March 15, 2014

No Number 1 seed for you, #Jayhawks! (Or No. 2 - updated)

Andrew Wiggins, beyond his 41 points, was impressive overall, in possibly one of the best all-around performances for a freshman in at least 20 years, and maybe not just for a freshman. And yes, Joel Embiid was sitting with his back spasms. And yes it was a road game. And yes, against a West Viriginia team that's been coming on lately.

But, the bottom line is that Kansas lost to an unranked team. Even with all the other recent turmoil at the top of the polls, they're out of any reasonable shot for a No. 1 seed, even winning out from now through the Big 12 tourney title.

(Update, March 15: And, they lost to a slightly lower Iowa State team in the tourney semis. Yes, they've played a tough sked, and yes, Embiid is still out. But, that's precisely the point. He may not be back even in time for the Sweet 16. So, I think the Jayhawks are now a No. 3. I don't just think that myself, I think that's what tourney folks will think. I can't see them getting a No. 2. Now, if they get to the Sweet 16, being a 3 vs. a 2 doesn't matter. However, it matters before then. And, it could also matter what region they're assigned to as a No. 3. In other words, are they seen as the nation's No. 9 team overall? No. 10? 11? 12?

I wouldn't be totally shocked if they fell to a No. 4 seed, even.

And, March 16, they stay a No. 2, even if arguably in the toughest bracket. That's even though CBS quotes bracketeers saying that, without Embiid, they're not a top-10 team, which means they should be a No. 3 seed at best.)

And, I think this is more confirmation that Wiggins is maturing, becoming assertive, and hence, probably is indeed a one-and-done. He's also pushing back ahead of Jabari Parker and others for a possible No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, and Riggin for Wiggins!

Embiid? I think he might be better served by waiting a year. The back problems may, if they continue at all, drive his stock down a bit. Plus, especially if Wiggins does leave this year, he has a chance of showcasing more of his offense in Lawrence next year.

Update, March 11: Embiid's original diagnosis of a stress fracture in his back has been confirmed. There goes the No. 1 seeding, a good Jayhawks title shot and his possible No. 1 draft status. Unless he has a really dumb agent (although last year's draft showed the NBA teams are dumb enough to draft injured players) he needs to return to school.

Once again, #AtheismPlus and its #SocialJusticeWarriors ruin something

A couple of weeks ago, a Facebook friend of mine founded a group called "Occupy Skepticism." It was designed to shed a spotlight on how some atheists and some movement skeptics wrongly don't focus enough eyeballs on the problem of poverty, economic justice, and related issues.

I was one of the first seven or eight to join. It's not like I don't have enough other Facebook groups in which I'm moderately to minimally active, but what the hell.

Well, soon thereafter, several Atheism Plus-type social justice warriors also joined. (A couple had been there before me

A day or so later, one of them made her presence quite vocally known. And eventually got an amen chorus of support.

The founder posted a piece written by Chris Hedges. The SJW leader soon thereafter accused Hedges of being a "cis" person and a "mansplainer" who could never really understand social justice issues of non-white males.

The tribalism, jargon and all, of the social justice warriors on full display, along with their martyrology, of how when they're misunderstood, or attacked for a flame war like this, it's all the other side's fault. Wunderbar.

So, I responded. And, of course, came under attack myself. And, was basically told it was all my fault, and that, if I didn't like it, I could leave the group even though I'd been there first.

The facts of the matter are that:

First, ALL of us have unique life experiences of some sort. Many of us have some sort of unique experiences that make us sensitive to some social needs. That includes white males.

Assuming some people don't have such sensitivity is itself a form of stereotyping, first.

Starting your first dialogue with or about people based on such assumptions is itself a form of hostility.

I don't expect true SJWs to accept either idea under this first point; I'm just stating it for the blogging record.

To extend the SJW line of thinking here to its logical conclusion, if I may be so presumptuous as to mention them and logic in the same breath, we should all just become the sociological version of solipsists and claim that nobody else in this whole world will ever be able to understand me, so, when they try and inevitably fail, I can accuse them of #splaining.

Second, and speaking of presumptuousness? These folks strike me as being like the Religious Right on reproductive choice, in their degree of presumptuousness. That's specifically in the presumptuousness of the Religious Right thinking that no woman who has ever had an abortion, or is considering one, ever thinks/thought about the psychological factors of terminating a pregancy, her personal religious, spiritual or philosophical stances, including but not limited to ethical ones, and more.

To riff on the old spiritual, they're singing "Nobody knows the trouble I've seen, nobody but a Pluser." Bullshit.

Third and related to the larger thread, is the old "you catch more flies with honey." Offering an ultimatum to someone and expecting them to respond is a prime example. Oh, and since I know how much the SJW types love the word "privilege," the instigator of this has got a snootful of that to actually think that I, or someone else, would kowtow to such an ultimatum.

Another of the amen chorus, telling the moderator he's running the group wrong, falls into pretty much the same category. Boy, that's rich. If you really don't like it, go start your own Facebook group.

Speaking of that and bullshit, said person, on her own FB page, referenced the old "you catch even more flies with shit" line. If that were true in this case, Pluser-land would be Lord of the Flies, with colonies growing in Rebecca Watson's winking eyelids.

Anyway, the lead chorister of the Plusers in this Facebook group, who started the process, has left the group. So have others, including one that called me part of the Slymepit (a loose grouping of hardcore "men's rights" advocates, scare quotes intended) just for pointing out what I did. Maybe that will lead others from not taking the lead on future jargon-laden assumptions.

Fourth and related to that? Just as the older, in Internet reverse dog years ages, Gnu Atheist movement seems to need the Religious Right as a tar baby (and vice versa), the Plusers seem to need the Slymepit type folks as a tar baby (and vice versa). It's easy to find enemies if you're determined to carry a bushel of belligerence into new situations.

I'm not sure a lot of them are conscious of this. Maybe they were at one time, and now it's faded. However, in many cases, I think there's such a martyrology that they never were fully conscios of their part in creating it. Like Watson and her winks.

I think things are starting to clear out, and it's probably better a dust-up like this happened sooner rather than later. However, at least one new one has come in.

So, I say eff it. Every one that opens their mouths and indicates they're a Social Justice Warrior? Immediate Facebook block. I have no desire to waste any more time or energy on them.

Here's someone who is female and multi-racial who agrees with a lot of the problems of the SJWs.

So? I don't go out of my way to be uncivil to the Plusers, especially when in SJW mode, but I don't go out of my way to be civil, either.

You want civility? Under some conditions, you have to earn it. This is another example of "fool me once ..." or, in biological terms, of reciprocal altruism and tit-for-tat game-theorizing played out.

Isn't it about time for #Yahoo to finally die?

