May 24, 2014

Julian Castro named to head HUD — #Hillary2016 tie-in? (updated)

Julian Castro — Hillary Clinton's new BFF?
Kin Man Hui/San Antonio Express-News via Associated Press
Well, this is interesting indeed. The New York Times says that San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro is President Barack Obama's choice to run the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Update, May 24: The Dallas Morning News goes more in-depth on both the in-state and out-state political ramifications.

Yes, it "could" provide a boost to Texas Democrats' political hopes. So could finding Greg Abbott in the sack with Rick Perry. Let's not hold our breath too much.

Back to the original Times piece. It only gives half a nutgraf, when it notes that there's been talk about Castro as a Veep candidate in 2016. 

No. Or, not just that.

Before Wendy Davis' filibuster last summer, the talk was of Castro running either for governor of Texas or senator in 2018. And frankly, even with Battleground Texas' over-optimism in this election cycle and an uphill slug in the future, that might be his more likely option, anyway. Sorry, Dems, but Wendy ain't getting elected, short of Greg Abbott being found by that Travis County grand jury to have been having sex with Rick Perry in the middle of a CPRIT meeting.

If Hillary Clinton gets the Democratic presidential nomination, I consider it highly doubtful she'd tap somebody 25 years younger than her as her running mate. Rightly or wrongly, as women age, it can get noted more than with men, and a Castro that young would make for bad optics. 

And, the Morning News piece notes that HUD's never been a launching pad to a Veep spot, and with rare exceptions like Andrew Cuomo, it's not been too much of a political launch  pad in general.

Also per the NYT story, that notes that Dear Leader had previously asked him to serve as Transportation secretary, I wonder what changed his mind? If it was angling for a 2016 Veep run, for the reason above, it may not be smart. But, he is enough of a neolib that otherwise, he wouldn't mind running with Hillary if she decided it would be a smart political move.

It may have been timing, in part. Or, it may have been the particular positions. Among second-rank Cabinet posts, I'll venture that Democrats see HUD as half a notch above Transportation. 

In any case, there's political strategery afoot. And, if he did have eyeballs on either one of the 2018 state races, I'm not sure why he'd take a Cabinet job. 

Matt Angle, guru of Battleground Texas and other places, comments in the Snooze article:
“He’s already a credible candidate for any statewide office that comes available, whether it’s 2018, 2020 or 2022,” said Matt Angle, a top Texas Democratic strategist.

Cabinet service will only help, he added.

“It gives him a chance to burnish an already stellar résumé,” Angle said. Regardless of any direct impact on voters, “it does take you to another level with opinion leaders and potential donors.”
Well, again, probably not, Matt. But, talk like this doesn't surprise me. It does little to raise his in-Texas profile. It may connect him to some Houston, Dallas and Austin donors that he didn't know before, but that's about it.

Anyway, both he and twin Joaquin ARE that neolib, at least from this corner of the world. Basically, they're Texas Hispanic Cory Bookers. (Of course, the real Cory Booker is inimitable, as the New Yorker tells us.)

And, if eyeballing the possibility of being Hillary's running mate is why he changed his mind, I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.

As for Texas Democratic chairman Gilberto Hinojosa saying Hillary + Julian puts Texas in play in 2016, after I cleaned my mouth out, I started laughing my head off.

Meanwhile, I have no doubt that Obot types in particular or two-party-only folks in general, think this is the latest greatest thing since sliced bread.

May 22, 2014

Small towns, beware of the Texas Public Policy Foundation bearing gifts

You’ve probably heard, more than once, the phrase “venture capitalism.”

Well, I’m going to introduce you to another: “vulture capitalism.” Because, as smaller towns and cities struggle to recover from the Great Recession, or a city as big as Detroit goes into bankruptcy and seeks to come out, right-wing think tanks with hoary old Reagan-era nostrums in new dress are perched on their telephone lines looking for cheap roadkill to eat. Up north, in urban areas, that includes pension funds and unions.

Down South in small towns, who knows what it could include. And, speaking of ...

