Inflategate and Measurement Standards

InflategateAs regular readers know, I don’t like football. I’m not that keen on professional sports, anyway; but football really does operate at a whole different level of boringness. If it weren’t for the fact that it is so explicitly violent, it never would have become America’s game. (Although I have noticed that Americans haven’t gotten into rugby — a game that makes American football players look like the masculine pretenders they are.) As a result, I’ve met the whole “deflategate” controversy with nothing but derision.

One thing about it is that it is like the whole steroid hysteria. How is it that people can live in a world where people are born into poverty, lead joyless lives, and die young, and yet they get upset because a form of entertainment isn’t “fair”? It makes no sense. And these sports have had rules handcrafted for specific kinds of bodies. In the 1960s, NFL linemen were smaller than most quarterbacks today. What’s more, “Of the 170 players that have started at least one game as an offensive lineman this season, only 28 weigh less than 300 pounds.” Today, Fran Tarkenton would be a baseball player.

But I found an interesting article on the “deflategate” controversy, Pressure Gauge Discrepancies Undermine Wells Report. It doesn’t directly deal with the question, but it answered something I wondered about: just how under inflated where these footballs? Well, not much: less than 3%. Is this a big deal? I don’t know. It might give a player a slight advantage. But I do know this: no normal person would be able to tell the difference between a ball filled to 12.5 PSI and 12.2 PSI. But okay, if true, it is something — it is an advantage. You have to wonder why anyone would cheat to get such a small advantage. But okay: an advantage.

The most important issue is that it isn’t at all clear that any of the balls were deflated. The officials had two pressure gauges at the game. One of them read 0.3 to 0.45 PSI higher than the other gauge. The alleged deflation was — What a surprise! — between 0.3 and 0.45 PSI. And the official who measured the balls cannot remember which gauge he used for the first measurements. This really should be the end of it. But of course it won’t be. There are too many people who think this is very very important. Above all, it is an opportunity for the NFL to make a big deal about the fact that it takes the sanctity of the game very seriously.

But clearly, the NFL does not take the sanctity of the game seriously. For many hundreds of years, the accuracy of weights and measures have been critically important to people all over the world. People understand that if you are buying a hundred pounds of tomatoes, you want it to be a hundred pounds — not a hundred ounces. But the NFL apparently doesn’t care about the pressure of the footballs in their games. If there is such variability with pressure games at one game, imagine what it is across the league.

Again, I don’t care from a sports standpoint — except that the people who get worked up about this stuff are fools. And I don’t feel bad for the players. Just the same, what we are seeing here is something I’m very familiar with from politics. A particular team, and player, and assistant are being used as a way for a bigger, more powerful, group to make itself look good. It’s pathetic. On the other hand, if everyone decided that football is corrupt and stopped watching it, I’d be on board.

If Only the Democrats Debated Like the Republicans

Scott Eric KaufmanThe Democratic National Committee and MSNBC announced Wednesday afternoon the name of the 10 candidates who will be participating in the first Democratic presidential debate of the 2016 electoral season. Only the top 10 candidates in the five most recent polls will be allowed to participate in the debate, which will be moderated by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, and PBS’s Gwen Ifill.

The meteoric rise of media mogul Oprah Winfrey (23%) is posing a threat to both establishment favorite Hillary Clinton (13%) and insurgent socialist Bernie Sanders (11%), both of whom must be concerned with what the beloved Chicago politician-in-training might say given that she’s vowed to “hurt anybody” who criticizes her.

Rachel Maddow told Politico’s Dylan Byers that MSNBC has a secret plan to prevent Winfrey from dominating the debate, but declined to outline it in specific detail. “Rest assured,” she said, “it’s magnificent.”

Joining that triumvirate on the Cleveland stage will be a trio of formerly disgraced politicians who have managed to resurrect their careers in light of the multiple indictments against Hillary Clinton for her role in Benghazigate. Anthony Weiner (7%), Rod Blagojevich (6%), and John Edwards (5%) all hope to escape the shadow of their own comparatively minor failures by hiding in the massive one currently threatening to engulf the Clinton campaign.

