SocraticGadfly: 2019

December 31, 2019

Texas progressives say Happy New Year

This corner of Texas Progressives wishes you a Happy New Year while reminding you that a number of state laws go into effect tomorrow. That includes an end to surprise medical billing, with better rules than the Texas Medical Association was originally going to write. Rules on flood-related valuation exemptions also kick in. Houstonians and other Gulf Coast denizens hope they're not necessary.

Texas politics

Texas ConservaDems are invited to hop aboard the Beto PAC gravy train!

At the Monthly, CD Hooks wonders wither the Texas GOP in 2020 and can Trump save it, or at least give it a respite?

Off the Kuff analyzes a poll released by the Eliz Markowitz campaign.


Socratic Gadfly got out to Big Bend for the first time in more than eight years, and he shares photos and discusses changes he saw. Two additional posts will follow.

The Trib reports on the state's ongoing fatal driving accident streak. In urban and suburban areas, bad drivers are also killing ever more pedestrians and bicyclists.

The Observer offers its top 10 weird stories of 2019.

The EPA is being sued for failure to update water protection rules from slaughterhouses.

Grits for Breakfast talks pardons, homelessness and other topics.

Texas Monthly eulogizes Bob "Daddy-O" Wade.

Cristina Tovar warns of a bilingual teacher shortage if DACA fails.


Jim Schutze reviews his harshest criticism from others of 2019, including that of over his overly friendly defense of Amber Guyger, called out in these precincts as elsewhere. As I said then, for stuff like this, the #OKJim hashtag would replace #OKBoomer. #OKJim? Shocking that somebody from the Snooze is righter than rain and Jim Schutze, but Bill Marvel is right. Schutze has a crackpot side — and it got worse this year. And I'm not EVEN going to go read his Facebook.


The oilpatch economy is slowing down, both out in the field and in the high-rises, meaning Houston economic growth is slower than once thought. As Brains notes, this means Abbott's version of Rick Perry's Texas miracle is no more true than the original. One independent driller would like to see the RRC do its job on natural gas flaring, with the hope that would slow drilling enough on oil to prop the price up more, and also help natural gas prices. Another wants to see the feds step in and go back to the future with some sort of production regulation. The same holds true to a lesser degree in the Metromess, of course.


Brains ties his last 2020 of the year to the willingness of national Dems to die on the cross of Obamacare instead of single-payer.

Chuck Todd showed himself to be an even bigger idiot about politics in general, and today's GOP in particular, than even the most cynical of us suspected. Why he is still hosting Press the Meat, I don't know. Why Trump Trainer's fake fakery calls of "Fake News" gain traction is clearer than ever.

RIP William Greider. Dean Baker has a good assessment.  Per The Nation, I remember his explosive interview with David Stockman, in which it was revealed the trickle-down emperor had no clothes. I was less politically active then than today, and still Republican, but that was one of the first things to open a small wedge in my mind.

December 30, 2019

Updated 2020 Doinks presidential odds, likeability

To round out the year, this is an update of a post from January 2019, now that the Democratic presidential field has been winnowed, and occasionally added to.

As with the original?

Three 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.

Note 2: I have written in-depth takes on selected candidates and will do more in the future. Where available, they're linked.

Note 3: A candidate's name in red means they've officially entered the race. A strike-through means they're officially out. (As noted, I've already winnowed from the original.)

And, since he liked mine, Gaius at Down with Tyranny also has a ratings/oddsmaking.

(June 29, 2019: Here's my take on winners and losers from the first pair of Democratic debates.)

So, let's start, with ...

Julian Castro! [Officially declared candidates, and those with official exploratory committees are in red.] Odds: 6 percent. Target: People with the last name of Castro. Like factor: D. (Laughingly, Nate Silver calls Castro "a major candidate."

Castro, like the not-so-dearly-departed from the race Bob on a Knob O'Rourke, decided to start pandering leftward when he saw both Sanders and Warren have good numbers. His only saving graces were speaking Spanish better than Beto and pandering somewhat less blatantly, or he'd be gone, too.

And, Julián started the new year by bowing out.

Booker is most likely the person most helped by this; one minority fauxgressive bowing out for another.

Joe Biden: Odds 18 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. With both her and Bloomberg out, too, he's the only "establishmentarian" heavy hitter left. (I forgot to delete that from the original!) 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. Since the start of the run, he's looked more and more memory-befuddled. Plus, the impeachment process has brought his family baggage into the light. Target: DNC establishment and DNC superdelegates if a brokered convention happens. Like factor: D-minus, and maybe a flat F with his opening the door to a Republican Vice President.

Cory Booker: Odds 8 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. How much her dropping out will boost him remains to be seen. Could be an acceptable establishment alternative if Biden slips more. Like factor: D-minus, but perhaps moved up to a straight D.

Bernie Sanders: Odds: 22 percent. Pluses include previous campaign history, plus him moving slightly leftward again on foreign policy. (Let's see how Palestinian issues continue to play out, and if he keeps schwaffling on Venezuela.) 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. Additional baggage for some Dems of being a white male.  (The male part is coming into play on some of his Congressional endorsements, and questions about them.)  Other minuses (not for him, but his campaign) include becoming ever more a target of the Dem establishment and establishment media, even with antisemitic smears similar to those against Corbyn. Like factor: B-minus. (I'm not grading on a curve, but you can compare his grade with other Dems.) That said, he IS a Dem. See this new piece. Or click the Bernie tag below.

Michael Bloomberg: Odds: 3 percent. (This odds is as a Democrat only; I in no way rule out him making an independent run in the general election — even if he's chided Howard Schultz for thinking of that.) Political, if not real, 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. Like factor? Hell,. F. It was an F originally, and his entering the race after all only makes this worse.

Elizabeth Warren: Odds 18 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 I am amending an earlier statement. I am partially grading on the curve; otherwise, she might be lower. Thanks to Daily Wire or whoever gave that graphic to somebody connected to Trump, who then Tweeted it.

