SocraticGadfly: 10/5/14 - 10/12/14

October 11, 2014

#Wingnuts: Meet #GregAbbott - money waster in chief (regularly updated)

Now that we progressive types have said "adios, mofo" to El Jefe Mofo Rick Perry, speculation has begun about how Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who has the definite inside track to replace Perry, will be better, worse or just different than Gov. Coyote Chaser.

(Unfortunately, we're learning that both are equally neck deep in crony capitalism with CPRIT, Texas Enterprise Fund, etc. More 

Well, we don't have to speculate too much. Mother Jones reminds us that the love child of Greg Abbott's war on any legislation connected with Barack Obama is the guy who guarantees Tea Partiers won't unite around Rick Perry — Ted Cruz. (For non-Texans unaware of it, Cruz used to be Abbott's solicitor general.)

The nut graf, for economic conservative poseurs like Abbott and their duped followers, is the last in the piece:
Abbott's anti-Washington record has been good for his profile, but it hasn't done much for Texas. He has won just 4 of those 27 cases outright (in a handful of other cases he dropped the suit after the circumstances changed), and the Associated Press calculated that his losing battles had cost the state $2.8 million. Which brings us to the great irony of his career. When Abbott left the Texas Supreme Court to run for attorney general in 2002, Abbott's main critique of his opponent, then-Austin mayor and former trial lawyer Kirk Watson, was a familiar one. You guessed it—frivolous lawsuits.
Bingo. That's probably an undercount, if anything.

And, it's only going to get worse.

I assume Texas redistricting will again get the state hauled into court, this time over Section 3 of the Voting Rights Act. And, unless Johnny Reb Roberts and a majority of the Nine in Black give an even more egregious reading of Section 3 than they did of Section 5, Abbott, the state of Texas, and the taxpayers of Texas — wingnut and sane alike — will lose, lose, lose.

By the time Abbott is presumably elected, that meter will surely be past the $4 million mark.

And, given that his is how Abbott perceives his job as AG:
During his tenure as Texas attorney general, Greg Abbott has developed a bit of a routine: "I go into the office," he told a GOP audience in San Angelo in Februrary, "I sue Barack Obama, and then I go home." It's a line he uses in virtually every speech he gives and it has the benefit of being basically true.
And, this is how nutbar-principled he is on the ebil federal government in general:
Abbott's opposition to any form of federal control is so fierce he even went to court to argue that Texas cities should not be compelled to provide wheelchair access because he believed the Americans With Disabilities Act was unconstitutional—despite the fact that Abbott himself has been paralyzed from the waist down since 1984, when he was struck by a falling tree.
Any liberal types who think he'll be any more open to Obamacare-based expansion of Medicaid than Tricky Ricky was are deluding themselves.

Plus, with him as gov and fair-haired Ted still in the Senate (especially if a wingnut can upset John Cornyn in the Senate primary then win the general), Tea Party-types will work to build a real Texas GOP power base.

And waste even more money over frivolous lawsuits.

And, over workplace non-productivity from uninsured employees.

Update, July 16: Meanwhile, Abbott wants to be, by Tea Party lights, an even bigger money-waster while promising more money savings. Off the Kuff has the details on the start of what sounds like, so far, a Poppy Bush candidacy. The Texas Observer has more.

It sounds like he's already looking past the primary to the general election. Expect Tom Pauken to pick up on these issues, but how much traction will he get with Tea Partiers, let alone Texas media?

Update, July 28: And, Abbott's lost another one! This is his suit over the EPA taking over TCEQ's pollution permitting because the state simply refused to do any real regulating. This was lost at the D.C. Court of Appeals, and there's no chance SCOTUS will even want to hear it, let alone reverse. And yet, Texas' Head.Legal.Moron is talking about appealing.

Here's comment:
Bryan Shaw, chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, who has fiercely opposed the EPA’s rules, said it was ”remarkable” that the courts have repeatedly denied the state’s appeals. 

In response to the latest Circuit Court decision, Shaw issued a statement that claimed that ”the EPA has effectively re-written the Clean Air Act to impose its new standards, imposed severely restrictive timelines on the states to implement its new requirements, and then twisted the act to immediately impose its agenda on Texas.” 
No, what's "remarkable" is that you're dumb enough to believe this was winnable. And, the only re-writing has been done by your agency.

My question is, how much do the likes of Abbott and Shaw believe their own press clippings, or rather, their own lawsuits, and how much, inside themselves, do they admit they're making stuff up?

Update, Sept. 5: Federal appeals court in San Antonio confirms Abbott wasted more money over Texas Senate redistricting.

Update, Nov. 11: He's not just the state's chief money-waster, he's now a water cheat

Update, June 24, 2014: He's now lost to the EPA on greenhouse gas regulations, too. 

Update, Oct. 11, 2014: Per the mix of crony capitalism mentioned in parentheses plus general money wasting, Abbott sure has a lot of "friends" in white-shoe law firms.

