February 04, 2017

One will be taken and the other left

For people not familiar with the Christian scriptures, whether some atheists, or some Xns both liberal and fundamentalist or conservative evangelical, that's Matthew 24:40 I'm referencing. And, whether riffing directly off Pauline material or not, the "Great Apocalypse" of the synoptic gospels at least arguably supports Rapture-type ideas, contra, oh, an L.D. Burnett at S-USIH, the Society for U.S. Intellectual History, who claims the Rapture is un-Christian.

Baptism for the dead, of Mormon doctrine, is also Christian, L.D. and others. Deal with it.

But let's get back to why that header I have us up there.

In the fairly small town to which I recently moved, a lady announced earlier this week that she had officially been pronounced cancer-free by her doctor after a fairly severe cancer with arduous treatment process.

She took this all as a gift from Jesus, etc. She also went so far as to say, even for comment to the newspaper, that she was using this as a tool to try to convert her atheist doctor.

Erm, not so fast, ma'am.

The very next day, a decade-younger emergency services worker, or former such worker due to extensive radiation-induced heart damage due to an infancy neuroblastoma cancer, died.

And, where was god then, when in an existential Rapture-like sense, one was taken and one was left.

Was it better for the firefighter to die as gain than live for Christ?

Well, the conservative Christian apologists will offer up the tender mercies of god, the inscrutability of god, silver linings that we can't see, etc.

Then, when the likes of me counter with Ye Olde Problem of Evil?

Some of them will counter with "original sin."

Do not go there, unless you really want your biblical literalism to be that repugnant.

Beyond that, what if someone from the firefighter's family gets mad at the lady's family? Is the lady's family really going to go there? Or what if the lady, and/or family, stop by the firefighter's funeral and offer the inscrutability statement?

Growing up in a conservative Protestant denomination, but one in the mainline tradition, not the US version of "evangelical" Christianity, people didn't try to attribute everything to the will of god. Perhaps one way in which the Midwest is still a bit different than the South.

But, seriously, would someone try that?

Or, to get back to the bible, how many people from either family would pray, in the next week, or offer words to the other, out of the mouth of Job: "The Lord gives and the Lord takes away; blessed be the name of the Lord"?

And, as for the claim of original sin as the ultimate cover up for the theodicy of a seemingly cruel god, I can quote Jesus healing the blind man in John: "Neither this man sinned, nor his parents but this happened so that the works of god would be displayed in him."

Of course, if there's an unhealed blind man, or an unhealed, now-dead firefighter, without either an actual sin, or a bloodline-like soulline of original since, we're back on the theodicy of an unjust god.

==

As for the likes of Burnett? Usually such people are more liberal Christians. And they usually know enough about Christianity, in my opinion, to know in their mind of minds, and even more, deep inside their heart of hearts, that "doctrine X" really IS Christian, and they're humiliated. Perhaps even appalled.

And, even ignoring the Old Testament, and the Priestly Code prohibitions on blending fabrics in clothes, prohibitions on tattoos, etc., I can find other things that many Christians would like to call un-Christian.

I've already refudiated both liberal Christians and some sympathetic atheists as to whether the New Testament is anti-gay or not. Paul is by active discourse and Jesus is by silence.

Tertullian's idea of saints in heaven gloating over sinners in hell is arguably backed up by Revelation, especially when joined with the Lucan parable of Lazarus and Dives. And, I'm sure I can think of more.

February 03, 2017

Executive orders: The new Twitter for Trump

It sure seems like they're the latest extension of Trump's version of the CEO presidency.

Write out an executive order and expect everybody to jump and say "How high?"

Of course, there's this little thing called "the rule of law," which means, on paper, that executive orders (unlike presidential signing statements until legally challenged) don't work that way. Federal judges have already shown that with Trump's immigration executive order.

That said, as Ted Rall has already noted, the wheels of justice turn VERY slowly indeed in America at times.

Trump's latest order, that two regulations have to be cancelled for each new one approved, is the rankest example yet. Basically, we're in Dr. Seuss land with this. Maybe the business CEO world works that way, but politics doesn't. Congress passes bills that either add to, or pare back, on the official regulatory standards as listed in the Federal Register. The president then either signs or vetoes said bills.

Now, the details do specify that this is an executive order for regulatory agencies to target regulations for such actions. No matter. They still can't eliminate Congressionally mandated standards. And, in cases such as the EPA and FDA, they have statutory rule-making power. More on the limited legal reach and all the convolutions here.

But, Trump doesn't care; this is his Potemkin village version of pretending to honor campaign promises. Actually, in his mind, he thinks this is real, not a Potemkin village, I'm sure.

And, with that said, it's no wonder that TrumpTrain riders in red state heartland areas still think he's doing a bang-up job.

