December 31, 2018

This Texas Progressive's 2018 year in review

This outpost of the Texas Progressive Alliance hopes readers keep any New Year’s goals simple and measurable, and as goals not resolutions. This outpost also hopes readers consider or pursue life changes in the New Year that increase their contentment and are done at their own personal choice.

SocraticGadfly describes how DSA darling Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had another unforced error on Twitter — this one over Congressional pay in the shutdown.

Gadfly also offered a roundup of his top blogging for the year, going by views and other factors. Much of it was devoted to batting down conspiracy theories.

And here are some posts of interest from other Texas and national blogs and news sites.

At the Dallas Observer, Jim Schutze takes a look at the white year, black year and general year in review, while giving good decade-aged kicks in the nads to John Wiley Price and the Perot clan.

Texas Monthly looks at Steven Mark Chaney’s acquittal after serving 25 years on a murder sentence due to junk science..

Since this is a year-end wrap, Texas Monthly also looks at its top Texas books of 2018.

Along with your host, Michael Harris suggests reading actual print books, even as he, an author, struggles with that.

Ken Paxton’s prosecutors are challenging a pay ruling against them by the CCA, and he is trying to undercut them again, notes the Texas Tribune.

Grits for Breakfast posts his 2018 top 10 criminal justice reform stories.

The Texas Observer notes six Texan individuals or groups who lost power this past year. (Contra Kuff, I think the section about Bexar Dems is pretty clear.)

Fracking of gas as well as oil is great for the Texas economy, bad for climate change, the AP describes.

Dos Centavos posts his personal 2018 top 10.




David Bruce Collins takes a look at how many of the U.S. Democratic freshmen are actually New Democrats.

The Texas Trib notes that state Sen. Charles Schwertner remains in the MeToo spotlight after an ambiguous investigation.

The Texas Observer catches my own state Senatecritter liking him some white nationalists. Unfortunately, as it also notes, after being primaried by a sensible state Rep. and winning, Bob Hall coasted to victory.

The Observer also offers up a collation of six stories about rural Texas.

ProPublica reports Dallas schools aren’t helpful for minorities, in many ways.

Jim Schutze seems to have a bromance for Angela Hunt running for Dallas mayor; he’ll accept Scott Griggs.

Paradise in Hell remains our premier interpreter of Individual 1.

Juanita says "good riddance" to Paul Ryan.

Therese Odell suggests a New Year's resolution we should all adopt.

The Bloggess celebrates another successful community giving effort.

Many unions are still slouching toward Gomorrah. World Socialist notes a Wisconsin Aerospace local that scrubbed a strike and won’t tell the public why.


December 29, 2018

Top blog posting of 2018 —
A year heavy on refuting conspiracy theories

Below are a few of my top 10, by volume, blog posts of 2018, with a bit of summary and a final wrap at the end.

They're all at least somewhat related to conspiracy thinking, which bloomed in profusion this year, as much as rapid-response tweeting on various issues from President Trump.

Speaking of ...

This summer, I called out Marcy Wheeler, aka Emptywheel, along with other Kossack alumni Dead-End Kids, for her absolutist claims backed by less than absolutist evidence that Donald Trump conspired with Vladimir Putin to get Trump elected.

A month later, I called out the presumably non-existent Forensicator, along with Tim Leonard/Adam Carter and anybody else invested in his likely creation, such as Disobedient Media, as well as people involved with propagating his claims that Guccifer 2.0 was NOT a Russian intelligence asset — such call-outs including Bill Binney, Ray McGovern and other members of the majority faction of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and Patrick Lawrence for his credulous reporting, all of this indulged in detail at Consortium News. I also called out much of this consortium, abetted by the likes of ShirtLost DumbShit Zach Haller, for being the likely originator of Seth Rich conspiracy theories. (That said, Consortium News is a mare's nest of conspiracy thinking.)

Speaking of Seth Rich conspiracy theories, back in February, I called out idiot lawyer Jared Beck and his DNC fraud lawsuit filing, which sounds like it was written with a crayon.

Starting in February, and compiling more evidence throughout the year, I called out Beto O'Rourke for being a Fauxgressive ConservaDem.

When Schmuck Talk Express John McCain died, I called out Beltway media stenographers, bipartisan foreign policy think tanks and the like for failing to tell the truth about a person who was an Islamophobe and a warmonger, among other things.

Fortified by that, later I called out the Beltway stenos and allies for similar hagiography when Iran-Contra and October Surprise co-conspirator Poppy Bush died.

All call-outs, right?

With that pattern, I invite you to read my 2015 post on practicing philosophical Neo-Cynicism, my update on Diogenes' original Cynicism, and rejecting the conventional wisdom — and not just in politics — of the chattering classes.

December 28, 2018

Honda Insight 3.0: Will we be subject to more foolery?

Honda Insight 3.0
I remember the first Honda Insight, 15 years ago. I did, for about a year and a half, some of the automotive test drives, and writing, for the automotive section in my group of suburban Dallas newspapers.

I test drove both the original Insight, and the original Prius, the one that looked kind of like a Yaris, not like THE PRIUS of today.

That first-gen Prius had little acceleration, of course. But it did hit its EPA mileage estimates.

The Insight, first-gen, was a two-seater hatchback with the batteriers under the flat base inside the rear hatch. It had a 3-cylinder gas engine and a stick transmission. (I can't remember if the original Prius, US version, had a geared automatic or a CVT.)

Anyway, Honda had an EPA estimate of 70/61.

Not even close in reality. And, I had a stick for my own car, so I knew how to do pretty butter-smooth shifting. I couldn't even hit 60 in city traffic, let alone 70. I didn't drive it on freeways outside the Metromess; I'm sure that, if I had gotten over 55 for any period of time, the highway mileage would have been 41, not 61. Wikipedia lists 40 under new EPA testing, so I was right!

