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He’s Our Closer! And Other Follies

[ 135 ] September 27, 2015 |

When I took the occasion of the Mets clinching the NL East to make fun of Jon Papelbon, I wouldn’t say I anticipated this:

It’s not news that Papelbon is a gold-plated asshole. What’s amazing is that Matt Williams — while taking Harper out — left Papelbon in the game. It’s a meaningless game, your pitcher literally chokes your best player for no particular reason, and…your response is to do nothing. Williams is in over his head on every level, of course, but I insist that this is a reflection of his biggest problem. The systematic underachievement of the Nationals isn’t just some big coincidence. It is appropriate, though, that Williams used the same robotic “he’s our closer” response that he uses to justify his unwillingness to use his best relievers in high-leverage situations. (The fact that today he was using Papelbon in a tie game just makes it more awesome.) He’s a beauty; I hope the Nats keep him forever.

To move up the coaching chain a little, there’s not really any justification for a separate Chip Kelly post this week. On the one hand, they stopped the bleeding; on the other hand, since the secondary was facing (Ryan Fitzpatrick – 2 of his 3 viable weapons), his most expensive running back was unable to play and his expensive QB was highly ineffective (QBR: 25.7), critics of his offseason work have no reason to back off. Since there’s been some good stuff written about it this week, though, I do want to (re)address one narrow issue. I’ve seen very few people defending the Murray signing at this late date, but a lot of people do seem to be insisting that trading a 2nd round pick for the privilege of being the idiot who issues Sam Bradford’s hefty paychecks this year was a good move. The argument, roughly, is that while Bradford is already 27, has a huge litany of injuries, and has been well below-average on those occasions when he takes the field, he has a big arm capable of taking big shots down the field and offering upside that guys like Foles and Sanchez don’t.

The thing is that this characterization of Bradford’s abilities is straightforwardly false. Far from being a big-armed gunslinger, he’s always been Captain Checkdown:

The explanation favored by the Eagles, and not without reason, is that everything wrong with the offense at the moment is linked to an inability to run the football. Whether the problem is a talent deficit on the offensive line, or a fundamental failure to execute, or that opposing defenses have decoded Chip Kelly’s system, the end result is the same. If opponents don’t worry about the run, they can pay more attention to the pass, and specifically to preventing deep passes.

“I don’t think it has anything to do with taking a shot down the field. What we have to do is be able to run the ball vs. a six-man box,” Kelly said Thursday. “[If you do], now you’ve got to get a safety down in the front. Now you have an opportunity to make him pay for getting an extra guy down there. But we haven’t in either game we played, whether it be Dallas or Atlanta, seen an extra defender in the box because we didn’t run the ball well enough to get that extra defender in the box. So there was no opportunity to throw the ball down the field.”

That’s fine and logical, but there have been passes completed in the history of the NFL against teams playing two high safeties. It’s not like threading a needle wearing boxing gloves. Completing a pass in that circumstance might be more difficult, but the great quarterbacks in the league don’t get paid because they can make the easy throws. The difficult ones are what separate them from the pack.

For whatever reason, Bradford has seemed to prefer rating risk above reward during his career. Among all active NFL quarterbacks – a list that includes 30 with enough lifetime attempts (1,500) to qualify – Bradford is ranked 30th for both yards per attempt (6.3) and yards per completion (10.7) over his entire career. Those numbers not only put him miles from guys at the top of the lists such as Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady but also behind lesser lights such as Rex Grossman, Chad Henne, and Matt Cassel.

BTW, I love the first two sentences of the third quoted paragraph. One favorite technique of apologists for Darrell Bevell’s Super Bowl-losing atrocity is to observe that the Patriots had their BIG BODIES on the field. Typically, apparently, Lynch’s successful runs in short-yardage situations have come against dime packages, because no NFL defensive coordinator has ever considered putting in his best run defenders in on short yardage situations before. Moving right along, when the trade was made Barnwell had more sophisticated data:

Foles was incredible throwing deep that season, doing so effectively and on a frequent basis. Bradford didn’t throw deep at all, and when he did, he posted a dismal QBR. In his career, 9.9 percent of his passes have traveled 20 yards or more in the air, which ranks 24th out of 29 qualifying passers over that time frame. His QBR on those throws was also 24th out of 29. And his average pass has traveled just 7.5 yards in the air; only Alex Smith has managed to be worse.

