SocraticGadfly: 2/3/19 - 2/10/19

February 09, 2019

Nathan Hecht is NOW butt-hurt about bad state judges?

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, in discussing bail reform this week, also said he was concerned about the quality of a number of judges elected last November. Given that this was mainly due to a lot of GOP appeals judges losing office, his sudden newfound love for changing the state's method of selecting judges sounds like partisan sour grapes.

After all, nutbar Congresscritter Louie Gohmert, aka Gohmert Pyle, used to be a state district judge.

Sharon Keller, a rank idiot, remains on the Court of Criminal Appeals.

And, Nathan Hecht continues to lead the Texas Supreme Court, for that matter.

A full decade ago, Hecht was challenged over ethics issues.

Cry me a river.


That said, setting partisanship issues aside, Hecht is right. Texas' method of selecting state judges sucks.

New Mexico, which has a state judicial nominations committee making recommendations to the governor, followed by one partisan election and then retention elections after that, is much better. Colorado and Arizona go yet further, and provide voter information in retention elections; Colorado has this done by its state nominations committee while Arizona has a separate committee that does midterm private evaluations as well as retention election public ones. New Mexico also requires a four-sevenths supermajority in retention elections.

New Mexico, Arizona, and other states also provide at least partial public financing, on a voluntary opt-in basis, for state judicial candidates.

More on New Mexico's system here. More on Arizona's review commission, along with alleged reforms in Texas on campaign finance for judges and four other state-level reforms here.

In short, Texas can do better. When Arizona, even more wingnut, does something like this better, you have a problem.

February 08, 2019

Build the "wall" — out of fiber optic cable?

Business Insider reports on this intriguing option.

First, it works, and was already tested and proven to work a decade ago.

And, contra kneejerk responses by MAGA-heads it worked well enough already back then to tell the difference between weights of people and between individuals and groups.

Indeed, even the Border Patrol is down with it. Well, people on the line are:
"We have a tactical advantage of being able to classify a report, a sensor hit, whatever indication we have of possible illegal activity along the border," Stephen Spencer, an assistant chief patrol agent in Tucson, told the agency in a press release posted Thursday. 
He continued: "It might take 45 minutes to an hour and a half to get to point of that indication. The benefits [of the new technologies] are a rapid response to make the judgment call whether that is something we need to assign assets to look at. If I spend an hour and a half walking to discover a goat tripped a device, I've just wasted three hours of my patrol time."
Customs and Border Protection refused to respond for comment.

Here in Tex-ass, the not-totally wingnut Rep. Will Hurd is down with it. Of course, the biggie is Senate Republicans.

More from Hurd here, in part echoing Spencer
"A physical barrier in some places does make sense, when there's urban-to-urban contact," he said. "But it's not along all 2,000 miles of the border, and there's probably only a handful of miles where something like that is needed." 
The main problem with a physical wall, he said, was that Border Patrol's response time can take between hours and days in remote areas, rendering a wall effectively useless. 
"You need something that can detect a threat and track that threat until you're able to deploy your most important resource — the men and women of Border Patrol — to do that interdiction," he said.
Bingo. As opposed to this stupidity I got on Twitter:
And, of course, Spencer and Hurd directly refudiate this guy.

So do other news stories, which show immigrants climbing Trump's precious wall with ladders, mayors of border cities saying a wall isn't needed and more.

February 07, 2019

Who's first to move: Bryce and Manny
or pitchers and catchers?

So, what's the latest news on Bryce Harper and Manny Machado?

In my poll at right, I thought Bryce would be signed by Jan. 31. I was wrong on that. Now, I'm thinking everybody is wrong that he gets signed within a week, in the first half of February and before the mythical "pitchers and catchers report" time.

And, now, people are speculating about the possibility of a 1-year deal.

Supposedly, Harper still has eight teams doing some degree of tire kicking. Color me skeptical. The whole article is built on a tweet by Jon Heyman, widely regarded by baseball fans as a mouthpiece for Harper's agent, Scott Boras. And that's probably the case here.

Jim Bowden:
Cards I know are out. Braves never in. Angels? Quite unlikely. Astros surely out if they won't pay Marwin Gonzales. Jays who just waived Tulo and ate his contract? No.

As I was working on this piece, I would have agreed on Bowden's assessment of the Giants, too. But, MLB Trade Rumors says they're now in.

