Rum Blog

More rumination than Hunter S. Thompson

More bourbon than rum

More ranting than fun

Even so, my intention will be to avoid knee-jerk reactions, and with any luck, produce just the opposite. I find myself to be the guy who applies a rigorous bullshit-filtered, skeptical point of view. If I can keep this up as anywhere near a true blog (not likely), we shall see.

There's a better than even chance that my most passionate entries will be in the subject of sports. Much like politics, it seems to be the most susceptible to narrow-minded, sheep-like reactions by commentators and followers alike.

A recent instance of this deals with the Ryan Braun drug testing fiasco. The unsettling, but prevailing view on Braun's successful appeal of his suspension for violating Major League Baseball's drug policy was that he had a good lawyer who got him off on a technicality, and that he was still guilty of cheating.

My concern with the issue is less with the technicality and more with the mystifying, steadfast belief of both commentators and fans alike that the drug tests themselves are infallible. A cursory examination of the scientific and medical literature would leave one with no other choice but to conclude that the only professionals who would have you believe that drug testing is infallible are the owners of the drug testing companies.

Have these commentators and fans never had medical lab tests done themselves or had anyone in their families undergo such tests. My wife tested positive for HIV. She can no longer give blood. However, she doesn't have HIV. An anomaly in the testing process continues to insist that she does.

I myself was almost treated for acute diabetes until a specialist reviewed my sample and determined I had a slow digestive system which kept sugar in my system longer than the period of fasting perscribed by the test.

For five years I worked for a government agency which tested parolees and probationers whose terms of release depended upon them remaining drug free. It was not uncommon for there to be 10, 15 even 20% false positive test results. These were tests which required very little interpretation on the part of lab personnel. Indications from the Braun case suggest a high degree of interpretation is required by the testing company personnel in determining whether a hormone is synthetic or natural.

Information leaked and widely reported in the Braun case indicated his test showed a level for synthetic testosterone twice as high as the next highest failed test the company had ever done. In any other medical or scientific test such a result would have raised a red flag indicating the need for a follow-up test. When Braun asked to be retested, MLB refused.

His own test by an independent company revealed he was well within acceptable levels as dictated by a baseball's drug testing policy.

The only certainty in the Braun episode is that MLB, despite its official disagreement with the arbitrator's decision, wants nothing more than for it all to go away quickly and quietly. With Braun and the drug collector coming across as genuine and credible, if the player claims he'd bet his life that he didn't take the synthetic substance and the collector claims he delivered a correctly-stored, sealed sample, then the only conclusion is a fallible, false test.

MLB would much rather take the blame for a lax, ill-appointed collection protocol than back track on its previous insistence on the infallibility of the drug testing process.

Ok, I know I'm late on asking these questions, 

but my biggest question is why I didn't see anyone else asking them?


  The first deals with the story about the former Paul Ryan Intern/Mitt Romney/Gingrich staffer who was arrested for "illegally obtaining naked pictures of 15 women" and charged with using those pictures to blackmail the women into sending him more naked pictures of themselves.


  Aside from the fact, I was awash in the joy of ironic comeuppance to see photos of this trusted political ally, arm in arm, with Ryan, with Romney, with Gingrich, under the heading of "family values?", my question, which was of little interest to the reporters covering the case, is HOW does one go about "illegally obtaining naked pictures?"


  I remember the Erin Andrews through the keyhole video a few years back, and the intermittent cases regarding a secret camera in a tanning booth or a changing room, but this was 15 different individual women.


  Now, as it turns out, the closest any article came to clarifying the crime, it had something to do with hacking into social media websites.  Which raises another question I think would make an interesting article all on its own.  Are there a lot of women who post naked pictures of themselves on social media websites? If so, why?  Wouldn't the purpose of posting them on a social media be for others to see them?  (I know about locks and passwords, but if it's just one other person, why not just send them the photos?)


  I don't lose any sleep over these questions.  I just wonder why someone didn't ask.


  The second question deals with a quote from a woman who ended up in the middle of the Mother's Day shooting in New Orleans during something called a "second line."  It turns out a "second line" is described in a couple articles as a sort of parade with costume changes and various small marching bands of musicians.  So, at least that question was answered.


  In the midst of several original articles describing the eruption of gunfire which shattered the parade and left 20 people wounded,

this woman's quote was included:


  "Me and mom were going to the second line. I told her I didn't want to go because there are always shots at a second line," Tyler said.


  Always?  No follow-up question?  There's always shots at a second line?  Here's a few that come to mind:


  Was there shots fired last year at the Mother's Day second line?  (Must have been if there's "always shots")  How many people were wounded last year?


