January 25, 2014

This week in baseball, #roiding and #Cooperstown

While Baseball Writers of America Association Hall of Fame squabbled over if some writers weren't practicing steroid holier than thou stances in discussing the eventual entry, or not, to Cooperstown of the likes of Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, Pudge Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez, Gary Sheffield and others, I unpacked what was going on behind the scenes.

Part of that is squabbles over the size the Hall of Fame should be — the classic stances being "big Hall" and "small Hall." Yours truly is definitely a small Hall type.

That said, let's proceed to look at what's at stake.

First is how American myth and American reality collide in Cooperstown. Both big Hall and small Hall voters and fans have points to stand on and points to concede here.

Second, if we are going to consider voting some of these players in, I not only say it's not being "holier than thou," I insist there are good reasons for some confession by players (and others). And, here, I look at the degrees of confessional a few players have offered.

Third, I blast out of the water the idea of a "steroid wing" at Cooperstown.

Fourth, contra the wailing of big Hall types about an ever-worsening backlog, I clearly show that if you're a small Haller like me who also has a principled "authenticity" stance on roiding, there really isn't that much of a backlog. And in doing so, upset a few fans of Vladimir Guerrero, at least.

Fifth, I question the authenticity of some big Hallers who pull out the "holier than thou" cries against small Hallers, especially, again, small Hallers with a strong stand on roiding.

Texas politics gets an early wild and crazy week

It was a wild and crazy one.

Let's start with the Democratic race for the U.S. Senate.

After gubernatorial hopeful Wendy Davis, puzzlingly, endorsed David Alameel, many of us wondered if he was a pro-life candidate, which only increased the puzzlement. He eventually said he was pro-choice. However, if so, he's apparently neglected to tell a bunch of powerful Dallas Catholics; so far, his campaign has yet to address this issue.

So far, mainstream media pundits in Texas' biggest metro areas also have yet to address this issue, even though Dem flacks like Matt Angle insist that old Republican donations by Alameel mean nothing. Matty Boy has yet to explicitly address the pro-life issues, though.

Davis apparently had other puzzlement, helped little by those media pundits pouncing on a few inconsistencies in her campaign bio.

That didn't bother me a lot, though it was interesting.

However, it led me to see something much more interesting. And that is how Davis, who talks about being raised by a single mother, seems to have pretty much written out her mother from the adult years of her campaign life.

Meanwhile, pundits, the Davis and Greg Abbott campaigns, and others, continued to dispute whether she had beat Abbott or not on the first quarter-pole campaign finance marker.

Abbott showed just how thin his skin is; upset by "Wheelchair Ken" responses to "Abortion Barbie" mudslinging by his surrogates, he eventually begged for the help of Andrew Breitbart scion James O'Keefe.

But, not all the fun was in the governor's race.

Four Republican candidates for lieutenant governor were throwing ever-sharper elbows in an ever-smaller patch of GOP Lite Guv campaign space. All of them, as blogger P.Diddle says, in various ways want to fight the poor Ill Eagles. That's why I speculate Jerry Patterson appealed for Tejano votes, not Latino or Hispanic ones.

Each of the four his his own quirky personality. But, if this race comes down to money, Patterson may be out in the cold.

If all this weren't enough, Louie Gohmert hit a new stupidity low. If we're lucky, this one will remove him from the state of Texas politics a decade or so early.

And, Rick Perry, possibly tired of visits to California and Illinois, decided to take his carny barker road show international — to Davos, specifically.

January 24, 2014

Post-Tanaka, one pitcher missing in trade rumors

With Masahiro Tanaka now signed, the MLB rumor mill has moved on to not only further free agent dominoes, but the possibility of trades of top pitchers.

We hear plenty about David Price. Some about James Shields. Even a bit about Max Scherzer.

Where's Cliff Lee in the mix?

He's signed for two more years plus an option, so under more control than any of the above three. Generally good health, for another plus. And, a lefty.

All we need now is for Ruben Amaro to finally push the "rebuild" button.

And, here's a "possible."

Sending Uncle Cliffy to the Red Sox.

For whom?

Let's say Will Middlebrooks, Mike Carp, and a minor league pitching prospect and a minor league OF or SS prospect.

That, especially with Jon Lester willing to give Boston a home discount on a contract extension, plus the possibility of rolling over John Lackey's 2015 option into a new contract, gives the Sox a great top of the rotation. And, they can then let both Jake Peavy and Ryan Dempster walk after this year, or trade one of them now. That, in turn, frees up free agent money for 2015.

It also lets Boston address the jam on the left half of the infield by resigning Stephen Drew and going with him and Xander Bogaerts.  And, it certainly lets the Phillies rebuild, and get younger.

If not Boston, I'm sure there are other "possibles." Would the Rangers be interested? It would probably be more prospects and fewer MLB players in a trade from them. The Mariners?

Why don't I think the Phillies would get more?

Lee's 35 this season, for one thing. I noted he's generally been healthy, but, at some point, he's likely to start running out of gas in the tank. 

Second, as runs on pitchers have shown, they're that valuable. So, getting a top minor league prospect, maybe even two, would definitely help for the long term.

Third, Philly is a batters' park. Freeing up his salary lets them focus on restocking on position players in free agency, per the link.

MLB places 3 #Cardinals in top 100 prospects

MLB.com has just released its Top 100 prospects list. On it, Oscar Taveras comes in at No. 3, Kolten Wong at 58, and Stephen Piscotty at No. 98.

Fair enough? I'd be OK with Taveras at that rank.

Wong? Yes, his cup of coffee with the Cardinals wasn't that good last year, but he did have that cup of coffee, which could and should help him this year. Besides, his speed alone, and theoretically, his general baserunning (ignoring that World Series boo-boo) mean that he's going to help change team dynamics right there. I could have moved him a dozen spots higher.

Piscotty sounds about right. A lot of hype about him so far, but that was down at Springfield and AA. Let's see what he does in Memphis before saying that's too low. Let's also remember, he's a corner OF, not a center fielder.

And, is anybody missing? I might have put Greg Garcia somewhere in the 90-100 range myself. No higher, but, yes, there.

Your thoughts?

January 23, 2014

Dear #WendyDavis — where's your mom?

That rhetorical question is not meant to be snarky, and certainly not to be food for wingnut chum. Nor is it meant to be callous, if her mother, like her father, has died. It's serious and it relates to central themes of her campaign biography. I'll unpack that below.

(And, from what teh Google reveals, Virginia Cornstubble is still alive, and living in North Richland Hills.)

After Wayne Slater's piece questioning some details of Wendy Davis' campaign biography, next, her mother's education got in the spotlight.

BUT! ...

While Davis says she's a single mother raised by a single mother, her mom herself, and Davis' adult-life relation to her, details of her education aside, is strangely nowhere near the spotlight, at least not in my vision.

(And, sorry, P.Diddle and his readers; I do think this is an issue of some sort. Should she not be elected, but eventually nominated to some federal position or something, it would remain an issue, in my mind.)

First, back to the story about her mom's education.

Davis says elsewhere that she confused her mom's number of years of school with her grandfather's. And, yes, as weird as it sounds (I thought it was a Poe at first), her mom's name, after remarriage, is Cornstubble, per Jonathan Tilove.

