August 30, 2014

#GregAbbott still can't "stand" for much, can he?

There's also other politically incorrect language the Abbott folks probably want us to avoid.

Like, I guess we can't ask him to "roll out new policy statements," can we? "Asleep at the wheel" might be problematic, too, especially asleep at the wheel of crony capitalism at CPRIT and elsewhere. "CPRIT: Too strong for a Texas Republican man, but made for a Democratic woman (if she will actually pull the trigger)."

He certainly can't "stand" for multiple debates against Wendy Davis. That's probably because he's afraid it would be too much work to fake sincerity, to fake humanness, in a roundtable-style format. The fact that he's now agreed to a "new" debate offer, set for the same day as the original was slated, and also in the Metromess, underscores that.

I'm surprised he can "stand" continuing to lose in court, like on the state's abortion law. Maybe that's why another reason why he doesn't want a roundtable-style debate with Davis.

Update, Aug. 31. I'm sorry. Abbott will "stand" for one thing, namely voter suppression. Hat tip to Perry.

At the same time, the state's lamestream media can't stand for more than two people in debates. Lets invite Libertarian Kathie Glass. Let's invite Brandon Parmer of the Greens, if he's still alive. Per the second link, the spinelessness of Metromess media in offering a "new" debate option to Abbott underscores how bad they are.

August 29, 2014

Texas #abortion law: #GregAbbott loses again in court

Like clockwork, Greg Abbott loses another case in federal court:
U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel ruled that requiring abortion facilities to comply with the standards of ambulatory surgical centers would reduce access so much that it would put an unconstitutional burden on Texas women seeking the procedure.
 "The ambulatory-surgical-center requirement is unconstiutional because it imposes an undue burden on the right of women throughout Texas to seek a previabilty abortion," Yeakel ruled, blocking enforcement of the requirement scheduled to take effect Monday.

Now, while Planned Parenthood has "come out swinging," will Wendy Davis do so on what propelled her to the statewide political limelight in the first place?

Given that she's pretty much avoided this issue like the plague, this could be "interesting."

It could actually be a "get your popcorn" moment; we might see if Davis has St. Vitus Dance or something, based on the amount of wiggling.

Or she might say something as bland as "let the justice system run its course," like after Rick Perry's indictment.

Your #GregAbbott movie text of the week? "John Dietz" or "school finance"

"Thank" Greg Abbott for interrupting your movie.
As a number of people know, Greg Abbott hit a new barf-inducing low a few weeks back of asking supporters to text him from movies.
In a new twist, Abbott is taking his campaign to the movies. He is running an ad in two dozen movie theaters across the state, playing on every screen a film is being shown. The ad asks moviegoers to text the word “FREEDOM” to the campaign. The effort is aimed at collecting information the campaign can use to identify and boost turnout.
This combines three barf factors of the modern movie-going experience:
1. Ads before movies;
2. Political advertising in general today;
3. People using cellphones at movies.

And, as regular readers know, as more and more opportunities to lampoon Abbott come up, I'll be doing just that.

Given Judge John Dietz' ruling on the unconstitutionality of Texas' school financing earlier this week, your text, per the header, is obvious.


Update: Or, even better than any of the other links, text "abortion," or "reproductive choice," or "anti-woman," or similar. Texas' Worst Lawyer has lost again in court, on the state abortion law.

#SJW alert: The new New Left and 20th-century literature

As a good skeptical left-liberal of sorts, one who knows that neoliberals are captives of an ever more rapacious Big Business world, with hypercapitalism, increasing income inequality, globalization and "free" trade and more, I've often said that "Brave New World" is the most prescient novel of the 20th century, ranking ahead of Orwell's "1984."

Not that Orwell is bad, by any means. Certainly, the ideas of "doublespeak" and "thought police" are quite true. But, I've always thought that, in the capitalist West, Big Business would be as much of a problem with this as Big Government and that, to the degree Big Government became a problem, it would be in part due to the connivance of Big Business. Edward Snowden, with most of his NSA work, and some of his CIA work, being done at private contractors, as well as Halliburton and the company formerly known as Blackwater in the Iraq War, are clear exemplars.