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. But, the fact that he's worth at least $92M is registered.

Tulsi Gabbard: Odds: 1 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, and now, like Beto, about her Kool-Aid drinkers plus Kool-Aid brewer Michael Tracey. Targets: The conservative portion of the Sanders movement. Like factor: D. Dropped from D-plus due to the cultic level of her backers.

Andrew Yang: Odds: 6 percent. Political pluses include enthusiasm of his groupies. However, that becomes a minus when they often become cult-like TulsiTwerker type folks. More serious pluses? Basic Income focus (and a version that at least seems to be non-libertarian) indicates he thinks outside some boxes. But, on Israel and Zionism, he remains firmly inside the current Doink foreign policy box; also, his health care ideas look more like Warren than Sanders. Target? Millennials. Like factor? C-minus.

Amy Klobuchar: Odds: 3 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, along with masochistic lower-level white collar employees who love sadistic bosses. Like factor: D-minus.

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. She has, though, made extensive donations, mainly to progressive Dems but also to ConservaDems like Jon Ossoff and Doug Jones. "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-minus; including it, a D-minus. Her campaign contributions do NOT include the Green Party, but do include the Natural Law Party. Nuff ced. My full take is now up.

Suspended means you're out, Marianne. Be honest.

Who's helped? Maybe (or maybe not) the Green Party if she endorses the party, or whomever the party nominates.

Michael Bennett: Odds: Less than Julian Castro. John Hickenlooper with another name and without fracking oil directly on his hands. Target? You fucking got me, other than his own vanity. Like factor? No more, no less than any other milquetoast centrist neoliberal, so, D?

Deval Patrick: Odds: About the same as Obama actually getting the 22nd Amendment overturned. Gov. "Obama's Third Term" is making bland noises about separating himself from Democrats' recent past, but of course doesn't mean it. Target? People who wish Obama could run for a third term. Like factor? Same D as many candidates here.

Tom Steyer: Odds: About half of Bloomberg's. Likeability factor? About twice Bloomberg's, if that's not damning with faint praise. More serious about climate change than any other Dem. That includes Bernie, who I don't think really REALLY gets it, and Liz, who of course "has a plan for that." Target? Environmentalists. Like factor? C-minus.

Pete the Budgie, aka Mayo Pete, aka Mary Pete (suck it, certain subtypes) otherwise known as Pete Buttigieg: Odds: The same exact percentage of Julian Castro's odds as South Bend's population is of San Antonio's. That was my assessment when he first entered. Now? 9 percent. Target audience: The future Dem president who gives him a Cabinet seat/Indiana Dem Senate voters. Like factor: F, dropped from original; worked for management vulture McKinsey for three years, for doorknob's sake, and more and more leaks. His claiming that South Carolina black leaders support his was odious. Has zero real accomplishments at South Bend and embroiled city in racial issues. No, seriously. Wikipedia. Here's more reasons, with a blog post written just to "out" Beto-Lite, why you shouldn't vote for him.

As with the original, when candidates drop out, I'll strike through their names. We're at 14 with Castro's departure.


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.


No, more finally. What about the Republicans?

Well, Bill Weld has now formed an exploratory committee and since then, officially entered the race. Since then, largely unrepentant wingnut Joe Walsh, who is now simply a Never Trumper Past Today wingnut, has also entered. Former SC governor Mark Sanford entered for all of what, two weeks, then wandered back down the Appalachian Trail.

Odds? Weld 4 percent. Walsh 1 percent.

December 28, 2019

Big Bend: First visit in 8 1/2 years

I was a "regular," a "veteran," even, in the previous decade, but hadn't been to Big Bend National Park in 8 1/2 years. I was enough of a veteran, and early enough of one, to have been out there before the Park Service closed the crossing at Boquillas (and Santa Elena, where Mexicans crossed to our side) because some dumb ass in DC thought Osama bin Laden or minions might invade the US from Boquillas, Cohuila, Mexico.

Here's a link to my overall photo album. I'm going to extract just a couple with comments. (All photos embiggen in their album location.) Let's start here:

Living as far away as the Metroplex, I normally drive to about 15 miles south of Marathon (pronounced with a schwa last syllable, unlike the normal) on US 385. Big Bend is an International Dark Sky Park and the darkest national park in the contiguous 48. Even before officially getting into the park, this picture of Orion at top right and Canis Major at lower right should make that clear. I will have more on this in a separate post.

Big Bend has three ecotones: desert, montane and riverine. This photo illustrates two of them: middle-altitude Chihuahuan desert surrounding the Chisos Rim.

The riverine is best capped, by those who know, with a nighttime soak in the 104°F hot springs immediately adjacent to the Rio Grande. I'll have more on this in a future post, too.

This diversity makes it a hot spot for birding, even though it's not on one of the three main north-south migrational flyways. The photo at left, I'm keeping small, so that it doesn't appear too pixelated. This is of an acorn woodpecker. Among new sightings for me that, for various reasons, I didn't glass in my camera, were a lark bunting, a ruby crowned kinglet and a vermilion flycatcher.

As I note, I'll have a couple of more posts in weeks ahead about various issues.

The first of those is now up, as I ponder if Millennials are ruining Big Bend.

Because things have changed in 8 1/2 years. Both posts will address a couple of bigger — one to me, one in general — of these changes.

The Park Service itself has changed some things. It now charges a fee for backcountry camping permits, whether backpacking or primitive car camping. That has been a flat rate, but is scheduled to go to a per-day system next year. Thanks, both Trump and Obama, and both R's and D's in Congress, for failure to adequately fund the NPS. Thanks Obama and Kenny Boy Salazar Shrub Bush (forgot it was that long ago) for the head fake of replacing the old Parks Pass with the new Access Pass, which likely gives only $50 of its $80 to the Park Service, like the old Parks Pass, and instead bribes BLM and USFS with most of the rest to continue to undercharge miners, drillers and loggers. Here's a 2010 story on how the new Access Pass fees split out in the early years after the transfer; the NPS got no extra money, and yep, the other agencies got some. The Park Service itself, and its partner nonprofit, the National Parks Foundation, have themselves become more capitalistic, too.

