October 06, 2017

Carmelo, Lil Russ, D-Wade, KAT in your fantasy league

Now that Carmelo Anthony has officially been traded, what does this mean for your fantasy league if you, like me, play? ESPN offers a few fantasy thoughts and I have more.

I'm in Yahoo, to be specific. Standard rotisserie. I'd already started editing my pre-draft rankings a couple of weeks ago.

First, I already moved Russell Westbrook out of the top five after the Thunder acquired Paul George. So, I don't have to move him down much more. He is now at No. 11. That could move back up a spot or two, BUT, since both Steph Curry AND Kyrie Irving are PGs, as is James Harden, and Steph and the Beard have a better all-around game, and Kyrie will get better numbers with a fast offense in Boston, no need to rank Lil Russ higher. Plus, all three of them have eligibility at both PG and SG, while Russ does not. Indeed, I may drop him another couple of slots.

That said, I'll move George lower, as he and Melo are going to be fighting for some of the same space. Otherwise, with Enes Kanter gone, Steven Adams is getting more playing time and moves up several spots. Yahoo, though, had him ranked too high at No. 50. I don't have him there even now.

Kanter is a toughie, looking back east. He didn't play a lot of minutes per game last year, splitting time with Adams. The same will be true in New York, with both Joakim Noah and Willy Hernangomez there, barring a trade. So, he stays roughly unchanged.

The Unicorn, Kristaps Porzingis, had already been moved up by Yahoo, expecting improvement from last year. It's his team now, and struggles at times and all, expect definite growth all around. He should definitely be above a Joel Embiid. Embiid has an even higher ceiling, it seems. But, until we see a totally healthy Process in action for a totally healthy long stretch, don't get suckered.

As for Melo himself? With him not being the originator of much of the offense with his new team, on stats, he'll be even lower than the NBA Rank of 63 that ESPN gave him and people bitched about. I'd move him to 70, maybe lower.

Also, regarding that earlier trade, the Kyrie-to-Boston one, I moved Kevin Love up somewhat under the theory that somebody besides LeBron has to score. And, I moved Harden down, though still ahead of Lil Russ, compared to last year since the Rockets now have Chris Paul, which will cut into Harden's assist numbers a lot.

Again, these are fantasy ranks, not real player individual comparison ranks.

Who's my No. 1 right now? I agree with some of the people in this ESPN fantasy discussion — it's KAT, Karl-Anthony Towns. (I'm in a points league.) Expect about as much scoring as last year. Expect more efficient scoring, by a touch. With a new defensive-minded coach and Thibodeau alums Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson to help with that on the floor, expect the possibility more blocks and more rebounds.

And, if defenses start focusing on him more? Definitely expect an uptick in assists. He is definitely the top big man overall. His only drawback is that he has only single-position eligibility with Yahoo, unlike the Unicorn and Anthony Davis, my no. 2 big, and his running mate, DeMarcus Cousins.

One other early note? Consider moving Kawhi Leonard down a few spots. At a minimum, he's going to miss the entire preseason. Per my note about this year's T-Wolves, and earlier comments about players with multi-position eligibility, Butler is a good alternative.

And, outside of the fantasy world, should we just pencil in the Houston Rockets as this year's Southwest Division champs? The fact that this Leonard has an injury problem that arose last year, and that it's unrelated to his ankle injuries, should be matter for concern.

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And a sidebar:

Dwyane Wade in your fantasy league?

DON'T.

Read my post about him and the Bulls mutually dumping each other, if you actually are thinking of this.

Well, if you're in a league with 10 or more players, and are looking for depth at the 9 spot or lower, maybe.

==

Sidebar 2: Additional injury news could further change this, of course. I started gathering my ideas a few days back, then saw Kawhi's injury.

October 05, 2017

Tom Price; Ryan Zinke; Steve Mnuchin; Rick Perry; Hillary Clinton

Yes, this is another of those "tie the threads of the header together" blog posts.

And, trust me, I'll get there soon enough.

