SocraticGadfly: 3/2/14 - 3/9/14

March 08, 2014

#Cardinals to make Matt Carpenter part of early extension club (updated)

Having kind of pioneered the move with Allen Craig, then to see the Braves copy it with Freddie Freeman, and even at the early end of the curve with Andrelton Simmons, and Cincinnati doing the same with Homer Bailey, the Cardinals have decided to ink third baseman Matt Carpenter to a similar deal.

Update, March 8: It's official, at 6/$52, sp.litting the middle of what was, per Derrick Gould, pegged at somewhere between 6/$50 and 6/$55. The deal includes a team option seventh year at $18.5M. If Carpenter is still at 90 percent of his 2013 performance, the team exercises that, no doubt. If he's below 80 percent, they decline. Somewhere in the middle? The Birds and Matt use that option as the starting point for another extension.

At one year younger than Craig, and likewise a bit of a late bloomer at the MLB level, Craig is a good comparison point. Even if Matt has a mild regression on doubles or BABIP this year, it's still good for the team at the back end, and also good for him at the front end. That compares to the 6/$44 with Craig from two years ago, assuming the Birds exercise the $13M team option in 2018. Given that Carpenter, unlike Craig, is a plus defender, and also given that he plays at a more premium defensive position, whether third this year or second last year, if he's anywhere close to 2013 performance through the life of the contract, this might be a better deal from the team's standing, of course. In exchange, Carpenter surrenders two free agent years as well as his arbitration years.

For people who, like one MLBTradeRumors commenter, wonder about my idenfication of Carp as a "plus defender" when B-R shows him as a career negative?

He was 0.3 in dWAR last year. Previous years were partial plays, and at multiple positions, with most of his previous negative dWAR coming from OF play. And, remember, 3B was his original position. So, I'll put him at 0.3-0.5 dWAR this year.

Besides, Bernie Miklasz likes it, as he said in his latest Breakfast with Bernie video. Thank doorknob he did NOT mention "Cardinal Way" in it, though I thought he was about to.

This also gives the team yet more flexibility on the young gun pitchers, and to whom to give early extension contracts. It will be interesting to look at John Mozeliak's pecking order on approaching Shelby Miller, Lance Lynn, Michael Wacha and Trevor Rosenthal. The latter two are very unlikely to get any discussion before next year. Miller, with more service time, may hear something this year, though probably not.

Lynn, with yet another year of time than Miller? Will the Cards approach him before the end of spring training? I kind of doubt it. I think they want to see another year of him, especially in the second half, to see if he's improving his late-season stamina, and also to see where they sit with their other pitchers.

Should the #Cardinals trade for David Price?

I am assuming, along with a plethora of knowledgeable baseball fans, that the Tampa Bay Rays will put their lefty ace, David Price, on the trading block sometime between now and the end of the year.

Theoretically, a deal could still happen before the start of the season. Or it could happen after the end of the year. But, his price could rise if he has a good start, and a would-be contender finds itself short a rotation arm, as we get around the All-Star break.

Some mid-market teams, with less surety of resigning Price to a free agent contract after 2015, might bid lower, presuming the Rays will understand where they're coming from. Others will bid higher, of course.

The Rays' price is going to be low-cost young talent. So, especially if we're looking at a mid-season trade, we're talking about a team that has talent to spare in the middle and high minors, maybe even a bit of a logjam at times.

Boston's an obvious example, and with the money to do a new contract. But Tampa's not trading in the division. Yankees, of course, don't have the farm system. Nor do the Angels, who would obviously welcome his arm.

Cleveland? The Tribe is not overloaded with prospects

Friend Mark mentioned the A's, but that would strictly be for rental purposes.

Mariners are a definite. Instead of chasing David Phelps, they could use Nick Franklin, now stuck behind Robinson Cano, and prospects for Price. That, in turn, could set off a domino effect, of Tampa deciding to do a division trade after all and get what they can for Ben Zobrist from the Yankees, who would take any upgrade available at 2B and would probably overpay.

Minnesota could be an outside possibility.

Said friend then wandered over to the senior circuit, and mentioned the Cardinals. At first, I said, with Shelby Miller, Michael Wacha, Carlos Martinez, Trevor Rosenthal, et al, why do they need to trade for a starter?

Then, he mentioned all of the young guns might not be dependable, and I thought about my "favorite" starter: Lance Lynn. Still pre-arb this year, there's a good cost controller right there, and of halfway reasonable quality. Plus, if Jaime Garcia is still iffy not just for a month, but possibly the bulk of this season and just maybe his career, getting a lefty in the rotation would be a bonus indeed.

On the other hand, Tyler Lyons is a southpaw, and down in the minors, so is Marco Gonzales, who gets a hat tip from Bernie Miklasz in a round-up of just how deep the Cards' pitching depth is.

Flip side to that is that Lyons has not been a world-beater so far, and Gonzales is likely a year and a half from the big club. (I picture a mid-year or later in 2015 cup of coffee and nothing earlier.)

And, I sure would like to have a lefty to break an all-righty rotation. Plus, having another pitcher with a few years of experience behind Adam Wainwright would be nice. Yet, Price is still relatively young — four years younger than Waino and only a year older than Lynn.

As Bernie lays it out:
I looked at the probable rotations in the NL Central and accounted for an extra pitcher where there was competition for the fifth spot. The Cardinals have the division’s least experienced rotation. Barring injuries, here’s the breakdown:

• Milwaukee: five starters; a combined 823 starts.
• Pittsburgh: six starters; combined 720 starts.
• Chicago: six starters; a combined 706 big-league starts.
• Cincinnati: five starters; a combined 567 starts.
• St. Louis: six starters; a combined 322 starts.

Cards ace Adam Wainwright has made 185 of those starts — meaning that Wacha, Miller, Lynn, Kelly and Martinez have combined for only 137. If Jaime Garcia (90 starts) can get through shoulder discomfort and back into the rotation, the Cardinals’ collective experience level would jump. But they’d still have the least experienced rotation.
David Price has thrown 973 innings vs. Garcia's 551. Started 147 games instead of 90.

So, it's Lynn plus, say, Randal Grichuk as a starting point. If necessary, a more expendable second young gun arm. Let's talk trade, eh?

That said, let's not go overboard. Price has, like Cards' free agent shortstop Jhonny Peralta, had an "odd-even" career so far, that is, good in even-numbered years and pedestrian in odd-numbered ones. That's acceptable from a league-average fielder whom you're not expecting to be the linchpin of your offense, just a decent contributor. But, from someone you peg as at least a No. 2 starter, it's not quite so good.

Still, knowing that he's going to be a No. 2, the Cards can perhaps price him a bit below Waino on a longer deal. Maybe offer him a 4/$75M for 2015, his last arb year, plus three years of free agency. That lets him try free agency again after his age-32 season. Or, the team could make that part of a seven-year deal, but with a mutual option, rather than player-only, on an opt-out, as a twist on a Clayton Kershaw or Masahiro Tanaka type of contract. Also, whether that's four straight years, or four years in front of an opt-out, the Cards could lower the base pay but add substantial incentives. that would deal with the "odd-even" performance issue.

