SocraticGadfly: 11/26/17 - 12/3/17

December 02, 2017

A few quick notes on the #TrumpTaxScam
and the #resistance

First, it's really, of course, a GOP Tax Scam. That said, I doubt they'd try it with Shrub Bush in office. I know they wouldn't with Poppy Bush and probably not with Reagan.

Of course, while Reagan was already trying to whittle away at America's safety net, it was around the edges, and he probably wouldn't have asked for that much with this Congress.

But, when the executive branch is led by an infant, with his on-the-ground Veep pandering to the worst of the Religious Right, the children are going to play in Congress, too.

And, the children got elected after Obama got elected.

I blame, for that:
1. Shrub, Poppy, and consiglieres of both for not calling out Tea Party Congressional candidates, or the entire movement, quickly.
2. Dear Leader for continuing to try to sing "Kumbaya" with them after more and more of them got elected to Congress specifically in backlash to him, and often in race-driven backlash.
2A. Preznit Kumbaya a second time for gutting the Democratic National Committee and doing nothing to help Democratic congressional candidates in 2010.
3. The few alleged GOP adults already in Congress.

Speaking of, vag-hat-wearing #Resistance folks, how do you feel now about your "normalizing" of both Schmuck Talk Express John McCain and Jeff Flake in the past few weeks?

Your "movement" is as thin as baby oatmeal with both of them, with Shrub Bush aforementioned, and others.

It's also as thin as oatmeal for those of you who rightly reject much of what Hillary Clinton stood for but still uncritically accept Obama. He rightfully earned the Dear Leader moniker for reasons like this.

I'll confess that I had some hope McCain would vote no, based on his Obamacare repeal stance. That said, this just proves again that he can be almost as much a weathervane as Trump himself at times.

December 01, 2017

Your genes and your corporate enemies

I saw a story recently in my Twitter feed that major genetic personal research companies like 23 and Me and Ancestry had agreed to honor warrants from law enforcement agencies to hand over personal genetic information.

I found this troubling. Having done a filing with 23 and Me, in conjunction with a relative, I decided to close my account. I found the appropriate link and filed to close the account. Its reply made me double down on that decision. That email, in part, says:
Under certain circumstances, Personal Information may be subject to disclosure pursuant to judicial or other government subpoenas, warrants, or orders, or in coordination with regulatory authorities. 
We treat law enforcement inquiries, such as a valid subpoena or court order, with the utmost seriousness. We use all legal measures to resist any and all requests in order to protect the privacy of our customers. 
To date, we have successfully challenged these requests and have not released any information to law enforcement. You can view the number of requests 23andMe has received from law enforcement on our transparency report at: (here). 
23andMe and the contracted genotyping laboratory may retain your Genetic Information as required by local law, pursuant to the federal Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 and California laboratory regulations. 
I first found the additional reference to “in coordination with regulatory authorities” disconcerting. WHAT regulatory authorities? Why? What “coordination”? And, in regard to law enforcement, WHAT “orders” beyond warrants?

And, how much do you resist? Remember, Apple refused to unlock the San Bernardino shooter’s iPhone under warrant.

That, like this, is a Fifth Amendment case of “persons and papers.”

The transparency report also says nothing about 23 and Me contacting ME whenever it should get such a request. I assume it does NOT. And unlike the dead San Bernardino shooter, I would still be alive.

Had 23 and Me said differently, that it WOULD contact me at the time of request, it might be different. But it’s not.

And, company policy on something like this is always subject to individual interpretation.

And, that last paragraph is disconcerting itself. What local law? Etc. It's clearly California state law, but, whereas "Hugh" from 23 and Me can cite federal statute to his advantage when it is to his advantage, nothing here.

Beyond that, I’d already been less than totally fond of 23 and Me’s number of “upselling” offers. “Genetic basics? Would you like some fries with that”? (I assume Ancestry et al operate similarly.)

So my advice?

Close your account if you have one with any of these agencies.

Never start one if you haven't yet.

November 30, 2017

Smokey Joe Barton — GONE

Well, not until January 2019, as he will serve out his current term, but he Ennis Congresscritter has announced he won't run for re-election in light of his sexting scandal.

