March 22, 2014

Social Justice Warriors, we have a failure to communicate

To me, even more than being wrong about some science and social science issues or having a huge lack of skepticism, this is the single biggest issue within the "social justice warrior" movement within Atheism Plus. (I'm halfway tempted to say that it IS Atheism Plus, but I think there's a minority there who, while believing that atheism has not yet done enough in the way of social justice, and either ignorant of or not wanting to identify as "secular humanist," yet have not jumped off the deep end.)

That said, a recent blog post by Massimo Pigliucci, about American Atheists' President David Silverman's statements at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference, and my own blogging about that, exemplify this. So does seeing them come pretty close to destroying a Facebook group, as I blogged here.

As I see it, many of the SJWs carry presumptions into most of their social justice communications. And, they're as presupposition laden as most groups who willingly stake out one polarity on an issue or set of issues that's really a continuum.

For instance, on sexual assault issues, questioning whether women shouldn't monitor their own alcohol intake, especially at places like college fraternities, will lead to you being labeled part of the rape culture, blaming women, etc. Do it more than once, and you'll likely be assumed to be part of the men's rights movement.

Make jokes about this, and you'll be assumed to be a cyberstalker or something, if you're not careful. I have been.

Part of the issue, though, is not a failure to become better communicators, or not recognizing that one is bringing presuppositions to the table. Rather, it's not wanting to actually communicate, rather than pronounce in a monologue. Question that, and your Twitter handle gets put on the Block Bot auto-blocking add-on. Or you get auto-blocked from commenting on blogs. Or, as Greg Laden did with me years ago, you get threatened with removal from the entire Internet, per this blog post:
Failure to adhere to these rules may lead to your permanent banning from this blog, and if you don't adhere to that, you will be banned from the entire internet.

Yes, Greg, you may have your rules for your blog, but you're not Tim Berners-Lee or ICANN.

That said, behind this, I see an issue of martyrology that rivals that of the Jehovah's Witnesses, and likely for similar, in-group tribal reasons. Be a good martyr and other group members support you for the degree of your effort and commitment.

Is there any cure for this? Time, possibly, although I don't guarantee that. Some 150 years after Charles Russell, JWs still like getting doors slammed in their faces. Some people like to be martyrs. Some of them, unfortunately, learned that martyrdom has passive power. Sadly, some of them learned that as part of childhood.

That, in turn, leads to another presupposition, namely, the one that nobody else can understand your troubles.

Well, first of all, you're assuming that your troubles are worse than those of others who may, at least at first, want to listen sympathetically to you. That's another conversation killer.

It's also a trust-killer. Maybe I actually do have "issues" worse than yours, or did in the past. Maybe I've had pains and hardships you don't know about. But, if you continue to try to maximize yours, and as part of that, discount or even dismiss mine, again, you're shutting down conversation.

More than that, you're shutting down trust. And, that's the real bottom line.

I simply don't trust these social justice warrior types, not to hear any real personal details of my life. I don't trust them, and doubt I will for the rest of my life.

Related to that? Although she's not an SJW, or Atheism Pluser, as far as I can tell, Karen Stollznow had alleged that Ben Radford had engaged in sexual harassment against her. The SJWs were all over promoting this one. And Stollznow has now retracted those claims. That said, the letter may be part of a legal settlement; Radford officially filed suit over her claims on Feb. 17 of this year. Anyway, it's clear that this is all clear as mud.

Also interesting, per comment 45 on a blog post by Radford, P.Z. Myers, the grand poobah of Gnu Atheist blogging, has himself been the victim of a false rape claim. Also, what the hell was Radford doing writing a blog about false rape claims 9 days after filing suit alleging exactly that? That's as clear as Louisiana blackland gumbo soil mud.

(Note: The previous 2 grafs are why I don't identify with modern "scientific" skepticism as a movement any more than I do Gnu Atheism/Atheism Plus.)

And, besides.

Given that much of the SJW movement's effort is focused on sexuality, it sounds like lesbians, and even more, gays, still have work to do in being accepting of bisexuals. Always start at home. Addressing this, then Rebecca Watson winking at men like Sarah Palin, would be a nice start on that.

March 21, 2014

Newspapers ... being short-sighted again

The consortium that owns Cars.com, second only to AutoTrader as a spot for online car buying, and revenue thereof, is looking to sell.

And probably shouldn't, Ken Doctor says. Yes, it will be a short-term windfall, and a McClatchy, which has a boatload of debt (and is one of the country's top chains in terms of news quality), could use that.

On the other hand: 
The great value — $3 billion worth — built largely by newspaper brands  will be mostly gone. Ironically, it will strongly finance a move to broadcast, by both Tribune and Gannett. Value created. Value harvested.  Value to be transferred. Value gone.
That's the newspaper biz!

As is this:
-->
That lost value, though, is only half the equation. Cars.com operating revenues are a significant ongoing revenue source for all these newspaper companies' papers. By the nature of the original Cars.com agreement, the newspapers "owned" cars in the market. They've enjoyed special wholesale rates on the Cars.com products they sell local dealers. Wholesale prices mean that their car revenues are highly profitable.
Having lived in Dallas for a number of years, and seeing how much color advertising the Dallas Morning News runs in print for dealers, I know wonder if that's been in part because the Snooze has been able to offer "combo" rates at very affordable levels, because of the Cars.com ownership.

As for the Snooze? Assuming the sale goes through, and is short-sighted, I wouldn't be surprised by a formal JOA between it and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, no later than 2020.

