RYAN BRAUN, PART ONE: CHAIN OF CUSTODY IS NEVER A "TECHNICALITY"
The leak started yesterday morning but the word is out now. Ryan Braun's first offender suspension for a violation of the league's prohibited substance policy has been voided by the neutral arbitrator.
Apparently there will be a written decision later and it may or may not be available to the public. The bottom line is that the sample containers were not taken to distribution points during the same business day or even during the next calendar day.
This is important for at least two reasons. First, it is only when the samples are taken to a common carrier that they are anonymized. The leased witness/Courier and the player are the only two people who know the identity of the donor. There is a high positive value in any scientific undertaking in eliminating history information as quickly as possible. The second problem is the more obvious one, the longer the samples linger in an uncontrolled environment a more there can be questions about the integrity of those samples.
For purposes of an arbitration, the arbitrator wants to admit evidence that has been authenticated. The parties have essentially agreed the sample is authenticated by the transfer numbers matching and the delivery having been made on the same business day. Failing that, it is difficult to criticize the arbitrator for either not admitting the samples at all or finding that their probative value is so limited as to not support the discipline.
So far, none of this is particularly interesting. What is quite interesting is Maj. league baseball's response to the arbitrator's ruling. Immediately Maj. league baseball and its representatives managed to pollute the airwaves with claims that Braun got out of the suspension on a "technicality." Some very fine sports broadcasters have repeated this, is if "technicality" were an established fact as opposed to a very preliminary and incendiary opinion coming from MLB. Two disappointing examples were Dan Roan and Colin Cowherd. I was shocked to hear both of them repeat the party line.
As we will discuss more in part two, it is a little cheeky to agree to a handling procedure, comprehensively fail to live up to your agreement and then say that your failure to keep your promise under the agreement is a "technicality."
All this of course leaves aside the discussion of who leaked the test result in the first place. All of this played out publicly precisely because somebody who knew better leaked it.
POLITICAL SEX STOOD ON ITS HEAD
In the randy Clinton/Gingrich/Livingston days, we talked about the problem of Sex in Politics, meaning the sex apparently inherent in politics.
Today, we talk about Sex in Politics and we mean the Politics of Sex.
I think the Horndog days gave me less of a headache.
DISCUSS WITH DAUGHTER BEFORE SHE GOES OFF TO COLLEGE
Prepare to be depressed.
UMRBlog: CLARK KENT, BASEBALL AND MUSIC
MY LAST CLANCY
Since he was first published, I have read pretty much everything written by Tom Clancy.
In case you're not familiar he is essentially the developer of a new genre of novel, now pretty generally called the "technothriller."
Clancy has always had a remarkable ability to learn about military equipment and tactics, despite operating under the handicap of not having ever served his country or been exposed to hostile fire. That is a gift and I give him credit for it. Still, I have always wondered if he was afraid of combat, medically impaired in some way or just couldn't wait to get the insurance business (which is what he did before his novel started selling.)
In his writing he is essentially a one trick pony. He will take the cruelest or most brutal event and describe it in such technological and anatomical detail that seems more schematic than gory. He will tell you exactly the weight of the bullet fired from a sniper rifle, the exact elapsed time until it reaches the victim of the assassination and precisely what portion of the victim's brain is removed by the bullet. He will then go on to describe what the function of that portion of the brain we have been before was removed by the bullet. It is an interesting style, if a predictable one.
None of that is the reason I have bought my last Clancy book. Clancy's books have always broadcast a simplistic view of American defense and foreign-policy. If I had to describe it in shorthand I would call it "Dick Cheney in the ninth grade." It is always been there and I have always overlooked it.
To be fair to Mr. Clancy, he has had a pattern of bringing and co-authors and then changing co-authors. I believe I have read in the national media that he has done the same thing with wives. Whether through him or his most recent co-author, his two most recent books, almost endlessly, ask the reader to absorb the above philosophy all too frequently. It might be a gratuitous shot at MSNBC or simply the suggestion that all Democrats live to dismantle the CIA's operations directorate. Oh, and don't forget that all Democrats cover up to save their asses and all Conservatives and/or Hawks are stand-up guys who take the consequences. (Yes, grudgingly, one of his heroes is a Democrat but he only did the right thing because Clancy's SuperHawk protagonist told him to.)
