March 12, 2014

Gerhart moves on and Joseph moves in

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 08:29

I was off being a pallbearer in Toronto when the NFL’s free agency period started, so I didn’t get caught up on the early moves until much later in the day. As far as the Vikings were concerned, the two biggest moves were backup running back Toby Gerhart signing a three-year, $10.5 million deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars and former Giant defensive tackle Linval Joseph signing a five-year, $31.5 million deal with the Vikings:

Linval Joseph is 25 years old, and will turn 26 years old midway through the season. He doesn’t have extraordinary statistics that you would more likely see come from an undertackle like Henry Melton or Kevin Williams, but he does plug the run extremely well. He has had 9.0 sacks in the previous three years, which is more than what fellow 1-tech and previous Vikings Pat Williams was able to do in any three-year stretch with the Vikings.

Linval Joseph is unique, in that at 328-pounds, he could have played 3-technique coming out of college. He has a good first step and is both strong and quick with a good understanding of leverage, though was weak at consistently lowering his pads coming out of East Carolina.

He is supposed to be good for a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme because of his ability to anchor, length (with astonishing 34.5″ arms) and quickness, although the Giants have almost exclusively used him in a one-gap role.

If Joseph is as good as hoped for, it will make a huge difference to the Vikings’ defensive line, which has never regained the form it had with “Fat Pat” at the nose. The signing may make it less likely that Kevin Williams returns to the Purple, as many were assuming he could slide over to nose tackle (having had a huge game in that spot last season, when both Letroy Guion and Fred Evans were injured). Williams had said he wasn’t interested in playing the nose, and is an unrestricted free agent.

Also looking for the right contract (as in “pay me”), former Minnesota defensive end Jared Allen is still unsigned. He’d been rumoured to be looking at a deal with Denver, but the Broncos may be more interested in DeMarcus Ware, who is also a free agent this season. The Bears and the Seahawks are also said to be talking with Allen’s agent. Allen hinted that he’d retire rather than play as a situational pass rusher, but Andrew Krammer thinks that’s bluff: “Why I won’t believe Jared Allen would retire: that all-time sack total means too much to him. That list in his locker said so.” Allen kept a regularly updated list in his locker showing where he ranked in the all-time totals.

December 3, 2013

Syracuse airport pods – civil liberty violations or crony capitalist profit centres?

Filed under: Government, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:36

Wendy McElroy thinks that the outrage over the new exit pods at Syracuse Hancock International Airport is misdirected:

There is yet another reason not to fly into or within the US. “Nazi-style detention pods” — that’s what opponents of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have called the new “exit pods” being tested at the Syracuse (NY) airport. But the pods are not primarily a rape of civil rights. Their import is equally ominous but more subtle. Their main purpose seems to be profit rather than the flexing of arbitrary power, although the two are closely related.

A major change is occurring in one aspect of airport security. The change? The TSA will no longer be monitoring exit lanes at one-third of American airports; the TSA withdrawal is likely to extend to all airports over time. Exit lanes are the means by which passengers who have completed their travel leave the airport terminal. TSA agents had been policing the lanes to prevent passengers from walking the ‘wrong’ way and re-entering the terminal. Now that task is left to airport security because, as TSA deputy administrator John Halinski explains, ”We firmly believe that exit-lane monitoring is not a screening function, but rather an issue of access control.” Apparently, Halinski believes the ‘S’ in TSA stands for “Screening” because “Security” definitely includes access control.


The economics of the pod construction make sense only in two contexts. First, the airport wants to avoid or divest itself of unionized employees; unions have been a source of conflict in all areas of airport and airline operations. Second, crony capitalism. This is the faux capitalism by which profits do not result from productivity but from political connections, which often include bribes or kickbacks. The Syracuse Hancock International Airport official “sneak preview” of the security overhaul listed 17 local firms that will profit richly from the construction. Who do the firms know? With what financial incentives did they ‘purchase’ their contracts?

