April 26, 2014

Texas psychology: inferiority complex and 5 states of grieving

Political pundit and analyst Jim Moore has written about how Texans, as a generalization, have some degree of inferiority complex. He says it largely relates to Texas’ early Anglo history — a state that was broke in its years as a separate republic, a state with its fair share (for Anglos, of course) of Indian troubles, and more.

That said, I think much of this cuts both ways. That, in turn is part of why I came up with the nickname of Pointy Abandoned Object State as a riff on Lone Star State.

Beyond that, covering an inferiority complex with a superiority complex? It’s been 175 years since Anglo Texas got its independence from Mexico and 150 since the end of the Civil War. It’s been 125 years or more since the last Indian battle in the state.

Hence my header. I relate this to Elizabeth Kubler-Ross’ five stages of grieving, as overrated, and as sometimes outrightly wrong, as the concept is.

For the unfamiliar, this is the old Denial-Anger-Bargaining-Depression-Acceptance program. And I argue that battling an inferiority complex with a superiority complex is denial, or at best, somewhere between denial and anger. That’s not to say that it was understandable … 100 years ago.

But, it’s time to move on. Since that was 100 years or more ago, Texans have no room to bargain. What’s needed is to be honest about what’s good with the state, honest about what’s not good, and honest about how hard it will be to fix some of the not good.

So, per Jim Moore, the majority of Texans who have an inferiority complex couched in a superiority complex, otherwise known as Texas exceptionalism, need to stop denying that, stop being angry over the long-ago actual incidents of inferiority, and stop bargaining for a change in history that can’t happen.

Be depressed. Be depressed that the official Texas state shit does indeed stink at times.

And then we’re on to acceptance. Accept that Texas has an abundance of solar energy, even if the state has done little to harness it, unlike wind energy. Accept that, if water problems are adequately managed, that Texas still has a strong agricultural future. Accept the degree of multiculturalism and ethnic diversity in Texas’ main cities.

Accept that we have Republicans who might want to undercut wind energy, even, if it grows stronger. Accept that political leaders of both parties gave us a smoke-and-mirrors water projects funding mechanism. Accept that even a lot of Democrats don't truly grasp how much anthropogenic climate change may change the state. Accept that a lot of Republicans hate multiculturalism. Accept that a lot of Democrats still can't do well in getting the Hispanic portion of that multicultural state out to vote.

But, back to the first paragraph. Accept that Texas has no need to boast. To riff on Teddy Roosevelt, Texans, speak softly and act naturally. (And, no, "Texas exceptionalism" boasting is not genetically natural.)

April 25, 2014

#Wrigley100: Babe Ruth and the 'called shot' vs #Bartman

Babe Ruth clearly indicating something in Wrigley Field, Oct. 1, 1932.
Photo via Wikipedia.
As dyed-in-the-wool (or dead on Waveland, heh, heh) baseball fans know, this is the 100th anniversary of Wrigley Field in Chicago.

ESPN recently listed its Top 100 moments at Wrigley. (Sidebar: I didn't realize the Bears played football there until 1970. I thought Soldier Field was older.)

No. 2? The infamous "called shot" game from the 1932 World Series, in which Babe Ruth may, or may not, have pointed to somewhere in Wrigley with his bat, and thus may, or may not, have been calling for hitting a home run after Charlie Root got 2 strikes on him.

To me, this is No. 1. It's No. 1 in part because of the mythos, reinforced the relative paucity of evidence -- we do have some film, but not much -- and by Root's vociferous denial that Ruth was calling anything, claiming he would have beaned him if he was.

Really? Let's first look at quotes from the Wikipedia link above on the "called shot."
  • "Don't let anybody tell you differently. Babe definitely pointed." — Cubs public address announcer Pat Pieper (As public address announcer Pieper sat next to the wall separating the field from the stands, between home plate and third base. In 1966 he spoke with the Chicago Tribune "In the Wake of the News" sports columnist David Condon: "Pat remembers sitting on the third base side and hearing [Cubs' pitcher] Guy Bush chide Ruth, who had taken two strikes. According to Pat, Ruth told Bush: 'That's strike two, all right. But watch this.' 'Then Ruth pointed to center field, and hit his homer,' Pat continues. 'You bet your life Babe Ruth called it.'")
  • "My dad took me to see the World Series, and we were sitting behind third base, not too far back…. Ruth did point to the center-field scoreboard. And he did hit the ball out of the park after he pointed with his bat. So it really happened." Associate Justice John Paul Stevens, United States Supreme Court
  • "What do you think of the nerve of that big monkey. Imagine the guy calling his shot and getting away with it." - Lou Gehrig
  • The Commissioner of Baseball, Kenesaw Mountain Landis, attended the game with his young nephew, and both had a clear view of the action at home plate. Landis himself never commented on whether he believed Ruth called the shot, but his nephew believes that Ruth did not call it
  • Washington Post legendary columnist Shirley Povich, detailed in an interview with Hall of Fame catcher Bill Dickey. "Ruth was just mad about that quick pitch, Dickey explained. He was pointing at Root, not at the centerfield stands. He called him a couple of names and said, "Don't do that to me anymore, you blankety-blank."
So, hard to say, but it adds to the mystique, right? And, of the collected quotes, three say he called the shot, and the others are kind of ambivalent.

Relatively recently discovered footage leans more toward the idea of Ruth pointing his bat at the Cubs dugout, Wikipedia claims. That said, even that and him reportedly holding two fingers up to Root, or pointing at him, would have been something halfway like saying "here it comes." In other words, short of Ruth pointing to the centerfield scoreboard, Root arguably had reason to bean him anyway. Beyond the above, Ruth had already homered off him earlier in the game.

