January 16, 2019

TX Progressives roundup — the wall, the shutdown, the Lege

The Texas Progressive Alliance stands with federal workers and contractors and their families amidst the longest government shutdown in history as it brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff congratulates Dan Patrick for his success in claiming victory on the bathroom bill.

SocraticGadfly saw the number of "names" already making 2020 presidential announcements, along with the speculation about many others, and offered his initial oddsmaking take on Democratic candidates along with other assessment.

Stace at Dos Centavos is back! Last week, he provided more context to the recent prison release of La Raza Unida Party's Ramsey Muñiz than the MSM. 

It's been a fun time, but Texas Leftist has decided to finally close up shop in the blog format.  But if you've enjoyed the great content over these years, please give my brand new venture a listen.  Welcome to the Ingressive Voices Podcast!!  Hope to see you (hear you??) there!!

And here are some posts of interest about Texas and the nation of progressive background.

State Rep. Erin Zwiener asks us to take sexual misconduct seriously.

Dan Solomon notes that the town of Marfa is now famous enough to be mocked by The Simpsons.

Grits for Breakfast gives the Lege a to-do list for criminal justice reform.

The Lunch Tray calls for action to oppose the weakening of school lunch nutrition standards.

Paradise in Hell remains our foremost interpreter of Individual One.

Swamplot finds a visual compendium of where Houston's neighborhood names came from.

David Bruce Collins has a roundup of Alexandria Ocasio Cortex thoughts.

Jill Stein's recount effort, having first produced results in Pennsylvania, including a requirement to move to ballots with a paper trail, added to that in Wisconsin, including getting to take a peek at the guts of voting machines.

The Children of the Confederacy plaque is coming down from the Capitol in Austin.

January 15, 2019

As the government shutdown continues:
Playing 'gotcha' with Dems on wall votes

The likes of Brie Brie Joy, writing for The Intercept, and Lee Camp, among others, last week played "gotcha" with national Democrats, claiming that then-Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, along with current Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, in 2006, had no problem voting for a wall.

Politifact rates that half-true, and I agree.

Politifact describes several ways in which the Secure Fence Act was different from Trump.

First, it was for sections of the border as a stand-alone item. It was not to fund part of a barrier for the entire border.

Second, as the word "fence" in the bill's name indicates, it was NOT for a wall. And, although Trump, in his semi-dotage, has slipped at times on Twitter, it's clear he wants a wall.

Indeed, Politifact notes that Trump has called what was approved in 2006 too weak.

Politifact has a related piece from Obama's presidency here.

It's not a totally false claim, whether out of the mouth of wingnuts trying to score purity points or from alleged leftists looking for another "gotcha" on Democrats.

Since, at the level of national politics, I long ago did my duopoly exit, I don't normally feel the need for such gotcha.

So far, only the wingers are saying, "But Dems voted for $25 billion for the wall a year ago." They did. But, for Democrats, that was for a 10-year payout, not one year, it was tied to DACA renewal, and even more, to a better process for legal immigration and other issues, and Trump rejected that.

Again, so far, only wingers are saying that. Stay tuned, as the shutdown continues.

And, per David Bruce Collins, the Dems themselves, after the disastrous Pelosi-Schumer response to Trump (contra Bernie Sanders' much better personal one), need to up their storytelling and narrative game. (That then said, George Lakoff isn't a perfect adviser on such things.)


That said, as Eoin Higgins notes, on things like reauthorizing federal flood insurance just before the shutdown, there ARE things on which to play gotcha on Dems.

January 14, 2019

Charles Davis vs Jill Stein, round 2

I'm no big fan of Jill Stein's recount of the 2016 presidential election, and wasn't from the start. Even though she was hamstrung by election laws in some states, nonetheless, the recount appeared Democrat-biased, and, contra Green Party defenders of the recount who have pointed out those election law issues, I doubt either she or David Cobb knew that at the time. Given her endorsing Bernie Sanders in the California Democratic primary, plus her indication of a willingness to step aside and offer him the Green Party nomination — which she couldn’t do and later claimed she wasn’t trying to do — I have good reason for that.

That's why, when I read Charles Davis' piece in The Daily Beast last May about the lack of FEC filings, the amount of money Cobb and others were being paid for their work, and how the Stein campaign seemed to be reneging on its initial plans for a public vote on using the leftover money, I was intrigued.

Intrigued enough to blog about it.

But, also, "intrigued" by Davis willing to strawman leftists over Syria, to the point of calling Sy Hersh a conspiracy theorist. And, yes, I think this does color to some degree his reporting, or at least potentially.

Let’s also remember that the Daily Beast (not sure if Davis or not) “broke” the story of Stein’s questionable financial investments just before the election. That said, they ARE questionable, and even if they offer lower returns, “ethical” mutual funds exist.

So, now that we've seen the Stein recount effort produce results in Pennsylvania, including a requirement to move to ballots with a paper trail, and now in Wisconsin, including getting to take a peek at the guts of voting machines, 

I tweeted Davis back, asking for an update/folo piece, since part of the thrust of his original was that Stein hadn't gotten any results, probably wouldn't get any results, and to the degree that her effort probably was not a traditional recount, was reduplicative of other, established, election security agencies.

Well, he did nothing more than double down on his original statement. He eventually gave me a suggestion on Twitter to "do check out" the blog at Stein's new site, and the ongoing pay issues.

I counter-suggested that, if we're giving suggestions, that he do stop strawmanning leftists on things like Syria. In my second-last Tweet before that, I made clear that I'm not a Stein fan because she's an AccommoGreen, per above.
"(D)o stop strawmanning leftists over Syria and other foreign policy issues, as long as we're offering suggestions here." 
Somehow, I doubt that will happen. Just as much as I doubt he'll write an honest folo, if any.

And, to the degree my tweeting was trollish, the man has well earned it.

That said, my straight take?

On the Wisconsin issues, Stein may have accomplished something, since it was in the envelope of a recount, that already-existing vote integrity nonprofits could not have gotten.

That then said? Do I think voting machines have been regularly hacked by Putin, or regularly manipulated by voting machine companies? No.

Do I think previous claims about how easy they are to hack have been overstated?

Absolutely, as I recently blogged.

The paper trail issue in Pennsylvania? Corrupt Democrats and about equally corrupt Republicans have both refused to do anything about that in the Keystone State. Straight-up win, there, Charlie. (Are paper ballots perfect, themselves? Nope. They can still be stolen, or added unto. Landslide Lyndon, 1948, kids.)

As I told you? Man up. Stop being a hack.

January 13, 2019

Beto-Bob O'Rourke doesn't walk the walk on legal pot (updated)

Yes, this is primarily a state issue, but to some degree, it's also a federal one. And, while Beto O'Rourke talks the talk about marijuana, as far as I know, he has sponsored no bill to even address the Drug Enforcement Administration continuing to list pot as a Schedule 1 drug, let alone do anything more than that. Anne Helen Peterson doesn't discuss this issue in her 8,000-world puff piece, which itself indicates how much Beto's putting it on the back burner in red-lands Texas. (I searched the piece. The word "marijuana" is not mentioned once. In turn, it seems like Beto is stereotyping old, white, red-lands Texas on this issue, as old, white, pro-pot Willie Nelson is from Abbott.

