SocraticGadfly: 4/6/14 - 4/13/14

April 12, 2014

Texas Greens discuss asking guv candidate to not campaign — DON'T!

Kat Swift leads voting at the 2014 Texas Green Party convention.

When I lived back in Dallas (and if I'm going to live in Texas a lot longer, please, somebody help me get back to the New York City of Texas), I went to a few Dallas-area Green Party meetings, around 2007-2008. I also saw and heard Green presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney speak in Fort Worth in 2008, and talked to some Fort Worth Greens while there.

So, even though I'm not an active Green Party member, I'm not unfamiliar with the party overall. And, earlier today, I went to Austin to catch at least parts of the Texas Green Party's 2014 convention.

Unfortunately, gubernatorial candidate Brandon Parmer and Senatorial candidate Emily “Spicybrown” Sanchez were both not at the convention. Now, Sanchez is in Del Rio, but Parmer is in the Metroplex.

At the same time, both are real people with real jobs of some sort, I assume. Both of them may not work Monday-Friday jobs.

But Parmer’s absence was of import for one other reason.

Should Parmer cede, or run non-actively, in the gubernatorial race, in the idea that this would help Democratic candidate Wendy Davis against Greg Abbott? Blogging friend Perry said that, before I got to the convention, there was a fair degree of discussion about that. Most people present opposed that. Proponents mentioned Nader 2000 and his ticket splitting.

First, let’s not forget that a butterfly ballot poorly designed by a Democratic election official in Florida, Theresa LePore, was the primary reason Al Gore lost (apparently) the popular vote in Florida. Let’s also not forget that Gore’s slow and half-assed legal response, plus a lot of other Democratic bigwigs not being totally sold on Al Gore, are part of why he ultimately lost Bush v. Gore. Finally, let’s not forget that Al Gore didn’t become “Al Gore” until he stopped being an elected political official.

Perry's got more on this issue. Per him, the one actual reason to fault Nader is that he originally said he wouldn't campaign in swing states.

Anyway, this is like begging for table scraps, first. And, it’s expecting that Democrats will offer scraps and that they’ll be scraps worth seeking. More on that below, as it ties in with …

Second, what do Greens have to offer besides “not actively campaigning,” and, given previous Green gubernatorial results (and not state Supreme Court races where no Democrat was running) of how much value is that. Uhh, probably not a lot.

It’s unfortunate that the US electoral system in general is stacked in favor of a two-party breakout. It’s more unfortunate that, in terms of ballot access, Texas is stacked against third-party ballot access. But, just as I generally have opposed Greens running a “safe states” presidential campaign, to the point that I blogged that in 2004, 2008 or 2012, I would have voted Green for president if I lived in Ohio, Pennsylvania or Florida, so I believe the same here.

That said, what would the Democrats pay in return for Parmer suspending, or semi-suspending, his campaign? Since Texas, like more and more states in their anti-third party animus, doesn’t allow “fusion” candidates or slates, Democrats couldn’t endorse in any way a Green candidate for the Texas Supreme Court. Other than Democrats directing some fundraisers to help the Greens (and why?) there’s nothing else I can think of that the Texas Democratic Party would do.

As noted above, outside those judicial races where Democrats don’t have candidates, and where Greens have delayed announcing their candidates as part of a filing slate until the Democratic-Republican primary filing deadline, Green candidates have yet to draw well. And, Democrats know that. The Wendy Davis campaign surely values such an offer by Parmer, were it to be made, at about 10 cents on the dollar compared to how Texas Greens might value it, or at least some of them.

Third, this is trading on an assumption by those Greens, one shared by many Texas Democrats, that the showdown between Davis and Greg Abbott is likely to be very close.

Although the Davis campaign, after a thorough shakedown, is starting to get its sea legs, and Abbott is suddenly playing a media disappearing act, I don’t really share those beliefs.

Readers can see my poll, at right, as to whether Davis will outperform Bill White vs. Rick Perry from 2010. Pluses for Davis? She’s more charismatic than White and has run previous non-state campaigns (her state senate seat vs. city of Houston for mayor) against tougher and more uphill opposition. Also a possible plus, though somewhat mishandled so far? Her personal story.

Minuses? We were at Rick Perry fatigue in 2010. Note how unpopular he was in 2006. Abbott, other than general conservative Republican baggage, doesn’t yet have much of “Rick Perry association” baggage. I also think he’s better campaigner than Perry, when he’s on his stride. When he’s not? Well, Rick Perry never would have publicly appeared with Ted Nugent, so this may be a wash. I certainly think he’s a more aggressive elbow-thrower as a candidate than Perry. I think that’s overall a plus, but could backfire.