Notes to #SJW folks, race-based division of #privilege

I first ran into the "100 percent my way, or 100 percent the highway" thinking of Social Justice Warriors within Gnu Atheism, and even more within its Brat Pack-level offshoot, Atheism Plus. And, I'm far from alone in seeing them that way; it's part of why many people like me don't use the "Big A" word of ourselves.

Well, at Atheism Plus, the scurrying Plusers are primarily devoted to SJW work on behalf of women. But, it's not just any women, or any gender issues. No, it's on behalf of nth-wave feminism. That's a phrase I coined to deliberately riff on Naomi Wolf and others who talk about third-wave feminism, with the idea that when one wave permanently crests, you have another already stored up in the SJW wave machine.

But, my intro threatens to wander.

At the NBC Sports blog, Hardball Talk, in the last few months, I've run into race-focused SJWs. The shooting of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson in Ferguson's been a big catalyst, and a more recent shooting inside St. Louis has only made things worse.

To critique, or even criticize these folks, and take you readers along for that, I need to background myself.

Almost all of my journalism work has been at "community papers." These are the primary non-daily small town papers, partly but not entirely, of the lore and legend of 1950s TV, Norman Rockwell paintings and such.

Anyway, at such places, we are often the sole full-time news writer. So, we're the ones at the city council, county commission and school board meetings. We're the ones at new business ribbon cuttings, taking pictures. We're the ones writing feature stories about little Timmy's battle with leukemia.

In short, we're around town and mingling with people.

Well, for 11 of the past 14 years, approximately, I've been editor, or editor and publisher, in towns that were either majority-minority, or black majority. And, lived in all of them, lest any SJWs get any ideas. In fact, my current location, where I've been at for the last two and one-half years, has a black police chief, which gets directly to the "cops, criminals and race" myth.

Do cops use excessive force at times? Yes. Does such excessive force occasionally involved the end result of a fatal shooting? Yes. Do such cops sometimes not get whatever "justice" (I philosophically reject the word, hence the scare quotes) they might deserve? Yes. Is such at times excessive force, occasionally resulting in a fatal shooting, sometimes not treated with due "justice," from white cops and black residents? Yes.

Note the caveats in bold in each sentence, though. Short of violence, I've written a news story about a cop with bigoted attitudes on both race and socioeconomic class; I don't have to read national newspapers.

Do the majority of cops do their job, both within in their race and in dealing with other races, in a professional manner? Yes.

Back to the local situation. The black police chief here, with a force that's about 50 percent black or Hispanic, has had the mayor pro-tem, also black, occasionally play the bad cop card, at least in the form of a rhetorical question. Well, other than the one cop with the attitude, I've seen none of it, and the chief hasn't reported it.

That leads me to the next issue.

Are black victims of police force often, if not always, persons with criminal pasts? Yes? If they are injured, or even killed, in an attempt at bittersweet consolation, will their parents sometimes claim to their dying day that "Johnny" was an angel? Yes. Does that change the fact that they had criminal pasts and were no angels? No.

So, first, I invite these SJW friends to come live where I live.

Second, I note that, in my career, I've seen white on white police brutality, white on white false arrests, and a white on white fatal shooting by police. As with many such cases, the suspect had drugs in his system. (Sadly, in some cases, which we shouldn't necessarily try to call either "justified" or "unjustified," the person who got shot was suffering from mental illness.)

These don't make as big of headlines. They're "dog bites man" stories that don't play on either conservative (largely white conservative) stereotypes of minorities out of control, nor do they play on largely minority interest group liberals' stereotypes of cops having it out for blacks.

Back to the SJWs, and their attempts to use "privilege." Because this gets back to my invitation to come live where I do, especially if you're richer and living, if not in white-majority, upper-middle-class to upper-class money majority areas.

This claim that nobody else can understand them and their unique issues?

Above all (not that it would stop them) it's based on fallacious reasoning. A straight white man may not  know what it's like to be these other things, but he can sympathize, and even work for a common cause, to the degree its common, while rejecting your toolkit.

Besides lesbian or trans/nonwhite/women don't know, unless they have it/are one themselves, what it's like to be autistic, to have Crohn's, to be a recovering or nonrecovering drug addict, and a whole host of other things. "Privilege" is a two-edged sword, especially when many SJWs themselves are white, and many are not poor, either. Money is the original "privilege" after all.

That said, this is about as likely to persuade SJWers that they could catch more flies with honey than vinegar as I am to vote Republican. And I think I know why.

The more and more interaction I have with SJWers, the more and more I see a martyr complex at work.


You're all a bunch of fucking Jehovah's Witnesses who actually like getting cyberdoors slammed in your face.

