Yearly Archive: 2017

Saturday round-up – 4th November 2017

I was going to start with a For Fishs’ Sake section, but the world is far too target-rich an environment at present. The general level of blathering stupidity on display at present makes me think that the demise of the social media world will occur because enough people realize that it is full of morons and simply go back to the more rewarding approach of actually, you know, meeting people face to face. The whole issue of media and social media platform credibility eroding may be a consequence, rather than a cause. UseNet Deterioration Syndrome is with us big-time.

1. The scandal of sports subsidies for football is not in the NFL

Gregg Easterbrook points out that, contrary to Donald Trump’s huffing and puffing, the bigger scandal in sports tax breaks is the fact that donations to college football programs are tax-deductible. Well that, plus the reality that graduation rates at some college football programs are scandalously low. (You mean Donald didn’t know what he was talking about? I’m shocked, I tell you! Shocked!)

2. The Colin Kaepernick grievance
Some quick notes:
– Anybody who thinks that the NFL is not worried about discovery for this case has not been paying attention. The NFL’s new generation owners like Jerry Jones, Daniel Snyder and Bob McNair are buccaneers, and buccaneers tend to regard the law as something inconvenient, to be skirted if at all possible. Given that the NFL is not a single corporation, but 32 ships supposedly sailing in close formation (but not via a process of collusion, no sir), with no Admiral in any chain of command, there is a good chance that one or more owners has indeed said or done something that will, at the least, look bad, and possibly it will be something not connected to the Colin Kaepernick mess. I remain convinced that the owners are more worried about evidence of collusion on other matters surfacing, which would then open them to anti-trust violation charges. It doesn’t matter how you look at the collusion grievance, there is no upside in it whatsoever for the NFL. By collectively denying Kaepernick employment (and whether that is collusion still has to be argued or proved), the NFL has kept the whole issue in foreground instead of it fading into background. That was not smart.
– Saying that Colin Kaepernick and the other NFL players should stand for the anthem because people in other countries have to stand is not an argument worth the air or bytes on which it is carried. The countries that people are quoting as enforcing that rule are all totalitarian dictatorships or banana republics. That’s not really what you want here, is it? (At this point i fear hearing that answer from some of the keyboard warriors)

3. Who Rigged Brexit on social media?
This question has been argued over for months, and the current consensus is that Russia was the main culprit.
Remember the Dan Rather document scandal in 2001? Rather incorrectly passed off forged documents as the real thing, which essentially cost him his job and became part of the 15+ years’ duration series of mis-steps that has eroded large media credibility in the USA to a dangerously low level.
If Russia was not the main player behind the Brexit social media scams, then a lot of media commentators and outlets will find themselves in the same bad place as Dan Rather.
Mike Hind, who has been studying the social media misinformation machines for a while, believes that most of the money and support came not from Russia but from the USA. He believes that the efforts were funded by plutocrats and businessmen from various parts of the world (but the money and support was channeled through the USA) who are seeking to impose government by plutocrats for plutocrats, and corner more wealth for themselves.
A failed media focus on Russia will simply further erode media credibility, which will allow plutocrat-funded media channels to continue to fill the gap with their own propaganda.


Hell hath no fury like a quarterback scorned

Today’s news gets more and more interesting, or more and more worrying if you are running PR for the NFL.
Hot on the heels that the Houston Texans went out and signed two quarterbacks today to replace DeShaun Watson, neither of whom is named Colin Kaepernick, comes the news that the legal team acting for Kaepernick in his case against the NFL has officially asked that several NFL owners, including Jerry Jones, Robert Kraft, and Bob McNair, be deposed. Additionally, other teams are being asked to turn over all communications that might be related to Colin Kaepernick, including emails and mobile phone records.
Now, I have one question for you all: what are the chances that a voluble self-promoter like Jerry Jones, who cannot publicly keep quiet about the anthem protest, and who is now busy claiming that Pappa Johns’ founder John Schattner is a “fine American”, kept quiet privately about Colin Kaepernick?
I assess those chances as somewhere between diddly and squat. Ditto Bob McNair, whose “inmates running the prison” comment maybe revealed a lot more about his underlying attitude to players than he intended or wanted to reveal. Robert Kraft was probably a lot more careful. He is usually very measured in all of his public pronouncements, and, by all accounts, has been a key figure behind the scenes in mediating disputes between owners and between the NFL and the players. But Jerry Jones? No. Jones cannot stop yapping in public, so I regard it as highly likely that he has said some things in private that Kaepernick’s legal team would love to read and/or hear. That is, if they can be included in discovery.