As long as some other major "web presence" offered free fantasy sports leagues, I don't think I'd miss Yahoo one minute, and might even applaud its demise.

The tipping point?

Well, it's one of those free fantasy sports leagues. Yahoo's now skeezy enough to require getting a confirmation number text-messaged to your cell phone before you can enter at least some new sports leagues. Well, of course, Yahoo wants to spam you all to hell with that.

It gave two options to then opt out. Either text back the word "Stop" or use a web link.

The web link didn't work.  The texting did, but then I had to go into my Yahoo account profile and delete my cell phone information.

That said, Yahoo should have died long ago.

The moment Jerry Yang refused to sell to Microsoft, shareholders should have sued his ass off for breach of fiduciary duty.

Since then, Yahoo's resigns of things like its sports section, its "My Yahoo" news portal home page and more, have all been teh suck. Three or four RSS feeds I had with it broke as part of the redesign. The new sports section? Every third or fourth "sports story" link instead is advertorial spam. The design in general is also teh suck.

But, that's not all.

It seems we have another bout of hacked Yahoo email accounts, not the first in the last several months. The other two big webmail systems, Gmail and Hotmail/Outlook, never seem to have problems like this, only Yahoo.

Yahoo can try to spam us with forced text messaging, but it's too cheap to fix its own web security problems.

By the end of 2015, we'll probably look at Yahoo as the new AOL.

March 14, 2014

Who flames out first, #Kobe or #Phil?

Now that Phil Jackson has, in essence, stuck his thumb in Jim Buss's eye by agreeing to run the front office for James Dolan's Knicks (only other theory is that Dolan has a female relative who's hotter than Jennie Buss), and we know Kobe Bryant has two years left on the contract extension that nobody with the Lakers but Jim Buss would have given him, that's the question above:

Who flames out first?

I wager it's Phil.

Yes, Dolan hired him, but I don't think he has Dolan wrapped around his finger, unlike Kobe and Jimmy Buss.

Second, his salary is a lot easier to eat than Kobe's.

Third, I doubt he knows a lot about cap management, certainly not what Jerry West, then Mitch Kupchak did as his GMs in Los Angeles.

Fourth, speaking of West, at TrueHoop, Henry Abbott said earlier this week that West is just one person who has reason to think Jackson is a giant douche. More importantly, Abbott himself things Jackson understands bupkis about modern advanced statistics, or basketball sabermetrics, if you will.

In other words, Phil may not be able to stop James Dolan from continuing to overspend on the wrong players because he won't know who the right players are.

It was West, Kupchack, and before him, in Chicago, Jerry Krause, who got Phil the right players, from Scottie Pippin and Michael Jordan down to Shaquille O'Neal.

Phil's been out of coaching going on two and a half years and he's never been a GM or held a similar position. I seriously don't expect him to last more than the end of the 2015-16 season, when Kobe's contract ends.

Yes, Phil can hire capology assistants, etc., per Grantland, but, if he doesn't want to listen to analytics, he won't!

Kobe? He can blame bad coaches (of which Mike D'Anoni obviously is one), and even, more circumspectly, kick Kupchak, too, for not getting better players around him.

But, it was Jimmerz Buss who killed the Pau Gasol for Andrew Bynum trade, if anybody, I'll venture. Not Mitch.

Besides, the more the rest of the team sucks, the more excuses Kobe has to jack more shots. Is it possible to score 30 points a game and shoot just 40 percent from the floor? We may find out.

That said, there's a related prop bet:

Who gets back in the playoffs first, Lakers or Knicks?

And, a second related prop bet: Does either one make it back within the next three years?

I'll honestly say "no" to the second prop bet and "I have no fucking idea" to the first.

Wendy Davis ups her game

She's hired Zac Petkanas, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's now-former communications manager, to do the same for her.

Perry has more details on what this means. 

I agree on the key takeaway. Davis is already showing not only a more rapid response to Abbott antics and actions, but will surely start being more proactive more often on a greater variety of issues.

There's one other bit of good news in all of this.

Petkanis is obviously an outsider. He's not directly connected to Battleground Texas and the Lone Star Project, and he's not at all connected with Davis' state senate office or past campaigns staff. Also, with his past employment, he can land on his feet easily if he has a falling out with Davis.

So, he can puncture any bubbles she has developed over the years, or, at least, give it his best shot. And, that's the biggie. A lot of Davis' earlier communications mistakes, in addition to less than optimal performance even without mistakes, were largely caused by her being in an echo chamber, I think. At the same time, she created that echo chamber, or bubble, and the thickness of its walls. So, Zac has his work cut out for him. So far, he appears to be off to a good start.

That said, this leads to another question from me. 

Maybe folks at BG or somewhere else hinted to Davis that she needed somebody new running her communications game. I'm curious how the idea for any change started, and more particularly, how Petkanas was tagged to be the agent of change.

70 percent is an A grade with Obamacare

Per latest enrollment rates, Obamacare will sign up about 5 million previously uninsured people by the end of this month and the sign-up deadline.

Nice, no? Well, yes, but nowhere near the originally-announced goal of 7 million, with 5 million being just over 70 percent of that.

That said, maybe we should put "Obamacare" in scare quotes, per my previous blogging and this Dallas Morning News editorial. (Warning: Contains vaguely conservative food-like substances.) The nut grafs:
What’s clear is that this dizzying series of delays and changes has wrought confusion, with its most harrowing deadline dead ahead. On March 31, the tax penalty for failing to purchase health insurance — the individual mandate — kicks in. Yet insurance companies and potential new customers are befuddled by rapid shifts in what the law now demands.

The relentless push-back of other deadlines to points conveniently beyond one election or another leads to justified suspicion that politics have long since overridden policy. As it has from the start, Obamacare polls as an albatross to Democrats.
The Snooze hits all the buttons I have for six months. What people are enrolling in now is nothing like the Affordable Care Act of 2009. And, we don't know that it ever will be.

The parts that are being delayed for political reasons, or occasionally, incompetence reasons, were designed to work in tandem with the parts that remain.

We have no idea how much cost savings, if any, the jury-rigged bits and pieces will produce. We have no idea how much they'll improve coverage of the underinsured as well as uninsured. And, I don't have any idea if we'll ever know differently.

A sample of the delays:
July 2, 2013: One-year delay, until 2015, for requirement that employers with at least 50 workers offer insurance to their full-time workers.
Nov. 14: States given latitude to let people renew for one more year insurance policies that would otherwise be canceled as of Jan. 1 because they do not meet minimum benefit requirements.
Dec. 19: Policy change that allows consumers who have received insurance cancellation notices, because their plans don’t mean minimum requirements, two options for 2014: Buy catastrophic insurance or avoid the individual mandate.
Feb. 10, 2014: Second delay, until 2016, for the requirement that large employers must offer insurance.
March 5: Second extension to give states latitude for two more years to let people renew insurance policies that fail to meet the law’s benefits standards.
The pushback will continue on allowing old insurance plans to stay in place, above all. That, in turn, lets insurers more easily meet the 80 percent of money for coverage goals, I'll bet, though they'll never publicly admit that. Even for the big insurance industry, the changing playing field is not totally fun, though.

