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Come Back Tony LaRussa, All is Forgiven

[ 33 ] September 5, 2015 |


Yesterday, the New York Metropolitans faced the Miami Taxpayer Robbers, and the contest went into extra innings.  In the 11th inning with a runner on and two outs, Mets manager Terry Collins — with several members of an expanded September bullpen available, including the closer — allowed “pitcher” Eric O’Flaherty to face Martin Prado with a runner on.  Now, the obvious problem with this is that O’Flaherty, the one dud of Sandy Alderson’s generally brilliant string of deadline additions,  can’t pitch — he last had an FIP under 4 in 2012 and has been getting the crap beaten out of him all year. Prado promptly delivered a walk-off double.

But in this case, the specific is even worse than the general.  Here is O’Flaherty against right handed batters this year:

422/500/672 3/9 K/W

That is…amazing.  Essentially, the average right-handed batter against  O’Flaherty turns into Ted Williams in 1941.  And Prado, who is a well-above-average hitter against lefties, turns into something like Babe Ruth in 1921 or Barry Bonds in 2002.

I know, I know, small sample size, he’s not a major league pitcher at this point in his career, but he’s probably not that bad.  So let’s say he just turns a typical right hander hitter into Mike Trout or something.  Your preferable options are…anybody else with the possible exception of Bobby Parnell, who Collins also has had a fetish for putting into high-leverage situations even though it’s obvious he’s not ready to pitch yet.

Fortunately, if history teaches us anything it’s that if the Mets have a 5 game lead in September, you can take the pennant straight to the bank.



Grotesque Misogynist of the Day

[ 42 ] September 5, 2015 |


Damon Wayans.

The Wal-Mart Response

[ 56 ] September 4, 2015 |


Wal-Mart is claiming that its decision to pay higher wages (a response to the persistent criticism of the corporation for keeping its workers in such poverty that there are food donation carts asking employees to feed their coworkers in need) is costing its stockholders 24 cents a share this quarter. I find this unlikely, but whatever. The response of Wal-Mart to this of course is then to cut the hours of these workers in order to satisfy the investors, keeping workers in poverty. Of course, a major problem is that these companies pump almost all their profits into the shareholders:

Walmart may be one of the many corporations stuck between responding to the short-term demands of Wall Street and the long-term investments that don’t pay off as quickly but can increase growth in the long run, like employee compensation. Large corporations have been spending most of their earnings on stock buybacks and dividends, which serve to boost their short-term stock prices and enrich investors. They’re expected to collectively spend $1 trillion on these moves this year. Between 2003 and 2012, buybacks and dividends consumed 91 percent of earnings, leaving just 9 percent to invest in workers, equipment, research, or other long-term investments.

Have to keep the 1% happy after all.

The U.S. and the Syrian Refugees

[ 122 ] September 4, 2015 |

Syrian refugees

The United States has taken an embarrassingly small number of Syrian refugees. That is especially true given U.S. complicity in the rise of ISIS and right-wing pressure to arm the Syrian rebels without accepting any consequences into what that would lead to (although I realize Obama did not allow this to happen). The U.S. has taken in 1500 refugees and will take in 300 more by October. 300? That’s ridiculous. In the 1970s, in the aftermath of the Vietnam War, the U.S. took in 125,000 refugees. Given the size of the Syrian crisis, I would say that is an excellent target number for the U.S. this time as well. That’s especially true given how much immigrants revitalize American communities and contribute to the culture of our nation. Locating immigrants in some of our struggling cities (say, Schenectady) would do a lot to revitalize them, would provide a new chance for people desperately escaping war, and would show the U.S. providing moral leadership for the rest of the world on this issue.

There’s been a certain amount of outrage about the picture of the 3 year old boy who drowned trying to cross into Greece. People don’t like to be exposed to these things. But this is reality. And as I state in Out of Sight, people act when they physically see terrible things. If you don’t see it, you don’t think about it and outrages go on. If you see it–as happened at the Triangle Fire, with the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, and with the Ray Rice video–public outrage to do something about it is much, much higher. We have to hope that seeing the victims of the Syrian refugee crisis forces Americans to get a little more serious about doing something for these people. At least we are now talking about refugees in the United States, which we were not doing on Monday.

That said, I am pessimistic because these are people from the Middle East coming over at the same time as one of this nation’s occasional freakouts about immigration and because they are coming from a part of the world with a reputation for terrorism. That the same people who oppose their immigration tend to support policies that lead to the right-wing terrorist activities that threaten Americans a lot more than Middle Eastern terrorists is of course not part of the conversation.

