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[ 8 ] November 22, 2015 |


In about twenty minutes I’ll be going on Midrats to talk the procurement process.  Listen in!  Or listen later!


College football coaching salaries, excellence demander edition

[ 55 ] November 22, 2015 |

todd graham

(1) Arizona State won its sixth game in eleven outings yesterday, effectively guaranteeing head coach Todd Graham a $225,000 bonus, as his contract sweetens his three million dollar base salary with that sum if the team appears in a bowl game (all major conference teams with a non-losing record now appear in a bowl game).

Since ASU had three automatic wins on its schedule at the start of the year — Cal Poly, New Mexico, and Colorado — that means he only had to win three of nine games against legit to semi-legit opponents to collect a bonus which by itself would put him at close to the 99th percentile of individual wage income.

It’s also probably way more than he got for his role as the covert cyborg Ash in Ridley Scott’s classic sci-fi horror film Alien.

(2) LSU is about to fire Les Miles, who they’ve paid about $40 million over his eleven years as the Tigers’ head coach. If they do so they will owe him an additional $16 million in liquidated damages (buyout) money over the next eight years, although that sum will be offset by any money he makes from subsequent employment over that time (he’s 62 so he might just retire).

Official salaries for the labor force that generates the income that pays for all this (and much, much more) remain stable at zero.

Run, the Donald, Run!

[ 94 ] November 22, 2015 |


Er, I mean, liberals would be very, very upset if Donald Trump were to use a third party campaign to bully pulpit the Overton Window on steroids. At least as angry and fearful as Republicans were towards Ralph Nader.

Sure, he doesn’t believe in the right to privacy, but he’s solid on the other issues!

[ 102 ] November 22, 2015 |

Or – An inquiry into the potential limits of “But the other guy is worse!” as a progressive political theory.

And John Bel  Edwards’ victory over David “Depends on Me” Vitter is as good a place as any to start.

In Louisiana’s gubernatorial contest you had a rancid Republican who has a larger than normal negative impact on the environment because disposable diapers last FOREVER.

On the other you had a Democrat whose views on the right to privacy and access to health care have devolved in less than a decade. In 2006:

Edwards indicated support for the following principles regarding abortion

  • Abortion is the freedom of choice, between the appropriate parties and their higher power.

In 2014, Edwards voted Yes on a number of bills supported by the fetus protection racket, including HB1274 (amended section underlined):

When interpreting this Part, any ambiguity shall be interpreted to preserve human life, including the life of an unborn child if the qualified patient is pregnant and an obstetrician who examines the woman determines that the probable postfertilization age of the unborn child is twenty or more weeks and the pregnant woman’s life can reasonably be maintained in such a way as to permit the continuing development and live birth of the unborn child, and such determination is communicated to the relevant classes of family members and persons designated in R.S. 40:1299.58.5.
Here’s the statute prior to the amendment, if your day is not complete without a little state law.

(And if the wording of the law rings a bell for non-Louisianans, it may be they’re thinking of case of  Marlise Munoz, the Texas woman a hospital kept on life support against her family’s wishes, because she was pregnant.)

In short, when Edwards talks about his anti-choice chops, he is not idly boasting. It’s hard to imagine an anti-privacy bill that he wouldn’t sign. Yet because he ran against someone who is far worse, some people are hastening to point out that being anti-privacy, anti-health care, and – in the case of keeping women on life support so they can incubate a fetus – anti-human dignity, isn’t that big a deal.

And apparently, it will remain not that big a deal. For the foreseeable future, the “Less of a walking nightmare than the Republican Candidate” bar will be easily cleared by anyone who isn’t a convicted mother stabbing father rapist, or Dagon. (And I’m not so certain about Dagon.) If one says that being anti-privacy is an acceptable stance for a Democratic candidate, what is unacceptable?

I’m thinking now of Sen. Joe Manchin, v. 3.0 (D-Mountaintop Removal). He was greeted with cries of relief by Democratic voters, and is now greeted with loud gagging noises, and rightfully so. What a Grecian-Formula’d knob the man is. However, the Just say no to deal breaker/purity politics theory dictates that if he receives the nomination Democratic voters should line up behind Joe because … he’s not for total repeal of Obamacare? Maybe? [Fingers crossed!]

But if he gets re-elected on the basis of not being as bad as the Republican candidate (who will of course be worse, even if they have to lure Cheney to the state with a trail of newborn babies’ hearts), where is his incentive to stop fighting to allow coal companies to remove the mountains from the mountain state?

Exactly. The same place as Edwards’ incentive not to further erode the privacy rights and access to health care of half the state’s population. (And to rein in fracking, apparently.)

Where’s the progress in that?