So, if Abbott-Davis is closer than the 55-42 split for Perry-White, I don’t think it’s going to be that much closer. Let’s say, in what might be a bit generous on my part, that it’s 52-45. That’s still 7 percentage points and far away from a Brandon Parmer semi-withdrawal making any difference. The newest polling numbers exactly reflect this.

So, as a bargaining tool? It’s non-existent.

As a matter of party-building? It’s totally wrong. Do it once, and why shouldn’t Democrats expect you to do it again. Ditto on people who aren’t that involved with politics and to whom you might want to reach out in the future.

As a matter of political ethics? Idealism sometimes has to be tempered with a certain bit of realism, but that’s not at stake here. And, speaking of political ethics, Davis herself offers reasons to be wary of such a deal.

So, don’t do it, Greens. Accept that you have a ways, a long ways, to go, not come, baby, on your contested statewide races. Recognize that a cheap, quickie cohabitation with the Democrats on the gubernatorial race isn’t the way to keep going further. That’s the bottom line.

Well, there is one thing Democrats could offer. (And it would help if Libertarians would similarly prod Republicans.) And that is to change Texas law to allow fusion candidates. (Actually, I have thought of a second offer that would be "worth it": Democratic support for public campaign financing of Texas elections.)

Short of a Democratic (and, really, also, a Republican-to-Libertarian) pledge to support such a change, there’s really nothing the Democrats can offer the Greens.

And, this isn’t just about Texas Greens. It’s about Green parties in general. Don’t bargain unless you can get something concrete, and valuable, in return.

April 11, 2014

Looks like #GregAbbott is mad about being fingered as a press dodger

Poppy Bush, one Republican unafraid of being with Obama.
Dallas Morning News photo
A new campaign email from our state's top legal spendthrift blasts Wendy Davis for having a "closed door" meeting with President Obama while he was in Austin for the LBJ Library's civil rights conference. Here's a sample of one story link:
Obama spoke briefly with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis after his civil rights speech at the Lyndon Johnson presidential library.
Davis campaign spokescritter Bo Delp also noted the "brief." Other media links say the same, that it was a brief meeting.

And? Abbott's whining?

A POTUS is also leader of his party, not just of the USofA and mythically of the free world. Shrub Bush held off the record, or personal, meetings with GOP candidates regularly. And Davis was visibly at the event even before the private meeting with Obama. So, the idea that Davis is deliberately dodging Obama also doesn't wash. She was at the same event as him, and was seen going behind those mythical closed doors with him.

Besides, as pictured, Poppy Bush saw Obama. There you go.

However, that hyped hypocrisy all pales in comparison to walking out of his own campaign called press conference. Or rather, never walking into it in the first place. Abbott's rightly been getting nailed for this, and now, this is his cheap, thin-skinned way of firing back.

I'm sorry, "walking" is a word that when literally, implies use of one's legs. He knows it's a dirty liberal trick to talk about walking, standing or anything similar. I promise not to reference this further ... except when it's necessary to do so.

I mean, even for Abbott, this is sophomoric.

Notice that he doesn't even talk about his own appearance, or the general GOP comment, on the LBJ civil rights seminar.

April 10, 2014

#NateSilver and #FiveThirtyEight turd-polish with 'Inflation hurts poor more'

Nate Silver, posing for a cheap knockoff of Rodin's "The Thinker."
Photo from The Guardian.
Nate Silver apologists, stop it.

It's true that Nate himself didn't write this piece, but he's the editor in chief who let this dreck slide.

My header pretty much matches the story's of "Inflation may hurt the poor more."

My counter-header should have been: "Dear Nate Silver: No shit, Sherlock?"

Or: "Reading FiveThirtyEight may hurt fanboys more."

Anyway, on to why this piece is a total teh suck.

Ben Casselman offer this early graf:
We tend to talk about inflation as a single number affecting the whole economy. But everyone experiences a slightly different rate of inflation for the simple reason that we all spend money on different things. The price of cigarettes matters primarily to smokers; the price of diapers affects mostly parents of young children; and the price of gas is a much bigger deal to someone with an 80-mile daily commute than to someone who only takes the car out for weekend excursions.
First, there's the rhetorical "we" that is a straw man for what's about to follow, namely that one of Nate's sages will set you the idiot straight of your naive thoughts.


This ain't new or even close. It's part of the old "buy hamberger instead of steak, you poor moochers."

You know? The "different inflation" is exactly why wingnuts and neolib fellow travelers argue for chained CPI and similar. You know, like neolib fellow travelers such as Obama's best buds at the Center for American Progress arguing for a chained CPI. So, it IS a policy piece of sorts, despite Casselman later claiming it isn't. 

