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If They Didn’t Know, It’s Because They Didn’t Want to Know

[ 129 ] September 9, 2014 |

Sally Jenkins:

That Goodell is an unduly vain commissioner, and a self-serving one with his eye on some further prize, has always been obvious. That he obfuscates and evades on tough issues unless they are convenient for him, that his convictions are highly selective and so is his enforcement, has never been more apparent. On Monday morning, with the surfacing of that video, Goodell’s nature became totally clear. The NFL claims in a statement that no one in the league office had previously seen the tape. That is almost surely not the truth, unless the NFL wanted it that way. This is a league that works with Homeland Security, confers with the Drug Enforcement Agency, collaborates with law enforcement and has its own highly equipped and secretive private security arm. You’re telling me it couldn’t get a hold of a grainy tape from an Atlantic City casino elevator? But TMZ could?

If NFL executives and Baltimore Ravens staff had never seen that tape before, there are only two reasons: willful blindness, and the determination to maintain plausible deniability. Two NFL analysts with reputations for impeccable sources, Peter King of Sports Illustrated and Chris Mortensen of ESPN, were told months ago the league had to have seen the tape. Ray Rice’s own attorney had a copy of it. It simply defies belief that league and team officials couldn’t have seen it if they wanted to.

Magary on why your commissioner sucks:

But we don’t need that evidence when common sense can fill in the gaps. The NFL had every chance to look at the tape ages ago. There was NO good reason to deliberately avoid it. Consider:

  • Roger Goodell really likes suspending players, as a way of consolidating power in his office.
  • Roger Goodell really likes making STRONG statements, as a way of ginning up good public relations.
  • Anyone investigating the incident is going to want to see the tape in order to to nail down every last detail.
  • The tape was bound to surface at some point anyway. Lots of people had seen it. Lots of people had talked to people who’d seen it. A random Deadspin tipster, emailing us shortly after the arrest, knew what was on the tape, down to the detail—confirmed today by the AP—that Palmer had spit on Rice.
  • Legally speaking, nothing good can come from avoiding the tape.
  • You could probably guess what was on the tape, given that the other tape shows Ray Rice dragging his unconscious fiancée out into the casino lobby.

Now, Roger Goodell is a big stupid meathead of a guy, but even he isn’t stupid enough to say, “Hey, let’s be shady and bury this thing forever just to protect Ray Rice MWAHAHAHAHAHA.” No way, man. They saw the tape. Of course they saw the tape. They knew what was on there, and they heard Janay Rice state her case in person with her hubby and Goodell and four other high-ranking league and Ravens assholes right there, and they thought, sure, two games sounds all right. And that logic filtered through the league office, down to the Ravens, out to national media hand puppets like Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen, and it hardened into the conventional wisdom. Everything is easily explained if you accept that these are all a bunch of stupid men who think very much alike.

As of right now, the NFL is doing everything in its power to make you believe that it would never be so insensitive, but it’s failing miserably. No lifetime suspension or display of league righteousness will make up for the glaring lack of anger over the past few months. There was no good reason not to watch that tape. They saw it, and they thought little of it, and now they’re praying you don’t notice.

In conclusion, let’s move right along and drive a dumptruck of taxpayer money up to Dan Snyder’s house! To replace a stadium that’s not 20 years old!

…and, yes, it’s worth noting that multiple well-connected not only said that the NFL had seen the contents of the tape, but the league sources accurately described its contents at the time.  The NFL saw the tape; saying otherwise is just a massive intelligence-insulting operation.

How Innocent People Get Railroaded

[ 73 ] September 9, 2014 |

The prosecutor responsible for the grotesque miscarriage of justice Paul mentioned last week is exactly what you’d expect:

“Well, let’s say, if I was a bully, he is a pussy. How about that?” the elder Mr. Britt said. “I think Johnson Britt has been hanging around too much with the wine and cheese crowd.”
Continue reading the main story

Of last week’s ruling, which was spurred by a North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission investigation and supported by the younger Mr. Britt, he added: “I thought the D.A. just threw up his hands and capitulated, and the judge didn’t have any choice but to do what he did. No question about it, absolutely they are guilty.”

But at least he kept the community safe, right? What about the VICTIM’s civil rights?

Nonetheless, the McCollum and Brown case seems destined to become the signature one of Joe Freeman Britt’s tenure. And to critics, especially the current district attorney, it was remarkable what was overlooked: any pursuit of Roscoe Artis as a suspect.

Mr. Artis, who had already served prison time and committed violent sexual assaults, lived next to the soybean field in tiny Red Springs, where the victim was discovered. Investigators found a cigarette there which, at trial in 1984, Joe Freeman Britt implied belonged to one of the killers.