And speaking of ...

Let's look at B-R's play index for that game, to further question Root's claim.

First, the game was tied 4-4 entering the top of the fifth. Root wouldn't want to jeopardize that lead. And, beaning Ruth with 1 out would have brought up Lou Gehrig who, like Ruth, had already hit one homer in the game and by this point was a more dangerous batter than Ruth, even with the likes of "just" a Tony Lazzeri, not a Ruth or Gehrig, protecting him in the lineup.

So, especially with two strikes on Ruth, from quick-pitching or whatever, no Root wouldn't have beaned him. He would have tried to strike him out. Beaning him with a two-strike count to know he would face Gehrig next in a tie game would have been stupid.

In actuality, he didn't and couldn't strike out Ruth. Gehrig then hit another homer too, at which point Root got yanked for Pat Malone.

So, Root may be right, but I kind of doubted it. He had reasons for his statement, of course. Root's not a HOFer, but he is arguably a member of the Hall of Very Good, winning more than 200 games and posting nearly 40 career WAR. And he'd like to be remembered for that

As for the Bartman game? That's No. 1 only for Cubs fans who want to scapegoat one of several fans reaching for a foul ball, while refusing to admit their team gave up 8 runs that inning because, again, Dusty Baker proved he didn't know how to manage a pitching staff, plus that being followed in Game 7 (remember, the Cubs had a 3-2 series lead) where the Cubbies had the biggest postseason implosion since the 1985 Cardinals in the A.D. (After Denkinger) game in the World Series.

Baker waited until three more batters after Luis Castillo eventually drew a walk before yanking Mark Prior, who had thrown 100 pitches or so already at the time of Bartman's hand of god or somebody, and was just in his second year in the league. Then Kerry Wood yakked up a lead in Game 7. Kyle Farnsworth dropped the ball in Game 6 out of the pen, with "help" from Mike Remlinger, but might not have done so if Baker had had him ready to go sooner.

I wouldn't even rank the Bartman game in the top 5 events at Wrigley. Among other things, I'd put Gale Sayers' 6-TD day ahead of it, as one of the best athletic performances in history.

And for anti-Cubs fans wanting to point a finger back, with a bit of schadenfreude, over their lovable losers schtick? I'd put Ron Santo's 1969 heel clicking higher on the list.

As far as saluting Wrigley's history, I'd put Aug. 7, 1988, the first night game at the Friendly Confines, above Bartman.

Texas GOP discusses Cliven Bundy

Texas Republican leaders were quick to defend Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, even before the librul media called him "sort of a welfare queen in a cowboy hat."


Rick Perry said that he couldn't say much of anything, on advice of counsel retained over the Public Integrity Unit veto, lest he be misinterpreted as intimidating somebody.

Ted Cruz said that the Bureau for Land Management reminded him of Castro's Cuba and therefore it was socialistic for trying to deny Bundy the right to freely appropriate land in the most libertarian of ways, by paying nothing for it. As for Bundy's talk about lazy Negros vs. hard-working Hispanics with better family structures than many whites, Cruz said, "Duh, look at me!"

John Cornyn said what Ted Cruz said because, per Lyndon Baines Johnson, Cornyn has voluntarily put his pecker in Cruz's pocket.

Louie Gohmert said "BLM? Blacklands Management? Black Land Management? Black Lazy Malingerers? Oh, yes, I agree with Bundy."
But he then qualified that, saying Hispanics only pretended to work hard until their first US-born anchor babies arrived.
Greg Abbott tried to claim the BLM was in the process of stealing millions of acres of Texas land when it actually has almost zero land in Texas. He then promised that questions about eminent domain for Keystone XL was just a trick by environmentalists to get him to mention that Earth Day was this week. He claimed that questions about seizure of the YFZ Ranch, knows for its previous fundamentalist Mormon ownwers and their underage marriages, was just a trick to remind people of Ted Nugent and underage girls. He then promised to tell even more lies about the BLM as preparation for his next suit against Obama. When asked about how he could have such apparent double standards, he said it was a dirty liberal trick to talk about him and a  "stand"-ard for anything.

He did add that Bundy was totally right about Hispanics. He said the Mexican-American wife he had recently discovered he had after 30-some years of marriage was proof of that.

Dan Patrick said Bundy was wrong about Hispanics. Although continuing to ignore his own getting some Ill Eagles to do lots of work for cheap, he said he knew that they stink and were contaminating America. Patrick said "no comment" if he had personal knowledge of the "contamination" from contracting venereal disease from a Hispanic.

David Dewhurst said he agreed that Hispanics were hard workers at every country club where he was a member. He said he was unfamiliar with Cliven Bundy, and wondered if he was related to Peg or Al Bundy.

Jerry Patterson promised to defend the Red River against Oklahoma and the BLM with the hogleg in his boot. He then invited Bundy to Texas, as long as he brought all his guns, and said he'd find Bundy land in the Christmas Mountains.

Ken Paxton touted his under-the-table financial genius, saying he would incorporate Bundy's ranch and sell stock to investors.

Joe Straus said to himself that he wished someone would let the air out of Abbott's wheelchair tires.

April 24, 2014

Nix on fake #Twitter and nix on #nukes

The government of Costa Rica is officially in high dudgeon over the latest revelations concerning the so-called "Cuban Twitter" social media program that the U.S. Agency for International Development created as ... wait for it ...

Yet another way to try to disrupt the government of Fidel Castro's Cuba.