Democrats who run on delivering government services, it's being said more and more in recent years, most deliver good services. That's doubly true for neoliberal Dems who pride themselves on being technocratic types. Hence, Obamacare continues to be more failure than success for its namesake, and for real health care and health care coverage reform for all of us.

March 13, 2014

#Cardinals legend Rick Ankiel retires - correcting part of the story

Over at Sports on Earth, Will Leitch has a good piece on Rick Ankiel, the Cardinals pitcher-cum-outfielder, probably most notable for the NINE wild pitches he threw in two playoff games in his rookie season in 2000, the first being in Game 1 of the Division Series after Tony LaRussa made a surprise managerial decision to have him start Game 1. Commenters on the one video clip note that he may have missed the presence of the injured Mike Matheny behind the plate, replaced by Eli Marrero.

From there, Ankiel eventually reinvented himself as an outfielder. As one might expect, he had a gun for an arm, not just on strength, but on accuracy he might have wish he could have shown on the mound.

He was a decent power hitter with massive holes in his swing ... and power that was somewhat tainted, as Leitch notes, by the fact that he took HGH rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, leading to questions about whether he was using it for more than that.

I doubt the HGH did that much. There's a few exceptions like Barry Bonds, but a smaller strike zone, maple bats, and possibly even a juiced ball likely helped players who took this stuff more than the chemicals did.

That said, there's one other part of the myth I want to correct.

TLR didn't "ruin" Ankiel as a pitcher, and this is one of the few times in my life I'll cover LaRussa's back back. Ankiel had a 4.6 BB/9 in the regular season in 200 and 12 wild pitches, fifth in the National League. That walk rate doubled to 9.4 next year, with five WPs in just 25 innings.

But, lest anybody say, 2000 was a rookie year aberration and LaRussa's playoff decision made it worse in 2001? He had a climbing BB/9 rate, and some problem with WPs, in his time in the minors before coming up to St. Louis, too. Something like this was waiting to happen from him, at least without the team insisting on more minor-league seasoning. Even then, I'm not sure. You look at the one clip that Leitch has, from a minor league All-Star Futures game, and his control was problematic there, too.

Here's that video:



It's laughable for the one announcer to talk about "his great control." That said, said announcer a minute later has Ankiel's then-agent, one Scott Boras, as saying that Ankiel shouldn't be called up too early. Boras was worried about a young arm picking up too many MLB innings too quickly. He should have been worried about a young arm learning more control in the minors. 

Another video reinforces that. You can find plenty of 2000 NLDS vids; the NLCS one is harder to find. But, here's a piece of it.



Unfortunately, Joe Buck, who I wish would do no more baseball, even more than I'm glad over McCarver's retirement, also claims at about the 7:30 mark that Ankiel had no control problems in the minors. I don't know about his high school, but that's simply not true in the minors. It's because of that, not in spite of that, that Dave Duncan worked on his mechanics.

In that sense, maybe getting called up fairly quick was his best hope after all.

Should you have problems with the second video, or want to see Part 2, they're at this Mets blog. Contra the blogger there, I don't think the game call of Buck and McCarver was unfair to Ankiel or unduly harsh.

Also there is Ankiel's relief appearance in Game 5. 



From what he showed there, on occasional flashes of greatness still, you can't blame the Cards, or Ankiel himself, still holding on to hope, even with the additional problems.

On the other hand, as many have noted, he had a "similar" in Sandy Koufax, who had the same wildness for half a dozen years, including three full seasons.  

And, therein is a still missing bit of the story. Did Ankiel get hints from Walt Jocketty, or TLR or Duncan, that their patience factor had time limits? Or did he, at some point in 2004 realize that the Tommy John surgery had set him further back on mastering control issues? Or that it had affected his overall pitching? (His K/9 ratio has, in higher levels of the minors, a notable drop-off post-surgery.) Perhaps, the beginnings of the Internet, online videos, etc., and how it fired up fans at road games, led to the decision, too.

He seems personable enough; I wonder if he will talk more about this in the future.

Leitch is right that there's a mythos, a story, here, of tragedy and redemption (HGH aside). But, while Leitch himself doesn't directly say it, others hint at an antagonist, per stereotypical story line, one Tony LaRussa. Not true. The antagonist, if anything, was part and parcel of Ankiel's pitching.

March 12, 2014

Broncos recover Cowboys fumble with DeMarcus Ware signing

Showing that they really are "all in" to win before Peyton Manning's arm falls off or his neck gets a new kink, the Denver Broncos doubled down on their initial free agent signing of former Pats QB Aqib Talib by now scooping up former Dallas pass rusher DeMarcus Ware.

It's not just the deals, it's the money. You have $26M guaranteed to a cornerback who's never played a full season, and now, Ware getting more money than he would have from Dallas. Not only does cap casualty Ware not have to worry about a cut, he's getting a raise. And $20M guaranteed between this year and next.

Denver is a great fit for him, but still, that's some heavy cap stuff, especially on the guaranteed money. Of course, Talib will become a write-off, or a renegotiation, at some point down the road. Still. I know Denver had to upgrade its D, and now, but I can't believe they're paying Ware MORE than he was already getting.

Add in T.J. Ward, albeit on not quite such a bad deal, albeit with $14M guaranteed and that's a lot of dinero.

I think this pretty much guarantees that Knowshon Moreno is gone from Denver.

As for Dallas? Will Jethro Jones follow some speculation and ink Julius Peppers to replace Ware? He has a lot less left in the tank, so he could be available for cheap.

I guess John Elway is indeed a riverboat gambler at GM as well as at QB.

This does put Denver in the same neighborhood at least as Seattle. Seattle needs to keep its current core intact and, on the offensive side, hope it gets a full year out of Percy Harvin this fall. It obviously ups the stakes for Kansas City in particular and the whole AFC in general.

Well, boo hoo for Sen. Betty Crocker on CIA snooping

Sen. Dianne Feinstein/Mother Jones file photo
I love how, now that it's her and other Congresscritters that have their balls in a vice and tits in a wringer, depending on sex, on federal agencies snooping on them, that Dianne Feinstein, as chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, is in high dudgeon. (As for the nickname? Long-standing joke of mine, based on older photos of her.)

Perhaps the CIA is doing stuff that's illegal. Perhaps not. 

