Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Mike Pence, Steve Scalise and the Future of the Republican Party

     Yesterday, I looked at Steve Scalise's claim that the future of the GOP was in nominating 'real conservatives.'

     As I pointed out, you wonder what Scalise thinks a real conservative is-was David Duke, who he used to be good buddies with back in Louisiana a real conservative? If so, then maybe he's wrong that the future of the GOP resides in nominating 'real conservatives.' Similarly, what would Scalise say about that anti gay law in Indiana that Mike Pence now had to back down on? Was Pence a real conservative with that law that would allow any business to refuse to serve gay couples if they claim that their objection is religiously based?

   "Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) said Tuesday that he wanted to see legislation on his desk this week clarifying that the controversial religious freedom bill he signed into law did not allow businesses to deny service to anyone."

     "Pence made the announcement at a widely televised press conference the same day that the Indianapolis Star ran a front-page editorial urging state lawmakers to change the legislation.
"After much reflection and in consultation with leadership of the General Assembly I've come to the conclusion that it would be helpful to move legislation this week that makes it clear that this law does not give businesses to deny services to anyone," Pence said at a press conference on Tuesday. "Let me say that again. I think it would be helpful and I'd like to see on my desk before the end of this week legislation that is added to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that makes it clear that this law does not deny services against anyone."

      "Earlier in the week top Republicans in the state legislature said they would look to add a clarification to the law."

      "We want to make it clear that Indiana's open for business. We want to make it clear that Hoosier hospitality is not a slogan, it's a way of life," Pence said.

     "Pence repeatedly pointed to Democrats backing the federal Religious Freedom and Restoration Act. But Democrats, including Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) earlier in the day, argue that the Indiana law is far more aggressive than the national law.

     What we seem to be learning here is that the tolerance in the country-and in the business community-for this kind of bigotry is considerably less than it used to be. Which, contrary to Scalise, is not good for conservatism as a large part of modern conservatism is bigotry-basically getting folks to vote their prejudices rather than their economic interests.

    One other thought that occurs to me. Madonna-of all people-got criticized roundly for her recent comment that as a society we've gone further for gay rights than gender rights. Of course, in reality it's a waste of time to argue if the oppression of women vs. that of gays vs. that of say women is worse than that of the others.

   It seems to me that the question of who's oppression is really unanswerable as the nature of the oppression in each case is quite different.

   Nevertheless, I want to push back a little on all those who seem to think that her claim that women have seen less progress than gays is absurd on its face. Clearly, our country has made huge starts in sensitivity to gay rights in a very short time.

   It's amazing how far we've come when Bill Clinton supported DOMA-and he was progressive on gay rights; now we are glad to have gone past 'Don't ask, don't tell' but that was relatively a step forward at the time.

   I would just say as a country we've made huge strides on gay rights and as for gay marriage, right now it seems that this will be universal soon-as more and more states accept it, it seems just a matter of time.

   Comparatively, if anything we've gone backwards on some measures of women's rights: particularly abortion. We see red state after red state, cracking down on abortion, to the extent that it's more or less impossible for ordinary women without very deep pockets to get a legal abortion in the state.

    While Texas was criticized for passing a law like this, there wasn't quite the level of outrage as over this anti gay law in Indiana. So evidently, sensitivity for women's rights is not as great-at least in this area. To be sure, you can argue gauging women's progress only based on abortion rights-and I wouldn't claim that we should.

   Nevertheless, it's an interesting comparison. It's not just women's rights either that in some ways seem to be going backwards-how about voting rights and civil rights, where the SJC recently struck down party of the Voting Rights Act? How about all those voter Ids? So Madonna's claim wasn't necessarily absurd.

    The answer is of course not to cut back on the advancements of gay rights but to question why women's rights as well as the right of Black folks to vote seems to be hitting on snag in some areas. 

On the Age of New York Yankees Medicority

     We hear all the time that the Golden Age of the Yankees is over. Recently, Mike Francesca-I'm ecstatic that he's now on tv again on Fox-argued that the Mets though they are nowhere near achieving equality with the Yankees in the hearts of NY fans at least have a shot at relevance again as there is some hope for the Amazins this year while the Yanks' run is over.

    He did point out something important-the Yankee run went on for an awfully long time-20 years-but it's over now. Look, this obviously isn't the late 90s anymore where the Yanks won 4 world series in 5 years. Still, it's interesting how Yankee mediocrity is defined as opposed to other baseball teams. Some argue that the dynasty was over in 2003. They even trace its end to the very night.

   No doubt the loss to the Florida Marlins was painful-but what was most painful of all was the blown 3-0 lead against the hated Red Sox in the 2004 ALCS. Talk about living in infamy. This ended the Sox curse and begun a phase where they won 3 world series in the next 9 years.

   Yet, even here, even though the Yanks would win only one more WS title over the same period-2009-they were the only team you can point to that was right there every year. True the Sox won in 2013 but the year before they lost 93 games and the year after-last year-they lost 91. The last time they Yanks lost 90 games were the Stump Merrill years of the early 90s.

  When they lost 95 games under Stump-talk about Stumped-it was the most losses by the team since 1913-predating even getting the Babe.

  Starting with 2004, the team has won the AL East 6 times and been a wildcard 2 other times. They have failed to win 90 games only 3 times-albeit 2 of those times are the last 2 years.

