SocraticGadfly: 3/24/19 - 3/31/19

March 29, 2019

St. Louis Cardinals 2019 season preview

Paul Goldschmidt is Key 1 to the St. Louis Cardinals
First, let's get the preliminaries out of the way.

I am predicting the Birds will win the NL Central. See my poll at right for your shot.

Odds? I say 50-50 to win the division, with the Brewers at 2-3 against and Cubs at 3-5 against. Yeah, that adds up to more than 100 percent when expressed in percentages. So sue me. Second, yeah, I'm taking the Brew Crew ahead of the Cubbies.

OK, looking at Bats on Birds this year?

Key 1: Paul Goldschmidt. If he's the player he's been with the D-backs, he stabilized the batting lineup. He becomes a big part of generally improving infield defense. And, he is a clubhouse presence. That's why I saluted the trade, and welcome the new contract.

And three jacks in his second game as a Bird, none of them wall scrapers? Yep, he's the real deay.

No. 1
No 2
No. 3
Or, all three together:

Key 2: The outfield. Either Marcell Ozuna must rebound from last year's shoulder injury (I still loathe Mo and Girsch for knowingly trading for him rather than waiting out the Marlins for Christian Yelich) or Dexter Fowler has to rebound to 2017 levels. (Better would be accepted, too.) They don't have to have both happen, but one must. Of the two, I actually thing Fowler is more likely. I think Ozuna had a career year in 2017, and that's another reason I didn't like the trade. Fowler, meanwhile, I think may relate better to Mike Schildt than he did to Mike Matheny. Harrison Bader, if one or the other of the corner OFs rebounds, must just be no worse offensively and defensively than last year. Improvement is of course welcome and is very likely. Tyler O'Neill must cut down on Ks (and ideally, make it easier for the team to let Ozuna walk after this year), and Jose Martinez must show enough glove improvement, especially if both Ozuna and Fowler bounce back, to earn at bats here as well as 1B.

Key 3: Pitching health. The Cards have a lot of depth — if it's there. Alex Reyes must stay healthy if the bullpen is going to be as lights-out as it could be. Andrew Miller must find 2017 health levels. If these happen, Carlos Martinez still works better in my book as a starter — unless Reyes shows the goods on pitch variety to move there. Michael Wacha also needs to stay healthy. I mention this players because of health concerns.

Key 4: Other infield issues. Kolten Wong also needs to stay healthy. Matt Carpenter at 3B needs to trust Goldy defensively, and be passable rather than a big detriment with his arm.

Key 5: I know he wants to play, but Schildt wants him playing in October. The aging Yadier Molina needs to accept an occasional extra day off. Playing 3-5 fewer games than in a past normal year and starting 5-7 fewer sounds about right.

Key 6: He showed no health issues last year, nor in Japan or previous MLB years. Not expecting any. But, Miles Mikolas, while he may regress a modest to moderate amount, can't be a one-year wonder. (Unfortunately, he gave up three jacks, including one to Yelich, in the opener.)

Rest of NL Central:

Brewers look solid. Didn't make huge changes; didn't need to. If there are no major slumps from last year, they're OK. If not?

Cubs? I expect a fall-off from Jon Lester for sure. Ben Zobrist also likely to hit aging curve.

Reds will finish ahead of Pirates.

NL East:

Weird division. Mutts, even, getting pics for first place. I don't see it. I think Phillies build on Bryce Harper plus a year of maturing to win the division. Braves second. Mets third. Nats slump to fourth and look at rebuilding. Marlins get recommissioned to AAA ball.

NL West:

A week division, weakest of the three in the NL. I'm going to go Rockies first, then Padres. Combo of Manny Machado plus being bold on Fernando Tatis Jr. says they sneak past the Dodgers. I expect Big Blue's pitching to crumble, starting with Clayton Kershaw.  Snakes take fourth and Giants are looking to next year.

Wild cards are Cubs and Brewers.

AL East:

Still Boston's to lose until the Yankees do it. Rays a solid third. Jays fourth and Orioles playing with the Marlins.