And the circumstantial collusion evidence pile keeps growing…

With the expiry of the trade period in the NFL, any team needing a quarterback can only sign a free agent.
Yesterday, the Indianapolis Colts officially owned up to something that was becoming rather obvious – that Andrew Luck will not play this season. He underwent major shoulder surgery in the off-season and has not recovered enough to even practice properly. The Colts had already traded for Jacoby Brissett from the Patriots to be their starting quarterback for the season, so this does not impact any free agent moves.
Meanwhile, down in Houston, DeShaun Watson, the new starting quarterback for the Houston Texans, ruptured his ACL in practice yesterday and will miss the rest of the season. The Texans have Tom Savage as a backup, who was benched after 1 game for Watson. Watson is a running quarterback whose playing style is close to that of a free agent quarterback named Colin Kaepernick. However, at time of writing, the Texans appear to be about to sign another free agent not named Kaepernick.
These kinds of decisions by NFL teams are simply adding to the pile of circumstantial evidence that will be pointed to by Kaepernick’s legal team as evidence of collusion. There still needs to be a “smoking gun” uncovered in discovery for a ruling of collusion to be possible, but even if the arbitrator rules against Kaepernick, the overall impression of a sports league bent on punishing a player engaging in peaceful protest is likely to be difficult to ignore.


The wonders of simple solutions to complex issues

The entire Brexit campaign was marked by simplistic pronouncements from the Brexit side that leaving the EU would be relatively easy. (The Remain campaigners had a different problem, their lack of ability to explain why the status quo was preferable to Brexit).
Now that we are over 1 year removed from the Leave vote, and with the negotiations to leave the EU progressing at a snail’s pace, the reality ought to be dawning that the Brexit strategy was…way too simplistic. However, that does not appear to be the case based on the amount of dung being spread around on social media.
This article from the Financial Times explains the whole mess succinctly, pointing to the simple solution trap.


Memes and slogans – again

I saw two examples of argument by meme so far today on Facebook, one from each end of the political spectrum.
Folks, don’t do this. You have your own voice. Your voice is uniquely yours. A meme is somebody else’s voice. And quite often, memes are flat out wrong, fallacious and often childish.
Use your own voice.


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.


The Mark Geragos 10 day claim over Kaepernick

When I wrote the essay on the Mark Geragos claim that Colin Kaepernick would be signed within 10 days, I was discounting (for now) the possibility that the weight of circumstantial evidence would become too great for the arbitrator to dismiss it.
I may be about to revise that viewpoint. The NFL is constantly adding to the pile of circumstantial evidence.
Two attempted quarterback trades occurred at the trade deadline. The 49ers succeeded in acquiring Jimmy Garroppolo from the Patriots. Then an apparent fiasco unfolded right at the trading deadline, with the Cleveland Browns attempting to acquire A.J. McCarron from the Bengals for draft picks, only to have the trade fail to complete, seemingly due to internal SNAFUs in the Browns organization.
From the viewpoint of Kaepernick’s legal team, here are two more clear examples of teams with a quarterback performance issue desperately trying to find another starting quarterback without even asking Colin Kaepernick if he was interested.
The situation will now only get worse for the NFL. With the trade deadline now having passed, if an NFL team loses its starting quarterback to injury, or suddenly becomes desperate for a new option at quarterback, they cannot now trade for a quarterback from another team. They have to sign a free agent, or (far less likely) win a waiver claim contest for a quarterback suddenly released from a team. (That latter scenario is extremely unlikely, since most NFL teams only have 2 quarterbacks on their rosters, and they would not release a quarterback in the season since it would leave them with no backup quarterback in a game).
Colin Kaepernick is a free agent.
So…from this point onwards in the season, any team that signs a free agent quarterback not named Colin Kaepernick is simply adding to the pile of circumstantial evidence that Kaepernick’s legal team will point to as evidence of collusion.
Another underlying challenge in all of this is that Roger Goodell is relatively powerless to influence NFL team behavior. He works for the teams, not the other way around, and since NFL teams are officially forbidden from colluding on any issue other than broadcasting rights, Goodell is now unable to say anything of substance on the Colin Kaepernick issue, especially now it is the subject of a lawsuit, since anything that he does say can be parsed though a viewpoint that asks the question “so were the teams colluding?”. This, by the way, is also why Goodell spoke very carefully about the anthem protests. He cannot be seen to be suggesting to the teams, collectively, what they can or cannot do, and in the case of the anthem issue, his hands are also tied by the CBA, which does not specify any requirements on player behavior for the National Anthem.