  Some swoon. There's the rub. The last two years the team went 85-77 in 2013 and 84-78 in 2014 and much of the baseball media makes it sound like the Red Sox before 2004-or the White Sox from 1908 until they finally won their's in 2005.

   The Yanks were 84-78 last year and still had a shot at a wildcard till late in the year and this is seen as the wheels falling of their wagon. In a way it is-I mean this is their worst season since 1992-at 84 wins. That's their worst year in 24 years.

    What other team in baseball comes close to that? The Mets are seen as up and coming this year and when have they won as many as 84 games? 2008, the year before the last Yankee WS ring. The Mets haven't even had a winning season or even 80 wins during that period. Yet, they are the team on the upswing and the Yanks are the team in the doldrums. In 2008, the Mets blew their second big lead with a few games left to play in as many years. Another big choke.

    Just shows the difference expectations make.


Monday, March 30, 2015

Steve Scalise on the Future of the Republican Party

     Scalise thinks he knows the future of the Republican party and what will give it success. He thinks that Jeb Bush is too moderate and that conservatives are the future of the GOP. 

     The Louisiana Republican is hoping the party avoids nominating a moderate in 2016, noting that candidates from the GOP’s center have failed to win the White House during the last two elections. Scalise thinks this is a mistake, and he wants to avoid picking a standard bearer who isn’t a true conservative.

    “People are like, ‘Oh, should it be a moderate? Somebody who can get elected?’” Scalise said during a wide-ranging interview in his Capitol office.

    “You know, I’d argue we’ve had moderates nominated the last few times and they haven’t won,” he said. “Show me the last time a conservative has lost the presidency. I think if we have a strong conservative with a proven record, we’ll win the White House.”

     Read more:

     Finding the true conservative candidate in the GOP is kind of like finding a True Scotsman: you'll never get a Scotsman true enough and you can never find a conservative who is conservative enough. 

    It'd be interested if we could get some names as to who the third ranking House Republican is a true conservative. Does he think he himself would be a great candidate? Or how about David Duke, who has significant history with?

     It's ironic that Scalise believes he is the one to tell us what the future of the GOP is: it's rather amazing that Boehner and friends actually sees fit to actually have him as the third ranking House GOPer:

    "Scalise’s sit-down with POLITICO is a kind a reemergence after several trying months for the Louisiana Republican. He’s kept a low profile for the early part of 2015, after it was revealed that he once attended a meeting organized by a white supremacist in Louisiana. There were also questions about how effective the whip operation was, which came as part of broader criticism of the entire House Republican leadership."

     "Now, with a handful of legislative victories under his belt, Scalise is increasing his visibility in D.C.
Scalise and his chief deputy, Rep. Patrick McHenry of North Carolina, helped notch two big wins last week for Republicans, passing the 2016 House GOP budget resolution and a fix to Medicare physician reimbursements. It was an important moment for the pair, who had some rocky moments in their first quarter in leadership — most notably when they were unable to break conservative opposition to pass a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security."

    I don't know what the GOP formula for future success is beyond gerrymandering, voter id laws, and partisan votes out of the John Roberts Supreme Court but I tend to doubt it has anything to do with a Steve Scalise having a highly visible profile. 


Saturday, March 28, 2015

Bud Selig's Dubious Legacy

     He was able to kind of have it both ways late in his time as commissioner when the witch hunt against steroids took root. Suddenly there was this passion to as Bill James puts it 'Piss on Mark McGwire's shoes to protect the honor of Roger Maris.'

    As James says, often we get a moral panic over some small fry issue-much ado about nothing-while big, glaring problems or scandals are ignored and not dealt with.

    "Think about all the indignation over Hillary Clinton's emails and the scandal that should could have a server!!  For some reason Jeb Bush's server during his time as Governor of Florida is just totally different."

    "In his time, nobody wanted to send Babe Ruth to jail, but now we do want to send Barry Bonds to jail, and we want to send Roger Clemens to jail, and we (for reasons that I don't understand) find it necessary to piss on Mark McGwire's shoes in order to defend the honor of Roger Maris. I am not happy about this. There is no real difference between sending Babe Ruth to jail and sending Barry Bonds or Roger Clemens to jail. The only relevant difference is the difference between America in 2010 and America in 1940."

    "The people who sent Martha Stewart to jail were the people who were supposed to be watching Wall Street. They went after Martha Stewart because she was an easy target. Also, they didn't understand financial derivatives. Nobody did; as it turned out, the people who were trading in them didn't understand them, either. That's why Lehman Bros. went bankrupt; they were trading in something they didn't understand."

      I think the steroid issue is precisely the kind of Martha Stewart issue that allowed Congress to look like it was doing something back in 2006 and 2007 when it was really doing nothing-important at least. 

     I think the whole steroid scandal-the way its use has been so demonized is totally wrongheaded. One of the many unfortunate effects of it has to be a kind of elevation of the status of Bud Selig; yeah, it's admitted that for years he turned a blind eye to the use of steroids but he made up for it at the end of his tenure with a Damascus like conversion to raging steroid scold. 

    What must be understood about Selig first and foremost. is that he was a political appointment: in theory at least the Baseball Commissioner is supposed to in some way be a transcendent  figure in baseball-who can preside over both the players and the owners as his interest should be the whole-he is not meant to represent just one side's issue mainly against the other. 