AL Central:

Cleveland's to lose this year. Twins will finish a solid second but out of playoffs in weak division. White Sox a distant third. Royals, Tigers, already playing for next year.

AL West:

Houston's the team here, like Boston in the East. Seattle will finish just ahead of Angels for second, who are just ahead of A's for third; Angels will show small bits of hope above last year with Mike Trout and Shohei Otani. Albert Pujols will have more ABs than last year but be kept under 550. Rangers aren't immediately playing for next year but will be by All-Star break.

(Pujols will move up the career rungs in several major stats, including top five in total bases, RBIs, and home runs, if he stays healthy and is no worse otherwise than last year; I will have a separate piece on him.)

Wild cards are Yankees and Rays.

March 28, 2019

TX Progressives take on Mueller, Barr, Harris, Gillibrand,
the Dallas Snooze, the wall, old Dallas mossbacks, more

This corner of the Texas Progressive Alliance says Go Cards to start a new baseball season while also saying goodbye Donut Twitter and other things related to “spin” on the long-awaited Mueller Report.

Speaking of, Socratic Gadfly offered his wrap-up and roundup on the Mueller Report and reactions.

Off the Kuff did his precinct analysis thing on Congressional and State Senate districts from 2018.

Brains and Eggs lays out another update on the 2020 prez race; he expects Gillibrand to be among the early folders on the Dem side. (This scribe agrees.)

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

Jim Schutze cares very little for “VisitDallas,” either as currently named or as the old Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau. For good measure, he also turns his eyes on the North Central Texas Council of Governments. He then says both are part of old Dallas mossbacks doing legal money laundering for private projects.

And, in a twofer, something that will always get applause from me, Schutze throws the Morning Snooze under the bus, this time for hating on the new Dallas County DA.

Beyond Bones tells you some things you should know about the Deer Park fire and public safety.

Grits explains why police should be required to get a warrant to use cell site simulators, also known as "stingrays".

The Lunch Tray debunks the arguments for Trump's school nutrition rollbacks.

Related? The Texas Observer has a long read on the diabetes, and related amputations, crisis in the Valley.

Stephen Young breaks down the fight between Texas Senate Republicans and Facebook over abortion.

The Chronic bird-dogged Kamala (Is a Cop) Harris when she made the presidential rounds in Harris County.

Zapata County residents who remember the creation of Falcon Dam and reservoir liken it to Trump’s wall. (American Indians in North Dakota know that in spades on the Missouri.)

The Week, perhaps doing too much fellating of AOC, claims “socialism won” at SXSW. (Given that her non-Green Party version of the Green New Deal doesn’t address the late-stage capitalism elephant in the room of climate change very much, nope, sorry, but not a socialist.)

Also at SXSW? A nutter who claimed three years ago there that he was going to end capitalism now claims we ARE in a Matrix-type simulation but that he can break us out.

Jeff Balke proposes four ways to make cycling safer in Houston.

The Bloggess would like to tell you a ghost story.

March 27, 2019

AOC: Real criticism vs eyeballs and "gotcha"

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has had the wingnuts hammering her (probably many of the single male wingnuts have been drooling in lust under the guise of hammering her) ever since she won her election. Actually, to a degree, ever since she knocked off Joe Crowley in her primary.

But, not just them.

Green Party and Green-leaner folks have been skeptical of her version of a Green New Deal. This person here has been not once, but twice. (He's also tagged Sunrise Movement on Twitter as well as mentioning them by name without tagging, asking what the hell it was actually doing for the first four years after joining Twitter in 2013, and gotten no response.)

I sent a second direct statement to them after starting work on this piece. We'll see what, if any, response I get. Don't believe me? Twitter link and screengrab. Account started in 2013. Wikipedia information? Organization started in 2017.

Reality, per Wikipedia? It's a youth front of Sierra Club that sat around and did nothing, it seems, for four years. And, people who have been long-term readers know what I think of Sierra in particular and Gang Green environmental groups in general.

Other criticisms of AOC — are they real on the substance? Are they more "eyeballs" issues, as in bad optics, and legitimately bad optics, but less of substance? Or are they "gotcha"?

Probably a mix of all of the above.