October 10, 2014

#GregAbbott trying to run out the court clock on voter ID

Yesterday, federal district court judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos struck down Texas' voter ID law. Ramos ruled it was much more restrictive on the types of ID it allowed than other states whose voter ID laws have been approved all the way through the Supreme Court.

And, here's where it really gets fun. Because many of these restrictions involve costing voters money, Judge Ramos said this is a de facto poll tax. Plaintiffs' attorney Chris Dunn explains in detail.

The 24th Amendment abolished such, of course, because they were used in the South to block black voters.

And, this could land Texas in more hot water:
A panel of judges previously shot down the state's request to implement the law on the grounds that it posed “strict, unforgiving burdens on the poor.” But Texas was allowed to move forward after the U.S. Supreme Court gutted a provision of the Voting Rights Act that had prevented the state from implementing voting changes without permission from a court or the federal government due to the state’s history of racial discrimination.
What hot water?

Rick Hasen of Election Law Blog explains.
Also extremely important: the court expressly finds intentional discrimination relevant to bail-in under the Voting Rights Act, and says it will consider a bail-in order in the days to come.  If the court indeed follows up with a bail-in order, Texas could become the first state brought back under a preclearance regime since Shelby County.
Shelby County was the SCOTUS ruling that gutted "preclearance" for most Southern states that had shown a pattern of racial discrimination in voting access and rights, requiring changes in voting regulations, redistricting and everything in between to be "precleared" by the U.S. Department of Justice. However, the majority of the Nine allowed for states with new violations to be "bailed back in" to preclearance oversight, which is exactly what could happen here.

Meanwhile, with the start of early voting less than 2 weeks away, what does this mean for this year's general election.

Well, that's where it gets fun. Judge Ramos, in her ruling (full baby here) failed to tell the state of Texas what to do, which leads to AG Strangeabbott "seeking guidance," while hoping his guidance-seeking lets him run out the clock on the election. Per friend Perry, a piece by Think Progress spells out how that might happen.

Abbott was going to appeal to the Fifth Circuit anyway. But, he needs to know whether to appeal immediately, or whether he can stop sweating.

Per my top link, Dunn says Abbott needs to get on the express train:
We expect Judge Ramos to issue an order formally blocking enforcement of the Texas voter ID law within the next few days. Greg Abbott has already announced that he will appeal her ruling and ask the 5th Circuit US Court of Appeals to reverse her order. After the 5th Circuit rules, the case will almost certainly be appealed to the US Supreme Court. It would not surprise me if both the 5th Circuit and the Supreme Court issues rulings on this matter in next ten days.
Getcha popcorn! Yet more, including the likelihood of Texas' No. 1 waster of taxpayer money losing again with the Supreme Court, from the Morning News.

Meanwhile, this is "fun" for those of us who are newspaper editors as well as bloggers.

Democrats, minority voters and thinking beyond 2 social issues

Fort Worth Star-Telegram political columnist Bud Kennedy pens an insightful piece on these issues as gubernatorial voting nears. He starts with a Hispanic opponent from Wendy Davis' first Fort Worth City Council election.

The general tenor of his piece is that many minorities still care more about employment, job security and income, rather than two hot-button issues of abortion and gay rights.

Indeed, as many Hispanics reinvigorate their personal religious lives by leaving Catholicism for conservative Protestant churches, like African-Americans, they may be opposed to liberal stances on those two issues.

As a newspaper editor, at the community level, in a majority-minority small town, I can attest to black religiosity, and the conservativeness of it.

Because of Republicans' bad history with blacks on civil rights, other than the occasional poster child for the Tea Party like Herman Cain or Allen West, the GOP is no threat to make serious inroads on black votes, these issues aside. (And, with things like the attempts at vote suppression through the just-struck-down photo ID law, it's not getting better.)

However, their history with Hispanics is, comparatively, not as bad. (Not that that says a lot, and with things like photo ID, it's not getting better.)

Democrats have a tightrope to walk.

Unfortunately, in many states, as at the national level, more and more Democrats are becoming more neoliberal. And, they haven't learn to riff off the Occupy movement and talk to working-class white voters about socioeconomic class inequality, and solidarity with minorities as part of this.

That's why pundits who keep saying growing Hispanic numbers in particular, and minority numbers in general, will turn Texas blue, or guarantee long-term national Democratic advantage?

Wake up, smell the coffee, and drink about 5 cups of it instead of your current Kool-Aid. You're wrong, or, at a minimum, you're nowhere near being guaranteed right.

That's you, Battleground Texas. That's you, Lone Star Project.

At the same time, liberal white Democrats, with agreed liberal minority allies, shouldn't back off on the reproductive choice (with flexibility), or gay rights issues.

Black storefront church pastors? If you don't like gay marriage, nobody's forcing you to have one. But, 47 years ago, "they" weren't allowing you to have a black-white wedding. Civil rights is civil rights, and "pecking order" battles on civil rights are ultimately no-win games.

