SocraticGadfly: 2/16/14 - 2/23/14

February 22, 2014

This week in MLB: Bad contracts, broken Rangers, good contracts, #Cardinals cockamamie

Bad contracts? Here's my take on the badness of Philly overpaying for A.J. Burnett, especially since we now know it's a two-year deal, not one year. Phillies fans, is it time to place props bets, or over-unders, on GM Ruben Amaro lasting out the season or not?

Broken Rangers? The rotation in Arlington looks pretty shaky to me if Matt Harrison's latest back woes are a harbinger. Will Jon Daniels chase Ervin Santana or Jeff Samardzija? Should he?

Good contracts? It still seems odd, hence my year-early comment, but, all contracts are a gamble and the Braves seem to be doing right by Andrelton Simmons. That said, doesn't this mean that Arte Moreno and Jerry DiPoto realistically have one month left to do something team-friendly and player-friendly both with Mike Trout? And, from the team's point of view, the Orioles' cheap deal for former Ranger RF Nelson Cruz is fairly good, though I think it's not perfect. It also will likely do one of two things: It will either quickly clear up much of the remaining free agent logjam, or it's going to lead a couple of players  (read: agents) to dig in their heels.

Falling between good and bad? I'm not sold on the megadeal for Homer Bailey. That includes arguing that middle-market teams shouldn't put that many contract-egg dollars into middle-level players.

Cardinals cockamamie? Bernie Miklasz cues up the mythical "Cardinal way," with some extra sugar of St. Stan Musial, to implore Ozzie Smith and Tony La Russa to kiss and make up. Read more of my thoughts on why this is quite possibly the worst column Bernie's ever written.

And, speaking of Ozzie, no, Derek Jeter, Yankeedom and all, is not a better lifetime shortstop than him.

Finally, I talk about why I prefer Baseball-Reference to Fangraphs in making those and other observations.

#GregAbbott issues non-apology "apology" for #TedNugent

The heat is on in the kitchen for Greg Abbott, with at least one state elected GOP officeholder wondering, or pondering, "I didn't think Greg could stumble" over his hand-holding with draft-dodging legend/rock star has-been Ted Nugent, and Greg can't stand it. So what can he stand for?

But, to stumble, you have to be standing, don't you?

And Politically Correct Ken doesn't want us talking about his infirmity, as we need to remember. 

Of course Sarah Palin probably #StandsWithTed because she #BoinkedWithTed some time in the past. 

Meanwhile, as for standing on principle, yes, the Schmuck Talk Experss is more myth than reality, but John McCain says: I repudiate Ted Nugent's language. Why can't Greg Abbott (or Ted Cruz) simply say the same? Hell, even Tricky Ricky Perry has a qualified condemnation.

Interestingly, McCain also says that, if we went to the presidential polls today, Hillary Clinton would win. 

Abbott himself has finally done an even more low-grade version of the Perry qualified condemnation. (And, if Faux News is worrying this issue will hurt you, you stumbled indeed.) However, all three of the above genets ONLY refudiate the Nuge's "subhuman mongrel" comment about President Barack Obama. None of them, and more importantly at this moment, Abbott in particular, will disavow a larger association with man who has a history of moral problems with women of sub-18 age that Attorney General Abbott theoretically would prosecute, or with a self-admitted pants-pooping draft dodger who obviously undercuts the "patriotism" that Abbott claims Obama mars.

And, the Nuge himself had even more of a non-apology, directing his retraction to "not necessarily to the President– but on behalf of much better men than myself," in other words, apologizing for hurting Abbott's campaign, and not to Obama. 

Update, Feb. 24: Abbott has now said he is moving forward. Good thing he didn't say he's "standing tall" after this, eh?

Cruz to Orioles: Price is at least halfway right

So, the Baltimore Orioles, continuing to play small ball in the free agent world, have signed former Texas Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz on the easy terms of one year for $8 million and incentives change.

Yeah, it's nice to get him on the cheap, and boy, his stock has fallen, eh? But, if you're paying the draft choice price, shouldn't you at a minimum try to have an option year, not a straight one year? Even if that pick is a second-rounder?

From the team's point of view, not getting a team, or a mutual, option on a second year seems unwise also, beyond the comp pick issue. One-year free agents don't lend themselves to team stability. With Cruz, he'll surely have a bigger drop-off some point in the future, but I think he has two decent years in him, and that second year, whether straight or an option, could have been more incentive laced, perhaps with vesting options or something.

Anyway, beyond Cruz, this kind of "slots" Kendrys Morales, too, doesn't it? I'd be more likely to give him a second year, but, at best, is he looking at 3/$35, and that's if he will commit to a 3-yr deal. If a team like Baltimore would only lose an inter-round, or even just a second round pick up him, he could fall to what, 1/$11 or something?

I think this has spill to the pitching market, too. Ervin Santana and his agent need to start reading tea leaves. Could he wind up going back to the Angels? With Mark Mulder not an option, a cheap Santana would firm up their roster. Or, maybe Jon Daniels takes a cheap flier over Matt Harrison worries?

Finally, with this move plus the Ubaldo Jimenez signing, the Orioles, especially if they get the late 2013 Jimenez, are definitely somewhere "in the mix" in the AL East now.

Texas Senate GOP primary — still a muddle

Unfortunately (and why, big media outlets?) we still have limited polling in this race, but it looks like John Cornyn still can't break 50 percent. This is no panacea for Steve Stockman, though. Per Politico, many tea partiers think he's too nuts, or has too dark a past, or is too flighty, to replace Big John.

Wikipedia's page on the 2014 race for this seat, all primaries and the general, kind of confirms this. Dwayne Stovall has more endorsements than Stockman, and a number of local TP groups.

Can he pull a Ted Cruz and send Cornyn to a runoff? 

To be honest, I doubt it.

I don't think any of Cornyn's opponents have as much gravitas with the far right as Cruz did two years ago. Second, the bigger number of contestants makes name recognition at a higher premium. Per state Rep. Kyle Kacal, I wouldn't be surprised to see a "collapse" on Cornyn for that reason alone. Third, while they don't totally like him, Cornyn still sits better with the far right than David Dewhurst did two years ago.

I wouldn't be surprised if Cornyn is held below 65 percent, but a runoff would surprise me. And, I wouldn't be surprised if a few of the far right "stay home" in November. How many, I don't know.

Update, Feb. 27: Tea party groups may be starting to coalesce behind Stovall. It may well be too late, thouugh.

That said, a brief glimpse at Democrats. If endorsements mean anything, Michael Fjetland is the odd person out. Both Mr. Pro-Life, David Alameel, and Maxey Scherr, rounding up traditional Democratic organizations despite Wendy Davis and Leticia Van de Putte stupidly, selfishly, or whateverly endorsing Alameel, are far, far ahead of F-land in endorsements. In fact, Wiki lists ONLY the Texpatriate blog as an endorser of him. Scherr has a few media endorsements. The big East Texas media outlets are showing their true colors by plugging Alameel, and without much questioning of him.

February 21, 2014

Rangers rotation: Suddenly shaky?

The news that Matt Harrison, he of two back surgeries and some arm issues before that, is having a new set of back issues cannot be good news for fans in Arlington, Texas, and elsewhere.

If Harrison is shelved for any significant time, you have Colby Lewis coming back from hip surgery, Tommy Hanson who's declined every year he's been in MLB, a Martin Perez whom the Rangers may not want to pick up too many additional innings at the age of 22, and a Derek Holland currently on the shelf himself and back who knows when for sure, to try to fill out the rotation after Yu Darvish, Alexei Ogando and various sacks of hammers, including Nick Tepesch as one of those. Add in that Ogando only had a half season last year, and, at the age of 29, that was just his second year as a starter, and that rotation looks pretty thin.

