Thursday, July 27, 2006

Ignorance, Politics Prevail Over Economic Logic in Chicago

Council defies Daley, OKs 'living wage'

Defying Mayor Daley and challenging Wal-Mart and Target to follow through on their threats, a bitterly divided City Council voted Wednesday to require Chicago's big-box retailers to pay employees a "living wage" of at least $10 an hour and $3 in benefits by 2010.

Oh, fuck. Not again. Look, we've been over this already.

No matter how damning or conclusive the evidence against these economic fallacies, moronic decrees such as this one continue to zoom through ignorant legislatures and city councils like shit through a goose. Um, guys? The laws of economics can be neither repealed nor replaced by political will. Please, just stop.

As usual, Lew Rockwell sounds the proper note on this issue:

The debate over minimum wage laws goes to the very core of how we view the relationship between economics and politics. Politicians who enact these laws imagine themselves as central planners magically bringing compassion and high living standards into being with the stroke of a pen. People who support the laws have a flawed view of the market process that sees exploitation behind all exchange relationships. Unions that back them are selfishly using the political process to enrich themselves at others' expense.

Only economic libertarians understand the actual reality: the minimum wage is a violent imposition on the freedom of association that harms all of society in the long run.

Please read the whole thing. I promise it's worth the time.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Another Turd From Gene Wojciechowski

Like with most things, ESPN the Plucky Upstart was way more appealing than ESPN, Corporate Juggernaut. People forget this now but the network used to be something of a maverick; for those of us old enough to have been weaned on four minutes of sports coverage at the end of the 11 PM local news, "SportsCenter" was a revelation: irreverent, spontaneous, fun. Now, the network consists of little more than irritating "talent", lame sentimentality, and "original entertainment."

For the most part, is an outpost for the network's lame corporate mentality: better to traffic in safe, bland, and predictable opinions than to shake up the status quo. Outside of the Sports Guy, few of's columnists challenge conventional wisdom or rock the boat in any way.

Besides the execrable (wretched? insufferable? I struggled to settle on just the right adjective) Skip Bayless, perhaps no writer better personifies this depressing trend than Gene Wojciechowski. If there's a prevailing wisdom on an issue, you can bet ol' Gene has his hands wrapped tightly around the bandwagon reins. Anyway, his latest ode to ennui can be found here. I'm not feeling charitable:

Next year's ESPYS should include a new category: Best Performance By An Outraged Lawyer On Courthouse Steps. I nominate Jeff Borris, a lawyer for Barry Bonds who simply can't understand why federal prosecutors keep picking on his poor little client.

While we're creating new ESPY categories (and nice ESPYs plug, you sly devil), how about Most Nauseating and Unwarranted Moralizing by a Sportswriter. Lots of nominees as usual but I'm pulling for ya, Gene.

"We should be paying tax dollars trying to locate bin Laden," said Borris to the minicams last week. "Isn't he Public Enemy No. 1?" (Memo to Bonds: I don't know what you're paying this guy, but if it's more than a dab of Atomic Balm, a wad of chaw and a handful of sunflower seeds, it's too much).

I could make the same observation about what ESPN is paying you, Gene, but that would And it would seem Borris has a point, since you made no effort to refute the man.

Borris, Bonds and the rest of his legal team are nuts if they think the feds are going away. The Feds are Belushi in "Animal House": "Over? Did you say, 'over?' Nothing is over until WE decide it is!"

Oh my G-d, the feds are so not Belushi in "Animal House." When was the last time you heard a member of the federal government (besides Clinton) say, "My advice to to start drinking heavily"?

Borris can yammer on until his habeas needs a new corpus.


Michael Rains, another Bonds attorney with a penchant for courthouse-step sound bites, can accuse the government all he wants of conducting an investigation that has morphed, he says, into "a persecution." The feds don't care. They're used to hearing indignant defense lawyers talk tough, although the thing about finding bin Laden was probably good for a few laughs.

They found it fucking hilarious, no doubt.

Until Greg Anderson, Bonds' boyhood friend and former personal trainer, agrees to testify before a grand jury, the feds will keep reaching into their legal toolbox for more screws. Martha Stewart, who served time for, among other things, lying to federal investigators, can explain how that works.

I'm not sure which is worse here, Gene: your shaky interpretation of the Martha Stewart case or your contemptible cheerleading for the feds. Dick.

Meanwhile, defense attorneys defend, prosecutors forge ahead, legal experts opine. That's fine. But if you take sandpaper to all the verbal posturing and lawyerese in this case, you're left with a simple question: Why won't Anderson talk?

And unless you're Greg Anderson, Barry Bonds, or one of their attorneys, you're left with a simple answer: we have no fucking idea. We're not privy to the facts. You can speculate that he's covering up for Bonds. I'll speculate that he's been friends with Bonds for most of his life and that his loyalty eclipses whatever threats the feds are making. Maybe he objects to the bullying and demands for answers to questions that the feds have no right asking.