   However, that's exactly why the owners made him commissioner: to represent their interests mainly, over and above that of the players. His elevation as commissioner was to put in one of the inmates to supervise the asylum:

    "Beginning In 1985, as owner of the Milwaukee Brewers, Bud Selig and numerous other owners colluded to undermine free agency by agreeing not to sign other teams’ free agents. The owners were taken to court and eventually ended up paying 280 million in damages to the players. It was with this failed attempt at collusion that the seeds of the 1994 work stoppage were sewn. In 1992, Fay Vincent, then Commissioner of Baseball, openly criticized the actions of this group of owners by saying:
“They rigged the signing of free agents. They got caught. They paid $280 million to the players. And I think that’s polluted labor relations in baseball ever since …”
     "In spite of Selig’s unscrupulous past he was able to corral enough owners to his side in an 18 to 9 vote of “no confidence” to force Vincent out. Now, you’d think it would be difficult for an owner with a history of impropriety to ascend to a position best suited to someone who might inspire trust from both sides, not so. Selig took the commissioner’s chair in 1992, passing control of the Brewers to his daughter, Wendy Selig-Prieb."
     "Selig of course presided over the 1994 player’s strike. The 232-day work stoppage lasted from August 12, 1994, to April 2, 1995. What has since been described as the worst work-stoppage in professional sports history was precipitated by a collective bargaining proposal that included a salary cap. Tensions were exacerbated by the collusion attempts … Ownership dug in and the players didn’t budge. Eventually the 1994 season became a lost cause."
      "The strike damaged the game deeply, fans walked away in droves. There was a prevailing perception that the great American pastime had been irrevocably corrupted by greed. It was also during this time that steroids took root in MLB locker rooms. This issue was covered in a previous piece, so I will only note here that while it is true that the players shoulder a preponderance of blame, the owners did little to stop the spread of PED’s while they lined their pockets, and, in the end, the spread of steroids did occur on Selig’s watch."
      That part about the 'perponderance o the blame' I don't agree with as I don't see the use of PEDs as the evil that most baseball writers like this one see them as. Even if you do buy the case against PEDs there is no logical reason why HGH should be banned much less banning players for 50, 100, or more games for their use. 
     Basically, though, we see that things have overall worked very conveniently for Selig. He was one of the colluding owners, yet he was made commissioner and in 1994 he sided with his fellow owners with the plan to crush the players and stuff a salary cap down their throat. Ultimately, it failed and this was finally the end of collusion, but in the meantime, we lost the 1994 season and the first 18 games of 1995 and for some reason the baseball writers took the owners side over the players-or at least most of the blame was heaped on the players as being 'greedy'-after all, who wouldn't like to play baseball-'a child's game'-for $1 million dollars?
   This attitude was again the Martha Stewart syndrome, of rational ignorance. You absolutely can make a $1 million dollars even to play baseball and still be ripped off and feel that way legitimately-why do the much richer owners get a pass here? 
    Selig and the owners went into the strike with the expressed purpose of breaking the players-they fully accepted that they'd have to kiss off the 1994 playoffs and World Series-and were fine with that; in their mind it would be worth it to once and or all break the players. Even though it failed miserably and they had to accept that they'd never get their salary cap. Still, for some reason the media wanted to blame the players more than the owners. 
    What Selig and the owners never anticipated is how angry the fans were, how many would stay home. So the steroid boom helped Selig out of the jam that the greed of he and his fellow owners created. 
    Then when it was convenient, after baseball returned, he became a steroid scold-rather than earlier when the game needed all those homers. One reason the players' union was so opposed to any kind of steroids testing was they rightfully felt very little trust to the owners who had after all, ripped them off to the tune of at least $280 million and had installed one of their own in So how could they possibly trust Selig?
    Another reason, though, is that quite honestly, while Selig and the owners enjoyed the steroid craze at first, by the end, they are concerned about rising salaries. Breaking the back of steroid use was a way to keep salaries down as well. 
   Then Selig broke any number of laws in a crusade in 2010 and 2011 to destroy Alex Rodriguez. At the end of the day A-Rod never tested positive for steroid use-Selig and friends just decided that they know he did-a lot of it was based on Anthony Bosch's notebooks that Selig broke so many laws in an effort to obtain.
   While MIke Lupica and Bill Madden sneer that A-Rod is a cheater, the only thing Bosch's notebooks actually show is that he used HGH-which is not performance enhancing-except to the extent that being able to play healthy rather than not being able to play or playing injured will enhance your performance. 
   What Selig really represented was the owners cynical desire-even if they failed in 1994to rig the game against the players. Even the finding of arbitration that A-Rod was guilty has taint on it as the arbitrator was in the hock for the owners-just like Selig. After all, when the previous arbitrator had ruled against MLB in a steroid case, Selig removed him. 


Friday, March 27, 2015

Elizabeth Warren for Senate Leader?

     Those pushing her for President have backed off apparently.

      Now that Harry Reid has announced his plan to step down in 2016, Warren is being pushed to take his role:

      "The news is breaking this morning that Harry Reid will not run for reelection, which will set in motion a scramble for power at the top of the Democratic Senate leadership. This, in turn, will intensify the debate between the rising “Elizabeth Warren wing of the Democratic Party” and its (somewhat) less populist wing over what sort of economic agenda the Democratic Party should represent."