  Why do you go to a second line?  Is it the danger?  The excitement to see if you can enjoy the parade and the music without getting shot?


  As it turns out, after nearly a week, some articles did appear recounting the troubled history second lines have had in the past.  Apparently, New Orleans is still a wild place where you have to expect a few gun shots may be fired during a celebration.


  Is it a sign of civilization that some people there are questioning whether all the fun is really worth the risk of taking a bullet?


In Search of Intelligent Life in a Republican Party Vice Presidential Candidate, but not too intelligent

by Lenny "the Schneid" Woodson

July 16th, 2012

There's some hilarity to watching the Republican Party and the Romney camp supposedly vetting VP choices by leaking names like chum onto the churning waters of public discourse. 

Marco Rubio leaked his own name implying that he wasn't being seriously considered.  The question quickly became: Was it a VP campaign or a book tour?

Mitch Daniels quit politics for a job as the president of a university.   Only in Indiana could a politician who made hay as an anti-education budget slasher be hired as the top administrator at a top university which once had a rather highly regarded reputation as an institution of higher learning.

The hailstorm of right-wing angst and ridicule which followed Mrs. Romney's leaking of a Condi Rice's possible consideration was an embarrassment for all involved, not the least, Ms. Rice herself who as a woman and a black woman to boot should realize she has two strikes against her before she even looks for a seat on the Republican Party bus.

Rob Portman is seen as too liberal inside the Party.  He is on the board of environmental and nature conservancy groups.  But his biggest problem since having his name surface among the chum is his recent connection to George W. Bush, having served as the U.S. Trade Representative under him from 2005 to 2006, and as the Director of the Office of Management and Budget from 2006 to 2007.  There is no doubt the Democrats would take every opportunity to link the Romney campaign to the disaster which was the Bush Administration.

The VP candidate has to be a strong, likable fellow, but not as strong or as likable as the Presidential candidate.  The biggest problem for the Republican Party is that there are few candidates the Party as a whole likes less than Romney himself.  If he were being vetted for the VP spot, he would have been eliminated somewhere between Rubio and Rice.  This is also not a good problem for your top guy to have when the majority of guns in the country reside in the hands of your party's faithful.  It's safer when your #2 is someone equally suspect or scary, like a Gore or a Cheney or even, a Biden.

So, it looks like safe and boring are the next best things to suspect and scary. 

Tim Pawlenty has the boring part down cold.  He was not wildly popular as Governor of Minnesota, and can offer no guarantee of being able to deliver that state for Romney.  There are also some ideological questions.  He has taken positions opposed to or at least differing from Romney's official lines on immigration, Obamacare, and tax code reform.

But I read somewhere that Mrs. Romney has a genuine affection for Mrs. Pawlenty.  That can be essential when your strapping dogs atop family cars for one of those long dual family getaways in Canada.

Mutiny on the Bounty

By Lenny "the Schneid" Woodson

June 25, 2012

Green Bay Fans Think Goodell Too Hard on Saints' bounty hunters!

This comes after the NFL released evidence that the bounty on Brett Favre in the 2009 NFC championship game was actually $35,000, not $10,000 as believed at one time.

Despite denying he collected the bounty and was caught on tape bragging about it, new Packer player, Anthony Hargrove saw his popularity soar in Titletown.

"I didn't even know he was on our team until all this came out," admitted one of the green and gold faithful. "I don't know whether he got the bounty, but he was fined $5,000 for the play so I know his heart is in the right place."

Meanwhile, the season-long suspension of New Orleans Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma is unprecedented in the NFL. Can the NFL really keep Vilma from holding a job in professional football for an entire year?  Could he play for the UFL or the CFL or the Arena League?  Could the Saints keep him from working for another league because of some contract provision?  Does the team lose a year of his contract?  Can he collect unemployment?

Aren't there supposed to be real constitutional-type laws in this country to insure citizens have a right to employment to support themselves?

If the bounty system was so pervasive, why did the NFL choose to suspend only Vilma, Saints defensive end Will Smith, former Saints and current Cleveland Browns linebacker Scott Fujita, and former Saints and current Green Bay Packers defensive lineman Anthony Hargrove?  Several other players' names appear in the evidence, including safety Roman Harper and linebacker Scott Shanle. Neither was punished according to Goodell because those players were not linked with any intent-to-injure hits even though the often rumored ledger sheet (which was not in the evidence released by the league) lists Harper as being due $1,000.