Unless the Yankees are one of the four new mystery teams, they have never been considered a suitor for Harper. But, Aaron Judge has now said he'd move positions to make outfield room for Harper. But, actual and potential Yankee OFs include Brett GardnerAaron Hicks, the oft-injured Jacoby Ellsbury and Giancarlo Stanton as well as Judge. So, I still don't see them going there. And, in terms of lux tax, right now, Cot's lists their contracts at $180M. That allows a fair leeway to stay below the $206M first tier tax. But, not too much. Add in total 40-man roster and other things, and they'll go over $190M. But, they'll likely stay below the first cut and still surely stay below the second cut at $226M. That's the biggie. The Yankees got off the schneid last year and probably would be OK with a one-year, first-level return. But, signing Harper would put them over the first tier for sure and almost certainly guarantee they stayed over the first tier, at least, and pay repeater penalties, in 2020.

Also, if the Giants are "in," does that mean the Boras "ask" has dropped?

I'm now ready to offer 50-50 odds that Harper remains unsigned until the second half of the month. I'll offer 3-2 odds Machado signs before then, and 3-5 odds that both stay unsigned until the second half of the month.

Remember that Boras doesn't always win, even when he waits and waits and waits. Just last year, he did get a win with J.D. Martinez, but not with Jake Arrieta. Or Mike Moustakas. (Who sits and waits again this year after his one-year contract a year ago.) Or Greg Holland, who has now inked a new deal, but with a considerable haircut — and much earlier than a year ago.

As noted, Boras has had his share of "losses" before. Just never one potentially this big.

Dan Lozano has had his share of "losses," too. We know Lozano fell short of his agent grand slam hopes with Albert Pujols and passing the contract of Alex Rodriguez for biggest contract ever.

February 06, 2019

TX Progressives take first peek at Texas Lege, Houston stupidities

The Texas Progressive Alliance would like to announce that it is not forming an exploratory committee to run for President, but it is bringing you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff has been all over that bogus SOS advisory about alleged non-citizen voters.

Socratic Gadfly speculates on what White Castle selling veggie burgers has to say about the future of meat-eating and cattle-raising in Texas and elsewhere.

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

Jeff Balke points to the real issues with technology and privacy.

CultureMap Austin notes that the capital city is one of the biggest anti-vaccination hotspots in the country.

Better Texas Blog checks up on health care bills in the Lege.

Grits has some questions about that police raid in Houston that left two dead and five cops injured.

Paradise in Hell was not impressed by Greg Abbott's voter purge effort.

The Texas Observer shows that Texas Republicans don’t always hate California business ideas.

Jim Schutze has the latest shenanigans in the Dallas mayor’s race. (Sadly, another Schutze piece screws the pooch on the Houston drug raid.)

Environment Texas has an update on air pollution in the state.

As reported by Reuters, the Harris County GOP really screwed the pooch on Holocaust Remembrance Day, with a “Leftism kills” Facebook post.

Some freelance op-ed guy, a Houston PR flak for Haynes and Boone Roy Reynolds thinks Texas Dems need to keep their arms open for ConservaDems, and ignores people like Ralph Yarborough in state party history.

February 05, 2019

Antivaxxerism looms anew — like child faith healing (updated)

I can't provide details, because it was in a closed Facebook group unofficially aligned with the Green Party, but the latest antivaxxer facedown has only increased the likelihood that I will vote Socialist Party USA, not Green, in the future, where options are available.

A person made a post there with a news story about an outbreak of measles. (As of late last month, the outbreak was continuing to slowly grow.) Interestingly, in one follow-up comment later, said person did not come off as anti-antivaxxer, but rather, a "let's talk" stance that, at end, is less productive than being an open antivaxxer, let alone than being an open sound-sciencer.

The Green Party's unenlightened stance on GMOs, officially on paper, vs. the SPUSA adopting a more enlightened, science-informed vision in its most recent platform update, has been in my mind on a possible realignment of sorts for some time.

On antivaxxerism, the 2016 election was the start of a tipping point.

Contra Dems in general and Donut Twitter in particular, I don't think Jill Stein herself is an antivaxxer. (Besides, with the California Democratic Party officially endorsing chiropractic as "medicine," organized Democrats don't have a lot of leg to stand on with alt-med issues.)

But, the antivaxxer portion of Green voters is high enough that Stein playing the Just.Another.Politician role when the issue came up in 2016, rather than coming down firmly in favor of vaccines on the medical side — while also dismissing the more wild claims against Big Pharma on the business side (vaccines, compared to something like a new cholesterol drug, are a small, small part of the pharmceutical world's revenues and an even smaller part of its profits) only added fuel to the belief system fire of Green antivaxxers.

