The Shock Doctrine, In Practice


Putting the brakes on the auto industry bailout package of $14 billion dollars (which was designed to last until March or April, when Chrysler and GM could come back with better, more formative ideas of future strategies) has absolutely nothing to do with pricipled ideals about capitalism and the free market for Senate Republicans. If that had been the case, the previous $700 billion financial market rescue would have been filibustered and held up infinitely — and Henry Paulson would not be moving the goal posts on how the money is supposed to be used every couple of weeks.

It has nothing to do with waiting for better strategies and plans from those companies, either. If it had been, they would have asked for a clearer explanation from Paulson, the Fed and banks on not hoarding the credit, as they are doing right now.

This is about busting the United Auto Workers union, pure and simple. It’s Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine on display: use an emergency situation to force radical, unrelated changes in policy that you had wanted all along.   Please note the plan of one Tennessee senator named Bob Corker yes, the same hick fuck who race-baited former Representative Harold Ford, Jr. in order to win his Senate seat — that the G.O.P. proceeded to line itself up behind:

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The Clemens-McNamee Congressional Testimony Drinking Game.

With the Rocket and his former trainer both set to take the stand in about six hours (hopefully I can get myself up at 6:30 AM) for what is likely an elaborate form of Kabuki Congressional Theatre, even with Andy Pettitte telling Congress that Clemens used steroids, you may be in need of some form of entertainment. Generally, I don’t advise drinking prior to the job or on the job, but if you’re going to watch all of the testimony on ESPN News or what have you, you might want to have that flask, Bloody Mary, mimosa or Po’mosa on hand.

Here are your rules, first for Clemens’ testimony. Drink if he:

  1. Talks about his reputation and image that he’s trying to protect.
  2. Does the Rafael Palmeiro finger-wag with his denial.
  3. Calls McNamee a liar out loud.
  4. Talks ish about BFF Andy Pettitte.
  5. Calls out George Mitchell for including McNamee’s stuff in the Mitchell Report
  6. Gets angry and cusses by accident.

For McNamee’s testimony, drink if he:

  1. Says Clemens is lying outright.
  2. Provides receipts, needles, or other evidence before the committee. (Chug if that evidence is in a beer can.)
  3. Answers any question about possible extortion or any other reason Clemens or Rusty Hardin have provided as to why McNamee would accuse Clemens.
  4. Mentions the number of times he allegedly shot Clemens up.
  5. Describes in detail where (location and body part) he allegedly shot Clemens up.

Drink if any Congresscritter:

  1. Blatantly kisses Clemens’ ass.
  2. Lapses into any sort of “for the children”-type rhetoric.
  3. Openly accuses either witnessing of lying or questions credibility.
  4. Takes any potshots at Bud Selig or Donald Fehr, even though they will not be there.
  5. Tells the story of someone from their district who was affected by/used PEDs.
  6. Asks a question written for them that demonstrates they have no idea about the issue at hand.*
  7. Tells a story of their childhood introduction/love of baseball.*
  8. Utters a grammatical error or mispronounces a name in prepared remarks.*

*6 & 7 courtesy of commenter Jim Boswell; 8 added due to remembering “Palmeri” bit from last time Selig and Fehr were in the chamber
That should keep you busy and/or sneakily drunk by lunch. Have fun!

Photo: AP/Susan Walsh

Pray That Congress Liked The Mitchell Report, Bud.

Like I’ve written previously with regard to the whole NFL Network/cable/Sunday Ticket issue, I find Congressional involvement in professional sport devolves into the worst sort of Kabuki theatre; soapboxes have already been set up for Rep. Henry Waxman and the rest of the House committee set to grill MLB commissioner Bud Selig, union chief Donald Fehr, and former senator George Mitchell tomorrow morning with stock phrases about matters of “integrity,” “public health,” “doing it for the children,” and “America’s pastime” (as if the NFL had not lapped baseball completely by now). But, as the NFL did, MLB ceded its right to be free of certain forms of interference from the feds once it lobbied and received an anti-trust exemption, so Selig will have to take his medicine and lumps yet again.

However, it’s instructive to read the prep articles for this — and the copy from T.J. Quinn and Mark Fainaru-Wada over at ESPN is probably the most instructive, because it will provide Selig with the easy out of blaming it all on Fehr and the MLBPA, which ties nicely into a politician’s favorite sport — never let the party affiliation smoke you out, there are plenty of Democrats who are less than friendly to labor unions to begin with (Waxman is not one of them; you can’t be an L.A.-area congressman without strong labor support.) Regardless of what happens to players like Roger Clemens (who appears to be scurrying as quickly as he can in what appears to be an impending showdown under oath with Brian McNamee), the least Congress can do — if it has any concept of being remotely fair in its treatment of the issue — is line up as many executives, particularly those named in the Mitchell Report or having signed players named in said report, and ask them under oath what they knew and when they knew it.

