October 28, 2017

Greg AtLast ponders the mystery of #ActualFlatticus

Yes, folks, Greg AtLast, the smarter, saner doppelganger of Greg Palast, dropped in with time out from his busy schedule to discuss the mystery of Actual Flatticus, aka Alan Smithee, aka the in real life Christopher Chopin.



In addition to those insightful musings, AtLast also said he wondered why so many of Flatty's closest followers retweeted so much material that was from either winger or conspiracy theorist Tweeters.

And, here's those blog posts Greg AtLast was referencing.

First, here is the nearly complete and of importance (so far) history of Chris Chopin and family. This is what AtLast was referencing in terms of tips, etc.

Second, here's Flatty possibly being a sheepdogger himself; again, ironic at a minimum and perhaps more than that.

Third, here's the appeal to move beyond the duopoly and positively become active with third parties of the left — which would be true to the spirt of Flatty if he wasn't a double agent.

AtLast later remembered how Flatty fellated Jay Sekulow, Donald Trump's lawyer. Given his dad, L. Frank Chopin's, coziness to Donald Trump, it raises further the agent provocateur / double agent issue. (Or, if not coziness, in the early days, an element of getting played like a sucker.)

For those tips, to stay anonymous, you can post a comment here, but because comments are moderated, it doesn't have to show up as a comment post-approval!

October 27, 2017

Why I killed my High Country News subscription (updated)

Note: Original post was from early 2016.

When my suburban Dallas newspaper company went belly-up in 2009, and the parent company of the newspaper where I wound up next went into Chapter 11 my first day of work, I naturally tightened the belt a bit.

Among things lost was a subscription to High Country News. It was a magazine I loved.

I still read the non-paywalled articles. And I still touted stories it had done on social media. But, I wanted to read its in-depth pieces, and I wanted to resubscribe.

So, I got a digital-only subscription. Which I have let lapse. And won't renew.

Nor am I likely to read the non-paywalled articles. Nor am I likely to tout HCN on social media any more.

It's gone off the rails somewhat. And, late-February issues finally turned on a light bulb.

As far as I can tell, it's given in to the Overton Window.

When you have a staff writer who repeatedly has called Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski a "moderate," that's what we call a "tell." When you run a photo caption about Sagebrush Rebellion folks having their constitutional rights violated and never use the word "alleged," that's a concern.

The straw that broke the camel's back? Numerous problems related to their commenting system. They generally revolved around articles about the Bundys taking over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, and the amount of "constitutionalist" drivel, followed by outright conspiracy theories, that people there started posting.

Yes, you may have an old, proprietary or semi-proprietary back-end system for website content management in general. But, I suggested a couple of easy fixes.

One was to limit commenting to subscribers only.

If that was too draconian, another one was to put a three-day, or maybe five-day, limit on articles being open for commenting. I'm sure that either one is easy to do. I know that Wordpress-based websites, and I think even the free blogging version of Wordpress, allow that. If your CMS doesn't allow for either one of those, it's time to look at investing in something new, because it has problems otherwise.

And, you don't even need that. Given that HCN web staff will manually close comments for an article, they could easily do that for every article after a three-day or a five-day comment window.

An "attentuated" version of enforcing commenting guidelines was the straw within the straw. Calling an apparent tea partier a tea partier is apparently a personal attack, rather than arguably nothing more than a label, even as the tea partier (and others on other threads) hijack comments by repeatedly going into the deep weeds of constitutional misinterpretation.

Further exacerbating it is that it's invariably non-subscribers doing this. Per evolutionary biology, I don't have to feed the beast on the well-known "freeloader" problem.

The Overton Window would also explain why the likes of Felice Pace no longer write there. Let alone Jeff St. Clair.

That said, there were other reasons, too.

HCN repeatedly emails me, and presumably all subscribers, about advertising opportunities for coming issues and special sections.

Erm, I'm not a business. And, I shouldn't have to be forced to find out how to opt out of such emailings; they should be an opt-in system.

That said, these issues are probably related to why Pace and St. Clair no longer write there — they probably spook some donors.

And, yet, it can't email me personally about my feedback, and how they're addressing commenting issues — if they are at all.

Call this all the feedback of a jilted lover.

Update, Oct. 27, 2017: Per Jonny in comments? I understand where your explanation comes from, but, on more left, cantankerous, or whatever writers? Jim Stiles still, or again, has your number. Note: I don't totally agree with Stiles on "extractive tourism" (my name) or whatever we call it. But, he has a reasonable degree of worry, unless touristy Western small towns establish higher minimum wages for better employment and other things. While Bears Ears (setting aside worries of Trump trying to shrink it and possibly winning court battles) is highly unlikely to be commodified, look at Arches.