That said, the story notes this is part of the broader ongoing demise of most newspapers.

The Trib will assign its proceeds to the broadcast half of its split. Gannett, having bought Belo's news stations, may be looking at a similar split. Belo will soon be nothing other than the Snooze. The Washington Post, post-Bezos buy, temporarily gets the "wholesale" rate, but that will end.

Meanwhile, that broader demise, and short-sightedness, may play out elsewhere.

Also per Doctor:
"If Gannett and its partners are willing to give up the dividends of Cars.com, how much longer are they going to own CareerBuilder, which is more of a cash cow?" asks Peter Zollman cofounder and head of the AIM Group and Classified Intelligence Report,which tracks the industry globally. CareerBuilder, owned by Gannett, Tribune, and McClatchy, is the largest digital recruitment site in the country.
Good question indeed. And, if the same folks above are short-sighted there, too, oh, it will be sold by 2020.


==


Speaking of Bezos, are we getting closer and closer to some newspapers of some note not just going digital first, but digital only? Robert G. Picard has some tips on signs you should make that switch and how to do it. This is something else that will probably lay in an unchecked in basket, though.


Beyond digital only, he also covers the angle of circulation first, including digital, vs. advertising first. Of course, the New York Times is already there. Newspapers in general, if they get far enough past 51 percent ads, can tell advertisers bitching about news stories where to get off, which is a silver lining.


==


And, I'm not sure if this is UK-only or across the world, but Puff Hoes may put in a paywall. Will we notice? Will the serfs who continue to write for "exposure" for the Greek Gargantua suddenly, naively and stupidly now expect to get paid?

March 20, 2014

#TexasMiracle? Oil and gas, illegals, and smoke and mirrors

The lights of oil and gas show the one true driver of the Texas economy.
Photo via Washington Monthly.
Most of us who live in Texas and don't have our heads buried up Rick Perry's tuchis already knew the truth about Tricky Ricky's "Texas Miracle," but a good long-form piece from Washington Monthly spells out the details as a friendly reminder.

That photo is a good starting point, noting all the gas flares from the Eagle Ford. But, it's not just the Eagle Ford. If you've been in Texas a while, you can quickly spot, as I did, even more flaring light coming from the Permian Basin. (And, let's not forget all the climate change being induced in those spots.)

Here's a few other takeaways of note:

Perry's franchise tax isn't helping businesses get the best bang for education bucks:
For example, under the assumption that spending on education benefits only households and not businesses, California businesses pay $2.30 in taxes for every dollar they get in benefits, while Texas businesses pay $5. By this measure, Texas is the ninth-worst state in the country in the cost/benefit ratio it offers businesses on their taxes. 
Not even close.

As for the "Texas exceptionalism" of "I wasn't born here but I moved here as quickly as I could," espoused by too many Democrats in the Pointy Abandoned Object State, like Wendy Davis, as well as Tricky Ricky? Wrong:
For example, according to Census Bureau data, 441,682 native-born Americans moved to Texas from other states between 2010 and 2011. Sounds like a lot. But moving (fleeing?) in the opposite direction were 358,048 other native-born Americans leaving Texas behind. That means that the net domestic migration of native-born Americans to Texas came to just 83,634, which in a nation of 315 million isn’t even background noise. It’s the demographic equivalent of, say, the town of Lawrence, Kansas, or Germantown, Maryland, “voting with its feet” and moving to Texas while the rest of America stays put.
Yep. As I blogged already a few years ago. the real "demographic miracle" in Texas, or Tejas, which neither Tricky Ricky nor all-around nutter Kinky Friedman nor hardcore wingnut Ted Cruz nor Greg "Hey, I Have a Mexican Wife" (But Didn't Know I Had for 25 Years) Abbott want to admit, is that Texas' population growth is due to Mezcans. Not Mexican-Americans, not nearly as much as Mezcans, fleeing the homeland for the onion-picking that Americans won't do, and also the roofing and framing at housing projects of Friend of Ricky's, Bob Perry, because in this case, they're used to deliberately drive down labor costs.

But, the folks that move here, or were "lucky" enough to be born here, are all going to be entrepreneurs, right?

Wrong. Not even the slush of Tricky Ricky's Texas Enterprise Fund can change this:
In the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, children who grew up in families in the bottom fifth of the income distribution had only a 12.2 percent chance of rising to the top fifth as adults. Those who grew up in or near San Diego or Los Angeles had even lesser odds—only 10.4 and 9.6 percent, respectively. It’s depressing that for so many Californian children, the chances of realizing the American Dream are so slim. But California looks like the land of opportunity compared to Texas.

In the greater Austin area, children who grew up in families of modest means had only a 6.9 percent chance of joining the top fifth of earners when they became adults; in Dallas, only 7.1 percent; in San Antonio, just 6.4 percent. Yes, Texas offers more chances for upward mobility than places like Detroit and some Deep South cities like Atlanta. Yet the claim that Texas triumphs over the rest of America as the land of opportunity is all hat and no cattle. 
Period and end of story.

You want real embarassing? Look left. Vermonters make more money than Texans. Gee, Rick, why aren't you asking Vermont businesses to move here?

And, note to Wendy Davis. Don't pretend we do so much right in Texas. That "behind Vermont" is nearly 30 years old now, except for the brief late-90s bump. And, the decline started while, yes, while Reagan was president, but while Democrats had control of most of the levers of power in Austin, sometimes all of them.

Until we get more Democrats in Texas being more honest about just how much the state has slipped, and for how long, Democratic economic campaign proposals will likely come off sounding like Band-Aids.

