NFL Teams To Loathe In The Age Of Trump*

Today’s NFL is a league in which billionaire white guys** own franchises, 70% of whose players are black.

Our politics are now dominated by an overtly and viciously racist president and an indoor-voice racist Republican party.  Which is why, I think that Sports Illustrated chose to post without comment an article about the political donations of the owners and top execs of each NFL franchise.

A fair number of team owners took what I see as the “don’t bother me” approach to donations — often skewing GOP, but in modest amounts and with an eye to local incumbents.  But several were more active, even hungry in their love of Trump and/or Republicans or PACs that function as Trump enablers.

See, e.g., Bob McNair of the Texans:  literally millions this year to the Republican national campaigns while “his list of 2018 donations, all Republican, is too long to fit on the page. Results can be found here.”  Huge Trump cash supporter in 2016 as well.  He’s the worst of the worst.

I never liked John Elway, and I like him less now that I know he’s a slow but steady GOP donor — though as a Raiders fan as a kid and Patriots one now, I can’t say I needed more reasons to dis Denver.

Then there are those who are trying to scattershot GOP success all over the map, well beyond their own territory. Jimmy Haslam of the Browns, is one, as is the Cardinals’ Mike Bidwell

Jerry Jones is everyone’s fool, so I guess I can laugh at his 2016 six figure support of Chris Christie.  There’s one born every minute. But I’m less inclined to forgive the Tampa Bay owners, the Glazers, for their persistent and substantial support for the RNC this time out.

What’s interesting, though, is how many owners, many of whom have been big GOP donors in past cycles, have sat out this one.  I count 14 who in 2018 either donated only to the NFLPAC or not at all.  And there are a couple who clearly lean our side — notably Wilf of the Vikes and the Falcons’ Blank.

So there you have it. The Krafts have been lying low, and despite Robert’s documented friendship w. Trump (feh!) seem to lean a little more D than R, so I guess I can keep on hoping the Patsies do well, even as I try to wean myself from this young-man’s-mind-wrecking sport.  But I’m done seeing Cleveland as lovable underdogs to root for; may they lose every game they play under current ownership.  And Tampa Bay is a crater. Sorry, Betty, but f**k ’em.

Last thought: I’m not going to interpret information for which I have clearly insufficient contextual knowledge.  But my prior here is that the large number of non-contributors, with more minimal donators who could be added to the list, reflects an impact of the kneeling demonstrations.  Whether it’s hearts and minds changing or a “who-needs-the-grief” impulse this looks to me like a potentially causal connection that will be tested, perhaps confirmed, as we go into the next presidential cycle. (Thank you, Rev. Bayes, and/or M. Laplace.)

And with that, pointless railing at the behavior of old rich white men over. Open thread.

*Yes. It is obviously ridiculous to care about NFL teams by ownership. But it’s also ridiculous to root for laundry, or which town happened to give the super rich a tax break etc., and we do it anyway. So there.

**Almost exclusively — Shahid Khan of the Jaguars is the only owner of color, and there are seven women on the principal ownership roles, either with other family members or on their own.

Image: Pierre-Paul Prud’hon, Innocence preferring love to wealth1804



Tulips. Tulips I Tell You

Prediction is hard, especially about the future.  But a quick glance at the Wall St. Journal’s Market Data page made my eyes pop.

I wanted to see if my general sense of unease around the financial markets had any quantitative basis, so I was looking up the price to earnings ratio of the major market indices.  The first number I noticed was the current p/e number for the S & P 500: 24.13.  That’s only a smidge up from a year ago, but is still historically pretty high.

It is, it should be noted, nowhere near the stratsopheric numbers achieved in the 2009, when earnings crashed so far and so fast that market prices couldn’t crash fast enough to keep up, but it is not far off those in the summer of 2008, just before the Great Recession became brutally obvious.

That’s got me generally a little concerned, as it doesn’t take much to spook “smart” money, and a high p/e is always a good excuse to sell.

