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The Michigan football mess

[ 111 ] September 30, 2014 |

On Saturday, Michigan’s beleaguered football coach Brady Hoke decided to start sophomore Shane Morris at quarterback against Minnesota, over fifth-year senior and long-time starter Devin Gardner. In the first half, Morris was very ineffective against a weak team over whom Michigan is favored by double digits, despite the Wolverines’ poor play this season.

Early in the third quarter, Morris injures his ankle. His play goes from ineffective to catastrophic, as the injury appears to grow progressively worse. By early in the fourth quarter, Morris’ mobility seems seriously compromised, yet Hoke makes no move to replace him with Gardner. With about 11 minutes left to go in the game, Morris is subjected to vicious helmet to helmet cheap shot a full second after throwing yet another wild pass downfield.

(The key sequence starts at around 2:30 in the video).

The 80,000 or so remaining fans in the stands and a national TV audience see Morris wobble back toward the huddle, and then appear to be kept from collapsing to the turf by an offensive lineman, who props him up while other players in the huddle signal frantically to the bench, apparently in an effort to get Morris pulled from the game before he suffers yet more serious injuries to his brain. The coaching staff appears to ignore these gestures; in any case Morris runs another play. At this point Michigan’s offensive coordinator starts signaling to Morris to go down to the ground, probably to give the disorganized Michigan sideline enough time to finally put Gardner in the game without incurring a delay penalty.

In any case Gardner enters, and 90 seconds later (in real time) loses his helmet while scrambling. Under college rules he has to leave the game for at least one play unless Michigan uses a time out. Instead of using a time out, the staff tries to insert third string QB Russell Bellomy, but Bellomy can’t find his helmet. Someone then decides to send Morris back into the game instead of using a precious time out (Michigan trails by 23 at this juncture and the game is effectively over). Morris goes in, hands off, and then is replaced by Gardner again, who promptly leads the team down the field for a TD, incidentally producing more offensive effectiveness in one drive than Morris was able to generate all afternoon.

During all of this sequence much of the crowd has been booing loudly, in protest of the recklessness of keeping an obviously injured and probably concussed Morris in the game. Even the usually docile announcers on ESPN express something like outrage and disgust.

After the game, Brady Hoke is asked why he didn’t take Morris out, given the ample evidence that the sophomore QB, who celebrated his 20th birthday last month, had suffered a concussion. This was Hoke’s answer:

I don’t know if he had a concussion or not, I don’t know that. Shane’s a pretty competitive, tough kid. And Shane wanted to be the quarterback, and so, believe me, if he didn’t want to be he would’ve come to the sideline or stayed down.

This response helps fuel a firestorm of criticism, to the point where by Sunday evening the story is being reported in the national news media.

Meanwhile, some time between the end of the game and at some point on Sunday (more on the timing of this below), Morris is officially diagnosed as having suffered a concussion by the Michigan medical staff. Remarkably, at his lunch time press conference on Monday, Hoke appears not to be aware of this, even though:

(a) The team practiced on Sunday, and it’s standard for the coaching staff to receive injury reports from the trainers and medical staff after a game and prior to the next practice; and

(b) Hoke acknowledges speaking with Morris on both Sunday night and Monday morning, prior to the press conference.

Hoke says that as far as he knows Morris only suffered a high ankle sprain, and if not for that sprain he would have practiced on Sunday with the rest of the team. He also says he hasn’t spoken, at all, to Michigan’s athletic director Dave Brandon, at any time since the incident, even though the incident has now been a national news story for almost 24 hours, and Brandon normally reviews film of Saturday’s game with the coaching staff on Sunday morning.

Finally, at 1:30 AM this morning, Brandon — a multi-millionaire former CEO of Domino’s Pizza, former Michigan regent, and prospective GOP candidate for Michigan’s governorship — releases a statement admitting that “as of Sunday” Morris had been diagnosed as suffering what Brandon termed a “mild” concussion, and that Hoke’s apparent ignorance of this at the Monday press conference was due to a “mis-communication.”

Later this morning, Brian Cook and John Bacon, two journalists with various sources inside the Michigan AD, separately imply strongly that Brandon spent much of the time between Sunday and Tuesday morning trying to strong-arm the Michigan medical staff into covering up, or at least soft-pedaling, their diagnosis that Morris had suffered a concussion before he was sent back into the game.

Some questions:

(1) When was Morris diagnosed with a concussion? Brandon’s middle of the night statement is phrased in a suspiciously weasel-like way on this point, noting that “as of Sunday” Morris was determined to have been concussed. This phrase sounds loaded with truthiness, as surely Morris would have been examined for a concussion immediately after the game by medical personnel — he was taken off the field and into the locker room on a cart — and if he was diagnosed on, as opposed to “as of” Sunday, why not just say that?