Don't hold your breath.

Nate Silver has committed his first big #fail on #climatechange

Roger Pielke Jr. is perhaps better described as a climate change obfuscationist than an outright denier. Still, as Think Progress puts it, for the self-promoted data guru Nate Silver to hire Pielke as a contributing science writer is troublesome indeed.

Pielke has been labeled a climate skeptic, with skeptic not used in its good sense, by Foreign Policy magazine, as further reinforcement of the concern. There's also the fact that, as Joe Romm reports, Pielke has a history of abusing the process of release of draft documents on climate change issues.

Now, Romm can sometimes be overstated. And, can be more hyperbolic than Al Gore at times when he's not overstating the analysis.

On the other hand, Pielke and his reputation are a known quantity, and have been for years. Silver, as a self-described data wonk, surely knows at least something of Pielke's reputation.

And, a degree of obfuscation like his? Most climate scientists continue to reject it, normally more and more forcefully. And, Silver, if he's as much a data wonk on climate science as he professes to be elsewhere, should already know this, too. Per that link, people like Pielke add a layer of smog to communication about climate change issues.

And, while I may not be quite as harsh on Andrew Revkin as Romm is, I'm not anywhere near a blank-check fan of his, either. That just adds to this situation.

Also, I do know that Pielke lies, when he claims on his own blog, that the Breakthrough Institute, of which he is a member, is a "progressive" organization. It's not. It's leaders are all contrarians as much as anything, who use allegations of liberal "heartlessness" and "ladder raising" as a wedge and a cudgel.

The piece on how liberals are trying to deny the developing world massive hydroelectric dams, etc. is a perfect example. It's laden with straw men. No, most western liberals are just trying to inform the developing world of the risks as well as the rewards, based in part on western experience.

I was interested in what the new FiveThirtyEight would be like when it landed at ESPN. I saw some interesting non-sports stuff, and some Nate Silver puffing Nate Silver stuff. Gee, shock me; he and Neil deGrasse Tyson should maybe exchange notes on that.

But now, to the degree I read much more over there, I'll be keeping an eye on other writers, too, to see if Silver's having them write in part to be controversial for controversy's sake.

I've Tweeted him on this, as I'm sure many others have. Let's see if he puts any comment on the FiveThirtyEight homepage within the next 48 hours. (Per my "Biggus Dickus" piece, he has responded, and not in the most desired way.)

Let's also see if Silver reports on the new White House climate data initiative. (Let's also see if this is anything more than a smokescreen to OK Keystone XL, for that matter.)

===

Beyond that, with a four-day sample and applying informal Bayesian analysis (which should be called LaPlacean analysis) FiveThirtyEight seems to be a mix of an occasional very good story, a few "decent cut above" stories, a fair amount of straight news reporting with little crunch of data and with nothing to distinguish it from the mainstream media, and some teasers with no value, like one that said it would analyze Baseball America's 100 Top Prospects list, and all it was was a number-crunching of historic MLB WAR generated by all persons in each slot from 1-100. I thought it was going to be actual analysis of this year's top 100. Big, big fail with an NAIA-level head fake there.

On the "Bayesian"? Nate's had months to know who he wanted in staff, who he had actually hired, etc., and to shake at least a few bugs out before going live.

Ergo? My adjusted odds of FiveThirtyEight getting significantly better in the next 90 days? Twenty percent.

Doorknob, I love intellectual judo.

March 19, 2014

Malaysia Flight 370 — news of March 17 week (updated)

Special update, March 19 — Perhaps finally at the end of its tether on incompetency plus shame in the eyes of the rest of the world, the Malaysian government is finally asking for outside help, namely from the FBI.

Update, March 18more indications that either the pilot or first officer deliberately took over the plane. And, if Malaysia won't quickly hand over what it's learning from the pilot's home computers, I'm sure the NSA had garnered some information on its own, or else is now from Malaysian government computers and phones. Even with the Snowden revelations, it's probably reluctant to say much in public, but may be leaning on Malaysian officials, and leaning hard, in private.

Update 2, same date: A Canadian pilot is claiming a possible aircraft fire overwhelmed the crew. But, if you go to the original posting by him on G+, which I link and not the edited adaptation on Wired, there's a number of commenters with some degree of skepticism. Were it not for residents of the Maldives claiming to see a low-flying plane, I'd give Goodfellow's idea even less credibility. 

The Times of India story about the Maldivan alleged sighting? If this were a plane fire, would the plane really have flown that far? And, even still been at 5K feet? If this is the plane, it's entirely separate from Goodfellow's claims and does not automatically support that.

One problem IMO, as a nonpilot totally, but a reasonably knowledgeable student of geography. On pretty much a straight line of the current path, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is not much further away, if any, than Kuala Lumpur, at time of last contact. And, I doubt that there would be no other contact otherwise. And, there's some other debunking on his original G+ by those more knowledgable about flight than me.

Per Facebook friend Leo, the old Tan Son Nhat airbase has two runways that are both over 10,000 feet, more than long enough to drop that plane.

I knew a couple of guys where were at Tan Son Nhat in Nam when it was the big USAF base. Didn't know, but makes sense, that it was remade into an airport. And, the last known sighting, per that nice large map, is equidistant from Ho Chi Minh City and Kuala Lumpur. 

So, no, this is likely not correct. Of the two, I think the Maldivan sighting is more likely correct, but without Goodfellow's cockpit fire.

