Quotulatiousness

February 16, 2017

Words & Numbers: The Customer is Always Taxed

Filed under: Business, Economics, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Published on 15 Feb 2017

We’re really excited to present the first episode of what will be an on-going video podcast featuring Dr. Antony Davies, Professor of Economics of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, and Dr. James R. Harrigan, Senior Research Fellow at Strata, in Logan, Utah.

Each Wednesday we’ll be sharing a new short video featuring Antony and James talking about the economics and political science of current events. We hope you enjoy the show and look forward to your input on what topics Antony and James should cover in the future.

Today’s episode is about everybody’s favorite subject: Taxes!

October 26, 2016

Zim Tzu on the faceplant in Philly

Filed under: Football, Humour — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 12:22

After every Vikings game, the Daily Norseman‘s chief Zimologist analyzes the finely crafted koans of Zim Tzu to tease out the finer, hidden meanings of the otherwise inscrutable and mystical words of the Vikings head coach. This week’s press conference followed the “game” that was “played” in Philadelphia against the Eagles:

The Vikings warrior poet/head coach dispenses his profane words of wisdom.

Rage.

That’s not a word or emotion a warrior poet takes lightly. It’s an emotion that if channeled properly can be used effectively, but if allowed to go unchecked leads to one’s own destruction. Rage most assuredly didn’t overcome the Vikings in Philadelphia did so much as incompetence did … but in the aftermath of the Letdown at the Linc rage is what consumed Mike Zimmer.

[ED NOTE: Also, if you’re a fan of The Walking Dead, don’t read the first paragraphs that has asterisks, or the asterisks, because I give away a spolier. And rage is what you will feel if you haven’t seen it yet. Also, bad language warning.]

And the warrior poet harnessed it, allowed to to grow into a fireball of genius on Monday, and will use it to light a fire under the asses of the Minnesota Vikings next Monday in Chicago. And it is a fire that will metaphorically burn Chicago to the ground once again, if Cubs rioters haven’t already done so. Because there is nothing Mike Zimmer can’t harness and ultimately use to his advantage. Not. A. Fucking. Thing.

Because he is Zim Tzu: High Septon Of Mankato, Eviscerator of Titans, Maître Fromager, Spinner of the Charlotte Web, Beanstalk Chopper, He Who Implodes The Lone Star, and Warden Of The North.

And speaking in front of the Great Unwashed Poletariat of the Free Press is the ultimate in rage control, as the questions they ask make you want to snap necks and go all Negan on Glenn. But you can’t. You must harness that rage, focus it like a laser, and aim it at your next opponent.

And that’s where we come in, The Greatest Blog In The History Of The World.* We take your rage, and unleash it for you.** We are Negan, we wield the baseball bat, and we give you some eye popping results.***

*Maybe a slight bit of hyperbole here

**We really don’t as we have undergone no formal training to do this. Is there formal training to do this?

***I don’t watch The Walking Dead so if you just read a spoiler HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA not sorry because this was a good joke and I warned you up top.

So what do we do in the channeling of rage?* It’s quite simple, really.** We take Mike Zimmer’s weekly day after the game press conference and interpret the true meaning of words that come out of his clenched jaws.***

*This is a rhetorical question as we literally do nothing.

**Writing sophomoric jokes is actually hard, man.

***We literally do nothing close to that. It’s just all made up, stupid shit. I’m stunned it’s as popular as it is, tbh.

October 24, 2016

Vikings lose 21-10 in Philadelphia – Vikings fanbase, in unison, “The Sky Is Falling!”

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:11

The NFL’s last unbeaten team has faceplanted, allowing the surviving members of the 1972 Miami Dolphins to pop the champagne one more time (I doubt that any of them actually follow this tradition, but it’s a sports writer’s meme that just won’t die). As a football game, Sunday’s match between the Vikings and the Eagles was painful to watch for fans of either team, as the turnover bug bit hard and repeatedly. “How bad was the game?”, I pretend to hear you ask. It was literally this bad:

And that wasn’t even the entire first quarter of “action”.

