November 15, 2014

Team Obama is now at snooping squared — the neoliberal Panopticon

The New York Times reports that NSA warrantless wiretapping is just the tip of a much bigger iceberg that Dear Leader is inflicting on us.

We've got such overkill we're now like the Tsarist Okhrana in the last years before World War I. Here’s your nut graf:
Across the federal government, undercover work has become common enough that undercover agents sometimes find themselves investigating a supposed criminal who turns out to be someone from a different agency, law enforcement officials said. In a few situations, agents have even drawn their weapons on each other before realizing that both worked for the federal government.

None of this surprises me out of Obama, who seems to be combining a neoliberal version of a nanny state in some ways with a neoliberal version of a kinder, gentler Panopticon in others.

And, as the next two grafs after that note, sometimes, it's three federal agencies. Even worse, with the trickle-down militarization and related things happening to state- or local-level law enforcement, the snooping is there, too:
“There are all sorts of stories about undercover operations gone bad,” Jeff Silk, a longtime undercover agent and supervisor at the Drug Enforcement Administration, said in an interview. “People are always tripping and falling over each other’s cases.” 
Mr. Silk, who retired this year, cited a case that he supervised in which the D.E.A. was wiretapping suspects in a drug ring in Atlanta, only to discover that undercover agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement were trying to infiltrate the same ring. The F.B.I. and the New York Police Department were involved in the case as well.
OK, as a civil libertarian liberal, tell me, "right or wrong" Democrats — why would I vote for any 2016 presidential candidate of yours who doesn't immediately repudiate this, and sound sincere in doing so?

I'm of course talking first and foremost about one "Clinton, Hilary." 

As for the neoliberal angle? Most neoliberalist thought is about making the government more efficient, with market standards, but ... that's only true until it's not:
Most federal agencies declined to discuss the number of undercover agents they employed or the types of investigations they handled. The numbers are considered confidential and are not listed in public budget documents, and even Justice Department officials say they are uncertain how many agents work undercover. 
But current and former law enforcement officials said the number of federal agents doing such work appeared to total well into the thousands, with many agencies beefing up their ranks in recent years, or starting new undercover units. An intelligence official at the Department of Homeland Security, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss classified matters, said the agency alone spent $100 million annually on its undercover operations. With large numbers of undercover agents at the F.B.I. and elsewhere, the costs could reach hundreds of millions of dollars a year.
In short, this is all black box budgeting, just like the CIA, but spreading. Actually, the costs probably reach billions a year. With no guarantee of results — other than, of course, the "results" of manufactured cases, entrapment (even if never provable in court), and likely, some "quota" system of arrests and charges now in place at many of these agencies. 

On the entrapment issue? Just because former FBI head Bob Mueller says it hasn't won in court doesn't mean that entrapment isn't happening. Since 9/11, if the charge is "terrorism," a federal prosecutor can not only indict a ham sandwich before a grand jury, he or she can get a trial jury to give it 5 to 10 in the federal pen.

And, I'm sure that departing AG Eric Holder, just like his Bushie predecessor Alberto Gonzales, signed off on any legal questions.

Unfortunately, GOP senators who grill Obama's nominee to replace him, Loretta Lynch, will for the most part do so only for political theater, not for real concern. There's a few exceptions, but not many.

And, as for getting any of this declared unconstitutional in today's climate?
At the Supreme Court, small teams of undercover officers dress as students at large demonstrations outside the courthouse and join the protests to look for suspicious activity, according to officials familiar with the practice.
Given that the chief justice, John Roberts, oversees all aspects of the federal judiciary, surely he's not ignorant about this. 

Your post- #election2014 week in #environmentalism, #fracking, #Keystone

A roundup of several posts of mine on trending environmental topics.

First, the city of Denton, Texas, north of Dallas, did pass a fracking ban. And faces multiple lawsuits. I look at that, and my estimate of Denton's chance of prevailing. I actually think it's not bad.