And, Goodfellow is further refuted here, on Slate, for various reasons, one his over-simplicity, the other, more fundamental, being that:
Goodfellow’s theory fails further when one remembers the electronic ping detected by the Inmarsat satellite at 8:11 on the morning of March 8. According to analysis provided by the Malaysian and United States governments, the pings narrowed the location of MH370 at that moment to one of two arcs, one in Central Asia and the other in the southern Indian Ocean. As MH370 flew from its original course toward Langkawi, it was headed toward neither. Without human intervention—which would go against Goodfellow’s theory—it simply could not have reached the position we know it attained at 8:11 a.m.
And I don't care if Patrick Smith of "Ask a Pilot" fame likes Goodfellow's theory because, as he notes, he mentioned it five days earlier himself, I think he's wrong too.

So, I'd politely tell Goodfellow to put a sock in it. And per a note at the end of the Slate piece, quit making ad hoc changes to your claims, ones that further strain credulity. I'd more politely and respectfully say the same to Smith; Wise's refutation of Goodfellow on Slate applies to you too, unless you have more elaborate caveats than Goodfellow, in which case, probably, my "strain credulity" applies to you, too.

Goodfellow and Smith also suffer from the "trying to have their cake and eat it too," phenomenon.

The idea that nobody ever asked for directions or assistance further undercuts their theory. On the plane fire theory, you can't have it both ways on it cutting off different transponders at different times, about an hour apart, but cutting cabin contact in a flash.

Plus, we now know that the copilot's "sign-off comment" was uttered 12 minutes after the plane had started turning west. So, the fire theory is now officially as dead as a doorknob.

Meanwhile, that Times of India story about the Maldivan sighting has a bit of "aroma" to it, too.

Either Bob Woodruff is putting words in some fisherman's mouth, or else he's mugging for Western media. He knows the plane was at 5,000 feet how? As for the detailed description? They do have a newspaper there, I'll venture. Maybe television, too. Wouldn't be too hard for a resident to know what that plane "should" look like.

Or, if that fisherman were north and east of the islands themselves, and Malaysian Airlines has any flights out of Columbo, Sri Lanka, he could have seen that.

And, according to Business Insider, that would put it well too far north of the southern "cone" based on the engine transponder pings. That said, who knows how precise this triangulation is?

Yet more on the Maldivan reports here.


Back to the original post ...

So, to update, here's the latest we know, more on the government of Malaysia than on the missing Flight 370.

First? We do know that Malaysian officials are corrupt, and as a result, some mix of stupid, devious, and conniving.

Confirming the incompetency of the Malaysian government? Somebody pulled strings to call in Uri Geller on the search. And, as of March 17, it's changing its story on when the ACARS system stopped broadcasting.

And, the idea that the man whom pilot Zaharie Ahmed Shah supports, Anwar Ibrahim, is a troublemaker or anything similar (other than being troublesome) to a corrupt semi-dictatorship is ridiculous. Ibrahim has led the Malaysian political opposition for years, and suffered for his pains before his current trial. As Dobson notes, allegations behind this reinforce the ineptitude born of corruption that lies behind this government.

The Daily Mail spread quasi-disinformation in calling Shah's support for Ibrahim "fanatical." I shouldn't have posted the link at first without caveating it.

As for being a religious fanatic? Shah's Facebook page, per Mother Jones, suggests just the opposite, if anything.

It's no wonder Malaysia rejects more outside help. That would only put on display its ineptitude and corruption, even as whispering campaigns and statements at cross purposes with one another continue to be released.

Meanwhile, contra Ted Rall's second guessing, it did NOT get to Kazakhstan. Given Baikonur Cosmodrome and nuke testing in Kazakhstan, there's got to be a gazillion radars there. It would have had to cross either the India-China or India-Pakistan border, with all of its radars and bristling military hardware, too, where it would have been shot down. Rall should have stuck with his first speculation, that it's in the Indian Ocean.

On the radar issue, he tweeted back that Indian officials say they turn off most their radar systems at night to save money. Tis true, on the radar shutdowns. Here's Reuters on that issue. That said, Russia has a bit more money than India or Pakistan. So does China. If the plane turned northwest, depending on when, it would have had to cross Chinese airspace under some flight paths, too. 

Besides, even the typical airline pilot wouldn't be guaranteed to know that India hit the snooze button on at least parts of its radar system. Ditto for a terrorist in the passenger compartment. As for a friendly welcome, Kazakhstan's never been a supporter of terrorist versions of Islam. And, even in more remote parts of that underpopulated country, you still have to land the damned plane somewhere.

Rall's still an an odd duck at times, even if right about India's radar. I agree with about 60-70 percent of what he says, even his controversial stuff, but probably still disagree with 15-20 percent, and to the final 15-20 percent, he says, I say what the fuck?

He's now followed his radar comments by something of the WTF 20 percent. As for why no cell phone calls from passengers? His post suggest that, at best, he committed an elementary memory lapse and at worst left upon the possibility he's a 9/11 Truther, at least without further investigation. 

Actually, teh Google tells me that he's not a Truther EXCEPT for questioning the official account of the downing of Flight 93. And, unless somebody can point me to something definite on Flight 93's cockpit, post 9/11 Commission, some skepticism, if not necessarily quite as heavy as his, is the correct stance

So, I could just call it a brain fart on cell phones mixed with overexcitedness. But, I won't. Rall has explained himself on that, but not retracted/edited the "duh" on cell phones, despite multiple requests by me to do so; his explanations on that are now doubling down on disingenuousness. And, one of his commenters claims that land-related reach of cell phones out to sea is getting greater all the time, so, because!