And, the Cards can afford it. Jason Motte and his $7.5 million for this year likely won't be resigned and he hits free agency. Garcia has either an $11.5M team option or a $500K buyout for 2016. Let's be realistic to the side of pessimism. So, that takes care of his contract money after the $7.75M of this year and the $9.25M of 2015. A shorter-term free agent contract is doable without breaking the Cards' financial bank.

Other teams mentioned by Mark? Pirates have a great farm system, but I can't seem them paying the contract freight on Price even as a two-season or less rental. The Padres don't have one outstanding player, but have a plethora of decent prospects, and Price in pitching-friendly Petco would be a great add.

March 07, 2014

Texas 2014 primaries post-mortem, part 2 — all gloom or not?

So, if Greg Abbott is elected as gov and Dan Patrick as lite guv, will they have carte blanche to do whatever they want?

Maybe, maybe not.

I do expect Patrick to trash old Texas Senate rules so that no 2/3 vote is needed for anything. (Other than to hire an Ill Eagle as his office custodian?)

But, on the House side?

First, Kyle Kacal, the local state representative here, expects GOP numbers to drop to about 95 or so. And, if that's the case, surely Joe Straus remains as Speaker.

He relatively easily won renomination in the GOP primary, so I doubt being in Breitbart's gunsights will make him quiver. Straus does face one announced speakership challenge, but he fended off a similar one at the start of 2013 without too much difficulty.

So, at the state level, there may be a few brakes still in place against untrammeled nuttery. 

And, per Perry's comment below, here's his post-mortem from yesterday.

March 06, 2014

I'm still bullish on Pujols

I still think Albert Pujols can be a productive part of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Encino and other places. "Productive" meaning, while he will be second banana to Mike Trout in terms of value, he will be well ahead of Josh Hamilton and second banana to nobody else.

I expect him to be fully healed at the start of this season, and see his early exit from last year as a blessing in disguise. Add in his willingness to take a semi-rest on a few days by DH-ing, and I would not be totally surprised if the Angels get, if not the 2011 Pujols of last year with the Cardinals and World Series bopping fame, at least a Pujols halfway between that year and 2012, his first year with the Angels.

And, I'm not alone on that. Per this profile piece by ESPN's Jerry Crasnick, it's clear that Haloes manager Mike Scioscia feels good about Prince Albert this year too.

I'm sure the Angels would like even better than this. But, let's start at the low end, and ask what a 2011/12 hybrid Pujols would look like. That's 95 runs, 105 RBIs, 40 doubles, 33 HRs, about a .292 BA, .355 OBP, .535 SLG, .890 OPS and 144 OPS+. On the basic advanced stat, that's 4.3 oWAR and 5.2 WAR.

That's minimally realistic.

Turning to Fangraphs on him, Steamer projects him a bit lower and Oliver a lot lower. I'm not buying it.

The main thing that Albert needs to learn is to unlearn. He started chasing more balls with the Angels, whether through "pressing" in 2012, bat speed decline worries, some combination, perhaps a combo of that with the plantar fasciitis woes, or yet other things.

If he will walk at at least something halfway between his 2011 and 2012 rates, that will make a difference indeed. If his walks are at least even with his K's, which I think possible indeed, then he can hit his 2011 numbers.

In fact, I'll give 50-50 odds on him hitting or passing .910 OPS and 150 OPS+. If he does that, he's going to have 5.5 total WAR and at least 4.5 oWAR. And, I'll give a 25 percent chance that he is at 6 WAR overall and 5 oWAR.

Some of this depends on where he's at in the order, and on how much fellow ex-Cardinal David Freese rebounds and on what a Kole Calhoun does in a full year at the plate. A bit of a rebound from Erick Aybar would help, too.

Plus, as Crasnick also notes, 30 taters from Pujols puts him in the top 20 all time, and past such first basemen as Lou Gehrig, Fred McGriff, Willie McCovey, Frank Thomas, and Eddie Murray. That would leave him at No. 18. A 43-HR season, which I don't think is likely, shoots him past Jimmie Foxx, and 45 puts him past Mickey Mantle.

#Ukraine — more thoughts and updates

Vladimir Putin — genius or bumbler? / Wikimedia Commons
Western arms deals, like the French selling a helicopter carrier ship, are another reason that EU nations may be a bit hesitant to lower the hammer too much on Russia and Vlad the Impaler.

Former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko wants more leaning on Vlad by the West. Well, per the first link, non-Russia members of the G-8 are "re-evaluating" attending a summer summit at Sochi. Er, booting Russia is the only economic language it's likely to understand.

Vlad's living up to his image if Russian "heavies" in Crimea are even intimidating UN people.

That said, Ruslan Pushkov has a good wrap of the second and third threads.

On Tymoshenko, he notes that she was his Gal Friday in Kiev before. The fact that the Ukrainian ultranationalists didn't cheer too much for her release is a tell.

At the same time, as Pushkov notes, the US misread those ultranationalists as "democrats." The apparently failing nation-building in Libya has taught us little on trying to "read" foreign insurgency movements.

The Crimea? It's long had a sort of autonomous status. Pushkov said the end game may be to tighten that status while letting it technically be part of Ukraine. Bet that French helicopter carrier, which is a good support shift for amphibious-type operations, looks swanky at Sevastopol.

Meanwhile, per Fred Kaplan and others, what if Vlad isn't so brilliant, and not a secret 11-dimensional chess player at all? Maybe he's just a couple of steps on the bumbling scale ahead of Nikita Khrushchev and Leonid Brezhnev, and about in the same league as Obama?

Kaplan's right otherwise. Russia isn't a great power. It's certainly not an economic great power, despite being part of the G-8. The West can afford to push back right now, with winter ending and less need for natural gas.

Ahh, natural gas — part of the Russian petrochemical production that supplies half the government's revenue.

That's why the West can push back. Putin can talk about turning off the taps, but he really can't afford to do it for that long.

That's why Kaplan says push back more on the economic side:
Already, plans for a G-8 conference in Sochi are on hold. Scrap the session altogether. Maybe even hold a G-7 conference (perhaps under a different name) someplace else. (The G-7 nations have already issued a condemnation of Russia’s aggression.) Other possibilities: keep Russia out of the OECD; pull out all economic and technical advisers from Russia; encourage private investors to do the same (the uncertainty of Russia’s market, as a result of the aggression, is already having this effect to some extent); suspend all bilateral talks about … well, everything; suspend travel visas to the West for select Russian officials (this is a more delicate matter, but American and EU officials are drawing up lists).
We should, like Jack Kennedy with Cuba, give Putin a relatively easy way off the ledge onto which he's climbed. We should also learn more about disabusing our leaders in government, so that they realize that the old cliche, "the enemy of my enemy is my friend," ain't always true. But, we should hold out these sticks while we're at it.