On the actual Patriot Act, at least, I highly suspect that, in their rush to be "patriotic" 12-plus years ago, Members of Congress failed to exempt themselves from its provisions, although I'm not at high enough of a pay grade to wade through the whole damned thing right now to prove or disprove that.  Ditto on whether the CIA did anything criminal in the current snooping.

Second, Congresscritters, if you're dumb enough to presume that the CIA, on CIA computers, wouldn't snoop your computer usage? I have beachfront property in Langley, Va., to sell you.

Third, note to David Corn. We're not British, with a "traditional" unwritten constitution evolving over centuries. Given that courts in general and the Supreme Court in particular, as far as matters of precedent, which DO govern constitutional interpretation here in the USofA, whether or not there's a constitutional issue is arguable at best.

Fourth, I also "love" how Betty Crocker is also so worried about leaking. Hey, that's the national sport inside the Beltway, and you know it, because you've done your own fair share.

Fifth, given that Betty Crocker and other Congresscritters, any time some portion of our snooping has come under question from civil libertarians, have simply expanded the law, this is even "richer":
Feinstein said that the CIA appeared to have violated the Fourth Amendment barring unreasonable searches and seizures—and perhaps other federal laws and a presidential executive order prohibiting the CIA from domestic searches and surveillance.

Sorry, Betty, but that falls under the Patriot Act, too, I'm sure. The CIA is simply making sure you're safe.

Speaking of "expanding the law," remember that Dear Leader himself voted to do that in 2008, when he was still Senator Dear Leader. That would be our President Dear Leader, who's not helping Sen. Betty Crocker much.

Look, if you actually cared about anything beyond Congressional prerogatives, you'd have spoken out about illegal snooping, and spirit-of-illegal snooping, long ago. Ditto on the issue of torture, or, as you probably call it, "enhanced interrogation techniques" that are in the report the CIA won't green-light that lies behind all this.

So, don't worry, folks; Congress will soon exempt itself from all this that it hasn't already, and the outrage will die back down.

Hell, Corn, who knows all this himself, halfway admits it:
Overall, the system of congressional oversight has hardly (as far as the public can tell) been stellar.
As far as I'm concerned, if the NSA, at least, and possibly the CIA, are spying on the rest of us, they can spy on you too, Betty Crocker. 

If you really gave a damn, Sen. Betty Crocker, you'd care about the latest in Edward Snowden's ongoing revelations. But, since you called his leaking "an act of treason," we know you don't. So, yes, per him as well as per me, you're a big effing hypocrite. You're a hypocrite about the snooping and leaking both.

Dammit, California Democrats, get somebody to primary her. If not, Greens, get a credible challenger. Sadly, she was last re-elected in 2012, so, unless she dies off, we're stuck with four-plus years of her to remain.

And, as far as Corn? He's not hugely overrated, but I've found him moderately overrated for years as an investigative reporter on issues like these. (I Tweeted Corn to ask if he, too, has asked Snowden for comment.)

The #CardinalWay vs Cardinal reality

As St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz promises to stop peddling the mythical Cardinal Way quite so much, let's not forget some great moments from the Cardinals' past and ask if they, too, are part of the Cardinal Way.

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? Josh Hancock and his DWI fatality accident? Not to mention other Cardinal DWI problems, like manager Tony La Russa himself, passed out at the wheel.

Or, is Jack Clark bloviating and accusing Albert Pujols of roiding the Cardinal Way? 

And, of course, Carlos Martinez and his infamous NSFW Twitter account can't be forgotten either.

The Busch Stadium mound, baptized and exorcised
Agreed that, by most reasonable standards, it was stupid and juvenile. That said, Martinez' Twitter faux pas was probably found embarrassing by manager Mike Matheny primarily because the conservative evangelical Christian Matheny is seemingly, through things such as having, requesting or encouraging pitchers like Adam Wainwright do something draw Christian fish symbols and crosses on the pitcher's mound at Busch, trying to make Christian brotherhood the "Cardinal Way." Why Jewish commissioner Bud Selig didn't ask about this last year, I have no idea. Now that the claim that that's a "6" not a fish, and was done to honor Stan Musial, can't continue to hold water, the Cards have no excuse.

(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.)

In all of this, Bernie, it's the same thing that makes much of non-Texan America barf whenever the Dallas Cowboys get called "America's Team." The rest of the country knows it's myth, and when Cowboys fans, or now, some Cardinals ones, double down on the myth, the rest of the sports world wants to retch even more.

Ask yourself, Bernie, and other touters of a Cardinal Way, starting with John Mozeliak or whomever created a book on the subject: Do you really want the Cardinals mentioned in the same breath, for the same reasons, as the Dallas Cowboys?

The book, as an idea for a style of baseball play, is not bad. And some players may need more help with personal development than others. But Tony LaRussa didn't invent the double steal, the run and hit or anything else. And, when Whitey Herzog was around, we called it Whiteyball, not the Cardinal Way. And, he never pretended he had invented some new strategy. 

Speaking of that era ...

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Also back in the good old 1980s, there were rumors of players cheating on other players' wives. I'm sure other dedicated but level-headed Cards fans can supply more examples along the lines of mine. 

As for a book name, I'm sure there's something called "Red Sox Way" or something, too.

So, on the first idea, the Cards don't have a lock on baseball strategy. On the second idea, the Cards obviously don't have a lock on good player development, as I've shown above, and if Matheny is trying to link that to his religious belief, that's more problematic yet. Again, the Cowboys' parallel is apt: a lot of people thought the "America's Team" part was hypocritical because of their antics and overtly and saccharinely religious because of Tom Landry.

Also, as a marketing tool, I rebel against it as just another illustration of big bucks gone wrong in sports. At the risk of starting a new fake Cardinal Way idea: Cardinal fans? You're better than this.

March 11, 2014

No, Obama did NOT create a new national monument

That's despite what the O-bots at Think Progress are trying to claim, where the page header for the link (unless it's later changed) says "Obama creates new national monument."

In reality, he added 2.5 square miles on onshore lands to a previously islands-only national monument that ranged the entire length of the California coast. Don't get me wrong; Point Arena is a nice addition. But, this is NOT all that. And, it's a monument created by Clinton in 2000.

Let's also note that BLM-based and Forest Service-based national monuments are of generally low level in terms of visitor outreach and promotion as natural areas, when compared to National Park Service system national monuments.

That said, that problem traces back to Clinton. Because he wouldn't ask Congress to give the NPS more funding, and it's already underfunded, he created these monuments without shifting them to the better oversight of the NPS. Obama's doing the same thing. (Bush did it, too.)

(And, at least one possible O-bot there has, in replying to my comment, already misinterpreted what I said.)

