Degrees of Scum

Will Carroll, whose analysis of the baseball steroid issue is second to none, makes a great point.

One final note: While I agree with Sen. Mitchell’s call for a blanket amnesty for all users, named and not named, prior to the testing agreement in 2004, I have a problem with several of the players in the report acting as salesmen and distributors for Radomski. Drug use is wrong, but drug trafficking is a far larger issue and one that I feel calls for not only suspensions, but the consideration of larger penalties.

To me, this should be where our thinking is. The thinking of our self-important self-righteous SMTs when it comes to future HOF voting seems to fall into three camps:

1) Ban any players who might have done steroids, possibly even refusing to vote for anyone from the steroid era. This is ridiculously puritanical. The HOF is filled with segregationists, spit-ballers, sign stealers, mugs, thugs and pugs. We have never held baseball players to a terribly ethical standard. So why start now?

Well, the reason to start now is because a lot of the SMTs are feeling guilty because the knew what was going on and said nothing. And the reason to start now is because the SMTs feel stupid because they lavished praise on Bonds and Clemens and McGwire only to look dumb later on. And so, in their anger and arrogance, they throw the blame squarely on the players. Jason Stark is the only writer I’ve heard even start to take some of the blame for the steroid era.

It reminds me of the Pete Rose business. The press spent decades telling us how wonderful he was. And then when it turned out he was a corrupt asshole, they turned on him like a pack of wolves.

Never forget the first rule of the SMT: we were always right.

Moreover, as Carroll points out, banning players from the HOF is ex post facto punishment. Steroids were illegal before testing, but they were not banned by the league (similar to the way sunday games used to be illegal but not banned). The most fascinating part of the Mitchell report is the internal e-mails of the Red Sox, who clearly knew who was using. Everyone in baseball management knew this was going on but no one did anything until the outcry. And to turn around and punish only the players because they took advantage of the league’s tacit tolerance of the juice is unfair.

Finally, there is not enough evidence that steroids really make a ballplayer better to exclude everyone. I have no problem with a slightly tougher standard, but this extremism is silly.

2) Only exclude players on whom we have good evidence. This is fairer but puts in a “don’t get caught” morality into the league. And again, show me the proof that steroids make ballplayers better.

The only scientific study to date — that of Baseball Prospectus — showed little effect. Yes, two of the best players of all time did them. So did many guys who flopped right out of the league. And the latter outnumber the former.

3) Only exclude guys we don’t like. I suspect this is the way it will go down. Because that’s the way it’s going now. Guys who suck up to the media and appear contrite (Betancourt, Giambi) are forgiven; those who obfuscate (Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Palmiero) are pilloried. In that sense, Andy Pettite is the smartest guy in the room. He immediately confessed. By opening day, he’ll be getting cheered again.

I don’t think we should play these games. We can apply a tougher standard on HOF considerations, we can drop guys from the era a little bit in compilations of “best ever”. But we don’t get up on a high horse (option 1), we don’t play witch hunt (option 2) and we certainly don’t play favorites (option 3).

But Carroll makes another good point. The only players I would seriously punish are those who were spreading the gospel. It is clear that several players were spreading steroids like a virus, aiding and encouraging their use.

The worst was that scumbag Canseco, who is currently being lauded by the media because, of the hundreds of names he threw out, one or two stuck. Has anyone read Canseco’s book? Because my understanding is that he talks about how great steroids are.

Oh, he’s a whistleblower. Bullshit. He’s a media whore. Ken Caminiti was the first player to go public on steroids. Canseco took advantage of the scandal to cash in on his own scumbaggery. That ain’t a hero.

