Friday, September 04, 2015

Cruising the Web

It was quite enjoyable yesterday to take a break for a bit from all the aggravating and depressing news and enjoy Judge Berman's ruling on Deflategate. I even spent my lunch reading the Judge's decision and he really smacked down the League and Goodell. After five straight reversals of NFL punishments of players, isn't it time that the League take a long, hard look at the legal staff. There seem quite a few fundamental errors that they made in the way they went about determining Brady's punishment. Don't they have lawyers who could have kept them from messing up so badly?

The best legal analysis of the decision and what might happen next comes from Michael McCann writing at Sports Illustrated. He even goes into a discussion of how the NFL could decide to punish Brady again. Gack! It's hard to believe they would overreach like that, but I wouldn't put any poor decision past Goodell.

As Sally Jenkins argues in the Washington Post, Deflategate has revealed how unfit Roger Goodell is for his job.
A decisive document stands out in the literature of DeflateGate, and it’s not the dog-eared Wells report, with which Goodell sought to suspend Brady four games over a vague unproven allegation he was “generally aware” of a ball-boy plot to suck the air out of footballs in the AFC championship game. The content of the Wells report wasn’t even questioned by Berman. Rather, the critical document that got Goodell overturned was his own incompetently written decision as an arbitrator, a sheaf of papers full of wrenching distortions and irrational legal leaps, which radiated Goodell’s supercilious high-dudgeon persona. Berman bought not a single word of it.

Berman’s ruling provides a devastating bookend to Goodell’s. It’s the difference between a professional athlete and a stone amateur who says, “I could have played this game if I just hadn’t blown out my knee.” The NFL’s counsel tried to argue that arbitration is meant to be binding and therefore Berman was obliged to show “deference” to Goodell’s judgment no matter how flawed. But Berman rejected the notion right off the top with a wealth of case law. Goodell, he ruled, “is not free to merely dispense his own brand of industrial justice.” Boom.

There were “several significant legal deficiencies” in the process Goodell oversaw, Berman continued. There was Goodell’s failure to notify Brady of what offense he was being charged with or disciplined for. There was his summary high-handed decision to “improperly” deprive Brady’s counsel of any background documents or notes on the investigation.

Goodell’s “inadequacy” on due process was such that Berman said he didn’t even need to decide other major claims made by Brady. Such as the claim that Goodell was “evidently partial,” that he totally departed from the factual conclusions of the Wells report in his reasoning for the draconian four-game penalty and that he so publicly wedded himself to the conclusions of the Wells report before hearing Brady’s appeal, he made it impossible for him to reach a contrary conclusion.

[Read Judge Richard Berman’s full decision]

All in all, it’s a portrait of total incompetence by Goodell, who nonetheless announced his intention to keep pursuing the case, saying, “We will appeal today’s ruling in order to uphold the collectively bargained responsibility to protect the integrity of the game.” Now he’s truly rolling the dice out of desperation to recoup what he has lost. He’s hoping a Second Circuit appeals court will find for him on the narrowest possible procedural grounds: that arbitration shouldn’t be overturned even with idiotic errors committed by a tyrant.

The Brady case is a huge loss for the NFL. It has opened the league to legal challenges from every dog-fighter and wife-beater it seeks to discipline for workplace violations. It’s the biggest threat to control of its affairs since Al Davis won the right to relocate the Oakland Raiders. And it’s all the result of a terrible temperamental flaw in Goodell.

I hope the Patriots win the Super Bowl again and Brady wins another MVP award that Goodell will have to hand over to him. I've never been a big football fan - I'm one of those women who tunes in once a year to watch the Super Bowl ads. Basketball is the game that keeps me riveted. I only vaguely knew who Bill Belichick was a year ago even though my husband admired him because he was an economics major in college. But now I'm looking forward to watching the Patriots play all season. Thanks Roger for broadening my opportunities for procrastinating from my work.

Enjoy the memes.