He links to PolitiFact, which quotes Davis' father as having his ex remarry not just once, but twice, and with the second one being "Ira Cornstubble":
Russell said that his ex-wife remarried two or three years after their split and then another time later. He declined to elaborate. According to online Tarrant County records, Davis’ mother, Virginia, whom we failed to reach, married Ira Cornstubble in May 1994.
OK, now we're getting into bizarro world.

Yes, the confusion of Davis' mother and grandfather may be just that.

But, maybe it's another bit of spin.

And, per Tilove, I guess this Facebook page is authentic. It's weird to NOT have Davis' own pic among any pics in general besides the profile pic, or to not see Wendy Davis listed among her mom's family, or a personal Facebook page she might have listed as a "friend" of her mother's, on her mom's page.

That said, NONE of her kids is listed as family. Just nieces, nephews and grandchildren. Only one of Wendy's children is listed among those grandkids.

So, with all that stipulated, beyond Poe, or bizarro world, I want to follow up on this thread from Tilove:
Those stories were written as Davis was at her father's bedside where he lay dying. I recall at the time that the scene provoked a certain cognitive dissonance - not because of anything she had said, and not because it did not make perfect sense that she would be there, but because, in the shorthand political narrative of her life, her father was, by implication, the heavy - the father who had left her mother with four children and provided precious little in financial support. But of course, in the messy reality of life, her father could have left the family in the financial lurch, and still, as she toldVogue, be "a good dad."
Agreed, agreed, agreed.

Now, back to her mom, and details about her education and why, since she's not portrayed as the "heavy," we don't hear more about her?

As I said in my deleted post about what I thought was a Poe, did anybody in the media try to call Davis' mom about any of this? I mean, before he died, her dad was being quoted all the time, but I never heard word one from Davis' mom.

Now, she may already be dead. That Facebook page was last updated in 2011.

But, if we can't get one word FROM Davis' mom, if she's dead, what about one word from Davis ABOUT her mom? Other than saying she was a single mother whose one parent was a single mother, Davis' campaign biography is very sketchy in talking about her later-life relationship to her mom. As is that Facebook page of her mom's.

It's not lying, it's not spinning. It's just a bit of a knowledge black hole that I, at least, find weird.

Maybe there's degrees of dysfunctionality, not just bootstrap success, that Wendy doesn't want to talk about as much. For her dad, Jerry, the marriage to Virginia was his second, per his obit.

Meanwhile, in another media obit for him, Davis says this about the woman who married her dad about the time Davis was graduating high school:
“He was surrounded by his children and his wife, our stepmom, Suzi [McLaughlin]," Davis wrote. During his time in the hospital, there was never a moment that one of us wasn't by his side. We, and the community, will forever be grateful for the significant impact he made on our lives. He and his warm, sparkling brown eyes will be deeply missed. My family and I thank you for surrounding us with your prayers and comfort during this time.”
More interesting indeed, the "stepmom." I suppose it's not uncommon, but, it just seems interesting to call her that when married your dad about the time you became an adult, and you never regularly, if at all, lived under their combined roof.

Other media obits also seem to have McLaughin seemingly close to Davis.

For how long? And for how long had she had the connection to her biological mother fade?

As Tilove noted, citing an L.A. Times story, details can trip you up — he referenced Gary Hart(pence).

To be honest, I haven't seen a famous or semi-famous person write a parent out of their own biography this thoroughly since I read and reviewed Chris Steadman's Faitheist. And, yes, I wrote about the eyebrows that whitewash raised, and why, and let speculation run a bit. 

So, I'm going to offer a tentative why.

I think it's about money. I'll venture that Davis' first stepfather, her mom's second husband, didn't offer any of it to her. Or, maybe, it was her second stepfather. (I'm assuming that she called both of them that with a bit of tongue in cheek.) This would have been at the time of her attendance at TCU and Harvard. Per the bit of info from the Wayne Slater story, seems that she and her then-husband also eventually disagreed over who paid what for her higher education.

And, as for fellow blogger P.Diddle wondering about the propriety of Slater letting an acquaintance of Davis from Fort Worth City Council days speak off the record, I can offer a tentative answer to that. I think she not only throws sharp elbows at times, she wields the occasional shiv. The off-the-record person probably already got shivved once and doesn't want a repeat experience. If not a fellow member of the council, it's a former law practice colleague of hers. That sounds even more likely. 

Remember, if Davis loses, it's back to her private law practice, heavily dependent on state contracts. Anonymous No. 1, if he or she is a lawyer, full well knows that.

I may be overreading things, and I may be harshing her mallow (per a Facebook friend) a bit too much on all of these issues, but,  per Tilove and Hart(pence), it's one of those things where you tug at a string, and eventually, other strings unravel. And, I'm one of those people who, when I see a loose string, I start tugging. And, ever since her endorsement of David Alameel, who, it seems, may not be telling the full truth about being a pro-choice candidate, loose strings keep popping up. And that's why, though I debated about writing anything or not, I finally decided I needed to.

I mentioned Chris Steadman, and linked to my blogging about him, to note that this isn't a sexism issue. Not in my questioning, at least. (That said, Davis hasn't written her mom out of her story as much as Steadman did his dad.)

For people who know more about Davis, I'd love to hear more about her adult-life relationship to her (biological) mother. 

Update: Her daughters are defending the "trailer park" part of her story, but neither one is talking about their grandmother, in an albeit brief piece with a reporter not thinking to ask about this.

I know I run the risk of being tagged as a "Davis hater" or something. Well, let me state that, I'd certainly take her over Abbott. But, I'd take Green candidate Brandon Parmer over Davis, unless he's got some massive, unknown skeletons in his closet. I'm not a registered Green, but, a Green is likely to be stronger on environmental issues, especially for national-level offices, and also, simply thinking outside the box more on other issues. That said, I'm not a registered Green, either. Especially at the national level, it still seems to semi-officially flirt with alternative pseudo-medicine too much, among other things, and to be too blank check in its opposition to nuclear power, not just in its current form, but any form. And, we have no organized, ballot-represented Socialist party here. So, leaning Green without officially aligning, is my best stance.

John Randolph of Roanoke called himself a "tertium quid," a "third something," in the U.S. Congress, rather than align with either the Federalists or the Democratic-Republicans. More and more, I feel that way about myself.

Fortunately, though my research hasn't been as thorough as late 2007 and early  2008 with Barack Obama, I had read enough, before Davis' official announcement of candidacy, that I had made no major emotional investment in her campaign.

Again, would she be better than Abbott? Yes. That said, if we could dig up Bill Clements, he'd be better than Abbott, too. No wonder many '60s activists wound up no longer voting.

Doctors' diagnoses aren't always "conservative" and don't miss "miracle recoveries"

Certainly not all the time.

For the second time in 18 months, I have had a friend or acquaintance, approximately my age, die of cancer.

The man who just died? He was given six months to live after a diagnosis of terminal cancer. Didn't make it that long.

The woman who died in October 2012? She had a recurrence of cancer that hit so fast she was in a coma within 24 hours or so of being rushed to the hospital. (I suspect it appeared even faster than it was, because Kishi was trying not to tell her husband.) She died before that week was out.