Basically, his executive orders are Twitter longform, and as the NYT reports about him not even understanding how much he was empowering Bannon in adding him to the National Security Council, they're as poorly thought out.

January 31, 2017

Boo hoo for LeBron; oh, and blame Lue not Griffin

Yes, Sir Charles doesn't want to be a role model, and yes, LeBron James was right about one thing in his rant, that Barkley shouldn't be a role model.

But, you know? Charles was right about the rest, and doubled down on it.

LeBron did push David Griffin to resign J.R. Smith for an overpay, which meant zero chance of keeping Matthew Dellavedova.

While LeBron didn't as directly push the resigning of Tristan Thompson for a likely overpay the year before, he didn't exactly discourage it, either. Ditto for Iman Shumpert, who if not totally overpaid, is halfway so. And hey, LeBron, why hasn't he picked up the slack better since Smith was injured? Delly's not great, but he's Shumpert's overall stats equal and can play the point better — for the same contract price.

And, for all that LeBron admires Gregg Popovich, Spurs players never laid on Pops or his GM front man, R.C. Buford, like this.

Meanwhile, have fun with Mario Chalmers (who I guess hasn't had enough LeBron abuse yet), Kirk Hinrich, Jordan Farmar or whomever.

The real question is why is Tyronn Lue playing LBJ this many minutes when we're in the middle of nowheresville in terms of the NBA season. LeBron, if you wanna get mad, other than yourself, THERE is your target. Seriously, we had all this talk of resting him and now he's leading the league in minutes.

And, whether you like the NBA salary cap or not, and whether you like the lux tax or not, they both exist and your owner didn't make money at Quicken Loans by running a loss, as he reportedly did big-time last year with the Cavs.

Did the Astros steal first from the Cardinals?

Chris Correa / Houston Chronicle
In light of news that the St. Louis Cardinals have to forfeit two draft choices and $2 million to the Houston Astros, courtesy of Rob Manfred, Commissioner Corleone, dropping the hammer (actual report) on owner Bill DeWitt and GM John Mozeliak for former scouting officer Chris Correa's cybersnooping on the Astros' scouting computers, with the local angle offered up by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, one has to wonder if we're getting the full story. (My blog post about how this may affect the Birds is here.)

Manfred insisted again, with the punishment, that Correa was a rogue operator. He saw El Birdos as "vicariously liable," but nothing more. Of course, his data snoops may have helped draft Marco Gonzales, among others.

The Houston Chronicle has a story on documents from Correa's criminal trial, now unsealed. The feds don't seem to have ever, since the early part of the investigation, have seen anything to convince them that Correa was anything other than a rogue operator, too.

For his part, via ESPN, Correa stands by his claim when caught, and through his trial, that the Astros stole first. He even had his family release a new statement to that effect when Manfred lowered his hammer, which includes a lifetime ban from MLB for Correa.

However, the feds refused to let him look at Astros databases, or to subpoena emails, during the discovery process, making it impossible to present anything beyond his word.

We're now in he said, she said territory. Manfred said Correa "did not provide any cooperation," while Correa said he repeatedly offered to meet with Manfred.

So, was the punishment too light? Critics are already boo-hooing, but I don't think so, and I don't think I'm being too much of a homer. Correa was a rogue operator, and this was the first time something like this happened. And, it's fun to watch Jeff Passan, and even more, Buster Olney (or anybody else at ESPN) fulminate over this. I mean, Manfred took several months on this after the feds lowered the criminal hammer on Correa. The Cards fully cooperated from the start. The idea that this is a Deflategate, that Bill DeWitt is a Robert Kraft, or that the Cardinals are the New England Patriots is crap.

Mark Saxon of ESPN says it's comparing apples to mangoes, this punishment vs. what the commish had for the BoSox in what was an organized club effort, then retracts that with the other hand, but saying this still seemed "far less stringent." Well, yes, and you explained why. Let's add that the Cards cooperated with Manfred from the start, AND that we've not been told publicly how much, or how little, this affected Astros signings. Tim Brown at Yahoo also gets it wrong, in insinuating that surely Correa wasn't all alone for three years. Both you guys are journos; if you've got somebody in either Manfred's office or US AG's office who's got info to leak, move forward. If not, STFU.

On the flip side, Correa named at least one specific date for alleged Astros' hacking:
“The Cardinals were not the organization that benefited from unauthorized access,” Correa wrote in the statement. He then details allegations: “On December 11, 2011, a Houston Astros employee accessed proprietary data on a St. Louis Cardinals server. Later, I would learn — through unlawful methods — that Cardinals’ data were used extensively from 2012 through 2014. Houston Astros employees used the data to replicate and evaluate key algorithms and decision tools related to amateur and professional player evaluation. Many individuals throughout the Houston organization, including the General Manager and Assistant General Manager, were included in e-mail discussions about these efforts.”
That's "interesting" at the least.