March 05, 2014

#Cardinals dance a delicate tango with Oscar Taveras

Here's the back story to this piece from Bernie Miklasz on the St. Louis Cardinals' top prospect, Oscar Taveras.

The story lays out his injury timeline, and his tentativeness in spring training this year. However, Bernie doesn't note that Taveras feels the Cards pushed him back into the lineup early down in Memphis last year and basically, kind of misdiagnosed the severity of his high ankle sprain. Even knee injury football rehab stud Adrian Peterson knows the struggles with high ankle sprains.

So, while the tentativeness is indeed primarily mental, it's not just mental on Taveras not yet fully trusting the surgery results. It's him not fully trusting the Cardinals' pace.

With the Peter Bourjos trade, and a possible if not likely bounceback from Jon Jay, the Cards have at least decent strength in the outfield as is. If Matt Adams' pre-training work against lefty sliders pays off, the Cards won't have to worry about platooning Allen Craig at first base at times.

So, go easy, Mike Matheny

At the same time, Taveras can't be too tentative too long. He may wind up seeing Stephen Piscotty in his rearview mirror pretty quickly.

And if, as Matheny may be hinting here, Taveras has a problem mentally, that's doubly true.

Anyway, this is a story guaranteed to have shelf life all through spring training. Because of the Bourjos trade, because of Piscotty, and because of Randal Grichuk who came over in the Bourjos trade, the Cards have options.

Bernie Miklasz boo-hoos for nonexistent #CardinalWay

Can't you just feel the Cardinal Way?
Does it smell like St. Louis teen spirit?/AP photo
I am officially calling bullshite on St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz, and for something besides running flak for Mark McGwire on andro, vs. an AP reporter, in 1998, the Year of Magic Year of Tainted Dreams.

His nonsensery? A column that, in addition to being 2x too long, invokes the mystical Cardinal way in pleading, begging, imploring with tear-stained peepers, for Ozzie Smith and his managerial arch-nemesis, Tony La Russa, to kiss and make up.

Yes, because a feud like that goes against "the Cardinal way." No, really. Read:
The last thing any Cardinals' greats should do is feud; that dishonors what they're representing. That isn't the so-called Cardinal Way. Why should other Cardinals Hall of Famers be made uncomfortable when the old gang gets together just because two guys can't settle some dusty dispute that's 18 years old and inconsequential to their current stations in life? These iconic men should be smiling and happy and proud to stand together as one.

Oh, and then, there's this bit of saccharine on top:
Mr. La Russa ... Mr. Smith ... can we end this?

Can we please have peace in our lifetimes?

Or as Stan "The Man" Musial might put it: Whaddaya say, whaddaya say?
Wow. Invoking St. Stan Musial. I'm just about to cry a freaking storm. If I were diabetic, I'd be in a coma by now.

Yeah, a manager who deliberately stacked the deck from spring training on, against Ozzie and in favor of Royce Clayton, and showed zero clue or sensitivity beyond that about how to handle the retirement year of a Hall of Famer who was, despite an injured 1995, in at least as good of walkoff-year health as Derek Jeter this year, should have Ozzie just give him a big hug and a smooch.

Even worse, Bernie has now doubled down on the stupidity, in a new column:
Tony La Russa boxed himself in back in 1996, when he announced that Ozzie Smith and Royce Clayton would compete for the starting job at shortstop during spring camp. The Cardinals obviously acquired Clayton from the Giants with the plan to use him extensively, but didn't want to be insensitive to Ozzie before the players reported to Florida. The proud Ozzie had other ideas and outplayed Clayton during the spring games. That put La Russa in a real bind. 

So the starting job went to Ozzie, right? Uh, no. Clayton had 531 plate appearances in 1996; Ozzie had 261. I thought it worked out fine, because La Russa and the Cardinals received good play from both shortstops. Clayton ranked among the NL's best shortstops in zone rating. And in his final season Ozzie stayed fresh and vibrant as an occasional starter.

But TLR's allocation of playing time at SS became a prominent side issue that never went away in '96. It was a sore point for Smith and many fans.
Er, this is a selective reading. In reality, when weighted per at bats, Ozzie was better on defensive runs, and about even on offensive runs per the shortstop position. B-R ranks him higher on both WAR and WAA; in fact, Clayton gets a negative. And Fangraphs agrees. There, on net run production, Ozzie's 5 runs ahead of Royce for that year, with half as many at bats.

So, "whaddaya say"? I say that TLR was definitely more in the wrong, and has never fessed up.

Beyond that, as his fellow P-D columnist, Bill McClellan, recently pointed out, and blogged about  by me here, TLR isn't exactly the "Cardinal way" guy anyway. His Cooperstown plaque will have no team logo. He never lived in St. Louis in offseasons or spent significant time there.

Per that link, in an email exchange, Bill referenced Andy Van Slyke, too, speaking of players feuding with TLR. 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. But, that tangle alone, plus Bernie acting like a 1950s sportswriter in carrying Big Mac's bags, probably is more illustration

The Busch Stadium mound, baptized and exorcised by Waino
And, speaking of McClellan, and Stan Musial, and "whaddaya say," Bernie, why don't you ask if Adam Wainwright and other Cardinal pitchers are going to draw Christian fish symbols on the mound again this year? Since it's been a year-plus since Musial's death, they and Mike Matheny can't claim it's a "6" any more.

Beyond that, it's bullshite like this that make fans of many other teams barf when they hear "the Cardinal way," anyway. So, please, fellow Cardinal-loving bloggers, stop? Bernie Miklasz's column explains to a T why you should stop this. It's arguably more true than the Dallas Cowboys calling themselves "America's Team, but that's about it.

I mean, I lived in St. Louis for two different stretches of my life, my last two years of high school plus first couple of college summers, and a half-decade later, three years of grad school plus a year afterward. Loved the city. Still would like to live there, even at the price of figuring out ways to dodge relatives on religious holidays, speaking of the baptized Cardinals' mound.

(More here on the images, along with additional images. More here on the strongly Christian and clubhouse character background I'm not sure the team ever owned up to who was doing this. They did eventually remove them, which prompted national wingnut talking heads to spout off.)

Related to this, I'm also calling bullshite on any Cardinal blogger who again talks about how TLR had a preference for veterans. Ozzie's final year was just as good as Clayton's 1996, no matter how much TLR tried to stack the deck. Both B-R and Fangraphs say so.

Speaking of Fangraphs, a page linked there shows that the Wiz could do it in the field on grass as well as Astroturf. 

This, between the sheer stupidity and wrongness, and 400 wasted, overblown words, may be the single worst column Miklasz has written since coming to St. Louis 20-some years ago. 

Finally, I'll freely admit to bias on this issue. Said bias includes a sports P1 pic of the Wiz, from a pre-Miklasz P-D, diving into the hole for a patented stop, with Ozzie's autograph perfectly placed on top. I've never met the gentleman (which I perceive him as being), and I'm not saying he's guiltless. But, unless one wants to go past Bernie into Buddhist/hippie/New Ager/Obama Kumbaya land, one person needs to stick his hand out first.