The claim that many doctors are conservative on their diagnoses, usually on cancer cases, is often tied with a mislabeling of spontaneous remissions of cancer as "miracle cures."

Well, there are no such things.

What there is, is a whole constellation of diseases, many of them still poorly understood, lumped under the label of "cancer."

I'm not a doctor, so I don't know for sure all of the reasons doctors give diagnoses that often, but by no means always, turn out to be conservative.

One might be for the doctor wanting to appear heroic and salvific by underdiagnosing the likelihood of full recovery, rather than appearing "defeated" with too optimistic of an assessment.

Another might be a "by the book" system that says something like: "Stage IV bladder cancer, diagnosed one week ago, X percent advanced = Y months left to live."

In any case, I see "conservative" diagnoses and alleged "miracle recoveries" all tied together. Doctors are afraid to be fully human, patients and families put them on a pedestal, and, at the same time, magical thinking still permeates much of American life.

With Tanaka gone, what about other free agent pieces? And #Cardinals contracts?

Jonah Keri takes a flier on how the rest of the MLB free agent jam might break out now that the Yankees have signed Masahiro Tanaka. I agree with about two-thirds of it.

David Price will be traded to somebody during the season. The Rays have seen Clayton Kershaw's, now Tanaka's contracts; they know that, if he has a good year, he's going to get $20M that final arbitration year, if not more. I can see Arizona as a possible landing spot, yes. However, other teams could push themselves in the mix, too. Boston wouldn't be a total surprise, nor would the Dodgers.

On the fly balls and Ubaldo Jimenez, hmm, yeah, he might not be a bad fit in Anaheim, and yes, it is a bit at least on the pitcher friendly side. 3/$45 could be "fair" on both sides.

I am less certain than Keri about future landing spots on either Kendrys Morales or Nelson Cruz. The Prince Fielder-Ian Kinsler trade let the Tigers upgrade their D, and this would be a definite step backward for a declining asset. Where Cruz does go, I'm not sure. But, Detroit doesn't dazzle. He, like Boston shortstop Stephen Drew, could wind up settling on a one-year pillow back with the home club.

And, per Keri's analysis, I could see Morales there, but just barely. You hesitate to offer a longer-term deal, but, with the comp picks, short-term deals aren't good either, anymore. If I'm the Rangers, I'd prefer to cut a one-year deal with Cruz, I think.

If I'm the Rangers? I see them chasing Bronson Arroyo before going after Morales. No, he's not Tanaka, but he's a cheap "filler" without a tender offer from the Reds, so the Rangers don't lose a draft pick.

Interesting possible on the Rays, on Ervin Santana. Wouldn't be a bad deal if the price is right.

I also wouldn't be surprised to see the Mariners make a run at any of the pitchers on the list.

I also expect sidebar fallout in, say, 2016. The Cards will start looking at their young guns and seeing about Allen Craig type contracts on one or two of them -- buying up not just arb years but, say, 1 or 2 free agent years. So, somebody in the mix of Lance Lynn, Shelby Miller and Michael Wacha could get some nice extensions in 2016; maybe Trevor Rosenthal in 2017.

January 22, 2014

Is it OK to call Greg Abbott #WheelchairKen?

Well, just maybe it is. Not only has he not asked surrogates of his to stop calling Wendy Davis "Abortion Barbie," he's now personally gone sneering about Houston Mayor Annise Parker, as Burnt Orange Report notes.

Yes, you upped the nastiness ante here, Mr. AG.

And, if you're going to rely on a ratfink like James O'Keefe to craft a counternarrative, you've hit another new low:



As for the merits of Abbott's attempt to block Parker, I believe the SCOTUS ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act case puts Parker in good standing. And, given that this was a federal ruling, the request by her to move the case to federal court, where it was going to end up anyway, is only sensical.

Actually, knowing where he came from, and the thinness of his legal reasoning on case after case, issue after issue, #DuncanvilleDingbat is fine, too. Or #DuncanvilleDisgrace.

Why don't you, instead, start filing cases against filling stations for malfunctioning gas tanks? Oh, I forgot, the man who wants to be your wingman, current Ag Secretary Todd Staples, doesn't inspect those any more.

As for challenging narratives, getting a big negligent damages lawsuit settlement, then being OK with your GOP establishment pulling up the "tort reform" ladder after you, while still claiming others could win a similar lawsuit today? Puhleeze.

And, we sure as hell don't need anybody from the Sarah Palin family talking to Davis about family values.

UPDATE: It looks like O'Keefe did his usual selective editing and mixing on this video. Per the Trib's linking to the Statesman's piece) for some reason, its video is now down):
(T)he raw video indicates that the laughter was selectively edited into the clip. The Austin American-Statesman compared the raw and edited videos and found there were distortions.
"Rick, I'm shocked, shocked I tell you, that there's selective editing going on here!"

#WendyDavis - not ready for the big leagues? Or, getting caught napping? (updated)

This piece by Wayne Slater, dean of the Morning News' political writers, tends to increase thoughts that I had since last December, with her pandering to moderates in Waxahachie, that she had some rough edges and time would tell how much she would overcome them.

UPDATED, Jan. 22: It's hard-hitting but straightforward, and in no way a hack job.

But, it was turned into a hack job by the Abbott campaign, of course.

James Moore says it is sexist, because Texans would be drooling over a similar life story from a man. I'll give him half a point there, and a full point for saying, "This is Texas, of course, and political idiocy is a bigger bumper crop than oil."

At the same time, as director of the Progress Texas PAC, Moore's got a dog in this hunt.

Per CNN, without a dog in the hunt, Jeff Davis is tired of the Abbott campaign attack dogs. And since, for better or for worse, Wendy has become political BFFs with folks like the Bass family, and Jeff surely still has connections, this could backfire.

One could argue Davis isn't ready for the big leagues; Moore says she could have done better than used "tighter language":
This isn't to say her campaign hasn't bungled a few things in its early stages. Details would have prevented the current attack. ...

The Davis Campaign should have come up with something considerably better for a response than having an articulate candidate say she needed to use "tighter language" because it suggests there is a marketing team at work and not a basic truth.
Or, one could argue that, given she worked hard enough to be Texas Monthly's "Rookie of The Year" in 2009 in the Texas Senate, graduated first in her class before going to Harvard Law and other things, that maybe she thought she'd get more of a pass from the media than she has, on her "loose language," her campaign finance reporting and more. Along the lines of Moore, who knows about packaging politicians, maybe it's not that there's a marketing team at work, but the WRONG one.

And, because I don't think Slater's original piece was a hack job, and while it may have been a bit sexist, it wasn't just that, and it wasn't that, that much, back to my original piece below the fold.

I think there's still enough to raise an eyebrow or two, and if the story isn't "tight" enough, how much of it unravels?

Is the #Belichick era closing in New England?

Two assistant coaches leaving the team. One, Pepper Johnson, on that first link, unhappy he didn't get to move up to defensive coordinator. The other to leave, O-line coach Dante Scarnecchia, takes 30 years with the club off the table.

Tom Brady likely on his contract before retiring, although maybe he'd like some post-Belichick time, and, with four years left, could have that happen. But that's not likely. I doubt Belichick will retire before Brady does.

Belichick going off half-cocked on Wes Welker, as I blogged about here.