And, even over land, you have to be over or near an area of cell tower density for good reception. Flight 370, after the turn, wasn't.

So, while I've long learned to generally not underestimate or discount Ted Rall, in this case ...

I AM! Sorry, Ted, you're wrong. The cell phone part, in particular, shows that you're just being stubborn on this issue.

Per your own rhetorical question of, "Is it possible the plane made it to Kazakhstan?" I respond, "Is it likely, or even close to likely?" and respond with a definite "No."

Now, the "why"? Otherwise known as "let's have fun speculating"?

As for the idea of a hijack, not a terrorist takedown? At some point, you have to ask for ransom. It's been a week and we haven't heard that yet. It's also been a week with nobody spilling the beans, even in a semi-deserted Kazakhstan. That's further reason to discount Ted Rall. The longer people are held hostage, even in a theoretical plan as devious as this, the more somebody is likely to talk, or some outsider is to spot some incident.

As for hijacking the plane just for the plane? Ghost ships do exist after being taken over and thoroughly overhauled, but I've never heard of that being done to a passenger jet.

As for it going down? Well, the possible southern flight path is looking more and more likely for that.

And, if it's in the southern Indian Ocean, it could take many years to find the wreckage. Whether by air or sea, the southern Indian Ocean is little crossed. Due to great circle lines, flights from South Africa to India or China largely hug the east African coast. Only transit between southern Africa and Australia crosses significant portions of the southern Indian Ocean. 

Here's a great circle mapper, which makes jet stream and other allowances; it produced that sample map of a Johannesberg-Beijing flight shown here. You can see that, setting aside  east African coastal waters above Madagascar, it doesn't cross the southern Indian Ocean at all.

It took two full years to find the wreck black box of the Air France plane lost off the coast of Brazil. In that case, we had a plane that never turned, and wreckage visible on the surface at least somewhat near being due overhead of the plane's oceanic resting site. If we should find wreckage relatively soon, with the southern Indian Ocean being much wider than the South Atlantic, greater drift is likely.

Stonekettle Station adds to the angle of how hard it will likely be to spot the wreckage, as well as telling Rall to get a clue on Kazakhstan.

Otherwise, this post is to otherwise remind you that we still know not a lot more than bupkis, other than that the communications problems within the Malaysian government are really a sign of corruption and ineptitude. 

Should the Phillies play hardball with Rollins?

With Jose Igelesias' stress fractures having him on the shelf for the Detroit Tigers for half the season, speculation next turned to free agent Stephen Drew as a possible signing. But Dave Dombrowski has put the kibosh on that.

He has been burning up the trade talks telephone, though. One obvious thought would be Jimmy Rollins of the Phillies. However, he's a 5-and-10 veteran who would have to waive his no-trade rights and so far, that's a definite not gonna from him. In part, his reasoning is that he's just 60 hits short of Mike Schmidt's Phillies career team record. On the other hand, new manager Ryne Sandburg has already shown he can make Rollins' life hell.

One way to make his life hell? Keep him at less than 434 plate appearances this year so his vesting option doesn't kick in. I'm not sure who you could replace him with, but, if, per Rollins' statement that he wouldn't even consider a trade unless the Phils are well out of the race, that would be a good excuse to try a AAA or even a AA and a AAA prospect at the big club, and, in turn, block Rollins from his vesting.

That would then make him a free agent, with the QO hanging over his head.

I mean, César Hernandez certainly looks ready enough to step up. And Drew's own injury history aside, he's still four years younger than Rollins, which means that J-Roll probably isn't worth as much in trade bait as Amaro thinks he is, or as Rollins does.

March 18, 2014

Perry joins Abbott as hypocrites on big goverment

Rick Perry opposes reductions in force in the Texas National Guard. Because! Because, so much, that he made up a laundry list of reasons.

As for those natural disasters, if you'd concentrate on not overpumping groundwater and reducing what Texas is doing to cause climate change and global warming, you'd mitigate disasters and save a whole bunch of money right there.

As for "War on Terror," please, Rick. Go back to your video cameras to catch the bazillions of illegals you said they would. Maybe you should have taken a page from Kinky Friedman and pasted money on each camera or something?

#Sabermetrics and instant replay and #sidewinders and #submariners and more

This Grantland piece by Jonah Keri about Billy Beane and sabermetrics got me thinking about the addition of instant replay to baseball this year.

Will some teams be crunching data on replay challenges this year to try to figure out some way of judging whether or not to "throw the challenge flag" in a certain situation?

For example, here are some hypotheticals: 

How often should I challenge an out at first? With zero previous outs? With one previous?

Ditto on an out at second.

And, what about where I am at in the lineup? If my No. 7 batter is up, should I wait, especially if I've used one challenge already? If I've got my No. 3 batter coming up, should I challenge no matter what?


Then, back to analytics and player selection.

Should I look for pitchers and infielders, or pitchers and outfielders, who reinforce each other? Should I change the length, or even the type, of infield grass? Should day games affect my pitching rotation?

If, like Theo Epstein, I think most teams overvalue pitchers due to their injury propensity, should I look for submariners more? Dan Quisenberry or Kent Tekulve as starters? Or Gene Garber even? Or at least a sidearmer, like the great, and almost totally injury-free, Walter Johnson? Or Luis Tiant, who mixed in a sidearm with more upright arm slot angles.

Submariners may not have as much heat, though Johnson did as a sidearmer. But, they're definitely likely to keep the ball low. And, not just Johnson, but the true submariners, in general, had few injury problems.

