February 01, 2014

This month in philosophy: Rejecting old ideas on free will

For new readers, this is actually a roundup of my philosophy-related postings for January.

At the start of the year, I talked about New Year's resolutions, and how ideas behind the making of resolutions relates to issues of free will and consciousness. 

Next, I took a look at the philosophy of fallacies and fallacious reasoning, especially the "informal" fallacies that most people think about when they talk about this issue.

Back in December, I did a second installment on what is becoming a bit of a series: saying "Mu" to the old polarities, old dichotomies and old inadequate definitions of the increasingly stale and sterile "free will vs. determinism" debate. Thoughts here are inspired in part by David Hume and his "fleeting self" ideas, which supplements theories of the likes of Dan Dennett about subselves and multiple drafts of consciousness.

I followed that at the end of January with Part 3, which focuses on problems I see with compatibilist ideas of free will. As often is the case when I write on these issues, there's usually an allusion to Dennett. That's especially here, since this is his modern baby. But, he's just as wrong on a lot of issues of free will as on a lot of issues of consciousness.

Dear Democrats: You want my vote?

Regular, long-term readers of the political posts on this blog know that I'm a Green leaner (although not a registered party member).

So, as Democrats here in Texas, and elsewhere, seek my support for state-level or federal-level offices, I put out a few thoughts per the header.

Federal-level candidates, if you want my vote?
1. You must have, as part of your campaign, a promise to implement a carbon tax on domestic sources of carbon dioxide, combined with a carbon tariff on imports. I said that I thought the WTO allowed it long before Paul Krugman did, but, if it's good enough for him, it should be good enough for you. It gets past Al Gore's "indulgences" of carbon offsets and the European Union's easily gamed cap-and-trade system. And, the tariff part of it forces China (and India, et al) to go alone with us. No more Alphonse and Gaston.

2. Go beyond Citizens United to incorporate federal financing of Congressional elections similar to the Presidential system. You know, the one that fat cat Barack Obama opted out of.

BUT! Do NOT make said financing system only applicable to Democrats and Republicans. Offer at least partial payment to third-party candidates.

3. Get serious about corporate welfare, corporate tax loopholes, etc. (Implementing No. 2, and that first, will make it a lot easier to then do this.) 

4. Deficits, when avoidable, matter more than Dick Chcney said. If you propose new programs, be honest about how you're going to pay for them.

These are just basics. I'll likely add to this from time to time and bump this post up top again.

But, Green candidates should not assume my vote for them is guaranteed. Green candidates? If you want my vote, there's two main things:

1. No pseudomedicine, whether antivaxxer stances or other things.
2. Accept the scientific reality of the general safety of GMOs. If as staunchly environmental magazine as Grist can debunk some hardcore myths, including the "no inspection" and "they're unsafe" ones, so can you.

I'll give you a prime example. Marianne Williamson is not a Green, but she's running for Congress as a Green-like independent for Henry Waxman's California congressional seat. And, given his retirement, she could win.

So far, the only issue on her issues list where I know her metaphysical and related beliefs come into play is on agriculture issues. Per the link immediately above, she believes all the myths about GMOs. But, per the New York Times, she's explicitly running on her "spirituality."

And, given California's quasi-nonpartisan primary system, she could make the top two and run against a Republican. And, if that Republican were moderate enough, and I were there, I might vote GOP. If not? I wouldn't vote in this race.

State-level candidates? 

1. Support a state-level public campaign financing system. Again, make third-party candidates eligible for at least partial funding.

3. Here in Texas? Be honest about the hidden costs of "friendly for business," including the level of uninsureds, the tax cut race to the bottom by municipal and county EDCs and more.

3. Deficits aren't avoidable at the state level, per the state constitution. If you propose new programs, be honest about how you're going to pay for them. And, on the political angle, start being honest about all those "fees" that the GOP pushed on us for the last decade (even if you were one of the enablers).
And, all candidates, there's one or  two other things. Actually, they're all part of a bundle of "transparency and honesty."

If you endorse somebody else and the endorsement is puzzling, even controversial, tell us why. Wendy Davis, tell us that you're endorsing David Alameel because of financial issues, or to track right and appeal to moderates. Him being a great businessman doesn't cut it.

If you change your mind on a major political issue, the same. Barack Obama, in 2008? Tell us you changed your mind on telecom immunity on warrantless wiretaps because Silicon Valley told you it would cut off the campaign funding pipeline otherwise. Whatever excuse that you actually did? I never did buy it.

When you talk about campaign contributions, before filing official reports, separate out your funding from jointly raised funds that will then be jointly disbursed. And other things.

Those of us who actively follow politics and have analytical abilities see through the spin, and, we get tired of it. Lack of transparency related to money issues triggers two hot buttons for me.


January 31, 2014

Edward Snowden is at the point of dminishing returns

No, I don't think the former National Security Agency contract employee is a Russian agent, unlike a senior editor at The Economist. I think it more likely that Vladimir Putin would find a modern equivalent of James Jesus Angleton and get him inside the NSA to spout that line than I think it's actually true. And, no, that's not just snark; if Putin wanted to be that antagonistic to the U.S., finding a modern equivalent of Angleton to riff off Snowden would actually be brilliant.

I also do think it speaks new volumes about Tiger Beat on the Potomac that it would devote two webpages to such nuttery from someone who's even written an e-book about his beliefs. That said, how do we know that Edward Lucas isn't himself Putin's new Angleton-du-jour?

I don't fully think that. Nor, like many a conspiracy theorist, do I think Politico is taking paid, or forced, bidding from the White House to run dreck like this. However, the fact that it's running it may mean that this is headed toward some sort of inside-the-Beltway critical mass.

None of this has anything to do with the header, though.

This interview that Snowden had with a German TV program has plenty to do with it, though.

Specifically, I start with this comment:
But, what I will say is there’s no question that the US is engaged in economic spying. If there’s information at Siemens that they think would be beneficial to the national interests, not the national security of the United States, they’ll go after that information, and they’ll take it.
Really? Really? Wooooowwwwww!

(I hope you can tell that's sarcasm, folks.

Snowden is either naive, an idiot, or maybe a "limited hangout" for all I know, if, in talking about US economic espionage, he presents that part of NSA (or CIA) spying as either new or a US-only thing, which he does do by omission in this interview recently with a German TV company. Hell, Russia surely still does that as bad as when it was the old USSR. China doesn't do more of it abroad because of the "free" trade flood of factories to China. Back in the old days, the French were worse in intent, at least, than any other Western country.

Why do I say he could be a "limited hangout," though? 

And, before that, if you're unfamiliar with the term, a working definition.

A "limited hangout" is an intelligence operator who is deliberately made part of a quasi-black flag operation. (Please forgive me for sounding like Alex Jones.) Usually, said person is allowed to "hang out" for public viewing and as part of that, to "hang out" for public display a limited amount of fairly innocuous intelligence information.

So, why do I wonder if that's what's up?

This, first:
I worked previously as an actual staff officer, a government employee for the Central Intelligence Agency, but I’ve also served much more frequently as a contractor in a private capacity. 

Add in Snowden's refusal to comment on some stuff he says is still classified (Gee, after you spilled as much as you allegedly did, you're still worried about discussing classified material?) and eyebrows raise a bit higher. Add in various ways of him saying, "I don't want to tell journalists what to write about," and eyebrows go higher yet.

I was halfway suspicious of Snowden when he first burst on the scene, and I've never totally lost that.