Mr. Artis confessed to and was found guilty of raping and killing another teenage girl in similar circumstances four weeks after — and a short distance from — the murder Mr. McCollum and Mr. Brown were charged with. He remains in prison. There is no sign that investigators or prosecutors pursued the theory that he might have killed both girls.

“What are the chances of this similar, if not same, crime occurring in this small town, and there not being a connection?” said Johnson Britt. “How could they not make this connection? The same prosecutor handled both trials, 90 days apart. I’m still dismayed.”

Oh. Why, I’m beginning to think the public safety value of framing innocent people has been overrated.

Over to you, Arthur:

“We have learned the lesson of history, ancient and modern, that a system of criminal law enforcement which comes to depend on the “confession” will, in the long run, be less reliable and more subject to abuses than a system which depends on extrinsic evidence independently secured through skillful investigation.”

– Goldberg, J., Escobedo v. Illinois.

That Green Lantern Won’t Raise Itself!

[ 16 ] September 8, 2014 |

Shorter some random Fox News hack: “If only Mitt Romney had won, we wouldn’t have had all these domestic violence problems over the years, either.”

…BREAKING: Fox & Friends will always be the stupidest show in the history of television. 

Gerrymandering in Pennsylvania and Maryland

[ 60 ] September 8, 2014 |

Evidently, as long as states have to produce compact, contiguous districts the House will be have a Republican tilt, and hence the role of gerrymandering in creating the GOP’s lock on the House is overrated. But having said that, as Weigel says the difference between a Republican-gerrymandered state and a Democratic-gerrymandered one can be highly consequential.

Let Us Remember the Most Important Part of the Story: He Didn’t Smoke Pot

[ 118 ] September 8, 2014 |

What merits a two-game suspension to from the NFL.  But, as the team would still remind us, this kind of thing entails mutual responsibility: for one person to punch someone in the face requires another person to be punched in the face, so really everyone has a role in the “incident.”

Relatedly, some classic Peter King hackery. 

…to be fair and balanced, it must be noted that we have no evidence that Ray Rice ever committed a real offense of seriousness like selling his NCAA jerseys, threatening the country’s most precious resource, its Noble Ideals of Amateurism.


There are three possible explanations here. The first is that every single reporter who said the NFL had seen the video was lying. This seems unlikely, since they were all telling the same lie, both for public consumption and in their off-the-record talks with us.

The second is that the NFL was lying to all of the top football reporters back then about having seen the video, in some attempt to smear Janay Palmer.

The third is that the NFL is lying now about not having seen the video—that league officials saw what everyone has now seen, for whatever reason actually found it exculpatory, and are now making false claims to protect the league’s image. This interpretation is supported by an employee of the Revel, the Atlantic City casino where the fight took place. He tells TMZ that the NFL saw the footage before disciplining Rice.

Whatever the case, it’s almost certain that the NFL lied at some stage here, and that the league played a handful of its most loyal reporters in the process, suborning them into a smear campaign against a victim of domestic violence.


The Mixed Legacy of Joan Rivers

[ 64 ] September 7, 2014 |

Really good piece. 

2014 NFL II: The NFC

[ 56 ] September 7, 2014 |

NFC East 1. Phi 2. NYG 3. Wsh 4. Dal  This is an easy division to pick, even though it seems pretty unlikely that Nick Foles is the QB he appeared to be in the stats last year (and the criteria for picking his backups appears to be 1)played at USC and 2)shitty.)  Nonetheless, with a first-rate coach the offense will survive a little regression and the loss of Jackson.  And the rest of the division is hideous.  I don’t disagree with Barnwell that Eli is due for some bounceback.  But what Barnwell — who has something of a blind spot about his team’s QB — is leaving out is that Rivers has always been a better QB than Eli, and even at his best Manning was never remotely as good as Rivers was last year.  (Yes, yes, I know, 2-time Super Bowl MVP.  Only 1)nobody really thinks Manning was more valuable than Tuck or Strahan in the first game, and 2)yes, if only Rivers and Marty Schottenheimer hadn’t conspired to force Marlon McRee to return what would have been a game-ending interception then they’d be clutch.  I wouldn’t bet that Eli will even be average this year, and their defense is likely to regress too.   And yet…the Redskins are a dysfunctional organization with an unproven, unimpressively credentialed coach, and it’s hard to know both if RGIII can stay healthy and what his skills are at this point if he does.  (Look for many HOT TAKES arguing that Kirk Cousins and his 5% interception rate and fumble per game deserve the job, which will not go well if it happens.)  The downside potential for the Cowboys is massive.  First of all, you’re taking 39 games of Ware, Lee and Hatcher away from what was already an atrocious defense.  I don’t want to dis Tony Romo, who has become a poster boy for the syndrome of unfairly blaming your team’s best players for its failures.  But he’s 34 and he gets hurt a lot, and if he has an Eli-like decline in performance or gets hurt this team could lose 14 games.