This slo-mo breakdown of Johnson shows just how efficient and smooth he was.



Durability, even in the modern era? Here's pencil-thin Tekulve's peak. During the 1978 and 1979 seasons, he pitched in a total of 185 games. Many of his appearances were an inning-plus, for a total of 269.2 innings. His stats? A record of 18-15 with a 2.54 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 62 saves and two top-five finishes in the NL Cy Young voting.

So what if they don't have as much heat. Maybe, like Johnson, who would go as high as 3/4, they go up to 5/8 in the slot occasionally, pitch from the side on occasion, and go below horizontal on occasion. Mixing angles, and then mixing the grip, can still make an 85mph fastball do different things. And, if you keep it low, that means lots of grounders. So, you get good infielders and go from there. And, breaking balls look totally different coming from below. Ted Abernathy had a "rising" curveball, for example.

I mean, the Cardinals have gotten some good out of Randy Choate. Chris Sale is off to a good start for his career. And, while not a sidewinder or submariner, Stu Miller definitely showed you don't need to have speed. And, you don't have to practically dust the pitcher's mound, like Chad Bradford did.

That's not to say you can't pitch fast pitching from down under. The best fast-pitch softballers hit triple digits.

To the degree Theo's right, I'm actually surprised that scouts for the Cubs don't look for submariners and sidewinders. You hope for your six innings of quality start and then go to your pen like always. And, if the underhanders reduce your injury risk that much, that's one more reliever, or one more backup position player, you can carry on the roster.

Plus, a lefty? A lefty submariner? Would be worth his weight in gold.

The future of water, and drought, in Texas

As rice farmers on the lower Colorado of Texas know, even if the drought situation is worse in West Texas, its effects continue to be felt in East Texas.

And, it's not just water itself, it's who's got the rights to what water is still available, as this in-depth NYT piece points out. As it notes, and is problematic in all parts of the state, beyond senior vs. junior rights on surface water, unlimited groundwater pumping is an even bigger issue. Indeed for all of Texas' bitching about New Mexico's sometime failures to deliver enough downstream water from the Pecos and Rio Grande, Texans on the Llano Estacado, with their unlimited pumping of the Ogallala Aquifer, which should be covered by the Interstate Streams Commission but isn't, have their own water-hogging faults.

We're going to have more wrangling over water in the future, especially as water threatens endangered species, or threatens currently legally "threatened" species with being bumped  up to officially being "endangered," unless they get more water.

We can have a shiny new water development loan fund, loopholes and all, but until groundwater districts actually get more power to regulate groundwater, whether with rural ranchers or Greg Abbott drilling wells in his Austin backyard, we're playing Sisyphus with Jack and Jill water buckets.

Meanwhile, scientists are trying to figure out how to get the word out better.

March 17, 2014

I'm surprised the #Jayhawks are still a No. 2

Andrew Wiggins has been impressive down the stretch, including becoming more assertive. But! ... Joel Embiid and his "back spasms," with the actual original diagnosis of a stress fracture in his back having been confirmed, is expected to be out until the Sweet 16 round.

And, the bottom line is that Kansas lost to an unranked team in the regular season finale, Wiggins' 41 aside. 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.

And, I'm shocked that tournament predictors disagree. As a fan, I'm pleased they're a No. 2, even if arguably in the toughest bracket; as a detached college basketball follower, I disagree.

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' Jeff Borzello says that, without Embiid, they're not a top-10 team, which means they should be a No. 3 seed at best.)

I mean, I'm with Gary Parrish on loving the idea of a Wichita State-Kansas final; I know Shockers fans would be, too. But, I just don't see it happening.

NCAA tourney aside, 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! I know Parker was named freshman of the year on the NCAA's all-freshman team; I still think Riggins has the higher NBA upside.

Embiid? I think he might be better served by waiting a year. The back problems may drive his stock down a bit, even if, as shown with Nerlens Noel this year and Greg Oden just a few years ago, NBA teams, under the "you can't coach height" rubric, will draft centers with injury histories. Plus, especially if Wiggins does leave this year, Embiid has a chance of showcasing more of his offense in Lawrence next year.

#Abortion: A Gordian knot for many liberals

This is a note to fellow liberals, even left liberals who struggle for moral, political, and philosophical framing and congruence on abortion, per Massimo Pigliucci's most recent blog post, about American Atheists head David Silverman? I have to go with the blunt honest of Ted Rall:
Abortion is murder. In my view women have — and ought to continue to have — the right to murder their unborn babies. Each abortion is a tragedy, some necessary and others not, and all of them are murder.
Contra the best intentions of a Don Marquis, Rall recognizes that for a critical minded liberal, this is a Gordian knot that cannot be untied by logic, only cut in a way that, however and wherever the cutting is done, involves some brutality. (Marquis' argument philosophically fails otherwise; he stacks the decks by excluding utilitarian/consequentialist theories of ethics from the beginning.)

And, I'm not alone in this. One progressive blogger quoted from my previous blog post on this issue, where I had quoted the Rall quote above. More of Rall's thoughts here. You can also go to his website.

That said, this is also a Gordian knot for conservatives in some ways, too. I tackle that issue below.

Every abortion that is at least post-implantation affects a potentially human life. And, while not traumatic in the way or degree that Religious Righters claim, isn't without psychological pain (and physical, too, even with somewhat early abortions).

Viability? It's where I cut the Gordian knot myself, even while recognizing that the PZ Myers-es of the world would, if followed to their logical conclusion, could use "viability" as a justification for early childhood euthanasia.