Leave it to the Dallas Morning Snooze to try one last time to normalize Barton. Todd Gilman claims that, outside the current sexting scandal, nobody would say that Barton was less than "honorable"?

Really, Todd?

Snooze nemesis Jim Schutze earlier this week reported on Barton's nepotism and shakedown work. He also refudiated the Snooze's attempt to portray Barton as having little Religious Right connection, as it just did again today.

Barton is a flamboyantly self-professed champion of something called Republican family values, and he is an arch-foe of LGBT rights.
And, maybe he wasn't as flamboyant as a Gohmert Pyle, aka Louie Gohmert, but he mentioned it enough. And Jim's got the details:
In his career in Congress, Barton has voted against any federal family planning assistance that includes abortion. He has voted to ban all federal health coverage that includes coverage for abortion. He has voted in favor of a ban on transporting minors to get abortions. He has voted in favor of a ban on partial-birth abortions. 
Barton has voted to exclude all funding for family planning from U.S. foreign aid. He has voted yes to make it a crime to harm a fetus during commission of another crime. 
Barton has voted to ban gay adoptions in Washington, D.C. He has voted in favor of a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. He has voted in favor of a constitutional amendment defining marriage as one-man-one-woman. He has voted against prohibiting job discrimination based on sexual orientation. He has voted against including anti-gay crimes under federal hate-crimes protection. 
Closer to home, in 2005, Barton created the Joe Barton Family Foundation, a tax-exempt nonprofit with a stated goal of providing “substantial support to select charitable organizations within Texas’s sixth congressional district to enable them to achieve aggressive goals that would have been otherwise unattainable.” He announced right off that he would use his foundation to provide almost a million dollars to a local Boys and Girls Club and a local Meals on Wheels program.

Rod Dreher, Mr. former Snooze homophobe columnist, also refudiates the Snooze's fake narrative attempt. As part of that, he notes that Barton repeatedly ran for office on "conservative family values." Dreher also rejects the idea of a Snooze editorial that this was just "poor judgment."

Back to Schutze's piece.

Jim goes on — go read it — about how much of the money for the foundation wasn't donated by him, or friends, but "friends" in the oil and gas big biz world. (More on that from the Washington Post; it triggered an Office of Congressional Ethics investigation.)

Barton also took a Religious Right stance on climate change:
He opposed wind energy on biblical grounds, warning, “Wind is God’s way of balancing heat.” Wind turbines, Barton said, “would slow the winds down” and increase global warming. He once barked at congressional colleague Nancy Pelosi, “You can’t regulate God!” which is probably true.
You can't make this stuff up, and Snooze folks, you can't make it go away, either.

And, it doesn't stop there. Wiki notes, as referenced as an aside by Schutze, the nepotism angle. Smokey Joe's daughter-in-law was the executive director of his foundation, also noted by the WaPost. Wiki also notes that his then-wife and daughter got paid for campaign work. And the New York Times, on the foundation nepotism, had him listed among top Congresscritter grifters.

He threw autistic kids under the bus in the name of Big Oil. He was well known as a witness-bullier during Congressional hearings.

Also per Wiki, Barton had been primaried the last three elections. Guess more and more fellow Republicans found him less than "honorable," Todd.

Meanwhile, I remember well how Smokey Joe got the Snooze to fire Jim Frisinger and Timothy O'Leary off its op-ed staff because of their environmental editorials about things like Midlothian cement plants. Folks like Downwinders at Risk remember, too. And Todd Gilman knows that too.

And, as far as less than honorable?

Buying gas wells from a lobbyist surely counts. Hell, Gilman's own paper reported that.

As does using Katrina aid funds to cut a blank check for Big Oil.

That's all from my blog, but I had plenty of opportunity to see Barton professionally during most the previous decade. I was, long ago, less impressed with his honor than is Gilman.


Speaking of the infamous firings, both Frisinger and O'Leary have moved on from their original landing spots. Frisinger, who went to the op-ed desk at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, is now the Fort Worth district spox for the Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps has gotten a shade greener than it was a decade ago, but that's still less environmentalist than his stance long ago.

O'Leary went to the UN in Geneva. Can't remember what agency he went to. He's now a freelance journo in the Philippines; I tweeted him to ask if he wanted to comment at all.


