SocraticGadfly: 10/2/22 - 10/9/22

October 08, 2022

Once more on Shohei Ohtani and Babe Ruth

I blogged after the 2021 season that Shohei Ohtani was no Babe Ruth. I said, let's see you do it again.

With the big news of Ohtani officially "qualifying" as both a pitcher and batter, ie, minimum number of innings pitched to be eligible for the ERA title etc, and minimum number of plate appearances to be eligible for the batting title etc., I am ready to modify that.

But, with caveats.

The "qualifying" idea did not exist back in Ruth's day. If it had, he might have pushed his Red Sox manager in 1918 and 1919 for a few more plate appearances in the first year, and a few more innings in the second.

In 1918, Ruth fell THREE plate appearances short of qualifying as a batter in the WWI shortened season (126 games for the BoSox). He easily qualified as a pitcher. 1n 1919, post-WWI shortened, he was 7 innings short of qualifying as a pitcher. He easily qualified as a batter.

As for people saying this is so unique?

That cuts both ways, beyond the issue of a "demarcation problem" and Ruth not knowing and not having 100 years of clairvoyance.

Tis true that Ruth did this in the segregation era, and also the pre-modern era of no relievers, which would have cut his innings in 1919, and also, of no transcontinental travel, with baseball all in the northeastern one-quarter of the country.

On the other hand, Ruth did this without the DH, playing as a batter out in right field.

On the third hand, Ruth did appear to have himself a coke habit. On the issue of "roiding," he possibly (unconfirmed) injected himself with sheep testimacles — once. 

On the fourth hand, he didn't have a batting helmet, shin guards or an arm guard at the plate.

On WAR? Ruth had a combined WAR of 7.0 in 1918. Adjust for a full 162 game schedule and that's 8.9 or 9.0 WAR, what Ohtani did a year ago. In 1919, on a 140 game schedule, he had 9.9 combined WAR. Adjusted to 162 games, that's 10.4 WAR, more than Ohtani this year.

October 07, 2022

It's still the economy, stupid, voters tell pollsters

NPR and Marist polled people who said they "definitely plan to vote," on Warmonger Joe, the generic national Congressional ballot and the midterms. There are wake-up calls for #BlueAnon still here, per the header. And, note that "definitely" in the quote above. Per full poll data, that's 1,293 people, so this is statistically pretty strong.

Here's the biggie:

Inflation (37%) is top of mind for Americans as they prepare to cast their ballot for the midterms. Preserving democracy (27%), abortion (13%), immigration (12%), and health care (10%) follow. Inflation is the motivating issue for Republicans (52%) while nearly one in three Democrats (32%) cite preserving democracy. Inflation (22%) and abortion (21%) follow among Democrats.

Sadly, the graf doesn't list people self-identified as independents, but I venture inflation is No. 1 with them, too.

A later graf pretty much confirms that:

While a majority of Democrats (52%) perceive the nation to be moving in the right direction, 91% of Republicans and 71% of independents say the country is off track.

Get your attention yet, DNC? Warmongers in the House and Senate, including The Squad The Fraud?

That leads to this graf, which appeared earlier in the story:

Among registered voters nationally, the Democrats running for Congress (46%) have a narrow two-point edge over the Republicans (44%). Four points separated the Democrats (48%) and Republicans (44%) last month. In June, immediately following the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, the Democrats (48%) led the Republicans (41%) by 7 points among registered voters. Among Americans who say they definitely plan to vote, the Democrats (48%) are currently +3 percentage points over the Republicans (45%).

The rise of inflation, though it has now "moderated" but not gone away, is the main explainer for that.

So, it's still the economy, stupid, and it remains personal, though Kroger DID earlier this month partially roll back massive price increases of earlier this year on its generic DiGiornio pizza and a few other things. 

And, that drop in gas prices MBS Joe was touting earlier? I told you earlier this week to wave bye-bye to it, and as my graph on West Texas Intermediate in the lower part of the right hand rail shows, it's already disappearing.

Once again, feel free to hit the polls, speaking of polling, at the top of the right hand rail.

October 06, 2022

Coronavirus Week 122: Are we at post-pandemic yet? Close?

People like Walker Bragman on Twitter, and Gregg Gonsalves for the Nation, insist we're not in a post-pandemic world.

What if they're wrong? What if we're at least "getting there"?

In other words, per friend Massimo Pigliucci and the "demarcation problem," what if we're at ...


We should never sneeze at 300 deaths a day, pun not intended. But, we should look for context.

That's 2,100 deaths per week. Or, 110,000 per year.

