Archive for February 2012
Folks, in case you haven’t heard yet, Green Bay Packers wide receiver Donald Driver, 37, who holds a number of receiving records for the Packers, has decided to become a contestant on ABC’s hit TV show, “Dancing with the Stars.” Driver will be teamed with Peta Murgatroyd, and has already said that the idea of getting spray tanned or wearing some of the outlandish outfits both men and women are expected to wear is going to take some getting used to.
Here’s a link to a story from Sports Illustrated about Driver going on DWTS that focuses on the oddity of athletes going on this show at all:
And the Los Angeles Times asks the question, “Can Donald Driver stay healthy?” Here’s a relevant quote:
But injuries tend to run through “DWTS” seasons like linemen picking their way through an agility ladder. . . even experienced hoofers have been plagued with physical woes, including Jennifer Grey, who rose to fame in the film “Dirty Dancing.”
. . .
This should all be sobering stuff for Driver, who has played for the Packers since 1999 and — unlike fellow “DWTS” contestant Martina Navratilova, who retired from tennis years ago — is still very much in the game. At 37, he’s getting on in years for an NFL-er. And he has seen his share of workplace injuries in recent years. He sprained his ankle early during the 2011 Super Bowl and couldn’t return to the game, although the Packers won anyway.
What’s most surprising about the news that Driver will go on DWTS is that there were no hints in Wisconsin about this to the best of my knowledge; absolutely none. Driver is a guy with a sunny personality and a very strong work ethic who’s done a great deal for charity in the past; if any of his personal charm translates to television, my guess is that he’ll do very well, providing he doesn’t sustain a serious injury.
I hate even writing the last, mind you, though it wasn’t me who brought up the “injury subject.” But it’s the truth; even well-conditioned athletes like Driver have had troubles on this show because what they’re doing, dance-wise, is very different from what they do on the football field, on the basketball court, etc. Dancing uses different muscles and that’s why someone who is in excellent shape can still end up injured (with the worst injury coming to Misty May Treanor several years ago, who tore her Achilles tendon; her partner was Maksim Chmerikovskiy).
Here’s to Driver for being willing to do something way out of his comfort zone. And may he do well, be pain-free, and learn a new skill that he can share with his wife down the line during this season of DWTS.
Folks, if you haven’t read Sam Sommers’ SITUATIONS MATTER: Understanding how Context Transforms Your World yet, you should. I don’t care if you’re a writer, an editor, a reader — you will learn a great deal from this book and it will help you understand more about how situations can change how people behave, why sometimes people behave badly in crowds, and much, much more.
This is one of the best books I’ve ever read in my life on any subject. It is witty, interesting, written in an engaging style, and was one of the few nonfiction books of the past year that I not only enjoyed wholeheartedly, but read three times just because I could. To think that Sam Sommers, a professor of psychology at Tufts University, could write this well the first-time out (as this is his first work of long-form nonfiction) is astonishing.
Please see tonight’s review, which is up now at Shiny Book Review for your edification; then, seriously, go grab this book:
Folks, I told you this would happen, and it did.
Today, Milwaukee Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun won his appeal and will not be suspended 50 games for performance-enhancing drugs (read: steroids). Apparently, he was able to prove a problem with the “chain of custody” (that is, how the urine sample was handled before it got to the lab); Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writer Tom Haudricourt said, in essence, that the Brewers breathed a big sigh of relief after hearing this.
Apparently MLB itself isn’t happy that Braun won his appeal, but that’s just too bad about them; the fact is, arbitrator Shyam Das agreed with the Major League Players Association and with Braun himself, and that’s what matters. (Anything else is just a fig leaf for MLB, and should be discounted.)
Here’s a link to Haudricourt’s story:
Ryan Braun has released a statement, which the Journal-Sentinel has at this link:
Here’s an excerpt from that statement:
I am very pleased and relieved by today’s decision.
It is the first step in restoring my good name and reputation. We were able to get through this because I am innocent and the truth is on our side.
We provided complete cooperation throughout, despite the highly unusual circumstances.
I have been an open book, willing to share details from every aspect of my life as part of this investigation, because I have nothing to hide. I have passed over 25 drug tests in my career, including at least three in the past year.
Later in the statement, after Braun thanked the many people (including the Brewers organization) he felt he should, he said this:
This is not just about one person, but about all current and future players, and thankfully, today the process worked.
Despite the challenges of this adversarial process, I do appreciate the professionalism demonstrated by the Panel Chair and the Office of the Commissioner.
As I said before, I’ve always loved and had so much respect for the game of baseball.
Everything I’ve done in my career has been with that respect and appreciation in mind.
I look forward to finally being able to speak to the fans and the media on Friday and then returning the focus to baseball and working with my Brewers teammates on defending our National League Central title.
