Sunday, August 02, 2015

The ESPY controversy that never was

Caitlin Jenner's ESPY aroused some surprising anger among the body politic, so much so it caused me to overlook a true travesty that happened during the presentation of our national sports awards (be them as they may).

UFC mixed martial arts athlete Ronda Rousey was actually named best female athlete over Serena Williams three weeks ago? The rumor is true. Between ESPY events, Rousey competed "in the octagon" for a total of 30 seconds-- two (albeit remarkably) short fights. (She won a match again last night in 34 seconds.) Impressive. But in a sport as young as that one is for women, excuse me if I'm not overwhelmed by what I suspect to be the level of her competition. Serena Williams went 28-0 in Grand Slam events, winning the "Serena Slam" during the rolling 12-month calendar-- the U.S. Open, the Australian, the French, and Wimbledon, and at the age of 33.

An online commenter said on a UFC message board (yes, I'm allowed to read those) equating Rousey's dominance in MMA to dropping Serena Williams into 1950's tennis. But how about if it's dropping Serena Williams into 2010's tennis?

---

If you are a heterosexual male attracted to this woman, but not this one, then your sexuality is complicated indeed.


Friday, July 31, 2015

Intellectual combat

This might be a fun way to spend a sweltering summer weekend-- watching Gore Vidal/William Buckley debates on YouTube. A new documentary film highlights the network-televised rhubarbs, dust-ups, and altercations during the 1960s and '70s between the alternately-epitheted "Crypto-Nazi" and "Goddamn Queer."

Jesus, fellas. Get a room already.

---

Incidentally, despite what television news indoctrinates, political arguments ultimately have winners and losers. Buckley later changed his mind on the issues of Civil Rights and Vietnam.

---

If you enjoy watching Buckley get owned on television, spend some time watching this debate with Noam Chomsky. This debate took place on Buckley's public broadcasting program. Vidal was allowed on network commercial television. Chomsky wasn't... and isn't.

---

Chris Hedges, author of a the literary essential Death of the Liberal Class, talks to leaders of the new black radical movement. One of the founders of St. Louis-sourced Hands Up United explains why young people have lost faith in corporate capitalist black leaders like Barack Obama, Al Sharpton, and Michael Eric Dyson, and why he views the oft-maligned Cornel West as a "big brother" of their movement.

---

"Hey @NBCNews... fixed this one for you."

---

If you want there to be fewer abortions, why the hell would you support the defunding of the nation's #1 provider of comprehensive sex education and affordable reproductive health services?

---

Fetal tissue research will ultimately be used to cure hideous diseases like ALS and Parkinson's Disease. We need to think now about how we can logistically withhold that cure, when the time comes, from those who opposed fetal tissue research.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Big game

Walter Palmer, D.D.S., of Bloomington, Minnesota, is the man that killed Cecil the lion in Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe. This is a review of Palmer's dental practice that appeared on its Yelp page this week...

“Weird visit. Some guy lured me into the dental chair by waving beef jerky at me. Once I sat down, Dr. Palmer viciously attacked my one cavity, but was unable to hit it with the drill. Profusely bleeding from my mouth, I fled the building and wandered the surrounding woods for a day and a half. Thankfully, I didn’t bleed out. My family would’ve been killed and eaten by my neighbors. Two stars.”

---

Incidentally, when you tell the rest of us on social media that Palmer was in the right, or that he's getting a raw deal, you're not just telling us that you're a hunter. You're telling us what kind of hunter you are.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Changing cities, the story stays the same

The shooting of a black man by a white police officer in Cincinnati is so disturbing that authorities won't allow the public to see it. Forty-three-year-old Sam Dubose is dead, and city officials believe that keeping this information from the public will work to temper potential riots. Police Chief Jeffrey Blackwell says of the video, "it's not good," but says he hopes the city "is able to move forward from this and allow this to be a moment of learning and teaching for our city."

Okay, then why is he preventing the first step towards learning and teaching from taking place? The city manager is claiming that, somehow, holding the video is furthering the cause of justice. How many times have we heard this implied message from police: trust us? It's taken over a week for police to put their story together. This video must be really bad.

UPDATE: 7/30/15 University of Cincinnati police are actually serial killers.

---

Republicans want to privatize anything that moves. So naturally that means private debt collectors working for the IRS. I’m sure that recipe won’t lead to more charges of harassment.

---

In the matter of the appeal brought by Tom Brady and the NFL Players' Association in the case of Roger Goodell v. Tom Brady, Roger Goodell finds in favor of Roger Goodell.

---

LaTroy Hawkins just got traded from the Rockies to the Blue Jays. Have you heard about his fan club?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The power of humor

The Onion nails it.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Monetary policy

Interesting exchange this week between Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen and a group of African-American congressional reps. When asked what the Fed is doing to address the high rate of unemployment among blacks (9.5% vs. 5.3% overall), Yellon responded, "There really isn’t anything directly the Federal Reserve can do to affect the structure of unemployment across groups, and unfortunately, it’s long been the case that African-American unemployment rates tend to be higher than those on average in the nation as a whole."