From what Costa Rica's saying, this renders previous statements from Dear Leader's minions null and void.
Documents obtained by the AP show that contractors working on ZunZuneo went to extensive lengths to hide its ties to the U.S., using foreign companies and computer servers paid for via a bank account in the Cayman Islands. They did so after acquiring more than 400,000 Cuban cellphone numbers from the island country's state-run telecommunications provider.

The AP found that ZunZuneo's development team initially operated out of Central America. A USAID manager supervised the work of U.S. contractor Creative Associates International from an office in San Jose, an unusual arrangement that raised eyebrows in Washington, according to U.S. officials.  ...

The U.S. government has denied that the program was secret or that it had a political agenda.
And, this isn't out of the blue, either:
Costa Rica's Foreign Ministry told the U.S. Embassy in June 2009 that the plan to develop the social media network could lead to "political difficulties" for Costa Rica, and it refused to grant diplomatic status to two U.S. government contractors involved in the program, La Nacion, Costa Rica's largest newspaper, reported Tuesday.

According to an internal Foreign Ministry memorandum, Javier Sancho Bonilla, protocol and state ceremonial director for the ministry, said the project "could create a situation politically inconvenient since it can be interpreted that it would violate the principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other countries."
And, this is another one that can't be blamed on Bush, either.  Note that all dates involved are after Obama became president.

Glenn Greewald has more, though he's stil failed to write anything about the domestic threat of McCutcheon vs. F.E.C. (Don't think I've forgotten about that call-out, Glenn.)

The one takeaway is that this is an area where the National Security Agency in the U.S. and its counterpart in Britain, the General Communications Headquarters, are both active. I'm sure that, given 50-plus years of antagonism to Cuba (the AP story actually references the Kennedy-era Alliance for Progress), exploding conch shells, poisons, exploding cigars and more, there's more beneath the surface on this one.

How much more, who knows? After Congress gets more paperwork from AID, it may decide to shut the books again, after a private knuckle-rapping or two.

===

Meanwhile, the Marshall Islands wants all actual AND all believed but unadmitted nuclear-armed countries to disarm. And, it's filed suit with the International Court of Justice:
(Besides the United States) ... the countries targeted also include Russia, Britain, France, China, Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea. The last four are not parties to the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, but the lawsuits argue they are bound by its provisions under "customary international law." The nonproliferation treaty, considered the cornerstone of nuclear disarmament efforts, requires negotiations among countries in good faith on disarmament.
Reality? It has about zero chance of doing anything. The ICJ might well, based on a previous judgment in 1996, give a favorable ruling, but, who's going to enforce it? And, the parallel suit in US court will go nowhere.

But, I admire the action. Even if it won't change human nature, it challenges us to do the best we can to change it anyway. We still need a whiff or two of idealism from time to time.

I also like that all suspected, not just all declared, nuclear powers are named, even if they've not signed the Nonproliferation Treaty. You bet your sweet bippy that if you've got nukes, you should be bound to be part of disarmament discussions.

#Sabermetrics: The Pujols advantage over other big boppers at first base

When Miguel Cabrera signed his big new contract with Detroit earlier this year, the response of this blogger and many pro sports writers was: Too long. Specifically, we generally cited the similar contract of Albert Pujols.

There's two other first basemen of roughly the same age to throw into this mix. That's Prince Fielder, traded from Detroit to Texas to let Miggy move from third to first, and Ryan Howard.

But, there's one difference between them.

Pujols is a plus fielder at first; none of the others are. In fact, none of them are close.

A friend of mine scoffed when I called Pujols a plus fielder, but the record doesn't lie. First, there's the two Gold Gloves — and four Fielding Bible awards. But, let's move beyond that into sabermetrics, since FB uses them much more than GG traditionally has.

The basics? Prince Albert has a career total (which includes a few OF and 3B games) of 134 fielding runs. And he has a career positive of 1.9 dWAR. 

For reference, the fielding and mustache god of modern first basemen, Keith Hernandez, has only, yes, only, 117 fielding runs and 0.6 career dWAR.

Now, to the others.

Howard's long been regarded as a statue, and stats don't lie. He weighs in with -46 fielding runs and -12.4 dWAR for his career.

Fielder? A couple of years ago, a lot of allegedly sabermetrically informed writers and bloggers talked about when he'd lose his range at first. I got news for you all — he never had it. At -93 fielding runs and -17.8 dWAR, he's worse than Howard. He's had a slightly longer career, but not that much longer. In other words, on average, each has cost his team a little more than a full point of dWAR, and around 7-10 fielding runs, per year.

Miggy, actually, comes off as relatively not so bad. At -77 fielding runs and -12.0 dWAR, in a career longer than Fielder's, let alone Howard's, and noting that most of this was at third not first, perhaps some of us have been a bit hard on him? 

Actually, no. His first couple of years at 3B in Miami weren't too bad, but he soon looked like crap. Detroit, let us not forget, quickly moved him to first after trading for him, before getting the even more immobile Fielder.

(All Baseball-Reference stats are for all positions for those playing multiple spots.)

Just to dip to Fangraphs, on a cross check, on total zone runs and ultimate zone rating per 150 defensive games.
Hernandez: 121/(no UZR)
Pujols: 96/6.2
Cabrera: -7/-2.0
Fielder: -38/-5.5
Howard: 14/-3.4 (really)
All Fangraphs numbers are for first base only. 

I did not include Joey Votto in any comparisons, for two reasons.

First, he's got an even shorter MLB career to date. Second, he doesn't have the "statue" reputation.