But what made my eyes pop was the estimate of forward p/e: 17.65.  That is, in essence, a prediction that company earnings are going to improve significantly over the next year — enough either to ease the market into a soft landing, a return to more historically normal valuation, or (if you’re an ebullient sort) to keep the market powering upward for a while yet.

That’s all well and good, and as I’m a lot closer to retirement than my first day at work, I’ve got no objection to such an outcome.

But what has me antsy is that I don’t know the assumptions that went into that estimate, and known or not, I don’t trust ’em.  I’m writing now about the South Sea Bubble of 1720, and I’m continuously struck by how easy it was for very smart people — Isaac Newton, forsooth! — to persuade themselves the party would continue, even very late in the game.

All of which is to say that three hundred years of securities market adventures tell us that it’s always when, not if for unpleasant surprises.  I don’t know if one is imminent, but I do know two things: given current events, a big crash could produce true social and political ugliness in a hurry; and there are at least a few reasons to watch out for market hubris.

Any jackals got a similar feeling? Any actually knowledgeable types out there want to weigh in?

Necessary disclaimer:  I’m not a financial expert. I do not watch the markets closely.  Most of my retirement funds are in the most boring possible index funds I can find.  I have enough time — a decade-ish — so that I can ignore near term gyrations (ask me again around 2025 how I feel). And I’m certainly not an expert on company valuation, or the connection of or utility of macro- and political economics to something as fine-grained and context-dependent as a market investment.  I’m not a financial advisor, nor do I play one on TV.  I’m just a guy getting a little queasy.

Also too — a guy who thought we could use some more thread.

Over to you.

Image: A Stock Market Cleaner, cover of Puck, v. 15, no. 376,  May 21, 1884



Banana Republicans Open Thread: The War Between the Snakes

I’ve been reading about this Oligarch Feud for the past few days, wondering just where the levers were…

Most of the media coverage of the “ugly public feud,” as the New York Times called it, between President Trump and the Koch brothers has taken the Kochs at their word that they may have to give up on the Republican Party of Trump and start backing Democrats, so disgusted are they with the President’s protectionist trade policies. But history suggests that the Kochs’ threat is about as believable as that of a parent threatening to “just plain leave” if a balky toddler doesn’t behave.

Despite the brothers’ record as among the country’s largest and most consistently partisan financial sponsors, the Kochs’ pique at their own party is nothing new. For decades they have complained bitterly about Republican politicians whose fealty to their libertarian agenda has rarely, in their view, been absolute enough. This dissatisfaction with the Grand Old Party was evident as far back as 1980…

… In fact, it was the Kochs’ disappointment with George W. Bush’s expansion of prescription-drug benefits, among other issues, that inspired them, in 2003, to form their political-fund-raising network with like-minded conservatives. Since then, the group has grown into a private political machine that arguably rivals, and by some estimates overpowers, the Republican Party itself. Earlier this year, the network announced that it planned to spend four hundred million dollars in the coming midterm-election cycle, to help preserve the Republican majority in both houses of Congress. But last weekend, somewhat unexpectedly, at a meeting in Colorado Springs, of some five hundred members of this group, all of whom have pledged to contribute at least a hundred thousand dollars annually to the cause, Koch officials attacked Trump, in all but name, as “divisive,” and threatened to start backing Democrats in some midterm races….

On the surface, the cause of the rift is their opposition to Trump’s protectionist trade and immigration policies, which clash with their free-market preferences—and Koch Industries’ bottom line. The policy fight runs deep, reflecting a larger rift in the Republican Party on these issues. Exacerbating tensions, Trump and Charles Koch are both headstrong billionaires who are accustomed to buying, and then getting, their ways. Both were sent to military schools by their parents, after having disciplinary problems at home, and both have high regard for themselves as self-made men, despite both inheriting vast fortunes from their fathers.

