SocraticGadfly: 8/30/15 - 9/6/15

September 04, 2015

National Parks vacationing and photography

Yours truly, almost to the 14,060 Mt. Bierstadt summit
I am glad indeed to have gotten some real vacation time last month. For people who don't know, such vacations often center around hiking and nature photography at National Parks and other scenic spots, primarily in our western states.

Obviously, the hiking includes things like that at left. Bierstadt is by consensus Colorado's easiest 14er. But, it is a 14er, I'd not done a full week's vacation, especially one of heavy hiking, in four years, I was in the neighborhood, and so, though I'd hiked it before, I did again.

Sagittarius, Milky Way, Scorpius, Saturn.
I spent most of the vacation at Rocky Mountain National Park.

While there, in addition to the daytime photography, I did astrophotography like this, with a faster, less noisy DSLR than my last vacation. (I also saw a couple of great meteors from the Perseid shower.) Full photo EXIF file detail is with each picture; the full Rocky 2015 album has other stuff, of course! That includes multiple pictures of marmots, my best pika photos ever, a black bear and other items.

That wasn't the only place with great night skies, though the altitude as well as relatively dry air was a great combination.

Buck Canyon Overlook, Canyonlands National Park
The first major portion of the trip was at Canyonlands National Park. It, like Death Valley and somewhat like Texas' Big Bend is, for me, a very "existential" spot and thus, a place I always try to hit when I'm in the Four Corners. Photos like the one at left show why. The full album is here. And, individual photos can be clicked to enlarge, and to lead to their spot in the various albums from my vacation. I have a number of other expansive redrocks shots like this, as well as a bit of wildlife and night photography, in that folder.

Ravens at Chaco
I actually started at what is called a National Historic Park, while also part of the National Park Service — Chaco Canyon. Although going back to about 850 CE, this stark site has lessons for today.

The multiple, combinatorial reasons why the Anasazi likely eventually deserted it, even its oldest, centuries old villages, as shown in this album, were many. As we can best tell today, they included resource overuse and climate change, are warnings for today, as well as anti-romantic admonitions that "pristine societies" never really existed. The photo at right riffs on ravens, in cultures around the world, being an iconic, often a totemic, animal.

The centennial of the National Park Service is next year. However, as I noted two weeks ago, the official federal government/NPS celebration is already showing itself to be a neoliberal, corporate driving, "branding" spectacular.

NOTE: I have computer wallpaper versions of a couple of the photos posted here and of others in my albums. Ask if you're interested.

September 03, 2015

The decline and fall of the Dallas Morning News

Robyn Tomlin
via News online story
Should be great celebration that the Dallas Morning News has a new managing editor, right?

Erm, WRONG! At least as I see it.

First, it's been without one for nearly a year. Given the ongoing layoffs, downsizings, and firings by print media, the fact that it took the Snooze this long to fill the position, combined with it having recent retirements of a few seasoned reporters, says something right there.

Second, the fact that, among Robyn Tomlin's past is working at Digital First Media's ultimately failed-and-shuttered Thunderdome project, as its founding editor, says something else. Her experience in digital media, touted by the Snooze (which fails to mention Thunderdome's collapse), isn't all good.

I'm not blaming Tomlin for Thunderdome's collapse; newspaper people know that was a plug-pulling by bean-counters, of something that might have been at least moderately successful. That said, I wasn't as enthusiastic about it as the likes of Ken Doctor, either.

As for her background? Besides Thunderdome, DFM has long been a trainwreck.  A recent attempt to sell itself to a single buyer collapsed, even though that was on the low end of the ask by DFM. That left founder John Paton, he of the long-term loudmouth about his digital media insights (in spite of bankruptcies of subparts of DFM, and it), to bail out. That said, DFM, like Belo, has long resisted paywalls, which is another issue.

And, Tomlin, with all of her digitality talk in the Snooze's intro piece, might have some of that same mindset as did Paton.

Also not totally good news is the Snooze's editor, Mike Wilson, having come from Five Thirty Eight. Five Thirty Eight exemplifies modern, "branded" online journalism. With retirements among older reporting staff, the Snooze has no news reporters to "brand." Its op-ed columnists aren't "brandable" even at AAA level, even though they think they are. Sports? Maybe.

Third, the News has lost nearly 8 percent of its print subscribers in the past 9 months through June 30. Would be great if it had recouped that with digital subscribers.