Here's my previous major blogging about Snowden. His pre-rogue background has holes in the telling of his story. He was a CIA agent; not a contractor, an agent.

On the other hand, my other options still stand. He's naive and/or an idiot.

The economic espionage clearly relates to that. He has either an actual paranoia or a pseudo-paranoia that's part of his narcissism.

In either case, I laugh up my sleeve at the likes of Glenn Greenwald still, for public consumption at least, buying Snowden hook, line and sinker.

Can you see Obama's #KeystoneXL sellout coming?

Once again, the State Department has officially greased the skids for President Obama to give his official "all of the above" style okey-dokey to TransCanada's KeystoneXL pipeline.

And, that's not just me saying that. So does the analysis in the article.
The conclusions of the report appear to indicate that the project has passed Mr. Obama’s climate criteria, an outcome expected to outrage environmentalists, who have rallied, protested, marched and been arrested in demonstrations around the country against the pipeline.
The Times does go on to caveat itself in best Al Haig style:
The report released on Friday, however, is far from the final decision on the project. The State Department must next determine whether the pipeline is in the national interest. That involves taking into account both the environmental and economic impact of the project, as well as its impact on the relationship between the United States and Canada, the nation’s largest trading partner and largest source of foreign oil.
Window dressing. If it's already passed Dear Leader's climate criteria, his State Department will next trot out an overblown jobs creation estimate, add in some "good neighbor" comments about Canada, and voila!

Reality, though, is said okey-dokey will not be issued until sometime after ...

Nov. 4, 2014.

If you follow politics, you know what that date is.

Until then, we'll get more weasel words like we had last year:
In his second term, Mr. Obama has sought to make his fight against climate change a cornerstone of his legacy. In a major speech on the environment last summer, Mr. Obama said that he would approve the pipeline only if it would not “significantly exacerbate” the problem of carbon pollution. He said the pipeline’s net effects on the climate would be “absolutely critical” to his decision.
Note that one word I emphasized.

That's where the weaseling will continue to come from.

"Significantly" is in the eye of the beholder, after all.

As for whether this is a line in the sand (vs line in hardened concrete?) issue for environmentalists, I'm of two minds.

Yeah, heavy tar sands oil does add to global warming.

BUT ... somebody's going to use it, no matter what.

And, as long as Stephen Harper is Canada's prime minister, the tar sands will be mind. As they will (sorry, Canucks) if Liberal leader Justin Trudeau replaces him. Only if the New Democrats conquer Ottawa will tar sands oil be stopped.

So ... IF the pipeline is built well enough that, overall, using it is better than putting even more tar sands oil on rail cars, then we probably should do it.

Of course, if Dear Leader would pass a domestic carbon tax plus carbon tariffs on imports, tar sands oil would become that much more pricey and the whole equation would change. Especially if it were priced high enough, the tax and tariff. And, Paul Krugman, long later than me, says such a tariff should meet World Trade Organization muster.

===

And, Tricky Ricky (can we mine your hair for oil?) has to get in his .02:
"Today's report means radical environmentalists are running out of excuses for forcing the delay of a project that will mean more jobs for Texans and greater energy security for North America. It’s time to move this project forward and put an end to this bureaucratic red tape. If, as the president said in his State of the Union speech, he truly wants this to be a ‘year of action,’ there would be no better way to kick it off than authorizing construction of this important project."
Sigh.

Are the Rams headed "home"? Will St. Louis again be a two-sport town?

The Los Angeles Rams, whose "home" actually was Cleveland, soon adapted to Hollywood glamor with players like Bob Waterfield, Vitamin Smith, and Crazy Legs Hirsch, and their great nicknames helped by their 1950 offense, keyed by Norm Van Brocklin, actually being the best in NFL history, better than this year's Peyton Manning-led Denver Broncos.

(It's arguable that the Rams' move from Cleveland to L.A., planting the major-level pro sports franchise flag on the West Coast, was the first move in pro football replacing baseball as America's favorite sport.)

And, the Rams could be moving back again.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports current Rams owner Stan Kroenke has purchased 60 acres of L.A. land, definitely suitable for a football site, and next to the old-but-renovated Forum, ESPN reports. (That's in the same area as where another bazillionaire, Philip Anschutz, had eyed a stadium, the tentative Farmers Field, which has not been started, with the idea of possibly buying the Raiders.) And, since Kroenke and the city of St. Louis have failed to come to terms on paying for stadium upgrades stipulated in the team's agreement with the city when it agreed to build the Edward Jones Dome, the Rams have a contractual out clause that takes effect this year.

All of the stories note that the Rams would face some NFL hurdles to moving. But, seriously? If St. Louis and state of Missouri officials don't come to some agreement, at least splitting the $124M and $700M proposal and counter-proposal for upgrades, I can't imagine that those would be more than formalities.

Especially with the four-division lineup in each conference, now that the league has 32 teams, the NFC West would be much more geographically compact with a Seattle Seahawks, San Francisco 49ers, Arizona Cardinals and L.A. Rams. Might also help stimulate an Arizona-L.A. rivalry, with both teams having old St. Louis ties, the number of L.A. transplants now in Phoenix and more. 

As a former St. Louisan who still is, of course, a baseball-first fan and Cardinals-first fan beyond that, it would be sad to see the Rams move back away, especially the way that football Cardinals owner Bill Bidwell screwed the city. (I went to one football Cardinals game in St. Louis and saw Roy Green have a dramatic pu nt-return touchdown.)

At the same time, per what I wrote above, the Rams have a classic history back in L.A. Besides the Hollywood era that started it all, you had Merlin Olsen, Lamar Lundy, Deacon Jones and Rosey Grier, at various times, giving the first name to an NFL unit as the Fearsome Foursome.

If the NFL is to be back in La-La Land, it should be the Rams. Not the Raiders, the Chargers or anybody else.

At the same time, as for city of Los Angeles costs, Angelenos and their elected representatives should look this gift horse very closely in the mouth.

#WendyDavis now shooting herself in the foot over fear, or control issues

A political candidate barring media from an event is never good. A candidate doing that but then making one special, select allowance for one media outlet is usually even worse.

But, that's just what Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis did down in Austin.

When someone as progressive, and as politically plugged in as James Moore is, tells you you're making a big mistake, it's time to learn. 

At the same time, Moore said this isn't new with Davis:
From the beginning of her campaign, Wendy Davis has exhibited an interest in "controlling" her message. Subsequent to the Dallas Morning News story about her climb out of difficult circumstances, she made the statement that she needed to speak with "tighter language." If ever there were a cue to reporters that there is a reason to get busy, this kind of statement is it. There is more than a suggestion she does not want to completely share her personal and political narrative.

I know that some fellow progressive bloggers, like P.Diddle, have raised my eye over my blog post rhetorically asking Davis "where's your mom" in your life story, but it fits, IMO, with Moore's last line — a last line whose observation I have already made myself.

P.Diddle's got more details of last night and the media's take here.

Via a previous post of his, he also observes that the Dems' Lite Guv candidate, Leticia Van de Putte, has joined Davis in endorsing closet pro-lifer David Alameel.

And, this isn't going to go away, either, for either of you.

Plus, if he doesn't make the runoff, both of you are going to look stupid for not being good "pickers."

The fact that this is all happening either shows how far the likes of Battleground Texas and Lone Star Project have to go in their work ...

Or, how much they've already screwed up.

Let's not forget that most national Democratic consultants' answer on how to close any actual or apparent gaps with Republicans is "track right." In light of this, VDP's claim that Alameel would be the most viable candidate against John Cornyn? I honestly believe that idea didn't originate with her but is the talking point that the national handlers are giving her, just like Davis' claim that she endorsed Alameel because he was such a good businessman.