Third, the "long term" and how this is unusual? None of the claims that this is different go back before the mid-1930s and much doesn't go back before the mid-1950s. And, plenty of economists, including Thomas Piketty as part of his massive new book, reviewed here by Silver's bete noire, Paul Krugman, say that the New Deal era up to Nixon's time was an anomaly.

Fourth? That's not all, folks. Watch me, Ben Casselman, invent quintiles!
To figure out how inflation varies by income, I divided the population into five groups by earnings, then calculated how much different income groups spend on each of more than 150 goods and services.
What would we ever do without such brilliance?

Thanks, Nate Silver; how did anybody not named Matt Ygelsias write such incredible insight? Well ... the rhetorical "we" and other stuff reminds me of Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo. It reads like a pedantic high school teacher from the city in his first small-town classroom.

Meanwhile, among other headers on that page? "Jeb Bush has as Good of a Shot as Anybody." Wow!

I never would have fucking known that without the help of Nate Silver and his gang. 

Bottom line? Per the likes of Michael Wolff, this exemplifies everything wrong with "branded" journalism. 

This is also a bright line. I'm putting a "no-follow" on every link to Silver from now on, too.  For more on how the place is pretty much all wet, go here. Speaking of that link, I wonder if Nate has asked Ben to send Paul Krugman a link to that piece. Because, you know, Krugman is so jealous of Silver he probably never realized that inflation hurts poor people more.

NYT misses forest for the trees on Ford in China

Oh, this New York Times piece about the rise of Ford (and other non-Chinese automakers) in China is nice, or "nice," as far as it goes. It tells something about the growth in non-Chinese car sales. It tells a bit about why. It tells a bit about how Chinese carmakers are kind of worried.

But, it tells nothing about the "why" of the 50-50 joint venture requirements for foreign carmakers. It includes not telling that deals of this general nature apply to all sorts of foreign manufacturers. It includes not telling that this is done so that the Chinese can steal foreign technology.

It hints at possibly telling that story with this graf:
State-controlled giants largely provide the labor and government connections for the joint ventures: Shanghai Automotive is a partner for General Motors and Volkswagen; Guangzhou Automobile is the partner for Toyota; Changan Automobile is a partner for Ford; and Dongfeng Motor juggles partnerships with Nissan, Honda, Peugeot and Kia.
And a bit more here:
 Most of the state-owned giants have experimented with their own brands, but with limited success. Their offerings frequently look a lot like the cars from their partners.
But, the "whys" of what that could involve aren't spelled out.

Nobody asks if the state-owned companies are failing because they haven't stolen enough technology yet, or gotten the workplace skills to build those components, or haven't bribed people enough to get those components, or if bribery was part of their past success before things like pet food with melamine

And, speaking of stealing and bribery? The whole element of bribery is missing.

NPR's Marketplace program had a piece on that last week. There's bribing people to get jobs at Ford instead of a Chinese maker. There's bribing people to get those "government connections" and much more.

That said, Marketplace didn't ask the really big questions.

Given that "engagement" with China was supposed to move the country more toward democracy in particular and "rule of law" in general, why is it still not happening? Or, to the degree a Ford is willing to pay some of these bribes, hire shady middlemen, etc., does it just write this off as "part of the cost of doing business"? Does it even care about "engagement"?

Texas GOP responds to LBJ civil rights 50th anniversary event

Former presidents Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Jimmy Carter, and some Republican guy named W. all spoke in Austin yesterday and today at the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon B. Johnson campaign for civil rights.

Carter said we can't use the idea that "LBJ did it" to excuse us from not continuing to do the work that's still needed today. Clinton acknowledged his political debt to LBJ. (That said, Carter in pandering to Reagan Democrats in 1976 already, and Clinton in things like crack vs. powder cocaine, saw the light more after they finished their presidencies than before.)

But, even though that W. Bush guy is a Republican, and gave the finale of the presidential speeches, that doesn't represent all Republican opinion in the state. Because he's a squish and a liberal and not a true conservative, you know.

Rick Perry says that talk of civil rights is an attempt to distract from his record as Texas' job creator in chief. He said his record shows he favors full civil rights for all minimum-wage, no-benefits jobs.

Ted Cruz said that civil rights today is a code word for affirmative action which is a code word for quotas which is all about socialism. Besides, Cruz says, since the bible says there is no Jew or Gentile, that means that Jesus knows we don't need civil rights, especially since the Old Testament warns us not to mix different kinds, including not mixing "chosen" and "unchosen" people, you know?

John Cornyn repeats what Ted Cruz said because, per LBJ, Cornyn has voluntarily put his pecker in Cruz's pocket. Per Ted Cruz's bible-quoting and Cornyn's pecker-surrendering, Cornyn refuses to tell us whether he's circumcised or uncircumcised.