Second, the Keystone XL oil sands pipeline from Canada, which President Barack Obama has kicked down the road for months now, can't be kicked down the road any longer with a GOP Senate. I take a look at his options and his likely course of action, and whether it's necessarily the end of the environmentalism world.

Third, many environmentalists, greeting a China-US greenhouse gas emissions accord with huzzahs and handsprings, probably think this indicates Obama will take a hard line on Keystone. Given that my skeptical eye calls the climate deal "toothless," with analysis of why I think that's the case that neither the mainstream media nor Obamiac environmentalist swooners provide, I think it's news for Keystone, but not necessarily as good as others think.

That said, unlike Alberta's tar sands, "tight" oil from shale formations, produced by fracking, seems to have a short, bubbly lifespan. I look at the latest news on that, and budgetary and other implications for the state of Texas.

November 14, 2014

Jose Canseco hits a new level of idiocy

Jose Canseco, idiot
Ex-roiding baseball player Jose Canseco just shot off one of his two middle fingers while allegedly cleaning his gun.

This leads to several jokes, a few of them on this original Hardball Talk blog piece.

There's mine, referring to his most ignoble night on a major league field:
Did the bullet bounce off his head and over the wall for a homer?
Yeah, I went there.

Or, this one, referring to his twin brother, Ozzie Canseco:
That is absolutely AWFUL news….for his brother Ozzie….
Who now has to remove a finger to keep masquerading as Jose at events that are, somehow, beneath Jose.
Zing!

(Update, Nov. 14: The reattached finger came off during a poker game. Go to bottom for yet more jokes.

Update 2, Nov. 20: Jose's got enough of a brain — and enough of a reputation — to have punked us all.)

We're now in Laugh-In territory, folks!



On the other hand, he also blew his arm out trying to pitch. Maybe he can become a lefty, and with the missing digit, imitate Mordecai Brown, the famous Three-Finger Brown.

Several people have commented on the Darwin Award nature of this. The Twitter feed of his current GF, who used to be an ex-GF, and once (actual seriousness) had a restraining order against him shows that we're in the Darwin Awards mating division.

Finally, how do we know Jose wasn't drunk?



Or at least puking, if he's downing Old Swillwaukee.

Meanwhile, Alex Rodriguez and his "Romo Shuffle" with Tony Romo have been pushed off the front page of Roiders Inc. news. How does The Centaur respond?

Does roiding fry brain cells?

Meanwhile, maybe Jose wants to be in a new version of Lord of the Rings, as a roid-infested Frodo Baggins type.

You know, as Jose the Nine-Fingered and the Gun of Doom. Because he's going to rescue MLB from all the Mordorites who are the reasons why #BaseballIsDying.

Update, Nov. 14: The surgically reattached finger fell off during a poker game! No, really.

So, I guess Canseco ... wait for it, wait for it ...

Had a weak hand in that poker game!

And, with one less than the normal five digits, personally redefines the old poker term of four-flusher, right!

For extra fun, watch him sob away on Inside Edition (about his level, anyway):



I'll be adding more jokes as they come.

Like Jose leaving the dealer a tip.

Or having finger food at the poker game. Like, you know, steak fingers!

I think the now-divorced finger needs its own reality show.

Per the Nov. 18, update, at least he won't be handicapped at nose-picking or ass-scratching.

Did the Russkies cause Hirohito to surrender Japan?

Or perhaps more accurate yet, as both a rhetorical and actual question is, "Could they have caused the Japanese to surrender without US atomic bombs?"

Not all "revisionist" history is bad. Eric Foner, who once wore this label, has written the go-to book about U.S. Reconstruction from the Civil War, for example.

Some of it is bad, though, and deserves the connotative as well as denotative label.

Ever since Gar Alperovitz wrote about the end of World War II in the Pacific, a new round of revisionist history has continued to rear its head, devoted to condemnation of the use of atomic bombs, not only on moral grounds but on pragmatic war-related grounds, too.

The themes are simple, and are, in basic:
1. The USSR's invasion of Manchuria was going to end the war soon;
2. US calculation of invasion-related casualties were overrated.

