SocraticGadfly: 10/24/21 - 10/31/21

October 30, 2021

Matt Taibbi further deconstructed

Ross Barkan's piece on what the fuck is wrong with Taibbi isn't bad. It's got a Doug Henwood quote about him going off the rails. And, I didn't know that he and Mark Ames had a 20-year non-speaking feud going. (Ames refused to talk to Barkan, but Yasha Levine gave him an earful.)

It's not bad, but it's incomplete, as I told Barkan, with cc-s to Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald (because) on Twitter.

Let's just work from the Tweets I sent and build on that.

First, the Glennwald tie:

Then, my follow on that, based on my blogging:

So, Matt saw something in Glenn. Whether it was more money, more fame of being a contrarian with a schtick, about 50-50, or what, who knows.

Then, Taibbi's lies by omission about cancel culture:

Followed by what that means:

This core issue of many famous public quasi-intellectuals and pseudo-intellectuals (you, Bari Weiss) who claims to oppose cancel culture while instead promoting it is some of the rankest of hypocrisies.

Taibbi does have some real issues about identity politics. But, left-liberals and leftists like the quoted Henwood, and myself, do as well. Didn't make us nutters. Doesn't make us agree with nutters. That led to this tweet:

And, I concluded with other things Barkan overlooked:

That one, by the way, applies to the aforementioned Ames and Levine, as well, and also to Aaron Maté and other allegedly outside the box stenos, the Russian hacking and related issues part of it. And Glennwald, while I'm here. The Tulsi part was seen through by Ames and Levine, but Glennwald fellated her and Maté flirted with that.

Update: Taibbi is now dropping "poor me" bullshit on Twitter.

My response?

Was that "public housing" or "campus housing"? Matt's dad (dunno about Mom) was either a junior or senior at Rutgers when he was born. And, about everybody in college is broke.

But, was Mike Taibbi that broke? He grew up in an upper middle class suburb of New York City, Malverne, Long Island. Read the City-Data profile. After Rutgers, Mike went to U of Chicago Law. Not Harvard, but a cut above average for sure. Then, within a couple of years of that, his TV gigs were in Boston and NYC, not the hinterlands. Luck?  Connections?

And, that said? Taibbi jumped the shark LONG before Barkan's piece, as I note.

October 29, 2021

More debate on just how special Shohei Ohtani's season has been

This is an updated post of one I did about this subject from the start of last month, and it's being done for several reasons.

First, now that we're at the end of a season, we can further peruse this debate, especially with debate gearing up for the playoffs and Shohei Ohtani lamenting that the Angels aren't there and broadly hinting they need to do more, though he later said he's perfectly open to signing a new contract with them.

Second, it's due to Baseball-Reference briefly being hinky or wonky, or seemingly so, when I made that last post.

My piece at the start of September didn't immediately show up on the pages of either Ohtani or Mike Trout, and since the piece was about the former, and built on a piece I did three years ago about the latter, that's ... er, problematic? It eventually did, but don't ask me more. An additional bit of perplexment that approaches frustration is that B-Ref sometimes changes on a daily basis, if not weekly, the exact form of the full HTML for the players involved, specifically where some of the "cruft" goes in relation to the URL for a player's page. That, in turn connects to B-Ref having a limit on how many linked players "work" in a piece, so someone doesn't spam the site with blog posts about 40 players.

To try to make sure that we don't hit that problem, I will do a couple of things that also make this a full update. Per David Schoenfield's stats guys at ESPN objecting that WAR, especially back pre-1920, greatly favored pitchers, and since Ohtani's biggest damage this year has been as a batter, we'll look only at batters, and only post-1945, that is, getting us into some version of the modern age.

With that, let's update.

Three years ago David Schoenfield tried to claim that Trout was on track for the best season ever. He was wrong and I thoroughly explained why.

But, Schoenfield has moved on. Now he's hinted that Ohtani might be among the best, and, once again, from what I can see before I hit the ESPN+ paywall he ignores Walter Johnson's GOAT 1913 season. (To be half fair, in 2018, it wasn't just Schoenfield; it was a whole set of ESPN clusterfuckheads.)

So, no, Schoenfield Ohtani's year, while it could have been in the 10-WAR range if he finished out strong, is NOT Babe Ruth. Or Barry Bonds. Or Mike Trout.  (And, of course, he didn't even finish in the 10-WAR range, which will be the subject of a FOURTH post in a couple of weeks.)

And certainly not Walter Johnson.