It sounds wonderful that a big Austin-based think tank like the Texas Public Policy Foundation wants to help a small Texas town with a poverty rate on the high side of 30 percent and a large minority population, even to the point of using it as a test city, right? Well, maybe.

At the same time, to modernize an old Greek oracle, “Beware of public policy foundations bearing gifts.” And, maybe we should say to beware some of the gift wrap, too. Because its shiny foil has no clothes beneath it.

Take this city’s code of ordinances. It’s true that it could use modernization. At the same time, if some of the ordinances listed in the reported nearly 400 pages of ordinances have officially been “struck off,” being declared null and void by new ordinances. So, that means that, in reality, the city doesn’t have a code of nearly 400 pages; it means that somebody hasn’t opened the three-ring binder and removed some pages from the book.

“Empowerment zones” also sound nice. Doesn’t anything with the word “empowerment” in front of it? Or “freedom”? Or “apple pie” or “baseball” or “Chevrolet”? 

I mean, who could not like "empowerment subprime mortgages"? Or "freedom crack cocaine"? Or "Chevrolet Nova"? See, all great concepts. I'll resist the temptation to mention "Chicago Cubs baseball."

That said, the touting of “empowerment zones,” under the slightly different name of “enterprise zones,” was first really touted at the federal level of government. They were pushed by one Ronald Wilson Reagan, after he lifted it from Margaret Thatcher. Along with that, he pushed the ideas of union-busting, hordes of welfare queens overrunning our country and more.

And, any good non-brainwashed person knows that professional conservatives have become past masters at such labeling. It’s kind of funny, in fact, that despite all the Hollywood connections, liberals haven’t nailed down the idea of glitzy renaming. I would have mentioned Silicon Valley connections, but the folks out there voting Democrat are libertarians in neoliberal drag.

Other ideas that TPPF’s Jess Fields mentioned to this city sounded great, too. Doing a better job of cleaning trash off streets is good. But, the city doesn’t need any changes in its ordinances, or enterprise zones, or anything else to do that. It already has a community service program for inmates, which Fields himself noted.

And, TPPF already has a  history that shows its inimical to the interests of this county.

This is one of the think tanks that applauded Rick Perry’s franchise tax idea a few years back when many observers knew that it wouldn’t be enough to adequately meet the state’s responsibility for its portion of public school funding. Well, it wasn’t, and once again and not the first time in Rick Perry’s administration, the state got sued by various school districts, including one here in this county. It even has a “tag” on its blogs called “over-regulation,” and one piece by Fields himself claims that banning plastic grocery bags, as Austin did, may be “deadly” because reusable bags might harbor killer bacteria

Yes, canvas grocery bags, like the ones I’ve used for a decade, could kill you. Last I checked, they had done me a lot less harm than Texas’ mountain cedars. Of course, since many of those cedars in the Hill Country provide shelter for Endangered Species Act-listed golden-cheeked warblers, TPPF would probably love to help me and other allergy sufferers by abolishing the ESA, then chopping down cedars. What swell folks, eh?

Note to TPPF: Any canvas bag toter who croaks in front of the North Austin Whole Foods? It's much more likely to be a botox OD than "baggus salmonellicus." Second guess is finding something non-GMO in that bag or something, not the bag itself. Third? Asphyxiation from finding out that a vial of TPPF hot air was detonated inside the bag.

This isn’t to say that everything a big conservative think tank proposes is going to be wrong, just because it’s conservative, or just because it’s big, or just because it’s coming out of Austin. But, TPPF wants to use a small as a test case precisely to push a larger public policy agenda from a certain political point of view.

So, back to that updated Greek oracle. Folks, it’s OK to accept gifts from public policy foundations bearing them. But, underneath the gift wrap, there will be strings attached. And, the presenter will be wearing no clothes.

And besides, if the TPPF wants to play Santa Claus to a small town, shouldn’t it let that small town present its own gift wish list? Oh, like, telling Rick Perry to stop executing poor minority people? Or, if we want to confine ourselves to economic "empowerment," how about telling Tricky Ricky to buy into Obamacare, including Medicaid expansion?