I can flip Brown, Passan and Saxon on their conspiracy heads by saying maybe Manfred is covering something up, that that's part of why the Cards get an allegedly "mild" punishment and part of why the Astros aren't complaining.

More seriously, I think Correa was trying to muddy waters for a plea bargain, but sports commissioners can do all sorts of bigfooting, as Bill Simmons has repeatedly alleged of the NBA's David Stern, including on Michael Jordan and alleged gambling debts.

More snarkily, I think Mo and Bill DeWitt should be punished with a dose of heavy reading and listening to anything Buster Olney writes or broadcasts, like this. Jerry Crasnick, often the only sane baseball voice at Great Red Satan (and where did Jim Caple go to?) gets it much more correct.

January 30, 2017

Astros 2, Cardinals 0

That's not a game-day score in interleague baseball. Instead, it's the number of draft choices the Redbirds have to forfeit to the Stros, courtesy of Rob Manfred, Commissioner Corleone, dropping the hammer (actual report) on owner Bill DeWitt and GM John Mozeliak for former scouting officer Chris Correa's cybersnooping on the Astros' scouting computers. The local angle is offered up by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

For his part, via ESPN, Correa stands by his claim when caught, and through his trial, that the Astros stole first. I have a follow-up blog post about those ideas here.

My first thought? Mo has shown a bit more urgency in going after mid-level free agents, signing Dexter Fowler this year and Mike Leake a year ago. But, Jhonny Peralta's front-loaded contract three years ago was the only other real move in the last decade. He passed on resigning Albert Pujols, passed (fortunately, so far, it seems) on Jason Heyward, and passed on Matt Holliday (probably also fortunately) as far as renewing players on the team.

Fowler was probably an overpay, especially if Mo had any advance inkling the hammer would come down this hard. Leake a year ago was a definite overpay and I said so even before he put on the 2016 Birds on Bat uni.

So, Mo in general in free agency, like Dave Dombrowski, has no problems letting a veteran go rather than extending end-of-career contracts, and he's generally been right on that. (Had Pujols stayed as healthy as Tiger counterpart Miggy Cabrera, we'd be questioning that, though.) But, his track record is mixed in chasing players from other teams, when he does.

Peralta = good;
Leake = already bad, known in advance;
Fowler = jury out
Not signing David Price = jury out so far.

And, Mo has so far shown himself somewhat adverse to signing players with opt-out clauses and absolutely allergic to double opt-outs like Heyward's. Will he change in the future?

Meanwhile, was the punishment too light? Critics are already boo-hooing, but I don't think so, and I don't think I'm being too much of a homer. Correa was a rogue operator, and this was the first time something like this happened. And, it's fun to watch Jeff Passan, and even more, Buster Olney (or anybody else at ESPN) fulminate over this. I mean, Manfred took several months on this after the feds lowered the criminal hammer on Correa. The Cards fully cooperated from the start. The idea that this is a Deflategate, that Bill DeWitt is a Robert Kraft, or that the Cardinals are the New England Patriots is crap.

Mark Saxon of ESPN says it's comparing apples to mangoes, this punishment vs. what the commish had for the BoSox in what was an organized club effort, then retracts that with the other hand, but saying this still seemed "far less stringent." Well, yes, and you explained why. Let's add that the Cards cooperated with Manfred from the start, AND that we've not been told publicly how much, or how little, this affected Astros signings. Tim Brown at Yahoo also gets it wrong, in insinuating that surely Correa wasn't all alone for three years. Both you guys are journos; if you've got somebody in either Manfred's office or US AG's office who's got info to leak, move forward. If not, STFU.

Related: The Houston Chronicle has a new story on documents from Correa's criminal trial, now unsealed. The feds don't seem to have ever, since the early part of the investigation, have seen anything to convince them that Correa was anything other than a rogue operator, too.

Besides, at least for public consumption, and no leaks indicating otherwise, the Astros say they're OK too.

Now, as for the Astros' possible success off this?

The pics are actually a second round and a compensatory balance pick. But, lots of players are available in those second and third rounds. Google away for past successes. Or note that Pujols, Mike Piazza and Keith Hernandez all went 10th round or later.

The Stros also get the Cards' draft money slots for those two picks. So, IF Jeff Luhnow still has the magic touch he often did in St. Louis, that relatively young Houston team could add serious prospect depth for years to come.

TX Progs talk executive orders and #txlege

The Texas Progressive Alliance has a lot of blogging to do if it's going to make any Super Bowl parties this weekend.  Here's the roundup of the best of the lefty blog posts from last week.

Off the Kuff did an interview with Jessica Shortall of Texas Competes, one of the many groups that is fighting against Dan Patrick's anti-LGBT bathroom bill.