October 09, 2014

Pope Francis, Nobel Laureate? Neither likely nor good, IMO

Pope Francis, your Nobel Peace Prize winner?
I think his chances are insubstantial, not transubstantial.
Francis the Talking Pope is the favorite of oddsmakers to win this year's Nobel Peace Prize.

I think they're wrong. The Nobel folks sometimes like to send a message. Novaya Gazeta, listed No. 4, would do just that. Edward Snowden, listed No. 2, is interesting. His leaks have done nothing to stop warrantless snooping, which actually isn't connected to warfare, anyway.

The full list, which is not disclosed, has 278 candidates.


First, Mother Teresa and the Dalai Lama are the only major religious leaders among past laureates, and she was at least halfway a fraud, exploiting many of the poor for foreign rich donors and being purer than the Vatican, if that's possible, on opposing birth control. Sorry, folks, or not sorry, folks, but Chris Hitchens was right.

Second, he's not been on the seat long enough.

Third, personally? Given that the Nobelists have in the past honored people addressing environmental issues in the third world, any major leader officially opposing most birth control would go against Nobel history, because overpopulation is a legitimate concern. And, that's not just the Nobelists' possible train of thought, it's my definite personal one.

If Francis just opposed abortion, it would be one thing. Opposing all birth control other than the rhythm method, and on twisted religious grounds, is another thing entirely.

Fourth? The Nobelists also like people who address poverty. While Francis has critiqued the rich, his opposition to some liberation theology leaders when a prelate in Argentina probably also wouldn't sit well.

So, I'll bet on Novaya, myself. Pakistan's iconic Malala Yousufzai might be a decent option in the betting.

(Update: She's the winner, paired with Kailash Satyarthi of India. An icon wins, while the Nobel folks once again, with co-winners from India and Pakistan, send a message. And British betting houses were too dumb to see that possibility.)

Of course, "sending messages" also backfires. Dear Leader got the nod a few years ago, primarily on the grounds he wasn't George W. Bush, and we see how that's worked out.

#BillSimmons is past his sell-by date; can he start anew? And #NateSilver? #538?

Bill Simmons, ready to pontificate elsewhere?
As Simmons nears the end of his three-week suspension by ESPN for calling NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "Roger Goodell," speculation about his future has heated up again.

With the NBA staying with ESPN and Turner Sports on its massive new TV deal, that leaves TNT as the only place to which Simmons could reasonably jump from ESPN, since basketball is No. 1 in his sports heart of hearts, right?

Well, TNT, while having a great and funny hoops pregame set (and having Simmons mixed with Sir Charles Barkley and Shaquille O'Neal would be nothing if not entertaining), it strikes me as thin on the ground on other sports, and per the piece, very thin on the ground on web presence.

Well, what if he decided to become a free agent instead?

Sounds interesting, no?

Well, not based on Grantland's web traffic, it doesn't sound interesting at all to would-be investors. (And, I'm sure Deadspin's top writers all know those traffic numbers and their 5x edge over Simmons, which is part of why they semi-regularly kick him in the nads. And, I'm sure ESPN knows, and Simmons knows, at least in part.

That said, if he did want to jump to a third party not named Turner, here's some possibilities. In terms of what IT needs, Yahoo would make a smart bet. Jeff Passan is young and snarky enough on baseball, he'd be a good mix. Yahoo's got other good sports columnists; some of them would love to do more long-form stuff.

But, especially if he wanted to go indie, who would leave Grantland to go with him? Jalen Rose? He might like getting a bigger ESPN presence. Bill Barnwell or Zach Lowe? They're both straight-up sports analysts, tied only to Simmons' branding and not his style or schtick.

He's need a second banana of sorts, too, probably. I don't know how much he likes Keith Olbermann, or if he'd be willing to pair with Dan Patrick.

And, although baseball isn't the NFL, it's still (even if audience skews older) bigger than the NBA, and Simmons has never been a baseball guy. He's got Ben Lindbergh now, but, in the past, has had to poach guest contributions/semi-regular appearances from the likes of Jonah Keri.

Building a brand in part as an indie films guy isn't a bad thought. I mean, that's what the Grantland 30-for-30 pieces are. That still couldn't be your overall vehicle, but it could be something. Plus, as far as trying to beat the Hollywood money bushes, Simmons has movie and TV critiques now part of his set-up.

Because you can't really build on Simmons the writer much more.

On his best writing ... he may not be past all parts of his sell-by date, but in his current incarnation is on the day-old shelf indeed.

He also, if he went indy, would need a COO type person. Not so much to keep Simmons on an editorial string, but somebody to override Bill's haphazard management; somebody to run the nuts-and-bolts stuff and, while OKing some of Simmons' zany ideas, saying no to others.

As for how likely any of this is? I don't know.

You'd also have to have a CFO type person who is both a rainmaker for financial backers and also a rainmaker for marketing, if Simmons were no longer part of the Great Red Satan.