That said, what should Harrison's prognosis be?

Give that his pre-back surgery arm problems were more shoulder than elbow, I wonder if he already had a bit of something in his back, and the shoulder was compensation? The thoracic outlet surgery, in addition to the back surgeries, might indicate that. And, in that case, maybe it's time for Jon Daniels to just write him off?

And, does Daniels make any moves? Ervin Santana's still out there in free agent world, though a lot of Rangers fans might shudder at the idea of him pitching in a gopher ball place like The Ballpark of Lame-Ass Corporate Renamings. Or, there's trading from the prospect pool to the Cubbies for Jeff Samardzija, if you will.

Most prognosticators are pegging the Rangers at around 9-10 among all 30 teams, and "in the mix" for the AL West title with the A's, and a an Angels team expected to improve from last year but still finish out of the money.

Oliver sudden, I'd revise those thoughts, or at least put them on hold, you know?

Should the Lakers amnesty Kobe Bryant if they could?

At one point last year, some fans and bloggers suggested that the L.A. Lakers should "amnesty" Pau Gasol as the easy way to address some of their salary cap problems, before the team opted on Metta World Peace instead. (And hey, Baskeball-Reference, can you get up-to-date pix of players?)

But, the Lakers have instead run in financial reverse since then, signing Kobe Bryant to a godawful contract extension that must have been done by Jim Buss putting a gun to Mitch Kupchak's head.

They got greedy with the Cavs on a would-be cap-freeing trade of Gasol for Andrew Bynum and it fell through.

Then, Kobe broke his leg. And Steve Nash never has really come back.

That's led two ESPN writers to do a yes/no on whether Kobe should even come back this year or pack it in.

Well, I've blogged previously about why the Lakers should tank, and of how nicely they're now doing it within the West, so you know my answer on that. Answer? Park Kobe's butt, and try to out-tank a couple of additional Eastern teams.

But, the NBA trade deadline day emails column by Bill Simmons and Zach Lowe, where Simmons at one point talks about the idea of making amnesties tradeable, got me to thinking.

Especially if we're at the point about talking whether or not the Mamba should sit down for the rest of the year, why not amnesty him, in a theoretical world?

Since the Lakers amnestied Metta, we'd have to have the Simmons rule in effect, and then the Lakers would have to trade something to one of those teams that still haven't used the amnesty clause. Gasol's expiring contract plus a lottery-protected Laker first-round draft choice (and how many times after this year will we use that phrase) probably would do the trick with, say, the Bulls?

That said, now that we've broached this idea with Kobe, let's take Simmons' amnesty idea in general.

Should the league set floor and ceiling prices on what trading an amnesty is worth?

Or maybe differentiate between Amnesty 1 and Amnesty II with an overhaul of the whole amnesty idea? You know, Amnesty I would be for contracts of $15M a year or more, or, say, $50M or more remaining total value, and Amnesty II would be for lesser contracts. With a new collective bargaining agreement, a team would get, say one Amnesty I and two Amnesty II slots every five years.

#Mars, biatches? Well, maybe not

Properly measuring and protecting against Martian radiation will be key
to any manned mission to Mars./ photo
Despite Dennis Tito saying a year ago that he plans on having a manned mission to Mars by 2018, we're nowhere near that close, as I blogged a couple of years ago, unless Tito wants nothing but an unscientific, one-way trip, and a high likelihood of cancer to boot. That said, that's probably all Tito cares about.

That's because, as notes in a great new piece, we're just starting to figure out what we need to know about cosmic rays. And, the problems will be on Mars, not just in flight.

Let's take a peek at it, before doing an update on the possibility, and needs, of an actual scientific mission:
The Mars rover Curiosity has allowed us to finally calculate an average dose over the 180-day journey. It is approximately 300 mSv, the equivalent of 24 CAT scans. In just getting to Mars, an explorer would be exposed to more than 15 times an annual radiation limit for a worker in a nuclear power plant.
So, double that for the return trip. Add 50 percent, off the top of my head, for time on Mars. That's 60 CAT scans, or 37.5 times the power plant worker's limit. Or, 750 mSv, which is 75 rem. Per Wikipedia, we're at a lifetime dose for a nuclear power plant or similar worker.

In short, while a trip to Mars isn't going to turn an astronaut into the cosmic-ray version of Frankenfood, without at least some shielding, it's going to definitely increase his or her likelihood of cancer. And, especially with men, it's going to increase the likelihood of sterility.

That said ...

Is this doable? Yes? Any time this decade? No.

It is a big sum to do this, unless we want a one-way trip, which somebody likely would volunteer to do. I think setting a target date of about 2035 allows out years to fatten that budget, do the R&D on radiation shielding, use more robotic missions to focus what a manned mission should do, etc. That also allows NASA plenty of time to work out details of a joint effort with Roscosmos, the European Space Agency, and maybe other partners.

Also, our current rockets are too small, specifically capsule size. As I've blogged before, unless you want to do the 1-day stop-and-return to have the lowest-energy return trajectory, you've got to have more than three people on that mission. And, that adds up to additional weight, space and food, plus additional weight and space for the exercise area. Mars' gravity is enough more than the moon's that, without adequate exercise in flight, an astronaut is liable to break a leg on landing.

That 2035 tracks pretty closely with the "30 years away" of my original blog post.

Wikipedia has an entry entitled "Manned mission to Mars." Since I started writing my thoughts independently of looking at it, I'm going by what I have written, with brief references to it.

Shorter take? Illustrations of such a trip look great, don't they? Well, drool away, because those illustrations are about as close as we're getting in your lifetime or mine to landing people on Mars, in my opinion.

There's three main reasons why "cool" images are all we'll be seeing in the foreseeable future. They're called space psychology, space safety and space engineering.

And, most of those are connected with the idea that, at minimum, we're talking 1.5 years of travel, with distances far greater than lunar travel. And, the low-fuel journey, for one-quarter of what the "fast" trip takes, involves 2.8 years, more than half of that on Mars.

This will tax engineering, certainly tax human psychology, and without massive advances in shielding from cosmic rays, will kill astronauts -- not on the actual trip, but more surely, and with at least as much life reduction on average, as smoking two packs of Camels a day.

In short, beyond the illustration, we have to do R&D on human physiology for a long journey in "zero gravity," a certain amount of exploration into 1/4 Earth gravity, then a long journey back into zero gravity. We have to do the psychological R&D, more rigorous than Russia's mock trip to Mars, on a capsule of as many as seven people confined together for 6 months or more, and, on Mars, as far away as 20 minutes, one way, by communications link.

Details on the "why" of all of this below the fold, updated to reflect how NASA's current manned mission planning is woefully inadequate, starting with the spacecraft.

1. Space psychology. A trip to Mars will take about 400-450 days round trip. Once on Mars, astronauts either have to wait about 1.5 years for an optimal window for return, or else burn much more fuel to get back to Earth after a relatively short one-month stay. Details of both options, as well as a faster outward trip, are here. Having to burn 3x as much fuel for a faster outward trip, and 5x as much for an earlier return is not a negligible consideration.

Here's the bottom line:
A. Hohmann transfer both ways plus 1.5 years on Mars = 2.8 years.
B. Fast trip out plus 1 month on Mars plus slow trip home = 1.5 years.

So, we've got astronauts away, well away, from Earth for a minimum of 1.5 years. And, if we want to maximize the "return" on going to Mars, we've got them there three years.