Don't get me wrong, he's been a great coach. But, like Phil Jackson and Tony LaRussa, maybe he's hit his expiration date.

And, for that matter, the Patriots probably have an expiration date, too. No telling how good, or not, Vince Wilfork is next year. Even if Aqib Talib is healthy, they still have a thin secondary. And, he's not totally young, in NFL years, for a cornerback anymore.

Losing your O-line coach, the one who's been there more than a decade, won't help the vaunted rushing game. Nor pass protection. And, speaking of passing ...

Post-Welker, post-Aaron Hernandez, and an iffy Rob Gronkowski, Brady has a thin receiving corps.

That said, let's not blame all of his overthrows in the Broncos game on his receiving cast, although he kind of went there himself. Albeit on a worse weather day, Brady had plenty of miscues the week before. And in the last couple of weeks of the regular season.

At least they were overthrows, so Pats fans know his arm isn't near to being shot.

Unless he was overcompensating.

Seriously, throw out game-winning drives this year (which mean you were behind in the first place), and Brady's been on a steady decline for several years. Throwing out his one-game injury season of 2008, he had a sub-90 season quarterback rating for the first time since 2003. And, while a fair amount of that may be blamable on all of the above issues plus a run-heavy offense, is all of it?

Meanwhile?

Miami will be hungry after this year's playoff near miss, and Ryan Tannehill will be better with experience. Ditto on Geno Smith in New York. (I think. If he can get worse, the Jets are in a lot of trouble.)

And, if Brady is aging, and all of these other things, maybe Belichick won't stick for four more years after all. If the Pats had won it all this year, an imminent retirement wouldn't have surprised me.

Ta-Nehesi Coates comes out of a closet, no thanks to #GnuAtheists

The outstanding, thought-provoking Atlantic Monthly columnist Ta-Nehesi Coates has "outed" himself as an atheist:
I don't have any gospel of my own. [Tony Judt's history book] Postwar, and the early pages of Bloodlands, have revealed a truth to me: I am an atheist. (I have recently realized this.) I don't believe the arc of the universe bends towards justice. I don't even believe in an arc. I believe in chaos. I believe powerful people who think they can make Utopia out of chaos should be watched closely. I don't know that it all ends badly. But I think it probably does. 
He goes on to say that he's not a cynic. Instead, he presents himself as a skeptical realist who finally realized where his journey had led.

That said, if not for generalized Gnu Atheists, he might have come out earlier. He calls work by Carl Sagan an effective argument for atheism, but then notes:
Perhaps it’s just me, but many of my encounters with atheist [sic] remind me of my encounters with the born-again. Indeed I often suspect that the latter was once the former, and is really angry about it.
I'd agree. So would many other non-Gnu Atheists.

Coates apologized five days later, claiming he had perpetuated a stereotype:
One often doesn't realize he's invoked a stereotype until after the fact. I received quite a bit of pushback in comments, and on twitter, accusing me of doing just that. I actually hadn't realized that there was a stereotype of the overbearing atheist. But I did know that when you generalize about broad groups of people, you often end up in trouble. 

So it was with me.  All I can really say is the following--My bad, ye band of godless heathens. Or more seriously, I was wrong to speak in such a sweeping manner. Weasel phrases like "Perhaps it's just me" don't make it right.
He should have stuck by his guns. When enough empirical observation points about a group, in general, are true, it's called, per my earlier comment, a "generalization," not a stereotype. The borders can be fuzzy, yes.

In the last six months, I've gotten a bit more nuanced my my generalizations. I may soon call some people semi-Gnus as part of that.

But, as long as the likes of P.Z. Myers and David Silverman actively fold, spindle and mutilate facts at times, in the pursuit of atheist evangelism, I'll still talk about others, individually and as members of a group, as Gnu Atheists.

And, per Coates, I too won't use this, not even plain old "atheism," as a primary definer of my philosophical and metaphysical take on the world.

Besides, although the phrase "Gnu Atheist" wasn't around 60 years ago, in "The Rebel," Camus wrote of a species of atheist that needed a god to exist, in order to have something to rebel against.

So, welcome, Ta-Nehisi. There's plenty another metaphysical naturalist who feels, thinks, and acts on these issues pretty much like you.

And, given that "diversity" is an issue, Gnu Atheists might just realize that, with Coates, Neal de Grasse Tyson (see this talk of his on Bill Moyers) and others, you might increase that diversity with honey instead of vinegar.

But, I'm not currently holding my breath.

#Yankees get #Tanaka — but, can they win?

Not much to add, on the surface, beyond what others have said, about the Yankees signing of Japanese stud Masahiro Tanaka for 7 years and $155 million. But, I do have a few thoughts.

The four-year opt-out is interesting. Is this going to become more of a trend, at least among pitchers? And, if players and their agents want it, what about owners and GMs wanting to make it mutual.

I mean, what if Tanaka, or Clayton Kershaw, also with an opt-out, suddenly become Tim Lincecum and, all the brilliance that seemed to lay ahead now no longer does? If I'm a GM, I'm insisting that become a two-way street.

Second, when I saw the early numbers being floated, I expected at least six years, and more than $20M per year, which this is. So, no real surprises in the final numbers.

Third, is Robinson Cano now even more pissed, after this contract and the ones to Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury? Maybe at least as pissed as Albert Pujols two years ago? Will somebody in Seattle please stick a mike on him? Would be a diversion from Richard Sherman.

Fourth, how many years will you be above the lux tax limit?A bazillion, probably.

Fifth, can the Yankees compete? Can they win?

My answer? Maybe for a wild card. Barrying injuries (and hey, David Schoenfield, Boston was luckier that way last year, arguably, than the Cardinals) it's not going to be easy for New York to catch them.

Alex Rodriguez was still above league average at 3B, and Eduardo Nunez is not the long-term answer.. I don't expect Jeter to hit 2012 form this year. Mark Teixeira will decline further. You've got crap at 2B. You've got a horrible defensive infield. And, who knows how well the back half of the pitching staff will do on starters, or if Sabathia and Kuroda won't slip further. Plus, we don't know much about the whole bullpen, with Rivera's retirement.

All the changes are probably little more than treading water for a team that outperformed its Pythagorean by six games last year and no longer has Mo as an end-of-game safety blanket.

Another reason Yankee fans shouldn't jump up and down too much? As of the middle of next season, your likely starting lineup will all be 30 or older
The projected lineup of the New York Yankees, with their age as of July 1, 2014:
  1. Jacoby Ellsbury, CF, 30
  2. Derek Jeter, SS, 39
  3. Carlos Beltran, RF, 36
  4. Mark Teixeira, 1B, 33
  5. Brian McCann, C, 30
  6. Alfonso Soriano, DH, 38
  7. Brett Gardner, LF, 30
  8. Kelly Johnson, 3B, 31
  9. Brian Roberts, 2B, 36

Congratulations. You're likely now the official California Angels, only worse in some ways. Maybe a few games better, maybe not. At least Arte Moreno's still not in lux tax territory, let alone as a repeat offender.

I'll pencil you in at 85 wins, about the same as last year. Jonah Keri's in roughly the same frame of mind, saying the Yankees could still finish third in the AL East. If I'm generous, you get 88 wins, but still no more than a 50-50 shot at a wild card slot.