Look at Ezra Klein and Vox. It's kind of struggling away from the Washington Post, and Ezra has more background on pushing himself than does Simmons, I think, plus more knowledge of how you do this from his time at the Post.

Speaking of him, that leads me to the lead anchor that is Nate Silver and 538.

Why isn't he doing better? That probably is dependent in fair degree on multiple parties having had wide-eyed, and poorly focused, ideas about the art of the possible with Silver at ESPN/Grantland.

First, Silver had had a narrow niche, vis-a-vis the WSJ's Big Data folks who eventually jumped ship there, and Ezra, and how he expected to readily build that niche at a sports website not a news website, I have no idea. It was blind, and dumb, leaps of faith from everybody involved.

Second, as the likes of Sam Wang was showing in 2012 (he outdid Silver on Senate races), while very good, Silver's success wasn't unique. It was the best-known not because of Nate Silver but because of New York Times.

That leads to the baseline questions, ideas and visions.

On 538, other than general touting, I'm not sure exactly how Simmons pitched it, what Silver pitched, and what ESPN expected.

First, other than British/European soccer, Americans aren't that interested in international sports. They don't want to read about pool in Zimbabwe, or whatever it was I saw a month or so ago that triggered a "538's new low" email to a friend.

Second, I do think that, based on the idea that Silver was politically liberal, and that some of his pieces might impart that, would bring a new mix of liberal-leaning news+sports readers to both 538 and Grantland. Well, his halfway anti-global warming piece with  Roger Pielke Jr. (and, AFAIK, he's never done the promised "clarifications" follow-up) shot that idea right in the ass. And, other news analysis pieces since then have done the job further. I got into a Twitter back-and-forth about 10 days ago with one of their writers, penning a piece I thought was too pro-fracking. It eventually caught the eye of somebody at least halfway more professional in the enviro world than me, who jumped in with backup stats.

Third, "Big Data" on news stories is just news analysis. To some degree, reporting on annual municipal budgets is just a small level version of Big Data. Other than trying to build on his own narrow polling niche (and it was narrow), plus the growing fame of Ezra Klein, plus the WSJ website (that has, like Ezra, since gone off on its own), Silver didn't have a lot he was brining to the table.

I expect ESPN to want some "restructuring" at 538 shortly after it hits the 1-year mark.

The NYT's decision to let him go, and the WaPost's similar call on Ezra, tell me that Brat Pack journos have been overvaluing themselves, that legacy brands recognize that, and that semi-legacy brands like ESPN will come to that decision more and more in the future.

Battleground Texas gets all enthusiastic about new voters; should it?

The Houston Chronicle notes new voter registrations are up in the largest counties in Texas, and Battleground Texas trumpets that fact.

The story's paywalled, so I'll go to Kuffner, who discusses it more, and take some points out.

Here's the Chron's biggie:
Nearly 150,000 more Texans in these counties are eligible to vote in November’s election between Greg Abbott and Wendy Davis than could vote in the 2012 presidential election, according to tallies released by Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, Bexar and Travis counties midday Monday, the last day to register. 
The new registrations, however, did not outpace population growth in these counties, which are expected to have grown by 2.6 percent since 2012. But population growth has not always meant growth in voter registration totals: Following the registration push that helped elect Barack Obama in 2008, voter registration in these counties declined by 140,000, a 2.5 percent drop ahead of the 2010 midterm election.

First, midterm voting in general falls off, tis true. On the plus side, to revitalize registration in a midterm, this one, is better than doing it in 2012, and Kuff compares this year to 2010. In Harris County, where BGTX did best, it's about 7 percent. In other East Texas metros, it's around 4 percent, and about 7 percent in El Paso.

So, that part is good.

But, second, this is only in the big counties.

The Valley counties aren't small, though. They're certainly mid-sized, some of them. And, that's where Hispanic turnout among the registered, and not registering, among those eligible, are both the most problematic.

So, BGTX can call me back, metaphorically, when we get some numbers out of Webb County (Laredo), Cameron County (Harlingen, Brownsville), Hidalgo County (McAllen), etc.  

Will Leticia Van de Putte on the ticket help at all? Will a debate down there have helped? I don't know.

So, BGTX can call me back, metaphorically, when we get some numbers out of Webb County (Laredo), Cameron County (Harlingen, Brownsville), Hidalgo County (McAllen), etc.  

Kuff's right that this is a multiyear project. However, in the big counties, county Democratic operatives have already had relatively strong operations. So, again, call me back when the Valley has a jump — and a significant one.

I have been called back. BGTX has modest-moderate increases in both the Valley and also the Golden Triangle.