And it ain't Ozzie Smith.

Note for Yankee manager Joe Girardi: If you want a good example of how to handle Jeter's final year, look at Tony La Russa, 1996 model, and do exactly the opposite.

(Update, Feb. 25: Bernie, if you're really worried about the "Cardinal Way," you need to keep an eye on Carlos Martinez, obviously [NSFW].) 

Or, read your office mate Bill McClellan, who politely says STFU about the "Cardinal Way." Re Martinez, he notes:
There is no “i” in team, but there is definitely an “i” in Twitter.
 Got it.

And, NOT gonna "get it" — the Cardinal Way is in book form

Seriously, Miklasz at times is starting to sound like one of those 1950s sportswriters who always traveled with the team, often drank with the team and sometimes wenched with the team. Bernie, I'll venture that Mozeliak has a PR position available, or can create one.

Otherwise, Bernie, you can write better than this. You have many a time, before.

If I want to up the facetiousness level, was Garry Templeton flipping off the fans the Cardinal Way? Keith Hernandez snorting coke in the Cardinal dugout? Rumors of players cheating on other players' wives in the 1980s? David Freese and his DWI problems? Not to mention other Cardinal DWI problems, like Tony himself, passed out at the wheel.

No, Colin Kaepernick, you're not worth $18M

And, Colin Kaepernick, you likely won't be worth it a year from now earlier, no matter how badly you want it.

You're a below-average quarterback in terms of passing skills:
Kaepernick completed 58.4 percent of his passes last season, which is worst among the top 10 quarterbacks in Football Outsiders' QB efficiency metric. And even when you factor in dropped passes, Keapernick's accuracy percentage (as measured by ProFootballFocus) is 69.3, ahead of only EJ Manuel, Joe Flacco, Geno Smith and Eli Manning.

When Kaepernick faces pressure, his completion percentage drops to 43.6 and his accuracy percentage drops to 55.1, last among all NFL starters.
That's despite having a bevy of high-talent receiving targets, including Anquan Boldin, Michael Crabtree, and Vernon Davis, plus a top-tier running back in Frank Gore.

You say Jay Cutler gets that much? Fine, let's see how well, or poorly, you would do with his options.

As for the other "comps" from the pull quote, we've already seen Flacco isn't the same without Boldin. Eli's not the same as of old, and won't have fake Super Bowl gear to hawk, until he gets better receivers, too.

In today's QB world, Kaep might be worth $12 million. In today's QB world, the Niners investing a draft choice on a QB, in the top half of the draft, might also be worth something.

#BrianDunning — guilty; and not a "sad day" (updated)

Brian Dunning
Famous Internet skeptic, or alleged skeptic, or pseudoskeptic, Brian Dunning, is now officially guilty of federal fraud for his part in an Internet cookie-stuffing scheme, per report at this blog site.

(Update, Aug. 5, 2014: And, he's now been sentenced. Go here for details, and my comments on how the sentencing discussions show Dunning hasn't changed a bit so far.)

(Update 2, Oct. 21, 2015: Dunning is out of the federal clink and unrepentant; he gets his first post-incarceration smackdown from me.)

The piece is thorough on Dunning's background.

If you want more information, here's the PDF of the original criminal complaint, and here's my original blog post on this. You can also click the tag at the end of this blog post to pull up everything I've written about Dunning, not just limited to the cookie-stuffing issue.

Otherwise, no "sad day" from where I sit. contra the blog that first reported this. The "sad day" was when Dunning started doing this stuff. File this under Dark Side Of The Internet; he's a spammer, using the word in a non-technical sense, who did something that's not just spamming but fraudulent.

(Update, May 5, 2013: There's more in this in-depth piece about how eBay was "on" to Dunning and his cohort in crime, Shawn Hogan. That includes Hogan "manning up" on responsibility, but Dunning being too much of a wuss or putz to comment.

Per this story, more proof that Hogan, and surely Dunning, knew what they were doing, and that's the much lesser amount Hogan made on other affiliate marketing. From the FBI files:
"He advised that he earns about $10,000 to $15,000 per month for GOOGLE ads, $1.1 to $1.5 million per month on EBAY, and approximately $8,000 to $10,000 per month for WESTERN UNION. HOGAN stated the money from these affiliates programs has made him lazy on his other stuff."
Yeah, making 100x a month more? Big diff.

And, Dunning's probably pissed off at his brother Todd. Todd ratted out Hogan, which made eBay suspicious of him AND Brian, soon enough.)

So, that's reason No. 1 it's no sad day. Related to that is the fact that skepticism, whether of the narrower "scientific" type or the broader philosophical type, is more than just one person.

That said, this isn't the only reason this is no "sad day."

Reason No. 2?

Dunning's also someone who has regularly mixed libertarianism in with his version of skepticism, or rather, "skepticism." Given that his libertarian political leanings are likely connected to why he started cookie stuffing, rather that "sad day," maybe we could call this "object lesson day."

Is that "drivel," as I've already been told on a Facebook post? (The person who started the thread has his status set to "public," therefore I'm not violating privacy.)


I think that, while I can't prove it, it's a reasonable assumption that Dunning's libertarian leanings influenced him to start doing what he did. Bug Girl provides another good example — Dunning cribbing off libertarian/big biz antiscience website Junk Science in order to do a takedown of Rachel Carson.

Seems pretty deliberate to me. If not deliberate, it's hugely lazy not to have researched Junk Science. That said, I'm pretty sure it's the former. And, Bug Girl is, in my opinion, too generously kind to assume he just got mislead. And that, if he did, he didn't do any research on Junk Science's background.

Add to that, that Dunning was also a contributor to the Skeptical Libertarian blog.

That said, in a recent Tweet, actually a re-Tweet Dunning welcomes Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann to the next "The Amazing Meeting." So, Dunning's libertarian leanings are not too overblown, perhaps. Or else, he's just about promoting TAM.

Reason three this is no "sad day"?

In my opinion, Dunning is overrated as a generator of in-depth, independent skeptical thought.

For example, one of his most "favored" blog posts was "five things you don't know about your body."

Top two items? Did you know you don't use just 10 percent of your brain? Did you know that swallowed gum doesn't stay in your body 7 years? Wow!

I mean, it's all honest, skeptical debunking, but none of it is original.

Anyway, I've blogged about Dunning before, most recently about his propensity for setting up straw men, just like he did in his "partial explanation." And, re the Bug Girl link above, even should I be as generous as her about why Dunning did that post of his, he was still quite defensive and slow to correct it.

Dunning's background, and the case itself

Here's Dunning's original "partial explanation." It includes this:
Some bloggers and commenters have claimed that I personally made outrageous amounts of money. This is demonstrably false. Although I did well for the better part of a year, most of the money mentioned in the suit was earned by another affiliate, and our chunk was divided into many different pie slices. I was only one of those slices, despite being the only one criminally charged from our company. I’ve already spent more money in legal fees than I earned from eBay.
Can you Digg it?
You personally may not have made outrageous amounts of money. (Speaking purely hypothetically for the sake of argument.) But, what about various LPs, LLCs, etc., into which you may have incorporated yourself? I mean, Dunning has publicly identified himself around the web as a venture capitalist; don't tell me he doesn't know tricks of the trade on how and where to hide money.