And, it doesn't get better after this year. Let's assume Jeter has brains and retires after this year. Who replaces him? Let's assume the Steinbrenners tire of the drama and dump A-Rod permanently at some point in the future. Who replaces him? Who's your long-term answer at second?

Let's for fun assume the Captain doesn't retire, and the Steinbrenners and Cashman decide to accept A-Rod back, in part because free agent third-basemen pretty much suck next year. Congrats! Most of your lineup is now guaranteed to be 31 or older. Whomever likely replaces Soriano at DH will probably be 30-plus.

Chinese and US oil thirst, economics, and global warming

Trust me, these threads all tie together.

How?

Yesterday, the International Energy Agency reported that American oil demand grew at a higher rate in 2013 than Chinese oil demand.

It seems to be in part an American economic speed-up, primarily in the production of petrochemicals. It was the first time since 1999 that a US rate increase outstripped China. And, China's growth rate was the weakest in six years.

So, is the Chinese bubble starting to deflate? What's up there? Economists have speculated about that possibility for a full year or more, but, interestingly, I didn't see it mentioned in any news reports about the IEA story.

And, apparently some sort of slowdown is happening. A Chinese factory index has contracted for the first time in six months (which means there was a contraction in the middle of last year).

The US? This is due to increased production, not more car driving. The production is primarily in refined gasoline and diesel, more and more of it being exported, followed by petrochemicals.

It will be interesting to see how "energy security" hawks fight it out with oil producers wanting to now have the green light to export unrefined crude, even though the IEA says any surge in US production will be short lived.

Probably because, especially with naturla gas, and somewhat with oil, fracking tends to increase rate of production even more than it tends to increase overall production.

So, the world's new love affair with fracking, based on gas production increases and jobs alike, as detailed here, could have long-term climate implications.

On the natural gas side, it's guaranteed to further crowd out renewable energy as well as coal. (Even in the US, a fair chunk of the increase in renewable energy has been from hydroelectric, not solar or wind.)

And, thus, at the point when natural gas prices go back up, unless fracking delivers major, major amounts of gas, coal will become tempting again, and renewables won't have had that much more development. In short, fracking might deliver little more than 20 years of running in place on greenhouse gases.

Plus, even in the US, it's not clear if casing on wells is sealed tight enough, if valves and pipelines are built well enough, to keep gas leakage below a rate where natural gas for electricity actually becomes worse than coal-fired power plants. Since China's already demonstrated its capacity for shoddy energy, it's growing interest in fracking to replace coal should thus be little reason for huzzahs and handsprings.

That's not even to mention a fracking-based gas boom fueling a new explosion of demand for cheap plastic products.


Welcome new blog followers

Whether you're following me via Blogger, Twitter, or Networked Blogs, welcome.

And, for whatever reason you're following, welcome.

Because I guarantee one thing: You will be hard-pressed to find a more eclectic blog anywhere.

Within 24 hours, I may well blog about baseball (or specifically, the St. Louis Cardinals), atheism, philosophy, Texas and or national politics, history and perhaps even the occasional book review or other matter artistic.

I hope you stick around for the reasons you are following me, and, even if you don't agree with everything I write in that area, or don't have your boat floated by everything I write in other areas, that, overall, you're mentally stimulated and challenged, as well as entertained at times.

January 21, 2014

I will praise #Obamacare for #GohmertPyle being even more teh stupidz

Seriously, if Louie Gohmert has hit a new stupidity low so low that, at the age of 60, he's cancelling his health insurance because he claims Obamacare made it too expensive, bring it on!

(Oh, and there's still oil in parts of his district. Maybe we can see a trifecta of his stupidity, his anger at Obamacare and his general wingnut opposition to real government, including real regulations. Let's say, something like a bad frack job to bubble some methane into his water or something.)

Hete's the details:
“Other people are going to see what I did when I looked into health insurance for my wife and me: that the deductible rate, it doubled, about $3,000 to $6,000, and our policy was going to go from about $300 to about $1,500 a month,” he said during a recent radio interview with Trey Graham, a pastor at First Melissa Baptist Church in Collin County. “I actually don’t have insurance right now, so thank you very much, Obamacare.”

Gohmert’s salary as a member of Congress is $174,000 a year. And his calculations ignore the hefty employer subsidy for which he is eligible — almost $950 per month. He says he will pay the tax that takes effect this year for those without insurance — 1 percent of his annual income.

Health care experts say Gohmert is taking a big risk. He’s 60. His wife, Kathy Gohmert, is 59. At that stage of life, medical expenses are common and unpredictable.

“By not obtaining insurance, you are just rolling the dice, gambling that you are not going to get sick or going to get hit by a car,” said Sabrina Corlette, a research professor at Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute. “Most financial advisers and most independent experts would say it’s a wise move to obtain insurance and basically a no-brainer if you have an employer who is willing to kick in about 70 percent of the cost of your premium.”

That’s the case for Gohmert.

But for months, he’s said he would rather give up his government-supplied insurance than accept any government subsidy. If he did take the subsidy available to federal lawmakers and their aides, he would probably pay a monthly premium of about $600 — far less than the figure he cited on Graham’s show, which aired Sunday.
Reality?

He, and other Congresscritters of both parties, have long been in the same insurance pool as their staffers, who are generally younger and healthier. So, that sucking at the teat is wrong.

Don't cry for Gohmert Pyle, though, whether you're Evita or anybody else. He still gets free outpatient care at Walter Reed and other perks.

And, per what the health care experts say? In Gohmert's case, it's stupider yet because he currently has a negative net worth.

Oh, well, if he gets sick enough, he can learn about real life. He can maybe learn about medical-cost induced bankruptcy, and find out why, for all its imperfections, many red-state folks, including in his district, like Obamacare more than the previous options.

That would be kind of funny, in a schadenfreude way: Louie Gohmert, medically bankrupt. He's already morally and intellectually bankrupt. If something like this happened the way I spell out, we'd have three or four petards hoisting at the same time, wouldn't we?

Of course, some of his supporters will start raising funds for him to buy a new insurance policy if this is real action by him, and not just posturing. And, he will be insured. Stupidity, no more than any other pre-existing condition, cannot bar you from insurance coverage.

An analogy: How roiding is like oilfield fracking

Bear with me. This one's simple.

A growing body of research indicates that fracking an oil well has less effect on total output and more effect on how fast that output is achieved.

In other words, without fracking, a particular well may have had an estimated X thousand barrels of reserves and an estimated Y barrels a day of output. With fracking, X may go up just by 10 percent, but Y goes up by 30 percent.

Result? An apparent gusher that runs dry pretty quickly. (Or, runs dry enough to call for the attempt of a second, even more brutal frack job.)

Light bulb going on in your head now?

Allegedly roiding players had a much greater per-season output, but then, either chronic or acute use-related injuries hit, and the total output wasn't that much greater.

For a player who had greater pre-roiding estimated reserves, a player like a Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens who were at Hall of Fame level without roiding, the decline wasn't so severe and the plateau was higher.

For a Ken Caminiti? Different story.

Food for thought.

And, explains why some players just don't benefit as much in general. You have to have something to build on. You have to do weights and other work to bring out what you're doing with the using. And, even then, things like metabolism may still have an effect, just like some geology works better for fracking than other.