To be clear, my beef is not particularly that I disagree with any of this philosophy. Heck, I read and listen to a lot of conservative and and foreign-policy adventurous philosophy. No, my problem with it is that I paid my money to his vendor to be entertained by his books. To say the same thing a different way, I buy the books for enjoyment. It is no more enjoyable to be battered by half-baked personal beliefs in the novel that is to have to listen to them at the table next to you in a restaurant.
To some extent the loss is mine. Mr. Clancy writes his books serially, so the end of one invariably leads into the beginning of the next one. And the next one looks like it will be a humdinger. But it will hum and ding without me.
CLARK KENT, BASEBALL AND MUSIC
Ignore the hair and look at the faces: Bruno Mars and Starlin Castro, the same guy?
Think about it, you never see them in the same room at the same time.
SEBELIUS: IS THERE AN ANTIBIOTIC FOR THAT?
In a true White House JANAFU, it was announced a few days back that all employers, irrespective of religious affiliation, would be required to make available on their healthcare plans birth-control coverage. At that time the president's poll numbers were ticking up and the seven dwarves on the Republican side were down to four. In other words, things were looking quite nice for the administration. Then the always dangerous Sebelius struck.
Your friendly basin has no interest in discussing the merits of the policy or even whether it is about "women's health" or is just "anti-Catholic." I am, however, very interested in the politics of it.
First, why would the administration announce this as a stand-alone provision? Even Sebelius had to know that this would be controversial. Second, why would the administration let its intention to do this leak out over the course of a year? Third, how insulated and arrogant does an administration have to be to not realize that the Catholic Church had its white papers and skilled spokespersons, within and without the opinion press, ready to go as soon as the announcement was made? Finally, wasn't it completely predictable that NBC and ABC would adopt administration's arguments and even take the editorial position that the White House had the better of this debate.
On the first point, the administration's performance has to be given a failing grade. If, as a matter of principle, Sebelius thought she had to champion this provision, she should have brought it out with a bunch of features that were highly desirable. Sticking it out there as a sole spoonful of foul tasting medicine to be swallowed by Roman Catholics was just plain dumb.
It was funny when this announcement came out. The people who opposed it vigorously were completely ready for the argument. This is thanks to the numerous leaks from within the administration that it was, indeed, coming out as policy. On the other hand, the administration and supportive legislators were not prepared at all to argue for it. They spent at least a day backing and filling until they finally came out with what I call "the slavery analogy argument." "The slavery analogy argument" is simply "gosh, a lot of states are already doing this… ."
For centuries, when some nation tries to get into the Catholic church's wheelhouse, the Catholic Church has done adept politics with the skill set worthy of Bill Clinton. (Of course they completely gagged on the Child Sexual Abuse issue, but they are back on their game now.) Is just plain shameful that the administration is not prepared with whatever it thought might be a uniform but effective counterargument.
The dutiful NBC, ABC and MSNBC opinion generators argued the merits of the provision. To that I say "okay, there are valid points to be made on both sides." But the same people also made the argument that the administration had the political high ground and that ground would be particularly meaningful to the 6 to 10% of independent voters who would decide the general election. That is a large crock. Most citizens do not take a very scholarly view of this stuff. Certainly, most of those folks do not spend a lot of time on the nice distinction between mere service to the community and the profession of faith. Even if they did, they would just get a headache. the line between charitable good works and profession of faith is fundamentally impossible to draw. As a result, independent people will probably just hear that the Obama administration was trying to boss churches around. That cannot be spun as a plus, even with the lipstick of "women's health" pasted upon the plan's porcine corpus.
Pretty clearly the origin for this fun was Sebelius. But how did it filter through what should be a politically wise White House staff and ever actually see the light of day? Where were the grown-ups in the Executive Office Building? Where were the people with the skills and team motivation to prevent governmental self – inflicted wounds?
I can think of a couple of non-– exclusive reasons. First, there simply might not be the skill set in the executive staff to play these things out. The best evidence of this is the presence of advisors like the light hitting and mistake prone Valerie Jarrett. The second reason is even scarier, perhaps everyone there is such a top-down, uniform social policy tinkerer that it simply never occurs to them that people with their own independent beliefs are capable of pushback when faced with what they think is a clanger. It could be both.