Unfortunately, Oct. 1 of last year is the first full business quarter after the Snooze killed its paywall, in one of many acts of digital stupidity. (That link has other, earlier acts of digital stupidity also listed.) Given that Tomlin comes from an anti-paywall newspaper company (setting aside her time at Pew), and ESPN's not paywalled because it gouges people with a la carte cable (but is still a bit worried about money), don't expect this to change. And, don't tout e-editions, whether paywalled or not. I haven't even bothered to click to see if the Snooze, like the Austin American-Stateless, wastes time by separately formatting different size e-editions for different devices, because ... nobody reads a PDF on a smartphone!

And, steering this back to Wilson, the Snooze's zigs and zags on paywalls, including the stupidity of the period when it had a basic website for free plus a premium paywalled one, have long been predicated on "branding," beginning with the Snooze putting a premium value on itself as a brand.

Fourth, speaking of rebranding, has "DMN Media" really made that much selling its graphic arts, marketing and whatever else it claims to have for sale? I mention that after my Googling confirmed James Moroney still runs the whole DMN schmeer.

And, he's the person ultimately responsible for other circulation-related "bright ideas" that are not, isn't he? Such as the print-edition subscription partnerships with the New York Times or Washington Post?

If I can get the Snooze for free online, why would I enter one of these print partnerships? The NYT still gives me 10 free stories a month, and then, I can decide to pay, or the hypothetical I can try to figure ways around the paywall. (I've not been to the Post on as regular of a daily basis, so I'm not sure how hypothetically easy its paywall can be eluded.)

Yours for $24.99 from the Dallas Snooze,
if you're really that stupid or gullible.
Of course, that's only one portion of stupidity there.

A media company arrogant enough, and customer-insulting or condescending enough, to think that people will pay $25 for a beer T-shirt, deserves the continuing failure that is surely headed its way.

No, seriously. That's its price.

With such brilliance like that, why isn't the Beloplex already under water? And, don't forget that there's nothing left on the post-split print side of the Belo world. The Snooze, the Snooze's marketing services as exemplified by a 25-buck beer T-shirt, and a store with 25-buck beer T-shirts, are all that's in that cupboard.

That, in turn leads to point the fifth.

Robyn Tomlin. She escaped a self-fluffing tire fire at DFM (stands for Dead Fucking Media as well as Digital First Media), to a great landing spot at Pew. Why did she leave?

Does she really believe that, based on her DFM past, she can turn around the Titanic of Young Street? Well, if so, I'd suggest she think again, unless she can get the Titanic to run over Moroney, among other things.

For that matter, why did Wilson come to Dallas? Was it a financial matter at Five Thirty Eight parent ESPN, which seems to be dumping higher-end salaries wherever and whenever possible? Given that Wilson left Five Thirty Eight only a year after starting there, it's an interesting thing indeed. And, why did he leave the St. Petersburg cum Tampa Bay Times after more than a decade as ME? Was his further ascension blocked?

In an interview with CJR that I'd previously missed, he hints at what I really figured was happening at the Times ... he was worried about its shrinkage. And, so, he ditches Nate Silver after less than a year (from leaving Tampa to first contact with his Snooze predecessor, Bob Mong), for another paper that's had plenty of shrinkage battles?

I don't get it, on his part. And, knowing what I've read, and interpolated, about the Snooze on digital, I suspect Mong and/or Moroney blew digital smoke up his ass.

And, judging by his use of the 98-cent words like "verticals" and "curate," he blew his own digital smoke right back up their asses.

Have fun, with a match not made in heaven, but self-created a few steps lower.

(Note: I've Tweeted Tomlin, a bit snarkily with reference to the T-shirts, and link to this column. We'll see if she answers, in comments or return Tweet, as to the more serious question of why she's coming to Dallas, along with her view on paywalls or other matters digital, and how she envisions trying to right the Titanic. And, I've just done the same with Wilson.

Snark about the beer T-shirts aside, the reality is that I see this as emblematic of "Belo culture," something Wilson, especially, will have to deal with in one way or another.

Speaking of that, I have rattled Michael Lindenberger's chain, for what that's worth. The "scorn and cynicism" are part of the "few reasonable points," Michael. I recognize you may not understand that, but that's part of the whole idea of Belo culture. As for the "scorn and cynicism," as I Tweeted back, I'm sure I've got less of that than Jim Schutze at the Observer, but he's sui generis. Of course, the Snooze, or News, if I'm more polite, never actually addresses his issues with it, either. The paper and designated hitmen/hitwomen just make the same comments, in more detail, about him.

And, Michael, the main issue, beyond Belo culture? Your newspaper's decade-long [15-year-long or more if we count the CueCat] cluelessness on All Things Digital is more than "a few reasonable points." It's One Big Point, and much of that's been under the person now running your Titanic.

