Current Affairs – US

The Houston Texans signing of Josh Johnson

The signing of Josh Johnson makes no football sense for the Houston Texans. Johnson last participated in the NFL as a player in 2013. He has not played in an NFL game since 2011.
One thing I learned a long time ago in IT is that if a project or an action makes no sense…that is because there is another reason for it, you just haven’t worked it out yet.
In the case of the signing of Josh Johnson, I see two separate messages being sent by the Houston Texans:

1. We are not racist
Johnson is African-American. His signing allows the Texans to claim that they have no animus against African-American players.

2. We will not sign Colin Kaepernick under any circumstances
The signing of a player who last played in the NFL in 2013, and who last played in a real game in 2011, sends the message that the Texans wold rather sign anybody else to play quarterback than Kaepernick. They would probably sign Vince Young before they signed Kaepernick.

In the context of the collusion complaint by Kaeernick, today’s events prove nothing. One team making a decision has nothing to do with collusion. IMHO, the signing of Johnson acts as a “f**k you” to Kaepernick, and makes the Texans ownership look like assholes. But then I don’t think that a billionaire NFL owner is likely to care what folks like me think. Those kinds of business leaders tend to only respect power and money.

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The supposed Roger Goodell – Colin Kaepernick meeting

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell apparently asked for a 1:1 meeting with Colin Kaepernick. It seems that he requested the meeting as long ago as October 31st, which is after Kaepernick and his legal team had announced that they were filing a collusion complaint against the NFL.
Although the initial leak claimed that Kaepernick had not formally responded to the invitation, it seems that he did in fact respond. In alignment with the policy of the NFLPA, Kaepernick said that he would attend the meeting on two conditions: (1) the subjects did not include his grievance claim for collusion, and (2) a mediator was present at the meeting. (2) has been part of the NFLPA policy on meetings with the Commissioner for a while. Quite simply, the NFLPA does not trust Goodell to act in the best interests of the players. The trust has been eroded by three consecutive issues: the new CBA is less favorable to the players in terms of revenue distribution, the players believe that the Commissioner has been abusing his powers to levy discipline, and now the Commissioner has been weaselling over the anthem protests.
The NFL apparently rejected the proposal for a mediator to be present, and so the meeting, in common with several other proposed meetings, is not going to happen in its originally proposed form. The NFLPA insists on a mediator being part of the process; the NFL is declining to have one involved.
What is also clear is that until quite recently Roger Goodell’s position as Commissioner was far from secure. His contract expires in 2019, and negotiations to give him a new 5 year contract had become bogged down, with several NFL owners (including Jerry Jones) said to be lobbying for additional performance clauses in the contract. However, it seems that Jones may now have removed himself from that process, which will allow a new contract to be finalized.
The deterioration in the relationship between the players and the NFL owners over the anthem protests is a visible result of a more fundamental tension that Goodell is stuck with; namely that 70+% of the players in the NFL are black, but over 70% of the audience and fans are white, and the NFL owners are (with one exception) older white men, some of them very politically conservative.
The bigger demographic issue that the NFL must also be aware of is that the average age of NFL supporters is steadily increasing. The current NFL does not have much appeal to younger people. The games are too long, the game is seen as violent, and the NFL has been seen as negligent in its tolerance of CTE and bad behavior at all levels as long as teams win games and are perceived as successful.
Right now, the relationship between the NFLPA and the commissioner is a fragile one, but Goodell is smart enough to realize that in 3 years’s time he will be leading a re-negotiation of the CBA, and he will need a much better relationship by then if that negotiation is to be a win:win. This will be especially true if NFL viewing figures continue to decline, meaning that there will be a lot less money to go around. The players felt that the owners screwed them over financially in the last CBA, so they will be taking a hard line on that issue, and the discipline process will also be on the table. This negotiation will be fractious. The NFLPA ought to be preparing for a lock-out.

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FFS – Sunday 5th November 2017

As the number of NFL figures being asked to provide evidence for the discovery phase of Colin Kaepernick’s collusion complaint against the NFL slowly expands, the amount of bullshit noise being generated by opponents of Kaepernick is slowly increasing.
There are some standard themes to the bullshit noise. So, let’s put some of this bullshit down in the sewerage system where it belongs.

1. Colin Kaepernick terminated his contract with the 49ers therefore he has no basis for a complaint
Yes, he did opt out of his contract. However, the 49ers were going to terminate his contract anyway. This is not speculation or a matter for debate. This has been publicly confirmed by 49ers General Manager John Lynch.
In any case, this is not relevant to a collusion complaint. The basis of the complaint is that Kaepernick, an available free agent, was denied employment by collusion between multiple NFL teams. How he came to be a free agent is irrelevant to the complaint.

2. Colin Kaepernick is a mediocre player not deserving of a position on a team
It is difficult to assign the label “mediocre player” to a quarterback who played in a Superbowl and almost led his team to a victory. Statistically, Kepernick is better than dozens of other quarterbacks who currently have contracts with NFL teams. Sorry, this is nonsense. The facts show otherwise.


3. NFL owners do not have to turn over their phones and records for discovery, this is a fishing expedition

If a court agrees with an application from a plaintiff that you have to turn over objects and records of events as part of discovery, this is not an optional request. Failure to comply can (and usually will) lead to an application by the plaintiffs for a contempt order against you. Ultimately you may have to decide whether you hand over the requested information, or go to jail.
Now…you can argue in a motion that the discovery request is impermissibly broad. However, you have to convince a court that this is the case, and courts are usually fairly deferential to discovery requests as long as they are not obviously outside of the scope of the initial or amended complaint.
So, absent a ruling against the discovery request, refusing to comply is not really an option.