The Problem with Burgers is Ketchup, Not Sogginess

[ 125 ] November 22, 2015 |


It’s like this article was begging for me to comment. Ketchup leather is a stupid invention. Sogginess in burgers from ketchup is not a problem. I eat my share of burgers and when they do get too soggy, it’s rarely because of any kind of condiment barring a ridiculous amount of something being put on it. But the combination of our national technological fetishism combined with the need for capitalism to constantly find new products to create a completely unnecessary product to replace a nonexistent problem. The media thus goes crazy for this exciting new technology. All of a sudden, the new technology is a solution for a problem we never knew we had. Now our lives are so much more complete than they were before we knew said problem existed! And our technology fetish is satisfied once again, at least until we need another hit.

In other words, the problem with burgers is not solved by ketchup leather. It is solved by not polluting them with ketchup. If you do want such pollution, I guess there’s nothing wrong with it in leather form. But it solves no problem and we should reject the entire way of thinking that creates nonexistent problems to sell new products.

Family Leave

[ 24 ] November 22, 2015 |


I have stated before that I don’t think a Sanders presidency is all that different than a Clinton presidency, which is why I have written very little about the primary. But that doesn’t mean I don’t fully welcome Sanders’ presence in the primary, precisely because he has likely pushed Clinton to the left on a number of issues. I also welcome him because he pushes for common sense expansions to the welfare state that would simply improve the lives of working Americans, yet are not central to the agenda of all too many Democratic politicians, not to mention the Republicans openly engaging in class warfare on the poor.

Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders highlighted his support Sunday for a plan to provide three months of paid leave after a family has a child and challenged Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton to embrace the same legislation.

Clinton has spoken out strongly in favor of providing workers with paid family leave but also stressed her commitment in recent days to not raising taxes on the middle class to pay for new initiatives.

The plan backed by Sanders, a senator from Vermont, would be paid for with an increase in the payroll tax that would cost the average worker about $72 a year.

“You think that we can afford $1.39 per week?” Sanders asked a crowd of more than 400 people, composed largely of college students, gathered for a town hall meeting here the day after the second Democratic presidential debate. “It is unconscionable that millions of new parents in this country are forced back to work because they don’t have the income to stay home with their newborn babies.”

Clinton however is saying no new taxes on people making less than $250,000 a year. Now, I totally agree that soaking the rich is the best way to pay for all these programs and the rich can certainly afford it. But can we afford $1.39 a week for a real benefit that would allow families to stay with newborns? Yes, of course. That’s just common sense. If Clinton wants to come back with a way to fund that benefit specifically by taxing the rich, that’s fine, but for real concrete benefits taxes are not a bad thing. The anti-tax hysteria in this nation, which, let’s face it, is at the core of national ideology and mythology, makes open support of higher taxes for anything a hard row to hoe in politics. So I’m not confident people would actually vote for the Sanders plan. But it certainly does make sense. Plus Sanders has other great ideas that would come directly from the rich, such as free college tuition.


[ 9 ] November 22, 2015 |


For me, heroism is being an abortion provider and helping women with their health care in an age where doctors can be murdered by extremists for providing this care. Such as Willie Parker:

In public health, you go where the crisis is. If there is an outbreak and you have the ability to relieve suffering, you rush to the site of the need. This is why, a year and a half ago, I returned to my hometown, Birmingham, Ala., to provide abortions.

For the previous two years, I had been flying to the South from Chicago to provide care to women whose access to abortion services was limited to a few clinics, despite the fact that abortions are deemed legal by the Supreme Court. These women face harsh life circumstances and incessant hostility, merely for wanting to exercise their rights.

My decision to provide abortions represented a change of heart on my part. I had been working for 12 years as an obstetrician and gynecologist, and had never performed abortions because I felt they were morally wrong. But I grew increasingly uncomfortable turning away women who needed help.

Ultimately, reading a sermon by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. challenged me to a deeper spiritual understanding. I was moved by his discussion of the quality of the good Samaritan and of what made the Samaritan “good.” The Samaritan reversed the question of concern, to care more about the well-being of the person needing help than about what might happen to him for stopping to give help. I realized that if I were to show compassion, I would have to act on behalf of those women. My concern about women who lacked access to abortion became more important to me than worrying about what might happen to me for providing the services.

I stopped doing obstetrics in 2009 to provide abortion full time for women who needed help. Invariably I field questions regarding my decision, with the most often asked being: Why? The short answer is: Because I can. And: Because if I don’t, who will?

The South has become one of the centers of the abortion crisis. While women across the country are losing the ability to make private health care decisions because states have passed hundreds of laws chipping away at that right, the South is the most restrictive.

Who are these women who need abortions, people who should be thrown into prison if you believe anti-abortion rhetoric?

