January 18, 2014

The MLB Hall of Fame and player "backlog"

I've said before that any "backlog" of players not getting in is more of a problem for "big Hall" fans and voters than "small Hall" ones, no matter one's stance on how to deal with Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. It does relate somewhat as to how wide one casts the roiding and PEDing net of suspicion; even there, though, it's connected with the issue of small vs large HOF, along with the ancillary issue of exactly what point of view one has of Cooperstown, other than it being a sleepy upstate New York burg that turns into a tourist trap once a year.

Update: Per this very good piece from Baseball Prospectus, upcoming HOF candidates, especially batters, should be skeptically eyeballed for another reason — an expansion-era bump. Especially if we assume that top batters are a "fat tail" on the bell curve, maybe then added 0.5 or 0.6 WAR, not just the 0.4 WAR per season that Kevin Whitaker estimates.

That said, even if HOF ballots aren't expanded from 10 players to 12 (which I would grudgingly accept) or even worse, the backlog won't get much worse, and could at least hold steady.

Now, 2015's entry class will add to it, what with Randy Johnson and Pedro Martinez as seeming first-ballot entries, John Smolz as a solid candidate, and Gary Sheffield as our next roiding controversy.

But, it will lighten up. In 2016, we have Junior Griffey as a first-year definite, followed by Jim Edmonds as a decent borderline candidate, and then a dropoff.

Next? The 2017 class brings Pudge Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez, who will both have PEDing baggage, and Vladimir Guerrero, who's just outside my borderline.  The dropoff after that is even huger than in 2016.

Chipper Jones leads the class of 2018, followed by Jim Thome, then Scott Rolen and Andruw Jones, if he doesn't come back to MLB from Japan. Jones is solidly a HOFer in my book; so's Thome. Rolen's a bit on the borderline. Jones, since almost all his value is in defense, no. Center field is not shortstop, and I think defensive sabermetrics are going to continue to draw discussion between now and then. That said, both he and Edmonds rank behind Larry Walker in overall WAR.

If all current voters vote a minimum of 6 candidates and half vote 10, we should be at the same average as we were this year.

Set aside the likely roiders who don't have "authenticity," per Ken Rosenthal, and give us an average of 2.5 inductees per year over these four years, and we'll be OK.

My take on all of these individuals? 

The Big Unit and Pedro are no-brainers. Smoltz is a poor man's Curt Schilling. That said, will Pedro's low counting stats hurt him? If not, will his entry help Schilling? Sheffield? The BALCO package connection will hurt, even if Conte says the box contained only legit material. (He probably said that for product protection reasons after it didn't help that much.)

I already discussed Edmonds and Jones. And, this is going to force voters to address dWAR and even more advanced defensive sabermetrics, and the value of defense outside a position like shortstop, and more.

For 2017, Manny is a cut-rate Barry Bonds in my book. A definite HOFer, probably first-year entry, without the PEDing. Regular readers know my stance on the issue; until he gets honest, no entry. Pudge? Not busted, but clear connections to other Texas Rangers of allegations or actuality, all rooted in Jose Canseco. No on him; no major body bulking, but did HGH help his catching longevity. Guerrero falls just outside the borderlines. Good player, seemingly decent person, but not quite there.

On 2018, I don't think Thome was a user. That said, in an era of big bats, he could be accused of being a "compiler." Rolen? He gets to the heart of what Jay Jaffe and others have said about HOF voters and third base. It's an underfilled position. As for his cred? I think he deserves in.

Jay Jaffe also takes an initial gander. And, regarding the backlog, for the Class of 2016, he says:
Here’s where the traffic starts to break up a wee bit.
(I've not read Jaffe enough to know if he's a small Hall or big Hall guy, but, going by my "sabermetric geniuses" post, I'd say big Hall.)

Rod Dreher: Pot for me but not for thee; it's gotta be the gay

Rod Dreher channels his inner David Brooks on legalization of marijuana, and gets even worse.

Old "crunchy con" (I guess a nutbar with extra rocks in it can be "crunchy") Dreher says, nope, no pot for you, you huddled masses, you 47 percenter slackers. Only the financial titans vulture carcass feeders of America are entitled to smoke dope:
Most of these driven, type-A personalities would benefit heavily from being able to relax and avoid burn-out. If they experiment with drugs that function as source of stress relief (and pot does that better than anything else!), they see their experiences as overwhelmingly positive. They project those positive experiences externally on the general population, to the extent that they are in urban population centers which have little contact with “ordinary” Americans (those who feel their lives offer little prospect for advancement or self-improvement).

So, like children out of wedlock, this becomes another example of how something that works well for elites can simultaneously become a disaster for the underclass. Middle/lower-class employees in America need the energy and drive to show up at miserable jobs and work long hours for meager wages. That’s something you get from caffeine or nicotine, not from THC. If they mellow themselves out, they become the proverbial pot-smoking ex-roommate on the couch who never holds the same job for more than a couple months, due to apathy and disinterest. So successful members of the working-class are disproportionately not pot-users, and perceive unsuccessful pot-smoking members of their circle of friends and family leeching off them. This is a totally different set of immediate social references than those urban elites ever get to experience.
Old Rodney tries to spin himself as a moderate libertarian, even to the point of deceiving Oprah. But really? He's a hardcore far rightist on social issues who has never met a conservative religious based issue where he didn't want maximum state regulation against your personal rights.

He's antigay and personally homophobic. He's a racism apologist. (Related to that, he's probably some sort of Lost Cause Confederate mythologist.)

But, more than apologizing for the likes of Paula Deen, per the first of my two links in the paragraph above, it's teh gay that really bunches Rod's knickers in a knot. So much that the former Catholic, who's sampled from all the different waters of conservative Christianity, also got his dander up over the idea that Pope Francis might want to turn down the Vatican's boiling pot of antigay down to a low simmer.

So, it's gotta be teh gay, eh Rod?

Pot for me but not for thee? Maybe we should only let straights have pot because, well, teh gay will go all jungly-jiggly on us if they toke, you know? Some big gay black buck might want to molest Rod, fulfilling both his worst nightmare and possibly his top secret dream.

You know, Rod? Most gay and lesbian people just want to be treated as, and called, people. The Castro-district types are a small minority and probably, were it not for gay rights issues, they'd find some other reason to get their freak on.

And, you know, Rod? If you didn't rabidly foam at the mouth over stuff like this, on teh gay, then go on to write classist and racist crap like this on marijuana, people would not take such sharp shots at you.

Rick Perry — sinner? praying to the wrong god? hypocrite? All of the above?

Almost three full years since Rick Perry, the false prophet, asked Texans to pray for rain to relieve the state's drought, more than two and a half years since his call to Ba'al was clearly a failure, he once again admitted these prayers had failed in much of the state. How many times is this a global warming and climate change denialist has re-issued the drought proclamation while refusing to consider that climate change might be even just a small contributor?

Of course, science could have told him these prayers would fail.

Actually, science DID tell him that, in the form of the words of the state's top official climatologist.
Forecasters predict dry weather to last long-term beyond the next decade from the La Nina phenomenon that continues to recur, including in the upcoming year, to cool the surface waters of the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean.
That said, 2013 wasn't even a La Niña year.