Even in near-Earth orbit, and with less than a year's time, we've seen psychological stress on some outer space crews. Yes, there have been simulated Mars trips, but, given the many minor things that can go wrong in real space, and the simple psychological factor of knowing that Earth is "just outside the door," I'm not sure how well you can simulate the psychology of such a trip. The Russian mockup was far short of that. First, they had the knowledge they could bail. Second, it only simulated a one-way trip; the time on Mars and the return time was not in the simulation.

2. You certainly can't simulate space health effects. As for the effects of solar wind? In its articles on magnetospheres and solar wind, Wiki talks about Mars' lack of magnetic field and results thusly: Mars, with little or no magnetic field, is thought to have lost much of its former oceans and atmosphere to space in part due to the direct impact of the solar wind, with an atmosphere now 1/100 that of Earth. Venus, with its thick atmosphere is thought to have lost most of its water to space in large part owing to solar wind ablation. (The solar wind stretches the "downwind" side of Venus' atmosphere almost to Earth.)

For just about all the trip, astronauts will be outside the protection of Earth's magnetosphere. Dangerous, in terms of radiation? Yes, enough to make some people rethink the whole idea as potentially fatal:

"The estimate now is you would exceed acceptable levels of fatal cancer," said Francis Cucinotta, chief scientist for NASA's space radiation program at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. "That's just cancer. We also worry about effects of radiation on the heart and the central nervous system."

Cucinotta says these estimates do take into account protective shielding around a crew vehicle, probably some form of polyethylene plastic. Lead shields actually create secondary radiation when struck by cosmic rays, while water, perhaps the best form of protection, would have to be several meters thick to get enough protection. ("Houston calling Water Balloon 1, do you copy?") 

Lead and water, in any case, are very heavy for the quantities that would be required, making them an expensive shielding to launch.
And then, there's the gravity issue. We'd have either 450 days of zero gravity and one month of 1/4 Earth gravity, or 450 days of the former and a little more than that of the latter.

At the same time, while Mars' gravity is low, low enough to not be "good" for Earth-accustomed astronauts, it's heavy enough to be problematic after 225 days of no gravity, as the story above notes;

"What happens if they land on Mars and try to lift an object that's fairly or reasonably heavy, they could herniate their discs," said Alan Hargens, an orthopedic surgeon at the University of California San Diego who studies the effects of gravity on astronauts. "One of the main issues is that when they arrive at Mars, there's nobody there to take care of them. If they have some issue due to de-conditioning in that six month period, they'll definitely have a problem."
It's true. Even with treadmills and other gravity simulators on the spacecraft, in the first few days on the Martian surface, there would be a high risk of muscle pulls, muscle and tendon tears, hernias and broken bones, and possibly heart attacks due to stress.

Because you'd definitely need "backup," that means not just one, but two members of each crew would have to be physicians. (One could be a psychiatrist, to address issues under point No. 1. We're going to need a psychologist anyway.

There's also another medical problem that's already hit some shuttle/ISS astronauts: Vision problems.
According to one NASA survey of about 300 astronauts, nearly 30 percent of those who have flown on space shuttle missions — which usually lasted two weeks — and 60 percent who completed six-month shifts aboard the station reported a gradual blurring of eyesight.
It's obviously progressive. A trip to Mars would have worse effects on a higher percentage of astronauts. It's fairly serious, and so far, recovery has not been complete in those who have suffered it.

3. Space engineering. This is going to subsume several things.

Let's start with a bottom line that also relates to point 1: the communication time gap. When Earth and Mars are at opposition, it's 20 minutes one way for communication.

So, if an Apollo 13 type event happens, during almost all the journey, astronauts are on their own.

That affect Earth engineering. We can't have an Apollo 13 problem, as far as improvised fixes, of trying to mate square canisters and round holes or vice versa. Can't have it. That means that the U.S. government, U.N., EU, a consortium or whatever, has to ride a very, very heavy herd on private contractors. That, in turn, ramps up the price.

Second, radiation shielding. Unless you have astronauts who sign "death sentence waivers," our current engineering simply can't protect against it. Period.

Third, crew composition. Let's say we have a crew of seven.

As I noted above, we have to have two M.D.s, one a psychiatrist. Both to study human changes in space and explore Martian life, person No. 3 is a Ph.D. biologist, of course. No. 4 is a mechanical engineer who's spent time at all those private contractors' sites. (Every astronaut, though, for reasons mentioned above, will have a crash course in engineering.) No. 5 is a geophysicist. No. 6, whether military or not, as commander, has to have a leader's presence. No. 7 is No. 2 in charge, and No. 1 in piloting skills. These two may have some backup training in sciences, but, their primary backup training will be the leads, along with person No. 4, in engineering and constructing a Martian base, on the first flight, which will be the high-fuel, quick-return version.

Of course, we' re not getting there anyway. But, that would be a minimum. Arguably, even on the first flight, you'd want an eighth person, another engineering/construction person. That then said, what crew capsule size are we talking about? And, are we conforming a crew to a capsule or vice versa? In either case, seven is a minimum, I think.

Don't forget all the food that means. All the water conversion and air filtration that means, with multiple redundancies on systems.

Meanwhile, NASA's Orion crew vehicle only seats four. NASA's skimping a LOT on both human backup needs, legitimate crew needs and space psychology issues. More reason to say both that we're not going to launch a manned mission to Mars any time soon, and we shouldn't, at least not under current planning.

However, Boeing's new capsule (update, May 8, 2015) does seat seven, and does so in comfort, style and modernity, as this story details, complete with the photo and more at the link.

Details note that the pilot's seat has had traditional switchgear replaced with tablet-like interfaces. In turn, that reduces cabin clutter.

Plastic has replaced metal in a lot of places, which reduces weight.

It generally looks much more ergonomic.

Now, this is being targeted to low-Earth orbit, for flights to the International Space Station and commercial use. But, the size is right and general design elements are right. No reason why something based on this couldn't be the Mars craft.

There's one more "engineering" option. Let's call it "financial engineering." Throwing aside radiation, building a spaceship that can offer some exercise protection against zero-G debilitation, be big enough to offer some small bit of buffer against space psychology, be big enough to, over a few trips, carry Mars base construction raw materials, etc. ....

Will cost at least $1 trillion in today's money to build and launch.

The U.S. is not doing that alone. See above.

Partnerships also need to to "R&D" on the willingness of even the biggest government joint venture to shell out that much.

Some thoughts on judging "chile"

Yours truly, at left, part of a chili cookoff recently.

First, Texans, yes, that’s how you spell it. I grew up in New Mexico, where chile includes neither tomatoes nor beans when done correctly. That said, maybe the misspelling in the Abandoned Pointy Object State™ is actually a good thing, so we know just what is what.

That said, let’s dive in, so to speak. With the above in mind, I’ve used the Texas spelling, because we were judging, with two exceptions, hamburger, beans tomato contents of some sort and chili powder. (Also, “chile” normally uses green, not red, another way, by color, you know if tomatoes are sneaking in. Beans are cooked on the side and added to taste.)

I recently had the pleasure of being asked to judge a small chili cook-off. Having done this a few times before, although it had been a few years, I had no problems saying yes.

After a bit of pre-cooking camaraderie with fellow judges, it was time to dive into the different samplings of chili. We got most of your typical beef, beans and tomatoes, plus chili seasonings, offerings, and two specials. We had one “white” chili with no tomatoes, and one beans only.

I suppose this is like judging Olympic speed skating or something like that. A judge doesn’t want to score the first entrant or two too high, lest he or she sent a benchmark that doesn’t allow enough room for truly superior entrants later on.  At the same time, one doesn’t want to start too low, especially if the judge forgets there was a reason for scoring the first entrant or two that low.

It’s also a bit like wine tasting. Judges have to cleanse their palates of the taste of one chili before moving on to the next.

