SocraticGadfly: 3/6/22 - 3/13/22

March 11, 2022

Who won the MLB standoff?

As I tweeted yesterday afternoon about ESPN's first analysis piece, IMO Jeff Passan is wrong and (sad as I am to say it) Buster Olney and others are right. The owners won more. The players, other than perhaps top tier ones, lost, relatively speaking.

And, we fans who don't want a DH in the National League, don't want AL-time 5-hour games, and know that Commissioner Corleone Rob Manfred's pitch clock, IF implemented, will be toothless, lost. (Sidebar: No, Phat Albert Pujols really should not be that DH for the Cardinals. No, John Mozeliak likely will not spend what he should to get somebody to be that DH, like Kyle Schwarber or Anthony Rizzo, or even Kyle Seager And, I've even got a poll for that on Twitter.

First, not having a salary floor for "small-market" teams (Tampa-St. Petersburg is as big as St. Louis, as I noted in a blog post calling bullshit on many Rays excuses, and Miami is as big as Atlanta, so it's probably just that South Florida ain't MLB territory — and yes, Tampa is South Florida by latitude) is a loss for players. That's especially without a significant competitive balance tax for not hitting that floor, like losing revenue sharing $$, which could maybe be added to that pre-arbitration pool. And, players never brought that up, AFAIK, and also never brought it up in the previous contract negotiations several years ago. Jesse Rogers is right on that one.

Second, players (and traditionalist fans) lost with adding two more teams to the playoffs. Baseball's attraction was, for a long time, precisely that it was NOT the NBA or NFL.

This won't prevent tanking, first of all. Teams can just pretend to be in the hunt a little longer. A draft lottery, being from a smaller pool than the NBA draft lottery, won't put a major dent in tanking, either.

And, with not only "pitchers and catchers" but everybody being able to report to spring training voluntarily tomorrow, with mandatory on March 13, questions arise.

Can Shohei Ohtani actually prove me wrong and show that comparing him to Babe Ruth is not all hype? That ignores that Walter Johnson is being left out of the conversation.

Can the Cardinals, without Phat Albert, but just maybe with a Schwarber and definitely with a Paul Goldschmidt, Nolan Arenado, and Adam Wainwright and Yadier Molina in their [really, will this be it] final seasons, not only win a diminished playoff spot but the NL Central title? One betting house has the Cardinals behind the Brew Crew on NL Central World Series odds.

Can Mike Trout actually appear in the postseason with 12 teams qualifying? Per a wisecrack on Twitter, can Trout make his personality more exciting than meat loaf to help MLB market itself? Is it too late?

With the National League now having the DH, will an NL team with deep enough pockets (Giants, Dodgers out on the West Coast? Padres?) make Angels owner Arte Moreno an offer to take Ohtani off his hands?) And, because I like polls:

Will any team, not just the Cardinals, offer Phat Albert an actual contract and not just an invite to spring training? If so, will any of the offers be for more than the MLB minimum? If Pujols gets just an "invite," will he take it? If he gets a contract that's just the MLB min, will he sign it?

Per a question in a comment on a previous post of mine by Dave, on the possibility of early season injuries with shortened spring training? It appears that expanded early-season rosters will be allowed.

Will my interest in the season wane even more than my diminishing interest of past years?

All these questions and more await answers.

March 10, 2022

Texas Progressives offer primary post-mortem and more

Biggest post-mortem, GOP side, but really, regardless of party, is for Van Taylor, of course. Big question is: who leaked to Breitbart and why? My money is on Tania Joya her own self, on the grounds she probably wanted more money from Taylor and didn't get it.

Second biggest post-mortem, within the GOP, is for the money of Christofascists Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks, along with the genyus of Former Fetus Forever Fuckwad Jonathan Stickland. Fuckwad, of course, turd-polished and spun failure afterward.

Third biggest post-mortem, within the GOP, is for Gohmert Pyle. Kenny Boy Paxton's sharp elbows were surely a factor, but finishing behind even Eva Guzman? That said, I think the Trib is right; Pee Bush is still straddling two stools within today's GOP and will probably do the splits in the runoff. And, it will be nice not having a wingnut squared representing East Tex-ass in Congress, too. Dan Solomon at the Monthly, writing before the primary, argued this was Dems' best pick-up opportunity in the general. Maybe, maybe not; that said, it's arguable that the top two Dems heading to a runoff might actually be good in this case, boosting name recognition.