Louie Gohmert says complaining about civil rights is a plot to steal the precious bodily fluids of good, upstanding people who just happen to have upstanding race, gender and skin color.

Greg Abbott (who may again be MIA) says we can't afford pre-kindergarten, let alone full-day pre-K, for all students in our state until we do a rigorous cost analysis of the benefits. That cost analysis will include figuring out which of today's 4-year-olds is most likely to vote be allowed to vote, especially under terms of his proposed Vote Improvement Protection —Access Security System. (There's an acronym for that.) Abbott also indicated he has a "highly respected" educational guru to help him do all this. Beyond looking for valid drivers licenses and administering pre-1964 style poll tax questions, the (read the acronym) allows all voting stations to ignore the Americans with Disabilities Act for all voters under the rank of Attorney General or retired Attorney General. When asked about how he could stand for such blatant favoratism, he said it was a dirty liberal trick  to ask him to "stand" for anything.

Dan Patrick says getting some Ill Eagles to do lots of work for cheap, because they're Ill Eagles, doesn't violate their civil rights, because they have none, since they're Ill Eagles.

David Dewhurst says he agreed with all of the above in spades, because Ted Cruz put the Dew's pecker into a pig in a blanket 2 years ago. He added that he favors civil rights for (the grounds crew employees) at any country club where he is a member, and then asks Dan Patrick if he's got any phone numbers.

Jerry Patterson although previously promising to give women all the guns they want, is silent, then starts randomly waving his gun in the air and shooting.

Joe Straus says to himself that he is damn sure glad that Jewish counts as white with a fair amount of Republicans today.

April 09, 2014

And, the winner of the 2014 Masters is?

Semi-regular and regular readers here know that I'm somewhat of a golf fan. I definitely follow the four majors, keep 3/4 of an eye on the FedEx and Ryder cups, and have been for decades.

The first major I remember was the 1975 Masters, where Jack Nicklaus held off Johnny Miller and Tom Weiskopf (possibly the best 1-major winner ever) by a stroke. Dan Jenkins (who else) had a great piece for Sports Illustrated. It's so good there's even a book about it.

We do know one thing — Tiger Woods won't be winning this one.

And, not only does his back injury and surgery lengthen the odds of him catching Nicklaus' 18 majors, his shot at another Jack record is also in trouble.

Nicklaus finished in the top 10 in at least one major a year for 22 straight. Tiger's been doing it himself since 1997, but obviously, in a worse-case scenario, he's out of both Opens and has only the PGA to try.

So, who will win it?

I think Phil Mickelson is still iffy, due to his own back concerns. Scratch him.

Almost nobody repeats at Augusta; besides Tiger and Jack, Nick Faldo's the only one to do it, so scratch Adam Scott.

I'm looking for somebody with experience, too, so scratch the young guns.

I'm looking for a European to do it this year.

Maybe a Spaniard.

No, not you, Miguel Angel Jimenez.

As much for drama as for possibility ...

Step on down, Sergio Garcia!

Seriously, he's vastly stepped up his putter work the last 18 months. That's key to Augusta.

Second, his head seems to be in at least a halfway good place.

And, third, beyond those realities, it would make a great story. It's a good story for him, and he would be the first Spaniard to win a major since the death of Seve Ballesteros.

If you give me two other options, both for story lines as well as realities, I'll take Henrik Stenson and Ernie Els.

Stenson winning puts Swedish men's golf on the map, and puts Swedish golf in general back on the map, where it's been missing since the retirement of Annika Sörenstam.

Els? Gets his fifth major, his coveted green jacket, and his third leg of the career Grand Slam, all to keep pace with Phil after the Mick won the Open last year.

I'm ruling out Jason Day for reasons similar to Mickelson. I don't think that thumb is 100 percent yet.

April 08, 2014

Internet commenting is about to get even worse

What could be worse than flame wars and trolls?

Ohh, nothing major ....

Other than ...

Leading online content management company Disqus announcing it will be selling advertorial content into comments sections. I've already Tweeted to Disqus that it should stand by for flame wars directed at said advertorial and that I support the idea of said flame wars.

If you're a newspaper, or other website, there's a simpler solution, if you've not already done it.

It's called a ...


If you're not a newspaper, but call yourself a "media company" (used loosely?) or worse, a "content provider," then prove you believe that what you write about is of value enough to have people subscribe and ...


If not, stand by for deliberate flaming of you, of Disqus and of advertisers whose content is in the advertorial. Perhaps flaming of all three of you at once.


I take that back; I know what could be even worse.

