February 17, 2018

Internet Research Agency, butt-hurt #Hillbots
the #FirstAmendment and Russophobia

A few thoughts, based on the federal indictment (also here) and expanded from Twitter, even as places like the Bezos Post glad-hand special counsel Robert Mueller. (For thumbnails on the 13 indictees, go here.)

I waited until today to blog, because I wanted to see how many MSMers, and Hillbots on Twitter, etc., claimed this meant there was a "there" there not only on Putin Did It but Putin-Trump collusion.

And Tweeterers? Never assume that just because someone disagrees with you, he/she/it/they are on the "other side." Once again, Idries Shah:

“To 'see both sides' of a problem is the surest way to prevent its complete solution. Because there are always more than two sides.” 
Also, never assume, let alone be presumptuous enough to assume, that just because a person is on a third or fourth side of an issue that they don't understand the issue.

First, Internet Research Agency allegedly started work "in or around 2014" or "beginning as early as 2014." That's before Trump announced his candidacy. That right there undercuts the collusion angle, which Mueller's indictment never hints at anyway. Sorry, Hillbots. Ron Chusid at Liberal Values Blog largely agrees.

Second, §4-6 of "Introduction" focus on social media hucksterism discussed elsewhere. Nothing illegal about this that I know of unless Mueller has unplayed cards, or unless he's throwing a broad dragnet on what counts as a campaign endorsement ad. I think he is, and that's where my First Amendment concerns start. I'm sure I'm in a minority of Americans there.

Third, §7 of "Introduction" appears to claim illegal campaign contributions by foreign nationals. None of the spoof FB groups donated money OR "a thing of value" to Trump campaign, AFAIK. Telling people there's a pro-Trump group holding a rally, and buying an ad to tell them that? NOT a political endorsement ad in my book. More 1A concerns; more of me being in a minority.

Fourth, §12b of "Defendants" claims one used "false pretenses" to stand in front of the White House with a sign. WHAT? Is there a Federal Department of White House Standing In Front Of that one must register with, a la Monty Python?

Fifth, per the "Federal Regulatory Agencies" section and my points 2-3, we're coming close to criminalizing everyday lying when it's connected to politics. The FEC may adopt new standards for online political ad identification, but it hasn't yet, other than requiring explicit identifications on Facebook political ads, and besides, we don't have ex post facto laws. If, per §48 of "defendants," what expressly counts as advertising for the election of a candidate today is involved, that's one thing. But, this was posted way below the talk about fake social media groups.

Usually, on an indictment, you lead with your best punch. That makes this look weak for that reason, too.

Also, can advocating AGAINST a candidate be construed as a call to vote FOR another? I did my #DuopolyExit long ago, and would have voted for Jill Stein no matter what. This charge seems weak on those grounds as well.

Sixth, if there was actual identity theft? Stuff like fake driver's licenses is state-level crime. Were it not for points 1-5 above, it would not be Eff Bee Eye purview. (Wiki explains what types of identity theft in the US is considered federal; fake DLs count as federal if used to commit another crime. That then said, most of what I've noted above, and do more below, is not IMO a crime.)

And, that all said, the ID thefts, if real, were certainly stupid. And illegal at some level of government, of course.

As for Richard Pinedo? Likely nothing more than the bagman/middleman/cut-out for purchasing false IDs. Likely NOT a separate activity, as, from what I see here, he'd done similar work, shady if not illegal, but at least some of it illegal, for other folks going back to 2012.

Seventh, §43 of "Defendants" claims that they "engaged in operations to ... support Bernie Sanders" as well as Trump. And even Jill Stein! So, we got butt-hurt #Hillbots inside #MuellerTime? (The indictment doesn't say what "support" involves.

Related to this is bad optics. Mueller's already had to remove people from his team for this. I'm talking Peter Strzok, of course.

Whoever on Mueller's team, if not the man himself editing if not writing, presented this indictment to the grand jury for approval should be taken out and flogged.

Eighth, from what I see above, civil liberties orgs like the ACLU and CCR should be squawking loudly. This all comes off as #FirstAmendment-chilling. And foreign nationals are entitled to most constitutional protections not restricted to citizens.

==

Updates beyond original Twitter thread.

The "Destruction of Evidence" on §58 ff is also thin soup. Deleting an email account because of a media story long before any criminal probe started is destruction of evidence?

Buying ads for promoting a pro-Trump rally is certainly not direct endorsement of a candidate in my book. It's also getting close to violating the spirit of the freedom of assembly clause of the First Amendment.

The section seven of my comments? If we extend that, then theoretically no foreign national could ever buy a Facebook (or newspaper) ad that says: "I like President Trump." Or anything like that.

Surely somebody besides me is seeing First Amendment concerns?

The Russkies should have gotten 10 real American friends of Pinedo and given them earnest money to open bank accounts with threats of omerta action if they asked questions, rather than going down the road of ID fraud.

That said, if the Concord groups actually purchased the ads, and they're American citizens, even if cutouts, there again, Mueller's dragnet may be too wide. The indictment says "defendants and their co-conspirators."

A New York Times guest columnist goes so far as to speculate the Russians WANTED to get caught as part of sowing problems. I think that's a step too far, but the fact that somebody thinks that proves that they are still sowing problems. Or that many Americans are self-sowing.

February 16, 2018

No, MSM, the current GOP deficits are nothing new

Certainly, the GOP attitude toward deficits is nothing new.

That's despite the AP, the Bezos Post and the Houston Chronicle, among other outlets, claiming the GOP acceptance of wall-to-wall deficits is a historic sea change.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Presidentially, with the exception of the brief interlude of Poppy Bush, GOP presidents haven't cared about deficits since Nixon. After all, Veep Dick Cheney said they don't matter.

In Congress, the Senate had its deficit hawks under Reagan, and Shrub Bush, but some had left the Senate and others gone mute by the time of Shrub Bush.

And, the variations of unsubstantiated supply-side economics get new makeup on their lips every couple of years and that's that.

So, MSM?

Just stop trying to normalize the national Republican Party.

February 15, 2018

#Thoughtsandprayers, #guncontrolnow and the Church of Satan

This is a cold heat anger post evolved from a cold heat snarky-yet-serious tweet of yesterday, over the Palmland, Broward County, school shooting. And trust me, I'll get all three header pieces tied in.