October 26, 2017

#TxLege — the myth of the 'moderate Republican' and the inside-the-Mopac gaggle

I've mentioned the inside-the-Mopac gaggle a few times before. Texas mainstream media aren't all bad all the time, but, the political reporters, and even more the analysts and pundits from the legacy print media, and the new online folks like the Trib, are often as problematic as their inside-the-Beltway peers in DC. (Some exceptions, like Jonathan Tilove, and Bud Kennedy from his remove in Fort Worth, do bat above average a fair chunk of the time.)

And, of course, that's why I created the inside-the-Mopac phrase.

Yesterday's Joe Straus retirement announcement did just the opposite, by and large, of bringing the cream to the top. Turds in the punchbowl, to use another metaphor, would be more correct.

I think I would have thrown up in Joe Straus' mouth had I seen the phrase "moderate Republican" once more. (The vomitorious feeling was compounded by Patrick Svitek at the Trib, in a clear swipe at Tom Wakely, saying that Andrew White was the "serious candidate" Dems have been waiting for to run for governor.)

Anyway, Joe Straus is NOT a "moderate Republican."

That's because no such thing exists in the Texas Legislature, or in state-level executive offices, whether elected or appointed.

I could accept the phrase "moderate conservative."

But "moderate"? Absolutely not.

I refuse to participate in the inside-the-Mopac's enabling the Texas GOP of today by erecting a glass house of Overton Windows.

Some of them did mention that Straus signed off on the sanctuary cities bill, at least implying that he could have further moderated it, if not blocked it completely, a la the bathroom bill lite that got some traction in the House.

But, the turd-polishing label of moderate Republican still gets attached to him.

This was only added to by Chris Hooks not only calling Straus a moderate, but writing something that looked like Hooks was offering his services as media spin doctor should Straus make the Indy run for governor.

I swear, Bernard and Audre Rapaport must be turning over in their graves every time one of Hooks' pieces runs in the Observer.

October 25, 2017

Joe Straus retiring as House Speaker in the #txlege (updated)

Frenemies Joe Straus and Greg Abbott
Texans who are political-minded know this is a seismic shift.

Texas Speaker of the House Joe Straus, who is in his fifth term, announced today he is not running for re-election.

First, what next for Joe? He announced he wants to keep influencing the Texas GOP in other ways. But he seemed to rule out any immediate run for political office, as in appearing to say "pass" for 2018.

That would seem to put the kibosh on friend Brains' speculations from earlier this year that Straus might look at an independent run for governor.

But —

1. Never say never with a politician.
2. And always look for their wiggle room.

Straus doesn't rule out future political runs, whether in 2018 or later. Nor does he rule out that his attempts to influence the state GOP could be done as an "independent" governor.

And, that all said, since I put a poll on Twitter, we're gonna have one here. Look right, in the right-hand rail. I've got multiple polls right now, so you might have to look carefully. But, vote in all of them.

In a presser after the Facebook announcement, per the Chronic and elsewhere, Straus said "I don't think so" and "no plan today" about running for governor. He also said he "highly doubt(ed)" he would be on the 2018 ballot.

However, none of those is "no."

My odds right now? About 10 percent that he would do it. It would take a massive war chest, among other things, but Texas Association of Business might well do it, over the bathroom bill if nothing else. And, he's reportedly (as of June 30) got $10 million already in his campaign war chest. And, over the past several years, he's the No. 1 fundraiser among state legiscritters.

And via "Joe Straus Republicans" in the House, he's got a network of ground-level support possibility.

If the door is open a crack, he'll neither open it wider for public consumption nor Katy bar the door  until after Thanksgiving, with the Dec. 11 filing deadline, is my guess.

Second question — who replaces him as Speaker?

I'm guesstimating that Straus is likely to try to line up support for Byron Cook. Would that be enough to put him over the top?

And, scratch that. Per the Chronic, Cook is also bowing out. Sounds like this might have been coordinated. Or, at a minimum, Cook didn't want an Arrow shirt from the tea partiers and when Straus gave him a heads up, he said "I'm outta here too."

John Zerwas, who falls somewhat between the Straus wing and nutbar wing of the Texas GOP, though closer overall to the Straus wing, has announced his candidacy for the Speakership. Phil King, who is most definitely from the nutbar wing, is also in. Eric Johnson has indicated interest in being the token Democrat.

Per Erica Greider, if there are 12 Republicans a top House Dem would support for speaker, then one of those GOPers, if he or she brings the other 11 along, that means Dems need to win 9 net seats in November 2018 or else one of those "dirty dozen" needs to find at least 9 other GOPers plus that group of 12, to pull a Straus.

Oh, and you inside-the-Mopac media? Stop calling Straus a "moderate Republican."

STRAUS FUTURE

Does Straus want the Lite Gov spot, if he doesn't challenge Abbott but wants to keep his thumb on the scale of Texas Republican politics from the inside? I kind of doubt it. There's few Joe Straus Republicans in the Texas Senate and I think he'd face a fair amount of semi-open rebellion, even with his best manipulation of committee assignments.