Facebook selling advertorial into comments on our personal feeds.

Eich and Mozilla — SJW overkill or legitimate action?

Brendan Eich/Wikipedia photo
By now, everyone tuned in to gay rights news knows that protests by gay activists and others concerned about civil rights have forced Mozilla co-founder Brendan Eich out of his CEO's position, after it was discovered he had given money to the campaign to pass Proposition 8 in California.

Then, even as Eich was stepping down, senior leaders in promoting gay awareness, starting with Andrew Sullivan, cried foul.Contra the likes of Sully and Tod Robberson of the Dallas Morning News, while Eich has his right to his personal views, activists have a right to protest against Mozilla hiring him as CEO.

Besides, as the Guardian has documented, this is part of a pattern of Eich's, who also made donations to Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul, and to Buchanan back when he was challenging Poppy Bush in the early 1990s.

Another gay activist, whom I certainly respect more than Sullivan in general, Michelangelo Signorile, tells Sully, at least, to get a clue (and drop some pretenses). Another gay activist, John Aravosis, says, please, don't call this personal choice.

He then brings up the issue of, what if Eich had contributed to the KKK? Well, given that Eich contributed to Ron Paul at the time that racist newsletters were going out from his congressional office under his byline as publisher, that's not just a theoretical question.

(And, apologies for saying in a Facebook thread that Aravosis' stance was the same as Sully's.)

Aravosis, in a later post, was worried somewhat, but didn't go into Sully territory. However, he does worry about the likes of Suey Park and Brittany Cooper of #CancelColbert infamy, steering something like this in the ditch. I think he's probably about right on this issue.

Per people who say that inclusiveness should include being inclusive of the refusing-to-be-inclusive, tosh. That's as nonsensical as "the set of all sets which are not members of this set" or similar.

Per people claiming this isn't free speech? Sure it is. It's certainly more that than money is, contra John Roberts. More than that, banding together to threaten boycotts or other actions is explicitly freedom of assembly, the most forgotten of the four freedoms of the First Amendment.

People who know me know that I am by no means in the corner of the "social justice warrior" movement. But, this was more broadly supported than that. And, no, contra Sully, he wasn't being asked to "repent." Actually, Mozilla was asked to repent.

As for the claim that SJWs should now stop using JavaScript because he invented it? Tosh.

I don't stop reading what Harrison Schmitt said about walking on the moon and doing professional geology work during Apollo 17 because we found out 20-plus years later that he's a climate change denier. Red herring.

As for the idea that right-wingers could do similar boycotts?

Well, we already know that Hobby Lobby, wanting a contraceptive exemption from portions of Obamacare, invests in contraceptive makers, and as of yet, I've heard bupkis about any threatened Religious Right boycott of it. It may happen soon enough, but I'll give you 50-50 odds that, other than the fringes, the real fringest, of the Religious Right, there is no such boycott threat.

Related to that, Brian Beutler nails it on wingnuts getting into a fake tizzy on this issue.

My example, even more than his? If conservatives really care about freedom of speech and freedom of assembly (technically, it's NOT freedom of "association") then they can start working to repeal "right to get fired" laws in red and pale-pink states. (It's my blog, and I'll call said laws what they are.) As every liberal, and every honest conservative, knows, "right to get fired" laws are regularly used to stifle free speech at the workplace.

OTOH (April 8): OKCupid's CEO (remember, that's the company that started this all) lives in a partial glass house. Even if Yagan has rethought some of his politics, per the MoJo story, this may have been a PR stunt as much as anything. And so, would-be gay lovers? You've been used like a $2 tool. How's it feel?

On the third hand (April 8) Jamelle Bouie says not so quick on castigating OK Cupid's Sam Yagan as a hypocrite. And, I'll at least halfway agree, since Yagan's was a contribution to a politician and Eich's Prop 8 was to a special-interest cause. With a Congresscritter like Cannon, he may have been pushing a specific piece of legislation Yagan liked. And Eich's longer list of contributions, to me, as noted above, establish a pattern.

Warrning: contains trigger alerts

I guess I should go "meta" with this, noting that this blog post has further trigger alerts inside that of the header.

And, if you're worried about trigger alerts, I guess I should make a trigger alert out of that. And, should probably go "meta" about that, too.

What ... er ... triggered this deep concern of mine?

The photo at left, which is about CuriOdyssey (cute name) and was blogged about by Gnu Atheist leading light Jerry Coyne, to me highlights the Absurdistan in which "trigger alerts" generally dwell. Specifically, the bottom line is what's concerning to me.