October 22, 2013

The Vikings’ Josh Freeman era begins with a painful loss to the Giants

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:24

From the moment he was signed, some Viking fans were eager to see what former Tampa Bay quarterback Josh Freeman could do. Last night, those same fans were introduced to the notion that a quarterback can’t magically make up for an entire offseason of practice, drill and team familiarity. Freeman stood tall in the pocket to deliver downfield throws, but those throws were far too often over the heads or out of reach of his intended receivers … timing and route accuracy were both in short supply. Freeman was only intercepted once, but the Giants had other opportunities to pick him off over the course of the game.

All of the problems the Vikings have displayed on the field up to this point were pretty much unchanged despite the change at quarterback: the defence gave up far too many yards and stayed on the field far too long, and Adrian Peterson was not able to get the rushing game going (although he had been on the injury report with a hamstring issue this week). If Marcus Sherels hadn’t scored his second career kick return touchdown, the Giants would have blanked the Vikings. Unfortunately, Sherels also had a few key errors, including coughing up the ball near the Vikings goal line on a punt return. Defensive tackle Sharrif Floyd also had a bad special teams outing, fumbling the ball on a kickoff return (the Giants kicked short to keep the ball away from fellow rookie Cordarrelle Patterson).

1500ESPN‘s Andrew Krammer:

Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said the game plan was going to be simple for quarterback Josh Freeman, who made his first start in a 23-7 loss on Monday Night Football against the previously winless New York Giants.

The end result left many saying he was set up to fail.

Simplicity took a bad seat to ineffective as Freeman threw 33 incompletions, dropping his league-low 43.5% even further during his first outing as a Vikings quarterback.

A member of the team for just two weeks, Freeman looked rusty as he hadn’t played since Sept. 22. However, in his last game as a Tampa Bay Buccaneer, Freeman completed just 19-of-41 passes in a loss at New England.

Struggles aside, it was obvious from Freeman’s midseason signing that the Vikings wanted to evaluate him as their potential long-term answer. But that philosophy was taken to the extreme on Monday night as Freeman threw 53 passes to running back Adrian Peterson’s 13 carries.

Phil Mackey:

On Sept. 4, prior to the start of the regular season, FootballOutsiders.com – one of the top football analytics sites on the web — projected the Minnesota Vikings as the team most likely to pick No. 1 overall in the 2014 draft.

Football Outsiders gave the Vikings a 4.9% chance to make the playoffs and a 0.1% chance to win the Super Bowl.

We all laughed.

While the Jacksonville Jaguars are leaders in the clubhouse to pick No. 1 overall, nobody should be laughing anymore at the notion that the Vikings are one of the worst teams in the NFL. Not after the embarrassment we saw on Monday night in front of a national audience.

Consider this: The previously winless New York Giants averaged 2.0 yards per carry and 4.9 yards per pass on offense. Eli Manning needed 39 passes just to reach 200 yards. The Giants also fumbled four times, were hit for 72 yards in penalties and handed the ball 18 times to Peyton Hillis, who they signed off the street on Wednesday. Check that. Hillis was actually volunteering as an assistant coach at a high school in Tennessee last week.

And the Giants looked like the 1999 St. Louis Rams standing next to the Vikings.

Everyone deserves to be ripped here.

Jim Souhan at the Star Tribune:

Last time the Vikings played in New Jersey, their quarterback spent most of his postgame interview answering questions about sending illicit texts.

Monday night, the Vikings visited Jersey again, and this time it got embarrassing.

To be a Vikings fan these days, you need a gallon of Pepto-Bismol and a Hazmat suit. Winless in the United States this season, the Vikings might be the worst team in the NFL that does not reside in the state of Florida.

They have failed to look professional in consecutive weeks, and in unpredictable fashion: by imploding at home against an unremarkable Carolina team, then looking unfamiliar with the concept of offensive football on Monday night against a terrible Giants team.

Their 23-7 loss buried memories of their 2012 playoff appearance and transported them back to 2011, when they won only three games and began another desperate search for a franchise quarterback.

Worse, these kinds of losses transport them back to 2010, when they got their coach fired in the middle of the season.

They might be searching for a coach and quarterback this winter. Or by November.