The latest? Australian journalist and historian Paul Ham, in this piece.

Let's address that first claim.

Here's Wikpedia on Hirohito's surrender speech. The first thing to note is that the USSR is nowhere mentioned by name. Here's the two key grafs:
Despite the best that has been done by everyone – the gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of Our servants of the State, and the devoted service of Our one hundred million people – the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest. 
Moreover, the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should We continue to fight, not only would it result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.

Tis true that the Soviet invasion of Manchuria (and the Kurile Islands, which is why the US was worried about Stalin trying to grab Hokkaido) could be included among "the general trends of the world."

But, the one element Hirohito seizes on to justify calling for surrender, and which was also part of his intervention in the Japanese war cabinet to push it to this point, is the atomic bombs.

Hirohito had no way of knowing we were "out of stock," of course. He probably figured that, just we had had three days pause between Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we were giving Japan a bit more time to reflect this time. 

Even if we accept that the Soviet declaration of war was a factor, it seems clear that by itself, it wouldn't have been enough.

As for the casualties issue? From a US nationalist point, any US military casualties that were saved by each day sooner the war was ended, each day less that Japanese kamikazes attacked a blockading fleet, etc., reduced casualties. 

Ditto for both the US and allies, on prisoners of war dying of starvation.

And, considering that the US, in case of a longer-term blockade, next planned to sever all connections between the home islands? Mass Japanese starvation would have resulted.

The fact that Hirohito needed to ram the surrender through his war cabinet, then get lucky enough to survive an attempted military coup that tried to block broadcast of his surrender speech underscores that the atomic bomb had effect in pushing toward surrender.

Meanwhile, at Ham's piece, one commenter is pulling red herrings out of his backside, with claims like Hirohito was afraid of a Communist revolution at home and afraid that, if the USSR gobbled up too many of his troops, he wouldn't be able to supress this.

First, Japanese troops in Manchuria/Manchukuo, as opposed to active fighting areas further south in China, were largely garrison type troops, undertrained and undersupplied as compared to fighting troops. That's part of how they got gobbled up.d

As for Communist fears? Given that the Japanese Communist Party pretty much dissolved after 1935, there's the red herring.

The issue of Japan's actual surrender being conditional is at best a red herring and at worst actually  undermines Ham and his red herring commenter. If even the "most cruel bomb" would lead only to a request for a conditional surrender, the Soviet action by itself wouldn't have done that. Not that early, at least.


November 13, 2014

I thought we were done with Democratic emails ...

But, I guess not.

Just got one from some woman named Wendy Davis in the inbox at a backup account yesterday.

Something about honoring veterans.

Gee, thanks, Wendy. I wouldn't have known yesterday was Veterans Day otherwise. I also wouldn't have known that Election Day was one week before Veterans Day.

Obviously, like most losing candidates, you have racked up some campaign debt that you're trying to get rid of.

So, don't be shy, don't be coy.

Just stick out your cyberhand like you did before the election. Because, really, you're wanting us to honor your campaign debt, even if you n're  not saying so.

Of course, regardless of what one thinks about the disorganization of her campaign, when you have consultants like Prism Communications leaking about your campaign (hat tip TPM) maybe you should start by stiffing them.

Setting ethics of the leak aside — while remembering that there's little ethics in politics, little ethics in business, and hence even less in the business of political consulting — I don't think the leaked Prism emails really tell us much we don't already know. For me, among other things, it confirms that part of the Davis campaign's problems come from before Prism was on board, comes from before Battleground Texas and Lone Star Project were on board, and that's that Davis' advisers from her state Senate race days were keeping her insulated and locked down.

And, those actions ultimately have to stem from Davis herself, going all the way back to the days she sued the Fort Worth Star Telegram over an editorial about her run for the city council there.

As for Davis' Veterans Day email?

I must say that I'm surprised the alphabet soup of DNC, DNCC and DNSC didn't think of the same idea. But, I'm certainly not disappointed.