It was cars like this that led the EPA to get mileage testing out of wind tunnels and into real-world situations.

Honda then pulled the Insight, even as Toyota prepared the new Prius, and it to be a separate nameplate.

Seeing its success, Honda decided to fire back.

The Insight 2.0 was, essentially, a Prius knockoff chassis put on a dumbed-down version of a Civic hybrid drivetrain. By dumbed-down, I mean, Honda stuck a three-valve per cylinder gas engine under the hood. It also had cheap fit and fixtures inside.

Honda, I presume, had been looking at this at about 2008, not only seeing the success of the Prius but seeing oil prices go over $100 a barrel.

And, the company brought out Insight 2.0 in —

2010, just in time for the Great Recession to crush gas prices.

It limped along for two years, then more and more people began realizing Honda was ripping them off again with a poor-acceleration car, even for a hybrid, and one that had no better gas mileage, even with the aerodynamics, than a Civic insight.

So, Honda let the car run a usual four-year development cycle, with no investment after year two, then pulled the plug a second time.

And now, per the new Consumer Reports? Insight 3.0 is out, I've read. And that magazine doesn't like it a lot more than version 2.

Edmonds says the same main thing as Consumer Reports: The gas engine is very noisy under any serious acceleration. (It has a 1.5 liter gas engine vs. 1.8 on the Prius.) Otherwise, weirdly, it rates the Insight higher than the Prius.

The best current version is 55/49 on MPG, says Wikipedia. Cars.com has the best version of the Prius at 58/53, even with the bigger engine.

It looks better than the newest iterations of the Prius, which have been dipped in Toyota's recent bad styling for car front ends. But, that's about it. Interesting, both Edmonds and Cars.com like its interior, especially its screen display, more than Consumer Reports.

Given Toyata's edge in performance, plus Honda's track record from the past, and issues with the current version (a tiny electric motor and batteries seem to be part of the problem), and it being the same price, roughly, forget it. I'd buy one of Hyundai's Ioniq's before it, too. They, too, perform better, but they have a Toyota-ugly front end.

December 27, 2018

Cardinals make big move with Andrew Miller, should not stop

The St. Louis Cardinals have made a definite, and much-needed, upgrade to the bullpen with the signing of Andrew Miller. And, it's at a good price. That's under $7 million a year, which is the approximate cost of 1 WAR. From 2014-17, which includes a decent but not fantastic 2014, Miller had 11.1 WAR, or about 2.8 per year. And, that doesn't account for the ripple effect of his anchoring a pen, and also his multi-inning pitching ability. (See more on that below.)

If he has an even 2 WAR or close to it over the next two years and vests that third year, it's a deal indeed. (His decent but not fantastic 2014, between Boston and Baltimore, was 1.9 WAR.)

That, along with the trade for Paul Goldschmidt. which I highly salute, make them serious contenders for next year — and beyond, if they get Goldy to ink a new contract.

But, Mo shouldn't stop there.

They could stand further pitching upgrades, both starters and in the pen. Why? Because, especially with starters, there is no such thing as too much pitching.

The first is pretty straightforward. The Indians have indicated that Corey Kluber and possibly Trevor Bauer might be available via trade. (There are pluses for both the Cards on both players, and on how much Cleveland might want for either. Bauer will be cheaper, with two arb years left, vs Kluber's three inked years, two of them player options. Kluber has a better long-term track record, with Bauer just really breaking out last year. But Bauer is five years younger.)

Jedd Gyorko is superfluous with the presumed move of Matt Carpenter to third. Jose Martinez has a great bat plus a stone glove and so is ideally an AL DH guy, and the rise of Tyler O'Neill means outfield room is needed, at least if he's ready for a full-time role. I'm not saying Gyorko plus Martinez swing the deal by themselves, but, it's a start, and two obvious pieces of a package. If not with the Indians, then look at other AL suitors who might have a No. 2 or 3 starter, preferably lefty, of decent quality. (That said, MLB Trade Rumors reports on Jan. 3 the Cards are, according to Ken Rosenthal, less and less likely to trade Martinez this year. Let him DH in interleague games in AL parks, cut Goldy a day off every two weeks and play once a week at a corner OF spot [more if unfortunately necessary] and you get him, what, 150-200 ABs and limit his glove damage. Given that he's a year away from even entering arbitration, makes sense, if he's not a part of any good trade talks.)

This lets the Cards have another arm to help move beyond Adam Wainwright, unless he has a major rebound in 2019, and to decide more how much to pay Miles Mikolas and Michael Wacha a year from now. (Any contract the Cards give Wacha should be cash-low and incentive-high based on his injury history.)

I don't know who besides Gyorko and Martinez would make a package, but it's worth further thought. I would be willing to include a pitcher back as long as its not Mikolas, Carlos Martinez or Alex Reyes, and not the hottest of minors prospects. (Speaking of, the Cards, after Reyes having both Tommy John surgery a couple of years, then being shelved last year after just a few innings, have no idea what he will eventually bring to the table.)

The second trade, that I've seen suggested elsewhere? A salary dump swap. Dexter Fowler goes back to the Rockies for Wade Davis. Salaries are just about dead even. Both might benefit from change of scenery, and the Cards are still in the look for a good set-up guy. Even allowing for the reality of Fowler's depression last season, as Bernie Miklasz notes, the bottom line is still performance.

Rockies have a whole to fill with both Gerardo Parra and Carlos Gonzales not resigned, even if they try moving Ian Desmond out there after the Daniel Murphy signing, if he moves to first. David Dahl has looked decent for them in cups of coffee in 2016 and a partial season in 2018, but they might still want another outfielder.

That would give a righty-lefty mix of relievers who have past, if not current, top-notch closer skills. It would also let the Cards consider stealing a page from the Rays against teams with lefty-heavy batting orders, since Miller has done multi-inning pitching in the past, and use him as an "opener," knowing Davis is still there.