Somehow, I don't picture the TPPF doing this. Nor would it adopt an environmental idea, like Public Citizen might propose, of helping line up a third party to put rooftop solar panels on the roofs of abandoned buildings in this small town.

But let’s get back to the vulture capitalism.

Why is TPPF picking THIS small town as a test tube?

First, with a poverty rate above 30 percent, I’m venturing it hopes that nobody will look a gift horse in the mouth.

Second, it may think that with that poverty rate and a lot of minority voters, not a lot of people will know a lot about the TPPF, ignoring that not every small-town newspaper editor is either uninformed or a small-town conservative in his or her thinking.

Well, TPPF, you’re wrong on the second, and hopefully, because of that, you’ll be wrong on the first, too.

Time for the #Rangers to trade Beltre?

First, we find out that Prince Fielder is having the neck disc surgery and will be gone for the year. Next, we learn that Jurickson Profar has retweaked his teres muscle and will not come up until September, it seems.

No matter Ron Washington's luck, or chemistry production, to overcome his bunting lunacy, his idiocy in playing Fielder ahead of Mitch Moreland on defense at first and other things, his super-Pythagorean can't overcome this.

The Rangers' lineup is now Shin-Soo Choo, Adrian Beltre, kind-of sort-of Alex Rios and a bunch of creampuffs.

Kevin Sherrington suggests Rios is the best trade bait. I think not. He's a free agent after this year on a club option after this year that may be a bit pricey, and medium-level outfielders besides him will be available in trade sometime this year. The Cards may trade out of their outfield surplus with a less pricey outfielder, for example.

So, the Rangers have one smart trade piece to offer.

It's Beltre.

And, there's one team out there ...

A contender ...

With money to take on all of Beltre's salary for this year and next ...

With a current black hole of sorts at 3B ...

With a general manager who likes older players.

Come on down, San Francisco Giants!

Beltre's a big upgrade with both bat and glove over Pablo Sandoval. Only question is what Brian Sabean has to offer in return.

Back-up catcher Hector Sanchez, I would think, would be the starting point for any trade talks. He's a solid hitter in somewhat limited action so far and grades slightly above average defensively. In short, he'd be the best Rangers catcher in at least half a decade, and just starts arbitration next year. Tyler Colvin might be worth being part of the mix; would be easier to take a gamble on letting Rios walk. After that, look for a couple of prospects, one of them a pitcher, since the Rangers are shaky there with the injury situation of Martin Perez and Matt Harrison.

Per Cot's Contracts, the Giants are carrying $149M this year in salaries. In 2015, Sandoval of course would be gone. We'll assume somebody pays him $12M/yr minimum. So, Beltre's $18M is an additional $6M in 2015, and an extra $4M if his option for 2016 vests, as is likely. Other Giant free agents next year are Michael Morse, Sergio Romo, and Ryan Vogelsong. I'll assume that the Giants resign Morse for a decent hike, let Vogelsong walk and resign Romo for a modest hike. I'll assume that's a net wash. In 2016, the likely-retiring Tim Hudson comes off the books, as does Mr. Marijuana, Tim Lincecum, whom the Giants won't resign if they're smart.

As for other possible trade partners? Brew Crew has nowhere near the money to take Beltre's full contract. Braves might not. Yankees certainly do, but what players do they have to offer? Tigers passed on Drew, so I presume they'd not take Beltre's full contract. Giants are best smart bet. (A friend of mine has just suggested the Royals go all-in, but, I don't see that happening. Plus, since Beltre likely has two years left on his contract after this one, if "all-in" falls short, they're in financial iffiness. That said, I'm sure they have prospects the Rangers would like.)

On the Giants' side? They get someone who's definitely playing third better this year, someone who can be more of a clubhouse leader for sure, and someone who, even with a few more years under his belt, is a better defender than Sandoval.  They also get relieved of the headaches of messing with Sandoval.