So, the human hand on the park has changed indeed.

What has not changed is the desert itself. As this slightly stylized photo below shows, hiking back down the Marufo Vega trail, Big Bend is one of our most existential national parks. (Cactus Ed Abbey made one visit here before setting up permanent shop further west.)


December 27, 2019

Phat Albert still standing as other 1B start slipping

If you had told me four years ago that Albert Pujols would have a better 2019 at age 39 (let alone possibly age 40 or even 41) than Miggy Cabrera but also not that far off from Joey Votto, I would have laughed my head off.

But, here we are.

Pujols is at league average on OPS+ and still logging 80 percent of his game time at first and NOT DHing. Hell, he even played at third this year!

Cabrera's slippage started showing up three years ago, a bit later into the age cycle than a reported-age Pujols but maybe the same as an actual age Pujols.

The biggie is, especially this year, his power stroke seems to be gone. And, playing primarily DH, he has a heavier dWAR burden to carry, putting him in negative overall WAR this year.

Finally, his contract, with four years left vs Pujols' two, and at higher AAV by a million or two, is looking like it could be about the worst in baseball.

That said, he was already having some "core" related nagging injuries four or five years ago, so this isn't totally unexpected, just a sharper drop than Phat Albert.

That said, while El Hombre has always had an edge of "thickness," Miggy looked almost svelte when younger:

Votto? Many of us, including myself, may forget that he's just a year younger than Cabrera. He is a touch ahead of Pujols on OPS plus and almost a full point ahead on WAR. But, for the second straight year, his BA, OPS, and SLG have all dropped, and dropped, not just slipped. In addition, his Ks are well ahead of his BBs, indicating, like Pujols and Cabrera, he's losing bat power and trying to cheat with more early pitch guessing.

He like Miggy has four years left, but at more than $5 million per year less. That said, the Reds are a smaller market team. Add in 5-and-10 rights, and both are pretty immovable. Also, with him still below 40 WAR, Votto's shot at Cooperstown is starting to fade away.

Of course, NONE of these three may actually be the biggest albatross contract at 1B.

That likely belongs to, and will continue to belong to, the Orioles' Chris Davis. By virtue of swinging his bat one-third less this year than in 2018, he managed to "improve" from -2.8 WAR to "just -1.0. He's all Baltimore's for another three years at $23M per. Having just three years left is the one thing that might make this no worse than Miggy's deal.

With an expiring contract, and not likely to get a new one, at least not a big one, Ryan Zimmerman, between apparent age-related decline and injuries, is also behind Pujols though not as old. Zimmerman has said he'll either stay with the Nats or golf more. Zimm hasn't had 600 PAs since 2013, the last time he broke 3 WAR; whatever contract the Nats offer will be cheap on the base, albeit perhaps with some incentives.

Not an albatross, but ... worrisome for his team? Brandon Belt had only 0.6 WAR this year at 31. He has two relatively inexpensive years left, but barring a turnaround, might not have another big payola.

The St. Louis Cardinals hope that this year's decline of Paul Goldschmidt at age 31 was more a blip than a precursor of his future. He still had nearly 3 WAR, but it was his worst full season in his playing history.

Eric Hosmer continues to not justify what the Padres are paying him. Bright side? Just three more years at $21M per and then it declines to $13M a year, unless he's dumb enough to opt out.

Daniel Murphy, though he managed to get back in the plus side of the WAR column this last year, is toast at any infield position. Fortunately for the team, he's a small contract for the Rockies and has just one year left, outside a mutual option year.

December 26, 2019

Texas Progressives say Season's Greetings

The Texas Progressive Alliance hopes you have, or had, a Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Krunk Kwanzaa, Splendiferous Saturnalia, Sunny Solstice (I did in Big Bend) or Festivus for the Rest Of Us.

This corner of the TPA also reminds you that Laplace is the reason for the season.

With that, we offer you a related music clip while we dig into the roundup. 

Criminal justice and philosophy

SocraticGadfly, with a background on the recent Muenster teacher-relationship conviction and other such cases, talks about how issues of philosophy play out in the courts.

Texas politics

David Bruce Collins updates the list of state Green Party candidates. 

Michael Hall reports on Pedro Villalobos, a Travis County prosecutor whose immigration status is in peril.

Off the Kuff published three interviews with SBOE candidates: Michelle Palmer, Kimberly McLeod, and Debra Kerner.



Stace discusses a Harris County Democratic primary filing failure.

John Coby wraps up the Houston elections.


Jim Schutze calls out Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson on wanting to keep his official scheduling calendar secret. He also salutes the half the city council for not caving into capitalists on Reverchon Park.


The Observer notes that TCEQ let fossil fuel companies pollute more in 2018, and that if three of them have their way, the end of the Valley, where the Rio Grande hits the Gulf, could have a lot more pollution. Worse, this would only further encourage fracking for natural gas.

Jessica Shortall dissects the "Olympic podium of abuse" metaphor.

The Current provides sold advice about tamales.


Brains tackles the most recent Dem debate.

The Bloggess is starting a book club.
Juanita provides a welcome update on her health and well-being.

December 24, 2019

Katharine Hayhoe and the climate change spin cycle

The Texas Observer recently interviewd Katherine Hayhoe. And? It's "meh" what the climate scientist famous for trying to convince fellow evangelical Christians that even her slightly-squishy level of concern is anything more than socialism has to say.

First of all, IMO, she's a bit squishy about the severity of climate change. I've thought that for several years and tangled with her and others on Twitter, summing that up in this blog post.