Rams fans complained after the article that it somehow wasn’t Bradford’s fault — that, through all the offensive coordinators and draft picks and free-agent dollars spent on receivers and linemen, it was everybody else and not their quarterback. But last year, we got a full season of the Rams offense without Bradford. And what do you know? They suddenly somehow found a way to throw downfield! The combination of Austin Davis and Shaun Hill, hardly superstar quarterbacks, threw passes 20 yards or more on 13.4 percent of their passes, the eighth-highest rate in the league. Their QBR on those passes was 93.6, which was 12th among NFL teams. Either Kenny Britt is the greatest downfield weapon the league has ever seen, or Bradford is not a good downfield passer. You pick.

Bradford does not have anything remotely resembling a good long passing game. The data on this point is unambiguous. So the argument is that 1)it made sense to trade a second round pick for a below-average QB because he would fit very well into Chip Kelly’s system although 2)said QB runs like an cement block and doesn’t throw a good deep ball. If your QB allegedly needs a great running game to make downfield plays this means he sucks, and in the NFL an effective running game isn’t actually going to help the QB much anyway. There was no reason to think this would work at the time and there’s even less reason to think it will work now.



[ 85 ] September 26, 2015 |


It was never in doubt! Thanks to the Philadelphia Phillies for trading Jon Papelbon to the Nationals so he could share in their epic collapse.

Obviously, Sandy Alderson had one hell of a trade deadline. The major league leaders in fWAR as of today:

1. Harper 10.1
2. Donaldson 8.4
3. Trout 8.3
4. Votto 7.6
5. Goldschmidt 7.1
6. Cespides 6.7

Given that roughly a third of Cespides’s value came with the Mets, that’s what you call a high-impact acquisition. Evidently, the credit due Alerdson is mitgated by the fact that Cespides was his third choice, but…well done.

While we’re here, I am an admirer of Billy Beane, SUPERGENIUS, but it must be noted that Beane has traded away two of the top 6 in the last two years and doesn’t have a great deal to show for it.  The Cespides trade was fine — he had only one+ year of team control left, and he got Price Lester in return.   But the Donaldson trade…yikes.  Barreto did have a good year with the bat at A ball, but trading away an elite talent with several more years of team control for that little return was a massive blunder.

Oh, and since he’s cooled down I assume we won’t be hearing much about it, but the idea that Cespides should be the NL MVP is insane.  Harper shouldn’t be blamed because Rizzo, Williams et al didn’t do their jobs, and while limiting MVPs to single leagues is arbitrary in this day and age Harper has been the best player in baseball this year by any measure.

Confusion Will Be His Epitaph

[ 84 ] September 26, 2015 |


As the nation’s tanning salons observe a minute of silence, Pareene ties a bow on the Era of Boehner:

It was not a distinguished tenure. His meager accomplishments came in spite of himself and to the great consternation of his Republican colleagues. He pinballed from one pathetic humiliation, usually at the hands of his own caucus, to the next. The only reason Boehner remained speaker for as long as he did—to his eternal regret, it is clear—is because his bitterest opponents were too stupid to figure out how to oust him, and his likeliest replacements never wanted the job.


Because he was dealing with a Congressional caucus increasingly made up of ideologues and idiots, and because he was occasionally forced to betray conservatives in order to stave off catastrophes, moderate pundits occasionally speak, with some fondness, about John Boehner as a man who tried his best to keep his unruly conservative colleagues from doing too much damage.

There is no particular reason to feel any sympathy for the man.

John Boehner was and is an unprincipled ward-heeler who simply couldn’t weather the transition of the Republican Party from a corporatist party with a sizable conservative base to a purely conservative party. Boehner came to power when the priorities of the House Republican caucus were driven by what was effectively straight-up bribery, and his power came from his close ties to industry lobbies. This is the guy, as we all ought to be regularly reminded, who passed out checks from tobacco companies on the floor of the House.