Hanging this albatross around the president's neck constitutes Sebelius placing into jeopardy the president's second term. If there is one, she should not participate in it. That part is easy but the other people who failed to send up a flare should walk the plank with her.
THE GAY MARRIAGE THREAT BOX
Pretty much everybody except for a rare tribe in the mountains of Dumbfaqistan is aware that David Boies and Ted Olson have teamed up to support gay marriage in our courts. This is not a commentary on the merits of their attempt. It is just a lead in explanation of why it is big, follow-up news that they have won at least an interim victory in the Circuit Court of Appeals on this issue.It is an absolute rule of nature that, within 20 seconds of any development which advances the cause of gay marriage, the usual suspects will appear on television and discuss how gay marriage threatens traditional, heterosexual marriage.Stay with me here. I'm not here to extol the desirability in virtue of gay marriage. What I like to see in the discussion of public issues is clarity. When one of these guys says gay marriage is a threat to traditional marriage, I want to know what happens in the "threat box." What is it about two guys being declared married that threatens or interferes with current or future heterosexual marriage. If we're worried that some guy, after marriage, is going to go all Ted Haggard, we need to keep in mind that Teddy is still married to his wife and they both say that their marriage is better and deeper than before. (Ted's the guy who took the "miracle cure" for gayness.)If the opponents mean that gay marriage will free up guys to go after guys when they might otherwise have married a girl, that is just weaker than weak. If a guy who doesn't like girls actually marries a girl, it doesn't mean he's going to stop liking guys. What kind of a deal is that for the girl he marries? She stays home while he's out with Lance...great.But the above is me guessing at what is meant by "threat."As I said, in public issues I like clarity. If you're going to tell me that gay people marrying one another is a threat to "conventional" marriage, it is not my duty to guess at what you mean is actually happening within the actual threat. If that is your position, and that is a perfectly civil and lawful position to take, then you assume the duty to persuade me that there is an actual, rather than theoretical, threat and to explain to me with precision what actually happens in the "threat box."Oh, for those of you on the dull side or with reading challenges, keep in mind this is something different from taking the position "this should not be allowed because it violates God's law or because it is sinful…" If you take that position, we cannot really have a discussion about it. That is your belief system. You own it. I would not try to talk you out of it.Just understand that when you make the pragmatic "threat to marriage" argument, you assume the duty to explain the threat. I am not saying it cannot be explained but I've had this discussion with some pretty smart people and so far nobody successfully explained without morphing back into the moral argument (see the above paragraph.)Good night and God bless United States of America.
IT'S ALL THERE IN BLACK AND WHITE
Mitt Romney, perhaps the whitest white guy in the world, wins a big, expensive, Caucasian Republican victory in Florida. Don Cornelius the culturally blackest dance show host in the universe, dies the same day.
In the inimitable words of Lee Corso, "it's all connected, Kirk. It's all connected…"
FIGURE OUT ONE THING: ROMNEY AND THE "BOSS LAUGH"
Long ago and far away I had a boss who fancied himself gifted at the art of "reading" people. In truth I have seen people more skilled at this ephemeral art but I admired the emphasis that my boss placed upon the skill. Not so much the precise "how" of it was his message but he emphasized, always, to take one specific character read away from your initial contacts with another person.
I guess he convinced me because I have always made it a habit to glean one trait from any observation of a person. I always try to have this nugget be something that arises from my own, personal observation and not from anything anyone else might have said about the subject. Often these trait observations are borderline trivial (he is a left-handed golfer, he smokes, he wears colored contact lenses.) Sometimes they are useful (he holds a eye contact longer when he lies, he speaks in incomplete sentences when he is unsure of his argument)
Here is my one thing with Mitt Romney: he does not have the capacity to genuinely laugh and probably lacks a developed sense of humor at all. If you take the time to notice, no human being's natural laugh is actually "ha ha ha…" When Romney says something that he thinks is critical but humorous about any of his opponents or about any proposition, he shows teeth and releases a "ha ha ha…". It is not an expression of human appreciation of the humorous event. It is a "boss laugh", a command to the underlings around him to laugh because the boss has just said something funny.
Make of this what you will. I have no theory about whether his journey surgically removed his sense of humor or whether he never had one.
I, for one, have always found "boss laughs" borderline insufferable.