reality, poverty, like Tolstoy's misery, has degrees of uniqueness to different locales, on the demographic scale, as well as different individuals. Look at another sparsely populated space — the Navajo or Sioux reservations. White America shoved them on bad land and then, especially with the Sioux, constrained the only reasonable way of life for them on what share of that land they still had left. Dense poverty of the ghetto has been exacerbated by conservatives.

The further reality is that, Williamson's hillbilly stereotyping aside, the War on Poverty HAS helped reduce the poverty rate. Not as much as good liberals would like; that's in part because, phony lip service aside, "good" conservatives like Williamson have fought it for 40 years.

Krugman has now weighed in on part of this, though he's more charitable in general to Williamson than I am.

Of course, we're going to see more of this in the months ahead, such hypocrisy. And, per the "uniqueness" of poverty in different locations, even if the Obama Administration is (good) reversing those damaging old HUD practices, that really doesn't help rural poverty so much. And, in future years, when the bubble of oil fracking declines again, and gas is, in today's prices, another dollar or more a gallon higher than now, rural poverty will sadly be even more isolated than now.

As for other nostrums that are partially or wholly untrue? Marriage may not be such a poverty-reducer, especially if it's to a younger woman who's a single mother. That's especially true if we don't follow Williamson's hypocritically stated desire to disperse poverty. Besides, if marriage as an institution, and not just an expense-reducer, really does help lift people out of poverty, then .... gay marriage! Funny, Williamson didn't mention that, either.

I don't claim to have a lot of personal answers. (I do have knowledge; I live in an area of rural and small town multi-ethnic poverty probably about two-thirds as bad as Booneville.) Not me personally, nor even the height of LBJ's Great Society at best practices. But, I can admit that, without a sneer, without condescension, without hypocritical failed nostrums.

Related to this, for would-be social justice warriors, is this piece about the perils, pitfalls, and needed care in explaining the issue of "privilege" to a poorer white person.

#ARod gets the boot for a year — larger thoughts for him, #Yankees, #roiding

Everybody who's a big baseball fan has seen the news — arbitrator Frederic Horowitz has basically upheld verbatim Bud Selig's original ban on Alex Rodriguez, keeping this year's full suspension, with last year's games that would have contributed to the 2011 now water under the bridge.

(Any blog or newspaper that talks about A-Rod's suspension being "reduced" is technically correct but in reality is guilty of muddied thinking, at best, in my opinion.)

A few broader thoughts.

1. This certainly isn't good news for the Hall of Fame candidacies of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and people down the road like Manny Ramirez, Pudge Rodriguez and others. And, no expansion of the HOF's ballot to more than 10 players is going to change that. Only a successful push by the Jay Jaffes of the world to reduce the hurdle below 75 percent of votes is going to change that. And that will bring a whole raft of other problems.

2. This does get to the HOF's "morals clause." Unfortunately, in its recent election of three managers, one of whom managed A-Rod for a number of years, it's arguable that the Veterans Committee ignored that. I've commented before on my thoughts on the election of Tony LaRussa and Joe Torre in particular.

Some of this ugliness is peculiar to A-Rod, though. His statement that this is part of an MLB plot to get rid of guaranteed contracts in the next collective bargaining agreement is just the latest installment of a narcissism that's massive even by modern, Internet-driven public figure standards.

It's not just A-Rod, though. Look at what Bud Selig did to get the goods on him.

Look at how this unscrupulousness pervades the Caribbean world.

Look at how Bernie Miklasz played cover-up of sorts for Mark McGwire in 1998, and other writers surely did the same. I discuss that in passing here, and am working on a post that's going to look more directly at writers and roiders.

3. But, dirtiness and all, baseball is better than other top sports.

The NFL's a laugh on steroids, comparatively.  That's when it's not being morally disgusting, by commissioner Roger Goodell trying to claim they contribute to CTE.

The NBA? Sure, you can get suspended for a doobie, or other illicit drugs, but when did an NBA player last get suspended for PEDing.

4. Meanwhile, for A-Rod himself?

First, this almost guarantees he won't hit any of the remaining career milestone numbers in his contract that would trigger bonus money from the Yankees.

Second, it could tempt the Steinbrenners to try to void the contract, though I don't think that's likely. The players union would fight that like hell, and Bud knows that, too. He doesn't want another players' strike to be one final black mark on his legacy; after all, it was one players' strike that led to this whole pile of crap we keep stepping into right now.

5. The Yankees? With Omar Infante going to Kansas City, there ain't no free agent 3B, or quasi-3B available, period. Their only desperate hope is to sign Stephen Drew and try to teach him a new position. Or the even more yucky Michael Young. Playing Eduardo Nunez there a full season won't come close to cutting it. Even with the signings of Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran, that team could still be worse, worse indeed, than this year's. If CC Sabathia continues to decline, I guarantee that. And, on lux tax issues, because of details of the suspension, the Yankees still take a $3.2M salary hit, reportedly.

And, one related thought? Defensively, that infield was already looking ugly before this. Given that the splitter is a ground ball pitch when it's not inducing strikeouts, Masahiro Tanaka should definitely prioritize other teams in his free agent search.

Problems with determinism — mu to free will vs determinism, part 3

As a result of my blog posts about saying "mu" to the old free will vs. determinism battles, I've gone beyond talking about what I call "something like free will" that, decoupled from a Cartesian meaner and a Cartesian free willer, that we will find at the core of an eventually messy picture of what human consciousness is about.

I've started taking a bit more of a look at determinism. I've already said that classical determinism is undermined by quantum mechanics. Well, it's also undermined by things like chaos theory. Related to that, my ideas on "something like free will," as well as consciousness itself, is that both are going to prove out to be emergent properties, and with multiple layers of emergence. Hence, as we might talk about the consciousness of a gorilla, while noting that's not on the same level of consciousness as a human, ditto, the "something like free will" of a gorilla, if we think a gorilla has enough consciousness to manifest this, will be of a different level as that of a human.

But, back to determinism and its being undercut by quantum mechanics, chaos theory, and other things.

A blog post I saw on Facebook via a Facebook friend of a friend gave me a philosophy "aha" moment a few days ago.

Per this blog post, isn't determinism subject to Aristotle's worries about an infinite regress, until it posits an undetermined Prime Determiner? I had never thought of that before, but at least more simplistic versions of determinism seem capable of shooting themselves in the foot on this.

Beyond that, I have some psychology-related concerns with determinism. Or, rather, with how many of its ardent backers present it, as well as with determinism itself.

They can come off as too black and white, often not just about determinism vs. free will but about issues in consciousness in general. In turn, this can reflect a broader overly black-and-white approach to issues scientific, manifested in things like a hard or greedy reductionism.

And, people who read me on philosophical musings are probably aware that I say not "mu" but a flat "no" to greedy reductionism. That includes accusing the likes of Dan Dennett of being a greedy reductionist even as he denies that he is.

That, in turn, is why I reject his compatibalist version of free will, and others' as well. Why should free will be bent into a pretzel to be made compatible with some classical or classical-like version of determinism? Why shouldn't determinism be made to move at least halfway itself? Other than the narrowest idea of, what's logically possible or not in terms of action given a particular human's physical state X within a surrounding physical state Y, I don't think free will needs to bend itself to be compatible with determinism at all.

So, if we use the word "compatibilism" narrowly, call me a compatibilist. If not, don't. But, I'm not at all an incompatibilitist, so don't call me that.

The problem is, per this piece by Smith on libertarian free will, most compatibilists, in my opinion, define both it and incompatibilism badly. And, he goes further down that route in his next piece in his series, undercutting libertarianism and contra-causal issues. (I'm not a libertarian free willer, let me stress.)