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Timothy Sandefu has an excellent essay in the Claremont Review of Books about "The Politics of Star Trek." If you're a fan, as I am, of the original series, you'll enjoy his description of the underlying liberty-loving ideology that permeated the series. Then he contrasts that message with the quite different message of the later series and some of the movies which seem to worship at the concept of non-interventionism and moral relativism. I heartily recommend the essay.

Nate Silver has a useful post about why all us political poll watchers should just "keep calm and ignore the 2016 'game changers.'" He reminds us of all the elections when the big story in the fall before the election turned out to be nothingburgers by the end of the process.
First, there are far more opportunities to be “surprised” in the primaries. Let’s start with the most basic stuff. In a nomination race, there might be a dozen or more candidates, instead of just two. And states vote one at a time, instead of all at once.

Furthermore, in a nomination race, there is an abundance of metrics by which you might judge the campaigns: national polls, Iowa polls, New Hampshire polls, favorability ratings, endorsements, fundraising, staffing, even crowd sizes and yard signs. Eventually, we’ll also be able to look at delegates, which can be counted in many different ways. For any of these metrics, you can report on the level of support (“Hillary Clinton is polling at 48 percent”), the trend (“she’s lost 4 percentage points since last month”), or even the second derivative (“she’s losing ground, but not as quickly as before”). Multiply 23 candidates3 by 10 metrics by three ways of reporting on those metrics, and you have 690 opportunities to be “surprised” at any given time....

The other big difference between the general election and primaries is that polls are not very reliable in the primaries. They improve as you get closer to the election, although only up to a point. But they have little meaning now, five months before the first states vote.

It’s not only that the polls have a poor predictive track record — at this point in the past four competitive races, the leaders in national polls were Joe Lieberman, Rudy Giuliani, Hillary Clinton and Rick Perry, none of whom won the nomination — but also that they don’t have a lot of intrinsic meaning. At this point, the polls you see reported on are surveying broad groups of Republican- or Democratic-leaning adults who are relatively unlikely to actually vote in the primaries and caucuses and who haven’t been paying all that much attention to the campaigns. The ones who eventually do vote will have been subjected to hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of advertising, had their door knocked on several times, and seen a half-dozen more debates. The ballots they see may not resemble the one the pollsters are testing since it’s likely that (at least on the GOP side) several of the candidates will have dropped out by the time their state votes.

My AP Government and Politics class is in the middle of the unit on political parties. Yesterday, we discussed why minor parties can not be successful in the U.S. As we went over all the reasons, I made a prediction that Donald Trump was smart enough to look at those realities and decide not to run. And now he's signed his pledge not to run as an independent. Of course, it's just a paper pledge, but his whole schtick is that he is a straight-shooter. If he goes back on his word now, how does he maintain that image?

Ah, this might explain Trump's special vitriol for Jeb Bush.
Donald Trump openly boasts that he donates to politicians so he can exact favors from them after they reach office.

He did so for Jeb Bush in 1998, holding a high-dollar fundraiser for the gubernatorial candidate in Trump Tower and shelling out $50,000 to the Florida Republican Party. But when Bush took office in 1999, Trump didn't get the political help he needed to make his casino dreams a reality in the Sunshine State.

Instead, Bush maintained his hardline stance against gambling in the state, delivering a death blow to Trump's hopes of building out a multi-million dollar casino endeavor with the Seminole Tribe of Florida and prompting him to abandon those plans.

"It certainly had a chilling effect," Doug Guetzloe, a Florida political consultant who worked for the gaming giant Bally Entertainment in the '90s, said of Bush's election. "Gov. Bush made it clear to everyone that he was not interested in having casinos in the state of Florida ... the word definitely went through."

Is there no repellent Democrat that Trump wasn't involved with?
[Al] Sharpton and Trump forged an unlikely friendship over Atlantic City boxing deals that has lasted for decades, through ups and downs. Even as the Tawana Brawley scandal unfolded and Sharpton faced a 67-count indictment involving how he used funding for his youth organization, Trump remained a prominent supporter of the agitator, numerous sources close to the two men tell National Review.