(more…)

September 18, 2016

What Sam Bradford and the Vikings offer each other

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 09:43

In Saturday’s Star Tribune, Jim Souhan looks at the Vikings’ newly annointed starting quarterback and says it can go one of two ways — “Two years from now, Bradford will either have proved he can lead a winning team, or he will be on his way to Ponder-osa.”

Sunday night, millions of Vikings fans and dozens of Vikings players will ask what Sam Bradford can do for them.

Just as important is the reverse.

What can the Vikings do for Bradford?

The answer will shape this season, and the next, and so will Bradford’s career, and perhaps his last chance to improve his reputation.

Bradford was the first pick in the 2010 draft. Which means he was selected by a terrible team.

Bradford did not singlehandedly elevate the Rams. Neither has anyone else. They haven’t had a winning record since 2003.

Bradford muddled through, putting up numbers not all that different from Teddy Bridgewater’s, for four seasons before being traded to Philadelphia.

Last year with the Eagles, while adapting to a new and complex offense, Bradford completed 65 percent of his passes, throwing 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions for an 86.4 passer rating.

Last year, in his second season with the Vikings, Bridgewater completed 65 percent of his passes, throwing 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions for a rating of 88.7.

Bradford is on his third team and was asked to be a savior, so his numbers are considered disappointing. Bridgewater is younger and thought to be improving, so his very similar numbers are considered promising.

The question facing Bradford is whether, at 28, he is still a growth stock. While there is no sure way to predict his future, this is a good time to point out that even great quarterbacks need help, and that Bradford never has played for a winning team, or with a running back like Adrian Peterson.

Two years from now, Bradford will either have proved he can lead a winning team, or he will be on his way to Ponder-osa.

September 4, 2016

Vikings trade for quarterback Sam Bradford

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 10:58

I was busy all day yesterday, so the uproar in the Vikings fanbase over the trade with Philadelphia for Sam Bradford was just background noise for me. I have to say I’m happy the Vikings didn’t bring in some of the other widely discussed options at quarterback, although the team clearly paid a high desperation premium (a first round pick in 2017 and a conditional fourth in 2018 that might escalate all the way to a second if the Vikings win the Super Bowl). I liked Sam Bradford when he was drafted, and I think he’d be in the discussion as a top-five quarterback except for his injuries.

Sam Bradford stats

As part of the trade, the Eagles have agreed to pay the bulk of Bradford’s 2016 salary, leaving the Vikings to cover less than half (I assume a contract renegotiation is in the cards for 2017, unless Bradford is able to stay healthy and shine on the field). Bradford is in a great situation for a quarterback with a quickly improving wide receiving corps, the best running back in football and a potentially top-five defence … but notice that I didn’t say anything about the offensive line he’ll be working behind. That’s where the “injury prone” tag meets the gambling odds.

Teddy Bridgewater’s recovery time may stretch into the 2017 regular season, so having Bradford available for the next two years is just plain common sense. If Teddy comes back as strong as he was before the injury, we’ll have a heck of a passing threat to offer, but there’s also the possibility that Bridgewater won’t be quite the player he was and if that’s the case, then Bradford is more than just an insurance policy (though it pains me greatly to even think that Teddy won’t be back as good as ever). That said, anything positive in all of this requires Bradford to stay upright and healthy: if he loses even a few games to injury, we’re back to where we were before the trade.

From Tom Pelissero’s column on the trade in USA Today:

The Vikings had flexibility, with extra third- and fourth-round picks next year from past trades. They have a solid young talent base, having made nine first-round picks in the past five drafts, all of them still on the team. They have an offense built around 31-year-old halfback Adrian Peterson, who doesn’t have time on his side. And they had an unexpected opportunity to make a big upgrade from Bridgewater’s presumed replacement, Shaun Hill, a 36-year-old career backup who’d be serviceable for a game or two, but has never started more than 10 games in a season and lacks the arm to push the ball downfield.

Bradford, 28, has famously battled injuries throughout his career but is healthy now and performed well in the preseason. One of his old coaches in St. Louis and Philadelphia, Pat Shurmur, is now the Vikings’ tight ends coach. And the Vikings felt Bradford would be a natural fit for Norv Turner’s Air Coryell derivative offense.