Let's not forget, as I said then, that she comes off as a nice polite Obamiac, and considering she's from the Great White North, she's surely a nice polite Canadian. And, she and co-nice polite climate change scientist Bob Kopp fellated the Paris Accord.

IMO, as of right now, we have 50-50 odds of hitting 5C by 2100. And, as I've said repeatedly, the Paris Accord is little more than Jell-O.

Within the interview, she spins, about how Texas is decarbonizing about as fast as any other state, among other things. Untrue. Until the Lege adopts a feed-in tariff system for rooftop solar, this will surely remain untrue. Until Texas joins many Western states with a fixed target for renewable energy, this will remain untrue.

As for Texas' energy resilience? It was less than a decade ago that, because ERCOT is largely disconnected from other portions of the US power grid, that it had to get electricity from Mexico in a severe cold snap.

(Update, April 4, 2022: Hayhoe got away with saying this bullshit because it was before Winter Storm Uri. And, I just Tweeted the Observer asking if they asked her for a "retraction." And yes, that's the word I used; those aren't scare quotes, they're quote marks regular style.

Specifically, she claimed that the Texas electric grid was "resilient." AND, good neoliberal, said that this was because it's independent of the rest of the nation's electric grid.

And 19.2 percent of the power on the [statewide] ERCOT grid last year was wind and solar. This is all happening because of the state’s energy policy, not because of our climate policy. Texas’ independence has actually made it more resilient

Seriously. This is the person that Texas librulz hold up as a Texas exceptionalist exemplar of what Texas could really do on climate change.

She's got the goods, squish level of climate change aside, on what's going to happen to Texas. She's just spinning on how she claims Texas is already adapting.

As for the Observer? Why? Is this one of those pieces where it dives into a defensive version of Texas exceptionalism?

(Update, April 4, 2022: She's also wrong about the role of fear, and emotions in general, in human living. She needs to read some Hume, among other things.)

December 23, 2019

Neo-geocentrism and mysticism

John Horgan, author of Rational Mysticism, continues on his quest of putting mystical experiences in a logico-empirical framework.

Recently, that led him to a conference at Esalen.

And to the coinage of a neologism that I am copying.

Neo-geocentrism. It's the idea that, as with pre-Copernican geocentrism, a mystically metaphysical approach to the universe is based on a version of geocentric, or, better, anthroprocentric thinking.

Here's John's nutgraf:
Geocentrism reflected our innate narcissism and anthropomorphism, and so do modern theories that make mind—as far as we know a uniquely terrestrial phenomenon—central to the cosmos. The shift away from geocentrism centuries ago was one of humanity’s greatest triumphs, and neo-geocentrism, I fear, represents a step back toward darkness.
Well put.

He notes that methodological materialism of the scientific method can be stretched in more "insufferable" science types. He doesn't mention the word scientism, but that seems clear.

He also wants those of mystical mindsets to focus on enchanting everyday life. With the start of a new year coming on us, nothing wrong and much right with that.

Another example of neo-geocentrism may be seen with the treatment of Fermi's Paradox.

Otherwise, I told John I was copying the phrase, putting it next to my "salvific technologism," which is akin to Morozov's "solutionism."

The broader idea also seems akin to my take on how conspiracy thinking is the new gnosticism. Not all gnostics of centuries past were mystics, but ... the driving mindset seems to have overlap.

December 19, 2019

Greg AtLast is back on impeachment, 25thAmendment
and Aaron Paté, Matt Snidely and other OTB stenos

Yes, he's back. Greg AtLast, still doing his best black hat work:

Per what friend Greg has said, here's my take on the 25th Amendment vis-a-vis Trump.

Here's one of my takes on the alleged outside the box stenos. And another.

And here's my take on Putin being too smart to collude with Trump.

As for the Trump Train riders who claim every previous impeachment has been on criminal charges?

Not even close. The Tenure of Office Act was entirely civil. So was every other "not doing your job" (the way we want you to) charge brought against Andrew Johnson.

Of course, what friend Greg didn't mention is that this is really yet another argument for moving at least closer to parliamentary government.

Also beyond Greg, there are other items that are more solid impeachment grounds than Ukraine. Such as spending money without Congressional appropriation for his wall.

December 18, 2019

Texas progressives welcome
our potential Green candidate overlords

This corner of the Texas progressives congratulate all Greens running for office, whether provisional based on final rulings on the HB 2504 lawsuit and its injunction about filing fees, or those who will run no matter what. For voters who want to make sure the party keeps ballot access, voting for RRC candidate Kat Gruene, when many Rethugs are already endorsing ConservaDem Castañeda (one of four Doinks in the race) over incumbent Rethug Ryan Sitton means the party can make noise.

And with that, let's dig in.

Texas politics

David Bruce Collins updates us on who all is running as Green candidates for various offices, including himself for U.S. Senate. He does this with a split listing, noting who has, and has not, paid filing fees in light of the lawsuit against HB 2504. That includes noting that his own candidacy is based on whether or not the onerous filing fees of that bill for third-party candidates are finally blocked in court, at least for anybody before Green or Libertarian nominations are made.

Brains takes his 2020 weekly update to the state instead of presidential level this week.

Off the Kuff took a closer look at the Democratic filings for Congress and state offices.
Texas Monthly offers its hot takes on primary filings.

The Trib notes that the plethora of Donkey candidates means a shortage of staffers.

Could the Doinks flip the House side of the Texas Lege? The Trib speculates. My guess is "probably not," but I wouldn't be surprised to see the difference narrowed from the current 83-67 to something like 80-70, which in turn means a Straus (Straus lite) Rethug has a good shot at the speakership. And, it would mean that Abbott, Danny Goeb, and other Rethug wingnuts in the Big House and the Senate would be handcuffed. I'll have more in my own blog post soon.

John Coby salutes Briscoe Cain's primary opponent.


Sly Turner smoked Tony Buzbee in the Houston mayoral runoff.

Taddy McAllister wants to know what happens to recycling after it's picked up from the curb.