Per a piece Walker Bragman just wrote in The Intercept, the legend of "Beto loves pot legalization" most likely got its start from when he was on the El Paso City Council. There, it was simply a tactical ploy, threatening to start a dialog about drug legalization. Whether Beto then primaried Sylvester Reyes because he actually supported pot legalization or just because he was mad about Reyes threatening to whack Obama stimulus money for El Paso after the council approved a Beto-pushed regulation is open to debate, as is the issue of how much this played in Beto's first House run, period, as this went down in 2009 and Beto didn't run until 2012, not 2010. So, claiming this drove Beto to challenge Reyes is itself an uncritical promotion of the legend of Beto on pot.

In any case, by the time he got elected to DC, to any degree Beto actually believed in marijuana decriminalization, let alone legalization, in the hinterlands of El Paso, he took a pass in Washington. Kind of like Reyes.

In fact, in 2017, a bill was introduced in the House to force the Drug Enforcement Administration to move marijuana from Schedule 1 to Schedule 3. The bill has three co-sponsors in addition to the Congresscritter who introduced the bill. None of them is named Beto O'Rourke. The sponsor, Congressman Gaetz, even spoke about the bill on the floor.

Per Brookings, rescheduling down to Schedule 2, though it might mean less to state governments, would have at least symbolic value. As for what Brookings states about many people in officialdom worries about international law obligations, I believe Canada just legalized pot nationwide, becoming official Oct. 17. And nearly 50 countries have decriminalized it. The horse is out the barn door.


This is kind of similar to the Cares act that got moderately more support in the Senate. That said, it would only have moved pot down to Schedule II. There's a fair difference between Schedule II and Schedule III, per this list of federal schedules.

January 12, 2019

Ted Rall hits one of his more wrong moments on minimum wage

Besides not fully understanding the First Amendment (charitable version) or being a sort of butt-hurt solipsist (less charitable but more realistic version, based on a long past history of his) in his suit against the LA Times for canning him, petulancy that is now nearly 18 years old (go here for my take on Popehat's takedown), Ted Rall has other moments a-plenty of flat-out wrongness about American issues.

(Notably, the cluelessness is more often about domestic issues. When he takes controversial stands on foreign policy, he's relatively more likely to be right. Not that that means a whole lot.)

His latest? Per the above cartoon? Saying the US "really" should have a $25/hour minimum wage, or "really really" should have one of $80 an hour. Ted has since doubled down on the BS in his most recent syndicated column.
According to ... ShadowStats.com [no actual link to individual piece by Ted] $22 in 2013 comes to at least $35 today.
It does not, except in such a seemingly febrile mind. The idea that an actual inflation rate, per CPI (and not core CPI) which has not gone over 2.1 percent anywhere in the 2014-18 period and had an average during that time of just 1.52 percent, is "really" 10 percent is bullshit. It's like claiming that not only is the Department of Labor's official unemployment rate of 3.9 percent on the U-3 numbers is wrong (and it is), but that the U-6 numbers of 7.6 percent are also wrong, and the "real" unemployment in the US is 15 percent or more.

So, IF I accept Ted's claim that we "really" (that's going in scare quotes every time now, Ted) "should" (ditto) have had a minimum wage of $22 an hour in 2013, your $35 an hour in 2019 still doesn't follow. Per actual CPI, that minimum wage should be $23.71. Even if you claim the CPI is wrong by 100 percent? That minimum wage should still be just $25.44.

His Gollum-precious ShadowStats, to be a bit more generous, claimed an inflation rate of almost 10 percent in 2011, Ted. That's just triple the official CPI for the year of 3.0 percent. So, let's do this once more, tripling the CPI for each year of 2014, normal compounding (unless Ted has some "shadow compounding" to pull out of somewhere) and see what we have.

We still "really" only get up to $27.47.

At this point, Ted is clearly, from my perspective, pulling numbers out of either thin air or his ass. Your choice as to which, Ted. Oh, and to punk and troll Ted just a bit more, your precious ShadowStats is behind a capitalist paywall. Oh, you running dog capitalist lackey.

Speaking of? Ted, if you "really" cared about minimum wage and related employee issues, you wouldn't have donations to you laundered through a charity with heavy ties to USPIRG and to Fund for the Public Interest, which has been successfully (not SLAPP-reverse failed) sued multiple times for employment law violations. And yes, Ted and fanbois, your final stop laundromat, Sustainable Markets Foundation, has just such connections. Not to mention having the word "markets" in its title.

I've broken up my Twitter thread related to his individual cartoon about his stupidity into individual tweets, with bits of commentary in between.
Wishes and reality are two different things, Ted, just as your LA Times suit has shown. I won't repeat old jokes about having one thing in one hand and another in the other.
Also not the first or last time she's been wrong. That said, on this particular issue, per her past, she should know better than Ted for a reason I'll note below.
I am going to post that chart I am talking about, to give us a clear visual.

Seems pretty clear to me, at least.

We should also note that the web post I linked to cites the Economic Policy Institute for some of its discussion. The EPI bats left of center on economic issues in general, so don't claim that I am citing some sort of wingnut piece. 

Tis true that one's a few years old, but here's a table that runs through 2018 that says the same.

We are now at the point where Ted is simply phoning it in.
And, that's the refudiation, nickel version, to Ted phoning it in.
Actually, not true, but the Tweet stays, to tie in with my point above.

Warren, of course, grew up in small-town Oklahoma, which means that on the sociological side, she has even less excuse than Rall for such uninformed blather.

My stance comes in this last tweet:
I don't know exactly how Oregon defines urban, suburban and rural in its law. Here in Texas, would Collin County be urban or suburban? Grayson County or Hunt Count suburban or rural? The idea is correct in general, though.

After we get something like that nationally? We then, per that table and graph above, institute a COLA. I faulted Nancy Pelosi for not doing that when she and her House Dems last raised the minimum wage.

As for Rall? In this case, in my opinion, it's not "just" the mix of laziness and willfulness that characterizes many of his columns, as well as both the content and drawing style of his cartoons.

I personally can't see this one as anything but deliberate lying. The statistics are out there in factual form, not Rall's distorted versions.

That's only increased by Rall's response on Twitter that he spends plenty of time in small town America. Then, in addition to telling apparent lies about the minimum wage, he doesn't actually care about small-town America, I guess. He's either exaggerating downward the size of places he's visited or else engaged in other exaggeration. Given his clear misstatements on the actuality of the minimum wage, whatever the exaggeration, IMO it's surely deliberate, though.