That said, it's also worth noting that Tricky Ricky nowhere uses the word "prayer" in the current proclamation.

January 17, 2014

Dear Rick Perry: Davos has no coyotes, but it does have gun control laws

So, don't attempt to pack heat when you go to Switzerland to hobnob with the rich and famous after pretending to care about the little people. Because, you don't qualify for a permit.

It does have plenty of predatory capitalists, but, given the woes and travails of your emerging technology slush fund, you know all about those folks. Instead of guns, you have beers and shots with folks like that — not gunshots, but mulimillion-dollar money shots.

Per his press office:
Gov. Rick Perry will be in Davos, Switzerland from Tuesday, January 21 until Saturday, January 25, where he will hold private meetings and participate in two panel discussions at the World Economic Forum.

On Thursday, the governor will participate as a panelist in “The Drugs Dilemma: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business.”

On Friday, he will participate in the roundtable discussion “Governors Session: Health Summit.”
Private meetings? Like when he flies to other states here in the US of A and tries to sell businesses on relocating to Texas. Ricky Boy, that ain't flying nowhere.

Well, I take that back. Trans Texas Corridor partner Cintra might be over there, humping for toll road work.

Second, that "Drugs Dilemma" meeting? Rick, they're going to tell you to go easy in the nuttery of the War on Drugs. And when you try to talk about your Texas Miracle, they're going to laugh right in your face.

Governors' Session: Health Summit? Let me guess — this is a GOP governors' session to bitch about Obamacare. Any real health summit in Europe, if you talked about health care in Texas? They're going to laugh right in your face.

And, hey, it's time to trot out "famous handshakes concern trolling for $100!"

Because Tricky Ricky will have at least one Chinese Commee with which to hobnob. Jiang Jianqing, Chairman of the Board, Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, People's Republic of China, will be there.

And, the Trickster, during his time in Davos, seemingly can't find time to attend any of the nearly half-dozen sessions on global warming. Surely one of them would be of more power than his drought relief prayers, which he admitted himself, again, this week, still aren't working.

Squirrel Hair endorses Don Huffines against John Carona in Metroplex race

Is Texas politics really at the point, beyond money-grubbing, that candidates in a state Senate primary need to seek and trot out endorsements from out-of-state politicians?

I guess so.

The "Squirrel Hair" in question is Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY [Jelly]), whom Don Huffines says is officially endorsing him in his Metroplex Senate primary race against incumbent John Carona.

It's obvious back-scratching. Per the Snooze, Huffines formed his pro-Ron Paul PAC in 2012.  Now, the son of the closet racialist offers the payback. (And, Aqua Buddha will surely use this chance to collect his own campaign donations in Dallas in his usual inimitable style.)

Another name for "liberal Republican," as Huffines calls Carona, is "less batshit crazy Republican." I don't pull the "R" lever in the voting booth at all, but, Carona would at least be tolerable.

Anyway, back to the out-of-state endorsements.

Another bit of GOP hypocrisy is at play here. Isn't it bogus to preach federalism, states' rights, etc., with the idea that each state is an individual entity, then have someone who is from a different state parachute in (and help you raise bucks at your fundraising dinner, surely) to endorse you?

Survey says?

Yes.

Meanwhile, back to the race.

How long before we hit the $500K mark in a primary election for a non-statewide office for a non-fulltime job?

Probably not long, and the climb in campaign spending will probably grow along with the widening gap between the 1 and 99 percent. 

Yet another bit of hypocrisy is in old man Ron Paul's top 2012 donor.

Legacies on the line in AFC and NFC title games

Will Evil Peyton Manning get another Super Bowl shot?
The biggie, of course, is in the Denver-New England game.

Per Shannon Sharpe, with his blunt but telling comment on CBS's analysts' horseshoe last week, Peyton Manning only has one Super Bowl ring, and just that one appearance. He's a Hall of Fame QB anyway, we know that, but the lack of multiple appearances surely is a ding of some sort, and, given the "Evil Manning Face" picture, has to gnaw at him, too. Including at family reunions with two-time winning brother Eli, maybe?

Tom Brady has his own "legacy" at stake, though. Right now, he's tied with most SB appearances by a quarterback, at five, with Roger Staubach and John Elway. Geting to No. 6 breaks that. And, winning No. 4 would tie him with Terry Bradshaw and Joe Montana on wins. With an MVP to go with the win, he'd tie Montana there, too.

Mike Lodish and Don Beebe each had six appearances, so Brady would move into a tie for total appearances. Charles Haley has the most appearances as a winner, with five.

ESPN has a number of pieces on the latest installment of the Brady-Manning rivalry. Start with this "trading places" one.

On the NFC side, it's more coaching than individual legacies.

Win a second straight NFC title, as part of three straight appearances and Jim Harbaugh, and his 49ers can start the dynasty talk a little bit, and more than a little bit if they can nail a Super Bowl win.

Pete Carroll, on the other hand, needs to get his initial appearance in to fully lay claim to being in the top tier of coaches.

My predictions? I'm pretty comfortable going with Seattle. I don't care that the Niners have Michael Crabtree back; I think the Seahawks secondary still wins out.

Denver-New England? I'm somewhat less sure, but I'm leaning Manning right now.

What if #WendyDavis was "nudged" into her Alameel endorsement?

If you, like me, are still scratching your head over why Wendy Davis, who rocketed to fame over her pro-choice filibuster during last year's Texas Lege special session (ignoring her claims on the Today Show that "I'm not an overnight sensation,"), would endorse a possible closet pro-lifer, David Alameel, in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, as I have been, well, here's the latest from my thinking cap.

I started with the issue of part of her semiannual fundraising money, in her claims to media, actually being joint fundraising with political organizations, the seeming spinning, if you will.

I then got to thinking:

What if Battleground Texas or Be One Texas or whomever suggested,  or even pushed for, her to endorse Alameel?

Reasoning? If he wins, of course, his self-financing means that in-Texas (and non-Texas) Democratic money flows almost totally to her, assuming that Democrats who win the nominations for other statewide contests aren't considered glamorous at all outside of Texas, and not hugely so inside.

That's one possibility.

Another?

This falls in line with my scolding her for pandering to moderates in Waxahachie last fall.

In this case, the big gun gurus suggest this as another way of establishing herself as moderate, and nuanced. Given that Alameel's is almost certainly right in portraying himself as the most conservative Democrat in the Senate primary (I don't know what the hell to call LaRouchites). Davis gets to portray herself as broad-minded, etc.

If, in either case, the hired guns suggested this, it's no wonder the likes of a Michael Li will protest so much when her campaign contribution spinning is pointed out, but won't talk one bit about why she endorsed Alameel.

Update, Jan. 30: Lite Guv Democratic candidate Leticia Van de Putte has also lost me. Perhaps her "Handlers" gave similar advice.

Ted McLaughlin, proprietor of Jobsanger, notes this related fact. He says Davis' own website mentions nothing about her stance on reproductive choice. 