That said, the new New Left, the new identity politics Left, the world of Social Justice Warriors and nth-wave feminists, reminded me yesterday that I'd overlooked a novel that, if not as prescient as "Brave New World," might just deserve to go ahead of "1984."

I'm talking about Arthur Koestler's magnum opus, "Darkness at Noon." To its reality, "1984" and its quasi-sidekick, "Animal Farm," are but shadows on Plato's Republican cave. It's what Orwell might have written had he lived next door to the Soviet Union, or even lived through a brief but intense Red Terror, as Koestler did with Bela Kun's post-World War I Hungary, or even been in a Communist party, which Koestler was in late-Weimar Germany.

For those unfamiliar with it, the "protagonist," if we can call him that, is one Rubashov. Koestler wrote the book in 1940, and though he never uses the words "USSR" or "Stalin," or the phrase "show trial," it's clear that that's what it was about. Indeed, Wikipedia says that the "fellow travelers" of the 1930s-40s Hollywood Left feared its explosive movie potential and did all they could to squelch a product based on it.

The plot? After years and years of throwing small fry under the Stalinist wheels, Rubashov, an "Old Bolshevik," is now on the other end of the stick. From having not only informed on people or turned them in, but having helped with previous trials, he knows what's expected of him -- a confession -- and what's  going to happen to him -- an execution. The book has multiple interrogation sessions interspersed with Rubashov's "decompressions" in his solitary confinement cell.

And, eventually, worn down and worn out, he confesses.

Which is what the SJWs want. It doesn't matter the crime; it doesn't matter if you know what the alleged crime is in advance of the Internet (mainly social media) interrogation. It doesn't even matter if you clearly understand it after interrogation, or even after confession.

Indeed, rather like Gletkin dealing with Rubashov, there's an element of doublespeak. The fact that you can't understand is part of the proof of your guilt. That alleged guilt, in turn, is why things can't be explained to you more clearly.

August 28, 2014

Texas school finance unconstitutional: Judge Dietz slaps down Perry, Abbott

State District Judge John Dietz, upholding his initial ruling of last year on review, says that Texas' school finance system is unconstitutional.

Here is the basic background, to refresh you:
The case grew out the Legislature's cutting $5.4 billion from public education in 2011, prompting more than 600 school districts responsible for educating three quarters of Texas' 5 million-plus public school students to sue. 
 They claimed they no longer had sufficient resources to educate students. The lawsuit cited Texas' school enrollment growth of nearly 80,000 students per year due to a booming population and the Legislature's increased demands for standardized testing and curriculum requirements to graduate high school.

As it turned out, of course, Texas' economy was nowhere near that dire, and Comptroller Susan Combs had good reason to know that before giving information that she did the the Lege.

Here's what happened next:
Dietz's initial verbal ruling came after 44 days of testimony, but he held off compiling a written ruling that would start the appeals process. Four month later, lawmakers restored more than $3.4 billion to classrooms, translating to a 2014-2015 public education budget worth nearly $56.3 billion, and slashing the number of standardized tests required for high school graduation from 15 to five. 
 Dietz then reopened the case this past January, hearing testimony on how the extra funding and curriculum standards overhaul had affected school districts. But the new evidence wasn't enough to change his mind.

Why?

Basically, because math!

Note that $3.4 billion is $2 billion less than $5.4 billion, first. Second, note that that was one budget cycle ago and didn't account for growth in student population. Third, even the 2011 budget before the $5.4 billion cut was inadequate.

The Dallas Morning News, here, addresses the growth issue part of the ruling.
The lawsuit cited Texas' school enrollment growth of nearly 80,000 students per year due to a booming population and the Legislature's increased demands for standardized testing and curriculum requirements to graduate high school.

The cut in standardized tests may have helped somewhat, but, it didn't address 80,000 new students per year. 