P.Diddle likes to hammer on the issue of big money flooding politics. I agree. And, right alongside of that is the issue of transparency, or lack thereof. I'm going to be taking more of a look at that in a future post.

And, per Moore's observation about Davis trying to control her life story's narrative, or even declare it off limits? I've already started something of a blog post about her suing the Fort Worth Star-Telegram shortly after she lost her initial run for the Fort Worth City Council. It fits in squarely with these control issues.

===

And, per the Observer, good effing doorknob, it gets worse. She used the phrase "pro-life" about herself? Per a Facebooker who tried the same, this is nothing but Grade-A bullshit. "Pro-life" and "pro-choice" have publicly defined meanings.
When Davis did arrive, she met with reporters for 10 minutes. Sanchez asked the candidate about her statement, at an earlier event in the Valley, that Davis was “pro-life.” This was a predictable question given the campaign’s reluctance to even say the word “abortion.” Sanchez documents what happened next: “[Davis] looked at me and shook her head. But before she could articulate, her new press aide Rebecca Acuña jumped in and said ‘that comment was taken out of context.’”
That said, we do now have more of a clue on how and why she endorsed David Alameel.

Black is white and up is now officially down. (And I'll do a separate blog post about this at some point.)

#WendyDavis has pretty much lost me

First, there was the pandering to "moderates" in Waxahachie. Now, via P. Diddie, she's officially endorsed for election the most Republican-like "Democrat" to run for statewide Democratic office since Tony Sanchez ran for guv way back in 2002.

Per the Snooze, in another piece, on his background:
Alameel describes himself as “not your typical Democrat. I’m conservative in many ways and have worked with both parties. I’m very pro military, very pro national security.” ...

Today, Alameel said Republicans show a “lack of compassion for their fellow man,” and on health care and other issues, they’re far more eager to fight President Obama and deprive him of victories than to solve problems facing most Americans.

In Democrats, he sees too much fondness for big government and deficit spending. “Democrats love to help people but they go about it wrong. … Too small is not good. Too big is not good. We need smart government.”
At best, he's from the conservative wing of neoliberalism, and I'm not willing to go that far. 

Update, Jan. 30: Lite Guv Democratic candidate Leticia Van de Putte has also lost me.

As P. Diddie put it, this is about the money. Eric Nicholson at the Dallas Observer is among others raising eyebrows at the money issue.

Since David Alameel is another self-financing Daddy Warbucks, like Sanchez was, there's less competition for Texas donor money if he gets the Democratic nomination.

Davis touters will say, "But she outraised Abbott, and so she doesn't need Alameel running for the Senate to give her a fundraising pipeline."

Not so fast. Here's the fine print on that:
The senator's campaign finance totals include funds raised by the Texas Victory Committee, a joint effort that splits money between the Davis campaign and Battleground Texas, a group trying to turn Texas blue.
So, how much money did SHE raise?

And, as P. Diddie notes, this just isn't done relatively early in the primary season, by a primary candidate, rather than an incumbent running for re-election to the same office.

And, Alameel's been even more a Johnny-come-lately to distancing himself from the GOP than has one of his primary opponents, Michael Fjetland. Perry's right that Fjetland is some sort of step above Alameel. Of course, the real step above is Maxey Scherr. 

Reinforcing this concern, this apparent hypocrisy, even more?

Davis catapulted to fame after her pro-choice filibuster on the Senate floor.

I can't even figure out what Alameel's position on abortion IS! He refused to answer campaign questions from Project Vote Smart, per its page on him. His Congressional campaign website from two years ago is dead, and he doesn't have a Senate campaign website.

Update: He now has a Senate campaign website. Perry wonders if it didn't show up on Google before due to some indexing issue. And, he's right, not me, thinking it was new. 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.

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

His campaign contributions page on the Federal Election Committee website doesn't show donations to explicitly right-to-life organizations. 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.

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.

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. 

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.

Meanwhile, all the Davis spinmeisters, while trying to spin every which way but loose the news about Davis' and Abbott's campaign contributions, don't seem to want to talk about this issue.

And, it's more than Alameel's money. On the campaign donations, spinning like this is sophomoric. People who know a lot about politics see through it right away, and call you out on it. Then you have people like Michael Li doubling down on spinning.

But, it's more than that, too. It's politics as usual. Greens might not be any better if they got in power, but, if you pass public campaign financing, we might all be better.

Anyway, Davis was already losing me a bit in other ways. I agree with wanting to beef up Texas education. I agree that the gas tax should be a transportation-specific dedicated revenue source. But, since part of it now goes to education, how are you going to make up that shortfall? The final version of the Texas school districts lawsuit isn't guaranteed to fill the gas tax loophole, let alone provide additional money.

The Tribune joins in on the head-scratching on her education proposals, funding questions and the funding lawsuit. Analysts say she should have focused on the lawsuit's resolution if she didn't have, or wasn't going to present, funding numbers for her proposal.

At some point, running a good government campaign involves things like pointing out how little the state has gotten for government on the cheap, how "fee increases" are hidden tax increases anyway, and more.

True, Greg Abbott has even more fuzzy math on the issue; maybe that's why conservatives oppose critical thinking skills in public schools. But, that doesn't let Davis off the hook. Because Abbott isn't, already.

Perry tackles this cost of government issue here, with a post about water issues in a small South Texas town, noting the cost of infrastructure.

Fortunately, even if, per Kuff, major papers in the state are only profiling contested primaries, we have a Green alternative. And, given that Davis' and Abbott's opposition is just pro forma, I have to disagree with him on giving the Chron a pass for not at least talking a bit about Greens' (and the Libertarians') candidate.

As for Wendy Davis? Right now? Possibly facing the "competence" issue of the likes of President Obama, with whom she seemingly compares in another way: Just.Another.Politician.™ 

Yadier Molina of the #Cardinals — Hall of Famer?

If ESPN can do wrong-headed fluffery on the Cooperstown chances for the likes of Lance Berkman, a full year ago (no, David Schoenfield, he was not "on the bubble" and you didn't allow for decline, even short of career-ending injury) and only halfway backtrack now, let me tackle Yadier Molina's case for the Hall at the young age of 30.

 Yadi currently has 26.8 WAR, and a seven-year best (not necessarily consecutive) of 25.3 WAR.

Now, let's project out, and see where that puts him in stead with other catchers on Jay Jaffe's JAWS system.

Let me do some easy numbers. Let's say Yadi puts up two 5-WAR years, two 4-WAR years, then two 3-WAR years in the next six. (He's playing somewhere, hopefully still in St. Louis, after his current Cardinals contract is done.)

That's through his age 36 year. He's now at 50.8 WAR. Let's give him three more years, at a total of 3.2 WAR.

Is this reasonable? Given his 6.9 and 5.7 WAR the last two years, I say yes. Manager Mike Matheny is also going to learn to spot him a few more days off than in the p ast, which will keep him fresher, and p aradoxically, benefit him as a catcher. I don't expect any real defensive decline for four years, or much offensive for the next two, then a gradual slide after that. So, I'll stand behind this.

That's 54 career WAR. And 33.3 WAR for his seven-year best. Averages are 52.4 and 33.8 for catchers currently in the Hall, though Pudge Rodriguez and Mike Piazza, assuming they get in, will raise that a bit. The numbers I gave you are in the same range as HOFers Mickey Cochrane and Bill Dickey, so this is a reasonable guesstimate, especially if you add in that he is currently tied for third in career zone runs among catchers. He's tied with Bob Boone, whom he has started besting offensively. Ahead of that? Rodriguez and Jim Sundberg. He may catch Rodriguez before retirement; he'll at least get close, barring serious injury.