The per-capital income for the entire state of Mississippi is about $23,000, Median HOUSEHOLD income is about $43,000, less than one person working full time at $22/hour, Ted. So, if you "really" spend a lot of time in small-town America, you haven't "really" learned anything about "real" economic stats you "should" know.

In other words? Ted, I don't trust you. And others who do, the remaining fanboys, shouldn't.

(And, speaking of, per your suit against the LA Times? THIS is why they don't carry you any more. Idiotic mendacities and made-up information.)

Let's look at his past, too.

Among Ted's other larger mistakes in both domestic and foreign affairs?

The biggest was his whopper claiming Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 actually landed safe and sound in Kazakhstan, which he doubled down on for some time.

Then there was claiming Glenn Greenwald is a liberal. (He's become more librul on some things, but like Mark Ames and others, I consider him a libertarian just like his boss, Omidyar.)

Other ideas of his, which sounded deeply different at the time just sound dumb now. Like drafting cops. (That would probably also be unconstitutional, or very close to it. Certainly a violation of the spirit of the 13th Amendment.)

I used to halfway agree with his ideas on abortion, but have moved away from that now. Semantically, he's probably wrong, if he's going to stick that route, on using "murder" rather than "manslaughter" in many such cases. "Human life" may not be defined — or definable — as starkly as he would have it, either.

Trivialization by hyperbole is what he does here, is perhaps the best way to explain it.

Or else, gotcha by outrageous statement, like some of his editorial cartoons.

Basically, because he had, pre-9/11, traveled to Afghanistan as well as Pakistan, and had good insights overall on invading Afghanistan, and because he pissed off Hillbots already in 2008, I read him fairly credulously until the Flight 370 and Greenwald. The flight issue, and his stubbornness revealed on it, showed a new side. Then, per the Popehat link up top, I learned a lot more about him in comments there.

(I'm also in the middle of reading a book about pre 9/11 travels to Afghanistan that is almost certainly more realistic than whatever Rall wrote.)

Finally, if Warren made such idiotic claims, then, as a member of the really reality-based community, I see that as another strike against her presidential campaign. (Hiring Hillary Clinton's 2016 communications team would be another.)


This reminds me — once or twice a year I do a blog post when I do a major blogroll cleanup. Maybe I need to do one explaining those who I keep, even or especially when I disagree with them a fair amount.

January 11, 2019

Early 2020 Democratic presidential oddsmaking

Yeah, yeah.

On one hand, it's way too early for this, amirite?

On the other hand, when a bland neoliberal Hispanic former mayor and former Obama cabinet backbencher named Julian Castro actually thinks he has a shot, no, not too early.

So, two things.

First, I'll give you oddsmaking.

Second, I'll give you his or her likely target audience.

Third, as a Green-leaner, I'll give a letter grade based on my take on the acceptability of their political stances and related issues.

Note: Odds may go over 100 percent total because they would change in reality with candidates dropping out, etc.

So, let's start, with ...

Julian Castro! [Officially declared candidates, and those with official exploratory committees are in red.] Odds: 0.1 percent. Target: People with the last name of Castro. Like factor: D.

(Note: On people with perceived higher odds, I'll give more of a breakout. At least as much as for Julian in the paragraph above.) And so, in no particular further order ...

Joe Biden: Odds 10 percent. (Don't overestimate those early Iowa polls.) Biden has the pluses of being a better establishmentarian candidate than Hillary Clinton and ties to the Obama coattails, and may be seen as more progressive than is actually true. Minuses are being almost as old as Bernie Sanders, being gaffe-prone, being Sen-MBNA on bankruptcy tightening 15 years ago, and lots of #MeToo baggage beginning with but not limited to the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings. Target: DNC establishment and DNC superdelegates if a brokered convention happens. Like factor: D-minus.

Kamala Harris: Odds 12 percent. Has the pluses of being a minority and a woman both, especially in the MeToo era. Has baggage of outright ConservaDem past on criminal justice issues as Cal AG and playing footsie with Mnuchin outlet on banksters and Great Recession. Has advantage of limited Senate legislation paper trail. Go here for a good roundup of everything about Kamala the Cop; take some of the non-Cop bullet points with a grain of salt. Target: Slightly more liberal Cory Booker voters. Like factor: C-minus.

Cory Booker: Odds 7 percent. Has pluses of being a minority. Has baggage of footsie with Big Pharma, of many "poseur" stances (he's a weathervane in a field filled with them), and lack of a Senate legislation paper trail for his length of time in office. Target: Slightly more conservative Kamala Harris voters. Is working on "what to run for" issue by getting New Jersey Legislature to consider an "LBJ bill" so he can also file for Senate re-election. Like factor: D-minus.

Robert Francis O'Rourke: Odds: 10 percent. Pluses include recent Senate campaign, Beltway stenos and even more, Beltway neoliberal think tanks rallying to him and vague "winnability" issue. Minusus include issue-free Senate campaign being exposed along with ConservaDem House record. Target: White Obamiacs from 2008 and 2012. Like factor: D-minus.

Kirsten Gillibrand: Odds: 12 percent. Pluses include MeToo actions to the degree they were genuine and some actual legislation history. Plus/minus is "bipartisanship." Minuses include seemingly unsavory nature of pushing Al Franken out the door and ConservaDem past, especially on guns. Target: Conservative wing of 2016 Sanders voters plus women in general. Like factor: D.

Bernie Sanders: Odds: 16 percent. Pluses include previous campaign history, plus him moving slightly leftward again on foreign policy. (Wake me up a year from now re Israel and BDS issues.) Minuses include the downside of previous campaign history, plus no "Hillary voted for Iraq and spoke to Goldman Sachs" easy campaign targets. Minuses from a Green POV include that he's still way too much of a military Keynesian. Additional baggage of age. See my posts about him and F-35s. Like factor: B-minus. (I'm not grading on a curve, but you can compare his grade with other Dems.)

Sherrod Brown: Odds: 9 percent. Pluses include being from the Midwest, perception as a kinder, gentler Bernie Sanders and related matters. Minuses include no hot single issues from his Senate time, long enough for him to have developed one, and being more Fauxgressive than Progressive. Like factor: C-minus.

Michael Bloomberg: Odds: 1 percent. (This odds is as a Democrat only; I in no way rule out him making an independent run in the general election.) Pluses include perceived liberalism, especially on climate and environment through things such as the soda tax, claims to appeal to centrist independents in general election. Minuses include bankster background and everything related. Target: Democratic establishment, slightly more conservative Howard Schultz voters. Like factor? Hell,. F.

Howard Schultz: Odds 1 percent. Pluses include perceived liberalism, history of Starbucks, connections with Starbucks patrons. Minuses include downside of Starbucks history, especially with black patrons. Target: Dem establishment, slightly more liberal Michael Bloomberg voters. Like factor: D.