More details here from the Austin American-Statesman. Here's the bullet points of a 404-page ruling that notes Dietz found four specific constitutional problems.
• The Legislature has failed to suitably provide for Texas public schools because the school finance system “cannot provide a constitutionally adequate education for all Texans,” Dietz said in his order.
• The finance system is inadequate because it does not provide enough money to accomplish a “general diffusion of knowledge.
• The system effectively imposes a property tax, in violation of the Texas Constitution, because districts do not have “meaningful discretion” over how the taxes are raised, assessed or spent.
• The system is financially inefficient because all Texas students do not have equal access to the educational money needed.
“Consequently, the court enjoins further funding under the system until the constitutional infirmities are corrected,” Dietz wrote. 
As the ABC story at the second link notes, this will be a campaign issue.

As the Houston Chron notes, complete with the ruling documents on site, there's one small twist that's different from a year ago:
The ruling wasn't a victory for all the plaintiffs, however. Dietz denied declaratory relief for a group of charter schools that joined the suit, as well as a sixth group of so-called "efficiency interveners" pushing school vouchers and reforms to teacher tenure laws.

Whether that will cause a new wave of charter school creations, I don't know. And, the other issues have to make folks like the Texas State Teachers Association a bit leery. 

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis has already asked why the office of Attorney General and GOP gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott is defending the case. Assuming he appeals to the Supreme Court, that becomes a bigger issue and a bigger question.

Plus, per that story, assuming the state Supremes haven't made their final ruling before next year's Lege starts (I'm assuming Abbott appeals directly to there), it will create fireworks there for Speaker Joe Straus, the new guv, and the new lite guv.

Per the Chron, the political optics are already starting:
"Republicans like Sens. Dan Patrick (GOP lieutenant governor candidate) and (GOP Comptroller candidate) Glenn Hegar have touted their education cuts as a victory, and Attorney General Greg Abbott defended those cuts in court," Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said. "The decision today is clear: these cuts were bad for Texas students and our state."

That's about right.

Speaking of, Abbott's released a statement:
"Our obligation is to improve education for our children rather than just doubling down on an outdated education system constructed decades ago. In my campaign for governor, I have proposed substantial improvements for our schools that will do a better job of educating Texans while spending tax dollars wisely. My plan will make Texas top-ranked in the nation for education by returning genuine local control to school districts, ensuring all children are reading and doing math at grade level by third grade, and graduating more students from high school than ever before."
Translation? 

"I'm cheap, I'm hoping that the new loophole for charter schools is a massive one, inner cities are still SOL, and rural wingnuts are stuck with me."

Dan Patrick's is even stupider; he says that it's ultimately for the Lege to decide all of this, rejecting the idea of judicial review.

I don't know if Davis has a statement out yet or not.

Until she, her campaign, Battleground Texas, etc., learn that weekly newspapers exist in Texas, I'm not going fishing for any statement of hers, either. That said, it's not just her. It's Dan Patrick vs. Leticia Van de Putte. I'm sure that, as other statewide races gear up, it will also be other Democrats vs. other Republicans. If you're a Democrat running for statewide office and has a campaign staffer savvy enough to do email blasts, and you're refusing to reach out to smaller newspapers, I don't have a lot of use for you. You are somewhat fulfilling stereotypes that this is all about seven-eight counties in the state.

Meanwhile, back to the main point.

And, also, as if his abuse of power indictment isn't a political boat anchor enough, this, too could weigh on a 2016 Presidential run, if Perry is dumb enough to continue down that road.

That said, let's get back to Dietz's bullet points.

The first and second tie in with the Texas franchise tax and a Perry-pushed "reform" that's what, almost a decade old now? At the time, everybody with brains said it was inadequate and that's proven to be the case.

Bullet point 4 could be a bit dicey. It gets more at the issue of "equalization," beyond the failed "improvement" to the franchise tax. It could be interpreted as saying that the state needs to find better ways of distributing money, as well as distributing more of it, and not just for equalization purposes.

