SocraticGadfly: 11/24/19 - 12/1/19

November 30, 2019

Derrick Goold, drinking and peddling the Cardinals Mozeliak-Girsh Kool-Aid

I've long considered Goold a Mo Kool-Aid drinker, but he really, really proved it last week in one of his weekly slide shows.

Start with Slide 1. He says team president and former GM John Mozeliak, and his flunky in the GM spot, Mike Girsch, really do have a plan. It's called "lurking."

No, DG, that's "opportunistic bottom feeding." It's a plan, yes, but one for incremental change.

As for what I think the Cards should do? It starts with starting pitching, as I noted earlier this week. You can vote in the polls at right, too.

But what do I know? Per Slide 2, I'm sure I'm part of "the vocal minority on Twitter."

Then, on Slide 3, Goold bitches about said vocal minority who can't accept that Paul DeJong is basically Trevor Story. Except that he's not. As part of that vocal minority, I told Goold that DeJong's 4.1 WAR is nowhere near Story's 6.4. (It was 3.8 vs 5.6 in 2018, so this isn't a one-off.)

Slide 4? Goldy WAS, not IS, unless he has a bounce-back, one of the best players in the NL. Maybe he does bounce back. But a sub-3 WAR doesn't make you one of the best. For that matter, he was sub-6 WAR for the previous three years. That puts you in the second-10, but not the top-10, tier of NL players. I liked the trade, and if he adds even 1 more WAR to be a 4-WAR player each of the next four years, I like the new contract. But, Derrick, c'mon.

Also, he gets weird here. He says Jack Flaherty is one of the best pitchers in the league ... basically based on one year, but later, says not to read too much into half a year of Tommy Edman. I mean, Flaherty was OK in 2018, and the team said he'd be better, but ...

Also weirdly, assuming the Cards let Marcell Ozuna walk, he doesn't mention Edman in the OF mix. He says Dexter Fowler and Harrison Bader appear to be locks (with more improvement desired), with Tyler O'Neill, Jose Martinez and others scuffing for time. Did he not see Edman play at least a competent RF? His offensive splits there were down a fair amount from 3B and a moderate amount from 2B, but he's got a full offseason and spring training to learn MLB OF defense, be more comfortable at it, and thus hit better while out there. (He was still a 95 OPS+ to the league average of 100 at RF.)

The OF reality is that Bader regressed last year, enough that, to me, 2020 is, if not quite make or break, certainly a "test" year. If not, is Dylan Carson ready? He is, per a Twitter respondent, a Goold favorite.

And Jordan Hicks? Yeah, when he had a healthy arm, DG, nobody else did what he did. BUT, isn't that just a minor complication? I guess you have to have major injuries two straight years, like Alex Reyes, before DG will stop pouring the Kool-Aid.

As for a plan beyond lurking? Yes, I know everybody thinks Cole Hamels will go back to Philly. But I think the Cards should make a run at him, and DG doesn't even mention him. (I would also be OK with trading for Corey Kluber; I was a year ago and even suggested trade pieces.)

Anyway, that gives you a sampling.

So, TEA still can't get Rosebud or Chilton to take over Marlin ISD

The Texas Education Agency, even before taking over direct control of Marlin ISD, had made noises about merging it into either Rosebud-Lott or Chilton ISD. But never has a larger school district been merged into a smaller. That said, with aggressive recruiting of transfers, Rosebud may be as big as Marlin now. But, it still doesn't want Marlin.

So, the TEA and Marlin ISD, or rather, the TEA's right hand in Austin and left hand of board of managers in Marlin, agreed TEA would run the district another year.

But THIS TIME WE MEAN IT, TEA's right hand told its left.

Improve enough, or we close the district.

And do what?

Let the kids be truants all day?

Try to force Rosebud-Lott (or Bremond???? Riesel????) to take over?

==

Meanwhile, the city of Marlin has some theoretically good news — $10.6 million in a mix of grants and interest free loans to theoretically fix once and for all its water system.