But for a man frequently derided as lacking in backbone, he has stuck to his one overarching principle: Each one of his major legislative compromises as speaker—and even from before he was speaker, like when then-Minority Leader Boehner tearfully begged his Republican colleagues to vote for the 2008 bank bailout—represented Boehner defying the conservative base to act in the interests of the Republican donor class.

The current conservative movement’s frothing, apocalyptic style of politics is the natural result of 30-plus years of resentment-stoking by that same donor class. The monied interests that happily indulged the hysteria of the initial Obama backlash now worry that Jeb Bush can’t beat Donald Trump. Eric Cantor, once Boehner’s likely replacement, and a genuine conservative to his very core, was voted out of office by party activists. It’s long past time for Boehner to get the hell out of Washington and settle into the plush industry “consulting” gig that surely awaits him.

Right now, the best-case scenario for Congress is that the Republican congressional leadership be able to do what the Chamber of Commerce wants at crucial junctures. And it is far from clear that this will happen, or at least that it will be able to happen without a great deal of needless damage being inflicted in people harmed by government shutdowns and the like. In conclusion, Both Sides Do It and How Bout Them Emails?

Fishing For Kim Davis

[ 99 ] September 25, 2015 |


Who will offer a contrarian defense of Kim Davis? Why, Mr. Stanley Fish, of course:

Obviously, these two decisions (and there are many more on either side of the divide) offer different templates for determining how to think about Kim Davis: from the perspective of Smith, Judge Bunning got it right; from the perspective of Sherbert, the state should find a way to accommodate Davis’s deeply held beliefs and not exact as the price for adhering to them her employment and her physical freedom. (She has now been released, but after having been jailed for six days.)

I believe that Oregon v. Smith was in fact correctly decided, and the incoherent argument Fish uses to advocate a free exercise standard that would be completely unworkable in practice is an excellent illustration of why, but let’s leave this aside. Even on its own terms, this argument is rather feeble question-begging that is highly misleading about the legal doctrines he’s discussing. First of all, Adell Sherbert was asking for access to a state benefit, not asking for a right to be paid without doing her job. Second, and more importantly, Sherbert was not a public official with a responsibility to treat citizens impartially. Sherbert was not interfering with the rights of others; Davis is. And, finally, it is in fact far from obvious that Sherbert would mean that “the state should find a way to accommodate Davis’s deeply held beliefs.” Even if we grant arguendo that being required to issue marriage licenses impartially constitutes a substantial burden on Davis’s religious freedom, Sherbert nonetheless allows such burdens if a policy is narrowly tailored to a compelling state interest.

Given Davis’s actions, I think it is entirely obvious that Bunning’s order is consistent with not only Smith but Sherbert. It is arguable that Sherbert requires that Davis not personally have to issue marriage licenses if citizens can still obtain them from her office with no more than a de minimis burden. Had Davis simply allowed her clerks to issue licenses, of course, she would never have spent a day and jail and the question would be moot. But Davis explicitly refused — and refuses — such a compromise, interfering with the ability of other clerks in the office to carry out the law. If any application of Sherbert suggests that Davis has the right to do this, Fish doesn’t cite it.

A central problem with Fish’s argument is that he overstates the difference between Sherbert, as actually applied, and Employment Division v. Smith. The vast majority of state burdens on conduct that potentially conflicts with religious conviction were undisturbed while Sherbert (which, technically, Smith didn’t overrule) was still the reigning standard. Fish, needless to say, is maddeningly slippery about what he thinks the implications of his much broader reading of Sherbert would imply. Rather than address such questions, he uses his familiar tactic of banalities about the marginal cases in which drawing line between private and public spheres is difficult. These banalities are not particularly interesting in any case, and also not relevant to this case, which isn’t a marginal case — Davis is a public official.

Does Fish, for example, think that U.S. v. Lee was wrongly decided and anyone citing a religious objection should be exempt from taxation? If one takes his defense of Davis seriously, it’s hard to avoid this implication. As always, Fish’s argument is either uninteresting and doesn’t actually tell us anything useful about the Davis case (sometimes there are marginal cases in which balancing the free exercise of religion and state regulations of conduct is difficult!) or is transparently wrong and unworkable (neutral state regulation should generally yield to private individual conviction.) As Terry Eagleton has observed, pretty much all of Fish’s arguments proceed like this.