Cut that in half and that's a season's worth of flu deaths. Just about exactly. (This isn't counting the last two years of flu seasons, where deaths have dropped due to COVID social distancing and masking.)

Look at Worldometers' US stats. Or the graph below:

We're in October now. Start of flu season coming up in the northern tier of states.

If there's not a big spike within the next six weeks, I'm ready to join Neoliberal Joe and Platonic Liar Fauci and say we're post-pandemic.

At the Atlantic, Sarah Zheng makes the same non-normalization error of comparing a six-month season's worth of flu deaths to the current average of COVID deaths, annualized.

Frankly, I am not sure if most state health departments even count flu deaths outside of flu season, or flu and pneumonia deaths, as they're usually counted in winter.

She does admit that we could be around 100K deaths a year relatively soon and semi-permanently. That's 2X flu deaths. The question as to whether that's "Acceptable" in post-pandemic defining is perhaps partly one of medical ethics. But, it's more a question of public policy definitions.


Meanwhile, if we're talking about this from a public health issue, it would be "nice" if the likes of Walker Bragman, in the non-professional world, could talk about Biden putting most of his eggs in the mRNA booster basket. Or if "Your Local Epidemiologist" would read the likes of Paul Offit, referenced in that link just above, questioning bivalent vax efficiency before giving the world what she calls a "bivalent boosters science update," which doesn't even tell you, besides Offit, the vote to approve the bivalent booster wasn't unanimous. Besides the one actual "no," there were several hestitant "yeses."

She does say that the first human test info is in. I'm not a scientist, so I can't argue with her analysis, but somebody probably can. She DOES, below that, admit that "we don't know how mRNA vaccines will hold up." Actually, I think we DO know, and the answer is "not that well." And, contra the touting of the bivalent, Offit recommended a Science Mag piece that said it won't hold up that well.

Ergo, they're probably not recommended for the general population. In fact, per next week's piece, already in the hopper, the CDC originally considered recommending them to just the over-50 population but decided that would be too confusing.


And, for all the antivaxxers, COVID denialists or COVID minimalists that are out there, how many COVID-Zero touters are out there, claiming that "if we just had everybody wear masks all the time," and "everybody got every booster," we'd have no COVID. No, really, this:

Umm, aside from lying Chinese stats, places like New Zealand got hit hard, relatively, on Omicron.

October 05, 2022

Texas Progressives talk about judges and voting rights

SocraticGadfly talks about Judge Pitman screwing over third-party candidates in Texas.

The Fifth Circuit (shock me) said that MALDEF et al don't have standing to sue the Texas SoS over its list of allegedly "caged" potential nonvoters.

Off the Kuff follows up his mockery of Ken Paxton with a note about what Paxton was really running from and why it mattered.

Several things to note about the pair of brothers accused of killing one illegal immigrant and wounding another. The immigrant detention center where Michael Sheppard was warden until being fired had faced previous human rights violations allegations in 2018. Related to that, which the Trib notes but doesn't stress enough is that it was a private prison. Second, Michael and Mark then calmly went to a water board meeting, which would say that they're also guilty of failure to render aid. 

Stace reminds us that Greg Abbott's border sideshow continues to cause death and waste.

If Beto didn't like debating before an empty hall (and during Friday night lights, no less) why did he? The actual "debate" (as such things are known) sounded like a slight edge for him over Abbott, but no knockout, no TKO, not close. Justin Miller weighs in at the Observer, noting both that Strangeabbott "dodged any landmine" and that the format for the "debate," even worse than many others with just 30 secs for comment and 15 for response, made it worse. And, of course, Libertarian and Green candidates weren't there. Forrest Wilder has thoughts at the Monthly, including Abbott's claim that Beto-Bob agreed to the empty hall.

Ken Paxton: The guilty flee when nobody pursues, Proverbs says. They flee even quicker, after hiding, when they knew you're looking.

Uvalde's Robb Elementary has three survivors suing multiple respondents. The City of Uvalde and Uvalde CISD will likely get off on sovereign immunity. The cops still on duty may or may not Fired CISD chief Pete Arredondo probably will not, and his firing will be involved. The gun manufacturer and accessory manufacturer? Let's see. Hey Berners? Remember when Bernie fought to keep gun makers immune?

The Metromess, home to medical debt and capitalist pig hospitals. We need a British NHS, not "just" national health care.

Houstonia reports on Houston's Afro-Latino Garifuna community and how it's keeping its culture alive.

Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje remembers the impact of legal abortion with no regrets.

The Dallas Observer finds your new favorite subreddit.

In The Pink Texas goes back to her roots by recasting a political saga as a rom-com.