Elizabeth Warren: Odds 8 percent. Pluses? A woman in the MeToo era, perceived as liberal to left-liberal economically. Minuses include her Cherokee Nation baggage, that she's not as liberal on as many things as believed and that she's anti-BDS. Also, per her "I'm having a beer" NYE Instagram video, a too-transparent sense of earnestness, possibly coupled with a too-transparent sense of pandering to Millennials with that as an Instagram rather than Facebook video. Additional minus is that she reportedly has hired comms staff from Hillary 2016. Politically unastute plus they were hacks. Like factor? C-minus (and dropping with the Hillary news). Thanks to Daily Wire or whoever gave that graphic to somebody connected to Trump, who then Tweeted it.

Steve Bullock: Odds: 3 percent. Pluses include being a governor, and thus an executive and also thus, no Senate paper trail. Minuses start with being a moderate white male. Target: New Dems in general, and specifically, ones who want to target the heartland, and slightly more conservative John Hickenlooper candidates. Like factor: C.

John Hickenlooper: Odds: 4 percent. Pluses include being a governor of a larger, more purplish state than Montana, and thus an executive and also thus, no Senate paper trail. Minuses are more prominent than Bullock's and include his in-the-tank support for fracking, plus his 2008 DNC actions while Denver mayor for those with longer memories. Target: New Dems in general, and specifically, ones who want to target the heartland, and slightly more liberal Steve Bullock voters. Like factor: D-minus.

John Delaney: Odds: Less than Julian Castro. Pluses besides being first to file? None. Minusus? Bland older white guy from exurban Congressional district. Plus/minus: Looks like a bald, blander Will Ferrell. Target: Cabinet position in next Dem presidency and staying in longer than Julian Castro. Like factor: Not even registered.

Jay Inslee: Odds: 9 percent. Pluses include being a governor and one with more liberal stances on climate issues than Bullock or Hickenlooper. Plugged in more than either of them as well. Minuses include relatively unknown level to many Democrats, being from a fairly "safe" state and not a huge record. Like factor: C.

Tim Ryan: Odds: 3 percent. Pluses include perception of willingness to take on House Dem establishment. Minuses will include his Blue Dog-ish record and trying to run from the House. Like factor: D.

Tulsi Gabbard: Odds: 4 percent. Political pluses (note that caveat) include Sanders connections, especially if he does not run, a Kool-Aid stronger than Beto's, perhaps, and definite support from people like H.A. Goodman who haven't done the full Bernie-to-Trump but are definitely the conservative faction of BernieBros. General pluses are willingness to take on Dem establishment. Minuses are basically everything I've said above under political pluses plus the fact she still, Kool-Aid drinkers aside, appears to back Islamophobia, and that she's as much a political re-inventor as Trump. That's all true, and I've blogged about her Hindu nationalist fascist bromance three full years ago. Targets: The conservative portion of the Sanders movement. Like factor: D-plus.

Jeff Merkley: Odds: 3 percent. Pluses include being a general progressive for a Democrat and good on climate change in particular. Minuses include being no more than a typical progressive Dem on foreign policy. Target: Sanders voters. Like factor: C-plus.

Hillary Clinton: Odds: 2 percent. (Yes, that high.) Pluses include support of think tanks, Donut Twitter, diehard PUMAs, etc. Minuses include being Hillary Clinton and her past campaign baggage, both 2008 primaries and 2016 general. Additional baggage of age. Target: 2016 Hillary Clinton voters plus a few more voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Like factor: F-minus.

Amy Klobuchar: Odds: 1 percent. Pluses? Lemme think. Minuses would be being behind two or three other women senators and being older than two of them, as well as being seen as less progressive than all three. Target: Hillary Clinton backers who wouldn't vote for one of those other women. Like factor: D.

Terry McAuliffe: Odds: More than Julian Castro and John Delaney, less than anybody else. Pluses: Was a governor. Minuses: Way too much personal political baggage plus way too much Clintonista baggage. Target audience: Clintonistas.

Marianne Williamson: Odds: Not a ghost of a chance or even a New Agey ghost of a chance. (I'd forgotten that there had been noises about her until she was mentioned on someone else's blog. But she even has an exploratory committee and website.) Pluses: Not a politician. "Peace" imagery. Minuses: All her baggage as a New Age nutter. Target audience: People who think "A Course in Miracles" is real. Like factor: Probably on the non-New Agey angle, a B; including it, a D-minus.

Among actual or potential candidates with more of a chance, how do they affect each other? Brown is possibly the main beneficiary of Sanders not running, if Brown does. Gabbard is second and Warren a distant third. Bullock and Hickenlooper obviously affect each other; both affect and are affected by Inslee to a lesser extent. Booker and Harris, with both being minority candidates, and in somewhat similar political silos, affect each other. Gillibrand interplays with Warren and Harris, and Klobuchar if she runs, and possibly also with Sanders.

If O'Rourke runs, he probably benefits most from Booker, the only other younger charismatic male in the race, dropping out. Not sure who benefits most if Robert Francis runs then drops out.


As of right now, I don't expect Sen. Amy Klobuchar to run. I don't expect any Democratic governors or ex-governors besides those mentioned above, from a thin Dem ranks in statehouses, to enter the race. I think Tom Steyer is less likely than Schultz or Bloomberg. (Update: Steyer has officially said he'd prefer to blow billions, if necessary, on trying to impeach Trump instead of potentially blowing billions on a prez campaign.)

I think other businesscritters are less likely yet.

And, that includes Mark Zuckerberg, who has too much Facebook mess to clean up in the next 12 months to have a chance. (Notice how buzz about his possible candidacy has died off in recent months?)


It's also "amazing" (not really) how narrowly the New York Times defined "diversity" in talking about possible candidates trying to get an early start. Sanders is a secularist of some sort, but there's no real atheists. Harris, despite her part-Indian ancestry, is Christian. Tulsi Gabbard is Hindu, of course. As noted above, none are "diverse" in terms of thinking outside the bipartisan foreign policy establishment. None, despite Bernie's mild democratic socialism and falsely calling himself a socialist in 2016, is there any "diversity" outside of broad tenets of modern neoliberal-influenced capitalism.

There's certainly no huge diversity in governance issues. None of the Democratic candidates has talked about amending the Constitution to abolish the electoral college, despite two presidential split decisions this century. Certainly, none has promoted ideas such as any form of instant-runoff voting or proportional representation among their state's U.S. House or state legislature delegations.


Finally, with Dem changes on superdelegates, is there some chance of a brokered convention? Yes, but not much Put it at 5 percent; note how wide open the GOP race was in 2016 but how much it converged well before the last round of primaries.

January 10, 2019

The Green New Deal vs The Green New Deal

Let's start this off by stipulating that the DSA roses' "Green New Deal" is a pale imitation of the Green Party's offering. Andrew Stewart also talks about the original Green New Deal at Counterpunch. Carl Beijer (who allegedly worked on two Nader campaigns) says, "but the Democrats are the first to talk about the global climate issue."

That may well be true.

At the same time, it's not "the Democrats," Carl; it's a small subsection of Democrats, not a party stance. And, per those links, we'll see how well that small segment does at avoiding being co-opted by national leadership.