Another factor the Vikings liked: Bradford is under contract through 2017, giving them options next season if Bridgewater isn’t recovered from upcoming surgery for a dislocated left knee, torn anterior cruciate ligament and other structural damage.

The Eagles gave Bradford an $11 million signing bonus, so the Vikings are only responsible for his $7 million base salary this season. They’ll face a decision in March, when Bradford is due a $4 million roster bonus on the fifth day of the league year. His salary for 2017 is $13 million, with $4 million of it fully guaranteed and another $4 million for injury. There’s also a $1 million escalator if Bradford plays 90% of the snaps this season and $2.25 million in incentives available each year.

That’s all pretty reasonable if Bradford can plug the hole at the most important position on an ascending team, driven by Peterson and an excellent young defense, that’s moving into a new $1.1 billion stadium this season. The Vikings are betting a first-round pick and then some that Bradford can do it.

The blockbuster trade temporarily swamped news of the final roster, as you’d expect. I made my predictions here and I wasn’t too far off:

  • Tackle Jeremiah Sirles. I’d listed him as a likely cut, but he made the final 53. I don’t think he’s got a strong grip on the spot if the Vikings select someone waived by another team.
  • Quarterback Joel Stave. If the team hadn’t traded for Bradford, Stave was the only healthy quarterback on the roster after Hill. After the trade, Stave became expendable and will be eligible for the practice squad.
  • Defensive tackles Kenrick Ellis and Toby Johnson didn’t make the roster, which I found surprising, but my guesses were biased a bit toward the defence. Johnson is PS-eligible, unless he’s picked up by another team on the waiver wire.
  • Linebacker Kentrell Brothers made the final roster, and I’d not seen enough from him in the preseason games to expect him to do more than make the PS. I guess the coaches didn’t want to thin out the linebackers too much this year (or Brothers may be sacrificed for a waiver-wire pickup).
  • I’d listed cornerback Jabari Price and safety Michael Griffin as likely cuts, and both were placed on IR.

Those player who were waived are subject to being selected by other teams before they can be signed to practice squads. Teams have waiver wire priority in the same order as the 2016 draft for the first three weeks of the regular season. I’ve noted a couple of players who might lose out if the Vikings get anyone off the waiver wire, but the team is now mostly set to start the season.

November 30, 2015

The Pennsylvania Steagles

Filed under: Economics, Football, History, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Megan McArdle talks about the plight of Pennsylvania’s two NFL teams during World War Two … oh, and some boring stuff about financial regulation:

Fun fact: During the 1943 professional football season, the World War II draft had so depleted the ranks of football players that the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Philadelphia Eagles were forced to unite their teams into a joint production that became colloquially known as “the Steagles.” In a heartwarming turn, this plucky band of men went on to one of the winningest seasons in the history of Pennsylvania football. That was, alas, their only season; the next year each city fielded its own team, and the proud name of the Steagles retreated into history.

I’m beginning to think that we should revive it, however, not for football players, but for those intrepid souls who continue to fiercely agitate for the return of the Glass-Steagall financial regulations. Like the Steagles, these people are not daunted by the many obstacles in their path. Like the Steagles, they are passionate in their determination. Probably also like the Steagles, they mostly don’t know much about Glass-Steagall.

And we desperately need a name for Team Steagles, because they seem to have become a powerful force in the Democratic Party. Last night’s Democratic debate, like the first one, featured lengthy paeans to the joys, and urgency, of a modern Glass-Steagall act. Somehow, an obscure Depression-era banking regulation has turned into a banal political talking point. Or worse — a distraction.

You, like the Steagles, may not know much about Glass-Steagall. That’s all right. There is no particular reason that most of us should know about Glass-Steagall, and many people manage to live perfectly happy and fulfilling lives anyway.