4. If the collusion complaint succeeds, the Collective Bargaining Agreement will be terminated
For Colin Kaepernick’s collusion complaint to succeed, the arbitrator only has to decide that two or more teams colluded to deny him employment.
Now…the CBA does have a clause covering the impact of collusion being proved. However, the current CBA states that the termination of the CBA can only occur if 14 or more teams are found to have colluded against 1 or more players. So, unless the arbitrator rules that collusion took place involving 14 or more teams, the NFLPA cannot terminate the CBA based on a victory by Kaepernick.
Given that the Kaepernick complaint only covers a maximum of 10 teams, this makes a termination of the CBA due to this complaint look pretty unlikely.

4. The NFL owners are independent businesses, they can decide who they hire and fire
Sure they can. However, under the terms of US anti-trust law, NFL teams are not supposed to collaborate or collude on any matter other than broadcasting rights. That is not the NFL’s own rules, it is US anti-trust law.
Any finding that any two or more teams in the NFL collaborated to ensure they did not employ Colin Kaepernick is not only a violation of the CBA, but, far more seriously, it could result in a formal complaint to the DOJ that the NFL teams in question are in violation of anti-trust law.
The judicial remedies for anti-trust violations are almost unlimited. A judge could just shut the NFL down – literally. That is one of the reasons why the NFL teams are so nervous about the deposition and discovery process. It is not just about the collusion complaint. Any evidence that emerges of more general collusion risks igniting a public discussion and debate about the NFL’s behavior with respect to anti-trust law. Nobody in the NFL wants that to happen.

5. The players are obliged to stand for the anthem
Nope. The players’ contractual obligations to the NFL are defined in their individual contracts, however, those contracts are written to comply with the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). A copy of the CBA can be found here.. It is not difficult to read it.
There are no current rules within contracts or the CBA obliging players to stand for the National Anthem. Therefore, at this time, the players cannot be forced to stand. If a team tries to discipline any player, or terminate their contract for not standing, the player and the NFLPA would file a grievance against the team, and they would win it.
The other thing to realize is that forcing anybody to stand for the anthem or to salute the US flag has, on multiple occasions, been ruled by SCOTUS as a violation of people’s constitutional rights. This is not a subject for debate. There are multiple SCOTUS rulings covering this area. This is why, when asked about whether players should stand for the anthem, Roger Goodell has been stating “players should stand for the anthem”, not “players shall/will stand for the anthem”. He, more than most people, knows that not only does the NFL not currently have the right to force players to stand, it will never have the right, unless several SCOTUS rulings are overturned.

6. The anthem controversy is causing fans to stop watching the NFL
This is an interesting one…but no, once again this is not factually based. The NFL has been losing viewers for 3 years, going back to 2015, before Colin Kaepernick started kneeling. There are some fundamental underlying demographic and trend reasons for this, which have nothing to do with the anthem protest. Now, is there a bigger decline in 2017? Well, if there is, there is no reliable data on the underlying causes. Anybody can claim to be boycotting the NFL because they hate Colin Kaepernick, but in terms of statistically valid information, claims prove nothing. The facts, folks, the facts. This is also a reason why everybody should be skeptical of the Pappa John’s Pizza CEO blaming the NFL protests for a down-turn in the corporation’s stock price. Pappa Johns was suffering way before the anthem protest. This is nothing more than bullshit scapegoating.

I left out other far more subjective arguments, like the whole “he’s a distraction” line of argument. That, for me, is hopeless bullshit, given the willingness of the NFL to not only tolerate but embrace contentious, outspoken and badly-behaved players in the past, as long as they were perceived as successful by the teams employing them. Colin Kaepernick does not have a criminal record or a list of civil complaints against him. In all legal respects, he has been a model player. So, no, the “distraction” argument is below bullshit.

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Outside Harrods – October 25th 2017

This Twitter image shows George Papadopoulos, one of the three people indicted by the Special Prosecutor, standing outside Harrods in London on 25th October 2017. This was last week, when he, according to information released this week, had already agreed to co-operate with the Special Prosecutor.
The Embassy of Ecuador, where Julian Assange is living in hiding, is 2 minutes walk around the corner and down the road.

If Papadopoulos was wearing a recording device, we might yet find out exactly who he met with in London.

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Beware – Whataboutism

Whataboutism as a defense for bad behavior has become endemic on social media in the last few months. My own phrase for this is “but they did it too!”.
As a defense, it has no merit. You wouldn’t accept it from your own misbehaving child.
However, if you are a partisan supporter and Your Side is in trouble, oh yes, it is a great defense.
Right now, the deployment of whataboutism is being orchestrated on social media by a bot network supporting the Trump administration. Twitter user Conspirador Norteño, who is a data scientist, has been analyzing the conflation of the names “Manafort” and “Podesta” in tweetstorms that have appeared since the announcement that Paul Manafort has been indicted. The conflation is a campaign to point the finger of guilt back at the Democratic Party, for whom Tony Podesta operated as a lobbyist.


It’s Whataboutism, Twitter-style. Don’t get played.

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