April 16, 2016

My NBA playoff preview

First, it should be obvious who's the favorite to win it all. Second, I'm going against Vegas books for my No. 2, and also going with narrower odds overall, using percentages rather than odds.

That said, let's jump in.

Steph Curry
Golden State: 35 percent. As long as Splash Brothers Steph and Klay stay healthy, and Draymond Green stays emotionally involved, they're the definite favorite. Getting Festus Ezeli back from knee surgery will help on the few occasions they need extra bodies against a big man to supplement Green playing the 5, and normal center Andrew Bogut.

Why not higher? Well, the No. 2 team in the Western Conference had a near-record year of its own, and if anybody has the keys to beating the Dubs, it's Pops and his Spurs.
Klay Thompson

Plus, the Warriors struggled down the stretch, including a home loss to Boston. How much of that was unspoken pressure over the record chase, how much of it was running low on gas, and how much of it was, with the Celtics, a team matching up well with them and figuring them out, I'm not sure. But, it is a bit of concern. In other words, the Dubs deserve to be the favorite, but not necessarily an odds-on favorite. On the flip side, they're still a relatively young team, and they're deep.

That said, speaking of No. 2 in the West ...

UPDATE, April 25: Let's just put that Dubs coronation on hold and with Curry's bum knee, move the Spurs to the top of the heap.

San Antonio: 25 percent. Yes, I rank them higher than the Cavs, even though, barring massive upset, they'll have to face the Warriors one round earlier than Cleveland will, if we should get a repeat of last year's Finals.

Kawhi Leonard's taken another step forward, LaMarcus Aldridge has fit will with the team, and Manu Ginobili has bounced back from his surgery. Should they face the Dubs in the conference finals, Patty Mills will need to show more of what he did in the Spurs' one win, and Danny Green will be big, too. Down side is how much, or little, not just Tim Duncan but Tony Parker may have in the tank.

Cleveland: 14 percent. Why so low? Sure, the Eastern Conference playoffs won't be as tough as the West, but is Cleveland that much head-and-shoulders above the rest? I'm not so sure, especially given that the Cavs, after changing coaching horses midstream, were actually worse under Tyronn Lue at 27-14 than David Blatt at 30-11. King James, the GM of Oz behind the curtain, may not like that, but facts are facts. Given the struggles of both Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving on D, which usually becomes more important in the playoffs, there's some chance this team doesn't even represent the Eastern Conference. The likes of a Kemba Walker could torch most that team, both mentally and physically.

Oklahoma City: 11 percent. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant continue to pace this team, and no guard in the NBA can stop Russ when he's on. But, the Dubs or the Spurs can put multiple players on him, or on Durant, to minimize one of the two options, knowing the Thunder fall off offensively after that. Trading out Scotty Brooks for Billy Donovan may help in the playoffs this year. Will it help in retaining Durant in the offseason?

Los Angeles Clippers: 5 percent. Unlike an old newspaper friend, I'm not convinced that DeAndre Jordan will be a great offensive threat to a small-ball Warriors offense which can, in any case, go big at the five as needed, and with depth. Chris Paul is a very good team leader, but a half a gear behind the top guards in the league. A relatively rested Blake Griffin may also help, if he doesn't mentally combust.

That leaves 10 percent for the rest of the league. Maybe 2.5 points each for Boston and Charlotte, whom I both like in the East, and 5 percent for the other seven playoff teams from both conferences combined.

April 15, 2016

#DemDebate rapid reactions

Here's my quick takedown on last night's Democratic Debate. The editorial cartoon, with my Photoshopped writing over it, expresses how I feel about the foreign policy portion outside of the Middle East.

And no, Bernie will never bring up the Honduras coup.

That said, on to the debate.

Guns:

Bernie at least stopped the bleeding on this issue. And, had the forthrightness to correctly say he owed no apology to Sandy Hook parents. In addition, as far as the gun liability issue, people don't sue Ford over fatal car wrecks, as a Twitter friend pointed out. That said, Ford doesn't have liability immunity.

Update: In case it wasn't clear, I was NOT talking about Pinto-type actions, or Takata airbag-type actions. I was talking about everyday wrecks.

However, Hillary was wrong on one thing. This is NOT unique. Big Pharma has liability immunity over vaccines, which go to a vaccine court. Smaller, similar versions are true for some other agencies acting in loco res publicae.

