June 19, 2014

State judge indicted in latest Texas GOP corruption problem

Angus McGinty, a state district judge from San Antonio, who resigned in February over the wafting aroma of corruption, has been indicted by a federal grand jury.

He's been charged with extortion, wire fraud, bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery.

He allegedly reduced bail and provided other favors for four clients of Alberto Acevedo Jr.,  in exchange for Acevedo paying for work on two Mercedes-Benz vehicles the judge owned, and later selling one of them, or actually, unbeknownst to him, "selling" it to an undercover FBI agent. The four clients in the affadavit had been charged with aggravated robbery, theft of more than $200,000, DWI-third or more offense, for two of the clients.

In exchange, McGinty allegedly agreed to remove electronic monitoring requirements from some bailed-out clients, a remote alcohol monitor from one of the DWI clients, and adjusted original sentencing on one of the DWI clients.

The newspaper piece on the resignation notes that the FBI probe was originally focused on Acevedo. But, if you're wanting to bribe judges, there have to be real, live judges involved!

Acevedo pled guilty to the charges against him in March. Given the description of McGinty, I think he might be too stubborn to be that smart, at least at the start.

As for McGinty, this was his first term; he was elected as part of Texas' version of the anti-Obama red tide in 2010. Maybe, at the ballot box, a few other rats in more purplish areas will be flushed out of sewers in November.

It's once again time to swat down the David Ortiz Hall of Fame claims

Craig Calcaterra at NBC is the latest to get on my wrong side regarding David Ortiz and the HOF, with this, over Ortiz's bitching about an official scorer's ruling:
Let’s ... focus of the pettiness of a guy with a Hall of Fame resume throwing a little temper tantrum over a scoring call that will matter not one iota in the course of this season let alone his career.
Is Ortiz already a member of the "Hall of Very Good"? Yes.

Hall of Fame? No. As I said in comments there:
Right now, in my opinion, he’s borderline … or even borderline of borderline. Barely at 2K hits, yet to hit 1,500 RBIs, despite playing AL and almost all at DH. Never has broken 7 WAR in a season per B-Ref, and only once, 4 WAA.
So, nice, but not huge.

I then linked to Jay Jaffe's JAWS list for first basemen, where he's only 33rd. I then noted:
Of the 1B ahead of him on JAWS, who aren’t yet in the HOF, there’s a number who will likely not get there at all. Keith Hernandez, Todd Helton, John Olerud, Will Clark, Mark Teixeira (yes), Fred McGriff, Norm Cash, Dolph Camilli (yes!). 
I added that this did NOT include PEDers like Rafael Palmeiro and Mark McGwire. And yes, with Ortiz's name having been on a certain list linked to the New York Times, and his stats zoom when going from Boston to Minnesota, we (at least those of us who consider this a factor in general) have to take that into account, too. (As for the reality of that factor, I say it's at least "possible.)

Other people then trotted out the "but the World Series" arguments. I countered:
Don Larsen. Kirk Gibson. David Freese. Luis Gonzales.

All great WS performances. All arguably more outstanding than any single WS performance. Freese will be lucky to enter the front doors as a guest with paying double admission. Gibby’s never going to be there (and never made an All-Star team). Ditto for Larsen (and Gonzales, off the ballot after his first year this year).

If you just want “Hall of Very Good” types, I can specifically go there for a few more. Joe Carter. Bill Mazerowski who shouldn’t be in there.
So, not yet, at least, a HOFer. And, for a 1B/DH, where you carry an extra offensive burden to qualify, not THAT close.

As for what he does need to qualify? I said, assuming he plays his two guaranteed years, with enough ABs that his first optional year vests, and then, enough ABs in 2016 his second option year vests:
If he could do his, say, 2010 slashes of .270/.370/.530/.900 (rounded the slugging up 1 percentage point for nice numbers) the rest of this year and the next, and, for his last two, produce, say .255/.350/.500/.850, he’ll probably have a solid case. But, right now, he’s not even on that lower pace this year.
A finish-out like that?