Update, Nov. 20: We're STILL not done. Wendy sent another today, asking me to sign a petition for Hillary2016.

Well, you obviously don't know me, you kanoodleheads, if you'd think I'd sign that. I wouldn't sign a stay of execution for Hillary Clinton. And, the appeal — one woman asking us to support another woman because she's a woman? Pass.

I actually voted for the black AND the woman in 2008, in the same person — Cynthia McKinney. Not because she is black, or a woman, but because she was the Green Party presidential candidate.

November 12, 2014

UN grills US on torture, becomes kangaroo court, Team Obama tap-dances

So much to unpack from one short news story!

First and bottom line?

We tortured people in various spots in Iraq and Afghanistan (not to mention outsourcing even more torture to the likes of Egypt under the euphemism of "extraordinary rendition"). Period, end of story.

And now the UN, which admittedly has a number of members with even looser support for civil rights than America, wants to hear more about this.

Team Obama says this all happened under the previous guy and it's all OK now. We're cool. We're down with it:
The Obama administration officials said that whatever transgressions occurred had been under the previous administration of George W. Bush, but Obama that had quickly tried to turn things around. 
"As President Obama has acknowledged, we crossed the line and we take responsibility for that," McLeod said. "The United States has taken important steps to ensure adherence to its legal obligations." 
Tom Malinowski, an assistant U.S. secretary of state, told the committee the government believes torture, and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and punishment "are forbidden in all places, at all times, with no exceptions." 
In Washington, the White House said the administration also now considers the ban against torture to apply to prisoners held by the U.S. overseas, including Guantanamo Bay. Under the Bush administration, the U.S. interpreted the U.N. Convention Against Torture to apply only within U.S. borders.

Let's unpack that.

Quickly? Until his "we tortured some folks," Dear Leader didn't even use the "T-word."

"We crossed the line." Was that like a chicken-torturer, to get to the other side of the torture road? No, we crossed the line while claiming not to cross the line. That's half the problem right there. Oh, and what would the "important steps" be, given the last graf, with my emphasis.

So, we "now" consider a ban on torture to apply abroad? What is the date of the now? Was it Jan. 20, 2009,or some time later.

At the same time, per my cracking wise about the UN, er, while the death penalty may be wrong, cruel and unusual, it's not torture. And, while Ferguson, Mo., police officer Darren Wilson may have acted wrongly (or may not have acted wrongly) in fatally shooting Michael Brown, that's not torture, either.

Why do I have the feeling this is going to go beyond a rightful legal grilling into a kangaroo court? Only thing missing, even though he's not on death row with a commuted sentence, are lawyers for Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Or Tom Cruise, speaking on behalf of Scientology and claiming that psychiatry is torture.

Roger Clemens = Pete Rose

Roger Clemens,
today's
Pete Rose.
(Apologies Rush)
Roger Clemens cheated with steroids, according to Brian McNamee. Craig Calcaterra sets the table, including dueling defamation lawsuits, as a lead-in to noting that Clemens was deposed today in McNamee's suit.

Roger the Dodger and his ace mouthpiece should have dropped their defamation suit long ago, as Craig notes and I agree.

That's why I think the Pete Rose comparison is apt. Both go beyond cocky to outright stubborn, unwilling to face or admit facts and, ultimately, in the end, both look about equally tawdry.

(And, judging by current pictures of Clemens, his hair's going to be Rose level of ugliness soon too.)

More seriously, Hardin really, really doesn’t want this to go to trial. Because:
At one point in the deposition, Emery revisited an issue that has long proved vexing for Clemens. From the start, way back with the publication of the Mitchell report in 2007, McNamee has stated that he also gave performance-enhancers to (Andy) Pettitte and another former Yankees teammate of Clemens’s, Chuck Knoblauch. Neither man has disputed McNamee’s claims — only Clemens has. 
“O.K.,” Emery said in his questioning of Clemens. “Now can — can you think of any reason whatsoever that Andy Pettitte — that Brian McNamee would name Andy Pettitte and Chuck Knoblauch and be lying about you but telling the truth about them?” 
Clemens, who won 354 games and seven Cy Young Awards in his 24-year major league career, said he could not provide an explanation.
And, all those gentlemen will be called to the stand, too.