NFC North 1. GB 2. Chi(*) 3. Min 4. Det  On the other hand, every team in this division is vaguely credible — any of the 4 would be contenders in the east.  Of the two offense-first quality teams, I’ll take the one with Aaron Rodgers over the one with Jay Cutler, thanks.  (Also, while Jeffrey is very good whether he’s as good as he looked last year is an open question; he;s one year removed from 24 catches in 10 games, after all.)  My defense of Marvin Lewis shouldn’t be construed as a knock on Mike Zimmer; he’s an excellent coaching prospect, and while you never know where a top coordinator will fall on the LeBeau-to-Belichick head coaching spectrum until you give them the job he has talent to work here and should improve on what was the 27th best defense in the league.  Either Cassel will be good or what I’d bet is the best QB in the 2014 draft class will take over, with Cordarrelle Patterson and the one running back you can count on to be really good to work with. The Lions also have talent, of course. I might pick them as a wildcard if they had hired Smith or Zimmer, but Caldwell was a very strange hire, and while they’re capable of winning double digits the FO projections have them last in the division and I see no reason to disagree.

NFC South 1. NO 2. ATL 3. TB 4. CAR The Saints are one of the 3 or 4 strongest teams in the conference, although their defense might regress a but this year. I have no idea what to make of the Falcons, but Barnwell is pretty convincing that they can be expected to be more 2012 than 2013, although with that defense I don’t see them winning on the road in the playoffs even if they squeak in. There is some reason for optimism in Tampa Bay; not only getting rid of Greg Schiano but adding a coach who took Rex Grossman to the Super Bowl should be worth several wins in itself, and they have more talent than their record last year reflects. I wouldn’t be shocked to see them in the playoffs, but I think they’ll have to find the right QB after McCown turns into a pumpkin. Everyone thinks the Panthers will regress and I’m going chalk; Newton has been given nothing to work with and they don’t even have Newton to start the season.

NFC West 1. SEA 2. SF(*) 3. STL 4. ARI Amidst the discussion of alleged officiating changes, some people — morons, strategic whiners — seemed to be arguing that it was lax officiating that made the Seahawks defense look so good. This isn’t true, and with Harvin healthy this remains the best team in the NFL (although, as we recently discussed, Denver is probably the single team most likely to win the Super Bowl because their path is so much easier.) The injuries and suspensions afflicting the 49er defense are real but the effect has been overblown. It will make it hard for them to win the division, but they remain an outstanding team. I especially like the depth they’ve added at wideout, important in a division with Sherman, Peterson, and the Rams pass rush. On the two defenses-in-search-of-a-QB I’ll stay with the numbers and pick the Rams ahead of the Cards.

The NFL 2014 1: The AFC

[ 67 ] September 7, 2014 |

AFC East: 1. NE 2. MIA 3. NYJ 4. BUF Personnel Person Bill Belichick has finally given Coach Bill Belichick some talent to work with in the secondary, and if Revis stays healthy this will be the best Patriots defense in many a moon. The supporting cast of a declining Brady has been improved as well, although it remains second-rate for the 13 games Gronkowski isn’t on the field. So they’re clearly the class of the division. A lot of analytical types seem to like the Dolphins for the wildcard. I still see team that needed to beat one of two pretty bad teams with nothing to play for and were outscored 39-7, so I’ll believe it when I see it. One of those were the Jets, who weren’t as good as their 8-8 record. Their offense should be improved. Eric Decker is like the Mariners getting Austin Jackson; freed in the Cato sense from Peyton Manning he’s not going to be great, but he’s a massive upgrade on Stephen Hill. But the Jets, with plenty of cap space to work with and plenty of good corners available, because of the injury to Millner are starting the year with a secondary consisting of “some guys Rex Ryan just met at a Hooters,” all of whom are better than Kyle Wilson. Their front 7 is good and Ryan is good, but not that good.  The Bills might not be the worst team in the league, but they may well have had the worst offseason. One of the best players from their excellent 2013 defense left, another is out from the year. They lost one of the league’s best defensive coordinators and replaced him with a guy whose team gave up 478 yards to a team in a massive blizzard. And the Sammy Watkins trade might actually be worse than the Browns’ Trent Richardson debacle. Sure, Watkins is a more valuable prospect ex ante than Richardson, and has to have more after-the-fact value virtually by definition. But two first rounders, when the second is likely to be a top 5? For a wideout on a team that probably doesn’t have an NFL QB? That’s crazy. It’s a sad situation.