On the Rangers' salary side? There's several minor free agents next year but no biggies, other than presumably getting Sandoval sent back. With losing Beltre's contract, they'd have money not just for arbitration for Sanchez, but maybe to buy out his arbitration years plus the start of free agency, and to give Colvin, if he were in the deal, a moderate bump over his current $1M. They could then decide how low to price Sandoval.

On the Ranger fandom side? If you're touting Jorge Alfaro, a high-A minors player, as the most likely catcher of the future within the current system, wouldn't you like to have an option or two?

#Cardinals finally ready to call up Taveras?

John Mozeliak is reportedly finally looking at calling up Oscar Taveras, most likely in time for a Cardinal swing against AL teams where they could use an extra bat at DH. Presumably, that's primarily Allen Craig, with Taveras playing in right, or it could be Matt Adams on occasion, with Craig at 1B.

Taveras continues to whack the ball at Memphis and deserves the shot, which also, from Cardinal fiscal point of view, should be late enough in the season to dodge Super 2 arbitration issues down the road.

Also, given that Adams continues to struggle against lefties, this gives the team more bat flexibility.

And Mo's comments seem to reflect that: 
"From a pure baseball standpoint, he could play in the big leagues … we've got to determine playing time up here with our current roster and are we willing to take away at bats from our current roster and give it to someone else? … if we still sort of look the way we look early June, mid June, then I think it's time for a change. 

In fairness to what some of these gentlemen have accomplished in their careers, I don't think hitting the panic button in middle of May is fair to them."
In other words, if these things don't change after May, it then will be the time to hit some sort of button. That could include keeping Taveras up after that AL-swing call-up.

And, I heard Mo earlier this week talk about "a game a way" to catch the Brew Crew. Heck, we don't even need that. A game a month is all that's needed. We're 3 back now. We have 4.5 months, approximately, left in the season. There you go.

But, per Mo's overall "caution," Taveras boosters shouldn't count his chickens before they hatch.

At the same time, Randal Grichuk's had a cup of coffee and failed, and the Cards just called back veteran backup outfielder Shane Robinson. Taveras' total playing time in any short-term call-up could be based in part on how much of a "Matheny guy" manager Mike Matheny sees him as being. It's true that Kolten Wong, so far, seems to be doing better since being called back up, and I guess is more relaxed. Stay tuned.

And, I've gotten in a bit of a dispute with somebody at NBC's website over whether or not Matheny plays favorites.

Said commmenter also doesn't like Bernie Miklasz, it's clear, so on this post, I'll repost what Bernie said about a month ago.

Bernie brought the talk around to our Sub-Genius Skipper:
I just hope Grichuk gets a chance to play. Obviously, the CF position remains unsettled in St. Louis. Bourjos has done nothing so far, which leaves Matheny leaning on Jon Jay, the guy Mozeliak tried to replace by making the Bourjos trade. Given the situation in CF, and Allen Craig's slow start and startling loss of of power, there should be plenty of chances for Grichuk to get into the lineup. 

Unless, of course, Matheny is caught up on on his “I'm going to stick by my guys” thing, which is occasionally a problem. I don't think Mozeliak wants Grichuk up here just to have a good seat in the dugout.
Ditto for SGS and Garcia, Bernie says:
The only way to find out about Garcia is to play him, and frankly I'd really be surprised to see Matheny put aside his “I'm sticking with my guy” sentiment to play Garcia over Descalso.
I think Bernie was right, and that Matheny does have "his guys." Contra the NBC commenter, the fact that Descalso isn't playing much doesn't mean that Matheny still doesn't play preferences at times. Descalso's never, ever been a regular starting infielder, so, the fact that he isn't one now proves nothing, NBC commenter guy.

As for "Matheny's guys"?

This photo was NOT found on Carlos Martinez' Twitter stream
Sure he has then, and it's not just on small sample sizes. Per him "suggesting" last year that pitchers drawing Christian fish symbols and crosses on the pitcher's mound, as shown, then claiming that the fish was a "No. 6" tribute to Musial, don't you doubt that Matheny looks for certain types of players. (The cross was never explained away, because it couldn't be.)