There is a sidebar to this. With its changing reader demographics and other things, maybe the Snooze's ongoing attempt to normalize Smokey Joe will push it further over whatever fiscal cliff lies ahead. There's been ever more speculation about a JOA with the Fort Worth Startlegram looming in the future. The ST at least has the corporate backing and strength of the McClatchy chain, while after selling the Denton Wrecked Times, all the Snooze has left in the Belo hut is itself, Al Dia, and its "vaunted" digital marketing shop. The fact that Voice Media still keeps the Observer operating in print as well as online, and with regular staffers, even as it has gutted the Houston Press and LA Weekly, probably is another sign of Snooze market weakness.

And, yes, this does look like a coordinated attempt to normalize Smokey Joe. Whether it comes from the relatively new (but not THAT new) executive editor and managing editor, or whether it's staff oldsters like Todd selling coals to Newcastle, I don't know, but it's there.

Texas filings deadline reminder — for Greens, too

Dec. 11 is not just the cutoff date for Republicans and Democrats to file to enter their primaries. That date, at 6 p.m., is also the deadline for prospective candidates filing in the Green conventions to submit their application to for the 2018 election.

The Green Party of Texas seeks candidates for statewide office to participate in the 2018 ballot access drive and elections. GPTX SEC recommends candidates for district and local offices file as independents in order to not be hindered by the higher petition signature requirements needed for party ballot access.

The issue of statewide party ballot access remains under discussion.

More information can be found on the TX Secretary of State's Candidate Guide, and in this Prospective Candidate Information. 


Texas Greens then face a February 2017 deadline. With the hottest, and best-optioned, Democratic governor's race in 20 years, the state Green party needs to decide before the start of early voting, per that short paragraph above, whether to seek ballot access.

Brains reminds us that, as of Dec. 1, no Democrat has yet filed for Court of Criminal Appeals Place 8. There you go, Greens; if that stands, you have to A: Have somebody prepared to run for that spot and B: Do the petition drive. That's because A alone isn't good enough; a write-in candidate for a judicial spot isn't getting 5 percent.

November 29, 2017

So long and good riddance to Helen Giddings in the #txlege

The DeSoto Democrat, a walking definition of gerontocracy (who seems both younger and older than she actually is, I'll admit), in that way as well as in the wasted ConservaDem occupancy of a Texas house seat that should be more liberal, parallels California Senator Dianne Feinstein on both counts.

Fortunately, Tom Craddick "Democrat" Giddings is finally retiring.

In addition to her staying in Texas a decade-plus ago, rather than joining most fellow Dems in the Texas Legislature in fleeing to Oklahoma to block Craddick's illicit-ish mid-decade redistricting plans, she stayed in Austin. Per Wikipedia, her "arrest" in Austin was almost certainly showbiz only.

Beyond that, I've written more than once about her blank checks for big biz in general, and anti-environmentalism in particular. Dems should — and need to — do better with this safe seat rather than continuing to waste it.

They haven't to this point, though; she wasn't primaried for more than a decade since her first election, and only twice after.

Per another recent post, she's the biggest waste of Democratic officeholder space in south Dallas and the south burbs this side of Eddie Bernice Johnson. And I know this about both of them from having spent most of the previous decade in the south Dallas suburbs and never totally taken my eye off the area since then.

I'm not sure who's got a the best shot at replacing her. But, having beaten a federal rap, I suspect that Our Man Downtown, John Wiley Price, might try to put a thumb on the scale. Tennell Atkins? Would he leave the Dallas City Council? Much of his district is in that lege district. Part of Dwaine Caraway's district goes there, too, but I can't see him leaving the mayor pro tem spot. On the other hand, him holding that seat would give him kind of a leg up on JWP.

On the other side of the aisle, I KNOW that Casey Littlejohn (who obviously misread my word "traitor" on Twitter when I retweeted the Snooze's story, and didn't look at my account too closely) has zero chance of winning. A Republican in general has little shot, and one with a cutout website who appears aligned with the Dan Patrick wing (and more and more, the Greg Abbott wing) of the state GOP, has zero chance.