July 2, 2015

Frankford Junction, Pennsylvania

Filed under: History, Railways, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Rob McGonigal looks at the history of the railways in the area of Frankford Junction, where Amtrak train 188 came to grief in May:

In the aftermath of the tragic May 12 derailment due to excessive speed of Amtrak train 188 in Philadelphia, many casual observers wondered what a 50-mph curve is doing in the middle of the fastest, busiest rail corridor in the nation. It’s a reasonable question, especially given the generally tangent track and flat topography in the area.

The existence of that curve traces back to the earliest years of railroads in Philadelphia. As in many cities, Philadelphia’s rail network developed in piecemeal, uncoordinated fashion. What became Amtrak 188’s route through the city began in the 1830s as three separate projects.

The Philadelphia, Wilmington & Baltimore ran generally southwestward from a terminal about a mile south of downtown (“center city” to Philadelphians). The Philadelphia & Columbia, part of the Main Line of Public Works rail/canal system to Pittsburgh, utilized a terminal in center city. The Philadelphia & Trenton, which connected with services to New York, originated in Kensington — an inconvenient 2½ miles northeast of center city. As Albert Churella relates in the first volume of his mammoth history of the PRR (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013), municipal authorities in 1840 granted the P&T permission to extend its line into center city, where it would connect with other railroads. However, fierce opposition from teamsters, who profited from hauling freight between the rail terminals, and area residents, who did not want steam trains in their streets, prompted the city to revoke permission, and the P&T was not extended.

Two decades later, it was clear that the three lines should be connected. In 1864 the Junction Railroad was opened, linking the PW&B with the P&C’s successor on the line to the west — the Pennsylvania Railroad. (Indeed, the PRR had interests in all three of the lines by this time.) Three years later the Connecting Railway opened. It diverged from the P&C/PRR line at a place designated Mantua Junction (and later, in expanded form, Zoo interlocking), arced around the northern part of the city, and connected with the P&T in the Frankford section of Philadelphia. As with the connection at Mantua Junction, the geometry of the lines at Frankford Junction resulted in a sharp curve.

December 6, 2014

Everyday life in “The Ghetto Archipelago”

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Law, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:03

At Reason, J.D. Tuccille reviews On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City, by Alice Goffman:

The police presence in 6th Street is pervasive. Residents, young black men in particular, can expect to be frequently stopped, questioned, and searched. Many initial arrests are for drugs, often possession of marijuana. After that, as Goffman records, the system takes on a horrible logic of its own. Criminal records make employment hard to find, and recurring court dates devour time that might be devoted to work, job searches, or family responsibilities. Without regular income, court fees add up and may prove unpayable. Many of the people Goffman writes about are essentially constant low-level fugitives, hunted by police for missed appointments. Some end up committing additional crimes to pay their accumulating debts to the courts.

People living on the wrong side of the law are both dependent on and vulnerable to those around them. Goffman documents how chronic legal problems prevent young men from attending the births of their children or the funerals of their friends, since the authorities often monitor those occasions looking to make arrests. Those legal problems also provide opportunities for angry girlfriends and other acquaintances to avenge perceived wrongs with a simple phone call to the cops.

Neighborhoods heavily populated by young men on the run (usually in the most figurative sense, since their lives become circumscribed by familiar people and streets) also create business opportunities for those willing to serve their idiosyncratic needs. One memorable character in On the Run is Jevon, whose memory and ability at mimicry allow him to earn money impersonating men to their parole officers for curfew-checking phone calls. Another, Rakim, augments income from his passport photo business selling clean urine to men facing drug tests. Many local businesses-such as rental car lots and motels-have two price sheets, one for mainstream customers and one for those who have no credit cards or ID.

Identification itself is a commodity, with employees inside the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation selling drivers licenses-basically, new identities — for a substantial fee. (Other public employees, from court clerks to prison guards, also find it lucrative to sell favors and services.) “The level of social control that tough-on-crime policy envisions-particularly in a liberal state-is so extreme and difficult to implement,” Goffman writes, “that it has led to a flourishing black market to ease the pains of supervision.”

H/T to ESR who wrote:

Linked article explains why, though I’ve defended the shooting of Michael Brown as a prudent and ethical response to an imminent threat of deadly force, I’ve had little patience with those defending the Ferguson police in general either before or after the shooting.