(2) When precisely did Brandon find out Morris had suffered a concussion? Did he have any contact at all with his head football coach between that moment and the Monday press conference? If not, why not?

(3) Did Brandon, or anyone else associated with the athletic department, attempt to influence any aspect of the medical report regarding Morris’s injuries?

(4) Did Hoke attempt to contact anyone, either in the AD or among the medical personnel, about Morris’s condition prior to the press conference? If not, why not?

(5) What does this previous incident tell us about Hoke’s attitude toward his players?

Ball State reprimanded two coaches after a football player suffered frostbite during a disciplinary workout in subzero temperatures.

Ball State’s athletic director issued letters of reprimand to head coach Brady Hoke and football strength and conditioning coach Aaron Wellman [Wellman now holds the same position at Michigan] after the workout, associate athletics director Joe Hernandez said Friday.

Redshirt freshman receiver Chris Jackson suffered frostbite to several fingers during the 40-minute workout Jan. 31, Hernandez said. Jackson recovered following medical treatment and has returned to workouts.
During the Jan. 31 workout, Jackson and several teammates carried a 25-pound sandbag up and down steps at the school’s stadium, athletic director Bubba Cunningham said.

(6) How long is it going to take for the university’s president and regents to fire Brandon and Hoke?

. . . see also Jon Chait for more background on Brandon’s history of megalomania, and the perennial stupid/evil epistemological puzzle.

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I’m Beginning To Think That Arthur Laffer And Stephen Moore Are Not Credible Economists

[ 67 ] September 30, 2014 |

The basic outlines will be familiar to most of you, but John Judis does an excellent job of describing the Koch-induced meltdown in Kansas, filling in a lot of interesting details. (Sam Brownback is obsessed with John Brown, which cannot be a good thing on any level.) The bottom line:

After he had ousted the moderate Republicans, Brownback was able to push an ideologically pure agenda with almost no real opposition. He obtained the power to nominate judges. He reduced tax cuts on the wealthy even more: The rate for the top bracket fell from 6.45 percent to 3.9 percent, and Brownback promised to eventually reduce it to zero when revenues from other sources made up for any potential losses. The economic benefits, he boasted, would be immense. In Denver in October 2012, Brownback predicted “more job creation, more tax revenues, and . . . a much more solid public-sector funding.” The Kansas Policy Institute, for instance, predicted that his tax cuts would generate a $323 million windfall in revenue.


By June of 2014, the results of Brownback’s economic reforms began to come in, and they weren’t pretty. During the first fiscal year that his plan was in operation, which ended in June, the tax cuts had produced a staggering loss in revenue—$687.9 million, or 10.84 percent. According to the nonpartisan Kansas Legislative Research Department, the state risks running deficits through fiscal year 2019. Moody’s downgraded the state’s credit rating from AA1 to AA2; Standard & Poor’s followed suit, which will increase the state’s borrowing costs and further enlarge its deficit.

Brownback had also promised that his tax cuts would vault Kansas ahead of its higher-taxed neighbors in job growth, but that, too, failed to happen. In Kansas, jobs increased by 1.1 percent over the last year, compared with 3.3 percent in neighboring Colorado and 1.5 percent in Missouri. From November to May, Kansas had actually lost jobs, and the labor participation rate was lower than when Brownback took office. The cuts did not necessarily slow job growth, but they clearly did not accelerate it. And the effects of Brownback’s education cuts were also glaring—larger class sizes, rising fees for kindergarten, the elimination of arts programs, and laid-off janitors and librarians.

In fairness, those laid-off janitors and librarians were parasites, not workers. Supply-side works!

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Whose American Exceptionalism?

[ 42 ] September 30, 2014 |

In the recent battles over the new AP U.S. History standards, standards that center nothing more than the standard narrative of most American historians in 2014, one of the right-wing critiques is that they don’t celebrate American exceptionalism, while instead instilling in our young people that they should question authority (the horror!). Among the many problems with these assertions is that the idea of American exceptionalism in service of whatever right-wing agenda is currently popular means forgetting the many ways that exceptionalism has operated in the past. Kevin Levin:

Part of the criticism of the revised AP US History curriculum revolves around the assumption that it undercuts and even contradicts a narrative of America’s Exceptionalism. I don’t believe it does and I base such a conclusion on the fact that I’ve read through it. More accurately, it doesn’t say anything one way or the other. I suspect that the vast majority of critics have yet to read it through.

What I’ve never understood, however, is if some people expect me to teach American history through such a lens, whose understanding of the concept should I teach?