October 15, 2013

Tune in Wednesday for another thrilling episode of “As the stomach turns”

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 07:19

It’s rather sad that a losing team tends to generate more interesting — and more amusing — media coverage than a team that’s currently winning. TV execs, however, may be wondering how they can possibly earn a profit when they’re contractually obligated to broadcast games like next Monday’s matchup between the 0-6 New York Giants and the 1-4 Minnesota Vikings. How do you get even hardcore football fans to waste several hours of their Monday evening watching teams that are this bad?

One minor point of interest is figuring out who will be starting at quarterback for the Vikings. Christian Ponder may have started his last game for the purple, and Matt Cassel didn’t do himself any favours in Sunday’s debacle against the Carolina Panthers. Newly signed QB Josh Freeman appears to be the odds-on favourite to start this game … after all, as Christopher Gates says, how bad can it be?

In one corner of this Triangle of Mediocrity … and I use that term because I’m feeling unusually generous today … we have the guy that began the season as Minnesota’s starting quarterback in Christian Ponder. In another corner, we have the guy that took over for Ponder when he was injured, Matt Cassel, who was last seen in a heap on the turf at the Metrodome. And in the final corner, we have the newly-acquired Josh Freeman, who has been on the team for a week and is probably already wondering exactly what the heck he’s gotten himself into.


That leaves us with Freeman, who this week could … and probably should … start an 11-game audition for the rest of the NFL to show that his rough start to the season was due to being trapped in Greg Schiano’s House of MRSA and Innuendo. There’s a concern that he doesn’t know the playbook yet, but considering that Bill Musgrave’s offense is slightly less diverse than the menu at your local Five Guys, I’m not sure how big a concern that actually is. Freeman’s next start will be his 60th as an NFL quarterback, and he’s got to be to the point of his career where he’s seen quite a bit from opposing defenses. Besides, what’s going to happen … this offense going to get worse?

Frankly, I think Freeman gets the start because, at this point, he’s the only option that makes sense. There’s a chance that the team could go with Cassel again, and basically no chance that they go with Ponder.

Tune in Wednesday for the thrilling conclusion of It Doesn’t Matter: We’re Screwed No Matter What Because None Of These Guys Can Play Corner.

Update: “How bad is the Vikings defence?” I pretend to hear you ask. They’re among the most generous in the NFL, giving up 418 yards per game (which is second-worst in the league) and allowing nearly 32 points per game (third-worst). Opposing teams convert third-down opportunities 49% of the time (as Chip Scoggins points out, that’s even worse than their putrid 2011 season where they allowed a 44% conversion rate). They’re third-worst in the league for getting off the field, staying on the field nearly 34 minutes per game — time of possession isn’t a total measurement of defensive ineptitude, but teams that don’t score quickly (or at all…) put extra pressure on the defenders.

February 6, 2013

Why does every infrastructure project cost more?

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Government, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 00:01

In his nominally NFL-related column, Gregg Easterbrook usually manages to insert interesting topics that are not in the least related to football:

Where Is the Bridge to Nowhere When You Really Need It? Another reason unprecedented increase in the national debt is not resulting in newly built infrastructure to help the economy grow is that government projects keep taking longer and costing more. Two years ago on Reuters, your columnist opined, “A combination of top-heavy bureaucracy, union rules, cost-plus profits and graft have made recent federally funded construction projects insanely expensive and slow. When the funding comes from borrowing by Washington, then businesses, unions and local petty officials have a self-interest in running up the cost while dragging their feet.

That column ended by noting the slow pace and cost overruns in plans to replace the Tappan Zee Bridge on the Hudson River north of New York City.

Now two years have passed, and guess what’s happened to the Tappan Zee Bridge replacement project? It’s no closer to beginning. New York Magazine reports that $88 million has been spent just to study a bridge replacement — not for architecture drawings, just study. The original Tappan Zee Bridge, completed in 1955, cost $675 million in today’s dollars and required three years to complete. New York State officials are saying the replacement will cost at least $3 billion and take five years to build. New York Magazine warns the price is lowballing for an expected cost much higher.

New York is demanding that the federal government fund most of the new bridge. Borrowed funny-money would be used; contractors and unions would have every incentive to drag their feet, running up the bill, while corrupt politicians would want the project to last as long as possible, so there was more funny-money to steal.