Friday Links: What is the LEGACY of LGM? Edition

[ 62 ] September 4, 2015 |


Roger Goodell’s Interpretation of the Rule of Law Gains Influence

[ 29 ] September 4, 2015 |

The rule of law is dead, one random winger asserts, and Hillary Clinton killed it:

What’s truly unsettling is that it has been widely taken as read among both the media and the general public that Mrs. Clinton will likely avoid serious legal consequences for her behavior because the Justice Department is ultimately answerable to President Obama – and Democrats will not use the instruments of government to destroy one of their own. Whether that eventually proves true, the sentiment itself reveals a troubling trend in American politics.

Elizabeth Price Foley heh-indeeds with some typically measured analysis:

The rule of law has been D.O.A. since 2008. It has suffered some injuries and insults prior to the Obama Administration, of course, but somehow it survived because both political parties seemed to care about it. That’s just no longer the case for the majority of Democrats today, who repeatedly vote for party interests over the rule of law.

The only real question is whether, assuming a Republican wins the White House in 2016, can the rule of law be revived through some prolonged CPR? Or are we past the point of no return? Time will tell.

You might think that an assertion that the rule of law was dead because of Hillary Clinton’s DEEPLY TROUBLING EMAIL SCANDAL would be followed with an explanation of how, precisely, Hillary Clinton violated the law. You would be wrong! And, needless to say, the reason no such explanation is forthcoming is because she plainly hasn’t. But, hey, why shouldn’t a vague sense that someone isn’t complying with best practices be plenty good enough to prosecute someone?

Take Your First Indefensible Punishment And Run

[ 55 ] September 4, 2015 |


Dan Wetzel — who has been consistently excellent on the story — has the definitive Ballghazi analysis:

Oh, Roger had it all in his hands back in May. Kraft magnanimously/foolishly dropped the threat of litigation for the good of the NFL. He accepted the Wells report as fact, indefinitely suspended two locker room attendants and was just going to hope time heals all reputations. It was a terrible move; one Kraft himself has admitted was a mistake and even apologized for.

All Goodell had to do was the gentlemanly thing, the thing Kraft expected, and that was make a global settlement offer that included dropping Brady’s conclusion of guilt and four-game suspension. It would have quickly and effectively ended the quarterback’s appeal and further discovery into the NFL’s conduct in the case.

The NFL machine had won, beaten even the mighty Patriots in a battle that was more about public relations than the actual facts around whether the footballs were tampered with during the AFC championship game. Public perception had been flooded by false, yet highly prejudicial stories that the NFL refused to correct, a narrative that made it almost impossible for the Patriots to fight back.

The Wells report was still believed to be “independent” because at that point no one knew that the NFL’s general counsel had actually edited it, meaning it wasn’t independent at all. Rival owners, fans and players were united.


That belief framed everything else. New England was running a scheme and the NFL gumshoes would prove it.

Only once they learned otherwise, once they found out that a ball can, quite naturally, be measured at 11.5, or that protocol after that game had two pumps with varying measurements that made the entire experiment worthless, or noted that no one ever cared about ball inflation levels before this and the rulebook was indifferent, or thought hard after none of the equipment guys cracked, or when no firm evidence was uncovered, or when there was nothing tying Brady to the possible deflations that night, they should’ve backed down.


From the start, almost anyone who was paying attention, anyone who was reading through all the documents and considering all the actions of the league, saw the duplicity involved here was astounding.

You could always keep going back to Square One: Forget about reports of 11 of 12 footballs, the truth was and always has been that the league has no idea if the footballs were even unnaturally deflated in a scandal about unnaturally deflated footballs. Even the Wells report – buried deep, but still – essentially says as much.

The league first decided there was a scandal when there may not have been, then determined there was guilt in said scandal when there may not have been and then worked backward by any means necessary until that work caused a judge to call out the league.

For instance, there is no written notice, or precedent of any kind, that a player can be suspended for being “generally aware” of someone else’s actions. And Goodell couldn’t just arbitrarily make up the corollary that being generally aware of someone else’s equipment violation was akin to getting busted for performance-enhancing drugs.

Per NFL rules, even if Brady was guilty he should have only faced a $5,512 fine, the judge said, not a quarter-season suspension.


If you paid close enough attention, deflate-gate was a giant circle of nonsense. The NFL banked on almost no one paying close attention.

Yet Goodell, by taking on Brady, all but assured it would wind up on the desk of someone paying extremely close attention: a learned, intelligent, federal judge.