And friends and teammates of Braun have not been shy saying they’re very pleased to hear this, either.
Brewers closer John Axford, on Twitter, said this regarding Braun:
All I can say is that Braun has exemplary character is continuing to handle this in an unbelievable manner.
And Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, who is a good friend of Ryan Braun’s, said this via Twitter:
MLB and cable sports tried to sully the reputation of an innocent man. Picked the wrong guy to mess with. Truth will set u free
My own take, as you know, is that back in December, I said that I believed Braun would be found innocent or at minimum be vindicated and this suspension would not hold up. Here’s a bit from that blog, written on December 10, 2011:
Braun has been an outstanding player from the time the Brewers brought him up. He won the Rookie of the Year Award in 2007. His lifetime numbers are comparable to his MVP numbers; over his last five seasons, he’s averaged 36 HRs and 118 RBIs a season, and has hit over .300 every year except 2008 (when he “only” hit .285); his lifetime batting average, over five complete seasons, is .312.
So I don’t really see where Braun could’ve been taking anything that was of an enhancing nature, especially if he’s never tested positive before (and indeed, he hasn’t).
Then on December 22, 2011, I pointed out that Braun knew the one minor leaguer, Brendan Katin, who’d successfully fought his appeal, and that maybe this meant something for him. And Katin said that he didn’t believe Braun was dirty; he said he was “shocked” to hear of an impending suspension, as it didn’t really make any sense. My conclusion was as follows:
In other words, Braun’s test could be a false positive of the sort Katin had happen to him; just because it hadn’t yet happened as far as anyone’s aware in the majors yet, that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. Tests are handled by humans, thus are inherently flawed, and it is possible that a completely innocent man could be caught in the cross-hairs, just like Katin was back in 2007.
My view remains that Braun is innocent until and unless he is proven guilty, not the reverse — and that I fully expect that Braun will be exonerated. (emphasis added)
So as I said before, I fully believed Braun would be vindicated. I was right, and I’m not afraid to tell you all “I told you so,” either.
Now, the Brewers, their fans, and Braun himself can breathe a sigh of relief; as for MLB, they should realize that tests can be messed up and not every player who tests positive initially is a dirty player. Rather than being mad at arbitrator Shyam Das, they should be grateful that Das is an independent person and used his head for more than a hatrack.
Folks, if you’ve ever played the board game THE SETTLERS OF CATAN, you know that Catan is a semi-mythical island out in the middle of nowhere in Northern Europe that can only be reached by waiting for the worst storm you’ve ever seen and riding it out.
Anyway, Klaus Teuber, who invented the board game THE SETTLERS OF CATAN, asked novelist Rebecca Gable to turn the game into a historical novel. She did so in 2003 in Germany; in 2011, Amazon Crossing picked up an English version that was originally translated by Lee Chadeayne, then was revised by Ingrid G. Lansford. This is the novel that I just reviewed at Shiny Book Review; here is the link to the review:
A synopsis of my review is this: it’s a good book that illuminates the history of 850 AD including the religious outlook (the pagan beliefs based on the Nordic pantheon versus the newer religion, Christianity), the difficulties colonists had restarting their lives, and much more. But be warned; some parts of the novel are extremely graphic and there is a male-on-male rape scene that I found particularly distasteful. (I talked around this in my SBR review; I’m not doing so here.)
Folks, this isn’t much of a surprise; the United States District Court (Eastern Division of Wisconsin) today rejected the Wisconsin Legislature’s argument that they cannot re-draw the maps based on a 1954 state Supreme Court decision. The Legislature is dominated in both the Assembly and in the Senate by Republicans, so in essence it is the Wisconsin Republican Party that has refused as all along, as the Democratic Party and the few Independents in the state government at any level all seem to want to re-draw the maps. The Court gave the Legislature (the Rs) 5.5 hours today to reconsider their viewpoint; the Rs, predictably, have refused to re-draw the maps.
The only reason this is significant is that now the Republican Party’s refusal is on the record. Otherwise, nothing has changed from what I reported late last night; the Rs want the maps to stand, the Ds want the maps to be re-drawn, and the District Court seems mystified by the Rs recalcitrant behavior.
Here’s the link to today’s Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel story:
Here’s a relevant quote:
Because lawmakers and the groups suing them could not agree on a settlement, the case will go to trial at 8:30 a.m. Thursday on an accelerated schedule. The trial was expected to last three or four days, but the presiding judge said he wanted to complete testimony by Friday, even if it meant going into the evening.