And, I'm willing to make that swap, even if Jose Martinez is also unloaded as art of another trade and there's little depth left in the outfield. Potentially, that gives the Cards a rock-solid set of moundsmen for both the rotation and the bullpen for the next three years.

December 26, 2018

Texas Progressives happy holidays: Education, New Dems
and white nationalist bromance in the Lege


The Texas Progressive Alliance wishes everyone the happiest of holidays, and reminds you Laplace is the reason for the season  as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff took note of the latest bit of fascination with small counties' vote totals.

SocraticGadfly, influenced by his reading of a new bio of Reagan, posted the first of what will be several counterfactual history blog posts — what if Reagan, not Goldwater had somehow run in 1964? (Click the "counterfactual history" tag for similar writing by him.)

And here are some posts of interest from other state and national blogs and news sites.

At Popular Resistance, Howie Hawkins explains why the Green Party needs to go (back, in some ways) to a dues-paying membership. I agree — it undercuts the power of paper parties that have too much; it addresses the "cheating candidate" issue that the GP faces at the state level, usually in these paper parties; and it has a left-wing political history.

Raise Your Hand Texas pens a letter to the Commission on School Finance.

Better Texas Blog calls the commission's report a "good start".

David Bruce Collins takes a look at how many of the U.S. Democratic freshmen are actually New Democrats.

The Texas Trib notes that state Sen. Charles Schwertner remains in the MeToo spotlight after an ambiguous investigation.

The Texas Observer catches my own state Senatecritter liking him some white nationalists. Unfortunately, as it also notes, after being primaried by a sensible state Rep. and winning, Bob Hall coasted to victory.

The Observer also offers up a collation of six stories about rural Texas.

ProPublica reports Dallas schools aren’t helpful for minorities, in many ways.

Jim Schutze seems to have a bromance for Angela Hunt running for Dallas mayor; he’ll accept Scott Griggs.

Paradise in Hell remains our premier interpreter of Individual 1.

Juanita says "good riddance" to Paul Ryan.

Therese Odell suggests a New Year's resolution we should all adopt.

The Bloggess celebrates another successful community giving effort.

Many unions are still slouching toward Gomorrah. World Socialist notes a Wisconsin Aerospace local that scrubbed a strike and won’t tell the public why.

December 24, 2018

Ocasio-Cortez has another unforced error:
This time, she botches government shutdown info

Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez, red rose Congressional queen of the House of Lancaster, I mean, the Democratic Socialists of America, has had several unforced errors since beating Joe Crowley to essentially win election to her 14th Congressional District.

First and most notable for people like me who bat outside the duopoly on foreign as well as domestic policy, was her retreat from words of support for BDS.

Second and related was her gushing over the Schmuck Talk Express™,  John McCain, when he died.

Well, now, she's shown that she should tweet less, research more, including knowing some basic constitutional facts, on the government shutdown.

AOC has a set of tweets that The Hill "reported" into a story, and oh, there's so much wrong.

First, she says Congresscritters should have salary cut off, after decrying partisan nature of shutdown (yet being already bipartisan enough to not call out Freedom Fries Caucus head Jim Jordan by name).

Second, she ignores a problem (which The Hill itself gets wrong as to the "why"). You can't cut Congressional salaries.

That relates to her not even mentioning the president's salary during the shutdown. Which, yes, also falls under the same rubric as that of Congresscritters, which The Hill got wrong.

It's not just illegal, which The Hill claims; it is unconstitutional, which is an entirely different kettle of fish. Explicitly so with the president. And for good reason. Although the president wound up much stronger than most members of Team Philadelphia 1787 not named Hamilton intended, the founders didn't want Congress forcing a president to their will by hacking his pay. (Of course, they objected when George III tried to insulate colonial governors from colonial legislative control, so, and far from the only time in America's founding, hypocrisy was at play.)

As for Congress, per the same link, in the current Congress, it's illegal to cut their pay, explicitly, by the 27th Amendment, which The Hill also gets wrong. When the new Congress starts, AOC could push a bill on the first day of the session that they don't get paid until the shutdown ends. She could also ask for it to be part of the standing rules in House and Senate. If I am engaging in correct constitutional interpretation, that could pass muster. But, short of an amendment, she still can't do anything about the president's salary.

Finally, if we're going to criticize Beltway stenos for "reporting" on Trump's tweets, should we not hold the stenos to the same standard re Ocasio-Cortez? I say yes. That piece had no actual reporting and was inaccurate. I've already Tweeted to the particular Beltway steno who "reported" this, specifically on the error, and got no response.

Update, Feb. 20, 2018: She's had other unforced errors, like throwing Rep. Omar halfway under the bus on Israel-Palestine issues.

December 21, 2018

Alternative history: Ronnie runs in 1964, not 1980

Note: This and other counterfactual histories ahead are stimulated by the new bio, "Reagan: An American Journey," reviewed by me here. (Spoiler: I three-starred it.)

Picture Ronald Reagan first giving his famous "A Time for a Decision" speech not in October 1964 as a Barry Goldwater fundraiser but a year earlier, for whatever reason, but it getting just as much attention then as in reality.

Many of the SoCal conservatives who backed Goldwater might never have jumped on that train. They would have seen Reagan right then as both more packageable and more charismatic than Goldy. As to people saying he was a political novice? One answer would be the rhetorical "So was Ike." Another would point at his Screen Actors Guild presidency and related items.

How would Reagan have fared?

In my opinion, he would have bombed even worse than Goldwater.

First, he would have made some of the same gaffes as Goldwater.

Remember, he worried that GE would fire him, years before GE Theater's ratings slid and they mutually separated, over his attacks on the TVA — attacks just like Goldwater made.

Remember, already by this time, Reagan had mentioned voluntary Social Security.