The failure? It's at core a failure to distinguish between hard determinism, on the one hand, and what I've called psychological constraints or similar, on the other. I don't consider past elements of our lives, and the degree to which they've implanted and developed certain tendencies, likelihoods and directions within us, to be "determinism" at all.

Hence, I can voice some quasi-libertarian argument for "something like free will" without being an incompatibilist. Call me a "soft libertarian" or whatever. Maybe an "emergent libertarian." Or, per my first phrase, a "quasi-libertarianian."

Anyway, more on how Smith and others like him go wrong?

It's like the nature-vs-nurture argument in human development. Defenders of all-nature are like compatibilists, and defenders of all-nurture are like incompatibilitists. (And we haven't even talked about a philosophy of mind analogy to epigenetics yet!)

Anyway, that in turn gets back to my original "mu." Within saying "mu" to free will vs determinism, I now officially say "mu" to compatibilism vs incompatibilism.

I think I've made myself as clear as I can on why I say that, within the constraints of language on philosophy of mind that's already badly muddied.

Finally, while Smith's series has enlightened my thinking a bit, and sharpened my thinking a fair degree, I find him about as wanting as Dennett, ultimately, and for similar reasons.

Per Tractatus-era Wittgenstein, can't philosophers of mind in general be more precise with their language on this issue, and shut up if they can't?

January 10, 2014

Doubling down on Jay Jaffe: HOFers who hit 50 percent but weren't elected

In what appears to be developing into a simmering debate or dispute between little old me, on the one hand, and SI writer and sabermetrician Jay Jaffe on the other hand, I'm doubling down.

What started this? My interpreting comments by him when, in talking about the most recent HOF election, in a preview to that election, he discussed its backlog and mentioned Gil Hodges as an illustration on Hall of Fame voting, appearing to support his and then had a follow-up SI piece by him on lowering Hall election requirements. The fire heated up with visitors to Baseball Think Factory commenting when it picked up that original post, including, eventually, Jaffe himself.

If Jaffe wants to claim that once a player hits 50 percent voting support, from there on up is just a fight against "endless bureaucracy," fine. If he wants to pretend his comment about Hodges was just a "for example," well, we're going to fire at that with both barrels.

First, and let him accuse me of misinterpretation again, between the two pieces, Jaffe seems to be very much a "big Hall" person. I've noted already, in comments at Fangraphs pieces, that if one isn't a "big Hall" person then, contra Jaffe's first piece, one isn't so worried about a backlog.

Second, in his second piece, he clearly favors reducing the hurdle to get elected. And, since he explicitly mentions 50 percent, and also did so in the first piece when referencing Hodges, I'm going to say that's his standard. 
Even moreso after undertaking this exercise, I strongly believe the voting process needs to be fixed, most likely via an expansion from the 10-slot rule though perhaps more justifiably in lowering the 75 percent threshold; once players reach 50 percent, eventual election is a near-certainty, but only after what amounts to endless bureaucracy.
Jay, if that's not your standard, don't blame me for this reasonable interpretation. Instead, drop a comment here, and update your piece.

Meanwhile, reasonably assuming is, if we get back to his first piece, and his mention of Hodges:
Instead, I think it’s worth considering lowering the voting threshold, which has also remained unchanged since 1936. As I’ve noted several times in the 11 years that I’ve been doing my annual JAWS-based ballot reviews, only one candidate, Gil Hodges, has passed the 50 percent threshold and then failed to gain election eventually either via the BBWAA or the Veterans Committee.
There you go. My emphasis added at the end, and I'll explain why.

And, that's also, indirectly, another reason I charge him with being a big Hall guy, as well as supporting Hodges getting in the Hall. And, per the underlined part, undercutting his own stance as a sabermetrician.

The BBWAA has elected 112 candidates. (Here's full membership details).
The Hall of Fame is comprised of 303 elected members. Included are 208 former major league players, 28 executives, 35 Negro leaguers, 22 managers and 10 umpires. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America has elected 112 candidates to the Hall while the Committees on managers, umpires, executives and long-retired players (in all of its forms) has chosen 165 deserving candidates (96 major leaguers, 28 executives, 22 managers, nine Negro Leaguers and 10 umpires). The defunct “Committee on Negro Baseball Leagues” selected nine men between 1971-77 and the Special Committee on Negro Leagues in 2006, elected 17 Negro Leaguers. There are currently 65 living members. By position, there are: 72 pitchers, 17 catchers, 21 first basemen, 20 second basemen, 15 third basemen, 24 shortstops, 21 left fielders, 23 center fielders, 24 right fielders, 23 managers, 10 umpires and 33 executives.
Now that we've set that as a parameter ...

How close to a near certainty is it if you hit 50 percent?

Per Baseball-Reference's HOF ballot history, we can see who all cleared 50 percent but was not elected by the BBWAA. (Later enshrinements by various forms of the Veterans Committee don't count, of course. Not here. Maybe in JaffeWorld, but here, he can't have his cake and eat it too.)

Besides the obvious one of Jack Morris, and Hodges who started this all off, generally going from older to younger, we have Frank Chance, Edd Roush, Max Carey, Enos Slaughter, Eppa Rixey, Nellie Fox (who, in his best year, was 1/10 of a percent short of where Craig Biggio was this year) an. Jim Bunning,

So, that's nine players. Not just one or two. Eight percent. Of those nine, none would be in my Hall of Fame. Nellie Fox is the only one who'd be real close to consideration, in fact.

It's also 10 percent of the 96 players voted in by various veterans and old-timers committees, and these nine were, by BBWAA voting standards, the cream of the crop.

But, Jaffe is Mr. JAWS!

So, and since his two pieces were part of an annual bit of JAWS and the Hall, let us just see how each of these players rates.

Hodges? 33rd in JAWS among first basemen. Six non-HOF first basemen past BBWAA ballot lifespan rank higher.

Morris?  159th among starting pitchers. I'm not even going to count the non-HOFers ahead of him who have already had their BBWAA shot.

Chance? 32rd in JAWS among first basemen. Six non-HOF first basemen past BBWAA ballot lifespan rank higher.

Roush? 35th among center fielders. A whopping 14 post-BBWAA vote CFs rank higher. 

Roush? 26th among center fielders. A total of 7 post-vote CFs are higher.

Slaughter? 26th among right fielders. Three post-vote non-HOFers are higher.

Rixey? 105th among starters. Hey, Morris fans, see just how low he is? Thirty-two starters, just of those who pitched the majority of their careers after 1900, rank higher. Now, Morris fans, you see just how bad he really was, comparatively?

Fox? 21st among second basemen. Three 2B who had a shot at the BBWAA and fell short rank higher.

Bunning? 57th among starters. Four post-1900 starters non-elected starters rank higher.

Anyway, the basic point is that, if Jaffe supports lowering entry to 50 percent support, he supports Gil Hodges being in the Hall of Fame, even if he doesn't tout him by name. And, if he's going to justify his "bureaucracy" claim by counting Veterans Committee votes, he's definitely lost credibility with me. 

If we follow him to his logical conclusion, he supports nine players being in the Hall who have no business being there right now, some of whom are discussed in more detail in my blog posts about pitchers and position players I'd vote back OUT of the Hall.

So, no, don't lower the threshold to 50 percent. And, if you're going to expand the voting line to 12 players, then do what I advocated in those two posts: give voters one slot for voting a player OUT.

And, given the expansion of number of teams and players, I'd venture that percentage rate will go up, not down, in the future. (This isn't an argument for lowering it.)

Beyond that, if I'm a big Hall guy, I can pluck some percentage out of the air, say "most" players who crossed it eventually got elected (especially if I include Veterans Committee elections), say that those who didn't faced "endless bureaucracy," and call for lowering voting standards to that level.

To sum up?