Beyond this? I want to make abortion safe, legal and rare.

And less necessary. That includes these things, among others.

Public school sex education that doesn't fixate on abstinence only;
Adequate wages;
Better prenatal health;
Easier access to various methods of contraception.

Most of those are standard liberal tropes.

I also want to encourage better social responsibility. A baby isn't a puppy. If "scared straight" programs need to be part of the work of making teens, white and minority, rich, middle class or poor, worried about child raising, fine.

If these "scared straight" programs would work better with a "terrible twos" doll than a baby doll, fine.

I generally deny being a utilitarian, but, dammit, sometimes I guess I am, at least to some degree.

My background on this issue is that, before I became a nontheist and politically liberal to left liberal, I actually marched in a few pro-life rallies.

Since then, although I realize the strong value of reproductive freedom, I ultimately feel like Rall. I could never march in a pro-choice rally. I've marched in gay rights rallies, but I could never march in a pro-choice one.

And, if this commenter on a recent blog post by Massimo is being straightforward when she says:
The vast majority of abortions are performed while the pregnancy is a collection of barely differentiated cells. What are the significant ethical consequences of that? How are they more significant than say, my right to fly to Europe in nine months ...
That's why I wouldn't be marching in a pro-choice rally.

As for another claim in that vein?

The idea that men have "no right" to comment on abortion is ridiculous.

I have a right to oppose capital punishment, even if no relative or close friend has ever been murdered, for example. And, trying to shut down pro-life claims, or anti-capital punishment claims, on such tribalist grounds just doesn't fly with me. Nor does insult mongering. Pro-lifers aren't "looney tunes" overall, though a fair amount may be.

Nor, also per the piece by Massimo, from a commenter whom I generally respect a lot, is the pro-life movement an "intellectual fraud."

 If you said the pro-life political movement, I'd agree. But, as a lot of Republicans who are selective about pope-quoting know or should know, folks like the Catholic Church, with a stance of both pro-life and anti-capital punishment, and with at least some emphasis on social justice issues, and with concerns about the effects of capitalism, are not intellectual frauds.

I understand the political sociology behind the pro-choice movement, and how strong of an issue that is for most pro-choice women and many pro-choice men.

This isn't a "symmetrical" issue politically, though, either. I wouldn't support a pro-choice politician just because he or she is pro-choice. But, I'm likely to not support a pro-lifer unless he or she has a LOT of other political stances with which I am in agreement.

Another asymmetry is that pro-choicers don't use violence to support their claims. A noticeable minority of pro-life folks, though, do push their goals violently. They're still a minority, though.

At the same time, I know this is part of why (although there's a number of other reasons) I never really jumped on the Wendy Davis for governor bandwagon here in Texas. Her campaign was kickstarted by her filibustering an abortion restrictions bill. It didn't help that, two-three months after launching her campaign, she then clumsily backed away from that, and that she did not, at the start, present a broad-based campaign announcement with pizzazz.

That said, the "Gordian knot" of course applies to pro-lifers, too. Their arguments usually start from ignorance of the basic evolutionary biology fact that from one-quarter to one-third of human conceptions are spontaneously aborted. And, that sim ple biological fact shows that abortion (and per various exemptions that some pro-lifers will allow), and even abortion post-implantation, is not some human-devised intervention and nothing else.

If you accept that "nature" causes abortions, primarily because of genetic abnormalities, but perhaps even due to reasons we don't yet recognize, like epigenetic reasons or simply high maternal stress, then you've got a big can of worms on your side of the issue, too.

Meanwhile, Massimo has had a follow-up post, in response to P.Z. Myers and Greta Christina (with Stephanie Zvan, to whom he graciously did not link) flaming him, mainly through all sorts of misinterpretations. And, result? Some of the Social Justice Warrior types are running hot and heavy in comment threads there.

And, if any pro-lifer reading this thread says "original sin," you get deleted and blocked.

Is the Pakistani Taliban taking notes about Flight 370?

How does the disappearance of the Malaysian plane tie with the Pakistani Taliban?

Simple.

In the search for the missing plane, we now learn that India sometimes shuts down some of its military radar.
Military systems, meanwhile, are often limited in their own coverage or just ignore aircraft they believe are on regular commercial flights. In some cases, they are simply switched off except during training and when a threat is expected.

That, one senior Indian official said, might explain why the Boeing 777 was not detected by installations on India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands, an archipelago which its planes were searching on Friday and Saturday, or elsewhere.

"We have many radar systems operating in this area, but nothing was picked up," Rear Admiral Sudhir Pillai, chief of staff of India's Andamans and Nicobar Command, told Reuters. "It's possible that the military radars were switched off as we operate on an 'as required' basis."

Separately, a defense source said that India did not keep its radar facilities operational at all times because of cost. Asked what the reason was, the source said: "Too expensive."

You can't tell me that somebody in the Pakistani Taliban isn't reading this, and isn't trying to figure out how to exploit it.

March 16, 2014

What we know about Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 today (updated)

Bupkis was my original answer. The most interesting speculation so far comes from this Wall Street Journal story. If the house of one of the pilots is being searched, something's up. Possibly.

That's a big if, given that the one thing we DO know for sure is that different Malaysian investigative authorities aren't communicating well with one another, let alone the outside world.

Update, March 15: First, more information on the pilot confirms that narrative linked above.