What happens if Marlin defaults on the loans? Does the state take over a home-rule city? And, will this really fix the city's water problems? Ameliorate, yes, but fix?

November 29, 2019

Clarence Thomas, enigma

The Enigma of Clarence ThomasThe Enigma of Clarence Thomas by Corey Robin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This is an edited and expanded version of my review of Corey Robin's "The Enigma of Clarence Thomas."

An excellent, succinct book on some of the roots of Clarence Thomas’ thinking. Basically, Robin’s thesis is that much of Thomas’ approach to the constitution is driven by a black nationalism that flowered in his collegiate times and that still burns inside him despite his move rightward since then.

Robin doesn’t just say this out of nowhere. He gets information from collegiate classmates, takes seriously Thomas’ own comments on his formative influences (beyond black nationalism, he has actually read Ayn Rand) and more.

Unfortunately, given Thomas’ penchant for not commenting to people like book authors, or to much of the media BESIDES conservative ideological media — as Robin shows, he comments to them in spades — Robin can’t bounce all of these thoughts off Thomas, though most of them seem largely correct.

The book opens by noting some white liberals have treated Thomas to the same “lazy black” and “ideological puppet of a white justice on the court” motif that Thurgood Marshall faced from white conservatives. Thomas is encouraging readers to take Thomas at his word, through this. (I saw a white liberal former editor of The New Republic, Isaac Chotiner, do just this, claiming on Twitter Thomas didn’t understand the word “deign” when he used it during his confirmation hearings, while I was reading this book.)

I found this very good, probably borderline 4/5 stars, and gave it the bump upward.

I have a few observations, as well as a couple of questions I posted for Robin on social media. I’ll update this review with any response.

Observation: I never thought it was worth my time reading Thomas Sowell and Robin confirmed that. If Sowell really thinks capitalism allowed black slaves to limit the power of slaveowner capitalists, he needs to read the likes of Edward Baptist’s “The Half Has Never Been Told.” Fact is that white masters new from experience just how much torturous punishment to use. Fact is that white slaver ship captains knew from experience what an acceptable loss rate was. Sowell also ignores “Breeder” slaves. He also ignores W.E.B. Dubois’ estimates on how many black slaves were illegally brought into the U.S. after 1807.

That said, Sowell made a left-to-right pilgrimage similar to Thomas’ and Thomas was introduced to his writing for just that reason.

Robin shows that part of black nationalism is an emphasis on black patriarchy. The 60s peace and love movements had problems with women and gender issues in general; the Black Panthers had them in spades.

Robin has two takeaways from this. One is that Thomas basically makes no effort to extend his constitutional jurisprudence on race to issues of gender. Unspoken: To do so would empower black women and undercut an old-time patriarchy.

Second, because of this, Anita Hill was an “overdetermined” challenge for Thomas. Black and female both, an “intersectionality” hit, if one will. That said, Thomas still believes “his truth” about the confirmation hearings and his time working with Hill. And, his anger was real.

That said, I would have liked some additional pages here. Have any black nationalist orgs of today, like The New Black Panthers, or even Nation of Islam, asked Thomas to speak to them? Did Robin think to ask any of these groups for their thoughts on Thomas?

After all, Thomas praised Louis Farrakhan in 1983 — twice, but then repudiated his anti-Semitism in 1991, kind of like Obama and Rev. Wright. (Corey didn't mention this, for whatever reason.)

Robin also shows that, contra traditional modern black (and white) liberalism, blacks should not expect salvation at the ballot box. His hostility to most Voting Rights Acts claims are as great or greater than any white conservative justice. His bottom line, per Robin is that “we’re outnumbered.”

So: Why does Thomas (if he says anything) think the 2nd Amendment will uniquely save black America when, per his "We're outnumbered" thesis, there are a lot more whites with guns just like there's a lot more white voters? I’m sure that, since Thomas is as selective in his constitutional theorizing as any other justice, he has no answers.

Question: Does Thomas really reconcile 13th-15th Amendments with his "original Constitution" or is this more a rhetorical trope? Thomas himself of course wouldn't answer such questions if presented them by Robin, but Robin could have made an educated guess as to whether this is reality or trope.