Jonah Goldberg wishes that the other GOP candidates would take some lessons from Donald Trump. He talks like a normal person (if normal is being an arrogant blowhard).
I wish more Republicans would take the hint. Every couple of years I write a column on the infuriating habit Republican politicians have of reading their own stage direction. I don’t revisit the topic for lack of other issues to write about; I keep coming back to it because Republicans just can’t help themselves.

The worst offender was George H.W. Bush, a thoroughly decent and committed public servant who was always uncomfortable with the demands of the TV age. He was better suited to the 19th-century style of politics, where you didn’t have to connect emotionally with millions of people in their living rooms. Out of frustration, he’d often cut to the chase and tell people how he wanted to be perceived.

When he ran against Bill Clinton — a man capable of crying on cue if you just told him which camera to look at — Bush was hopelessly outmatched. So he simply proclaimed, “Message: I care.”

#share#Bob Dole, another old-school politician, had the same problem. He once said at a meeting of the Republican National Committee, “If that’s what you want, I’ll be another Ronald Reagan.” His aides told the press that his strategy was to “act presidential.”

Jeb Bush has the same tendency. In 2014, he told people he would only run for president if he could do so “joyfully.” The problem is that he’s good at telling but pretty bad at showing. To date, he’s displayed all the joy of a man waiting to get called for his colonoscopy.

But all of the professional politicians have this problem to one extent or another. Chris Christie talks about how he “tells it like it is” as often as he actually tells it like it is.

Christie recently told Tonight Show host Jimmy Fallon about his plans for the next GOP debate: “Stay tuned on September 16th. We may be changing tactics.” If the moderators ask 15 questions in a row without asking Christie any, the New Jersey governor explained, “you’re going to go, ‘Uh oh, he’s going to go nuclear now.’”

If you have to tell people that “going nuclear” is just a tactic, it makes going nuclear seem a hell of a lot less authentic.

John Kasich has a policy of not attacking Hillary Clinton. That’s weird enough. But he also feels compelled to explain that his refusal is a tactic. Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Huckabee, Scott Walker et al. can’t resist telling audiences about the importance of being optimistic. Why not just try being optimistic? Voters will notice. I promise.

There are many reasons the non-politicians — Trump, Ben Carson, and Carly Fiorina — are doing so well, but near the top is the fact that they haven’t internalized the language of political consultants and pundits. They understand something the politicians have forgotten: Politics is about sales. Good salesmen don’t say, “I need to sell you this car today because I need to make my quota.” They also don’t say, “I need to convince you that you need this car even though it’s more than you think you can afford.” That may be their motivation, but they concentrate on the actual convincing.
I don't know if Trump really exemplifies what Goldberg is talking about. He is constantly telling us how he doesn't owe anything to anybody and that he is just telling it like it is. Goldberg would advise him to show us, not tell us.

James Antle III analyzes three strategies that Trump's GOP rivals are taking. None of them seem to be working for anyone.

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Those peaceful Iranians!
A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Commander (IRGC) stated Wednesday that Iran will not stop building up its military until Israel is annihilated.

Here's a summary of 12 things we could learn from Hillary Clinton's emails. Basically, nothing that she has told us about her server and emails is true. Charles Krauthammer writes on this theme as he argues that, despite all her lying, she will still be the Democratic nominee. Unless she is indicted - unlikely from the Obama administration or Biden partners up with Elizabeth Warren to run together with Biden promising to serve only one term.
Clinton is now hostage to the various investigations — the FBI, Congress, the courts — of her e-mails. The issue has already damaged her seriously by highlighting once again her congenital inability to speak truthfully. When the scandal broke in March, she said unequivocally that she “did not e-mail any classified material to anyone.” That’s now been shown to be unequivocally false. After all, the inspector general of the intelligence community referred her e-mails to the Justice Department precisely because they contain classified material.

The fallback — every Clinton defense has a fallback — is that she did not mishandle any material “marked” classified. But that’s absurd. Who could even have been in a position to mark classified something she composed and sent on her own private e-mail system?