What Yellen is missing, however, is that the Fed was established to serve two mandates-- one of which has easily been the top priority over the second for years. The Fed has been very concerned, as a routine, with controlling inflation, and Yellon confirmed her commitment in this week's hearing before the House Financial Services Committee to raising interest rates before the year is out and keeping inflation under 2%. But the other mandated goal of the Fed is to lower unemployment. If the monetary supply is kept tight, by raising interest rates, prices stay low and employment depresses. If they print more money, prices increase, but so do employment numbers.

The Fed continues to obsess over inflation, even though it has been completely absent from the economy for some time. What Yellen is basically saying is that she's okay with a 9.5% unemployment rate for blacks.

---

Confused about what's happening in Greece? Then, again, I direct you to the book that has been called "the master narrative of our time"-- Naomi Klein's 2007 international best-seller The Shock Doctrine. We have an inept government in Greece swallowed by predatory privatists. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other disaster capitalists swoop in and demand robust cuts in social services while raising the retirement age and privatizing state industries, such as those in mining and drilling, -- this in a country that has lost a million jobs in six years, and has a 25.6% unemployment rate, 49.7% among young people. These cuts (referred to as austerity) come in exchange for up to 86 billion euros in bailout.

Voters in Greece rejected a call for more austerity in a national referendum earlier in the month and effectively voted to leave the euro, but the nation's government voted this week to agree to their creditor's demands.

What we are really witnessing here is a coup. It is collective punishment against the people of Greece because the banks were leveraging themselves at a ratio of 33 to 1. The bailout is really not for Greece, it's a bailout for European banks that were complicit. The nations of that continent share a currency, but they don't share a fiscal, banking, or political system. The irony is that Germany, among the nations that comprise the eurozone, is leading the attack (Greece's energy minister calls the group "financial assassins"), and these are the exact conditions that led to the rise of fascism in Germany following the Treaty of Versailles. Naomi Klein will have warned us.

---

People have really flipped out over Caitlyn Jenner winning the Arthur Ashe Courage Award. Who knew the ESPY's meant anything at all?

Neither Jenner nor any of the candidates she beat out would be getting the award if an ESPN anchor had been diagnosed with cancer this year. I am impressed that Caitlyn beat out the dying kid for the award. It's hard to beat out a dying kid for any award that's based on sentiment. I'm sure the actress that plays her in a movie will be nominated for an Oscar. Same for Jenner, I guess.

As far as the backlash goes, the fact that it exists kind of makes the point, doesn't it, that it took a hell of a lot of courage to do what she did? I feel like Jenner's deep sin, as far as the disingenuous moralists are concerned, was not putting on a dress, but marrying into the Kardashian family.

Also, in respect to director Peter Berg's stupid comment comparing Jenner unfavorably to an Army veteran double amputee: It's kind of in bad form to bring military "courage" into the equation when transgender people are not permitted into the military.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Thoughts on the 2015 Major League Baseball All-Star Game

-The Franchise Four vote should not be considered scientific by any means, but wow, it can be endlessly dissected and debated. 1) Nolan Ryan made it onto the “Mount Rushmore” of three different franchises-- the Rangers, Astros, and Angels-- and his career winning percentage is only .526 (324-292). 2) Whitey Ford has 10 career World Series wins and can’t crack the Yankees’ top four, but the Rockies have room for Andres Galarraga. 3) The White Sox have been around since 1901. Can they really not do better than Harold Baines and Paul Konerko? 4) My Cardinals choices would have been a little different-- with Lou Brock replaced by Albert Pujols. Hate to leave Ozzie out, though. The influence of his personality on the "us-against-the-world" franchise is very underrated-- and he was very dominant at his position for 15 years.

-Now, to this “Four Greatest Living Players” list that I didn't know about until last night. You the fans chose Hank Aaron, Johnny Bench, Sandy Koufax, and Willie Mays. I find it easy to quibble, but I won’t offer an alternative list exactly. (I will agree that this is the “Four Greatest Living Players that are also the oldest.”) Only to say that Greg Maddux and Pedro Martinez were dominant pitchers, and so were Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens. And I guess I will add my opinion that, come on now, Barry Bonds is the greatest living baseball player. Then I will opine that, if what Johnny Bench was doing in the 1970s warrants him to be in company this exclusive, than Ted Simmons at least, and at last, belongs in the Hall of Fame. Bench must have been casting quite a shadow at that time. Also, did you know that Bob Gibson’s career WAR (Wins Above Replacement) are 81.9 and Koufax’s are 53.2. And these are Gibson’s World Series numbers-- (7-2, 1.89).