He's likely be at about 2,600 hits, 1,800 RBIs, 510 HRs on counting stats. On sabermetrics, we'll give him 135 on career OPS+,  20 on career WAA and 51 on career WAR. That's allowing for his games played to decline a bit each year.

The WAA is still low in my book, but 1B/DH is a tough competition slot. On JAWS, he'd jump four places, to No. 29.

So, four years from now, at his position, he's not a slam dunk.

And, per yet another commenter on Craig's link, he may be pissed, and scrapping for base hits by scorer's change of mind, because he's not even close to what I noted:
He’s hitting .190/.301/.413 in the month of June and .163/.290/.327 over the last thirty days. Ugly numbers.
Not too good.

Counting stats aren't everything, but, if he finishes below 2,500 hits and below 500 HRs, I don't see him getting in.

#Iraq — US doubles down on nation building round 2?

Apparently Barack Obama has learned nothing from George W. Bush. It might be one thing to passively stand aside while Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki gets overthrown, or fights off attempts at that.

It's another to actually meet with his potential replacements. What if he's overthrown, but not by one of "our" guys? In that case, we're facing blowback. 

And, Maliki's indicated he's immune to public pressure. If we felt we had to meet with potential replacements, any idiot would know that doing this on the QT would have been much smarter than a public embrace.

Also, the threats of withholding materials? That usually doesn't work either. If the other party does eventually knuckle under, it's with petulance. That petulance includes questions of why didn't you do this to the other side? See "Palestinians and Israelis." 

And, if we're trying to pick winners and losers, sending "advisers" is also stupid; good way for them to get caught up in some sort of crossfire. And, the actual 300 (for now but counting?) is worse than the expected 100.

Hell, six months from now, Iraq might make Afghanistan look stable.

To riff on the old Colin Powell "Pottery Barn rule" — If you broke something at a store, don't try to fix it inside the same store.

June 18, 2014

If you really believe faces evolved to absorb punches

I'm sure a number of my science minded friends saw the story last week about two University of Utah professors who claim, in the worst Pop Ev Psych idea since Randy Thornill claimed that rape was evolutionarily adaptive, that australopithecine faces evolved their heavy brow ridges to better absorb punches. (Here's a good, straight-up takedown by  Brian Switek.)

First, given the last prior stupidity to come out of the University of Utah, my first counterargument is that, in that case, our eyes evolved to see the certainty of room-temperature cold fusion.

Second, instead of pressures for intelligence, did Australopithecine brains start getting bigger to act as shock absorbers for their faces that allegedly evolved to absorb punches better?  Ergo, our neocortex is then that word that Pop Ev Psychers hate ... a SPANDREL!

So, I should thank my Australopithecine ancestry and lucky stars that a crude version of self-protection made me brilliant!

Third, does this explain the stereotypical beetle-browed look of modern violent criminals? Does it especially explain modern black criminality? Yes, I went there. Obviously, they kept the brow ridges that enlightened Caucasians lost when they moved out of Africa. And, of course, racialists like to take Pop Ev Psych just one step further.

Fourth, per a Tweet from Massimo Pigliucci, if you believe this trait extended unto modern homo sapiens, have you done rigorous testing on modern homo sapiens? Like, er, yourselves? No fair volunteering your fists for an old claim that the human hand evolved to punch. We're just talking about faces, so your volunteerism in the name of scientific research will be limited to that. I can work on finding volunteer fists for the other end  of the test myself. Maybe I'll start with some of those stereotypical beetle-browed African types, you know?

And, per my "second," above, the smarter you are on a good old IQ test, that means the better your brain is as a shock absorber, theoretically. In turn, that means your face must be punched harder and more often to test this extension of your theory.

We do know, or "know," per Steve Pinker, that we were Hobbesian brutes until recently, after all. So, surely, this arms race increased until some benighted, presumably Caucasian turning point.