More proof for this? Outside of abortion, Davis arguably is not that liberal on a lot of issues anyway. Her Fort Worth City Council history, especially in her relations to big business, and doubly so to big businessmen whose last names were connected to the oil bidness, indicate that.

Alameel was fairly much back of the pack in his 2010 Congressional race, which went to runoff without him. He has seven weeks to try to run out the clock on being non-responsive ...

IF he can win without a runoff. I doubt that. Maxey Scherr, who looks like the best candidate to me, and Michael Fjetland, together, will keep him below 50 percent.

At some point, he'll have to start talking. Even more, in a 1-on-1 runoff.
 

Looking at Cards' 2014 payroll — $110M looks about right

With all the dust settling, the St. Louis Cardinals have just three players headed to arbitration: Jon Jay, Peter Bourjas and Daniel Descalso. Per Bernie Miklasz, here's what they made in 2013:
Pre-arbitration, Jay made $524,000 last year while Descalso made $510,000 and Bourjos, acquired from the Los Angeles Angels, was paid $500,000. Jay, who hit .276 with 62 runs batted in for the National League champions, would be due the biggest raise of the three.
Per Cot's Contracts, the Cards are currently at $96.5M for 2014.

I've seen estimates on Jay run as high as around $3.4 million, per MLBTradeRumors. I don't buy that. Given his struggles last season, plus the Bourjos trade, plus Oscar Taveras in the wings, John Mozeliak can play a tougher line here. David Freese got $3.15 million in his first year of arbitration, but he still had some residual halo from 2011 and 3B has higher positional scarcity. That said, I'm sure this all entered into Mo's thinking, while probably not that of Jay or his agent.

Pencil me in for about $2.7M on Jay (and I was low, but top estimates were too high, as he's at $3.25M), as the Cards' offer on him and them winning in hearing if there's no agreement. I'll buy MLBTR's projection of $1.1M on Bourjos and $1.2M on Descalso. That's an even $4M overall, to go to $100.5M. Throw in $9.5M, roughly, for other players contracts and raises, and any call-ups, and we're at $110M for the season, about $7M below 2013 numbers. And, if I'm wrong on Jay, add a few hundred thousand to the total. (With Bourjos in at $1.2M, and giving Descalso a $100K bump, that's $110.75M.)

Losing Chris Carpenter to retirement, Carlos Beltran to free agency and other changes, is fairly offset not only by signing Jhonny Peralta, but by Adam Wainwright getting a $7M hike, the Mark Ellis signing and several other players getting lesser increases.

Looking ahead, in brief?

Unless Kolten Wong is a total bust, Ellis won't be back in 2015. The Cardinals may well let Yukon Cornelius, aka Jason Motte, also walk; or, given the surplus of arms, if he looks very good in set-up, trade him this year, perhaps as part of a package with Jay, for, ideally, a top minor-league catcher as part of the biz. That's it on 2015 free agents; their current contracts total $12.75M in 2014.

No huge salary increases come into play in 2015.

So, to already look ahead to next year, in the 2014-15 offseason, Mo can start wondering whether to give Craig-like contracts to any of the young gun pitchers as part of more than $10M in what should be free money to play with. Jay's money could well come off the books, too, if Taveras does fine and the OF just looks too crowded. Maybe he could join Motte in a midseason trade or something, for that matter.

So, as the likes of Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha and Trevor Rosenthal take the mound this year, in addition to hoping they don't have full first-year, second-year or third-year slumps, we can also get out our calculators and wonder what that's going to cost.

January 16, 2014

A steroid wing in #Cooperstown to satisfy 'Big Hall' nuts?

Jean Jacques Taylor, whom I've never considered that in-depth as a sports writer or columnist, seemingly (note that word) surprises me with this one: proposing a roiders' wing at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Here's his rationale:
Unless a new voting system is put in place, or society softens its stance on PEDs, or baseball gets some leadership with a different vision on how to deal with the issue, a group of players who dominated the game's annals will be unaccounted for in the Hall of Fame.
That's true enough.

JJT then mentions some the players who would benefit, and I'll give the obvious list: Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Rafael Palmeiro, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, Alex Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Garry Sheffield and a few others.

At first, I thought this might be a way around an impasse, especially if tied with my desire to see some sort of apology plus explanation from players.

However, I saw the problems almost right away.

First, the BBWAA has to agree to this. I mean, this would itself require a change in voting system. I mean, you'd have to get voters who agree with Ken Rosenthal's "authenticity" to allow, well, to allow an asterisk to be put on ballots or something.

So, JJT fails Logic 101. See my opening paragraph.

Second, the museum as currently constituted does not have a "Negro League wing." Satchel Paige is in the same room as other folks, despite entry for his Negro League days. Nor does it have a "Veterans Committee wing," much as some BBWAA members might wish.

So, another JJT fail. That said, he's not alone on this one. Former commish Fay Vincent touted it last year. Darren Rovell did the same the year before that. Just because an idea develops steam doesn't mean its a good one.

Third, what about the likes of writers who claim everybody who played later than Jack Morris was a roider, or who spread the taint of guilt by nuttery about the likes of Jeff Bagwell? Are they going to asterisk 9 of 10 ballot votes?

Fourth, what if that gets Bagwell, whom I am confident didn't roid, based on things like his career arc following a normal rise and decline, among other things, elected?

Is he going to accept induction that comes with an asterisk?

Hell no.

Fifth, because of Nos. 1-4, and especially the last, it wouldn't satisfy big Hall types anyway. They want us to falsely believe steroids were no different than amphetamines, stop being purity prima donnas, pretend that those first two issues are the only reasons we don't want roiders in, and just vote them in without an asterisk.

Sixth, by officially designating a steroids wing, and having the BBWAA ballot reflect that, wouldn't voters possibly be committing libel? And I mean that in its legal sense, not its casual usage sense. Albert Pujols suing Jack Clark for comments he made last year on talk radio say that yes, indeed, that's a possibility.

That would include you, too, Bob Nightengale, for suggesting putting asterisks on certain plaques
The trouble with being judge and juror as a Hall of Fame voter is that we don't know who was clean and who was dirty. Are you going to keep Bonds out but let Clemens in because Clemens was exonerated in court while Bonds fights his conviction on obstruction of justice? Are you going to let Piazza in and keep out Sosa while both deny taking steroids? 
But, you still want to asterisk certain plaques? Really? Which ones?

Boy, career sports writers, did some of you not take a libel law class in journalism school, if you went there?

All this idea does is prove that former commissioners of baseball can be idiots.

See Bud Selig, including All-Star games deciding World Series home field advantage. 

See Bowie Kuhn and "laundry list."

So, JJT? Go back to your drawing board and blow it up. Then go back to joining 6 million other people in the Metroplex in knowing exactly what's wrong with the Cowboys. And, your seeming surprise? Not.

And, why the hell is he writing this anyway? He NEVER does baseball at the Big Red Satan. Didn't for his last few years at the Dallas Morning Snooze, either, and didn't extremely impress me when he did. (Corrected to note that I forgot he did some baseball stuff at the Snooze.) Did ESPN's big Hall fluffers that pass for baseball analysts put him up to this?