Besides, we've heard bupkis so far from this administration's plans for the NPS's centennial. Whatever is done will likely be drenched with corporate sponsorship. And I'm definitely concerned about that. I will boycott any centennial event that is, in my opinion, too corporate-heavy.

On the main issue at hand, I don't want any new national monuments created that aren't part of the NPS. And I don't want any new NPS national monuments created until the Park Service gets more money.

Poverty is not just an urban issue

High poverty rates aren't just to be found in ghettos, barrios or white slums. I've blogged before about food semi-deserts in some rural areas, especially those of lower incomes, like my county of current residence, with nearly 35 percent poverty.

But, that's low.

The real rural and small-town poverty in the US? Head to your nearest large Western-state Indian reservation, as the Census Bureau again confirms

I can personally confirm this, although, at the time of first confirmation, my political mindset was nowhere near what it is now.

I grew up in Gallup, which you'll see is No. 4 on the list.

(I hope you also note that this is Indian poverty alone.)

I've been through Shiprock, which also borders the Big Rez, the main Navajo reservation, many a time. Ditto on Farmington, due east of Shiprock and where one of my brothers lives. The Zuni pueblo is due south of Gallup. Tuba City is on the west side of the Big Rez, just west of the Hopi lands.

The Sioux heartlands, represented by Rapid City and Sioux outmigration to Minneapolis (a lot of Navajos are in L.A., some in Denver) is the only Native American group that's probably equal or worse.

When I was growing up, my dad would complain about Navajos buying steak with food stamps while he bought hamburgers with cash. I don't know how true this is. I'm sure it was less true to far less true than he presented it.

I do know that Navajos, like many other American Indians, on average, seemed to have a huge sweet tooth. Which of course was followed by the ravages of diabetes. Perhaps not as bad as Pima or Tohono O'odham, but bad enough.

I also saw plenty, plenty of alcoholism there. Cheap sweet toaky wine was the poison of choice.

Also note that American Indian poverty rates rank worse than even African American rates.

It's true that American Indian population numbers are far less than blacks or Hispanics. It's still no reason to ignore rural and small town poverty, Indian above all, but ultimately of any background.

Are conserv-lib diffs genetically rooted? Not as much as Mooney implies

Chris Mooney/Wikipedia
Chris Mooney, he of "motivated reasoning" discussion, reviews here two books that discuss this issue. They are "Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives, and the Biology of Political Differences," by John Hibbing et al, and "Our Political Nature: The Evolutionary Origins of What Divides Us," by Avi Tuschman.

The biggest caveat? Mooney never claims that evolution does select for political differences, but let's make that clear, because he wants to have his cake and eat it on this issue in general, specifically concerning political conservativism. The titles of the two books should indicate that.

So, again, let's be clear.

Evolution does not "select" for political differences. Psychological differences that are part of political differences, like anxiety/neuroticism, openness to experience, etc., may well be selected for, but political experience is not. That's just like religious belief is not "selected for," but rather, things like pattern recognition and agency imputation, which likely are selected for, become part of an overarching system that develops into religious belief. Mooney does halfway acknowledge this, as I note below, but, it's cursory, and probably not even halfway.

And, in terms of sexual reproduction, evolution certainly selects for many things, not just five personality issues.

Let's start right here with what's wrong:
Again and again, when they take the widely accepted Big Five personality traits test, liberals tend to score higher on one of the five major dimensions—openness: the desire to explore, to try new things, to meet new people—and conservatives score higher on conscientiousness: the desire for order, structure, and stability. Research samples in many countries, not just the U.S., show as much. And this finding is highly consequential, because as both Hibbing et al. and Tuschman note, people tend to mate and have offspring with those who are similar to them on the openness measure—and therefore, with those who share their deeply rooted political outlook. It’s a process called “assortative mating,” and it will almost certainly exacerbate our current political divide.  
First, men and women pair up for many reasons other than political inclinations. That includes perceived health by facial and bodily similarity, fat deposits in certain parts of the body (ahem), perceived ability to be a provider and much more. Note that those items I all spelled out are all purely physiological. No psychology involved.

So, once again, per the eponymously named (by me) intellectual shortcut, Mooney appears to be "pulling a Mooney."

If political inclinations were a primary driver of human mating, we'd see a lot more division than we currently do.

This is more nuanced than some of Mooney's writing on this issue, but not fantastic.

So, on to more counterpoints.

First and foremost?

What's heritable is a tendency, nothing more. And, while 40 percent (if correct, and that number is nothing more than a guesstimate) is significant, it's still less than half of 100 percent. There are a number of traits we know of, that a genetic tendency toward which has a 40-percent basis. And, I'm sure that 40 percent is high. If we take the five-type personality profile, as an example, and insist that the composite of all five types has a 40 percent heritability factor, each individual factor would have to be more than 80 percent heritable, if we're using the basic "and" conjunctiveness. (Do the math yourself.) Even if we allow for some looseness of overlap, and not a strict "and," still, for all five types to be 40 percent heritable as a chunk, the individual ones would still have to be at least 65 percent heritable, and NO human trait is that heritable.

Even if I re-read Mooney's reading of Hibbing to claim that each factor individually is 40 percent heritable, I'm still skeptical. Read the next few paragraphs for details.

Related to that is the fact that the five-type test, while perhaps better than the MMPI, is not the be-all and end-all of psychological research on personality types.

Related to that? None of the studies in either of the books Mooney reviews appear to make any allowance for epigenetics. None. In the case of neuroticism, a large part of which is anxiety-related, we know from lab animal experiments that there's an epigenetic, as well as a genetic, component to heritability of anxiety.

Indeed, that's an issue with twin studies, which are supposed to be the gold standard. Identical twins (setting aside chimera issues) not only share the same genes, but, vis-a-vis even fraternal twins, depending on the date of twin division of the original single egg, identicals may share a more similar womb environment, if it includes a single placenta or single amniotic sac. (Identicals, depending on date of division, may have separate amniotic sacs and placentas, one sac but separate placentas, or share both.)

Related to that? Even on the genetic side, we're still in the Neolithic, or at best, the Early Bronze, on pairing specific sets of genes (no single-gene claims for personality factors need apply) to heritability of personality factors.

This is a big failure of proponents of personality testing in general. It's another reason why, while I say that the five-type personality spectrum is better than the MMPI, it's not the be-all and end-all. It's probably not that on how it divides personality and what it considers as the most important aspects of personality. It's certainly not that on its explanation of how these differences arise. Wikipedia's article on the Big Five, while not exhaustive, is a good starting point. It notes, outside the "criticisms" section, that the five factors appear to not be total cultural universals, despite implications otherwise on Mooney's story.