Meanwhile the existing Tappan Zee Bridge continues to crumble and nothing’s being done. At the current snail’s pace, a new bridge is many years away. What if the existing bridge collapses? Politicians will claim they were never warned, just as they claimed they were never warned before storm surge from Hurricane Sandy smashed up lower Manhattan, Long Island and Hoboken, N.J. Running up the national debt is bad enough; not building what the country needs is even worse. But politicians observe that behaving recklessly, then blaming others, is what advances their careers. Barack Obama acted recklessly with the nation’s finances, and was re-elected. Chris Christie did nothing to prepare New Jersey’s low-lying city from storm surge, then blamed others, and made the cover of Time magazine. Where is the political leader who will place acting responsibly ahead of self-promotion?

November 22, 2012

Even in a disaster area, the bureaucrats stick to their role

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Health, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:49

I had to double-check the URL here to make sure this wasn’t a parody news item from The Onion:

Bobby Eustace, an 11-year veteran with the city’s fire department tells FoxNews.com that on Sunday he and his fellow firefighters from Ladder 27 in the Bronx were issued a notice of violation for not maintaining restaurant standards in a tent set up in Breezy Point, Queens, to feed victims and first responders.

“It’s just a little ridiculous. The inspector came up and asked if we were wearing hairnets. I told him, ‘We have helmets. This is a disaster area,’” Eustace told FoxNews.com. “Then he asked if we had gloves and thermometers [for food]. I said, “Yeah, we have rectal and oral. Which one do you want?’ He wasn’t amused.”

Eustace says that the Health Department worker then checked off a list of violations at the relief tent, including not having an HVAC system and fire extinguisher.

“He told us that he might come back to see if we fixed the violations. But what can we do? We are just going to keep going until a professional catering company can help take over,” Eustace said, adding that firefighters across the city together have been contributing about $800 a day out of their own pockets to feeding victims in areas hit hard by Sandy.

Tim Tebow … future CFL star?

Filed under: Cancon, Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:54

Edmonton is crying out for a quality quarterback to take the Eskimos back to glory (or something that might pass for glory in poor light). Colby Cosh explains:

Tim Tebow. Say what you want about the man, and you will, but he is good copy. I got into a Tebow discussion the other day on Twitter after I started wishing aloud that he would come to Edmonton and save our CFL Eskimos from the wretched, dare I say almost Rider-like, state into which they have fallen. I was not really being serious. Well, OK: maybe ten percent serious.

About a year ago our genius general manager Eric Tillman decided to risk all on one turn of pitch-and-toss and trade our longtime quarterback, Ricky Ray, for magic beans from a passing pedlar. This decision was second-, third-, and nth-guessed at the time, and it was, we now know, rabidly opposed by head coach Kavis Reed. Ray does not throw the ball very far, or in an especially conventional way, but he has supreme accuracy statistics and had won two Grey Cups in Edmonton with pretty underwhelming teams. (The once-proud Eskies have not had a 12-win season yet in this century.)

Ray was divisive, though, Lordy, not Tebow divisive. But the trade united the city in agreement that the return was disappointing, and the unfolding of the Esks’ 7-11 season emphasized this in an especially brutal way. Peaceable Canada has never approved of the American practices of tarring and feathering or hastening the unwelcome out of town on a rail, but Tillman came within about a micron of it.

As with any healthy, anatomically intact young football fan, my thoughts sometimes turn to the curiously saintly, annihilatingly gifted Tebow. Last year’s Denver Broncos hero has entered the metaphorical wilderness of the New York Jets roster, where he spells off starting QB Mark Sanchez for a few snaps a game, plays on special teams, and for all I know mops the locker room. He is paid well for this, but it is not doing much for what you would call his human capital. In practices, Sanchez gets the vast majority of the “reps” — i.e., the work of simulating real plays. Tebow’s experience as a “punt protector” has been unhappy. There is already tremendous prejudice against him in the league, because he throws a football in a faintly silly way, and the longer he goes without running an offence as a quarterback, the less likely he is to ever be asked to do it again. Catch-22.