In a better world, they might ask the former players why they did it, the reasons they used it, and ask doctors about the science behind it — the wear and tear of a 162-game season, and several playoff series. Maybe instead of starting another front of the colossal failure that is the War on (Some) Drugs, after asking the right questions about the report, those particular pezzonovanti might look at whether there are actual benefits for adult males in strictly prescribed and monitored use or not — and then consider whether it applies to other sports, particularly the one that has lapped MLB and has players with non-guaranteed contracts willing to do a heck of a lot to avoid being cut.

What we will get some damn good theater out of it that will make us feel good and have a scapegoat. Nothing productive will actually come of it. Jose Canseco said last time that Congress held hearings on baseball and steroids that the game could not be allowed to police itself or it would be back facing a House committee again. Well, we’re back again, and in front of representatives that can’t even pay enough attention to determine whether waterboarding is or isn’t torture or logical cases for war.

Color me less than optimistic.

The League Dug Its Own Hole, Now Lord Rog Must Accept It.

Generally, I don’t think well of Congress butting in to the professional sports leagues — it usually results in a highly obnoxious and pathetic form of Kabuki in which all parties involved claim to be concerned about something “for the consumer” or “for the children” (please see the steroid hearings of two years ago and note this when Selig, Fehr, et al return to Congress post-Mitchell Report.) I find Sen. John Kerry’s threat to investigate the NFL if it did not make this Saturday’s Patriots-Giants NFL Network exclusive available on broadcast noxious, as if a football game was really such a primary concern to the elected officials who literally have matters of life and death that they would be better off addressing.

Yet I have very little sympathy for the league, which has now decided to simulcast Messrs. Gumbel and Collinsworth on both NBC and CBS Saturday night. The onus comes from threats from Sens. Patrick Leahy and Arlen Specter (committee chair and ranking member respectively, of the Senate Judiciary Committee), who said they would look into the league’s anti-trust exemption if the game was kept solely on the NFL Network.

Like many things about the modern NFL, the exemption came during the reign of Pete Rozelle as commissioner, and the merger of the NFL and the AFL was dependent upon securing an anti-trust exemption for the new league — which the league has already violated the spirit of, seeing that Rozelle pledged in front of Congress that no existing team at the time would move out of its metropolitan market. Regardless, once you go pleading with the federal government for a competitive advantage of any sort, you now find yourself subject to its whims, and that is where Lord Rog and the owners find themselves in the middle of a stupid war with cable in which the NFL is completely in the wrong. Even in the press release, the NFL cannot get over itself and the supposed importance of its house organ:

“NFL Network is a programming service of great interest to fans and should be broadly distributed by the cable industry,” said NFL Network President and CEO Steve Bornstein. “The only channel devoted 24/7 to America’s favorite sport is not programming that should be relegated to a poorly promoted, pay-extra sports tier that takes advantage of our fans’ passion for the NFL. A few of the biggest cable operators have refused to negotiate. We call on them to do what’s right for their consumers and negotiate agreements for NFL Network that make sense for everybody.”

Despite the dominance of football in the American sporting landscape, to demand placement on a basic cable tier for the amount of money that the league requests is audacity writ large. Most sports fans pay for a sports cable tier — I do; it’s the only way I get Fox Soccer and ESPN News — and would be more than happy to have the NFL Network on it for what we pay. What the NFL fails to realize is this: there are millions of non-sports fans in this country who don’t want to be saddled with higher basic cable bills for a channel they don’t care about. It’s why the issue of a la carte cable programming has gotten ink and air time in the past couple of years. Barring that, the NFL Network is a niche network, one catering to the super-dedicated sort of football fan who will watch related programming for a good chunk of the day, even during the off-season, when there are no games.

So, in the wake of this stalemate, the league has continued to restrict access to games via premium channels, and now, Goodell will have to reap what he and advocates like Pat Bowlen and Jerry Jones have been baiting for — a historical game that could drive up product demand and tip the scales winds up being negated for their pet channel via a simulcast.

You ask for favors, you have to give them back. And while I understand the complaint Paulsen at Sports Media Watch has with the entire concept of political pressure being used, let us not weep for a league that decided to allow the federal government a say in its operation when it asked for an exemption from the normal regulations on business in the U.S. Certain tax exemptions for the league and for its owners, approved by the voters to finance mega-stadiums on part or all of the public dole, come with unintended consequences. The league may figure this out if someone in Washington gets the bright idea to question NFL Sunday Ticket’s sole availability on DirecTV.