SocraticGadfly: 8/27/17 - 9/3/17

September 01, 2017

Movement #skepticism fail - concern-trolling, #mansplaining, #strawmanning

This is a follow-up to my earlier post about the Arkema chemical plant in Houston, because it's the events behind it.

(Update, March 12, 2018: Liberty County is now suing Arkema. Alleged are Texas Clean Air Act violations, Texas Water Code violations, Texas Health and Safety Code violations, and common law nuisances as a catch-all. The first three, generally, have an "every single day" penalty on fines. That will surely be sought against Arkema, and part of the court fight will be when the tolling dates should end.

Update, May 28, 2018: The U.S. Chemical Safety Board reports Arkema knew well in advance of Hurricane Harvey about flood risks, according to Texas Vox.)

Jeff Wagg
It's partially my fault for jumping in a conversation on former Facebook friend Jeff Wagg's page. I violated a rule of mine to generally avoid making comments on pages of people who post to "public." But I did, and because I did, this isn't privileged information.

And, the long and short is, whether one says movement skepticism, scientific skepticism, or Skeptics™,  Wagg at least in the past was one. And whether he is still or not, he is other things.

Per the previous post, Wagg whipped out the word "chemophobia" about media coverage of the Arkema plant's initial explosions. It came off as knee-jerk and looking close to strawmanning, as though "the media" is made up all of Gwynneth Paltrow vagina-steamers, chemtrailers and similar.

I relatively courteously, IMO, in one comment, said, Jeff, I'm not saying you ARE strawmanning, but it looks like that. And, in hindsight, and his actions and those of a Facebook friend of his, both now blocked, I feel more comfortable in that assessment.

Jeff didn't want to read through the actual regulatory history vis-a-vis Arkema after the conversation continued. And, even after being told that I have friends who work at Houston media outlets, and him knowing that I'm in the biz myself, he chose to generally not moderate or nuance most of his follow-up comments.

I also noted that movement skepticism has had problems with libertarianism in the past, and I cited Penn and Teller on secondhand tobacco smoke.

Naomi Baker
Then, a Facebook friend of his, Naomi Baker, who used to work for the EPA, and is either clueless about Texas politics even if she is from or living now in Texas, or else is an in-the-tank winger or close to it, chimed in. 

Per more detailed conversation in that previous post, she said I didn't know what I was talking about.

Then, trying to have the last word herself and accusing me of plugging my ears, she eventually said I was "mansplaining."

That normally is an automatic block on my part and it was then.

And I said I was blocking her, on that thread. Then I wrote about it in my own FB feed.

Well, Wagg followed me. I normally post to "friends of friends," but he was then still a FB friend. I'm bending my FB rules a little bit, but I won't directly quote him. Using the word, he said she was right, so I blocked him, too.

Jeff, maybe you still have guilt — conscious or not — over sexual shenanigans at the James Randi Educational Foundation when you were there. Don't pass your shit on to me, if that's the case. Oh, and even if you're not now, you were a ...

Movement skeptic.

Based on that work history.

Per your own words, including mentioning "drama and scandals," you were active with the group, including regular work with organizing "The Amazing Meeting." Per JREF web archives, you wrote a lot.

This probably isn't your first pseudskepticism, though. You were probably among the last-ditch defenders of Brian Dunning. And you may have overlooked the truth about Jose Alvarez / Deyvi Peña long after an actual skeptic would have admitted reality. (The truth being that Randi knew about Peña traveling on a fraudulent passport long before this conviction, and may well have known the identity theft involved to get said passport, also before Peña's conviction.) 

(I've written some about Peña and a LOT about Dunning. I don't know what Wagg's stance was early in Dunning's criminal process, but I know a lot of movement skeptics rallied around Sharon Hill when she started cutting him blank checks. And, anybody who was a semi-insider at JREF for any time, unless they were sniffing the "founder's syndrome" glue, should have known more about Jose / Devyi / "Carlos.")

That said, in what Wagg either might have known or didn't want to admit, or else didn't want to look at very closely, he was far from alone within the Skeptics™ world. And, yes, the link is Daily Grail, and deliberately so. It's called "tribalism."

Anyway, even if you have no residual guilt about "scandals and drama," your "mansplaining" was intended as an insult. It of course is not; it's a laugh.

And, if you'd exercised more actual skepticism on some of these areas, maybe we wouldn't have gotten to this point — including me adding "concern-trolling" to the header as I finished this piece out.

And, Jeff, if you really ARE worried about "the media," you would, like me, start by worrying about all the "Putin did it" bullshit.

And, speaking of being skeptical, Jeff?