Sidebar: this shows that "we" still have a ways to go in advanced defensive metrics. While Baseball-Reference is my go-to for stats, and I generally rate it over Fangraphs, Fangraphs has its value. This isn't the first time the two have differed a lot on defensive issues. I don't really believe Fangraphs on Howard; on the other hand, I don't totally believe B-R that Pujols is in the same league as Hernandez. On the third hand, B-R's advanced fielding says that Prince Albert has just six fewer ground ball double plays initiated than does the Merry Mex. For comparison, Howard has about 80 fewer and Fielder about 75 fewer, so, maybe B-R shouldn't be doubted quite so much as I think.

Anyway, given all that I wrote above, on fielding, it makes me wonder if Prince Albert hasn't even been underappreciated in some way.

Anyway, moving on ...

Future realities?

Cabrera could go to DH as early as next year, if the Tigers don't resign Victor Martinez, or land another DH-first person. That, in turn probably depends on other things, starting with whether or not they resign Max Scherzer.

Fielder? Mitch Moreland's at DH now, and hits arbitration next year. He could be traded, or not. Why he's not the primary 1B in Arlington now, I have no idea other than two words: "Ron Washington." Of course, we know what he thinks about sabermetrics.

Howard? He should be traded to an AL team, but no trades out of Philly (sorry, Cliff Lee) are happening until Ruben Amaro is finally fired. That said, given that Howard refuses to adjust a lot, he's not that good of trade bait, except to AL teams with a short right field. Calling the Steinbrenner brothers!

Pujols? He's still a plus fielder. He's said he'll take a day here and there of being "spotted" at DH, but, as long as he's an even fielder, as well as a plus fielder (he started a 3-6-3 double play recently) why would you do anything but keep him at first? This is also part of why on overall WAR, and even more WAA, he's a cut above Cabrera and at least that much above the others.

It's also an advantage to the team. If you have someone who's still bringing this level of power and who can at the same time make a positive contribution with the glove or, at minimum, even a few years down the road, not make a negative one, it gives you more lineup flexibility.

Speaking of adjustments, most of Pujols' early home runs have been on high strikes. Whether he's guessing well, has lost a few pounds (it looks possible), has gone to a lighter bat, or is quicker on turning on the ball without the fasciitis, or some combination of the above, I don't know. But something's happened.

This all also shows that, even if Pujols' contract still turns out to be a long-term overpay, and even if 1B is not a defense-first position, it's still going to be much less of an overpay than Cabrera's new one, or even Fielder's current one, in all likelihood; that said, Fielder being younger helps a bit. Howard? We already know the truth about his albatross; the Phillies are just lucky on its shorter length.

And, let's not forget that, with passing the 500-HR mark, he's probably more likely to pass 600 than most the others on this list are to pass 500. 

===

Welcome, visitors from Fangraphs and elsewhere. See some of my other recent baseball blogging, including my touting of a new Kozma Line as a sabermetric replacement for the old Mendoza line and, with the century mark at Wrigley, my take on Babe Ruth's called shot.

April 23, 2014

Can #Hamas and the #PLO really kiss and make up?

Well, they say they can, the New York Times reports, noting that they've talked about it before and failed.

Related: should they? (That of course depends in part on who's asking that question.)

That said, politics, and political enemies, make strange bedfellows.

Given that Israeli prime minster Bibi Netanyahu is in bed with people in his cabinet that make him look halfway sane, it's no wonder that the Palestinian Authority and Hamas have renewed unity government talks. And, this shouldn't have surprised either Israel or the US. Things like the PA (PLO) working to get officially accepted into more United Nations-affiliate organizations should have been a sign that the PA was tired of getting the back of the hand from the US as well as Israel.

This is yet another area where Dear Leader and both his current and previous foreign policy leaders, John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, have been all talk and no show, except when the show's been to give the PA the back of the hand.

I have repeatedly blogged about this, like here, based on leaks to al-Jazeera and other things, where the US continually threatened to turn the financial screws on the PA unless it kowtowed to every Israeli demand. At the same time, Obama never threatened the foreign aid funding for Israel.

Say what else one will about Poppy Bush, I'll give him credit for being the only president in the last 30 years to link foreign aid to Israel to it not building settlements on the West Bank, that is, Palestine.

Of course, I still won't hold my breath too much. The Palestinians have long been their own worst enemies. At the same time, the fact that Egypt's new secular government is overseeing negotiations between Hamas and the PA means we shouldn't expect a guaranteed failure.

On the other hand, if this does pan out, the US will now have a Netanyahu who is even more foaming at the mouth than normal. And, a Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan willing to exploit this for domestic Turkish wag the dog reasons if nothing else. And, Bibi's intransigence, silently supported in Washington, is at root.

As for the "should," in a big picture sense? I don't want it to happen until Hamas officially rejects Holocaust denial, among other things. As for expecting jihad of some sort to make all of Israel and Palestine Muslim? I had a Lutheran seminary professor say that we ought to evangelize Muslims at the point of a gun then cut their heads off before they could reconvert, and this was a full decade before 9/11.

And, it was more than 2,000 years ago, but Google the two words of "Hasmoneans" and "Idumeans" or similar. Judaism, although much more rarely, has itself occasionally evangelized at the point of a sword.

Update, April 23: Israel has officially suspended talks.

===

Related to all of this?