Michael Li explains the Alabama redistricting case now before SCOTUS and its possible implications for the Voting Rights Act.

October 04, 2022

Wave bye-bye to those cheap gas prices — the why behind that

An OPEC+ oil production cut is coming right up, reports say.

This benefits two countries: Saudi Arabia, the leader of OPEC, and Russia, the +.

The Russian benefits are obvious: Increased pain on the West, along with, perhaps, letting China and a few other countries know they can't exploit its predicament too much. (Since Russia is also a net food exporter and Xi Jinping is blowing his top about Chinese food security, this has other angles, too.) Currently, Russian oil has been trading at as much as a 30 percent discount. So, tightening the market means the degree of discount will also drop.

The Saudis? Mohammad bin Salman, fresh off his international diplomatic immunity from being named prime minister, can keep Warmonger Joe Biden dancing like a fist-bumping yo-yo. This has added importance with the breakdown of a ceasefire in Yemen.

This is beyond the issue of simply addressing sagging gas prices.

The story above notes that purely domestic American issues had already brought a halt to declining gas prices in much of the country, though some stores here on the Red dropped a cent again in the last few days. It's ... interesting that Nevada (and I assume the story is overlooking Hawaii and Alaska) has the nation's most expensive gas outside of California.

And, although Inflationary Joe hasn't much reduced food inflation, even with the drop in gas prices, his chances of doing so decline even further with this. And, of course, Democratic Congressional political chances. (Hit the polls at right to offer your thoughts.) This will probably also further crimp the possibility of massive LNG exports to Europe this winter; my take on that is here.

Climate Change Joe, meanwhile, is talking about trying to limit American oil majors from exporting refined gasoline. Good luck with that one.

What about the Strategic Petroleum Reserve? Biden can still release more from it, but — and I did not know this before — due to various national and international legal obligations — it can't go below 250 million barrels. It's just short of 420 million now. 

In other words, at Gas Pump Joe's rate of 1 million barrels a day during past releases, he's got a bit under six months' cushion left. Vladimir Putin will still be rolling dice at that time.

And, the real issue is not just the SPR, but the psychology behind it. As Biden's margins get narrower, getting the SPR closer to its 250 million barrel flatline, the market-influencing power of releases wanes.

Will oil hit $100/bbl, as this story speculates? I doubt it, at least not hitting there and staying there, but trading in the $90-100 range? You bet.

Meanwhile, a final thought on the first story. So-called "NOPEC" legislation to sue OPEC for market manipulation? Even if it DID pass Congress, it's nugatory. How would the US enforce it? Especially since it has opted out of so many international institutions. And, if it tried to, Saudi investments in US defense kit would dry up and blow away to Beijing.

In similar veins of stupidity, first referenced by me a week ago, is the EU's attempt to put a price cap on oil that originated in Russia, as a backdoor sanction. Here is how stupid that is.

October 03, 2022

Nuclear isn't part of the climate answer and don't try to make it

The nuclear industry will keep trying to tell you that, after that nuke plant is built, nuclear power is carbon-neutral. Not.Even.Wrong., as Counterpunch explains in high detail. They don't count the carbon costs of long-term waste disposal, for one thing (setting aside all its other issues), nor do they count the high carbon cost of mining uranium ore, which is generally very low grade (setting aside all its other issues).

Ahh, the other issues.

I grew up in Gallup, New Mexico, during the tail end of the original uranium boom. I moved to St. Louis with my dad, during the summer of, and just after the date of, the Church Rock mine's infamous tailings dam failure. Or damn failure. Counterpunch described that in detail. What I didn't realize at the time, but do more now, is the government's and uranium industry's exploitative treatment of miners. The same is true in placed like Congo where ore is mined today.

Joshua Frank then goes on to discuss lies and secrecy about nuke accidents. Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and Fukushima are but the tip of the iceberg.


The other reason not to try to make it part of the equation? Farhad Manjoo has that in an NYT column. The shorter version of it has three main points.

One is that nuke plants have too long of a build time, even as wind and solar both increase their efficiency.

Two is related and is that every dollar on nuke plants is a dollar not available for wind and solar.

Three? Many enviros mention the intermittency of wind and solar. Manjoo notes the expansion, and ever-higher efficiency, of various forms of battery storage of excess wind and solar.


If you're a real environmentalist, ask yourself this. Is a Nordhaus or Schellenberger promoting it, as with nukes, or a Noah Smith, as with hydrogen? Run away as fast as you can.


Yet another reason to oppose trying to make nuclear part of the solution? It's being pushed by neoliberals, like Nordhaus and Schellenberger, who have helped lead us to this situation in the first place.