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The Frank Bruni Award For Uncritical Coverage Goes To…

[ 26 ] May 3, 2015 |


Much of this article smooching the hindquarters of Colts GM Ryan Grigson, who had Andrew Luck fall into his lap and has repeatedly assembled an exceptionally unimpressive supporting cast around him, is unintentionally hilarious. But it obviously peaks here:

GMs must weigh money whenever they make a decision. This helps explain the most-discussed move of Grigson’s tenure: trading a first-round pick to the Browns for running back Trent Richardson in September 2013.

The move failed. Richardson, the No. 3 pick in 2012, was a bust in Indianapolis and was released last month. But a decision that two years ago may have seemed impetuous was actually quite calculated. Richardson’s draft-choice price was expensive, but in actual dollars he came incredibly cheap. Cleveland had already paid his $13.34 million signing bonus and taken the cap hit that came with it. The Colts paid him just $3.57 million total, for two seasons (and could have had him under team control for two more seasons at a low salary). Grigson thought the combined risk, in salary and a draft choice, was worth taking to get a guy who was considered one of the most talented players in the draft just a year earlier. “I’ll do that every single time,” Grigson says.

“I’d trade a first-round pick for a player who 1)had played replacement-level caliber football at a relatively low-impact position where any competent organization can find adequate players for little or nothing and 2)couldn’t see replacement level with a telescope after I traded for him anytime. After all, he didn’t cost all that much against the cap!”

Suggested future subjects for laudatory profiles in SI: Matt Millen, the unskewed polls guy, and investors who purchased large quantities of Enron stock in September 2001.

Via Magary, who observes:

You gotta work real hard to frame the Trent Richardson trade as some kind of shrewd move. Trent Richardson can barely wipe his own ass, and the Colts got suckered out of a first round pick—those are really important!—by arguably the least competent team in football. Don’t try to tell me that this was some kind of remarkable bargain. The roster Grigson has assembled around Andrew Luck is GARBAGE. The running game is bad. The pass protection is bad. The Frank Gore and Andre Johnson signings were transparently desperate moves. And the defense is shit. And, to the bewilderment of many, they haven’t even moved to give Luck an extension yet. The existence of this article is fucking baffling.

A Timely Reminder

[ 116 ] May 2, 2015 |

Floyd Mayweather is a horrible person with many powerful enablers.


[ 24 ] May 2, 2015 |
Mint Julep im Silberbecher.jpg

“Mint Julep im Silberbecher” by Marler – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The Derby is for amateurs; sophisticates devote their precious sobriety and attention to the Oaks. Nevertheless, as it’s clear what sort of audience this blog caters to, here are my Derby picks*:

  1. Firing Line
  2. Carpe Diem
  3. American Pharoah

*Any relationship between picks and actual order of finish is entirely coincidental.

David Brooks is not on a Path of Upward Intellectual Mobility

[ 61 ] May 2, 2015 |


One could probably observe the fact that David “vast, lavishly taxpayer-subsidized spaces for entertaining” Brooks’s scorching Burke-abject-morons hot take on the killing of Freddie Gray cites Robert “alas, not Paul” Samuelson favorably and drop the mic. But it’s probably worth explaining in some detail why Brooks and Samuelson’s vaguely fact-resembling assertion that $14,000 per year is spent on poor people in the U.S. is abject nonsense, and Annie Lowrey does the job very effectively:

First of all, Samuelson is citing Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution, who calculated that in 2011, spending dedicated to the poor averaged out to $13,000 per person below the federal poverty line — I’m not sure where the $14,000 and the 2013 are coming from. What counts as “spending dedicated to the poor” for the purposes of his tally? Any means-tested program, meaning Medicaid, food stamps, the earned-income tax credit, the child tax credit, the Supplemental Security Income program, welfare, housing assistance, Medicare Part D, grants for school districts serving low-income children, and Pell Grants.

But many of those programs aren’t just for families below the poverty line. Medicaid helps the disabled as well, for instance, and a huge chunk of its spending goes to doctors, hospitals, and administrators. Those school grants go to schools, not families. The earned-income tax credit goes to hundreds of thousands of families that are not below the poverty line. You don’t need to be below the poverty line to get food stamps, either. Dividing spending on all those programs by the number of people in poverty, then, is a daft way to measure public spending on anti-poverty programs.