And, it IS a belief system, which acceptance of sound science is not.

In fact, in my last comment, I said antivaxxer parents are little different than parents who reject medical doctors in favor of faith healings. They are the ones inflicting a belief system on parents, not me. And, by the links that others posted in trying to justify their claims, it is a belief system. One was from a person who was a Moody Bible College graduate with no medical training. When antivaxxerism meets the Religious Right, then gets shouted through a Green megaphone, we're really in trouble.

I've already taken an initial step in this. I've put the SPUSA website on my links list. And, it's a notch ahead of Greens.

Given that Greens are that much bigger than the SPUSA, I would prefer to see internal reform.

But, beyond this, this issue of state "paper parties," and said parties exploiting the "decentralization" plank of the GP's Ten Key Values, how this relates to Ralph Nader vs David Cobb in the Green Party's 2004 presidential nomination process and other things, all leave me not holding my breath.

And, for those who wonder, under a somewhat similar name, antivaxxer protests go back to Edward Jenner's original smallpox vaccine.

Also, getting the measles vaccine helps keep a toddler and young child's overall immune system from being compromised. In addition, measles can lie dormant for years, then cause a fatal brain disease.

And, Feb. 10, mega kudos to this 18-year-old who defied his mom and got his shots.

Meanwhile, in Maine, the state Libertarian and Green parties have joined hands for a number of good civil libertarian issues in which they have common cause ... and end by jumping off the antivaxxer cliff.

Contra that, in other states, in legislatures, the anti-antivaxxer movement is gaining steam.

And, measles does kill. Maybe not much in the US, even in antivaxxer circles. But globally? In 2014, it killed 145,000.


Greens aren't the only antivaxxers. Libertarians are big on it, per the link above. When you hear about disease outbreaks in SoCal? It's more likely to be in the libertarian Orange County than in stereotyped la-la land Hollywood.

The worst are pseudolibertarian Christians who don't want vaccines but don't want other women to have reproductive choice freedoms — and don't want most of America to have any freedoms that aren't on their approved list of freedoms.


Orac now has the latest discussion on MMR vaccines not causing autism.

And, it's not just MMR or other common childhood vaccines. Antivaxxer parents in Oregon nearly killed (sic) their kid because no tetanus vaccine.

Orac now notes that YouTube and other places online are cracking down on antivaxxerism itself, though letting plenty of other pseudomedicine still run.

February 04, 2019

Why do Texas Republicans hate capitalism? And schools?

First, it's true that they do.

ANY caps on property tax increases, given that housing values are driven in large part by market sales, are anti-capitalistic. The new SB2 and HB2 just double down on that.

The housing market isn't necessarily rational, but no capitalist market is, so that's not an excuse.

Other parts of the two bills are also anti-capitalist. They're designed, as were the 2017 bills upon which they're clearly based, to hamstring and browbeat appraisal districts and also to make it yet easier to challenge appraisals, especially for corporations.

Now, at this point, some libertarian types will applaud me for pointing out that of course, Texas corporations aren't capitalists. (At the same time, the Libertarian Party's most recent Lite Guv candidate in Texas proposed to get rid of property taxes entirely without offering a replacement, showing that, just when you think nobody can be stupider than a Republican, a Libertarian will soon pop up.)

In reality, they are indeed capitalists and I did a head fake.

What the Texas GOP, and what capitalism-oriented parties in general, hate is non-crony capitalism. (You, too, Dems.) Why? Because it's outside their control.

Before you Lib(ertarian)tards get all pious, what you hate is capitalism too when you go on your "No True Scotsman" tangents. See, there is NO invisible hand as part of "the market" not being rational. Ergo, markets are open to manipulation; they even beg for it. In short, crony capitalism is really capitalism's default state.

Thanks for playing, and getting played.

Back to the Texas GOP.

As in 2017, school finance reform is missing from the picture. Gov. Strangeabbott, Lite Gov Danny Goeb and Speaker Dennis (Has a bee in his) Bonnen said nothing about school finance reform last Thursday, as TASB and others quickly noted.

Per comments above, we already know Libertarians hate schools, of course.

In addition, the bills appear designed, like their 2017 predecessors, to browbeat local appraisal districts and local appraisal review boards, and to make it even easier than is currently the case, for corporations, even more than homeowners, to appeal their reviews. This is the big end game.