Meanwhile, that projects him to move past Ted Simmons and well past Tim McCarver as the Cards' best all-time catcher, especially if he spends his full career in Cardinal red, or any period of time past 2017 and his current contract's expiration.

So, David Schoefield? Or similar? Some Cardinals love? Blog about Yadi's HOF chances.

January 30, 2014

Jeff Bezos shows true political colors, buys climate denial blog

I'm a little late to the fray, but still disgusted.

The same day as deciding not to pony up money to Brat Pack opiner Ezra Klein for an upgraded version of his Wonkblog, new Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos showed that he'll spend and spend for "journalistic" properties that fit his particular version of libertarian politics.

He's just shelled out money to acquire group blog Volokh Conspiracy. As Grist points out, it's a clear and known safe haven for climate change denialists. (Any place that has a blog post talking about Sarah Palin being more consistent with science than Joe Biden is peddling pseudoscience by the bucket.)

And, per the first link in the graph about, Bezos knew what he was getting. Says Eugene Volokh:
After all, they approached us because of who we are and what we write. They know our ideologies. They know our blogging style. They know that we sometimes put up quirky non-law posts. They tell us they’re fine with all of that.
Indeed, this is of a piece with Amazon's sweatbox packing warehouses. Also, VC has a reputation as somewhat of a gun nut blog, among  other things. I'm sure that will play like a charm inside the Beltway.

One possible silver lining? As Michael Mann's lawshuit against Mark Steyn and National Review has some worried the opinion mag could go bankrupt, Bezos has a lot deeper pockets, if anybody at VC does a similar teh stupid. (Oh, and per that link immediately above? Damon Linker's an idiot talking about NR's glorious past; Bill Buckley was himself a racist, with plenty of proof, starting here and here. That said, Linker's been an idiot on other things.)

Another possible silver lining? If this is a sample of Bezos' future plans, between a libertarian Post and wingnuts in the Times and Examiner, DC will be 3-for-3 on idiot newspapers. Maybe Washington City Paper will expand to fill the void or something.

Also, it's been a while since I blogged about press issues; any Gnu Media types who look for the rich and famous to be media saviors, think again. This includes blind devotees of Glenn Greenwald who in turn, some protestations aside, is for now at least (though that could always change, in part from knowing Greenwald), a blind devotee of current-new employer Peter Omidyar. Of course, since Greenwald is also, like Omidyar and Bezos, a libertarian, there's a hand-in-glove fit.

North Texas GOP hits a couple of ethical snags

First, it was the Rockwall County Clerk, a Republican, selling tickets to a GOP event from her office, a clear violation of state ethics law.

That said, since current state Attorney General Greg Abbott, now running for governor, is the guest speaker at the February event, doesn't he need to recuse himself or something? Maybe appoint a Democratic special investigator?

Now, the Dallas County GOP, headed by an acquaintance from my Metroplex days, Wade Emmert, is in trouble with the feds for campaign finance reporting issues. (That said, the violations happened before Emmert became county GOP chair, but did happen during his race for Dallas County Judge.)

How do you miss a $24K credit card donation, anyway? That's a straight-up curiosity question as well as snark.

Back to the two issues. The Dallas County one is relatively minor. BUT ... that is part of political war in Texas, having to face the music even on a "ding" like that, just like Wendy Davis on spinning her campaign contributions.

If you can't, per an old Republican president, be "cleaner than a hound's tooth," then get out of the kitchen.

On the first issue, new county clerks have to go to state-mandated training. Beyond that, anybody with a reasonable ethical compass knows that not just county clerks but all elected officials aren't supposed to solicit while in the office. You just don't do that.

Shelli Miller has apparently been in office for at least the full run of this term, so she's no babe in the woods. That said, I want media up there to ask: Who pushed for this? Who brought the tickets by, etc.? I want that Democratic special prosecutor (or a Green!) sooner rather than later, let alone not at all.

Remember the big to-do the GOP made about Al Gore's calls to Chinese fundraisers? Well, again, North Texas Republicans, get out some hound's tooth toothpaste.

Eli Manning may just have upstaged Peyton and given the NFL a big headache

And, just in time for the Super Bowl, too.

Giants quarterback Eli Manning, younger but SB-luckier brother of Peyton Manning, has been named in a lawsuit as allegedly selling bogus merchandise from  his two Super Bowl wins. 
A helmet on display in the (NFL Hall of Fame) — supposedly worn by Manning in Big Blue’s 2008 Super Bowl victory over the New England Patriots — is just one of dozens of fake items the football superstar and his Giants cohorts have created to fool fans and make money from collectors over the years, the lawsuit alleges.

Other “forgeries” passed off on collectors include several Manning jerseys, two 2012 Super Bowl helmets and a 2004 “rookie season” helmet, according to court papers.

Two-time Super Bowl MVP Manning took part in the scheme so he could hang on to his personal items, according to the documents.

The memorabilia ruse is so common among Giants players and staffers, the documents claim, that team equipment manager Joe Skiba openly discussed Manning’s fake game gear on an official Giants e-mail account.
Well, he may have done it to hold on to personal items, but, if he created more than one bogus duplicate, then the financial fraud implications would be clear.

That said, the plot thickens. Eric Inselberg, the person filing the suit, alleges the Giants' team dry cleaner was also in on the plot.

But, the plot thickens further. Inselberg was himself indicted on a criminal memorabilia fraud case in 2011, though it was eventually dropped. He claims Giants personnel lied to the grand jury.

That said, what if other players, especially quarterbacks, have done similar.

Peyton? Tom Brady, maybe? Ben Roethlisberger, perhaps? Aaron Rodgers? Who knows? And, as with Eli and this suit, a star QB could always get a starry-eyed clubhouse person or outside hanger-on to help with this.

Of course, there's another way. Jerseys, etc. are hard to change, but not helmets. Why not just wear a new one each offensive series and sell it as legit? Of course, that would drive prices down.

And, back to two paragraphs above. Inselberg names the Giants, not just Eli, in the suit, and alleges the team was a willing and knowing participant.

My snap initial thought is that there's a lot of this happening in the NFL. Hell, in pro baseball, clubhouse men were allegedly faking autographs as far back as Babe Ruth's time (his own), and certainly by Joe DiMaggio's time. Wikipedia notes this, and the "clubhouse autograph" issue, on its autograph page.

It's probably like steroids. Some players are more likely to do it than others. Some teams are more likely to turn a blind eye to it than others. It can be more tightly controlled, but probably never eliminated.

January 29, 2014

'The Frackers' is a good starting point

The Frackers: The Outrageous Inside Story of the New Billionaire WildcattersThe Frackers: The Outrageous Inside Story of the New Billionaire Wildcatters by Gregory Zuckerman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Good technological and business review; just so-so environmentally

This book is especially valuable for people wanting to understand the technological issues behind both oil and gas fracking, and, related to that, a bit about petroleum geology and exploration in the "age of shale."

Zuckerman could have devoted a bit more than he did to environmental issues, and not put them in an appendix. He also could have included something about federal tax policy and related issues. And, he might have had better footnoting for some of his claims, his scientific claims.

That said, for the amount of information from the production side, even with those shortcomings, this is still a decent four-star book.