Bullet point 3? Depending on how it's interpreted, that sounds, although it's not new out of Dietz' mouth, like it could be a ticking time bomb.

Angels should trade for Colon to save Arte Moreno from himself

Mike DiGiovanna at the LA Times says that that the L.A. Angels don't want to trade withj the Mets for Bartolo Colon  because it will push them too close to the lux tax limit next year, and, as a sidebar, could prevent them from chasing a top-tier free agent.

Welll, on Colon alone, wrong; on Colon preventing the latter, maybe that's good.

First, the Colon alone situation Looking at Cots Contracts for the basics of 2015 Angel overhead, here we go.

The Angels have $123M committed next year. Colon would make it 134. Huston Street's option goes to $141M. There's what, $12M or so that each team owes MLB for pensions, etc. annually, that counts toward the lux tax? (I'm not exactly sure what the 2014 number is, but it was just under $11M for 2013.) That's $153M now. David Freese on his final arbitration year? We'll say that's at $6M for $159M on our count. Other arb cases, by my math, come in at $17M, on a rough guess, for $176M. Let me add $4M, or a bit over 2 percent, to take that up to $180M.

Others? Jason Grilli and Joe Thatcher are gone, if necessary. Even with minor league call-ups, the Angels are below $189M for next year. Other small free agents, like John McDonald, also will be let go.

Plus, if any MLB player is traded for Colon, his pay comes off that total, remember.

It would be tight, yes, but very doable.

Second, as for Colon instead of another free agent, or Colon being too old, or whatever?

First, Colon's age.

Sure, a younger pitcher would be nice, yes. That said, Colon's not bad. If he has 1.7 WAR for next year, going on 1 WAR = $6.5M, he's exactly earned his keep. And, is that unrealistic? No. Especially given that the Angels don't have an idea yet on Garrett Richards' 2015 time frame, Colon could be desirable well into next season.

It's true that DiGiovanna says "push right up against," not over, but notes in the next clause that Arte doesn't want to go over. That's why, with my math, there's some flexibility.

Now, let's look at Moreno hunting great white shark free agents next year.

In starting pitching, there's aces Jon Lester and Max Scherzer, then a step down to James Shields. Especially for just the one year at $11M, I'll argue that, from looking at the 2015 free agent list, Colon is better than a lot of the dog's breath out there.

And, even without Colon in 2015, Scherzer or Lester pushes Arte over the lux tax right there. Even a James Shields is going to push you over, in all likelihood. And, all three, given Moreno's track record, are "magnets" for him to overpay.


If he's going to pursue a B-level pitcher, why not just sign Colon now? Angels fans should see the logic in it, and encourage Jerry DiPoto to push a Colon trade to save Arte from himself.

After that, Moreno and DiPoto can chase David Price in 2016, go over the lux tax for a year, then get back below the next year.

And, Mike DiGiovanna? Per my original blog post, you were bloviating. If yours was a straight news story, you didn't crunch numbers enough. If it was a column, you didn't mention Moreno's past overspending history.

==

Besides that, 2015 is next year. Per many analysts, the Angels could use, really use, Colon now. He'd give them better odds of staying ahead of the A's and winning the division rather than a wild card. He'd also give them better odds of winning more games in the playoffs.

August 27, 2014

Obama reaches new low on #climatechange spinelessness

Chinese Premier Li Kequiang laughs at
'naming and shaming' threats
from President Barak Obama.
Wikipedia photo
Yes, the authoritarian leadership in China is really going to stop burning coal because Barack Neoliberal Obama (born not in Kenya, but a business law program's pocket) thinks that "naming and shaming" countries contributing to global warming will make them stop it:

The Obama administration is working to forge a sweeping international climate change agreement to compel nations to cut their planet-warming fossil fuel emissions, but without ratification from Congress.
 In preparation for this agreement, to be signed at a United Nations summit meeting in 2015 in Paris, the negotiators are meeting with diplomats from other countries to broker a deal to commit some of the world’s largest economies to enact laws to reduce their carbon pollution. But under the Constitution, a president may enter into a legally binding treaty only if it is approved by a two-thirds majority of the Senate.
 To sidestep that requirement, President Obama’s climate negotiators are devising what they call a “politically binding” deal that would “name and shame” countries into cutting their emissions.
What B.O. is committing too, actually, is simply updating what happened at the 2009 Copenhagen round of climate talks:
American negotiators are instead homing in on a hybrid agreement — a proposal to blend legally binding conditions from an existing 1992 treaty with new voluntary pledges. The mix would create a deal that would update the treaty, and thus, negotiators say, not require a new vote of ratification.
Yeah, right. That’s technically true, but it’s meaningless, and anybody with a brain knows that.

As far as it doing anything? I’m sure that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang is quaking in his fake Italian shoes at being “named and shamed.”

But, hey, it’s working already. At least one Gang Green environmental group seems to be giving it the thumbs up.
“There’s some legal and political magic to this,” said Jake Schmidt, an expert in global climate negotiations with the Natural Resources Defense Council, an advocacy group. “They’re trying to move this as far as possible without having to reach the 67-vote threshold” in the Senate.
Yeah, yeah.

Carbon tax domestically, plus carbon import tariff for the other countries. Forces us all on the same playing field, protects “cleaner” American business and thus gets the support of CEOs whose middle names aren’t, all of them, “Outsource,” and gives us fixed, written-in-stone targets.

That said, the NY Times doesn’t quite read the GOP right:
The Obama administration’s international climate strategy is likely to infuriate Republican lawmakers who already say the president is abusing his executive authority by pushing through major policies without congressional approval.
Actually, it’s likely to make them laugh hysterically more than be infuriated, for the reasons I’ve just mentioned.

Beyond that, Obama KNOWS this.

Also laughing at Obama's threats?
PM Tony Abbott of Australia, top
coal exporter to China.
Wikipedia photo
And, he knows it won't do a think to stop actual climate change problems, which the U.N. Intergovermental Panel on Climate Change has just detailed in its newest report.

That would be things like grain harvests already declining, the possibility that we've already cooked in the destruction of the Greenland ice sheet and more.

Meanwhile, the IPCC also notes that, "name and shame" aside, this:
From 1970 to 2000, global emissions of greenhouse gases grew at 1.3 percent a year. But from 2000 to 2010, that rate jumped to 2.2 percent a year, the report found, and the pace seems to be accelerating further in this decade.
Yep, Li Keqiang is laughing all the way to the ribbon cutting for the next Chinese coal-fired power plant. And, the new Liberal government in Australia 

Do we have hope?
The new report found that it was still technically possible to limit global warming to an internationally agreed upper bound of 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, or 2 degrees Celsius, above the preindustrial level. But continued political delays for another decade or two will make that unachievable without severe economic disruption, the report said.
"There never was much hope, Planet Earth."

We're really headed to about 9 degrees F, or 4 C, by the end of the century. And, we haven't even talked about what will happen if and when India starts industrializing at an even more rapid rate. Or if Brazil wants to become an industrial country. Or, if we find even more undersea methane hydrates starting to bubble.

Meanwhile, for American wingnuts who want to say "so what," er, more ozone in U.S. cities is part of the so what. And, unlike international non-binding "naming and shaming," the Clean Air Act requires that that be fixed, especially in hot red-state cities like Phoenix, Dallas, Houston, etc.

And, want to be really alarmist?

Per a long new piece by Charles Mann, all of this is likely going to spur the "salvific technologism" fake solution of geoengineering.
A single country could geo-engineer the whole planet by itself. Or one country’s geo-engineering could set off conflicts with another country—a Chinese program to increase its monsoon might reduce India’s monsoon. “Both are nuclear weapons states,” (David) Keith reminds us.
Let's hope it doesn't get that bad. 