November 18, 2012

The Two Scotts psycho-analyze the New York Jets

Filed under: Football, Humour — Tags: , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:54

Scott Reid and Scott Feschuk try to explain the New York Jets:

New York Jets (plus 3) at St. Louis

Scott Feschuk: The New York Jets have done the impossible: they’ve made me feel sorry for Tim Tebow. Here we have a team that’s 3-6 — a team that over the past two weeks has been blown out by Seattle and Miami… a team that stops the run about as well as Kevin James stops at eating just a couple of your fries… a team that insists on starting a quarterback who plays like a kid dressed up for Halloween as an NFL quarterback — and all week this team devoted its energy to debating whether its backup QB, who hardly ever plays, is or is not “terrible?” Here’s the hard truth: the Jets have tuned out Rex Ryan. They need to make a change. You know who should coach this team? That Jill Kelley lady from the David Petraeus sex scandal.

She seems to be able to make grown men do anything. Within minutes of meeting her, FBI agents are ripping off their shirts and army generals are sending off lewd email messages about their four-star boners. Surely, if anyone could get Mark Sanchez to throw the ball in the general direction of someone — anyone — in green, it’d be her. Pick: St. Louis.

Scott Reid: Pro-tip for you buddy — it’s not all that difficult to get army generals talking about their boners. In fact, military men can be included in a rather exclusive list of male-dominated professions that can be easily coaxed into talking online about their wood. This group includes, but is not necessarily limited to: doctors, lawyers, door-to-door salesmen, pastry chefs, magazine editors, cabinet ministers, air conditioner repairmen, director Kevin Smith, certified management accountants, video game designers (especially video game designers!), piano instructors, hot air balloonists, dairy farmers, astronauts, union leaders, clergymen, tutorial assistants, pipe fitters (no surprise there), air traffic controllers, official team mascots, building inspectors, glass blowers, financial regulators and whatever the hell it is that you call what we two do for a living. The real trick, in fact, is to get us men NOT to talk about our boners. How? Actually that was a ruse. There is no way to get us not to talk about our boners. But the wise among us do know better than to do it via email with chicks who suffer from “f-ing crazy big-eyes syndrome.”

Of course, none of these human failings afflict Tim “Mr. Vanilla” Tebow. You know, maybe a little dirty-talk over the interweb would help Tim straighten out his skinny post (and yes, I’m speaking metaphorically). Pick: St. Louis.

October 28, 2012

The Two Scotts pick this week’s NFL matchups

Filed under: Football, Humour, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:55

Scott Reid and Scott Feschuk get serious about something … but not football, of course:

New York Giants (plus 2) at Dallas

Scott Reid: I have no way of knowing but I like to imagine that deep down, Tony Romo and Eli Manning loathe one another.

Romo’s hatred would be all bound up in his feelings of insecurity and gross inadequacy (not unlike your own feelings toward me, Mr. Feschuk). Manning probably just hates the dimples. My fondest hope is that deep in the fourth quarter of this week’s matchup – after the Giants gain a 10-point lead – Romo breaks down on television and begins to sob uncontrollably, confronted with the awful truth that he’ll never best his rival. Manning, meanwhile, will make Jessica Simpson jokes and snicker about the hands-off approach of John Mara. Eventually Romo cracks completely and beats Manning savagely with a Gatorade bottle – leaving Eli dead and himself condemned to a life behind bars. In no way would this scenario make Mike Vick the best starting quarterback in the NFC East. Pick: New York.

Scott Feschuk: That’s all very interesting but I have a more important question: What man would ever agree to date Taylor Swift? You’d have to know right from the get-go that everything that happens is basically fodder for her next three albums, right? Wouldn’t it get awkward pretty quick?

You and Taylor Swift are in bed.

You: That was amazing. Let’s do it again.

[Swift opens her journal and starts writing.]

You: What are you doing?

Taylor: Oh, nothing. What rhymes with horndog?

You: Are you writing a song about me and our relationship?

Taylor: What? No. No, of course not!

You: Then who are these guys? [Points to drummer, guitarist and fiddler in bed with them.]

Taylor: Take five, fellas. I need to work on the bridge anyways.

Pick: New York.