Baptist’s slaveowners fully embraced capitalism. Despite the Panic of 1837 slavery resulted in enormous profits throughout the first half of the nineteenth century and helped to push the nation west on its course of “Manifest Destiny.” Americans celebrated this expansion and the wealth created as a sign of its exceptionalism. I suspect that this is one of the reasons why there is such a need to argue that American slavery was not profitable and that it was on the decline by the eve of the Civil War. Better to see it as positioned in sharp opposition from the kind of post-Civil War capitalist surge than as the engine that pushed it forward. We should ignore the fact that it was John Calhoun’s theory of “Due Process” that was later embraced by pro-big-business legal thinkers during the Industrial Revolution.

No, no, stop with that version of American exceptionalism. We just need to teach that America is awesome. Enough said.

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If You Like MRA Rape Apologias But Generally Find Them Too Coherent, It’s Your Lucky Day!

[ 100 ] September 30, 2014 |

Forgotten but oddly not gone, Camille Paglia has arranged a large number of very poorly chosen words on a virtual page. It contains stuff like this:

Wildly overblown claims about an epidemic of sexual assaults on American campuses are obscuring the true danger to young women, too often distracted by cellphones or iPods in public places: the ancient sex crime of abduction and murder. Despite hysterical propaganda about our “rape culture,” the majority of campus incidents being carelessly described as sexual assault are not felonious rape (involving force or drugs) but oafish hookup melodramas, arising from mixed signals and imprudence on both sides.

We have cultural references for people who find Hi And Lois a little too cutting edge — these kids today with their phones that aren’t even plugged into the wall and their portable music machines that Apple has recently discontinued because they’re horrible people and don’t care about old people like me — that also don’t mean anything. We have an assertion-without-evidence that the problem of sexual violence on campus is overblown. And we have a made-up and reprehensible category called “not felonious rape,” so apparently the problem of sexual violence on campus is “overblown” so long as we erroneously define some kinds of sex without consent as not being rape — or misdemeanor rape? — because brute force or drugs were not involved. This argument hasn’t improved since Katie Roiphie made it all those many years ago.

In other words, we have appalling ideas expressed in prose to match. It can’t get worse from there, I guess, but:

The basic Leftist premise, descending from Marxism, is that all problems in human life stem from an unjust society and that corrections and fine-tunings of that social mechanism will eventually bring utopia. Progressives have unquestioned faith in the perfectibility of mankind.

Not only a strawman, but an incredibly lazy and cliched one.

Misled by the naive optimism and “You go, girl!” boosterism of their upbringing, young women do not see the animal eyes glowing at them in the dark. They assume that bared flesh and sexy clothes are just a fashion statement containing no messages that might be misread and twisted by a psychotic. They do not understand the fragility of civilization and the constant nearness of savage nature.

This is a lot of words and 90s catchphrases to say “if you get raped it’s your fault for not going to class dressed in a burlap sack.” Again, Paglia seems to realize that the only thing that could be more revolting than her prose is her ideas. Oddly, evidence that sexual violence didn’t exist before people starting saying things they mostly stopped saying during the Bush administration is uncited.

I could go on, but just read this golden oldie from The Editors instead. Now there was a guy who could write.

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[ 5 ] September 30, 2014 |

Bill Moyers is finally retiring. Sad but hardly unexpected as he is in his 9th decade of life. A great journalist and a great man.

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Kosher Food Blackmail of American Housewives

[ 86 ] September 30, 2014 |

Back in the days when albums were an important way of communicating with the public, the American States Rights Party decided to release an album teaching us whites the true way, i.e., that Jews are a horror threatening white America. I think released in 1961, some call this the most repulsive record ever. And, well, yeah. However, did that stop me from listening to one side of it? No. And what did that one side tell me? That Jews are responsible for all sorts of horrors, including wall to wall carpeting (I too am outraged). You learn that Martin Luther King was Felix Frankfurter’s puppet. Most importantly, Christians need to avoid buying from Jew-loving companies. This includes Kraft. And Ford. Wait, what? Yes, Ford. Only through these actions will good Christians stop the United States from becoming the Congo. Which given the time might mean the CIA overthrowing a popular leader to put into power one of the most vile and corrupt dictators of the 20th century.

Other things I learned include that Jews also love pornography. Jewish ownership of CBS and ABC led to the betraying of the white race through their support of integration. Peanut butter brands to avoid include Jiffy and Skippy. Drink Lipton tea, not Tetley (no guidance on Twinings? What will I do?) Finally, and this goes without saying, Jews are responsible for the graduated income tax. Of course none of this makes any sense, but it’s worth being reminded, in these days of the right-wing embracing its somewhat mythologized view of Judaism that serves as part of a white army against Islam and bringing in the apocalypse through its expansive policies, of how recently the right saw Jews as equal to African-Americans in the pantheon of threats to whiteness.

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Ban the Confederate Flag

[ 208 ] September 30, 2014 |

California takes a significant step in what I think should be a movement to ban the Confederate flag:

Starting next year, the Confederate flag will no longer be available for sale or on display at government agencies in California. Governor Jerry Brown has signed a new law that prohibits selling or displaying items that have the flag on it.