Here's the background on the person who first accused me of mansplaining:

Naomi Baker talked on Facebook about how she worked WITH the EPA. Very true. She worked WITH it, she didn't work FOR it. Her LinkedIn profile says she's worked TWENTY YEARS in the energy industry. And is in Houston right now for a natural-gas processing company, one that works with dirty sour gas as part of their work, apparently. Before that? Dirty oil pipeline company ENBRIDGE! (And, graduated from Odessa Permian High, right in the heart of Texas' oil-besotted Permian Basin to boot.)

She VERY carefully said on Facebook that she'd never worked in the "chemical industry" or, IIRC, a "refinery." Very nice. Or "nice." And said this throughout a LONG Facebook thread.

And, Saturday afternoon, the AP reported it had visited a bunch of Houston-area Superfund sites — on the ground or water by the ground, NOT just "visiting" by air — that the EPA claimed were inaccessible.

If only Ms. Baker, in her working "with" the EPA, could tell me what's hindering the EPA, I would be so enlightened! 

If only Mr. Wagg, in his oh-so-diligent concern-trolling the media, would make sure the AP wasn't committing chemophobia, we'd all be so blessed!

And, this also pertains to movement skepticism. She was a Randi Foundation volunteer and is listed as a co-founder of Greater Houston Skeptics.

Given that she has extensive volunteer time with JREF, I'm sure that Jeff knows her in meatspace, not just Facebook. He therefore knew just how carefully she was parsing her language on his Facebook post about Arkema.

Therefore, as I see it, and as I think any reasonable person approaching from the outside would, I think he's as guilty of intellectual dishonesty in general on this issue as she is.

And, per Ms. Baker, if somebody's going to report my post to Facebook where I posted her LinkedIn profile, well, I can report being accused of "mansplaining" as harassment.

(Slight sidebar to friend Brains: This is why, although I acknowledge that social justice is an issue, and needs a fight, that I am not as kindly disposed as you are toward stereotypical "social justice warriors." This is not the first time I've experienced in person the "mansplaining" epithet as an attempt to shut down my conversation.)


Basically, "mansplaining" has gone beyond been taken beyond being, at least in part, an accurate descriptive of behavior to being a deliberate pejorative and a conversation ender. And, from that, many of the other "-splaining" gerunds and "-splainer" nouns were started as that.

There are those of us who are left-liberal, even leftist, who are repelled by such tactics even in the abstract, let alone when they're applied to us personally.


Update, Sept. 14: More dead horse to flog! Valero now admits, even per the currently toothless EPA, that it "seriously underestimated" (i.e., apparently lied about) how much benzene, a known carcinogen, and other volatile compounds escaped from its Houston refinery.

Update, Nov. 17: Harris County is now suing Arkema.

Update, Aug. 3, 2018: The EPA is auditing state and federal folks over post-Harvey air quality monitoring and reporting transparency.

AND ... Arkema's CEO has been indicted.

#Arkema, #Harvey, "the media," kibbitzers and strawmanners

The Arkema explosion, and a "movement skeptic" former Facebook friend's (more on that in a second post) response to media coverage of it led me to say "enough." Kibbitzing about how "the media" is ignorant about chemicals when they report on them all the time in a place like Houston led me to say "more than enough."

(Update, March 12, 2018: Liberty County is now suing Arkema. Alleged are Texas Clean Air Act violations, Texas Water Code violations, Texas Health and Safety Code violations, and common law nuisances as a catch-all. The first three, generally, have an "every single day" penalty on fines. That will surely be sought against Arkema, and part of the court fight will be when the tolling dates should end.

Update, May 28, 2018: The U.S. Chemical Safety Board reports Arkema knew well in advance of Hurricane Harvey about flood risks, according to Texas Vox.)

Firststrawmanning the actual individual members of "the media" with the word "chemophobia" is a sure way to have actual individual members of the media treat your pseudoskepticism skeptically, Jeff Wagg, and others like you. (As he posts to "public" on Facebook, no privacy violations on my normal personal terms of talking about Facebook posting.)

Second, I think most people think of "the media" as like "lawyers" — bad guys until one of them is defending YOU or telling YOUR story. The reality is different.

Third, when a friend of yours comes on and starts clit-swinging (can't call it dick-swinging, can I saw that would be more "mansplaining" and more on that in the second post — and since that was the final accusation against me, I have no better way of expressing the sarcasm) about why Texas has chemical records secret AND GETS IT WRONG, you're asking for more trouble yet.
Naomi Baker

Naomi Baker claims this was all due to 9-11. NOT EVEN CLOSE.

It was a year after the West explosion in 2013, where I know first responders who fought that fire or controlled traffic (because my own newspaper was less than an hour away) that then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott ruled Texas chemical plant records should be sealed. And cited the West explosion as why. Then said "drive around" if you want to find out.

And, whether you work, or worked at EPA, or not, if you're too ignorant to know that, and claim "9/11," you should SHUT UP. I rarely, rarely, am that direct, and very rarely use all caps. But, you earned it. And you should definitely not accuse someone of "mansplaining." That's doubly true if you live in Texas, which Naomi Baker's FB indicated was true. And, if stereotypical males are the ones who "always have to win," you seemed to be exhibiting that more than me.