And, parallelling Goldy's "Let's lob one in the men's room of the Kremlin," just move back 20 years Reagan's open mic mic-check of "The bombing begins in 5 minutes."

And, Reagan, just like Goldy, opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

With no presidential debates, Reagan's 1980 "There you go again" to Carter would not have been heard. And, had he tried something like that, LBJ would have clobbered him over that.

Assuming he did something like his mic check or even close, LBJ would have run the Daisy commercial. He also would have run some sort of "affable doofus" commercial.

At some point he would have gotten under Reagan's skin, and a public blow-up by St. Ronald would have finished things off.

He would have lost at least as bad as Goldwater.

What if he then tried to repair things by a 1966 gubernatorial run?

Pat Brown — who should have taken him more seriously in the real world — would have been encouraged by LBJ to go for the kill in hopes of kayoing the entire California GOP. So, Reagan loses again.

That means, in 1968, he's not in competition with Nixon for the GOP nomination. He's a frustrated has-been. And American history changes a lot. He fails more than in reality in trying to get the 1976 Republican nomination. He's not even in the picture for 1980. And U.S. conservativism is forced to adapt, as Republicans and Democrats drift closer into neoliberal nuancings.

December 20, 2018

Time for another blogroll cleanup — bye, people

The biggest deletion? Since Massimo Pigliucci has gone to Patreon, which doesn't have an RSS, his old Plato's Footnote is out of the blogroll. That also said, his Patreon site is NOT going into my links list as of this time. A number of small comments issues over the past several months have become enough. That history of comments issues and related items is here. (That said, Dan Kaufman may read and comment less there, too, a silver lining.)

I'll still read him from time to time, since Patreon has email notices. But ... not gonna link him. Not right now. That may change in the future, but not now.

Beyond that, I had usually, on average, already read half or so the Friday links roundup he posted, so,  unless something new popped up, I found it less stimulating than years ago. Also — and I know that, as a blogger, it's hard to avoid this entirely — he's starting to recycle stuff. In August, he wrote his third piece in less than 18 months about what's wrong, in his estimation, with informal fallacies of classical logic.

One linked almost as long? And which will certainly remain delinked? And is the biggest deletion?

3 Quarks Daily had been in a bit of suspension in my mind for a few months. Posting a 15-year-old Harvard Magazine story about Egyptology is the latest in my craw of how it at times is pretentious about how it "curates" seven or eight things daily — then asks for money for this task of awesomeness, then pulls crap like that. (This is the first time I've seen anything THAT old, but I've seen stuff more than a year old before, and from my perspective on matters philosophical, I've seen more crap there — including two Alex Rosenberg pieces in less than a month. (The reality about him can be found in this piece by friend Massimo, "Why Alex Rosenberg is wrong about just about everything.") More recently, it ran with a piece claiming "lefties are dissing evolution." The piece was actually about ev psych, not evolutionary biology, which is a pseudoscience.

And, it has now blocked me from commenting there, since I voiced these complaints there. That is despite its running two philosophical essays I wrote for Massimo, which even made the first cut in a competition, as I note here. And Twitter and FB. So, it's deleted. (It was the comment I had on the ev psych piece, which was total bullshit, plus a followup comment to another commenter about the Egyptology piece, that got me blocked. At least I went out in style.)

I deleted The North Star because, while the previous incarnation of the site had great info from a leftist but not extremist POV, it's been more than 90 days since they started on a promised overhaul and the organizers still have nothing but an "about" / placeholder home page up. I'll add it back if and when the website is actually up and running.

And, I've deleted another. And done other things related to that. And that's that.

One I have added is Carl Beijer. He blogs but occasionally, but, is usually at least half as snarky as he is on Twitter. At the same time ... for someone who worked for Nader twice, but doesn't note in a blog post that the reason Dems flipped so many Republican seats is that they ran a lot of military-industrial complex or spying-snooping complex ConservaDems is a bit of an eyebrow raiser. (Maybe he thinks those people don't go against Democrats' core values; to the degree the Doinks DO have core values, I'd agree with him, but ... he doesn't spell that out.) OTOH,  I would support Beijer's idea of a more socialist Green New Deal than the Roses (or the US Green Party, I think he's right) have offered. Anyway ... he's his own person. And, then, in February 2019, he undercuts himself again by doing a "rally the troops to Bernie" post and ignoring Greens — and Sanders' still iffiness on foreign policy issues.

OTTH (On the third hand) Beijer does a bit of shark-jumping for me when he claims that capitalism inexorably leads to fascism. There, he refuses to call himself a dialectical materialist, but does call himself a "historic materialist."


A difference that makes no diff, Carl. You're claiming to be a Commie, specifically of Marxist variety, not just a socialist. As I've said elsewhere, Marxism is bankrupt both scientifically and philosophically.

Related? I've added Corey Robin, who is somewhere between left-liberal and leftist. He remains more accommodating of DSA Dems than I am, and somewhat more accommodating of the "internal reform" idea, but, he certainly doesn't write blank checks. He posts rarely; I haven't followed him on Book of Face but I do on Twitter.

Another add is PsyPost. It's pop psychology in reading level, but reasonably rigorous in what it reports. And very interesting

A third, which I have read for years, is John Horgan's blog at SciAm.

A fourth is Schneier on Security, who covers all sorts of cybersecurity issues.

A fifth is Smokey the Cat, a Twitter friend and yinzer who is in my general neck of the world politically and has started into the blog world.

A sixth is Bosque Bill. It's not entirely about New Mexico, and it's not entirely about nature, but it's primarily pretty much about one or the other of those.

A seventh addition is connected to the last deletion.

Otherwise, I in general don't keep a long, large blogroll. Seriously, who has time to track 50 or more different ones? Especially if they're all ones about politics? (You'll notice that's not the case with mine.)

December 19, 2018

Texas Progressives talk Betomania and the Texas Lege



The Texas Progressive Alliance hopes all its readers have a safe and sane run-up to Christmas as it presents this week’s roundup.