But, Bernie didn't do more than stanch the bleeding. He still has his anti-Brady Bill votes and his support of loaded guns in National Parks in his past. (Disgustingly, half of Senate Dems supported the latter.)

Health care:

Bernie scores points for mentioning Canada. Hillary? Nothing than the old lines about how well Obamacare has done, when it actually hasn't.

Entitlements:

Hillary simply screwed the pooch for repeatedly not giving a straight yes or no answer to raising the cap on income subject to FICA tax. And Bernie did push her.

CNN debate conducting:

As for funding this, and other changes he proposes, CNN scores a pants on fire F-minus, though Politifact would never give that to a fellow media member, for saying the "bipartisan" Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget said this would cause a $28 trillion deficit. CRFB is only bipartisan in the most technical sense of the word. It's really a part of the Pete Peterson empire, pushing for gutting entitlements for years. (Bernie should have called this out.)

One of CNN's talking anuses, Dana Bash later asked the "are you a Democrat" question. Of course he is; stop the bullshit.

Seriously, it's possible that CNN sucked worse than Clinton.

Of course, it's overrun by Peter Principle exemplars. Take Bash. She used to be married to John King; most likely that's how she got her job.

Middle East:

Hillary should just go be Bibi Netanyahu's chief of staff or something. Enough said.

Bernie gave an answer that was near the left edge of the bipartisan foreign policy establishment, nothing more. Hillary could barely even mention the word "Palestinian."

Of course, given that the NY Daily News doubled down on Zionism before endorsing Clinton, this is not surprising.

Other foreign policy:

See cartoon. Bernie had fewer chances of interjecting Honduras (or Ukraine) than in the past. But he had chances. That said, he is a Democrat, and too good a Democrat to mention Honduras, and I believe he supports the semi-coup in Ukraine that led to our current clusterfucks with Russia. (Sigh)

So, Sandernistas, including the one that Brains retweeted on Twitter? Get over it. Ain't gonna happen. That ship never did sail, and never will.

You're welcome to follow Plan B into the Green Party if Sanders loses. Or even to consider it if he wins, which I expect to do here in Texas, and likely would do in "competitive" states as well.

Style points, Bernie:

Bernie showed much more overall integrity. That said, he should have extended his talk lines longer, given that CNN wasn't doing much to cut off Hillary earlier.

Otherwise, per CNN's postmortem, Bernie should have brought up the Clinton Foundation and tied it to her, as far as whether her speech money had bought any benefits, or said that they were paying for that expecting her to be president.

He simply should have been more prepared for the guns issue, even while maintaining integrity.

He also needs to give his wife, Jane, a kick in the tuchis on tax returns. (That said, [and it's an expression, folks, don't flame me with PC gasoline] I suspect she "wears the pants in the family" as much as Hillary does at Chez Clinton.)

And, Bernie's integrity isn't perfect. I think he was, at one time, a partial panderer to the NRA, like some other Dems — albeit more liberal than the likes of Joe Manchin on many other issues. And, I have no doubt he's a panderer to Big Ag-type dairy farms and dairy foods companies.

Style points, Hillary:

Knowing the debate was in New York, she pushed guns and Zionism. That said, I don't think the latter appeals to younger Jewish voters in New York. She did nothing to move the needle, otherwise, except for people already in her camp. And, her "la, la, la" runoff of the states she's already won? She sounded about like a 17-year-old Goldwater girl.

So, overall, it turned out about like I expected in advance. (Other than not knowing CNN would hit new levels of suckitude.)

Overall? I'd call Bernie a modest-to-moderate winner.

Vox, meanwhile says he was a clear winner, Hillary was a clear loser, and that the Slicker's New Democrats and tech neolibs were also big losers.

Updates:

First, which I missed last night before the debate, I am totally unsurprised that Sanders has suspended his Jewish outreach staffer. He shouldn't have, unless it was purely for vulgarities in language, but, I'm not surprised, per what I said above about Zionism. That link and more comes from Brains' wrapup, worth a read itself.

Second, per it, per my gut instincts and more, I think most younger Jews in New York (and elsewhere) care about as much about Zionism as third-generation Cuban-Americans really care about Fidel Castro. So, Bernie, good on being strong (for the bipartisan foreign policy establishment) last night; not so good on suspending Zimmerman.