The reasons for Fish’s defense of Davis will not surprise anyone familiar with Fish’s body of work:

Years ago Justice Potter Stewart famously said that the refusal to permit religious exercises in the public schools should be understood “not as the realization of state neutrality,” but as “the establishment of a religion of secularism” (dissent in School District of Abington v. Schempp, 1963). What Stewart sees (but doesn’t quite say) is that neutrality is secularism. A state that declares itself neutral toward religion — will not pronounce on it one way or the other — is a state that has taken religion off the political table and effectively neutered it while pretending to be indifferent to it. “We won’t say yes or no to religion” means that we will operate independently of its perspective; it means, in effect, that we say no to it. It is in the end impossible for the secular state to be fair to religion, not only because fairness is not what religion demands — it demand precedence — but because fairness is a secular value whose invocation always marks the marginalization and downgrading of religious interests in favor of the interests the state has identified as primary. Just ask Kim Davis.

Some decades ago, Fish had an unoriginal and not particularly interesting idea — the liberal state exercises power and makes policy choices — that he considers to be a profound insight, and has been reiterating it ever since. The state is indeed exercising power against Kim Davis based on substantive principles. But so what? The fact that there is never impartiality all the way down doesn’t make the norm that state officials apply the law impartially any less valuable. Does Fish think that public officials should routinely be able to interpose their religious beliefs between citizens and their legal rights and privileges? Presumably not, but if he doesn’t it’s not clear what he is arguing.

Friday Links

[ 52 ] September 25, 2015 |

The Court and Violent Video Games

[ 118 ] September 24, 2015 |


Here’s a contemporary equivalent of the frequent porn screenings that took place in the basement of the Supreme Court in the 60s and 70s:

It’s hard to picture Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, a former solicitor general of the United States as well as a former dean of Harvard Law School, hunched over at a video game console, controller clenched in her hands, playing a violent video game. It is harder still to imagine her opponent, Justice Stephen Breyer, sitting beside her engaged in the virtual combat, all under the august roof of the United States Supreme Court. But it happened. The year was 2011. She would have been about 51; he 73.

Since the face-off took place in Breyer’s office at the high court, we have to assume they were not wearing their robes — though that would have been a sight.

They were, however, playing in the line of duty. They were struggling to decide a major constitutional question: Whether a California law banning the sale or rental of violent video games to minors violated the First Amendment. As Kagan recently told the story at Harvard Law School, neither had made up their minds. It was a “really hard case. A super hard case,” she said.

Brown v. EMA is indeed an interesting and rather hard case. I am inclined to agree with the majority that the ban on the sale of violent video game to minors violates the 1st Amendment. It is true, though, that the law as it stands doesn’t make any sense. Bans on selling sexually explicit material — or, indeed, mere depictions of nudity — to minors are not, under current law, unconstitutional. As Breyer’s dissent points out, this is entirely illogical:

I add that the majority’s different conclusion creates a serious anomaly in First Amendment law. Ginsberg makes clear that a State can prohibit the sale to minors of depictions of nudity; today the Court makes clear that a State cannot prohibit the sale to minors of the most violent interactive video games. But what sense does it make to forbid selling to a 13-year-old boy a magazine with an image of a nude woman, while protecting a sale to that 13-year-old of an interactive video game in which he actively, but virtually, binds and gags the woman, then tortures and kills her? What kind of First Amendment would permit the government to protect children by restricting sales of that extremely violent video game only when the woman—bound, gagged, tortured, and killed—is also topless?

If there’s a good answer to that question, it’s certainly not in the opinion of the Court. Since it’s was written by Scalia, you’ve probably guessed Scalia’s justification rests on his favorite technique, the pure tautology: sexually explicit material can be obscene (and hence exempt from First Amendment protection) but merely violent material cannot because that’s how we’ve always done it. But this distinction — which is also reflected in the norms the FCC applies to broadcast television, which allow a network to build a series around a particularly gruesome serial killer but potentially subjects a network that allows a woman’s nipple to make a brief appearance to be subject to huge fines — is completely indefensible. And there’s the additional problem that as currently interpreted by the Court the First Amendment allows the state to restrict the dissemination of materials that depict nudity but are not legally obscene to minors.