       "This debate is already underway: Two liberal groups are now floating the idea of a Warren run for the post of Democratic Senate leader."
    "Judging by the Twitters, most political observers have already decided that the two major contenders for the post will be Chuck Schumer and Dick Durbin, with Schumer seen as the heavy favorite. That may be true, but that doesn't mean the liberal wing of the party will quietly acquiesce without trying to put its stamp on the outcome."
     Schumer isn't a liberal? I guess it depends on who you ask-how liberal they are. Greg Sargent himself admits it's not likely to happen. I have somewhat mixed feelings about the proposal. I don't know that it would interest her anyway. 
     In a previous post, I discussed the difference between Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren as powerful leading Democrats.
   Basically, Hillary is an ambitious politician, but Warren is basically a Saint. 
   She goes to Washington not to gain power, but more like Jesus storming into the Temple and chasing the money changers out. 
    They are too very different kinds of powerful ladies, and liberal Democrats. I see no actual basis for the idea that Hillary-or Schumer for that matter-aren't liberal enough. I mean I think at the present time the entire Democratic party is going in a moderately progressive direction-their centerpiece issue is now wage stagnation and rising inequality. 
   Granted, on the specific issue of financial reform and the conduct of the banks, Warren is simply a firebrand-and on this issue considerably more populist, I would have to agree. 
    While many progressives prefer Warren by a large margin to Hillary, you can argue that if anything, the preference of Warren over Hillary is not necessarily a positive thing for the feminist movement. After all, there remains a knock on HIllary for being ambitious-ok, maybe she's very ambitious, but is she any more ambitious than most males at her level of power? The very question is absurd. 
    You could argue that maybe many folks-even liberals and progressives-are more comfortable with a woman who's sort of like a saint and the conscinece of America than a woman who has strong beliefs and convictions, but, yes, is also very ambitious. 
   Warren's whole appeal is that she cares nothing for her own power and aggrandizement-she is just an outaged saint preaching about the evil banks. 
   Don't get me wrong-I used to live in Massachusetts, and if I still did, I'd vote for her in a second. I agree she has an important role in today's Democratic party. However, Senate Leader would not be right for her: that requires a politician, not a saint. 
    Warren has an important role today in the Democratic party-but not as the Senate Leader. 
    P.S. I really will miss Harry Reid. The best memory of him was when he claimed taht a friend told him that Romney didn't pay his taxes back in the 2012 Presidential race. That was a classic moment.

The Medicare Doc Fix: Congress Actually Passes a Bill

      They say that even a busted clock is right twice a day, but today's House passes bills much less often that that. You can't totally blame them for taking victory laps-the House passes an important bill?! Greg Sargent, of course, right away throws cold water on the euphoria-Don't expect a trend he warns and he's right, of course, 

      Still, this is basically once in a lifetime:

     "A polar ice sheet lodged itself atop the entrance to Hell this afternoon, as the House of Representatives passed, by an overwhelming bipartisan margin of 392-37, a fix to the Medicare formula for reimbursing doctors, putting Congress on the brink of ending a saga that has been marked by punts and short term fixes for well over a decade. According to Sahil Kapur’s report from the House floor, the celebratory outbreak rivaled the victory parades that marked the end of World War II:
Everyone from Speaker John Boehner to Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to their deputies and committee leaders and underlings sang the praises of a massive Medicare overhaulbill, giving the equivalent of Oscar acceptance speeches by effusively thanking their staff and colleagues for making it happen….
“Don’t look now,” said Rep. Renee Ellmers (R-NC), “but we are actually governing.”
     "Don’t expect it to last. While there’s been a lot of chatter about how the bipartisan deal on the Medicare “doc fix” could herald a new era in which John Boehner stiff-arms the right to make legislative compromises with Democrats, there are reasons to assume that there could still be plenty of chaos ahead."
     I agree that those who think this in anyway represents 'a new era' will be disappointed. Still, it's fitting if we are hearing WWII style speeches-it feels like Congress hasn't agreed on anything since WWII.  Sargent does acknowledge that on it's own this is a fine piece of legislation:
   "To be sure, the Medicare doc fix deal is an achievement. The liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorites and the Center for American Progress both endorsed the deal: It brings stability and certainty, the means for paying for it is acceptable (it’s mostly by raising premiums on very affluent beneficiaries), and it extends the Children’s Health Insurance Program and funding for community health centers."
    "Senate Democrats continue to block the compromise out of concerns over abortion language. But as Danny Vinik writes, it is a genuine compromise, and it’s probably only a matter of time until Senate Dems cave. After all, it has been endorsed by Nancy Pelosi and has now passed the House by overwhelming margins."
     Of course-when you talk about the Senate Dems, you're talking about reasonable people. 


Germanwings Andreas Lubitz: it Takes a Special Kind of Evil

     I try not to use the world 'evil' too much but it's tough to come up with another way to describe this pilot who not only did he want to kill himself-which is already in my opinion, a special kind of selfish-but wanted to take as many other people with him as possible. I had tried to avoid the 'E word' but finally gave up:

     "The co-pilot of Germanwings Flight 9525 purposely crashed the plane into the French Alps, killing all 150 people on board, officials said Thursday."