And, this is civil, not criminal. Teh Google seems to tell me that New York State requires just 9 of 12 votes in civil cases.

New commish Rob Manfred — the man who guided Bud Selig on exactly how to put the roiding suspension squeeze on Alex Rodriguez — certainly doesn't want it in court, either.

But, Clemens, who is surely a more two-dimensional modern sports version of an ancient tragic legendary Greek warrior, will make this all stumble to its end.

Getcha popcorn!

China, US, make largely toothless #climatechange agreement

Just how green are these solar panels, and how does that relate to an announced
US-China carbon-dioxide emissions accord? Photo via National Geographic
You can tell it's relatively toothless by the fact that the New York Times devoted less space to it, as part of a combined two-subject article, than to the other issue — free-trade talks.

It's relatively toothless in that China pledges to have its carbon emissions peak in 2030 and be at 20 percent renewables by then.

It's also relatively toothless because, as this story shows, solar panel manufacture itself can have high carbon emissions, as well as otherwise being environmentally dirty. And, there's only one sure-fire way to fix that: a carbon tax domestically and tariff on imports. More here on the relative lack of greenness of solar, as well as of dams and the trendy new one of wood pellets, among other things.

Now, as for why China would publicly agree to an even-toothless carbon accord?

Well, China's coal is not only relatively dirty but running lower. It's potential reserves of shale-based natural gas aren't provable let alone proven yet in any great amount. And, it's roughly the same latitude to more equatorward than the US, and with lots of sunny deserts and higher elevations, so it's situated well for solar. It's a large country with plenty of high-wind areas, so it's situated well for that. And, as the Three Gorges Dam shows, it's got further hydropower in mind.

So, the 20 percent pledge? China, unlike U.S. red state wingnut politicians, knows this makes good economic sense. And, speaking of those wingnuts? How much will they restrict Obama's pledge to accelerate the rate of cuts of U.S. carbon emissions?

As for China having its emissions peak in 2030? Well, beyond the planned increase in renewables, that's also because China's overall population is expected to peak in ...

Wait for it, wait for it ...

2030. Give or take a few years.

We, and much of the rest of the west, have of course exported a lot of our carbon to China. But, China's absorbed that. China will likely never be as car-intense as the U.S., or even as Western Europe. And, starting from scratch, hybrids and full-electric vehicles can be a bigger part of the mix sooner.

And, that population link cautions us to also look this "agreement" more closely in the mouth.

First, the US population will not peak in 2030. And, we will be at 400 million by 2050.

Other 2030 things to note?

Shortly after that, India will pass China in population. And, likely have a "dirtier" economy. Another reason to not put too much stock in yesterday's deal. Also on that link, note the even more rapid growth rate of Pakistan, with further ecological — and international politics — implications. And, the explosive growth of some sub-Saharan countries.

A different website gives slightly different numbers, but the same general idea.

In a related item, feel free to vote on my poll about Obama and Keystone XL, at top right.

Texas GOP? #Fracking bubble more reason to stop depleting Rainy Day Fund

The Texas Republican Party, rather than being responsible, and actually paying for general budget items out of the general budget, seems to be getting ever more fond of having voters make the tough choices for them by passing constitutional amendments to pay for necessary water supply improvements (Proposition 6, last year) and transportation upgrades (Proposition 1, this year). Unfortunately, for the second straight year, voters were suckers at the polls.

Not only is this an abdication of GOP responsibility, it may not be sustainable.

Those of us who know a bit about fracking, not just its environmental concerns but the difference between actual reserves and rate of extraction of reserves, have known for some time that natural gas fracking's claims of an explosion of new resources have been somewhat bubbly. And, the latest confirmation of that is here.