Thursday Linkorama

  • You want to know why Africa is struggling? Because people are unwilling to call out monsters like Robert Mugabe.
  • What the hell is wrong with people? A high school gets locked down because someone broke a mercury thermometer. Eeek! Contaminants!
  • Fresh off the success of banning guns, Britain wants to ban samurai swords. No news yet on whether they want to ban pointy sticks.
  • Police get called out because a teacher is doing karaoke. This panic in public schools over anything and everything is getting out of hand and getting our kids used to being in a State of Terror (which might be the intent). Here in Austin, they evacuated a school because of a ticking sound. Turned out an air-conditioner cover was rattling.
  • Ten media myths about the economy. Anyone who turns to our celebutwit news hosts for knowledge is getting the ignorance they deserve.
  • The Juice

    I’m a huge baseball fan so I’m going to post a few random thoughts about the Mitchell Report:

    ESPN’s coverage has been very good. Rob Parker, in particular made an outstanding point that we can’t ban or strip records from players named today, because it implicitly exonerates everyone else. We have to apply the correction to the entire era and have a tougher standard for the HOF. Even the players who weren’t doing it were silent.

    Nate Silver has a neat post at BP Unfiltered where he points out that we have a mix of stars and borderline players. This backs up his long contention that the PEDs were mostly used by players trying to become stars rather than stars and the statistical impact may not be very big.

    I think people are missing the point of Mitchell’s report. He wasn’t trying to compile a comprehensive list of everyone who did the juice but more looking into how this happened and how it can be stopped.

    Attacking the fair Tax: Pimps

    From Boortz today:

    Taranto’s first attack this week on the FairTax occurred on Monday. In Monday’s “Best of the Web” Taranto implied that Mike Huckabee thinks that under the FairTax prostitutes would collect the 23 percent tax (a use tax?) and forward it to the federal government. Now what Huckabee had actually said was that under the FairTax “You end the underground economy, Illegals, prostitutes, pimps, gamblers, drug dealers–everybody pays taxes.” It doesn’t take much grey matter to figure out that Huckabee was referring to the fact that these miscreants of the underground economy would pay the FairTax along with everyone else when they used their earnings to purchase goods and services.

    Neal, they are already paying the embedded tax when they buy those things. You have said, repeatedly, that the total price of legal purchases will stay the same. All that’s changing is that the embedded tax is coming through Fair Tax rather than the current system. If that is the case, then the legal purchases of illegals, prostitutes, pimps, gamblers and drug dealers pay the same tax they always were. Net gain: zero. The only way the Fair Tax would increase revenue from the shadow economy is if drug dealers started charging the Fair Tax.

    I’ve never seen anyone as mathematically ignorant as the Fair Tax Movementarians.

    Attacking the Fair Tax: Naivete

    Usual caveat: While I oppose the Fair Tax, that doesn’t mean I support the current system. I would just prefer a VAT or a flat tax.

    I’ve attacked the Fair Tax because it falsely promises a big pay hike for Americans (a claim Boortz himself has withdrawn) and because I think the prebate would be a disaster. But I’ll hit it again because I need the blog traffic from the Fair Tax Movementarians responding.

    One common argument for the Fair Tax over the flat tax goes like so:

    We tried a flat tax with Reagan’s tax reform. And it wasn’t flat for long. Congress immediately began revising the tax and making it hideously complicated again.

    This has two problems. The first is factual — the 1986 Tax Reform did not create anything approaching a flat tax. It simplified the taxes but not very much, as anyone who owns a business could tell you. It created all kinds of tax incentives and breaks. Claiming that the 1986 Tax Reform Act was the equivalent of a flat tax is like claiming my cat is a hippopotamus. Yes, they are both fat mammals. The similarities end there.

    The second problem is naivete. The Fair Taxers assert that the Fair Tax will start simple and stay simple. That Congress will be unable to work all kinds of strange complications into it.

    This is total garbage. Just to list a few things Congress will try to do with the the Fair Tax:

