SocraticGadfly: 2/1/15 - 2/8/15

February 07, 2015

Thoughts on Kory Watkins, oil prices, and gunking up the #txlege

Well, the three-ring circus is in town, and, the good news for circus lovers is that it’s got four months left on its run.

The bad news is that the town is Austin, and the circus is the Texas Legislature. I could comment on how elephants are long-known as circus animals, but that would be too easy.

But, it’s not just the 150 men and women inside the state House and the 31, plus Lite Guv Dan Patrick, inside the Senate. It’s those on the outside, too.

Whoda thunk that Dan Patrick would ever be called a flip-flopper, or not conservative enough? Well, Open Carry Tarrant County has already said just that about him. And, that Kory Watkins of that group would issue death threats while accusing people of treason if such a measure were opposed, then be dumb enough to believe he could hide from the Internet.

Of course, when your preferred method of public relations is (journalism jargon alert) brandishing guns in public, and brandishing them even more closely to people who don’t see things the same way you do, there’s good reason for Patrick to schwaffle a bit on the issue, at least on the possibility of passage of open carry legislation. That’s because big city urban and suburban soccer moms, whether they pull the elephant or the donkey lever in the voting booth, aren’t totally comfortable with this.

That said, a number of studies have shown that Members of Congress think their districts are more conservative than they actually are, and I'll venture that some of this applies to state legislators.

That said, squeaky wheels are more vocal, especially on the reactionary side, and politicians get nervous about that. Combine that with Texas' notoriously low turnout for midterm elections, and its notoriously low turnout by Hispanics, and the cream, or other substances, of the likes of Kory Watkins rise to the top, or settle to the bottom like sludge and gunk up the works.

Meanwhile, the Legislature has other things on its mind.

Chief among them would be state revenues for the next two years, and more specifically, the portion of revenues coming from oil and gas production.

New Comptroller Glenn Hegar has made his revenue estimate, and is standing by it, despite worries from non-partisan analysts and think tanks indicating he may not be “bearish” enough about the current slump in oil prices.

Count me among those who think this way. Let’s hope that, as things play out more within the Lege’s 140-day session, and more analysts weigh in, that a majority of that 150 and 31 put a bit of prudence in the hopper.

Scuffles about open carry rules aside, that’s the big issue. It’s doubly big since the Texas Supreme Court has said it will not start wading through the state’s appeal of losing the lawsuit on school finance constitutionality until this year’s legislative session is over.

Also, due to that, there will be less money to put in the state’s Rainy Day Fund. That, in turn may affect action based on constitutional amendments that voters passed in 2013 and 2014.

The 2013 amendment was to fund water development projects from Rainy Day Fund loans. The 2014 measure was to split in half money that would go to the Rainy Day Fund, with the other half being put in a state highway fund.

February 06, 2015

Tiger Woods: the finish line?

Tiger Woods, taking time off. (ESPN photo)
Update, Feb. 11: Tiger says he is taking a powder until he's tournament ready. More on his website; no idea what his idea of "very soon" might be. Per paid scribes, if it means he still is thinking about the Honda on Feb. 26, why an announcement? Unless it's just Tiger continuing to be Tiger about  this whole issue. And, of course, that wouldn't surprise me, and to semi-regular readers of sports posts within this blog, I'm sure that the idea that wouldn't surprise me doesn't surprise you.

There is one other point, touched on a bit by others. If this is NOT related to his back surgery last year, then other than "my glutes didn't activate," what exactly is the problem? Whatever it is, don't expect Red Shirt to tell us.

That said, back to my original blog post.

I don't really like referencing Joe Posnanski, mainly because of his turd polishing for Joe Paterno.

But, he does have a very good column about the cloudy future for one Tiger Woods.

In it, he links to a previous column which has three key takeaways:
  • The median age for major champion winners since 1960 is 32.
  • Only 20 of the 220 winners since 1960 (9%) were 40 or over.
  • Since 2000, only four of 60 (7%) major winners were 40 or over, and three of those four won the Open Championship. No 40-year-old has won the Masters or the U.S. Open in the 21st century.
He then goes on to say that Elin and the fire hydrant aren't the break point in Tiger's career, but rather, the heroic U.S. Open win at ... ironically or poignantly, today ... Torrey Pines in 2008.