Related observation: I know Lincoln et al appealed BEYOND the Constitution to the Declaration; sounds like Thomas is trying to have his cake and eat it too. Again, thought, this is something that he probably would have no answer for.

I did think Robin, on a related issue, did probably “force” the idea of dividing Thomas’ thoughts into “White Constitution” and “Black Constitution.”

One last question, which I indirectly asked on Twitter before I started reading.

Everybody who knows Thomas knows that Ginni Thomas is white. People who know more know that he was married before and his first wife was black. Given the black nationalism issue, and that black pride and purity were emphasized by groups like the Panthers, when did Thomas shift in his personal life and why? Was this a calculated move, just as it was to hire a couple of constitutional scholars for “coaching” not too long before his was nominated to the appellate bench?

And, did Robin at least try looking for anything that, given Thomas' race solidarity on relationship issues when younger, led him to abandon that?

Not having received answers after a month, and with more reflection, I dropped this to four stars.

Thomas' second marriage has long been a matter of curiosity to me, and, when I first heard about some of his black nationalist background, even before word of Robin's book, it moved beyond low-level curiosity.

Perhaps there is no public answer to this, and even to his closest friends, Thomas hasn't revealed his heart and mind. It would have been nice to get an official "I tried" from Robin, though.


View all my reviews

November 27, 2019

Who gets in Cooperstown this year? Who should?

The BBWAA's ballot was released last week, and one name among first-year eligibles is obvious.

Derek Jeter is going in.

(Let's hope it's not unanimous.)

BUT!

With this Jetes caveat:
There ya go.

Other first-year eligibles?

Bobby Abreu is of the Hall of Very Good, IMO. But no more than that. (And NO, dumbasses at Fansided, you do NOT compare WAR of other position players to catchers.)

Jason Giambi is the only other first-year eligible, after lingering long past his sell-by date, to be over 50 WAR. And, of course, he's got the roiding asterisk.

Cliff Lee? Remember when he was hot stuff? Then when he dropped off a cliff, as shown by his JAWS being almost equal to his total WAR?

Alfonso Soriano, in his first half-dozen full seasons, looked like he might be something, stone glove aside, then he fell to zip, too. (Well, he did after having a walk year career year with the Nats.)

Otherwise, my Tweet above pretty well says it all.

What about the returning eligibles?

Let's set aside the roider types and start with:


Yes, a 141 OPS+

BUT, that was with many years at Coors Field.

HOWEVER, OPS+, unlike the counting stats, is park neutralized.

BUT, the batting average portion of the OBP and SLG both? Even without homers, the bigger OF let more balls drop for hits in general.

OTOH, a great right fielder with seven Gold Gloves.

BUT, that includes two years when he had a negative dWAR (showing why, in a nutshell, the Fielding Bible awards took off).

In a nutshell, on the offensive side, he shows how tough it is to judge a Coors-based player. Plus, there's the injuries and such that cut into his counting stats, and badly.

I would be OK if he were in, OK not.

Brief comments on two other players.

Curt Schilling will probably continue to get dinged by writers for being a jackass. He may be a HOFer, but I'm OK with him getting dinged.

Omar Vizquel is not a HOFer. Don't go soft, writers.

The roiding group? I used to say dead no to Clemens and Bonds, but their managers La Russa and Torre are now in. BBWAA, at least talk to the Veterans Committee? Other alleged or actual roiders? Sheffield and Pettitte aren't HOFers just on straight sabermetrics.

On the other hand? Clemens as someone who did the ethical equivalent of statutory rape and remains unapologetic fails the morals clause.

Manny Ramirez? Sabermetric and counting numbers are a borderline yes. But, he's a repeat offender on masking agents, and all of this after tightening in federal law on steroids as well as MLB rules. Nope.

Texas progressives talk JFK assassination issues
with wishes of happy T-day and real green chile burgers

The Texas Progressives hope you have a happy Thanksgiving and safe travels through what looks like it could be a nasty weather system in West and North Texas.