The picture says enough. The idea is garbage designed to pretend to really care about kids being killed by gunz, while still supporting politicians and a culture driven by fears of crime, driven by fears of the "other," and more. The "driven" isn't accidental; it's a deliberate move by the NRA and the politicians it funds, but voters aren't passive automatons.

The initial tweet?
I then tagged the Church of Satan in a second tweet as part of a mini-thread:
It then said: "Please leave us out of this."

That said, the Church of Satan isn't "Satanists." It claims to be atheist, which I already knew. But I digress, and I'll tackle that more below. 

The portion of the Religious Right that overlaps with gun nuts doesn't really want ANY thoughts and prayers beyond conservative Christian Religious Right ones. Not only would it not welcome actual Satanic ones, it would also not welcome Jewish ones, Hindu ones, Muslim ones, or Buddhist ones.

And, per the second tweet's big picture and the Church of Satan being atheist (which I already knew), the Religious Right certainly doesn't welcome liberal secular common sense. That said, I know atheist gun nutz exist too. And, given the Church of Satan's values, some of them are probably members there too, at the Church of Gun Nutz, if anything.

I digress a bit again on the Church of Satan Ayn Rand. But I'll tackle that below.

The real frauds in this issue, of course, are members of the Religious Right who offer "thoughts and prayers" while voting for gun nutz elected officials, who claim to be "pro life" while voting for gun nutz elected officials and supporting a gun nutz NRA and more.

Of course, Religious Right hypocrisy goes better when combined with priggery which has at least some connection to it:
Gee, shock me.

And, sadden me. Between the Religious Right pretending teenage kids don't have hormones, and more liberal minded helicopter parents wanting to keep their children forever pre-juvenile, even as the Religious Right gives Fox, the most anti-religious right of the TV networks on show morality, a pass just because it's kin to Fox News, this isn't surprising either.

As for the gun control issue? I've never understood why presidents who allegedly support better control don't use executive orders and other executive tools as part of actual actions. Say, refusing to let companies headquartered in states with weak gun control laws bid on executive agency contracts. Make that decision, take that action, then justify it on national security grounds. Which it would be. But, the likes of Dear Leader Obama never tried that.


But Dear Leader, after getting his hands slapped for his 2008 primary season guns and beer comment, got no more serious about gun control — even by backdoor methods like I propose — then he did about single-payer national health care.

Related?

Dems of the #Resistance faction who called out Bernie Sanders for not having a litmus test on abortion? Or Berniecrats defending him?

Let's remember his own poor relationship to gun control laws. Brains didn't like me saying he was halfway (or more) a gun nut himself. Sorry, but I stand by that. In the 2016 primaries, he engaged in a hair-splitting stubborn double-down on his previous votes, and more than once, just like Elizabeth Warren did recently with her American Indian heritage claims.

Let's also note that for all of its pious handwringing, the MSM also has complicity. Beyond not suggesting answers even more creative than mine, when the New York Times continues to run bullshit by John Lott, even as "just" an op-ed, it's complicit.

I pick up the digressions again.

The Church of Satan Ayn Rand also says on Twitter that it mutes trolls, and arguably, atheists calling themselves Satanists are themselves trolling. And I reject its claims that people who worship a believed-to-be-actual Satan are devil-worshipers, not Satanists. Anton La Vey himself was a charlatan, a huckster and a liar. And, while he may not have believed in a literal Satan, through things like paranormal research and original Church of Satan rituals, he left the door open for the likes of Michael Aquino to proclaim a more literal Satanism of sorts, and for others to go beyond that. And, per the first link and Wiki, what it actually does believe might be called "Randianism in pretentious drag," the Randianism referring to Ayn Rand, not James Randi.

And, on the second bird I've killed with this one stone .... as of two hours after my initial Tweet, there were 20 likes of the Church of Randian Pretentiousness's response.

But my callout to Lil Marco:
Has gotten more likes than the Church of Ayn Rand's callout of me.

Finally, let's not 

February 13, 2018

TX progressives take a look at
#txpolitics hot races and endorsements

The Texas Progressives hopes readers had a good Lincoln Day and Darwin Day, and will have a good Valentine's Day.

Here's the blog post and news roundup from around the state ...

Socratic Gadfly notes that various state Democratic activist groups can't get on the same endorsements page.

Houston Justice names five things Texas Democrats could learn from the Houston Astros.

Off the Kuff emphasizes that the bathroom bill issue isn't going away any time soon.

In the Texas Senate District 10 D primary, the Texas Tribune finds the 2016 Clinton/Sanders feud still being contested.

Jonathan Tilove at the Statesman also covered the Dem primary for TX-21 and heard the same echoes of the national party debate between the liberal/progressive candidates  -- Derrick Crowe, Elliott McFadden, and Mary Wilson -- and the centrist money leader, Joseph Kopser.

Texas Leftist published two more candidate questionnaires, from CD-10 Democratic candidate Kevin Roberts, and state Senate TX-5 candidate Brian E. Cronin.

The Lion Star details CD-16 Democrat Dori Fenenbock's financial flops.

Jim Schutze at the Dallas Observer drags former Channel 8 reporter and now ConservaDem CD-32 candidate Brett Shipp for some really lousy work in his old job. That’s pat of a trifecta from Schutze. He also deservedly kicks alleged 2020 presidential candidate Julian Castro, then pokes the Dallas City Council et al in the eye for the last Calatrava Bridge woes.

Houston media blogger Mike McGuff was at CD-36 candidate Dayna Steele's fundraiser that featured Melissa Etheridge and David Crosby.

DBC Green has a couple of posts about Our Revolution Texas' endorsements.

The Democratic judge in Dallas County hearing the case against 127 D primary candidates who may be disqualified from the ballot because the party's county chair did not properly sign their applications has indicated that he will not recuse himself, according to the Dallas News.

Neil at All People Have Value said it is okay not to give money to the rich. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

Gilbert Garcia at the San Antonio Express News sees Greg Abbott's heavy hand and fat wallet in a few GOP primaries disguising his personal vendettas as political principle.

Stace provides some insight on the latest voter registration data from Harris County.

From the Waco Tribune-Herald: Thirteen cases in the 'Twin Peaks' biker shooting were dismissed last week, and one of the defendants' lawyers said that McLennan County DA Abel Reyna showed "moral cowardice" in extending their prosecution for so long before he gave up.