For anybody who has a general curiosity about fracking, to those wanting to know more about oil and/or gas development, and through environmentalist leaners wanting to know more about the issues, it's good.

It's also good on understanding the greed of several major players in the business, above all, Aubrey McClendon of Chesapeake.

Per another commenter, Russell Gold's "The Boom" promises to offer different insights in a few months.



View all my reviews

Why #abortion exemptions after viability shouldn't be lightly dismissed

Saying "I'm not a political person," Nicole Stewart describes why she chose to have an abortion with a pregnancy at 22 weeks:
She and her husband went in for the routine first sonogram at 20 weeks of pregnancy. “We went just to find out the sex of the baby,” she said, “and we found out so much more.”

The sonogram revealed a number of abnormalities in the baby boy. More tests followed. Doctors brought up termination of the pregnancy. And Nicole was devastated. “This was the hardest thing I ever dealt with in my whole life,” she said.

Ultimately, an MRI confirmed the worst. “The entire brain was abnormal,” she said. Another sonogram showed that fluid was building up in the brain and lungs. “The baby was going to stop being able to swallow and essentially drown.”

After much conversation and consultation, the couple decided on an abortion. Nicole was about 22 weeks along.
Problem? The state's new abortion law doesn't allow that. Fortunately for Stewart, it wasn't in effect yet, though she worried it would be.

And she sees that such exemptions are still needed:
“The main reason I have told my story is that I don’t think a majority of people understand why a woman would want to or need to have an abortion after 20 weeks,” she said.

“That’s really all I care about getting out there — that this is not an irresponsible decision. It’s not a decision against life. It’s a decision that is medically driven and really should be between a doctor, her patient and the husband — period.”
Note those words in the second paragraph: "This is not an irresponsible decision."

The Erick Ericksons of the world want to try to make the rest of the world believe that the Nicole Stewarts of the world are all salivating over "unlimited abortions."

Simply not true.

And, there's this:
The new Texas law does create an exemption to the 20-week ban for “severe fetal abnormality,” but Nicole is concerned that the government gets to define that rather than doctors and patients.
The Texas ban is based on the argument that a fetus can feel pain after 20 weeks. That’s an issue still at play in federal courts — including the U.S. Supreme Court last week. But it’s a settled matter in Nicole’s mind.
Given that the people arguing in favor of this idea are the same people whose idea of "science" is teaching creationism in public schools, we ought to look askance at this, too. That's especially true since best research says that fetal pain isn't likely until 24 weeks, and at least some pro-lifers are hypocritical on this, as I've blogged.

Viability advances will continue to be made, yes. But, many of these same conservatives oppose health care that will help would-be mothers pay for the medical care of those viability advances. And, they stridently oppose things like expanded Medicaid, that might help a few poor women with enough additional prenatal care that might prevent a few abnormal births.

At the same time, incremental as it may be, viability advances are going to continue to happen. A viable pro-choice movement that wants to be sure of reaching out, and reaching out well, to the American center on one of the few political issues where there are a lot of "centrists," will want to make sure to continue to incorporate medical advances while also noting that good reproductive choice support includes all the things I mentioned above.

On this issue, I consider myself somewhere in that center. I probably favor more post-viability restrictions on abortion than some. I certainly don't favor unrestricted abortion all nine months of a term, let alone having nuttier views yet, like Gnu Atheist P.Z. Myers.

But, I'm certainly not in the Greg Abbott camp.

At the same time, having once walked in a pro-life march or two, I can say there is vitriol on both ends at times. And, that not every pro-lifer is a patriarchial male, or a woman married to one.

Nat Hentoff of Village Voice fame is a pro-lifer, for example.

And, Ted Rall, who's even more left-liberal than I am, says the pro-choice movement needs to communicate better, including avoiding demonization.

Indeed, Rall is blunt on one observation:
Abortion is murder. In my view women have--and ought to continue to have--the right to murder their unborn babies. Each abortion is a tragedy, some necessary and others not, and all of them are murder.
I'm not sure I'd use the word "murder." But, I do get where he is coming from. And, that's part of why he says pro-choicers shouldn't demonize pro-lifers.

Unfortunately, such things don't always happen, and there is demonization by both sides. That's why I don't blog about this issue a lot. And, it's why I don't use the word pro-choice about myself. This isn't like not liking the word "atheist" because of Gnu Atheism. I'm still OK with that. This is deeper. And, per what I see Rall getting at, there's simply not "one correct side" on this issue. That's even with knowing that one-fifth or more of human conceptions are spontaneously aborted. Or animal abortions. Or other things, like teratomas (graphic photo).

#Alameel flat-out lies on abortion

Or it certainly seems so to these eyes.

That's one of several lies the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate nomination told the Texas Tribune earlier this week:
Alameel insisted he has always been a strong supporter of a woman's right to an abortion. 
 
"I support Roe v. Wade, which the Supreme Court set as law of the land years ago," Alameel said. “Decisions like this should be made by a woman, her family, her doctor and her God."
I added that emphasis on "always."

Why? Because Alameel has, and I presume for some time, been on the advisory board of a Dallas Catholic group which has given grants to a number of pro-life Catholic groups, groups explicitly focused on right-to-life issues, as I have documented here, about him, as late as last year, possibly currently, sitting on the advisory council for Dallas' Catholic Foundation.

Therefore, if he's not lying now about being pro-choice, at some time in the past he lied to a bunch of Dallas Catholics, including, at least indirectly, the Archbishop of Dallas.

A commenter at this post by Kuff claims that Alameel saw the pro-choice light after his bout of cancer. Really? That was in 2010. And he's still on the advisory council of an explicitly pro-life Catholic group? Tell it to the Marines.

And, as action by House Democrats shows, the birth control provisions of Obamacare are going to remain a hot political topic. On the off chance Texas can elect a Democratic Senator, shouldn't it want one that is square-on with this issue?

But, that's not all. There's this:
“I want a refund right now because I believe John Cornyn and his Republican friends in Washington work for Wall Street and not Texans,” Alameel said. When asked if he regretted those earlier donations to Republicans, he reiterated that he wanted “a refund.”

Alameel said that his view of the Republican Party has changed in recent years.

“I used to think that Democrats and Republicans work together, but you know, it’s becoming more and more crystal clear that today’s Republican Party is far too extreme,” Alameel said. “John Cornyn is part of that extreme problem.”
Really? You just came to that opinion after 2010?

Wasn't it instead the realization after 2010 that, even with your Daddy Warbucks money, you couldn't buy yourself a political office on the GOP side?

It seems pretty clear that, even for a politician, Alameel's willing to tell untruths, and bald-faced ones at that.

I mean, people have made switches, for political reasons. Al Gore and Dick Gephardt moved from pro-life to pro-choice. And, at least in the first couple of years afterward, they never tried to claim they had ALWAYS been pro-choice. Ditto, after Poppy Bush switched the other direction, he never tried to claim he had ALWAYS been pro-life.

Also and again, what does this say about Wendy Davis for endorsing him? If she really cared about principles before either money or tacking right, shouldn't she ask for a "refund" on her endorsement of Alameel?

And, Battleground Texas? If you or Lone Star Project suggested this endorsement, then, per an old cigarette commercial, you've got a long way to go, baby. With Democratic candidates like this, who needs to search for "moderate Republicans"? Instead, just recruit them as candidates.

====


One Alameel fanboy on FB is now defining "pro-life" as "pro-choice" and also claiming this is an anti-Catholic issue, the push against Alameel. Slap the martyr's back of hand on the forehead.