The Texas Observer turns 65. Founding editor Ronnie Duggar, still alive, reflects on its history.

Nashville is buying Austin City Limits. Sounds like fun.

Texas Monthly pans Brian Kilmeade for his basically all-white (shock me) version of Texas independence.

Dan Solomon informs us that Alex Jones has always known exactly what he is doing.

Downwinders at Risk adds new board members. I hope it stopped the partnership it formed long ago of taking dirty money from the Wyly Brothers.  I remember old Katie Hubener defending that one. Or trying to.


In the wake of more nothingness at COP 25, David Bruce Collins asks from Houston how people who really care about climate change continue to vote Democrat rather than the duopoly exit. Reminder: The Paris Accord is little more than Jell-O.

Speaking of, the Observer interviews Katherine Hayhoe. IMO, she's a bit squishy about the severity of climate change, and hasn't made that much of a dent in trying to convince fellow evangelical Christians that even her slightly-squishy level of concern is anything more than socialism, but give it a read, including the spin level. I'll have more.

Trump invited Dallas Jew-hater Robert Jeffress to the White House to fellate his image — at a Hanukkah event no less.

Paradise in Hell fears we are in the Clown Era of world leadership.


SocraticGadfly offers a twofer related to world affairs, first saying goodbye to Jeremy Corbyn then calling out Wikipedia creator Jimmy Wales for his sliming of Corbyn and other general sliminess.

December 17, 2019

Without guilt and justice in the Texas courtroom

The title's first half should be in quotes, as I am referring to Walter Kaufman's "Without Guilt and Justice."

Without Guilt and Justice: From Decidophobia to AutonomyWithout Guilt and Justice: From Decidophobia to Autonomy by Walter Kaufmann
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Kaufmann, Nietzsche's foremost expositor, and best English translator, brings his own considerable philosophical skills to play in this volume.

It is true that some of his specific references, such as the "alienation" of mid-20th century psychology, or his riffs on Solzhenitysn, may be dated.

But his core arguments certainly are not.

Kaufmann spends a fair amount of time turning a withering moral eye to retributive justice, and another withering logical and existential eye to the idea of proportional justice, and various related ideas.

Hence his title "Without Guilt and Justice." Kaufmann argues convincingly that neither idea can be logically generated within an overarching system of morals. One can almost see John Rawls being ground to grist between the millstones of Kaufmann's cogitating.

But, this is small confort to humanists who would argue that an enlightened system of morality exists without religion. Instead, Kaufmann is saying that ALL systems of morals, no matter their metaphysical base or antimetaphysical base, are existential in nature. As for particular moral terms like "guilt" and "justice," without specifically referencing Wittgenstein, Kaufmann's argument appears to be that they are part of the language games we play.

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So, where does the Texas courtroom come in?

Last month, at my current newspaper location, a teacher pled guilty to two counts of "improper relationship with a student."

She got five years probation, a fine, and of course, loss of her teacher certification. No jail time.

Had it been a male teacher and female students? The book probably would have been thrown. Absolutely, if we had had a male-male or female-female situation. This is Texas. And rural Texas is still where the wingers fly high.

But, it's not just that.

Two newspapers back, five years ago, had a similar situation. Female teacher, male student. Complicated by the teacher's oldest son being at the same high school.

Case went to trial and the teacher got several years.

In the first case above, the later, current case? One of the hookups involved, in part, Snapchat. Now, "snaps" are supposed to disappear by default, but I think you can make them non-disappearing. You can also, of course, do screengrabs. Reportedly, parents just wanted the case to go away, too. But, maybe the DA was being a red ass. Until he was told, "Look, if this goes to trial ..."

The earlier case? The kid had a Twitter account. It was mentioned — not just that he had one, but WHAT the account was — during the trial. During lunch break, the first thing I did back at my office is look it up.

His feed looked like a wannabe "playa." And, no, not the Spanish word for a salt flat.

Did the hookup turn him into that?

Well, I had the approximate date for the start of the sexual part of the hookup, so I scrolled back that far in his Twitter feed.

It may have made him more of a playa wannabe than before, but, he was somewhat that way before that. 

Why the defense attorney didn't introduce this? Especially as said kid had just signed a college sports scholarship, and to a private college to boot?

If the judge ruled it inadmissible, just to make doubly sure my appeal was well grounded, I think I would have tried to introduce it anyway.

Besides that, that can't have been the case. After all, the assistant DA was the person who mentioned the Twitter account.

That said, this was a teacher, not some indigent. And, the lawyer wasn't from Shelby County. the family hired someone, I don't even think from Nacogdoches; I think they went to Tyler.

Just shows you that you can blow money on a lawyer and still get a bad one.

December 16, 2019

John Fleck is NOT Marc Reisner

I stumbled across his blog about two years ago while Googling for information about Colorado River annual precipitation, basin snowpacks and related material.

While I recognized that he had good information about those numbers, I saw more and more that his "framing" was horrible. Like a junior president Obama, he thought all problems within water allocations could be — and had been, in cases already solved — fixed by "Kumbaya."

Along with this, he, and even more, a second-level co-blogger, slammed Marc Reisner, along with newspaper journalists and others, for promoting "conflict narratives." The co-blogger on the site was worse, claiming Reisner was out of date and other things.

Well, this summer, Fleck started touting his own new book, and how it would build on his previous book of years ago. So, I decided to make an interlibrary loan request for said first book.

I got it.

It was horrible.

I gleefully savaged it.

Here you go.

Intellectually dishonest, in my opinion.

I have Fleck’s blog (with some coauthors, mainly Eric Kuhn, the coauthor of his new book, but it’s primarily his) on my blogroll.

He knows the numbers stuff, or has friends and blog coauthors that do.

But, he’s Kumbaya on Colorado River stuff, as in like Preznit Kumbaya, aka Obama. And, on his blog, he sneered about Marc Reisner. And, yes, IMO, sneered is the right word. Look for yourself.