Biggest Democrat post-mortem may be officially written in November, but at least some handwriting is on the wall right now, and that's the surge in GOP votes in the Valley. The bigger problem for Dems besides the GOP surge, which is still far behind Dems, is the enthusiasm gap shown by possible Democratic voters not showing up. That translates beyond local and regional races to statewide ones.

Second biggest Dem post-mortem? Mike Collier, who ran for the same race in 2018, couldn't avoid a runoff in the lite gov primary.

Third biggest will be written May 24 when either Henry Cuellar or Jessica Cisneros is knocked out after a runoff.  Related to that and the potential biggest Dem post-mortem, the Observer looks ahead to all runoffs scheduled for the Valley. 

John Coby highlights Eric Dick's latest shenanigans.

The Texas Living Waters Project warns that the Hill Country faces numerous threats to its long term viability, and the window for addressing those threats is closing.

The Dallas Observer reports on the student protest at the University of North Texas against super-anti-trans candidate Jeff Younger.

Texas Elects parses some numbers from the primaries.


Exxon, known here as eXXXon, is disentangling itself from Putin's Russia. Former CEO, and Trump's first secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, is the guy who led its deep dive into the oily cesspool. Story's a good read. Tillerson headed eXXXon's Russia division in 1999 when it made a big play into drilling off Sakhalin Island. Rex apparently believed in the idea of "engagement," which obviously has worked no better with Moscow than with Beijing. That said, eXXXon had started winding things down after post-Crimea sanctions, and did most of the rest of that after post-2016 election sanctions.

SocraticGadfly talked about being in the army and in the union with the Texas National Guard.

Rarely has there been national political legislation of personal import, but the postal reform bill, by not only eliminating retiree health care prefunding, but cutting rural newspaper postal rates, is a biggie.

March 09, 2022

Dishonesty runs rampant over Ukraine-Russia war

Note: This piece started as a roundup of selected items by the bipartisan foreign policy establishment and allies on the Russia-Ukraine war. But, as it got longer, in the fairness of non-twosider balance, I have included material that also addresses Putin-whisperers. 

With that, let's dig in.

(Update, March 18: Not all of it is dishonesty, but earlier this week I posted a roundup of further Russia-Ukraine thoughts and observations and have Week 2 in the hopper. I certainly hope this doesn't last as long as my coronavirus weekly roundups.)


Within American establishment media, intellectual dishonesty over the Ukraine-Russia War abounds. One good example? Graeme Wood, at the Atlantic, says Ukraine's leaders should just follow the example of 1939 Finland in the Winter War.

He talks about how the Finnish defense led to a Soviet withdrawal ...

And only later tells readers that the USSR returned a few months later, per the second link, and wound up taking more Finnish territory than it had originally asked for, which he doesn't tell us at all. It's intellectually dishonest of him to omit that, and intellectually dishonest of his editor, Adrienne LaFrance, to let it run with that omission. It's intellectually dishonest for him to call it the "Finno-Soviet Winter War of 1939" when nobody else does that, with the "of 1939" as part of it. And, it's intellectually dishonest for her to let that run.

But, that's not the biggest intellectual dishonesty.

What is? Wood makes it sound like the Russkies never returned, post-1940. But, he again omits the "why." Instead, of course, at the tail end of Finland's involvement in WWII, Finland surrendered and gave up the Petsamo area in addition to its 1940 land surrenders. And, of course, it agreed to remain neutral in the post-WWII new era. The mere threat of a second invasion was enough.


Of course, hints of Molotov cocktail use lead to major dishonesty No. 2 — US media, including the likes of Woods Atlantic, normalizing any action by Ukrainians that it would attack in the sharpest terms when done by a Palestinian. Mondoweiss, as it has since the start, has the goods on this, including the goods on Molotov cocktails. Of course, this is nothing new, either. To Ronald Reagan, in places like Central America, any leftist with an AK-47 was a terrorist while any rightist with an M-16 was a freedom fighter.


That said, Putin, in his screed last summer, and before and after, oversimplified Ukrainian history leading up to this point. Katya Cengel has a decent piece about that at the Smithsonian, but by ignoring modern neo-Nazism in Ukraine, the amount of Russians on left-bank Ukraine and other things, arguably contributes to the disinformation herself while giving the impression of cleaning it up. And, decent may be saying too much. Giving Markian Dobczansky as much airplay as she did only adds to my impression. The fact that he rejects the issue of broken NATO promises about non-expansion says it all.