One of the more laughable defenses of the pair I found was from someone on Facebook who claimed this didn't involved psychology. Really? Alleged increases in violence don't involve psychology? And, they don't involve evolutionary psychology when tied to claims about evolutionary biology? And, they don't involve Pop Ev Psych when stupidly tied together?

Alex, I'll take "Totally wrong British Facebook commenters" for $1,000, please!

Wanted: Your new name for the #Redskins

For illustrative purposes only. As content on blogs is generally
considered opinion, Dan Snyder & the Washington Redskins
have no enforceable authority for this to be removed. Ditto if
I Photoshopped a "Washington Palefaces" helmet, etc.
Now that Danny Boy Snyder and the Washington Redskins have lost a suit in the U.S. Patent Office — a ruling that, if upheld, means all of his team's trademarks of the "Redskins" are null and void — maybe the name will be changed to something else.

The team thinks it will win that appeal:
"We are confident we will prevail once again, and that the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board's divided ruling will be overturned on appeal," team attorney Robert Raskopf said in a statement. "This case is no different than an earlier case, where the Board cancelled the Redskins' trademark registrations, and where a federal district court disagreed and reversed the Board."
However, the early case's overturning was on a technicality, not "merits." The legal concept is known as "laches." That technicality doesn't seem to be an issue in the new suit, according to a good overview by Vox. Actually, since I looked on Wiki, per the link for "laches," it could still apply, in a vacuum. As for the "you weren't offended enough" part of the district court's ruling in 2004, on the 1999 case? In the real world, the cultural and social landscape in the US on such issues has changed a lot in 15 years. And, the plaintiffs have a lot more evidence to present this time.

Given the likelihood the ruling sticks this time, and the way the mouth-breathers are already populating sports websites' discussion of this issue, I'm lining up suggested name changes.

No. 1?
"Washington Wingnuts."  It even has alliteration. Wouldn't make for the best logo, though.


No. 2?
"Washington Palefaces." It's got the petard-hoisting angle. Helmet would have a pasty-faced Snyder as logo, mayhaps.

No. 3?
"Washington Rednecks." Keeps the "red" in the name, hoists the petard higher than the "Palefaces" does. Would satisfy wingnuts because a stereotypical picture of one of their own would be the new logo.

No. 4? 
"Washington Gasbags." Snyder could put Rush Limbaugh on the helmets. Or Glenn Beck, if he wanted a younger angle.

No. 5?
"Washington Lobbyists." After all, who's the biggest winner in DC? Dollar bill on helmets presages the NFL eventually having NASCAR-style unis.

No. 6?
"Washington Snyders." Danny Boy's wet dream comes true.

No. 7?
"Washington Hymies." The offensiveness issue punches Snyder right in the personal nut sack.

Anyway, if you've got anything else, write it in.

I'll even accept comments from wingnuts just for the fun of rejecting them like a weak Dwyane Wade layup.

As for what this ruling would mean when upheld? Other people could not only sell items with a straight-up Redskins logo without violating copyright. They could sell stuff with something like my "No" slash through it, or worse. And, Danny Boy, since "Redskins" would no longer be trademarked, couldn't win a copyright suit OR a product disparagement suit. 

That said, in a good explainer, near the bottom, Sports on Earth links Forbes to say that Danny Boy could sue under state laws or common law statutes. State courts in non-mouthbreathing areas would surely rule against him, though,  unless a state law very, very explicitly compelled a ruling otherwise.

As for what's at stake financially?

A quick teh Google says, without the Dallas Cowboys counted separately, since Jethro Jerry Jones finagled himself out of revenue sharing, that the NFL sold $2 billion-with-a-B of merchandise in 2010. Since the Redskins are fairly popular, I'll divide by 30 rather than 32, and round up just slightly. That's $67 million gross in Redskins money; at a 10 percent profit for licensing fees, that's $6.7 million, as a guesstimate. Now, that said, would they lose all of that? No, Danny Boy would, if he wants to keep fighting, stamp an "Authorized Washington Redskins™ logo on products that were still paying him for the branding, and appeal to mouthbreathers to "stick it to liberals" and diehards to buy only "authorized." But, would he lose half of that? I think that's reasonable.