Moreover, what’s prohibited is mishandling classified information , not just documents . For example, any information learned from confidential conversations with foreign leaders is automatically classified. Everyone in national security knows that. Reuters has already found 17 e-mails sent by Clinton containing such “born classified” information. And the State Department has already identified 188 e-mails on her server that contain classified information.

The truth-shaving never stops. Take a minor matter: her communications with Sidney Blumenthal. She originally insisted that these were just “unsolicited” e-mails from an old friend. Monday’s document release showed that they were very much solicited (“Keep ’em coming when you can”) and in large volume — 306 e-mails, according to the New York Times’ Peter Baker, more than with any other person, apparently, outside the State Department.

The parallel scandal looming over Clinton is possible corruption involving contributions to the Clinton Foundation while she was secretary of state. There are relatively few references to the foundation in the e-mails she has released. Remember, she erased 32,000 e-mails she deemed not “work-related.” Clinton needs to be asked a straightforward question: “In sorting your private from public e-mails, were those related to the Clinton Foundation considered work-related or were they considered private and thus deleted?”

Stanley Kurtz analyzes the dangers to national security resulting from Hillary's decision to have her own server.
“There’s a widely held belief among American counterspies that foreign intelligence agencies had to be reading the e-mails on Hillary’s private server, particularly since it was wholly unencrypted for months….senior counterintelligence officials are assuming the worst about what the Russians and Chinese know.”

So America’s intelligence agencies are assuming that every communication of America’s Secretary of State for months or more was read by our adversaries. Isn’t that likely to amount to one of the worst intelligence breaches in American history? And here’s the kicker. Even if we got lucky and the Russians and Chinese didn’t actually intercept some or all of Hillary’s e-mails, our intelligence agencies now have to behave as if they did.

Doesn’t that mean that we are now making massive changes to the sources and methods of our intelligence? Are we now withdrawing valuable agents? Are we trying to replace methods that cannot be easily replicated? Are we now forced to rebuild a good deal of our intelligence capabilities from the ground up? Are we not suffering tremendous intelligence damage right now, regardless of what foreign intelligence services did or did not manage to snatch from Hillary’s server—simply because we are forced to assume that they got it all?

I’m sure that analysts with more knowledge of our intelligence systems could explain better than I the damage that would flow from simply being forced to assume that nearly all of the Secretary of State’s communications had been compromised. No doubt even explaining that could do additional damage.

At any rate, the mere fact that our intelligence services are now assuming maximum damage and acting accordingly may ultimately be one of the most important and least fully appreciated aspects of this story.
Kurtz links to a Daily Beast story regarding suspicions that the Clinton scandal will also involve the White House.
EmailGate has barely touched the White House directly, although it’s clear that some senior administration officials beyond the State Department were aware of Hillary’s unorthodox email and server habits, given how widely some of the emails from Clinton and her staff were forwarded around the Beltway. Obama’s inner circle may not be off-limits to the FBI for long, however, particularly since the slipshod security practices of certain senior White House officials have been a topic of discussion in the Intelligence Community for years.

Hillary Clinton was far from the only senior Obama appointee to play fast and loose with classified materials, according to Intelligence Community insiders. While most counterspies agree that Hillary’s practices—especially using her own server and having her staffers place classified information into unclassified emails, in violation of federal law—were especially egregious, any broad-brush investigation into security matters are likely to turn up other suspects, they maintain.

William McGurn points out that the real issue about Hillary's server - why she set it up to begin with.
Only one explanation makes any sense: Mrs. Clinton entered the Obama administration determined to put in place a system to help her avoid accountability. Democratic operative James Carville admitted as much on ABC’s “The Week” in March when he said: “I suspect she didn’t want Louie Gohmert”—a Republican congressman from Texas—“rifling through her emails.”

Remember, a private server has nothing to do with the convenience of having all your email accounts on one smartphone, Mrs. Clinton’s original excuse for mixing personal and official emails. It has nothing to do with whether classified information is marked. And it has nothing to do with whether her emails were about yoga or Chelsea’s wedding—or Benghazi or some looming Clinton Foundation conflict of interest.