Cengel gets one other thing incomplete. The Ukrainian People's Republic was created after the March 1917 Revolution, not the November one, and thus did not originally declare independence from the USSR, but from the post-Tsarist social democratic Russia. (It did, in 1918, after the second Revolution,take that step, though.) As someone who lived in Ukraine, she either should know that and doesn't, which brings her credibility into question, or does know that and glosses over it ... which brings her credibility into question, at least on the issues of Ukrainian nationalism and complexity of issues. One should also note, per the map at the Wiki link, that it claimed more "Rusyn" lands than the eventual post-WWI USSR did, and within that area, claimed more Belarussian lands than today's Ukraine. And, that goes back to Ukrainian nationalism. It's true that Putin leaves out the Holodomor. It's also true that Dobczansky and Cengel leave out the Azov Force et al. And, yes, Cengel, there ARE neo-Nazis in modern Ukraine. Again, you talk about the "complexity" of the issue, but it's like you're gaslighting people on the complexity of the issue after modern Ukraine's independence. In short, I know you know this, too, and you're engaged in intellectual dishonesty. I tagged Cengel on Twitter with a milder version of that statement; she didn't respond.

At the same time, Cengel may have undercut herself by not including something she probably knew, and that more educated Putin-whisperers do, even if they might not want to admit it. In the late 19th century, Tsarist Russia began a major "Russification" push. Three areas were targeted: The formerly independent Kingdom of Poland, the Grand Duchy of Finland and ... Ukraine. Any quasi-legitimate aggrievement Putin has is underlaid and overlaid by a new version of this nationalism. And, this is why Ukraine set itself up independently in early 1917, not late 1917. It saw the first opportunity it had to stake itself free, or at least semi-free, of Russia, and took it.


That said, per Cengel's links to his comments? Putin is dishonest himself, of course. This is ultimately about "Great Russian" nationalism, part of why I called him the Black Tsar last week. And, as part of that, even if the NATO issue is partly behind it, it's why I suspect he never planned to just have a limited incursion into the Donbas and neighboring areas. On the third hand? Since Zelensky has proven himself to also be not so trustworthy?

This, like World War I if Wilson had been a true neutral, is something we the US has no damned business getting involved in. And, claims otherwise are the biggest domestic dishonesty of all.

But, the second biggest domestic dishonesty is twosiderism. By that I'm referencing the allegedly outside the box thinkers, often stenographers themselves, who reject not just some things, but everything, the bipartisan foreign policy establishment says. Many of these people cut blank checks to Xi Jinping Thought, too. I don't. Also, while I reject Trump-Putin collusion in 2016, I do accept as fact the findings of the Russian IRA meddling in the 2016 elections. (That doesn't deny that the US also meddles in foreign elections, but it is to again reject twosiderism.)


OK, no retweeting the Kviy Independent. Its defense reporter was once (and still is?) an "embed" with, and glorifier of, the Azov Force. More links to that at this Tweet. And, the newspaper also surely knows that, which goes to its credibility as well. That said, most Americans don't know this, they don't know about the genocidal burning in Odessa and more.


Speaking of Azov Front, it may have come under (nominal) Ukrainian governmental control. Not all far-right forces have. US MSM won't tell you that, either.


And, re Putin, and thinking now he never intended a limited incursion? His Caesaropapism is part of his intellectual dishonesty, and as a secularist I find both it, and some bits of the US Religious Right glomming on to it, disgusting. And, the Russian Orthodox Church is dishonest for playing along. Of course, MOST autocephalous Orthodox churches have done similar, and in general, Orthodoxy is worse to far worse on this than Rome. 

James Dorsey has some very honest, and insightful as usual, insights about today's Russian Orthodox Church, including a number of parish priests calling for an end to the war. If 150 of them have actively called for that, there's surely many more who silently feel that way. And, surely Putin won't start arresting them; if noting else, Patriarch Kiril doesn't want to be between that rock and hard place.

Autocephalous Orthodox churches in general have a long history of Caesaropapism. While some of their theology makes them a non-twosider alternative to Catholicism and Protestantism alike, were I looking to a return to Christianity, and could find a suitably intellectual and socially liberal version of Orthodoxy, this is a stumbling block. People my age or older can recall Archbishop Makarios in Cyprus. But, that's a story for another blog post, and probably at my second blog.