Now, the evidence that the same is true of fracked shale oil is continuing to increase.
(N)oted Canadian energy analyst David Hughes says that even if the drilling could somehow continue, the bounty simply will not last. 
Last month, Hughes released “Drilling Deeper,” a report he authored for Santa Rosa-based Post Carbon Institute, scrutinizing the U.S.’s two largest oil booms in the Bakken and Eagle Ford fields. By examining industry data, Hughes projects that the booms in both fields will peak before 2020 and, by 2040, will be producing at a tiny fraction of their current levels. “[If] the future of U.S. oil and natural gas production depends on resources in the country's deep shale deposits, as the Energy Department contends, we are in for a big disappointment in the longer term," Hughes said in a press release. 
The fundamental problem, Hughes explains, is the ephemeral nature of the average deep shale oil well, which declines in production by 83 percent after three years. This, Hughes explains, translates to an annual decline rate in the Bakken and Eagle Ford fields of over 40 percent. (The Bakken and Eagle Ford, he says, are not unique in this regard. All shale oil plays are afflicted with steep decline curves.)

In other words, the Texas GOP, as incorporated in the Texas Legislature passing these constitutional amendments, is officially running a Ponzi scheme. (All emphasis in the above quote is mine.) 

And, it's a Ponzi scheme based not only on ephemeral production, but also ephemeral production that's not's being adequately taxed for all of its destructiveness.

Click the links within that pull quote, as well as clicking the main link for more. It should open your eyes. For example, Hughes expects Eagle Ford oil production to peak in 2016! That's from his "Drilling Deeper" report. And, it needs to open the eyes of people at larger media companies than me. The latest installment of the alleged Texas miracle of economics simply doesn't appear to be sustainable.

And, in a related issue, feel free to vote on my poll about Obama and the Keystone XL, at top right. (Note: The plunge in oil prices may also affect Obama's decision.)

Meanwhile, on both oil and gas, it seems like the Energy Information Administration become less trustworthy all the time.

Update, Jan. 16, 2015: Houston Chronicle columnist Chris Tomlinson notes that more recently fracked wells give some signs of not declining so quickly. That said, Hughes' graphs, linked above, do not show a sharp decline for either the Eagle Ford or the Bakken formations, among others, so I don't think Chris' note really undercuts Hughes' analysis.

November 11, 2014

Veterans Day and the WWI centennial

Today is the first of four Veterans Day celebrations that also fall within the observation of the centennial of World War I.

I've long contended that:
1. Woodrow Wilson was more British-biased than most mainstream histories present
2. We shouldn't have gotten involved in World War I
3. A true neutrality would have kept us out of World War I.

As we reflect on our veterans today, remember that, from World War I on, most our wars (including, to some degree, Cold War "Red scare" ones) were based in part on Wilsonian idealism. World War II, besides Japan attacking us, arguably had a strong Realpolitik component; all others, lesser ones.

We had no vital interests at stake in 1914, other than, possibly, freedom of the seas, which was threatened just as much by the British blockade by extension as by German unrestricted submarine warfare, if not more so.

Had we stayed neutral, we could have let "old Europe" punch itself even more senseless than it actually did. What would have happened?

At a glance, the British and French would have pulled troops from the Balkans and Near East to stop Ludendorff in 1918 just shy of Paris. But, without American troops, and with British and French senior commanders far stupider than Pershing, no major counterattack would have resulted.

If one realizes that German casualties on World War I on both the Eastern and Western fronts were less than French and British casualties, almost all of those on the Western Front, one realizes just how great the difference in generalship — and training of enlisted men, in general — was between the Allies and Germany (The Dual Monarchy of Austria-Hungary is different; in part, because of rising internal nationalism, it fought about as bad as Russia in the first 18 months of the war, and not a tremendous amount better than Italy.)

Then, the November 1918 revolution would have hit Germany (and the Dual Monarchy) as it actually did.

And spread to British and French front-line troops. All combatants, Allies and Central Powers alike, would have scrambled for some truce.