Texas Vox announces that Public Citizen is a proud sponsor of Air Alliance Houston's 2018 State of the Air Gala.

In his regular collation of criminal justice news, Grits for Breakfast notes that the full 5th Circuit will hear the case of a teenager who was framed for assault by the Brownsville police.

The Texas Standard's own roundup of state news includes Lt. Governor Dan Patrick's rant at the TPPF regarding 'Let Her Speak', the forthcoming movie about Wendy Davis' 2013 filibuster that will star Sandra Bullock.

AJ Bauer at the Texas Observer recalls the state's last liberal lion in the US Senate, Ralph Yarborough.  (Don't confuse him with Grady.)

G. Elliott Morris interprets the state of the polls.

Juanita would like to know when Rep. Blake Farenthold is going to pay us taxpayers back for that sexual harassment settlement money.

Paradise in Hell collects a list of things Mike Pence was surprised to learn.

The TSTA Blog casts a wary eye on the latest anti-education campaign from Empower Texans.

February 12, 2018

When MSM real news sites give you #FakeNews

It's not just CNN clusterfucks.

Take the Bezos Post and a Peter Principle reporter.

It has never been the "north star" as a goal of the GOP, because PR head fakes, to eliminate the deficit. Yet a Peter Principle reporter claims it has been. Reality? Not true since Ike's day. That said, the Bezos Post never fact-checks itself, so that will still stand.

Next, the Hill, reporting that Veep Mike Pence said the US would talk to North Korea without pre-conditions. The Hill ignores the very visible snubs Pence gave to North Korea during opening ceremonies for the Olympics.

Third? The old gray lady of the New York Times, "normalizing" JoyAnn Reid, one of the dumbest fucks of #TheResistance. Here, this follows normalizing neo-Nazis, giving Bret Stephens a spot on op-eds, and handing over a whole issue's op-eds site to letters from East Trumpistan denizens.

From less than 20 years ago, there was Judith Miller, conniving with portions of the Bush Administration, to provide the drumbeats for war in Iraq.

The real issue, which the MSM and its clickbaiting show, is that, for a century or more, the media has actually been involved with the creation and dissemination of fake news. Kenan Malik discusses the Zinoviev Letter, directly relevant to today's Russophobia, and other examples.

No, it hasn't always or regularly done this. But it has done this.

That said, as Malik also notes, the alternative — the government, either by law or by brow-beating — determining what counts as fake news is even worse. (Worst of all is the Miller example — media and government working hand in hand. Malik says that's not new either.)

Hence, the two-siderism over things like the Nunes Memo from places like Consortium News is itself not a solution.

February 09, 2018

#Cardinals OK with standing pat; P-D largely gives Mo a pass

Cardinal with the eyeball
This year's Cardinals will draw stares
as much as they return them.
First, a friendly reminder to John Mozeliak that the Cardinals did not finish second in the NL Central last year.

They were THIRD — also behind the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Birds made a good move this offseason with trading for Marcell Ozuna (with a decent give-back to Miami of Sandy AlcantaraMagneuris SierraZac Gallen and Daniel Castano).

The Brewers countered by acquiring Christian Yelich (who I preferred) while sending a good package of prospects, Lewis BrinsonMonte HarrisonIsan Diaz and Jordan Yamamoto back to Miami.

Then, later in the same day, they signed Lorenzo Cain as a free agent. While some folks at places like MLBTradeRumors and other folks like St. Louis Post-Dispatch Hall of Fame columnist Rick Hummel are wondering if it's an overpay, I don't think so. While it does take the team one year deeper into Cain's age than the Cardinals' similar contract with Dexter Fowler a year ago, it's for a bit less money, has only a partial no-trade at the end of it —

And Cain is a better player.

Hummel, who generally continues to fall lower in my estimate of P-D writers, claims the Brewers' pitching problems will keep them behind the Cards. This is even while admitting Mo is standing pat on a staff in flux in St. Louis. He then claims Cain and Fowler are "similar players." Cain has three 5-WAR years; Fowler has none. And, while Cain showed some decline in center field last year, he's still a plus defender, and Miller Field, being smaller than Kaufman, will help him extend his career there. Also, if one values consistency, he's wrong about Ozuna being better than Yelich.

Hummel then goes on to claim the Cards have the best pitcher in the division. Yes, Carlos Martinez may have better stuff than Jon Lester or Kyle Hendricks, but he hasn't translated that into results yet. And, on the mental side, he now faces the baggage of being a defendant in a personal-injury lawsuit. (OTOH, Derrick Goold, reading between his lines, seems to indicate it's little more than a shakedown suit.)

It's not just Hummel on Official.Cardinals.Media.™, aka the Post-Dispatch, drinking the John Mozeliak Kool-Aid. Indeed, in Slide 12 of this slideshow, Jose de Jesus Ortiz claims that with Yelich, but not yet with Cain, the Cards of 2018 were still better than the Brew. I wouldn't have totally bought that then. Post-Cain, I don't buy it at all.

Ortize goes on to let John Mozeliak's flunky, Michael Girsch, add to the "we're good" mantra.

Goold, while not specifically saying the Cards are looking up at the Brewers, says at best they're a second wild card. That means he ranks one of three of the Brewers, Dbacks and Rockies ahead of the Cardinals at minimum. (Nobody else from last year qualifies as having moved ahead of the Cardinals.) Seeing how the two western teams have made no major additions or subtractions, I put both ahead of the Cards, barring some major player regression. And, I still put the Brewers ahead.

Well, since I started writing this, Ben Frederickson, whom I consider the most honest of the paper's writers on the Cards' current situation, has weighed in and said, no the rotation is built on hope more than anything else, and even wonders if Lance Lynn might be available for a call-back. Hell, I'd pay Lynn 2/$36 instead of the Mets' alleged 3/$36. Might also exempt the Cards from being a target of a potential collusion lawsuit. I asked Goold in his Monday chat if he agreed and my Q never got out of moderation or whatever. (Maybe the next labor agreement will move at least somewhat in the direction of other leagues' caps, along with more revenue sharing, AND minimums on team spending that right now are toothless.)

So, let's look for other analysis.

Bernie Miklasz, while thinking the Crew overpaid somewhat for Yelich, also indicates he thinks the Cards may now be looking up again.

One of Bernie Miklasz's ESPN Radio compadres, Kevin Wheeler, agrees with Bernie even more strongly.