My ideal solution for Palestine would be:
1. Eliminate the Gaza Strip;
2. Give Palestine lands in the Negev in compensation;
3. Give Israel a decade to move people out of most of its settlements (the precise details of "most of" to be negotiated);
4. Without expecting a peace treaty, have a unified Palestine and Israel sign joint recognition documents, with the understanding that the PA and Israel will both likely want their equivalent of "presidential signing statements" as part of that;
5. Get the Saudis to give an under-the-table pledge to Israel that, unless it lurches further right, it will never be the target of a Saudi oil embargo.

And, now, I'll just crown myself as a more omnipotent version of John Rawls.

That said, Hamas has offered long-term truces to Israel before.

April 22, 2014

#Pujols joins history with No. 500 - top 20 coming soon

Prince Albert! Getty Images via NBC Sports
I said at the start of this season that I expected Albert Pujols to turn in a year halfway betrween 2011, his last year with the Cardinals, and 2012, his first one with the Angels.

Well, with 8 home runs, he's on pace to do that indeed. Plus, that eighth makes him the 26th player in MLB history to join the 500-HR club

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

And, with a new profile piece from Jayson Stark, we see just how rarified of a performer Pujols is.

With the Rangers struggling with a variety of injuries which, cumulatively, may be worse than Josh Hamilton for the Haloes, Pujols and Mike Trout have a chance to take that team places.

Pujols can take himself places, too.

Just 22 more home runs, for a 30-HR year, from Pujols puts him in the top 20 all time, and past such first basemen as Lou Gehrig, Fred McGriff, Willie McCovey, Frank Thomas, and Eddie Murray. That would leave him at No. 18. A 43-HR season, which I don't think is likely, shoots him past Jimmie Foxx, and 45 puts him past Mickey Mantle.

At the start of the year, I'd thought 43, or more 45, was ridiculous. But now, who knows?

It may be one last twilight year, but, if he can focus, and take a few more walks, who knows about this year.

And, ridiculous as it seems, with last year's injuries, he has to be in discussion for comeback player of the year.

And, he's still at least a bit above average as a fielder, and is probably underrated for his glove.

==

Beyond this?

On the personal side, it is kind of sad.

I understand why the Cards cut ties with him. It's a business, and they didn't think he was worth that investment. But it hurts a bit seeing him in a different uni, especially when it's different, but has red.

I$ the U$ #environmental movement $adly a$tray?

Per the joking old college letter, I think my sentiments in the headline are pretty clear, at least in terms of the big "gang green" environmental organizations.

Smaller ones like the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, or mid-sized ones like the Coalition for Biological Diversity, are generally OK, but Sierra Club and others?

They have their idea on another kind of green.

That's how they got the name Gang Green, by trading ardent environmentalism for Democratic Party access. That, in turn, brought them the possibility of more donors.

So, for the "gang green" environmental groups deciding at the start of the Clinton Administration that cozying up to Democrats for political "access" was more important than being firmer on stances. Then, we have the topper, several years ago, of Sierra Club selling the rights to its name, for branding and marketing, to Clorox. There were certainly a few questions about Clorox's environmental commitment, and a boatload of unquestionable facts on its low standards on labor issues. I blogged more here and here about how this exposed authoritarian tactics of Sierra's national board and then-CEO Carl Pope.

But, when a big, rich (yes, relatively) environmental group pays just $33K a year for copy editors for its magazine, with a job based in downtown San Francisco, we know which "green" is speaking. We also know how much neoliberal gang green environmentalists really care about labor rights.

That said, there's some question of how much they even care about environmental issues that don't float the boats of rich neoliberal donors. Sierra was touting natural gas as a "bridge fuel" well after the possible and actual problems of fracking became known, and even as wellhead gas leaks that might undermine its claim as a "bridge fuel" also became apparent.

Sierra's not alone; witness Audubon getting halfway in bed with a subsidiary of Rio Tinto, the hardrock mining company with a history of environmental problems. The Audubon story is similar to Sierra's for another reason. The national HQ saw dollar signs and overrode the will and desire of a local chapter. This time, instead of suspending the board, like Sierra, Audubon created a new entity to bypass the old one.

And, it's not just this.

Witness the proliferation of the made-in-China tchotchkes passed out by the "Gang Green" groups, combined with the wasteful amount of mail, snail mail, not email, sent for solicitation efforts.

If you think this isn't true, Sourcewatch sets us clear on the bottom line for Gang Green:
These are heavily-staffed, well-funded non-profit corporations each with budgets in the tens of millions of dollars a year, offices in Washington, DC and other major cities, highly paid executive directors, and a staff of lobbyists, analysts and marketers. Big Green environmental groups together raise and spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year, most of it contributed by non-profit foundations and individual donors. Many of the Big Green groups accept funding from or partner with corporations, have representatives of major corporations on their boards of directors, and work with corporations through other organizations. 
There you go, in a nutshell.

This is why, again, I fear for how our government's celebration of the centennial of the National Park Service will turn out in 2016. I fear it will get the neoliberal corporatist treatment.

That said, maybe SUWA can protest at Arches, or CBD at Saguaro. We may be getting closer to that time.

Another Earth Day, a few thoughts

It's not a special anniversary Earth Day, but with things like the continued  delay in a Keystone XL decision by Team Obama, even as Dear Leader continues to push the Trans Pacific Partnership, I'll put a few thoughts on blogging paper.

First, though, a look back at my life at a few of those special anniversaries.

For me, 1995 was the first Earth Day special anniversary I really remember. At 25, it was a big one. Sure, Newt Gingrich and gang had just taken over the House. However, the CFC accord to protect the ozone layer was good news and global warming was not yet even a small cloud on most of our horizons. So, things were looking good then.

