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Archive for March, 2013

Putting the “Gross” in Gross Exploitation

[ 73 ] March 31, 2013 |

Well, that was horrible to see.

But at least the players risking their bodies while making tons of money for schools, networks, and various administrators are permitted to be compensated fairly, at whatever the market will bear!

…credit where credit is due: Sirota is right about this.


I couldn’t understand conservative outrage over Google’s “Cesar Chavez” logo

[ 71 ] March 31, 2013 |

Until I thought about what it looks like in their heads:

I’d be upset too if I expected something Christian like Easter eggs and saw that instead.

UPDATE: Turns out my sarcasm was prescient. Team Malkin for the win! Winners abound!

UPDATE II: And of course, [a] Glenn Reynolds [clone posting at Glenn Reynolds’ site] can’t help but add: “ notes that ‘Google’s Easter insult sparks Twitter backlash, mockery,’ as well it should.” It’s almost as if he doesn’t know that the entire point of is to manufacture and amplify “grassroots” “Twitter backlash.” (Or like it’s in his best interest to pretend not to be a party to the scam.)

UPDATE III: When I added the words “Glenn Reynolds” to this post, Typepad’s “Related Posts” recommendations changed to:

Related posts

I’m not saying nothing about anything. I’m just saying.

Is This 1992 Again?

[ 68 ] March 31, 2013 |

As regulars will know, inner circle Hall of Fame commenter Howard and I have a running charity bet in which I wager that the Yankees will win the division and he takes a McClellan-like evaluation of his own team’s chances; alas, I’m usually right, and Planned Parenthood gets richer either way. This year, however, the Yankees look to be fielding their weakest team since their run of dominance started when they were baseball’s second best team in 1994. So while I’ll propose the same annual bet, the odds would be generally considered against me. Indeed, appropriately if we’re returning to the early 90s the Blue Jays are the consensus pick for the AL East, and I hope this is right!

Interestingly, though, the Baseball Prospectus projections still show the Yankees as the best team in the division, 7 games better than Toronto. I thought I’d go through the projections position by position to see if I think they’re plausible. (Numbers for regulars and half-regulars only, counting players once; so Youkilis gets full credit at 3B but none at 1B).

CATCHER: Blue Jays +1.4 This seems about right. The Yankees are just punting the position, of course, and it’s hard to imagine they couldn’t have found a way to keep Martin while hitting their 2014 salary target. The damage is mitigated in this case, though, because Arencibia doesn’t really bring anything but medium-range power to the table. Still, in his age 27 year Arencibia has a little upside, so this is probably conservative.

FIRST BASE: Yankees +0.5 Here, I think the PECOTA is just flat-out wrong. The Encarnacion projection is conservative but I’m inclined to be believe sound; I think he was a little over his head last year. But I think expecting 400 PA of fairly high-quality performance from Teixeira is unrealsitic; there’s a good chance he won’t play at all this year, and even if he’s back in June you have to wonder about how well he’ll play coming back from a serious wrist injury. If the definitively replacement-level Overbay ends up getting more playing time than projected this becomes an edge for the Jays pretty quickly, and if Encarnacion can have a year comparable to last year a big edge.

SECOND BASE: Yankees +2.6 No argument here; indeed, perhaps a bit conservative. Obviously, Cano is a key to the Yankee season; he has to be an MVP candidate again if the Yankees are going to make up for their holes. I think he will. Certainly, he’s far more valuable than IzFacio.

THIRD BASE: Yankees +0.7 Again, this seems pretty generous to New York. I like the Greek God of Walks as much as anyone, but 540 PA of high-quality performance seems towards the top range of possible outcomes, and the defense on the left side of the Yankee infield is going to be ugly. It’s pretty easy to see Lawrie being more valuable.

SHORTSTOP Blue Jays +2.9 Of course, the Jays are likely to get the Cano gap back here. Reyes’s performance level bounces around a bit and like most middle infielders he gets hurt, but he’s a championship quality player. It’s dangerous to write Jeter off — he’s coming off a shockingly good offensive year — but a 38-year-old SS coming off a serious ankle injury who’s not ready for Opening Day, you have to consider the possibility that he’s done, and given that he didn’t have any range when he ran well the defense is likely to be even worse than usual. Backing Jeter up is Eduardo Nunez, who combines Jeter’s range, Jose Offerman’s reliability, and Angel Berroa’s bat.