#BurgerKing in Canada? Canadian bacon burgers?

Have it your way, employee on food stamps and all. / Photo via NY Times
And, no, I don't mean Ted Cruz, who, despite denouncing his Canadian citizenship, will always be Canadian bacon (as in a real ham, or a real hog) in my book.

Fox News lists "what we'd like from Canada" with BK buying Canadian icon Tim Horton's to slash taxes.

Actually, here's what I've said.

This is the perfect new leverage to talk about a carbon tax.

And, by "carbon," I of course mean other man-made climate changers, including methane from human-raised farting and belching cattle. If we had a domestic carbon tax, we could also have a carbon tariff on foreign companies, and a fast-food place like Le Roi de Hamburger in Quebec could get dinged twice.

Beyond that, people worried about losing an American icon, besides the tax dodge?

That top link points out other issues, including how globalization means that Americans aren't always the top business dogs:
The acquisition highlights the ever-higher ambitions of Burger King’s majority owner, the relatively low-key 3G Capital. In just six years, the firm, backed by one of Brazil’s wealthiest men, has taken over Burger King and the ketchup colossus H.J. Heinz and helped orchestrate the megamerger of the beer giants InBev and Anheuser-Busch. …
 (I)t has no bigger admirer than Mr. Buffett, who is a longtime friend of the 3G co-founder Jorge Paulo Lemann and was a partner in buying Heinz last year for $23 billion.
Let’s note several things.

First, that first sentence. Burger King hasn’t been an “American icon” for some time, just like Budweiser hasn’t, if you will.

Second, getting back to that tax dodge, something like this was probably going to happen in the future.

Third, the way to stop this is to plug corporate tax loopholes, ideally in a non-revenue neutral fashion, and most ideally in a progressive fashion. (Good luck with that, though.)

And, then, fourth, the way to try to stop this from happening in the future is to stop voting for either neoliberal Democrats or Republicans.

That said, back to the taste buds.

The Canadian-style bagel as a breakfast sandwich basis sounds good. So, too, does the bison burger, and it couldn't be more expensive than a Carl's Jr., could it?



August 26, 2014

Yes, the Angels can sign Bartolo Colon (updated)

Mike DiGiovanna at the LA Times bloviates that the L.A. Angels can't sign Bartolo Colon without going over pushing the limits of the lux tax of $189 million next year.

Wrong.

Looking at Cots Contracts for the basics of 2015 Angel overhead, here we go.

The Angels have $123M committed next year. Colon would make it 134. Huston Street's option goes to $141M. There's what, $12M or so that each team owes MLB for pensions, etc. annually, that counts toward the lux tax? (I'm not exactly sure what the 2014 number is, but it was just under $11M for 2013.) That's $153M now. David Freese on his final arbitration year? We'll say that's at $6M for $159M on our count. Other arb cases, by my math, come in at $17M, on a rough guess, for $176M. Let me add $4M, or a bit over 2 percent, to take that up to $180M.

Others? Jason Grilli and Joe Thatcher are gone, if necessary. Even with minor league call-ups, the Angels are below $189M for next year. Other small free agents, like John McDonald, also will be let go.

Plus, if any MLB player is traded for Colon, his pay comes off that total, remember.

It would be tight, yes, but very doable.

Update, Aug. 27: DiGiovanna responds to an email from me.

He's right that he didn't say Colon by himself would push them over the limit; hence the first-graf update.

That said, my response?

Well, a younger pitcher would be nice, yes. That said, Colon's not bad. If he has 1.7 WAR for next year, going on 1 WAR = $6.5M, he's exactly earned his keep. And, is that unrealistic? No. Especially given that the Angels don't have an idea yet on Richards' 2015 time frame, Colon could be desirable well into next season.

True that you say "push right up against," not over, but you note in the next clause that Arte doesn't want to go over. That's why, with my math, there's some flexibility. And why I'm only halfway apologetic for the word "bloviate," especially since a journalist at the mighty L.A. Times had to look up the damned thing and email me the definition, in case I didn't know it.