Otherwise, if Lindenberger is himself "hanging on," or whatever, I understand the defensiveness. I've also talked at various points in my life to multiple old-timers who either got the ax or who got their job structures run through major overhauls. I feel sad for them. But, they worked for a place that, even by daily newspaper industry standards, has exemplified cluelessness on All Things Digital.

Otherwise, Michael, yes, part of this is about tweaking your paper. As with Schutze, it seems senior staff there don't have a sense of humor or a sense of reality. Maybe that's part of the defensiveness. If not to me, to yourself, I'd suggest at least being honest about that defensiveness, if that's what it is.

Oh, and ask Wilson, since I'm sure Moroney would say "nyet," if a JOA with the StartleGram is part of the future.)

Quoting the Bible against Kim Davis (and the Religious Right in general)

Kim Davis, selective bible-quoting hypocrite
(Update, Sept. 3: U.S. District Judge David L. Bunning has — very rightfully, in my opinion, contra Kentucky same-sex marriage plaintiffs — sent Davis to jail, rather than just fine her, for continuing to remain in contempt of court. He said her organized supporters would simply pay her fines.)

It's actually like shooting fish in a barrel, but, like most such cases, it's with a fish that refuses to admit it's been shot.

Nonetheless, let's get started with the Rowan County, Kentucky clerk who's going one better than George Wallace on segregation and refusing to issue gay or lesbian marriage licenses.

It's called Romans 13. The first two verses say:

Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. 
The governing authorities above Kim Davis in this case are the variety of federal judges that have told her she's wrong, and unconstitutional; ultimately, this is the Supreme Court.

Oh, while we're at it, for good measure, three verses later, Paul reminds the Religious Right to pay its taxes:
Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.
Again, though, you won't see the Religious Right quoting this.

Let's also, with the four-times married Davis, remember Jesus on divorce in Mark 10:

Later, in the house, his followers asked Jesus again about the question of divorce. He answered, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman is guilty of adultery against her. And the woman who divorces her husband and marries another man is also guilty of adultery.”
Update: Contra one more interesting attempt (Google "David Instone-Brewer" plus "divorce" or similar for much more) to interpret Jesus away, no, he didn't appear to be "softening" this. Rather, he was taking at least as hard a line as Shammai in the Shammai vs. Hillel, conservative vs. liberal schools of Torah at roughly his time. I've seen hints this was about Jesus as proto-feminist protecting the rights of women, but, although that would have been a result, that's not clear. And, contra Q's authorial softening, Jesus doesn't make an allowance for desertion, let alone the "burnt food" idea. Therefore, if he was trying to protect women, it was pretty strange protection.

And, an argument from "space available" or "cost of papyrus" is just a fancier version of the old "argument from silence." Please, Mr. I-B.

A multiple adulteress judging people who want to be married. Per the WaPost link, a pastor at another church says those three divorces were before she got "saved."

First, the Revvvvvv. Smith (to riff on Rush Limbaugh and Jesse Jackson) has no idea if Davis thought she was "saved" during the time of any of her previous marriages, or previous divorces, as far as I know.

Second, of course, that's still trying to impose her (and the Revvvvvvv. Smith's) beliefs on a secular situation. And, given that Smith was active in Promise Keepers more than a decade ago, this isn't new ground for him.

Third, I can quote the Bible on THAT, too! Namely, the first two verses of Romans 6. Here you are, Revvvvvv Smith.

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may abound? By no means! 
After all, if I take the Revvvvv. Smith at his word, Davis ought to fool around with a fifth would-be husband while actually getting impregnated by a sixth. That way, she'd have another chance to be saved and forgiven so that "grace would abound." (That happened in he first marriage, per this site. She got preggers by eventual hubby No. 3, while married to No. 1 and fooling around with eventual No. 2. Speaking of, she had an opportunity to learn about "grace" and "forgiveness" from eventual No. 2, but didn't then, it appears.)

Meanwhile, her legal mouthpieces, per that just-linked site, are trying to make her the Onward Christian Soldiers version of a conscientious objector.

This all said, most religious fundamentalism is selective in its fundamentals and interpretation thereof. Christian fundamentalism is especially so, above all in relation to the Old Testament/Jewish Tanakh.

Plenty of Christian fundamentalists wear mixed cotton/wool suits, or mixed cotton/polyester clothes, in contravention of the "Old Testament." Plenty of others eat pork and shellfish. They usually claim that's part of the "Ceremonial Law," not the "Moral Law," or at least my Lutheran forbearers did.