I personally wish any shutterbugs, and chain gangs, who still have to work Friday Night Lights, or Saturday games, a day as safe, warm, dry, and perspective adjusted as well as possible.

And, let's dig in.


Dallas/JFK

SocraticGadfly, with Nov. 22 falling last week, has a twofer, first writing about the irony of Jackie's JFK Camelot legend  actually reflecting Kennedy reality beneath the legend, then, looking in part at Jack's assassination, noting — with examples —  how to distinguish conspiracies from conspiracy theories.

In the wake of another (fading?) JFK assassination anniversary, Texas Monthly takes a look at how much the Sixth Floor Museum is about capitalism (an area where Texas exceptionalism really IS No. 1) as much or more than it is about history.

There's also a live Dealey Plaza webcam, so that, if you don't believe me, you can see just how easy of a shot (relatively speaking) Oswald had. The cam also shows how Bugliosi and Posner are right in pointing out one Warren Commission error. Oswald's FIRST shot was surely the one that missed, with him firing slightly before JFK's limo had fully cleared into his line of fire, and so, Oswald hit a thin tree branch and his high-velocity Mannlicher-Carcano bullet was slightly deflected.

At the same time, Earth Cam's description of the cam is kind of weaselly:
This is the view from the window from which an assassin fired the shots that killed President John F. Kennedy and severely wounded Texas Governor John Connally as the presidential motorcade drove through Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963. The Sixth Floor Museum, located on the sixth and seventh floors of the building, explores President Kennedy's life, death and legacy.
No "Lee Harvey Oswald," but yet, "the window from which an assassin fired the shots." OK, got it. 

Conspiracy theory nutbar author Robert Groden got married at the plaza. Jim Schutze has the story.


Houston

What? A Burger? vs. In-N-Out? There's better alternatives for a green chile burger, just not in (what really should and should not be) Texas.

Brains has his take on Houston runoffs.

HISD teachers' union sues TEA over its takeover of the district. (Marlin ISD teachers be thinking: We were a small district, poor, and not unionized. Damn!)

Off the Kuff has some thoughts on the planned effort to try again on a Houston Equal Rights Ordinance.

Mike McGuff shares the trailer for the documentary about legendary former Houston rock and roll station KLOL.

Want to find out if (or maybe better, how much) Houston police officers have been engaged in racial profiling on low-level drug arrests? Here you go. By officer name, too.


Texana and politics

TEA loses a lawsuit filed by a fired whistleblower. Interestingly, Kash blew the whistle on a no-bid special education contract in 2017. Nine months or more and counting since TEA settled with the feds on special education issues in general, many parents allege it's still not doing enough.

Many borderlands landowners are refusing to sign "build the wall"-related permissions agreements with the feds.

Statewide food news: Can Luby's survive? Read that in-depth piece for a take on what it's done wrong, and what's gone wrong, in the past 20 years.

The TPA wishes Emily Ramshaw and Amanda Zamora all the best in their new media venture as they go bowling for pink-themed sponsorship dollar or whatever. No, seriously, they may not be doing that, since their new gig isn't the Texas Tribune. But maybe they will be doing that? And I still don't get how the hell Ramshaw got from Focus Daily News to the Trib's top editor spot. Or even to her level at the Snooze. Oh, I do now. Family background, which gave her exposure, and even privilege, per this story. THAT, in turn, leads me to wonder why the hell she was working for Marlon Hanson's rag in the first place. That said, Robert Wilonsky, before HE jumped the Observer ship to jump the Snooze shark, slightly p'wnd her and very much did the Trib, with this brief.


Austin/politics

East Austin gentrifies. The Texas Observer reviews the book documenting it.

EMILY's list endorses ConservaDem Shannon Hutcheson, the Austinite equivalent of Wendy Davis.

The Texas Signal notes Greg Abbott's loss of affection for Chick-fil-A now that they have pledged to stop giving money to anti-LGBTQ groups.

Better Texas Blog tells the untold stories of the Texas budget.

RG Ratcliffe explains how to win Texas in 2020.


