Saturday, June 11, 2011

Updates and Expansions

Time to re-visit and update some older posts:

LeBron James.
Last July 10, one of three stories I talked about was the fact that LeBron James was “tak[ing] his talents to South Beach,” abandoning the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Miami Heat in search of riches and a championship (in that order, although of course he’d never say so).

My assessment at the time: “while he is unquestionably an outstanding athlete, he just flat gets outplayed (or matched by those of considerably lesser talent) when it matters most.” The finals aren’t over yet, and the Heat, trailing 3-2 as I write this, could still emerge victorious, but it won’t matter in terms of James’s legacy: he still choked when it counted. His Larry Bird numbers for the series have averaged a little under 359. (I wrote last spring, “A good score, one you’d expect consistently from a star player, is 500. A really good game, the kind you’d expect not infrequently from a superstar, is 750. A put-the-team-on-his-back-and-carry-them number is 1000.”)

James’s best game was a 600 in game 1, the only time he’s broken 500. He didn’t crack 200 in either of the losses in Dallas. His direct opposite number, i.e. the starting small forward for the Mavs, Shawn Marion has averaged a 382, including two games over 500. The plus/minus numbers for the series: James -12, Marion +10. Shawn Marion is a good basketball player, but he’s nobody’s superstar, and he has flat outplayed LeBron James. The Mavs’ best player, Dirk Novitzki, has averaged over 593, with his only sub-500 game a 359 when he was running a high fever; his plus/minus is +44. Even more compelling evidence comes from Mark Stein of ESPN:
In what NBA statisticians recognize as "clutch time," which equates to the final five minutes of regulation or overtime with the score within five points either way, Nowitzki has 26 points on 8-for-13 shooting from the field and 9-for-9 accuracy at the line.

LeBron? After leading the league in this category through the first three rounds of the playoffs and finally chipping away at the skepticism about his ability to close, James has zero points on 0-for-7 shooting and is still waiting for his first "clutch time" trip to the line.
So let’s cut the nonsense about LeBron James being a superstar. If the Heat win, it will be because of Dwyane Wade, who has averaged a 740 (in a stat that privileges post players), and whose worst game, a 605 in game 1, was better than James’s best.

Tony Kushner.
As predicted here on May 7, Tony Kushner did indeed receive an honorary degree from CUNY’s John Jay College of Criminal Justice last weekend. I can find no evidence, however, to support my prediction that “on June 3, John Jay’s graduation day, Mr. [Benno] Schmidt [chair of the CUNY Board of Trustees] and Mr. Kushner will be joining hands and singing ‘Kumbaya.’”

There was a good deal of misrepresentation of the Board’s initial action to deny the degree: as I suggested on May 17, charges that academic freedom had been violated were tossed about with more fervor than accuracy. But there did seem to be some conception that a playwright’s political views ought not to determine the legitimacy of his candidacy for an honor, and that the legitimate function of Trustees is not to advance political agendas or to interfere in the day to day operations of a university. This is not to say that Trustee Jeffrey Wiesenfeld didn’t have his supporters: the New York Times reports that there was “a small group of protesters” at the John Jay graduation ceremony, and I suspect that the Curmudgeon Central Facebook page wasn’t the only one to get its share of conflicting commentary.

I am pleased to report that the news is spreading about the cheerleader kicked off the squad for refusing to cheer for her rapist by name, discussed here on May 13. I’ve engaged in a handful of Facebook debates with friends of friends. I doubt that I’ve convinced anyone, but perhaps I successfully encouraged someone to make a contribution or sign the petition. Somebody is doing something right, as the legal fund now tops $15,000 and there are nearly 68,000 signatures on the petition. There’s no justice to be achieved here, but there is support and communion, which are far better than the alternative. Sign. Give.

Kathy Hochul.
Democrat Kathy Hochul not only won the special election in the New York 26th, she did so with relative ease. As I predicted on the morning of the race, May 24, apologists for the loser bellowed full-throatedly about how their candidate really did marvelously well: since the loser in question was the Republican, Jane Corwin, the ululation was from the right. Here’s my prediction: “And his [Jack Davis’s] presence will be blamed for a Republican defeat, should there be one.” Right on cue, Karl Rove sniffed after the election that “Absent Mr. Davis as a spoiler—he got 9% of the vote—Democrats would never have made a serious bid for this district, nor won if they did.” Rove points out that Davis spent $3 million of his own money, and that Hochul “won a plurality (47%) of the votes, not a majority, getting only one percentage point more than Barack Obama as he was losing the district in 2008. Not exactly a compelling performance.”

Karl Rove is not stupid, but he is certainly disingenuous: he leaves out the part about Jane Corwin’s self-funding to the tune of $2.76 million, or the $1.36 million contributed to Corwin’s campaign by the likes of Rove’s own American Crossroads (nearly $700,000). Mr. Rove would like to have it both ways: if the Democrats wouldn’t have “made a serious bid” in the absence of a candidate who didn’t break double-digits, then it should be a safe seat for Republicans. Despite substantially outspending Hochul, Corwin couldn’t win a district in which the GOP has a 7 point enrollment advantage and which subsequently-disgraced Congressman Chris Lee won by 51 points less than seven months earlier. Oh, and by the way, Karl, the Dems did OK in that 2008 election: doing “only” one point better (as a percentage of the total) in a three-way race than Barack Obama did in a de facto two-way race is a result the Democrats will take 10 times out of 10.