June 17, 2014

What do the Spurs need to do for 2014-15?

Before the NBA Finals were even done, there was plenty of talk about the Miami Heat needing to upgrade its Big Three to a Big Four, with Carmelo Anthony coming to Miami on a max contract — IF the Big Three of LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade would all exercise their contract opt-out rights and come back for less, and other players would adjust their contracts as needed.

But, the San Antonio Spurs have their own needs, with several free agents, including Boris Diaw, Matt Bonner, and Patty Mills top the list.

Assuming Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili are down with rejoining coach Gregg Popovich for one more run, which Tony Parker says will be the case, the next question is, how much will it cost for the other players?

Since Kawhi Leonard is the future of the Spurs, and with just one year on his contract, you have to keep him at any reasonable cost, and plan this offseason's resigning of in-house free agents in line with that. The Spurs have July 1-Oct. 31 to do an extension. I think, rather than a full four years, both sides will agree to extend 2015 by two years, with more money for next year, plus the two years beyond. Look for three years at, say, 5/7/8 on the yearly millions. That still gives Leonard, in a post-Duncan world, plenty of years to do two full-bore free agent contracts. Bonner? If you're lucky, he'll accept a "for the team" cut from $3M to 2.5. Diaw, you hope will resign for not more than $5M, compared to this year's $4.7. Neither Bonner nor Diaw should get more than two years. And, if NBA rules allow it, tearing up Leonard's current contract and giving him a two-year extension at $5M per would be good.

Mills? He's gone, Spurs fans, in all likelihood. He reinvented and rejuvenated himself, and has already made noise about wanting to start somewhere. So, Pops and R.C. Buford have to ask if they're comfortable going back to Cory Joseph as Parker's backup or not. The Spurs have the option of giving Marco Belinelli the keys to the second unit. Given that both Joseph and Belinelli are in the last year of contracts, I suspect there's going to be some strong preseason competition set up by Pops.

Danny Green has one year left. It's his chance to show how much he can improve as a dribbler and a passer.

So, the Spurs' goals? Resign Bonner and Diaw. Look for some filler option as a swingman or an inside banger. See if Joseph and/or Belinelli can pick up a reasonable part of the Mills slack.

#Benghazi is now dead for #teaparty bitching — what's next?

A scene in Benghazi the night of the 2012 attack.
AFP/Getty Images via Washington Post
The Washington Post reports that a Team Obama commando raid has captured a top suspect in the 2012 Benghazi, Libya embassy bombing, the first such person to be nabbed.

The New York Times now reports the operation to seize Ahmed Abu Khattala was in planning for about a year. The Obama Administration reportedly did not want to destabilize the Libyan government (so much for the success of nation building, not just now but in years to come, eh?) and wanted to make sure it had enough evidence to stand up legally. (At least he's apparently? not going to be tried by a military commission.)

Anyway, the operation was reportedly smooth:
A United States law enforcement official said the military-law enforcement team — composed of American commandos and F.B.I. agents — captured Mr. Abu Khattala somewhere on the outskirts of Benghazi. No shots were fired, no civilians were hurt and no one else was taken into custody, the official said, in what was apparently a surprise raid.
So, we can probably now expect the tea partiers and the official GOP to go officially silent about Benghazi. The "do-nothing" and "inept" angles have both been abruptly removed.

That's especially true since a wingnut-friendly senator is on the record as liking things. Per the Post's story:
Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Intelligence Committee, told reporters after news of the capture broke that the administration had “been in touch with us for the last several days on this.”