Let's look at the Milwaukee picture.

Ryan Braun still has a decent bat and is available to the Brew Crew for three more years plus a team option at $15M. In short, the Brew know what they've got out there for years to come and can build elsewhere. Or — and with his willingness — Braun can move to first base. That presumably means Eric Thames, with a relatively low contract, gets moved, presumably for pitching. Of course, that presumes Keon Broxton will improve that much in the outfield. Kevin Wheeler says that this now leaves Domingo Santana free for trading. He'd fit great in the AL, where he could DH more, given his limited range. The AL is home of the Tampa Bay Rays and pitcher Chris Archer, who reportedly continues to draw Rays interest. If they land Archer, signed through 2021, including team options, boom. (That said, it will take at least one and probably two prospects as well as Santana to land Archer for that reason. And Archer is not an "ace," just an upgrade.)

If this trade happens, contra Hummel again, the Brewers' pitching staff moves ahead of the Cardinals for sure. Or, even if BenFred's scenario pans out, Brewers + Archer are probably about even with Cardinals + Lynn on starting rotation.

One final note? Brewers manager Craig Counsell has not been under too much of a spotlight yet, but the team hasn't significantly underperformed its Pythag under him. On the other hand, Cardinals fans know just how much Mike Matheny does NOT bring.

February 08, 2018

Wall Street vs. Main Street, and also
economic robustness vs. fragility

First, a, 1,000-point drop, as in Monday's, on the Dow Jones isn't THAT big. Yeah, 4 percent.

But, I"m old enough to remember the 1987 plunge, and plunge it was. The 508-point drop on the biggest day, as a percentage of the Dow, was far larger. That drop, of 22.61 percent, was also far bigger than any single day's drop during the 2008 financial crisis, though not part of the same type of trend. See Wiki for more, including that Monday's drop didn't even make the top 20 for worst one-day declines. I suspect it doesn't even make the top 40. In fact, the whole set of drops from late last week through Mondy

Second, the market is overheated. This is the reverse of gold going through the roof shortly after Obama took office and anybody with a brain knows that.

Third, Wall Street is not Main Street. Unfortunately, all Republicans, including small-town Main Street ones, I think think that it is. So do a majority of national level Democrats.

This is doubly true when trading is all computer-driven.

Fourth, job quit rates hit a 17-year high last month. Wall Street got butt-hurt over possibly having to pay employees more money.

Fifth, I've said for more than a year now that I expect a recession, probably by the end of this year. And, it may not be bad, but it doesn't have to be bad to be bad.

Despite Republicans, and perhaps grudgingly, perhaps not, centrist as well as conservative economists touting the current economic robustness, it ain't.

Nine years after the big crash and we're just now getting the "upward pressure on wages" that Wall Street purportedly hates.

The current drop is indeed just a correction, not a bear market. But that doesn't mean the Dow will stay here. One thing that will result from the Fed moving interest rates up is that the Dow will naturally fall further as other investments gain attractiveness. Whether Dow doublers-down make the Dow's longer, larger readjustment into a recession cause celebre I don't know. If they do, it's their fault. To riff on Chris Tomlinson, traders and companies have gotten drunk on cheap money.

But, I think a recession is still headed here for other reasons. And, even if it's not bad, per two paragraphs above, we don't have a robust economy. Even a mild recession will hurt hard, given continued growth in income inequality that happened under Obama's watch.

February 07, 2018

Texas progressive groups like herding cats on #txpolitics

In recent days, we've seen the Texas AFL-CIO officially endorse the person who is NOT the best gubernatorial candidate in the Democratic primary. And no, state AFL-CIO, Loopy Lupe Valdez is NOT as labor-friendly as Tom Wakely. You're just doing a personality endorsement between her and Andrew White.

We've then seen IT bitch over the Emily's List endorsement in the Seventh Congressional District. More here.

And next, we have other people saying that Houston's official LGBTQ endorsers have backed less than the optimal state House candidate in one district, per Brains' Twitter.

Besides Hispanics not turning out to vote, is this possibly another issue in the larger picture of Texas Democrats not winning more often?

You bet your boots it is, IMO.

I don't know what the answer is, but I know it's problematic.

I do know that Emily's List has become more and more a Clintonista List on which, and which types, of candidates it endorses. I suspect that Houston LGBTQ folks have become the same way in some form or fashion.

The Texas AFL-CIO? Just a few months after the national org pledged to be more open in its candidate endorsements to the point of saying it wouldn't automatically wed itself to the Democratic Party, the state branch does this.

So, we have two cases of tribalism plus labor's intellectual laziness.

No way to run a political railroad.

RG Ratcliffe has some related thoughts on a lot of orgs, including the Houston folks above, also endorsing White for gov. (The Snooze doing that is no surprise, per my post of earlier this week.)


February 06, 2018

Texas Progressives talk pre-primary #txpolitics

The Texas Progressives remind you that it’s just two weeks until early voting starts in this year’s primaries, and also reminds you that if you want to sign a Green Party ballot access petition, you can’t vote in either one of the primaries. (The GP state convention is April 14-15.)

The Houston Chronicle reports that 175,000 voters in Harris County have been marked "in suspense", many due to having their homes destroyed by Harvey.  The good news?  They can still vote.  From Democratic activist Jerry Wald, via Facebook ...
To clear up misinformation regarding Harris County residents displaced by Hurricane Harvey being taken off the voter rolls: 
Voters on the Harris County Voter Registrar's "Suspense List" are ELIGIBLE TO VOTE. If your voting status is in suspense, you will need to update your address information by filling out a "Statement of Residence" form at the polling location when you go to vote. 
Harris County Tax Assessor-Collector Ann Harris-Bennett wants every eligible voter in Harris County to be able to exercise their right to vote. She is here to help take the suspense and myths out of the voter registration process. She's proud to say that Voter Registrar Division have registered more voters, and trained more volunteer deputy voter registrars than any other in the history of this office. 
Please help get this message out to others by sharing this email with your family, friends, and neighbors. Contact the tax office at voters@hctx.net or 713-274-8387 so they can help!
Here's the rest of the roundup, below.

Socratic Gadfly says that Beto O'Rourke appears to be a ConservaDem or something halfway close.

David Collins at DBC Green had lunch with Harris County Judge candidate Lina Hidalgo, and came away impressed.