Also, as for the two-way claims? Well, not totally so fast. In his peak, Johnson appeared as a batter in 55 or so games for several years straight. (That said, most those years, he pitched 48 or more games.) Twice he was over 60 games. In 1914, one year after his peak, he had 160 PAs. In 1918, 167. Rounding up a 0.9 year, he had seven straight years of 1.0 or more WAR at the plate. (Johnson also in 1913 tied his career best in batting with a 109 OPS+. You can see more about Big Train at my post linked up top.

I now see that some dood from Yahoo Sports, Jack Baer, via MSN, has doubled down on Schoenfield's nuttery. And, he's wrong, as I discussed two weeks ago in what I decided needed to be a separate breakout post.

Now, on the 2018 piece, ESPN Stats and Info had one of their staff snootily tweet back to me when I tweeted this, that it was about position players only.

Well, Schoenfield never said that. (And, this year, he certainly hasn't. At least, he didn't before I hit the paywall screen.)

This dude said "it was implied."

I said "oh really"?

He then said that WAR favored pitchers, especially in the dead ball era.

But, with this, we're going to transition to batters and move beyond the previous piece. That's in large part because Ohtani earned 60 percent of his WAR as a batter this year, and it's how he's best known and why people hit the highlight clips.

We're going to look at batters only, and we're going to go Schoenfield et al one better, and do modern era only, as in, post-World War II, with night baseball, the start of integration, and then expansion. This will also partially address a commenter on my previous "You're No Babe Ruth" post.

First, and what surprised me? Carl Yastrzemski, 12.4 WAR in his 1967 Triple Crown year, is the only batter from semi-live ball or full live ball besides Ruth in the top 35 on B-Ref's single-season WAR list, and he's the ONLY modern era player in the top 45. Yep. Ahead of Bonds. Or Trout. THAT is how Dum a Fuq Schonefield is.
 
OK, others?
Bonds, 11.9 WAR, 2001.
Cal Ripken, 11.5 WAR, 1991.
Mickey Mantle, 11.3 WAR, 1957.
Stan Musial, 11.3 WAR, 1948.
Willie Mays, 11.2 WAR, 1962.
Mantle, 11.2, 1956.
Mays, 11.0, 1964.
 
If you let me go a bit lower?
Mookie Betts, 10.7, 2018.
Ted Williams, 10.7, 1946.
Bonds, Trout (twice), Yaz and Robin Yount at 10.5.
 
So, at 11 WAR, batters only, modern era only, we still have six batters way, way ahead of Ohtani. Dropping to 10.5, we've got nine. (If we went to the pre-modern era, whether live or not so live on the baseball, I'd have a couple more batters.

And, this is just one season. Bonds (asterisk, of course) Mantle and Mays (no, greenies aren't roiding), Yaz (forgot him at first!) and Trout all broke 10.5 WAR twice.

As far as surprises? 

After not realizing that Yaz was that good? Ripken would be second. He was 30, which yes, is well younger than Bonds, but ... unaided by chemicals, unlike as Bonds was, at a tough defensive position, and 1,500 or so games into his consecutive games streak. It's one of two 10-WAR seasons for him. (Flip side is that you get more dWAR, if you're good, at SS.)

Yount is the No. 2 surprise, as in a kind of under the radar deal.

There's also surprises as to who's not on the list, including one outfielder. One VERY well known outfielder.

But, if you want to talk about standouts? Playing the toughest position besides catcher, and two-thirds of the way into that consecutive games streak, with much of that first two-thirds involving the complete game of every game? Let's talk Ripken.
 
Yes, let's enjoy Ohtani. Let's even enjoy Red Satan pumping up a story of the inscrutable, Zen-like Ohtani that, on second thought, it sounds like it comes dangerously close to playing on a racial stereotype, and only three months after Stephen A. Smith stuck his foot in his mouth about Ohtani. I'm not saying Tim Keown had unconscious intent. But ...

==

And now that we know he ended his year at 9.0 WAR, I can do another story about this. And will. And, while he did this as a two-way player? 9.0 WAR, per the players above, ain't 10.5 WAR.

And, if you want to note the two-way? Besides Betts, but not listed here, two pitchers in this century alone both broke that 10.5 WAR hurdle as well, so just stop it. And, yes, that's the subject of another post on Shohei Ohtani, man vs legend, coming up in a couple more weeks.

October 28, 2021

Coronavirus week 81B: NIH fesses up about gain of function at WIV; with an opening now to fire Fauci, will Biden do so?

In terms of real science, and science NOT being aloways self-correcting? NIH has fessed up about funding gain of function research at Wuhan Institute of Virology. Sorry, #BlueAnon tribalists, but even the likes of Vanity Fair are reporting in detail.