 So, knowing Fleck had written this book, and that he had a new one coming out, I wanted to see what he was like in more than blogging depth.


Worse than on the blog.

Let’s start with the most egregious issue. A 2016 book about Colorado River water issues doesn’t even use the words “climate change” until page 199? UNACCEPTABLE.

Second, and the point behind the header?

Much of the “Kumbaya” that Fleck mentions was only achieved with the threat of a legal mailed fist behind it. Kumbaya by force of law is hardly Kumbaya.

Other issues that pop up early on?

More dissing of Reisner. After initial mention, simply ignoring James Powell, author of “Dead Pool.” I have re-read “Cadillac Desert” half a dozen times and “Dead Pool” twice. Both are in my small “keepers” library.

Next? More Kumbaya, even as places like today’s Aral Sea basin, Jordan River, Tigris-Euphrates and Nile show that Kumbaya ain’t working so well as we speak.

We don't even need to go outside the Colorado Basin! The fate of the Hohokam should indicate that Kumbaya doesn't always win.

Next next? Ignoring that Colorado River water usage has been mitigated by ever-heavier drawdowns of groundwater, both in groundwater basins connected to the Colorado (Arizona) and in those not (California), though there it’s more to reduce Sacramento-San Joaquin water u se in the Central Valley.

Next next next? Ignoring the connection between groundwater basins and river recharge. Anybody who knows the godawful state of southern Arizona tributaries of the Gila also knows why.

And, we’ll keep going. In supporting growing alfalfa as a flexible crop, he ignores that the methane farts of the cows it feeds contribute to the climate change that is making the Colorado ever drier. But, since he doesn't mention climate change until the end of the book ...

A lot of the Kumbaya cooperation Fleck cites, like in SoCal, has the fist of threatened legal power behind it, in specific, just as has most Colorado River stuff. Doesn’t matter if the threat is rarely invoked; it exists. That’s “forced Kumbaya,” not Kumbaya.

Also, it comes off as a bit cherry-picking to discuss a couple of small Southland water districts and never discuss the massive water headaches in the Central Valley, which were a large part of Reisner’s book.

One other reviewer notes water fights in the Central Valley (speaking of) are even worse than in the Colorado, and large scale corporate farms have no problems putting their thumb on the scales.

Back inside the Colorado basin, and after the date of this book, Arizona’s state Speaker of the House Bowers nearly gutted a needed agreement for new water use reductions earlier this year with a proposed rider on the bill. Only the threat of the Maricopa affiliation of Indian tribes forced his hand. Fleck made light of it.

Speaking of that, that water agreement was required because of Lake Mead hitting 1.075 elevation. Fleck, near the end of the book, notes that a previous agreement didn’t directly address 1,075, but appears to believe there that this point wouldn’t hit until after 2020.

Well, Fleck, it hit before then, and it hit before then in spite of a record Rockies snowpack in 2019. Did you talk about climate change in your new book?

One other point vis-à-vis the Anglo water world in the Southwest in general, American Indian water rights are the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Fleck does eventually discuss them – for half a dozen pages or so in the last 10 percent of the book. But he doesn’t go into detail.

Next, he never considers whether a “moon shoot” shouldn’t overhaul the current Upper / Lower Basin divisions. (I say it should; I’d put the Virgin River in the lower basin and the Little Colorado in the upper.) Related to that, on his blog, Fleck appears wedded to giving the Upper Basin just as much water despite its lesser population and its agricultural challenges.

Something almost as inexcusable as not mentioning climate change until the end of the book? Talking early on about the Mormons and the amount of water management ideas they spread around the West while ignoring that they got much of that, in turn, by learning from the majordomos who ran (and still run, in many cases) acequias in New Mexico. It’s doubly inexcusable not to mention this since Fleck is a long term reporter at the Albuquerque Journal.

(Update: It now becomes triply inexcusable. New research from the U.S. Geological Survey shows the river has lost 20 percent or more of its flow since 1913 and more than half of that is definitely attributable to climate change. More information from that study shows that, in just 30 more years, it will lose another one-quarter of its flow. Maybe more. So, Fleck is not only "criminal" for not discussing climate change in his first book, he's also "criminal" for its effects playing out, and he's criminally stupid in his Kumbaya belief if he things the future's going to be addressed without elbow-throwing lawyering.)

That’s even though he mentions it in his blog. While, at the same time, it's a throwaway line.

Look, some "gloom and doom"  newspaper reporting and books over the state of the Colorado may have been too much. BUT, they were reasonable extrapolations from the status quo at the time they were written. Killing a perhaps sometimes overdone angle the way Fleck has done is proverbial gnat meeting sledgehammer.

Of course, a sledgehammer can't be swung quickly and accurately enough to actually kill a gnat.

Finally, beyond the thumb-on-scales slant, I just don't think the book is that well written. The throwaway nature of the Mormon comment would be one example.


Update, Feb. 5, 2020: Apparently I've been ghosted out of commenting on his blog. I could just use a new email address, but he's not worth it.

December 13, 2019

Should the Cardinals trade for David Price?

This is an update and tweaking of a post from yesterday. (I'd originally linked Matt Carpenter twice, once under the name of David Price, with B-Ref. Derp! But, breaking news from free agency land makes an overhauled post worthwhile, and those two names are at the center of it.)

First, per the question behind the question, and the poll at right, yes, the Cards really could use another starter.

Second, a lefty is preferable. Mo has said that.

So, would another starting pitcher on the mound help the St. Louis Cardinals next year?

I say yes. And, they've got money to do it, one way or another.

They don't need to replace Marcell Ozuna in the OF.

Since the Cardinals let Michael Wacha walk (the Mets just signed him, for about the $6M I expected if he hits most incentive clauses), they'll have room for a starter. And, with his money plus Ozuna's (let's say somebody, like the Reds, pays him $16M a year), that's $22M a year.