This isn’t to say that Breyer is right that the California ban was constitutional. You can make a good case for leveling up an simply ending the practice of declaring materials legally obscene or (in the case of broadcast media) “indecent”. But the current state of the law doesn’t make any sense. If anything, you can make a better case for allowing the state leeway to restrict violent material (especially to minors) than sexually explicit material.

Where Pride Ended

[ 90 ] September 23, 2015 |


OK, the movie is actually a vanity project mostly financed by the director’s own production company. But I would prefer to think of the decision being made by hack production executives in Armani suits:

“We really need a new idea.”

“I’m thinking it’s time to reboot the Green Lantern franchise. Can we get one of the guys from Twilight?”

“No, no, no. I want a prestige project. Something real classy. Redeeming social value. A Cry Freedom or On the Beach for the 21st century.”

“Hmm. What about the Stonewall riots?”

“That’s brilliant! Gay people are very hot these days. What a story.”

“Do we have a writer?”

“Yup. We have a TV guy who will work cheap. Oh, and surely you remember that Al Pacino/Tea Leoni vehicle from 2003?

“What the hell are you talking about?”

“Don’t worry, he’ll be fine. Who cares about the writing anyway?”

“Fair enough. Who do we want to direct it?”

“Stephen Daldry? His version of Johnathan Safron Foer’s 9/11 novel captured it perfectly.”

“Hmm. I like the cynical manipulation of his work, but he seems a little subtle for our purposes. We want anvils dropped on the head of the audience in the crudest way possible. And I’m looking to get a little more whitebread than Safran Foer.”

“Joel Schumacher?”

“I dunno, seems a little too highbrow. We don’t want this to be too complicated. It’s got to sell to the dumbest person we encounter at a mall test screening. I’m thinking Michael Bay, only with a little less wit and artistry.”

[Execs look at each other]

Roland Emmerich!

Stonewall, a twelfth-rate hack — what could possibly go wrong? Apparently, everything:

Turns out, Stonewall is perhaps even worse than some feared it would be—more offensive, more white-washed, even more hackishly made. It’s so bad that it’s hard to know where to begin a catalogue of the film’s sins. Maybe you start with its leering, bizarrely sex-shaming tone, which has poor cherubic baby-hunk Danny (Irvine)—kicked out of his house by his football-coach father after he’s caught giving the quarterback, yes the quarterback, a blow job—being preyed upon by gross, sweaty, teen-hungry older men upon arriving in New York. In two different scenes, Danny cries pitifully as one of these horrible, horrible men (one of them in grotesque drag) fellate him. (He needs the money, and is then turned out against his will.) Danny shuns the advances of any younger man who isn’t strapping and white, particularly those of Jonny Beauchamp’s Ray/Ramona, a queer Latino street kid who has a big crush on pretty-boy Danny.

Rather horrifically, it’s taken as a given, an implicit fact, that Danny could never, ever fall in love with, or have sex with, someone like swishy, gender-fluid Ray. No, no, people like Ray are meant to forever pine in the shadows for American godlings like Danny. But when Jonathan Rhys Meyers’s character successfully seduces Danny, while playing “A Whiter Shade of Pale” on a jukebox no less, it’s understood to be O.K., because he’s at least a somewhat masculine white guy. In that scene, Emmerich keeps cutting back to Ray’s sad expression as he watches the seduction happen, and though Danny is largely meant to be the audience’s safe, easy stand-in, in that scene I think Emmerich wants us to sympathize with Ray.

Because surely we all wish we could be with a Bel-Ami certified twunk like Danny, right? Well some of us do, sure, but of course plenty of other people are instead into what Ray is selling, or any of the other non-white or non-butch hustlers who populate Stonewall but get only a minimal, pat-on-the-head kind of attention. The movie could never even consider such a possibility, though. Here is a startlingly direct exercising of entitlement: “Yeah, I know in real life it happened to those people, but wouldn’t it be better if it happened to someone like this?”