The Dual Monarchy would have disintegrated anyway. An independent Poland would have formed — but likely without the Polish corridor. Wilhelm might have abdicated anyway, whether for his son in a constitutional monarchy or in a republic, I don't know.

Just a few thoughts from alternative history about how different the world could have been today.

And, beyond that, about how we need more Realpolitik in foreign policy.

Your NL Manager of the Year should be ...

Mike Redmond,
Miami Marlins
Mike Redmond, at least by one line of reasoning.

Who, you say?

The guy who managed the Miami Marlins to a 15-game improvement from last year, despite losing young hot hurler Jose Fernandez for the majority of the season due to Tommy John surgery and Giancarlo Stanton for the last month or so due to a severe beaning.

By the middle of the season, the Fish were starting to gain signs of respect and respectability, to boot.

Now, I know that it's as rare for this award as for an MVP to go to someone on a sub-.500 team. Right, Andre Dawson? Even though Tony Gwynn, Eric Davis, Tim Raines, Dale Murphy, and Ozzie Smith (among others) were all more deserving by WAR, and the Wiz, certainly, by team finish.

That said, Redmond's case is different. Just his second year with the team.

One drawback? The team finished 1 game below Pythagorean expectation.

Cardinal trolls who want to tout Mike Matheny? Please. His stubbornness with Mark Ellis vs Kolten Wong, and Allen Craig vs Oscar Taveras, says enough. That said, even with that stupidity, the team shockingly was 7 games above Pythag. Which makes me wonder how useful it is as a "WAR for managers" tool, even though I've touted it before.

Contra that, though, and while noting all BBWAA awards are voted on at the end of the regular season and based on regular season performance only, he was a bad manager in the playoffs.

Matt Williams improved the Nats 10 games from last year. But, they were a game below Pythag.

The Brewers under Ron Roenicke improved eight games, and they were two games above Pythag.

Anyway, there are various ways to skin the MOY cat — Pythag and improvement from last year are two of them.

On the former, Donnie Baseball had the L.A. Dollars two games above Pythag.

Rick Renteria,
stylin the classic
’70s Pirates hat.
On the latter? Rick Renteria, recently dumped in Chicago by Theo Epstein in favor of Steve Martin Joe Maddon, improved them by seven games, and was two above Pythag to boot.

Frankly, it would be funny as hell to see him get the award.

Unfortunately, BBWAA has shown for years that it has absolutely no sense of humor, and award voting is already done, so this ain't happening.

Too bad.

November 10, 2014

Texas GOP sees #mandate for further slashing — schools face new knife

My header should offer enough explainer for this press release by state Sen. Charles Schwertner:
Today, Senator Charles Schwertner, MD (R-Georgetown) filed SB 134, also known as the Small Business Tax Relief Act.  If passed, SB 134 will establish a permanent $5 million total revenue exemption from the state's business franchise tax and provide critical tax relief for tens of thousands of Texas businesses.  
"Today, I'm proud to file a landmark tax cut for the hard-working small business owners that create jobs and drive our Texas economy," said Schwertner. "For many small and medium-sized businesses struggling to make it, the state franchise tax represents an unreasonable and unnecessary tax burden that only serves to limit job growth and stifle new investment. 
The Texas Comptroller's Office estimates that the Small Business Tax Relief Act (SB 134) would provide over $440 million in annual tax relief, while exempting over 65,000 small businesses that would otherwise pay the state's business franchise tax.  These small businesses represent over 55% of all entities required to remit payment under the current franchise tax structure. 
Unlike past proposals to eliminate the franchise tax entirely, SB 134 won't generate a multi-billion dollar budget shortfall and can be achieved with modest impact to state revenue.  The Comptroller's Office estimates that raising the exemption to $5 million would result in a 9.17% decrease in overall revenue collected by the franchise tax.
"This fiscally responsible approach provides meaningful tax relief to the small businesses who need it most, while still maintaining a balanced budget," said Schwertner. "It just makes sense."
 