Jay Jaffe has devised a very good sabermetric tool. Too bad he doesn't actually apply it to his various big Hall, drop-the-barriers ideas of who should get in.

To sum up, another way?

Jay Jaffe, at least indirectly, would seem to support the HOF induction not only of Gil Hodges (and Jack Morris), but seven other candidates like him. And perhaps more like him in the future. 

Because, as Swedish Chef puts it on that BBTF thread:
If the threshold is lowered to 50%, everybody over 40% will get in eventually...  
Bingo.

Brian Dunning, explained

While I wait to see what sort of sentence convicted Internet fraudster Brian Dunning will get (in late April), I have just been reading Atlantic Monthly online about somebody much more brazen than him, even.

I strongly recommend this story about Jesse Willms, including and especially recommending it to Dunning's strongest defenders, if you want to understand the perils for the rest of us that are to be found in affiliate marketing, and why you should question his protestations of innocence.

Let's start here:
The downside to affiliate marketing is its astonishing rate of fraud. Because affiliates put up their own money to pay for ads pushing these products, they have a strong incentive to dupe consumers, so they can recoup their investment. If you’ve ever clicked an ad or a “sponsored link” about, say, a spectacularly effective new weight-loss scheme, which then leads you to a fake news article (or “farticle,” in the industry parlance) filled with sketchy scientific findings and constant entreaties to buy a product “risk free,” then condolences are in order: you’ve likely stumbled into some affiliate’s trap.
And, if Dunning used fake news articles for any of his cookie pushing, the irony and hypocrisy only grow. (Having never bought anything from him, and having only looked at his products on his own site, I don't know if he did or did not do anything like this.)

And, here's why you shouldn't believe theoretically reputable websites' claims to be fighting this.
And despite these companies’ frequent claims that they are actively weeding out affiliate links to potential scams, Web surfers rarely need to look hard to find evidence to the contrary. In 2009, for instance, an MSNBC.com story that called attention to the outbreak of fraudulent advertising featured an MSNBC.com vice president expressing zero tolerance for “fakeosphere” ads—yet as the affiliate-marketing and Internet-fraud expert Pace Lattin pointed out when I spoke with him in late 2012, those very ads continued to proliferate on MSNBC’s site
In some way, this is part of the dark side of the decline of traditional media; most Gnu Media gurus won't tell you that, that in some way, having more restricted editorial and ad space went some way toward guaranteeing a certain quality of advertising. But now, where we don't talk about "news" but we do talk about "content," this is the result.

The story goes on to describe how Willms used different brands of his fake medical products to set up different affiliate marketing streams. Result? This:
Even an hour of perusing Willms’s business tactics was enough to make me want to cut up my credit cards and retreat to a tribal society that barters with root vegetables.
Ugh.

None of this is to say that Dunning told the flat-out lies of Willms. Nor that he was much more than a medium-small fry in affiliate marketing practices compared to Willms, let alone doing the fine print credit card billing shystering, since his deception involved something far different -- skimming other affiliates' sales credits through use of online cookies.

It is to say that he had been hawking stuff on the Net long enough to know just how the shadier parts of affiliate marketing worked, while some subself inside his dura matter acted a tad less reprehensibly and a lot less brazenly than Willms.

That still doesn't excuse his criminality, and it certainly doesn't exclude his contribution toward polluting and degrading the Internet in general, and fostering the Lance Armstrong-type "everybody does it anyway" leitmotiv.

As to Willms? Steve Novella and other anti-medical quackery skeptics could do more good in trying to shut people like him down than Dr. Oz. Dr. Oz is a quack, but he's not a crook. Willms is technically not a crook, sadly only facing civil charges. Unless somebody charges him as an accessory to murder, if one of his products, as more and more supplements are doing, causes major liver damage.

How does all fo this happen, anyway? Because:
Regulatory authorities like the FTC are undermanned; courts seem reluctant to punish offenders; and worse yet, even the sheriffs we believe are imposing order online—Google, Yahoo, Microsoft—often end up providing scammers with a platform for deception.
And neither major political party is interested in changing it. The GOP is antiregulatory; Silicon Valley's libertarians who get the "cover" of Democratic neoliberalism fight it, too.

In more detail:
After reading through Jesse Willms’s online exploits, one perfectly reasonable reaction would be to cling ever tighter to the sites you trust—to vow never to stray from the seemingly safe paths laid out for us by Web gatekeepers like Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft. Since these companies have huge financial stakes in maintaining user faith, the thinking might go, they would surely never endanger that by doing business with potentially shady companies or affiliates. Right?

Well, no: the evidence shows that they, too, often work with unsavory advertisers—sometimes knowingly. In fact, the Harvard Business School professor Ben Edelman’s Web site houses a numbingly long list of cases in which trusted companies have sold ads for services they knew to be suspicious or fraudulent. Take Yahoo-owned Right Media: according to a 2009 analysis by Edelman, at least 35 percent of its inventory at the time consisted of deceptive ads ...

Or consider Google, whose famous motto, “Don’t be evil,” has not prevented it from engaging in suspect practices for the sake of ad sales. (Lest we forget, Google exists primarily to sell advertising; in 2012, 95 percent of its $46 billion in revenue came from selling ads.) According to court documents, Willms paid Google at least $1.7 million to advertise his various sites. And while the tech behemoth has often claimed that it couldn’t possibly monitor all of its advertisers’ practices—and thus shouldn’t be held liable for them—recent events have called this argument into question. In August 2011, for example, Google agreed to a $500 million forfeiture after a government sting revealed the company’s willingness to work with online pharmacies that were illegally selling prescription drugs. The investigation found not only that Google was aware these advertisers were breaking the law, but that its employees helped offenders prepare ads for prescription-free drug sales (reportedly including human growth hormone and the abortion drug RU-486) that would skirt Google’s own regulations.

Google has also been accused of profiting from so-called typo-squatters (who set up sham sites with misspelled URLs like twittter.com) and wittingly selling ads to companies offering counterfeit products. 
Having known personally, and distastefully, a typosquatter who's now in the Texas penal system on statutory rape charges and has been about as much a denialist about both that and his Net activity as Willms, I am disgusted more than ever at Google.

Back to the decline of old media. If one of my newspapers pulled this shit, and got caught at it, I'd personally be in the slammer, I have no doubt.

And (Update, Feb. 5, 2014) this godawful rapping attempt, combined with comments from Dunning worshipers justifying his stealing from "eBay" (no, he stole from other affiliate marketers) with a Kickstarter campaign. 

January 09, 2014

Sabermetric geniuses aren't always such on the Hall of Fame

Welcome, Baseball Think Factory readers, even those who think I'm an idiot. I've updated things a little bit; see italics. Also, see this new blog post, where I double down on the heart of this issue with Jay Jaffe.

It's fun to talk about who should be in the Hall of Fame, and also, who shouldn't, whether those currently lurking outside, or those already in, either due to voters before the day of advanced baseball analysis, or hacks on previous incarnations of the Veterans Committee. It's especially fun when we can set aside questions about the world of roiding.

But, sabermetric pioneers and geniuses aren't always that. Especially when they ignore what their own analysis says.

And, annual Baseball Hall of Fame discussion proves that.

As Exhibit A, I present Jay Jaffe, creator of the JAWS metric. In this piece for SI, he seems to think, beyond both sabermetric and counting evidence, that Gil Hodges is a Hall of Famer.

Really? Less than 45 WAR, less than 15 WAA and fewer than 2,000 hits.

And, back to Jaffe. His own metric has Hodges 15 points below the average HOFer at 1B.

I mean, the man's in the same territory as Carlos Delgado and Mark Grace! And Mark Teixeira!

All are likely fine human beings, but there's not a HOFer in the bunch.