National

Brains looks at the carnage from the fifth Democratic debate.

What all Texans, besides Tricky Ricky Perry and Ken (Slimeball) Starr, who says he sees an impeachable offense (big deal, he's a Never Trumper but still a wingnut) are connected to Ukraine? Click the link.

Therese Odell was all over the Fiona Hill hearing.

November 26, 2019

Boo hoo for National Review and Samuel Alito
over Michael Mann and his libel lawsuit

Eight Supreme Court justices, including even Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh, are less wingnut than Samuel Alito, issuing a per curium order that lets Penn State climate scientist Michael Mann's defamation suit against National Review go forward.

Contra Alito issuing a public dissent against the unsigned order, there is no First Amendment issue at stake.

What's at stake is simply whether National Review defamed Mann or not by calling him the "Jerry Sandusky of climate science." Period.

That's a matter for a trial court (and jury, if NR wants one) to decide. The Supreme Court, if the case is appealed all the way there, then can eventually make findings of fact about how the federal district court handled the case. Period.

As for that case? I think Mann was libeled. Reminder — here are the specifics:
A National Review post discussed an investigation by Penn State into Mann clearing him of data manipulation accusations, which found no wrongdoing. It compared the Mann investigation to the university's investigation of child molestation charges against then-football assistant coach Jerry Sandusky, saying Mann is "the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except that instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data."

Had only the last clause been used? No libel. But, comparing him to a child molester, even if rhetorically? Crosses the line, I think. Comparing him to a specific, known child molester? We're going beyond rhetorical to specific attack. Like comparing someone to Hitler, NR clearly intended to give offense.

As for Alito's boo-hooing about the lawyering up money National Review will continue to incur? That's never been mentioned in a libel case ruling by the Supreme Court before, whether a per curiam like this on procedural issues or an appeal on the facts of the case.

Editor Rich Lowry should have thought of that before letting this be posted. Short of that, he should have thought about that in issuing a formal apology and otherwise coming to terms with Mann long ago.

Remember, this is the Alito who hates the First Amendment in other ways, like in being a solo holdout in not wanting to extend it — either freedom of speech or freedom of assembly — to Westboro Baptist Church, nor, more recently, on freedom of religion re Bladensburg Cross.

That said, Alito has a long history of churlishness — including and specifically toward fellow justices — so Monday's escapade in that sense really is not anything new.

==

Sidebar: This ruling comes as disgraced former Congresscritter Smokey Joe Barton, a climate change denier, tells how he got the ban lifted on US oil exporting.

Will the Cardinals sign a starting pitcher in free agency?

They will have the money for it, with Marcell Ozuna turning down the qualifying offer, and they should.

(See polls at right to vote yes/no/unsure on if they should, and then, if you agree with me, the second poll on WHO they should. Also note results on my Twitter poll so far; Keuchel is the fave there. I'll put up a new second poll soon.)




And, dammit, Cole Hamels is already off the boards, to the Barves on a one-year deal. That happened fast enough it makes me wonder if Mo and Girsch ever even got involved.

(Update, Dec. 9: See my new idea.)

First, they don't need to replace him in the OF. That's more room for Tyler O'Neill, as well as the challenge to step up. Tommy Edman has already shown he can play there as well as the infield. Plus Harrison Bader and Dexter Fowler are still there. Between them and Jose Martinez, that's not mind-blowing, but it is solid and with depth.

Assuming the Cardinals let Michael Wacha walk, they'll have room for a starter. And, with his money (let's assume something like the $6M this year) plus Ozuna's (let's say somebody pays him $16M a year), that's $22M a year.

Not even close to Gerrit Cole.

But that's not needed.

Jack Flaherty could already be the man. We'll keep Miles Mikolas penciled at No. 2. Adam Wainwright was a pleasant surprise last year and is coming back fairly cheap this year. Dakota Hudson is something. But, especially as who knows whether Carlos Martinez will be a starter, a closer, a hybrid, or whatever, and how good he will be, or not, at any slot, you need more. (So, even if Fansided is correct [always an assumption] that Mo wants Carlos in the rotation, reality may intervene. That reality would also include a new bout of injuries for Waino, or him being a "hybrid," or Hudson not hitting the next step, or Mikolas having further regression to his pre-Japan self.)