Think about it. Bonds and his attorneys say the San Francisco Giants outfielder has done nothing wrong. Didn't lie to the grand jury. Didn't lie on his taxes. Didn't take performance-enhancing drugs -- at least, not "knowingly."

OK, let's pretend they're telling the truth. Let's pretend Bonds is the victim of a government and media conspiracy, that his head size and home run numbers grew exponentially because he drank gallons of milk and ate lots of Wheaties. Let's pretend he reported all of that memorabilia show cash. Gee, Barry is a swell guy.

Let's pretend you can think critically, Gene. As a sportswriter with a national audience, you could seize the opportunity to open a dialogue about the proper role of government. Ask some probing questions. Be a skeptic of power for once in your life. Here are some sample questions: Shouldn't the concept of self-ownership prevent the state from regulating what people put in their bodies? Baseball can choose to ban PEDs as a condition of employment but why should the use of PEDs/HGH be criminal? And shouldn't Americans be angry about how much we're taxed? Is there no area of commerce, including "show cash," that is beyond the greedy hands of the taxman? You know, stuff like that.

So tell me, then, why won't Anderson talk? If Bonds has done no wrong, what is there for Anderson to protect?

Ah, resorting to the Bush Administration's favored "You have nothing to fear if you've done nothing wrong!" argument for illegal wiretapping. Well played, sir. [claps wearily]

Instead, Anderson, who was convicted in 2005 of laundering money and distributing steroids, won't say a peep. He already has done one two-week stint in prison for refusing to appear in front of a grand jury. And it appears he'll do more time -- much more time -- if he does a Sammy Sosa and forgets how to speak English when a new grand jury convenes.

"They can subpoena him every day for the rest of the year and it doesn't matter," Mark Geragos, Anderson's lawyer, told reporters. "He's not going to talk."

Defiance doesn't go over real big with the U.S. Attorney's office, especially when the feds are convinced Anderson knows who took what performance-enhancing drugs and when they took them. In short, they think the man whose personal training business was named, "Get Big Productions," can explain exactly how Bonds, and others, got so huge.

He probably can but, once again, you fail to ask the critical question here: why is steroid use among ballplayers any of the feds' fucking business? Let's say that the use of Ecstasy among sportswriters was suspected to be rampant -- and given the quality and integrity demonstrated by the profession these days, that's a crazy fucking idea, I know -- but how would you feel about your best friend being subpoenaed and imprisoned for refusing to testify about your suspected use?

There are only so many reasons Anderson keeps pressing the mute button: (A) His grand jury testimony would implicate Bonds and, damn it, he's no snitch; (B) his testimony would be leaked to the media and, damn it, he doesn't want anybody to know he's a snitch; (C) he doesn't want to burn his boyhood friend; or (D) he's holding out for a deal.

I pick D, for Deal.

I pick E, for Refusing to Dignify This Publicity Whoring By Giving These Arrogant Pricks in the Federal Government What They Want.

All deals are the product of leverage. The feds have jail. Anderson has silence. My guess is that at some point the U.S. Attorney's office will offer something in exchange for Anderson's testimony. My other guess is that Anderson will take it. Otherwise, he will spend months … a year … perhaps more than a year, in prison. And for what? To protect Bonds, whose attorney Rains began to distance his client ever so slightly from Anderson a few days ago?

Interesting, since with most state endeavors, jail is all the feds have. The state produces nothing, provides nothing, invents nothing. But it does give us wars, prohibition, taxation, and jail. Good times.

Bonds initially said he thought substances given to him by Anderson in 2003 were flaxseed oil and anti-arthritic balm. But now Rains said Bonds was "suspicious" about whether they were performance enhancers. Expect more revisionist history in the coming months.

The feds can be ruthless, and I don't mean that in a good way, necessarily.

Whew, thank goodness you qualified that with "necessarily." For a second there I was afraid you might take a principled stand.

They don't care whether Anderson does more prison time. They don't care that Bonds has 722 career home runs and is beloved in the Bay Area. This isn't about manners. This is about separating fact from fiction.

This is about reminding people who's boss.

Bonds faces a federal trifecta: perjury, the use of illegal performance-enhancing drugs and tax evasion. If convicted, that means fines, jail time or both. So catching Hank Aaron or reaching the Hall of Fame is the least of his worries. Or should be. Even for the smug Bonds, it would be galactically stupid to underestimate the ferocity of the feds.

"Galactically stupid," good one. And you thought you could sneak that reference from "A Few Good Men" by us, you cheeky monkey.

What's next? For now, we hear the blustery sounds of indignant defense lawyers on courthouse steps. What we don't hear is Anderson. That silence, more than anything, speaks loudest.