Mooney does caveat the evolutionary angle, to be sure:
Moreover, in evolution, some things happen for an explicitly Darwinian “reason”—traits become more prevalent or fixed in populations because they advanced organisms’ chances of survival and reproduction in a particular environment—while others happen more accidentally. Some complex social traits may emerge, for instance, because they are a fortuitous by-product of other, more fundamental traits laid down by Darwinian evolution.  
He notes religion as a good "spandrel" example.

However, Hibbing then claims conservativism is probably the "default." Why? Because Hobbes, and life is "nasty, brutish and short."

It was 5000 BCE, after the invention of agriculture, to be sure. But, not to read too much into "The Gods Must Be Crazy," maybe it was NOT so in, say, 25,000 BCE. That's a failure of Hibbing more than Mooney, but it's also a failure of Mooney for not making this observation himself.

He then goes on to Tuschman's book. Problems are to be found here, some of which Mooney notes. The biggest is that Tuschman may be advocating group selection as a partial explainer. As an educated layperson, I'm not dead against the idea, and think some evolutionary biologists who are, are likely wrong. But, it's still controversial. But, Mooney notes it's not clear that he does advocate this.

Mooney does say:
In the end, Tuschman’s book attempts a feat that those of us monitoring the emerging science of politics have long been waiting for—explaining the now well-documented psychological, biological, and genetic differences between liberals and conservatives with reference to human evolution and the differential strategies of mate choice and resource allocation that have been forced on us by the pressures of surviving and reproducing on a quite dangerous planet. It may or may not stand the test of time, but it certainly forces the issue.
That said, Mooney seems to want this to "force the issue." I've documented that above well enough, I think. It's part of his history.

Beyond that, "liberal" and "conservative" in the US exclude libertarians. Arguably, Mooney's reasoning does in other countries as well. Germany's Free Democrats, and possibly Britain's Liberal Democrats, would reject being put in either half of Mooney's dichotomy. 

And, that's not all. On to a few other points, with briefer discussion.

Another part of his history is to want to wrong-foot conservatives on this issue. Specifically on some subpoints, like this:
Being defensive, risk aversive, hierarchical, and tribal makes sense when the threats around you are very real and immediate.
So, our second point? Liberals are arguably just as tribal as conservatives. The "social justice warrior" movement, especially as illustrated by a group like Atheism Plusers, is Example No. 1 of this, with phrases like "mansplaining" and online actions like the Twitter add-on of the Block Bot, all while blaming only "the other," often very broadly defined, for the problems and actions involved. Since Mooney has recently moved the online location of the Point of Inquiry podcast because of said tribalism, he knows this full well. He refuses to discuss or admit this, but it's true. Indeed, what I call his "wrong-footing" is itself a tribal action.

In their book "Blindspot: Hidden Biases of Good People," authors Mahzarin Banaji and Tony Greenwald show, with social-psychology research, how self-professed liberals can exhibit, unconsciously, "tribal" behavior toward people of other racial groups, the opposite sex, the elderly and people of different sexual orientation.

Related to that? Again,the Big Five factors don't totally translate within the developed world. Even less do "conservative" and "liberal. In the non-WEIRD portions of our world, say, a New Guinean tribal chief, he'd scratch his head over this discussion.

Third? "Conservative" and "liberal" aren't "conservative" and "liberal."

Let's get back to this quote:
Being defensive, risk aversive, hierarchical, and tribal makes sense when the threats around you are very real and immediate.
Behavioral psychologists like Daniel Kahnemann and Amos Tversky have shown that we're ALL risk-aversive in many ways, like fearing a small financial loss more than salivating over a possible big gain.

Mooney knows this, too, I'm sure, even if he doesn't want to tie it in with his discussions.

Fourth? As I've indicated above, and on previous posts about Mooney, and occasionally about personality psychology in general, the Big Five is NOT the be-all and end-all of personal psychology study. I'm afraid that a number of people, including Mooney, obviously, are making it into a new MMPI, though. In reality, approaching vs. avoiding temperaments, people driven by intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation (which partially overlaps Jung's old introvert and extravert) and other takes on personality reveal things the Big Five doesn't.

And fifth? Along the lines of David Hume, is does not equal ought. People do change political and social allegiances, just like religious affiliation.

In short, while it's not quite Pop Ev Psych, it's in the neighborhood. And, while it's not the worst example of scientism I've seen, it is an example.

On personality profiles and related areas of psychology, Mooney either doesn't know that much about all the science issues that are at stake, or else he's cherry-picking. I'm sure the latter is part of it, based on his previous writing on political differences. But, I don't think that's all of it.

He's good on things like climate change, but on psychology in general and personality psychology in particular, I think there are some understanding deficits, too.

And, the more he writes on this, the worse he gets. I've written a lot about him on this issue; click the "pulling a Chris Mooney" tag (not totally about him, but primarily so) for more. There's no other way to put it, other than to say that "worse" is, in my opinion, a tribalism-based "worse."

Dan Patrick: Bad for Texas, very bad for Texas schools

In this in-depth op-ed interview in the Waco Herald-Tribune, Bonnie Lesley and Linda Ethridge of Texas Kids Can't Wait discuss the state of educational affairs in Texas.

Here's the nut graf of the header, though there's many nut grafs in the whole piece. From Lesley:
About a third of the House and about a fourth of the Senate we rated as unacceptable. These are the folks who are the real hardliners. Particularly in the Senate, there were a number of people who got minus points they were so bad. The very worst of both chambers was state Sen. Dan Patrick.
The pair notes, with sadness and no irony, that Patrick was, in last year's Legislature, chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

Why are he and others unacceptable?

Among other things, for giving blank checks to charter schools.

Those blank checks, some deliberate at this time, some already in place by the nature of charter schools, are:
1. Selective admission, including not having to admit students with physical or mental handicaps, ESL needs and more.
2. Like the Federal Reserve, wanting to be public institutions when it's beneficial, and private when that's beneficial. The biggest claim on the privacy side is trying to dodge the Open Records Act.
3. Lack of elected school boards, and refusal to make this a requirement.
4. Little curriculum oversight, including teaching of creationist-based pseudoscience at some charter schools.

Rick Perry likes to boast about Texas as a job creation state, while his detractors rightly note many of those jobs are at or near minimum wage and without health benefits. Well, with foxes like Patrick guarding the educational henhouse, we know why.

Next, they look at school finance, starting by dispelling the common assumption that last year's Lege "fixed the damage" from the previous one:
I think a lot of people thought the money they put in fixed it, but it didn’t. We’re still billions of dollars behind. The $5.4 billion (cut in the 2011-12 biennium) is gone forever and we didn’t even get that much back, plus we keep adding 85,000 kids (to Texas schools) a year. And if you look at the charter schools, without all the new ones that are coming on board that the Legislature approved, charters altogether cost the state some $1.6 billion this year in resources that otherwise would be public school money.
In other words, we're not even treading water; we're just drowning more slowly.