    "We at Lufthansa are speechless that this aircraft has been deliberately crashed by the co-pilot," said Carsten Spohr, CEO of Lufthansa, which owns Germanwings.
     "Marseille prosecutor Brice Robin said the co-pilot, 27-year-old German national Andreas Lubitz, apparently "wanted to destroy the aircraft."
     "It's unknown whether Lubitz planned his actions, Robin said. But he "took advantage" of a moment in which the pilot left the cockpit and "activated the descent," which can only be done deliberately"
    New details released Thursday appeared to support the startling revelation that someone set the plane on a crash course.
    I mean you hear of pilots flying drunk or on drugs and crashing or pilots taking a selfie; all of this is criminal, homicidal negligence, but you can imagine it. For someone to be this angry at humanity though-it takes a special person to have this much pain and resentment. 
    Though be careful in ever saying that something marks a new low. As much as you might say or want to say that no human has ever fallen to this, there is always precedent that shows this is not so.
    The question that begs is: what could the motive possibly be? How could a young pilot feel this was his only way out?
    "Police searched Lubitz's apartment in Dusseldorf on Thursday, looking for clues about his possible motive."
     "A search is underway for the plane's second "black box," the flight data recorder, which could shed more light on the plane's final minutes."
     "And the French government has asked the FBI to help investigate the crash, a law enforcement official said."
     "Investigators so far say they're baffled about why Lubitz would have crashed the plane."
    "Lufthansa does "not have any clues," Spohr said.
     Well, obviously, one would have to start with his family or friends-or if he had any mental illness. If he does have mental illness does that mean it's wrong to call him evil? I'm not so sure. 
      You know me-I've had some go arounds with Scott Sumner and his commentators at the Money Illusion, but nothing made me madder than when someone there dismissed a comment I made about how my friend who is mentally ill told me his food stamps have been cut by 40% over the last 6 years. 
     This Market Monetarist genius was trying to claim that food stamps had increased since 2009-a widely used GOP talking point; if only a lie repeated again and again became more true-in truth it becomes an even greater lie as it leads to disinformation and spreads ignorance. 
     When I pointed out that my friend's food stamps have been cut, he sneered that I was using a useless anecdote all the more useless as it was offered by a crazy person-the commentator's words. Man, that was the maddest I ever got at Money Illusion-saying a lot, as those of you who know my history there realize. 
     I let this guy know in no certain terms he had no business sniggering at my friend-he may be mentally ill but he understands basic math-and believe me, no one understands better than him when he loses money-he's about as frugal as it gets. 
     Point I'm making is that as someone with more than one friend who is mentally ill, I know that ,most of them certainly have more than a basic sense of right and wrong. My friend in question on food stamps, certainly would realize that what Lubitz did was evil; he is actually a very sweet guy-though quite neurotic-but it makes him who he is. I've met some other folks who are MI as well and discovered that they aren't so nice; so my take is that moral norms apply to the MI as well. 
    So I don't see anyway else to describe him-but evil. 
     P.S. I have to disagree with the 19th century German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer regarding suicide: he had waged a campaign to get the Catholic Church to change it's moral valuation of suicide-the Church taught that anyone who committed suicide had committed 'the unpardonable sin'-and couldn't go to Heaven. 
     I'm not a Catholic-or religious at all-but I don't hold suicides in a very high estimation. Assuming you have anyone who cares about you at all, it's just a very selfish-'fuck you'-kind of an action. 


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Let's Hope Bill James is Right Again

      He has give us so many intuitive tools for analyzing baseball:

      Here he opines on the future of baseball regarding steroids and the Hall of Fame-as he says it comes down to 2 extreme positions:

      "Well, I'm not asking people to set aside what's right and wrong. If you think there's a right and a wrong here, and you want to vote on that, that's great, I don't have a problem with that."

      I like the way he puts that, right off the bat. I mean all the steroid scolds always just assume there is a clear right and wrong here-steroids are wrong, they are cheating, case closed. But this is not at all clear to me:

      "But I'm saying, for sake of understanding, set aside what's right and what's wrong. History doesn't coalesce around a compromise. History coalesces only around an extreme position. And there are two extreme positions: (1) the steroid users can't go in, or (2) it doesn't matter. It's impossible for history to coalesce around the position that steroid users can't go in, because, frankly, there's already steroid users in [the Hall of Fame], and as time passes, more and more of us are going to be using more and more steroids for more and more things. It's impossible for history to coalesce around that position, therefore it has to coalesce around the other extreme position, that [steroid use] doesn't matter. And I would argue that [given] enough time, it isn't going to matter, and that all the guys we think are permanently banned, they're actually all going in."

     James Brannon likens the point about '2 extreme positions' to the debate about gay marriage. 

     "I think this is a brilliant observation, and I immediately tried to think of other instances where this was true, where history coalesced around one of two extreme positions and rejected the compromise position. And it hit me right away that this was true of the gay marriage debate in the United States. The compromise position, that gay couples should be granted the same legal rights as married straight couples with regard to inheritance and hospital visitation and the like, but that we won't call it "marriage," that we'll call them civil unions or some such, or the federalist argument that gay marriage should be legal in California but not in Utah, has basically no traction. Anyone who holds that position is not on solid footing. And as more states and jurisdictions legalize same-sex marriage via the ballot box or judicial rulings, it seems obvious — has been obvious for a long time now — that history absolutely will not coalesce around the position that there won't be gay marriage in the United States. And so therefore there will be gay marriage in the United States."

    Absolutely. This is also true of any number of issues like slavery and then segregation. On the other hand I can think of some unhappy compromises' like with abortion where nationally we've just agreed not to discuss it too much but at the state level we're seeing abortion clinics being closed completely across many red states.  