As for what I said over there, about the Shelby Miller issue? If you call him being put on the postseason roster without  playing an "only" rather than what it was — a waste of a roster spot except for one inning in the Division Series — well, you're being way too kind to both Matheny and John Mozeliak on that one.

It forced a weak managerial hand out of Matheny, as I noted here, while also noting that on Mo's part, this was part of a pattern of less than full truthfulness about players, a pattern shown by self-contradicting team statements on Miller, as I discussed here.

No, neither Matheny nor Mo were "required" to tell fans anything on Miller. But, when you're fooling nobody and hurting your own roster, why wouldn't you at some point be honest?

As for the idea that Matheny is little more than a cog in a Mo-regimented chain of command, that might be partially true. Is it totally true? Of course not. Is it more than 50 percent true, as far as usage of individual players? I don't think so.

And, would you want it so? Because the only way that happens is through a GM micromanaging his manager.

May 20, 2014

And the #BleedForEmbiid winner is?

Cleveland. The Cavs won the draft lottery.

Bill Simmons is right about this year's NBA draft. Joel Embiid is going No. 1. (Well, he should be; maybe the Cavs are just making noise — see below — or else looking for a trade — but taking anybody else at No. 1 doesn't make sense.) Whether you call him a 7-footer Serge Ibaka, as he does, or a junior Hakeem Olajuwon, as I have, he's No. 1. He's ahead of Kansas teammate Andrew Wiggins, Duke's Jabari Parker, or anybody else. (Note to Basketball Reference: If Hakeem is a 7-footer, I'm 6-7.)

His back injury is relatively minor, far less than the leg issues of Greg Oden when he was drafted, and far far less than the current back problems of Tiger Woods.

And, per both Simmons' angle and mine? You can't teach height.

Otherwise, Embiid is athletic and clearly has defensive skills already. It's just learning an NBA post-up offensive game that's left, along with NBA defensive rotations and mindset.

Well, have fun in Cleveland, unless the Cavs listen to trade offers. Which I highly doubt. He would pair well with Kyrie Irving, if Irving learns more offensive discipline, and Anthony Bennett, if Bennett learns small forward shooting range. Of course, those are two big ifs.

And no, Cavs fans, LBJ is very, very unlikely to be coming back.


Meanwhile, rumor is that the Cavs are targeting Wiggins? Wow. I guess if true, the team has officially written off resigning Deng. And accepted that LBJ isn't coming back. That would mean you'd move Bennett to the 4 — he seems big enough, but is he skilled enough? Or else Wiggins goes to the 2, which means Dion Waiters is on the bench or on the trade block. Even if you are writing off Deng, unless you're prepared to trade Waiters, this doesn't make a lot of sense. Maybe the Cavs will trade out of the pick?

I don't think Dante Exum can play 3 in the NBA, so, you either trade with the Sixers on the idea of picking up Parker at the third spot in the draft, swapping firsts and taking whatever else reasonable is thrown in, or else you trade down to No. 5 or lower. This presumes that you DO resign Deng. IF that's the route, Derrick Favors and a swap of firsts with Utah?

That said, this is Cleveland. Some sort of stupidity could happen.

Anyway, without a trade, here is how the draft shapes out according to Chad Ford.

Dear Mike Matheny: The #Cardinals now have a bullpen; learn to use it

The Beard, aka Yukon Cornelius, aka Jason Motte, is back!
David Carson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch
And, to use it correctly, now that, per the Cardinals' official Twitter account, Jason Motte is back.

Per Bernie Miklasz, no more pitching Trever Rosenthal too frequently, like four nights in a row. Please, Mike Matheny, move beyong the Sub-Genius Skipper level now.

This also removes the last excuse for you not letting Carlos Martinez be a starter, come the next hole in the rotation. And there will be one; Jaime Garcia is still fragile. Joe Kelly, still on the DL, looks like he could be. Tyler Lyons can go back to Memphis and go back to figuring it out. No more excuses for not playing "your guys." That goes for more than just Martinez, but he's a definite Exhibit No. 1.