LEFT FIELD Yankees +0.8 Assumes Granderson plays left; my understanding is that it won’t happen but it doesn’t matter in this context. This seems right; Graderson’s injury doesn’t figure to have the lingering effects of the Jeter and Teixeira ones, and while it’s hard to know what to make of Melky I’ll believe he’s a championship quality OF when I see it again. Also, I include the obligatory mockery of the Yankees blowing substantial money because having two shitty backup outfielders wasn’t enough.

CENTER FIELD Yankees +2.1 I certainly like Gardner more than the perennially disappointing Rasmus, but particularly given Gardner’s difficulty staying on the field I don’t like him this much more.

RIGHT FIELD Blue Jays +2.5 Again, seems a little generous to NY. I love Ichiro! but at 39 he’s an adequate corner OF at best and a replacement-level one at worst, although his glove will help. If Joey Bats can play 145 games (granted, a big if) this seems like it could be a 4+ win edge for Toronto.

Basically a wash, neither team really has anything you can be happy with. Hafner has a little more upside, Lind is more likely to make it to May without a season-ending injury (which, in his case, is a mixed blessing.)

ROTATION Yankees +0.6 Overall, this isn’t unreasonable, although it’s a little charitable to the Yankees. Dickey is badly underrated at 1.9 WARP; I know he’s old, but coming of a 54/230 W/K ratio PECTOA is making too much of that (and Kuroda isn’t getting that kind of discount.) On the other hand, PECTOA places more faith on Johnson’s health that I would. Still, you can see a potential edge for the Jays here — if Dickey is comparable to Sabathia, which is very possible, the Jays are likely to be better overall given their depth.

BULLPEN: Yankees ~ + 2.0 A genuinely big edge for the Yanks, who have at least two premimum-quality closers, which is two more than Toronto, and some other good arms. I could see the Yankees overperforming their Pythagorean if Rivera has one more healthy year in him.

So what does this tell us? Well, the Yankees certainly could finish ahead of Toronto, and could win the division. Pre-season picks tend to focus on offseasons, and certainly Toronto got a lot better while the Yankees got worse, but we should also remember that the Yankees were about 200 runs better last year. Making up that gap won’t be easy. Still, I’d lean towards Toronto. The projection systems can’t predict complete collapse seasons, but there are several positions the Yankees could get almost nothing out of this year — SS, 1B, RF, maybe even 3B — in addition to the one position where they’re not even trying to get anything. I’m probably with the consensus that this year the Yankee luck will run out. The next question I’ll have to consider — should Tampa be considered better than Toronto, who are being overrated a bit?

Global Warming, As Seen from 1982

[ 27 ] March 31, 2013 |

Yet another factor enters into the world food picture – a new and ominous phenomenon. The climate of the world seems to be changing; it may, say our best scientists, be warming up. This slight, almost imperceptible, but relentless warming of the past ten years has already brought tragedy, and may forecast worse. The southern fringe of Africa’s Sahara desert, the Sahel, has already spread to parch central Africa. A decade of sorrow and starvation have followed. The same climactic change has punished Russian food production — first in 1972, again in 1975, and again in 1981.

White, Theodore H. 1982. America in Search of Itself: The Making of the President, 1956-1980. Harper & Row, New York. pp 139.

I don’t have enough information about the two specific events cited above (African starvation or the three bad harvests in Russia) to know if the causal claim (e.g. climate change –> drought –> starvation) is robust, but a mainstream journalist discussed the concept 31 years ago, and yet there are some who still debate the phenomenon. While I don’t know the extent to which the actions of humankind were blamed in 1982 (which does seem to be a fair percentage of the remaining debate), by the time I was taking meteorology in college in 1988 the existence and cause were both clear, but not yet embraced as consensus. Given that my meteorology class in 1988 was treating it as cutting edge science, I’m impressed to see White put it in print in 1982.

Why Not Just Call it the “Treason in Defense of Slavery Bar and Grill”?

[ 130 ] March 31, 2013 |

Circumstances in which naming your new business after Jefferson Davis are appropriate?

On behalf of our family at the Jefferson Davis Inn we would like to thank you for your support of the new “JDI.” Please join us for a private celebration to be held at six o’clock Saturday, March 2nd on the third floor of the new JDI. Heavy H’ordeuvres, beer and wine provided. Additional parking available at the car wash next door.