Yes, the system oppresses people like the blacks in Ferguson, in a way that has little to do with “institutional racism” but everything to do with a vicious cycle of deteriorating ghetto culture coupled with perverse incentives on the police created by “tough on crime” laws.

How do I know? I’ve never been to Ferguson…but Philadelphia is my city. I used to live there, mere blocks from the ghetto archipelago. I’ve seen some of the overspill from what Goffman is writing about. She speaks truth, and we would do well to heed her.

September 1, 2014

Philadelphia’s growing addiction to civil forfeiture

Filed under: Law, Liberty, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:25

In Forbes, Nick Sibilla explains how the city of Philadelphia uses the civil forfeiture laws to enrich city coffers and oppress the residents:

Chris Sourovelis has never had any trouble with the law or been accused of any crime. But that hasn’t stopped the City of Philadelphia from trying to take his home.

The Sourouvelis family, along with thousands of others in Philadelphia, is living a Kafkaesque nightmare: Their property is considered guilty; they must prove their innocence and the very prosecutors they’re fighting can profit from their misery. Now the Institute for Justice has filed a major class-action lawsuit to end these abuses of power.

Back in March, Chris’s son was caught selling $40 worth of drugs outside of the home. With no previous arrests or a prior record, a court ordered him to attend rehab. But the very day Sourovelis was driving his son to begin treatment, he got a frantic call from his wife. Without any prior notice, police evicted the Sourovelises and seized the house, using a little-known law known as “civil forfeiture.”

Law enforcement barred the family from living in their own home for over a week. The family could only return home if they banned their son from visiting and relinquished some of their constitutional rights. Adding to the cruel irony, their son has already completed rehab, ending his punishment by the city. “If this can happen to me and my family, it can happen to anybody,” Sourovelis said.

Under civil forfeiture, property owners do not have to be convicted of a crime, or even charged with one, to permanently lose their property. Instead, the government can forfeit a property if it’s found to “facilitate” a crime, no matter how tenuous the connection. So rather than sue the owner, in civil forfeiture proceedings, the government sues the property itself, leading to surreal case names like Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. The Real Property and Improvements Known as 2544 N. Colorado St.

In other words, thanks to civil forfeiture, the government punishes innocent people for the crimes other people might have committed.

Update: As Eve Harris reminded me, civil forfeiture is not a US-only issue, and the police in British Columbia have been feeding cases to the province’s Civil Forfeiture Office (CFO) for further action even when no criminal charges are filed (and sometimes even when the police have violated Charter rights in the process). BC’s CFO was established in 2006 and since then has generated about $41 million in proceeds from civil forfeiture actions. Six other provinces also have civil forfeiture laws, but BC is leading the pack in the scale and scope of their activities. Eve also sent a link to a National Post article (which I can’t quote from without paying a licensing fee, which is why I rarely if ever link to that newspaper).

December 16, 2013

Vikings stun Eagles 48-30 despite Adrian Peterson missing the game

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:33

Now that the Vikings have been officially eliminated from postseason play (not that there’d been much doubt for the last few games, but mathematically they were still alive), it’s less likely that I’ll be able to watch another Vikings game this season. Yesterday’s game which would normally have been carried on the Winnipeg CTV station was replaced by a game with actual playoff implications. I can’t really object to this, but it would have been nice to watch Minnesota dominate the Philadelphia Eagles.

Greg Jennings finally had the kind of game we’d hoped he’d be having all season, finally going over 100 yards receiving and scoring a TD. Cordarrelle Patterson had an impact on the game from the start, as Philadelphia avoided kicking to him as much as they could, which gave the Vikings better field position after every kick. Running back Matt Asiata, filling in for the injured Adrian Peterson and Toby Gerhart, had his first, second, and third career touchdowns, while Matt Cassel had the best outing of any Minnesota quarterback all season (and one of the best games of his career: 26 of 35 for 382 yards, 2 TD, 1 INT and a 116.6 passer rating).