Besides, none of those folks are power pitchers with multi-pitch arsenals. Time to start starting Martinez at the next reasonable chance. I know, and agree with him, that John Mozeliak says it's not time to be trading. But, it may be, at some point. Knowing to the fullest degree what's in the cupboard helps.

Beyond that, this is simply a test of Sub-Genius Skipper to see if he moves beyond "my guys" now. It's also a bit of a test, especially if it is thought that trade time is nearer, if Mo will push Matheny on this more.

Boo-hoo for Scott Boras and Stephen Drew

Looks like superagent Scott Boras and client Stephen Drew, on one side, and the Boston Red Sox, on the other, have mutually imploded.

Boston, frustrated by the play of Will Middlebrooks, has resigned Drew for a prorated percentage of the $14.1 million qualifying offer it gave him as a free agent.

Middlebrooks is below the "Mendoza Line," named after baseballer Mario Mendoza of hitting infamy, but above the Kozma Line, named for Cardinals shortstop Pete Kozma of sabermetric hitting infamy.

I assume that, since Drew is the new kid on the block, he replaces Middlebrooks at third rather than John Farrell moving Xander Bogaerts over from short. Since Middlebrooks is headed to the DL, that's obvious for the short term. But, I assume it stays that way after he comes back.

It's also interesting that Boston decided not to go with Brock Holt as a stopgap during Middlebrooks' injury, or for the longer term. It makes one wonder if Middlebrooks won't be staying in AAA down at Pawtucket even after his rehab is done.

This does have implications outside of Boston in an AL East that so far has been an example of craptacularness.

The Yankees lead, but with CC Sabathia now on the DL, that ain't lasting. No matter how good a manager Joe Girardi is. And, they have nothing to trade with. If Carlos Beltran is also racked up for an extended period of time, forget it.

Tampa? Could increase the pressure to trade David Price, good overall but enigmatic this year with new-found gopherballitis.

Orioles? Color me meh, and Nelson Cruz will come back to earth.

Don't sleep on Toronto, if it can rehab its bullpen.

So, this helps Boston out, but it is nowhere near a "driver's seat" move.

Anyway, back to the world of Scott Boras below the fold.

Texas guv race — Abbott, Davis debate over debates

So far, Greg Abbott has agreed to just 1.5 debates during the general election campaign.

The second one, on Oct. 3, would only be broadcast by Gannett stations. Even with a "live online feed," restricted coverage means we must count this as just half a debate in publicity terms.

Davis has countered by wanting six. It's true that the person trailing usually wants more.

That said, Davis was smart to bring this up early.

As for a debate in July? Unless that's just an easy throwaway negotiation point, that's dumb. She should have said five, not six, and started her calendar after Labor Day. Asking for a debate that early makes you look desperate, and that's the last thing you want right now.

A debate with a Spanish simulcast? Smart. Puts Mr. "I Just Found Out I Have a Mexican Wife" on the hot seat a bit. Also undercuts claims that she's afraid of a debate in the Valley.

I also hope that she proposed dates that aren't all on Friday nights, i.e., Texas worship services at high school football.

A Wednesday deadline for Abbott's camp to respond, even though we're in mid-May? See "desperation," above. Especially since the Valley debate that Abbott's accepted was on the table the end of last month.

Davis also would have been smart to appeal to an outside body, like the Texas chapter of League of Women Voters.

So, if we're scoring this in political chess match terms? Davis gets a C-minus at best on debate debating so far. Thought the Battleground Texas shake-up of her campaign staff would have done better on this one. It's never a good idea to look desperate while trying to not look desperate.

And, if Abbott simply stiffs her, like Rick Perry did with Bill White, what then? I know that you don't telegraph a Plan B in public, but you've got to have one.  And, given the "July" and "late response" items I noted, it had better be a good one.

Anyway, it's not a real debate of Brandon Parmer of the Greens and Kathie Glass of the Libertarians are not there, right?