Dear Mike: I did know it. That's why I used it.

And, even without Colon in 2015, Scherzer or Lester pushes Arte over the lux tax right there. Even a James Shields is going to push you over, in all likelihood.


If he's going to pursue a B-level pitcher, why not just sign Colon now? Looking at the 2015 free agent list, Colon is better than a lot of the dog's breath out there.

August 25, 2014

Is #TigerWoods even closer to the end of his career?

He has now split up with his latest swing coach, Sean Foley. Per the ESPN story, Foley improved slightly on Tiger's accuracy length, but at the cost of a dozen yards in distance.

Now, Woodsaholics will likely claim that that loss is all due to Tiger's injury. I doubt it. Even before his year of injuries, Tiger was becoming ever more reluctant to use driver except when really needed. That is part of the distance loss — and part of the accuracy gain. Unfortunately, ESPN didn't do the smart thing, combine accuracy and distance under an already existing stat — greens in regulation.

That said, since Tiger is leaving the clubs totally aside until December, there's no way he can get a new swing under his belt for next year's Masters. On the other hand, Golf Channel says that sorting out his swing might have been part of why Tiger announced his planned long layoff.

That next coach won't be a reunion with Butch Harmon, who wasted no time in a peremptory no.

We know it won't be Haney, either. That said, "damaged goods" aside, could Foley have done closer to as good than either of his predecessors than he actually did? This piece shows what a steep difference exists and also shows that Haney was arguably better than Harmon.

If you're still thinking, "but whom," here's your prop bet list. I'd love to see Johnny Miller trying to coach TW.

Back to the more serious side. I agree with Harmon, as quoted in this story, that it was surely rough working with Tiger; his condolence to Haney is only part of that. I disagree with comment, along with saying no to coaching Tiger again, that Tiger doesn't need a coach.

Whether it's overthinking, trying to play through injury, trying to overcompensate, all of the above, or all of the above and other things, Tiger's swing is a mess, and it's a mess he's not going to solve by himself.

Per the second page of the story and interview with Harmon, the mental is the hardest part with being a Tiger Woods swing coach, and will be for the future. Jaime Diaz notes well that Woods has been damaged goods mentally ever since #Hydrantgate, and may never totally recover that. He's lost the intimidation factor, and the confidence factor, too, no matter what his public chatter is.

Texas' race to the bottom on corporate property taxes

Saturday's Waco Trib has a good story about how a 1997 change in state law essentially lowered the bar for what it takes companies in Texas to challenge the appraised value of their property by the local appraisal district.

Result? Big businesses, which can more easily afford the amount of lawyering necessary to seek big cuts in appraisals, are winning the battle to pay less and less in property taxes.

Example 1:
This summer, Sandy Creek Energy Associates protested the value on its Riesel coal-fired power plant, which was completed in 2013 for $1.2 billion and was on MCAD’s books for $884.5 million. Sandy Creek asked the judicially appointed Appraisal Review Board to reduce the value by $631 million, citing unfavorable business conditions. The board upheld the MCAD appraisal, but Sandy Creek has until next month to appeal the value to district court. 
Not reduce the value TO $631M, which would itself be a 25 percent cut or so, but reduce it BY $631M, or approaching 75 percent less.

Example 2:
H-E-B this summer protested the value of the giant store it opened a year ago on Valley Mills Drive and Interstate 35. MCAD valued it at $20.2 million, close to what H-E-B officials announced they were investing in the project. H-E-B this summer argued that it was worth only $8.5 million. The review board rejected the claim, but a lawsuit is still possible.
Nice if you can win a 60 percent deduction. How do you avoid testifying against yourself, though?

Example 3:
Hollywood Theaters is in litigation to reduce a $7.1 million valuation on its Woodway theater. Its most recent settlement offer to the appraisal district was $4 million.
Beyond this shifting more of the corporate tax burden to small properties, it also shifts it to John and Jane Q. Taxpayer.