   Still, it's quite possible that this will turn out to be an issue more like gay marriage and segregation than abortion-or voting rights, alas. 

   " It was almost exactly a generation ago that Andrew Sullivan, writing in The New Republic, first argued for gay marriage as a superior alternative to "domestic partnerships." And while same-sex marriage isn't legal everywhere in America, it's fast becoming so. Too fast for some, not fast enough for others; but it is coming, even in Utah."

     "I think the idea that same-sex marriage is inevitable, precisely because the alternative is practically and politically impossible, is something we've all sort of intuitively grasped, though perhaps only vaguely so. I would bet Bill James figured it out twenty years ago."

      UPDATE: Another Bill James interview on steroids:



Major League Baseball: Where Has all the Offense Gone?

     I've noted more than once that we've seen a precipitous drop in runs scored in the last few years. I've suggested that the reason may be a successful war on steroids and human growth hormone (HGH). That HGH is banned makes no sense; I mean why wouldn't you want to speed up a player's recover from an injury?

      "I'll return to an observation I've made a few times lately: baseball has just gotten really boring the last few years. Runs scored team by team are way down. It's shocking that not a single team scored over 800 runs last year and that the average team scored 660 runs."

     "In 2006, only two teams scored less than 700 and Tampa Bay, which had the fewest runs in the majors, scored 689-which is 30 more than the average team scored in 2014."

     "If this is what the integrity of Baseball looks like I can do without it."

     At least the league itself has noted this drop in offense. It's being argued that a big part of this has actually been an enlarged strike zone-and a lower one. 

      "Major League Baseball is considering altering the textbook definition of the strike zone for the first time in nearly two decades, fearful that the proliferation of the low strike has sapped too much offense from the game, league sources told Yahoo Sports."

     "Runs per game fell to 4.07 in 2014, the lowest mark since 1981 and the 13th fewest since World War II, and studies from The Hardball Times' Jon Roegele and Florida professor Brian Mills pegged the low strike as a significant culprit."

     "Since 2009, the average size of the called strike zone has jumped from 435 square inches to 475 square inches, according to Roegele’s research. The results: Pitchers are throwing more in the lower part of the zone, and hitters are swinging at an increased rate, knowing the tough-to-drive pitches will be called strikes."

     It's good that they're looking at this because I don't care how much 'integrity' the game allegedly has now, it's becoming pretty boring. I mean if the Steroid Era is over, we're now in the Second Deadball Era. 

    I guess having more injured players out for longer also adds to the integrity of the game. 

    In football no one worries about steroid and HGH use destroying the 'integrity of football'-why is that? Probably it'd be unthinkable even in theory to stop NFL players from using HGH-too many serious possibly career ending injuries. 

    However, I don't much understand the proposal of both Bill Bellichick and John Mara to move the extra point back. 

    "The NFL Competition Committee has discussed experimenting this preseason with a longer -- much longer -- extra-point try. According to one member, the committee's meetings this weekend included preliminary talks about placing the ball at the 25-yard line for the extra-point kick -- which would make it a 43-yard attempt -- rather than the 2-yard line, where it is currently placed."

     "Last season, kickers missed just five of 1,267 extra-point attempts, a conversion rate of 99.6 percent --so good that Commissioner Roger Goodell recently suggested the demise of the extra point could be imminent, because it is almost automatic, and thus not exciting enough. A longer extra-point try certainly would make things more interesting and require significantly more strategizing. The conversion rate of field goals between 40 and 49 yards last season was 83 percent. The last time the extra-point conversation rate regularly fell below 90 percent was in the 1930s and early 1940s. That surely would give coaches something to ponder when weighing whether to kick for one point or try for two, with the success rate for two-point conversion attempts typically around 50 percent."
     I don't see why we'd want to go back to having extra point conversions lower than the 90s. I mean why would having a bunch of 12-6 and 20-13 games make things more interesting? The league feels it needs to make the extra point more exciting. I think the other proposal out there-moving the extra point to the 1 yard line-rather than the 15 or the 25 would be much better. 
    "There’s increasing talk at the league meetings this week that the NFL may be ready for a significant rules change that would make two-point conversion attempts much more common."
     "The change is simple: Move extra points from the 2-yard line to the 1-yard line. That wouldn’t have any noticeable change on the success rate of extra point kicks (the difference to an NFL kicker between essentially a 19-yard field goal and a 20-yard field goal is nothing), but it would significantly change how often coaches go for two. From the 2-yard line, where extra points have been since 1994, two-point conversions are successful slightly less than half the time. But from the 1-yard line, two-point conversions would likely be successful more than half the time. That means that most of the time, going for two would have a better expected payoff than kicking the extra point."
      "There’s not currently a specific rules proposal regarding moving extra points to the 1-yard line, but Sal Paolantonio reported on SportsCenter this morning that there’s an undercurrent of movement toward making the change. And NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told Peter King in today’s Monday Morning Quarterback that there’s a chance of such a change."
    So these two proposals are basically opposite. 
     Basically, as this post shows, I like things that increase offense, and dislike things that decrease them-in any sport. The NBA is another league that went from really exciting-'Showtime'-during the 80s to lower and lower scoring games in the 90s-first more and more teams were failing to score 100 points per game then a lot of teams started scoring under 90 points per game. Today it's better-a good offensive team scores over 100, a bad one under. In the Showtime Era, the good offenses were scoring over 110 and only a few would fail to score 100. 
   P.S. If you prick Bill Bellichick, he will bleed, but he will never let us see that. No matter how you phrase the question, he'll never acknowledge any 'human side' to letting Revis go. Again, this seems cold but really it's the salary cap that makes it 'cold.' 
  Bellichick could do what Jerry Jones did with DeMarco Murray and at least acknowledge he wanted to keep Revis but just felt that the salary cap made it too hard but that's just not his style. It's kind of boring-and rather unsatisfying-listening to his press conferences-but how can you argue with the results?
   But again-the salary cap makes you be 'cold.' The Saints were more sentimental and paid all their 2009 Super Bowl winning stars and this has hurt them in subsequent seasons-the team has regressed year after year since 2009. 
   One remedy to the 'coldness' would be to: get rid of the salary cap-or least relax it-but that would kill the 'competitive balance'-right?