Years ago, I saw a patient in Mississippi whom I still think of often because of her intense grief in the midst of pregnancy. She had had five children, the youngest of whom had died the year before from cancer. She knew that she could not care for another child, financially or emotionally. She had traveled two hours to see me for her first appointment, which is for counseling only. Even though she was resolute, and knew what was best for her family, the procedure could not be done that day because state law requires that it be done in a follow-up visit, after initial counseling.

I want for women what I want for myself: a life of dignity, health, self-determination and the opportunity to excel and contribute. We know that when women have access to abortion, contraception and medically accurate sex education, they thrive.

What will these women do when they can’t have access to abortion services? They will self-abort, as is happening all the time now in Texas:

Between 100,000 and 240,000 Texas women between the ages of 18 and 49 have tried to end a pregnancy by themselves, according to a pair of surveys released Tuesday by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project, a University of Texas-based effort aimed at determining the impact of the state’s reproductive policies.

The figure was found by asking an online, representative sample of 779 women whether they themselves or whether their best friends had ever tried to self-induce an abortion. Of the Texas women surveyed, 1.7 percent said they had performed an abortion on themselves, but 4.1 percent of them said their best friend had or they suspected she had.

The most common method reported was by taking the drug Misoprostol, also known by the brand name Cytotec. Other reported methods included “herbs or homeopathic remedies, getting hit or punched in the abdomen, using alcohol or illicit drugs, or taking hormonal pills.”

The finding is important because the Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Cole, that concerns abortion law in Texas. The court will decide the constitutionality of a 2013 law requiring the state’s abortion clinics to meet the standards of ambulatory surgical centers and for their doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

If some of the women die through self-abortions, that’s a feature, not a bug, for the drafters of the Texas law.

Of course, therein lies the core of the anti-abortion argument. Those people don’t want women to have a life of dignity, health, and (especially this) self-determination and the opportunity to excel and contribute.

Cajun Victories

[ 78 ] November 22, 2015 |


This is pretty big:

Republican Sen. David Vitter lost his bid to be the next governor of Louisiana on Saturday, and it wasn’t even close. The two-term senator lost the runoff election to Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards by double digits, setting the stage for the state to potentially become the first in the Deep South to accept a pivotal part of Obamacare.


Jindal also rejected federal funding to expand Medicaid. Edwards has pledged to sign an executive order authorizing the expansion of the program on his first day in office. That’s a really big deal. Such a move would provide coverage to about 225,000 residents in one of the poorest states in the nation.

Edwards is no progressive hero. But if he’s able to expand Medicaid that in and of itself makes the election worth it. Of course, a “dealbreaker” theory of electoral politics would counsel not voting for Edwards, which is precisely why they’re stupid.

Some interesting background from Weigel:

In Louisiana, it’s an open secret that Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) concluded a years-long blood feud with Vitter by ending his presidential campaign on Tuesday.

“You can’t get anyone to admit it, but it’s what everyone thinks,” said Julia O’Donoghue, the state politics reporter for the New Orleans Times-Picayune. “We spent two days talking about refugees and then two days talking about Jindal. Those first two days were the only ones in the runoff when John Bel [Edwards, the Democratic nominee] was on defense.”

So, in the asshole contest between Jindal and Vitter, the latter won. Which is good news for poor people in Louisiana.

The World Is Gonna Know Your Name. What’s Your Name, Man?

[ 27 ] November 21, 2015 |

Vernon Adams.


My name is Vernon Adams.

@Stanford, USC: 30-37, 612 yards, 8 TDs, 1 Int

And there’s a million things I haven’t done
But just you wait, just you wait…

The World Turned Upside Down

[ 11 ] November 21, 2015 |
Operation Inherent Resolve 150304-F-MG591-123.jpg

“Operation Inherent Resolve” by Staff Sgt. Perry Aston – Licensed under Public Domain via Commons.

Some thoughts at the Diplomat on future directions in Canadian foreign policy:

Some of the strategic questions are clear; how closely does Canada wish to cleave to the United States, how does it want to approach the arctic, and how does it plan to replace or refurbish aging equipment. Even these questions, however, can lead to difficult debates over the operationalization of strategy.

The SUPERGENIUS of Chip Kelly, SUPERGENIUS: A Progress Report

[ 68 ] November 21, 2015 |


Petchesky, on Coach Kelly’s assertion that General Manager Kelly didn’t really do that much to restructure this offense (which currently ranks 23rd in DVOA, two spots behind Jacksonville and one spot behind a Cowboys team that’s been 80% Weeden and Cassel) this offseason:

“Four changes” is significantly underselling the overhaul. No position is more important than quarterback, and Bradford has been mediocre even before these injuries that remind you he came with a reputation as fragile. There are two new running backs, who haven’t impressed even as Kelly figures out how to use them. Two additions to the wide receiver corps, Nelson Agholor and Miles Austin, have both been busts. And Kelly’s most discussed offseason moves—replacing both starting guards from last year—have proven as damaging to the line as cynics predicted.