April 13, 2016

Pot, banks, and equality

California is looking likely to join Washington state and Colorado as offering full legalization of marijuana, not just medical marijuana, after elections in November. And, this is going to have all sorts of fiscal and other fallout, some of which we probably can't totally foresee.

The expected change could double the value of marijuana sales, part of making pot big business there. I await further hand-wringing by the alleged guru on what's wrong with the War on Drugs, Mark Kleiman, following on previous hand-wringing.

An example of Kleiman’s brilliance:
The “commercial free speech” doctrine creates an absurd situation: both state governments and the federal government can constitutionally put people in prison for growing and selling cannabis, but they’re constitutionally barred from legalizing cannabis with any sort of marketing restriction designed to prevent problem use.

Huh? We regulate both alcohol and tobacco advertising as I speak. Yes, Kleiman cites a piece on how court attitudes may be changing, but, they haven't changed on issues like this. As for the issue of corporate free speech? Per the issue piece Kleiman links, country-of-origin meat labeling rules were tossed out, tis true, but not by any court. Congress acted, under WTO pressure. And, a piece which talks about the evils of corporate free speech — where I do think there are legitimate concerns — and doesn't even mention Buckley v Valeo, is missing at least part of the boat.

The only real insight Kleiman has is mentioned in one blog post of mine, that pot is probably more addictive than some think, and legalization is not a panacea. 

Related handwringing comes from blogging fellows of his, over state-by-state legalization, and the worries about two-tiered pot sales — WallyWorld level and fine wine level. Fuck him, and them; he's a Clintonista; the people he hangs out with are all neolib snoots, despite his protest to me on Twitter that his WOD editorial history would preclude him being Hillary's drug czar.

That includes Kleiman already, a full decade ago, peddling Lesser Of Two Evils bullshit.

Anyway, I digress.

As the NYT story at the top link notes, one big problem with marijuana legalization, especially when it becomes bigger and bigger business, is what to do with the profits.

Meanwhile, on issues of economic justice and other things, beyond breaking up banks, or looking at nationalization instead of breakups, and beyond overhauling the Federal Reserve, there's the issue of state banks.

I'm not talking about First State Bank vs First National Bank.

I'm talking about the Bank of North Dakota, the only state-owned bank in the U.S., and kind of what the Federal Reserve should be. More on the bank from Mother Jones.

So, if pot in California becomes big biz? It's an opportunity for the next governor to create a Bank of California, and specify that it WILL accept marijuana profits as part of its deposits. And, then and thus, tell the federal government to Eff You on this issue.

If the Treasury, or FDIC, or whomever, pushes back? Create a state version of the FDIC, which North Dakota does with its bank. If the Fed says we won't accept your deposits? Contact the European Central Bank or something.

And, no, that's not a joke. (The Bank of ND has a depository window with the Fed; I'm not sure how much it's used.)

==

Meanwhile, one more rejoinder to Kleiman — using pricing to control usage will drive people back to illicit pot. That's even more when it's being used medicinally and insurance doesn't cover it.

April 12, 2016

Reform the Federal Reserve

Bernie Sanders has talked a lot about breaking up "too big to fail" banks, but given that such power resides largely with the Federal Reserve System, which is less quasi-governmental than even Amtrak or the Postal Service, arguably, shouldn't he focus more on an overhaul of the Fed?

Yes, it's not an easy sound bite, but, a push is out there to do just that — namely, to stop the essential ownership of regional Feds by private banks, along with other reforms. Proponents say it would make it a more public institution, like that in other developed nations.

Of course, this all goes back to so-called "progressive" Woodrow Wilson.

By the time he took office, it was clear that some sort of national banking system was needed. Teddy Roosevelt, surprisingly, took a pass after the Northern Securities trust-busting and his dust-up with J.P. Morgan, only in turn to have to go hat in hand to Morgan during the Panic of 1907.

Taft got the income tax amendment past Congress and off to the states, something with TR also failed to do and for which Woody Wilson is wrongly given credit.

Which leads to the Federal Reserve. It was arguably the most conservative solution to the nation's banking needs available. That said, under the cover (the white hood, maybe?) of being a "progressive," Woody Wilson was still very much a states-rights Democrat. Getting an American version of the Bank of England was never on his agenda.

I would be a bit concerned about single terms for Fed governors, but everything else in the proposal sounds very good.

As for Sanders, he's the only one of the five mainstream party presidential candidates to indicate even a degree of serious interest in the proposal.