Those interested should definitely read the whole etc.

As Wetzel says, Goodell’s refusal to take far more than he should have gotten is remarkable. Robert Kraft gave him a huge gift by refusing to take Goodell’s massive over-punishment of the Patriots to court. Like Wetzel, I assume that Kraft believed that sacrificing money and the draft pick would lead to Brady’s suspension being eliminated or at least substantially reduced. If he had done that, his use of media lickspittles to create a false narrative at the beginning would, alas, have worked. The voices of people pointing out the lack of evidence that the footballs were underinflated and the contemporaneous triviality of the offense would have been drowned out. Goodell’s maximalist interpretation of his own majestic authoritah would have escaped judicial review until the next time he screwed something up (which, admittedly, probably would have been soon enough.)

But — like Adler and Cannon convincing themselves that the Moops invaded Spain and the evidence for this would surely emerge — Goodell apparently thought that he could snow a federal judge like he could snow Chris Mortensen or Peter King. The leeway the FAA gives arbitrators could have allowed him to get away with it — but he didn’t. Even on his own authoritarian terms, the fact that he thought this risk was worth taking even after he got the Pats to concede far more than they should have was foolish.

It also seems that, even as we approach the 120th anniversary of The Path of the Law, the lessons of legal realism have still not been widely absorbed as they should be. It’s easy to tell yourself a civics-textbook story about how the facts that the NFL’s evidence against Brady was complete shit and the punishment for the offense absurdly disproportionate were technically irrelevant to whether Goodell had the authority to impose the punishment and uphold it on appeal. But, in practice, judges notice this kind of thing, and it matters. To be clear, I’m not saying that Berman would have vacated the punishment if he thought there was no legal basis for it. But normally, the law does give judges some discretion, and this is true here — the deference judges owe arbitrators under the FAA is considerable but not absolute. Moreover, the NFL blundering forward even after its assumptions collapsed gave a judge whose instinct would probably be to throw out a plainly unjust punishment plenty of ammunition. The procedural irregularities that were practically necessitated by the NFL’s lack of any actual case against Brady — Goodell having to hear the appeal of his own ruling because any remotely independent arbitrator would have overturned it with hails of derisive laughter, and Goodell having to limit Brady’s notice, discovery and confrontation rights to minimize publicity about the NFL’s thoroughly malicious and incompetent investigatory and disciplinary processes — gave Berman a sound legal basis for vacating the punishment.

The last piece of the puzzle is trying to figure out why the NFL failed to read the non-exactly-subtle signals Berman was sending them and cut a deal with Brady. Part of this is the rabbit hole problem — someone rationally assessing the strength of their own case would have cut their losses earlier. In a sense, Brady ultimately benefited from Goodell’s arrogant incompetence. Sometimes blundering authoritarianism is something you get away with, and sometimes it’s self-defeating. It’s always gratifying when it turns out to be the latter.

Iran Deal Gets More Supporters

[ 168 ] September 4, 2015 |



It’s going to be pretty hard for opponents of the Iran Nuclear Deal to claim any momentum from the Schumer defection to their ranks any longer. Today three more previously undecided Democratic senators, Corey Booker, Mark Warner and Heidi Heitkampf, came out in the support of the deal, bringing the number of “nay” votes on the resolution of disapproval to 37. Whoever gets a majority of the seven remaining Democratic undecideds will prevail on a cloture vote against a presumed filibuster.

We’ve had this discussion before, but I still don’t get the progressive consternation surrounding Corey Booker. He’s no Elizabeth Warren, but he’s also not even the worst Democratic senator from New York and New Jersey; basically, his votes will be fine.

GE’s Taft-Hartley Comic, 1947

[ 36 ] September 3, 2015 |

Thanks to Bruce Vail for sending me this hilarious propaganda comic General Electric put out in 1947 during the debate over the Taft-Hartley Act. He asked me to credit the Maryland labor activist Bill Barry in hunting this up and putting it into a PDF file. Enjoy!

Ann Gets the Answers(1)_Page_1

Ann Gets the Answers(1)_Page_2

Ann Gets the Answers(1)_Page_3

Ann Gets the Answers(1)_Page_4

In Other News From the Jerks Who Run American Football

[ 30 ] September 3, 2015 |

The people who run football provide one with such joy.