By this much:
In all, the appraisal district has spent $424,863 since 2010 defending legal challenges from taxpayers, an average of $85,000 a year.

The litigation costs helped drive MCAD’s request for a 24 percent budget increase this year, from $3.6 million to $4.4 million. The district is funded proportionally by the 44 taxing entities in McLennan County.
Ridiculous.

That said, the city of Waco, the biggest such entity except for Waco ISD, is fighting back, by expanding "clawback" provisions in economic development offers.
The new “clawback provision” states that companies that dispute their property tax appraisals at a level lower than originally predicted in the agreement could lose all of their tax incentives retroactively. The provision takes into account normal depreciation of equipment.
This all said, let's not blame Republicans for this. As noted, the bill that allowed this passed in 1997. The 75th Lege had a Democratic majority in the House and Democrat Bob Bullock as Lite Guv. Yet another example of too many conservative Democrats in this state (starting with Bullock being Shrub Bush's pre-presidential tutor) having contributed their own fair share to many of Texas' problems.

Anyway, the second half of the Trib's story has details about how the changes changed the playing field. And are continuing to do so.

August 24, 2014

Korda on Lee: A papier-mache bio of a plaster saint

Clouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. LeeClouds of Glory: The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee by Michael Korda
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

A horrible, ethically challenged book that's also not that new, not that good

Korda's treatment of the Seven Days campaign is the only good think in this book, but not enough to save it from a 1-star rating.

First, despite the volume of endnotes, there's really not a lot of depth, so it's not that new in that way. That's especially true of him never referring by name to a 2007 Lee biography which is much "newer" than his, especially in matters off the battlefield. I find Korda's editors to be flat-out deceitful in their blurbs for this book, and Korda as well for never even mentioning Elizabeth Brown Pryor's 2007 work in the main text.

Related to that, when you're referring to D.S. Freeman once every dozen pages and Fuller and others once every 25, it looks more like you're either cribbing from them, or cribbing from views opposing theirs, than writing anything new.

On the not that good side, here's just a couple of highlights.

1. NO MENTION by Korda that Lee was offered the leadership of the Klan before it was given to Nathan Bedford Forrest after Lee said no. Whether Lee would have accepted without the issue of poor health, who knows. But, it's inexcusable for Korda to not even mention it.

2. On Grant, the man who rapid-marched from Fort Henry to Fort Donelson, then, just over a year later, masterminded the Vicksburg Campaign, didn't have Lee's skill at maneuver, let alone his taste for it, according to Korda???

3. Despite repeatedly talking about Lee's failure to name a chief of staff, the indirectness of his orders, and (contra the work of Longstreet) failure to allow for adequate time for infantry reconnaissance of battle ground, especially in unfamiliar territory like Gettysburg, Korda flat-out refuses to make an overall assessment of Lee's generalship. It's like he's got his plaster saint in mind as military leader and isn't going to listen to reality.

4. As for Lee's relative enlightenment on slavery? Not so fast.

For her 2007 biography, Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters, historian Elizabeth Brown Pryor, per this interview, "drew on a cache of previously unknown Lee family papers, discovered in 2002 in two sturdy wooden trunks that Lee's daughter stored in a Virginia bank about a century ago. Pryor presents a multifaceted man, more accessible and at the same time more puzzling than ever.  Lee not only believed in slavery; he was capable of treating his own slaves cruelly."

Pryor notes:

"He also started hiring slaves to other families, sending them away, and breaking up families that had been together on the estate for generations. ... He also petitioned the court to extend their servitude, but the court ruled against him."

So, on the public persona of Lee as a "moderate" on slavery just doesn't ring so true.

In short, this book looks like a cheap knockoff by Korda to capitalize on the Civil War sesquicentennial. I thought he was better than this as an author, and better ethically.


I've read other books by Korda that if not five-star, were decently four-star. But, after this crap, and there's no other word for it in light of Pryor's book, I'll never read anything by him again.

View all my reviews