Ugh. We also read the blustery prose of indignant sportswriters who lack both intellectual curiosity and a reporter's good old-fashioned nose for bullshit. Bravo, Gene. Bra-vo.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Someone please explain this one to me...

Reds swap Kearns to Nats for Clayton, pitchers

Is Reds GM Wayne Krivsky serious? Doing whippits? Here's the trade:

Reds trade:

Austin Kearns (Age 26, 14.9 VORP in '06)
Felipe Lopez (Age 26, 16.7 VORP in '06)
Ryan Wagner (Age 23, struggling in AAA this year)

Nats trade:

Gary Majewski (Age 26, 13.4 VORP)
Bill Bray (Age 23, 4.4 VORP; 45 Ks/9 BB in 31.2 AAA innings)
Royce Clayton (Age 36, 3.1 VORP)
Brendan Harris (Age 26, 32 major league ABs in 2006)
Daryl Thompson (pitching prospect: 4 GS, 6.2 innings in short season New York-Penn league)

So let's break this down:

The Nats get two everyday players entering their primes and a young reliever with potential.

The Reds get:

1. An utterly fungible middle reliever (Majewski) -- a guy whose component skills barely rise to set-up level, let alone closer in grooming
2. The rotting husk that used to be Royce Clayton
3. An infield prospect (Harris) whose career path is shaping up to be "Tony Graffanino utility" at best
4. A pitching prospect (Thompson) who might never throw a pitch above A-ball level
5. And a former college closer (Bray)

To be fair, Bray's minor league numbers are very good, and he does have a chance to contribute. But this deal is an unmitigated disaster for Cincinnati. You can make all the "Wayne Krivsky couldn't win my fantasy league" jokes you want, but seriously, how dumb do you have to be in order to get swindled by...Jim Bowden?

Somewhere, Cam Bonifay and Allard Baird look at Wayne Krivsky's Reds and nod approvingly...

Reason #1,765 Why I Love this comment thread.

The submitter's headline was: "World's five billionth baby turns nineteen, plans to celebrate with Cuervo Gold, fine Columbian."

Fark's headlines typically contain obscure references, bad puns, and goofy in-jokes, but when these intersect with Steely Dan -- my favoritest recording artists EVAR -- well, it just about made my head explode. Nice to see that so many in the Fark community are funny AND erudite.

/not officially a Farker, only a lurker
//"Szechuan dumplings after the deal has been done"
///Nobody will get this post at all

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

One Year of Madness!

Hardly seems possible but it was one year ago today -- July 5, 2005 -- that I launched this li'l old foray into online obscurity. After (or despite?) 130 posts, 2,137 hits, a template redesign, and more than a few name changes, my love for this goofy hobby endures.

To celebrate, I'm busting out some old favorites from the past year:

Robinson & Schilling: Erase Stats After Failed Drug Tests (8/25/05)

Perdue Works to Stem Price Gouging (9/1/05)

In Defense of the A.J. Burnett Signing (sort of) (12/7/05)

In Defense of "Goldbuggery" (12/15/05)

John Schuerholz Still Doesn't Get "Moneyball" (4/16/06)

[You know it's a lazy summer when even blogs carry reruns.]

Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Unfree Country Chronicles III: "The united states of total paranoia"

As we spend this weekend reflecting on our nation's independence (through the time-honored traditions of cheeseburgers and pyrotechnics), consider the view from the outside:

The united states of total paranoia

I know Britain is full of incompetent water board officials and stabbed Glaswegians but even so I fell on my knees this morning and kissed the ground, because I’ve just spent three weeks trying to work in America.

It’s known as the land of the free and I’m sure it is if you get up in the morning, go to work in a petrol station, eat nothing but double-egg burgers — with cheese — and take your children to little league. But if you step outside the loop, if you try to do something a bit zany, you will find that you’re in a police state.

We begin at Los Angeles airport in front of an immigration official who, like all his colleagues, was selected for having no grace, no manners, no humour, no humanity and the sort of IQ normally found in farmyard animals. He scanned my form and noted there was no street number for the hotel at which I was staying.

“I’m going to need a number,” he said. “Ooh, I’m sorry,” I said, “I’m afraid I don’t have one.”

This didn’t seem to have any effect. “I’m going to need a number,” he said again, and then again, and then again. Each time I shrugged and stammered, terrified that I might be sent to the back of the queue or worse, into the little room with the men in Marigolds. But I simply didn’t have an answer.

“I’m going to need a number,” he said again, giving the distinct impression that he was an autobank, and that this was a conversation he was prepared to endure until one of us died. So with a great deal of bravery I decided to give him one. And the number I chose was 2,649,347.

This, it turned out, was fine. He’d been told by his superiors to get a number. I’d given him a number. His job was done and so, just an hour or so later, I was on the streets of Los Angeles doing a piece to camera.

(h/t to Fark)