Indeed, the face of the Roses, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, has continued to move rightward since lauding John McCain and backing away from BDS-related issues, as this longform from Mint Press notes.

Mint Press focuses on the Green New Deal and how it is, at bottom, fauxgressive. It mentions things like entrepreneurialism and other neolib buzz words, and looks like it would be entirely open to a carbon cap-and-trade, not tax and tariff, as the primary government "tool." And, that is even before Speaker Pelosi guts it. The piece also notes the GND of the Roses is a plan to work on a plan much more than an actual plan.

OTOH, I would support Carl 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.

For New York Greens, Howie Hawkins gets that right when he notes that a real Green New Deal needs that, and adds that during World War II, with its analogies, FDR nationalized 25 percent of American industry.

Andrew Stewart also remains skeptical of the AOC "wave election" and other things related to it.

Meanwhile, in "mainstream progressive" media, the likes of Emma Vigeland claims that John Cornyn supports a carbon tax (which she insinuates is in AOC's version of a Green New Deal). First, I found multiple examples from Cornyn's Twitter feed showing her wrong (and politely let her know). Second, per both Vox and Grist, it seems fairly clear that the nebulous GND proposed by AOC and allies doesn't have a carbon tax. Some of their think-tank allies are in outright opposition.

Per Grist, I don't see a massive expansion of renewables without a hammer of the carbon tax forcing it. Ending all onshore and offshore oil drilling on federal lands to try to force us out of internal combustion engines, or at least those without hybrid drives, won't do enough to #KeepItInTheGround in the US, let alone doing nothing about foreign oil. And, of course, that's where a carbon tariff (which the GND doesn't come close to mentioning) is part of the picture.

The biggest of "allies," or actually a progenitor, is the Sunrise Movement. Its homepage looks even whiter than the Green Party, despite its acknowledgement that much of climate change will hit poor of all ethnicities and especially minorities. The ambitious goals it lists, per the New Yorker, seem unobtainable without major funding for it. Major funding. And a carbon tax would help until much of this was in place.

If even more tax credits to renewables is a small part of the deal, fine. But, that alone won't lead to a ramp-up of the size needed to get us driving electric vehicles, as well as running our computers on renewable electricity. And, what about the Dick Cheney sneered-at "conservation"? What if we can't ramp up car batteries without massive environmental degradation? What if, in some ways, the world has peaked? I'm leery, from seeing things like a "smart grid" touted as a major part of the solution (overhauls of the current electric grid ARE needed, but the grid is already relatively smart as far as "switching") that we've got a dollop or three of salvific technologism running around here.

I am also distrustful of any organization which won't list its leadership on its website. Some of the founders claim inspiration from the Occupy movement, or Black Lives Matters. In both cases, we see what has happened with actual or alleged lack of leadership. The original Occupy at Zucotti Park had leadership, despite denials; I've written about that before. Black Lives Matter truly appears to be more leaderless, and by 2020, will probably have dissipated much of its original energy. (In fact, co-founder Evan Weber was part of Occupy. At least he admits it had leadership problems. The real truth is Occupy had leaders who tried to get others to believe the leaderlessness myth. It eventually sold out to Wall Street; remember that, when you see $20 T-shirts; a Sunrise Occupy-style debit card could be next. Occupy also had a 1 percenter problem.

Also, none of the Sunrise Movement have acknowledged ripping off the Green Party, or even really acknowledged its existence. Related big question: If there's a ConservaDem in a general election, after a failed primarying attempt, will it endorse Greens when they're running? SPUSAers or whomever, if Greens aren't available in a particular district?

And more research. Stephen O'Hanlon's Downingtown is semi-ritzy. The man I presume is his dad would appear to have a ritzy yet small-scale law practice.

And, at least one claim, per its Twitter feed? To eliminate all greenhouse gases by 2030? Since cow farts are greenhouse gases, unless Sunrise makes the entire country vegetarian, that simply ain't happening.

But, per the tweet embedded below, that is exactly the claim.
I also find it interesting that Sunrise Movement's Twitter account says it was started in September 2013 ... which is long before the Sunrise Movement was allegedly started. (Both the "@" and the actual name are Sunrise-related, as you can see in the embedded Tweet, so it's not like it originally started as something else.

Finally, do not cite Modern Monetary Theory as a magic wand to pay for all of this. I consider that some left-liberals, and a few leftists, version of snake oil or voodoo economics. Unless you find a magic way to eliminate the bond market as well, it doesn't work that way. It's one of my biggest disagreements with Michael Hudson, for the amount of good he has to say otherwise on economics.

Finally, none of this distinction between the GREEN New Deal and the Green New Deal matters as much, arguably, as the fact that Speaker Pelosi and House Democratic leadership allies of hers gutted the powers and mandate of the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis.

And, the chair of that committee, Kathy Castor, is now talking about how "woke" Dear Leader was on climate change in his 2009 stimulus bill. Since that bill fell short on stimulus help, let's be honest and note that while it did "something" green, the something it did was entirely neoliberal, markets focused. (Of course, per all of the above, the AOC GND has too much of that itself.)

January 08, 2019

The Dallas Morning News is Snoozing toward Gomorrah

Having spent most of the previous decade at a group of suburban Dallas weeklies, I'm long familiar with the Morning News and have long called it the Snooze.

A $24.99 T-shirt that used to be, at least, on sale
at the Snooze Store! And, since the pic is off a
hyperlink, not direct upload, presumably the, no THE,
Dallas Morning News is still engaged in late-stage
capitalism grifting.
A.H. Belo long liked to pretend its shit didn't stink, even as it dumped some whoppers, starting with the Cue Cat! As I noted in one post, that was just one of many stupidities in the online world, detailed again here. Or here, where a former Google exec presumed Snooze readers would be unaware of the existence of AdBlock. (I know this "ads-free viewing" is still around today, but often with "hard" screens if you either don't pay or else don't turn off AdBlock. OTOH, many other places, like the Snooze then, had "soft" tut-tut screens.)

Those stupidities have real-world effect.

It's whacked another 40-plus people as ad sales continue to slip. (A 7.5 percent adhole on Christmas Eve, per my tracking of them, is horrendous, so this isn't a made-up problem. And, as is my wont, that counts obits as adhole inches.)

That's not the worst.

Giving 40 top execs $1.2 million in bonuses for a good financial management job achieved in part by whacking people? SEC link here.

THAT is the worst.

But, unsurprising. Also not surprising is the hypocrisy of publisher Grant Moise with his hand-wringing, when he got nearly $500K in stock options, bonuses and that management goals compensation — that alone being $250K. CFO Katy Murray got $100K just for the realignment. (And, this isn't the first time this issue has popped up.)

Weird are some of the positions that were NOT cut until this round. Example? The Snooze killed its Sunday book review pages, part of what used to be a full-section Sunday Review, a decade ago. But, it still had a books editor, even if part-time or freelance?