That ignores, of course, that the Old Testament makes no such separation. And that Jesus, in saying he had come to fulfill the law, made no such separation either. (I never asked any of my professors during my last, "conversion" year of seminary for a proof text about dividing the commandments, the divarim, of the Torah/Pentateuch into "Moral Law," "Ceremonial Law" and "Civic Law," a nice, threefold, "Trinitarian" division. Nor did I cite Jesus' words about "I have come to fulfill the Law" as an indicator that such divisions didn't exist, and didn't matter if they did.)

Speaking of ...

David Ortiz is still not a HOFer, PEDs, and DHing, aside

Boston's David Ortiz
Sadly, Ken Rosenthal wants to blame one or the other of performance-enhancing drugs (and yes, Sawks fans, Papi was on a leaked list), or playing as designated hitter, for reasons David Ortiz will be kept out of Cooperstown.

And, Hardball Talk's Craig Calcaterra, who can be sabermetrically selective at times, uncritically linked to Rosenthal and piled on.

The reality, as I Tweeted both sports persons, and cc-ed Papi, is much more simple. Sabermetrics are against his candidacy.

Per B-Ref, Ortiz is still below 50 WAR. That's not Hall of Fame territory. And, he's below 20 Wins Above Average. That's not even close to HOF territory.

And, at his age, Ortiz isn't significantly improving those numbers. The only way to do that would be to jump in a time machine and "discover" his wondering Boston hitting stroke when he was still in Minnesota.

Commenter CohnJusack at Craig's site notes the "defensive spectrum" of baseball and notes that Ortiz as a DH carries a greater defensive burden than even a first baseman. That's one big point. Related to that, when he has played first base, his range factor has been well below average, and his fielding percentage has been below average, too.

So, we go to his offense.

Ortiz never, ever, had a 7-oWAR season. None. Zip, zilch, nada.

Not a HOFer.

Let's take someone actually on the borderline of Cooperstown: Edgar Martinez. Gar has 20 more WAR, and 20 more WAA, than Papi, and did have one 7-oWAR season. Per CohnJusack, Carlos Delgado is a much better comp to Papi than is Gar.

I wish we could stop this nonsense.

To put it simply and directly, in terms Calcaterra, Rosenthal, and possibly a few Boston fans can understand: David Ortiz will not be in the Hall of Fame because he's not a Hall of Famer.

And, Rosenthal, especially, is supposed to be smarter than this. I hope he's not devolving into clickbait writing.

Dear neocons: Here's a great #IranDeal for you ... with Dimona

As neoconservatives both Jewish and goyish, both Israeli and American, ramp up their rhetoric, with its mix of lies and misleadings, against President Obama's nuclear enrichment control deal with Iran, even as they have officially lost, I have a great proposition.

It's one that no honest neocon could reject.

Iran, at Natanz and elsewhere, is subject to ...

The same nuclear inspections as Israel at Dimona.

Simple. Period. End of story.

Given how Israel not only refuses to sign the Non-Proliferation Treaty (one of only four such countries, or five if counting the withdrawn North Korea), but is a would-be known violator of it,

So, for both the neocons and Bibi Netanyahu's current Israeli government, it's high points of hypocrisy staggering even by its standards to put out bullshit like this.

September 02, 2015

The Golden Rule vs the Silver Rule, once again

Fears for the immortal souls of people who point out the selective fundamentalism of many a fundamentalist, or quasi-fundamentalist, Christian, as I noted in blogging about Kim Davis, lead to this, especially worries about "mocking god."

First, on that particular issue?

Well, no. Four particular counterpoints address that issue.

First, if God is really omnipotent, then he's philosophically not limited to written words on paper. (In other words, Joe Smith and the Mormon Boys could be right! And, no, I'm not joking. The Book of Mormon bills itself as "another testament of Jesus Christ." Ellen White of Seventh-Day Adventism and other Christian sects (many of them quite fundamentalist themselves) got started with various alleged additional revelations.

Second, if that god, he/she/it, self-limits to written words on paper, you're trying to have your version of god in a personal-sized box/cage/prison if you are selectively fundamentalist about which of those written words you take to be literally true and which you don't. And, that's exactly what you're doing. It's a god of human control and creation no less than Christian fundamentalists claim other gods are.

Third, you're playing god yourself when you try to claim which bits of written text are truly inviolate and which are not. Look in your dogmatics/doctrine textbooks. It's called Montanism and it was a heresy some 1,800 years ago. It's a riff off the first point; it's a claim to have a special revelation. In this case, it's not a revelation of something new; rather, it's a special revelation quite literally, a revelation that some of that written text is more special than other bits.