Also, the nature of cookie stuffing, and related Internet deceptions, as I note here, suggest you probably made "at least a few bucks."

Another reason or two this may not have made more money?

1. Ebay detected it quickly enough (and even did a sting of sorts, eventually);
2. It had not reached its full setup by the time it was caught.

And, per my original blog post on this, there's plenty of evidence of "shells":

• Between 2006 and June 2007, Shawn Hogan (Digital Point Solutions) earned approximately $15.5 million in commissions from eBay. Hogan was eBay’s number one affiliate.
Between 2006 and June 2007, Dunning (Kessler’s Flying Circus) earned approximately $5.3 million in commissions from eBay. Dunning was eBay’s number two affiliate.
Hogan and Dunning are accused of generating hidden forced clicks on both their own web sites as well as sites not connected with the defendants in order to increase the number of computers storing the eBay affiliate tracking cookie.
The legal criteria for wire fraud was established not on money (commissions) being transferred over the wires, but because of transmission of the tracking cookie between states and internationally.
Note that again: $5.3 million. In short, his partial explanation would seem full of bull as to how much money he made, or didn't.

Yours for just $15!
So, sell that swag, Brian!

(At highly inflated prices, like $27.95 for a T-shirt. Sounds like a guru selling to his cultic followers. Or $15 for the aptly titled rubber stamp; more on it below.)

Back to the serious on this part. I don't know how much he was selling on his own on eBay, or if any of his Skeptoid stuff was sold there. But, the principle of a man with a sharp eye for a sharp product, whether through "raking" with groupies on his own stuff or defrauding other affiliates with eBay, still stands.

Related to that, from a link at my initial post, commenting about the original legal filing, is a lot of evidence of intentionality. Like this:
Shawn + friends had a system set up that would record each individual computer they had stuffed in order to not attempt to stuff cookies on that same computer again.  This not only makes things look more legit on ebay’s side in the logs, but prevents anyone trying to observe something shady from duplicating it.  Also, they attempted to geotarget the traffic and prevent any computers located in Santa Barbara, CA (headquarters of Commission Junction, who hosted ebay’s affiliate program) and San Jose, CA (ebay’s headquarters).  This was done to hide the cookie stuffing from ebay and CJ employees (obviously).  Interesting stuff indeed!  Aspiring search engine cloakers and cookie stuffers, take notice!
That's pretty strong evidence from where I sit.

Add to the "intentionality"? Dunning calling eBay's affiliate program "stupid." (That same set of PDFs, on the next page after the linked one, spells out how "poor me" Dunning distributed the money he was making to his and his wife's personal checking accounts [which raises questions of sheltering money, if he's in an "individual property" state] and a brokerage, among other things.)

That includes this information, that he was paying his wife $10K a month, plus both his mother and mother-in-law $2,500 a month for living expenses.

But, Dunning says "poor me."

Again, that means today is, if anything, "an happy occasion," per The Holy Grail.

(Update, March 5, 2014: Lousy Canuck at Freethought Blogs reports Dunning is trying to use 501(c)3 status, allegedly started in 2012, to shield his ill-gotten gains. And, while Jason has a Gnu Atheism motive for ax-grinding, and, I've pointed out some of his Social Justice Warrior nonsense on comments on his own blog, nonetheless, especially as Dunning used to bill himself as a venture capitalist and would know how to play such shell games, I find Thibeault to be making a reasonable explanation of Dunning's motive here. That's also not to say that Dunning is surely not the first person to think of such an idea. It IS to say, though, that he probably was giving himself a "genius" pat on the back while doing so. I'm more skeptical of Dunning's mindset than some friends who have little or no ties to either Gnu Atheism or Movement Skepticism.)

What's next?

Per the link at top, he still faces sentencing on his criminal case. That blog at top guesstimates 46-57 months is possible, given federal sentencing guidelines (website calculator here) and if the amount of damage is stipulated at $1 million. Technically, he is eligible for probation, but ... who knows. He may use the same charm he did on his groupies and get just that. More seriously, with minor children at home, he might beat it down to 36 months, maybe even 24.

Meanwhile, a civil fraud suit by eBay has been "parked" while the criminal case proceeded. Dunning will probably be pleading that one soon, on advice of attorney and any halfway decent deal.

Given the amount of commissions Dunning et al raked in, plus apparent evidence of trying to cover their tracks, I'd venture eBay is pushing for a seven-figure payback, all told. (Not all of that may fall on Dunning's shoulders, of course.)

Brian, you better start selling a lot of that Skeptoid bling, and soon.

So, to sum up:

A greedy hypercapitalist venture capitalist and libertarian of some sort who puts himself out as a skeptic in part, apparently, to make a buck, or $1 million, off of it, gets busted by our lenient neolib federal government for committing white-collar fraud and being one of the people who has contributed to making fair chunks of the Net the hypercapitalist sewer it is today.

This person's libertarian mindset might have also led to the Wild West idea of "hey, eBay's a big biz, it won't miss some pocket change."

And, some people, apparently Dunning groupies, want to mourn?

Those are the folks unreasonable beyond the three reasons:

Among those groupies is Doubtful News, which first writes a pseudoskeptical suck-up post about Dunning's woes, then goes chickenshit and closes comments. I've both emailed and Tweeted them, and no response yet. And, I'll bet I don't get any.

In comments, got to "love" this one:
I disagree. Lots of people make mistakes, this does not necessarily equate with an intent to defraud. If we lost respect for people who make mistakes (and owned up to them), we’d have no friends at all.
Mistakes? Bullshit. Hiding his tracks shows intent pretty damned well. Intentionality ain't a "mistake."

That was followed by this:
For those skeptic bashers who get their jollies out of seeing the misfortune of others like Brian and Randi, you suck. I don’t get any joy seeing anyone suffer. Not even someone I detest.
So, people who have pointed out Dunning's libertarianism-skepticism commingling for years are automatically labeled as getting joy out of his suffering? Again, Dunning brought this on himself. Ditto for others who have willfully broken the law, not made "mistakes." So, no, people like you who defend four years' worth of ongoing criminal fraud "suck."

And finally, this:
I don’t think this is at all related to Skeptoid. It had to do with a former employer.
Sure it does relate, if I'm right about the libertarian mindset pervading all of Dunning's operations. And, how do you know Dunning didn't try cookie-stuffing on PayPal accounts, or something, if that's how you were buying his swag? (I'm not techie enough to know if that's possible, but, if it is?) And, the "former employee"? I have no idea where that's coming from.

And, per Dunning as businessman, when phrases like "black hat" are repeatedly used about his co-indictee, Shawn Hogan, and Hogan's company, Digital Point, the old "company you keep" phrase comes into mind.

