SocraticGadfly: 3/25/18 - 4/1/18

March 30, 2018

#Cardinals 2018 — quick hit takes

First, I don't think the Cards did enough upgrading in the starting rotation plus position players. Marcell Ozuna is nice, but he's had a high variability level. I said at the time I preferred Christian Yelich. The Brewers found a way to acquire him. Mo and Girsch have never indicated that he was unavailable at the time they got Ozuna. (More on that later.)

Paul DeJong was great last year. Will he be again, or will the Aledmys Diaz sophomore slump hit?

Miles Mikolas may have gotten his spring training problems straightened out, and thus be bringing back to MLB what he learned from Japan. Or he may be who the Rangers had in 2014. Carlos Martinez did not look like an "ace" on opening day. The walks — something he had problems with last year in early innings of games — got him again. We still don't know how much Adam Wainwright has in his gas tank.  And, his WHIP and FIP were both almost as bad in 2016 as in 2017. Even if he has injury-free gas in the tank, that gas may still be only 83 octane — or whatever the top speed is on his fastball these days.

And now, after Mo and Girsch tried to pretend they were comfortable with the roster in general, and with a bullpen by committee in particular, they showed they weren't by overpaying for Greg Holland. (And they lose a comp draft pick because of the signing, which is part of the overpay beyond cash. But with that and more, Ben Hochman, the worst excuse for a sports columnist in St. Louis, still defends it.)

I wondered two months ago if the Cards really could vault past the Brew Crew into second in the NL Central — and a wild card spot; finishing ahead of the Brew means nothing if it's still out of the money.

After all, Milwaukee signed Lorenzo Cain as a free agent after trading for Yelich. That was followed by Post-Dispatch award-winning columnist team scribe Rick Hummel falsely claiming Cain is no better than Dexter Fowler.

In short, we don't know much the Birds have improved. Nor do we know if the "paper of record" can be trusted to provide an honest answer on that.

That said, it's not just the P-D that drinks Kool-Aid.

Bernie Miklasz, at the top of "Ten Bold Predictions," says Matheny will embrace change. That's even more humorous than his No.  2, that the rotation will be better than expected. (I am with Bernie on one more pessimistic prediction, that Tommy Pham will have a solid year this year but don't expect a repeat of 2017. Try 4.5 WAR, not 6+.)

Contra Bernie, and modifying my comments above, one Post-Dispatch staffer, Ben Frederickson, generally is straightforward. He says the rotation is built on hope and said that before Waino's hammy. He even wondered if the Birds shouldn't resign Lance Lynn.

I'll give 50-50 odds, and no more than that, that the Cardinals get one of the two wild cards.

Should they not make the playoffs for the third straight year, I'll give no more than 50-50 odds they get rid of Mike Matheny. DeWitt reportedly still likes him.

Would Mo himself be shown the door in such a case? I don't know.

March 29, 2018

Marlin, the Veterans Administration and P Bush
with petards for Houston real estate flippers

About a month ago, I wrote a piece about a Houston real estate development and investment group buying the old VA hospital in Marlin a little over a year or so ago, and questions I have. Full story is here, with edited excerpts and follow-up following in this piece.

The Marlin VA hospital in its glory days, or near them. The
shuttered facility was purchased earlier this year
on a promise of being re-opened while being re-purposed
for other veterans-related needs, yet nothing has happened so far.
Photo by Waco Tribune/Rod Aydelotte
As I noted then, I wasn't aware that the state of Texas had finally sold this, let alone that it was being reopened.

Well, per various news stories, the idea that Marlin may be returning to an Eisenhower-era or earlier golden age (for white people, at least) seem to be fading more and more. Perhaps the most recent hope shouldn't have been so spit-polished in the first place.

Let's try a more honest reality. From my figurings and listenings, and lack of being talked to by some people, like the former mayor, Elizabeth Nelson, this reality check is needed for some.

Houston's Sterling Real Estate Development appears to have bought the place to flip it. (It also tried to buy the iconic — and deteriorating, but that's being arrested — Falls Hotel, the eighth original Hilton built by Conrad himself. It failed on that, and it was not the only interested would-be buyer.)

If former mayor Nelson truly is clueless about this being a likely planned flip, she needs to wake up and smell the coffee. If she is not, then my next suggestion would be to have the integrity to join Denny in resigning from the oversight committee for the building, at a minimum.

That again leads to my original questions, with some follow-ups in italics.
1. What price did the Texas General Land Office sell the building for? (This is a state agency; if nobody told you at the time, it's time for an Open Records Act request. But that's not for me.)
Was the price lowered under "false pretenses"? (Put in scare quotes for legal reasons.) This certainly seems possible. And, if so, did anybody in points 5 or 6 aid this in advance?