That said, none of this is "crazy." Especially when uttered by US foreign policy mandarins, this is the height of dishonesty, in large part because they've done it before. Saddam Hussein? Crazy.  Muammar Gaddafi? Crazy. Probably has been applied to Maduro. I think it was applied to Fidel decades ago. So, that's a warning to world leaders. Cross the US enough, and be a small enough country? If your leader is called crazy, run for the fucking hills immediately. Putin's Russia, fortunately for its people and for him personally, isn't that small, of course.


It's also dishonest to call Putin a genius. He's not. Of course, one Donald J. Trump, born with a silver spoon of dishonesty in his mouth, is a leading purveyor of this. Very few world leaders are or have been geniuses. Warmongering included, Frederick and Alexander both earned their "Greats." Catherine? Not so much; being a sucker for her lover's Potemkin villages does that. Elizabeth I? Definitely. Anyway, Putin's smarter than Trump, and more conniving than Biden. Doesn't make him a genius.


It's dishonest to promote a Berlin Airlift 2.0 when so many things are different.

First, that was just to West Berlin. Are you going to do an airlift to Kyiv only and exclude other Ukrainian cities?

Second, Kyiv is over twice as far from the nearest border to the west as was West Berlin. We're talking 350 miles (600 kilometers) vs 150 miles (250 clicks).

Third, Putin could do much more than the intermittent hazing Stalin did. Radar ramming, communications radios jamming, maybe even a cyberattack against Ramstein Air Base.

Fourth, would Putin believe that only humanitarian supplies were being sent? And, would that actually be the case, or would this be like the Lusitania, an armed ship carrying guns and ammunition in the hold beneath generally clueless passengers topside?


It's dishonest to claim that oil blocking Russia will be a crushing blow. Oil remains semi-fungible. Plus, Russia's an exporter of other high-dollar items, like gold, diamonds and platinum. Are we going to strip jewelry off American oligarchs? Beyond that, only 4 percent of TOTAL Russian exports go to North America.


It's highly dishonest to go Alex Jones and claim this is a false flag. And, no, Jones is no longer on Twitter, but I've seen false flag claims, and by at least one person invoking the spirit of Jones. Of course, self-delusion goes hand in hand with dishonesty here.


Not dishonest, but perhaps somewhat self-delusional, is the claim to oppose the leaders of both Russia and Ukraine, but standing with "the people" of both countries. Putin's seizure of the Crimea was pretty popular at home. This will be less so if it drags on, but not so far. The Maidan? The genocide in Odessa? Azov Force and other groups even more wild? Even when not explicitly embraced, they're not explicitly disavowed, either.

This, too, is nothing new. Look at the start of World War I. Germany's Social Democrats were as avid for war as anybody and remained so for years. 

Beyond that, it's self-delusional in another way far beyond either of those conflicts or wars in general. The quasi-Rousellian view of the uncorrupted worker as a naif, a noble savage, is laughable.


In many cases, willful dishonesty often bleeds over into self-delusion. Take the huzzahing yesterday over Poland "laundering" its old MIG-29s to the US for presumable forwarding to Ukraine. Putin had repeatedly previously said this would be a bright line. But the same savants who pretend that we never made promises not to expand NATO have often come to actually believe that's true. I suspect willful self-delusion will soon pop up here,. too.  (Fortunately, part 1, it's only 29 planes. Fortunately, part 2, Slovakia and Bulgaria aren't so self-delusional. Fortunately, part 3, officially, the US went radio silence on the announcement. Unfortunately, part 1, the "average Joe/Jane" in MeriKKKa thinks of poor, picked on Poland without knowing it once owned Kyiv and 415 years ago tried to put a puppet Tsar on the throne in Moscow. Lots of BlueAnon blue checks on Twitter need a clue.) 

Fortunately, the Pentagon has more brains than Keith Olbermann and other blue checks, as well as more brains than the gummint of Poland. (Oh, per that link? The legend of the Kyiv Ghost is almost certainly bullshit.)


Speaking of military hardware? Per this Medium piece, the American foreign policy establishment genyuses yakking about "how long" it's taking Putin should just STFU. America invaded Iraq 19 years ago, a country with a smaller population and much smaller size than Ukraine, even while the US has the world's most vaunted military and a population twice that of Russia. And? It took MeriKKKa well over a month for the initial (and incomplete, mission not accomplished) conquest.


As for people talking about "justice"? I've addressed this issue many times. Read my review of Walter Kaufman's "Without Guilt and Justice."