Update: DeSoto Mayor Carl Sherman is among four Dems to file, and I would guess he has the best shot, followed by Dallas businesswoman Victoria Walton. No Republican is in the race.

November 28, 2017

Should #Cardinals pursue Josh Donaldson
instead of Giancarlo Stanton?

Josh Donaldson
On Twitter, James Cameron suggests he'd look to do that first. He has a proposed trade on Fangraphs: The Cardinals send third baseman Jedd Gyorko and current first baseman Matt Carpenter to Toronto for top-flight third baseman Donaldson.


Donaldson has higher performance than Giancarlo Stanton. And, until this year, fewer injury problems — a lot fewer.

Minuses? A free agent after this year. Yes, Stanton has that monster contract, but maybe the Cards would get lucky on him opting out. They'd still have three years of him until then. And, you don't think Donaldson's not going to want — and get — the high side of $25M himself?

Minuses related to that? Donaldson is four years older than Stanton and at a position where people don't play much after 35.

And on contracts, remember the last one-year player for whom the Cards traded? Jason Heyward crashed and burned here, then got the Cubs to overpay him.

So, I'm against Cameron. Hey notes Carp's value for the Jays could go up if he's over his shoulder, as well as this clearing 1B space in St. Louis.

He could do the same in a trade to Miami, if necessary, in exchange for owner faceplate Derek Jeter eating more of Stanton's contract.

(If I'm the Cards, I get a certain amount of that contract eating in Stanton's three pre-opt-out years. That way, there's some benefit even if he walks. [I assume Mo won't pay $35M or more if he does walk and wants that much.])

Giancarlo Stanton
In an earlier post, I offered a few thoughts on what Mo should offer for Stanton.

I say clear out the OF logjam and send BOTH Randal Grichuk and Stephen Piscotty. The Giant is in right, and Tommy Pham is your likely center fielder with Dexter Fowler in left. Pham showed he's at least as good as Fowler defensively.

Those two players might not be enough. Throw in Aledmys Diaz, assuming that Paul DeJong is your shortstop of the future. Besides, the Cuban angle with Diaz in Miami could play well.

I'll add Tyler Lyons or some other lower-level pitcher, too. (None of the top starters, though, as Waino needs a knife and Lance Lynn could be allowed to walk.) And Greg Garcia if the Marlins want yet more infield depth. Or Jedd Gyorko if absolutely necessary — with the Padres paying part of his contract, he's cheap enough on the Marlins side. Or, Carpenter instead of Gyorko, which frees room at first for Jose Martinez.

If necessary, I will toss in DeJong and keep Diaz.

The Marlins could use the infield depth. B-Ref generously lists Miguel Rojas as their best and primary shortstop. Dee Gordon is OK but no more than that at second. Ditto for third in Miami, where Derek Dietrich is OK with the bat but not a natural third baseman.

That's enough on the player side. If Jeter wants more, he has to agree to eat some contract. Or agree to take Fowler instead of Grichuk and eat contract back. (That's hypothetical, as Fowler would never wave his no-trade to go to Florida.)

Anyway, Stanton and the Fish are reportedly working under a Dec. 10 cutline. Stand by.

That's as Derrick Goold of the Post-Dispatch reports that, if the Cards and Stanton get close, MLB rules would allow a window of 48-72 hours for the Cards to talk directly to him about waiving his no-trade. Per Goold and MLB Trade Rumors, the Giants seem to be the main competition. The Red Sox are reportedly tepid, though Dave Dombrowski does have owner OK to go over the lux tax. The Dodgers, reportedly at one time at least Stanton's preferred landing spot, are already way over the lux tax and reportedly no more interested than the Sawks. As for the Gints? Unless they can get Jeter to eat a fair amount of contract, this could push them over the lux tax line, too. They've been over in the past, but only by modest amounts.

The Fish reportedly are working on a Dec. 10 deadline. That date is the start of winter meetings, which would mean the Cards could talk turkey during that time, if something is lining up by then.

TX Progressives talk turkey, turkey Joe Barton, baseball

With this week's lefty blog post and news roundup, the Texas Progressive Alliance is ready to move on from eating turkey to talking turkey about Texas political news.

Off the Kuff notes that the odds are in favor of at least a couple of Democratic Congressional pickups in Texas.