This evening in Clear Lake, CD-36 candidate Dayna Steele has a fundraiser hosted by two friends from her 'Rock Goddess' days: Melissa Etheridge and David Crosby.

Texas Leftist published a candidate questionnaire from SD-17 candidate Fran Watson.

John Coby at Bay Area Houston re-enters the fray with a handful of snarky campaign finance report postings.  They follow the same tired cliche' that the establishment believes is canon: whoever raises the most money wins, or should win, or should at least be considered the front-runner (irrespective of their political stances on any issue), and the ones who raise the least money should drop out.  This is no way to run a democracy, but far too many Democrats just don't get it.

The Dallas Observer has news of the grand opening of the first cannabis oil dispensary in the state.

The AP, via the Beaumont Enterprise, is following the case of four Texas youth prison guards who were arrested after they choked a 19-year-old unconscious and badly beat another.  In the past year, at least nine officers of the Texas Juvenile Justice Department have been arrested on abuse or misconduct charges, and another was convicted of having sex with a youth in custody.  The still-unfolding crisis has so far prompted Governor Greg Abbott to replace the agency's top officials and launch yet another investigation.

The Texas Standard wants to know how gerrymandering might be solved, and has news on a group of mathematicians who gathered in Austin over the weekend to work on the problem.

jobsanger sees Trump's deregulation as a war on workers.

Brains and Eggs offers his Sunday funnies roundup on the Nunes Nothingburger.

Free Press Houston notices that the attorneys representing roadside megastore retailer Buc-ees are an aggressive and litigious bunch when it comes to "protecting" their logo. 

February 05, 2018

The Dallas Morning News slouches further toward Gomorrah

Three specific ways in which the last remnant of the mighty Belo empire continues toward new levels of craptacularness.

That's even as it claims to be the flagship newspaper of A.H. Belo. Well, yea, if you have only two print products, and the other's a Spanish-language tab, that's going to be you by default.

First, the Snooze, between Austin bureau writers like Bob Garrett and political analyst Gromer Jeffers, seem hell bent for high water to make the Democratic gubernatorial primary a two-person race only, despite Tom Wakely having run for Congress before and having entered the gubernatorial race before Andrew "Maybe we won't fry them" White and Loopy Lupe Valdez. They know what they're doing, too. Garrett did it again at the state AFL-CIO rally.

Garrett and Jeffers are technically skilled enough, and have a contact list of state politicos enough that they could do better. Either they're doing this on their own or else editorial higher-ups are making this call. In either case, it's deliberate, as I see it.

I'm not sure if the state's other big dailies are engaged in the same. I do know the Stateless mentioned Wakely by name at the San Angelo party forum.

(That said, while Wakely is depending entirely on small donations, so far, judging by his last financial statement, it's been microdonations, not just small donations. Especially given that he had announced several months ago, that's not good.)

Second is the naming of Brendan Miniter to replace Keven Ann Willey as editorial page editor, or as the snooty Snooze says, "editor of editorials." (The story later says the new title is to emphasize the Snooze's push to be digital first. This from the company that was a sucker for the CueCat then rolled out not one but two clusterfucked attempts at paywalls.)

The Snooze is known for its "one Democrat a year" general election endorsements. Hiring someone who is a Wall Street Journal editorial page alum is bad enough. That tenure includes:
From 2000 to 2010, Miniter was an assistant editorial page editor at the Wall Street Journal, which included writing a column and crafting political analysis for its "Political Diary" newsletter. He also collaborated with Republican strategist Karl Rove on two books, and with Republican Mitch Daniels, former governor of Indiana, on another.
But wait, that's not all!

He then worked at Shrub Bush's presidential library!
Miniter moved to North Texas in 2011 and worked for three years with the George W. Bush Presidential Center, where he was director of scholarship and editorial content.  There, he led a team of more than 50 that created a 14,000-square-foot permanent exhibit about the Bush presidency, including 35 films and interactives and four audio tours.
Editor Mike Wilson said this does not represent a "shift to the right." Publisher Jim Monroney said he's sure that Miniter will continue to uphold the Snooze being "progressive on social issues."

Yea, like Shrub hating gay marriage or even civil unions? Like Shrub as governor doing the Karla Faye Tucker imitation cackle?

I've not read much out of Wilson's pen, but I've seen Monroney turd-polish the Snooze and Belo for years. This is nothing new, either on the idea that Miniter will be progressive on social issues or that the Snooze has been progressive on them in the past.

(Bill McKenzie calls him a "compassionate conservative" who "cares about ... neighborhoods." Oh, yeah? Cops following the "crack in the sidewalk" model of policing "care about neighborhoods." Crack dealers not wanting competition "care about neighborhoods.")

Besides, getting below national, or even state, issues, Miniter probably will be a hack on editorials and columns about Dallas, Dallas County, Dallas ISD and other Metroplex governance.

I hope Jim Schutze kicks his ass at first opportunity.

But, that's only two of three. 

The third?

The Snooze's ad sales continue to decline.

On Thursdays during the Thankgiving-Christmas shopping season, even then, its adhole was barely above 25 percent. This doesn't count any house ads, and deducts for part of PR space on things like classys and auto liner listings, but does count obits inches as paid ad space. 

Thursdays in general are supposed to be a fairly solid ad day, in part to prime people for shopping and buying over the weekend.

It's worse since then. I know January is a slow month, but SIXTEEN PERCENT on an adhole for Thursday, Jan. 18? Cut the page if you have to.

Seriously, that would be meh on a Monday, bad on a Tuesday, in my book. Horrible on a Thursday. Period.

The paper has been at 15 percent the two Mondays since, and under 25 percent on both Wednesdays and Thursdays.

Of course, their seniors section on Wednesdays is entirely canned content now. Other lifestyles stuff is moving that way. Maybe Monroney and Wilson need to look only at that alleged behemoth of Belo's separate digital marketing company as, not as salvation, but as a life raft.

I don't take glories in the struggles of newspapers, and wouldn't even if that weren't my seemingly stuck-for-life career path. Plus, I know people who work at the Snooze. But when a particular outlet repeatedly shoots itself in the foot while maintaining a pretentious smile at the corporate level?

To mix metaphors, don't keep peeing on the rearranged Titanic deck chairs and pretend it's just raining.