In the back of my mind, for some time, I've thought about posting a "trigger alert" of some sort on every blog post I do about the "social justice warriors" movement, most notably its Atheism Plus incarnation. Warning: Atheism Plus blog tag link may trigger light-headed dysintellectualism.

As for Coyne, I don't know how much he, like biologist and Gnu Atheist buddy P.Z. Myers, dips at least a bit into the SJW angle, but this blog post of his gave me a good entree to the subject in general.

That all said, how and why have trigger alerts entered Absurdistan?

First, they're often about such minor issues as to trivialize the whole idea of trigger alerts. We probably haven't plumbed the depths yet, though. I'm still waiting for a blog post about "gluten sensitivity" to have a trigger alert like this: "Warning — this blog post contains a picture of bread; this could cause a psychosomatic reaction in people with gluten sensitivity." Or, per the photo ...

Second, they presume that all (sexual abuse, rape, war combat) survivors, if that's the target audience, will react the same to the material at hand. Related to that, amongst the more tribalist of social justice warriors, they assume that all members of the target audience SHOULD react in the same way. And, that's simply not true.

The worst iterations of that way of thought perpetuate stereotypes. And, since SJWs are supposed to be about deflating stereotypes as part of their work, that's another reason for them to stop.

Until we get to that point, though? (That's if we ever do, of course.)

We need more of those "trigger alerts," to finish trivializing the fair degree of trivialization that "Trigger alert" has already been put through. To riff on Paul Harvey? "Stand by for trigger alerts!"

Beyond that, some potential triggers are GOOD, even if gruesome.

Let's take war coverage in the American mainstream media. Photo and video coverage of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have generally been much less graphic than, say, Vietnam. When graphic injuries and death have been displayed, it's always been about American soldiers. Doorknob forbid we show body splatter after a Predator drone hits an innocent Afghan wedding party.

April 07, 2014

Baseball fans, where were you on Aaron-watch 40 years ago?

Hank Aaron, April 8, 1974.
April 8, 1975 was when Hank Aaron passed Babe Ruth with homer 715, and became the new all-time home run champion.

And now, 40 years later, it's time for reminiscing.

First, on the personal side. People under 40 aren't familiar with what sports coverage was like before the proliferation of sports-specific cable channels. WGN, WTBS, and KTLA in Los Angeles were some sort of "superstations," but none of them yet had true nationwide reach.

Growing up in western New Mexico, we got KTLA as part of our basic (there was no premium) cable package, in part because the Albuquerque Dukes were the L.A. Dodgers' AAA farm club. (I still can't get used to the name of the new team, the Albuquerque Isotopes.)  So, I heard Vin Scully on Dodgers games, as that was their home TV station. And, on some nights, all the way in Gallup, N.M., this Cards fan could pick up KMOX, a radio superstation, and hear the gravelly voice of Jack Buck calling Redbirds games.

Otherwise, you watched NBC for your national games of the week on Monday night; NBC had junked Saturday baseball and did only Monday night games, until it and ABC split rights in 1976 and NBC moved to Saturdays.

And fortunately for all of us, including the gracious-in-infamy table-setting pitcher, Al Downing, that game was on NBC on Monday night.

And, we get Curt Gowdy, not as gravelly as Buck, but enough. (I'm old enough to remember a fair chunk of Gowdy's broadcasting, and not just MLB. No, he wasn't Vin Scully. But, he wasn't as bad as some people make him out to be.)

I was 10 years old, and already then, an avid baseball fan in general, and Cards' fan above all, then a Dodgers fan of sorts after that.

Listening to different "calls" of the game, I also forgot that the Dodgers actually tried 1986 World Series goat Bill Buckner in the outfield; he was the left fielder who watched the ball go out. (And, he was kind of crappy as a defensive outfielder way back then.) And, Tom House, in the Braves' bullpen, had a magic glove, for a magic moment.

For additional calls? You can hear Scully, since he was the Dodgers' guy, and Milo Hamilton, the Braves' broadcaster, as well as Gowdy:

As for Aaron? As the AP story and many others note, he was relieved rather than jubilant. A boatload of racist hate mail had accumulated ever since he ended 1973 with 713 home runs. The two white fans who ran on the field during his home run trot certainly didn't help his nerves, or the moment in general.

Per this piece:
“If I were a white man, all America would be proud of me,” Aaron was quoted as saying. “But I’m black. You have to be black in America to know how sick some people are. I’ve always thought racism a problem, even with as much progress as America has made.”
Sadly, he was right then. Sadly, there's still a fair amount of rightness in those words 40 years later.

It seems 40 years is about right for such reminiscing, as it was for Apollo 11. You knew that everybody was aging enough that waiting until the 50th was too long. But, on the other hand, the 25th might seem too soon. With Apollo, there was the risk of it being triumphalist, coming soon after the downfall of the Soviet Union.