Mrs. Clinton’s private server was about one thing: control. She used it to ensure she would be in a position to thwart effective oversight and accountability.

Rich Lowry toots Ben Carson's horn, especially in contrast to Trump.
Few politicians have ever wielded soft-spokeness to such rhetorical effect. Carson aced the Fox debate when in his closing statement he didn't puff himself up and attempt to soar like candidates always do, but gently said a few nice things about his background as a surgeon, with a touch of humor. It was a hit.

If Carson's surge continues, one wonders if other contenders now doing all they can to kowtow to and copy the bombastic real-estate mogul will instead decide to kowtow to and copy the mild-mannered retired neurosurgeon.
Carson is a more natural fit for conservatives than Trump. If you like your outsider not to favor higher taxes, not to have once opposed the ban of partial birth abortion, not to speak favorably of socialized medicine, not to have been an erstwhile booster of Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton, and not to have experience buying off politicians, Ben Carson (or Carly Fiorina) is a much better bet than Donald Trump.

And Carson is altogether a more sympathetic figure. He rose from nothing; Trump took over the family real-estate business. Carson's mom was one of 24 kids, had a third-grade education and worked as a domestic; Trump's father built tens of thousands of apartments in Brooklyn and Queens and amassed a fortune of $300 million.

Carson is a serious Christian who has a powerful testimonial about getting down on his knees as a young man unable to control his temper and saying, "Lord, unless you help me, I'm not going to make it."

Carson tells of how he prayed to God to give him the right woman and how he has been married to his wife, Candy, for 40 years; Trump brags about the beautiful women he has bedded.
Kevin Williamson knows what it means when The Donald pledges his word.
The great thing about that pledge, Jim, is that if there is anything for which Donald Trump is famous, it is the steadfastness with which he keeps vows. Ask Mrs. Trump.

Or Mrs. Trump.

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Scientists sometimes seem to have trouble making grandiose analyses of the world environment.
Researchers have found that Earth has trillions, not billions, of trees. Good news, right? Not for those in the scientific community who are always looking for a way to cast man and human activity as scourges of the planet.

As reported Tuesday in the Washington Post, "A team of 38 scientists finds that the planet is home to 3.04 trillion trees, blowing away the previously estimate of 400 billion. That means, the researchers say, that there are 422 trees for every person on Earth."

That's a healthy ratio. No one can hug that many trees, at least not all at once. So there should be delirious joy that there are so many more trees than previously thought. But rather than joy, there's defeat.
"In no way do the researchers consider this good news," writes Post reporter Chris Mooney. "The study also finds that there are 46% fewer trees on Earth than there were before humans started the lengthy, but recently accelerating, process of deforestation.

Looked at another way, we were doing OK when we thought there were only 400 billion trees, but now that we know there are 3 trillion, things are miserable.

And here's another thought: Isn't 46% fewer than 3 trillion better than 46% fewer than 400 billion? Just asking.
And why should we trust their estimates of how many trees there were earlier?

Just what we feared about the VA.
The Department of Veterans Affairs' Office of Inspector General on Wednesday confirmed that more than one-third of the people thought to be seeking eligibility for VA benefits are deceased, and said many of them have been dead for more than four years.

The OIG report confirms the worst fears of members of Congress, who said in July that they would investigate unsubstantiated claims that thousands of veterans died before they ever became eligible for VA benefits.

In July, reports surfaced that an estimated 239,000 veterans died before they became eligible for benefits, or 28 percent of the nearly 850,000 veterans thought to be seeking these benefits.

The OIG's report said the situation is even worse — it said 307,000 names on the VA's list of pending enrollees were deceased. That's 35 percent of the 867,000 people on the list as of last year.

Here's a final joke on users of the Ashley Madison site. Apparently, almost all the women on the site were fake entries, many written by workers at Ashley Madison.
Shortly after the first news of the hack broke, another friend quipped, "Well, the guys using Ashley Madison were looking to get screwed." They had no idea.