Despite Kelly’s protestations, those are sweeping changes, and they’re all his. Maybe the Eagles will figure things out—at 4-5, they’re just a half-game back in a weak division. If not, it all comes back to Kelly. When you’re picking the players and calling the plays, there aren’t many excuses left.

Obviously, with Bradford injured after 9 games that were below-average by any possible metric (what would have anticipated that except everything about his prior NFL career!), his most massively overpaid running back providing sub-replacement level results, and his patchwork offensive line and receiving corps a complete shambles, I don’t think anyone can defend his big picture moves at this late date. Sam Donnellon argues that his little moves haven’t worked out either:

But here are some names often overlooked, names that might have as much, or even more, to do with why the Eagles have lost three games this season by a total of six points.
James Casey. Chris Polk. Casey Matthews. Brandon Boykin.

Each was a valuable contributor to a special-teams unit that was extremely special last season. Each made considerable contributions as the Eagles built a 7-2 record that included close victories over the Colts (30-27), the Redskins (37-34) and the Rams (34-28). Aside from Boykin at nickel back, each played sparingly elsewhere, allowing them to focus almost entirely on their special-teams responsibilities, allowing them to contribute huge plays at opportune times that were a big reason – perhaps the biggest in retrospect – why the Eagles were in a much better situation at this point last season than they are this year.

I am sure that the Bradford trade and the decision to allocate such a high percentage of the team’s cap space to running backs have not only worked out badly but were irrational at the time. With respect to special teams, I have to be more tentative. Special teams performances tend to be volatile, and sometimes attributing a decline to personnel choices is a just-so story. But, still, Donnellon has a real prima facie case. The Eagles had the best special teams in the league last year per DVOA, and have dropped to 18th this year. There is a major caveat, which is that the Eagles have been the unluckiest team in the league in terms of the factors beyond their control, which surely explains some of the decline. But since the second-unluckiest special teams (Seattle) is still #3 in DVOA, it can’t explain all of the decline. It is, at least, a fair question to ask.

What follows is a list of the circumstances under which an NFL coach should have full control over the team’s personnel in 2015:

1)If you have Bill Belichick under contract.
2)That’s it.

If there is an exception to this rule, it is enormously unlikely to be someone with 2 years of experience in the NFL. Both of these jobs have become so demanding and specialized it’s hard to do one of them well, let alone both simultaneously. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Kelly has compounded that with errors understandable from someone whose (undeniably exceptional) resume is mostly at the NCAA level: overvaluing running backs, overestimating the ability of good scheming to overcome personnel holes, underestimating the difficulty of turning someone with a good arm into a good quarterback relative to his peers. The Eagles were in a difficult spot — I can understand them not wanting to lose someone who had done a very good job as head coach in his first two years — but Kelly should have known better.

The Welfare Myth

[ 46 ] November 21, 2015 |


Alec MacGillis has an excellent article on the demobilization of poor voters in poor counties, which leads to the election of governments that slash benefits they desperately need. Kentucky has received a lot of discussion, but there’s also Maine:

In Maine, Mr. LePage was elected governor in 2010 by running on an anti-welfare platform in a state that has also grown more reliant on public programs — in 2013, the state ranked third in the nation for food-stamp use, just ahead of Kentucky. Mr. LePage, who grew up poor in a large family, has gone at safety-net programs with a vengeance. He slashed welfare rolls by more than half after imposing a five-year limit, reinstituted a work requirement for food-stamp recipients and refused to expand Medicaid under Obamacare to cover 60,000 people. He is now seeking to bar anyone with more than $5,000 in certain assets from receiving food stamps. “I’m not going to help anybody just for the sake of helping,” the governor said in September. “I am not that compassionate.”

His crusade has resonated with many in the state, who re-elected him last year.

But at least splitting the anti-LePage vote totally bully pulipted the Overton Window to the left!

This seems like a good time to note that the ostensible basis for LePage’s war on the poor is entirely without empirical foundation:

For as long as there have been government programs designed to help the poor, there have been critics insisting that helping the poor will keep them from working. But the evidence for this proposition has always been rather weak.

And a recent study from MIT and Harvard economists makes the case even weaker. Abhijit Banerjee, Rema Hanna, Gabriel Kreindler, and Benjamin Olken reanalyzed data from seven randomized experiments evaluating cash programs in poor countries and found “no systematic evidence that cash transfer programs discourage work.” Attacking welfare recipients as lazy is easy rhetoric, but when you actually test the proposition scientifically, it doesn’t hold up.

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