On Tuesday, an attorney for the state, Dan Kelly, told the judges that lawmakers were open to making changes to the maps, but he argued that a 1954 state Supreme Court decision prevented lawmakers from making changes to the maps after they had approved them. The panel of three federal judges – which includes two judges appointed by Republican presidents – rejected that argument Wednesday, and told the attorneys to tell them that afternoon whether the Legislature would spend the coming weeks drawing new maps.
Republican leaders declined to do that, sending the case to trial.
The only real news here is that the Court will expect this trial to wrap up on Friday evening even if they have to stay quite late in order to get everything done. This means the Court will not allow the Legislature to obfuscate or delay any longer; these maps must be fixed by April 15, 2012, or things are going to get even messier than they already are.
As I said before, the only thing certain in all this is that the Rs don’t want to do anything. They seem willing to let this go to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) because they believe they will prevail there due to the 5-4 split between conservatives/Republicans and liberals/Democrats. But this particular panel is made up of two conservatives/Republicans and one Democrat and they don’t agree with the Legislature; how can the Legislature be sure they’ll get more than two votes at the SCOTUS level? (Methinks they can’t, especially if the Supreme Court justices dislike the way the Legislature has behaved toward other judges the way I think is likely. It’s possible that SCOTUS may rule 9-0 against the Wisconsin Rs, even though they don’t seem to think that’s likely.)
Oh, one other tidbit in this article:
The case comes to trial just as Gov. Scott Walker nearly doubles the amount in taxpayer money that can be spent on outside attorneys assisting the Department of Justice. Documents released Wednesday show the cap on the contract with Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren is being raised from $500,000 to $925,000.
Those costs are in addition to the $400,000 that Republican lawmakers have committed to two law firms that helped them draw the maps.
So, did you get that? Walker is going to allow the Rs to get more state money to defend these terrible maps. Which is why his recall cannot come soon enough.
That’s it for today; trial will resume Thursday, and I’d expect we’ll get a decision on this matter by the middle of next week due to the time-sensitive nature of this problem. Stay tuned.
Here’s the latest regarding the trial going on in the United States District Court (Eastern Division of Wisconsin) — the Wisconsin Republicans, who control the Legislature, the Governor’s chair, and the state Supreme Court, have decided they “do not have the power” to re-draw the maps as the three-judge panel headed by Judge Stadtmueller asked them to do.
Here’s the link to the story at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
Now, as to the merits of the Republican argument? They are pointing to a 1954 Wisconsin state Supreme Court decision, which the Rs believe disallows any re-drawing of the district maps; the Rs say they would “like to” revisit the maps, but they just can’t. The reason this is such a big deal is that every ten years, these maps must be re-drawn; because the Rs won all three branches of the state government, there was almost nothing the Democrats could do to stop them from doing anything they liked. This is the main reason the Democrats sued.
Here’s a new quote from the updated story at the Journal-Sentinel:
The panel – which includes two judges appointed by Republican presidents and one appointed by a Democratic president – has repeatedly criticized Republican lawmakers in written orders for their secretive process for drawing the maps.
On Tuesday, presiding Judge J.P. Stadtmueller did the same shortly after hearing that attorneys for the legislators had released a new batch of emails Friday that they had not previously disclosed they had. The release of emails came a day after the court had ordered the lawmakers’ attorneys to make public a separate group of emails.
“The facts are the facts and what has occurred here is beyond the pale in terms of lack of transparency (and) secrecy,” Stadtmueller said. “Appearances are everything and Wisconsin has prided itself one generation after another on openness and fairness in doing the right thing. And to be frank we have seen everything but that in the way this case has proceeded.”
Now, the lack of transparency regarding e-mails may seem like a minor issue, but if you’ve followed along with my previous blogs upon the subject, you know it isn’t. The Rs have been chastised four separate times to date over their lack of transparency; as Judge Stadtmueller said above, this isn’t the right thing to do.
Here’s the deal, folks. What the Rs have done in Wisconsin reminds me of the old axiom that goes like this: “Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” This is because they felt they could do anything they liked and no one would say anything to them over it. Even after hundreds of thousands went out to protest all over the state of Wisconsin last year over the high-handed, dictatorial way Governor Scott Walker went about eliminating collective bargaining for most public-employee union members, the Rs didn’t change their ways.
Now, the Rs have been sued because of the way these maps have been drawn. And they say they “lack the power” to change them even though they control all three branches of government.
I’m sorry. I don’t buy this argument, and I am really disgusted that it’s taken this three-judge panel to get the Rs to admit they really should re-draw these maps (but they just can’t).
As I said before, I fully expect the three-judge panel to be excoriated by the Rs in coming days. The Rs have a great deal of money and can put many ads on television; they’ll blame “activist judges,” no doubt, and hope that the people don’t realize that two of the three judges on the panel were appointed by Republican Presidents, including Judge Stadtmueller himself (appointed by Ronald Reagan).