That said, on the judging, one does not want to totally clear one’s mind of the taste of the previous chilis. They’re each being judged individually, yes, but also against others as part of a contest.

Meanwhile, while the church’s cook-off was something polite and among friends, not every one is. I’ve read Frank Tolbert’s “A Bowl of Red,” which includes, among other things, how the Terlingua Chili Cook-Off got started, and some of the fireworks of its early days. I’ve judged a Chili Appreciation Society International cook-off, and know that the competition is fierce. And, now, it has its own cook-off in Terlingua, in addition to the original. (I’ve been out to Big Bend, which arguably should be part of New Mexico, as should the rest of the Trans-Pecos, more than once, just never at cook-off time.)

During pre-judging camaraderie time, one or another of my fellow judges said something about marinade. From there, my mind wandered to the Cajun butter injection marinade often used with deep-fried turkeys. And, from there, my mind wandered further yet, to the idea of deep-frying a wild hog, if a younger one were found to fit into a turkey-sized fryer. Readers can now thank me for a new cooking tip.

That, in turn, does bring me to the issue of meat in chili, whether one has beans, tomatoes or neither in it. Other than our beans-only and the chicken chili, other entries were all some sort of hamburger. That said, I’ve had cubed bits of roast in the past. I’m sure that bulk ground pork would be tasty. Healthy-minded people use ground turkey, I’m sure. Wild hog would probably go fine. (A joke of mine about “dilly chili” aside, I’ve fortunately never stumbled across anybody putting armadillo, or other road kill of the sub-venison level, in a pot of chili.)

Anyway, all of this leads to the old Latin maxim: “De gustibus non disputandum.” We still know that one in English: “There’s no disputing tastes.”

So, fire you up a bowl of red, if you’re going Texas style, or a bowl of clear studded with green, if you’re further west.

We have Texas Greens liftoff

Now, the next time Wendy Davis shoots herself in the left foot (leaving the right one healthy, of course ) whether on gun open carry, abortion and marijuana, or press access and manipulation, or, as I've hinted, something new, like immigration, it's no longer Davis' missteps followed by the Greg Abbott noise machine and nothing else.

Green Party gubernatorial candidate Brandon Parmer has a Facebook page up. He says he's been busy, but plans to get a campaign website up soon. So, for now, give his Facebook page a friendly, commercial free, hypercapitalism free, anti-Zuckerberg Facebook like, and stand by for more.

And, contra the two lamestream parties, a squeaking wheel can actually get the grease.

February 20, 2014

The untruths and half-truths of Bill Flores

Attending an area Republican Party event recently, Flores, Texas' District 17 Congressman, had plenty of red meat for his audience. Too bad a lot of it either directly was not true, or at a minimum, didn't tell the story behind what he presented.

To take a look at the top ones:

1. Claiming the post-2010 GOP House has shrunk the size of the budget. Yes, by cutting the safety net even for the white "tea party" types that vote GOP, cutting veterans' benefits and more.
2. Related to this, talking about the "dangerously skyrocketing deficit," even though everybody knows that the deficit has declined for multiple consecutive years AND that Flores, later in his speech, mentioned ... No. 1 above!
3. Calling the flat tax the "fair tax," as is normal for GOPers.
4. Calling for Social Security reform, without (related to No. 2) specifying that this "reform" would be from privatizing Social Security.
5. Calling for "restoring our military," without mentioning that GOP Congresscritters (albeit with fair Democratic support) and a GOP president whose name Flores only mentioned once "broke" the military.
6. Claiming that Edward Snowden's leaks set our military back centuries, because he leaked military secrets to Russia and China.
7. Blaming Obama for unemployment and underemployment, without mentioning that the GOP has fought every attempt to extend unemployment benefits, create new job training and more.
8. Saying "stupid cap and trade" led him to run for Congress in 2010. Yeah, it was stupid, instead of a carbon tax.
9. Talking about Reagan "winning the Cold War" (rather than Gorbachev) and "producing unprecedented economic growth."
10. Calling for "energy security" while not discussing how mythical that is, how wrong-headed his oil-and-gas approach to that is, and more.

And, last but not least:
Reading the names of the dead West first responders without mentioning that the hardcore anti-regulatory stance of today's GOP at the state level led directly to their deaths.

That right there makes him a hypocrite. A big fat hypocrite.

Andrelton Simmons, meet Mike Trout and vice versa

Braves shortstop phenom Andrelton Simmons just got himself a big new deal, AP notes, for 7 years and $58 million.

I'm sure I'm far from alone in drawing comparisons to Mike Trout, who has half as much defensive value, at least, especially back in center field, and much more offensive value.

And, who has played one full year more.

Is this a "too soon" on Simmons?

I would partially say yes. I mean, 5.4 dWAR (Baseball-Reference) is off the charts. I'd like to see another year of play. And, per, say a Troy Tulowitzski, another year of play gives more information on Simmons' durability than we have now.

That said, it's probably not an overpay. And, Haloes owner Arte Moreno is probably kicking himself, and GM Jerry DiPoto, for not doing more to get a similar deal with Trout a year ago. Even something two years shorter, and cheaper, like a 5/$40 on Trout a year ago, would have gotten the Angels through all three of Trout's arb years, albeit with a big payout up front.

On the other hand, there's the injury gamble.

Now, that said, back to Trout.

Where does this set the bar on him? Given that he's a year "older," he's not doing more than six years, which still takes his first two free agent years. And probably not more than five.

Do you offer, say, 5/$75, rather than chase something longer? Anything longer, he's going to want an option clause that starts at his first year of free agency, which kind of defeats the purpose.

Anyway, some sort of bar has been set. And, if the Angels don't do it now, they're SOL.

That said, dear AP, you're wrong on one point ... Simmons, from the point of view of the US, is a foreign-born player. Just because he's got Caucasian skin and non-Asian facial features doesn't mean he's an American.

#Dallas2016: Batshit crazy ground zero coming up?

Can you just imagine what it would be like if the Republicans decide to put their 2016 national convention in Dallas? Especially if the state's current junior Senator and reigning Junior Tailgunner Joe McCarthy enters the race and is still in it at that time?

Shades of Adlai Stevenson in 1963, will we have tea partiers spitting on the "librul media"? 

That said, as Gillman notes, although his train of thought doesn't go quite that far, this is probably why the Republican National Convention wants to avoid Dallas 2016 like the plague.

As for Cruz running? Like Dear Leader, but for totally different reasons, I think it has to be now or never. No incumbent, unlike 2020, and as short a time in the Senate as possible.

In Obama's case, it was to avoid being caught in Senate inertia and minutia, and becoming more clear to more people as the semi-hopeless neoliberal that he is. As for Cruz, it's to avoid batshit-crazy burnout. Let's say that a Republican is elected president in 2016. First time the debt ceiling comes up and he filibusters against his own party, the last bridge is burned.

C'mon, you'd love to see Cruz on national TV as a modern, nuttier, Barry Goldwater on some combination of roids and speed, wouldn't you?

#Immigration — Count #DanPatrick out of GOP Lite Guv race

Given that all four candidates for the GOP nomination for Texas' lieutenant governor — David Dewhurst, Todd Staples, Jerry Patterson and Dan Patrick — have been ready to say, at about any moment, that they would exile their own granny if she had ever visited Mexico ....

The news that Danny Boy had willingly and knowingly hired illegal immigrants has surely torpedoed his campaign:
State Sen. Dan Patrick, who says Texas leaders must “stop the invasion” from Mexico, went along with a decision to hire at least four unauthorized immigrants as cooks and dishwashers at his sports bar in the mid-1980s, according to a Houston-area man who says he was one of them.
The story gets better from there.