The NCAA makes Roger Goodell look like a man of principle. As a response to the fear of college football players unionizing, the NCAA’s big schools have begun paying stipends to players so they have live with some level of dignity. Of course the coaches now see opportunities to fine players for whatever they decide is a rule violation. Such as at Virginia Tech:


From the Deadspin piece linked above:

Just look at that bullshit right here. (And note that the scale roughly indexes the priorities of a meathead college football coach—a dirty locker, for example, is apparently more than three times as bad as being disruptive enough in class for an instructor to report it.):

These are fines being thrown at players who, aside from a piddly shit cost-of-attendance stipend—$3,280 or $3,620, depending on whether a player is from out of state or not—aren’t getting any kind of monetary compensation in exchange for their labor. The Times-Dispatch has another photo, in which fines for “improper equipment” are detailed. A seventh offense would have cost a player $1,600.

Tommy Tuberville, head coach of Cincinnati, is talking the same game as Virginia Tech. This is ridiculous, especially when the players have no means to appeal these fines except for the same people who are fining them. Also, where is the money going? Who is accountable here? In other words, these players need a union.

Speaking of bullshit, let’s go back to our old friends who run the NFL. You know what I hate about the NFL? All the meaningless cross promotions for the military and breast cancer that don’t actually do anything but make the NFL look all awesome and patriotic and pro-woman when it is only interested in making money and has an enormous problem with its violent game bleeding over into widespread domestic abuse.

Deadspin again broke open just how bankrupt all this is. The St. Louis Rams pulled a stunt where they surprised one of their cheerleaders with her husband just returned from the military. Oh, everyone is just so happy, right? The Rams look so good! The NFL looks so patriotic! Well, about that… Turns out the husband was not only serving in the less than dangerous combat zone of Korea but that he is, wait for it, a Busch! And the cheerleader? A former aide to Laura Bush and the daughter of a well-known right-wing Illinois political family. The couple had their wedding ceremony at the Vatican. In other words, this was a stunt that in addition to the usual military pablum was designed to serve powerful and wealthy families of the area. Big deal, right? But on top of it, the cheerleader’s mother is running as a Republican for state representative in Illinois and is using the video of this to promote her political career.

It makes sense that an NFL team would go out of its way to do something special for a member of one of the most powerful families in America instead of, say, a local grunt who’d served in a combat zone, because these reunions really aren’t orchestrated and televised for the benefit of the soldiers and families involved. They are done because cozying up to the military is a good way for the NFL to market itself as a noble civic endeavor while making some extra money, and because the American football-loving public loves a chance to share in a bit of un-earned catharsis—watching two smiling, photogenic soldiers embrace in relief is a great way to forget about all the bodies that have piled up. If a given reunion happens to basically be a viral political ad—and given that Candace Ruocco Valentine is not only the member of two connected families and a former White House intern but has pursued or is pursuing both a JD and a doctorate in public policy analysis, one suspects that this moment may be shared on some campaign page of her own before too long—it’s hard to be too put out. That is, after all, what they all are.

Between this and the Brady case, that’s the NFL for you in a nutshell.

Kentucky’s Petty Orval Faubus Arrested By U.S. Marshalls

[ 235 ] September 3, 2015 |


A Kentucky judge fails to recognize Kim Davis’s sacred right to get paid while refusing to do her job and obstruct the rights of the citizens she represents based on arbitrary whim:

Federal District Judge David Bunning held Kim Davis, the county clerk who has become a national symbol of anti-gay animus for her resistance to marriage equality, in contempt of court on Thursday. According to Dan Griffin, a reporter for local news station WSAZ, she was led out by U.S. Marshals. The judge reportedly said that financial sanctions were not enough to ensure her compliance with the law.

Yes, that’s the son of deserving Hall of Famer and consummate winger Jim Bunning who sent her to prison. I have no problem with this — she’s violating the law, it will be impossible to remove her from office, and if wingers want to try to turn this extremely unsympathetic figure into a martyr good luck and so what.

The Failure of a Clown

[ 71 ] September 3, 2015 |


It’s fitting that Roger Goodell’s biggest failure, the one that could well end up permanently lessening the considerable power he and NFL owners have traditionally held over the NFLPA, was born out of the stupidest scandal in the history of the NFL, and perhaps all of sports. This is precisely the kind of defeat that someone as impotent and hollow-headed as Goodell deserves.

While we’re here, can we stop with the “he always made money for his partners” crap? The NFL was an immensely profitable enterprise before Goodell got there and will be when he leaves. The idea that he’s worth $40 million or so above replacement is a particularly egregious example of the cartel reasoning that results in massively overpaid executives.

…the great Charles Pierce is great on this, needless to say.

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