(And now, Arkema and TCEQ are playing footsie with each other on non-release of Arkema's Tier Two chemical inventory. Would this also be "chemophobia" for "the media" to report on it?)

But, she worked WITH the EPA, she didn't work FOR it. Her LinkedIn profile says she's worked TWENTY YEARS in the energy industry. And is in Houston right now for a natural-gas processing company, one that works with dirty sour gas as part of their work, apparently. Before that? Dirty oil pipeline company ENBRIDGE! (And, graduated from Odessa Permian High, right in the heart of Texas' oil-besotted Permian Basin to boot.)

She VERY carefully said on Facebook that she'd never worked in the "chemical industry" or, IIRC, a "refinery." Very nice. Or "nice." But hiding a lot of dirty reality. So, she's not ignorant at all. She's #oilsplaining.

Also, if you worked "with" the EPA in Texas, you'd know that the EPA threatened to pull back its state outsourcing of urban smog regulation and similar things from the Texas Department of Environmental Quality because oversight was that bad. And that environmental organizations asked for that to be done. That's just a sample.

Of course, having discovered her real employment history, I know she knows all of this and more.

Now, to background on the actual explosion and regulatory history against Arkema. A "big" $110,000 in fines, pled down to $90,000, is a slap on the wrist. Especially when that was for not hazardous but "highly hazardous chemicals." And, given that the French parent had a  2015 revenue of more than $8 billion, $90,000, or even $110,000, is a slap on the hand indeed. That's not surprising, as Arkema is a spinoff of French oil giant Total. Its most recent net profit was $400 million.

And you'd know that Texas regulators, even more than the feds, have a habit of wrist-slapping, if you've also worked with the Texas Railroad Commission. Given that I've read about, and written stories about, actual dollar amounts of RRC fines, I actually do know that.

(As shown by High Country News, on remediation of abandoned uranium mines, the EPA in general stiffs the general public while hand-slapping big business.)

And, if you weren't strawmanning the media as if they were chemtrailers, Jeff Wagg, you might have read "highly hazardous chemicals" somewhere. And, you might have been a little less butthurt when I suggested, but did not outrightly state, that you were coming close to strawmanning. I only made that statement as a definite after I blocked you.

Ms. Baker, you'd also know that, re your ignorance about (or willful lying about) West, Gov. Abbott, etc., above, that Arkema had long refused to release its risk management plan.

Speaking of the EPA there now, and its TCEQ flunkies, or maybe it's the other way around? Per a story from the Houston Chronicle, aka "the media," this:
Environmental Protection Agency and the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality described the incident at the Arkema Inc. facility in Crosby as a fire, not a chemical release. 
The agencies said airborne sampling shows the smoke did not contain concerning levels of toxic chemicals.
What is a "concerning level" of a chemical? Ms. Baker, since you have a chemical engineering degree, shouldn't EPA have ppm or ppb DATA on how it defines a threshold for "concerning"?

Answer is "yes," of course. 

Ms. Baker then went on to say, well, yes, Republicans are worse on this, but, these things happen everywhere.

Well, Dear Leader weakened the EPA somewhat himself. Guess his community organizing on Chicago's South Side never touched on economic justice. (And, environmental racism is real.) Also, environmental organizations, the biggest, have chemists and chemical engineers who help advise them.

That said, he didn't so weaken the EPA that it didn't propose NEW chemical safety rules. Rules shit-canned by Trump's EPA head. Ms. Baker, since you've worked "with" the EPA, you surely know that. And, per Greg Abbott's weekend driving suggestions, including through West, Texas, you know this is NOT "9/11."

And, Saturday afternoon, the AP reported it had visited a bunch of Houston-area Superfund sites — on the ground or water by the ground, NOT just "visiting" by air — that the EPA claimed were inaccessible.

If only Ms. Baker, in her working "with" the EPA, could tell me what's hindering the EPA, I would be so enlightened! 

If only Mr. Wagg, in his oh-so-diligent concern-trolling the media, would make sure the AP wasn't committing chemophobia, we'd all be so blessed!

Maybe that's why, per friend and Chronicle columnist Chris Tomlinson, Ms. Baker, Arkema's CEO is a leading (but not solo) example of hubris.