Another take:

The historical drama, which nominally chronicles the gay liberation riots outside New York’s Stonewall bar in the summer of 1969, is so big, broad, and dumb, it doesn’t feel so much like Oscarbait as it does a Broadway adaptation of Oscarbait. It is formally inconsistent (it’s a history lesson, no it’s a romance, no it’s group therapy, no it’s an ensemble comedy, no it’s a police procedural) and uniformly miserable. The acting is so pronounced and deliberate it pairs woefully well with the ersatz backdrops, which always look like they were shot on a soundstage (they were—for financial reasons, Emmerich shot in Montreal, not New York). The script has the subtlety of a sledgehammer, telling instead of showing each teachable moment in a movie-long series of teachable moments. “I take whatever I want and can, ‘cause if I didn’t, I’d have nothing at all,” says a black character at one point. “Nobody wants me. Not even you. I don’t have anything,” says a Latin sex worker character at another. “These kids have nothing to lose,” says an onlooker during the far-too-brief climactic rioting scene.

“I’m too mad to love anyone right now,” says Stonewall’s protagonist during the denouement. Well that makes two of us.

As a connoisseur of hatchet jobs, I would be grateful for this movie if it wasn’t such a missed opportunity and it wasn’t so insulting on every level. And if Emmerich wasn’t such a clueless asshole.

Yogi Berra

[ 56 ] September 23, 2015 |


His famous malapropisms aside, he was one of the greatest catchers on baseball history, and a centerpiece of perhaps the greatest run of team success in MLB history. R.I.P.

“And the Celebrity on the Maiden Voyage Was Gallagher.”

[ 138 ] September 22, 2015 |


The crimes of Volkswagen are far worse than I could have ever possibly imagined:

The Volkswagen scandal got a whole lot bigger on Tuesday, when the German car company admitted that emissions-test-cheating software might have been installed in as many as 11 million cars worldwide. Regulators — who noticed that the company’s diesel cars looked like they complied with Environmental Protection Agency rules regarding nitrogen oxide, but only when the car was being tested — previously thought only about 500,000 cars were affected.


When the car wasn’t being tested for air pollution, it produced as much as 40 times the nitrogen oxide allowed by the EPA, although the car also got better mileage. Nitrogen oxide is a pollutant that can lead to asthma and emphysema — and these cars were pumping it right into the atmosphere without anyone noticing.

“We have totally screwed up,” Volkswagen’s top executive in the U.S., Michael Horn, told the audience at the launch event for the 2015 Passat in Brooklyn on Monday, an event that was probably less exciting than usual thanks to context and despite the presence of German beer and Lenny Kravitz.

Fuller must have meant “as reflected by,” not “despite.” At any rate, this surely has substantially increased the leverage of federal prosecutors.

The SUPERGENIUS of Richard Dawkins, SUPERGENIUS: The Latest Chapter

[ 257 ] September 22, 2015 |


Richard Dawkins is perhaps the most essential public intellectual in the world — just ask him! He was the first person ever to conclude that God does not exist, and has developed entirely original arguments to make this case. Along with Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris, he has also developed a compelling strategy to convert people to atheism: being as big a dick about it as possible to as many people as possible. I’m sure this will be highly effective; perhaps it could form a third party and really get that Overton Window bully pulpited.

The arrest of Ahmed Mohamed has provided a basis for more shattering insights from the world’s pre-eminent thinker. Now, you might think people thought the arrest of Mohamed was outrageous not because a kid who showed some curiosity and ingenuity was frogmarched out of school in handcuffs even though nobody actually thought what he brought to school was a threat, and in a jurisdiction that has pointlessly banned Sharia law there’s good reason to believe that racial profiling was involved (although, yes, since sometimes white schoolchildren are subject to arbitrary and disproportionate discipline, we cannot prove to an absolute certainty that race was a relevant factor and can all pretend that racism doesn’t exist if we are so inclined.) But that’s not it. Clearly, people thought that Mohamed was a scientific innovator on a par with Galleleo (although not Richard Dawkins, let’s not go crazy here.) And Richard Dawkins is here to tell you that the widely held belief that Ahmed Mohamed invented the very concept of the timepiece itself is not correct. Whew! I think we can all thank Dawkins for this essential contribution to human discourse.