First, Patrick tries to claim fuzzy memory, but that doesn't fly:
Patrick, one of four Republicans running for lieutenant governor in the March 4 primary, said Tuesday he only “vaguely” remembers Andrade at one of his establishments. He said he had nothing to do with the hiring and that managers at each location handled employment decisions.

“We had literally hundreds of full-time and part-time employees. It’s a transient business and many young people come and go,” Patrick said in a statement.

Andrade agreed that a manager under Patrick hired him and the other three men, but said that after a few months Patrick knew that the four workers didn't have permission to be in the country – because he told Patrick.
Well, that takes care of that. But it gets better.

First, Patrick wrote Andrade a recommendation letter for housing, Andrade said. 

But, that's still small beans.

Per Perry, who says we have to call Patrick a coyote, Andrade says Patrick allegedly offered to help him cross the border to family, then come back:
Andrade also said that while he was a kitchen worker for the sports bar, Patrick offered to help him visit his ailing mother in Guanajuato.

“He said [is there] anything I can do so you can go and see your mom? I don’t want to see you suffer,” Andrade said.

Patrick then said, “I can go and bring you to here,” according to Andrade, who said he believed that meant Patrick could drive him to Houston past U.S. inland border checkpoints.
Yep, that's the normal definition of "coyote" in the world of illegal immigration.

Patrick is right about one thing. This story being released at the start of early voting in a four-way primary which is likely a battle for one of the three challengers to join incumbent Dewhurst in a runoff didn't just happen out of nowhere:
Patrick said the sudden appearance of his former employee less than two weeks before the primary smacks of dirty politics by his opponents.

The “tactic is centuries old, and the allegations they now use are decades old,” he said.
Ahh, boo-hoo, Dan. Don't tell me that your shock talk radio show has never, ever ambushed anybody.

But, he is right. This was a targeted political attack, and well done.

The reader (and a certain Matt Angle and others of Battleground Texas) should all note one first fact: Señor Andrade, despite his Hispanic heritage, did not vote Democrat in 2012. Nor, contra many a Hispanic, did he sit out. He voted Republican.

I'm venturing he's a regular Republican voter. Probably known to at least a few people at least one level up the Republican organizational food chain. And, he and his story have surely been known for a couple of weeks, if not a couple of months.

Andrade's been kept on ice during that time, while various handlers have sharpened and refined his story, so he could present it by himself, smoothly, with no coaches present.

Houston's KTRK has more, including noting that it couldn't verify Andrade's story, because it couldn't find two of the other three workers and the last one was dead.

That leads us to the most important rhetorical question in politics: "Cui bono?"

Given that the Dew is likely to make that runoff himself, I'll tentatively rule him out.

I was going to finger that Boy Scout-like Todd Staples, as he seemed the type to shiv someone while maintaining his eighth-grade cherubic face.

But, maybe not.

Given that Patterson was first out of the box to comment, with this at KTRK:
Hypocrisy, double dealing, different stories at different times," said Patterson.  
Preceded two grafs by this:
Andrade claims he was willing to speak out (in 2006), but didn't know how and didn't find a way until Patterson's private eye found him. 
I guess I've misread Patterson. I didn't think he would be the one that would put on the brass knuckles himself, but apparently he did. And, so, Mr. "Guns for Christmas" has ruled himself in.

Whether this is enough to propel him and his low-money campaign past the Ag Secretary Boy Scout into No. 2 on the ballot, I don't know. I'm not sure, but damme, we need some decent polling to come up. Staples will want to keep a careful balance of bringing up this story without piling on, working hard for defecting Patrick supporters, and chiding Patterson for this tactic without seeming holier than thou. If he pulls it off well enough, he deserves to beat Dewhurst in the runoff anyway.

Speaking of, if you want to venture your thoughts, among the polls at right is one asking who (besides the presumative Dudley Dewless) will make it to the runoff.

Anyway, we have our perpetrator and our cui bono, right there. (The Snooze confirms this was a Patterson hit, albeit one that Staples and Dewhurst might also applaud.)

And, since we know now that Patterson's oppo research includes hiring (at least one?) private eye, if I'm Dudley Dewless or Junior Boy Scout, I don't sleep very easily. Lt. Gov. "Do You Know Who I Am," especially, may have skeletons in his closet.

Fangraphs vs Baseball-Reference — my winner is?

Fangraphs vs. Baseball-Reference? Which do you go to first to judge baseball players?

For me, it's B-R, and will remain so, despite the omniscient Jonah Keri poo-poohing it. 

I like that B-R separates out O-WAR and D-WAR, too, and has a little bit of explainer, about how they related to, but don't add up exactly to, overall WAR, and why.

Second, I generally agree with B-R's D-WAR ratings.

D-WAR is a toughie, but, Fangraphs differs a lot, apparently, from B-R at times. B-R has Ozzie Smith 5 career WAR higher than Derek Jeter while Fangraphs has him about 6 points lower, based largely on D-WAR calculation differences.


The difference is even bigger with some other players. Fangraphs ranks Rod Carew nearly 10 points lower in career WAR.

It's also "interesting" that Fangraphs, despite Jaffe's JAWS system being nearly a decade old, doesn't incorporate it. To me, it's the best easy-to-use system of trying to find a sweet spot between career and peak performance.

Also, B-R has the Javascript balloons when you hover over the head of each category for lists, like JAWS lists, and not just for individual players. Better website design, that way.

And, on Hall of Fame judgments, I like B-R's Wins Above Average, or WAA, even better than WAR, no matter which site it comes from, if Fangraphs had WAA, which it doesn't. 

Finally, B-R has complete vote listings, with player stats for that year, on all major award. It's a hell of a lot easier to ask, whether Roberto Clemente, Sandy Koufax, Willie Mays or Juan Marichal should have won the 1966 National League MVP award, when it's all laid out in front of you.

Ditto for 1987, when we can argue that Oz, Dale Murphy or Tony Gwinn should have won the NL MVP over Andre Dawson when it's all in front of us, as well as to wonder if a third MVP for Murph gets him in Cooperstown, while none for the Hawk keeps him out.

On the other hand, as a spring training approaches, Fangraphs has Steamer, Oliver and other projections for the future season for players.

Summary? Fangraph is pitched to hardcore stats-heads, or rather, hardcore Level 2 or above sabermetricians. Baseball-Reference is pitched to serious baseball fans who want, and get, enough sabermetrics to have serious, informed discussion about relative player value.

Related to that, B-R's site is in general easier to use.

So, I'll still primarily use B-R, in part because it's kind enough to do RSS feeds of we bloggers who are registered with it and link to players on it (get with the program, Fangraphs!) but, I'll take at least a bit more of a look at Fangraphs. 

And, even if Fangraphs isn't an ad-based site, just like B-R, still pageviews can drive people to at least consider the paid version of either website. So, Fangraphs folks, another reason for you to follow the B-R lead and run blogger RSS feeds.

Ed Kilgore: Wrong on third parties

Ed Kilgore, solid neoliberal that he is, sets up a cheap straw man in claiming little support for third parties or the ideas behind them. It has three main points.

1. He looks only at "triangulationist" third party ideas of the Tom "My Head is Flat" Friedman types or else tea party wet dreams of small or capital L Libertarianism, Christian right Constitution Party, or a blend. No Green or Socialist type ideas get mentioned. Do they have support? Possibly? In the middle of the last decade, the Dallas Morning News had a "where are they now" extended profile on local 1960s civil rights leaders. Half of them said they no longer voted.

That gets to ...