With Aaron, there was the risk that we didn't yet know how hard it might be to pass him. And, speaking of ...

Not only did Aaron become the new home run champion 40 years ago, he still is, in my book.

Sorry, Barry Bonds, you're not. And, Father Time is making sure Alex Rodriguez won't pass either of you. As for you ESPN writers who claim that the "greenies" Aaron may have taken can add just as much to one's batting as the best steroids? Sorry, Jim Bouton has already emphatically said you're wrong.
To his eternal credit ... Bouton not only disagreed, but got it exactly right. Some day, he says in the interview, baseball will have to reckon with years and years of records that will be artificially inflated, distorted beyond all measure, by the effects of a drug that lets you keep working out when the guys next to you – or before you, chronologically – have to drop the barbell. It was Bouton, after all, who had written in the eternal Ball Four that if a pitcher could take a pill that guaranteed him a) 20 wins and b) that he’d die five years sooner, he would’ve swallowed it before you finished that “b)” part.
Aaron himself was ... circumspect seven years ago, but it's clear that he's not totally on board with Bonds' claims, either. (And, while it's an overrated stat of the past, Aaron is still the all-time RBI leader.) And, a favorite player of mine, and presumed non-roider? Albert Pujols is likely also to fall short, though he may nick the 700 ticker tape before moving off the field.

And, he's not alone. Per this story, other players, like Ken Singleton, still consider Hank the champ.

It's hard comparing eras, and comparing hypotheticals, too. Would Ruth still be the all-time leader if he hadn't started his career as a pitcher? Would Ted Williams have passed Ruth before Aaron did, if not for three full years, and most of two others, of military duty in two wars? I'll put at least 50-50 odds if not better on a "yes" on that. On the other hand, without playing in The House that Ruth Built and Fenway, would their stats be different? What about Willie Mays missing all of one year and most of another in the military? I'll give you 50-50 on that, too, or near to it. Or Mickey Mantle having good bones and knees? I'll say "possible," while noting we're in a wider territory of hypotheticals now. (That said, Teddy Ballgame had his own bits of fragility; no guaranteeing he would have held up for 22 years.)


Sadaharu Oh, with his 868 homers and all? He had a nice passing of Aaron, but he never made that claim himself to be the greatest home run masher ever. Josh Gibson? Great player. Did he hit 800 HRs of the wildest of tales or not? Not in official games, to be sure; we do know that his 80-HR season included barnstorming games and more, and even then may be a myth. We do know that it was against outclassed competition, because progenitors of the racists who sent Aaron death threats wouldn't let him play in the major leagues.

Unfortunately, this is all part of the 40 years of reflection, as well. So is the diminishing number of American blacks playing baseball, though it continues to draw Hispanics, including Caribbean blacks and browns, and Asians, and a few Europeans, even. With all that, even if it's not America's game, anymore, it's still all-American in its own way.

Now, if umps would only enforce 20-second pitch counts. That said, the record-setter game, a 7-4 Braves win, clocked at 2:27, while the Cardinals' April 6, 2014 2-1 loss to the Pirates, with about the same amount of pitching changes, but a lower score, came in at 2:29.

Tawdriness and favoritism at the White House

Methinks the man on the right
is not "objecting" that much.
No, it's not quite like Bill Clinton auctioning off the Lincoln Bedroom for sleepovers.

But, the "selfie" that Boston Red Sox slugger David Ortiz took at the White House when the Sox, as reigning World Series champs, visited last week, is a bit upsetting.

The "selfie" idea is getting beaten into the ground in general.

Second, in line with Ellen DeGeneres at the Oscars, we start wondering if Ortiz's photo wasn't necessarily for personal narcissism, but like Ellen, was for commercial capitalism with Samsung.

Third, according to some Olympians, we find out that you ain't supposed to do that.

Ortiz says it wasn't a marketing stunt. OTOH, he's never explained exactly how he wound up being on a leaked roiders' list.

Samsung claims the same. OTOH, they're retweeting the pic, and probably getting more value out of it with its alleged spontaneity.
Samsung hired Ortiz to be its "social media insider" on April 1. Alex Radetsky, president and founder of Radegen Sports Management, the marketing firm that has represented Ortiz for 12 years, told Mashable that the deal doesn't require Ortiz to snap selfies with the President or anyone else. "It certainly was not part of the deal. it was spontaneous on his part," said Radetsky. ...