Texas politics fundraising — Lite Guv division + Dewhurst news

Other than having our way officially cut clear of the fundraising spinning by the Wendy Davis campaign, the funding numbers that most interest me are on the other side of the coin, in another race — the Republican battle for lieutenant governor, with incumbent David Dewhurst, aka Dudley Dewless, trying to hold off the Three Blind Mice of Todd Staples, Jerry Patterson and Dan Patrick.

I will state that, in discussions with P.Diddie of Brains and Eggs, in handicapping this race a couple of months back, I gave Staples the best odds of beating the Dew, while he leaned toward Patterson, or Patrick.

Right now, the news on money seems best overall for Staples and Patrick, per the StartleGram.

Dewhurst raised $2.33 million in the last half of 2013 and reports $1.41 million on hand in resources.

Staples raised $1.11 million and has $3.11 million on hand.

Patrick reports $1.66 million raised and $3.08 million on hand.

And Patterson?

Ahh, the Texas Ethics Commission shows two, old, dissolved committees for him. Nothing new. Very, very, interesting. However, the StartleGram reports him $816K raised and $564K left. However, in a race with everybody looking for an edge, Patterson could get pummeled over his late filing.

Update: I didn't click on his filer ID after seeing the two old, dissolved committees. He apparently did get his numbers in, barely, on time. But, not having an official campaign committee also seems to be a "tell" against his chances.

So, Dewhurst raised the most, but blew through the most. Especially if this race goes to a runoff, that helps whomever remains. (I'm assuming Dewless will be one of the two finalists.)

I'm going to keep my bet on the Toddster to be the other one of those two. He has a statewide office already, unlike Patrick, and one with high visibility in rural, GOP-heavy counties. And, he's raised, and accumulated, money, unlike Patterson.

Sometimes, spinning or not, fundraising totals don't mean much. But, in a competitive race like this, I think the numbers are legit tea leaves.

Perry's got a follow-up on how Harris County (Houston) GOP squabbles could undermine Patrick. 

There's a sidebar on why I lean Staples. He works the traditional media hard, as does his would-be Ag successor, Eric Opelia. Emails every day to newspapers, and I assume top TV and radio, about how he's doing this, got that endorsement, etc. (Sidebar: Abbott does the same, Davis doesn't.)

Meanwhile, the Dew has said that, if re-elected, this is his last term. Also interesting. Ted Cruz comes up for re-election in four years. Is Dew going to drop out of politics, try Cruz again, or look for the GOP gubernatorial nod if Davis somehow beats Greg Abbott this fall?

My bet is "retire." He's 68 now.

This is one of those could be smart, could be dumb announcements.

He could be appealing to GOP mainliners to give him a fairwell tour in the office. On the other hand, his challengers now have the argument of "why wait to make a change"? And frankly, I lean toward it being a glass half-empty statement. Just like Patterson's last-minute financial filing, any club, no matter how small, is a weapon.

Heck, I can picture an ad like: "Help Me Give David Dewhurst a Well-Deserved Early Retirement."

==

On the Democratic side, Leticia Van de Putte hauled in about $290K and has $250K on hand.

Baseball, steroids, apple pie and #Cooperstown : American myth vs American reality

Note: What follows is adapted from a recent newspaper column.

The ongoing brouhaha over how to address steroid use in potential Hall of Fame candidates has, as I've noted more than once before, a "big Hall" versus "small Hall" angle to it.

And, as I've noted once before, I'm a small Hall person. Also, I’m a St. Louis Cardinals fan first, a National League fan second, and a baseball fan third. (That explains why I expect DH candidates to at least meet 1B standards on batting on Hall eligibility, if not even a bit higher.)

Seeing the Cardinals just miss on another World Series ring, then address a couple of issues with a free agent signing at shortstop and a trade to shore up the outfield, while looking forward to a passel of talented young pitching arms getting another year of experience, means I’m definitely ready for  pitchers and catchers to start warming up at the beginning of spring training, just a few short weeks away.


At the same time, that Cardinal free agent signing leads to talk about the Hall of Fame vote.
That free agent, Jhonny Peralta, was just coming off a Major League Baseball suspension for having tested positive for the use of performance-enhancing drugs. And, concerns over the use of PEDs have kept all-time home run leader
Barry Bonds and top pitcher Roger Clemens out of the Hall.

It’s a mess. We know, beyond failed tests, that some players have used steroids and human growth hormone for a competitive edge. A couple, like Houston Astros and New York Yankees teammate to Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, have made some sort of confession. So, too, has one potential Hall of Famer, former Cardinals basher Mark McGwire. And, arguably,
Jason Giambi made the most forthright confession of all. (See here for my "degrees of confession" post.)

This all said, the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown is a place that is built on innocence and dreams. As a Cards fan, I'll admit that I loved watching the 1998 season. And, some part of my thinking of Roy Hobbs and "The Natural" while doing so.


That innocence and dreams? That's true whether you're a big Hall or a small Hall person. In fact, part of how the symbol fulfillment of those dreams are viewed is what drives the intensity of some big Hall vs small Hall disputes.

I’ve never been there, but I saw a traveling exhibit in Dallas several years ago. And, for a diehard baseball fan, the materials are about nostalgia, innocence, wistfulness and more.

Those materials are also about mythmaking.

Diehard fans know that Abner Doubleday didn’t invent baseball, and that he didn’t even live in Cooperstown, N.Y. in 1839. Alexander Cartwright doesn’t necessarily have a better claim, though.


We do know baseball evolved from the English game of rounders. That said, Google’s Ngram feature and other things show “base ball,” written as two words as it was well into the 19th century, could be found in books in the late 1700s. 


And, those books were written in England. Indeed, the father of King George III of American Revolution fame, Frederick, Prince of Wales, is reported to have taken his cuts, according to recent findings.


In other words, baseball may not be quite so all-American as an old car commercial claimed. We’ll assume apple pie still is, even if hot dogs come from European sausages and not all Chevy parts are made inside U.S. borders.


Today’s baseball is big business for owners and players alike. Fans in seats starting in the middle 1990s showed that. Of course, amphetamines, though likely of a lot less help, were around in baseball’s picket-fence days of the 1950s and ’60s. And, Gaylord Perry then revived the spitball to an art form, followed by Don Sutton earning the nickname Black and Decker.


So, baseball’s innocence has been itself a myth. Even Terence Mann and Iowa cornfields can’t totally erase that. That's why they're a "Field of Dreams," not a "Field of Reality."


At the same time, for Peralta and thousands of other Latino ballplayers from the Caribbean, it's a myth precisely because it's big business. It's part of the myth of upward mobility. And if, especially to counteract poorer childhood diets and lesser-quality athletic facilities than American youth, if they think that steroids, HGH, and other drugs are part of the price to pay on that altar of myth, they will, no less than an African-American kid in a ghetto will badger his mom for Air Jordans, if they're more than just a status symbol.

And, maybe that’s why it is America’s game, still, in a sense. It's about business. Upward mobility. Immigration, with more non-American players than the NBA and far more than the NFL.


Football’s never had the same mythos around it. Its violence doesn’t speak of innocence. And, modern concussion worries may dull its shine. (However, is it much wonder that Canton, Ohio, home of the NFL Hall of Fame, while not as small as Cooperstown, is nowhere near the size of a big city?)