Again, though, this is just registration, not turnout, as the second of those two links reminds:
It remains to be seen what impact, if any, the increased registration will have on voter turnout on the mid-term cycle, which is historically lower than for presidential ballots. 
Just 24 percent of Jefferson's eligible voters turned out in 2010, compared to 58 percent in 2008, mirroring a mid-term versus presidential trend, according to Secretary of State data. 
Since 2000, presidential ballots have drawn an average of 37,000 more Jefferson County voters to the polls than the mid-term ballots that followed two years later.

Minority voters, especially, may think that Washington is the place to solve all of their problems, as I've blogged before. BGTX certainly has an uphill fight combatting that.

October 08, 2014

Will #Cardinals have Wainwright ready to face the Giants?

Adam Wainwright/
The Cardinals were first worried about whether or not Adam Wainwright would be OK to pitch a possible Game 5 against the Dodgers in the Division Series.

Well, they solved that by winning in 4.

But, they're still worried about him, whether or not he'll be ready for Game 1 of the LCS against the Giants.

They do have options, though.

If they find him struggling during the game, I think the best option would be to bring Michael Wacha in for some longer relief and have Lance Lynn start Game 2 as needed, rather than have him come in for long relief.

Or, they can flip their rotation, let Lynn do Game 1 and Waino Game 2, while still having Wacha ready to come in late.

Or, they could even bring John Lackey up in the order, too, and push Waino back to Game 3. I do not like the idea of "burning" Lynn in relief, though.

Please, Mike Matheny, don't make Don Mattingly decisions even before the series starts! And, we've got three days until Game 1 anyway, so, let's not get too panicky about this yet.

(Update, Oct. 9: Matheny says he looks fine.)

Elect #GregAbbott, elect an accomplice to murder

Cameron Todd Willingham, executed by the state of Texas
in the name of junk pseudoscience, political pandering and
legal and personal arrogance. / Photo from PBS
While Rick Perry deserves the primary responsibility for the killing of Cameron Todd Willingham, as Frontline points out (with a new addendum about jailhouse snitch Johnny Webb), Greg Abbott as attorney general deserves his share of blame. That much is quite clear, with more detail here.

Both of them deserve additional blame for an obnoxious self-righteous stubbornness that refuses to ever admit they're wrong. In Abbott's case that same obnoxious self-righteous stubbornness leads him to continue to "sue Obama" over reproductive choice, the environment, and more and waste state money (while losing case after case) to continue to defend an unconstitutional, and unconscionable, school finance system as well as other school issues, and more.

How much more, and in how many ways, will that same obnoxious self-righteous stubbornness out of a Gov. Greg Abbott, continue to harm Texas? Sadly, this is one issue that's not gotten a peep of mention from the Wendy Davis campaign, even with the revelations of Webb happening in just the last few months.

That, though, doesn't really surprise me.

In her pander rightward, Davis has talked very little about criminal justice issues. Hell, she pulled punches on the legalization of pot ... more than Rick Perry.

These issues easily could have been brought up by her. The Frontline episode first ran this spring. Then came Webb's allegations this summer. And now, the repeat of the Frontline episode.

But Davis, like most Dems who pander rightward looking for conservative votes, especially likes to fish in the "tough on crime" waters. Or, at least, not to fish in the "rights of the accused" waters.

And hence, the silence over Willingham, the week knees on marijuana, the lack of discussion about private prisons, and more. All of those elements after the Willingham one would especially appeal to minority voters who traditionally were part of the Democratic base.

But, this isn't your father's, or FDR's, or LBJ's, Democratic party.

October 07, 2014

Will the #Dodgers fire Don Mattingly after losing to the #Cardinals?

At places like Hardball Talk, among fans at posts like this, and bloggers with a theme alike, that's a halfway serious question.

(Update, Oct. 14 — With a new VP for baseball operations "stolen" from Tampa, the fire Mattingly talk is heating up.)

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, for whatever reason, benched Yasiel Puig, still arguably the team's best everyday player despite being in a slump.

And, when Matt Adams hit a 3-jack home run off Clayton Kershaw, bringing home Matt Holliday and Jhonny Peralta to propel the Cardinals to the National League Championship Series, the second-guessing caught fire.

Donnie Baseball made it worse in the top of the ninth.

The Dodgers get a one-out walk by A.J. Ellis off Trevor Rosenthal. Great place for Puig, right?

Mattingly agrees — as a pinch-runner, not a pinch hitter. Justin Turner pinch hits. And strikes out.

Dee Gordon then singles, with Puig only going to second on station-to-station pinch running. And Carl Crawford then grounds out to end the game.

Unbelievable, not only the benching itself, but not using him as a pinch-hitter.

Jonah Keri said this was Donnie B.'s second mistake. He says that, with Kershaw at 100 pitches on short rest, he would have brought in closer Kenley Jansen to face Adams. It's at least arguable.

I mean, the rest of the Dodgers' bullpen — starting with the Yankees West™ spending, willfully, $10 million in a dead-armed non-closer named Brian Wilson — is teh suck, pretty much.