“It’s good news,” Chambliss said. “He’s being interrogated right now.”
Well, there you go, wingnuts. The Benghazi gig is past its expiration date for sure. (Unless, of course, Saxby Chambliss is a sellout, which, of course, he may be.) That's even more true since Abu Khattala has now confirmed an anti-Islam video is at least part of what drove the attack.

So, what now, wingnuts?

Given that more and more U.S. district judges are ruling more and more states' gay marriage laws unconstitutional, I guess that will be our next big scandal. Ignore that some of these judges have been appointed by either Shrub or Poppy Bush, of course.

And, there's always the socialist Obama destroying our country, with the EPA carbon emission standards proof of that. Never mind that a fair portion of those reductions are already "baked in" from earlier control standards.

And, of, course, there's Iraq. Never mind that we still have nobody from the 101st Fighting Keyboarders, to revise an old phrase, volunteering to go over and fight themselves.

The least you nutbars could do is come up with a new scandal or two, like reparative therapy for Obama Derangement Syndrome. THAT, after all, IS a choice.

Of course, the wingnuts could double down on Benghazi, too, claiming that this arrest was made to hide the true record of what happened there. Stay tuned.

(Bowe Bergdahl is also "dead" as a meme since, as Wonkette notes, he was actually a Randian who wanted to go Rambo.)

The true, true record, of course, is one that nobody wants to discuss in either party. Benghazi was a spook shack. The CIA didn't want uniformed military security there in part for that reason.  Ambassador Christopher Stevens presumably went along, and hence the result.

The true, true scandal is that Eisenhower warned about the "military-industrial complex" even as he ramped up the covert war complex. Mossadegh in Iran. Arbenz in Guatemala. The Bay of Pigs was originally his baby, too, don't forget. And, since then, nobody in the bipartisan foreign policy establishment has looked back.

Obama, Krugman, critics and straw men

Paul Krugman is usually better as a pundit, even when talking economics, and definitely when talking broader issues, when he's not trying to simultaneously defend the presidential accomplishments of Barack Obama.

Which he has just done again.

Problems?

First, while I'm not as much an Obamacare skeptic as I once was, I'm still not doing cartwheels, or even half rounds, over it. Not even as a Johnny come lately. Sorry, Paul, but I think the jury is still out more than you do, especially when heavyweight insurance companies within America's Health Insurance Plans, the industry's DC lobbying shop, recently asked for catastrophic-only "lead" plans (my word) to be OK for Obamacare funding along with bronze, silver, gold, platinum, titanium, uranium and whatever else.

In other words, insurers are saying that costs are going to continue rising a fair amount, and a lot of self-employeds, or people dumped out of company plans, may well only want to pay for, and feel comfortable paying for, a catastrophic only play.

Second is the Obama EPA's new carbon control policy on coal-fired power plants. Couple of caveats here. First, as news outlets reported last week, the EPA is once again trying to get the press to let science and technology experts in the department, not just spokescritters and administrators, go "on background" on this issue. Red flag. Second, the cuts include some that are already in progress.

Third is the straw man part. Here's Krugman:
So why all the bad press?

Part of the answer may be Mr. Obama’s relatively low approval rating. But this mainly reflects political polarization — strong approval from Democrats but universal opposition from Republicans — which is more a sign of the times than a problem with the president. Anyway, you’re supposed to judge presidents by what they do, not by fickle public opinion.

A larger answer, I’d guess, is Simpson-Bowles syndrome — the belief that good things must come in bipartisan packages, and that fiscal probity is the overriding issue of our times. This syndrome persists among many self-proclaimed centrists even though it’s overwhelmingly clear to anyone who has been paying attention that (a) today’s Republicans simply will not compromise with a Democratic president, and (b) the alleged fiscal crisis was vastly overblown.

The result of the syndrome’s continuing grip is that Mr. Obama’s big achievements don’t register with much of the Washington establishment: he was supposed to save the budget, not the planet, and somehow he was supposed to bring Republicans along.
What a laugher.