One last point. Brooks uses some very tricksy, misleading math to show that the federal government has spent more and more on poor families in the past 30 years, to no avail. But over that time, government spending has actually drifted away from the families that need it the most. Robert A. Moffitt of Baltimore’s own Johns Hopkins University has found that aid to profoundly poor single-parent families dropped 35 percent between 1983 and 2004, while it rose 74 percent for those earning a bit more more. “You would think that the government would offer the most support to those who have the lowest incomes and provide less help to those with higher incomes,” he said, releasing his findings. “But that is not the case.”

Much more at the link, which will definitely repay your time. And when you’re done, more from Dean Baker.

…for whatever reason, Paul Krugman has decided to weigh in:


Last year was the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty, and the date provoked a flurry of studies correcting some widespread myths; perhaps most notable was an enlightening report from the Council of Economic Advisers.

What needed correcting? Basically, the “nation of takers” narrative, according to which we have been pouring ever-growing sums into helping the poor while making no dent in the poverty rate.

The reality is that spending on “income security” — which includes virtually everything except Medicaid that you could construe as aid to people with low incomes — has basically been flat for decades, with a temporary (and appropriate) spurt due to unemployment benefits and food stamps during the Great Recession…


So it is somewhat disheartening to see the thoroughly debunked narrative still emerging in some of the Baltimore-inspired discussion.

Hack of the Day

[ 41 ] May 2, 2015 |


Nicholas Kristof.

“American schools are horrible” is something that most mainstream pundits feel compelled to say on every possible occasion. If the facts don’t justify the narrative, so much worse for the facts.

Ben E King RIP

[ 5 ] May 1, 2015 |

Dead at 76.

You Must Be Joker

[ 133 ] May 1, 2015 |

A few days back, @midnight did a bit about the new Joker. Host, Chris Hardwick read pants-pooping quotes from fanboys, upset about the recast. In case you haven’t heard, there’s a new Joker in town, and it’s Jared Leto. The fun part about the bit was that the fanboy freakout was a response to the casting of Heath Ledger as The Joker. Ha! Take that, pants-poopers!

I don’t know what the response to Leto’s Joker is going to be. I’ve seen a bit of snark directed at this already-heavily-memed image. (Trigger warning and after the jump, because I find the image genuinely disturbing.) Read more…

The Provision of Common Goods

[ 11 ] May 1, 2015 |
USS Theodore Roosevelt - BigStick.jpg

U.S. Navy photo by Photograher’s Mate 2nd Class (AW) Robert R. McRill . – Official U.S. Navy photograph no. 990915-N-5526M-001 Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

I have a few thoughts up at the Diplomat on the fracas between Iran, the Marshall Islands, and the United States:

Much remains murky about Tuesday’s Iranian stoppage and seizure of a Marshall Islands-flagged container ship in international waters. The seizure comes on the heels of a successful effort by the United States Navy to interdict an Iranian supply convoy destined for Yemen.

“This question has two parts, neither of which have anything to do with the other or the subject at hand. Also, this question has four parts.”

[ 48 ] May 1, 2015 |

So apparently Mallory Ortberg is still a national treasure.

Super Hero Girls: My daughter wants comic stars that look like her — and your son needs them, too

[ 32 ] May 1, 2015 |

A fascinating article by my friend David Perry, and one I know is of interest to Farley (since I saw him post about this issue on Facebook last week) and which I thought might be of interest to y’all as well. Sample:

Comics matter. They have become the dominant genre for depicting heroism in mass media. This dominance spills from Hollywood to television, toys, apparel, and more. When children imagine the heroic, they are influenced by the major brands like Marvel (owned by Disney) and DC. This puts a lot of pressure on these creators to get things right, and when it comes to gender, they mostly are doing a terrible job.

Every time a major movie involving super heroes comes out, fans ask – where are the female characters? Guardians of the Galaxymerchandising sparked a “where’s Gamora?” campaign. A producer of Big Hero 6 merchandise left the female characters off because, “Eeeww girls! Yuck! Haha.” Fans of the new Avengers: Age of Ultron movie are complaining that Black Widow rarely appears in the official licensed products. Irritated fans have coalesced online under the hashtags #WheresNatasha and #IncludeTheGirls. Irritated fans have coalesced online under the hashtags #WheresNatasha and #IncludeTheGirls. Even Mark Ruffalo (who plays Hulk) Tweeted, “@Marvel we need more #BlackWidow merchandise for my daughters and nieces. Pretty please.”