Patterson mixes Alamo with appeal to "Tejanos"

Why do I say exactly that about Texas Republican Lite Guv candidate Jerry Patterson? Because he doesn't use the word "Hispanic" or "Latino," but rather, "Tejano," in this press release email, and that's not all:
Today, Jerry Patterson launched "Tejanos for Patterson," a group comprised of Texans locally and statewide who support Jerry Patterson's candidacy for Lt. Governor.
So, is he filming an announcement on Alamo grounds?

Anyway, next comes a bit of untruth.
"Tejanos represent over 1/4 of all the eligible voters in Texas. Most embrace conservative values. They should be Republicans," said Jerry Patterson, candidate for Lt. Governor. "That's why I'm launching Tejanos for Patterson. It is important for all Hispanics, or Tejanos, as they've proudly called themselves, to know that their voice is not only welcomed here, but sorely needed. My campaign is focused on including all Texans."
Really, on the conservative values? Then why do they consistently lean Democrat in voting?  And, do that many Hispanics in general, or Mexican-Americans in particular, really call themselves "Tejano"? I think that's three lemons, or three noes, Jerry!

And, I wasn't joking about the Alamo part.

Jerry gets some b-roll Alamo (or perhaps San Jacinto, but let's still pretend it's the Alamo) footage in his video of the announcement. Unfortunately, no pix of him unstrapping his hogleg from inside his boot, while at the Shrine of Texas Mythology:



Hey, I guess giving us a laugh factor helps us non-GOPers get entertained by the Repubs in the Lite Guv primary, what with the weird psyches of Dudley Dewless and the Three Blind Mice.

That said, I do know a reason why he uses that particular word. Due to the GOP's voter ID law, panty-knotting worries over voter fraud by illegal immigrants, more panty-knotting worries about keeping a brown tide on the other side of the border, etc., Jerry can't appeal to "Hispanics" or "Latinos" without coming under the guns of Dewless and the other two of the Blind Mice as being soft on immigration.

I also know why there's no footage of him whipping out his pistol. A Mexican-American seeing a batshit-crazy white man talking about "Tejano" while he waves a gun is going to quickly be running like hell.

Besides, with the Alamo and concealed handguns? We know what's really behind that: Texas tiny-penis syndrome, something that infects about three-quarters of the likes of Jerry Patterson, I do believe.

More seriously? If he wants to make a real appeal to Tejanos? Jerry should support the school funding lawsuit.

Back to the Alamo schtick, though. At times, I wish a Texas wing of al Qaeda would blow the damned thing up.

I remember the first time I visited San Antonio. The John Wayne movie had me prepared for something about three times as big as reality. And that's the problem.

And, arguably, since the tiny-penis syndrome at San Jacinto was deliberately built taller than the Washington Monument, it, too, is some sort of Shrine to Texas Mythology, is it not?

I've been to Sonoma, where California's brief Bear Flag Republic was started. (California was one of three states besides Texas — ignore history that claims Texas was one of two states — to be an independent republic before joining the United States, along with Vermont and Hawaii.) There's a tasteful, reasonably-scaled monument on the courthouse square.

#Cardinals — more likely to win 100 than 90?

After the Post-Dispatch's Bernie Miklasz said yes to that, or at least to the idea that the Cards have a decent shot of improving on 2013's 97 wins, ESPN's David Schoenfield says no.

Bernie, among his 10 points, notes better defense with the trade of David Freese for Peter Bourjos, which in turn moves Matt Carpenter to third and opens second for Kolten Wong.

Next is Cardinal rotation stability, which Adam Wainwright discusses a bit here, including what Michael Wacha could do in a full year (even winning a Cy Young?), even as Wacha says he's not treating a starting slot as guaranteed. Meanwhile, Shelby Miller says he's still puzzled over how he was non-used in last year's postseason, but trying to get over it.

Next is the adding of Jhonny Peralta, and an expectation of more homers, among other things. He also notes more team speed and a deeper bench with the signing of Mark Ellis as well as Bourjos.

And, Peralja says he can play just fine without PEDs. Plus, not to give too much credence to a Deadspin story, but, since he was buying from Tony Bosch, he may have gotten distilled water, or sugar free Gummi Bears, anyway.

Schoenfield has good counters.

He notes the biggie, that the Cardinals' batting with runners in scoring position will surely regress this year. He also notes that, on homers, Matt Holliday's power is on the decline, though he doesn't allow for more Matt Adams at bats. He adds that Yadier Molina is a year older. So, while I repeat my cautions about not reading too much into Adams too early, I think Schoenfield at least partially misses the boat on this issue. Schoenfield also probably doesn't know that Adams is in better shape, with more muscle and less extra weight, and that he's also already working on trying to hit lefty sliders.

He adds that the Cardinals were lucky in injuries in 2013. Well, not totally true, David. Jason Motte blew his arm out, Rafael Furcal never got his arm healed properly and Jaime Garcia also blew his arm out. I mean, they were throwing three rookies in the starting rotation at the end of the regular season and made the World Series, David. That said, I suppose injuries could be even worse this year. However, Bernie's statement about bench depth addresses this.

I mean, the rotation this coming year will be better than last year's. All of what I mentioned above, plus the addition by subtracting of dropping Jake Westbrook and knowing that all of last year's young guns come back with another year of experience.

Depth? Stephen Strasburg doesn't know the word. He doesn't fully comprehend just why Joe Kelly isn't under discussion as a starter.

Plus, the Cards' Pythagorean in 2013 was 101-61. And, on better defense, the Cards also seem likely to use strategic shifts more than last year.

Beyond that, to double down on Bernie's comments on team speed.

First, I want the Cards to steal more. And, Bourjos says he wants to steal 40, which is definitely good news.

Second, per his expectation of more managerial growth from Mike Matheny? I want Matheny to get a better handle on team baserunning. You can be slow, but still be smart, on the base paths. Freese was slowish, and often dumb as well, last year.

Finally, the extra depth not only allows for plugging holes if the injury bug does hit, it gives the team midseason trade options, like Motte, if he's healthy again.

Much more here in this "winter warmup" wrap from the Post-Dispatch.

So, Schoenfield's wrong. (Hey, it's ESPN.)

I don't know if the Cards will win 100, but I'll certainly take the "over" on 95 wins. And, I'll take Miklasz over Schoenfield on a lot of stuff that's baseball-related.

January 20, 2014

How Churchill came to power

Troublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save EnglandTroublesome Young Men: The Rebels Who Brought Churchill to Power and Helped Save England by Lynne Olson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


This is a good introduction to the appeasement days in late 1930s Britain. It spells out how backbencher anti-appeasement Tories gradually accumulated the numbers to indirectly force the resignation of Neville Chamberlain.

I said indirectly. I had for whatever reason thought Chamberlain lost the no-confidence vote shortly after the invasion of France. Not true; he won, but by narrow enough margin that, after vacillating, and even dreaming of scheming, he decided to step down.

On the biographical side, Chamberlain comes off as an unconstitutional autocrat domestically, even more than a dithering appeaser. Eden is portrayed as someone rightly abandoned by the rebels as the man to replace Chamberlain. Churchill is shown as too blindly loyal to Chamberlain in some ways, especially in the days between the no-confidence vote and his resignation.