Sidebar: This may, or may not, be connected to a hedge fund buying a chunk of the Snooze. And, if you thought the paper already was slouching toward Gomorrah, that would be the kiss of death.

Three years ago, I looked at the background of executive editor Mike Wilson and managing editor Robyn Tomlin and saw beancounters at bottom. More on Tomlin here.

Meanwhile, as late as the most recent election, its op-ed stances continued to dig in determinedly into the right-hand batter's box only, despite all of Dallas County clearly tilting blue now, and the first ring of suburbs in Collin getting at least a tint of purple.

And, the Snooze has less and less room for further error.

Having outsourced its pagination to Gatehouse 18 months ago, there are no copy editor jobs to cut.

If selling the old Belo building, per the story about the layoffs, was predicated on Amazon HQ2 coming to Dallas, does that mean it's not attracting other offers? Sounds like it.

There are no papers left in Belo besides the Snooze itself and other Dallas properties. (Some in Dallas died in failed experiments almost as bad as paywall cluelessness. And the Denton Record-Chronicle disentangled itself from the Snooze last year.)

A third stab at a paywall may, or may not, be successful. The reporter says the paper is still losing circ as well as ad revenue, which means that online subscriptions, if they are moving upward, aren't having a huge effect, at least not yet.

And, the story itself is a bit dishonest, saying the cuts are 4 percent of the Snooze's Belo parent's workforce. They're far more than 4 percent of the people at the Snooze.

As for re-invention? The Snooze has been doing that for almost a decade.


That said, this is the worst ... that I know of.

I first saw Matt's link by a quote-tweet of a quote-tweet:
Hixenbaugh works at the Chronicle, which has had its share of controversial layoffs, even as it claims to still be making money, and even as it's owned by Hearst, which being privately traded, doesn't have to tell the SEC what sort of bonuses its execs get and why.

January 07, 2019

Texas Progressives offer first hot take on 2019

The Texas Progressive Alliance wishes everyone a happy and healthy new year — and 181 Texas Legiscritters a spring of common sense — as it brings you the first roundup of 2019.

 Off the Kuff took a closer look at how the candidates for Harris County offices did in 2018.

 SocraticGadfly made a New Year's resolution for other people: stop reading self-help books and the late-stage capitalism they're predicated on.

Here are some posts of interest from other blogs and news sites.

Alex Jones tops this year’s Bum Steer Awards from Texas Monthly.

Daniel Williams shares his research on the effect of ballot length on voter turnout.

Better Texas Blog explains the Comptroller's revenue estimate.

Texas Tribune reports that, in the wake of an inconclusive investigation into sexting from his cell phone’s number, state Sen. Charles Schwertner is giving up his committee chairmanship.

Elise Hu presents her New Year's resolutions.

Is it a hypocrisy smash-up? Texas Observer describes how many MAGA-heavy Panhandle towns would be dying — except for an influx of immigration.

The Texas Living Waters Project has New Year's resolutions for all of us on water conservation.

At the Dallas Observer, taking an insightful contrarian stance in the wake of the Amber Geyger and Bothell Jean case, Jim Schutze explains how, on police shootings, officers face sometimes-tough legal circumstances.

Juanita is already done with the lies about SNAP.

BeyondBones shares a piece of local TV history.

David Bruce Collins discusses his trip to Big Bend.

The Waco Trib reports on Barry Johnson replacing Abel Reyna as McLennan DA.

The Green Party, national and Pennsylvania state versions, hoists itself by its own decentralization key value petard in calling for the UN to take over cleanup at Japan's Fukushima reactors.

Alternative history: Nixon picks Rocky or Ronnie, not Jerry

In 1973, after Ted Agnew resigned as Nixon's Veep as part of his plea deal on his income tax evasion charges, Tricky Dick was the first president — and the only to date, of course — to exercise the portion of the 25th Amendment on filling a vice presidential vacancy.

We know he eventually picked Jerry Ford, of course.

But, he had two options besides that.

One was Nelson Rockefeller and the other was Ronald Reagan.

(Note: While my first counterfactual about Reagan running for the presidency was influenced by Bob Spitz's new Reagan bio, linked there, this one popped into mind several weeks ago when recently I read Evan Thomas' Nixon bio of a couple of years back.)

First, the actual history. How likely was Reagan to get it?

Not very.

Nixon still thought of him as an intellectual lightweight, just as he did at Bohemian Grove in 1967, when both were there and Nixon had the first inkling that California's new governor might run in 1968 for the presidency. Nixon retained that feeling into the 1980s, bombarding Reagan with Cabinet nomination and foreign policy suggestions. (Nixon strongly opposed George Schultz at State, which is part of why Reagan chose Al Haig for the spot originally; when Haig left, he smartly ignored Nixon the second time around.)

Ford was Nixon's favorite if nothing else for the reason that Nixon thought Congress would never think Ford capable of being president and thus wouldn't impeach him. WHY Nixon thought the man who had risen to be House Minority Leader would be thought incapable, Nixon never said, to the best of my knowledge.

Of the two who finished in the cold? Nixon personally liked Rocky, and thought better of him temperamentally, than Ronnie. But, he thought Congress would think Rocky could very much be president, and thus he would not be a counterweight, unlike what Nixon thought of Ford.

Anyway, to the counterfactual.

Nixon nominates Reagan. Congress knows he's an even more ardent Nixonite, if anything, than Ford. It knows his reputation as a hands-off governor. But it still hopes at this time that he won't be elevated to the top spot, and it knows he has no real ethics issues. He's confirmed no sweat.

Then, we get to Aug. 9, 1974, with actual history proceeding normally, and Ronald Wilson Reagan becomes the 38th, not the 40th, U.S. president. What happens?

First, at least as soon, if not sooner, than Ford did, he pardons Nixon. And does so with more unseemly language, claiming Nixon was victim of a witch-hunt, etc. This backfires with him even more than Ford's pardon did in reality.

Second, while not totally in the grip of voodoo economics, unlike 1980, he already is willing to listen to nutbar ideas in the dismal semi-science. He thinks a tax cut will help, which it might due to Keynesian reasons. He also thinks the budget needs to be balanced. He also also thinks that Nixon and Kissinger have been coddling the Russkies, that we need to stop SALT II, that we need to ramp up defense spending, and that we need to look at revising, or even jettisoning the ABM.

Reagan has no moderating James Baker as chief of staff. Nancy does get somebody better than Ed Meese to officially be in charge of day-to-day operations, but Meese, as in 1981 and beyond, is the eminence grise. In early 1975, Kissinger resigns, or is pushed.

This opens the floodgates to GOP challengers, who perceive Reagan as unbalanced, as having forfeited any honeymoon, and as politically vulnerable, as well as a possible boat anchor to Republican hopes. Bob Dole, Howard Baker and George H.W. Bush all jump in. So does the more moderate Charles Percy.