Puff Hoes gets one thing wrong. The Fed is "nonpartisan" only in the sense its beholden to a neoliberal, labor-unfriendly fiscal policy that's the key point of leaders of both mainstream parties.

April 11, 2016

TX Progressives look at Prez race, anti-equality legislation, more

The Texas Progressive Alliance cannot be found in the Panama Papers as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff warns about the likelihood of North Carolina-style anti-equality legislation being put forth in next year's Legislature.

Libby Shaw contributing to Daily Kos believes the GOP deserves its bigoted Presidential frontrunners.  50+ years of an ugly dog whistling Southern Strategy reaps the worst among us.  The Republican Party and its bigoted Presidential frontrunners.  The devil made them do it.

Ken Paxton, under indictment for fraud, hired another theocrat on the public dime.  CouldBeTrue South Texas Chisme doesn't think much of his family values.

Socratic Gadfly takes a look at Bernie Sanders, presidential politician.

One of the topics later this week in the New York Democratic presidential debate will surely be qualifications to be president, writes PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

Neil at All People Have Value said that while we discuss the anti-gay legislation in North Carolina and Mississippi, we should recall that Houston voters repealed our human rights ordinance just a few months ago. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

=================

And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

Better Texas Blog argues that sales tax holidays are not good for consumers.

The Lunch Tray gives a meal delivery service a try.

Paradise in Hell looks forward to being able to discriminate against numerous of his fellow citizens who have raised his holy ire.

The TSTA Blog bemoans the effect of ideology on public education.

The Makeshift Academic examines cost sharing and access to health care.

Zionism, Clintonism, the New York Daily News and disgust

While the New York Daily News Sanders endorsement interview may have been a bit of hit job from the start, or not, on financial matters, per a follow-up editorial about the interview, it was a ridiculous, over-the-top hit job on him on Middle Eastern foreign policy.

The paper shows some clear and deep Zionist tilt in this editorial comment claiming that Sanders would totally reset the Middle East piece process. On that, the whole thing is a tissue of lies.

Bernie's actually done nothing more than call for a bit more fairness in the whole peace process.

Given that, during the whole Obama administration, and especially during the time Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State, Dear Leader used foreign aid purse strings to gut the Palestinian Authority like a $2 carp, and then to smack it down on that after it sought to slightly self-radicalize and then to smack it further down after it sought other redress, Bernie's calls for a little more fairness are actually weak tea.

And, the Daily News likely remembers this, and buried it.

So, first, I call on the Daily News to repudiate the Zionism in that editorial comment. (I know that will never happen.)

Second, I call on Hillary Clinton to repudiate that. (I know that will never happen.)

Third, per the new Boycott, Divest and Sanctions, I call on New York City Democrats of conscience to cancel subscriptions, and if in a position to do so, stop placing ads with the Daily News.

My official 2016 #Cardinals prediction

Will Cardinals in St. Louis have enough
anger over alleged pundit disrespect
to make a playoff drive?
Yeah, I'm a week or so late for opening day, but nonetheless, here goes on my take on the 2016 St. Louis Cardinals.

First, depth is going to be a challenge this year after Jhonny Peralta's injury likely shelving him half the year, followed by the signing of Ruben Tejada, followed by HIS injury, with the Birds now deciding to call up Aledmys Diaz and so let Jedd Gyorko back up both SS and 2B.

Ditto on the outfield side of the defense, where Tommy Pham's oblique injury isn't good news for a team that traded Jon Jay for Gyorko and decided — in what may be an unwritten policy by GM John Mozeliak — not to resign Jason Heyward if it involved option years.

And, there's no guarantee what Stephen Piscotty or Randal Grichuk will put on the table for a full season.

Meanwhile, on the mound, John Lackey, even if pitching better than expected, is gone, Lance Lynn is on the shelf with TJ surgery, Adam Wainwright will attempt to show that his early bounce-back in last year's playoffs from Achilles surgery was no fluke.

And, Yadier Molina will attempt to bounce back from thumb surgery even while his free-agent signing backup, Brayan Pena, is now on the DL himself.

So, enough to hold off the Cubs?

Almost certainly not.

Enough to stay ahead of the Pirates for second and a very likely wild card? Not likely.

A good enough third for the second wild card? It will be a struggle.

So, buckle up, Cards fans.