Even lighter-level news junkies know that President Trump's former Secretary of Health and Human Services, Dr. Tom Price, resigned from that position last week after it came to light he was engaged in tens of thousands of dollars of private charter jet flights, on the taxpayer dime, rather than flying commercial.

More serious political junkies —

And now, the inspector general for the Department of Interior is investigating Secretary Ryan Zinke for a few questionable flights, one in particular.

And NOW, the Treasury's IG is investigating the flight pattern of Eli Miller, chief of staff to Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

Update: Energy Secretary Rick Perry and staff are now in the crosshairs. Maybe Tricky Ricky needs timely back pain meds, so much fly noncommercial for that reason?

OK, we're obviously on "I'll take 'unethical government air travel' for $500, Alex," territory.

And, for people who are nearly my age, if not older, and who are almost as much of political news junkies as me, perhaps your memory, and your sense of snarkiness, have both been stimulated ...

Back to the first of several Hillarygates in the Slickster Clinton White House.

I am, of course, talking about the White House travel office controversy.

The good old Travelgate.

Already long before her private email server, and her "interactions" vis-a-vis that server with former FBI head James Comey, she sounds just the same, per the Wiki link:
Hillary Clinton gradually came under scrutiny for allegedly having played a central role in the firings and making false statements about her involvement therein. In 2000, Independent Counsel Robert Ray issued his final report on Travelgate. He sought no charges against her, saying that while some of Clinton's statements were factually false, there was insufficient evidence that these statements were either knowingly false or that she understood that her statements led to the firings.
She hasn't changed a lick, has she?

That's pretty much exactly what Comey said when he initially closed his investigation a year ago, before Anthony Weiner's weiner got intermingled with "private" Clinton emails on Huma Abedin's cellphone. Remember his "extremely careless" statement, per Wiki's summation of THAT case?

(Speaking of, from last summer, about the time Comey had his initial wrap-up, the Guardian, no wingnut outlet by any means, did a round-up of all the Clinton "-gates." Some, like Gennifer Flowers, turned out to be unproven, if not unprovable, if simply not true. But, on the Bill Clinton "-gates," he had, er, left his pants down.)

And, oh the fun. Harry Thomason and Linda Bloodworth-Thomason and their possible grifting.

And the sadness. The beginnings of Vince Foster's eventually fatal tumble downhill.

And the pettiness. Like the Clintons appearing to throw first White House Chief of Staff Mack McLarty under the bus.

And, the "big reveal." Yes, the phrase may be called sexist, but I've used it before. For the first time since they moved to DC, it was revealed that Hillary Clinton was the one who really wore the pants in the family. In turn, that's part of what animated her Tammy Wynette, I think. Standing by Bill was done in exchange for her relatively free hand on this, on Hillarycare and more.

And, as per the thread of this blog post, since it IS, ultimately, all about Hillary in the end, well, I've made it that way. Thank me later.

October 03, 2017

HR36 and a few abortion thoughts

I don't blog a lot about abortion. Probably less than gay rights by a fair degree. Maybe less, even, than gay marriage specifically.

But, with the House passing HR 36, the euphemistically titled "Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act," it's time to do that again.

First, that title. Almost all doctors outside those with a specific pro-life oar they're rowing say fetuses don't feel pain until at least 24 weeks. Therefore, the bill's title, as well as one main premise, are lies.

So too is the lie that Margaret Sanger et al were trying to eliminate the black race.

Next, a few journalism opinion notes.

I don't agree with Ross Douthat, unlike I once did. Roe itself didn't enshrine a "near-absolute" right, and it's been whittled away since then anyway.

I also don't agree with Ted Rall (link to original broken), unlike I also once did. Abortion is not murder for various legal grounds. A, it isn't by constitutional definition. B, Outside of that, even, a woman seeking abortion generally is not acting under the idea she is taking human life. And, on 8 years of further experience with Rall's handiwork, I recognize his stance for the "look at me" semi-trollery that much of his stuff is.

Next, some legal history, and plain history, here. That link will explain the history of abortion in America, what the Bible does and does not say (basically, says nothing) and more.