SocraticGadfly takes a look at Cooperstown this week with a trio of posts. First he offers his thoughts on the new Hall of Fame ballot, with who he thinks will make it, should make it, and should not make it. Second, he salutes Joe Morgan's comments on steroids users. And third, he offers his thoughts on the Hall of Fame Veterans Committee ballot.

With Gene Green's retirement, Congressional District 29 has an opportunity to move left.  How far to the left is the question, and PDiddie at Brains and Eggs has an answer.

The Texas Observer's account of a Mesquite man mistaken for a burglar, shot twice by police, shackled to his hospital bed, and barred from seeing his family is demonstrative of the fact that many police officers have learned nothing from the multiple instances of abuse of their authority over the last few years.

Grits for Breakfast is amazed at the lengths that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals will go to ignore police misconduct and uphold dubious convictions.

Ty Clevenger at Lawflog writes that the Texas Department of Public Safety is being investigated for forgery, and it's all because of Snoop Dog.

The Lewisville Texan Journal's editor announces the newspaper's plans to return to a limited print publishing schedule, along with the details of a profitability model (as a non-profit entity).

jobsanger sees how Congress has protected the sexual abusers within its halls -- it's a bipartisan effort -- and then uses taxpayer funds to pay the damage claims.

Texas Leftist returns after a hiatus to prepare for 2018 candidate questionnaires.

And Millard Fillmore's Bathtub has a glorious thread of photographs of great authors and the machines they used to write with.


In a few hurricane-aftermath-related stories, Democracy Now! asks if Houston's recovery will remediate or exacerbate Houston's inequality.  Texas Vox wonders who is going to pay, emphasizing the suggestion that perhaps it is time for those who have both contributed to climate change and profited from it to do so.  And as Houston moves on from Harvey, Travis Bubenik at HPM takes note of the scientists moving in.

The Texas Tribune's Ross Ramsey states the obvious: politicians will start taking sexual harrassment seriously just as soon as voters do.  Echoing that sentiment, RG Ratcliffe at Burkablog thinks the timing of Joe Barton's sexcapade is going to enable him to skate past the worst of its effects on his career. Meanwhile, the Dallas Morning Snooze still can't get itself to go further than a puff-piece/hand-slap "decisions were made" editorial about the man who got two of its columnists fired a decade-plus ago over environmental issues.

PoliTex, in their weekly roundup of North Texas political items, expands its view to Fort Bend County, noting that the woman with the now-infamous 'bumper' sticker, amended to include the county sheriff in her instructions, is offering them for sale.  To that end, The World's Most Dangerous Beauty Salon has the stocking stuffer you're looking for.

The Rivard Report offers some tips on avoiding cybercrime.

The TSTA Blog wants us to stop taking educators' votes for granted.

Scott Braddock ponders Greg Abbott's attack on Sarah Davis.

Nonsequiteuse says the way to fight gentrification is to buy local.

And The Lunch Tray has some suggestions for helping kids in need.

November 27, 2017

US Nones to pass Catholics by 2020?

Riffing on an old rock anthem, per Scientific American, by 2020, self-identified "Nones" in the United States of America will equal self-identified Catholics.

This is indeed big news on the American religious landscape.

Don't be so smug, you Baptists and Church of Christers, either.

By 2035, Nones will catch you, too.

And, you should, in fact, be even less smug, per this image:

That comes from the author's own blog, linked at the bottom of the SciAm piece.

In other words, the liberal wing of Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians and Episcopalians has already caught you Baptists, etc.

Sure, they may go to church less — setting aside the fact that time and motion studies show that most of you don't go to church as much as you claim — but they don't feel the guilt-tripped NEED to go to church.

This reminds me of other studies that show voters in a Congressional district are not as conservative as their representative assumes, and that the false assumption is done by both Democrats and Republicans.

It's why, here in Tejas, Dems like Wendy Davis chase the mythical moderate.

Update, with some related stats? In 2019, 23 percent of Americans went to church every week. Sounds fairly devoted, right, every week? But 29 percent never went once. Texas, Bible Belt stereotypes aside, is no exception. This site says that it was less than 20 percent, and they're a religious website.