May 19, 2014

Is the #9/11 Museum gift shop tasteless, or not?

As New York City's 9/11 memorial and museum get ready to open on Friday, some people are objecting to the museum's store.

The New York Post, bastion of Murdoch-ism, of all people, calls it tasteless, though in not so many words. (That said, people who object to a cafe there are being ridiculous, I think.) That said, it's not alone.

Think Progress, that bastion of nuanced left-edge neoliberal Obamiacs, defends the place, primarily by comparing it to the Oklahoma City bombing memorial and museum.

There's two BIG differences, though.

First, OKC, at $12, costs half as much to enter as 9/11. Yes, I know everything is more expensive in New York, but still.

Second, OKC doesn't have a "crypt" of survivor remnants.

And, if Think Progress wants to compare the 9/11 museum to Auschwitz in having a store, I'm sure Auschwitz doesn't have a crypt, either.

I think that there's one other thing at stake, with that crypt, besides tastelessness.

It's that good old American exceptionalism.

There's still greed, too.

Hey, the FDNY stuff is "officially licensed and co-branded"! And, the charging of such rates after a $5 million donation store donation from a law firm that sued the city over first responder injury payouts probably adds to a lot of people's sense of tastelessness.

Let's look more at that money.

Invest it at, say, a 5 percent return and you've got $250K a year in revenue stream right there. You can sell a more tasteful line of tchotchkes, lower your admission price from $24 to $20 or $18 and still do fine on revenue.

Or you could go over the top and find every one of the most nutbar 9/11 conspiracy theory videos out there — I mean, start with Alex Jones and go more loony than that — and see what sort of gravy you can rake in.

That said, beyond greed, there's one other American commodity in hot trade here, one that probably carries more of a premium in NYC than in flyover land.


That law firm's already cashed a pretty big check of it for its $5 million donation, all of which was tax-deductible, of course.

Texas Lege: More #TexasSolutions budget fear-mongering in 2015?

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus
On the surface, Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus' call for all gas tax revenues to actually be devoted to roads sounds great, doesn't it?

Especially when, a year ago, TxDOT was talking about turning interstate access roads in oilfield-heavy areas back to gravel. But, per this Straus column (hat tip, Bay Area Houston), there's more beneath the surface.

First, Straus notes that money from dedicated funds was sequestered in the past. With that unavailable, wait for GOP wingnuts to talk about the need to cut the rest of the budget even more.

Here's Straus:
This November, voters will also consider a constitutional amendment transferring some revenue from oil and gas production taxes to the highway fund.
Given that surplus oil and gas taxes currently go into the Rainy Day Fund, that means less money there, as John also notes at Bay Area Houston.

But, wait? Didn't we just pass a constitutional amendment last year that said we'd use excess RDF money to fund revolving loan accounts for water infrastructure projects? Er, yes!

Of course, the likes of Straus will say that money's being borrowed, not taken, the water money. And, it's that financial brilliance that illustrates Denial ain't just a river in Egypt. And Straus represents the not-totally-nutbar wing (or back porch, or single piece of decking flagstone) of the Texas GOP.

Of course, as the drought which is NOT caused or abetted in any way by human beings, according to anybody to the right of Straus, continues, Denial ain't a river out in West Texas, either.

Borrowed, stolen, wisely used, whatever, the wingnuts will call it another "run" on the RDF, which they want to protect like Jack D. Ripper's precious bodily fluids.

So, expect fear-mongering over that in 2015, too. Wingnuts withholding vital essence from the state of Texas.

Meanwhile, Eye on Williamson notes the ultimate problem. It's "Texas solutions" that never mention taxes; he's referring to this column by Chuy Hinojosa. Of course, the Pointy Abandoned Object State™never has any trouble coming up with new fees for services, programs, and licenses, but, we can't call any of those "taxes," now, can we?

Note to Chuy,  Battleground Texas, and all others: You ain't getting anywhere if you keep to tiptoe around the manure passing for GOP financial brilliance. If your "solutions" don't involve telling Texans services cost money, they ain't solutions. So, if I hear "Texas Solutions" out of one more Dem mouth, I'll reach for Jerry Patterson's revolver.)