Tiger's age at that time. A median-fitting 32. '

As for the rest of this year?

First, let's talk about that "update."

I'm going to assume that cuts out the Honda in two weeks. That means the WGC at Doral is automatically out. Bay Hill? Maybe. But no more than maybe.

So, quite possibly, no Red Shirt until Green Jacket Week.

Speaking of?

Tiger-proofing Augusta seems to have done just that, whether we accept Hank Haney's claim that it also made it lefty-friendly (Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson have won three of the last five green jackets) or not. 

The U.S. Open is at a new venue — Chambers Bay. Tiger doesn't usually do well at new venues. Plus, the coast of Washington State, even in June, isn't the warmest, most fog-free place in the world.

The Open? St. Andrews might offer Tiger a shot at major 15 — if he's otherwise recovered from both back and yips. Even then, he won't be the favorite.

The PGA? He's never done well before at Whistling Straits.

So, that limping battle against Rocco Mediate may have been his majors finish line. Woodsaholics and the TV networks and the PGA tour all need to accept it.

Beyond this year?

The Masters will remain Tiger-proofed. U.S. Opens will remain with at least semi-thick rough and demands on chipping and general short game that today's Tiger Woods cannot meet, until he overcomes — the yips. Let's be honest.

So, any chance at a major would be most likely in either an Open or a PGA. But, if his back problems continue, those are both later in the season, after more of a year's wear and tear.

He may, just may, get a No. 15. More than that? Highly unlikely.

As for 18 or 19? That's a Moon shot, or even a Mars shot.

Meanwhile, the irreverent (and at times clickbait) Daily Mail reminds us that Tiger was healthy enough to be watching Lindsey Vonn ski on Tuesday, then, after that, jet to San Diego, sans much practice time. It compares the end of his career to that of Seve Ballesteros, who saw his younger steller, scintillating play fade by his middle 30s.

With that in mind, having had his back surgery a year ago, Tiger's earned some benefit of the doubt. Soon enough though, we're going to see less and less conceded, and more and more snark, like the @TigersGlutes Twitter account mentioned here.

Speaking of, is Ian Baker-Finch right that Tiger's now afraid? Or even worse, is Doug Ferguson right in just hinting a bit that maybe Tiger's now a bit of a quitter?

February 04, 2015

#Antivaxxers? Not the new left, but often the good old GOP

Rand Paul, aka Squirrel Hair. No word if
vaccinations cause hair like that.
No, anti-vaxxers are NOT left-wing frou-frouers, for those who like to claim this is some moral/antiscientific equivalent to climate change denialists. Both groups of resistance actually are the same, politically — vaccine resistance is growing the most among Repugs:
Pew Research Center polls show that in 2009, 71 percent of both Republicans and Democrats favored requiring the vaccination of children. Five years later, Democratic support had grown to 76 percent, but Republican support had fallen to 65 percent.
Oh, sure, way out on the left, among some Green types, antivaxxerism may ride high, too, but, between members of the two main parties, we see the trends.

That said, this shows the continued rightward move of American politics.

And, as part of that, two putative 2016 GOP presidential candidates, Chris Christie and Rand Paul, actively support opting out of vaccination.

And, in this case, one of them can't even play the favorite global warming denialism card of "I'm not a scientist."

Rand Paul is an ophthalmologist, which entails having a medical degree. Just like his daddy, Ron, who's also got a medical degree and is also an antivaxxer.

It's clear that the acorn here hasn't fallen far from the libertarian tree, and Squirrel Hair is pandering for libertarian voters. Surprised he hasn't worked Agenda 21 in there.

Christie? He's just an idiot, along with attempting his own version of pandering.

Ted Cruz sounds better, right? But, that religious exemption? Depending on how it's defined, it might be stretched all over the place.

