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.