If anything, this description fits Obama himself to a T — a centrist who is still, nearly halfway through his second term, trying to get the GOP to sing Kumbaya with him.

A double laugher is that Krugman ignores all the ways Obama has extended, or even expanded, Bush's National Security State.

Krugman's not yet in the territory of reliable partisan hack within the two-party system, but he's getting closer and closer.

June 16, 2014

The #Cardinals finally give Carlos Martinez his chance

It's too bad that it's at the expense of Adam Wainwright skipping a rotation turn over precautions with his tender wing, but finally, Carlos Martinez is going to get his shot at a turn in the rotation.

(Make sure your Twitter account (Very NSFW!) doesn't get "hacked" again, Carlos. You don't want to do anything to cause manager Mike Matheny to once again demote you from the "Mike's guys" list. )

There's a couple of flip sides. One, because Martinez hasn't had time to "stretch out" into a starter's role, he'll be on a tight pitch count. So, GM John Mozeliak, per the story, called up Nick Greenwood from Memphis. Randal Grichuk got sent back down to create the opening.

Unfortunately, that fills out the Cards' current 40-man roster. So, Stephen Piscotty doesn't have a chance at an OF call-up right now, it seems. 

So, while I've said before I'm not a Mozeliak bandwagoner, but I think he's generally smart? Here, I disagree. A 26-year-old who's not shown serious promise yet of being MLB level shouldn't have been on the 40-man in the first place, even if he's playing better this year.

"Sugar" Shane Robinson is the only call-up option in the near future, as both Grichuk and Oscar Taveras must stay in Memphis 10 days. To be honest, as ugly as it is, I'd stay with the current OF, and either a 13-pitcher roster or bring Greg Garcia back up.

There's one way out of this mess, whether before or after July 31 .... that's a trade where the Cards get one less player back than sending out, as far as players on teams' current 40-mans, or else putting Pete Kozma on waivers.

==

And, his actual performance in that chance was "meh." The lack-of-focus, lack-of-control issues that have marked his relief work this year came up again as a starter. Hell, maybe he needs some Adderall. The team needs to do its due diligence, joking aside, to ask if he does have some version of ADD or ADHD that could stand some help. 

But, a good piece here on his potential future.

Texas — unsafe at any speed

You probably already knew that, if you live here, but here's the details, via a report on safe living in all 50 states, that Texas is the fifth-most unsafe state.

Safety Conditions in Texas
30th – Murder and Non-negligent Manslaughter per Capita
40th – Fatalities per 100 Million Vehicle Miles of Travel
41st – Employer Health Insurance Coverage Rates
14th – Public Hospital Rankings
39th – Sex Offenders Per Capita
31st – Assault per Capita
46th – Percentage of Population Without Health Insurance Coverage
27th – Percentage of People Who Spend More Than They Make
42nd – Annual Consumer Savings Account Averages
50th – Number of Climate Disasters (over 1 billion in damage)

The rankings in the 40s are all no surprise. Texas has a lot of DWI drivers, and a certain amount of road rage in its hot-summer big cities. (And yes, higher temperatures do appear to add to shorter tempers.)

The two insurance rankings? We all know that, but, Tricky Ricky Perry, and the Tea Party and Tea Party-lite wings of the state GOP both reject Medicaid expansion, so, that won't change as long as the GOP controls the levers of power.

The low savings, that 42nd? Well, folks, that's Rick Perry's Texas Miracle! All those great, fantastic, high-paying jobs that he allegedly created. 

Finally, that 50th? Our combo of tornadoes, along with hail and other frontal-related weather problems from the north and west, on the one hand, and hurricanes from the Gulf, on the other, means it will stay that way. The total dollar amount will just get worse with global warming.

Oh, go look at the map on the link, too. All the unsafe states? They're colored "red" for being unsafe, but, they seem to line up with being "red" politically, too. What a shock.