June 17, 2012

“For the weekend, I’ll have to be a turncoat”

Filed under: Cancon, History, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:43

For some obscure reason (hint: because they didn’t win) American re-enactors are much less fond of War of 1812 re-enactments than Canadians:

When the first big battle of the War of 1812 is re-enacted this fall, the U.S. 1st Artillery regiment will mount an ear-splitting barrage. The Yanks will point their cannons at British redcoats across the Niagara River in Canada. They will wear blue. They will curse King George.

Unlike 200 years ago, they will all be Canadians.

Many Americans aren’t that into the War of 1812 — not like Canadians, anyway — so the latter often play the former in re-enactments along the international border here.

“For the weekend, I’ll have to be a turncoat,” says John Sek, 60, an English-born Canadian who will play a U.S. Army gunnery captain in the Battle of Queenston Heights. “There isn’t the same interest in the war on your side.”

To grossly generalize: Canadians, whose forebears helped repulse several U.S. invasions in 1812, regard the war that began 200 years ago Monday as a crucible of national identity. For them, its bicentennial is a big deal.

February 26, 2012

VisitBritain’s spelling problem

Filed under: Britain, Media — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:20

A bit of an embarrassment for Britain’s national tourism agency:

Tourists attempting to follow VisitBritain’s tip to travel to the Welsh region of the “Breacon Beacons” may find themselves rather lost when entering the destination into their satnav.

The misspelling of the Brecon Beacons was spotted by an eagle-eyed tourist on a New York subway advertisement, which was accompanied with a picturesque photograph capturing the countryside of Llandovery, a market town in Carmarthenshire.

The promotional image, which also currently appears in the advertising spaces in front of passenger seats in New York taxis, was promptly posted on Facebook.

February 5, 2012

Your Super Bowl TV watching schedule

Filed under: Football, Humour, Media — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 11:54

Scott Stinson charts exactly what will happen over the long, long, long, long, long, long, long hours of the pre-game show leading up to kickoff sometime in the next 48 hours:

Planning to watch the Super Bowl? A little leery about the six-and-a-half-hour pre-game show? Fear not, we can provide you with an approximate guide for what you will see. Read this, then spend time with your family instead. Win-win! (All times approximate, by which we mean made up.)

12:00 p.m. NBC’s broadcast is coming to you live from Indianapolis, which means we begin with Bob Costas trying to: (a) argue that Indianapolis is a great place and that the game is somehow more meaningful for being there; and (b) keep a straight face

12:32 p.m. First shot of Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski walking on his injured ankle. Will he play? Will he be effective? Fortunately, we have six hours to listen to people come up with ever more inventive ways to say “maybe.”

12:45 p.m. Costas gives an earnest speech about Indianapolis, home of the iconic Colts franchise. Not mentioned: Most of the iconic stuff happened in Baltimore, before the owner snuck the team out of town in the dead of night. In Indy, the history of the franchise’s fortunes can be summed up as “crappycrappycrappyPeytonManningcrappy.”

1:02 p.m. Time to soak in some of the exciting moments from the official “tailgate” party, which is in fact nowhere near a parking lot. Musical act falls under the category of “Popular Enough Once That Some People in Audience Have Heard of Them, But Not So Popular That We Would Want Them on TV For Long.” So, Fleetwood Mac, Alabama or 3 Doors Down.

1:04 p.m. The real question here is whether the performance rivals that of the tailgate party a few years back, when Journey appeared and caused America to collectively wonder when Steve Perry turned into a Fillipino guy with long hair.

Update: For those of you who only watch the Super Bowl for the ads (and I know there are lots of you), Reuters has most of the “big” ads collated into one post for your convenience. This is especially useful for those of us north of the 49th parallel, where many of the ads will be overlaid with the same crappy commercials we’ve seen all year. I’m not normally a fan of “there ought to be a law” solutions, but I’d be less than upset if CRTC regulations prohibited showing the same commercial 6-8 times per hour. (If nothing else, that level of repetition probably irritates potential customers more than it attracts them.)

Update, 6 February: It looks like the Reuters collection in the first update was intended to emphasize the lamest of the ads. There’s another collection in the National Post with more. (I don’t follow hockey, but I did think the Budweiser hockey ad was well done, even if they just stole the idea from an improv group.)