Reagan's old comments on making Social Security at least partially voluntary get dredged up in the media. Reagan "obligingly" doubles down on this shortly before the New Hampshire primary, served by a second-rate, and only quasi-official, campaign staff. (John Sears, having been given an advance tip to keep his powder dry and wait for official word, runs Percy's campaign when he announces.)

Reagan, though otherwise popular in New Hampshire, sees support crumble, with semi-next door Dole having already won (by plurality) the Iowa caucuses, followed by Percy, which has prompted other more moderate Republicans, like Charles Mathias, to either look at running or unifying behind Percy, the tacit candidate of the Rockefeller wing. Republican governors Bill Milliken and Jim Rhodes also make noises about favorite son candidacies.

Reagan can't get all the hardcore New Hampshire conservatives behind him. He does nail down Gov. Meldrim Thompson, but Dole, fresh off Iowa, convinces publisher-kingmaker William Loeb to, if not endorsing him, to at least offer no official endorsement.

Reagan wins by plurality in New Hampshire, but fails to break 30 percent. Dole and Percy both run strongly, followed by Baker. Bush, perceived as quasi-moderate at this time, can't break 10 percent, but vows to stay on until Texas.

Percy appears to have the Massachusetts primary wrapped up, and likely Vermont. Others won't contest his Illinois. So, focus goes to Florida, on March 9, and North Carolina, on March 23. Baker convinces Floridians he's the new moderate-conservative southern Republican that's needed, even as a counterweight to the surging Jimmy Carter. He wins there by plurality, with Dole and Percy in an essential draw for second. Reagan's Social Security comments have him finishing even behind Bush.

Reagan, with his Irish up, still hopes to pull out another win in North Carolina. But, despite Jesse Helms' backing, Baker does what he did in Florida. Dole is third and Bush fourth, with Percy focusing on April's Wisconsin race and beyond.

On March 31, 1976, eight years after LBJ did the same, Reagan withdraws.

Percy wins Wisconsin by majority and Pennsylvania by plurality. Bush finishes second to Baker in Texas, narrowly ahead of Dole. Dole pulls an upset in Indiana, edging both Percy and Baker. Baker wins Georgia.

Bush withdraws, and it's essentially a three-person race, outside of possible favorite sons.

With most primaries now leaving the South and going to the Midwest and West, Dole eyes making up ground, and he does.

However, Percy, with Dole and Baker splitting conservatives, takes winner-take-all California by plurality, enough to push him over the top for the nomination.

He names Baker his Veep choice.

Moderate to moderate-conservative Republicanism is rescued. Percy narrowly beats Carter in 1976, but winds up a one-term president. Presumably, the Shah's health, a Carter-like response by Percy, and the taking of hostages play out as they did in actuality.

January 04, 2019

My anti-self-help help for you

Tis the season ....

For a crapload of self-help books to start the new year. (Including self-help books that claim not to be. More below.)

Ignore most of them.

First, check blurbs.

If somebody like Tony Robbins touts them, put them down. And run away.

Second, look at titles or excerpts online, on authors' pages or Twitter accounts.

If the author talks about "winning" life? Run away. That's late-stage capitalist bullshit. Beyond that, it's a sociologically and philosophically shallow. It's also an invitation to psychological problems if one is not resilient, and therefore anti-helpful.

If the author talks about "hacking" life? Run away. It's like the above put through a Silicon Valley blender.

If the title talks about "laws," and gives the impression their are certain immutable laws of human nature, obedience to which will improve your life? Run away. If this were true, one such book would have been written 5,000 years ago and we would all be much better off. It's like a religious claim run through the self-help world filter. (Think of AA's 12 steps, OK?) And, I'm far from alone on that pick-up; I've seen it more than once in one-star reviews by others of self-help books.

If the title has a number in it, anywhere, like how many of these immutable laws there are? Run away. Numbers and listicles are an old marketing hack which the Internet has only made worse.

In addition, most of these books are written for people who are comfortably over the "Kahneman line" on income — in other words, they make more than enough for money itself to be a major factor in happiness or contentment, and probably do so in pretty secure jobs. If you're working in the dying newspaper industry, or a corner of the SEO world that will soon prove to be semi-fraudulent, these books aren't for you. Unfortunately, those are often the people suckered by hopes of a quick fix.

Let's take an example by James Clear, whose new "Atomic Habits" says one key to self-help is replacing "I have to" with "I get to."

That may well be true. But, does it solve problems?

Let's take a couple, of him making $33K and her $23K with three kids.

"I get to worry about trying to save 3 percent of my income and I get to ignore saving 10 percent."

"I get to worry about my kids getting sick because, with the amount of deductible on my insurance, we can't afford a trip to the hospital unless it really needs the ER."

"I get to worry about finding a new job over the age of 50."

"I get to thank James Clear for his brilliant, privileged insights."

Etc., etc.

Shit, James Clear's Habits Academy is ONLY $299. Of course, it's not individual ... it's podcasts or videos for that price. But, it IS the "premier training platform." It has attestations from people with first names! It IS based on "proven scientific research" (primarily from social psych experiments that have failed at least one replication attempt, no doubt).


A lot of this has been amplified by the growth of the positive psychology movement, which has its own issues, including Marty Seligman's ties to SERE reverse engineering, plus being, arguably, more crassly capitalistic than the general self-help movement.

The American self-help movement, going back to people like Fulton J. Sheen, Norman Vincent Peale and Og Mandino, has had a bit of Social Darwinist background to it. Or, "economic barbarism," to riff on a Twitter discussion yesterday. Often, this is unstated, but, nevertheless, it's there. The focus is on individual betterment, with societal betterment ignored. (Some more liberal self-helpers may give lip service to this, but they're the exception.) Comments like "winning" life are a reflection and embodiment of that, as I see it, and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone.

And, this is America, so such books have to have pseudo-statistics. Clear says that if saying "get" instead of "have" makes you 1 percent better per day, just compound that over a full year.

First, he doesn't prove it will make you 1 percent better a day, he just uses that as a starting assumption. If that actually were true, per the "immutable laws" paragraph, we would have just one book about this.

Second, better than what? That's never stated.

Third, it assumes that such betterment is readily quantified.

Fourth, it assumes that people like me won't ask those rhetorical questions I just asked.

Even among places that sound better, like Cal-Berkeley's Greater Good Science Center, there's a lot of touting of pretty cheap versions of positive psychology and such. Its staff's recommendations for top books of 2018 have Steve Pinker's cluelessness about the Enlightenment, Positive Psych books, and the latest by "we're all in sales now" Daniel Pink. Weirdly, in 2016, at least, different staff members picked books that directly contradicted each other, the last on the list being one I actually might read. And, a 2012 book on oxytocin was arguably scientifically out of date at the time and certainly is now. It's more a "possessiveness molecule" than a love molecule.

(Also sad: One of the top "practical Stoicism" philosophers is a disciple of one of the top "immutable laws" self-help authors. Sad, but ... not really a surprise, when you think about Stoicism, its Logos, and other related ideas.)