February 03, 2018

RIP Bob Parry and RIP Consortium News too?
#NunesMemo stance undercuts credibility

Robert Parry, founder of
Consortium News. Is he now
turning over in his grave?
Robert Parry, a lead investigative reporter of both the Iran-Contra arms smuggling and related violations of law as well as Reagan's October Surprise in 1980, died unexpectedly last month and rightly received plenty of tributes for his work.

That said, one ongoing and one new contributor at the site are — for me and some others — wrecking its legacy already over the Nunes Memo.

Before I dive in, let me explain that I largely accept CN's overall claims that Russiagate — in terms of the initial claims that Putin-orchestrated hackers were trying to directly meddle in our elections, and that these hackers were behind the initial Democratic National Committee emails run by Wikileaks — is largely a nothingburger.

Now, to points at hand.

I don't know how tight or loose of an editorial rein Bob kept over other contributors before he died, especially before last December and the start of his health issues. I have no idea now if son Nat is running the show there, or whom, and how much editorial control is being run at all.

But Ray McGovern has run multiple articles both before and after the Nunes Memo's release arguing for a simplistic "Deep State vs Trump" take on the memo and refusing to read Idries Shah and note there's more than two sides to this.
“To 'see both sides' of a problem is the surest way to prevent its complete solution. Because there are always more than two sides.” 
He's being joined in this by that tireless promoter of leftist union with the alt-right, Caitlin Johnstone. In her piece last Saturday, she even admitted the content of the memo was a nothingburger but said that didn't matter anyway.

Johnstone did not start contributing to the site until Bob's passing. I suspect that an alive and healthy Bob would have kept her a non-contributor.

Devin Nunes — hack and idiot, as usually pictured
The "more than two sides" would accept that recent data deletions by the FBI and NSA are a problem while noting they in no means obscure that the Nunes Memo was in fact just the latest in a string of partisan hackery by Devin Nunes ever since Trump was sworn into office.

It would also develop the "third side" (there's really four or more) of not only Nunes' level of hackery, but details of the political issues at hand with this memo. We all know them — possibly setting up the firing of Rod Rosenstein is obvious. There could be more.

The "more than two sides" would note the clear omissions from the Nunes Memo, above all that quarterly renewal of surveillance requests on Carter Page were based on material besides the Steele dossier. Per Liberal Values, the memo does let that cat out of the bag at the very end, but both McGovern and Johnstone refuse to even mention the name Papadopoulos. It would also note that while Rod Rosenstein signed off on Mueller's wanting to make the quarterly requests, he did not examine the individual filings.

Byron York jumps in to say that the FBI surveillance requests appear to have had four sources — Steele, a Yahoo story based on Steele, Papadopoulos, and a previous 2013 investigation of Page, plus the general worry over Russia environment as a backgrounder. He then tries to claim the dossier was nonetheless "essential." He also references, on Twitter, Trey Gowdy engaging in ersatz mind-reading of a judge to try to prove that point.

I respond back that without the judge's comment, which of course will not be forthcoming, we have no way of knowing that, and that if Nunes wanted to show what York and flacks like Gowdy claim, he should have mentioned all sources in the memo in the first place.

Instead, Nunes comes off as still looking like a hack, and Gowdy still looking like a flak, and both them and York still trying to push a two-sides argument.

Update, Feb. 5: Nunes has now admitted that the FBI told judges all along that they knew of the political backstory of the Steele dossier.

Meanwhile, per North Star, none of these alt-Trumpistan folks have put the Nunes Memo and Trump's support for it in larger context of Trump's personalized attacks on law enforcement that don't agree with him.

So, Liberal Values needs to have an extended excerpt to show just what a smart "third side" looks like:
There certainly might be grounds to question both the initial surveillance and the continued renewal of FISA warrants for the surveillance of Page (as is required every ninety days).  However, if the Republicans see abuses re FISA, why did they overwhelmingly just recently vote to renew it and expand surveillance? It is hard to take seriously Republican concerns today regarding surveillance when they have been such strong supporters of mass surveillance. 
It is not even clear if Carter Page is very significant with regards to Robert Muller’s investigation considering he is not one of those who have been indicted or who has entered into a plea agreement with Muller. 
The release of the memo does serve as a reminder of the dishonesty of the Clinton campaign and the DNC, which had denied for months their role in paying for the Steele dossier. They very well might have violated federal election rules, and should be investigated for this. However, that is a separate matter, and is hardly enough to discredit investigations into money laundering and obstruction of justice within the Trump administration. On the other hand, the attempts by Democrats to fabricate a case, contrary to all the evidence to date, that the election was stolen from Clinton due to a conspiracy between Trump and Russia, is likely to ultimately help Trump distract from his actual crimes. 
The real significance of the Nunes memo is not the content, but how it is used. If it is used to reform mass surveillance it could be a good thing–but that is very unlikely to happen by the hypocritical Republicans. The greatest fear is that Trump will use the Republican spin not only to undermine the credibility of the investigation but to justify another Saturday Night Massacre.
I presume the Consortium News'nothingburgers over a nothingburger will die down at some point. How long that will take, I don't know.

I also presume that we're likely to get new nothingburgers over new nothingburgers soon enough.

I will finally presume that Consortium News will lose readers over this. Whether the importation of Caitlin Johnstone groupies (or possibly even more, if other writers like ShirtLost DumbShit Zack Haller are asked to contribute to the boneyard) offsets that, I don't know. (And Haller now has.)

Since I will be one of those lost readers at that point, I won't care, either.

Unfortunately, I now notice that someone who SHOULD know about third sides, 2016 Green Party vice presidential candidate Ajamu Baraka, has chosen at Counterpunch to pretty much frame this in terms of two-sided "Deep State vs Trump" as well. That said, this is not the first time Baraka has "struggled for separation" on an issue like this.

Disobedient Media is another glue-sniffer.  That said, Per MediaBias FactCheck's analysis of it, that doesn't surprise me. (That, OTOH, is a good website.) Its information content is general factual, but its framing of this is usually biased, if not highly biased, and definitely toward Wingnutistan.

Plus, like some other of these "gnu media" places, its name is simply fucking pretentious.

I have a few Twitter friends who retweet it. I haven't yet decided whether or not to mute it.

The Anti-Media is another one with a pretentious name. And, not for wingnuttia, but simple lack of factual information, plus a dollop of conspiracy thinking framing, its reputation is even worse.