You might want to read your own "what skepticism is" webpage, Doubtful News folks.

Finally, per this blog post about how the cookie stuffing worked, stealing what should have been due them from other affiliates, why wasn't Dunning also charged with theft of services or similar?

Add to this a great story from Ars Technica, also explaining just what was involved.

Between the two, Dunning sympathizers and groupies who claim this is "no big deal" or "this is how Internet affiliate programs work" are simply wrong.

Meanwhile, per the top of this page, rather than it being "drivel" for asking how much Dunning's libertarianism might have influenced his actions, it's "drivel" for someone like Shane Brady, who made that charge, to now claim such nonsense as the bullshit that Dunning wasn't trying to hide his tracks. (Somehow, I suspect the latest link won't impress Brady, even with Hogan making a confession.)

And, since Brady's Facebook status is set to "public," I'll grab this quote from there:
Tonight I feel like the only #skeptic who knows how cookies and advertising work
Oh, well. Aren't we so almighty, compared to both federal assistant district attorneys and eBay, among others? 

But, no, judging by this post alone, even if he's not a professed skeptic, Bruce Schneier knows plenty about cookies.

So does Wikipedia. Its post is easy to follow and non-techie. I linked to it in my original post about Dunning's indictment. (And, speaking of drivel and Wikipedia, would-be edits of his Wiki page by groupies would fall in the area of "drivel." As well as a tacit admission of the degree of his guilt.)

And, if you want an easy-to-understand, non-techie explanation of just what Dunning did, one that should satisfy even libertarian #skeptic cookies-and-ads genius Shane Brady or the fluffers at Doubtful News, along with the criminality issue, go here.

Sorry, Shane, it's not worth the time for me to Photoshop your Facebook icon with a "martyr" back of hand to forehead.

And, the vacuous Justin Vacula both here and on Facebook, pleads for "all the evidence to come in" before making a judgment, apparently ignorant of the fact that a guilty plea means Dunning himself accepts the evidentiary findings!

It's an interesting day indeed when I find Freethought Blogs a general font of wisdom on the subject. And, for the Dunning fluffers, don't post smoochy blogs if you can't stand the heat.

And, while I might have some schadenfreude for Dunning, I'm sorry about his wife and kids who will likely see their dad go to jail. That said, that's not my fault, either.

That said, we can transfer from "true believers" to ...

Texas primaries wrap-up — hypocrisy and more!

I've already covered the clusterfuck in the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, but I may drop a few more words near the end.

Biggest surprise? Dan Patrick hauling in nearly 45 percent of the vote in the GOP Lite Guv primary, despite his Ill Eagle hypocrisy hitting the fan before early voting was halfway done and finishing even ahead of incumbent David Dewhurst. (That said, on the GOP Lite Guv side, on the poll still up, respondents were more accurate than I; I thought it would be Staples along with the Dew.)

A couple of takeaways. First, Dudley Dewless is toast in the runoff Patrick will win by at least a 55-45 margin.

Second, the GOP has proven itself to be the party of hypocrisy, and dug-in hypocrisy, not just in staring down Dems but in an intramural scrum. As noted, this came out before early voting was halfway done. It didn't hurt him there, and his day-of voting dropped by less than 1 percentage point.

Biggest sadness/disgust/same-old new, GOP side? That would be Don Huffines narrowly topping John Carona in a Dallas state senate primary. Sadness because Carona was a relatively moderate Republican, and a generally effective legislator. Disgust? Huffines trotting in out-of-state tea party type endorsements from the likes of Rand Paul and Rick Santorum. Disgust, part 2? More than $6.3 million being spent on this race. Same-old, new? Anybody who thinks the tea partiers aren't even more firmly in the saddle in the Texas GOP. Dallas, at least the city and the first ring of precincts inside Dallas County, is blue. A "temperate" GOP would certainly seem to be called for here, but was firmly rejected.

Related? Given that the district, while including all of ritzy Highland Park and University Park, also has portions of Rowlett, Garland, Irving and Coppell, and is 30 percent Hispanic, a decent Democrat would have a shot at a Huffines, one would think.

Too bad no Dem ran for that nomination.

Biggest disgust, Democratic side? The Senate primary going to an Alameel-Rogers runoff. And, sorry, Charles Kuffner, but Alameel winning outright in the original primary wouldn't have been much more appealing. More here from my blog on that race. 

Strength of the Tea Party? Patrick's showing, Cornyn's relatively limited showing despite his tacking hard right from an already hard right slot, and Huffines knocking off Carona are just a few signs that it's not in its waning phase. Stockman getting nearly 20 percent of the vote in Cornyn's primary confirms that.

And, that's where we're at in the Pointy Abandoned Object State™.

March 04, 2014

Looks like I won't be voting for a US Senator this year

Not unless I move out of Texas.

Neither of the two Democrats likely to go to a runoff, David Alameel, with his moneybags and his apparent lying over his seeming long pro-life history, nor Kesha Rogers, a LaRouchite, appeal to me.

And, I have no desire to vote for Alameel just to block Rogers. If some Democratic voters are voting for her just because of ethnicity, that's not my problem to fix, even if I could. Speaking of, is that part of how Harry Kim, a political unknown from Odessa who never really identified himself to voters, looks set to nearly double Michael Fjetland's vote?

(Sadly, my poll on the runoff didn't include Rogers at all. That said, on the GOP Lite Guv side, on the poll still up, respondents were more accurate than I; I thought it would be Staples along with the Dew.)

And, with the Greens having just one candidate presenting herself at their upcoming convention, Emily Sanchez, who lists the nickname of "Spicybrown" on her official campaign styling, and who hasn't answered an email from me in two weeks, that's not a viable option, either.

Per a commenter on another blog post of mine, maybe Green gubernatorial nominee Brandon Parmer woke up a little bit, but ... seriously? Let me know when you're at 50 percent the organization and professional level of the Libertarians.

It's not that the nickname is an open shout-out to Hispanics (what, the surname "Sanchez" isn't enough) as the apparent major lack of organization plus an intuitional hunch we're looking at something like the 2008 Green Veep nominee, only on a state level.

Also, for all the bashing we gave it, it looks like the Trib's poll was pretty much right about this race. That's not to say it was right everywhere, as Perry notes in his wrap-up.

Otherwise, Dan Patrick finishing first in the GOP Lite Guv primary is probably my biggest shock of the night. Fjetland last in the Dem Senate primary might be No. 2.

And, that's where we're at in the Pointy Abandoned Object State™.

I'll have a wrap on the primaries in general up shortly. And, that post is here.

False rape has real victims, too, #FtB folks

Note: This post will be updated from time to time, to note some specific claims.

Is Julian Assange the victim of a false rape claim, possibly over politics? Was Dominique Strauss-Kahn, very possibly over money?

I don't know. But, because rape is a serious crime, so are false rape claims.

And, sometimes, it may be over an even more ludicrous reason: fame.