Note: The person from whose Medium site I kyped the picture says "just say no to self-help," then goes on to talk about "hacking your life" and the "one thing you need." It turns out she's written 11 books, or rather, "books," (see below) offers "coaching" and other things, but will tell you to say no to self-help.

Of course!

You should instead pay for "other-help." That's where the Tony Robbins types make their money. Videos and podcasts. Personalized emails, or pseudo-personalized. All things web so they can help you (remove money from your wallet). And, no, I don't believe that you can have PTSD symptoms for 30 years, possibly 40, and magically have them disappear in six weeks, ether. Sorry, Mary Schiller. (And, reading a bit more of that comment on your breathless blurb of another person's self-help book [or is it other-help] no. Especially not with that guy babbling about "Divine Mind" and the other New Age BS,. and charging $3,000 to listen to you. (And writing three books, even though he claims to have the one true thing.) Even sadder is, if per her autobiography and my reading between the lines, she thinks that having a New Agey "it happened for a reason" revelation about why she was sexually abused, run like hell from her. Karma is more offensive than Christian original sin. Run like hell from these people, beyond the issue of them wanting to rip you off. They will fuck up your life.

And, no, I'm not saying that because I take PTSD lightly. I'm saying it, from what I know, for exactly the opposite reason. I simply do not believe that a child sexual abuse "survivor" who was then further traumatized in a first marriage could magically heal in six weeks. Period. Rather, that PTSD is stuffed down some New Agey rabbit hole. If it doesn't bite you again before you die, consider yourself lucky.

Most of her alleged "books" are 30 page pamphlets. Even in modern e-book publishing, calling them books is a stretch. Whether it's a lie or not? YMMV. And multiple ones from them are about making money. And, that money-making doesn't heal PTSD either.

But, that's why self-help / other-help (flip sides of the same coin) are so uniquely American. They're highly predicated on capitalism. Capitalism plus a quick fix.

That's America's cultural DNA, or at least its majoritarian cultural DNA, in a nutshell. Why are lotteries so popular here? Quick-fix capitalism.

(Way back when, Og, Fulton and Norman, as far as I know, weren't peddling tschotschkes along with their books. Maybe that's because, pre-Internet, they didn't know better. Imagine an Og Mandino set of pamphlet-length e-"books." Fulton J. Sheen self-help T-shirts with inspirational messages. [Or cassocks like that for hipster priests.] Norman Vincent Peale doing TED talks. [Remember, the E in TED stands for "entertainment." No, really. It's not "education."])

January 03, 2019

Attempts to normalize Sartre's bromance with Marx fail

Retired Wayne State professor of the history of ideas Ronald Aronson, an expert philosophical commenter on Jean-Paul Sartre, including on his friendship with Albert Camus, attempts to rehabilitate both Marxism and Sartre's attempt to rehabilitate it in a new Boston  Review essay.

And fails.

In a nutshell, here's why.

First, Sartre did find a weak point — rather, the weakest point — of Marxism 101, with all of its permutations through Lenin, Stalin, Mao and even revisers like the Frankfurt School.

It’s Hegelian dialectic.

Congrats to Sartre for seeing the main issue that makes Marxism even more a pseudoscience than most theories of economics, since Hegelian dialectic and its thesis-synthesis-antithesis is purely a philosophical idea, and totally unscientific.

BUT! Marxism is not Marxism without Hegelian dialectic. Pull that out, and you're engaging with non-Marxist Socialist theorizing of some sort.

Second, while comparing and contrasting Sartre to Camus, and intertwining them, and saying that Sartre tried to find a third way, Aronson ignores how late Sartre was to the table on criticizing both Stalin in particular and Soviet Communism in general.

Third, Marx ignored, or never thought through, larger economic consumptive problems of capitalism — resource exploitation problems that aren’t part of Marxism.

Peak Oil — temporarily offset by fracking — is one.

Climate change is a much bigger one, as this Boston Review essay notes in passing.

As far as Aronson's book on Sartre and Camus? Without staking absolutist positions on either side, Camus was in general right to reject the use of violence in social movements. And, per some critical reviews of his book (at that second link in the first paragraph), Aronson reportedly butters his bread clearly for Sartre, and for postmodernism that follows to some degree from him. You lost me there.

January 02, 2019

More just say no to Bryce Harper, or call Scott Boras' bluff

So, the Bryce Harper free agency derby carries on, presuming agent Scott Boras is still hunting something like 10/$350 and either one or two opt-outs.

(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"?

Per the third slide in this round-up by Derrick Goold, I presume the Cardinals, John Mozeliak and Mike Girsch do the latter.

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. Another way of putting this is, if you throw out the best year of both, Stanton still has four 4-WAR seasons and Harper two. (If you want to round up Harper's 3.7 year, we get to do that with Stanton's 3.8.)

In addition, other than when he got hit in the face by a pitch, Stanton was a much better health risk.

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.

(And, on MLB Trade Rumors, you have Cards fans clearly undercutting the "Best Fans in Baseball" claim by saying they'd pay MORE for Harper per year over 10 years than per year over five years to resign Paul Goldschmidt, who has averaged more than 5 WAR a year, with throwing out best and worst years. Derp???)

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. (Some people bash Mo for not offering opt-outs, but when the team is taking the risk of a contract of seven years or more, if a player is going to get an opt-out after, say, three years, why shouldn't the team get one after, say, five, by making the last two years "mutual option"?)

Now, the Cardinals could call Boras' bluff, as could other teams. Offer him a five-year contract, with an opt-out after two years, and front weighted at $37M per for each of the first two years, and $32M each of the next two, with the fifth year either $37M or a $17M buyout. If old Bryce really is a "generational talent" he's got two years to show his 10-WAR year wasn't a total fluke (and to show he can stay healthy). That's detailed in that "caveated" link above.

Harper passes Clayton Kershaw, Stanton and everybody else, at least for those first two years, on AAV. If he is that good, then he can opt out. If not, the Cards somewhat limit their damages.

Or, to twist this more, cut the base on an offer similar to the above, but possibly with a straight fifth year, by 20 percent or so. But then add in incentives that, if all met, would raise the possible max value by 30 percent. MLB doesn't allow performance incentives, but there are plenty of others — All-Star Game, ASG starter, MVP top 5, MVP winner, NLCS MVP, World Series MVP, Gold Glove and/or Fielding Bible, etc.

In either case, the Cards make a serious offer, and a serious challenge at the same time. They accept an opt-out contract while still giving themselves some protection.

Some may be laughing, but you shouldn't.

The player option plus a separate team option opt-outs is what Boras client Yusei Kikuchi got, with details at MLB Trade Rumors, including comment this could become more popular.

In reality? If the Dodgers really are serious about getting below the lux-tax line, then it's Phillies vs. White Sox and supposedly Harper really doesn't like Philly? And, while Philly has said it will spend, I don't see both Manny Machado and Harper going there.