Chris begins:
Richard Rennard, the president of Arkema, shrugged his shoulders when asked what more his company could have done to prevent chemicals from burning at his plant in Crosby. 
He rattled off the systems his company employed to chill the organic peroxides: Grid power, back-up generators, nitrogen coolers and ultimately refrigerated trailers. On Thursday the refrigerator systems began shutting down and the peroxides began burning and blowing the lids off their containers. 
After the disaster at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan, every facility with dangerous materials should know to keep back-up generators above any potential flood line. Yet that precaution escaped Arkema.
Then, to the PROOF, for the chemical engineer and the movement skeptic:
Rennard's fatalism in the face of a natural disaster is disingenuous. Experts identified the plant as high-risk, and Arkema could have designed a more resilient facility. But it didn't, most likely because management considered the risk too low and the costs too high. 
 We know this because the Houston Chronicle identified Arkema as a potentially dangerous plant in an award-winning 2016 investigative series called "Chemical Breakdown." 
That's almost all I can quote honestly under fair use guidelines. Go read Chris.

But, one more sample. The conclusion, in good sermonic style: 
If we learn nothing else from Harvey, let it be the danger of hubris. Despite claims to the contrary, executives will decide that mitigating a risk costs too much, and subsequent events will prove that they made a horrible mistake. 
That's why regulators, journalists and citizen groups have a role to play in demanding accountability and revealing the risks taken. Because when it comes to chemicals, the public shares in the consequences of a bad decision and often pays the highest price. 
Let's be honest, Harvey is not causing accidents. The storm is revealing the risks executives willingly took. No one has the right to shrug their shoulders and say, "C'est la vie."
And just maybe, both Ms. Baker and Mr. Wagg, you'd learn a little less hubris yourself. On regulators, you might admit the truth about Greg Abbott and about how minimal these fines were. 

One more point. Mr. Wagg, if he had just waited a bit, or not protested so much about a David Sirota link I posted, about how Texas AG Ken Paxton et al helped Arkema dodge more federal regulation, could have learned, as a good skeptic, that Arkema was much more worried about explosion dangers in 2014 than it came off as being this week, per that old Wall Street Journal.

But, you chose to say "the media" instead, claiming the media didn't know what it was talking about. Then, Ms. Baker refused to accept the reality about regulatory issues here in Texas, perhaps because she was in CYA mode. Then both of you started sliming with the "mansplaining."

Finally, as a member of "the media," I know the profession is not perfect. I've said that myself, mainly about the corporations that own it, but, sometimes, about the herd mentality, more than anything else, of writers, broadcasters and editors at its larger mainstream outlets. (I've regularly blogged and Tweeted about some of the "Putin did it" nuttery.) But, for a (former) "movement skeptic" to apply "the media" card, first, and then, to basically present media from multiple outlets in one of the nation's largest metropolitan areas (plus local representatives of national media) as ignorant was over the top.

Update to that: One other person, if not a professional movement skeptic, at least a tribalist, talks about me questioning her professional ethics. I'll let what I saw on the Facebook thread, including the parsing of exactly how she spoke, and the actual facts about chemical reporting in Texas speak for themselves. And he got blocked too.


Update, noon Sept. 1: Here's a full list of Arkema chemicals at its suburban Houston plant. Please, don't engage in "chemophobia." Please don't strawman that all levels of toxicity are the same. Please don't wonder about the possibility of floodwaters mixing chemicals that are currently separate.

The reality is that you have a variety of chemicals that can form either bases or acids when reacting with water. Their pH causticity would dilute eventually, but, if blown in the air by an explosion, then landing away from the plant, could be more problematic.

And, the alcohols there are of course flammable. So is hexane.


Update Sept. 7: First responders are suing Arkema. Here's why:
Houston lawyers Kimberley Spurlock and Misty Hataway-Cone launched a legal battle in Harris County court, accusing Arkema of gross negligence. 
Despite past flooding events and advance notice of the impending destruction of Hurricane Harvey, Arkema "ignored the foreseeable consequences of failing to prepare," the suit claims, leaving trailers of volatile chemicals susceptible to explosion after flooding knocked out the electricity and ability to cool the heat-sensitive compounds. 
The first of nine trailers of organic peroxides exploded early on the morning of Aug. 31, landing a number of first responders in the hospital following exposure to fumes from the chemicals, which ignited and left a 40-foot plume of black smoke that officials later compared to a campfire. 
"Although the explosions had occurred, no one from Arkema alerted the first responders who were manning the perimeter of the arbitrary mandatory evacuation area," lawyers said Thursday in a press release. "Immediately upon being exposed to the fumes from the explosions, and one by one, the police officers and first responders began to fall ill in the middle of the road."
But, this is surely more chemophobia. And Ms. Baker would probably add, if I'm guessing her politics correctly, that this is more of the ebil trial lawyers at work.


Update, Sept. 14: More dead horse to flog! Valero now admits, even per the currently toothless EPA, that it "seriously underestimated" (i.e., apparently lied about) how much benzene, a known carcinogen, and other volatile compounds escaped from its Houston refinery.


Update, Sept. 19: Superfund site spills under investigation.


Update, Sept. 22: The newest and possibly most toxic spill yet.