The one big name from all of this to actually go up, if you will, is Macmillan.

Also, as an American wishing we had a parliamentary system here, seeing it at work in daily detail, both its good and bad sides, at a period of ongoing stress, is another reason I found this a good read.



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#MLB & #roiding — are writers who say 'we didn't know' in willful denial?

My answer to that is yes, and I'll get there in just a minute.

Following this year's Baseball Hall of Fame election, Grantland's Bryan Curtis came out with a great piece titled, simply, "The Steroid Hunt."

It's chock full of links to stories from sportswriters going back 20 or more years. Its ground zero is Thomas Boswell, sports columnist for the Washington Post, commenter on Ken Burns' "Baseball" documentary, and for purposes of this blog post, inventor of the phrase "Canseco Milkshake," part ot the colorful contribution to the steroid mess by Jose Canseco when with the Oakland A's.

Boswell knew. But, as a columnist and not a beat writer, especially in a city that didn't have an MLB franchise at that time, there was not a lot he could do, especially when his sports editor whouldn't pick up the cudgels.

And, that's half the problem right there.

Keith Olbermann, at least, in one of the linked pieces, is totally honest about it, when he says "We all knew." He then regrets he didn't tell the story earlier and better.

And, then he talks about the clubhouse culture of all those beat writers and their editors. And, team-focused columnists, too; perhaps Boswell was lucky that the Nationals weren't yet in Washington and nobody from the Baltimore Orioles, well, nobody outside of Brady Anderson, if only for one season, was raising eyebrows.

Like, sadly, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Bernie Miklasz, identified in Curtis' piece as running some pretty willing interference for Mark McGwire.
The first of Wilstein's McGwire stories was pure Chevy commercial Americana. ("'Americans love power,' McGwire says. 'Big cars. Big trucks. Big people.'") The second was a preview of the doping journalism that would characterize the next 15 years of baseball writing. It's worth noting that from Wilstein's original question — how'd you get so big? — he was only able to put together a partial answer. But he got further than anyone else.

"I thought it was rock-solid reporting," said T.J. Quinn, who was covering the Mets for the Bergen County Record, "and that [Wilstein] was a victim of a clubhouse mentality that oozed up to the press box." The clubhouse code says that all secrets of the locker room must remain there. La Russa — again coming to his player's defense — tried to ban the AP from the clubhouse.

In an odd twist, several writers joined La Russa's crusade. ...

But the harshest blowback came from the St. Louis media. When the New York Post asked a local photographer to take a picture of McGwire's locker, the Post found that the photographer had ratted out the paper to the Cardinals. Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz, also working with the permission of the team, attempted to re-create Wilstein spotting the andro. Miklasz stood several feet from McGwire's locker. With Grassy Knoll precision, he announced in his August 24 column that he had to "intentionally look, and look hard" to read the label.

Wilstein dryly suggested that this was because Miklasz was too short.
I wasn't as skeptically minded about life in general then as today. And McGwire had been big enough when he first started with the A's, long before his Cardinals days. I only regret that Curtis doesn't have a link to the Miklasz column embedded. The Post-Dispatch's website, with the paper owned by a penny-stock company cheap enough to use Town News as its website host, returns zip on searches between Aug. 23 and Aug. 26, 1998.

So, when you see a sportswriter accusing "the rest of us" about being holier than thou over roiding? It's most likely defensiveness.

So, they can bite me.

Buster Olney had better never again bust Murray Chass over "bacne" when he wrote about it himself in 2002.

And Bud Selig needs to stop being self-righteously silent when players were openly talking about juicing, that same year.

And, players and GMs were going on background about it way back in 1995.

If there's a failure, it's of columnist types like Miklasz, who claimed andro was legal in 1998 (yes in baseball, no in football and in the NCAA, which he didn't say), to educate the public. And, maybe in 1995, the Internet was slim pickings, but it wasn't by 1998.

There's also a failure by columnists when they say, "It's no different than greenies," the amphetamine pills of an earlier age.

Olbermann calls bullshit on that, with the help of a man at Ground Zero of that era — Jim Bouton:
And then the bottle of “andro” showed up in McGwire’s locker. I can remember that week hearing the late baseball writer Leonard Koppett tell me on my show that nobody cared, that it wasn’t cheating, that it was nothing worse than vitamins or maybe, maybe, “greenies.” To his eternal credit, the author and former pitcher Jim Bouton not only disagreed, but got it exactly right. Some day, he says in the interview, baseball will have to reckon with years and years of records that will be artificially inflated, distorted beyond all measure, by the effects of a drug that lets you keep working out when the guys next to you – or before you, chronologically – have to drop the barbell.
Bingo.

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," like Jeff Passan and others, 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. And amphetamines, while they may have taken the edge off jet lag (or hangovers) didn't actually increase performance from a baseline level.

There's one related issue, not touched on by Fangraphs' Dave Cameron in a 2014 vote wrap-up piece, where he says that Hall of Fame voting, and possible changes to the system like expanding the ballot, 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.

So, to big Hallers getting hot under the collar for that reason? Sorry.Especially as I suspect that with some writers, it's not willful denial, it's just an other attempt to get a Big Hall nose under the tent flap.

As for Deadspin? It's opening a HOF vote to fans was pretty good. It's NSFW take on the Cubs mascot was, well, OK; the mascot could have been mocked in other ways, too. Its claim that Anthony Bosch could have, theoretically, been injecting A-Rod with nothing but distilled water? Laughably lame if satire, incredibly stupid if true. I don't buy into everything about how this was handled, but that's .... crap and nothing but. And, yeah, Deadspin has a large posse of contributors, but, I lost respect for it, as far as a repository of serious sports news.

And, as for big Hall writers who worry about the Murray Chass types and what they might be doing with potentially unfounded accusations? Well, a good lawsuit can address that. After Jack Clark ran off his mouth about Albert Pujols, El Hombre sued him. And, judging by his latest response, The Ripper is running scared.

On the plus side? Jon Paul Morosi notes that all the discussion over baseball's hall, and the lack of it for other sports, is a good thing. I generally agree. I'll add that, in the NFL's case, it reflects how unserious Roger Goodell is, and Paul Tagliabue before him, about addressing steroids in that league. It also addresses how unserious NFL-first fans are about that issue. Finally, it addresses problems with the NFL's voting process, where a mandatory minimum number of candidates MUST be elected each year.

Bill Belichick, sore loser — the truth grows larger

Hey, most pro football fans who live outside Bill Simmons' former ZIP code and stomping grounds already know this.

But, one comment of his after the New England Patriots lost to the Denver Broncos on Sunday only shows just how bad this is.

Belichick claims that Broncos wideout Wes Welker, a Patriot for the previous six years before leaving for Denver after a bitter free-agent contract dispute, deliberately took out Aqib Talib with his first-half block, and that it was dirty.

First, pick play blocks in general aren't illegal; it's a judgment call.

Second, it's close, yes, but Demaryius Thomas had touched the ball before Welker hit Talib, from the way I see it. And, even if Welker got there early, a penalty for a personal foul due to bad timing still isn't the same as dirty play.

As ESPN notes, Pats players were warning each other about the pick block before Welker threw it.