AFC North: 1. CIN 2. BAL(*) 3. PIT 4. CLE Any of the top 3 could win the division. I think there is, to be frank, a hint of racism in the amount of credit the Bengals’ coordinators have gotten for the team’s success. Lewis was, after all, the most important coach on a Super Bowl champion that won with Trent Dilfer (the head coach was an offensive coach who never got another head coaching job,) and his record with the Bengals has been good. Their defense is still the best in the division, and while you can’t win a Super Bowl with Andy Dalton we know you can win a division with him. The Ravens are due for some bounceback. The Steelers still have the best QB in the division and you have to respect that. But the defense is in steep decline, and while it’s possible that Legendary Coordinator Dick LeBeau still has his fastball at 76, I note again in the second last game Tim Tebow started as an NFL QB he torched the Steelers for 316 yards and no picks. The next week, we went 9-26 against the league’s 28th-ranked pass defense, and although he was 24 and healthy now has a job getting Woody Paige’s coffee or something. The Browns have a better long-term prognosis than the Bills, and I like the Pettine hire, but with Gordon out the future won’t be this year.

AFC South: 1. HOU 2. IND 3. TEN 4. JAX A little contrarian. I like everything about the Texans except the QB, admittedly a major problem. The Colts are the opposite; the QB is going to the Hall of Fame if he stays healthy, but his supporting cast is what you’d expect from a team run by numbnuts who would trade a #1 pick for a replacement-level player at a position where a good player wouldn’t merit one. They could win again anyway, of course, but I think this year they’ll regress a bit and if the hits start catching up with Luck….I don’t see either the Titans or Jaguars having any real chance of competing in a weak division.

AFC West: 1. DEN 2. SD (*) 3. KC 4. OAK What can you say about the Broncos? The best team in the conference got better. The star is 38 and two years removed from a season-cancelling neck surgery that caused some numbnuts to wonder what his value would be going forward, but that’s the only real question. I’d pick the Chargers to win the Central South without hesitation. I’ll say more about Rivers when I get to the Giants, but I think his performance last year is for real, and the defense should be better. Everyone thinks the Chiefs will regress and I don’t disagree, but they’re certainly not bad. The Raiders are likely to have the worst record in the conference.

David Simon’s First Great Show

[ 109 ] September 7, 2014 |

Homicide is indeed massively underrated. It’s not as good as The Wire overall — particularly towards the end you can hear the network notes making the show not as good as it could be — but it might have had a better cast and at its best was phenomenally good for a broadcast network show.

A Hack Needs A Home

[ 41 ] September 6, 2014 |

Serial plagiarist and serial hack Benny Johnson has found a new job in what can charitably be called the field of journalism. Three guesses on his new employer and the first two don’t count!

“This Is Not A Done Deal”

[ 10 ] September 5, 2014 |

A reminder that as of now the offer to Salaita is still outstanding, and UIUC’s trustees can still do the right thing and honor their commitment. If you haven’t already, you can send a respectful email to the trustees at the addresses provided at Corey’s link. This is important in and if itself, and also important if you care about academic freedom because of the precedent it would set.

A Halbig Troofer’s Desperation Is An Entertaining Thing

[ 53 ] September 5, 2014 |

The architects of the Halbig litigation are very, very upset that the “political” D.C. Circuit would use its explicit authority under the phony-baloney so-called “Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure” to grant an en banc hearing and vacate the risible panel opinion. Their arguments may fail to persuade you:

Since that opinion made Bush v Gore look like a model of thoughtful jurisprudence, the Obama administration asked the full court to reconsider. It will, and their pending ruling is bad news for conservatives who want to preserve Americans’ precious freedom to die totally avoidable deaths because they lack health insurance.

“Today’s decision by the DC Circuit to grant en banc review of Halbig v. Burwell is unwise and unfortunate. It has the appearance of a political decision,” sniffed Michael Cannon of the conservative-libertarian Cato Institute. The chutzpah it takes for one of the architects of the case to accuse the judges who voted to re-hear it of being “political” is like the Atlantic Ocean accusing the creek running behind your house of having too much water.

Is Cannon shameless enough to resort to last year’s idiotic “Obama was ‘packing the court’ by nominating judges to existing vacancies and having Senate majorities confirm them” Republican talking point? You’ll have to click the link to find out!

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