January 9, 2012

Wrapping “the maple syrup of truth in the waffle of propaganda”

Filed under: Cancon, History, Military, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 09:30

The Economist casts a jaundiced eye at Canada’s plans to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812:

Canada and the United States started the new year by firing cannons at each other across the Niagara river, which separates the province of Ontario from the state of New York, leaving a whiff of gunpowder and politicking in the air. The guns at Fort George on the Canadian side and Old Fort Niagara on the American shore were replicas of those from the 1812 war between the two countries, and were loaded with blanks.

They fired the first salvo in what Canada’s government plans as a noisy 200th anniversary celebration of a largely forgotten war in which British redcoats, colonial militia and Indian allies stopped an American invasion (which Thomas Jefferson mistakenly predicted was “a mere matter of marching”) of what was then a sparsely populated string of colonies. “The heroic efforts of those who fought for our country in the War of 1812 tell the story of the Canada we know today: an independent and free country with a constitutional monarchy and its own distinct parliamentary system,” says James Moore, the minister of Canadian Heritage.

That wraps the maple syrup of truth in the waffle of propaganda. Although Canada did not become a self-governing country until 1867, the 1812 war did help to forge a common identity among disparate colonists, many of whom were Americans who had come north out of loyalty to the Crown or in search of cheap land. But the Indians did more to foil the American invasion than the Canadian militia, and the British reneged on a promise to reward them with land, according to Alan Taylor, a historian of the war. The Canadian side won mainly because the Americans were poorly led, supplied and organised. Both sides plundered and murdered civilians.

November 1, 2011

Long Island Rail Road: “The scandal isn’t what’s illegal — but what’s legal

Filed under: Law, Politics, Railways, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 12:37

Nicole Gelinas points out that the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) pension scam is only part of the problem:

Last week, the feds indicted 11 Long Island Rail Road retirees and their alleged associates in a “massive fraud scheme” to steal a billion dollars through fake disability claims. But the bigger outrage is that for decades the LIRR has held state taxpayers and riders hostage — thanks to outdated Washington labor laws.

The first inkling of the scandal came in 2008, when a press report noted that nearly every LIRR worker retired early, getting an MTA pension and a federal benefit. Looking into the anomaly, federal prosecutors unearthed evidence that at least two doctors and other “facilitators” had for years signed off on fake injuries and ailments so that workers could take their pensions.

[. . .]

The state’s fear of an LIRR strike helps drive up the railroad’s costs. Last year, the Empire Center reported, the average LIRR worker pulled in $84,850 — not including benefits.

That’s more than anywhere at the MTA except headquarters — and 23 percent more than subway and bus workers make. Seven of the top 10 people who made more in overtime than they did in regular wages hailed from the LIRR — including one conductor who tripled his $75,390 salary. Plus, workers pay nothing for health benefits.

October 21, 2011

Incentives matter, police edition

Filed under: Law, Liberty — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas Russon @ 10:00

Jonathan Blanks explains that the incentives provided to police officers clearly do influence their behaviour:

Last week, former undercover police officer Stephen Anderson told the New York State Supreme Court that planting drugs on innocent people was so common that it didn’t even register emotionally to him. The story is starting to get traction in the media as an egregious example of police corruption, but it’s notable only because of the admission to the practice in open court. Each year, there are hundreds of cases in which police officers are caught stealing, using, selling, or planting drugs or pocketing the proceeds from drug busts. Despite the obligatory PR protestations that any given instance of corruption is an isolated case, the systemic, legal, social, and economic incentives in every law enforcement agency in America combine to make police corruption virtually inevitable. And with no other category of crimes are these incentives stronger than with drug crimes.

Anderson testified that drugs would be seized from suspects at a given bust, divided, and then used again as evidence against other people on site (or at a time later) who had nothing to do with the initial arrest. This was, in part, due to established drug arrest quotas the officers needed to meet. As public servants, police departments face the same budgetary pressures as any other government entity and thus their officers are required to meet certain benchmarks set by the powers that be. Added to the normal budgetary justification, however, many police officers are in the position to confiscate cash and property that can be sold at auction thanks to civil asset forfeiture laws. Many departments across the country keep a percentage or the entirety of forfeiture proceeds, so pressure to maintain a certain level of drug arrests is something straight out of Public Choice: 101.

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