Fourth, the fact that various wings and denominations of Christianity don't all agree on which books belong in the Tanakh/Old Testament or even the New Testament should rationally give you pause, too. And they don't. Catholics and Orthodox have their deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament. Certain churches that are broadly within the Orthodox tradition reject a few books normally included in the canon of the New Testament.

Finally, this whole issue, whether it's Kim Davis thinking she's saving gays from hell, or family members thinking they're saving me from hell, shows why the Golden Rule is inferior to the incorrectly named Silver Rule.

(I've written about this before, about Christians dealing with non-Christians in small towns, regarding the alleged but largely nonexistent "war on Christmas.")

Let's quote both.

First, the Golden Rule:
Do unto others as you would have them do to you.
Sounds nice, right?

Well, here's the Silver Rule:
Do NOT do unto others as you do NOT want them to do to you.
Sounds worse, with the negatives, does it not?

But, in the best sense of laissez faire, which is exactly what the Silver Rule is, it's much better. It's more libertarian, more toleration-based rather than meddling-based.

The Golden Rule is built on an assumption that we know what's best for other people, and do so by examining ourselves.


Would you give a diabetic a Coke? Or, per this discussion, an Orthodox Jew or a Muslim a rasher of bacon? No.

Per the Silver Rule, you'd think about how the Hippocratic principle of "first, do no harm" applies to daily life interactions with other people and then go from there.

So, politely, recognize that I'm not worried about a place I consider nonexistent, and certainly not as the future dwelling place of an incorporeal entity I consider nonexistent, or a physical body that I do not think will be reassembled.

Rather, think that I am worried about the likes of Kim Davis, and some more powerful and richer supporters of hers, trying to subvert the Constitution of the United States and its interpretation.

Consider that I am a secularist myself, and that I am concerned you support people, and the ideas behind them, that want to subvert MY civil liberties, especially the First Amendment, freedom of religion, and a wall of separation between church and state.

Consider that I am a liberal-minded person, and on the particular Kim Davis issue, I have gay friends and acquaintances, a few of whom might like to get married and whom, even if they don't have Davis-like county clerks, can empathize even more than I can with gay and lesbian couples in Rowan County, Kentucky.

Consider that Kim Davis is an elected public official, not a deaconess at her church trying to prevent gay weddings there.

With all of that in mind, you might understand that, while not wanting to argue with you, I am not worried about your worries, and therefore find it easier not to get into debate or discussion.

And, speaking of that Silver Rule, I don't want to preach directly at you. But, in the public square of civil liberties and civil rights, they have to be defended. And, that's that.

On the personal side, for most my relatives, I recognize that ... sadly and painfully ... this probably is simply beyond your comprehension.

On the other hand, your worries about my putative immortal soul are very much within my comprehension. It's not warfare, but, we are at the equivalent of asymmetrical warfare. Asymmetrical philosophizing, or whatever. And, that's why I don't talk to you about these issues. Right now, from your religious and other beliefs, you cannot understand where I'm coming from, and I recognize that. So, beyond the fact that I don't like to argue a whole lot, I recognize that this wouldn't be an argument with fruitful results, or even a non-argumentative discussion.

Per friends of mine with whom I've discussed things like gay rights, secularism rights and more, I'm not even looking for acceptance. Among other things, I'm realistic enough about that.

I am, though, looking for something lesser, but a step forward: tolerance. As I said earlier, on Facebook, I shouldn't have to feel that I need to mark a group of Facebook friends, including all family members, in a group called "very religious" and then exclude them from seeing many of my posts. Most comments I make on issues like this are hard-hitting, but not personal in an ad hominem way. Unlike some, I haven't attacked Kim Davis' appearance, clothes or anything like that, for example.

Unfortunately, I'm also enough of a realist to not even expect tolerance. So, I lower my psychological expectations. At the same time, as I get older, and a bit more secure in some ways, I work to promote more external and internal congruity, in order to be true to mine own self, not just in internal dialogue, but in presentation to others.

Finally, as for Kim Davis? The likes of her deserve the Romans 13 mocking, to get back to First Amendment issues and selective fundamentalism. They deserve that, at least. Any public official who, as a fundamentalist Christian, believes he or she cannot follow the law needs to resign, if he or she is going to be a consistent fundamentalist. Period and end of story.

September 01, 2015

Barack Obama and a weird silence on part of #climatechange

As the 2016 presidential campaign heats up (pun intended) in both major parties, our current president, Dear Leader, is Alaska-based.

He's talking about how wildfires affect climate change; he's working to boost his environmental cred by renaming McKinley as Denali; and he's doing so because ...

He's a hypocrite on climate change.