Besides, as Cruz and other Islamophobe types know, the law overrides religious exemption claims elsewhere. For example, we don't let fundamentalist Muslim women wear niqabs, let alone burkas (or Paul Burkas) for their driver's license photos.

Besides, to go all Antonin Scalia, show me where any ancient religious book mentions the word "vaccine."

They and their likes remind me of Democrats getting skewered decades ago for saying, "I'm personally prolife, but..."

And, in places like greater Los Angeles and the Disneyland measles outbreak? That means instead of looking at Hollywood-type moms in Beverly Hills, we should be looking at far-righters in the OC for who's not getting vaccinated.

That's even as antivaxxers in that area have turned the denialism volume to 11.

That said, let's not let Democrats off the hook; that increase in Democratic-related support means that support was softer in 2009. Or in 2008, from Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

It is the Daily Caller, yes, but, I think it's right in that Clinton and Obama were both hedging themselves for 2008 primary voters — and even more for 2008 Hollywood donors. Because, while the stereotype about Hollywood antivaxxers isn't totally right, it's probably not totally wrong, either.

Halfway related? The Dallas Observer's gonzo Jim Schutze, with whom I have a sort of bromance as a journalist (ONLY that), may not be an antivaxxer, but his strawmen, written twice, on fluoridation make me wonder if he is an antivaxxer as well, especially since he can rail against science except when it seems to support him.

He also undercuts himself as an investigative journalist, when wrong-footed, with various versions of the old "they're saying."

And, he's apparently a JFK conspiracy theorist, too, or at least an "enabler," enabler enough to thank Alex Jones:
Here is what I think is a simple proposition philosophically: If all truth is hidden behind a banner of lies, then all conspiracy theories are true. We should all be damned glad Alex Jones and the soldiers of InfoWars believe in conspiracy, preach conspiracy and are willing to march on the barricades of conspiracy. Who is crazy, Alex Jones on the street behind the banner shouting "no more lies" or the people in the stands staring at the banner believing it is the edge of the world and afraid of falling off?

Of course, old Jim sometimes seems to have his own paranoia complex toward the Dallas Morning News. 

February 03, 2015

Glenn Hegar vs #TxLege on oil prices, tax cuts, more

Pumpjacks near Watford City, North Dakota
AP/Eric Gray via Houston Chronicle
A few members of the Texas Senate aren't ready to pull the trigger on major new tax cuts.

And, they shouldn't be.

If Texas is going to lose 300,000 oil and oil-related jobs before the current oil price slump is over, the state's going to lose a lot of oil and gas revenue, plus sales tax money from people spending less, plus new unemployment claims and more. As the story notes, 8.5 percent of all Texas jobs added since the Great Recession are directly in the oil business.
"I think it's safe to say the Eagle Ford and the Permian are about to get clobbered," (economist Karr) Ingham said, referring to areas in South and West Texas that boomed as technological advances have driven a five-year surge in production from dense shale rock.

Unfortunately, that sounds about right. 

Ingham goes on to say that he doesn't expect a permanent rebound any time soon. In fact, he expect it to take a full year for US production to cut enough to soak up all the current surplus.

So, Chris Tomlinson's right, too. Don't expect the current brief uptick in oil prices to signal something permanent.

That, in turn, gets back to those tax cuts.

All of the "concerneds" are mentioning spending priorities, not revenue concerns related to the oil patch. But, they should be looking at that.

Per Tomlinson's link, even if the oil industry is lucky to hit the higher side and average $60/bbl this year, that's still seemingly below what new Comptroller Glenn Hegar is using for his revenue estimates, which I've critiqued, time, and time, and time again.

Beyond possible additional road spending, Kevin Eltife is right for a Republican — the state's likely going to need more money for public schools, assuming it eventually loses its appeal of John Dietz's ruling on the unconstitutionality of current school finance.