And from there, to matters biological. As in, spontaneous unconsciously deliberately done abortion happens in the animal world.

Spontaneous (maybe also unconsciously deliberately done, for all we know) abortion happens in at least 20 percent, and probably 30 percent or more, of human conceptions. That's why Francisco Ayala, a renowned biologist and at least nominally a Catholic, says "god is the greatest abortionist of all." That should be no surprise; the allegedly omnipotent god or "intelligent designer" of purportedly orthodox Christianity allows teratomas, chimeras and other abnormal conceptions. The ones that make it to birth should NOT be taken as a pro-life justification, as they ignore the surely more than 30 percent that are aborted, or in the case of most teratomas, only one is actually alive.

And, that leads more directly to theology. Soul ensoulment at conception, as shown in part by teratomas and zygotes, has no medical standing. And, unless one wants to call god "the greatest soul-killer of all," it has no theological standing either.

Please do NOT cite original sin to blame a mythical Adam and Eve for this, either. Let's start with that being offensive even in terms of some Christian doctrines. Let's then go to many Christian wings, including the entire Eastern Orthodox tradition, not believing in original sin.

==

That said, as I noted on Twitter, and up at the top here, I don't blog about abortion a lot.

There's several reasons.

One is that although I no longer agree with Douthat or Rall in semi-major part, even (I never did fully), I still think that neither is totally wrong.

Per Douthat, I do think that some people in the pro-choice movement, just like the majority of the pro-life movement, do engage in some slippery slope thinking.

Per Rall, abortion may not be murder, but, it's "something." Involuntary manslaughter, or some weird halfway equivalent? If we as a society as a whole feel zero moral questioning over the issue, period ...  shouldn't we?

And, that's one other reason I don't blog about it a lot.

I'm a Humean philosopher. I know that his famous "an is does not imply an ought" is very, very, true here. Just because spontaneous abortion happens in humans, and in animals, and perhaps some subconsciously deliberate happening in animals, doesn't mean we should necessary say, "OK, abortion!" We may decide for other reasons to accept a right to abortion in at least some cases, but it neither logically nor ethically follows that we should do so based on those biological facts.

And that is how philosophy works in the real world.

And, without revealing conversational details? Anyone who thinks any of this is "shallow"? I'm sorry, but I'll respectfully say that that's your problem, not mine, whichever "side" you come from.

And, with that, and since we're talking about philosophy on a complex issue (about which I only covered a portion — I didn't claim to be writing an encyclopedia — I simply covered the biology and ethics of the issue, not the availability of abortion providers, insurance or other coverage of costs, or many other issues), let's go to a favorite quote from another philosopher, Idries Shah:
“To 'see both sides' of a problem is the surest way to prevent its complete solution. Because there are always more than two sides.”
That's VERY true on this issue.

That's one big reason I don't write more about it. The fact that it has encyclopedic permutations, philosophically, legally, politically and otherwise is another reason, and a related one.

It's also why I get firmer in looking for the third or fourth side of it as I get older. 

And, on "both" sides of the argument as usually presented, this is also, in my opinion, very much a typical American issue. Black-and-white. Polarities. And, yes, one can find nuances both emotions and thoughts.

Otherwise, I just ask for logical and empirical honesty.

That said, I'll give you one more of mine.

I"ve long felt that Roe, while rightly decided on the result, was wrongly decided on the grounds. It should have been placed under the Ninth Amendment and the court should have used the opportunity to find a right to privacy as one of the amendment's unenumerated rights. Justice Goldberg, in the related Griswold case, and the district court in Roe, both went that way. Rightly, in my opinion.

TX Progressives mourn Vegas and Puerto Rico in the wrangle

The Texas Progressive Alliance again calls for more and better gun control in the wake of the Las Vegas shooting, and again urges our government to take utmost care of our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico as it brings you this week's roundup.

We also again call for the media, and law enforcement, to call the likes of Stephen Paddock "terrorists" because they are.