The Daily Norseman‘s Ted Glover clearly enjoyed the game:

On a day when the Minnesota Vikings celebrated the ‘All Mall of America Field’ team, it was fitting, in many ways, that almost 50 points would be put on the board. After all, an all time team that has Daunte Culpepper, Robert Smith, Adrian Peterson, Anthony Carter, Cris Carter, and Randy Moss on it could hang 50 on damn near anyone.

The thing is, if you told me somebody was going to score almost 50 Sunday, the last team I would’ve picked would have been the Walking Wounded version of the Vikings. Adrian Peterson was out, Toby Gerhart was out, Kyle Rudolph and John Carlson were out. And that was just the offense. On defense, it was almost as bad, and what the Vikings fielded on Sunday was an amalgamation of second stringers, practice squad refugees, and NFL journeymen. It was a game that felt like the Vikings had virtually no chance to win.

Yet, they cruised 48-30. The NFL, go figure. It was the most gratifying win in almost a year, since the last game of the regular season last year. And for one day, at least, the most high powered offense in the NFL belongs to the Minnesota Vikings. Instead of the Eagles flying high, it was the Vikings. Flying like the Eagles. To the sea. DO YOU SEE WHAT I JUST DID THERE STEVE MILLER?

Update: At the Star Tribune, Jim Souhan says that this game may end up upending a few “foregone conclusions” about the Vikings after this season:

Foregone conclusion No. 1: Frazier will be fired.

Sure, that’s possible, maybe even likely. Frazier went 3-13 in his first full season and is 4-9-1 this year. The suggestion he’ll be fired as he nears the end of his contract is logical.

But is it wise? Last year, the Vikings won their close games and made the playoffs. This year, they’ve lost a half-dozen close games and will miss the playoffs. Their losses this season have been caused by bad quarterback play and late-game defensive collapses.

[…]

The Vikings have been so desperate to develop their own franchise quarterback for so many decades that, in the 2011 draft, they chose Christian Ponder in the first round because he shared some of the same attributes as elite quarterbacks, such as breathing oxygen and speaking in complete sentences.

It turns out that the Vikings would have been better off signing another Jeff George or Warren Moon than wasting a first-round pick on a quarterback.

This year, the Vikings are 2-2 when Cassel starts, with victories over Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. They are 2-7-1 when Cassel doesn’t start, including the game against the Bears when he rallied the Vikings to victory over Chicago when Ponder suffered a concussion late in the second quarter. Cassel is not a franchise quarterback, but he could save the franchise from making a rash decision in the draft.

Cassel is no Lamborghini. He’s a taxicab sitting in front of a bar at 2 a.m. You don’t pick him for the thrills; you pick him to avoid making a big mistake.

October 3, 2013

The Bystander Effect in Philadelphia

Filed under: Randomness, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:04

Techdirt‘s Tim Cushing talks about an incident in Philadelphia where a transit police officer was losing a fight with a suspect, yet none of the people came to the assistance of the cop or even called 911:

The fact is that a certain number of citizens aren’t going to come to a cop’s defense simply because they’ve seen too much abuse occur at the hands of cops. When law enforcement struggles with an arrestee, they’re not too shy about bringing in several more officers to help out, or just sending an attack dog after them. They’re also in possession of several more weapons than most citizens carry — including pepper spray, batons, tasers and guns.

The odds are stacked in favor of police officers. When one is suddenly unable to avail himself of all the weapons at his disposal, police leadership seems to think the public should jump in and save their “heroes,” or at least call 911.

Over at PINAC’s writeup of the event, the oft-arrested/hassled photographer Carlos Miller points out why that’s a bad idea.

    I admit I would be the one video recording, not necessarily because I wouldn’t want to help the cop, but because pulling out my camera and recording is very instinctive for me, while dialing 911 is anything but.

    In fact, my instinct is to avoid calling 911 at all costs because I don’t trust police enough not to turn me into a suspect when they arrive, which we have seen happen numerous times in the past.

Beyond the chilly relationship between citizens and cops are further factors, legal and otherwise, that Chief Nestle isn’t considering when he expresses his shock at the public’s inaction.