====

And, per the Observer, good effing doorknob, it gets worse. Davis used the phrase "pro-life" about herself? Per a Facebooker who tried the same, this is nothing but Grade-A bullshit. "Pro-life" and "pro-choice" have publicly defined meanings.
When Davis did arrive, she met with reporters for 10 minutes. Sanchez asked the candidate about her statement, at an earlier event in the Valley, that Davis was “pro-life.” This was a predictable question given the campaign’s reluctance to even say the word “abortion.” Sanchez documents what happened next: “[Davis] looked at me and shook her head. But before she could articulate, her new press aide Rebecca Acuña jumped in and said ‘that comment was taken out of context.’”
That said, we do now have more of a clue on how and why she endorsed David Alameel.

January 28, 2014

#WendyDavis pulls an Obama on favorite politician

Remember in the 2008 presidential campaign, all the favorable comments made about Ronald Reagan, as a clear sign he was no Kenyan socialist was ready to pander to moderates, or worse?

Well, Wendy Davis' isn't nearly as bad, but naming a Republican as your most admired politician, even if Bill Ratliff indeed was (relatively) non-partisan? That's in the same neighborhood.

Why not name Bob Bullock? Fairly conservative, yes, so still gives you some pander factor, or a shout-out to rural current and former Democrats. Fairly non-partisan, though, too.

And, a Democrat.

I mean, whether actually using the word "favorite" or "admired" or similar, or not, any Democrat who blathers about a Republican like that, especially when there's a reasonable Democratic alternative, is going to lose a decent chunk of my trust.

Beyond that?

While Davis mentioned "education" too many times for me to count, I didn't see "income inequality" in there once as a direct phrase. Yeah, she kind of indirectly gets at it, about halfway down, and I know governors can only do so much, and state governments in general can only do so much, but, still ....

Guess she has even more in common with Dear Leader, eh?

Also didn't see "reproductive choice," or similar, anywhere there.

I understand education is important, that that's a key issue of reaching out to suburbanites who aren't necessarily "independent," but may just be getting turned off by Abbott.

However, one can do that and still (theoretically) articulate some theoretically core principles.

Or so I thought.

But this?

Must be in line with the pandering to moderates in Waxahachie. Wonder if Battleground Texas or Lone Star Project suggested she do this, just like I wonder if her endorsement of David Alameel, apparent closet pro-lifer, also was suggested by handlers.

Because that would be one way to "make Texas blue," as these folks assume is readily doable: tilt, tilt, tilt, right, right, right.

Also, she didn't have time, or whatever, to complete endorsement questionnaires from state LGBT groups, but did have time for this. Yep, moving right.

OTOH, per her Fort Worth City Council record, including willingness to sometimes jump in bed with the Bass Family for its money, she is not all that liberal outside of two hot-button social issues. And, while those are important, they're not the only things on my radar screen.

There is still the Green alternative for me, since it's too late for Dems to reverse their candidates in the top two spots.

'Days of Fire'? Peter Baker's book is barely kindling

Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White HouseDays of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House by Peter Baker

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Why do I say what I do? Veteran New York Times reporter Peter Baker has too much "mainstreamitis," too much "have-a-beer-itis," in this over-length tome.

Per the first, this book reads exactly like it was written by who it was: not "Peter Baker," but a decade-plus White House correspondent for a major mainstream paper. Take torture, for example. In the index, it links to pages that don't actually use the word, but, euphemisms or softenings.

Per the second? Baker seems to have that stereotypical "guy I'd have a beer with," as it was called in 2000 and again in 2004, man-crush on W.

As a result, other than looking at some details of how Bush wasn't totally Cheney's puppet, and even more details about how, after office, every Bush Administration official, including the Head Cheese and Darth Cheney, who has written a book, or been interviewed for a partisan one, has told at least one lie about one major interaction with other Bushies, there's not much here. On length, it could have been cut 150 pages without much loss.

I was on the 2/3 star border, but, this book is getting too much unworthy praise, so I went down rather than up.



View all my reviews

Is Tony LaRussa a real #Cardinal? His #Cooperstown move says no

Two St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnists, Bernie Miklasz and Bill McClellan, both weigh in on Tony LaRussa's decision for his plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame to have no team logo.

Bernie notes that a majority, not just a plurality, of TLR's wins as a manager came in St. Louis, and that other stats say he should go in with a Cardinal logo. Hey, Joe Torre managed in St. Louis and Atlanta, and the Dodgers and the Mets but he's going in with a Yankees marker.

Bill aims for the personal. He says, anecdotally, that TLR wanting to give a hat tip, p un intended to Southside Chicago and the East Bay for his White Sox and A's days? Hardly remembered.

And, there's the issue of just how much of a St. Louisan he was:
A lot of people here see La Russa’s decision as a snub. That thinking has roots. La Russa managed here for 16 years, but never lived here. He never made much of an effort to connect with the community. He acted like the midnight man stuck in the 9 o’clock town.

That attitude stung because St. Louisans have an inferiority complex. There is nothing snazzy about St. Louis. We’re a comfortable shoe of a place. We are always ready to be snubbed.

Bernie Miklasz wrote last week that he does not believe La Russa is snubbing anybody. He knows La Russa, so I’ll defer to him.

Actually, that makes the story a sad one, and La Russa becomes a tragic figure. He thinks the fans in Chicago and Oakland would have been hurt if he went into the Hall as a Cardinal. Truth is, the only fans who care are right here.
Agreed. But, that's not all.

And, as I emailed Bill and Tweeted Bernie, let's not forget about that friendship he developed with Ozzie Smith!

Beyond his refusal to address the Mark McGwire issue in 1998 (helped by a bit of friendly flak from Bernie, too), how he handled Ozzie's last years, including trying to shove him aside for Royce Clayton in an unfair "competition" for shortstop, is his blackest mark on the field as a Cardinal manager.

I think LaRussa's aim was a control freak issue. He felt he had to show Ozzie, the last holdover from the Whitey Herzog days (Tom Pagnozzi was a partial holdover, but not a Whiteyball icon, and Willie McGee had just come back after a six-year peregrination with other teams), whose team it was and that was that. It was a crude gesture as a manager as a control issue, and as a player quality issue, it was simply wrong. Ozzie was the better player.  Check out the 1996 roster; Oz had equal WAR and much better WAA in less than half as many at bats.

In an email exchange, Bill references Andy Van Slyke, too. I forgot about the history between him and TLR, over LaRussa's knowledge of Big Mac's roiding. (Oh, a good sabermetric based piece here about how Mac showed TLR should have known.) That wasn't the only tangle they had, though.

His blackest off-the-field mark is a mix of his own DWI and apparent problems in handing drinking issues of David Freese and several other players, of course, such as Josh Hancock, with his DWI fatality accident.

LaRussa's overall record arguably makes him a Hall of Famer. But, I still can't believe that, between two of his three managerial franchises, he knew so little of what McGwire was doing, which is exactly why he got defensive. It's why I've said he and Torre shouldn't have been voted in the Hall. Not yet.

Obama sells out #equality (updated)

If you're expecting some earthshaking ideas from President Obama in tonight's State of the Union address, fuhgeddaboutit.

Specifically, on income inequality.

How many of you bit, and bit hard, when Dear Leader had his famous "I have an equality" speech a few weeks ago, which seems like 7 dog years in Obama-time? C'mon, be honest. Yes, you, Charles Pierce, the Boston Strangler? Yes, raise your hand.

Surely, this time, he really, actually meant it. 