The Jefferson Davis Inn locally referred to as the “JDI” was originally located at West High and Limestone Streets where Jefferson Davis lived while attending Transylvania University. A historic marker still exists on the original building. The JDI was a popular bar that served good foods, spirits and great music until it closed in 1996. Now, the JDI is reborn.

Welcome to the new era of the JDI where the mahogany meets the oak, the hand cut stone embraces the fire, and the bourbon gets sipped nice and slow. In these new surroundings the gastro pub-fair is southern in grace, flavorful in charm and on every level you’ll find something new, and impressive. Whether you are looking for a big screen to watch the game, a bourbon bar to tantalize your taste buds, or a private room to have that special event, the JDI has something to offer everyone – a beautifully crafted tribute to good times of the past, and good times to come.

The JDI offers a wide array of decadent southern pub food including smoked on-site pulled pork, chicken and waffles, and a “JDI” burger that you won’t forget. If you have a sweet tooth try the funnel cake fries and tantalizing bananas foster waffle. With a dozen draft beers and nearly seventy choices of Kentucky Bourbon, the JDI has the beer and spirits for you.

None. Just… none.

…this point regarding tolerance and discriminatory businesses is relevant.

Slavery and Capitalism

[ 48 ] March 31, 2013 |

It can’t be stated often enough that slavery was inexorably tied with the rise of capitalism in the United States. Historian Walter Johnson:

Without slavery, however, the survey maps of the General Land Office would have remained a sort of science-fiction plan for a society that could never happen. Between 1820 and 1860 more than a million enslaved people were transported from the upper to the lower South, the vast majority by the venture-capitalist slave traders the slaves called “soul drivers.” The first wave cleared the region for cultivation. “Forests were literally dragged out by the roots,” the former slave John Parker remembered in “His Promised Land.” Those who followed planted the fields in cotton, which they then protected, picked, packed and shipped — from “sunup to sundown” every day for the rest of their lives.

Eighty-five percent of the cotton Southern slaves picked was shipped to Britain. The mills that have come to symbolize the Industrial Revolution and the slave-tilled fields of the South were mutually dependent. Every year, British merchant banks advanced millions of pounds to American planters in anticipation of the sale of the cotton crop. Planters then traded credit in pounds for the goods they needed to get through the year, many of them produced in the North. “From the rattle with which the nurse tickles the ear of the child born in the South, to the shroud that covers the cold form of the dead, everything comes to us from the North,” said one Southerner.

As slaveholders supplied themselves (and, much more meanly, their slaves) with Northern goods, the credit originally advanced against cotton made its way north, into the hands of New York and New England merchants who used it to purchase British goods. Thus were Indian land, African-American labor, Atlantic finance and British industry synthesized into racial domination, profit and economic development on a national and a global scale.

When the cotton crop came in short and sales failed to meet advanced payments, planters found themselves indebted to merchants and bankers. Slaves were sold to make up the difference. The mobility and salability of slaves meant they functioned as the primary form of collateral in the credit-and-cotton economy of the 19th century.

It is not simply that the labor of enslaved people underwrote 19th-century capitalism. Enslaved people were the capital: four million people worth at least $3 billion in 1860, which was more than all the capital invested in railroads and factories in the United States combined. Seen in this light, the conventional distinction between slavery and capitalism fades into meaninglessness.


[ 12 ] March 31, 2013 |

A must-read story on the problems with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, focusing on glue poisoning in a North Carolina furniture factory. The article describes OSHA as “the watchdog agency that many Americans love to hate and industry often faults as overzealous.” I’m not really sure about the former part of that formulation, but the latter is certainly true. And therein lies the problem with OSHA. When it was founded, it had real potential to regulate the workplace environment. Organized labor took advantage of OSHA’s existence to empower workers on the shopfloor, pushing for new regulations, testing of air quality, right-to-know laws on chemicals, and all sorts of things. One chapter of my book is about how the International Woodworkers of America became one of the nation’s most proactive unions when it came to OSHA.

But the election of Reagan in 1981 effectively ended OSHA’s potential to reshape the workplace. Suffering from industry complaints, reduced funding, and regulatory capture, OSHA just does not have the ability to enforce all these regulations. Too few inspectors, too little money, too much industry pressure.