Sadly, that's another that a few friends at least used to retweet.

==

Sadly, two-sidesism at Consortium News appears to be growing. Sharon Tenison's attempted normalization of Putin, and the commentariat there, are laughable. You write a whole piece like this without the name of Litvinenko? Oh, and Sharon? "Russian culture" is not the same as "Vladimir Putin."

Here, "Idries Shah-ism" would point out things I already know:
1. The US manipulating Russia's 1996 Yeltsin re-election
2. The US shock wavers manipulating Russia's economy
3. Clinton breaking oral pledges by Poppy Bush not to expand NATO eastward.

It would at the same time note Putin's poisoning of Litvinenko, Putin's failure to fully control Russian alcoholism problems (despite Tenison trying to claim he has) and attending continuing decline in male life expectancy, his tight control over Russian society (Tenison also didn't mention the Pussy Riot arrests, the "bracketing" of Navalny and other things) and the fact that he's made himself a president-for-life.

These are all basic facts on the ground.

And, from inside Russia, Putin has been a skilled bureaucratic infighter since his first election in 2000. In fact, it was that same bureaucratic infighting that let him shove aside previous favorites of Yeltsin and emerge as Boris' final fair-haired boy. The relatively non-Russophobe Christian Science Monitor reflected some of these same current bureaucratic changes, namely, Putin's rapproachment with siloviki, back in 2015.

Other than confusing Vladimir Putin with Russian culture, I almost wonder if Tenison didn't get a bit of Potemkin village treatment.

Meanwhile, Parry fils had a post after this with more stuff about the "new" Consortium News. Said they'd been getting trolled on Twitter. I said I hadn't trolled, but that I had commented both there and on Twitter about them engaging in two-sidesism and how I had no real use for Johnstone.

And, this is obviously part of the Deep State's conspiracy against Trump:
Denything these poor people security clearances!

February 02, 2018

#WayTooSoon hot take on 2019 Cooperstown eligibiles

Now that Chipper JonesJim ThomeVladimir Guerrero and Trevor Hoffman have been voted into the Hall of Fame, with my take on that here, what lies ahead for those on the 2019 ballot? (If David Schoenfield can offer his take on next year this, so can I.)

Starting with returning players, first, let's take the "gold dust twins," or "roid shot twins," Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Both were in the mid-50s this year, up just a couple of percentage points from last year. Don't expect either to break 60 percent next year.

Other returnees who had been on the ballot already?

Edgar Martinez, in his next-to-last year of eligibility, fell just 20 votes short. There will be a push for his name next year. Expect him to make it.

Mike Mussina approached 65 percent. With five years of eligibility left, he seems a good shot to make it, and possibly next year. I'll put 60-40 odds in his favor for 2019 and that may be conservative.

Now, let's look at who will be new on that ballot.

Mariano Rivera is a lock next year, but if you look at first-year candidates on next year's ballotRoy Halladay is the only other semi-possible one I see. Todd Helton and Andy Pettitte are the only two other players with 52 WAR or more.

Helton, like Larry Walker, may face anti-Coors Field bias even though WAR does park neutralization. Plus, he had an early decline for playing a "light" position like 1B.

Pettitte has never struck me as HOF material. But, if Jack Fricking Morris can get veterans to vote him in based on one game, and ignoring sabermetrics, maybe Andy can get voters to do the same because he's a Yankee with lots of postseason games. If he's above 37 percent, he's got a shot with the voters.

Speaking of?

Mr. 37 percent of this year, Omar Vizquel, has too much uncritical love from the aforementioned Schoenfield and other writers. I worry what that portends for a Hall candidacy that is little more worthy than that of Jack Fricking Morris.

Two other first-year players on the ballot will return for 2019. Former Cardinals and Reds third-sacker Scott Rolen barely broke the 10 percent mark. I think he suffers from three things — a direct comparison to/overshadowing by Jones, a relative lack of counting stats that ties into that, especially on the power issue, and a number of nagging injuries in his career that are part of why he doesn't have some of those big counting stats. (He had 2,000 fewer PAs than Chipper.)

Andruw Jones played some great defensive CF at his peak. But, is it enough? Just barely — he got just over 7 percent of the vote. With a weak class of 2019 first year players, he and Rolen will stick for another year. And, for people who question modern calculations of total zone runs and defensive runs saved, does he really have more than Ozzie Smith or Mark Belanger? (He's also hurt by playing his last full season at age 30 and having less career offensive value than the Wiz.)

Beyond Halladay, Helton and Pettitte, I don't see any other first-year players of next year breaking 5 percent. (Sorry Big Puma Lance Berkman.) If the gold dust twins stay steady, besides the trio I expect to enter Cooperstown, Curt Schilling likely benefits the most, possibly passing both of them to 60 percent.

And, on the alleged self-enhancers, otherwise?

Baseball purists will note that the Hall of Fame has a morals clause as justification for keeping them out.

Their defenders will note the morals clause is selective. Besides past players like Ty Cobb with less than stellar characters (although Cobb almost certainly was NOT the racist his first biographer made him out to be), three managers who ran teams with likely steroid users on them — the Joe Torre who managed Clemens, along with Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox — are already in the Hall. So is former Commissioner Bud Selig, who presided over the whole steroids era mess.

Ideally, I'd like to see Bud and the Three Managing Amigos all booted. In reality? Yes, the commissioner and managers overlooked this, but the players made their choices first. Big Mac was roiding, in all likelihood, well before the 1994 strike. And here's someone who agrees.

Per George Mitchell himself, the gold dust twin had their chance to try to clear their names when mentioned in the Mitchell Report. Both declined, and Clemens even went on to lie about that.


February 01, 2018

Beto O'Rourke, ConservaDem? ModeratoDem at least

Yes, O'Rourke talks a good game on issues like marijuana legalization. And yes, pretty much like Sema Hernandez, he's not taking PAC money, although a lot of his individual donors are high rollers. Yes, he's pro-choice.

But, the old saying? Talk is cheap.

Per VoteSmart, he's actually only moderately left of center on big biz issues. He's good on snooping-type civil liberties, but not perfect on resisting Religious Right encroachments on that part of the First Amendment.

And VoteSmart may be kind.

GovTrack rates him as 56th most conservative House Democrat, based on votes in the previous Congress, during Obama's last two years in office. A graphic on this page has further illustration. Given that the Democrats have 191 House Congresscritters, that puts him in the most conservative one-third. He's roughly in the middle of the pack, in Joaquin Castro territory, among Texas House Dems.