But, beyond Mother Jones at that third link ...

Obama's final thoughts on Keystone XL are still a blank slate.

Yes, he vetoed a Congressional bill on Keystone this spring.

However, that was for procedural and executive branch powers issues. There was no real environmentalism of any sort, let alone of the climate change sort, involved.

He said so himself.

Mr. Obama indicated that he vetoed the bill not because of the pipeline itself, but rather because the bill would have removed his authority to make the final decision on the project.
As for the future?

In an interview on Monday with Reuters, Mr. Obama said that he could issue a final decision within “weeks or months” — or “by the end of my administration.”
And has remained so for months.

Indeed, it's likely he'll stay silent until after the Oct. 19 Canadian election. And, unless the NDP wins in Canada, stay silent after that?

Keystone proponents are worried. Given that this is our "all of the above" energy strategy president, I wouldn't worry that much.

Personally, as I've blogged many times before, I'm of mixed minds on Keystone. My ultimate thoughts are in a "grand bargain" blog post I wrote, suggesting Obama strike a deal with Congress to approve Keystone in one package with approving a carbon tax and tariff. After all, as I noted there, we're already getting a little tar sands oil here via other methods.

Unfortunately, he's not jangled this blog, or my Twitter or email.

Sports fans and what's wrong with online commenting

First, re this blog post about the "dreamy" Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and players of his buying "dreamy" T-shirts — I made a comment there that I don't pay for such things. When I got thumbed-down a lot quickly, I made a capitalism comment, which got thumbed down more.

(Update, Sept. 1: I am calling out "Historiophiliac" as that commenter, as she's now called me a "grand jury truther" on this blog post, also at Hardball Talk, about Shoeless Joe Jackson. I'm doing that even more to call out commenter "Reflex," who seems like an online bully, a black-and-white thinker, and a black-and-white psychological "projectionist," referencing the psychological issue of projection.)

I then noted it was capitalism, not just consumerism — that said, said respondent? Consumerism is part of capitalism; the more hypercapitalist a society is, generally the more hyperconsumerist it is.

I added that, even though I'm a Cardinals fan, and even though Mike Matheny was voted almost as dreamy as Ausmus, I wouldn't buy a St. Louis T-shirt like that, either.

And, in case it wasn't clear, I wouldn't buy a Nike, Apple, or Google T-shirt either. As I said, corporations (which pro sports teams are) should pay ME to wear their branded T-shirts or buy other branded tchotchkes.

At which point another commenter, whom I think was, say, 80 percent serious, called "tchotchkes" pompous. At the point a relatively common Yiddish word becomes pompous, we've entered the "30 days to expand your vocabulary" territory, at least.

Beyond that, a fair portion (don't know, won't currently guess, if it's a majority or not), illustrate well two things that are true about much of Internet commenting in general, and that are fairly related:
1. Seeing things in black-white terms;
2. Forming, and forming relatively quickly, "narratives" about people and issues.

Related to that, admitting you're wrong online never leads people like this to question their own degree of doing No. 1 and/or No. 2.

(Update 2, Sept. 1: A "sign of the apocalypse" related to all of this may be the fact that, while journalism in general seems to be dying, sports journalism is growing to the degree that universities now offer degrees in just that. [Per the story, instructors at such sites try to get would-be graduates to realize that actual sports journalism is about much more than fandom blogsites. We'll see how well that sticks.])

Related to that, on the narratives part, a "hater" there will do deliberately out of his way to misinterpret what I said on a post about Ichiro, described further in this blog post, to claim I was wrong in saying WAA is a more difficult stat than WAR, when that is rather perfectly true in the sense of WAA being more difficult to achieve points because it's comparison to a league-average "real" player, not a AAAA-level hypothetical replacement.

He went on to say:
At age 41 Clemente had already been out of the game for four years while Ichiro is still going.

This of course ignores that Clemente would have been dead four years before reaching a hypothetical age 41. He later claims that had Ichiro been in the US earlier, he would have played a full seven years, and easily passed Pete Rose on WAR.

Yeah, right. First, he would have played his first two US years in the high minors. Second, he would have probably averaged 4 WAR per year for the five additional majors years he would then have played (he averaged 6 WAR his first four US years at peak age of 27-30), which would have about exactly tied Rose, not massively surpassed him.

And, same commenter said Ichiro would have been as valuable as Ty Cobb.

Bullshit. Even with 20 added WAR points, he'd still have been 70 behind. I mean, playing in the dead ball era, Cobb has more career homers than Ichiro. What can you do with such entrenched baseball "brilliance" like that?