Some of the more entertaining candidates with whom they will share the stage are the fading Michael Moore (3%) and the ultimate single-issue candidate, Jenny McCarthy (2%), who will no doubt seek to educate both Toby Keith (1%) and Gary Hart (1%) about the dangers of childhood vaccination. Keith and Hart, meanwhile, will do their best to justify their continued existence during the main event…

—Scott Eric Kaufman and Benjamin Wheelock
What If the Democratic Presidential Primary Were as Bizarre as the GOP One Currently Is?

Good Debate, Bad Debate

Drunk BloggingWell, the Republican debate is coming up. I hope you are excited! As you read this, I am at the county fair being impressed by the local arts and crafts. But for those looking forward to the debate, Jonathan Bernstein reminds you, How Debate Moderators Get It Wrong. And he makes an excellent point, which explains why I won’t be watching: debates should be about introducing candidates to the public. It isn’t about the moderators — or people like me who are very well informed about what all these fools are campaigning on. Actually, it makes me feel better about missing it, because I would only be there for the worst reasons.

According to Bernstein, there are basically only two kinds of questions that should be asked at debates:

  1. What policies the candidates support on the various issues
  2. What they think about things as a way of finding who they are as people

He thinks that “gotcha,” tactical, current event, and attack invitation questions are all invalid. I agree. For one thing, “gotcha” questions are almost always about “flip-flopping” and those are just stupid. The current events are horrible. I’m sure there will be lots of questions about Planned Parenthood, and all they really come down to is the policy question: each and every one of them believes abortion should be illegal. What Planned Parenthood did or did not do has nothing to do with it. As for attacking other candidates, that’s just silly, because they don’t need an excuse to do that.

But there is no doubt that policy questions could be a whole lot better. For example, on the abortion issue, I would very much like it if we could get all the candidates on record. They are all anti-choice, of course. But do they believe in abortion in the case of rape? What about life of the mother? This last one is critical, because if you don’t believe in a life of the mother exception, you really do just hate women. In that case, there are competing rights and you are coming down squarely on the side of an unborn baby. But I’d like to know if any of them would go that far. I think Carson might. And so too might Huckabee. Maybe others. I don’t know. But let’s nail that down.

But there won’t be anything like that. It would tell the audience something for them to go down the line. They could ask, “Are you pro-life?” And they would answer: yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. But it will be worse than that. They will all get away with rhetoric like, “I always am going to err on the side of life. I believe life is precious. I have been in the pro-life camp since I was a teenager.” So within the framework that Bernstein has put out, you could have a very good, informative debate; and you could have an awful one.

As for the personal stories — who is behind the candidate — I guess I disagree with Bernstein about that one. At one time, that might have been fine. But today, in the world of constant polling and focus groups, that’s all so managed as to mean nothing. If every campaign had an official comic strip, it would say more about the candidates than the “narratives” their campaigns sell.

I hope the debate is good. I’m sure I’ll see parts of it. I may even watch the whole thing later if it sounds like it is worth it. But it isn’t worth doing on spec. And I really deserve this day off. I’ve been promising myself for weeks.

I’ll Be Missing Tonight’s Republican Debate

Republican Debates

I had been planning to live blog today’s Fox News Republican presidential debate. But after my experience on Monday, I’ve decided against doing it. In fact, I am going to do everything I can to avoid even seeing the debate. And I know: I’ll miss out on a few good moments. And Trump might be a lot of fun. But I’ve been through this before. It’s a lot of time to waste just waiting for the occasional Oops! or Let him die! It is mostly just the candidates being in absolute unanimity about even the most extreme of positions.

Think back to the 2012 Republican debates. Bret Baier asked the candidates, “Say you had a deal — a real spending cuts deal: ten to one… spending cuts to tax increases… Who on this stage would walk away from that deal?” Not one them would. Not even the supposed reasonable guy, Jon Huntsman. No, the Republicans are the party of “all or nothing.” They are a revolutionary group where no one is allowed to disagree on policy. They are only allowed to disagree on how loud they shout about it. If the Republicans weren’t such authoritarians, they would have split up into endless factions by now.