BBTF note: I indicated this was my interpretation of Jaffe. It may be wrong. But, at a minimum, he wrote in a way to leave himself open for interpretation that way.

Indeed, Commenter No. 2, JDennis partially agrees with that interpretation:
Yeah, I remember the Jaffe article, he was definitely not campaigning for Hodges. He was basically saying, if we lower the threshold to 50, what guys get in that I don't want? Gil Hodges and Jack Morris. Okay, I'll take two guys I don't want over the course of 50 years if it fixes all these things. It's a slight apples to oranges comparison because his argument is only valid if the VC is gone.
However, he gets it half wrong. Nowhere in there does Jaffe explicitly say Hodges is "a guy he doesn't want. And, given that he was talking about reducing the logjam, while not campaigning for Hodges, it seemed to me that, therefore and contra JDennis, a Gil Hodges in the Hall was, at minimum, a price he was willing to pay to reduce that logjam.

Indeed, in this piece looking ahead to future Hall classes, Jaffe explicitly favors lowering the threshold.
Even moreso after undertaking this exercise, I strongly believe the voting process needs to be fixed, most likely via an expansion from the 10-slot rule though perhaps more justifiably in lowering the 75 percent threshold; once players reach 50 percent, eventual election is a near-certainty, but only after what amounts to endless bureaucracy.
Given that he doesn't otherwise *oppose* Hodges, I stand by what I wrote. So, BBTF readers who challenge my reading comprehension? Suck it.

By the way, Commenter No. 1, CardsFanBoy, I'm a newspaper editor. I know exactly what I'm reading, how I'm interpreting it and why.

And, the big update ....

BBTF note: Jaffe has responded himself:
The author of this post has indeed misinterpreted what I wrote. My point was about the history of the voting, not about Hodges, whom I don't believe any iteration of JAWS has found to be Hallworthy. My point in bringing him up over and over again is that once the simple majority of BBWAA voters has spoken, history shows that everything after that is basically bureaucracy for bureaucracy's sake, because those players are going in eventually. Why prolong the wait at the risk of one of them dying?
True, but ...

Per the link to your new SI piece, you clearly, if not touting Hodges, or the modern equivalents to him, have no real problem if they get in the hall. If you don't favor lowering the percent threshold to 50 percent, or near that, AND you don't object to the modern equivalent of Hodges getting in if they hit 50 percent, then you need to edit your new SI piece.

Because I can go through old elections, and I bet find several people who broke 50 but never broke 75, and we can discuss their HOF merits.

And, if I find such players, I've got another post to write.

And Bill James, the granddaddy of sabermetrics, also has his misses, a few of them whoppers.

I don't care if Steve Wulf of ESPN says that Bill James says that Steve Garvey should have been in the MLB Hall of Fame 15 years ago, because they're both wrong.

BBTF note: I was a bit uncharitable on James on Garvey. James was just talking about his points system, not touting Garvey. That said, he later spoke against Garvey as an actual candidate; however, he didn't do so at the start, from what I can tell.

Yes, the 70s and 80s were low-offense eras, and he played in Dodger Stadium. Still, a 1B with less than 300 HRs and barely 1,300 RBIs? Plus, he didn't deserve a single one of his Gold Gloves. I guess Mr. Sabermetric Guru Bill James missed that he had a negative dWAR every one of his Gold Glove seasons.

He was NOT "an excellent fielder."

Here's the reality. A career Wins Above Average of 7.0. Zero WAR years above 5. That's not even close to a HOFer. I mean, while Keith Hernandez also isn't a HOFer, he's a hell of a lot closer than Garvey.

BBTF note: My note above may also apply to James on Parker and Murphy, or it may not. Stand by for me doing more Googling.

Oh, and despite his guru-like status, this is far from the first "howler" out of Bill James' mouth, too. Indeed, in the same article, Wulf quotes him as touting Dave Parker and Dale Murphy. Both are better candidates than Garvey, but no better than Hernandez, if that.

BBTF note: Sorry, but I've got the goods on James, on Black Jack Morris. He blew it.

James is wronger yet on Jack Morris, of course, despite his claims here and elsewhere. I mean, that's definitely a case of either manipulating or being willfully blind to your own work.

BBTF note: Sorry, but I've got the goods on James, on Bill Mazerowski. He just blew this one, and again pretty badly.

He's wrong on Bill Mazerowski, too, if James really claimed he was the greatest defensive player of all time. Ozzie Smith and Brooks Robinson come to mind well before Maz, just among infielders.

BBTF note: Per commenter 8, District Attorney, I missed some low-hanging fruit elsewhere on James headscratchers:
The funny part is that James does actually support Don Mattingly, which is not quite as bad as Garvey, but Mattingly ain't a deserving Hall of Famer, either.
Thanks.

It'd be interesting to see a recap of unusual "pet candidates" whom, you know, actually have the support of the writer in question. James has also said John Olerud should be a no-brainer. 


There's lies, damned lies, and sabermetricians who will try to manipulate their own findings. Or set them aside. Or do special pleading for "just this player," then repeat that four or five times.

Yes, eyeball tests, etc., can complement sabermetrics in making Hall judgments. But, even if you're a James or a Jaffe, if you think a favorite childhood player should get in the Hall "just because," at least be honest about it.

BBTF note: I was using "favorite childhood player" rhetorically, as a synecdoche of sorts, for general romanticizing of favorite players. As for Jaffe, if Hodges were a favorite (I'm not saying he was), it could have been from his Mets' managerial days. Even throwing that aside, given that Jaffe is clearly a "big Hall" guy, he probably has misty romanticizing of somebody else who doesn't deserve in.

So, as we already start talk about the 2015 ballot, take even the sabermetric gurus with a grain of salt at times.

BBTF note: Cardsfanboy doubles down on his own soapbox by calling broadcasters (re the idea of making them BBWAA writers) "the ultimate homers."  And Bernie Miklasz paying cover-up for McGwire wasn't?

Trust me, if you want to trash me, I'll fire back.

January 08, 2014

Congrats, Maddux, Glavine, Thomas; sorry, Biggio; not sorry, Morris; WTF otherwise

Well, three of the four players I thought would make it into this year's Baseball Hall of Fame class did.

 Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, and Frank Thomas are all in, while Craig Biggio missed by just TWO votes.

All three were definitely deserving. All four of the above were on my mock ballot, with a full 10-person vote. No need to expand HOF voting, until Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens address steroiding at least as forthrightly as Mark McGwire did.

Speaking of, among other surprises, or fun things? Or not so fun?

Rafael Palmeiro falling off the ballot. Jack Morris not making it on his last shot; I'm going to love reading some of the pro-Morris sour grapes.

Mike Mussina only getting 20 percent? Tim Raines and Jeff Bagwell slipping from last year, as did Curt Schilling? Not so fun.

Meanwhile, a brief look ahead to 2015. Biggio "should" get in next year, but with Randy Johnson a slam dunk and Pedro Martinez presumably so, I can't see anybody else doing so.

A friend mentioned Nomar Garciaparra among 2015 first-timers, at least as a possible vote stealer. I don't think he ever gets close to making it; in fact, I don't see him hitting 20 percent. In fact, his name has been hinted at in roiding before, and, given that David Ortiz had his name mentioned, on paper not just rumor, around the same time, that's going to be an additional negative for Nomar. Sorry, Red Sox fans. Just reporting what's been said out there.

BTW, BoSox fans, who can forget these immortal lines from Big Papi, after he was busted:
One, I have already contacted the Players Association to confirm if this report is true. I have just been told that the report is true. Based on the way I have lived my life, I am surprised to learn I tested positive. 