Let's dive in.

No, first, contra the various gotchas, let's give her a straight-up kudo. A number of scholars and academics, like this one in the New York Times, cite very favorably her questioning in the Michael Cohen hearing.

NOW, let's dive in.

One, like her now living in a non-working class DC neighborhood? And, not being quite as poor as some might think, with $20-$50K in savings, as well as any amount of officially designated retirement savings being listed in official finance filings?

— Half eyeballs, half gotcha.

The NY Post claims she doesn't live at her alleged district home address. If true, per the story, that she had also originally planned to run in District 15, not 14, this explains why she won that district's primary as a write-in for the Reform Party. It also partially explains why she rejected that.

— Two-thirds eyeballs, one-third gotcha. The "eyeballs" ties in with my deconstructing her myth of being working class. Still a small amount of "gotcha." It IS the New York Post, after all.

At the same time, that Post piece is loaded with potshots. AOC could not have started an editorial office eight months ago after defeating Crowley in the primary because she was NOT a Congresscritter and would not be for 7.5 more months.

— Total gotcha on that. It IS the New York Post, after all.

Some of this may be spitballing and sour grapes by wingers. Some of it "is," not "may be." And, lord knows the Daily Mail just likes to engage in celebrity monkey-wrenching for clickbait. Nonetheless, per Ike's somewhat hypocritical comments about Tricky Dick, she surely knows that she needs to be cleaner than a hound's tooth. And, I'm not a winger. I'm not saying her legend is totally untrue. I am saying it's thinner than she has spun it, and that missteps unravel yet more threads.

On her new digs, no, she doesn't have to slum it. But, she maybe could have found a place with better optics? Ditto on shopping at Whole Paycheck in the middle of the Amazon dust-up.

In other words, I wouldn't make too big a deal out of it. BUT, I wouldn't dismiss it, either?

And, some issues, like her pre-election retreat on BDS, or throwing fellow freshman, Rep. Ilhan Omar, halfway under the bus on Israel-Palestine issues? NOT appearance issues, but political choices.

— Half REAL, half eyeballs. Yes, it's tough as a freshman to resist the hordes. But, she's caved twice, and counting, on Israel-Palestine issues.

Her Green New Deal, and all its issues, vs. my links above? And, my questions about the Sunrise Movement? It's complicated because all three POVs are at work. Tentatively?

— Forty percent REAL, 30 percent optics, 30 percent gotcha.

OTOH, eating a hamburger with her chief of staff (and AOC never claims it's a veggie burger) means that maybe her talking about cow farts isn't perfect. On a hypocrisy scale? On a 1-10? Rates a 2, maybe a 3. No more. First, wingnuts (and others), she just said we need to stop eating beef "breakfast, lunch and dinner." She never mentioned going vegetarian. So, even my 3 might be too high.

— Half eyeballs, half gotcha

Sorry, but gonna update that one per Part 3 of my Green New Deal vs Green New Deal. Hypocrisy rates a 4, maybe a 5, rather than a 3. And the scorecard?

— One third real, one third eyeballs, one third gotcha.

That said, that's the chief of staff for whom AOC is possibly deliberately "underpaying" to skirt financial disclosure rules. And, said chief of staff is now under FEC investigation for allegedly skirting PAC donation rules, and this connected to both AOC and to Justice Democrats.

— As of the time of writing, I'll offer 55 percent REAL, 30 percent eyeballs, 15 percent gotcha.

Not paying off a tax default she owes the state of New York over her failed children's books publishing company? (No harm in the failure itself, and, seriously, a nice try.)

— 100 percent real. The debt is under $2,000 and she's had plenty of time to pay, whether up front or on a payment plan. Things like this are guaranteed to put you in the running for the Just.Another.Politician.™ label.

AOC hosting a "fun run" the Saturday after Earth Day and saying the $30 fee was to fight for the Green New Deal but it was actually a campaign contribution?

— 20 percent real, 30 percent eyeballs, 50 percent gotcha. Anybody paying thirty bucks for a fun run should know in a case like this what it's going toward. And, the "fight the Green New Deal," as that's her signature push, ditto on people knowing it. AND, it was there in fine print. So, this above all a New York Post gotcha. (And, contra some on Twitter, it's gotcha above all else. You know who you are.