So, snark and even, occasionally, heavier sarcasm, is my way of dealing with such people without directly uttering online obscenities to them.  Beyond that, they're generally not worth more physical or mental effort.

The "tchotchkes" part ... especially griping about looking it up, rather than saying something like, "that was interesting looking it up," is a quasi-stereotyping hot take on many sports fans' broader intellect.

If you don't find the word useful, can't appreciate its je ne sais quoi (and won't look that up either) and are serious about pompousness, well, I can't help but see you as an anti-intellectual.

Beyond what I said above on consumerism and capitalism? The willingness to buy sports tchotchkes, or pay ever-accelerating ticket prices, cable TV prices, etc., illustrate both capitalism and tribalism.

I believe Juvenal called it bread and circuses, referencing the late Republic's Roman Senators' habit of buying off the populace. I'll bet they regret not living in a fully capitalistic world; they never knew that private corporations could have run the circuses, and jacked prices all they wanted.

I have my loyalty to particular sports teams, but when a reasonable profit becomes ever more hypercapitalistic, I ain't paying that piper.

Beyond that, the US has more than twice as much retail space per capita as even the UK.

That "bubble"? It's not subprime loans, subprime auto loans or similar. Rather, it's the whole US house of cards of hypercapitalism.

Of course, head blogmeister Craig, in wasting three blog posts in talking about the alleged silliness of MLB Rule 8.02 and the suspension of Will Smith (all while missing that Commissioner Corleone isn't following the rules himself with an eight-game suspension even though 8.02 stipulates 10) sometimes adds to the fun.

Should baseball commish make outfield legend eligible for Cooperstown? (updated)

Some of you, if you follow baseball, know who I'm talking about. Using a system that combines total career numbers, measured with modern sabermetrics for comparative performance, and a number of peak years, this outfielder is 13th best ever at his position, even though people don't talk a lot about his defense, and he wasn't considered a big power hitter.

Unfortunately, he has a known history related to gambling. Including gambling on his own baseball team.

So, he got barred from baseball, which then made him ineligible, by agreement, for being voted in the MLB Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

UPDATE, Jan. 17, 2019: And now, Don Van Natta, amplifying MLB historian John Thorn, says that Shoeless Joe, by being dead, is NOT on baseball's ineligible list any longer. Meaning? The Early Baseball era incarnation of the Hall of Fame's old Veterans Committee meets in December. It could vote for Jackson if it chose, despite both MLB and Cooperstown no-commenting, in essence, to Van Natta.

How long a period of penance should one serve? How much honesty should there be in remorse, for that matter? And, for the Hall of Fame, how closely should it tie its own morals clause, part of induction standards, to Major League Baseball's standards of punishment for something like gambling?

In other words, with a new commissioner, Rob Manfred, now running baseball, isn't it maybe time ...

To give Shoeless Joe Jackson a shot at Cooperstown?

(Update, Sept. 1, 2015: Rumors to the contrary, it ain't happening.)


And, you thought I was going to mention Pete Rose.

Let's look at Shoeless Joe, instead. Because, if nothing else, he has these two points:
1. He's first in line temporally, with the Black Sox some 65 years before Rose's player-manager gambling days.
2. On those remorse questions, he appears a lot more sincere than Rose, who is as likely to die at a casino as anyplace.

Now, the HOF case for Jackson.

He is, per Jay Jaffe's JAWS system, the 13th-best right fielder ever, despite playing just nine full seasons, and parts of a couple others at the start of his career while trying to break into the bigs. Larry Walker is the only one of the 12 ahead of him who isn't in the HOF.

As for the WAR7 part of Jaffe's system, based on his seven best non-consecutive years, he ranks seventh among right fielders, very close to Mel Ott, Frank Robinson, and Roberto Clemente, three no-doubt, slam-dunk HOFers, and ahead of the likes of Al Kaline and Reggie Jackson.

Back to the overall JAWS. In addition to Walker being the only non-HOFer ahead of him, Shoeless Joe ranks ahead of such HOF right fielders as Tony Gwynn and Dave Winfield.

Third, if we go by Wins Above Average, a comparison to other MLB players of the time, rather than Wins Above Replacement, a comparison to a theoretical average call-up player, Shoeless Joe comes out even better. More on that in a minute.

As for Rose, if you list him as a left-fielder, which B-Ref does, he's fifth on the JAWS list there.

Still his peak 7 years, with just 44.7 WAR, are well below Jackson's 52.5 WAR. Now, Rose's career of 79.1 WAR is well ahead of Jackson's 62.3, but Rose stuck around for years as a "compiler" and even without that, even if we whack off the last three years of his career, he played more than twice as many games as Jackson.