It and other pieces note EcoHealth Alliance and Peter Daszak, mentioned in these pages many, many, many times before, as in, Fauci's emails, general COVID tribalism, and gain of function part two (where I first called for Fauci to be fired), were behind this, and violated grant terms as much as anything.

This leads to other issues.

First, as WHO assembles a new group to look at COVID's origins, it has conflict of interest problems.

Second, this non-tribalist leftist has long said Fauci should be shit-canned, as noted above. It's much harder to do with a career civil servant of course, but we now have the smoking gun.  (And, if that's not it, sending puppies to Tunisia for research after cutting their vocal cords should be the capper. It should be noted the White Coat Waste Project was started by a Republican operative and ... is very white. At the same time, it should be noted that Snopes, for example, has been very tribalist about previous WCWP reports. Per its like to the American Academy for the Advancement of Science, it should be noted that AAAS said "conservatives, liberals team up against animal research." In fact, AAAS notes that Justin Goodman, WCWP's vice president for advocacy and policy, used to work for PETA. So, Snopes is not just tribalist, it's trying to run a smear campaign. Shit like this is why I removed it from my links list long ago. It IS true that they target only government and government-funded research and that Belotti may be trying a "starve the beast" bankshot.) 

==

Update: Turns out that earlier stories got some information fused and some was incorrect. Per Politifact, Fauci's NIAID had nothing to do with a study having dogs bit by sand fleas. As for the vocal cord cutting, that was actually at a US-based study. Was it necessary? 

As for the gain of function? A Forbes fact-checker (allegedly) carries BlueAnon tribalist water by claiming its only GOP Congresscritters who make this claim. As the likes of Jamie Metzl say, that's clearly wrong. Plenty of people who aren't wingnut tribalists know it's wrong.

And, White Coat has no problem exaggerating the size of the issue, as when it touts an alleged fifth installment of so-called Beaglegate. Maybe we ought to infect 130 or so QAnoners instead?

==

So, WILL Status Quo Joe pull the trigger? Newsweek argues it would clean up one corner of his political workspace. In all likelihood (setting aside the Jesuitical redefining of "gain of function" in the past), Francis Collins is right, that this gain of function work had nothing to do with COVID. But, that leaves Fauci as the heavy for not coming clean. It's doubtful he'll fall on his own sword, even with prodding by Biden. Also, how do we know that WIV didn't pivot from this to do other gain of function work without even telling Daszak? After all, France told us not to trust it. And, EcoHealth sought a grant for exactly this type of work.

Next, will tribalists like Orac or the Novellas write about this? C'mon. As of 36 hours after posting this, neither of them, nor any of the others at Science-Based Medicine, had done so. Why? As John Horgan knew, they're tribalists. And, on this issue, they're #BlueAnon tribalists. Yeah, "Beaglegate" is approaching closer and closer to high politicization, but, the gain of function admission is a different deal.

October 27, 2021

Climate change issues in the news

Boston Review has a great piece on how nuclear power is a part of a successful transition from fossil fuels, but one that looks legitimate science and public health concerns square in the eye. That includes noting that uranium-based fission is itself NOT a long-term answer, and that thorium, like fusion, remains a will-o-the-wisp. Also looked at is how well, or not, long-term waste storage is working in places like Finland.

Once again, clearcutting, over-thinning and other US Forest Service "active fuel management" claims, recently repeated with the Dixie and Bootleg fires, does NOTHING to prevent them, and climate change will only underscore that.

Call it methane, not natural gas. That may help people reframe methane leaks in terms of climate science.

Much of Russia, especially the Far North, stands to benefit from climate change, at least in the short term. The Northeast Passage for global shipping is getting more use, and that means dying Russian Arctic cities may get new life, as shown in one case.

Not strictly climate change news, but ... California has started the process (but NOT complete or THAT near to it) of adopting the nation's most stringent setback rule on oil wells from residential areas.

October 26, 2021

Coronavirus, week 81A: Science bits, antivaxxer regrets

"Waning" antibodies isn't bad, and isn't limited to COVID vaccinations, and is even good in many ways. The Atlantic explains, that this is all part of antibody evolution. The story also notes that getting a booster shot can interrupt this process, especially if done too soon or too often.

If you didn't know HCQ grifter Didier Raoult was a despicable piece of shit before, you do now

Shock me that ivermectin touting is also ivermectin grifting.