-Instead, I will offer a “Four Greatest Living Players” list with modified categories-- Greatest Hitter: Bonds, Greatest Pitcher: Maddux, Greatest Defensive Player: Ozzie, Greatest Baserunner: Rickey Henderson. You could make the argument that, adding the candidacies of all the dead players, these would still be the Great Four.

 -Love that the outcome of the All-Star Game determines home-field advantage in the World Series. The argument that it’s too arbitrary don’t resonate because the old rule had the leagues alternating years and you can’t get more random then that. But Jesus, National League, show some spirit. It’s been the rule for over a decade, and there’s still a palpable lifelessness to the team each year.

-You must know that I'm compelled to grumble about this. The Cardinals have 56 wins at the mid-summer break and a real shot at the Series. They had six players named to the losing National League squad, and manager Bruce Bochy of the Giants played only two of the six. The two that played, Jhonny Peralta and Yadier Molina, were perfect at the plate-- two singles, a walk, and an RBI. Two more were basically hurt, or opting out for rest-- Matt Holliday and Trevor Rosenthal. But where were the young pitching phenoms Michael Wacha and Carlos "Tsunami" Martinez? Adding Rosenthal, the Cards have three All-Star pitchers under the age of 25 and America got to see none of them.

 -Clayton Kershaw, huh? This guy is so last year, yet Bochy puts him out there to surrender two runs in one inning and take the loss. The Dodgers left-hander is only 6-6 and has a higher ERA than non-All-Stars Jake Arrieta and Johnny Cueto. He's been beaten like a drum in back-to-back postseason series by the Cardinals. He's named by neither the manager nor the players to the teamm initially. He loses the final fan vote to Carlos “Little Pedro” Martinez of the Cardinals. And then Bochy finally adds him to the squad as an injury replacement. Meanwhile, Martinez, the only pitcher on the squad voted to the team by the fans, owner of a 2.52 ERA, a 10-3 record, and a resume that shows 16 games of postseason experience as a relief pitcher, does not appear in relief in the game. Carlos' extraordinary season-long tribute to the late Oscar Taveras, including the adoption of his uniform number, is denied a grand stage and baseball turns its back on an inspirational story.

-Boo Birds: The highlight of the night might have been the Reds fans booing the six Cardinals players-- plus Albert Pujols-- during the introductions. (Bonus: there’s a marvelous GIF floating around of Albert joining in on the loudest booing of the night, that for Yadi Molina.) My wife hates booing, and I had to explain this particular Reds/Cardinals dynamic to her. I shared with her my theory that Cardinals players would be likely booed at All-Star Games in Kansas City, Chicago North, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and possibly Milwaukee and Los Angeles West. She then remarked, quite accurately, of Reds fans: “They have issues.”

-My bride is also astutely concerned about the proliferation of red-clad teams in baseball. (The Cards’ sartorial choices are as imitated as their front office moves.) We spent part of last evening looking at photos online of the uniforms the Angels (red trim only), Diamondbacks (purple and teal), Astros (orange), Rangers (predominately blue), and Expos/Nationals (predominately blue) used to wear. This might also be the time to point out that the Indians wearing red on their uniforms is kind of culturally offensive.

-I can’t remember an All-Star Game so lacking in emphasis on the Yankees and Red Sox.

-Grisly details are surely coming soon about the TV ratings for last night’s game, breaking down the disheartening age demographics, and again baseball will be “in trouble.” But here’s the thing: television audiences have become remarkably splintered. It’s an unreliable gauge for a famously-regional sport that just happens to be staggeringly profitable. The highest rated series on TV this year was FOX's Empire. It posted an overall Nielsen rating of 7.1 in the "coveted" 18-49 age demographic. In 1985, the highest rated show (Dynasty) had a 25.0 rating. A 7.1 finish would place a series outside the Nielsen top 50. I'm on the internet right now. Where are all the Empire is dying stories?

-So many All-Stars under the age of 25 this year, and they looked it.

-Cincinnati hero Todd Frazier went oh-for-three on the night with a line that looked like this-- 5-3, 6-3, 5-3. Did he think he was competing in the Slow Chopper to the Left Side Derby?

-As a back-to-back All-Star Game MVP, Mike Trout now has been given two free motor vehicles. I guess if they’re Chevys, they need replacing after one year

-Baseball is in full bloom, but if you tuned in to sports talk radio today, you probably heard a pair of douche bags talking about football. It’s hard for Major League Baseball to compete for attention. All it offers for fan debate is the traditional “Who’s better?” type-of-argument and some ancient discord about Hall of Fame eligibility. How can the league compete with the NFL and that sport’s infinite tales of domestic violence, criminal malfeasance, brain injury, musical franchises, Spy-gates, Bounty-gates, and Inflate-gates? We’re stuck this summer with boring pennant races involving a dozen or more 25-or-under superstars.