Update, Sept. 25: The AP reports that the EPA says it has removed toxic waste from some Texas sites, but won't say what they are or where they came from.


Update, Sept. 26: Chemophobia has hit the Harris County Commissioners Court! Commissioners have voted to sue Arkema on grounds of creating a public nuisance. Update, Nov. 17: Harris County is now filing a larger suilt against Arkema.


Update, Oct. 2: #Chemophobia? No, "the media," contra a Houston-area pseudoskeptic and her Chicago Wagg-ish friend, want the public to know about petrochemical hazards that the Houston-area pseudoskeptic, and by implication, her Chicago Wagg-ish friend, unless he repents, want to keep hidden, including with the employer of Ms. Baker surely contributing to the soft money, and maybe even dark money, that works to keep this hidden.


Update, Oct. 4: I guess all these respiratory problems are just chemophobia too.


Update, Aug. 3, 2018: The EPA is auditing state and federal folks over post-Harvey air quality monitoring and reporting transparency.

AND ... Arkema's CEO has been indicted.

August 30, 2017

Cavaliers or Celtics: Who wins the Kyrie trade? (Updated with trade finalization)

Kyrie Irving
What's Kyrie gonna do for Boston?

A month ago, I blogged about how Kyrie Irving said he wants the Cleveland Cavaliers to trade him because he doesn't want to play wingman to LeBron James any more. Yeah, jaw drop. One ring and two other Finals trips will do that, I guess?

Well, of course, as of Tuesday evening, we have an update.

Rather than just salivating over the possible eventual breakup of the Cavs, Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge, just having landed Gordon Hayward as a free agent, and still having stockpiled draft choices, swooped in and helped hasten the breakup process by trading for Irving.

At a pretty steep price. Pretty steep price indeed IF Isaiah plays most of this year AND resigns with the Cavs.

Isaiah Thomas
Ainge sent a 2018 first-round draft choice from Brooklyn, mighty mite point guard Isaiah Thomas, small forward Jae Crowder and stashed Serbian center Ante Zizic all to the Cavs for Kyrie.

Update, Aug. 30: After the Cavs bitching about how Isaiah was so hurt, and trying to extort another first-round choice, they finally settled for a 2020 second-rounder that Boston had from Miami. Unless the Heat really suck three years from now, that will be no higher than No. 40.

First, on the Boston side.

They now have only four players left from last year's team. Coach Brad Stevens is going to have a compressed, accelerated-learning training camp indeed. Celtics fans should be patient and should have the brains to be patient for the first month or so of the new season. More on that here.

Second, Kyrie's butt-hurt-ness — will it be a problem in Beantown? Both Ainge and Stevens say no, and that they kicked all the tires there. But, but, but —

Stevens was Hayward's college coach at Butler and that was a definite part of the reason he left the Jazz.

To think this will all be peaches and cream, sweetness and light, is laughable. Kyrie may be 1A in Boston rather than No. 2, but he's not going to be the solo alpha dog.

Third, the Celts lost a low-cost player, under contract for three years, in Crowder.

Fourth, between Crowder and Avery Bradley, traded to clear cap space for the Hayward signing, Boston lost two solid-to-good defenders, a descriptive phrase that's, well ...

That's never, ever really come close to being used about Kyrie Irving's NBA career.

That said, especially if Thomas' hip wouldn't be ready for the start of the season, and the fact that he's a few years older than Irving, the player swap wasn't bad.

I think Ainge should have held out for sending Boston's own No. 1 instead of Brooklyn's, though. He probably put in the Brooklyn choice in part because, while not hiding anything, he knew Isaiah probably wouldn't be ready to start the season.


If Thomas is slowed, this is less of a win for them in the short term. And, while Irving is not at all known for defense, Thomas, while he gives an effort, at 5-9 has size limitations. And is no better, height difference aside. And, like Irving, he's a shoot-first point guard. And, on that D, he's actually got a worse D-rating, by points allowed per 100 possessions, than Irving.

AND — if the hip is bad enough, but ... not "failing" a physical, if the Cavs ask Ainge to sweeten the deal, he won't, I'm sure. If the Cavs try to void it outright? Ainge may say that's why I gave you the sweeter drafter choice rather than our own already, as I noted above.

Ainge surely mentioned that in the back and forth, and finally gave Cavs' "GM" Dan Gilbert a go-away gift.

The other players are a bigger deal for Cleveland.

Crowder could be ready to up his game further, and he's under a cheap contract for three years.

Zizic could be a deal into the future. Based on brief clips from summer league play, he's at least middle of the pack in mobility and ball-handling among Euro-league centers. And, at 6-11, 250, he's big enough to be a true center. I have no idea what his shooting range is, or his defense is, but he gives Cleveland another option, at least, in bigger lineups, along with Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love.

That said, his down side is limited vertical and limited defense.