A Virginia couple died days apart, leaving behind five kids. Neither were vaccinated, and apparently hung with antivaxxer tribalists. Online antivaxxer tribalists, seeing their deaths, as seems to be the norm, raised the bar of mental defense and called this ... "fake news," of course. The hubby, the second to die, expressed regret to his mom on his deathbed for not getting the shot. Too late, of course.

Ron DeSatan has gone in the open on full-blown antivaxxerism, calling a special session to try to pass an anti-mandate law. We saw how well that went here in Tex-ass. (We've also seen hints from the Supreme Court that it would find such a law, if it attempted to block Biden's federal mandate, unconstitutional.) Problem is bigger in Florida. Unlike Tex-ass, Flori-duh hasn't yet done redistricting or other things in the Lege calendar. And, it has another special session set.

Strangeabbott is indeed worried about Don Huffines if he gave an interview about his opposition to Biden's vax mandate to Breitbart. The Chronic discusses angst over this and him filming this at Darrell K. Royal Stadium at UT.

Slate has more about fired WSU football coach Nick Rolovich. Much more.

Ed Yong discusses what COVID revealed about public health, and not just the politicization issues, and what it needs to do in the future.

Karen Brooks Harper takes a closer look at public statements about vaccination rates.

Texas Progressives truly remember Colin Powell and more

Best takedown obit of Colin Powell? Counterpunch. Not only Iraq and Vietnam, but Reagan-era Central America and Iran-Contra. It's detailed and needs reading. DC Babylon is a decent second, and it mentions his prevarications on torture.

Del Rio native Raul Ortiz talks about running the Border Patrol and what he doesn't like about Abbott's Operation Loan Star. He doesn't mention his own agency's problems, though, which go far beyond border lassoings. And, as a career guy, surely he could have said something about "tonks."

The Monthly looks at the hemp biz, especially after the Delta-8 ruling from DSHS.

Texas infrastructure gets a C-minus; the Observer discusses details on the ground. (Note: ASCE has legit concerns around the nation, but it also wants engineers to get more jobs.)

Off the Kuff warns about Greg Abbott's pick for Secretary of State and his role in trying to overturn the 2020 election.

SocraticGadfly took note of Fauci's latest anger, calling people who disagree with him conspiracy theorists, and from the left, wrote about Fauci's self-inflicted mistakes. (And, this was before NIH said the US DID fund gain of function work at WIV, and Fauci's puppies issue, which will be in a new post.)

Justin Miller discusses Danny Goeb's continued battle against antiracism.

Stace stays local and reminds us that we are in the middle of an election, which includes races and bonds in Alief ISD. Get out and vote! 

Pay the homeless to pick up trash? Dallas is considering an idea from other states.

Keep Austin Wonky shows how that city's Proposition A will cost a lot more than its proponents suggest.

Space City Weather presents its official 2021-2022 winter outlook.

Texas Monthly reports on advances in pet cloning.

The Texas Living Waters Project finds good news in Austin's plans for its future water supply.

October 25, 2021

David Roberts, take two: More than an obit

I posted a non-takedown obit to Southwestern and mountaineering writer David Roberts two months ago. But ... while still not wanting to do a takedown, thought that Roberts' writing about the Anasazi and the Colorado Plateau, and one non-Anasazi work in particular, needed deeper scrutiny. 

And it shall now get it.

On “In Search of the Old Ones,” Roberts undercuts himself in a couple of ways. One biggie — and here, he’s not alone, but with many archaologists — is the claim that the cliff dwellings were defense first. Given that, as we know with “new agriculture” studies in the Old World, and occasional admissions about the Anasazi by Roberts himself, they were NOT “settled agriculturalists” but were rather “multiple strategies” peoples, they would have, as others have noted, fled their villages on attack as strategy No. 1. He does partially back off that, and notes some anthropologists do talk about how war in dispersed bands like this would have been crop raiding first, but still, he pushes.

On Fred Blackburn and the “Outdoor Museum,” I get where both of them, er, mainly Blackburn, come from. That said, Fred was more circumspect than Dave. 

Per Roberts and BLM rangers at Kane Gulch saying people come out here for “Roberts’ pot,” and one of them saying, “Tell Roberts to shut the fuck up,” I think Roberts … while not totally a part of the problem, most likely did have a thumb on the scale. When he wrote the book, he know that beasts of burden were about to be banned from lower Kane Gulch and that a permit system was likely for the whole gulch, and he not only mentioned that pot, he later mentioned the basket that, if anything, is even more priceless.