But baseball has a mix of mythmaking, nostalgia, heavy-duty capitalism, timelessness, and dreams realized and spoiled, to fit the bill. A summer day is languid enough to "play two," per Ernie Banks' plea. Give me a Hebrew National, with a side of St. Louis specialty toasted ravioli, both made in America, to go with. And, a wish that more younger people today would learn to appreciate more of that timelessness.


As for the Hall of Fame? A "steroid wing" is not the answer.

We're going to need big carbon straws by 2030

That's the consensus of the latest part of an updated climate change report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It says, per the link, that, if we don't do more to limit carbon emissions by 2030, that the only way to stop major global warming is going to be by sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.

And of course, as the story notes, no such technology exists today, and it likely won't in 2030.

Plus, as the story doesn't note, such technology itself would be a major carbon producer. Can you imagine the energy involved?

And, for some conservatives and moderates who accept that some degree of change is happening, but that we can adapt? Er, this:
Even as the early effects of climate change are starting to be felt around the world, the panel concluded that efforts are lagging not only in reducing emissions, but in adapting to the climatic changes that have become inevitable.
That, too, will cost money and willpower.

On the containment, not the mitigation, here's the bottom, bottom line:
As scientists can best figure, the target requires that atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, stay below 500 parts per million. The level recently surpassed 400, and at present growth rates will surpass 500 within a few decades.
Actually, even at current rates of change, we'll be at at least 450 ppm by 2030. 

And, per the top of the story, here's what that will mean in detail:
If emissions do overshoot the target, the report found, future generations would likely have to develop ways to pull greenhouse gases out of the air. It is fairly clear this will be technically possible. It could be achieved, for instance, by growing bioenergy crops that take up carbon dioxide, burning the resulting fuel, and then injecting the emissions into underground formations. But the large-scale use of land to grow energy crops would compete with food production, already under strain as a consequence of the planetary warming.

Machinery might be developed that could directly extract greenhouse gases from the air; in fact, early work on such systems has begun. But experts have said the costs, safety and practicality of such techniques cannot be foreseen today. They believe it would be much cheaper to find ways to avoid putting the gases into the air in the first place.
And, even growing bioenergy crops is optimistic. Where?

And, this is already going to be problematic. I've blogged earlier about the fading future of the Colorado River. The Southwest, and even more the Pacific Coast, continue to face drought, a drought that may be exacerbated by jet stream changes in turn affected by climate change.

Shareholder resolutions to cut carbon sound fine, but they're worth little more than the paper upon which they're written. And, they may end up being as much  of "carbon indulgences" as planting trees for carbon offsets has become.

The only realistic answer starts with a carbon tax domestically combined with carbon tariffs on imports, to keep American businesses from further "cheating" by exporting carbon dioxide generation.

And, given that West Texas is expected to get drier, as well as hotter, with climate change, and a lot of central and eastern Texas depend on it, via downstream river flows, for a lot of water?

Texas climate change denialists should remember the old Fram commercial: You can pay me a little bit now or a whole lot later. 

More proof here: Flow into the Texas Colorado River's Highland Lakes was the second-lowest on record last year.

Amy Chua enters Jenny McCarthy Hall of Infamy

Per the History News Network, her new book, which I had heard about on NPR, is utter quackery, a mix of Social Darwinism and blatant racial stereotypes. Hence my header.

A Tweet on that page gives you the snark to justify that header:
Tiger Mom: Some races are just better http://t.co/qx1ZQZZoir - Dear Amy Chua & Jed Rubenfeld, the 1920s called and want their theories back
How so?

Here's a bit longer version, including about her racialist claims:
The author of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, which celebrated the superiority of Chinese American parenting styles, is set to publish a follow-up book in February. Co-authored with her husband, Jed Rubenfeld, The Triple Package: How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America appears to be more of the same, expanding her cultural determinist argument, which imagined Chinese parenting as both superior and a pathway to inevitable success, to now include seven more groups (Jewish, Indian, Chinese, Iranian, Lebanese-Americans, Nigerian, Cuban exiles, and Mormons), whose success is attributable to their possessing the requisite values and cultural attributes. The selected groups, all of whom are immigrant groups, the selective grouping (only Cuban exiles; Lebanese-American but Nigerians), the lack of intersectional analysis, not too mention the dehistoricizing, reveals a flawed premise at its face.
Yeah, the idea that a certain group of exiles became geniuses for and upon leaving Cuba, the idea that Nigerian immigrants to the US are somehow smarter than other modern African immigrants, the idea that Lebanese-Americans are brilliant compared to Syrian-Americans? All wrong. (By the way, Amy, a century ago, racialists such as Charles Davenport thought Ashkenazi Jews were idiots.) 

And, more on the idea that Lebanese immigrants magically outperform Syrian ones? That Nigerian immigrants outperform others from Africa? She ignores an obvious discriminatory element: Most the Nigerian and Lebanese immigrants are Christian, the others Muslim.

Her own people were the subject of racial stereotypes in the U.S. 150 years ago, too. Indeed, in American, per James W. Loewen's detailed book, "Sundown Towns," the first sundown town in the U.S. was anti-Chinese, Rock Springs, Wyo., in 1868, and not anti-black.

Anyway, given the pull quotes above, you don't need to read the book unless you're really desperate for a healthy dose of pure-on pseudoscience. (That said, given Skeptic magazine's past history with genetic-based racialists Vince Sarich and Frank Miele, I'm curious what sort of review Michael Shermer's gang gives to the book.)

Also more seriously? Yes, Chua is Chinese and not Japanese, but some of the Japanese-American critiques from within its own culture as well as outside of the "model minority" trope should give her pause, one would think,

One other observation? Given that Chua is a professor at Harvard, this once again illustrates that the only guaranteed return from a Harvard education on a resume is an easy entree into the lifestyles of the elite. Her book on hyperpowers, as she calls them, claiming tolerance for minorities was the reason for their success, also seems thin soup.

Finally, per the header? If we can have annual Darwin Awards, we can have a Jenny McCarthy Hall of Infamy for pseudoscience whoppers. Last I checked, things like sociology and cultural anthropology were sciences of some sort.

January 15, 2014

Clayton Kershaw: The $30M pitcher

"Gentlemen, we can rebuild his contract!"

Far beyond the "Six Million Dollar Man," we have MLB's first full-on $30M per year contract, and, it ain't for a position player.

Clayton Kershaw trumps C.C. Sabathia and Justin Verlander in the pitching world, along with cruising past Alex Rodriguez, Albert Pujols, and Ryan Howard, with that monster deal from the Dodgers.

And, the craziness may not be over. For all we know, LA may still have an eyeball cast for Masahiro Tanaka, too. If that's the case, they're guaranteed to join the Yankees as a multiple repeater on breaking the pay roll cap and pay ing lux taxes. Even without Tanaka, they're well over this year, and for 2015, already at about $185 million, counting pension obligations. Yes, the cap will rise. So will their 2015 payroll, by then.

Meanwhile, Kershaw is worth approximately the current Houston Astros payroll. How sad does that feel, Stros' fans?