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Mike Lupica and Bill Madden: The Anatomy of Steroids Scolds

      What stands out to me is how little the debate about steroids post Jose Canseco's book Juiced has been about facts. After Roger Clemens defeated the government perjury case against him in 2012, Bill Madden and Mike Lupica-the kind of pundits who try to set themselves up as baseball's conscience-lamented the result. 

     Madden dismissed the result: we just know Clemens is guilty and that's it. You know, the steroids scolds had decided what the facts about Clemens-or Bonds, Sosa, or McGwire-are and they don't need to hear any further facts about it. Baseball's conscience had made up it's mind.

     Mike Lupica felt that this was a loss for baseball fans. Why is that exactly? What would the public have gained from Clemens being found criminally guilty? Well, I guess it would have made the Lupicas and Maddens of the world feel good and they presume that the average fan feels like they do on the matter. 

     "So Clemens wins, the government loses. And guess what? Baseball loses, too, because this verdict is also a great big slap against George Mitchell’s report. That is a shame because that report mattered. The government doesn’t even get the one conviction, on obstruction of justice, it got on Barry Bonds."

     "Now Clemens waits to see what the voters from the Baseball Writers Association of America think when his name goes on the ballot for the Hall of Fame. He will find out soon enough what the voters think about him, and his version of things, whether they think he is a falsely accused man, or a rich sack of lies. Bonds walked on perjury, too, because of one holdout woman on the jury. But does anybody on the planet still believe that Bonds didn’t use steroids?"

     See, we just know-ie, Lupica and Madden just know-so why even bother with a trial? Let's just do like they did at the Salem Witch Trials and string em up. We know what we need to know-or at least the scolds know what they need to know. 

     Ok, then Lupica correctly gauges my feeling about it:

     "If you don’t care and never cared whether ballplayers use their own version of Viagra to hit more home runs and strike out more guys and make a lot more money, then you are allowed to see what happened on Monday as both justice and vindication for Clemens."

     "If you believe that Clemens, with a great career in decline, suddenly decided he needed a personal trainer for B12 shots, then go ahead. You are allowed, and allowed to be outraged if Clemens isn't a first-ballot Hall of Famer."

     Paragraph one correctly states my feeling: I really don't care what they did or didn't do. From the standpoint of the Hall of Fame. I think that we should just go by the numbers. I don't buy that steroids makes it an unfair playing field. I don't think steroids is the worst scandal in baseball history. 

    It's ludicrous to me that people like Madden have suggested that steroids is on the level-if not even worse-than the Black Sox scandal and it's absurd that Madden feels that Pete Rose deserves a chance in the HOF if McGwire, Bonds, Sosa, and Clemens get their shot. 

    What Pete Rose did was much more troubling, I normally would agree that a lifetime ban is too much but this is one case I can understand. However, if Madden-who unfortunately gets to vote on the HOF-were willing to let these great players in I might consider giving Rose a hearing. 

   I see that a commenter-who calls himself Reflex-to an article about Clemens attacks him for allegedly going with a 14 year old girl:

   "Always amazing to me that people care more about Roger’s relationship with PEDs than his relationship with a 14 year old. Seriously messed up priorities that its the PED use that will keep him out of the hall on the ‘character clause’.

  Look, I don't know anything about what Clemens did or didn't do with a 14 year old-and I'm not really chomping at the bit to find out. I do note that Canseco in Juiced claims that Clemens is the only player he knows who is faithful to his wife. At the end of the day, I'm not going to hire an private investigator to find out. 

  However, for the Lupicas and Maddens of the world, you can rest assured they'd much sooner vote for a child molester than someone who has any taint of that evil thing steroids. I think they'd sooner let Manson off than allow a Clemens or Bonds into the HOF. 

  As to whether or not Clemens did steroids, I'm reading the book by Kirk Radomski now

   and he definitely also believes Clemens did-and backs up Brian McNamee. One thing that irks me about the discussion about McNamee is when people say 'why would he lie?'-I mean there are all kinds of reasons someone might lie Why do you have to be psychiatrist to question his claims? The two did recently settle. McNamee gets his payday. I know that proves Clemens did steroids although the fact that the government couldn't prove he was lying when he said he didn't do steroids proves nothing. For the record Clemens' lawyer says his client won't be paying McNamee-it will be AIG.