Yeah, and he's actually going to disapprove KeystoneXL, too. (Stay tuned for a reality check, probably about two weeks after midterm elections. Long enough to not appear gauche, but early enough to give TransCanada a Christmas present.)

And, equality? Equality, you said?

The head-faking is now official:
Income inequality is out, "ladders of opportunity" is in.

Eager to dispel claims that President Barack Obama is engaging in "class warfare" as he heads into his State of the Union address next week, the White House is de-emphasizing phrases focusing on economic disparity and turning instead to messages about creating paths of opportunity for the poor and middle class.

The adjustment reflects an awareness that Obama's earlier language put him at risk of being perceived as divisive and exposed him to criticism that his rhetoric was exploiting the gap between haves and have-nots.
Yep, because doorknob forbid that on anything other than illegitimate snooping on Americans, or killing innocents abroad with drones, Obama actually take a firm stance on anything.

"Ladders of opportunity"? That sounds like some crap that Newt Gingrich would utter.

And, the current GOP? It's going to now talk about trickle-down ladders of opportunity.

Dear Leader will talk about enterprise zones, or enterprise zones on a hill, or other nonsense during his State of the Union address, which will almost be guaranteed to be vapid blather now.

And, the troops are rallying to hoist the standard of vapidness:
"Anytime a Democrat mentions inequality, suddenly they're a raging populist," said Jon Favreau, Obama's top speech writer until he left the White House a year ago. "What's he's talking about he's been talking about since 2004, 2005."

"Any capitalist country has inequality and that in itself is not necessarily a bad thing," Favreau said. "What most concerned him is mobility."
Yeah? Really? Given how the 1 percent has gotten almost all the profit after the theoretical end of The Great Recession? After economic mobility is less than in Old Europe?

Tell it to the Marines.

What else do you expect from a man who practically gushed over Ronald Reagan at the start of his presidency?

==

Otherwise, expect the speech to be generally bland, boring, incrementalist and neoliberal. His promise zones? Just an updated version of the old "enterprise zones" that have been around since the 1970s and done little. Expect nothing major on the secret snooping front. Some spin on Obamacare's alleged successes, a Kumbaya call for immigration reform that probably won't actually be in immigrants' best interests, and that's about it.

As far as the traditional First Lady's guests, yeah, Jason Collins will be nice, but who will recognize him without a presidential shout-out, or one from the media?

You want a special guest? Why not Leonard Peltier?

On the other hand, raising the minimum wage for federal contractors by executive order sounds nice. But, can't a future president reverse that? And, would that be a symbolic motion to undercut actual minimum wage heavy lifting with Congress? (Beyond that, and shock me, it doesn't apply to current federal contracts, only ones newly inked after this point.)

And, enterprise zones might be nice. But, on Appalachia and the president's "promise zones," besides being a doorknob-ugly euphemism? Er, the poverty rate in my corner of Texas is higher than that. I live in the general vicinity of the first place in the nation that WallyWorld closed a store after opening it, because it was losing money.

January 27, 2014

#Astroturfing endorsement groups — part of political silly season

As primary election season approaches in the Abandoned Pointy Object State, part of the fun is seeing candidate-critters talk about who is endorsing them in their battle to replace Kinky Friedman as Head Dogcatcher of Utopia, or whatever the hell race he is in this year.

Example Numero One? From our mild-mannered Deputy Dawg of an Ag Secretary, now challenging David Dewhurst and the gang in the GOP Lite Guv primary:
Citing his proven record of fighting to secure the border and reforming our failed immigration system without amnesty, a coalition of Texans announced today their support for Todd Staples for Lieutenant Governor. The Border Defenders Coalition is a group made up of law enforcement, landowners and business owners living and working in the border region. 
Speaking of you-know-who, I think he actually stole something from the old Kinkster. His PR goes on to say:
Staples commissioned two accomplished U.S. military generals to conduct a strategic military assessment to identify problems along the border and make recommendations for real solutions. The assessment helped develop his 6–point plan to fix our failing system that starts with securing the border and does not include amnesty. Staples also wrote a book, Broken Borders, Broken Promises, revealing what is truly occurring on the frontlines of the border war. 
First, were there no "failed US generals" available? This is like advertising "authentic Mexican food" instead of "Chinese imitation Mexican food."

Second, it just goes further toward showing that you can round up about any sort of endorsements you want, especially if you have the paperwork already ready for them to form their very own organization.

Third, if we're going to have such fake groups, let's have really fake fake groups.

I’m looking for a group like the Left-Handed Albanian Plumbers of Greater Dallas who Meet in the Sons of Hermann Hall to come out and endorse somebody. Maybe the Kinkster? I'm sure he and the Jewboys have played a gig or two at Sons of Hermann, after all.

Maybe the surviving members of the cast of Monty Python can pull out something like this and create some Astroturfed fake civic organizations for us all.


Or better yet, I can create a business designed to crank out such fake endorsement groups.

Hey, Matt Angle? I got one for you:

"Pro-Choice Businessmen for David Alameel."

Just don't tell them about all that good pro-life Catholic stuff he does.

Should Boston give David Ortiz a 2-year extension?

Red Sox slugger David Ortiz has gotten pretty adamant about this. He now says that he'll look at walking off after this year, when his current contract runs out, if Boston doesn't give him a two-year deal, presumably to end his career after his age-40 season.


That said, he hasn't hinted at numbers he wants, nor indicated if 1 + a player option (albeit at lower $$ than the guaranteed year) will fit the bill.


If I'm Boston, I don't even begin to think about this until midseason. He is 38. Outside of his more obvious dings in 2008 and 2012, he's not had 550 ABs in a season since 2006, or 150 games played since 2007.


About August, I'd start doing assessing. If it looks like he'll at least end above 2010's statistical line, I'm prepared to cut him a two-year check, likely a full two years. If we're in that "vicinity," but not better, I'm leaning one + player option, with that option year less on cash, but perhaps with some incentives. That's definitely true if he's below his 2008 level.


And, if by mid-August, it looks like Boston has the 2009 Ortiz, he only gets a one-year deal, unless he wants a healthy pay cut as part of this.

Is Bud Selig the best baseball commish ever? Uhh, maybe?

Jayson Stark says its a clear yes.

Craig Calcaterra says only if you allow for caveats.

He notes most of the commissioners were fairly poor material. Of the top two who weren't, Bart Giamatti died in office after a short tenure and the owners eventually ran off Fay Vincent for being too independent.

He also notes Bud got in office by leading the palace coup against Fay, though acknowledging that eventually led to some degree of revenue sharing and other things.

I'm with Craig on this. I don't know for sure, but I think either Giamatti or Vincent might have handled the revenue sharing better.

As for Stark's "purist alert"? I'm not a fan at all of the second wild card. And, even though it helped the Cardinals in 2011, I'm not totally a fan of the first. (Bob Costas' idea is just the three division winners, with the best getting a first-round bye. I'd be OK with four teams from each league with one more expansion to 32 teams, which would have the side benefits of reducing the number of interleague games and getting rid of year-round interleague play.

Oh, yes, that's another non-purist thing I don't like.

As for his successor? I'd like to see something done with local-level TV revenue sharing. Not a lot, but a slice. In exchange, let's put in a poor man's floor as well as a lux tax ceiling, requiring every team in baseball to have a minimum salary level. You go below that, and you lose revenue sharing money. If you as an owner fall below it a second time, you get booted off any ownership committees.

At the same time, let's make a small portion of the lux tax also go to revenue sharing. Let 80 percent of so of it go to its other current obligations, but dump a few $$ in the revenue sharing tank.