How to mess with the minds of #antivaxxers AND #homeopathy touters

Once again, those natural supplements aren't so pure and pristine, per a complaint by the New York AG's office:
The authorities said they had run tests on popular store brands of herbal supplements at the retailers — Walmart, Walgreens, Target and GNC — which showed that roughly four out of five of the products contained none of the herbs listed on their labels. In many cases, the authorities said, the supplements contained little more than cheap fillers like rice and house plants, or substances that could be hazardous to people with food allergies.
This news, of course, started my mind to racing away. 

You know what would make a helluva "Merry Pranksters" gig? Either hack the NY AG's office to say that thimerosal was among the contaminants, or sneak into a "nutritionals" lab in Utah and actually sprinkle products with thimerosal.

Watch the antivaxxers and naturopaths etc., freak out after that.

Part 2 is to tell them that the thimerosal was XXXX diluted to increase its homeopathic power.

On the more serious side, more details of the investigation are here. Per the story, maybe Orrin Hatch needs some thimerosal as a belated Christmas present. Or more seriously, the NY AG needs to loop Hatch into its case.

February 02, 2015

Feb. 2: #HugYourFavoriteSniperDay

Chris Kyle: Large, no longer in charge, and very dead.
At least here in Texass, it is.

Gov. Greg Abbott, two weeks into his new administration as governor of the Great State of Texas Pointy Abandoned Object State™,  has wasted no time in showing that his predecessor, Rick Perry, has nothing to show him in the school of pandering to wingnuts.

Abbott has proclaimed today Chris Kyle Day. Even as, per this piece, many Americans reject the spin on Kyle, and the movie "American Sniper," that wingnuts are trying to foist on us.

So, go out and hug your favorite sniper!

But, why stop there?

Since the wingnuts to whom Abbott is pandering in Texas have other goals and agendas, let's have some more "days" we can have here in Texas, by all means.

March 9: Navy SEAL School Crossing Guard Day. Navy SEALs with untreated PTSD are offered the chance to be school crossing guards, complete with full weaponry. The day is proclaimed in conjunction with legislation making ex-SEALs school security on a trial program basis, just in case some kid brings a gun to school under new open carry laws.

After all, as Chris Kyle's own apotheosis (sic, and sick) shows, it can't be any worse than other gun-related therapy for military veterans with untreated PTSD now, can it?

April 4: SEALs in Huntsville Day. Abbott, deciding to pander for national red state support even out to conservative Utah, signs a pilot program to emulate the pre-1980 Beehive State of Gary Gilmore fame and bring death by firing squad to the Texas state pen. Knowing that Chris Kyle was "the most prolific sniper in history," (stand by, Abbott's got a fact-check phone call in to Guinness Book of World Records), who better for the firing squad for him and his buddies? Especially if they have untreated PTSD, they'll have no moral reservations about executing a man with a sub-70 IQ. Or two. (I do NOT want to hear three and five is very right out.)

May 12: Take a Sniper to a Tea Party Day. Knowing that American snipers, as down to earth, mentally stable, small-town freckle-faced, apple-pie, hot-dog-eating, Chevy-driving next door Americans love nothing more than a small town tea party, Abbott proclaims this day to encourage all patriotic, Texas-loving Tea Partiers to invite their favorite snipers and personally thank them.

August 11: Texas Olympics Day. Because everything is bigger, and badder-ass, in Texas, Abbott announces this day as the kickoff of his plan to petition the International Olympic Committee to make sniping an Olympic sport.

Finally, if we have a Chris Kyle Day, why not a Charles Whitman Day? A nice clean-cut ex-Marine, and a prolific shooter to boot.

Michael Moore talks here about his Tweet that started the wingnuts to slavering and slobbering. He talks here about what he sees as a decade-old "slippage" by Clint Eastwood. Hmm, maybe he's our new Charlton Heston, Alzheimer's and all?

Now, I'm no blank-check fan of Moore's. That said, his Tweet is more about the limits of Twitter than it is about any stupidity on his part.

The nationalistic and American exceptionalism bottom line, of course, is that THEIR snipers are cowards, while OUR snipers are heroes.

And, if you think I'm snarky, read Matt Taibbi's review. Beyond snarky, he notes, bluntly, that the real life Chris Kyle was more of a dick than Eastwood buffed him up to be.