We also do know that Malaysian officials are stupider, more devious, or both than before. It did NOT get to Kazakhstan. Given Baikonur Cosmodrome and nuke testing in Kazakhstan, there's a gazillion radars there. It would have had to cross either the India-China or India-Pakistan border, with all of its radars and bristling military hardware, too, where it would have been shot down. Ted Rall should have stuck with his first speculation, that it's in the Indian Ocean; he's in the next rail yard on this one if he gives any credence to a Central Asia touchdown.

On the radar issue, he tweeted back that Indian officials say they turn off most their radar systems at night to save money. Tis true, on the radar shutdowns. Here's Reuters on that issue.

Rall's still an an odd duck at times. I agree with about 60-70 percent of what he says, even his controversial stuff, but probably still disagree with 15-20 percent, and to the final 15-20 percent, he says, I say what the fuck?

He's now followed his radar comments by something of the WTF 20 percent. As for why no cell phone calls from passengers? His post suggest that, at best, he committed an elementary memory lapse and at worst (which I suggest is entirely possible with him) that he's a 9/11 Truther. 

Actually, teh Google tells me that he's not a Truther EXCEPT for questioning the official account of the downing of Flight 93. So, we'll just call it a brain fart on cell phones mixed with overexcitedness. And, unless somebody can point me to something definite on Flight 93's cockpit, post 9/11 Commission, some skepticism, if not necessarily quite as heavy as his, is the correct stance. (Rall has explained himself on that, but not retracted/edited the "duh" on cell phones, despite multiple requests by me to do so; his explanations on that are now doubling down on disingenuousness.)

And, if it's in the southern Indian Ocean, it could take many years to find the wreckage. Whether by air or sea, the southern Indian Ocean is little crossed. Due to great circle lines, flights from South Africa to India or China largely hug the east African coast. Only transit between southern Africa and Australia crosses significant portions of the southern Indian Ocean. 

Confirming the incompetency of the Malaysian government? Somebody pulled strings to call in Uri Geller on the search. And, as of March 17, it's changing its story on when the ACARS system stopped broadcasting.

And, the idea that the man whom pilot Zaharie Ahmed Shah supports is a troublemaker or anything similar (other than being troublesome) to a corrupt semi-dictatorship is ridiculous. As Dobson notes, allegations behind this reinforce the ineptitude born of corruption that lies behind this government.

It's no wonder Malaysia rejects more outside help. That would only put on display its ineptitude and corruption.)

My speculation that Vladimir Putin did this under the "one crisis at a time" theory to divert Americans from Crimea, or Perry's tongue in cheek that Ted Cruz said Obama did this because Obamacare (which does have the administration spinning to call 70 percent [of initial enrollment] an A grade).

Malaysia has been a hotbed of fake passport transit for years, it seems. A hotbed of launching terrorism? Not so much.

Again, all of this is "ifs." Nobody in Malaysia will confirm the engine data transmissions (which I didn't know newer planes did) and nobody will confirm that the plane might have been spotted by Malaysian military radar. There's now a bit more evidence it may have flown for several more hours.

I suspect it will be the end of this week before any tenuous strands of reasoning have enough evidence behind them to coalesce more.

And, as of the afternoon of Friday, March 14, we now know a little more. The "plot" doesn't thicken as much as it gets reinforced. That erratic of flying would seem to imply a cockpit takeover, would it not? Well, not necessarily. The Air France that eventually crashed into the ocean east of Brazil a few years back was almost as erratic on altitude changes. That said, it didn't do a 180 on directional changes, nor shut off its transponder or have it die.

As for the idea of a hijack, not a terrorist takedown? At some point, you have to ask for ransom.

As for hijacking the plane just for the plane? Ghost ships do exist after being taken over and thoroughly overhauled, but I've never heard of that being done to a passenger jet.

This post is to otherwise remind you that we know, pretty much ... bupkis, other than the communications problems within the Malaysian government, and we don't know the "why" on that, even. So, let's just remember that.

'The Burglary': More important than the Pentagon Papers, perhaps

The Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBIThe Burglary: The Discovery of J. Edgar Hoover's Secret FBI by Betty Medsger

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


Fascinating book on a fascinating subject.

I had briefly and vaguely heard about and read about, in the past, the 1971 burglary of the Media, Pa., FBI office. I had no idea of the details involved in an event that, in my estimation, was more important than the printing of the Pentagon Papers in the same year.

The short story:

In early 1971, eight antiwar activists, after careful planning, burgled the aforementioned office. They took out every piece of paper, other than blank forms, they could get their hands on.

After two weeks of collating and analyzing, then making copies, they started releasing it to hoped-for sympathetic press. The FBI intercepted one or two, it seems. Others got killed within their offices. But one landed in the right hands, of a then-Washington Post reporter, the author of this book.

Before Woodward and Bernstein on Deep Throat, Katherine Graham and Ben Bradlee had to make their first stare-down with the Nixon Administration over publishing their first story about the first release of the FBI papers.

Things took off from there, including the fact that one piece of paper had the then-mysterious word "COINTELPRO" on it.

The book breaks into rough third, with the middle third being the biggest.

The first third is about the assembling of the team of eight for the burglary. (Medsger found seven of the eight, all of whom talked, and five with their real names.) This is followed by a description of the planning and the date chosen, plus the burglary. Muhammad Ali and Deep Throat himself, pre-leaking Mark Felt, are both connected.

The second third is about the fallout, from printing, through Hoover's reaction (and FBI failure to catch anybody) and on to Congress, eventually  the Church Committee of 1975.

The final third is "fallout," both with today's FBI and kickbacks against the late 1970s reforms, and "where are they today" with the the lives of the burglars since the middle 1970s.



View all my reviews