(Note to McBlogger: See, you can write stuff like this stone cold sober and without a single profanity, either.)

And, neither Bay nor Eye mentioned the bigger storm cloud over 2015 budgeting. I'm going to assume that the state loses the final, re-heard version of the school finance lawsuit, and that the financial remedies imposed by Judge Dietz are significant.

Per the reason Dietz decided to re-hear the case, after the 2013 Lege seemed so generous, there's this:
"Any and all funding changes are temporary at best. There is absolutely no requirement they be in existence beyond the year 2015," said Rick Gray, a lawyer for the Equity Center, which represents about 400 school districts, the bulk of them poor, in the sprawling litigation that involves five other parties. "It was an exceedingly small step in the right direction."
Exactly. And, per everything I mentioned above, stand by for some new Pointy Abandoned Object State™solution. For schools. For water. For roads.

And, these problems are all incestuous and intertwined. I already noted that we could have a roads funding state amendment competing with a water one. Well, part of the reason not all of the gas tax is going to roads is that hundreds of million of dollars of it has been going to ...

Wait for it ...

Wait for it ...

Look below the fold for it ...

May 18, 2014

#Anxiety — an inside story

My Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of MindMy Age of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, and the Search for Peace of Mind by Scott Stossel

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A very good, and somewhat sad, and definitely sympathetic read here.

I had seen the excerpt from this book in a recent issue of The Atlantic, where Stossel is the editor, so this jumped off the shelves when I spotted it at the library.

Stossel mixes biography with scientific research on anxiety to tell us what we seem to know pretty well, what we may know, and what we still really don't know, about anxiety.

As Stossel and others know, and as he documents well in the biography part, is that a tendency to anxiety seems inherited. But, is it? He mentions a bit about epigenetics, the "tags" that can control when, how and for how long genes are activated (that's oversimplifying) and how anxiety is one of the big topics in epigenetics research. He also mentions psychodynamics, and the idea of how anxious children may learn to be anxious from anxious parenting, and thus pass that on. Meanwhile, he notes that starting with the wonder, in the 1950s, of the first drug that seemed to help depression, then others for anxiety, neuroscientists have promoted happier living through better chemistry.

This plays out in Stossel's search for help, with a "Dr. Stanford" telling him he just needs to tweak, or up, his meds, while "Dr. Harvard" says he needs to discuss his family, his personal life, and specific anxiety situations, including some existential ones.

Stossel hints they're both partially right, and that as a generally non-confrontational sufferer of anxiety, he can't tell them that neither is fully right.

Stossel, whose one grandfather was a dean at Harvard, started seeing a child psychiatrist in elementary school. That same grandfather had multiple institutionalizations later in life and eventually had to leave Harvard. His wife committed suicide. That's on his dad's side. Similar, albeit somewhat lesser, "strains" of anxiety run in his mom's family.

So, Stossel knows anxiety is real, even crippling.

His own story included gulping both Xanax and booze before flying and before giving public speeches. He admits on the latter that it's a fine issue, trying to find the sweet spot between being halfway numbed out on his anxiety and slurring his words. He also admits he knows he's playing with addiction/alcoholism fire.

Stossel also notes that he stand on the shoulders of giants -- previous literary giant sufferers of anxiety, and tells bits of some of their stories in this book as well.

I'm with Stossel in the general idea that, sadly, we don't have a complete handle on the causes of anxiety yet, only that they're complex, and the problem itself is still only roughly defined — general anxiety disorder, and its DSM definition, overlap a fair degree with major depressive disorder. I'm also with him that the "one neurotransmitter, one solution" idea of many neuroscientists and Big Pharma is way, way, way too reductive. Given that the "big three" of dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin all have multiple different receptor sites on neurons, and we don't know which ones antidepressants and anxiolytics affect, and we don't know what others of the roughly 100 neurotransmitters also may or may not affect anxiety or depression, this approach is reductionistic indeed.

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