  • The first effort will be to raise the tax rate and spending allowance, to shift more and more of the burden onto “the rich”.
  • The second effort will be to abolish the uniformity of the tax rate. Democrats will claim it is unfair to tax luxury yachts at the same rate as groceries or Porsches at the same rate as housing. That the prebate supposedly eliminates the tax on necessities will be irrelevant because no one will think that way. They will see the prebate as a gift of government, not a refund (especially if Dems raise the spending allowance). Moreover, do you really think Mike Huckabee — a huge supporter of sin taxes — will let the Fair Tax through without demanding higher tax rates on cigarettes, alcohol and porn? You do? Do you know that I have access to $40 million in Nigerian banking funds and just need your help to get them into this country?
  • The third effort is more subtle. It will only be a matter of time until certain businesses demand special treatment. Our absurd system of farm subsidies is facing deserved assault from Free Trade agreements. How long will it be before the farmers acquiesce to a reduction in subsidies in return for a reduction in the Fair Tax on food? How long until steel manufacturers demand a lower Fair Tax rate on domestic steel to prop up the industry? How long until American auto-makers demand a higher Fair Tax rate on imports?
  • Granted, the potential for political abuse is a little lower and more transparent than with the current system. But to sit here and claim that the Fair Tax will be magically immune from the Washington need to endlessly tinker and update and improve is incredibly naive.

    Boortz on Huckabee on AIDS

    The Fair Tax Movementarians are so devoted to their silly tax plan that they will fall in line behind anyone who claims to support it. Witness Boortz’ limp defense of Huckabee’s 1992 call for AIDS patients to be quarantined:

    We’ll let Huckabee respond to the charges

    First, they’re not charges — he said it. Second, he has refused to address the issue and admit he was wrong. I once thought AIDS patients should be quarantined. I was also 16 and uninformed.

    So .. what’s the difference? Simple. The reason Huckabee is taking such heat here is that while AIDS has a political constituency, Tuberculosis does not.

    It might also have something to do with tuberculosis being spread by casual contact while AIDS is not. Well, that is, unless you believe what the abstinence-only crowd is peddling.

    All Time

    ESPN has their list of top 25 all time college football players. I’m assuming Barry Sanders and Red Grange will be 1-2.

    Notice something? The list reads like a Heisman ballot. 17 (!!!!) running backs, four quarterbacks. No offensive linemen (John Hannah? Orlando Pace? Nope.). Only four defensive players, if you count Bronko Nagurski, who was also — stop me if you’re heard this — a running back. The other three are Butkus, Green an Woodson (who was also a receiver).

    What the hell? This is the best they can do? Their college football experts came up with a list a few drunken fans and google could compile. In fact, google gives me this list, which is compiled by God knows who and includes Deion, John Hannah, Bubba Smith, LT and Dave Rimington in its top 25 (although they have Vince Young at #5, so they aren’t precisely in Earth orbit).

    Seriously, folks. What the hell is the sports media’s job. I’m just some guy with a blog and even I would have the sense to put Orlando Pace, easily one of the best college football players I’ve ever seen, in the top 25.

    Felony Murder

    The NYT has a nice, if not exactly definitive, article on the felony murder statute. Worth a read. I hate to say this but I am growing rapidly fatigues with victim’s rights groups. They have a point but they often seem far more interested in vengeance than justice.

    I also like that after the mother finds her daughter brutally murdered, the prosecutors give her a three-year prison sentence because the dead daughter had pot in the safe. Nice.

    Wednesday Night Linkorama

  • A fascinating examination of the Flynn Effect by the man who discovered it. I find his explanation very convincing.
  • Megan McCardle with two great posts on the subprime mortgage bailout.

    The government used to protect poor people, and young people, and people with bad credit histories, from getting loans, by making it illegal to charge the high interest rates that would make those loans profitable. Were they better off? They didn’t have credit card debt, to be sure, or huge mortgages. Instead they had pawnshops, or time payments, or convictions for kiting checks, all of which used to be popular ways of handling things like emergency car repairs.

    Borrowers may have had help getting in over their heads, but at the end of the day, “variable interest rates vary” is not in the realm of things it is unreasonable to expect them to have understood when they signed on for a gigantic mortgage. Indeed, many of the defaulters seem not to be able to afford their teaser rates, which is certainly something they should have been able to figure out on their own. One of the reasons that I do not currently own a home is that I cannot afford one. Now I get to pitch in my tax dollars to bail out people who also could not afford a home, but went ahead and bought one anyway.

  • You know all those hate crimes being thrown against Muslims? Um, no
  • Bill Buckley goes to the dark side, calling for a smoking ban. Apparently, smoking a cigarette is the equivalent of dumping Zyklon B into a chamber full of Jews. Who knew?