That's not counting the money being pounded down the charter school rathole.

That's not the only shocker. The unidentified interviewer says at least one member of the Lege doesn't know how school finance works. And openly admitted that.

Oy.

Go read the whole piece. It's good.

My idea for Daylight Saving Time

First, a little Andy Rooney mini-rant or two.

It should be called "Standard Time." After all, DST now constitutes eight months of the year.

And, of course it doesn't "save" daylight; it just moves it around.

That said, it also doesn't save energy. Indiana's recent transition, for the whole state to go on DST a few years back, showed that. More here.

Why? Even in a city as far north as Indianapolis, more homes are being built with central AC, and more people are running it more and more. (That may be a modest contributory factor to the obesity issue, too.) It's less efficient to run a home AC for a few people than office AC for a bunch, so moving more of the heat of the day to when people with day jobs are home from work uses more energy.

Now, back to what I see.

It's true, that moving from "standard" time to DST is physiologically dangerous.

So, what if we split our springing forward into two half-hour jumps, the first weekends of March and May? Ditto on falling back; do that in half-hour increments first weekends of September and November.

Or, if as is likely, that's too complex for the typical American householder, let's just have one half-hour jump.

Other than the PITA of the jet lag in the first week or two of DST, I like the idea. As a night owl, I hate sun staring in my bedroom window at, to riff on Sherman Potter, 3:30 in the blessed a.m.!

But, it would be nice to make this adjustment a gentler one, even if that means sacrificing half the time changed on the switch.

March 10, 2014

#Cardinals win Cuban SS sweepstakes with a likely steal

Aledmys Diaz works out for the Cardinals in spring training,
as Matt Carpenter watches./St. Louis Post-Dispatch photo
At the modest signing price of $8 million, the Cardinals' inking of Aledmys Diaz is good indeed.

Even if he "only" makes it to the utility infielder level at the big club, these numbers:
Diaz last played in 2012 and hit .315 with 12 homers in 270 at-bats for Los Naranjas de Villa Clara in the Cuban professional league. It’s the same league (Yasiel) Puig, Oakland’s Home Run Derby champ Yoenis Cespedes and Cincinnati lefty Aroldis Chapman played in before defecting.
Indicate he'll be, at a bare minimum, a better utility infielder than a Daniel Descalso let alone, much better than a Pete Kozma with extra gloves. 

Some people may think he'll be no better than that, if that. The fact that some teams took a pass on him, and his estimated initial price of $15-$20M dropped by half or so, will raise eyebrows.

Well, part of it is this, per the first link:
"We plan on being patient with him," Mozeliak said. "He hasn't played baseball in really over a year and a half competitively. We're not looking for him to put his fingerprints on the major-league team tomorrow. We can give him time to develop and let him from a talent standpoint take his time to get back to where he was and I think from our organizational standpoint that's a great fit for us at this time."

He may just have looked rusty, even a bit overwhelmed, against MLB-level tryout competition. Why the Yankees, who could use three or four shortstop signees to replenish their farm system and replace the retiring Cap'n, should have bid $20M for sure.

And, what if he's better? Speaking of ...

As ESPN notes, the Cards definitely think he'll be more than that.
Within the organization, some have compared him to a young Derek Jeter.
"He walks like him, you can see some of that there," general manager John Mozeliak said.
I wouldn't be that lavish myself until we at least see him at American AAA-level play, but, I'll gladly take something halfway between a super-Descalso and Jeter.

In other words, let's say that in three years, he can be a starter, with a .275 BA, .340 OBP, 10-12 HRs and 22-25 doubles, a .440 SLG and a .780 OPS.

Guess what? Those numbers are better than the current, free-agent occupier of the SS position, Jhonny Peralta. Which means that Peralta could be trade bait. And, with his front-loaded contract, relatively easy trade bait. Or, if he pegs as more of a 2B, if Kolten Wong doesn't relax and stop "pressing," or whatever his problem is, he gets traded.

Or, if not that, he's a super-utility, batting .250 with a .300 OBP, .385 SLG and .685 OPS+. Again, that's still better than the Bobbsey Twins I already mentioned.

And Mark Ellis definitely won't be back next year, further opening possibilities.

My projections? September call-up this year, probably nothing sooner. If Wong is still struggling against lefties in 2015, at the minimum, a chance to be part of a platoon at 2B next year, and we go from there. And, that he's got a 1-in-3 shot at being in that .275/.440/.780 groove by the end of 2015.

If not that, let's split the diff between that and a super-Descalso. .265 BA, .325 OBP, .425 SLG and .750 OPS. I'll take that, even, at either SS or 2B.

Peg him at "neutral" defensively for the sake of argument, and if he's posting numbers like that, let alone even higher ones, in Busch Stadium, he's a steal indeed.

Bernie Miklasz says he'll start at AA Springfield, where the Cards didn't even have a SS penciled in; I'm sure he'll get time at other IF positions, too. Could he displace Greg Garcia at Memphis, or at least challenge him, by midseason? Sure. Anyway, it is a low-risk gamble with lots of upside. Bernie's got lots of links for mo re about him.

NOT a fan of #Cosmos so far

Before last night, I was looking forward to Neil deGrasse Tyson's reboot of Carl Sagan's Cosmos. Now, after the first show, I'm not.

Why not?

Too much CGI graphics and heartstring-tugging music, and not enough content, for starters.

And, over-simplified, or outrightly incorrect, content, for seconds.

First, Giordano Bruno was NOT a "martyr to science." He was executed because he was a Unitarian heretic who was also a dabbler in Hermetic mysticism. Two hundred years earlier, that might have passed, but not in post-Reformation times. More here, with a bit of tongue in cheek, about how Bruno got himself killed.

And, Discover says that there was a real early scientific hero Tyson could have praised — Thomas Digges, who actually influenced Bruno (likely without credit by Bruno).

Does this mean that Neil deGrasse Tyson will next repeat Carl Sagan's perpetuation of the myth of Hypatia and the Library of Alexandria?



More on myth vs. reality of Hypatia and the Great Library here.

On oversimplification, the part about the formation of the moon was certainly that. It didn't mention one single major asteroid collision as the formation event, as is the commonly accepted theory, but seemed to imply a series of roughly equal impacts was involved.

Another issue?

What's so special about Olympic National Park for the late-show evolutionary sequence? (That's the scene with the lush greenery of tall ferns, masses of trees and m ore.)

Tyson hinted at the Cambrian explosion as part of his one-year calendar of the universe. Why not go to Canada and film that at the site of the Burgess Shale in Yoho National Park, where that's all documented.

My overall impression, other than repeating a myth that's not true? It's an impression of things being dumbed down. To be honest, I didn't learn a single new thing. And, beyond the graphics and music, for me at least, there was no "wow" factor of note.