On the third hand (Idries Shah time) I don't expect a freshman Congresscritter, whether her fame is more thrust upon her or more self-invented, to know about every environmental issue in the nation, and certainly not those in other states. I am sure she knows basic issues about fracking, not just in relation to greenhouse gas emissions, but also air, ground and water pollution, although her focus is on GHGs and "keep it in the ground." However, she certainly knows nothing about PFOS/PFOA contamination that in New Mexico, is forcing a dairy farmer to eradicate his entire herd. None of this is to make light of anybody's environmental health problems. It IS, though, to suggest "proper Congressional channels." Said Clovis farmer is talking to one of his state's two Senators. (That said, the issue of PFOS/PFOA contamination at other Air Force bases has been known as a growing problem for several years.)

And, is it impossible for urban Congresscritters to be concerned about environmental issues? I think not.

So, defend her, liberal websites. As much as you can. (And, if you justified similar restaurant behavior against wingnuts, own your hypocrisy.) At the same time, let's sort out what's what.

And, it could be said that, due to missteps coming out of the gate, she's kind of earned these critical eyeballs. And, will surely earn more.

Per her Wiki page, I'm waiting for her likely ungrounded claim to have Sephardi Jewish ancestry to be deconstructed. And, this isn't just on her. In New Mexico, many Hispanos claim to have Sephardi ancestry and its more likely that they're descended from Protestant Adventist converts of the late 19th century. And, as for a breast cancer mutation proving Sephardi Marranos in New Mexico? Uh, no, Jews haven't so often married within their religion as the story claims, among other things. Also, Smithsonian doesn't tell you that those families denied being Jewish, as NIH reports.  And the British Medical Journal notes the mutation arose more than once. There's just too much "looseness" to satisfy me here still. Beyond that, if the mutation goes back to before the start of the Common Era, it could have arisen in Herod's Idumeans or something. And, yeah, I'm going to go there — at times, it comes off like Oklahomans claiming to be one-eighth Cherokee. That's you, up in Massachusetts.

Seriously ... given that an estimated 3.5 million direct descendants of Marranos exist today? Scattered all over Latin America and beyond? I highly doubt her claims. And, I find it "interesting" that she made them between the election and starting office. She may sincerely believe what she said her family found. I'm skeptical.

— Until I hear more, I don't see a REAL here, but, allowing for the possibility of more turning up, I'll call this 90 percent eyeballs, 10 percent gotcha, to slightly tell on myself.

March 25, 2019

Newspapers 'versus' public relations

We've seen the infographics all over Twitter and elsewhere, how there used to be one journalist to one pubic relations person and there's now, what, six PR flacks to one journo or something like that.

But, that assumes that journalists — or their bosses and corporate masters at least — aren't into public relations themselves. That's true at both the national and the local level.

Major dailies are indeed into PR in foreign relations, with their customer being the United States government and the bipartisan foreign policy establishment. The Venezuela coup and the pile-on against Rep. Ilham Omar on AIPAC are clear examples.

On the domestic side? Major dailies still paddle lightly on single-payer, don't localize the realities of what climate change will cause — and how ending fossil fuel tax credits would fund a Green New Deal — and other things.

Regional major dailies, and national ones, are also loathe to attack local big biz. Did the New York Times look at the real cost of Amazon's second HQ? The Houston Chronicle explain the reality of how fracked wells have rapid depletion rates and are generally money losers? No and no. The Chicago Trib look closely years ago at Rahm Emanuel's privatization? No. It may eventually have looked at the craptacular police department, but anything financial? No.

But, it's not just nationally.

Local newspapers, despite claims otherwise, pull punches in news stories, columns and house editorials. Don't think otherwise.

The online only Gnu Media? Don't think they're that much better. Many of them are one-person ownership, and the staff ain't biting the hand that fees them.

Accepting that, and accepting that some newspapers are worse about it than others, may help you as you decide whether to get into, or stay in, journalism or not.