As for the ghost in the machine? I think Selig has led MLB to the best policy, and policing, of any American team sport. But, could he have done more sooner? I also say yes.

And, I didn't even mention letting an All-Star Game end in a tie, then later deciding the ASG would be used to set home-field advantage in the World Series. On that one, if we have year-round interleague play, why not just use best record instead of the old alternating-years system?

As for all the new stadiums? Yes, they're beautiful. And with baseball attendance and other things, they're at least smaller economic whales than football stadiums.

That's of importance with how Baseball Public Enemy No. 1, Jeff Loria, hosed Miami-Dade County on new stadium costs. And how current Braves ownership may wind up doing the same with the willing connivance of the Cobb County Commissioners Court.

Per Craig, isn't this like choosing the best hockey player in Nicaraguaa?

January 26, 2014

Photoblogging: Learning more about adjustment layers and #HDR lite effects

I haven't done much blogging about photography in a long time. But, having upgraded from my 30D that was breaking down, to a Rebel T2i, I'm going to start doing it occasionally.

Pluses of going back to a Rebel? (My first DSLR was the original digital Rebel.) It's lighter. It's less expensive.

Drawbacks? Having liked the 1/3 stop increments on ISO adjustment on the 30D, I don't like the "coarseness" of only being able to do full-stop increments.

Pluses of upgrading to this Rebel? Mainly, the pluses of getting a newer DSLR in general. Tops is less noise at high-end ISOs. 3200 is not much more noisy, if any, than 1600 was on my old DSLR. And 6400, a normal setting on the ISO adjustment and not an "H" programming insert, is less noisy than the H-based 3200 on the 30D.

So, I demonstrate this particular photo:


First, this is in a small Class 2A high school gym, which means lighting is not great, and it's not totally even. It's at 3200 ISO, 1/250 @ F5. Flashless.

That's one thing I like about the higher ISOs. Even in a lower-budget, lower-lighting sports setting, you can do a lot of flashless shots, which means lighting equality on burst shots and other things. Plus, on indoor shooting, it means no hassles with refs wanting you to turn your flash off, too.

And, mouthpiece halfway out and the other things? Got some drama in there, as far as the photo itself.

That said, per the other half of the header?

Recently, looking at an old note in an old computer folder, I started looking at using the Adjustment Layer command under the Layers drop-down menu. The note recommended selecting the Levels command within the side pop-out menu. Then, select "Luminosity" with the pop-up window that follows. Then, on the pop-up histogram, slide the midrange slider to 1.10 instead of 1. Flatten your image and you're done.

I'd also recommend trying the "Soft Overlay" under Levels instead of Luminosity. So as not to overdue it, pull the Opacity in that back to about 50 percent. If that's either too much or too little, just go back up your History window and undo and repeat.

The right play can get some HDR lite effects, per the rest of the header, without overdoing anything.

Right-to-life hypocrisy on #Israel & #abortion — maybe it's for the #Rapture?

Photoshopping by Socratic Gadfly
US pro-life groups hate abortion locally, but are mum about Israel's even more liberal abortion laws. Maybe they expect that to bring on the Rapture? (Pat Jerk free red heifer jerky part of?)

That said, per the link, I guess Christian right-to-lifers have no problem quoting the Talmud out of context. Shock me; too bad we didn't have Sarah Palin asked to talk about the Talmud. Even in Israel, the majority of the concern is from Jews for Jesus types, whose literature I passed out at a plurality-Jewish public high school back in what I wish were another lifetime, but isn't.

Beyond that, this is another example of how the "Judeo" half of what religious conservatives trot out as America's "Judeo-Christian heritage" is simply a fig leaf for "Christian heritage," and a conservative version of one at that. Many of the Founding Fathers who weren't actually Deist would still squirm in discomfort if forced to sit in a pew, or a fancy movie theater style seat, at a typical modern conservative Protestant church. And, many of those Founding Fathers who were more conservative religiously would decry today's conservative Protestants for making alliance with the Whore of Babylon, aka the Roman Catholic Church and pope.

It's a form of intolerance, really. It treats Judaism as nothing other than a tool to further a certain, selective version of Christianity, not just limited to abortion, but to rudely and unconstitutionally inserting religion into areas of the public square where it doesn't belong. It's the fig leaf that lets Justice Antonin Scalia talk about "civic religion" as though, contra John Adams, it's a lowest-common-denominator social conservativism buffed to a spit shine with a religious patina then overlaid.

And, it's not just locally. Abroad, per the link, the Religious Right has no problem with treating the Jewish homeland of its allies as a tool as well, ultimately, to bring on that Rapture. That said, since Catholics don't believe in the Rapture, either, then they too should be leery about getting too far under the Protestant fig leaf.

Per the header, maybe the Christian Right is silent because it wants to encourage abortion in Israel as part of bringing on the Rapture?

That said, as the pro forma version of this year's right-to-life rally in Washington on the Roe vs Wade anniversary shows, there's hypocrisy to spare. Maybe they should have asked Rick Perry to pray for sun? We've seen just how powerful his words are.

Beyond that, I like to trot out my own Photoshopping on occasion, and this is a good excuse for that.

If David Alameel is pro-choice, he still needs to tell some people

Uhh, like some institutional Catholic friends of his.

Alameel, one of five Democrats running for the US Senate nomination in Texas, has gotten press for two reasons:
1. He's a self-financing Daddy Warbucks who may be worth upwards of $50 million and
2. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis endorsed him, either for her own campaign finance reasons or to further triangulate rightward. (In either case, politicos who don't currently hold a statewide office aren't in the habit of endorsing candidates.)

What made this all puzzling is that Davis shot to fame on her anti-abortion legislation filibuster last summer, while Alameel had a campaign website in mothballs the day she endorsed him, and when he unveiled said website, it had not one word about his stance on any issues, let alone reproductive choice.

Well, a full week later, per friend P.Diddle, he came out from under the cone of silence and claimed he was fully pro-choice.

Really? That might be news to the Catholic Foundation, an organization whose advisory council includes Alameel. Given that the bishop of the Dallas Archdiocese of the Roman Catholic Church is a voting member of its board of directors, I'm sure that the foundation does not support any pro-choice work or sentiments as part of its philosophy.

Indeed, its list of annual grants includes The Catholic Pro-Life Committee, Catholic Crisis Pregnancy Centers/Birthchoice, clearly a pro-life group, and Heroic Media, a pro-life nonprofit media network.

So, Alameel? You need to be honest with either the Catholic Foundation, or with voters about the reality of your alleged pro-choice stance.  Which is it?

I mean, we're 15 years into a fair amount of people having Internet access. We're 10 years into Google and the rise of Web 2.0. We're five years into the rise of social media, crowdsourcing information and related items. But, political candidates and others think they can still hide their pasts.

P.Diddle has the Maxey Scherr campaign's response to Alameel's pro-choice claims earlier this week. Let's see if this too floats back to her campaign HQ. And, also per P., he's rounding up pro-life Democrats on endorsements.

David Alameel? You can run, but you can't hide. 

That includes not being able to hide when you double down on the pro-choice claims, because I just doubled down on calling y ou out.

And, if Matt Angle & the Lone Star Project don't want to respond to Tweets, fine ... I just posted on their Facebook page.

And, is this also an example of Davis needing to "tighten," not just her language, but her operations in general?

And my note to Alameel in that last comment about him? It applies to all politicians. Beyond wanting big money out of politics, I want transparency in.