SocraticGadfly takes a skeptical look at the Betomania 2020 Kool-Aid.


Texas Leftist notes the worries of the Texas Vietnamese community in the wake of the latest Trump administration deportation threats.
 
And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs and news sites.

The Texas Observer's Joe Nick Patoski has a long-form piece about the idea that, as nationally with the National Park Service, Texans are loving state parks to death. The Observer notes that many of the problems started after 2000, which is a political dividing point in the state, of course. (Editor’s note: A new TPWD system, which will allow reservations for parks, even down to time of entry, will only shuffle the problem around, not make it better, and it may make it worse.)

The Chron notes that many Houston-area residents are NOT sold on an Ike Dike.

A speech language pathologist has lost her job over Texas' most-certainly unconstitutional anti-BDS law; the ACLU is suing in a similar case involving an NPR station employee right here at KETR in Northeast Texas, per Mondoweiss.

The Texas Trib has a news analysis piece on school finance in the coming Lege.

At the Dallas Observer, Jim Schutze has a news analysis piece does a call-out of Julian Castro and his presidential plans, and also calls out Dallas’ old black establishment.


The Bloggess presents the Ninth Annual James Garfield Christmas Miracle.

Elise Hu reported on brain-machine interfaces at the University of Houston.

Swamplot has the perfect present for the Astrodome-lover in your life.

Better Texas Blog updates us on where we stand with school finance.

Dan Solomon ponders the demise of the breastaurant.

December 17, 2018

Should the Cardinals just say no to Bryce Harper?

Let's assume the final contract numbers in the Bryce Harper free agency derby are 10/$350.

(See the poll at upper right or click the link to vote on when you think he signs a deal.)

Do you look at the guy with the 10-WAR year and say, yeah, we hope we get even close to that?

Or do you look at the guy with the THREE sub-2 WAR years (and only one of those due primarily to injury) and say "Too much risk factor"?

I am hoping the Cardinals, John Mozeliak and Mike Girsch do the latter.

Especially with the recent trade for Paul Goldschmidt, of which I approve, meaning the Birds have less of a need for Bryce and can focus on their pitching.

So ... (with a new caveated update that includes calling Boras' bluff on Harper's value)

Let's compare Harper to a big contract the Cards were willing to take on in trade just 12 months ago, namely, Giancarlo Stanton, as I've already done this on Twitter in exchange with Bill James.

The 10 years left on his contract, at $285 million, are actually "just" $28.5 million AAV. (Take away his option year, and 9/$260 is approximately $29M AAV.) But, you'd pay him 10/$350 if Bryce is getting that, right? Even if Bryce is 3 years younger?

So, let's look at WAR.

Harper, seven years, 27.4 WAR is 3.9 per year. Stanton, nine years at 39.2, is 4.35 per year.

Let's throw out best and worst years of both and check that.

Harper? 16.3/5=3.26. Stanton? 27/7=3.85.

You've still got that one-half WAR per year difference.

Add in that Harper has, in the past, been valued more highly on defense than Stanton and B-Ref putting him at -3.0 on dWAR in 2018 should be of some concern.

Besides Stanton, the Cards have shown that they're not always cheapskates.

They offered Jason Heyward the highest AAV of any bidder, but lost in part (thanks for bailing us out, Cubs) due to no opt-out. They pursued David Price hard. They offered Phat Albert Pujols 8/$198 (thanks Arte for bailing us out). Just a friendly reminder on that: The Cards could still have him on the books for one more year had the Angels not stepped in.

So, Mo will pay. And overpay. IF he decides to pay.

Hey overpaid for Dexter Fowler, not taking into account how having Heyward next to him inflated his defensive stats. He had a lesser overpay for Mike Leake. He had an overpay in trade for Marcell Ozuna, rather than waiting out Derek Jeter, offering additional players, or whatever was needed, for NL MVP Christian Yelich, who, if he was in St. Louis, would mean we wouldn't be talking about Bryce Harper. And, I thought it was the wrong trade even before Yelich won the MVP, and thought it was wrong WELL before knowing Mo willingly traded for a player with a known bum shoulder. (And, Derek Goold, who I consider a team fluffer even more than Bernie Miklasz was when he was still at the Post-Dispatch, has never given me a convincing background story on that.)

What I am getting at is that Mo could be dumb enough to overpay for Bryce Harper, and that kind of worries me.

Yeah, Mo's made a few decent deals in free agency. Kyle Lohse tops the list, followed by Lance Berkman and Carlos Beltran. And he did trade for Matt Holliday. But, he's not a genius (no GM really is) but he's not in the top tier. He's not in the bottom tier, either, but still ...

I probably will have no need to worry. I think the team pivots to pitching with the Goldschmidt signing. I just wanted to add that, given Mo's track record, my reasons for worry are legit.

Otherwise, if the Cards are looking for a relatively low-cost lefty OF to give more left-right lineup balance, Michael Brantley and Nick Markakis are both still out there.  I think Markakis had an Indian summer year last year, so I would be leery of a lower-level overpay. Brantley is younger, and assuming 2018 showed he is past injuries, I'd give him a straight 3/$50 with some incentive money and a fourth-year option. The injuries is a judgment call. I would give Markakis no more than, say, 2/$30 plus an option year. If that.

(Update: Brantley is now with the Stros.)

December 14, 2018

Andrew Sullivan hits new pseudointellectual low

In what I see as possibly his greatest feat of anti-intellectualism since denoting an entire issue of The New Republic to touting the pseudoscientific insights of The Bell Curve, Sully is now hoisting high the old canard that atheists are really religious, too.

I have myself said that Gnu Atheists, in some sociology-type ways, show a mindset similar to fundamentalist-type Christians, and have thus called them atheist fundamentalists. But, I've never claimed that they, let alone non-Gnus, are religious.