Of course, there IS one other statewide office.

Since Matthew Dowd already bowed out as an independent candidate, Straus coulllldddd run against one Rafael Cruz for the Senate. I don't see that as likely, as it would remove Joe from state-level politics, but ... you never know.

Brains weighs in with thoughts and links.

==

Update, Dec. 17: JoeBob DID say he was going to stay involved with the Texas GOP's future in some way or another. Strangely, he's been silencio the last few weeks as Strangeabbott's kicked various "Straus Republicans" in the shins.

October 24, 2017

TX Progressives salute Astros, take first look at primaries

The Texas Progressive Alliance congratulates the Houston Astros on winning the AL pennant as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff noted the great plethora of Democratic Congressional candidates.

SocraticGadfly took note of the latest stupidity of Eddie Bernice Johnson, plus her history, and thinks she should stop running for Congress and needs a Green challenger if nothing else.

"The Eleven", a documentary about the hunt for the murderer of young women in Galveston County in the 70's, was previewed by PDiddie at Brains and Eggs.

Neil at All People Have Value reviewed important public art in Houston. APHV is part of NeilAquno.com.

Offcite asks what a "more resilient Houston" looks like.

John Coby at Bay Area Houston takes a look at the CD7 Democratic primary early financials.

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

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

Offcite asks what a "more resilient Houston" looks like.

The Lunch Tray casts a suspicious eye at "smarter lunchrooms".

Leah Binkovitz shows how to get serious about flooding
Brittanie Shey documents post-Harvey restaurant cleanup.

Space City Weather has a fall forecast.

Better Texas Blog worries about our retirement savings shortfall.

The Startlegram notes that Ag Secretary Sid Milleris getting his brisket blistered over new meat-weighting rules at BBQ joines.

October 23, 2017

MLB realignment? Manfred is half right

Supposedly, Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred wants to expand from 30 to 32 teams, with Montreal and Portland being the targets.

So far, so good. For scheduling reasons, the league needs to either add two teams or lose two, if it’s not going to go back to the old 16-team National League and 14-team American League, in my opinion. Montreal is prepped for the return of baseball, and Portland is probably the best option for a second team. For more on the "which cities" issue, see this old blog post.

After that?

Manfred also wants to junk the AL and NL, merge them into one combined league and foist (yes, that’s the word) the designated hitter on all 32 teams.

Sorry, Rob, but you lost me there. Yes, I know many other leagues internationally, as well as US minor leagues, use the DH. Yes, I know that DH ideas were broached nearly a century ago, so appeals to the pitcher batting as “traditional” aren’t all-powerful.

But, I can also say that I’m sure the DH is part of why AL games are longer than NL ones, another matter of concern on Manfred’s plate.

Manfred supposedly wants to add yet another playoff team in each half of a combined league, or whatever, for 12 total.

I’ll pass on that one, too. I have no desire for baseball to become yet more like the NFL, let alone the possibility of the NBA or NHL in a watered-down playoff system.

So, let’s take the top part of his idea and stop there.

Let’s add one team each to the current AL and NL and go from there.

Here's how this plays out in terms of alignment and scheduling.

We could have either four four-team divisions per league, or two eight-team divisions.

I have four playoff teams either way, with allowing both wild cards to come from the same division with eight-team divisions. That actually tightens things up a bit from the current.

Here's how the scheduling would work.

Eight-team divisions:
1. Three games against each team in one division from the other league = 24 games.
2. Eight games against each team in the other division in your league = 64 games.
3. Eleven games against four teams in your division and ten games against the other three = 74 games and you're at 162.

Four-team divisions, option 1:
1. Three games against each team in two divisions from the other league = 24 games.
2. Eight games against each team in the other three divisions in your league = 96 games.
3. Fourteen games against the teams in your division = 42 games and you're at 162.

Four-team divisions, option 2:
1. Three games against each team in two divisions from the other league = 24 games.
2. Eight games against eight teams in the other divisions in your league and nine against four teams = 102 games.
3. Twelve games against the teams in your division = 36 games and you're at 162.

In any of these cases, two 12-game sets of interleague games, say mid-May and end of July, takes care of that. The rest of the season is in-league baseball, with scheduling somewhat slanted toward one division, but not overly so.

Manfred has also supposedly talked about a shorter schedule and a day off every week. Well, baseball already has more days off than 20 years ago. Add yet more and a 12-team playoff set, even with a shorter schedule, and we’ll likely have a November World Series about every other year.

With eight-team divisions, I can get his desired 156 games AND kill interleague play entirely. Play each team in your division 12 times and the other division nine times. Or with four-team divisions, play each team in your division 12 times and 10 times for the rest of the league. Keep a four-team playoff for each league and we're set.

Pay me $50K for a consulting fee and we're good to go, Rob!