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At the same time, per Brains:

I too why Democrats can't seem to generate many candidates or much enthusiasm for 2018.  Part of the reason may lie in a recent US House vote, where four of the state's most prominent Democrats -- Joaquin Castro, Lloyd Doggett, Beto O'Rourke, and Mark Veazey -- voted against a few small tax breaks for Hurricane Harvey victims.  Even Republicans were surprised, and explanations seemed unsatisfactory. (That said, other Dems outside of Texas also voted against the bill; and that also said, the DACA excuse, at least, seems small beer for all of them.)

With that bit of puzzlement — and you wonder why he and I think outside the duopoly box — here's the week's roundup.


==

Off the Kuff laments the Fifth Circuit ruling that will allow some enforcement of the "sanctuary cities" law.

SocraticGadfly sees wingnuts creating red herrings and strawmen over Dallas' removal of the Robert E. Lee statue, and exposes their deliberate fallacies.

The F!^%*&ing Russians made headlines again, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs cringed.

Neil at All People Have Value took a picture of electrical wires on a rainy day. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

Jobsanger notes that Republican-leaning pollster Rasmussen has three-quarters of respondents saying American voters are uninformed.

Lewisville Texan Journal says Lewisville ISD School Board is talking about campus rezoning.

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

Grits for Breakfast notes that Bexar County approved essentially decriminalizing personal possession amounts of marijuana.

Therese Odell is spitting mad about the whole Trump/NFL thing.

Leif Reigstad makes the case against luring Amazon's HQ2 to your hometown.

Michael Li has yet another update on the redistricting lawsuit.

Paradise in Hell finds one place where the Trump economy is booming.

Space City Weather recommends some reading for their fellow meteorology nerds.

Texas Observer notes that Gov. Greg Abbott still hates Texas' big cities.

The Texas Tribune notes that soft, and dark, campaign finance money is part of what's behind the public not knowing much about potential post-Harvey petrochemical contamination.

October 02, 2017

#Cardinals eliminated — early post-mortem for 2017 #StlCards

First, yes, I know, owner Bill DeWitt signs all the paychecks in Busch Stadium but I, and I know many other Birds fans, disagree with his pretty staunch support for Mike Matheny at the helm. I said at the time that I wanted Terry Francona. I suspect that then-GM John Mozeliak didn't ink Tito because he thought he'd be less controllable.

I mean, a couple of years ago, in the Cards' last playoff year, ESPN rated Matheny as worst bullpen manager of the 10 there. And another commenter notes that Sports Illustrated ranked him as DFL among current managers. If you missed it, as I had, here you go. Actually, SI predicted the Birds would miss the playoffs and fire Matheny; Sheehan was on Bernie Miklasz's ESPN St. Louis radio show. Per that "here you go," it's about an 8-minute clip.

Is he the worst? I know he's bottom one-third. Per Bernie's response, I wouldn't object to him being bottom-five at least. What's funny is they talk about how he was allegedly going to be such a good developer of young talent when hired, and in reality, that's been one of his biggest areas of suckitude.

Speaking of these issues, why did they miss the playoffs again this year?

The bullpen was part of the problem, aside from any bad management issues by Matheny. The "aside from any bad management" is on Mo. Too bad Joe Kelly was part of the Allen Craig trade; too bad Mo as well as Matheny weren't eyeing him in the pen rather than the rotation before he was traded. (That said, it took Boston a year-plus to figure that out itself.)

Another issue, per Jose Ortiz, is that the team just didn't play winning-level baseball. This goes back to Matheny not doing enough to coach up young talent, mentally as well as physically. Too many players on this team still make too many boneheaded mistakes too often.

A season-long funk by Matt Carpenter, as lead representative of anemic bats on the team was third. Mo has to determine, in conjunction with Matheny, how much of that was due to an apparent season-long nagging shoulder injury.

Per Ben Frederickson, or at least a commenter on his Post-Dispatch slide show piece, Carpenter could be gone.

Certainly either Randal Grichuk or Stephen Piscotty will be, given the emergence of Tommy Pham and the semi-albatross of Dexter Fowler's contract. (And, speaking of that, how long does Mo get a semi-free pass from St. Louis' paper of record, given the stinkers of both the Fowler and Mike Leake contracts, both of which I blogged about at the time?)