Five Thirty Eight discusses Cleveland's long view, as well as wondering how much changes in offensive sets and styles with new teams will affect both Irving and Thomas. (That said, it's kind of laughable for it to call Kyrie "undersized" in the same breath with Isaiah.) I suspect Irving's going to like the faster pace. The Celtics will certainly be uptempo; Al Horford runs decently for a big, and he may like the change too. Kyrie isn't having to play little LeBron when LeBron is out, and will have an offense more to his liking.

It also notes that the extra year of control for Irving vs Thomas gives Ainge an extra year before making some cap-related decisions.

Or, depending on just how much he shows over the next year, if LeBron does bolt Cleveland for La-La Land (EITHER team, if Blake Griffin can do a good recruiting job, a better recruiting job, perhaps with the help of Jerry West, than Magic Johnson does), he lets the Cavs put Thompson or Love on the trade bloc as part of a full tank rebuild or something.

Finally, we know now Carmelo Anthony isn't going to Cleveland. So, Houston? Stay with the Phil Jackson-less Knicks? Trading him is problematic for an additional reason — his 2018-19 contract is a player option. But, per what CPIII just did in getting traded to Houston, opting in to that year as part of a trade could be a smart thing. (The option year issue may be part of why the Spurs got little interest when they dangled LaMarcus Aldridge earlier this summer.)

And, speaking of CPIII, Deadspin bitches not once but twice about Ainge allegedly making an overpay, when Morley overpaid more in Houston for just one year of an older Chris Paul. In the first bitch, it says Paul is better than Kyrie.


At his prime, yes. Today? no. Seven years older with a semi-significant injury history, and just under Rockets control for one year? Bigger overpay for him, too.

Bigger overpay than for Paul George? Well, not necessarily, as PG-13 is just one plus a player option, not two guaranteed years, and was sent out of conference. (Kyrie is two plus player option.)

Besides that if one goes by points scored vs points allowed, in other words, season-long plus-minus, George may be overrated himself.


Update, Sept. 20: Kyrie bunny-hops around Stephen A. and Max attempting to grill him. It's funny that, whether he actually was smirking or not, he sure looked like it, and social psychologists tell us to trust nonverbal communication first.

I think he was, and despite some truths that he was ready to get out in general, and he thinks Boston's offense will be better for him (it will), there still was some personal angle here.

#StlCards dump Mike Leake for a sack of hammers and free money

Cardinals GM John Mozeliak, two and a half years ago, signed a B-grade John Lackey in former Reds stalwart Mike Leake, after losing the original John Lackey to the Cubs, for the same per-year price as Lackey, only for at least three if not four years longer.

It is Mo's second-worst big splash in the free agent market, as I berated it at the time,  topped by the Dexter Fowler inking, for which I also reamed out Mo.

But, now he's gone. Through waivers. To the Mariners. For Raydar Ascanio. Who?

"Minor league depth" is his actual name, as this is all he will ever be. (Redbird Rants laughingly said he still needs to fill into his body. He's 21, in his fourth full year in the minors; shouldn't he have at least started doing that already? Reality is that he's had a 3-game cup of coffee with AAA this year. And, that's his ONLY play above high-A ball. ZERO at AA. Derrick Gould takes a middle ground between RR and me.)

Well, and $750K in international cap space.

That said, on the plus side, this is a clear salary dump. The Mariners appear to be eating the whole remaining portion of the contract. Update: The P-D's newest says that "cash considerations" were sent to the M's as well. So, how much of the contract the Cardinals are eating, even while getting no player above "minor league depth," is ... interesting.

Update 2, 9 p.m.: The P-D piece updates to quote Ken Rosenthal that the Birds are eating $17 million. Yikes.

I mean, if Mo had to eat half the contract, he should have gotten more in return. Or even with eating a third.

And, a day later, the Barves just got a AAA catcher for Tony Phillips.

As for Leake and my comments up top?

Actually, that's not quite fair, perhaps. Leake is maybe a B-plus John Lackey, not a B-grade Lackey. But, we didn't need a back-of-the rotation pitcher so badly as to sign one to a five-year deal, let alone with a sixth option year. (It's a mutual option, not a player option, so that's not quite so bad as a player option.) He may not be a No. 5 starter, but he's no better than No. 3.

And, this should mean the team is focused on resigning Lance Lynn, which is good. That said, Lynn just said today that he's had "zero communications" with the team.

He also seemed as caught off-guard as anybody else, with the classic "I just work here" comment.

Well, good luck with that resigning, Mo and your new flunky Mike Girsch.

Considering Carlos Martinez remains inconsistent, Adam Wainwright is clearly near the end of his career, Michael Wacha is still not a guaranteed long-term starter, Trevor Rosenthal is headed to Tommy John land and Alex Reyes is recuperating from his, the Cards need Lynn, even if he's as much a No. 2 as a No. 1 starter. And, he looks to be in the catbird seat.