The law was introduced by Democratic Assemblyman Isadore Hall of Compton after his mom saw a replica Confederate at the Capitol gift shop. As a person of color, Hall says the state should avoid promoting symbols of racism. The gift shop no longer displays or sells the item.

This only applies to sales in places owned by the state, so racists will still be able to buy their Confederate flags at shops off the highway in Needles or whatever. But the state officially designating the symbol as racist and thus moving it in the popular mind as a symbol of hate speech that should eventually be banned nationwide is a really positive move here. Other states should follow California’s lead.

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A Blessing And A Curse

[ 11 ] September 30, 2014 |

In general, I’m inclined to agree that the Supreme Court hears too few cases now that it’s been given near-total discretion over its docket. On the other hand, in general the fewer controversies the current Court resolves, the better.

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Return of the King

[ 9 ] September 29, 2014 |

I stop paying attention for a few months, and this happens:

1 332 353 267 328 3281 8048 99.9
2 324 312 201 292 3210 7819 99.4
3 371 333 357 309 3153 7749 99.0
4 269 374 368 311 3103 7376 95.1
5 373 316 323 308 3073 6810 84.4
6 221 250 320 260 3070 7538 97.2
7 287 296 366 310 3030 7573 97.5
8 308 318 345 274 3015 7145 91.0
9 319 278 226 294 2987 7452 96.1
10 264 329 308 226 2962 7167 91.5

Congratulations to Matt, who has an uncanny skill at the particular game. I’d offer an LGM prize, but Matt has always refused. Next year!

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Resistance in the Pennsylvania Coal Country: Past and Present

[ 23 ] September 29, 2014 |

Last week, I gave a talk at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, titled “Resistance in the Pennsylvania Coal Country: Past and Present,” although in reality, I talked more broadly about Appalachia in the second half of the talk. Anyway, it was filmed and is here if you want to watch it. I can’t seem to embed it so click the link. I got pretty warmed up during the talk and really laid into the horrors of the coal industry.

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Today In the New Gilded Age

[ 244 ] September 29, 2014 |

Let me preface this my saying that the tendency for reviews of Lena Dunham’s work to take the form of reviews of Lena Dunham the person is both irritating and sexist. Nonetheless, when Lena Dunham the person does something bad she should be called out for it, and this is really bad:

Last month, the writer, actor and producer Lena Dunham started an ambitious project. Nearly 600 people responded to an open call for video auditions on her website, including a sand artist, a ukulele player, a cappella singers, gymnasts, performance artists and stand-up comics, even some exceptionally charismatic babies.

The seven who made the final cut won’t be making cameos in “Girls,” Ms. Dunham’s HBO show about Brooklyn 20-somethings. Instead, they’ll be the warm-up acts — performing free of charge — on an elaborately produced, 11-city tour to promote Ms. Dunham’s new book, “Not That Kind of Girl.”

As Nolan says, what’s bad about this is not only did Dunham get a nearly $4 million advance for the book — an advance I have a very hard time believing is justified by the book’s commercial prospects — she’s charging 38 bucks a throw for admission to the talks. If you’re doing that, you really have no possible excuse for not paying the people you hire. Pay them, or do the tour solo. This kind of exploitation is just wrong, and please don’t tell me that you’re paying them in exposure.

…as commenters note, both John Scalzi and Steve Albini are excellent on the general principles here.

…I also agree with Abagail Nussbaum in comments that the publisher deserves criticism for this as well.

…UPDATE: a happy ending.

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Regulatory Capture

[ 93 ] September 29, 2014 |

Salmon and Lowrey on the devastating findings of a ProPublica report on the deference shown by the New York Fed to the firms it’s supposed to be regulating. The former’s depressing conclusion:

So we have a situation where bank examiners have every bureaucratic incentive to do nothing, and they also have a professional incentive to do nothing, lest the banks they’re examining start becoming more financially precarious. And then, as Dan says, there’s a third structural issue at play — which is that senior bankers have much more access to senior Fed officials than junior Fed officials do. If Segarra and her team kicked up a fuss at Goldman, Lloyd Blankfein could pick up the phone at any time and complain to the president of the NY Fed. The president of the NY Fed knows and likes and respects the CEO of Goldman Sachs; he probably never even met a junior staffer like Segarra. (None of this is helped by the fact that the NY Fed is a private institution, whose shareholders include the likes of Goldman Sachs.)

So while Bernstein’s story is an eye-opening look into how regulatory capture works in practice, the people complaining about the lack of a smoking gun have missed the point. The scandal is precisely that ’twas ever thus: that the Fed was captured, is captured, and probably always will be captured by the banks it regulates. If it refuses to admit that there’s even a problem, then there’s no way that the situation is ever going to improve.

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