Libby Shaw at Daily Kos reports that, true to Trumpian fashion, Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz avoid their constituents, going as far as to eject peaceful visitors from offices, locking them out, and calling the police.

SocraticGadfly takes a look at recent discussion about implicit bias, especially implicit racial bias, and believes it is indeed a valid concept, but at the same time has issues with testing for it.

Frustration at the weakness of Democrats -- in particular, Senate Democrats confirming Trump's cabinet appointees -- is spreading and growing stronger, writes PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.


Neil at All People Have Value sent a letter to each of his Houston and Harris County elected Democrats -- from the school board on up -- asking them what role they will take in opposing Donald Trump.  Neil will be posting the replies at his blog as they are received. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

After a couple of months off, John Coby at Bay Area Houston gets back in the saddle with a couple of postings, one about the HCDP chair race and one about Trump.

Ted at jobsanger takes note of Trump's approval rating having gone underwater already.

The Lewisville Texan Journal would like to point out that a woman's place is in the House and the Senate.

Dos Centavos was at the rally asking Houston officials to overturn the 287(g) immigration policy.  

And Texas Leftist celebrates the return of a Houston radio station dedicated to classical music. 

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

More news from across Texas!

Texas Monthly's Daily Post visits the two busiest airports in the state to look at how the immigration ban is going.

Additional 'peaceful protectors' are requested at tomorrow's Muslim Lobby Day at the Capitol, posts the Rag Blog

UT and NFL football star Ricky Williams was harassed by police in Tyler, and the mayor there responded by offering his guest room the next time Williams visits, though Grits for Breakfast figures that offer would not be extended to other racially profiled black men.

Somervell County Salon begins her most recent Ruminations of the Easily Amused by noting US Judge Sam Sparks striking down the fetal burial law.

The Midland Reporter-Telegram had the story about the mosque in Victoria, a previous target of hate crimes, which burned to the ground over the weekend.

The Texas Observer covered two protests, one in south Austin at the Texas Parks and Wildlife headquarters, against commission member Kelcy Warren (the owner of Energy Transfer Partners, the pipeline company) and in San Marcos, where students of Texas State have been repeatedly intimidated by the long history of racial prejudice in that town.

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, former state representative Kent Grusendorf has moved on from the Texas Public Policy Foundation, Austin's most influential conservative thinktank.

The Texas Tribune covered the DNC chair candidates' appearance at the Future Forum, held at Texas Southern University on Saturday.

DBC Green Blog went to hear Code Pink activists Ann Wright and Medea Benjamin as they swung through Texas. 

Rice University's Urban Edge blog has the story on the Texas Historical Commission's designation of the Astrodome as a state landmark, providing the defense against those who would rather tear it down than preserve it. 

Ill Eaglez could build Trump wall

Mexican cement (above) could benefit from a Trumpian wall;
Mexican Ill Eaglez could wind up helping to build it — if it
ever comes to fruition.  (Susana Gonzalez/Bloomberg)
The New York Times kicks the ball down the road on possible details of President' Trump's proposed Mexican wall.

One thing of note is that a US subsidiary of Mexican concrete giant Cemex could win bids for construction material. But, would the Mexican government force divestment?

The second, even more interesting fact, of little surprise to us in Tejas, is that illegal immigrants could be among those building the wall.
“If this wall gets built in Texas, there is a high likelihood that a significant bit of the work force will be undocumented,” said Jose P. Garza, the executive director of the Workers Defense Project, which supports low-income workers.
Ill Eaglez do more than harvest crops here in Texas. They do, especially in Texas' major cities, the bulk of residential new construction, especially carpentry, roofing, and cement foundation pouring. So, they're experienced.

Of course, this leads to several interesting spinoffs which, if broached publicly and followed up on by The Great Bloviator, could monkey-wrench that #fuckingwall, as former Mexican prez Vicente Fox calls it.

First is, what if somebody suggests that these Ill Eaglez could, as a "fifth column," actually build hidden tunnels beneath, secret doors into, or other ways around, the wall? Mr. Fox, I believe your Twitter account is calling.

Related, what if, say, the Zetas, actually get a few coyotes to remain, or else bribe or blackmail some of the coyotes' pollos, to do something similar for drug smuggling routes? With them being sly as needed, but suitably armed as needed?

OK, so The Donald says only verified American citizens can build the wall.

With Texas already at 90 percent of cement capacity, and lets say at 95 percent of cheap manual labor capacity, this would drive construction costs through the roof. That would mean that Texans would pay even more than the $120 a year that Trump's one idea, a 20 percent tariff on Mexican imports, would cost across the country.

So, Trump Train, how big of a crowbar do you want to stick in your collective wallets? And do NOT say "Mexico will pay."