Next, on to 2000. Global warming was at least a small cloud on more horizons by then. Bill Clinton had negotiated the Kyoto Accords to address this. Unfortunately, he had not submitted them to the Senate. Doubly unfortunately, it was clear they would fail if he did, and that probably no more than half of Democrats, even those not up for re-election in 2000, would support them.

Then things got worse.

In 2005, for the 35th anniversary, we had President Bush having officially rejected Kyoto. After talking about carbon dioxide as a pollutant on the 2000 campaign trail, he had totally ditched that. He had also ditched EPA Administrator Christie Todd Whitman for actually taking him at his 2000 campaign word. Meanwhile, evidence for global warming and broader climate change, and its potential severity, continue to mount.

Then, 2010. Things seemed better with a Democrat in the White House, even though the economy was distracting from too many environmental concerns.

And now, today.

First, Keystone XL. President Obama is clearly, in my book, going to delay a decision until after the midterm elections, then approve it. If you deeply believe otherwise, I've got a sub-95 day in July in Phoenix to sell you.

Second, the Trans Pacific Partnership. How does this relate to climate change?

Simple. "Free" trade treaties that encourage additional international trade without the carbon tariffs to have the globe pay the environmental cost of all the shipping involved are inherently anti-environmental, as well as the labor issues they cause, and the environmental issues in countries such as China with low environmental regulatory standards. And, like the original NAFTA and WTO deals, transnational companies would have a shot at overriding US environmental regulations. Much more here.

Things have changed since 2005, or even 2010, in other ways. We're continuing to improve our degree of certainty on how much human activity is going to affect mean temperature increases across our planet. We're starting to figure out more of how climate change is related to large but sub-global seasonal weather issues, such as the "clipper" that gave the US Northeast a snow-heavy winter while exacerbating drought in California.

There's a third issue which I've briefly blogged about before.

The National Park Service's centennial is in 2016, and so far, I've heard very little "noise" from the White House about the run-up to this, celebratory plans, etc.

I'm afraid that what eventually gets wheeled out will be corporate heavy, too.

I'm not a James Kunstler, but I do sometimes have my degree of despair over the future of our planet. Climate change, as we mark another Earth Day, is one of the main drivers of such, though not the only one.

Add in the deniers, minimizers and skeptics. Add in the fact that Obama seems to have the least amount of focus on environmental issues of any Democratic president since Harry Truman. None of this helps.

Add in that minimizers and skeptics, to the degree they accept anthropogenic climate change, then switch gears to what I have previously called "salvific technologism." That's the belief in technology's saving (salvific) power, so much so that said belief in technology becomes an "-ism."

Well, the human ability to adapt is constrained by something that didn't exist in the Younger Dryas, or even, for the most part, in the Little Ice Age, or its predecessor, the Medieval Warm Period (which is still a bit cooler than we are today), and that's the modern big city, let alone the megacity. It's hard to "pack up and move" 20 million people in greater New York City, London, Los Angeles, Shanghai or other spots. And, all but L.A. of those four cities face definite worries over rising sea levels.

Meanwhile, "Earth Day" isn't even on Google News' list of top "trending" items, as of 1:30 p.m. Central Time.

Add to it the "gang green" environmental groups deciding at the start of the Clinton Administration that cozying up to Democrats for political "access" was more important than being firmer on stances. Then, we have the topper, several years ago, of Sierra Club selling the rights to its name, for branding and marketing, to Clorox. There were certainly a few questions about Clorox's environmental commitment, and a boatload of unquestionable facts on its low standards on labor issues. I blogged more here and here about how this exposed authoritarian tactics of Sierra's national board and then-CEO Carl Pope.

But, when a big, rich (yes, relatively) environmental group pays just $33K a year for copy editors for its magazine, with a job based in downtown San Francisco, we know which "green" is speaking. That's even more true with the made-in-China tchotchkes combined with the wasteful amount of mail, snail mail, not email, sent for solicitation efforts.

I'll stop now before I get into the territory of a new blog post, which I will soon enough anyway.

Perry has a few related thoughts.

As for those other issues of despair? It seems like racial issues in America have slowed to about the  same glacial rate of progress.

April 21, 2014

I guess I'm just not that progressive again this week

I tweeted about my sarcasm last week, but this is a bit too long for that.

There's an alliance of bloggers for the Pointy Abandoned Object State™ (and I'm going to blog more about that and riffing on Jim Moore sometime) that does a roundup of top progressive blogs by its membership each week (well, except for member bloggers who, for various reasons, don't even have one worthy submission each week), then at the end, lists "other blog posts of interest."

I'm not sure exactly when it votes, but let's say it's some time Saturday afternoon.

So, talking about Child Abuse Prevention Month, some of its socio-economic background, and why addressing income inequality would probably help address it, is is less progressive than:
1. Warning parents away from live bunnies and ducklings as Easter gifts (Not "progressive," per se and it's covered every year by media);
2. An air kiss to Wendy Davis with an Upworthy-esque reverse straw man set up, something like "You'll be amazed that Wendy Davis' campaign managed to do what other Democratic campaigns have done in Republican-leaning states before";
3. Reprinting four Texas names from a list from Out magazine, a list which is about celebrity and money within the LGBT world, not about LGBT issues itself, and without any real further commentary.

It's not even a question of "less progressive." The "other blogs of interest" is short enough it could easily have one or two more. A week ago, depending on exact voting cutoff dates, a business tizzy between craft beer and big brewers made the mystical cut ahead of me advising Green gubernatorial candidate Brandon Parmer not to suspend his campaign for an air kiss with Wendy Davis. Or, the week before, my advising "efficient government" conservatives on one specific way — driver's licenses — they could live up to their self-billing, could have been cut-worthy.