That said, from that original post?

It's now funnier than ever to look back on how St. Louis' paper of record, and paper of overpaid publishers, Ben Hochman tried to sell fandom on Leake, with a very selective column. When you ignore his low K rate and tout him as a batting pitcher (when in reality he's nowhere near a Zack Greinke and hasn't been plus-.200 since 2012), you're stretching.

Worse, shock me, Jeff Gordon was right, and for the second time in a week. Somebody must have spiked his coffee. Gordo honestly called him a No. 4/5 starter (while noting that he's a good ground ball pitcher that could benefit from pitching in St. Louis). Even as contracts inflate, you don't give those guys what Mo just paid. (That said, note to Gordo: Tyler Lyons was 27 himself at the time you wrote. Same age as Leake. There's no more "too soon" or "rushing him." He's not an MLB starter, not from this corner's perspective.)

And, per today's news, nobody at St. Louis' paper of record could get the scoop on the cash payout themselves? Had to ask Ken Rosenthal? (Rosey's a great baseball reporter, but, you should know your own team that well.) And Hummel not Goold breaking this, or "breaking" this?

Deadspin officially enters self-parody

I normally browse Deadspin for a few to several minutes about once every two weeks.

First, it's quick to do, as about one-fifth to one-quarter of its "stories" are actually advertorial spam, written by the same folks who do their blogging. And yes, blogging is what the actual "stories" are; there's really not much original reporting there.

Related to that, it's "fun" to have Deadspin bitch (not just the Guardian's "tsk, tsk") at people for using ad-blockers even as they have this 20-25 percent ratio of advertorial spam crapola.

Sidebar: Like SB Nation and other sites who had their chops busted recently for paying people with little more than "exposure," I wonder what Deadspin actually pays people.

The other reason to browse Deadspin is to see how much it trolls the Red Satan.

And, last week, that's where it entered self-parody with this headline: "ESPN Boss John Skipper Cites Possibility Of "Social Hectoring And Trolling" In Robert Lee Decision."

First of all, I actually kind of agree with the ESPN decision. Who's to say that RWNJs wouldn't, say, visit Lee's hotel room? Actual fans do it regularly the night before big playoff games to visiting teams' hotels.

Secondly, it wasn't about political correctness. And, if it were, Deadspin would be hypocrite of the month for calling that out.

Above all, though, "social hectoring and trolling"?

Sounds like Deadspin is worried some nutbar fans will hone in on its anti-ESPN gravy train.

And, in all of this, shows its years of ownership by Nick Denton and Gawker.

August 29, 2017

TX Progressives talk #Harvey aftermath, more

The Texas Progressive Alliance suggests a donation to the United Way Houston Relief Fund to help everyone affected by Hurricane Harvey as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff celebrates the legal demise of Texas' awful voter ID law.

SocraticGadfly looks at the antifascism movement, and things a lot of it is the old Black Bloc, repackaged.

Senator Ted Cruz goes all in for symbols of racism and slavery.  CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme suggests checking out Beto O'Rourke who is running against him.

There was a lot of news being broken elsewhere while Harvey was banging walls, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs collected some of it.

The Lewisville Texan Journal noted the Denton County GOP unanimously passed a resolution demanding all Republican state representatives end all support for Speaker Joe Straus.

The Rivard Report says San Antonio is doing its part to help Harvey evacuees.

Dos Centavos reminds us that the roots of the racism that enable the likes of Joe Arpaio and Donald Trump are deep and had a lot of help getting established.


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

Paradise in Hell translates Trump's Phoenix speech.

Michael Li analyzes the ruling of intentional discrimination in the State House redistricting.

RG Ratcliffe explains how that ruling could affect the future of House Speaker Joe Straus.

The Lunch Tray presents the case for not packing your kid's lunch.
Wendy Lane Cook has good memories of, and good wishes for, the city and people of Rockport as they deal with the effects of Hurricane Harvey.

Dan Solomon compiled a list of ways to help those affected by Harvey.

August 28, 2017

#Harvey damages

Not to neglect Rockport or elsewhere, but this will focus on Houston, and on how some damages there will go beyond that city. This will be updated on an occasional basis.

First, Exxon's Baytown refinery, one of many shut down, has been damaged by all the rain. No info on how this will make it take longer to reopen. This will further add to gas price issues, possibly.

Second, we know of one chemical spill in the Houston Ship Channel, along with several reports of petrochemical leaks. Expect more.

Third, Joel Osteen's reputation took a hit among those who don't better. Among those who do, his eventual, belated response to finally opening (some small part) of his church as evacuee help looks like PR more than anything. Given that a strip-mall mosque did this much earlier, that's even more true. Specifically, first, a Twitter Moment shows Lakewood was not flooded out. Second, the fact that the church eventually DID open its doors, also per Twitter, is further proof it wasn't flooded out, unless Osteen topped Moses of legend and actually parted waters.