Is $22M a year, dependent on contract length, enough to land Madison Bumgarner? Dallas Keuchel? Hyun-Jin Ryu. Possibly, on the first two, probably to certainly on the third. More than enough for Cole Hamels on a shorter-term deal.

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.

MLB.com 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.

There's another consideration. Neither Bum nor Hamels are represented by a certain Scott Boras. The other two are.

Frankly, I'd love to kick the tires on Hamels myself.

I think you could get him for three years at ... let's say $16M per plus some incentives. Might leave money for tweaks elsewhere.

That's enough of a bridge to get past the end of Waino's career and other likely transitions, and see just what the younger starters have to offer.

So, Hamels first, Keuchel second, Bum third, Ryu fourth is my target choice list.

November 25, 2019

The Genetic Literacy Project is not always perfect:
Impossible Burger is a good example



The GLP does a lot of yeoman's work in combating the "Frankenfoods" perception of GMOs — work with which I agree.

It's even been honest enough, within this issue, to admit in the past that "Frankenfoods" blather was NOT the only reason so-called "Golden Rice" hadn't been commercially planted in Southeast Asia. (The big reason, which it noted, was GR yields were less than traditional conventional yields. Making people healthy with Vitamin A while making them unhealthy with less food doesn't really work.)

But, it's not perfect.

That said, a recent issue was really a slip.

About two months ago, Consumer Reports wrote about plant-based burgers in general, including Impossible Foods' Impossible Burger, complete with its "fake blood" made from nodules on the roots of soybeans. CR said the FDA had never tested that. Impossible's PR claimed not true, to which CR replied that Impossible had tested it themselves, and submitted that to the FDA, which is a different critter entirely.

That's why it's disappointing that, AFTER CR issued that response to Impossible, the GL) called it out, including repeating all of Impossible's talking points. (I Tweeted the links to GLP before starting this blog post; in what's typical low signal-to-noise ratio on Twitter, and somewhat on social media in general, crickets.)

The FDA may have approved soy heme, but not because it did any original testing.

Should this be a matter of concern? Possibly, per that original CR piece.

Oh, if you'll read that, you'll note that ALL fake meat burgers are higher in sodium than beef, and have as much saturated fat.

Coconut oil, used as the fat base for all the fake burgers, isn't yet the palm oil grown as a plantation monocrop. But, who's to say it won't turn into that?

Also, per CR's story, we don't know what the energy input costs are. (Ditto on lab meat, which is probably further away from the market than its defenders claim.)

The simpler answer is eating less meat. And, in working to make vegetables less expensive in the produce section if possible. Eating less meat by eating fewer veggie burgers and breaking that mindset. (I'm not perfect on this, I'll admit. I've probably trimmed my overall meat consumption by 10 percent in the last decade, and ditto on red meat. Not huge. But, considering I already ate below the US average a decade ago, not bad.)

Not eating techno-meat.

GLP?

I nailed it.

Scientisim, or salvific technologism, is behind its mindset.

This piece, that claims that twin studies can tell us a lot about addiction, was the "trigger" for the lightbulb.

Nooo .... identical twins can still have somewhat different womb environments depending on exact time of split of the original embryo, first.

Second, this:
“Twin studies indicate that genes influence each stage from initiation to addiction, although the genetic determinants may differ,” stated Francesca Ducci and David Goldman in a review of twin studies published in Psychiatric Clinics of North America. Ducci and Goldman added that addictions “are in part volitional, in part inborn, and in part determined by environmental experience.”
I am sure that the authors are technically including traumas and other psychological influences as "environmental experience." Yet, you'll never find that stated in the whole article.

Good behavioral psychology knows that with many drugs, and definitely with the nation's most "acceptable" drug, alcohol — and yes, it is — addiction has only a modest to moderate physiological basis.  PsyPost, for example, notes mindfulness might help alcoholics.