The other question is, can a $30M man be rebuilt if he breaks?

Kershaw has advantages of not carrying Sabathia's weight, but, we've seen Verlander already lose a bit of velocity. And Tim Lincecum certainly offers another note of caution.

Even if Kershaw doesn't fall off the map that badly, what if he's only at, say 115 on ERA+ in his 2017 fourth year?

Kershaw's contract has a five-year out; even with TV deals rising and other things, it remains to be seen which side might be more interested in pulling that trigger after 2018.

My personal thoughts?

Yeah, the Blue have money to burn, but this? I would never give a pitcher that long of a contract. That said, that's why I wasn't joking about which side might want the five-year out.

And, speaking of burning money, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Angels increase their push for Tanaka.  Vernon Wells is no longer an albatross after this year, and they're below cap level right now. Tanaka, combined with Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson is a great front three on the rotation. Yeah, the Angels still need to up grade their pen, too, but, you have to start somewhere, and Anaheim's a pitcher's park, at least moderately.

And, if Tanaka's smart? No Yankees. The splitter's a ground-ball pitch when it's not a strike pitch. Does he want that infield behind him?

Who is David Alameel and what is he hiding? Is he a closet pro-lifer?

Note: Welcome to any Maxey Scherr campaign followers. If any of you have more info on Alameel's stances, please let me know!

Given the stunning endorsement of David Alameel in the Democratic Senate primary in Texas by presumed Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wendy Davis, which I blogged about yesterday, these are serious questions.

(Update, Jan. 22: He has, per P.Diddie, gone on the record as being expressly pro-choice. That said, what took so long? A week is an eternity in a political campaign. And, as a dentist with a chain of clinics whose likely worth more than $50 million, I'm still skeptical he's an economic liberal.)

Given Davis shot to fame over her filibuster of the Texas Senate's first special session on abortion last summer, it would be nice to know what Alameel's stance on reproductive rights is.

I can't even figure out what Alameel's position on abortion IS! 

When doing my previous post, I did a Google search. Twenty-four  hours ago, it showed no Senate website. 

He now has a Senate campaign website. Part of me wondered if it didn't show up on Google before, like when I searched for one last night, due to some indexing issue. Then I thought, with the Davis endorsement splashed across the top, that it might be new.

But, no. A Whois says it was created Nov. 2011. So, he was either going to challenge Ted Cruz, Craig James and David Dewhurst, or else run Democratic against Paul Sadler and Grady Yarbrough, in the previous go-round, I guess, but then backed out.

Why?

And, are we looking at a career amateur politician? Somebody trying to make up lost ground to this on Michael Fjetland? Or even worse cases of candidates who decide to run, and run, and run, and run?

He would seem to have something to hide. When I first did serious Googling on Jan. 14, his old Alameel for Congress website from two years ago showed up as "dead." Today? It redirects to his Senate website.

Anyway, back to that Senate website.

Whois shows last updated this Jan. 8 ... just in time for the Davis endorsement, and presumably brought out of mothballs at that time. 

And, it says zip, zilch, nada about his positions on any campaign issue.

I found similar last night.

He refused to answer campaign questions from Project Vote Smart, per its page on him, which showed up in my Google search because his Senate website didn't. Maybe his Senate site was being indexed, but it was not on the first page of hits, which makes sense if it was just reactivated.

Also "interesting"? But, of course, unsurprising? He's got pictures of him with Bill and Hillary Clinton. And Davis. But none of him with any of the Republicans' whose campaigns he's funded. Including John Cornyn.

Speaking of ...

Per my second rhetorical question?

His campaign contributions page on the Federal Election Committee website doesn't show donations to explicitly right-to-life organizations. Sorry, no URL from the FEC; when one does a search for a particular donor with the FEC, it doesn't create a URL, but here's a similar list. It does, though, show that outside Texas as well as inside, he's given as much money to Republicans as Democrats in the past, including conservative bastions like the Utah Republican Party, Orrin Hatch, Mike Pence, George Allen and Conrad Burns, not to mention, as noted, all his Texas Republican contributions.

And, his primary opponent, Maxey Scherr, who, by policy, is the candidate Davis should have endorsed (getting beyond the presumptiousness of a person not holding a statewide office endorsing a candidate for statewide office in a primary) points out just what some of these donations mean, vis-a-vis reproductive rights, in a campaign email:
David Alameel, the alleged Democrat running for the US Senate, has bankrolled the anti-choice Republican agenda for years.  I'm not talking about a couple thousand dollars here.  He has given $1.6 million dollars to the Republicans who oppose Roe v. Wade and vote to erode a woman's right to choose at every turn.

Here are a few specifics on Alameel's record on supporting the Republican agenda:
  • Alameel gave $150,000 to Lt. Governor David Dewhurst who led the charge to pass anti choice legislation and called women who went to protest in the Capitol an “unruly mob;”
  • Alameel gave $4,200 to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell who voted to allow any employer to refuse to cover contraception or any health service required under the health reform law for virtually any reason;
  • Alameel gave $8,400.00 to Senator Orin Hatch who sponsored an amendment that “would ban any organizations that provide abortions, including hospitals, from receiving Medicaid family planning funds -- even if those abortions are to save a woman's life”;
  • Alameel gave $25,000.00 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee who defended the comment that abortions should not be legal even in the case of rape;
So I have a big question that we Democrats need to resolve before the March 4th primary:

If Texas Democrats care about women’s rights and protecting choice, then how can we possibly nominate a candidate who has a long track record of funding the Republicans who are anti-choice?
Boom. Can't put it more succinctly than that. 

There's rumors that Alameel had an anti-choice vid on his 2012 Congressional race website. No wonder he scrubbed that.

The flip side of this is that his campaign contribution record also doesn't show any donations to pro-choice organizations. And, I'll make the assumption that he didn't have a pro-choice stance in his 2012 Congressional primary race. Conservative, and Catholic? He may be quietly pro-life on the personal side while trying to hedge his political bets through silence, with a list of GOP donations like those. 

So, if some people think the second rhetorical question is envelope-pushing, that's fine. There's one person who can "unpush" that envelope.

If not?

Trust me, if I find, or someone sends me, more damning evidence about him, especially on the pro-choice/pro-life issue, I will get it in here. 

And, did Davis ask him about his stances on any issues before, or other than, saluting his "business excellence" and endorsing him? 

On the other hand, Ted McLaughlin, proprietor of Jobsanger, notes this related fact. He says Davis' own website mentions nothing about her stance on reproductive choice. In turn, that would square with my latest speculation as to why she endorsed him.

Was she that directly about tapping into his money train?

Besides, business excellence, even if its real and not fake, is no guarantor of political excellence.

Texas Example A? Ross Perot. Texas Example B? Clayton Williams.

Beyond that, if anything, the lack of transparency from a Daddy Warbucks, or a would-be BMOC, trying to buy his way into politics infuriates me. As it does with Wendy Davis endorsing him.

Even if he's not a closet pro-lifer, beyond saying "I'm conservative," what the hell does that mean on specific issues? Are you against empowering unions? As a dentist, are you against expanding Obamacare to dentistry? Are you against gay marriage, or even gay civil unions?