He then followed with teh stupidz of claiming religion is in our genes.

Neither one is close to true, in reality. The fact that Sully is arguably a very good representative of the Peter Principle in mainstream media, especially thought and opinion media, on the other hand, is almost ironclad as an argument now.

But, I couldn't let such arrogant, arrant nonsense go unchecked.

Here's a few thoughts I posted on Twitter, with interspersed comment:
In short, per his Bell Curve love, on B, Sully seems to be doubling down on the pseudoscience of Ev Psych. A Scott Atran or Pascal Boyer will easily steer clear of this while offering much more plausible theories about the origins of what eventually became religious belief mindsets.
From there, it's off to the land of false analogies, refuted by this:
The real problem is Sully's willful ignorance on a fair amount of philosophy. I note that here
and here:
Finally, Sullivan shows his misunderstanding of the political movement he claims to represent.
Tosh. Both here and in Europe (and the Anglosphere across the world), many politicians and political thinkers are both classical liberals and irreligious.

December 10, 2018

TX Progressives talk cooperation, vote turnout, more




The Texas Progressive Alliance knows the value of cooperation as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff made two last attempts to find a relationship between straight ticket voting and Democratic likeliness to "drop off" from long ballots.

As winter meetings arrive, SocraticGadfly switches from politics to baseball to applaud the Cardinals for the Paul Goldschmidt trade.

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

Texas Monthly introduces its 31 power brokers.

At the Dallas Observer, Jim Schutze says the latest Trinity River plan is “Six Flags for rich people.”

Stephen Young notes that, despite Betomania, Texas voting turnout, at least in midterms, STILL sux.

Texas Observer runs the syndicated Jim Hightower column that his syndicator, Creators, wouldn’t.

Better Texas Blog warns of the dangers of short term health insurance plans.

Paradise in Hell wants to see that Confederate plaque in the Capitol banished.

Texas Vox takes a first look an environmental bills for the 86th Lege.

The TSTA Blog reminds us that funding schools is the state's responsibility.

Juanita always takes the time to marvel at the wonder of Louie Gohmert.

The Lunch Tray explains the latest USDA announcement on school mean nutrition policy.

David Bruce Collins takes aim at Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders.

Two possible Cardinals trades?

The first is pretty straightforward. The Indians have indicated that Cory Kluber and possibly Trevor Bauer might be available via trade. Carlos Carrasco had also been mentioned earlier but he's now off the market with a contract extension. Also, the Bauer possibility seemed more speculation by other teams than anything hard from the Tribe as he still has two years of arbitration control. The resigning of Carrasco, fairly cheaply, means that the team might move Kluber, though.

(Update, Dec. 18: MLBTR says the Indians are still open, at least on Kluber.

Update, Jan. 7, 2019: I would be OK without Bauer; Deadspin reminded of his MAGA-type nuttery.)

The Cardinals, with their own Paul Goldschmidt trade, discussed by me here, have some room to deal now.

Jedd Gyorko is superfluous with the presumed move of Matt Carpenter to third. Jose Martinez has a great bat plus a stone glove and so is ideally an AL DH guy, and the rise of Tyler O'Neill means outfield room is needed, at least if he's ready for a full-time role. I'm not saying Gyorko plus Martinez swing the deal by themselves, but, it's a start.

(That said, MLB Trade Rumors reports on Jan. 3 the Cards are, according to Ken Rosenthal, less and less likely to trade Martinez this year. Let him DH in interleague games in AL parks, cut Goldy a day off every two weeks and play once a week at a corner OF spot [more if unfortunately necessary] and you get him, what, 150-200 ABs and limit his glove damage. Given that he's a year away from even entering arbitration, makes sense, if he's not a part of any good trade talks.)

This lets the Cards have another arm to help move beyond Adam Wainwright, unless he has a major rebound in 2019, and to decide more how much to pay Miles Mikolas and Michael Wacha a year from now. (Any contract the Cards give Wacha should be cash-low and incentive-high based on his injury history.)

I don't know who besides Gyorko and Martinez would make a package, but it's worth further thought. I would be willing to include a pitcher back as long as its not Mikolas, Carlos Martinez or Alex Reyes, and not the hottest of minors prospects.

For Cleveland, they could use Jose Martinez this year as a corner outfielder, since Melky Cabrera's a free agent not likely to be resigned unless as a cheap fourth OF, and Michael Brantley (who may be resigned?) is also a free agent. Martinez could mix this with first baseman and DH. They could then, a year from now, buy out Edwin Encarnacion's option for 2020 and let him walk, while rebuilding their outfield.

(Update, Dec. 17: Brantley has reportedly inked a deal with the Astros.)

Should a trade like this come off, or even if not, I don't think Derrick Goold has the correct Cardinals lineup by batting order.

Assuming Kolten Wong is injury-free and mentally rejuvenated on a full year free of Mike Matheny micromanaging him, I put him at the top of the lineup. Harrison Bader (if he cuts his strikeouts) second. Carp, another lefty, is third. And he needs to get a mindset. Goldy is in cleanup. Yadi fifth. That gets you L-R-L-R through the first four spots. Of course, it's righty-heavy after that. (Yes, a certain Bryce Harper would fix that, but I don't see that happening. Michael Brantley would also fix it. So would Nick Markakis, but I think he had an Indian Summer year last year.) Another option is shoving all the above people up a spot and dropping Marcell Ozuna somewhere in 2-5, but then slotting Wong no lower than sixth. Or dropping him to eighth and if Dexter Fowler is still here, putting him in one of the top three slots as a switch hitter IF he reverts to 2017 or earlier.

Speaking of ...

==

The second trade, that I've seen suggested elsewhere? A salary dump swap. Fowler goes back to the Rockies for Wade Davis. Salaries are just about dead even. Both might benefit from change of scenery, and the Cards are still in the look for a closer.