So, again, on to WAA. To me, 30 is, in general, minimum for a true HOFer. 35 is desirable. 40 WAA points is a slam dunk.

Jackson's in like Flynn with 40.3 WAA.

Pete Rose? The "compiler" has just 28.6 WAA. Beyond that, B-Ref treats him as an left fielder for JAWS purposes, when arguably it shouldn't. It does that because that's where he accumulated the most WAR, but he played the most games at 1B. (He played a lot more at all three OF positions combined.)

Now, the matter at hand.

Wikipedia has a good summary of the Black Sox Scandal, as it titles it. Between that, and its page on Jackson, there's a few things to keep in mind.

1. Jackson always denied the "Say it ain't so, Joe," story, in which a kid supposedly talked to him when he came out of grand jury testimony and he allegedly didn't reply. He gave one interview about the issue, years later.
2. While he is alleged to have confessed, along with Eddie Cicotte, there's no written record of his testimony. True, the grand jury testimony was retyped, per this piece, but, heavily redacted and of limited value. Of course, that may be due to doings by Arnold Rothstein. His involvement with all Sox players put on trial being acquitted is a whole nother issue. But, speaking of ...
3. The other players banned by first Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis, shortly after he took office, all insist that Jackson was never at any meetings where the fix was discussed, but rather that his name was mentioned to gamblers to boost credibility.
4. His numbers at the plate were "off" in games the White Sox lost, but that could be short sample size, and he had — or attempted to have — one good defensive play.
5. Jackson allegedly accepted money from the gamblers, but this also is in that grand jury testimony for which no written record allegedly exists.
(Finally, anybody who calls me a "grand jury truther" over this on a baseball blog, over what is nuanced information, and does so twice, is lucky my second comment back, after nuance in my first, was nothing more than "mute button." When she told me to commit an anatomical act after that, I said I was a gentleman and would therefore let her go first.)

However, there are counterpoints. Rob Neyer says the grand jury testimony paperwork was stolen and resurfaced in 1924. On that part, he's right; here's Jackson's testimony. He also says the players weren't on trial for "throwing games," therefore their acquittals mean nothing. Meanwhile, the idea that Sox players were underpaid is largely a myth.

As for the issue of not reporting teammates conspiring to throw games? (If Jackson was not in on the fix himself, but heard about it?) Pre-commissioner days, and pre-Black Sox days, baseball had no such rule. Jackson, in that "one interview" link, says he asked owner Charles Comiskey to bench him, to try to avoid the whole situation, but wouldn't tell him why. And, he does indicate remorse and guilt over his actions in his grand jury testimony. And, he says that, although he took $5,000, he never did anything to throw a game.

Beyond that, Wikipedia's Jackson page says that Comiskey's attorney got him drunk the night before the grand jury testimony, with an offer of immunity from prosecution for the right testimony, and that Jackson didn't have money for his own attorney. So, Neyer should be taken with a grain of salt or two. Neyer also neglects to tell us that (where Jackson got the attorney, I don't know) that Jackson reportedly successfully sued Comiskey for 1920 and 1921 back pay. And, that grand jury testimony that reappeared in 1924? It appeared in the course of this lawsuit — from Comiskey's attorney.

So, while that testimony might have elements of truth, is it that truthful? Almost certainly not. And, Neyer sounds pretty wet on Jackson. (As a baseball columnist and commenter in general, for me, Neyer is a hot-and-cold guy.)

So, giving him the benefit of the doubt, and time, Commissioner Manfred needs to reinstate Jackson. And then, the Veterans Committee needs to take a vote.

Otherwise, I rest with Mike Nola, proprietor of the Shoeless Joe Jackson Virtual Hall of Fame website.

On a FAQ page, he notes:
Prior to starting my research in 1983 like many folks, I believed Joe Jackson was as guilty as sin. In early 1983, I got interested in the story of Joe Jackson again and decided it might not be fair to the man or his memory to "assume" him guilty without doing the research for myself. It did not take me long to come to the conclusion that Joe Jackson was more sinned on than he sinned.
That’s pretty much where I’m at. I can’t prove that he was innocent of anything, and there’s a decent chance he was guilty of some degree of stupidity.

But, I think that, in “amputating” the issue, Commissioner Landis, with the help of Charles Comiskey, had no problem “railroading” Jackson. And, to anybody who knows much about the character of either one of them, that shouldn’t be surprising.

And, I think certainty is otherwise impossible. This is history, not atomic physics, and it's history with ... railroading, as I already called it.

I'm comfortable with shades of gray; most people who want to still hang him high are not.