Here's another false rape claim, admitted to by the false claimant, a former New York City TV weatherwoman Heidi Jones. Sad. And a reminder that while rape is a serious crime ... for that very reason, so is a false rape claim. Especially when driven by possible attempts to reclaim fame (this case?) for money (possibly in the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case?) or for political or other motives (just barely possible in the Assange case?).

And, another!

Once again, college people, too much drinking, some sort of sexual activity, problematic memory, and a rape claim that didn't play out, at least against the person in the spotlight. Once again, social justice warriors, maybe start your focus on ... alcohol? And, as for motive? SJW folks, this one's clear on at least a possible motive. Monetary payout from a presumed first-round NFL draft pick.

As for false accusations in general, whatever the motive? They happen. I'm not saying they happen often, but they clearly happen. Per the headline, need I remind you of the Duke lacrosse team?

Or, maybe they DO happen kind of often. And, for all the reasons above and more. More below the fold, with details on how about one-quarter of claims don't pan out (U.S.) and almost 10 percent are deliberately false (U.K.) More below the fold.

Are Texas Democrats facing a Senate train wreck?

That's what the Trib says, in its latest polling of Texas races.

If it's right, the party is facing a runoff between Mr. Prolife-Lying, David  Alameel, and Ms. Larouchie Nutbar, Kesha Rogers.

Perhaps Perry is right and their polling is whack. Given as much as Michael Fjetland has hit the email trail, I find it very hard to believe he trails the total unknown, Harry Kim. Maxey Scherr, in third, could make it to the final round if the Trib is wrong, or things are still liquid, or whatever. (And, speaking of polls, I have one of my own as to who will make the runoff; it does not have Rogers listed.)

Sadly, if it does come down to Rogers vs. Brown, the Green candidate for Senate, Emily Sanchez, is still as invisible as gubernatorial candidate Brandon Parmer was until a week ago. And, her using the nickname of "Spicybrown" on her Green convention listing doesn't inspire a lot of confidence or enthusiasm in me.

I could definitely pull a James Moore and sit out the general on this race entirely. And, speaking of Moore, he talks about some methodology problems with the poll in question. 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.

And now, Texas Democratic Party chair Gilberto Hinojosa is trying to avoid that train wreck, telling the faithful not to vote for Rogers. I agree. Too bad he stopped with just Rogers, though. Guess Wendy Davis and the Angles wouldn't like that, though.

Other takeaways?

Jerry Patterson's kneecapping of Dan Patrick apparently didn't work. Danny Boy is still No. 2 behind David Dewhurst in the GOP Lite Gov race. And, he's now doubled down on his denialism of the issue at hand.  That said, as Perry reminds me in comments, the poll was closed before the kneecapping incident. That said, can't we have quicker turnarounds on polls with just eight days left before the vote?

More interesting yet is that Debra Medina is leading the GOP Comptroller primary.

And Big John Cornyn is expected to overcome flabby, thin support, and win the GOP Senate primary without a runoff.

Finally, I don't get why Kuffner, an allegedly progressive blogger, likes Alameel so much.

Dear Ichiro: It's time to retire after this year

Yankee outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, the star hitter of both Japanese and American baseball, has said, per ESPN, that he plans to play "not just a few (but) many" years before retiring.

Uh, yeah, that's if any MLB wants you as a No. 4, soon to be No. 5, OF, and you can accept that. 

Your own current manager, Joe Girardi, without rose-colored glasses, barely sees you as a No. 4 in the Yankee pecking order:
“We signed a number of outfielders as free agents, and things have a way of working themselves out in spring training," Girardi said. “Exactly how he fits in right now I can’t tell you, but my job is to keep everyone fresh, healthy and contributing, and I’ll have to figure that out."  
Yes, other teams don't ink new free agents on such a heavy basis. They also often have better minor league depth than the Yankees and would rather give time to a sub-23 prospect than an over-40 "geezer."

As for Ichiro, beyond his general competitiveness, I'm pretty sure the reason he's saying that is that he'd like to get 3,000 hits here in MLB. 

Yeah, good luck with that.

Here's how Ichiro's quest for 3,000 hits is likely to play out, from this year's starting point of 2,742.

I'm pretty sure Ichiro wants 3K. But, as a reserve, it's going to take him playing like Omar Vizquel or longer. And SS has more of a defensive premium than RF, if Ichiro can really play RF rather than LF in two more years.

Let's give him 345 ABs this year at .261. That's 90 hits, putting him at 2,832. OK, for 2015, 240 ABs at .257 gives him 62 hits, or 2,894. In 2016, 225 ABs at .251 gives him 54 more hits for 2,948. In 2017, 192 ABs at .245 gives him 47 hits, for 2,995. So, in a reasonable downward progression of both at bats and batting average, four years isn't enough for him to break 3,000.

And, these may well be generous assumptions. Ichiro's career isolated power is below .100 and in recent years it's been below .090. That's tolerable at SS, if you're like a Vizquel and can contribute plus glove, at least on a reserve basis.

Survey already says no. In 2010, 2011, the Yankee half of 2012, and 2013, he was a negative on fielding runs for his position. His range, for a RF, is below average and getting closer to well below average. His arm still ranks OK, but no better. And, he doesn't have the power to be a LF. 

Vizquel? He stayed in positive territory on fielding runs until he was 43, three years older than Ichiro is now. The gold standard, Ozzie Smith, was even or positive through his age-41 retirement season.

Life is cruel being an over-40 outfielder. If you have power, you can go DH, or in the National League, try to play a passable IB. Ichiro has neither option.

A few brief thoughts on Ukraine

First, the usual association of wingnuts is urging military action, including Fred Hiatt and the Washington Post editorial board, the same John McCain who wanted to egg us into the Georgia-vs-Russia war of a few years ago after egging Georgia on by stupidly hinting at NATO membership, and Dr. Death Warmed Over, Charles Krauthammer, who claims that Obama thinks global warming is a more serious issue. (Actually, in terms of actions, rather than talk, Dear Leader doesn't think it's that serious.)

So, will the last wingnut commentator to be faux-shocked, or rather Faux-shocked, over Obama not nuking Sebastopol please turn out what's left of the lights inside his or her head?

The reality is that the ruble and Russian stocks got pummeled Monday. Along with that, Russia's trade treaty partner, Kazakhstan, started sounding the alarm bells. If the financial pummeling continues, Putin will draw in his horns after the Crimean escapade and will butt out of Ukrainian regime change. Up to this point, his adventuresomeness has generally been rational.

Indeed, per a great Guardian piece, which tells Obama not to listen to the blather, this is ultimately Putin's Waterloo, if anybody's.

US financial incentives to Ukraine are so far not enough to provoke him further, but at the same time to indicate the US won't be totally idle.

Most of this will work out in the wash if Putin doesn't double down on dumb. If he does, there's little we can directly do, expect possibly covertly encourage protests inside Russia as its economy continues to tank.

Actually, there is one financial move we can take: Boot Russia from the G-8. However, European members, dependent on Russian gas, will be quite leery of that.