Rockies might have a hole to fill. Would be tough for Dex to move past Gerardo Parra and Charlie Blackmon, but the free agency of Carlos Gonzales leaves right field open. David Dahl has looked decent for them in cups of coffee in 2016 and a partial season in 2018, but they might still want another outfielder.

That said, if that trade happens? Geez, we're a righty-heavy team at the plate.

And, it very well could not happen. Mo says he's OK with Fowler as his starting right fielder.

December 07, 2018

Mesa Verde — one last trip?

Mesa Verde of today illustrates well several of the issues that face today's National Park Service as a whole, and individual parks, including some that Southwestern parks face in an era of advances in science and in worries about climate change effects.

From the area of the fire tower on Mesa Verde, looking north-northwest.
Nearly a decade ago, I almost swore that the visit I made then to Mesa Verde might be my last ever.

That was about a year or two after the National Park Service and park staff required people wanting to see Cliff Palace and, I believe, Balcony House to queue up for guided tours. No more individual trail walking.

I understood why. It was a mix of the site being loved to death with carelessness as part of that, along with theft and probably vandalism (name-graffiti) too. Didn't mean I had to like what this made the park, as well as the obscene criminality or the carelessness from casual visitors. I did the tours, or at least Cliff Palace, because it was the first time in many years, and only the second time as an adult, I'd visited. But I didn't like it.

And I almost swore it off.

But not quite.

And, I decided to spend part of a day there while doing some down time at my brother's in Farmington.

Statue at new visitor center
I got there and saw a nice artistic statue outside a nice spiffy new visitor center.

And found out that you now have to buy tickets for tours to those two ruins at that spiffy new visitor center. Nope.

I get the idea there, too. If theft and vandalism are still happening, you have a record of who visited, with contact and ID information. But, I don't need to pay, or I shouldn't need to pay. In any case, I was short on time and had other parts of the park to visit. (I still have yet to visit Wetherill Mesa, at least as an adult. Maybe I will and maybe I won't make another trip; if I do, it likely will be just to there.)

Anyway, the theft and vandalism are happening. The trail to Spruce Tree House, closed because of rockfall damage, was "posted" to be under video surveillance. (The trail remained closed as of the time I wrote this, so one can still only see at a distance.)

Megalithic House kiva vandalism. (All the shiny silver
in the sipapu and near it are dimes or other coins.)
And, at a partially excavated site, the Megalithic House site, people had thrown money inside the kiva. That, too, is vandalism, folks.

So, with the possible exception of taking the separate road to Wetherill Mesa, consider this to indeed be swearing off further Mesa Verde visits. (That said, the Long House site there also requires a ticket now.)

It's also "interesting" that Mesa Verde has gone to "frequency pricing." A year ago, the Park Service proposed peak-season fees at 17 other sites, but they're already in place at Mesa Verde. That said, on-season and off-season only differ by $5 at Mesa Verde, not $30 or more.

Meanwhile, parts of Mesa Verde feel frozen in time. Not frozen in time of 700 years ago, but of 70-100 years ago.

Mesa Verde's old, original Chapin Mesa Visitor Center is a repository for
Anasazi artifacts, but is the information presented along with them up to date?
Most the dioramas at the Chapin Mesa Visitor Center were made in the Depression, by CCC laborers. I'm not looking for Mark Zuckerberg to offer Oculus Rift virtual reality. However, there's been a lot of Anasazi study in the past 70-80 years (setting aside whether any information on any of the dioramas was starting to go out of date even at the time they were created). Tastefully more modern displays with up-to-date information would be welcomed.

With appropriate money, a park staffer to lead guided tours through the museum and updated exhibits once or twice a day would also be welcomed by many, I would think.

That's if money for that becomes available from new and additional funding for the Park Service in general. Sorry, Democrats, including a few alleged progressives who actually aren't, but using part of BLM's oil and gas fee money to fund the Park Service is NOT the answer and I really don't know why you think, or ever thought, it is. See below for more on that.

And, the dioramas would take a definite back seat to more urgent needs, even more urgent than reopening the trail to Spruce Tree House.

Out of service on Chapin Mesa
Oh, like fixing a fire hydrant that would be the only salvation for those visitor center dioramas should a fire sweep through the heart of the park. Given this summer's wildfire season, which was bad enough in the Four Corners before California knocked it off the front page, this is simply inexcusable. Per the cutline, this is right next door to the Chapin Mesa Visitors Center and buildings complex.

We know that climate change is only going to make the Southwest hotter and drier. Fire hydrants like this need to be fixed immediately. Not tomorrow or six months later, but immediately.

I don't know if that's the only one broken. Probably not. And, I don't know why it's out of order. Old water lines would be one guess, though. In other words, the out-of-service hydrant is a symbol and stand-in for larger infrastructure problems at the park, and the park, in a mountain-desert transition area, is at a juncture of climate change environments.

(Update: I have been informed [which I hoped] that this is not the only hydrant on the mesa. I will be getting further information on the status of it, others, and the why, probably in a week or so.)

And, that is not all that needs to be fixed, either.


NPS facility or private inholding remnant? Either way, it's ugly and unsafe.
Although Mesa Verde does not have the degree of problems of some national parks, it does have, or had, two private inholdings. (I don't know how recent the link is, but it appears to date to the 1970s. From what I can tell, the Sheek inholding was bought in the 1980s, but I still don't see that having happened on the Hindmarsh.) And the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund remains at the mercy of Congressional wingnuts. I don't know if the facility pictured at right is part of a private inholding or not; it looks like an oil tank battery, but could be something for wastewater from the nearby Far View Lodge. I don't recall that sign on the fence explicitly saying it's private property.