First, there’s the Bystander Effect. Very basically, the more people present in a situation, the less likely that someone will offer aid. Two factors that came into play during this beatdown are empathy and the “diffusion of responsibility.” Many people simply don’t empathize with cops, even when a citizen has gained the upper hand. This disconnect leads directly to less altruistic behavior. The more someone empathizes with the victim, the more likely they are to respond. Judging from the majority of the comments under the news report, it’s very unlikely that any crowd would be filled with empathetic individuals.

April 12, 2013

Conor Friedersdorf: “Why Dr. Kermit Gosnell’s Trial Should Be a Front-Page Story”

Filed under: Health, Law, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 11:34

In The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf explains why the Philadelphia horror story should be front-page news, but isn’t:

The grand jury report in the case of Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 72, is among the most horrifying I’ve read. “This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women. What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable babies in the third trimester of pregnancy — and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors,” it states. “The medical practice by which he carried out this business was a filthy fraud in which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels — and, on at least two occasions, caused their deaths.”

Charged with seven counts of first-degree murder, Dr. Gosnell is now standing trial in a Philadelphia courtroom. An NBC affiliate’s coverage includes testimony as grisly as you’d expect. “An unlicensed medical school graduate delivered graphic testimony about the chaos at a Philadelphia clinic where he helped perform late-term abortions,” the channel reports. “Stephen Massof described how he snipped the spinal cords of babies, calling it, ‘literally a beheading. It is separating the brain from the body.’ He testified that at times, when women were given medicine to speed up their deliveries, ‘it would rain fetuses. Fetuses and blood all over the place.'”

One former employee described hearing a baby screaming after it was delivered during an abortion procedure. “I can’t describe it. It sounded like a little alien,” she testified. Said the Philadelphia Inquirer in its coverage, “Prosecutors have cited the dozens of jars of severed baby feet as an example of Gosnell’s idiosyncratic and illegal practice of providing abortions for cash to poor women pregnant longer than the 24-week cutoff for legal abortions in Pennsylvania.”

April 11, 2013

“Elite Panic” and the media gatekeepers

Filed under: Health, Law, Media — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 15:57

There’s a pretty horrific tale unfolding in a Philadelphia court room, but most people won’t have heard about it because — while it’s bloody and otherwise eminently newsworthy — it will “send the wrong message” if it gets the traditional full-court press of media attention. At Ace of Spades H.Q., this is noted and explained by Ace:

I think this is how those who imagine themselves to be elite justify their complete embargo on the Kermit Gosnell serial-murder trial.

People who do evil generally don’t imagine they’re doing evil. In fact, some of the worst evils are perpetrated by those who’ve convinced themselves they’re doing good. One’s conscience tends to restrain one from evil; but if one can trick one’s conscience into thinking one’s doing good by doing evil, well. Then you’ve really got something.

I imagine the media believes it’s “doing good” by being so cautious about What Truths the Public Is Capable of Hearing. After all, if this Gosnell trial were publicized, people would Get Angry, and come to All the Wrong Conclusions, and put the allies of those in the media (such as NARAL and Planned Parenthood) on the defensive.

Hell, these maniacs might even get in into their skulls to hurt people!

Well, we can’t have that. We can’t let the Wrong Kind of Information — true information, but the sort of information the non-enlightened may be confused about — passing into the Wrong Kinds of Brains.

Thus, this embargo on the Gosnell story is not just partisan bias, fronting for the Democrats by refusing to mention anything that might be used as a wedge issue against them.

No, this embargo is done for the Public Good, even if the public is too stupid to understand that. If the public heard about these things … Well, that’s not gonna happen. Not on our watch.

It’s been occurring to me lately that much media behavior is explainable by this prism. They don’t want to report certain facts, not because the facts aren’t true (they’re facts by definition), but because they’re Concerned About The Capacity of Non-Journalists to Successfully Interpret These Facts.

April 10, 2013

The former players’ class-action suit against the NFL

Filed under: Football, Health, Law — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:05

John Holler opines that the players are morally right, but that the legal system probably won’t give them the vindication they hope for:

Inaccurately known as the City of Brotherly Love – a more appropriate definition would be the City of Unholy Beat-Downs In the 600 Level – Philadelphia was the site Tuesday of the first big meeting on men in $5,000 suits and matching ties and pocket splash.