Not even close to the two priciest pitchers.

But that's not needed. Something, though, is needed, IMO.

Carlos Martinez may or may not be a starter, and his latest shoulder issues? Don't hold your breath. Plus, if you move him out of the pen, who's your closer until midseason? At the same time, while Adam Wainwright surprised last year on both health and performance? Don't circle him in as a guarantee to do that again. (And, his big bounceback on performance was only to a skoosh above league average.)


Is $22M a year, dependent on contract length, enough to land Madison BumgarnerDallas KeuchelHyun-Jin Ryu. Possibly but not guaranteed on any of them.**

Any of those work at No. 2 starter level. reports the Birds are interested in Bum. OTOH, it also notes he has high home-road splits the last three years, and some are of real concern.

Ryu, I'm kind of leery of, due to injury history. Bumgarner (other than in the off-season!), Keuchel and Hamels all have fairly long to long track records of durability. That said, Bum got the QO, so the Cards would have to give the draft pick back.

There's another consideration. Bumgarner isn't represented by a certain Scott Boras. The other two are.

So, riffing on David Schoenfield's blockbuster trade idea? To help the Red Sox get under the lux tax line, rather than trading for Mookie Betts plus not-needed-he's-a-righty Nathan Eovaldi, and giving up too much back? Send Carpenter (and maybe, but hopefully not, one or another of the OF players Schoenfield mentions) — for Price plus letting the Sox dump enough other salary to be it worth their while but not kill the Cards.

Cards get their lefty starter. Price may have a second gust of energy coming over to the NL.

It would have to be more than a 1-for-1 straight up, in all likelihood. With Carp's extension, the Sox would save "only" $13.5 million per year. Per Cot's Contracts, that move alone gets them close, but not under. But, if they combine that with some judicious cutting elsewhere? They get below the tax line one year, reset, and then maybe resign Betts.

And you know? Jackie Bradley Jr. isn't that expensive for the Cards, but he would be enough to get you just below. And, MLB Trade Rumors says he could be an outfield boost. And that the Cards are looking for lefty bats, which he is one of. (They'd lose one with Carp, of course.)

But, besides him being a righty the Cards just don't need, they just don't need the overpaid Eovaldi.

First, Mo is not trading for Betts as a rent-a-player. He's traded for players on the last year of a contract before, but with the expectation he could resign them. I don't think Mo has plans to shell out 8/$260 or more for Betts. (Likely more.**)

Second, Mo is not trading away Edman. Period.

Third, he is not trading for Eovaldi, period.

And, the Sox could use Carp, at his old stomping ground of 2B, where they have a black hole right now.

The salary diff? That's $24.5 million this year, just above the $22M I said the Cardinals could easily spend in free agency. It drops to $13.5M next year. The third year is pricier cuz the Cards have only two years of Carp contract* while Price has three. But, other players will be coming off current contracts by them.

* Carp's contract vests for 2020 with 500 ABs both of 2020 and 2021.

And, doesn't he have a no-trade option? Yes, but it doesn't kick in until the start of the 2020 season, along with the higher pay of the extension, and we're in the 2019 offseason.

It's a gamble on Price's health, yes. But, even when injury-struggling, he's still been above average. When injury free, he's still well above average. And, if it feels like too much of a gamble? Ask the Sox to throw in a draft pick or two. Or minor league talent, if only "filler" level.

Here's another way to put it, Mo, Cards fans, all. Go beneath that "fold."


** notes here.

Stephen Strasburg, with his own injury history, just got paid to the same length and $3M more per year than Price started at on his contract.

The price for Keuchel, Ryu and Bum just went up, and will go up even more with Gerrit Cole signing before any of them do, especially with him blowing Strasburg out of the water by a full $80 million.

Keuchel and Bum are surely both wanting somewhere around 6/$150. Maybe more. With opt-out clauses possibly part of that. And, somebody will pay it, for sure for Bum and possibly for Keuchel. I could see one or the other getting a 7/$180 offer. (Keuchel's a year older, but has a lot fewer innings on his odometer. Price is only 170 innings or so above Bumgarner.)

(OK, I was wrong on Bum. The D-backs, and others, apparently took note of his massive home/road splits.)

Ryu, even with injuries, will surely get 5/$120. Zach Wheeler just got $5/118 with less of a record and more injury history, although he is younger.

Anyway, this trade seems more win-win (if gambles pay off on both sides) than does the Schoenfield proposal. And, it makes a fair chunk of sense within the current free agent world and prices. So, Cards fans who think trading for Price in any way, shape or form is crazy? I respectfully suggest you think again.

December 12, 2019

Goodbye to all that, Jezza Corbyn

Were the antisemitic smears against Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn real? Hell yes. I just blogged about the disgust of Bomis founder, and creator of this W-thing, Jimmy Wales, pushing them.

But sorry, US pergressuves, while the antisemitic and other smears were real, as was media bias, they weren't the only reasons Corbyn lost. Corbyn refused to take a firm stand either way on #Brexit, whether #Leave or #remain, and refused to accept this was the center of the campaign.

The same was true with Corbyn in 2016, even though the Parliamentary Labour Party and the unions both took a strong #Remain stance. Corbyn only timidly spoke for Remain the last weekend of the #Brexit referendum.

A caucus vote, as I see British parliamentary politics, on an issue like #Brexit, is like a triple-line-whip vote in the Commons. If Corbyn couldn't ardently support #Remain in 2016, he should have stepped down as party leader back then, no matter his desire to reform Labour.

And, this is nothing new from me. I said all this at the time of the referendum. Three and a half years ago, I called him a British Tom Mulcair, and if anybody knows what I thought about Canada's then-New Democratic Party leader, they know that's a slam indeed.