And, this is just top observations. It's not meant to be a laundry list.

Maybe all this is the flip side, or part of the flip side, of Tyson taking his version of Cosmos to public TV. Regular readers know I'm not a blank check fan of PBS, but it does have its upsides. Another is that Tyson would have another 10 minutes each week, with a typical PBS 55-minute "hour" for the material of his show.

Anyway, I'll give it another shot next week.

Per the Library of Alexandria clip, Sagan didn't get everything right, either. That said, also, I was younger then. I knew a bit less about science and a lot less about critical thinking.

I'm hearing some skeptics say "chill" and a lot of people saying it's getting new people hooked on science. Perhaps. And, I could forgive the CGI and heartstrings music. But, oversimplification to the point of some inaccuracy is a different thing. And repeating myth as fact is a different thing entirely.

Maybe this is the bottom line:

"These are the voyages of the starship Cosmos. Its 13-episode mission is to sell new commercials, to make Fox look science friendly, to boldly go where Carl Sagan never went!"

And, related to that, the perceived omnipresence of Tyson, and the amount of hype, some of it self-driven, is probably a subconscious reason I've got a fair amount of "meh factor." I'll watch for that, too, next week. The rah-rah of many of its boosters is a similar factor. Per the Bruno myth, the show risks running the "noble science" vs. "ignorant fundamentalism" dichotomy.

And, here's the real bottom line: First episode ratings were kind of teh suck, and Fox is spinning pretty hard. 

Alternative history - Texas stays non-Anglo a bit longer

The latest installment on my alternative history series? The Pointy Abandoned Object State doesn't get a rush of Anglo settlement in the early 1820s.

We go back to the end of the Seven Years War in 1763, known, with its earlier start, as the French and Indian Wars here in the U.S. Spain, on the losing side with France after its late entry, in the New World is forced to cede Florida to the British. France, in turn, besides ceding French Canada to Britain, yields the Louisiana Territory to Spain.

Under pressure from the early Napoleon, Spain gives Louisiana back to France in 1800. The Treaty of San Ildefonso has what we would call in today's sports free agency world a "right of first refusal." France is supposed to allow Spain a chance to match an offer from any third-party country before selling Louisiana.

Well, Napoleon, soured by defeat in Saint-Domingue (today's Haiti) by revolting slaves, and otherwise deciding that his plans for a French New World Empire are untenable in the face of the British Navy, sells Louisiana to the US, as well all know.

What if he hadn't?

The territory, under pre-1763 France, had been sparsely populated. (The same was true for Quebec; Frenchmen, unlike Spanish and British residents, despite a larger population, never really got into the colonizing mood.)

But, under post-1763 Spanish control, the population picked up. Even more importantly, the economic output, especially in cotton and sugar, soared.

It's a reasonable assumption that Spain would have taken it back, if allowed to.

So, then we get to the post-1810 era. Napoleon has forced his brother Joseph onto the throne in Spain. Joseph has said he's OK if Spanish colonies make themselves independent, in a statement that surely wasn't cleared in advance with his brother. Probably needing little encouragement anyway, the revolts that eventually lead to the independence of non-Caribbean portions of Spanish America take off.

It's safe to assume that this would have included Louisiana.

But, with what end?

Does it become part of an even larger Mexico? A Mexico with even more tenuous hold on Louisiana than on Spain? Do Louisiana, Texas and New Mexico unite to form their own Hispanic nation? Does a shady figure like Gen. James Wilkinson insert himself into this?

In short, there are several different ways in which Anglo immigration (well, legal Anglo immigration) to Texas might have been delayed by half a decade to a decade.

Would that, along with at least a moderate influx of Hispanics from elsewhere, made the likely still-inevitable Anglo Texas more supportive of Mexican property rights?

In actual history, Anglo Americans in all the territories gained by the Mexican Cession after 1848 used a mix of legal chicancery, threats of force and actual use of force, to cut Hispanic Americans, who had been guaranteed their property rights by the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, out of said rights. But, nowhere was that worse than in Texas. (Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott should ask his newly-discovered Hispanic wife some of this.)

Something different than the current history of Texas and Louisiana, at the least, would have resulted. And, Texas exceptionalism might have gotten less of a foothold.


March 09, 2014

Revisiting the #trolleycar and #fatman problem — philosophy on the street

For those of you unfamiliar with the trolley problem, or trolley car problem, Wikipedia has a good basic summation, and I'll give you a bit myself.

Imagine a trolley car, street car, or similar that's suddenly gotten out of control and threatens to kill five people tied up on the track in front of it.

In one scenario, a person can throw a switch to divert the car onto a siding, where it will kill just one tied-up person instead. In the other, the person can push one overweight man onto the tracks in front of the five tied-up people, stopping the train that way.

"Real world" experiments on simulators say people are less likely to do the rational decision in the second case, presumably because it requires them to actively push someone.

Well, first, we could change this. Make them the conductor of the streetcar, in the first scenario, so they'd have to make an active decision to run over either the one person or the five.

A variant on the second alternative says, make the fat man a villain. Maybe people will be more likely to push him, then.

However, the issue of death aside, simulation machines can't get perfect results.

Second, in the real real world, this isn't an issue we're likely to face.

As Sarah Bakewell notes at the New York Times, "trolleyology" is a serious issue that has reached into classes at West Point and many other places.

So, let's study it more realistically.

Here's some much more likely scenarios, in which the issue of death may not be an "aside."

You have $50 for charity. Do you give it to the local food bank, where it will help 10 people, all of whom are likely to live, even without that help, or Oxfam, where it will help 100, some of whom may well die without it?

You have $50 for charity and you're an atheist. Do you give it to Oxfam, if it will help 100, or to a Christian-based group like, say, Feed the Children, if it will help 125 but be accompanied by explicit Christian proselytizing?

You have $50 for charity and you're a conservative Christian. Feed the Children, if it will help 100 with the benefit of being accompanied by explicit Christian proselytizing, or give it to Oxfam, if it will help 125 but without any Christian missionary work?

You have $10,000 for charity and you're a patron of the arts. Do you use most of it for a school in an impoverished neighborhood to hear a classical music performance, or do you use most of it for the nearest area food bank? If the food bank agrees to name a donation program after you, does that influence your decision?

If you're a Cass Sunstein, and you don't like how people respond to some of these issues, should you pay them cash to "nudge" their decisions? If so, how much? Should you pay cash for a nudge rather than directly giving that money to Oxfam or a local food bank?

I encourage professional philosophers to use my few tidbits of thought experiment to do more along the line of developing more realistic takeoffs on the trolleycar scenario. Per Massimo Pigliucci, that's what being a public intellectual is all about.