2. Poor voter turnout as a sign of discontent and wanting something different, even if voters aren't sure as to what. Kilgore doesn't even talk about this.

 3. He similarly ignores how truly liberal positions, when not labeled as "liberal," get decent polling support. Related to that, he ignores how the right demonizes such positions, pulling the GOP further right, with neolib Democrats like Kilgore then following.

Beyond those three basic points, at the level of states, like here in the Abandoned Pointy Object State, he ignores how Rs and Ds actively, colludingly, conspire against third parties.

This is all the "brilliance" of Ed Kilgore and Washington Monthly. In other words, bullshit.

Ed, in a Tweet, says this is an ad hominem. Really? Then why didn't you mention third parties of the left, among other things? Why don't you address why U.S. voting turnout is the lowest in the developed world? Why don't you address how hard it is for third parties in general to get on state ballots? Why don't you address how Rs and Ds have killed fusion ballots in many states?

February 19, 2014

Is Homer Bailey now an "elite" pitcher?

In his team-by-team preseason preview, that's what Jonah Keri says of Cincinnati hurler Homer Bailey, now in line to get $17.5M a year from the Reds, or $18.5 with the buyout, or the option year being taken up, if reports are true.

Besides, who am I to argue with Keri, who was sooooo right NOT that A.J. Burnett's new contract is fantastic NOT. (Still time to vote on how bad that baby is, at top right.)

Bailey did cut his WHIP and raise his K/BB rate last year, but, elite?

It's in part the old "inflation of adjectives" which is a career occupational hazard of sports and entertainment writers, and which I wish I could permanently eliminate with some transcranial magnetic stimulation.

So, with allowance for inflation, is Bailey well above average?

Uhh, not yet. One good season, above-average but well above average, does not make for a well above average future. Especially not when it took Messr. Bailey until age 27 to produce that season.

On WAR, yes, he broke the 3-WAR mark last year, but even allowing for early years overpay, he's being paid to do almost that well through the life of the contract.

And, then, there's "homer" blogs. One blog notes he pitched better this year at Great American even though it's hitter friendly, than he did on the road. Er, a quick glance at splits shows that he's 20 points better on ERA+ for his career at home than the road. Pure puffery to say he did better last year at home.

Meanwhile, since Jonah loves him some Fangraphs more, let's look at Bailey there. He had a career low in fielding-independent pitching, tis true. Again, looking like progress. But Steamer and Oliver both expect a moderate amount of regression this year.

And, was this a better investment than going shorter-term, say 4/$50, on Bailey and at the same time, although he's a year earlier in the arbitration cycle, trying to do something similar with Mat Latos? When you're a mid-market team trying to be fairly selective with mid-level veteran talent, you've got to be careful not to put too many eggs in one basket. If not Latos, a similar deal for Mike Leake, at the same point as Latos on the arbitration cycle, could have been pursued immediately.

Or, another option? Lock up both Latos and Leake and let Bailey walk.

Of course, the real answer is for new Reds manager Bryan Price to not be Dusty Baker, to put his foot down, and move Aroldis Chapman to the rotation, until he simply screws up.

I know that the Reds were probably worried about Bailey walking after this season, if they didn't do something soon. That said, I see nothing in his past to indicate he's going to do so much better this year as to have commanded a vastly greater contract nine months from now. And the Reds could always have put the 1-year qualifying offer sticker on his head otherwise.

I don't know, but I think it could well become a moderate overpay.

Ted Nugent is why #WendyDavis can't outdo #GregAbbott as a gun nut (updated)

The "you're shitting me" draft dodging batshit crazy rocker, Ted Nugent, is making two campaign stop appearances with Greg Abbott, who, if he had consistent principled stands on issues (I'm sorry, he can't stand, can he?) would have been prosecuting Nuuuge 40-plus years ago.

And, that, Wendy, is why you can't out-nut Abbott on guns, as much as you recently tried.

And, as Greg Abbott is now showing, as to why he's campaigning with a sexual pervert and pants-peeing draft dodger:
Sen. Davis knows she is suffering with voters because of her flipping and flopping on 2nd Amendment gun laws. And she knows that Ted Nugent calls her out on her disregard for 2nd Amendment rights. We are going to expose Sen. Davis’ weaknesses on the 2nd Amendment and show that in this area and in so many other areas, she represents the liberalism of Barack Obama that is so bad for Texas.
 That said, showing he can't stand for principles (ohh, I said that word again, and we're not supposed to use that word about Abbott), our attorney general who has vowed to fight sexual perverts once again zipped his lips when called out on hypocrisy alert.

And, didn't even go that far on Nuge being an alleged unpatriotic pants-pissing draft dodger.

And, District 12 state Rep. Kyle Kacal referenced this recently in saying, "I didn't think Greg Abbott could stumble."

So, there you have it. Not everybody in the GOP heartland likes this. Anybody else who can drop me a comment from GOP elected officials, I'd appreciate it.

"Likes": We have met the enemy, and he is B.F. Skinner, social media guru

After watching "Generation Like" on PBS's Frontline last night, I am firmly convinced that many people in the US (and probably the developed world in general, to a degree), and especially our youth, from a mix of parental negletct and parental helicopter parenting, have made themselves into the pigeons and rats of B.F. Skinner's operant conditioning boxes, with the Internet in general and social media in particular, as the box.


In part, it's another attempt, along with conservatives pushing the idea of "we're all entrepreneurs," to still grasp at the mythical brass ring of American upward mobility, for adults.

Also, for adults, I think it's an attempt to deal with an increasingly depersonalized nation of nearly 315 million people.

But, that's only adults.

On the children's side, parents are willingly encouraging this, in many cases, as part of the further fallout of the largely disproven self-esteem movement. Well, helicopter moms, not only is Junior or Juniorette's first college prof not going to hand out a guaranteed A, he or she isn't going to put a blue thumbs-up "like" on the first term paper. Nor is he or she likely to ask you to re-Tweet his or her university webpage. And, while some do care, especially if they have tenure, most profs ignore "Rate My Professor," I'm sure. What I said above, helicopter moms (and gunship dads, or whatever), goes in spades for the kiddo's first real-world job.

"Likes" are like Bitcoins, in that way: A fancy concept, but trading in a very narrow, very narcissistic world.

Second, which Rushkoff hinted at, but could have developed more, is the manipulative effect that the world of "likes" develops in many of these Internet like-stars (and yes, that's a riff on porn stars). Greed for free products and more. Meanwhile, hoping to have them hooked as low-rent advertisers, big companies pass out the free products. Arguably, it's some of the best pure, unadulterated, high-grade hypercapitalism around. And, the question is, who's more manipulator and who's more manipulated?

It's probably still the business side, not the kiddies' side.

Advertisers and public relations flaks have been trying to manipulate the public for decades. And today's marketing gurus may just have figured out how to use social media to hijack the lust for fame and celebrity, per a Facebook friend.

Back to the first main issue on the kids' side. What happens at age 25 when Junior doesn't get the job or promotion he/she wants? Does Junior start a "like" crusade to try to get that promotion? Act so narcissistically as to flame the would-be new company on Junior's own Tumblr as well as the company 's Facebook page? In many cases, the answer probably is yes. A couple of kids admitted in various ways they have no off switch on their online "mouths" and no filters.

Some of that is true about kids in general, but, in the past, if kids didn't do this themselves, society did it for them in some way. In turn, that makes me wonder about the rise of things such as ADD and ADHD. How much is this an actual rise, and how much of it, not to be too curmudgeonly or believe everything was better in the good old days, is a slipping of society?

Rushkoff had plenty of room to dig deeper, and he's got the chops to do so. I can only hope Frontline will come out with a part 2.