That said, let's say it is for the hotel, and it's government-owned. It's a fricking eyesore. The standard chain-link fencing doesn't help. Find the money and the labor — maybe through one of the student conservation programs — to build something like an inexpensive adobe wall. Said wall would also have containment value should either one of those tanks burst, as well. Water, sewage or whatever is in them, as it stands, that's a safety issue as well as an eyesore.

And, no, Raul Grijalva, taking a Ryan Zinke idea and turd-polishing it, of using BLM oil and gas funds to help pay for additional Park Service money, is not the answer. Ethically at least, especially on the issue of Southwestern parks facing climate change, your "answer" is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

Personally, I would go back to the old Parks Pass at, say, $75 a year. Bump the All Access Pass to $100 — and make clear it covers ALL normal USFS fee areas. (Along with that, revising the 1872 mining act and other things would be part of the ideal plan.) I would be OK with some "peak pricing," as long as not too steep from off-peak times.

As for the paid tours, or the tours in general, and vandalism likely still happening there, as well as sites like Megalithic House? There's always the Ed Abbey answer — put it all under the equivalent of shrink wrap and close access entirely.

December 06, 2018

Goldy to the Cards? I approve of this trade

The St. Louis Cardinals have gotten slugging first baseman Paul Goldschmidt from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for Luke Weaver, Carson Kelly, prospect Andy Young and a comp balance draft pick in the second round.

Even for "just" a one-year rental, it's not bad. If the Cards can resign him, it's great. If not, they'll get back at least the lost draft pick and then some with a first-round choice.

And, I approve the deal even more, as of mid-March, with the Cards doing just that, with a five-year, $130 million deal that was a bit cheaper than I thought.

(Update, March 29: The three huge bombs Goldy hit in Game No. 2 confirm me listing him as the No. 1 key to a successful Cardinal season in my season preview.)

The rise of Andrew Knizner was deemed quick enough that Mo must have considered Kelly expendible as a backup catcher and still not likely to be No. 1 as long as Yadier Molina was around.

Luke Weaver probably doesn't have too much higher of a ceiling than he's already shown in St. Louis.

Andy Young has some positional versatility, but hadn't made it to Memphis yet at age 24. He likely would have been the next Greg Garcia or Yairo Munoz, and the Cards already have both of those.

Matt Carpenter is obviously moving now, but where? Second, or third? And, what happens then to either Kolten Wong or Jedd Gyorko? If you're going to move one or the other, I move Gyorko. Two years older, more expensive contract on the one year that's left, and if he did want to walk a year from now, the Cards wouldn't tender him and so would get nothing back. (OTOH, this reduces his trade value now.)

Beyond that, I expect Wong to make a jump forward with a full year free of the double-guessing of Matheny as manager.

That said the Cards could make Gyorko a supersub again. Or if Paul DeJong struggles again, put Jedd at short. Or Munoz, of course. (Unlike what still seems to be a majority of Cards fans, and Cards ownership, I am not a DeJong fan. Weirdly, a guy like Mark Townsend at Yahoo calls him a "proven producer" when he's not.)

This would seem to rule out Manny Machado, if he was on the Cards' radar in the first place. It does NOT rule out Bryce Harper, or a free agent pitcher, or a trade for a starter.

As for the possibility of resigning Goldy? His current $14.5M plus the $13M of Gyorko add up to $27.5M. That's enough money to resign Goldy without a payroll increase. Six years at that AAV, front-loaded a modest amount?

December 05, 2018

American exceptionalism and presidential mourning

That's what's behind this picture at the George H.W. Bush funeral.



And, the mainstream media, insisting it is part of this ruling class as the Fourth Estate, insists we mourn. Because without such mourning, especially when based on the mythos of American exceptionalism, both that mythos and the American empire associated with it are hard to maintain.

So, with both George H.W. Bush and John McCain, the Fifth Estate insists we mourn — for the mythos of these individuals to prop up the mythos of American exceptionalism and American imperium.

Of course, there are exceptions. The media exceptions are usually from the left, with the exception of a few paleoconservative and libertarian sites that will object to the foreign policy of the likes of Poppy Bush and the Schmuck Talk Express.

What needs to be mourned, instead, is the tenacity of this mythos, and the tenacity of the subservience to it of the 99 percent of American media.

December 04, 2018

TX Progressives roundup:
George H.W. Bush death, cult of Buc-ee's, CNN, more


You — yes, you — are Individual One in the hearts of the Texas Progressive Alliance and this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff did a deep dive into straight ticket voting.

SocraticGadfly first takes a critical look at the public service of George H.W. Bush; he then describes his visit to Tsarskoe Selo, where an ex-spook told him a conspiracy theory about why Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, eventually triggering Bush's Gulf War.

 ======

 And here are some posts of interest from other sites.

Speaking at Rice, Barack Obama congratulated himself for helping exacerbate climate change while James Baker congratulated himself for not needing a Poppy Bush Iran-Contra pardon.

At the Texas Observer, Gus Bova says climate change is a major factor driving the Central American immigrant caravan to Texas and other border spots.

Raise Your Hand Texas lists the five things needed in any school finance plan.

Robert Rivard laments San Antonio's 20th century mindset for urban planning and design.

David Bruce Collins talks about two-siderism being behind CNN’s firing Mark Lamont Hill.

Therese Odell is all over the 60 Minutes report on the damage caused by family separations.

Julien Gomez implores allies of the trans and nonbinary community to speak out.

Jim Schutze observes that the anniversary of JFK's assassination is more of a reminiscence these days.

Sarah Martinez has important Buc-ee's restroom news.

Black Agenda Report notes that Jill Stein's recount has forced Pennsylvania to agree to paper trails and audits on future ballots.

Rumya S. Putcha says yoga centers are the new country clubs — with all the baggage of Eisenhower-era country clubs.

Jeff Miller discusses what all is involved with small school districts downsizing to six-man football.

Creators wouldn't pass out Hightower's latest column, because he criticized Dead Fricking Media and Slavehouse Media.