However, encouraged by American technology, and warned by American regulatory blind eyes, European nations could, and should, start fracking for natural gas in their own countries.

That said, this is another case where, like Syria, Dear Leader was dumb enough to draw a bright line. Apparently, he doesn't get that his mellifluous dulcet tones aren't recognized as such in large swathes of the world abroad as well as domestically.

Update: Peter Beinart reinforces the idea that there's been no US "retreat." He also, along with other smart-minded people, says we can't support an anti-Russia Ukrainian government. That would, indeed, be a bridge too far.

March 03, 2014

God, guns and Adam — a conservative #fail

Think Progress image
Tom DeLay thinks god wrote the U.S. Constitution.

David French thinks people have not just a constitutional, but a god-given, right to guns.

The simple and totally wrong wingnut logical conclusion should then should be:

Why didn't the Intelligent Designer god create Adam with gun in hand?

And, that's why you'll never see logic and modern American conservativism in the same room.

This is all just part of larger intellectual failings by the American religious right, of course. When you claim that god did "item X," especially when you usually relate it to some idea that's part and parcel of your American exceptionalism, hilarity and idiocy usually follow after some simple logical reasoning. It's not always quite as quick of a slam dunk as with this or with one of the three Weird Sisters of Sarah Palin, Pam Gellar and Michele Bachmann, but ... sometimes it is! 

Update: It's worse than I thought! The Kentucky Baptist Convention is giving away guns.

No, small biz does not worry about 'government red tape'

In fact, across the last four quarters, on average, a little bit less than 10 percent of small business owners "government regulation" as their top business concern. In fact, it's not even No. 2.

Developing the business better continues to be, far and away, the top concern.

As for Obamacare at No. 4, while I'm not a big fan of what is really InsurerCare, nonetheless, I'm even less a fan of half-truths and less fanned by FauxNews and media allies in conjunction with wingnut think tanks. Call me back in a year or two on that one, Gallup.

As for "government, general," that's a lame-ass line to have on a poll.

As for taxes? Given how regressive taxes are at the state level, even more than the federal level (not counting FICA taxes), I don't know if small businesses' anger should totally be directed at the feds.

Is #TigerWoods a wuss?

Despite his interest in military-style training, and his one-legged ironman to win the 2008 U.S. Open, he's withdrawn from a number of tournaments recently.

So, Golf Digest compared his WD rate to a number of contemporaries. 

No surprise that he's not as tough as a Vijay Singh. But, he's also less tough than Freddy Couples, renowned for his own struggles with back problems.

So, TW is either a wuss, or getting more fragile by the minute. Neither one is good for his quest to catch or pass Jack Nicklaus' 18 major titles.

I blogged last month that I thought TW had a good chance at getting at least No. 15 this year. Let me rethink that. Sorry, Woodsaholics.

Cold? Yes, indeedy? New Ice Age? No, Texas tea partiers

I am writing this piece in anticipation of the wingnuts popping up, seeing their shadows on an unusually cold day, and immediately saying "global warming doesn't exist," ignoring that "climate change" which is warming overall is the operative phrase.

Just when it looked like spring was here by the weather, as well as other signs in nature, we get brought back to reality by another cold snap. And one that, in this corner of Texas, at least, may have broken a record daily low.

That said, I did mention “other signs.”

When I was up in Dallas, one of the surest early signs of spring was redbud trees starting to bud, along with the return of purple martins. A sign that spring was more surely established was red oaks budding out new leaves.

Heck, maybe, the way this year has been so far, we ought to figure out new signs that spring is here to stay, and not just toying with us.

At the same time, the current swings and cold snaps, Texas weather jokes aside, aren’t that much out of the norm. The government’s National Climatic Data Center says that, on a 50 percent probability, the last spring frost happens in my corner of Central Texas about March 10. That said, we’re a bit late on a hard frost; on a 50 percent probability, the last date for one of those, using 28 degrees as the baseline, is Feb. 25.

However, there’s a 10 percent chance one can occur as late as March 20. In other words, we’re on the cold side of normal, and may have been setting a record Sunday night, but we’re not quite in the Ice Age.

Indeed, further south, in Austin, temperatures like this aren't unusual — even at the tail end of Mach.

March 02, 2014

No, Obama is not a humanist

Bill Nye, President Barack Obama, Neil de Grasse Tyson
And he's certainly not a secular humanist.

That's despite the attempt of folks like the American Humanist Association to imply he is one, by showing this picture of Obama with Bill Nye and Neil de Grasse Tyson at a recent White House event, a student film festival honors which had nothing to do with humanism, especially with secular humanism.

Here's the intro on the AHA Facebook page:
President Obama met two AHA awardees today, and took a selfie to memorialize it! He's will (sic) Bill Nye, AHA's Humanist of the Year 2010, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, AHA's 2009 Isaac Asimov Science Award recipient.
But, implication and reality are different things.

As I said on the AHA Facebook page:
Why are you picturing the man who **increased and expanded** President Bush's office of faith-based initiatives? That's not to mention drone warfare, warrantless wiretapping and other anti-humanist actions.
Period and end of story. More on that here. David Hoelscher writes that, at all of its various levels, governments in the U.S. give more than $70 billion a year to religious agencies.

And, per Hoelscher's essay, it's arguable that the AHA posted this, and posted it as it did, for classist reasons.

Also, there's an elemental logical fallacy here.

I would consider this a visual version of a false appeal to authority, trying to use President Obama's mug as a claim to the value of humanism. And, knowing how some people I know online love, and others "love," my pointing out of philosophical issues, it's important to do just that.

And, most commenters there are committing the fallacy of the undistributed middle, as AHA may be. In this case, it's the idea that every non-Bushie Republican is a humanist. 

And, per people who claim Obama is unprecedented among presidents in recognizing people of unbelief, er ... NOT! Per Wikipedia, I present his predecessor:
George W. Bush acknowledged those who do not worship during a November 3, 2004 press conference when he said "I will be your president regardless of your faith... And if they choose not to worship, they're just as patriotic as your neighbor.
So much, once again, for the soft bigotry of low expectations, eh? More here in the opening paragraph on this page of the press conference from which this was transcribed.

Were this a political ad and I were PolitiFact or similar, it would definitely be a 3-Pinocchio rating.

And, another reason why I'm not part of organized humanist, especially secular humanist, movements. Or Gnu Atheist ones. 

And, that leads me to reiterate the point in the opening paragraph.

The American Humanist Association is ultimately about secular humanism, not humanism in general. The drone warfare and other things excludes him from being a humanist in general in my book; his support for "civic religion" via the White House's faith-based services office, of continuing to proclaim National Day of Prayer, etc. certainly excludes him from being a secular humanist, or a secularist, in the First Amendment understanding of the word at its best, in general.

And, all those O-bots on AHA's Facebook page are, as is normal with O-bots, or Obamiacs, burying their heads in the sand if they try to pretend otherwise. 

Ditto for people on Facebook groups who think I'm imagining something, or reading something into nothing.