But that’s not all. Why would Mohamed perpetrate such a massive fraud? The idea that he had done something he thought was cool and wanted to bring it to school is nutty, on a par with thinking that fire can melt steel beams or LBJ could have tolerated having a Marxist radical like JFK in the White House. No, clearly this is part of a hidden agenda to make people feel sympathetic for a Muslim teenager by provoking school authorities into an overreaction (that, to be sure, would obviously have nothing to do with his race or religious background.) I find this theory very compelling and would like to subscribe to its Twitter feed! Belle Waring treats these important questions with the seriousness the world’s most important public intellectual merits:

As you assuredly know, a young man in Texas was recently arrested for a “bomb hoax.” Some people think it’s hoaxes all the way down. Dawkins and his compadres are making extraordinary claims, which require…well, any evidence at all, one feels. Let us imagine Ahmed Mohamed’s family has engineered a stunt. Ahmed makes (for some value of make which includes tinkering with maker modules or disassembling and reassembling old electronics. I mean, if you call that making. Which, tbh, I do.) Wait, that wasn’t a sentence. Anyway, he makes a ‘looks-like-a-bomb-on-purpose-but-is-a-clock.’ This thing, note, is in fact: a clock. Although the young man claims deep insight into the nature of time, he is obviously just aping Heidegger in a juvenile fashion, but so be it—so long as it be noted that I have noted he didn’t provide the police a fully satisfactory answer about what the passage of time really entails, I mean, what does the clock tell you when it tells you that another minute has passed and that now, it is now. My rigorous honesty compels me to denigrate his “clock,” simply because I am devoted to The Truth.


Wow. Much openminded. So scientific. OK, sorry, I keep getting off-track for some reason. Right, this hoax is designed to get Ahmed Mohamed reprimanded at school, then arrested, and then become an internet cause celèbré, and then get invited to the White House. First of all, Ahmed and his family have to have judged the over/under for “young brown man thought armed with deadly weapon getting shot by the police” vs. “grievance-mongerer fêted by liberal elitists” a safe bet. I, like, would not take those odds at all. Secondly, for this plan to work, the teachers and police officers have to act like morons all up and down the line. There’s no other way. Really, it has to be a Confederacy of Dunces down there. Do these Clock Truthers realize their grim vision of Texan society is far, far more cynical than mine? Dawkins’ zealotry has obviously clouded his judgment, something which often befalls fundamentalists. To be undeservedly fair, Dawkins has perhaps been walking this back but, you know how it is. You’re a well-respected biologist—but ONE pig. It happens to, like everyone. It’s an experimental phase!

If you think that the pig metaphor will make an appearance the next time Chip Kelly’s huguely expensive backfield gets -.7 yards a carry running behind the NCAA-caliber offensive line he assembled, you’re probably right.

Saying the Quiet Parts Loud

[ 121 ] September 22, 2015 |


Ben Carson edition.

I can’t wait for Michael Kinsley’s column about how we shouldn’t criticize poor Dr. Carson for his comments about how some classes of people should be ineligible for the presidency because he hasn’t actually called for Ahmed Mohamed to summarily executed.

They Can’t Say They Weren’t Warned!

[ 28 ] September 22, 2015 |
The Sopranos - Season 5 - David Straithairn as Robert Wegler, Edie Falco as Carmela Soprano - Abbot Genser/HBO

The Sopranos – Season 5 – David Straithairn as Robert Wegler, Edie Falco as Carmela Soprano – Abbot Genser/HBO

I loved this detail from a story about Carly Fiorina’s tenure at HP:

The deal was so personal to Mrs. Fiorina that she referred to HP as “Héloïse” and Compaq as “Abélard,” a pair whose romantic letters became treasures of medieval French literature, which she studied at Stanford. (Abélard was eventually castrated after fights with Héloïse’s family, a detail Compaq executives were unaware of at the time.)

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