"Two, I will find out what I tested positive for. And, three, based on whatever I learn, I will share this information with my club and the public. You know me -- I will not hide and I will not make excuses."
Well, gee, we never did hear back from you on Point No. 3, did we? Bite me, Boston Denialists.

So, for next year, expect the Unit, Pedro and Biggs. No Baggs, no Nomar. Among other first-timers, John Smolz will probably land in about the Schilling range on votes, although he's a slice below on sabermetric stats. Fortunately, there's just the two slam dunks on first-timers in 2015. I also expect
Sammy Sosa will join Raffy in 2015 and fall off the ballot.

And, in case you're wondering, Dan LeBatard of the Miami Herald gave Deadspin its ballot this year.

Speaking of, some people, whether Big Hall fluffers or whatever, are using Biggio's near miss to again push expanding the ballot beyond 10, per Fangraphs. Doorknob, I hope not.

And, I disagree with Fangraphs' Dave Cameron in a follow-up piece, where he says this is all about logic. Nope. The old "big Hall" vs "small Hall," which is definitely a matter of opinion, drives a lot of this debate. The issue of not voting for some alleged or actual roiders, and the worries about the "gridlock" it causes, are of less concern for we small Hallers. They're still of some concern, but certainly not the same degree.

The only possibly stupider idea might be waiving the five-year post-retirement limit for voting. Leave it to somebody at ESPN to promote this.

And, as for the highly likely roiders? As I've said before, and hinted above, just a little honesty and openness from you, a little from Bud and the players union too, please.

And Bob Costas, whose judgment I will always respect, says, via Ken Rosenthal, that it's an issue of "authenticity." For those who claim this is just like "greenies," again, no. Bob and Ken are, I think, coming from where Bouton is: it's not a cheating issue, it's an issue of how much it made some players inauthentic.

For some good back ground on this, going all the way back to Thomas Boswell and his Canseco Milkshake, read this Grantland piece.

Requiem for a river: The Colorado

Lake Mead and its infamous bathtub ring, behind Hoover Dam./NYT photo
Good piece here from the New York Times, especially for Easterners unfamiliar with how overtapped the Colorado River already is, and its likely future.

Its likely future? For the man-made version of the river, in which almost none of the river flows "free" below Grand Canyon, and almost none ever reaches the Gulf of Mexico? Grim.

And getting grimmer.

The keys to the central and lower Colorado are two massive dams, Glen Canyon and Hoover, starting from upstream to downstream, and two massive (for now) man-made lakes behind them, Powell and Mead, respectively. (The two are, respectively, the second-largest and largest man-made lakes in the U.S.)

Mead, with both its water supply and its dam being closer to major user areas, and being the older of the two, is the biggie. And, "getting grimmer" indeed:
Lake Mead currently stands about 1,106 feet above sea level, and is expected to drop 20 feet in 2014. A continued decline would introduce a new set of problems: At 1,075 feet, rationing begins; at 1,050 feet, a more drastic rationing regime kicks in, and the uppermost water intake for Las Vegas shuts down. At 1,025 feet, rationing grows more draconian; at 1,000 feet, a second Las Vegas intake runs dry. 

But, Powell isn't off the hook.
Lake Powell is another story. There, a 100-foot drop would shut down generators that supply enough electricity to power 350,000 homes.
The story notes how the early 20th century was, as we now know, far wetter than normal, and thus water appropriations in the seven states of the upper and lower Colorado basins were "oversold." Sometimes massively so.

And, here's another part of the problem. Let's call it the "ostrich effect."
The federal Bureau of Reclamation’s 24-month forecasts of water levels at Powell and Mead do not contemplate such steep declines. But neither did they foresee the current drought. 
But, BuRec, as it's known out west, has no excuse for making such over-optimistic forecasts — other than pandering to all of the river's overallocated water users.

A fellow federal agency, the National Weather Service, says so. Per maps at the link, the Southwest is supposed to be above average on temperatures for all of 2014. (So much for the climate change denialists.) And, precipitation is supposed to be average through May. Given that, especially in the upper basin, the majority of precipitation is winter snow, this is a biggie.

Given that other research has said, per the Las Vegas Review-Journal, there's a 50-50 probability at least one of the two lakes hits "dead pool" by 2021, and that they hit minimum electric power generation by 2021, pandering to overallocated water (and electric) users is long past its expiration date.
The report unveiled Tuesday by the University of California-San Diego's Scripps Institution of Oceanography places Lake Mead's chances of running dry by 2021 at 50 percent, better than your odds of winning at any casino.

According to Scripps researchers, there is also a 50 percent chance that reservoir levels will fall low enough to shut down power generation at Hoover Dam by 2017, and a 10 percent chance the lake could be dry by 2014.

But the study's co-author, Tim Barnett, said those doomsday dates aren't as important as the overall message.
"The point is this is coming in 10 years, not 20 or 30 or 40. We're looking it in the face now," said Barnett, a research marine physicist who wrote the paper with climate scientist David Pierce.
Indeed. Pandering to users is long past its shelf life. The original report, here, has more detail. That's especially true since the report is now more than 5 years old and BuRec keeps its head buried in the (ever-increasing) sand.

As for claims that this will never happen, per the Review-Journal story? The BuRec is being ignorant, probably willfully so, of past history. It took decades of ongoing suits before Arizona finally joined the Colorado River Compact. It took more suits before the Central Arizona Project took off. It took an international lawsuit PLUS the first Arab oil embargo before we as a nation agreed to guarantee any Colorado River water to Mexico.

The idea that we would never let either lake reach dead pool has about as much guaranteed truth value as the idea that we'd never kill off every one of those 100 million passenger pigeons.

And, it's not even dead pool. If Lake Mead falls just over feet this year, instead of 20 feet, water rationing starts. This year. Not some date in the future.

And, it's possible. Beyond above average temperatures predicted for the Southwest through at least mid-summer, as of right now, the Rockies' snowpack is, overall, average to below average. And, the West Coast is just bone dry. Here's the details.

Plus, it's not just water issues. Note the other issue — power generation at Hoover Dam could die by 2017. Even if Las Vegas has some water, do people want to live there with almost guaranteed summer brownouts? Also, the lower the lake sinks, and the lower you have to run tubes to get water out of it, the more electricity you have to use to pump it, as Las Vegas, at 2,000 feet, is well above the bottoms of those siphons.

And, soon enough, the pressure's going to come for more water to be released from Lake Powell. Besides the lawsuits that will trigger, that will cut electric generation there. Phoenix gets to duel with Las Vegas as to which one has more brownouts and blackouts, then.

The answer? Far beyond what the Times quotes federal and state officials as saying. Rather than bailing out people in Arizona, Nevada, and exurban L.A's Inland Empire when the housing bubble burst, we should have paid to move them back to the Midwest.

Instead, if the Central Arizona Project is indeed taken out of commission by, say, 2025, and another one-third of the Imperial Valley in California faces the same fate, Phoenix, in addition to becoming even hotter, will face another problem.

Those haboobs that tea partiers think are the name for a Muslim incursion? They'll be carrying more and more agrichemicals from fallow desert farmland to the west and dumping it in the Valley of the Sun. People who either moved there themselves, or had ancestors do so, for their lungs, will be living in one of the most unhealthy areas in the country.

There is a bit of schadenfreude here. The area around the Valley of the Sun, plus Orange  County and San Diego County in California, are hardcore red staters. Climate denialists. Swelter away in intermittent summer electricity, and croak away in diminishing water.

It's also a bit of caution for Texas. The Rio Grande involves international compacts and the Pecos has an interstate one. Even where rivers are all in Texas, like the Colorado of Texas, the ones that start in West Texas, as heat and possible drought continue, are under similar pressures. And, given how the current Texas government has far more ostrichitis on climate change than BuRec, they're likely to mismanage addressing that pressure even worse than the feds.