Since April 1, Ortiz has posted 11 photos on his Twitter feed at the time of this writing. Samsung Mobile US later retweeted the photo as well. A Samsung rep told The Boston Globe that “We were thrilled to see the special, historic moment David Ortiz captured with his Galaxy Note 3 during his White House visit. It was an honor to help him capture such an incredible and genuine moment of joy and excitement. Similar to the selfie Ellen was able to capture during the Oscars, this was an opportunity for David to share the incredible moment with his fans."
So, color me skeptical.

Also, per the Olympians, did Ortiz and others get a similar warning? If so, and Ortiz shot anyway, it was premeditated indeed.

So, does Dear Leader cut a cut of the action? If not now, after Jan. 20, 2917, will Samsung cut a check? Even ask him to do a commercial? Or, accept a $100K speaker's fee?

We have this from Ortiz's "spontaneousness" link:
Two days after the photo circulated, White House Spokesman Jay Carney said the White House "objected" to the photo. "I can tell you that as a rule the White House objects to attempts to use the President’s likeness for commercial purposes. And we certainly object in this case," Carney said
Again, call me back about 33 months from now. And, tell us, per the "commercial" objection, if somebody from Samsung didn't even talk to 1600 Pennsylvania in advance.

Some people may call me a cynic rather than a skeptic, but I don't believe the peddled-for-public-consumption story line, nor do I believe nobody collaborated on writing that story line.

Obamacare: What next? And how good is it?

The Columbia Journalism Review has a good round-up of "the current state of affairs" now that we're past the end of the first enrollment period.

It covers what it likely will and will not do. Sorry, fellow liberal friends, the will NOTS included that it likely will NOT significantly reduce the number of uninsureds and it will NOT do much of anything for cost control
Obamacare further bakes in the inequalities that exist in the US healthcare system. The law makes these inqualities more transparent with the different options offered on the exchanges.
Note to Obamiacs — Again, this is what you get with a law largely written by and for insurers. Sure, it's "nice" that the House GOP is quietly passing a few tweaks to repair minor issues that Obama's wanted done for some time. But, none of those address major issues.

Those major issues begin and end with cost control, and cost control throughout our whole healthcare system. As I've blogged before, for example, electronic medical records, so far at least, are more a boon to the companies creating the software than they are to cost control. Chief Roberts ruling that Medicaid expansion couldn't be required will continue to be a drag, no matter how many other fixes are passed.  And, when a major newspaper columnist struggles with the paperwork of his private insurer, Obamacare will be a half a solution at best as long as its centered on private insurers in general and US private insurers in particular.

In other words, in reality, CJR isn't telling us a lot of new stuff. And CJR's roundup includes links to a number of mainstream news sites that don't have any tribalism skin in the game, whether Obamiac or Tea Party. This is all straight news, and per the links from my previous blogging, it's not anything that should surprise a thoughtful person.

Between the lines, it's asking us to examine our tribalism of political rooting on this issue. It's asking Obama's defenders how much they really want to defend a neoliberal half solution that like many a "good," may well indeed be the enemy of (and obstructor of) the "better" or "best."

And, it's that issue that goes beyond reading between the lines. A lot of Obamiac and Obamiac lite types still want to say one of two things:

1. It's the best he could have done at the time;
2. It's a foot in the door.

On the first? That's about as right, or as wrong, as the claim that what we finally got on a stimulus package was the best he could have done. Just as he "compromised away the compromise" in advance on stimulus negotiation talks (don't believe the BS that nobody knew the Great Recession was that bad, unless you want to say Obama's whole 2009 economic team was that fucking incompetent)

On the second? To expand on the good being the enemy of the best, this relies on several bad assumptions. The first bad assumption, never made by me, is that neoliberals like Obama want anything other than a market-based solution, or "solution," to our health care problems. The second is that, on top-down changes on health care, we'll have more than one bite at the apple in the next two decades or so. I never fully bought into that one, nor do I buy into a subset of that one, that a bunch of red-state governors will finally see the light on Medicaid expansion. The third is the one that CJR pointed out, the idea that this foot in the door would be transformative, when it's not.

And, I haven't even tackled, in this blog post, the number of mandates and requirements of what actually passed Congress and was signed into law by Dear Leader in 2009 that have since been delayed, with some of them likely to get delayed again. In short, with all the other scare quotes in this piece, to some degree, what we have right now is "Obamacare," not Obamacare. That said, there's no guarantees that the full deal will do much to tackle the primary issue of reining in health care costs. That said, a single payer system likely would not do the same in and of itself.

Obamacare may nip at the edges of the current "culture" of health care. But, it doesn't do a Kuhnian paradigm shift. And THAT is how it's ... not transformative.

Theoretically, we can do better, by basics of logic.

But, in actuality, maybe we can't.

And, if that's the case, we might as well he honest about it, rather than lighting Obamacare birthday candles or something.