Of those two, even with his strikeouts and all, Grichuk has the higher possible upside, and he can play center and Piscotty can't. (And Fowler shouldn't.) Of course, that makes him possibly worth more in trade.

Other outfielders, like Jose Martinez and Magneuris Sierra could go, too, as could Aledmys Diaz, with the short-term emergence of Paul DeJong. (That said, there's still questions about how sustainable DeJong's burst is, especially given his high strikeouts.)

Semi-untouchables on my list, other than Fowler getting himself made semi-untouchable with the full no-trade clause, would be Carlos Martinez, Pham, Kolton Wong and Yadier Molina. Maybe Jedd Gyorko.

Speaking of Yadi, Miklasz at ESPN radio wonders how often he's been concussed — and what cumulative effect it's had. And why Matheny hasn't been more assertive in watching this.

And, what will happen with Lance Lynn? He seems determined to test free agency, but he really spit the bit a week ago. Is he hurt? Frederickson notes that he's got a history of getting mum when he is. I give 3-1 odds he's gone, though. I will also venture offers outside St. Louis are less than totally overwhelming and that he signs something like a five-year contract with an opt-out option after two years.

If that's the case, a starting rotation of Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Luke Weaver, a theoretically ready Alex Reyes and ... ? Waino? Jack Flaherty? NO, Tyler Lyons is not starter material. Given Martinez's unpredictability, the club still having some concern about Wacha's durability, the lack of assurance at this point about where Reyes will be next March and other things, that's not highly inspiring. Especially if the bullpen behind it is still weak tea. I mean, Lynn is the only starter with an ERA+ of better than 120, and the only besides Carlos (not prorating Leake) to go more than 170 innings.

Complicating all of this is that GM Michael Hirsch has said the team won't make any further move toward resigning Lynn until knowing more about Waino's status, including whether or not he might need surgery. That said, that itself is a "tell" indeed. Sounds like whatever is currently on the table for Lynn is it on the hometown side, if Wainwright does NOT need the knife. On the plus side, per that same link, Reyes has started throwing bullpen sessions.

And, updating that? Waino is getting 'scoped. Matheny says it's not a "reconstruction" and that Wainright will be ready for spring training.

There's one flip side on Lynn. He turned 30 this year. It's arguable, per Derrick Goold (ignoring his laugher that Jason Heyward has been an agent of change in the division, other than making Fowler look better on D in Chicago last year than he really was) that 25-30 is a sweet spot for starting pitching.

(Per Goold's laugher? One could theoretically argue that Heyward was a changer of attitudes, but I think manager Joe Maddon has a lot more to do with that. Other intangibles besides that might merit a minor footnote, but no more, and in any case, Goold doesn't claim he's talking about intangibles.)

And, that bullpen. Seung-hwan Oh will be gone, performance apologies aside. Trevor Rosenthal is TJ-rehabbing for the year. Most of the rest of the pen needs to be gone, even though Brett Cecil will only be gone by waivers or DFA. Juan Nicasio has a good shot at the closer's role.

Meanwhile, and looking to the Cubs' Addison Russell and Nachoes Man, and not mentioning 2006 Birds shortstop hero David Eckstein, Bernie suggests the Cards lack grit, or something like it. He also suggests that to the degree that intangible something is missing, Matheny is at least partially to blame.

And, I think he's right on that part of assessing Matheny as a manager. And, that may be something that doesn't change, even though Mike has shown flashes of getting better as a bullpen manager.

==

OK, we Cards fans know we need definite bullpen help, and may need a starter if Lynn isn't re-signed, especially re where Reyes is at in March. Proper decisions in the outfield about who stays and doesn't, and who plays what spots, along with the emergence of DeJong — if it sticks — should address bat power issues.

The Carp issue is probably the other biggest thing on the offseason plate for now. I'll tune in again once free agency has started, as we're already getting hints Mo plans to strike early, whatever he does.

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Update: Trading for the potentially available Giancarlo Stanton would certainly quick-start a team upgrade.