In this way, and not just on #Brexit / #Remain / #Leave, the New Statesman may be half right about Corbyn. Beneath the surface, perhaps he's a trimmer on some issues. Even Just.Another.Politician.™

And, yes, I’m serious. Frankly, I think Corbyn himself has been, and remained, a closet Leaver. In 2016, he said just enough pro-Remain at the end of the campaign to keep from getting turfed as party leader.

But, then, in the 2017 election, and in the just ended election, while he had no problem calling out Tory lies on other issues, he never would  call out — at least not ardently and as a full laundry list — the laundry list of Tory lies about Brexit.

And that would make him Just.Another.Politician.™

In turn, it would make the campaign to defend his conduct as party leader another example of twosiderism. And regular readers of this blog know I loathe that.

I also, to some degree, love seeing it, because it gives me an easy opening to be a deliberate contrarian, at which I’m damned good.

Anyway, it’s already out there. Some Berners are touting this.

Someone who definitely knows better, the allegedly outside the box steno Aaron Maté, is also already pushing this line.

Why not just admit that part — not all, but part, and not a small part — of the problem with Jeremy Corbyn was Jeremy Corbyn, and his stance on Brexit?

Maybe some part of it was Corbyn the campaigner. That said, per Zoe Williams' description of this issue, I think it folds up into Corbyn the closet Leaver. (More here, linked off that article, with some Labour losing candidates in that election calling out leadership, if not Corbyn by name, for "facing two ways" on Brexit.)

There’s one other issue.

In refusing to accept the 2016 PLP vote on Remain, Corbyn comes off as trying to make the parliamentary election system more like the American presidential-focused process.

Just like Corbyn’s Labour BFF stood accused of doing.

Congrats, Jeremy. You’ve finally caught up with Tony Blair on something.

In the nonce, per the title, and Robert Graves, let's see how bitter the parting is.

So, I don't feel sorry for Corbyn as ex-party leader.

I do feel sorry for British Labour, which is now going to have New Labour say that it's right after all, and unionism wondering if it's going to become almost as dead as its American version.

 I feel sorry for the British people, who are now going to be governed for five years by an uncouth elitist-populist toff and yob who will have an ironclad majority to do whatever he wants to the NHS that he and Farange lied about and many other things. I feel doubly sorry because your economy is likely to crap out.

I feel sorry for Scotland, where its Remainers from its independence vote of a few years ago will surely now have buyers' remorse, even as Johnson blocks any attempt at a second referendum.

I feel sorry for Northern Ireland / Ulster, which is going to get royally screwed simply because Johnson will continue to not accept that he can't force the EU to do what the EU doesn't want to do. Since the DUP lost seats, it's weakened anyway, even more so with Johnson in a strong majority, not a coalition.
Four and a half years on from this, Labour is finally in power again, led by Keir Der Starmer, the man who shivved Corbyn. Corbyn's still in parliament, as an independent. And, with the margin of Labour's victory, arguably even more marginalized than he was a month earlier.

Jimmy Wales tried to seduce me with his WT:Social

We've all seen the #DeleteFacebook hashtags on Twitter, which is semi-ironic in that, while Twitter isn't nearly as much a privacy vacuum, it can be a bigger cesspool.

We've seen Google+ go to tumbleweeds then have its plug pulled. We've seen Ello now become a British MySpace. Mastodon and other would-be replacements for Twitter + Facebook have flopped due to clunkiness or other issues.

Enter Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales. (And founder of Bomus and other things, but let's not talk about that.)

Wales recently rolled out WT:Social. He touted that it wouldn't be a privacy gobbler like Facebook, and other things.

One slight problem, or rather, two, which combined, are a bigger problem.

WT:Social has, or appears to have, a real-names policy.

So, with my real name, I joined, got approved etc.

I made one post, then realized that, unlike Facebook, but like Twitter (sort of), there's no provision for posting settings. When I applied to join, I was asked to select various interests, and I assumed that, when I was approved, these would be like the "circles" of Google+ and that I could post to "friends," "circle X," "all circles," or "circles of circles," which on G+ was kind of like Facebook's friends of friends.

So then Wales sends a link to a Reddit that he's having about FAQs. I ask the posting question. And he says it's all public because "it's a wiki."

Erm, not exactly sure what that "it's a wiki" means. In context of my question, it could mean that it's for people sharing knowledge. Well, Jimmy, people often use Facebook to share personal stories and events, not knowledge.

Second, it sounds like this could mean "it's a wiki" for YOU. No thanks at all.

Third, even Twitter has "protected posting."

So, I haven't posted more and likely will delete my account soon.

No, I will DEFINITELY delete my account after one or two more posts.

Because he's sleaze. I didn't realize how much of one until he slimed Jeremy Corbyn. But, seeing that, and then getting a fortuitous Medium piece? It's bad. REAL bad. Read here.

This is about more than WT:Social. It means that the Wikipedia articles on antisemitism and antizionism are untrustworthy. I've long known to take Wikipedia with a grain of salt on anything current affairs, living politicians, etc. This is the first time that I've had some direct angle on that.

Also, presuming that WT:Social is, if not now, ultimately going to be a for-profit venue, I can't support his money aiding this. In addition, since he said "it's a wiki," it's likely that many of my comments might face some version of Wiki-scrubbing.

Next, since the Wikimedia Foundation is nowhere near broke, Wales' annual solicitations on Wikipedia must be seen in a more critical light. And, since MeWe is free in a basic version, without any solicitations I've seen, that light must become yet more bright and critical. (That said, WT:Social ties to Wales' forprofit Wikia, which is surely even more not broke than his foundation.)

I have instead joined MeWe. It's free, and ads-free, for basic accounts. It has tight memory limits, so if you're the type of Facebooker who posts 30 cat GIFs or 30 PokeStops a week, it would not work for you in free version. But, it also has paid premium versions, which don't cost too much.

I did the smart thing of joining with a non-real-name version. I did not real first name and last initial as "known elsewhere" as. And, no, I keep my social media carefully siloed. So, because that's on there, I won't link here.