And let’s be clear–industry has been completely fine with their workers getting sick and dying all the way to the 19th century. From the days of Alice Hamilton and the first health reformers around 1900 going until 2013, industries have denied their culpability in workplace illness, blamed workers for their own sickness, influenced politicians to not fix problems, and eventually moved the factories to China in order to continue profiting off of workers’ destroyed bodies. Sometimes, workers suing companies could force some change–corporate support of workers’ compensation legislation in the 1910s happened because successful lawsuits worried industrial leaders. So this is not an issue just of the present–it’s an issue of poorly regulated capitalism. Looking over this history, it’s kind of amazing that OSHA was created in the first place, but the political will simply hasn’t existed over the decades to force industry to make workplace health a priority. We can’t even imagining creating laws that would force American companies to have safety standards in factories abroad that would comply with American laws–but there’s no reason we shouldn’t fight for this.

Drought’s Rippling Effects

[ 10 ] March 30, 2013 |

When you rely on fully industrialized waterways for transportation, the effects of drought on industry that don’t obviously rely on rain (like agriculture) can still be quite devastating. Such as the auto industry.

Wounded Knee and Property Holder Ransom

[ 45 ] March 30, 2013 |

The Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890 (also home to the Wounded Knee shootout between AIM and the FBI in 1973) is on the Pine Ridge Reservation. But not all reservation land is owned by Native Americans because of the allotment of Indian land under the Dawes Act. The guy who owns the land has owned it since 1968–5 years before the shootout–and he has decided to capitalize. As Ari Kelman notes in his book on the Sand Creek Massacre, the emotional power of Native American sites has given private landowners tremendous power to charge whatever they want for their land, which forces the poorest people in the United States to find the money to not see their history destroyed.

Ideally, the federal government would step in and help out the Oglala Sioux here. But that’s probably not going to happen. First, the government was interested in buying this land in the 90s, but the complexities with the tribe were too great and it backed away. Second and related, tribal politics are a labyrinthine nightmare, which makes getting anything done very difficult. Third, the tribes often don’t want the government telling their history. Fourth, there’s not exactly a lot of money to be had today from the federal government for something like this.

It’s unlikely the land actually goes onto the open market. It’s even more unlikely that if it does, a sympathetic buyer won’t come buy it and donate it to the tribe. We’re not going to see a casino on the site of the Wounded Knee Massacre. But it’s at least theoretically possible that we could, given that landowners with allotment holdings have all the power here.

Personally, I’d like to see the federal government declare all allotted holdings with the reservations null and void and use eminent domain to take them back if the owners don’t sell at a reasonable price. But fat chance we’ll ever see that, in part because conservative western politicians and their often racist constituencies would go ballistic.

Hugo in Heaven

[ 50 ] March 30, 2013 |

A typically subtle Venezuelan state animation showing Hugo Chavez in heaven met by his revolutionary ancestors:

The group includes Cuban Revolution leader Che Guevara, Latin American liberator Simón Bolívar, Argentine first lady Eva Perón, Chilean President Salvador Allende, Nicaraguan revolutionary Augusto César Sandino, and indigenous Venezuelan chief Guaicaipuro, according to Venezuela’s Agencia Venezolana de Noticias. But the most high-profile role goes to someone less famous: Chávez’s grandmother Rosa Inés, who beckons the Venezuelan leader closer. According to the news agency, she helped inspire Chávez’s “humanitarian values.”

$4-6 Trillion

[ 82 ] March 30, 2013 |

Always worth remebering that the in addition to the horrific human costs, the financial and opportunity costs of the Iraq War were massive.

Because people on the Interwebs demand “MOAR CATS”

[ 62 ] March 29, 2013 |

SEK sits down to eat dinner in the living room. His cellphone rings, and because his wife is spending the night in the desert, he runs to his office to answer it. He returns to find CAT on the makeshift table.

CAT: I don’t know what you’re talking about.

SEK: What?

CAT: This isn’t Kraft dinner on my face.

SEK: What isn’t Kraft dinner on your face?

CAT: Your Kraft dinner. It’s all in your bowl.

SEK: So how did it get on your face?

CAT: It didn’t. (CAT licks Kraft dinner off his lips) See?

SEK: And since when have you been Canadian?

CAT: Je ne comprends pas. Au revoir!

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