This is not totally to hammer Blackburn, who was more than "just a Grand Gulch BLM ranger," though Roberts doesn't note his full background. (Not mentioning that, including his work for the Park Service as well as the BLM, makes him look like a benighted diamond in the rough.) That said, per Steve Lekson, yeah, you may protect these items from being forgotten in a museum, but neither Fred nor David are fully trained, and therefore you never get “provenance” in the first place. (Blackburn helped found Crow Canyon, and even more than Roberts, knows something about in situ issues, but he's still not an archaeologist.)

Sidebar: I also know that, contra one reviewer of one of Roberts' books, but rather, per Craig Childs (page 4 if the linking isn't correct), just having everything sold to the public is the worst answer of all outside of, of course, unrestricted looting. Guy was probably a Mormon related to those of SE Utah.

I “grokked” at Mesa Verde’s visitor center four years ago the sequel, “The Lost World of the Old Ones.” From what I remember, it didn’t add a lot to the original, which is why I didn’t buy it when I got back home. He may be partially right about Mesa Verde being locked up. Jonathan Thompson at HCN recently claimed that the park’s visitation had taken hits recently. Set aside 2020 cuz COVID, of course, and the reality is that while it’s off of its 650K per year or so 1990s numbers, its rolling average for the last 20 years has been 550K. So, down … but not out. And, who knows why?

==

Now, the biggie? Roberts “admits” he got Everett Ruess’ death wrong, but only in saying “I got a lot of shit from the bloggers.” That IS arrogance, in that people were cautioning him even before his National Geographic Adventure story came out to exercise more caution.

 It WAS bad science as to how the burial site was handled and how the tested bones were handled at the first site, which had DNA contamination and which Roberts doesn’t mention. That’s a 2011 interview, which meant Scott Thybony’s book, seeming to confirm Ruess died from a fall, wasn’t out yet. BUT, Philip Fradkin’s book WAS out, which notes that Ruess was a pothunter, among other things. Stuff that Roberts doesn’t cover. Yes, the pub date was after Roberts’ interview, but if Fradkin, who while a great natural history writer has never struck me as an outdoorsman, could include info that Roberts didn’t, it seems like Roberts, curmudgeon and all, wanted to promote a romantic image of Ruess. And, the pub date of Fradkin’s book in 2011 was less than 2 months after Roberts’ interview. Surely he would have heard some prepress about it.

Roberts may not have been a professional historian, but he was trying to play one, and doing OK until his … romanticism?? Got the better of him. And, AFAIK, he’s never apologized for the rush to press. Nor anything else associated with professional authors who knew better, not just bloggers, giving him deserved shit. (Also, in the last chapter of the book, before he gets to acknowledging “It ain’t Ruess after all,” he was all too ready to soak up the praise of “the bloggers.”)

==

The Pueblo Revolt, of books of his I’ve read thoroughly, grokked or skimmed, to me remains his best. It’s pretty thorough. It gives weight to different interpretations within different Pueblo oral and modern histories. It gives weight to different modern interpretations. It’s less pushy toward Pueblo reticence than “The Old Ones.”

== 

The sequel to “In Search of the Old Ones,” titled “The Lost World of the Old Ones”? Too derivative of his original, and not a lot of new stuff, despite being 20 years later, as noted above.

==

“Sandstone Spine”? I read it long ago and never wrote a review. It was good, though.

==

Oh, if per one reviewer of his Bears Ears book, he says of Newspaper Rock >> Rich though it is, Newspaper Rock has never captivated me. With all its vignettes crowded into a single slab of Wingate sandstone, the panel is just too busy for my liking. It is of course the height of dilettantism, or of cultural myopia, to apply a photo editor’s sneer to a panoply of signs and symbols graven by many different artists across a span of twenty centuries,<< we have a lot of Roberts summed up in one comment.

It’s not only a sneer, it’s not only dilettantism, it’s petard hoisting. Not to talk about what possible meaning there might be behind the symbols being so numerous, so varied and yes, so crammed, undercuts the idea of how much he years to know the Anasazi and their “disappearance,” as well as the other peoples who left figures there. And, given that he identified himself as "the most compulsive writer I know," one would think he'd have a less dilettanish attitude.

And, after I re-read “In Search of the Old Ones the last time, “romanticism” popped into my head more about Roberts. I think that, as an atheist who might have one foot in the world of Gnu Atheism if prodded enough, this romanticism is something he really didn’t want to reveal. Or maybe, didn’t even like about himself. That said, he was a romantic about the Romanesque churches in Catalonia, it’s clear to me. I think he was romantic about Anasazi issues, too, hence his attitude toward Newspaper Rock.

I definitely think he was a romantic about Ruess, and that's why his book doesn't look much at Ruess' personal life, unlike Fradkin's book.