Yes, I blog about things besides politics. But, I have at least one solidly liberal blog post a week. (Note: "liberal" ≠ "Democratic.")

And, I'm snarky enough, I may start doing this on a regular basis. Or I may not, but, I wanted to do this at least once. And, if I get feedback, I might do it again. If I get backlash, I'll very definitely do it again.

No, I'm not a genius at this. But, I'm better than that.

Toothless Texas ethics — second-latest installment is #WendyDavis (updated)

Update, April 21: Davis is now just the second-latest; scroll down for a GOPer with basically the same problems, plus additional ones.

The latest conflict of interest problems of Wendy Davis (and other state legislators of both parties, like GOP state Sen. John Carona) illustrate the laughable toothlessness of much of what passes for ethics legislation in Texas. (The story also illustrates the continuing decline of big-bucks mainstream media; Wayne Slater, a veteran political reporter, misspelled Carona's last name, and nobody on copy desk caught it. Twenty-four hours later, Wayne Slater's not responded to my Tweet, and the misspelling still isn't fixed.)

It's yet another reason why the Green Party should be skeptical about making deals with Democrats, like the idea of suspending gubernatorial candidate Brandon Parmer's campaign in the idea of helping Davis.

Specific to Davis, and the North Texas Tollway Association, it's "interesting" how loudly power and money can shout:
As a member of the Fort Worth City Council and the regional transportation authority, Davis had a history as an NTTA critic. She voted as a state senator in 2009 against an NTTA-backed measure to give the agency first right of refusal for building road projects in the region. As the 2011 legislative session opened, she introduced a bill to sharply cap the fees NTTA could charge on delinquent tolls.
But, when her law firm got a contract to work for NTTA, things changed. And changed indeed. (Especially given that politics, and political money, made strange bedfellows of her and her "political boutique" firm's partner, Brian Newby, who used to work for Tricky Ricky Perry.)

Again, it's not just Davis and it's not just Democrats. The story notes:
Being a state legislator is a part-time job. The Texas Constitution prohibits lawmakers from voting on measures in which they have “a personal or private interest,” though only if it affects a lawmaker’s specific business. It doesn’t apply to measures affecting entire industries or issues.
For example, Republican Sen. John Corona [sic, per my note above] of Dallas, founder of the nation’s largest homeowners’ management association, has written legislation benefiting those groups. Democratic Sen. Rodney Ellis’ Houston firm has represented local governments on bond issues. Former House Speaker Tom Craddick, a Republican from Midland with significant oil and gas investments, regularly sponsors bills boosting the industry. And Republican Rep. Gary Elkins, a payday lender, has supported efforts in the Legislature to protect such firms.
And, we haven't even talked about Rick Perry's Texas Enterprise Slush Fund.

If the Greens really suspended Parmer's campaign, even though he officially remained on the ballot, I wouldn't vote for him, nor would I vote for Davis.

Until we get something radical here in the Pointy Abandoned Object State, like public campaign financing (an adequately paid but full-time state legislature in a state our side would also be nice), things won't change. 

===

Actually, Davis is now the second-latest installment of loose ethics. Back on the GOP side, Ken Paxton, in a runoff to be the nominee for Abbott's AG seat, is accused of basically the same issues as Davis

The Texas Tribune obtained 2006 letters showing the McKinney lawmaker was being paid to solicit clients for a North Texas financial services firm at a time when he was not registered with the State Securities Board. Registration in such circumstances is typically required. Nor did Paxton ever reveal his solicitor work on the employment history section of his personal financial statements, which must be filed regularly with the Texas Ethics Commission.

Also missing from his ethics filings is any disclosure of his service on the boards of at least a half-dozen nonprofit corporations, the Tribune investigation found. Ethics laws require legislators to reveal service on corporate boards, including nonprofit ones.
He's busy looking for loopholes, a low-level staffer to blame, or both, as we speak.

That said, this is about more than ethics, and backdating loopholes and reports. It's also potential state regulatory hot water for him:
Running afoul of State Securities Board regulations, on the other hand, carries potentially tougher penalties; violations can range from fines to felony prosecution. Paxton has not been accused of wrongdoing. His campaign declined to answer any questions about his employment history, details that are necessary to determine whether laws were broken.
He can stonewall the Trib right now; the Securities Board can start legal requests, though, if Paxton doesn't voluntarily cough up paperwork.

So, even if Paxton is the fave in the runoff, are GOP leading lights, even more wingnutty ones, going to start "leaning" on him to get out?

This is worse, indeed, than Davis.
1. It involves potential criminality, not just ethics.
2. It involves potential criminality from someone running for Texas' top law enforcement office.

I hadn't paid full attention when the third GOP candidate in the pre-runoff round, Barry Smitherman, first raised allegations. I figured it was him and Paxton as two candidates that are in the more wingnutty portion of the GOP in various ways and degrees vs. Dan Branch as the one representative of the semi-sane branch, and Smitherman was just trying to gain some traction. It's actually more than that, though.

There's past lawsuits and other issues that clearly bring into question Paxton's fitness to hold this position.