   It does seem very likely that the Rocket-who it's a good thing came to pitch for the Yankees later as if he had retired a Red Sox I would have a harder time defending him, LOL-at least used HGH-Human Growth Hormone. Radomski-who is the big source for the Mitchell Report-who knows about as much as anyone about steroids and HGH-I wouldn't necessarily recommend that someone do steroids but if I were going to, I'd want to speak to someone like him-says it makes no sense that-whatever policy MLB wants to have for steroids-has banned HGH. 

   HGH can prolong a player's career-and is not performance enhancing-as that's what steroid phobia is really so afraid of-it just helps players recover much quicker from injury and puts years on a player's years in the league-like Clemens got. After the way the Red Sox dumped him-I had to take a dig at the Sox-he had 11 more years in him and ended up playing till he was closer to 50 than 40. 

   Had he not used HGH he probably would have washed out the same time Dwight Gooden did-the two came up almost the same time-Doc was one year older than The Rocket. So why is this a bad thing? Why do we want athletes to say out longer than they need to and end their careers earlier than they need to?

    It's because steroids furor isn't rational. It's just this obsession with 'only using what God gave you'; it's a moral prejudice not an intellectual position. HGH just gets painted with the same brush because after Canseco's book we had a big moral panic-it didn't hurt that the owners wanted to keep down players' salaries either. 

    As for side effects, there are far fewer with HGH-the main concern is that if one has a predilection for cancer it can be dangerous. Obviously anyone who used it would want to get checked out first. But it was able to prolong careers and for even regular people it can heal against disease and maybe prolong life. HGH seem to be what helped Magic when he got HIV.

    "20 years have passed since Magic Johnson has revealed he is HIV positive. With the help of anabolic steroids and growth hormone cocktail he remains healthy and strong."

     "But he lived on, larger than ever with the help of HIV / AIDS coctail of drugs. Anabolic steroids, HGH and many other medications keep the HIV baring patient healthy. Primobolan depot, deca durabolin and other similar drugs prevent muscle wasting while giving the body's immune system a boost. Many HIV patients look better than „healthy“ people, Magic Johnson included. We were all devastated by the news and Magic was a basketball hero, one of the very best, comparable to Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Michael Jordan and Shaquile O'neal at their best."

     "Luckily he had good doctors and lots of money so he was able to buy the best anabolic steroids and the best growth hormone and it shows."

      Look, it's certainly possible to abuse steroids-using them too much, using the wrong ones together, etc.. bodybuilders very often abuse them-you have to know what you're doing-and the way to know is consult doctors and health professionals.

      We always hear how dangerous steroids are but I have never felt like this is the reason people-or at least baseball writers-get so hysterical about them. Do you believe that Lupica hates Alex Rodriguez so much because A-Rod endangered his own health? No, it's a worry about a level playing field in assessing greatness-that as steroids are 'cheating' if you ever in your life took anything that could be called 'steroids' everything you ever did is tainted. 

       What this does, is make the old white men happy as it gives us the result that only the Old Timers' records-Ruth, Mantle, Maris-are legitimate. The Old Timers never had help supposedly-conveniently forgetting about segregation. 

       So the vehemence about steroids isn't rational. The legacy of Canseco's book at this point is pretty bad. Maybe in the future we might start to have a more rational discussion about the real benefits and dangers-which you'd have to be a fool to discount-and the legacy will look better. At least when Canseco first wrote the book he didn't intend a witch hunt-though later, in his second book-Vindicated-he seemed to want to join the witch hunt if it made him more popular again. 

        A lot of people say that Clemens, Bonds, and company won't sniff the Hall in their lifetimes. That would be a real pity-though it may well be right considering we have folks like Madden doing the voting. Still with time, perhaps as society becomes more rational on this issue maybe that seeps through to baseball and maybe this changes. 

       P.S. I will admit, that I've come to feel really bad for these athletes. I mean even if you take steroids you have to work your ass off for them to work-and not everyone who uses them will be great. Players like Bonds, Clemens, and McGwire were naturally very gifted as well. If you think that taking steroids will magically make someone with no innate talent a superstar, how do you explain the Giambi brothers who both took the same steroids but while Jason was great, Jeremy never achieved the same level of stats?

      It must really suck to put your whole life into something like this and accomplish so much and then just see some sanctimonious baseball writers-and some chickenhawk US Congressmen who can't achieve anything important so try to disguise their uselessness by bullying Mark McGwire on C-Span-decree that none of it means a hill of beans based on their own ignorant prejudice. I mean Lupica is not speaking from any level of informed fact about steroids just pure sentiment. 

      As HGH was probably the main thing that explains Clemens performance it makes even less sense not to put him in the Hall. To me, this robs the fans. 

      Some people feel differently. Selena Roberts, who wrote the book that first nailed A-Rod for using steroids-she got her hands on the results of baseball's first test in 2003 that the player's union was supposed to discard-seems to revel in bringing athletes and sports low.

     She's less a sportswriter than a sports scandal writer. 

      P.S.S. I'll return to an observation I've made a few times lately: baseball has just gotten really boring the last few years. Runs scored team by team are way down. It's shocking that not a single team scored over 800 runs last year and that the average team scored 660 runs.

     In 2006, only two teams scored less than 700 and Tampa Bay, which had the fewest runs in the majors, scored 689-which is 30 more than the average team scored in 2014.

     If this is what the integrity of Baseball looks like I can do without it.