Bottom line? Bismarck once said the Balkans weren't worth the bones of a single Pomeranian grenadier. Ukraine isn't work the bones of a single U.S. soldier or sailor, and the fog of disinformation isn't worth too many American brain cells.

March 08, 2022

Coronavirus, week 100: Are we ready for another surge?

A group of public health experts told Vox, overall, that they think we're past the worst, though not all agreed. Also, more than one person in that group of eight said the US is not using the current lull to prepare for another surge off of a new variant.

Meanwhile, we're unofficially near 1 million deaths (and realistically probably over 1.25 million if not 1.5 million) and the death rate is still 2 percent, not 1 percent or less per claims by contrarians and denialists.

Research of a large database of VA patients says blood clotting problems may be an ongoing problem in long COVID.

Your Local Epidemiologist explains risk in the context of the new CDC guidance on masks.

March 07, 2022

Yeah, about Pujols and that NL DH, and for the St. Louis Cardinals

On my blog post about "Quo Vadis Albert Pujols," Dave Minn asked about why I thought Phat Albert Pujols was at least one year older, if not two, than his officially stated age? I noted that if he were a year older, and tried going by his actual age, as has been explained in more depth elsewhere, he would have been ineligible for high school baseball. Without having graduated high school, he couldn't have immediately played for Osage Community College. So, he'd have had to have scrambled for a minor league contract. Thus, he had incentives.

That leads to this piece.

On that "Quo Vadis," I said "no" to Cards fans all schoolgirl giddy about the prospect of signing Pujols. In part for that reason.

Many of them are probably even more giddy now, picturing that picture at left happening again. (Update: Looking at that picture at left, vs the one above, Albert's neck is what, at least 1 full inch bigger in circumference. Probably 1.5-2 inches. Now that can happen in part from building up muscle due to more MLB-level weight training etc. [NOT roids; I'll kick you in the nads] but part of that is surely due to added weight over the years, and a non-insignificant amount of it.)

With Commissioner Corleone, Rob Manfred, reporting two and a half weeks ago that National League teams had signed off on a year-round DH, my fandom for MLB has taken another hit. A lockout extending into this season will increase that yet more. The NBA may indeed be ahead of MLB for me now. 

Now, to that issue, and to many better options for the Cardinals, even if they sign TWO free-agent batsmen.

As I said on the Quo Vadis piece, the Cards are lefty-light, not counting a couple of switchers. I had recommended Jonathan Villar, a switcher, as a much better upgrade than Pujols, and I stick by that even with the universal DH. As I noted, many teams today in the AL do NOT go the David Ortiz route. Rather, the DH spot is used to give position players a rest. Or, it's a mix; you have a lefty who sucks against lefties platooning there for 60-65 percent of the spot's at-bats, then you rotate position players in there for the rest of the time. Especially if Villar could learn a rudimentary 1B glove, along with the other three infield spots he already plays, that gives you time off to DH for both Paul Goldschmidt and Nolan Arenado. You can still add a regular "masher" type who might fit the lefty platoon angle, if one is relatively cheap, and sign that person (whoever it is) and Villar both.

As for those "regular mashers" who bat lefty? Kyle Schwarber's out there and would perfectly fit the bill. Anthony Rizzo might cost a bit more, but is another ex-Cubbie who'd fill the need, if Mozeliak could get DeWitt to break open DeWallet. And, in this case, Villar doesn't have to learn 1B. (Why nobody's tried to get Schwarber to do that, I don't know.) Kyle Seager would likely cost not much more than Schwarber and could probably be taught 1B as well as 3B plus DHing.

(With Schwarber and Rizzo both signed now, Seager is arguably the best lefty bat, especially among ones with at least bits of power, left available, per Spotrac.)

And, if you think the Cards are OK enough on middle infielders and speed not to sign Villar, one of the last three, as a single signing, is still better than Albert Pujols.

Add another name to the mix. Via MLBTR, Derrick Goold at the Post-Dispatch says as a part of a larger discussion that the Birds are interested in Colin Moran AND as both a utility guy and a DH.

Color me hugely underwhelmed, but not surprised. Comes off as a typical Mo cheap-ass move. Moran neither has the fielding flexibility of a Villar nor the masher ability at the plate of Schwarber et al.


As for Phat Albert in St. Louis? Just recently, owner Bill DeWitt himself pretty much kiboshed it. Mark Feinsand said on Twitter that three teams were interested ... but declined to say who they were. Sure. More troubling, per the first link, is DeWitt saying the lineup is pretty much set.