Anyway, while we may be experimenting on ourselves, or at least some of us are, like Skinner's pigeons and rats, we're not pigeons and rats, and the results could be far more disastrous.

February 18, 2014

Are scientists as religious as the general public?

Religious News Service would like you and I to believe that.

One basic, Mack Truck-sized loophole, though?

"Scientist" is nowhere defined, other than, possibly, but probably not, by membership in the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, whose findings are nowhere linked to in the piece. The AAAS did the research, but it's not clear who all was researched.

That only 20 percent of the general public attends worship weekly? Yes, using time logs rather than self-reporting, that's been confirmed. Question: were scientists surveyed the same way? I don't know, because I don't see a link. So, not only do I not know who was researched, I don't know how the research was done, and if we're comparing apples to apples or not.

Second, what counts as religious services? Unitarianism and Reform Judaism are at least somewhat non-metaphysical. Indeed, Judaism is higher among scientists than the general public.

So, claiming 18 percent of scientists attend services weekly? It's almost contentless. It's definitely apples to oranges, per that second link.

Plus, exactly the opposite of the general public (at least the general public in the past), scientific religiosity decreases with age. Religiosity also decreases by specific science field, with the "harder" sciences being less religious. Again, while RNS linked to that second piece, it didn't note that it undercuts almost all of what it is trying to claim.

Third, we have further evidence to the contrary. Some 92 percent of members of the National Academy of Sciences, for which a Ph.D. is a de facto membership requirement, are atheists or agnostics. Of the remaining 8 percent, even if 100 percent attend a religious service weekly (highly doubtful), that's just 8 percent. And, that was back in 1998.

And, the general public, when thinking about "scientists," is likely to be thinking about "hard" scientists doing Ph.D. level research, thus, much closer to the NAS than to whatever undefined standard Religious News Service has.

Given that, outside of behavioral psychology, large tracts of psychology aren't that scientific, even at the Ph.D. level, and that's somewhat true of sociology, I am going to lean toward Gould's 1998 link above. 

In one area that runs more religious than "hard" scientists, mathematics, I don't consider mathematics to be scientific. Rather, it is its own field. It can be put to use for cosmology and astrophysics, yes. It can also, under the old "lies, damned lies and statistics," of Twain, Disraeli or whomever, be put to use for unscientific psychology and sociology, or even more unscientific economics.

And, the fact that Chris Stedman of Faitheist fame retweets the RNS story without comment reinforces that, while he may be an evangelist for his "liberal Protestant" version of atheism, a skeptic he is not. Even if using Gould's NAS "greater scientists" angle is too narrow, whatever unexplained definition AAAS used is surely too wide.

Of course, this is all part of a broad tussle, that, speaking of Gould, goes back to his idea of "non-overlapping magisteria."

In biology, for example, evolution by natural selection is not the same as abiogenesis, though Darwin's "warm little pond" comment could be seen as including abiogenesis. And, in cosmology, no a Big Bang doesn't exclude a deity, especially if one notes that current physics understanding can't get on "the other side" of Planck time. 

On issues of science education, I have no problem, then, in atheists working with folks like the National Center for Science Education, just as I personally have no problem firing off the occasional First Amendment email drafted by Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

I'm an "accommodationist" in many Gnu Atheist eyes. So sue me, P.Z. Myers.

That said, I think Gould's idea, overall, is wrong. It's little more than the old "god of the gaps" in new drag.

And, in a Twitter exchange, RNS author Cathy Lynn Grossmann doubled down on this being a PR piece, claiming the NAS definition of scientist is more subjective than the no-definition "whatever" of her piece.

Is the Morning News on the early attack against Hillary? For cheap pageviews?

Folks, I'm already on record as opposing Hillary Clinton for President in 2016. The idea of yet another neoliberal Democrat, presumably one who won't have new ideas, makes me barf.

That said, I don't cotton to apparent hatchet jobs, like that of Scott Parks at the Trailblazers blog:
My in-box hints at what awaits us if Hillary Clinton runs for President in 2016. Her opponents are already flooding the media with press releases and story pitches that rehash ancient events from the tumultuous Bill Clinton presidency.

The Whitewater Scandal: What did Hillary Know?

Monica Lewinsky: Where is she now?

The Death of Vince Foster: Murder or Suicide?

Hillary’s role in the Siege at Waco.
Simple, Scott.

Whitewater was overrated from the day Jeff Gerth of the NYT decided to start overrating it.

Lewinsky has nothing to do with Hillar.

You know the answer on Vince.

Hillary had nothing to do with Waco. From Bill's reaction, he didn't have a lot to do himself. That was all Janet Reno.

As I told him in an email:
It sounded instead like a cheap choice to deliberately run through right wing talking machine talking points.
This is far more than Wayne Slater picking at a loosely written story by Wendy Davis. (And, IMO, rightfully doing part of his picking.)

Whether Parks meant it this way or not, it comes off like a cheap hatchet job.

Yes, later on, he says:
My current favorite, totally devoid of truth, is the one about Chelsea Clinton really being the child of Web Hubbell, an old Clinton crony from Arkansas. You can tell Web and Chelsea are related because they both have thick lips, according to the right-wing propaganda machine.
First, it's "Webb."

Second, saying this to show that you probably don't believe other parts of the right wing machine is no good. Why repeat stuff you believe is asked and answered anyway?

That's reinforced by this:
Undoubtedly, efforts to recycle 20-year-old Clinton stories will enjoy wide popularity in the Wild West-like digital world. But the ultimate success of a smear campaign will depend on the extent to which major daily newspapers and television networks feel pressure to take the bait and revisit the 1990s.
Really, what this is is an attempt to drive hits to the blog, as you just recycled it yourself. No dice, Scott. I have the "no follow" on the HTML to your post.

In case you missed it, here's his email address. Let him know what you think.

Otherwise, this is even more likely to be, beyond fishing for pageviews, a head fake.

Because there's actual, real stuff to ask Hillary about.

Did she have any influence on Marc Rich or other pardons? Agree with Clinton "triangulating" to the right? Agree with executing Ricky Rector?

What's the matter with ... Demographically delusional Democrats

The DDD: It kind of rolls off the tongue, does it not?

I've already blogged about Battleground Texas' semi-mindless belief that demographics (increased Hispanic numbers, mainly) will make turning Texas "blue" a piece of baklava. For me, at the state level, it's been crunching numbers about how BG's thinking about Hispanics, and how "blue" they're likely to lean, isn't quite as true as they might think.

That said, that leads to broader issues, like assumptions in general, counting chickens before they hatch or otherwise demographically grow up, and so forth.

Well, now, Thomas Frank, editor of The Baffler and author of "What's the Matter with Kansas," weighs in on that very topic, on the 10th anniversary of the book. And, it ties in well with current Texas politics, too, as my pull quote shows.

He starts here:
These days, the big thinkers of the Democratic Party have concluded that they can safely ignore the things I described. They’ve got a new bunch of voters these days — the famous “coalition of the ascendant,” made up of professionals, minorities and “millennials” — and it pleases them to imagine that with this unstoppable army at their back they will win elections from here to eternity. There is no need to resolve the dilemmas I outlined in “Kansas,” no need to win back working-class voters or solve wrenching economic problems. In fact, there is no need to lift a finger to do much of anything, since vast, impersonal demographic forces are what rescued them from the trap I identified. They now have the luxury of saying, as Paul Krugman did on the day after the 2012 election, “Who cares what’s the matter with Kansas?”

And, he's exactly right that there's a degree of smugness at play, from what I see. And, that smugness has often failed before in the world of politics.