===

Sidebar: In a "political chess match" issue, this is why it's always easier to run for governor from a lower-level executive position than from a legislative one. Same is true at the federal level. Aside from Dear Leader, who surely had one-quarter of an eyeball on the White House as soon as he was elected to the U.S. Senate, and half of one from 2006 on, we don't elect senators and representatives to be our presidents. We dip into statehouses, have Veeps jump up via death, or in the case of Poppy Bush or, belatedly, Tricky Dick, elect a Veep to the office. Ike as a war hero fits the executive model well, actually. The last presidents not to fit the mold, Hoover and Taft, actually did, coming from a previous president's cabinet. Before that? Post-Civil War, all the GOP candidates were war heroes first, even if they later served in Congress, and Grover Cleveland, on his first time around, was a governor.

Unfortunately for Texas Democrats, who don't hold any statewide offices, this doesn't bode well, which is why Bill White as a mayor got the nod in 2010. Assuming Davis doesn't win, it's back to looking at mayors, or finding a rich businessman who's more of a Democrat than Tony Sanchez was in 2002.

===

Sidebar 2: Bill White's new book proves he's a double-dyed neolib. Please, Texas Dems, never nominate him to another electoral campaign run in your collective lives.

===

Sidebar 3: New polling numbers don't look good for Davis, especially the rise in her "negatives." P.Diddle has further take on this, the uphill sleds of both of the third parties in the state as shown at their conventions and more.


#Marijuana legalization not a walk in the park — take note #GlennGreenwald, #libertarians

Mark Kleiman/Wikipedia
Mark Kleiman, one of the top scholars in America on drug policy and public policy, and certainly no shrinking violet on social libertarianism, has some definite words of "whoa, now," for the likes of Glenn Greenwald who paint an almost utopian result of drug legalization.

Kleiman's focused only on marijuana, not harder drugs, and even there, he says that legaalization is not a panacea, and might not even be that close. In part, he invokes images of "Big Pot," paralleling Big Tobacco and Big Alcohol, with vested financial interests in keeping those who are addicted in a state of addiction.

And, that's a good starting point. Contra some libertarians and other who say pot isn't addictive, Kleiman says, try again:
There's only one thing wrong with legalizing weed and that's that a certain number of people will get in trouble with it. ....
I mean will wind up with cannabis habits that are bad for them.  Many of them will know it.  Some of them won't.  Also that teenagers will use more of it.  We don't really want to get back to 1979 when 10% of high school seniors reported that they were daily or near daily cannabis smokers.
A lot of people on the pro-legalization side are still in denial about the cannabis abuse problem.  The numbers are about 33 million people will say in a survey that they've used cannabis in the last year.  About half of those, about 16 million, say they've used it in the last month.  Of those, about a quarter say they use 25 days or more per month.  In a different survey that folks over at Rand did the people who smoke many days per month also use a lot more per day.  That very heavy user group accounts for 85 or 95 percent of the total cannabis consumed.

About half the people who are daily or near daily users just from their own self-reporting in the surveys meet clinical criteria for abuse or dependence.  Cannabis is interfering with their lives and they've tried to cut down and they can't. 
If anybody had intellectual reason to soft-pedal this information, it's a libertarian think tank like Rand, so I think we can say these numbers are pretty solid.

As for those analogies I mentioned? Here's Kleiman:
It's not just that the problem users are profitable, it's that nobody else is profitable.  More than 80% of what you sell is going to go to people who are smoking too much. That is true of alcohol today.

When the booze companies tell you they're in favor of responsible drinking they must mean they're planning to go out of business.  Responsible drinkers don't build breweries.  Breweries are built by [sic] people (who?) drink four or more drinks a day average year round.  The top decile of the alcohol population accounts for 50% of the alcohol consumed.  Put it a different way, 46% of all drinks consumed in the U.S. are consumed as part of drinking binges.
Maybe that should be "for" instead of "by," but I think we get Kleiman's point of view.

Whether it's Mexican cartels or legalized distributors, people who peddle an addictive substance, whether alcohol, tobacco or marijuana, have a vested interest in getting people addicted.

That, in turn, leads to Kleiman's bottom-line assessment, and implicit call-out to folks like Greenwald:
Anybody who tells you, you can legalize cannabis and not have more drug abuse is fooling himself. Of course we're going to have more. The question is how much more?
So, let's be honest.

Let's also be honest that when a Greenwald or a Carl Hart talk about a Portugal, and its drug counseling boards instead of criminal courts, they NEVER talk about how much setting up something like that would cost in the U.S.

Hart? He strikes me as just happy to bask in the recognition and fame of being a new-found black libertarian, and basically ignorant of larger libertarian issues, at least for now, as I've blogged before.

Greenwald? He damn well has some idea, or knows where he could get some idea, about how much this would cost. He also knows better than to argue with Kleiman one-on-one on details of drug policy.

This is about more than just calling out a noted libertarian like Greenwald.

Here in Texas, Rick Perry's made a comment or two about decriminalization, at least, and Wendy Davis had someone belated reaction, while Greg Abbott had the big sound of silence out of his camp. If Texas isn't prepared for a potential increase in addicted marijuana users, and what to do to address that, then it may have more problem then it bargained for. And, on the dollars side, we know that Texas is pretty cheap on governmental funding in general.

It's nice to see someone who knows what he's talking about on drug policy telling us to all tap the brakes on utopian claims about legalization.

Kleiman wraps up by talking about purity and standards issues with decriminalized or legalized pot. He suggests that, within a decade or so, if the country and pot distributors are smart, we'll have marijuana e-cigs.

My personal stance is that I favor at least decriminalization, and am open to full legalization of at least smaller amounts of marijuana.

But, I agree with Kleiman that this isn't anywhere near a panacea.

I'm also with him that, if we're going to do this, we need to measure pot for THC content, just like tobacco for nicotine and booze for ethanol.