Now, Brains was dinging me pretty good a couple of weeks ago, then I responded, and he posted that in his own version of a Texas Progressives wrangle.

That's even though I think Sema is the better candidate and said so in both posts.

It's just that part of the target practice at Beto from the left comes close to "gotcha." Maybe over it.

I may have pushed back too far on the health care. But, I think other stuff was gotcha or near it.

Still do.

So, Brains, I can call him a ModeratoDem, or maybe even a ConservaDem.

(Feb. 9 — Updated proof of that is his vote for bombs and against Dreamers.)

And, at the same time, I can still call semi-gotcha on the PAC issue. And full gotcha on the universal service issue. And, for good measure, saying 'let's call him Bob." He's not the only "Robert" to have "Beto" as a nickname, and whether he took himself or others gave it to him, it was when he was pre-18. So, I stand by my first post, in large part.

==

This whole issue leads me to once again refer to a classic quote by philosopher Idries Shah:
To see "both sides" of a problem is the surest way to prevent its complete solution. Because there are always more than just two sides.
A couple of additional interpretive points by me.

First, sometimes there are more than two issues involved, which is part of why there are more than two sides.

Second and more importantly, knowing and accepting Shah's observation in no way guarantees a "complete solution."

January 31, 2018

Texas Progressives discuss pre-primary #txpolitics

The Texas Progressive Alliance bets you failed to be as bored by the State of the Union address AND the official minority response as it was brings you this week's roundup.

Off the Kuff shakes his head at the lawsuit filed by Republicans in Dallas County to knock 128 Democratic candidates off the primary ballot.

SocraticGadfly takes a look at recent issues surrounding Chelsea Manning and suggests she might be a celebrity candidate, social media and cyberworld division.

Brains and Eggs offered up Part 4 in his Resistance vs Revolution series.

Neil at All People Have Value wondered how it came to be a big giant gun out in the open is fine, but sticks on a banner need to be addressed by law enforcement. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

Dos Centavos notes that Dreamers as well as the Wall are in the middle of a big tussle.

Lewisville Texan Journal notes that a self-identified former conservative Republican has become some sort of progressive Democrat to run for a state House seat.

=====================

And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

At the Dallas Observer,  
Tory Gattis finds nothing to panic about in Amazon's rejection of Houston for its HQ2.


Offcite writes on the intersection of immigration and food.

SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez demands immediate action on DACA.

The TSTA Blog calls out Greg Abbott's lousy job on dealing with the special education limits.

Grits for Breakfast fact checks claims about the incarceration rates of 17-year-olds.

Texas Vox discusses climate change and the upcoming primary.

-->
Pro Publica looks at alleged kickbacks for building a Texas section of Trump’s fucken wall.

January 29, 2018

#Cardinals crickets over Brew Crew moves

First, a friendly reminder to John Mozeliak that the Cardinals did not finish second in the NL Central last year.

They were THIRD — also behind the Milwaukee Brewers.

The Birds made a good move with trading for Marcell Ozuna (with a decent give-back to Miami of Sandy Alcantara, Magneuris Sierra, Zac Gallen and Daniel Castano). Unfortunately, either Christian Yelich (who I preferred) either wasn't available at the time, or else Mo wouldn't pay the asking price.

Also, unfortunately, the Brewers have now done that (which sending a good package of prospects, Lewis Brinson, Monte Harrison, Isan Diaz and Jordan Yamamoto back to Miami).

They've now topped that with signing Lorenzo Cain as a free agent. While some folks at places like MLBTradeRumors are wondering if it's an overpay, I don't think so. While it does take the team one year deeper into Cain's age than the Cardinals' similar contract with Dexter Fowler a year ago, it's for a bit less money, has only a partial no-trade at the end of it —

And Cain is a better player.

I suspect that Derek Jeter did offer Yelich already a month ago. Price might have been a bit higher than now, but not that much. And I suspect Mo took a deliberate pass. I'm not sure what names would add up to equivalent value from St. Louis but I rank the Brewers' package for Yelich about 25-03 percent or so higher than what the Cards gave for Ozuna.

Ryan Braun still has a decent bat and is available to the Brew Crew for three more years plus a team option at $15M. In short, the Brew know what they've got out there for years to come and can build elsewhere. (Or — and with his willingness — Braun can move to first base. That presumably means Eric Thames, with a relatively low contract, gets moved, presumably for pitching. Of course, that presumes Keon Broxton will improve that much in the outfield.)

Meanwhile, Official.Cardinals.Media.™, aka the Post-Dispatch, has nothing in its own analysis of the move, or of Mo's comments a week ago that the team was generally satisfied now, and if that's still the case. No interview with Mo. Bupkis. Indeed, in Slide 12 of this slideshow, Jose de Jesus Ortiz claims that with Yelich, but not yet with Cain, the Cards of 2018 were still better than the Brew.

Update: Rick Hummel, who generally continues to fall lower in my estimate of P-D writers and columnists, claims the Brewers' pitching problems will keep them behind the Cards. This is even while admitting Mo is standing pat on a staff in flux in St. Louis. He then claims Cain and Fowler are "similar players." Cain has three 5-WAR years; Fowler has none. And, while Cain showed some decline in center field last year, he's still a plus defender, and Miller Field, being smaller than Kaufman, will help him extend his career there.

Hummel then goes on to claim the Cards have the best pitcher in the division. Yes, Carlos Martinez may have better stuff than Jon Lester or Kyle Hendricks, assuming Jake Arrietta doesn't return to Chitown, but he hasn't translated that into results yet.

Also, if one values consistency, he's wrong about Ozuna being better than Yelich.

Bernie Miklasz, while thinking the Crew overpaid somewhat for Yelich, also indicates he thinks the Cards may now be looking up again.

And, one of Bernie's ESPN Radio compadres, agrees with Bernie even more strongly. Indeed, Kevin Wheeler thought the Brewers were even with the Cards BEFORE the Yelich and Cain moves. Interestingly, Wheeler also expects Cain to go to right and Yelich to play center. I can see that in another year, but think the Brewers don't want to shuffle that much this year, and Cain is still a plus defender. (In his career, Yelich has been modestly above average in left, and modestly below average in center.)