Small business advocates have consistently argued that the franchise tax disproportionately affects small to medium-sized Texas businesses -- particularly in those industries marked by high gross receipts but marginal overall profits.
Let's work through this baby.

First, is paragraph 2 correct? Along with the last graf, probably, in part.

Is Schwertner's answer the right one?

Not at all, without getting higher end business to pay more.

And, no, a $440 million tax cut is small potatoes to a multi-billion tax elimination, of course.

So, Schwertner comes off tries to come off looking like a kinder, gentler Republican.

Wrong!

$440 million is $440 million, period. 

It's "only" a couple of hundred dollars per each child in Texas public schools.

And, beyond that, every time a Texas Republican tries to perform actual math on the Texas franchise tax, they get it wrong, and the cuts are worse than claimed, to boot.

I hope this gets brought up in the state's appeal of Judge John Dietz's ruling that Texas' school finance system is unconstitutional. Gov-elect Strangeabbott has claimed to see nothing wrong with it, and now, his minions want to cut school finance even more.

The myth of Teddy Roosevelt, part deaux

A few months ago, I blogged about the start of Ken Burns' latest PBS American whoregasm, "The Roosevelts," wondering what he'd get wrong about Teddy. (Answer: A decent amount, but not quite a huge amount. Click the link.)

Now, via a Facebook friend, we have the laughable wonder of TR calling Woodrow Wilson laissez-faire, in a 1912 campaign speech.

Really?

The man who refused to cut the tariff, did't push to get Congress to pass the 16th Amendment on income tax, and, even after the Panic of 1907 and his failure to push for something like the Federal Reserve, calls Wilson laissez-faire? Well, that's a chuckle.

It's true indeed that Wilson, a unreconstructed Southerner who, if he had pushed for Obamacare today, would have found a way even more than today's red states are doing to restrict its benefits to white folks, was saying that only keeping government power was coherent with protecting individual liberties.  That said, per the paragraph above, TR wasn't in much place to critique Wilson, and that's my critique. Beyond that, contra later parts of that TR speech, Wilson strengthened antitrust laws with the Clayton Antitrust Act, created the Federal Trade Commission, and battled to cut child labor, before legislation he pushed Congress to pass was declared unconstitutional.

In the speech, Roosevelt also lies about the accomplishments of Taft, some of which were more progressive — and more legally grounded — than TR's. See my first link.

Teddy Roosevelt would be a hoot for today. We'd have twice as many dams in the West as we actually do, we'd have czars for everything, TR would himself be talking to Kurzweil about putting his engrams in a computer, and he'd be dropping nuclear bombs in ISIS in the name of vigorous Christianist nationalism.

Burns did somewhat get this right. An activist government, for Teddy Roosevelt, boiled down to one thing: An activist Teddy Roosevelt. It's also was "Battling Bob" La Follette disliked TR forming his Bull Moose party and disrupting the growth of broader progressivism.

With a population four times that of his U.S., I thank doorknobs that, for some of his attractiveness, he's not president today. Had he been president when Truman was, he probably would have tried to shoot Congress before it could pass the 22nd Amendment. He almost certainly would have nuked North Korea, and maybe China, too, during the Korean War.

In short, he would be a hypercaffeinated (he bespoke Maxwell House's slogan), jingoistic Just.Another.Politician.™ Were he president today, he'd scare the hell out of me.

And, even a pre-modern TR would have been bad enough.

Had he been able to pull off the 1912 third-term win, and an assassination in Sarajevo in 1914 had happened as in reality?

He would have gotten us into World War I two full years before Wilson, in all likelihood.

He might then have used that as an excuse to run for a fourth term in 1916.

As for presidential rankings? We know why he's on Mount Rushmore. In actuality, for all of his good on environmentalism, and for his trust-busting for partially selfish reasons, he's not one of our top five presidents. He's probably not in the top 10.

That said, other than that the game of ranking presidents requires 10 of them to be in the top 10, we don't really have a 10 best presidents list.