Judge Anita Brody heard arguments Tuesday from the NFL and a class-action group of more than 4,000 NFL players concerning the NFL’s culpability for not diagnosing concussions in the formative years of the NFL becoming the financial juggernaut it is today.

It’s a complicated and sometimes emotional battle. From a personal perspective, I teared up (that’s a generous description of it) after interviewing Brent Boyd at a time when he was a lone candle in the wind seeking justice for his injuries at a time when the NFL denied any connection to playing the game and post-concussion symptoms. Boyd was in an a cappella group at that time. Now he has a loud chorus of backup singers in the choir. Boyd was right when he told Congress that the NFL’s policy toward worker’s compensation claims were characterized – in his words – as, “Delay, deny and hope they die.”

On the other side of the coin is the legal question. It’s not a coincidence that Lady Justice, the sculpture of a woman holding the scales of justice, is blindfolded. The intent of that symbolism is that a jury can only render a verdict on the facts presented. A former NFL player from the 1970s once posed the question to me, “Does Boeing owe former employees more benefits now because the company became successful?” That was a hard pill to swallow considering that, even in the 1970s and 1980s, there were enough former players suffering from dementia and game-related debilitation that an impartial juror could see the connection between playing NFL football and the results that have followed in post-football life for thousands of former players. Yet, what does the current NFL owe them?

December 29, 2010

Vikings surprise Eagles in rare Tuesday game

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:56

The Minnesota Vikings were two-touchdown underdogs to the Philadelphia Eagles, and some said even that overstated how much of a mismatch this game was going to be. It was such a foregone conclusion that the game wasn’t even broadcast in my area.

As they say, however, the predictions are just guesses. The game certainly didn’t go the way it was expected to:

The victory was sparked by Adrian Peterson’s 118-yard rushing performance and an astute defensive game plan that put consistent pressure on Eagles quarterback Michael Vick. But it also was the result of a performance by a Philadelphia team that looked as if it had spent far too much time celebrating clinching the NFC East on Sunday, when the Packers beat the Giants.

The Eagles were called for 12 penalties as they lost to the Vikings for the first time since the 1997 season, ending a five-game winning streak. The Vikings had not won at Philadelphia since 1985. Philadelphia’s performance was reminiscent of the Arizona Cardinals’ effort in 2008 after they clinched the NFC West and then lost to the Vikings 35-14.

“It was an absolutely pathetic job on my part of getting my team ready to play,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said. “We didn’t coach well and we didn’t play well. It was a complete tail-whipping right there.”

Normally, as Gregg Easterbrook constantly points out, the team that blitzes too much gets burned by the quarterback throwing to his “hot read” (who is uncovered because the defender is blitzing). That wasn’t the case last night:

A game plan designed by Frazier, who had been defensive coordinator before taking over for the fired Brad Childress on Nov. 22, and interim defensive coordinator Fred Pagac made sure Vick was never was able to get comfortable because he faced a variety of looks and was consistently pursued by Antoine Winfield, who blitzed both from the corner and inside.

Vick was sacked six times and finished with an interception and two lost fumbles, including a crucial one late in the second quarter when Winfield stripped the ball from him on a sack, then picked it up and raced 45 yards for a touchdown that tied the score 7-7. Winfield finished with two sacks.

I had been looking forward to watching the game particularly to see how Joe Webb handled his first NFL start at quarterback. He seems to have done well enough:

Webb, meanwhile, got better as the game went along in his first career start, completing eight of 11 passes for 124 yards in the second half. He led the Vikings on scoring drives in their first two series of the third quarter, the first ending with a 30-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell and the second with a 9-yard touchdown run by the raw quarterback, who didn’t see open tight end Visanthe Shiancoe on the play.

Brett Favre is still the starter, if he’s healthy, so there isn’t a quarterback controversy. Whether he’ll be healthy for the final game at Detroit’s Ford Field on Sunday is still unknown.

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