Let's take a look at that first link, though. Obama himself, it's clear, is ignoring ethnic demographics more than I think Frank accepts. Rather, by targeting two hot-button social issues plus education, he's targeting millennials first and foremost, followed by professionals, especially those in the "creative class." To the degree that pop music and younger generations are more heavily minority, "targeting" of minorities comes along for the ride. That said, the NJ piece is worth a read itself.

Krugman's worth a read, too, just too see what blinders he can wear at times. Like not even mentioning the name of "Ted Cruz."

Frank follows up with a further look at that smugness:
Now, maybe doing absolutely nothing about the Kansas conundrum will serve Democrats well in the years to come. I suspect, however, that their smug fantasy of demographically determined triumph will take them the way of all the other smug mechanical dreams to which the liberal mind is so peculiarly given. I recall, in this connection, a conversation I had about Kansas politics with a prominent national Democrat back in 2003. To him, the situation was obvious, as was its solution: The state’s Republicans had pushed too far to the right, and now they were fated for defeat by the laws of physics, by the irresistible swing of that ol’ pendulum.
Ahh, it's a decade later, and we see what the result of that smugness has been. Cruz here in Texas. Mike Lee in Utah. A "tea party" of old-resentment GOPers now young and radicalized, dominating the House GOP caucus, and that hasn't backed down from the previous Congress' intransigence.

The "liberal mind" link is paywall-protected, rightly, at Harper's. Perhaps it comes free in a month or so.

But, teh Google tells me he starts by triangulating off Krugman's myopia and goes from there. Noting how this smugness has failed in the past, he cites post-1964 Democratic smugness over Barry Goldwater's obliteration as a starting point, as described by Rick Perlstein. Or how FDR blew it in 1938 midterms. From there, he gets more specific about what this leads to:
Why bother getting out there and building majorities capable of sweeping the G.O.P. out for good? There’s no need, insist Democrats of the optimistic kind, who believe that the impersonal hand of history will soon deliver the world to their doorstep, tied with a bow. (Ralph Nader, who has been observing the progressive collapse for decades, is irked by the demographic argument, which he described to me as “the verbal equivalent of anesthesia for the Democratic party.”)
Next, he notes, this both is rooted in, and fuels, a different attitude:
The difference between conservative culture and progressivism couldn’t be more stark. They read the RedState blog and refresh their anger; we read Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog and learn the exact statistical odds of an Obama victory in North Carolina. They are all would-be organizers, alternately Sam Adams or Saul Alinsky (the enemy they love to emulate). On my side, those figures are barely remembered; the model for progressives today is academia.
There's no anger of the wingnut sort. Look at Obama himself. Not for nothing is he called President Kumbaya, here and elsewhere. Speaking of ...

Corrente sums up its observation:
One reason arguing with Obots is so hard; they genuinely believe they don't have to do anything. Obama successfully anesthetized a big segment of the professional, creative, and political class. It's amazing. Anyhow, I just remembered you don't actually have to buy the current version of Harper's; you can go to the library and read it there!
Totally agreed. And, the Angles and others affiliated with Battleground Texas are all Obats. Which is why Wendy Davis will lose in 2014 to Greg Abbott.

And why, looking four years ahead, Julian Castro will lose to Abbott in 2018, unless he's smart enough not to run, or to have somebody radically different than BG manage his campaign. However, given that he's one of the "ascendants" who's Obat-leaning, he's not that smart.

Frank himself thinks that at least a few red staters will listen to traditional economic messages. Now, governors have less influence on this than congresscritters, but they have some.

Why, instead of sounding like Tricky Ricky Perry, isn't Davis talking about something like "Let's make Texas more friendly for workers"?

The fact the she isn't, and that Bill White wasn't, probably explains why many potential Ds never vote.

When has the word "union" crossed a Texas Democratic gubernatorial candidates lips on a regular basis?

February 17, 2014

If the #TexasTrib is the future of journalism ...

Then journalism, or "journalism," is on a boatload of trouble.

Jim Moore, former journalist, now political consultant, explains why the Texas Tribune's "pay to play" idea of "journalism," kind of like Politico but on a much broader front, is ethically wrong and more, in a four-part series starting here.

Arguably, rather than becoming more ethically responsible now that it's theoretically past its teething troubles, the Trib is worse, if anything. 

Moore notes this in Part Four:
In less than five years, the Texas Tribune has gone from being an exciting startup to a hypocritical, money-grubbing promotional operation wearing a coat of many colors that it wants desperately to convince everyone is actual journalism. But it is not. There is no reason to any longer take the Tribune seriously as a news organization. They simply cannot be trusted.

The big brains of the Texas Tribune were supposed to save journalism. Instead, they are busily speeding up its extinction.

And they ought to be ashamed.
Of course, they're not.

Much of its sellout is to largely right-wing big businesses, who make "donations" and in exchange get puff pieces about themselves and their industries.

But, that's not the all of it.

Per Part One, at the first link, what the Trib is about is "access" to insiders in general, regardless of party or affiliation. The recent solo time with Wendy Davis at the Travis County Democratic Party confab illustrates this:
Organizers of an annual fund raising dinner for Travis County Democrats barred reporters from the room for what turned out to be the most compelling and energetic speech thus far of the Davis Campaign. There was, however, one exception. Jay Root of the Texas Tribune was allowed in with camera gear to offer a “live stream” video of Davis talking to her supporters. Root, who had asked permission several weeks in advance, was not required, as would normally be the case with a pool reporter, to provide notes to his competitors on what transpired during the fund raiser.

The locked out reporters were a tad upset, and not without reason. Although the Tribune was making the live feed available, the outlet’s logo was onscreen and unavoidable. Any rebroadcast would have been a promotion of one media operation by another. When Davis Campaign spokeswoman Rebecca Acuna was asked if she would inquire about making the Tribune offer a clean feed of the speech without the logo, she had no idea what was being requested. Consequently, Davis’ appearance and quotes were disseminated far less than if the event had been opened. Further, print reporters were disinclined to write longer or analytical pieces on Davis because they were not present to get reactions or interviews with attendees. The stories were about a public relations blow up instead of Davis.

The party insisted there was no space for more people and that the fire code was being violated, but reporters suggested it was, instead, just another event where the Tribune was getting favoritism. When Root was questioned about not making an effort to see that his colleagues were accommodated, he began asking if he were supposed to not cover it because other reporters had been banned. Quickly, he turned a long Facebook discussion into a cheering section for the live streaming of political events and frequently pointed out how exciting he found the new technology.
Moore goes on to, sarcastically, tell us that "live streaming" is nothing new:
Live streaming is little more than setting up a video camera and microphones that send a digital and electronically altered real time signal that can be plugged into the Internet to be dispersed over the web from a server. As exciting as it may be to Root and the Tribune, TV stations in Texas have been doing, essentially, the same thing for decades with the only difference being the way the signal was distributed.  
Meanwhile, yes, this is also, per the previous block quote, another ding against the Davis campaign.

It knew just whom it was getting in bed with when it pulled this shit.

Rather than a "public relations blow up," the Angles, Battleground Texas, Davis herself, et al, were surely hoping for a "public relations ass kissing." 

And, that's why I partially defend the Trib about accusations that it's "conservative."

No, it's "establishmentarian," just like its affiliate, the New York Times

Of course, what James doesn't think about is that the Trib might be superseded by folks with even less in the ethics tank. 

Update, Feb. 27:  And, speaking of Moore, he talks about some methodology problems with the Trib's recent polling. He may be overstating things somewhat, but, at the least, it's arguably that some of the numbers are probably more fluid than the Trib would have us believe. And, per Moore's previous work, I forgot that I had blogged two years ago about the Trib being a softie on environmental reporting AND founder Evan Smith being overpaid.