Third, the idea that a guy who had two concussions this year, and is wearing a special helmet to prevent another, is not just going to throw a block, but one that risks a third concussion to take out Talib is ridiculous.

And, maybe Welker's leaving the Pats was about more than Bob Kraft lowballing him on a contract:
In 2012, Welker took a sarcastic jab at Belichick when his production skyrocketed following a slow start to the season, saying, "It's kind of nice to stick it in Bill's face once in a while."
After choosing to sign with the Broncos, Welker said in a Sports Illustrated report that he had to "endure" Belichick during his time in New England.
Bill, it was a hard, legal block. And, Welker just stuck it in your face.

Plus, if that's a designed block for after the ball is caught, technically, it's not a pick play at all.

Don't get me wrong about Belichick the coach. He knows his X's and O's, and per the likes of Talib, knows personnel evaluation, and how to pick other people off the scrap heap.

Besides, he's lost some degree of moral credibility ever since Spygate. And, I didn't even mention Aaron Hernandez, did I?

Doorknob, Belichick will be insufferable if  or when the Pats win another Super Bowl on his watch.

Introducing your Texas GOP Lite Guv candidates

Arguably, the Texas lieutenant governor's Republican primary race is the most interesting one in the state. Its four candidates are jostling for elbow room in a Republican tent that gets ever smaller by the day, it seems, which means that elbow room and breathable oxygen also continue to shrink.

So, without further ado, here are brief sketches:

1. David Dewhurst, aka Dudley Dewless. He's your stereotypical country club Republican, who worked his way up from rich suburban high school class president. If George H.W. Bush was born on third base thinking he had hit a triple, to riff on Miss Ann Richards' famous bon mot, Dewless thinks that everyone else should believe that he deserves be entitled to the myth of believing he was born on third having hit a triple. At one time, he had what passed for principles in the Texas GOP, but after having Ted Cruz hand his hat to him on a platter two years ago, threw them out the window.

2. Todd Staples. Currently the state's agriculture commissioner. He's a more smarmy version of one of his ag commissioner predecessors, Rick Perry. If Rick Perry jogs with a pistol to shoot coyotes, Staples dreams of that in some Walter Mitty alternative life. (Actually, in reality, that's Tricky Rick's alternative life, too, but that's another story.) Staples' relative smarminess comes from having more Boy Scout in him than Perry does. Whether that will hinder him in this knife fight remains to be seen. Or, per the Dew's earlier story, Staples' managed high school class presidency campaigns of people like him. The OCD organizational level could help in a race like this.

3. Dan Patrick. Currently a state senator in his "day job," but before that, and continuing, this Dracula of the airwaves is Texas' more louche low-rent equivalent to Rush Limbaugh. Having almost never met an on-air bomb he wouldn't throw, he does have the handicap of being the only one of the four without a statewide office. Unlike Boy Scout Todd, or Country Club David, Patrick won't pull his punches. His radio listeners could offset his lack of statewide name appeal. His chance of winning probably depends on his possibly out-Cruzing the other three, which I wouldn't put past him.

4. Jerry Patterson. Currently the state's land office commissioner. If Staples is Tricky Ricky crossed with Boy Scout, Patterson is a more populist Tricky Ricky crossed with redneck. Tricky Ricky claims to jog with a gun in case he comes across a coyote, while Patterson packs concealed heat wherever he goes, and whips it out for pandering points. On the populist side, Patterson's running a down-home campaign, kind of like if Tom Pauken had been pickled in an NRA vat for three months before starting a political campaign. However, in the all-important political language of dinero, that's turned out to be a definite hurt for Patterson so far.

For more analysis of that fundraising, go here.

The four even inspire me to think rhetorically about face-punching people. (This is purely rhetorical; I was in exactly one fight, and a brief one, my four years of high school.)

The Dew? You'd want to face-punch him because he was the kid wearing Izods every day, and he still acted like that today.

Staples? You'd want to punch him in the face because he was organizing Young Conservatives for Reagan or something in high school, and you just wanted to wipe that smarmy smile off his face.

Patrick? You'd want to face-punch him, but you're worried just what the hell he'd say on his next radio show.

Patterson? You want to pistol-whip him with a Glock, not just punch him in the face, because you know he's packing heat himself.

January 19, 2014

Free speech for me but not thee can always backfire

I'm not quite as much a First Amendment absolutist as Glenn Greenwald is, but, that said, I'd have to say, along the lines of this piece about them, that Massachusetts' selective free speech zones outside of abortion clinics are at least "problematic."

The biggest point is that they can be turned around on others. Having been restricted to just certain areas for protest and speaking at antiwar rallies in Dallas, especially ones around area in which either George W.  Bush or Dick Cheney were expected, I know personally that the old "safety concerns" issue can be expanded to cover a lot of things that pummel the First Amendment into oblivion.

Also being an environmentalist of some sort who has protested more than once outside eXXXon's annual shareholder meeting, and knowing that both the federal government and various states, and their respective law enforcement and investigative agencies have been all too eager in the past to sling around the word "ecoterrorist," gives me further reason to pause at this law. 

The story makes just these points:
If the Supreme Court were to uphold the Massachusetts law, it’s not hard to imagine businesses lobbying to create zones where union members are not allowed to speak, but workers for the business are. Businesses could use the same logic used in McCullen:  the picketers are disrupting business and upsetting customers. So, government, please silence them—even though they are standing on a public sidewalk.

Potter described how liberal activists have made this mistake before.  He said, “Back in the late 1990s…Planned Parenthood was using RICO statutes against anti-abortion protestors.  A lot of civil rights people were saying this is going to come back around to us and sure enough RICO has been used against animal-rights protestors.  The [lawsuits] have failed, but it costs mountains of cash to defend against.”

In an interview, the First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams—who is a supporter of abortion rights—described the Massachusetts law as being “as bad as first amendment cases have gotten in a while.”  He said of the liberal groups supporting the law, “They undervalue the First Amendment…and substitute political liberalism” as their guiding principle instead.
But, but, but ... you say. The ACLU supports this!

First, the ACLU's never been perfect on the First Amendment. And, since the days of the Skokie march, and especially in the last decade or so, since Anthony Romero has become executive director, it's slid further downhill. Former board members, harassed off by Romero in combination with then board president Nadine Strossen, and outside critics as well, attest to the fact that the ACLU has become more a liberal special interest group and less a civil liberties organization in general.

Greenwald knows those critiques and basically doesn't discuss them. Nor does he discuss the fact that the ACLU isn't the only civil liberties game in town. One will note that the Center for Constitutional Rights is not listed as supporting the Massachusetts law, at least in this story. (That's not to say CCR is necessarily perfect on such issues.)

Second, Floyd Abrams makes the same point that I made earlier. And frankly, I doubt it changes until Romero moves on. Sadly, I think that's not going to happen before the end of this decade, if that. I think he likes the little fiefdom he's built up.

Plus, as Perkins notes, Massachusetts has anti-harassment law that already covers the intent of this legislation.

I'm sure Pennsylvania also has similar rules. That's why, although a Pennsylvania man is to be congratulated for his work at clinics, he's simply wrong in supporting the Massachusetts law, as well as the reasons he gives for justifying his stance.