Marketing agent Mike Ornstein, listed as a corroborating witness by the NFL, disputed the appeal hearing evidence, "I never corroborated $10,000.  The only thing that I told them was that we had the (pregame) meeting, we jumped around, we screamed around, and I never saw (Vilma) offer one dime. And I never heard him say it."

There's been a lot of subterfuge, spin, and sleight-of-hand dealing with the evidence and its release to the players, public, and press in this case.  This is often the case when a business is trying to contain an embarrassing situation and still look like it is being strong, responsive, and ultimately, blameless.  If Vilma continues to push his defamation suit against Goodell which appears to have more than enough merit to proceed, then the commissioner may be required to present his evidence and make his case in a court other than his own.

The NFL does not want to do that, especially if they guaranteed to players and other employees that their cooperation would not be revealed.  If Goodell had simply suspended the coaches and team management who had been warned more than once to stop the bounty programs and warned all the players, the issue might have been cleared up to everyone's satisfaction.  But Goodell being Goodell had to come down with a Zeus-like lightning bolt of "no tolerance" overkill.  Consider that Albert Haynesworth only got five games off for stomping on Andre Gurode's unhelmeted head and Ndamukong Suh got two games for stomping a supine Evan Dietrich-Smith.

The average fan and worse, average sports commentator jumps to the conclusion that if there is a blackout on evidence and information then it must be that players who have something to hide, when it is clearly the league which wants to cover up its shoddy investigation and lack of hard evidence.

The whole idea of a bounty system is repellant, lacks humanity, and is a major symptom of what is wrong with the NFL version of the game, but solving the problem by having the commissioner grandstand a bit while scapegoating a few players and coaches is just adding more symptoms.

Wisconsin Voters Prefer a Corrupt Governor to Feeling Like Unions Are Pushing Them Around

--June 7, 2012

  That's a simplification, but then this is a small space to explain the three main reasons the recall was doomed.

  1.) Despite warnings and grumblings from many astute members of their movement, those who claimed to be leading the recall effort never wavered from their initial contention that it was Walker's attack on public unions which fueled the grassroots campaign to remove the governor.  Although teachers and other unions may have been  the first to march around the capitol building, it was a much more homogeneous cross-section of irate citizens -- protesting a lengthy, equally appalling list of attacks the governor had orchestrated on every good and decent initiative in the state -- which swelled the crowd to over 100,000.

  Unfortunately, the local and national mainstream media continued to emphasize the union leadership over the 16 month ordeal.  The recall effort collected just over a million signatures, twice the number they needed to force a new election.  In that election, a little over a million people voted to remove the governor.  Ostensibly, the same as signed the petitions.  They needed to convince a couple hundred thousand more that the Governor was hurting the state in a bad enough way to warrant his recall.  With only 7-10 % of workers directly involved with unions, and specifically historically unpopular unions, it had little chance of being an issue which would sway undecided voters.

  2.) The election was held 16 months removed from the fervor, ire, and shock of the original catalysts and protests.  If the recall had been held in March or April of 2011, Walker would have been voted out.  The election was held 5 months after the delivery of a staggering number of signatures, two times the number that opponents' claimed would be unlikely at best.  If the recall had been held in March of 2012, there is a very good chance Walker would have been voted out.  Instead, because Wisconsin had long championed fairness and inclusiveness, we had primaries before the recall election.  Much was made of this being only the third governor recall in the history of the country and the only one where the governor was not recalled, but in neither of the previous successful governor recalls was there a primary before the election.

  But 16 months did pass, all the righteousness and reckoning of the protests and the collecting of signatures had long passed.  It ended up much like the story of Chicken Little.  The recall effort claimed the sky was falling.  It was true.  It fell on some at the capitol, but after 16 months, it didn't seem to be falling anymore.  Oh, it's falling, but it just hasn't hit every single voter yet.

  3.) Because Russ Feingold, who according to the polls would have defeated Walker without even campaigning -- he wouldn't even have had to sweep toys and lamps off a table in a white room like his notoriously failed ad in his last campaign -- refused to run, the recall effort was left with a kindly old gentleman named Tom Barrett.  As nice a man as Tom Barrett appears to be, the Wisconsin electorate made clear in the last election that they'd vote for an illiterate, ferret-faced college dropout before they'd vote for him.  Feingold may yet be the state's only chance when Walker has to run for his office a third time in less than five years.

  As a lesser 4th reason, I would only say, the only people with enough gall to suggest those in the recall effort have no right to be pointing fingers at the Department National Committee, the Democratic Party of Wisconsin and the Democratic President Obama are merely fellow travelers or sore winners.

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