2. What was the asking price at the time? (That may not be on any record, but somebody may talk.)

3. Does the Falls County Appraisal District have an appraised value for the site, both now that it's private property, but also when the state owned it?
It's on the tax rolls now, whatever its value is. That means the flippers have to get flipping quick enough, even if they have a fairly large portfolio. Maybe they'll put up barbed wire, run 10 cows out, and claim an ag exemption. And, the appraisal district, especially after it's on the rolls for more than a full year, doesn't have to accept P Bush's sales price as its appraised value.

4. If there's a significant difference between 1 and 2, above all, and maybe 1 and 3, why?

5. If something pans out on 4, how much did either state Rep. Kyle Kacal or state Sen. Brian Birdwell facilitate this price drop?

6. Related to 5, if you get names of principals at SRED, have any of those names made some campaign contributions? Had any lobbying-type visits to state House or Senate committees on which one or the other of those two gentlemen serve? FYI, Birdwell served this past Lege as chair of the Select Committee on State Real Property Data Collection; I'm sure this committee has interactions with the GLO. Sounds like a place to start right there. He was also on the Senate's State Affairs Committee.
This is for somebody else to ask, too. Given that the Waco Trib only really covers schools news in Marlin, and the teevee folks don't do investigative journalism out here to any great degree, it probably won't happen.
I still wish somebody from the Houston Chronicle picks up a thread on this due to the Houston-based nature of SRED. But, that's not going to happen, either.

The local paper in Marlin? Sorry. That's all I can say now on that angle.

And, no, I'm not being cynical. I'm just being properly skeptical on all of this.

People in Marlin have been critical of Chris Martinez for not doing more with the hotel. But maybe the reason the deal with the developer fell through is that he did more due diligence or exercised more scrutiny. And that may be not just with the Houston flippers, but with other offers he received.

And, now, it's reality check time.

For the Houston flippers? You're in a county that's still one of the poorest counties in Texas outside the lower Valley. Good luck with the flipping, because you're going to need lots of it. Marlin already has a hospital. The VA has been consolidated in Waco and Temple for more than a decade now. Marlin already has public prison units; a private prison is going nowhere. The state's juvenile prison system is a clusterfuck; it needs large-scale communal type facilities near larger cities, but it's nowhere near getting ready to do that.

Marlin as the home of a possible real estate frenzy sounds kind of funny. The home of a possible real estate bubble that collapses soon enough sounds, per Marx, like farce first, tragedy second. These people deserve better from anybody who has ideas of a real estate frenzy, whether the bidders are coming from Houston or possibly elsewhere on I-10.

March 28, 2018

Repeal the Second Amendment? Why not? #2A

For wingers in general and 2Aers in particular frothing in their mouth-breathing on Twitter that amendments can't be repealed, of course they can.

The 21st Amendment specifically by word repealed the 18th:

Section 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.
Nothing clearer than that.

Second, another person, who's a 2A mouth-breather, or semi-so, and a friend of Brains to boot, claims all of the Bill of Rights is about individual rights.

Not so. Contra pseudo-originalists like Nino Scalia, and apostates like Laurence Tribe (for whatever reason), the Second Amendment, with the "well-regulated militia" being the controlling clause, had a corporatist angle. Also, I don't know about 1790, but in 1775, only 10 percent of Americans, by estimates, even owned guns.

Beyond that, the Tenth Amendment talks about right of states, who aren't individuals.

Third, to turn back to point No. 1, amendments 12-17, while not repealing previous amendments, did partially (14th) or fully "repeal" specific items of the body of the Constitution rather than create new rights.

The mouth-breathers, in their claims to originalism or other things, rather stake a claim to historical ignorance. And interpretive ignorance.

Now, it may be highly idealistic to repeal the amendment. But, that's a different story. It has historic precedent. That said, the original Eighteenth Amendment was even more idealistic.

March 27, 2018

TX Progressives salute the #MarchForOurLives movement

The Texas Progressive Alliance stands with the marchers as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff analyzed the Harris County precinct data for the Democratic Senate primary.

As if last weekend’s March For Our Lives events weren’t epic enough, Texas Leftist was glad to see some Houston Area high school students start yet another impressive movement. By bringing prominent Democratic and Republican leaders together in ways that political forces have fallen short, the Inaugural Day of Unity Texas is off to a great start.

Neil at All People Had Value made the point that we are facing an authoritarian/Constitutional crisis.

Ted at Jobsanger enjoyed watching Trump squirm over Stormy Daniels but wants the country to move on — to Hillary 2020 presumably, or maybe JoePa Biden, now, since he wants to fight Trump.

The Texas Trib notes that Texans are getting ever harder to count as the 2020 Census is just two years away.


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

Stephen Young lists ten Texas celebrities who ought to get into politics, a list that might have been a bit more useful before the primaries.

Also at the Dallas Observer, Jim Schutze says Ben Carson may be right about something.

Space City Weather explains why a hurricane forecast for 2018 will be a challenge.

Jeff Balke puts the blame on negligent drivers for the spate of car crashes with light rail trains in Houston.

Dwight Silverman shows how to manage your Facebook privacy settings.

Mean Green Cougar Red takes a long look at the Uber self-driving car that caused the death of a bicyclist.