Colin Kaepernick vs. the NFL – lawyer makes a big claim

Mark Geragos, the lead lawyer for Colin Kaepernick in his collusion grievance against the NFL, made a bold claim today, during an appearance on the Adam Carolla Show:

“I think within the next 10 days somebody will sign him,” he said. “I think somebody’s gonna sign him. I think the NFL has to come to their senses, and realize every day that goes by just proves the collusion case even more.”

Now…that is a pretty bold and specific claim. Several possible motives for the claim spring to mind:

1. Geragos is trolling or bullshitting
2. Geragos believes that discovery will uncover evidence of collusion against Kaepernick
3. Geragos believes that discovery will likely uncover other evidence of collaboration or collusion between teams and owners that may put the NFL in a difficult legal position

(1) still seems likely. Absent a clear communication between two teams along the lines of “remember don’t sign Kaepernick”, it is still likely that insufficient direct evidence of collusion exists. Whether Geragos thinks that the circumstantial evidence of collusive intent (via the intemperate public and leaked comments of the POTUS and several NFL team owners) is strong enough is open to debate. However, absent a “smoking gun”, the case may well become a trial in the court of public opinion. (there may well, of course, be other private comments from owners that will turn up in discovery that could be damaging. We just don’t know that those might be).
(2) and (3) would add up to multiple problems for the NFL. If (2) is proved, they would would be forced to pay Kaepernick a large pile of money for effectively running him out of the NFL – that sum could easily be more than $50m. They would end up with an enormous PR black eye.
However, (3) represents the more serious risk for the NFL owners. The NFL currently enjoys a limited exemption from anti-trust legislation via the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961. This was passed specifically to allow the NFL teams to collaborate on negotiating broadcasting deals. That is the full scope of the exemption. The NFL teams are not allowed to collaborate on any other commercial matters, or they risk being found guilty of violations of anti-trust law.
This means that evidence of collusion on any matter other than broadcasting rights carries two risks for the NFL. Firstly, it may make it easy for the arbitrator to rule against the NFL in Colin Kaepernick’s grievance hearing. However, secondly, and potentially much more dangerously, it may open the NFL to being charged with broader violations of anti-trust law. The TV broadcasting rights exemption has already come under fire on multiple occasions in the past, with threats being made to repeal the 1961 Act. A clear-cut finding of collusion on any subject could result in the entire act being nuked, leaving the NFL unable to operate as a group in negotiating distribution rights for broadasts of games.
Now…this is where it could get interesting…if the Sports Broadcasting Act was repealed, then theoretically any NFL team could do its own deal for broadcasting rights. They could sign a deal with a network or they could set up their own broadcasting operation with live streaming of games and other exclusive or non-exclusive content. For teams in big media markets (like Dallas, Washington, Seattle, New York etc.) this could actually be more lucrative than the current mechanism where all broadcasting revenues are pooled then distributed equally to all 32 teams. In other words, some of the new-wave aggressive owners like Jerry Jones and Daniel Snyder might not care about the loss of the anti-trust exemption, since they may have done the math and concluded that they can make more money selling their broadcast rights direct to the public.
However, any evidence of any sort of collusion will be embarrassing to the NFL, and will increase the chances of a ruling against them on the Kaepernick issue. More seriously, it opens the entire NFL up to complaints of anti-trust violations, which could be very expensive, not for fines, but for other remedies that a court might order. Courts have a LOT of power when punishing violations of anti-trust law.

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