The latest Obamacare spin: We're not worried about the missing youngsters (updated)

Latest numbers out on Obamacare enrollments note what's been becoming more and more evident over the last month or two: Younger people aren't signing up in the way that Team Obama had hoped or planned.

Once again, we get a content-free comment:
Officials on Monday said they were basically pleased with the percentage of young people and said it was consistent with their expectations and with the experience in Massachusetts, which put in place a similar kind of public health insurance exchange.
OK, so what are the age ratios in Romneycare?

Well, it's 19-34, rather than 18-34, but, over the first 11 months, 26.5 percent of people in that age range signed up for that. That's versus the 24 percent at the federal level.

Whether that's enough of a difference to be worthwhile, and whether Massachusetts, with a population generally healthier than the US as a whole, on average, translates adequately to the entire country, remains to be seen.

The flip side is that we have 3 months of Obamacare signups vs 11 months of Romneycare. Apples to apples on monthly numbers has Massachusetts lower, at 20 percent. Flip side to that is that Obamacare was in the news semi-regularly from the day Obama signed it into law, and that federal "navigators," even while hindered in some states, are another difference.

Also, Massachusetts had a smaller pool of uninsured, among other things, than the nation as a whole. So, Obamacare theoretically had more low-hanging fruit.

Add this to the mix:
"Financing for Obamacare is going to be paid through taxes, fees and Medicare savings," said Kosali Simon. "Romneycare had some exsting funds for it and got federal funds. Massachusetts paid a lot less for it than what they got from the federal government."  
That's why Romneycare was an easier tweak.

Plus, Romneycare's individual mandate ding, at $1,200, is nearly twice as high as Obamacare's $695. And, Romneycare's employer mandate started on companies with 11 or more employees, not 50 or more, albeit with a smaller employee penalty.

This website illustrates key similarities and differences, including those just above.

And now, of Jan. 15, Team Obama has officially scaled down its targets for enrollment of the younger uninsured.
Administration officials previously said their target was for young adults to make up about 38 percent of Obamacare enrollees. Now that standard is down to about 30 percent. Or maybe even 24 percent—where the mix stands now.
First, those numbers show that Team Obama's claims to be satisfied with enrollment by younger people were full of crap.  Surprised?

National Journal's Baker admits things may improve:
Young-adult enrollment looks OK. It was never expected to hit its final target at this stage; young people will likely sign up at the last minute, and the final deadline to enroll isn't until March.
He adds that Romneycare did OK at 30 percent.

I can see the glass as both two-thirds empty and one-third full. The lower individual mandate price allows more young people to opt out, and especially relatively more healthy ones.

It may not be huge spin, and of course, the GOP is counterspinning. It is spinning, though, and per Baker, it's also goalpost-shifting, in lines with delayed implementation of various requirements, like the employer mandate.

But, at best, it's a gray area, as are claims that Obamacare's pending arrival, vs. the Great Recession or whatever, has kept medical costs reigned in. Since one-third or so of what was "Obamacare" still isn't required, claims that it has had a significant part of reigning in medical costs must be taken with a handful or more of salt grains.

That's why Baker's right, or at least half-right, in another piece — Obamacare can't be a failure if Dear Leader keeps delaying implementation of anything that will be a clusterfuck and spinning whatever has to be trotted out that struggles.

At the same time, and ignoring the conservative spin behind it, per this piece, it does make one wonder about Obamacare's guarantees to insurers. That's why it's laughable for O-bots like Brian Beutler to cite insurers' support for it as proof of how well Obamacare is doing. Hey, Beutler? Be honest — insurers basically have little worry about how it's doing; their only worry is that it doesn't get repealed.

Because of all of this, and seeing the 2010 midterms slaughter, it's no wonder that vulnerable Senate Democrats up for re-election want as little to do with Obamacare as possible, in many cases.

And, how hard is it to look that information up? The New York Times runs a big story on this, at the top link, and doesn't even offer the Romneycare numbers as comparison, let alone try to drop a bit of analysis in the story.

January 14, 2014

Looking at degrees of PEDing confessionals

A number of MLB players have made some sort of confession or semi-confession about using steroids, human growth hormone or other performance enhancing drugs. The degree of sincerity, and the degree of revelation, of said confessions led me to think about some sort of scoring system.

I was going to slice them into quarter-degrees, as in one-quarter, one-half, three-quarters, and fully confessional, taking into account both apparent sincerity and degree of revelation, but thought that was too tight.

Then, when I thought of one-third splits, I realized that nobody has fully spilled the beans on the "revelation" side, so I decided to go back to one-quarter splits.

Finally, I figured stars, like book ratings, would work, and thus devised a 0-5 star system.

That said, here we go:

The anti-confessional (negative stars): Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Who else? Well, add Alex Rodriguez and his mess. Being legally aggressive when past issues get you in trouble lands you here.

The non-confessional, hilarious division (zero stars): Viagra-touting (and why? other than a steroid side effect?) Rafael Palmeiro and English-ability losing Sammy Sosa land here, of course.

The non-confessional, play it straight division (one star): This is players, normally below the All-Star level, and certainly below the Hall of Fame level, who figure, "I got nabbed, I'm not that famous, the issue will go away soon enough." We've had a number of those, and will likely have more. Sadly, we can probably expect them to remain high among Latino players from the Caribbean.

The pseudo-confessional (two starts): Mark McGwire. Hey, I'm a Cards fan. But, I'm also skeptical enough, and sometimes cynical enough (both words in their sociological, not philosophical sense) to see crocodile tears. Given that he didn't talk about his A's years, and thus offered very little on the revelation side, he can't be higher than this. Once he gets honest about those Bash Bros. days (and his college ones, if anything goes back that far) he'll jump at least one star.

The heartfelt but limited confessional (three stars): Andy Pettitte. He seemed heartfelt, indeed. But, given that he's still not broken omerta to talk in detail about why he decided that HGH would help injury recovery, how much he had been tempted before, and other issues, we can't go more than this. You have to have the right personality to pull this off, of course.

The in-depth, but still somewhat lacking, confessional (four stars): Jose Canseco and Jason Giambi. The placing of Canseco here, or anywhere, amy infuriate some and cause head-scratching elsewhere, while Giambi may cause other head scratching since he didn't confess to anything specific.

Trust me. Or don't. What I have written, I have written.

On Canseco, his motivation was fame. He knew he hadn't done enough, even for the "I don't care about roiding" crowd of actual BBWAA voters, general big Hall fans, etc., to support him. So, fame and the opportunity to write cheap books for whatever money he could came to play. That said, because he hasn't given us more detail about his own roiding, and more importantly, about how players after his retirement (since his whole career was in the pre-testing era) beat baseball's steroid tests or tried to do so.

Giambi had less to reveal on the "connections" side, perhaps. But, given that the statue of limitations from the BALCO grand jury has surely expired, it would be nice to hear a bit more.

On the personal side, he sounded relieved that a nightmare was over. I have no doubt of his sincerity. In fact, even if he didn't talk about other potential users, just hearing him talk more about what drove him to use, and related issues, would get him an additional one-half star, at least.