What it seems to me the state GOP is hoping for is that the district court will rule against them; after that, they will appeal to the United States Supreme Court, and because there are five well-known conservative justices there, they figure they will get their way. (Two of the five, in particular, would seem to be sympathetic right off the bat — Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia — but it’s possible even they might find the way the Wisconsin Rs have behaved objectionable.)
But there’s nothing saying that the five conservative justices on the Supreme Court must back the Wisconsin GOP, now, is there? Because if all conservatives behaved the same way, wouldn’t you think this three-judge panel would’ve tossed this lawsuit summarily right off the bat, as two of the three judges on the panel are conservative-appointees?
It’s anyone’s guess as to whether or not these maps are going to hold up. But my hunch is that they’ll be overturned, even if they do get appealed to the US Supreme Court; eventually, these maps will end up being re-drawn by the courts. And providing these maps are indeed overturned, that will be a victory for the people of Wisconsin.
Folks, even I didn’t see this one coming.
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, at this link, reports that the three-judge panel from the United States District Court (Eastern District of Wisconsin) has asked the Wisconsin Legislature (thus in actuality, the Wisconsin Republican Party as all three branches of government in Wisconsin are currently controlled by the GOP) to “consider re-drawing” the district maps that are currently in dispute by taking into account the problems Latinos and the Democratic Party have with the maps and fixing the problems accordingly.
The Journal-Sentinel reports:
The court gave the Legislature until 5:30 p.m. Tuesday to decide whether it wants to revisit the maps it approved last summer. If it does not, the trial challenging the maps will resume Wednesday. If lawmakers agree to take up the maps anew, the court would give them until mid-March to approve them.
Apparently the reason the judges want the Legislature to re-draw the maps (rather than go to trial) is because they honestly feel that the Legislature should draw the maps — just, perhaps, not these maps. (Or in science-fictional terms, “These aren’t the maps you’re looking for. Move along.”)
Here’s more from the article that discusses what presiding judge J.P. Stadtmueller thinks:
At the opening of trial, presiding Judge J.P. Stadtmueller said drawing district lines is the purview of lawmakers, and it would be best for them to put those lines into law. However, he said, the plaintiffs have raised significant issues, particularly on the treatment of Latino areas and in the way it moved hundreds of thousands of people into new districts. He said legislators should consider setting new maps with those concerns in mind.
Next is my favorite part of the article:
Stadtmueller and the others on the panel have repeatedly criticized Republican lawmakers for being overly secretive in how they drew the maps. Almost all lawmakers signed secrecy agreements about the maps and they tried repeatedly to prevent their aides from having to testify or produce documents. Those attempts were unsuccessful, and last month the panel ordered the Republicans’ attorneys to pay the other side $17,500 for filing frivolous motions.
Note that Stadtmueller said that the “one-day pause” should not be taken as an indication of how the three-judge panel will rule — but then again, does it really need to be, considering the fact that on four prior occasions, the three-judge panel has heavily chastised the Wisconsin Rs for backroom shenanigans and an absolute lack of transparency?
My take on this is simple: if the judges didn’t believe there were grounds to strike down these maps — and good grounds, at that — they wouldn’t have made this extraordinary offer to the Wisconsin Rs. Because the offer basically says this: “Fix the maps on your own. Or we’ll likely end up fixing them for you.”
The entirety of the Wisconsin Legislature, along with Governor Scott Walker (R), now have until 5:30 p.m. CST to make a decision as to whether or not they’re willing to re-visit these maps and attempt to re-draw them in a way that the court is likely to approve.
If I had to guess at what the Wisconsin Rs are going to do, though, my guess is this: they won’t re-draw the maps. They’ll instead go back into court tomorrow, and try to impugn the three-judge panel on every media station that will allow them to do so within the state of Wisconsin (and probably on national cable such as Fox News, too, no doubt) because somehow, these three judges will be seen as “activist liberal judges” who just want to cause trouble for the Rs because the Rs are sweet, innocent, and completely in the right in every way, shape, or form. The fact that two of these three judges were appointed by Republican Presidents, mind you, will go completely by the boards when it comes to the media, but I can assure you that the judges themselves know full well who appointed them, and why.
This is why if I were a Republican, I’d be calling my legislators — and the Governor, too, no doubt — and urging them to take this deal before it’s too late. Otherwise, the judges will not be pleased . . . and my best guess after that, considering all the chicanery that’s gone on over the past year-plus since Scott Walker and the R-dominated Legislature came to power, is that the GOP will end up getting its comeuppance in a way that party had never foreseen — otherwise known as, “By their fruits, ye shall know them.”