First, per an AP story, Houston is going to be a public health tragedy and nightmare for weeks if not months. The chemical spill and leaks and many others like it. Backed-up and broken sewer lines. City sewer systems flooded out before this is over is a possibility. All of that shit, literally, in stagnant water, in Houston? Like a welcome mat for mosquitoes. West Nile, Zika and who knows what else among more "traditional" mosquito-borne diseases. More here.
And, black mold among houses that aren't condemned, or that are, but people can't afford to leave.

The big news is Harvey wreaking havoc on Beaumont-Port Arthur before landfall. The biggest issue that will ripple beyond the immediate area is the shutdown of the nation's largest oil refinery. I doubt, outside of gouging, that gas prices will go $1 a gallon higher, but 15-25 cents?
The bigger yet news is, per USA Today, that AccuWeather claims the total cost of Harvey will equal Katrina PLUS Sandy.

The Arkema chemical plant northeast of Houston has started having explosions that were warned about. Beaumont is officially without city water. Colonial Pipeline is shutting down its pipe that takes the South a lot of its refined gasoline from the coast.

Politics and #Harvey and no, not too soon

This is going to be a roundup of stuff I've posted on Facebook and Twitter, or seen others post.

Houstonians, if Mayor Sylvester Turner won't stand up to developers and if Harris County Judge Ed Emmett lets a climate change denier, Russ Poppe, run the county's flood control board, and Stephen Costello, Mayor Sylvester Turner's flood control czar for Houston, also appears to be a climate change denier, when are YOU going to vote YOUR bastard out of office.

(Note to climate deniers — for every 1 degree Fahrenheit of air temperature rise, the air can hold 4 percent more water vapor. And, for Harvey, Gulf air temps were 2 degrees above normal. Was all of that climate change? Surely not. Was some of it? Surely yes.)

Don't forget Ted Cruz and John Cornyn both opposed federal aid for New York and New Jersey after Superstorm / Hurricane Sandy but immediately had their hands out on Harvey.

Also, if you live in Houston, better file property damage claims by Sept. 1, unless Gov. Greg Abbott finds a way to legally delay a bill — which he won't try to do — that this year's regular session of the Texas Legislature passed that reduces the penalty insurers pay when they chisel you.

Per that link, feel free to shit on Kelly Hancock's Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Why? Insurers give GOP money and the evil trial lawyers give Democrats money.

Local, regional and state politicians all pushing an "open for business" model (some Dems, like Turner, as co-signers) that says yes to everything the development industry wants.

Donald Trump, Tweeting about the Mexico border wall and still insisting on the idea that Mexico would be somehow made to pay for it, during the middle of the hurricane.

Texas Republicans — including old college friends who I know are politically conservative — may say this is unfair.

Sorry, but ... if you voted for these people, no its not. (That said, Turner is a ConservaDem.)

That said, if you live in Harris County and voted for these people, just look around. Start with Houston and Harris County both not having zoning ordinances.

If you support that, then .... to be honest ...

You got what you voted for. (And, you had an "open for business" Democrat Annise Parker running Houston before Turner and another nutbar Republican, Bob Eckels, before Emmett.)

At the local and regional level, especially, you've had 12 years since Rita and 9 since Ike to vote your bastards out. And, you've had Perry, then Abbott, in Austin.

For more on the issues faced by Houston, and how both recent and older politics have contributed, read this collection of articles by the Chronicle.

And, if you voted for Trump?

Well new FEMA head Brock Long (maybe he's also a climate change denier) is also among the politically connected useless idiots:
“You could not draw this forecast up. You could not dream this forecast up.”
Bullshit. Not only do we have ProPublica/Texas Tribune document Houston and Harris County exacerbating flooding, we have, from a year ago, the New York Times Sunday Review with a fictional-for-now essay modeling a Hurricane Isaiah far stronger than this. 

In other words, per an old phrase, if you've been voting for these people, you have "reaped the whirlwind.)

Of course, along with the refusal to have permeable green spaces, as the toxicity of floodwaters likely increases, is a city that has struggled for years with sewer issues.

Meanwhile, Trumpster himself says the National Flood Insurance Program won't go broke over Harvey and won't get caught in debt ceiling politics. And with that, I already see what's coming — he's going to demand the debt ceiling get connected to NFIP funding. Resist. Better yet, Dems need to offer a bill JUST for funding it. Now. Pre-emptively.

Two final notes.

First, "Nature bats last."

Second, per Ed Abbey, "Growth for growth's sake is the theology of the cancer cell."

Per that, if you really think that Rita is the only example on evacuation, not Ike, and that there's no way to truly evacuate Houston, then guess what? You got too damned many people living there.