I don't know if Mattingly is gone. But, when your managerial decisions make Mike Matheny look brilliant and even Ned Yost above average?

As I said on that first Hardball Talk link, Kirk Gibson's available. He's got a boatload of #grit he can teach. That said, I know at least one HUGELY "homer" Tigers fan who thinks Gibby should replace Brad Ausmus after just one season.

Finally, let's not forget that Magic Johnson is a part owner of the Dodgers. That's the Magic who, as a Lakers player, got Paul Westhead fired as head coach AFTER he'd won an NBA title, in favor of Pat Riley. And, of course, Riley turned out better. So, don't tell me Magic isn't tempted.

And, per Ken Rosenthal, the LA Dollars (stealing and saving!) will spend more money, too. (Kershaw's new mega-contract starts next year.)

#Stoicism — room for a resurgence?

Stoicism. It seems a bit like the western answer to Zen, but it's not. It's more than that, different than that, and older than that. Plus, as a guide to meditation, it's the basis of the Serenity Prayer beloved by 12-step groups and others.

By Massimo Pigliucci
Stoicism has been in the back of my mind since I was very young, initially for the obviously parochial reason that it was the prevalent philosophy among the ancient Romans, i.e., part of my broadly construed cultural heritage. (Then again it is for the same reason that Buddhism is very popular in India, Confucianism in China, and Shinto in Japan.)
Lately, however, Stoicism has slowly moved to the forefront of my cognitive field of view, for a number of reasons. To begin with, I’ve been interested in philosophical counseling [1], to the point of having taken the American Philosophical Practice Association course [2], and having set up what is turning out to be a surprisingly successful and enjoyable practice [3]. The more I see clients, the more I gravitate toward ancient Greek philosophy, and particularly Stoicism (with a sprinkling of virtue ethics and Epicureanism) as my preferred…
See this blog post for more!

#Ferguson update shows why both "sides" aren't totally right (updated)

Introductory note, also used in conclusion: Saying that neither side is totally right doesn't assign percentages of 50 percent right to each. Also, per Iranian philosopher Idries Shah, let's not assume there are just two sides.

Some people in Ferguson, Missouri, as well as, quite possibly, outside agitators driving through, complained about the curfew that Gov. Jay Nixon imposed late last week.

Complained, and more than complained.

They upped the scale on the rioting:
While protesters condemned the police, saying the move to break up the crowd was unprovoked, the Missouri State Highway Patrol said the protesters had attempted to overrun a command post in a shopping center parking lot. Police say protesters fired at least 30 gunshots and threw Molotov cocktails. … 
 Police reports note that McDonald’s employees were forced to lock themselves in a closet after being “overrun” by protesters. The demonstrators also attempted to block off a city street with cinder blocks.

And, if you think "upped" implies deliberation, so do the Missouri State Police, which took over patrolling the city late last week as well.

Here's what the local scene commander said:
According to Capt. Ron Johnson, who was put in charge of the police response to the protests on Aug. 14, this new spate of violence appeared to be “premeditated” and “coordinated,” rather than spontaneous.
Premeditated is bad enough. Coordinated is even worse.

These actions are just a more violent version of headline-grabbing last week by Anonymous. In fact, maybe some of their black bloc kin, as well as other extremists, are in on this.

It's clear, from this piece, that the majority of local residents who have concerns about Ferguson police, including some who protested earlier in the week, don't support the latest actions.  (Update: Six weeks later, they're even more tired of the vandalous-type protests.)

Was the curfew itself "to blame," as the ACLU, NAACP et al hint?
The American Civil Liberties Union, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and the N.A.A.C.P. Legal Defense Fund said in a statement that the governor’s action “suspends the constitutional right to assemble by punishing the misdeeds of the few through the theft of constitutionally protected rights of the many.”
Anyway, your wish has been granted.

Curfew's lifted; in exchange, the National Guard is in town. From my point of view, a relatively light midnight-5 a.m. curfew did not suspend the constitutional right to assemble, either. It just limited its hours of availabililty.

As for the claims of some residents that they individually were not looters, etc.? Yes, it may be true of you individually, but that doesn't prove the state police wrong.

As for claims that nobody did anything like this? If the Ferguson PD had claimed there were Molotov cocktails, etc., I might not believe it. However, Capt. Johnson seems like a straight shooter (not even close to a pun intended), and, unless people can produce evidence clearly disproving him, I'll take him at the general gist of his words, at least.

And, now, with the Guard in place instead, I'm sure that we will have even more video monitoring of events.

Because people do exploit tense situations like this for their own advantage, even if that "advantage" is nothing other than primal scream type rage. (Speaking of, while they don't "represent" protesters at all, the New Black Panthers and their ilk saying they want "Darren Wilson dead" don't help matters.)