January 07, 2014

Skeptics™ get their own medical outpost — should they be skeptical?

Skeptics™, in case they were still worried about the proliferation of alt-med, or more bluntly, pseudo-medicine woo on the Internet, need worry no longer. There's now the Institute for Science-Based Medicine.

To quote that everyman philosopher, Tevye, "Sounds crazy, no?"

Well, maybe it's a horse, and maybe it's a mule.(Sing it, Topol!)

And, since I'm not part of Skeptics™, I can take a closer look, as well as a snarkier one, at the critter, whether a gift horse or an old Minsk mule. And encourage others, who may be Skeptics™ but not necessarily on the ground floor, to do the same.

And, per the old adage, I can follow the actual, or potential, money.

Let's do just that.

First, some good Skeptic™ could, if Steve Novella hasn't done it, then form an insurance company that would make sure all these preferred providers were in network. In honor of Dan Dennett, we'll call it BlueBrights!

Said insurance company targets Skeptics™ for sales. Tribalism, to which nobody is totally immune, plus the assurance that all doctors, just like all editors and contributors, have indeed been fully vetted, kicks in and Blue Brights takes off.

Proof of that tribalism? Comment No. 2 on the official annoucment page:
I’m now a member. I feel better already.
Well, good for you.

And, said tribalism would tie in with local chapters, membership dues, conventions and more, all of which are under discussion (conventions and chapters) or already in place, apparently (dues) after just six or seven short weeks.

So, let's not stop there.

Question 1 — are their dues or other fees? I'd venture yes, based on this:
We want there to be local branches of the SfSBM, at your medical school, to have your own SBM at the pub, to organize lectures, and to advocate for SBM in your community.

Traditional medical societies have them. That said, if there were dues, and local and regional chapters, all snark aside, a BlueBrights insurance company would be easier to create.

Question 1A — since Question 1 has been answered by Comment No. 3:
I am now a member as well and paid the full price since I am technically no longer a student.
How much are they? I can't find a "join" link, so I don't know.

Question 2 — will there be preferred providers?

Besides local branches, or before enough critical mass is reached to form them, this would be a great way to highlight skeptical doctors for Skeptics™ readers, right? It would also be a great way to make extra money.

Question 3 — what else should we think about money?

There is a PayPal button on the website. And, given that Commenter No. 10 says:
I will gladly attend an SfSBM conference. Cannot wait for that to happen.
Knowing a bit about other Skeptics™ conference prices, swag and its availability and cost, etc., there's more money streams.

Question 4 — Organization. Is this an official nonprofit agency, or not? Like the issue of dues and membership, the site's kind of skeezy on not having information about this.

Question 5 — other reasons we should be skeptical of the skeptics?

Editor & contributor Dr. Harriett Hall says she's tired of doctor-bashing over money. Well, that probably is some degree of problem, but, she's wrong that it's just quacks who are getting richer. There's been plenty of mainstream media stories about how doctors have been using various forms of incorporation and other business tools to increase their income. Hell, the American Academy of Family Practice even has a piece called ....

Wait for it ...

"How to Maximize Income with Minimal Effort." True, your average doctor isn't making what the physics Ph.D. Wall Street quant is, but, they're getting their cut.

As a New York Times blog puts it, doctors can still, to some degree, induce demand.
There is a large school of health economists who believe doctors already do this — and would do much more of it if their ranks increased. They conclude that increasing the supply of doctors without making any other changes to the health care payment system would increase aggregate health spending because doctors, faced with more competition for the same set of patients, would compensate by prescribing more expensive tests and procedures. The prices of individual services might fall, but the mix of services that doctors provide would become more weighted toward the expensive ones.
And, of course, Dr. Hall's piece immunizes (heh, heh) founders of said group when some people, if outsiders can ever find out, raise their eyebrows over dues costs.

So, color me ... er ...

Skeptical! And, again, a deliberate contrarian.

There's yet more reason to raise an eyebrow at this. Among them are:
1. Further atomization of the professional/science-based skeptic movement.
2. Further narrowing of the focus of all such subgroups, and the overall movement, into just science issues instead of broader issues of critical thinking.
3. Related to No. 2, further moving away from the idea of inculcating a philosophy of skepticism, or Skepticism, to refer to the particular school of thought.
4. Is this, per all the "follow the money" angles above, also an attempt to cash in on Obamacare's evidence-based medicine drive?
5.  What happens when a potentially divisive issue comes up, such as psychiatry, alleged overuse of psychotropic medications, incarnations of the DSM and more?

That's not saying that all of the above IS the case. It is saying that all of it could be the case.

One other note to professional skeptics. This isn't about the merits of the site as a bastion against pseudomedicine. If that's all that's up for questioning, I'm totally in favor.

But, without more financial transparency, given all that I noted above, I have both my non-professional skeptical eyebrows raised. And even with such transparency forthcoming, I may still keep both eyebrows raised, depending on what the price points are.

Finally, imagine the ruckus from  Skeptics™if Gnu Atheists did something like this. "Sounds crazy, no?"

Yes. In fact, I encourage Gnu Atheists to start a list of non-faith-based atheist medicine and let's see how much  Skeptics™howl, especially if it promises dues, conferences and tchotchkes.

And, having written all this, before the word becomes overused, I feel a blog post about "tribalism" in my bones.

===

Meanwhile, on the actual medical science issue, there's other things.

Like, when does a small minority view become, or get kicked into becoming, "pseudomedicine"?

"The intellectual problem for Wikipedia, however, is that the Lyme wars are not about a fringe group, but a minority view of bona fine professionals with evidence supporting their view."

That's part of the discussion of this piece on Naked Capitalism, by a person who says that, among other things, autoimmune diseases may actually be caused by infectious agents in some cases. I don't know if that's the case or not, but, knowing how our modern urban environment, with tightly filtered HVAC systems, can cause spores and similar agents to multiply, I suppose its possible. Think if, say, Legionnaires' Disease had been a bit less virulent. Would it have been diagnosed as an autoimmune disorder.

And, there's one related thing.

Given that the p value for medicine, in research and experimentation, is usually still just 0.05, instead of the 0.0001 of physics and other "hard" sciences, medicine is going to have more false negatives, as well as false positives. Skeptical-based medicine, if it goes beyond filtering out and pointing out obvious woo, will need to be mindful of that, I think.

And, snark aside, the seriousness of all of this is why I'm not part of movement skepticism no more than I am of Gnu Atheism. I prefer the term "critical thinker" as a self-descriptor, in fact, because it's so much broader. It involves bringing that mindset to more than just the narrow scientific skepticism, and per a recent Facebook discussion kind of related to this that led to someone unfriending me, it also brings philosophy and philosophical stances into the picture.

I think of another friend, mentioning people whom he ideally hoped would fall in the heart of the Venn diagram intersection of skepticism (broadly practiced), atheism (of a generally non-Gnu type) and liberalism (of a non-neoliberal stripe). Yep, that's where I'm at, too.

Red McCombs goes batshit crazy

I'm not talking about any of McCombs' political stances, which sure as hell themselves qualify, between creating Clear Channel and chairing the board of the former Blackwater, among many dubious contributions to American life.

I'm talking about his reaction to Charlie Strong replacing Mack Brown as University of Texas football coach.
"I think it is a kick in the face," McCombs said. "Beyond the fact of what actually happened. We have boosters that have a lot of knowledge about the game. When we decided to go get Mack -- from the time we decided to go get Mack to about 30 hours later to have a press conference here and it was done -- we had a lot of input before we went after him.