Let me also repeat the point I made the day of the election:
Davis is indeed the largely liberal “fraud” the national Tea Party claims him to be. But let’s look at the ramifications of that statement. In an informed electorate, that would mean that his third-party candidacy would draw votes from Hochul, not Corwin. That the GOP is screaming foul can be taken as proof that the Republicans (rightly) regard a significant percentage of Tea Partiers as completely uninformed and/or stupid. Only someone who didn’t know the candidates would vote for Davis over Corwin thinking he was the more conservative choice.
Finally, there’s there Republican push-back about “Mediscare” tactics, accusing the Democrats in general and Hochul in particular of trying to terrify people with horror stories about what would happen if Paul Ryan’s budget were actually to be enacted. The only reasonable conclusion is not that Hochul misrepresented GOP ideology (she didn’t, at least not substantively, as far as I can tell—not that the truth matters much to anyone on the right or to many on the left). Rather, given the re-election tactics of Bush-Cheney, and subsequently the totally fabricated “death panel” and “Obama is a socialist” arguments, it would seem that the Republican hierarchy is staking their claim that purely emotional, fact-free scare tactics, especially about healthcare, are their exclusive purview: Hochul’s crime wasn’t perjury, but copyright violation.

Anthony Weiner.
Of course, there wouldn’t have been a special election if Chris Lee hadn’t been the Craigslist Creeper… which brings us to the unfortunately named Anthony Weiner, whose escapades on Twitter are tawdry and pathetic at best. Political leaders and pundits are calling on the Congressman to resign: every Republican you can think of (curiously enough, many of these people were strangely silent about David Vitter when he actually committed—and admitted to—a sex-related crime), but also a growing list of Democrats: former DNC chair Tim Kaine, Pennsylvania Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz, former PA governor Ed Rendell, and a steady trickle of others until the big announcement today that Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz are joining the chorus.

Everyone, in other words, thinks Weiner should resign. Everyone, that is, except Mr. Weiner himself and the Congressman’s constituents, who are in pragmatic terms the only ones who matter until there is a House Ethics Committee hearing and/or criminal charges. (At present, at least, the former is likely to lead to some form of censure but not expulsion; the latter seems to be a non-starter.) And polls show that whereas the city of New York as a whole is roughly evenly divided, with a plurality thinking Rep. Weiner should step down (N.B., another poll taken the same day had very different results), voters in the New York 9th want him to stay by a pretty convincing 56-33%. That bodes well for the Congressman’s ability to stick it out (if you’ll pardon the expression) for a while at least. And, really, the way politics works these days, if he survives one election after the scandal, the sexting issue disappears unless he chooses to run for a different office (a majority of NYC Democrats don’t want him to run for mayor, for example). Or until he does it again. Tick. Tick. Tick.

Jack Scott.
And that… sort of… brings us to the ongoing saga of Cordova, AL, mayor Jack Scott’s refusal to allow FEMA single-wide trailers into his tornado-devastated town, discussed here on June 2. Well, no single-wide trailers except the ones like the one his office is in. The connection to Weiner? A great line from “reality5000” cited by Julie Clark on the website this Thursday: “In other words, the Mayor’s mantra is ‘Don't do as I do, do as I say’ as he stands in front of the trailers he brought in. That is about like Anthony Weiner telling you to keep your clothes on and behave.”

There would appear to be a number of easy solutions, none of which the politicians can wrap their heads around. How difficult is it, after all, to say: “Look, we know you need short-term help, but we’re concerned that these trailers will be here forever. So we’re going to grant a waiver for 24 months. That should be enough time to get you back on your feet. After that, you’ll be in violation of town ordinances, and you’ll be subject to fines, forfeiture, and even possibly arrest. That Scott won’t sign off on such a plan suggests that he’s suspicious of the town’s willingness to back him up down the road—maybe he fears (accurately, one hopes) that someone else will be mayor by then. Either that, or he’s a fool, a charlatan, or the most hard-hearted bastard you’ll ever meet.

Curiously enough, there are those who support the mayor—I think we can take as given that they’re the lucky folks whose homes weren’t destroyed: it’s a little easier for them to get all hoity-toity about long-term property values. Anybody wanna bet these people all show up at the Baptist Church on Sunday mornings and don’t recognize themselves as the Pharisees the preacher is railing against?

The Haitian Minimum Wage.
Finally, we now have a link to the full story in The Nation by Dan Coughlin and Kim Ives on the attempt to raise the minimum wage in Haiti to 62¢ an hour and the conniption thrown by not only the US textile industry, whom we expect to make Uriah Heep look cuddly by comparison, but also by the US Embassy, whom we do not.

I mean, seriously, the new Haitian minimum wage would still be 8%, yes, 8% of the American minimum wage. And we’re supposed to believe scumbags like chargé d’affaires Thomas C. Tighe that “an HTG 200 Haitian gourde minimum wage would make the sector economically unviable and consequently force factories to shut down”? This guy deserves to be choked to death on the Hanes underwear he really represents—it surer than hell isn’t in American interests to have a neighbor so destitute, not to mention justifiably angry. Not to mention the fundamental question: where are they going to go? You got somebody someplace who’ll work for less, assholes?

The key point here remains, however, that this is the US government behaving in this despicable manner. The greed and amorality of Levi Strauss, Hanes, and Fruit of the Loom are, of course, manifest. That they would be supported in their arrogance, their acquisitiveness, and their extortion by the American government, especially by representatives of a Democratic President, is beyond unconscionable.

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