Now, as for the shooting death of Michael Brown, which caused this? The family's privately sought autopsy is in. It exonerates police of the worst of the claims against them, namely that he was shot at very close range or in the back of the head. I'm not saying it "looks good" for the police, either. The federal autopsy that Attorney General Eric Holder announced will show more.

In the header, I said "both" before sides. There's really more than 2 sides here. Many people are protesting what they see as a wrong, yet not assaulting the highway patrol, or perhaps even the Ferguson police. I am sure that there are good white residents of the city, and white police officers, too. For that matter, there are black police officers, and black public and private sector security and prison guards, that can be thuggish, too.


Updates, Oct. 7: White respondents were largely wrong in a relatively small protest outside Busch Stadium last night at the start of Game 3 of the NLDS between the Cardinals and the Dodgers. Several things here.

1. It illustrates that white racism (racism is not just race-based actions against another race, it's race-based factually incorrect beliefs and attitudes) is in all of St. Louis, not just Ferguson.
2. That many protesters are peaceful

3. That even more sympathetic people are probably protest-deadened by now. That says more about ever shortening attention spans in the US than anything else.

A Saturday protest at a performance of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra was more interesting. The video shows many patrons were discomfited. That could be good, could be bad. If they heard, and absorbed, the message after being discomfited, and have an appropriate internal shift in attitudes, if needed, it's good. If not, the protest was neutral at best, wrong at worse.

Protest, overall, can only be one part of changing problematic city government and policing attitudes in Ferguson that existed before Michael Brown's shooting.

And, if Brown's shooting, while not necessarily "justified," was something far short of police murder, then Michael Brown is a horse that can only carry you so far.


And, as for problems with local policing, this is why liberals in general, and minorities in particular, need to remember that Washington is not the solution for everything. If you have local problems, you need to vote in local elections.

Unfortunately, some liberals, like some conservatives, prefer black-and-white narratives. It's good for ramping up social justice warrior issues. (Note to one commenter on Hardball Talk at NBC Sports: I never said I was "edgy." I have repeatedly said that I am an independent-minded skeptic. If that's "edgy," we need more of it. And, I think I have another partial answer to that; thinking Twitter is a reliable news source because it somehow bypasses the mainstream media. And, with that, it should be noted that sex/gender isn't the only area of like where we have SJW groups. Sexual orientation is another. Race is another.

And, before the liberals who like black-and-white narratives accuse me of 50-50-ism or something, uh, no!  (And, from my experiences in the "real" online world, there are people who think that, who accuse people of me of believing and even perpetuating that, and more. Short and shallow thought processes go along with short attention spans.)

Saying that neither side is totally right doesn't assign percentages of 50 percent right to each. Also, per Iranian philosopher Idries Shah, let's not assume there are just two sides.

October 06, 2014

Don't like gay marriage? Then don't marry a gay person

That's my brief and blunt reaction to the Supreme Court not hearing appellate level challenges about gay marriage in several different states.

Having a number of gay and lesbian friends, several of whom have had long-term partnerships, some of whom have wanted the legal, financial and social protections and assurances of marriage, I am glad to see this.

You know, like your partner being able to see you in the hospital. Or, when your partner dies, his or her homophobic parents being unable to break up a will. Or the right to adopt. Etc., etc.

That said, what if being gay or lesbian isn't 100 percent genetic? Or even 100 percent genetic + an uncontrollable part of "nurture," the womb environment?

What if, on average, it's 10 percent choice?

No matter.

Atheism is 100 percent choice, arguably, yet deserves the full protection of the First Amendment's "freedom of religion" clause as properly understood.

That said, there's another reason I raise the issue of "choice" on gay marriage.

What about certain elements of gay male culture that, stereotypically, at least, have an aversion to long-term partnerships? Bathhouse culture, to use a name?

Well, nobody's forcing them, or randier straight males, to get married. And gay marriage is likely to leave unchanged their non-interest in marriage.

And, let's hope it leaves unchanged our non-interest in their non-interest in gay marriage either.

The great majority of gay males aren't card-carrying members of Queer Nation, anyway. (And, that's despite PR efforts by both Queer Nation and fundamentalist Christians.)

That said, per discussion about the issue, SCOTUS' move still doesn't address the "full faith and credit" clause of the Constitution. If it's sending a signal to red states to stop the nonsense, I still would have preferred an explicit ruling sooner rather than later. Get married in California but move to Kansas? SCOTUS says "sorry, but not yet." Or, if you just live in Kansas, it's definitely "not yet." Residents of 20 states are still out in the cold.

Because, in hardcore red states like Texas, hardcore red-state politicos like Greg Abbott will keep trying to deny the rights of people they don't like. After all, he is our state's money-waster in chief. And, in a place like the south, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals WILL give SCOTUS the thumbs-down ruling that it's going to have to face anyway.

I'm also interested in who switched sides since the Court's Prop 8 and DOMA ruling. That was 5-4, after all, and it only takes 4 votes, not 5, to grant cert.