 "So I don't know what the big rush was. I was kind of pleased that [Texas athletic director Steve] Patterson already said that he'd like to get it done in the middle of January. That seemed logical to me. I'm a team player, but I think they went about it wrong and made the selection wrong."
First, doof, recruiting's Zero Hour is right after the end of bowl season. The Horns couldn't afford to be coachless a lot longer. Second, contra Orangebloods dubious claims, it doesn't appear that Nick Saban or his "team" had newfound interest in Austin after the bowl season. Maybe the Stoops Slobknockering was part of that, but maybe UT boosters like a certain ...

Red McCombs was part of that.

And, this also just goes to show the overemphasis of sports in American school life, both collegiate and K-12.

Besides, Red, who's this "we"? You got a mouse, or a Koch Brother, in your pocket? As far as I can tell, you never were on UT's board of regents, so what part of "we" was involved in the hiring of Mac Brown in the first place?

And, wingnuts, when will you learn? This is another example of how rich people usually wind up caring about themselves, more than your causes.

===

That all said, per Pat Forde, Red may be right to go batshit crazy on this. I give Strong 3 years to, at a minimum, post a 9-win regular season, or else, if he's as "reserved" at Texas as at Louisville, to get shoved out.

He may indeed be a good X and O coach. But, if Forde is right, if he's not a GREAT one, boosters will chew him up and spit him out.

The Velveeta is Too Damn Scarce in a #cheesepocalypse #fail

Image of food-like substance at The Consumerist.
Pardon me for not being sufficiently alarmed that we might (or might not) be facing a shortage of a food-like substance that might (or might not) be artificially ginned up by Kraft just in time for the Super Bowl.

Curious how there's no shortage of actual cheese, isn't it? Curious how there's also no reported shortage of generic Velveeta.

Both the Yahoo story above and The Consumerist, which led me to it, note that ginned-up food shortages around times of their highest purchase, aren't new.

But, just to prove this intersection of cheap economic manipulation is exactly that, there's only one person right for the job.

Matt Yglesias, author of a book-like substance called "The Rent is Too Damn High."

"The Velveeta is Too Damn Scarce!" Matt Yglesias journeys into the heartland to look for Sons of the Boboes, singing "Vibrating Velveetawurst" and looking for Trigger's remains. Oh, and he uncovers David Brooks' still half-smoked joint. Brooks, unlike Clinton, did inhale. But, when he realized that Boboes' dime bags always cost less than $10, he promptly put the joint back down and walked away.

More seriously? Yglesias really cares about as much about service workers as Kraft does about making real cheese and Brooks does about talking about real people. And, as for the "Sons" part? Maybe Brooksie did something after that joint toke that we don't know about. I mean, put a beard on him, and put him next to Matty Y and ???

God, I love the look of being snarky to multiple entities in the afternoon! Thanks, Lt. Col. Kilgore.

The LA Lakers are now officially idiots; what about Cavs and #LBJ?

Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol won't be trading places.
Blame either Laker greed or Laker stupidity.
A week ago, I said the Los Angeles Lakers needed to run, not walk, on the  rumored trade in the air between them and the Cleveland Cavaliers, which would have swapped disgruntled Lakers center Pau Gasol and currently disgrunted and temporarily suspended Cavaliers (and former Lakers) center Andrew Bynum.



The Lakers then could have dumped Bynum, rather than playing him, before most of his contract guaranteed, and reaped dual benefits. 

Come again?

Yep, and here's why on the first benefit:
By trading Gasol in a package for Bynum and then waiving Bynum, the injury-ravaged Lakers could save more than $20 million in salary and luxury taxes, which could help them maintain financial flexibility heading into the next few summers. A Gasol-Bynum trade would have to include at least one other player to make the deal work under league rules, and perhaps other assets from Cleveland.
But, tis not to be.

The Cleveland Cavaliers have changed focus and offered Bynum plus draft choices to the Chicago Bulls for Luol Deng.

Why? In part, reportedly, the Lakers got greedy, asking for Dion Waiters as part of the mix, as well as possibly at least some of the draft choice swapping Cleveland did with the Bulls.

True that shooting guards, even young ones on the rise, may be a dime a dozen and that this is part of where the Lakers have need, at the same time. It was still an overplay. It was asking too much. And, the need probably could have been halfway been met elsewhere.

It also ignored the Lakers' other pressing need besides lux tax relief — rebuilding, and doing so on the fly.

The Lakers, further out of the last Western Conference playoff spot than the Cavs are in the East, threw away a gold-plated chance to tank, and tank hard.

Per previous blogging I've done ever since news of Kobe Bryant's downtime with a broken leg, this gives the Lakers the perfect, justifiable reason to start tanking and get in the Riggin' for Wiggins sweepstakes to nail down a shot at Kansas freshman star Andrew Wiggins.

Given that Steve Nash is likely out for the years and the Lakers have no true point guards, and that no Gasol eliminates a playmaker of sorts as well as a scorer and rebounder, it would be easy to accumulate plenty of lottery Ping-Pong balls this way.

Why the Lakers and GM Mitch Kupchak would want to wait, I don't know. By the time Kobe is back, they'll be deep in the Western Conference dust with no chance of coming back, anyway. Even without this trade and dump.

And, there's another good reason:
The Lakers have been luxury-tax payers for six straight seasons. While the luxury-tax savings this season -- and the ability to avoid the repeater tax penalty, which kicks in when a team is a taxpayer in four of five years, starting with the 2011-12 season -- would undoubtedly help the Lakers' long-term flexibility, the franchise's history and organizational culture make that a difficult prospect to consider.
So, the Lakers are the New York Yankees of the NBA, in essence. But, they had a chance to get smarter than the second generation of Steinbrenners. And got greedy, or were in self-denial about their playoff chances, or both. Either way, they got about as dumb as Hank and Hal Steinbrenner, after all.

Beyond that, Laker fans need to face reality even more than the front office. It's time to rebuild. This offers at least a puncher's chance of doing that relatively quickly and painlessly.

That said, I don't totally get the Cavs, either. Deng is a free agent after this season. I don't know what chance they have of signing him but, per this ESPN trade analysis story, it won't be cheap. And, while they may make the Eastern Conference playoffs now, unless they get to the No. 6 spot or higher, they'll be obliterated by either the Miami Heat or the Indiana Pacers in the first round.

On the other hand, somebody on Lake Erie may still believe they have a chance of getting LeBron James back if he opts out of his contract. Not resigning Deng would give the Cavs extra flexibility.

I'm nowhere near an NBA salary cap expert, but, it did get me to wondering. That said, that assumes that LBJ wouldn't simply accept a new five-year max contract from Miami.

Brian Schweiter — great but flawed #Hillary opponent?

Brian Schweitzer: Can he overcome his guns & greens flaws?
Getty Images photo via Slate
In the face of the potential landslide 2016 Democratic presidential nomination of the yet-unannounced Hillary Clinton, two potential opponents have been mentioned — financial populist Elizabeth Warren, now Massachusetts' junior U.S. Senator, and Brian Schweitzer, mountain West populist former Montana governor.

While I don't agree with Schweitzer on everything, or am even close to agreement in some areas, this Slate interview points out why I hope he runs and why, if I don't need to vote in a contested Green primary, I would consider pulling his lever in a Democratic primary.  

But, please note what I said. Consider, but not guarantee. While he's got a lot of positives, he's got some definite, and large, negatives, which I note later on in this piece.

He's definitely not going to be inside the bipartisan foreign policy box. That's the biggest plus.

First, he knows, and admits the truth of, why Iran dislikes and distrusts us — the anti-Mossadegh coup:
So we’ve had a bad history with Iran because of what we did in 1953, replacing an elected official with a dictator. 
Bingo.