Sometimes the sexism is overt. Both DC and Marvel have licensed products that suggest girls should be love interests, not heroes themselves. DC has shirts saying “I only date superheroes” and “training to the Batman’s girlfriend.” Marvel released a shirt showing four Avengers bursting out of the chest and likewise reading “I only date superheroes.” Marvel also released a product line in which a boys’ shirt said, “Be a Hero” and the girls’ reads, “I need a hero.” Let’s be clear, when my daughter goes outside to fight bad guys, she doesn’t need a hero. She is one.

The pattern is obvious – female characters from Disney (which owns Marvel) and DC are under-marketed. The few products exist in segregated “girls only” categories and often reflect sexist ideologies. What was unusual about the Big Hero 6 “Eeeww girls” comment was that the spokesperson said aloud what clearly most marketing executives are all thinking – add a single girl to a product, and boys just won’t buy it. Moreover, while the companies apologize for sexist products, they never seem to investigate the corporate structures that allowed such products to be created in the first place…

Adventures In Supply And Demand, With Prof. Steve Diamond

[ 150 ] May 1, 2015 |


In the midst of the pathetic but undeniably entertaining comments-section meltdown Paul referenced yesterday, master of self-refutation Steve Diamond asserted that the data showed that law schools “have in fact produced too few lawyers.”

How is this possible when more than 40% of law school graduates are not getting real jobs that require bar passage? It’s not, and Diamond has nothing to offer on this point but…not even hand-waving, more like briefly lifting a pinkie finger. However, the blog length version contains an argument that’s a must-read for connoisseurs of the farcical and the illogical. Remember, as you read this, that Diamond believes that critics of the current model of legal education like Campos and Tamanaha are agents for the Cato Institute:

Well, there were approximately 425,000 lawyers employed in 1997 and 600,000 in 2014. That means over 18 years we added, net, about 175,000 new lawyers. Every year – except 2008 – that annual number increased. That tells me society wanted to employ more lawyers and when we add in the fact that lawyer incomes increased each year in that period as well, from a low in 1997 of about 73,000 to a high in 2014 of 133,000 it tells me society was willing to pay lawyers more also.

That growth in the average (mean) annual wage paid to lawyers is significant, too, because it outstripped inflation and the growth in GDP. This suggests that lawyers have market power. No wonder Cato and the Koch Brothers are upset.

Where to begin?

  • I like the classics, and the use of mean (rather than median) incomes in this kind of context is bullshit from the school they burned down to build the old school.  I’m sure the next Santa Clara Law grad to get a job at Starbucks will be happy to know that he and Howard Schultz have a average (mean) income of more than $10 million a year.
  • The fact that more lawyers have jobs in 2014 than in 1997 is a compelling rebuttal to the zero people who have ever argued that every law school in the United States should be shut down.  As a rebuttal to the argument that there shouldn’t be dozens of law schools where an investment of $200K or more gets you a less-than-even chance of getting any job that requires a law degree and a tiny chance of getting a legal job that would justify the debt load, it’s neither here nor there.
  • But this isn’t even the best part.  According to Diamond, critics of the current legal educational model are stooges of Cato and the Koch Brothers (who also want to bring back Jim Crow.)  The reason that the plutocrats are critical of law schools, according to his new theory, is that lawyers have too much bargaining power. So they have sent Campos et al. out in the world to…substantially tighten the labor market for lawyers.  Producing many fewer law degrees would totally serve the interests of the Koch Brothers because…look, it’s Halley’s Comet!  The progressive position, conversely, is to flood a market (that by any relevant measure is already massively over-saturated) with JDs who owe massive amounts of money to banks, which would be great for labor interests because…hey, isn’t that Kohoutek?

It’s not exactly news that Diamond is a pair and a three of a kind short of a full house, but even by his standards this is awesome.

Against Truth For Power

[ 117 ] May 1, 2015 |

Wherever there’s a powerful source with a ludicrously implausible story to tell in order to justify its unjustifiable actions, the Washington Post is there to put it uncritically on the front page. (Have they hired Judy Miller yet?)

Thankfully, the State’s Attorney has a more rational view of the case, and godspeed.

a history of the “rough ride” technique for torturing suspects (or, as in the case of Gray, not-even-suspects.)

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