Beyond this, both appear to think that the Republican Party in particular, and American politics in general, should be theirs to dominate. Yet, if you parse last weekend’s complaint from Charles Koch carefully, what you see is that his ire wasn’t so much directed at Trump, whom he didn’t name, as at the Republicans in Congress for having fallen in line with the President instead of with him….
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Interesting Read: “Facebook Fallout Deals Blow to Mercers’ Political Clout”

Okay, maybe us ungrateful American peons don’t understand what the Mercers so generously offered to do for us, but at least there are other nations where globe-trotting oligarchs of strong familial bonds are properly appreciated. And while Putin’s fading kleptocracy — and his noisy WH figurehead — might be hogging the headlines right now, it’s China where forward-thinking empire builders really have room to grow. The NYTimes, committing actual journalism:

The revelation last month that Cambridge Analytica improperly acquired the private Facebook data of millions of users has set off government inquiries in Washington and London, plunging Facebook into crisis. But it has also battered the nascent political network overseen by Ms. Mercer, 44, and financed by her father, Robert Mercer, 71, a hard-line conservative billionaire.

Ms. Mercer’s standing in Mr. Trump’s circle had already declined following the departure last year of Stephen K. Bannon, her family’s former adviser and President Trump’s former chief strategist, according to Republicans with close ties to the president’s political operation. A pro-Trump advocacy group controlled by Ms. Mercer has gone silent following strategic disputes between her and other top donors. Plans to wage a civil war against the Republican establishment in the 2018 midterms have been derailed.

And last month, after reports on Cambridge in The New York Times, The Observer of London and The Guardian, Facebook banned the company from its platform, a major blow to any political or commercial targeting firm. Not a single American candidate or “super PAC” committee has reported payments to the company since the 2016 campaign, according to federal records.

Several Republicans in Ms. Mercer’s orbit or with knowledge of Cambridge’s business said that fallout from the Facebook scandal — combined with widespread doubts about the accuracy of Cambridge’s psychological profiles of voters — had effectively crippled the firm’s election work in the United States.

“They’re selling magic in a bottle,” said Matt Braynard, who worked alongside Cambridge on the Trump campaign, for which he served as the director of data and strategy, and now runs Look Ahead America, a group seeking to turn out disaffected rural and blue-collar voters. “And they’re becoming toxic.”…

In recent years, the Mercers have become among the most prominent and highly scrutinized political donors in the United States. In the early years of the Obama administration, they began doling out tens of millions of dollars to an eclectic array of conservative groups — many of them outside Washington’s mainline Republican establishment. Mr. Mercer invested $10 million in Breitbart News, the nationalist website, bringing on Mr. Bannon as chairman, while Ms. Mercer joined the boards of leading conservative think tanks.

The Mercers were critical of the Republican Party’s existing data apparatus, which was controlled by the party officials and consultants they hoped to disempower. Mr. Mercer bankrolled Cambridge Analytica in 2014, and Ms. Mercer encouraged candidates and PACs that took the family’s money to also hire the family’s data firm. Early in the 2016 presidential campaign, the Mercers backed Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, putting millions of dollars — and Cambridge Analytica — behind him.
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Schadenfreude. It’s what’s for breakfast*

Which is to say that there are few people in American politics I loathe so much as the wholly owned Koch subsidiary operating under the name Scott Walker.  There are plenty of folks doing more national damage, but few, if any, with the utter, total, almost heroic lack of redeeming qualities as the man Charlie Pierce epithets** as the goggle-eyed homunculus.

So his pain is the sugar in my coffee this a.m.:

“The Far Left” — thanks for the proper nouning** there, btw; I didn’t know we were a franchise operation — as in a decisive majority of Wisconsin voters. “Anger and hatred” — nothing like the mild mannered folks on the right,*** amirite? “Outside special interest money.” Child, please.

But, if it’s all projection with these guys, well we knew that. That subterranean pleasure you feel this morning is that all the faffing in the world can’t hide the genuine panic flowing through Walker like you-know-what through a goose.

And because we need something pretty to wash the memory of Walker’s pallid, grasping mug from our brains, here’s a bird that one-ups that poor goose:

And w/that…open thread.

*That or coke on your Wheaties.

**I verb sometimes. Sue me.

***Very, VERY far from the worst, as we all know, but selected for its exceptional combination of absurdity and cowardice.

Image: John James Audubon, Cygnus buccinator, Trumpeter Swan1838.