And, he background that with his knowledge of the Middle East, having lived there and being a good Arabic speaker:
The Iranian deal makes sense. We linked up with the Saudis before and after World War II. Look, unlike virtually every member of Congress, I have a pretty good firsthand knowledge of the Middle East. The day after I got out of graduate school, after I defended my thesis, I went straight to Libya. I was there for a year; I was in Saudi Arabia for seven. I learned to speak Arabic. I can explain to you, in a way that almost no one else in the country can, the difference between a Sunni and a Shia. I can explain to you who and what the Wahhabis are in Saudi Arabia. I can talk to you about why we, the United States, initially got involved with the Saudi royal family, what we got out of the deal. I can explain to you why we knew Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. We knew, because we supplied chemical weapons to him so he could poison the Iranians. The Iranians are Persian, not Arab; they haven’t got along for several thousand years.
Hillary Clinton just isn't going to tell us that. And, as of now, I have no idea of Elizabeth Warren's stance on foreign policy issues.

Schweitzer goes on to criticize our still being in Iraq, bluntly saying the Taliban is in the Stone Age and of no threat to us.

That leads to the next issue.

He's not inside the bipartisan snooping policy box, either:
If Edward Snowden is a criminal, then so are a lot of people that are working within the CIA and the NSA who have been spying illegally on American citizens. They ought to grant Snowden clemency.
No way Hillary Clinton is saying that.

Meanwhile, he admits Obamacare isn't working well, probably won't work well, and says why: payoffs to lobbying groups, including those tied to former Montana Senator Max Baucus. That said, he says that he can make it work, as well as diagnosing those problems:
I will give you not just how this thing should have been written, but what it will get to be, because what we have right now will not work. No. 1: You pass national health insurance laws that say you can’t discriminate against women, charge them higher premiums than men of the same age, you can’t discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions, you can’t have annual caps. Then you allow insurance companies to compete wherever they want, in any state. Boom. The second thing is, you say to every citizen in the United States, now you have the option to buy into Medicare.
We just need to act like capitalists, not socialists. We need to negotiate to buy medicine. Now, what’s interesting is that the detractors hear that and say—this is like socialized medicine. No! Are you kidding me? France, the United Kingdom: They negotiate like capitalists to buy their medicine. The United States? We say to the pharmaceutical companies, how much would you like this for? We continue to pay them three times what they sell the same medicines for all over the world. Right after the bill was passed, big pharma was running ads for all the Democrats who voted for this thing. Even in Montana. What’d they get out of it? They now have a lot more money.
That's pretty much it in a nutshell. Keep the insurance coverage guarantees of Obamacare, do actual negotiations for drug prices, and make "Medicare for all" an option, at least.

As to why we got where we are on Obamacare, he's blunt about Dear Leader himself, too:
He’s not unlike Woodrow Wilson, who was the last really big Democratic corporatist.
Ouch. That said, he does have a somewhat more nuanced overall assessment:
In part what a president is able to do is elevate, through rhetoric, issues that need to be elevated. I’d give him an A in that area. His ability to communicate, to deliver the message about the values that set us aside as Americans, is very good. I just don’t think his administration has been very good at doing things, about organizing things. It’s not just about the rollout of the Affordable Care Act. As governor I had four years to work with the Bush administration and four years to work with the Obama administration, and they’re just not good at getting things done.
I think he's far from alone in the "competency" assessment, a think that Obamiacs who admit their man is a neoliberal still fight tooth and claw. The "competency" issue is, as some conservatives note, at the heart of liberal governance. Because neolibs want to surrender more of that to the private sector, "competency" is even more important for the slice of governance it wants kept in the public sector.

Also, the Wilson comparison quote shows he's a definite student of history in general. And, that he wouldn't be part of the bipartisan economic policy establishment, either.

That said, is Brian Schweitzer perfect, or nearly so, as a presidential candidate?

Probably not.

The main disagreement I have with him? He's a squish on environmentalism. When he was governor, he wanted to start a massive coal gasification program with eastern Montana's coal. First, that takes a lot of water — water that eastern Montana doesn't have. Second, it's air polluting. Third, the waste rock detritus is ground polluting. Fourth, it's carbon intensive. I don't know if he's ever apologized for that or not, but it would make me leery.  (And, while he may hoo-haw for Montana hunters, Montana farmers like the Jon Tester he semi-derides wouldn't like those water shortages, either.)

And, this isn't the only area where he's problematic, or worse, on environmental issues. He has advocated breaking federal law, namely the Endangered Species Act. Considering that elected officials are all supposed to swear to uphold the Constitution of the United States, he arguably broke his gubernatorial oath of office.

Even more leery? In his gubernatorial re-election run, especially, he touted his NRA membership and affinity. Now, the NRA of pre-Obama days wasn't quite as nutbar as today's, but it was already nutbar enough that this was after the time that Poppy Bush had resigned his membership. I'd specifically want his take on the need (or lack, he might say, for what I know) of additional gun control laws, and actual stricter enforcement of current ones (not just the NRA lip service mantra) post Newtown.

In short, his greens and guns stances leave me thinking that, overall, he might be an upgraded version of West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin. I mean, the skeet shooting trick is about exactly like what Manchin did.

Hence, I said consider, but not guarantee, on voting for him in a Democratic primary. And, while he'd be a breath of fresh air, unless he changes his position on guns and green issues, I'd still vote capital-G Green in the general election if Schweitzer somehow got the Democratic nod.

January 06, 2014

I vote 10 in #Cooperstown, uphold principle on #roiding, keep "small Hall"

Here's the 2014 Hall of Fame ballot.

And, in a few brief words, I'll show how I can vote 10 quality players in, not vote in pretty obvious and unrepentant users of performance-enhancing drugs, and still avoid ESPN's Big Hall drooling.

Per previous discussion, most recently updated here, I'm not willing to let the most likely roiders, like Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, in without some contrition, not just by them, but lots of others. It's not just the contrition, it's to get info from them on how they did it so we can improve current testing. It's to figure out, like a Roids+ similar to ERA+ and OPS+, approximately how much to adjust their records.

Call me back when that happens.

Meanwhile, the 10? Going by last year's voting rank, for the non-newcomers, followed by them:

1.  Craig Biggio.

2. Jeff Bagwell.

3. Tim Raines.

4. Curt Schilling.

5. Allen Trammell.

6. Jeff Kent.

7. Greg Maddux.

8. Tom Glavine.

9. Mike Mussina.

10. Frank Thomas

I've blogged more than once about Jack Morris and his anti-sabermetric career. About Larry Walker and how a non-Coors career would have dinged his counting stats as well as WAR, etc, plus injuries and so forth. About Edgar Martinez in a similar vein, discussing the injuries and games missed, etc., for a DH. Lee Smith falls under my generally being underwhelmed by closers.

Here's my in-depth wrap of last year's candidates, and another of this year's.

Mike Piazza? After reading recently, via CBS, about what Jeff Pearlman quotes him, and quotes other players as saying about him, while I'm not quite in Murray Chass territory, I want to think a bit more.

To ESPN-type fluffers who don't take my stance on roiding? You can easily add Bonds and Clemens by having Kent and, say, Schilling, wait a year. You can then deal with lesser roiders after that.

And, at the same time, this still would put a brake on your fluffing. That's even as Jim Caple flings out yet one more paean to Morris. Good fucking doorknob, give it a rest. Caple should stick to his "Off Base" columns, and by the amount of HOF fluffing ESPN's other writers do, they should become Republican presidential pollsters.

Or, take them out and shoot them. Shoot Jayson Stark twice for being a flip-flopping hypocrite (no, not a repentant mind-changer) on this issue. 

That also said, when ESPN's current staff has people voting for Fred McGriff ahead of Mussina, one realizes that a sports writer is just a lucky man with a big opinion who found a big place to land.

And, Michael Knisley has some very interesting thoughts about some "Name" players who might not stay above 5 percent this year.