And, per what I said especially under the four-star level, but somewhat in general, this is part of my stance on potential Hall of Famers who have used, or most likely have used.

As I've said before, in discussing what degree steroids contributed to the power surge, I want some sort of confession about doing it, plus some sort of description of HOW you did it, so we can tighten future testing. Yes, that's a partial will o' the wisp, but not totally so. If it were total, then why test at all? Or why ban at all? (I say this to commenters at places like Fangraphs, where I've gotten bashed before.)

Anyway, let's hope we have to have fewer confessions in the future. Let's hope some past confessors look at the A-Rod mess and decide to provide us some further information, so we have teeth to try to make those confessionals less common.

January 13, 2014

#MalcolmGladwell can gladly rot in a secular hell

If there were a hell, Malcolm Gladwell could gladly rot in it.

I knew, with his appearance on Glen Beck's show, that he had jumped the shark. Other reviews of his new book pretty much indicated that his pseudo-intellectual, pseudo-critical thinking had become even more pseudo recently.

But, this interview with him in an online Christian magazine is a straw too far.

And non-Gnu Atheists who still have a benighted view of him should probably rethink.

Indirectly, by indicating that forgiving comes from "weapons of the spirit," he's peddling some version of the "no morality without god" idea. True that he doesn't say forgiving comes ONLY from that, but, given that the book is in part about his reconversion, and ideas he's gained from that, I am taking that ONLY as a reasonable inference. That's reinforced by a comment like this:
What I understand now is that I was one of those people who did not appreciate the weapons of the spirit.
Because, before what we today call religion was formed, nobody could forgive anybody, right?

But, that's not all.

The interview points out how utterly vapid he has now become in general. Here's a sampling.
Why are so many successful entrepreneurs dyslexic? Why did so many American presidents and British prime ministers lose a parent in childhood?
Gladwell, in the interview, and in general, presents no statistics to back up his blank-check assertions. What's "so many"? Ten percent? Twenty? Thirty? Tell us, Malcolm, then give us some more details.

Back to that second rhetorical question, though.
Why did so many American presidents and British prime ministers lose a parent in childhood?
Uhh, because before 1900, the average life expectancy was below 50 and a lot of women died in childbirth?

Beyond that, being an orphan is no guarantor of spiritual enlightenment in general, nor of general life success.

Hell, Gladwell, let's just go to Rumanian orphanages then, and look for our next popes, our next UN Secretary General, etc., etc. If Rumania doesn't work, Rwanda, Cambodia and other places will be glad to put your insipidness to the test.

What's next? "Brightsided: The Orphan's Manual to a New Life"? 

Or, given his previous shilling for Big Tobacco: "Smoke if You've Got 'Em and Give Your Parentless Children a Whole New Life."

And, speaking of non-Gnu Atheists, to work

That leads me to riff to the battle/schism between Gnu Atheists and  Skeptics™. I know a few of the latter who think that, if Gladwell's not great, he's at least not bad.

Seriously?

I encourage a lot of rethinking. Anybody, whether on general intellectual matters or general moral ones, among broad-minded thinkers, who can give Gladwell even a "not bad" has a variety of critical thinking I don't want. 

Next thing you know, he'll be turning up as a 2016 GOP campaign consultant. 

And no, I'm not joking. Given that his Big Tobacco background reflects larger connections, and work history, in the conservative think tank shark tank, this seriously would not surprise me.

(Note: The cult of Gladwell is another reason I'd gladly help Deadspin with its desire to kill off Bill Simmons.)

Beyond this, per the website? I'm about sick of the "intentionally living" phrase. To some degree, at least from some people, it's become a spirituality superiority bit of word candy.

Assuming he picks it up on Twitter, this ought to give Yasha Levine some fun. 

US Constitution from "horse and buggy era"

So says Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Elena Kagan, in the SCOTUS case about presidential recess appointments.
Kagan said the clause may be a “historic relic” from “the horse and buggy era,” when presidents needed the authority to fill vacancies because lawmakers were out of town and could not return on short notice. More recently, she said, presidents of both parties have used the appointment power “as a way to deal, not with congressional absence, but with congressional intransigence, with a Congress that simply does not want to approve appointments that the president thinks ought to be approved.”
She suggested that the new use of the clause was problematic.

Justice Stephen G. Breyer said he had scoured the historical and legal materials. “I can’t find anything,” he said, “that says the purpose of this clause has anything at all to do with political fights between Congress and the president.”

The problem of congressional absence no longer exists, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said. “The Senate — I think to be candid — the Senate is always available,” she said. “They can be called back on very short notice.”
Partisan politics aside, yes, Kagan is right that recess appointments are from the horse and buggy era. Yeah, the entire body of our constitution is. So's every amendment before the 16th. Tell that to Scalia and his moronic "originalism." Doorknob, I wish more Americans in general would stop worshiping the body part of our constitution like holy writ. It's not. It's not even close. It's hopelessly anachronistic in today's era of computers and nuclear weapons.

Solutions? I'd love to scrap a lot of it, but given today's climate, amending the constitution would draw Tea Party nonsense enough to stuff a room to the raptors. We've already heard plenty of Tea Party talk about junking the 17th Amendment and direct election of U.S. Senators. 

And, partisan politics not aside, per SCOTUSblog, Obama's going to lose this one. Because, per Lyle Denniston, the Senate controls when it's in session or not, as notes the Chief, John Roberts, its power to confirm or block presidential appointments is absolute. And, I really don't see five Justices finding a non-originalist interpretation to preserve some degree of presidential recess appointment power for the world of the 21st century. I hate to think this, because a purely partisan action by Senate Republicans brought us to this point, but on the letter of the law, Obama doesn't have a leg to stand on.

On the spirit of the constitution? Depends on whether your spirit is originalist, or even close. Frankly, this is one of those era where horse and buggy is so far away from today, reflecting Frederick the Great's doubt that the US would survive, that I don't see how constitutional scholars can agree on a non-originalist interpretation.

Solution? Parliamentary government, of course, with a relatively disempowered Senate, and a prime minister and cabinet officials as part of the House. Add in electing part of the House off a national list, like Germany and others, so as to get third parties into the House, and there you go.

Chances of getting adopted? The same as Sarah Palin outing herself as a lesbian who had a threesome with both Mary and Liz Cheney.

Minor tweak? Now that Harry Reid's curtailed the filibuster, a Senate majority can always take the next step, and control Senate rules on exactly how a recess is defined, and do its best to kill the phantom recess.

SCOTUS ruling on AZ abortion ban good news for Texas pro-choice?

There's always a temptation to read too much into tea leaf reading of Supreme Court decisions.

That said, it would seem that the Supreme Court's refusal to hear an appeal from the state of Arizona, after the Ninth Circuit ruled its post-20 week ban on abortions was unconstitutional, would be good news for Planned Parenthood and other challengers to Texas' similar law.

If that's good news, it would, since the Fifth Circuit isn't the Ninth, likely ultimately come via a positive Supreme Court ruling against Texas.

That,  in turn, would have Greg Abbott stretching his lead as Texas' money-waster in chief.