Consider how that would have gone at a Democratic debate, “Say you had a deal — a real tax increase deal: ten to one… tax increases to to spending cuts. Who on this stage would walk away from that deal?” Well, they might all walk away from it, but not because they didn’t think that was enough of a compromise. Of course, the question doesn’t make much sense either way. The question was originally just to hammer the point that Republicans will never raise taxes. Baier could have made it a million to one and at least six of the eight would have walked away — and very likely all of them.

The mistake I made before was remembering back on previous general election debates. In those at least, there are two sides. On Monday, I watched in horror as candidate after candidate talked about how Planned Parenthood was selling fetal tissue without even a hint of push back, much less any actual truth being presented. And that was true of just about every issue. The only thing that was ever pressed was what the candidates might do about all the problems and non-problems they were whining about. And they had no answers. It was the same old stuff that they want to do for different reasons. There was no Democrat to counter any of the nonsense.

But there is something else that was missing: alcohol. During the 2012 general election debates, I was always drinking. That helps a great deal. And in that regard, let me recommend Matt Terzi’s article, The 2016 GOP Presidential Debate Drinking Game! But let me caution you: the drinks have to have a low alcohol content. The rules are such that if you were drinking hard alcohol, you would be passed out after five minutes. For example, you are supposed to drink once when someone mentions “Obamacare.” That alone is likely to result in 40-50 drinks. I really liked this part of the game:

FINISH YOUR DRINK and open the next one any time a Republican candidate:

  • Confuses socialism, fascism, or communism, in any combination
  • Compares the Republican Party or themselves to one or more civil rights leaders
  • Mentions President Obama’s birth certificate in any way
  • Argues that they’re more like Ronald Reagan than another candidate or multiple other candidates
  • Promises to shut down Planned Parenthood

So be careful if you play the game. As for me, I’m planning to go to the fair that day.

Morning Music: King Creole

King CreoleNot all Elvis movies are about him losing his job and having to sing at a nightclub. Sometimes there are other reasons that he must sing at a night club. For example, in King Creole, he must sing at a nightclub because he has to leave high school. It’s based upon a Harold Robbins novel. And best of all, it stars Carolyn Jones — the actor who played Morticia Addams in The Addams Family. She had such an unusual beauty — with a long nose, full lips, and huge eyes. And she’s not the only great actor in it. It also stars Vic Morrow, Paul Stewart, and Walter Matthau at “The Pig.” And it was directed by Michael Curtiz!

This morning, we listen to the title track, “King Creole,” written by Dennis Linde. He wrote what is very possibly my favorite Elvis song, “Burning Love” — Elvis’s last top 10 hit. But this one is great too. The video sucks and isn’t well synced. But it’s the music that matters.

Anniversary Post: Voting Rights Act

Voting Rights Act of 1965It is fifty years ago today that President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. And it only took conservatives 49 years to destroy it. Scott Lemieux wrote a great article on the subject, John Roberts Has Been Trying to Gut the Voting Rights Act for Decades. Never imagine that conservatives really believe in democracy or freedom or any of the other things that are normally considered obvious ideals of the United States. These guys are authoritarians and anything it takes to get power is fine. This is why they have no trouble believe that Obama is planning to take over Texas with Jade Helm 15. They know the way they think.

Of course, the Voting Rights Act is still in effect. And it still does good. What Roberts managed to do was to make it far less powerful. And the moment he did that, Republican controlled legislatures all over the nation just happened to have new laws to pass. It isn’t a coincidence. Nor is it just that these localities are filled with a bunch of bigots (although they generally are). It is that this is part of a grand scheme. It’s not a conspiracy, exactly. That’s because they all think the same. Rush Limbaugh picked a perfect name for his followers, “Dittoheads.”

Passage of the Voting Rights Act was a great accomplishment. And it remains a great law. And maybe the Democrats can eventually get control of Washington and fix it. But I suspect if they do, the Republicans will use this as an excuse to then vote against it every time it comes up. You know, because, “Well, the Democrats have turned it into a partisan issue.” Well, since about 1968, it has been a partisan issue. All I can say is that all those conservative Christians in the Republican Party had better hope that they are wrong about God. Because they are going to burn.

Happy birthday Voting Rights Act!